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BLOODLINE


Barbara Elsborg





COPYRIGHT

Bloodline is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.


Previously published

Copyright @ 2018 by Barbara Elsborg

Cover design by B4Jay

Edited by Deco

Published by Smashwords


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or transmitted in any manner without written permission from Barbara Elsborg, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For all enquiries please contact Barbara Elsborg at bjelsborg@gmail.com


Image/art disclaimer : Licensed material is being used for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the licensed material is a model.



Smashwords Edition

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Epilogue

About the Author



Bloodline


No one can tattoo better than Inigo, a two-hundred-year-old vampire, who works on human and supernatural skins. But he’s never tattooed a faerie, and when a bunch of them insist he comes with them to tattoo one of their kind, saying no proves not to be an option. His skin is Oberon, the faerie king, and Inigo fears this will be the last tattoo he’ll ever do.

The moment the faerie Micah lands in the faerie king’s bed chamber, he knows the guy is trouble. But if he’s to save his sister and his family, let alone do the job he’s paid to do, he has to stay in Faerieland and endure Oberon’s sadism.


When Micah is thrown into a starving vampire’s cell, covered in blood, he fears this day will be his last. But Inigo finds Micah's blood too delicious to give it up by killing him. Pretty soon, he's feeling that way about Micah himself.









Bloodline is book two in the Norwood series. All the books are stand-alone.


Book 1 – Jumping in Puddles (MF)

Book 2 – Bloodline (MM)

Book 3 – The Demon You Know (MM)



Chapter One

I am weird, you are weird. Everyone in this world is weird. One day two people come together in mutual weirdness and fall in love.

—Dr. Seuss

Inigo stepped out of the Tube station and took a deep breath of the night air. He didn’t actually need to breathe, but it made him feel more like those scurrying past him. Tonight, he’d chosen Islington as his hunting ground, a London suburb that offered a better class of prey. Food here didn’t taste much different from that found in the seedier areas but did generally smell better. He pulled his phone from his pocket and signed in to Grindr to choose his dinner.

The screen filled with a grid of pictures, including his—sort of—and he ran his gaze over them. He ignored those with no head shot. Why would anyone think posting a picture of a fluffy penguin or a droopy carrot was enticing? Unless you were into carrots or penguins.

He tapped on a couple of photos to check the profiles. No stated weight implied they were fat. No height suggested they were short. Neither of which should matter to him, but it did. He was picky. He disliked twinks because they looked too young, avoided daddies because they looked too old—which was an irony considering how old he was—and discounted otters because there was something about hairy, young guys that made him twitchy. His filters were for clean-cuts, jocks, and leather. None of which were his type either.

Do I have a type? Yeah, a clone of me. He grinned. Actually, it would make his sex life so much easier. A guy who knew exactly what he liked without him having to tell him? Perfect. But since he didn’t have a clone, he’d stick to his cock GPS—Grindr.

According to the app, several men were closer to his location than the one who’d taken his fancy, but INEEDTOBEFUCKEDRIGHTNOW, who was dark-haired, round-faced, and blue-eyed, sounded eager and looked…tasty. Inigo typed in a message: 1870 feet and homing in.

He didn’t have to wait long for a response.

How do U know U’re homing in?

Walked around until U were nearer, Inigo typed, which was a lie.

LOL. Where? Hard already.

Inigo tapped, Outside Seven Bells.

He got there first and waited out of sight until the guy arrived, just in case he was a bullet-headed thug. But INEEDTOBEFUCKEDRIGHTNOW looked just like his photo, which made a change. The guy glanced around and took out his phone. Probably to determine Inigo’s location. No need. Zero feet away. Almost on top of him. He signed out of Grindr and stepped forward.

“Hi,” Inigo said at his ear.

The man’s squeak made Inigo sigh.

“Shit. You made me jump.”

Neither his squeak nor his smile charmed Inigo, but the snaggletooth did. His cock stirred against his zip. Hmm, dinner and sex? How kind. I’d love to.

“Wow.” INEEDTOBEFUCKEDRIGHTNOW blinked. “I love your eyeliner.”

“Thank you.” Applied by his sister and worn as a dare while they went for a walk. But he’d been turned, and it was now with him forever. Icy fingers squeezed his gut. If he continued thinking about his sister, he might as well forget the fuck.

“You look even better than your photo,” said his dinner.

Yes, well that was because it wasn’t his photo. Since neither camera nor mirror could capture his image, he’d digitally fixed someone else’s photo to resemble sketches of him done by a former lover.

The guy looked him up and down and swallowed hard. “You picked me?”

“Yep.” Inigo tried not to smile at the incredulity in his dinner’s voice.

“Sure your finger didn’t slip?”

“No.” This time he let the laugh out.

“Lucky me.”

Not really, though worse things can happen.

“I’m Ben,” the guy said.

Which slid off the tongue more easily than IWANTTOBEFUCKEDRIGHTNOW but was nowhere near as appealing.

“Inigo.”

The guy would have no memory of the meeting, so it didn’t matter that Inigo had given him his real name, and it saved having to remember a lie. Ben tucked in alongside him as he headed down the street.

“Where are we going?” Ben asked.

“I need a bite to eat first. Is that okay?”

“Sure.”

Inigo hid his smile. Once they were away from the bright lights of the high street and the number of pedestrians had fallen dramatically, he tugged his meal into the darkest doorway he could see. Judging by the litter and leaves, the entrance wasn’t used.

“Quick kiss?” He granted Ben his lopsided smile and almost felt the guy melt.

One brush against Ben’s bristly cheek with his lips and the guy slid his arms inside Inigo’s long black coat and clutched his back.

“Oh God,” Ben whispered. “Sure you need to eat first?”

No, said his cock.

Ben clutched his backside and rocked into him, his dick as hard as Inigo’s. “We could go to my place.”

No time, sadly. “Here’s perfect.”

“We might be seen.” The lust in Ben’s eyes told Inigo he was more excited than worried.

A hand settled over Inigo’s shaft and squeezed.

“Can I eat first?” Ben whispered.

Please, said his cock.

Inigo didn’t stop Ben as he crouched down with his back to the door. If anyone glanced their way, Ben wouldn’t be seen and it would probably look as though Inigo was taking a leeeak—ahhhh. Ben had his zip down and Inigo’s cock in his hand before he could complete the thought. Lick, slurp, suck, flutter. Lick, slurp, suck, flutter. Not much of a technique, but it was enough to fire him up. Inigo slid his fingers into Ben’s hair as his head bobbed over Inigo’s crotch. Ah…slurp, flutter, lick, suck. So he could manage some variation.

Do you mind? snapped his cock. You’re putting me off.

He really ought not to have conversations with his cock.

Don’t you dare ignore me! yelled the organ in question.

Ben attempted to swallow all of him and almost choked. He was trying so hard, Inigo felt guilty not to be paying more attention. Why wasn’t he? He liked sex, so what was the problem?

You’re seriously pissing me off, said his cock.

Us too, said his balls.

Inigo forced himself to stop thinking and concentrate on sensation, and his balls tingled. Too few moments later, he stiffened and came, spurting into the guy’s mouth. Frustrating. Apart from a brief surge of relief, he felt no satisfaction.

Speak for yourself, said his cock and balls.

He zipped up as Ben rose to his feet.

“That was…” Inigo smiled. Boring? Average? Disappointing? “Lovely.”

He pulled Ben into his arms, dropped his mouth to a slightly spotty neck, and nipped gently. His brain was screaming at him to feed, but his fangs had a mind of their own. Get the fuck out, you wankers! You’re no pickier than my cock, so what’s the fucking problem? I’m the supreme predator, top of the food chain, so bloody well do as you’re told. An involuntary hiss escaped when they slid into place. As Ben’s blood sang louder and louder, Inigo’s mouth began to water and cells hummed in anticipation.

Inigo bit down, and the rush was instant. As the explosive taste of AB negative—a pleasant surprise—poured into him, he was infused with an exhilarating buzz. He could almost feel his body regenerating, his blood cells plumping up like rosy-cheeked babies. Ben had tensed at the entry of his fangs but now clung to him, breathing heavily into his shoulder, grinding his cock against Inigo’s leg and moaning.

Fuck, he is so tasty. Only six in a thousand people in the UK were AB negative. Ben was definitely going on his favorites list. Inigo sucked harder but didn’t take more than he should. He wasn’t a killer. Not of mortals anyway. Vampires didn’t last long if they drained their victims. The Council was quick to clamp down on any behavior that might tip off authorities some make-believe monster had suddenly turned real.

One final slurp and with a swipe of his tongue, he sealed the puncture wounds on Ben’s neck and whispered in his ear, “All you’ll remember is that VAMPBOY gave you the best fuck you’ve ever had.”

A glance over his shoulder showed they were unobserved, and after lowering the light-headed Ben to the ground, Inigo propped him against the door and crossed the street, wiping his mouth. A burp rumbled up his throat, and he laughed as it escaped. Served him right for guzzling. Difficult not to when he so rarely tasted something different. He lurked in the shadows to make sure no opportunistic thief discovered Ben before he came around.

Once Ben had stumbled away, Inigo headed back to the Tube. He was due to open his tattoo shop in an hour. He didn’t need to work, but life had quickly become too boring to do nothing. Over the years, he’d taught himself to play the piano, then the violin. He learned to love opera, gave up trying to learn to sing. He’d studied five different languages, absorbed all there was to know about the weather, dinosaurs, and the Mongols of the Russian plains, even wrote a book on the latter, and finally discovered a love of art. All kinds.

But it was only after he’d fucked a guy with a fantastic tattoo on his back—an infinitely more appealing sight than the man’s face—that he’d decided to teach himself to ink skins. Starting with his own.

Inigo stepped onto the underground train and stayed by the door. There were seats vacant, but he preferred to stand. He needed to change at St. Pancras and again at London Bridge. He liked the Tube. It was a quick and efficient way of getting around the capital, unless you tried to use it on a Sunday when engineering works were guaranteed to disrupt every journey. Each day two and half million passengers were whisked through two hundred and sixty stations on five hundred trains. And hardly any of them spoke to each other. He grinned.

His attention drifted to a scruffy guy standing nearby who had a badly done tattoo of an eye inked over his Adam’s apple. Inigo enjoyed thinking up designs to disguise poorly done tattoos, but that one would be tricky.

When he’d started tattooing, it had proved a rewarding challenge. He’d experimented with different styles and techniques using the best equipment available before he’d made the first tentative line on his arm.

Four fucking hours spent inking an image of the solar system. He’d gone to sleep proud and happy, and when he woke the following night, there hadn’t been a mark on his skin, which explained why none of the vamps he knew had a tattoo. Instead of giving up, he saw a gap in the market.

He arrived at Demonink one minute before he was due to open, unlocked the door, switched on the light, and flipped the switch to illuminate the neon sign in the window. Once he’d hung up his coat, he worked quickly, getting everything prepped for his first appointment. After Gabriel had gone/disappeared/died, he’d never worked with anyone else, but recently, loneliness seemed to be nibbling away at him more greedily.

When you were a vamp, unless your friends were vamps, they didn’t last. You didn’t age, and they did. But Gabriel had been a vamp, and he hadn’t lasted. A lump erupted in Inigo’s throat, and he swallowed hard. In addition to loneliness, unease had been creeping up on him for some months, an anxiety he was unable to identify. Maybe he’d spent long enough in one place, and it was time for a change. If he hadn’t known vamps didn’t get sick, he’d have worried.

The phone rang, and he picked it up, half hoping because of the mood he was in that it was his first client cancelling. “Demonink.”

When no one said anything on the other end of the line, Inigo listened. When he was unable to detect breath sounds, he put the phone down. He ran his fingers over the solar system on his arm. He’d finally inked what he wanted, but it had taken a long while to work out how to make a tattoo permanent.

The answer had turned out to be a drop of faerie blood added to the pre-dispersed ink. He’d paid a fortune for the tiny vial without any surety it would work, but it had. Then he’d come across Gabriel, another vampire tattoo artist who was already tattooing vamps using faerie blood, and Inigo realized he’d spent months reinventing the wheel.

Once Gabriel had seen samples of Inigo’s work, the vamp invited him to share his premises and, shortly after, his bed. The older guy taught him how to tattoo werewolves by adding a mix of human and vamp blood to the ink, but refused to reveal how to tattoo faeries. Since they never had any faerie skins come calling, it didn’t seem a problem. In any case, Gabriel warned him off, saying faeries were far too tempting and too much trouble.

While Gabriel hadn’t been the love of his life, Inigo had loved him in his way. The joy in having a companion who understood the problems of a vampire’s existence had mostly blinded him to Gabriel’s faults, though the infidelity had been a…difficult issue. Gabriel saw nothing wrong in fucking anyone he fancied—male or female—and sometimes that made Inigo feel no more important to the older vamp than a convenient arse.

His first client of the evening, a new one, was late. There were always no-shows—people who changed their minds, or whose friends or family changed their minds for them, though he wished they’d have the courtesy to call. He didn’t know whether the overdue client was mortal or supernatural, but he hoped it wasn’t a gargoyle. He’d broken so many needles on the wankers he’d started to charge them double.

Humans were by far his biggest client base. Well over 90 percent. They all left delighted with their tattoos, though there was a disadvantage in being talented and popular. His work had been featured on the covers of a number of tattoo magazines, but he’d always declined to be interviewed because he knew they’d want to take photographs of him as well as his work, and that wasn’t going to happen. Being good at what he did would eventually doom him to having to stop. For a vampire, fame was dangerous.

The door opened, and four big guys walked in. Uh-oh. Ripples of unease raced up his spine while at the same time lust pooled in his gut. His fangs prickled, blood rushed south, and he mentally groaned. Almost two hundred years old and his cock still didn’t have an ounce of sense. The ferociously good-looking guys came to a halt in front of him. Tall, broad shouldered, blond—well, he wasn’t so keen on blonds—but what did hair colour matter when they had those faces and bodies?

In his long existence, he’d only met a couple of faeries—it wasn’t as if vamps and faeries were the best of friends, but he knew that was who stood in front of him now.

“Hi, guys. What can I do for you?” He was pleased his voice didn’t crack, but it had gone up a fraction.

You’re in trouble. Run, run, run, screamed his head.

Stay, stay, stay, yelled his stupid cock. One of these could be the one.

The one what? Though he knew. But a faerie? Really?

“We require you to do a tattoo,” said the tallest. Gorgeous face, gorgeous blue eyes, a cleft in his chin, and a big pouty mouth he’d just love to shove—

“But not here,” the guy added. “And not on us.”

“Sorry. I don’t work outside of the shop.” Though he made an exception for the disabled, and he was not soft-hearted.

“Pack up your equipment and come with us. No electrical supply so bring batteries.”

Inigo bristled. He didn’t like being ordered to do anything. He took a step backward, and they stepped forward. Oh fuck. One on one, he’d have looked forward to the fight, maybe even helped himself to a little faerie blood—he had a dwindling stock—but four against one were odds he didn’t want to take.

“What are you waiting for?” snapped the one in charge.

Flee? But where? Could faeries actually fly on this side? Inigo could move very fast, but would it be fast enough?

Reason with them? These four big guys weren’t there to listen to excuses. If he didn’t cooperate, they’d have a way to make him.

“I have no experience tattooing your kind,” Inigo said.

Once, when Gabriel had been in a post-sex good mood, he’d told Inigo he’d tattooed a faerie once, many years before, which was how he’d got hold of his bottle of faerie blood. He’d asked for it in payment. Inigo had what remained locked away in a safe. The one thing Gabriel hadn’t told him was what he’d used to make the ink stay in the skin.

This was the first time a faerie had ever asked him for a tattoo—well, demanded. Unlike vamps and weres, who had to share the world with humans, the fae lived on a different plane and, as far as he knew, didn’t often visit this side. He’d assumed if a faerie ever inquired about a tattoo, he’d be able to say no. Seemed not.

“I don’t know if ink will take on fae skin,” he said. According to Gabriel, it didn’t.

“We have a substance that will make the tattoo permanent. Get your equipment packed.”

Fuck you. “How about asking nicely?”

“I wasn’t aware I hadn’t,” said the big dick. “You’ll be well rewarded.”

Don’t ask. “What sort of reward?” Told you not to ask.

“Whatever it is in our power to grant you.”

I can ask for what I want? Inigo tried not to let his jaw drop. Greed swamped his common sense. More faerie blood meant he wouldn’t run out anytime soon. He’d been watching the level of the bottle go down and down, and assumed when the last drop had been used, he’d have to look for a new profession unless he stuck to tattooing mortals and weres. But aren’t I thinking of doing something different anyway? I don’t have to go with them.

“Why have you come to me?” he asked.

“You’re the best.”

He preened. Damn my pride. He loaded his box with his inks and pigments, unplugged his gun, packed all the batteries, popped a couple of razors into one of the compartments, and even added his airbrush just in case, though a small voice in his head continued to shout not to go with them.

Faeries are tricksters. Remember what Gabriel told you?

“How long is this going to take?” Inigo asked.

“A day.”

“Maybe longer.” One of the other guys winked at him.

Inigo’s brainless cock pressed against the zip of his jeans. “I need to cancel my appointments.”

A muscle began to twitch in the cheek of the guy who’d done most of the talking. “As you wish.”

What haven’t I thought of? Inigo opened his laptop and accessed the e-mails of the clients booked for that night and the next. He tapped out an apology and requested they call to rebook.

What haven’t I asked?

The flirty one had reached his side without him noticing and ran his fingers down Inigo’s neck. The urgent desire to stick his tongue down the guy’s throat and shove his cock in his arse swelled in his chest until he physically hurt. Are they fucking glamouring me?

I don’t like blonds. I like dark hair, dark eyes. The thought cleared his head, and he stepped away from temptation. But not far. About two feet. Shit. I’m supposed to be the strong one. What the hell is happening? Two faeries moved behind him.

“When do I get paid?” he blurted.

“You will receive your reward the moment the work is done.”

He still suspected a trap, and he’d learned not to ignore his senses. What happened if the skin didn’t like his work? What if he fucked up and put toes on a mermaid, or six legs on a spider, or misheard and inked a horn instead of a thorn?

“The design is already determined and well within your capabilities.”

Are they reading my mind? He fired a thought into the air. You’ve all got cocks the size of pea pods. No reaction. So not reading his mind, just using their faerie influence.

“The skin definitely wants this tattoo?” Inigo asked.

“Absolutely.”

“What part of the body?” He’d tattoo almost anywhere, including cock, balls, and taint, but they weren’t places he liked to work on. He drew the line at eyeballs.

“The back.”

Okay. “Where do you want me to do this?”

“On our side of the Divide.”

Finally—an excuse. Inigo swerved away from the guys behind him and backed toward the door. “I don’t think so. I’m quite prepared to do it in a place of your choosing, but on this side.”

“Our choice is Faerieland.”

“Then no,” Inigo said and immediately felt better.

Of course, he hadn’t counted on them using faerie dust.


Chapter Two

Micah perched on the parapet of London Bridge staring down into the dark water. He hoped like hell he and his sister weren’t going to end up in the Thames. Ellie sat pale-faced at his side, the bag of jewels clutched in her hand. He wrapped his fingers around hers where they held the bag and squeezed.

Behind them their father and brother struggled to keep Ellie’s lover from reaching them and dragging Ellie from the brink or maybe throwing himself over with them. The guy’s love for Ellie and her love for him shone in their faces and through their words and gestures, and when he looked at them, a tiny chink of light pierced Micah’s black heart. Maybe there is hope for me.

There was no more time to think if this was the right thing to do. Micah tightened his hold on Ellie and jumped.

For a brief moment they hung suspended, contained in a ball of light as bright as if a star had burst, and his lids slammed shut. No watery landing, they tumbled onto something soft. When he opened his eyes, Micah registered they were alone, sprawled on a sumptuous bed in a large room with stone walls, no glass in the arched windows. Ellie lay rigid at his side.

“Open your eyes,” he whispered.

“We’re not anywhere horrible, are we? No rats, snakes, spiders, or annoying sisters?”

He laughed.

“What in the four worlds are you doing in my bed?” snapped a man.

He and Ellie jerked upright. Micah gaped at the naked guy who’d emerged from an archway on the other side of the room. He was tall and dark-haired, a thick cock hanging heavy between his legs. When Ellie pushed to her feet, Micah followed.

“I’m Ellie Norwood, and this is my brother, Micah. Who are you?”

“Oberon the Seventh,” the guy snarled. “Your king.”

Oh shit. The man turned to grab a towel, and Micah’s gaze automatically dropped to his arse. Nice. He glanced at Ellie and caught the guilty look on her face when he found her doing the same.

“How did you get into my bedroom?”

“Don’t you know who we are?” Ellie asked.

The king looked them up and down, his gaze lingering on Micah. Even beyond the man’s aggressive tone, there was something dangerous about him, an aura of menace that set Micah on edge.

“We’re Ellie and Micah Norwood,” he said.

“Our family was banished from Faerieland,” Ellie blurted. “We were held responsible for the disappearance of the Kewen, and now we’ve found it.” She tipped the jewels onto the bed, a sparkling mixture of rings, bracelets, and necklaces tumbling over the dark blue velvet cover.

Micah wished Ellie hadn’t spoken so fast, because he’d lost the chance to see if the king recognized their names. He did seem shocked to see the Kewen, though. No, not shocked. Pissed off? Worried? Alarmed? The one expression he didn’t have was pleasure. Why not?

Concern for Ellie set every one of Micah’s senses on alert. If there had been any way he could have brought the Kewen to this side on his own, he would have, but the eldest sibling was charged with its return. There was no route to this side without Ellie, and he felt a pang of guilt that he’d not just come with her to bring the Kewen back. Once he’d told his boss, Roman, where he was going, Micah had been ordered to look for a missing shifter, the daughter of the alpha of the Westfield Pack who believed the girl to be in Faerieland. But his priority was protecting Ellie.

She handed the king a copy of the bill of sale. “We found this with the jewels. It turns out the Kewen was sold by Oberon the Fifth, your grandfather, in exchange for three mortal children. It was never stolen. Its disappearance had nothing to do with us.”

“This is false,” the king snapped.

Why the hell didn’t we think this through more carefully? Well, Micah knew why. They’d been so excited the treasure had finally been found, plus worried someone would take it from them before they could return it, that they’d rushed to Faerieland. Micah’s hope of exploring this side of the Divide making careful inquiries about the missing shifter was falling apart faster than a dry sand castle. But if anyone was going down here, it had to be him, not Ellie.

“It explains why we entered Faerieland through a portal in the royal bedchamber,” Micah said. “Your grandfather didn’t want the Elders to know what he’d done. Once the mortal he’d traded with died, he thought the Kewen would never be found. Our family was made a scapegoat. But if the Kewen was found, and the bill of sale discovered with it, he needed to control what happened next. If he was still alive, I think we’d have been killed as intruders.”

Please don’t take that as a reason for you to kill us. If he’d known how to get back, he’d have grabbed Ellie and jumped, but they’d landed on the bed so was the portal in the ceiling? He glanced up and saw plain stone. He assumed he could fly on this side, and there was no glass over the windows, but was he fast enough to get them out of there? And then where could they go? When his gaze returned to Oberon, the king was staring at him.

“I know nothing of this,” Oberon said in a firm voice. “It happened so long ago. I knew the Kewen had disappeared, but that was all.”

Why didn’t Micah believe him?

“What would your grandfather have wanted with mortal children? And why pay for them?” Ellie asked.

Shut up! Micah poked her in the back, and she turned and glared. Why couldn’t she see there was something wrong? He could feel things slipping faster and faster through his fingers. Why wasn’t Oberon accusing them of lying? They could have forged the bill of sale. They could be banished faeries who’d found the treasure, stumbled across a portal, and come up with this as a way to bribe their way back into the kingdom.

Except no banished faerie would be this stupid. And it didn’t make sense. Oberon hadn’t even asked to see the original document. Micah’s stomach ached with nervous tension.

“My grandfather was sick for a long time,” the king said. “Perhaps he thought three mortal children would in some way keep him alive.”

How the hell could they do that? The king had jumped very fast to belief, though what they were telling him was shocking. The reason? He already knew.

Micah opened his mouth to speak again before Ellie could. He had to dig himself deeper to stop her doing it. “Mortal children will be long dead, but their ancestors might still be alive.” He knew one of them was, on the other side of the Divide. The groundskeeper of the property where the jewels were found. “They deserve to know the truth about the disappearances.”

He wasn’t sure this was the best tack to take, but now they were on it, there was little choice but to continue. Ellie was going to get herself into serious trouble if she wasn’t more submissive. Playing along with the king was the only way to keep the family safe.

“The longer the children remained on this side, the more faerie they would become,” Oberon said. “They couldn’t stay here and not absorb this world’s essence, just as you, despite being faeries, are more of the other world than this.”

“We’ve done what we were tasked to do,” Ellie said. “We found the treasure and returned it. We cleared our family’s name. Now we should be allowed to visit Faerieland to decide if we want to live here or on the mortal side.”

Micah bit his lip as she bargained with the king. She’d ignored his warning pinches and glares. This man was not to be trusted.

Ellie crossed her arms. “Our energy should be replenished in an easier way than trekking to the Bowland Fell.”

It was a harsh, yearly hike to the middle of a Lancashire bog to renew their faerie powers. They all hated doing it. Now Micah thought they’d have been better off sticking to that than confronting this king. He rapidly began to formulate another plan because he might end up having to bargain for Ellie’s freedom.

“In return,” Ellie babbled on, “we’ll say nothing about the exchange of the Kewen for the children so that your position isn’t threatened.”

Oh shit. Had Ellie lost her fucking mind? The idea that Oberon would lose the throne if the truth got out had energy rolling from the guy in thick black waves to which Ellie seemed oblivious. Her joy at clearing the family name had blinded her to the danger here. Micah stepped between the king and his sister.

“Why should I lose the throne for something my ancestor did?” Oberon asked in a low voice.

“Why should we be punished for something our ancestors didn’t do?” Ellie retorted.

Micah opened his mouth, but Oberon beat him to it.

“I could kill you both and take the Kewen. No one would know.”

Micah clenched his fists behind his back. He was almost helpless against the king. Apart from the fact that Micah’s power would be far less than Oberon’s, one call from the king and the room would fill with guards. Maybe there was a chance to knock him out long enough to find the portal and push Ellie through it, even if he didn’t manage to get out, but what if Oberon sent faeries after her, after the family?

“Our father has the original bill of sale,” Ellie said. “If we don’t return, he’ll bring hell down on you by going public with the document.”

Shit, Ellie. Instead of running ideas through his head, he should have gagged his sister. How was their father going to tell everyone about the bill of sale? Tweet it? Put it on Facebook? Micah had no idea how information was spread on this side.

Oberon held up the copy. “When can I have the original?”

“Not until I can trust you,” Ellie said, and Micah cringed. “Maybe not even then.” He cringed harder.

The king narrowed his eyes. “Remember who you’re talking to?”

“Remember how your grandfather lied?” Ellie asked. “What if you’re descended from one of those human children? Do you want that getting out?”

Fire blazed in the king’s eyes. Oh fuck. Not the right thing to say, Ellie. He had to shut her up now.

“He is our king.” Micah put his hand on her arm and dug his fingers in—hard. “No threats.”

Oberon stopped pacing and stared at him for a moment before turning to Ellie. Are we as good as dead? Micah held his breath. Should I have intervened earlier? He’d been torn between a need to protect his sister and complete the assignment his boss had landed him with once he knew he had a way into Faerieland. His sister came first—always—but his job was to save someone else’s sister as well.

“Thank you for returning the Kewen.” Oberon’s voice had changed from threatening to calm, and he accompanied it with a smile, though the expression in his eyes chilled Micah. “As a token of my gratitude, please choose something from it.”

Micah exhaled noiselessly. No gift would be offered freely. Don’t fall for it, Ellie.

“That’s kind but not a fair trade,” Ellie said.

Goddamn it. “Ellie!” he snapped. “Do I have to tape your mouth?”

That earned him a scowl. But Ellie wouldn’t be silenced and repeated her request concerning power renewal and the opportunity for the family to visit Faerieland to decide where they wanted to live. Micah was certain it was a bad idea to strike bargains with a faerie king, though part of him couldn’t help but admire his sister for trying.

“One visit to decide,” Oberon said. “And I’ll restore the Norwood name.”

Ellie’s brow furrowed as if she searched for a trick. Micah didn’t furrow his brow. He already knew there had to be a trick.

“Do you wish to stay?” Oberon asked. “Look through the window and see your home.”

Micah walked over with Ellie. An endlessly blue sky stretched in all directions, the colour more intense than any sky he’d seen on the other side of the Divide. A river rolled lazily over the plains and down to a calm sea. Fields were a patchwork of colours, every shade of green and yellow, corn gleaming in the sunshine. In the town below, he could see people in the streets, children playing.

At first glance the land looked beautiful, yet it wasn’t. This world was…wrong. A little too much beauty? A sky too blue? A sea too tranquil? He spotted one child strike another, and no one did anything to stop the ensuing fight. Faeries moved slowly, heads down, not talking. Was it usually like that?

“This…is your one visit,” Oberon said, sweeping his gaze over Micah, lingering on the bulge in his jeans.

His heart sank. So that was the trick. They could leave now but never come back. Except Micah couldn’t leave until he’d found what he’d come for, and staying was more complicated than it might have been. Maybe the king just wanted to fuck him before he killed him.

“What do you see?” Ellie asked him.

“Beauty, darkness, pain.”

He saw the confusion on her face and was struck with horror at the thought of her falling for Oberon’s tricks. She’d found true love with Jago, owner of Sharwood Hall where the Kewen had lain undisturbed for years. Micah wouldn’t let her give that up.

She put her hand in his and squeezed his fingers. “I want to go back,” she said. “But I have to be allowed to return to say good-bye to Micah if he decides to stay.”

His heart swelled with love. He wanted none of his family to come here, because if they did, he suspected the king would have them killed to maintain the secret of the Kewen being sold for mortal children. At least Ellie hadn’t understood that one of them had to stay to keep the others safe.

“Make your choice.” Oberon gestured toward the jewels strewn on the bed.

Micah didn’t like the way Oberon grinned, or the offer to choose something from the Kewen. He mentally begged her to refuse or at least pick something small and was relieved she selected the ring she’d bought at auction that had set everything in motion.

“You too,” Oberon said to him.

He didn’t want anything, but his fingers moved over the jewels as if his hand had been seized by an outside force, or more likely Oberon’s magic. He felt the danger as strongly as if he’d reached into a snake’s nest and yanked his arm back. “No, thank you.”

Oberon’s mouth twitched, and Micah caught the hint of surprise in his eyes. “If your family wishes to retain their powers, they must never reveal the contents of this bill of sale. If they need more power, a circle can be made anywhere, not just on the Bowland Fell. A circle of five.”

“There are six of us,” Ellie said.

“He’s staying.” Oberon turned to him.

Micah chewed his cheeks as Ellie protested and wrapped her arms around him. “No, Micah.”

“It’s okay, Ellie.” He stroked her hair.

“No, it’s not. If he wants a hostage, I’ll stay.”

Micah’s heart almost burst at the love he felt for his older sister but giving up her life on earth wasn’t going to happen while he had breath in his lungs.

“Don’t worry.” Micah pulled out of her hold. “I never fit in over there. Maybe I will here. Jago can keep my car, but you’re not to drive it.”

Oberon ran his thumb down Micah’s chin, and Micah forced himself to turn into the caress though his heart pounded hard enough to shatter his ribs. Is this what I have to do? How far must I fall?

“Darkness, pain, and beauty,” Oberon whispered. “How perfect you are.”

No, I’m not, but I need you to think so.

“I need to know what happened to those three children,” Oberon said. “Will you search Faerieland for them? Not hide the truth no matter how unpalatable? Be loyal to me and only me?”

Interesting. Was that purely for Ellie’s benefit? Micah stared straight at him. “I’ll search, but maybe the truth is best left hidden. I don’t yet know what sort of man you are, whether you deserve my loyalty.”

Saying that was a big risk, but everything shouted at Micah not to look too accommodating.

“Don’t chop off his head,” Ellie blurted, and Micah gulped. “Once my brother finds out what’s going on with these missing children, even if he wishes to stay, if you won’t let me back, he should be allowed to return to the other side to say good-bye.”

“That’s acceptable. He can come back here with the original bill of sale.”

Ellie nodded.

“I have something to prove to Micah. Time for you to leave.”

“Better close this portal if you don’t want our parents bursting in on you,” she said. “And it’s really kind of you to let me learn to drive in your car, Micah. You’re the best brother ever.”

Micah was too worried by the guy next to him to respond. With one click of Oberon’s fingers, Ellie disappeared.

“Have you sent her back into the Thames?” Micah asked.

“No. She’s safe.” Oberon stepped toward him.

“Am I?”

He tensed as the king reached out to wrap a hand around his throat. As he squeezed, Micah fought the urge to bring his knee up into the guy’s balls.

“I don’t know,” Oberon whispered. “Are you? Do you want to be?” He squeezed harder and shoved him back until his head collided with the stone wall. Oberon’s other hand settled on Micah’s shoulder, and he forced him to his knees. “Show me what you can do. Make me want to keep you.”

The towel fell from his waist, and Micah stared at the king’s dick. It was already hard, the head glistening with precum, dark veins standing out on its length. When Oberon flexed his hips and pushed his cock against Micah’s lips, Micah opened his mouth like a baby bird. He hadn’t thought the guy would keep shoving, but he did and he had to let him, swallowing against the slick head, trying not to gag as it collided with the back of his throat. He moved his hands to the king’s thighs, but Oberon grabbed his wrists, hoisted his arms, and forced them back against the wall, pinning Micah like a bug while he fucked his mouth.

The position was uncomfortable, but he guessed that was the point. This wasn’t a gentle guy who cared for his partners, but a king who took what he wanted, when he wanted it, and in any way he fancied. Micah made a half-hearted effort to swirl his tongue around the thick cock, but the best he could manage was to tighten his lips and intensify the sensation for Oberon as the king bucked harder into him.

The way to survive was to cooperate.

Maybe.

What if the way to survive was to fight?

Micah kept his eyes open and watched Oberon watching him.

“You think you can come here and threaten me?” the king snarled through gritted teeth.

Oh fuck. Even if Micah had wanted to point out that it had been Ellie who’d done the threatening, he had his mouth full and couldn’t speak anyway. I’m going to fucking fuck this up before I’ve even fucking started.

Think of something.

But it was hard to think of anything other than a sense of relief that Oberon wasn’t doing anything worse than this. In a moment of cunning, Micah rubbed his middle finger over the king’s hands where they gripped his and tried to sneak sounds of pleasure past the silky-steel flesh spearing his mouth. The sooner the guy came, the sooner this would stop.

He moaned louder, his discomfort not faked, and a smile lit Oberon’s face. “You know what I want to do to you?”

Not really.

“I’d like to shove my fingers inside you one after the other, then my hand and then my fist.”

Not going to happen, fuckwit.

“You ever been fisted, Micah? The pain is exquisite—so I’m told. The knowledge that I could reach into you and rip you apart from the inside out thrills me to a point of bliss. Your fear that I might damage you excites me beyond reason. Dare you trust me?”

Oh hell, thank fuck I can’t currently answer that.

“Let me tell you what’s going to happen.” Oberon’s hips thrust faster, and his breathing faltered. “You’re going to be my new toy. But I don’t like toys that talk, particularly ones that might say things I don’t want others to hear. I can’t kill you yet because I need your family to think you’re having a lovely time here in Faerieland, but when you persuade them to come to pay their one and only visit with that fucking bill of sale, they won’t be going home.”

Micah’s heart pounded so hard he could feel it bruising his ribs.

“On the other hand, maybe I should just kill you and send my hunters after your family and that document. If you’re all dead, I don’t have a problem anymore. But I like you. I like new toys. I’ll leave your family alone for a while until I tire of you.” The king laughed. “And by then, you’ll be such a slut for my dick, you won’t fucking care what I do to anyone.”

The groan that slipped past Oberon’s cock was one of fury and despair, and Oberon knew it.

“Maybe I don’t even need to send my hunters after them. All I have to do is ask them to come to my coronation as my guests of honour.”

He released Micah’s hands and instead cupped the back of his neck, but Micah kept his arms high.

“Fuck fuck fuck. You have the sweetest mouth, the prettiest eyes. Your hair’s as dark as mine. I’m tired of blonds. I could be fucking myself.” Oberon groaned loudly, his cock swelled, and Micah was forced to swallow an increasing amount of precum.

He knew he might only have one chance to convince the guy this was what he wanted, those couple of seconds when the king’s cock slipped from his lips, unless the wanker had already bespelled him dumb. But what to say? Was he supposed to like being hurt or not? Did Oberon get his kicks from sexual sadism? Or was he a Dom who, deep down, cared for his subs? Micah doubted the latter but maybe a semi willing masochist would be appealing. Not someone who asked to be hurt, but a guy who battled with that desire.

“I’m going to shove my cock all the way down your throat.” Oberon growled out the words.

And I’ll fucking bite it off. Micah’s heart ached. He was over his head in trouble. I’m not sure I can do this.

Oberon wanted him silent. It wasn’t hard to conclude Ellie’s supposition was right—this king was half-human and feared being exposed. His father had been either Drake or Silas, or his mother Cecily. A parent from the three mortal children exchanged for the Kewen. One must have married a faerie and produced this fucking bastard.

The Elders wouldn’t want a half-breed on the throne. Presumably no one suspected the truth except for the Norwood family and the ancestors of the three mortals, assuming they were still in Faerieland and hadn’t already been silenced. Oberon’s suggestion of looking for them might have been an attempt to misdirect Ellie.

The king was going to come soon, the slap of his balls on Micah’s face growing more frantic, as did Micah’s thoughts. Apart from the other job he’d come here to do, the possibility of which seemed to be receding into the distance at an ever-increasing pace, he had to find a way to warn his family and to save his own neck by convincing Oberon he was worth keeping. Worth hurting.

Too late now to wish Ellie had just handed the Kewen back and said nothing about that bill of sale. How stupidly naive they’d been. A loud roar burst from Oberon’s lips as he emptied himself into Micah’s mouth. He swallowed and swallowed and tried to look and sound as though he was vaguely enjoying himself. Then he panicked that it was the wrong approach, and Oberon would only want him if he fought.

Which way do I jump?

This wasn’t a guy easily fooled. He liked to inflict pain, and it was more fun if the recipient didn’t want it. The moment Oberon pulled his cock out of Micah’s mouth, he spat out the cum he’d managed not to swallow and head butted the king in the groin.

Seconds later, Micah was face down on the floor with Oberon sitting on his back, pulling his hair so hard he thought his scalp would rip.

“You little bastard. That hurt.”

“Good,” Micah grunted.

Micah’s head snapped to the side, and he groaned in pain. When Oberon threaded his fingers in Micah’s hair again, he tensed.

“And that’s the last word you’ll say until I decide otherwise.”

Micah tried to speak and couldn’t. Fuck.

“Don’t worry. I take good care of my toys.”

That’s what Micah was afraid of.


Chapter Three

When Inigo came around lying flat on his back in broad daylight, he worried. No, to be honest, he fucking freaked out big-time. Daylight? Vampire? Never the twain? But even as he swung his head from side to side in a desperate search for shade before he turned into a crispy critter, he registered not only that he wasn’t on fire, but he also didn’t even feel vaguely uncomfortable.

Well, maybe he did feel vaguely uncomfortable because he lay in a cobblestone courtyard with something sharp under his left hip. But nowhere near as uncomfortable as if he was burning to death. Not that he knew for certain what that was like, but he could imagine. He started to think about—then stopped himself. He was in enough trouble without letting himself get distracted.

Three of the faeries who’d come to his shop stared down at him. He gazed past their faces into a brilliant blue sky and swallowed hard.

I’m out in daylight. Fantastic.

I’m in Faerieland. Shit.

Then the one who’d done all the talking appeared at the edge of his field of vision.

“You look like a black bug,” the faerie said and lifted his foot.

As he brought it down toward the centre of Inigo’s chest, Inigo grabbed the guy’s heel, twisted hard, and tossed him so that the faerie flew over his shoulder. Unluckily for the faerie, he didn’t have time to let out his wings.

Before Inigo could get to his feet, the faerie was on him, and they flung punches at each other, rolling over the ground. Inigo ended up on his back, the faerie on top, his hands wrapped around Inigo’s neck. Shit, I should be able to handle one faerie. What’s the matter with me?

“Cavan, no,” shouted one of the others as he tried unsuccessfully to drag off Inigo’s assailant.

“Stay out of this, Ryn,” snapped the guy strangling him.

No, stay in this, Ryn!

Blood dripped from a graze on Cavan’s cheek, and as the faerie released his hold on Inigo’s neck, Inigo couldn’t help himself. He shot out his tongue and slurped up the dribble of red.

“Yum.” Inigo grinned.

“You little shit,” the faerie hissed and kneed in him the groin.

Oh hell. That hurt. Fired up with fury, Inigo managed to land a few hard blows of his own before they were dragged apart, the smaller one called Ryn clinging to Cavan’s arm and trying to pull him back. The faerie’s reward was a flurry of blows to the stomach and face. It took two to pull Cavan off Ryn, and Inigo gulped when he saw blood trickling from a cut above Ryn’s eye. He pushed himself to his feet, dismayed to find he was shaky and even more dismayed that his fangs were prickling like mad, telling him they wanted more where that drop of blood had come from. Faeries were delicious, even big brutish ones.

“Pick up your equipment, bug,” Cavan barked, brushing off his friends and then his clothes. “The king’s waiting for you.”

Inigo wished he’d said no more firmly when the four had arrived at his shop, though he knew damn well it wouldn’t have made a difference. He should have run, burst out the door and bolted, but greed, gluttony, and pride had overpowered his common sense. That and faerie dust. The bastards.

They led him across the courtyard into a castle-like building made of large blocks of pale stone, along corridors with sides open to grassy quads and past men and women dressed in pastel-coloured clothing—all of them gawking, none looking happy, a few with their wings out. Pretty. He didn’t need to feed, but he wanted to. He felt like the Ancient Mariner.

Faeries, faeries everywhere nor any drop to drink.

He gazed sideways to look at the sky, and each glimpse of blue filled him with awe. I never thought I’d ever see such a sight again. Maybe not until he died, and he’d barely have time to enjoy the experience of being out in daylight before it killed him.

I’m out in the daylight. Why aren’t I dead?

His brain clicked into gear. Oh fuck, I’m as good as. No way would they let him tell another vampire it was possible to live under the sun in Faerieland. There would be a mass exodus over the Divide. Vamps would force faeries to reveal the whereabouts of portals. I’m not going to be allowed to leave. He didn’t even know how he could. If the portal they’d brought him through wasn’t in the place where he’d woken—and he doubted it because otherwise there would be faeries falling into it all the time—he had no idea how to find or open one.

But maybe he could persuade some faerie to give up the secret. Ryn had tried to help him, and glamour might work.

What he needed was time. To think, to plan, to find a way out or a compelling reason why he shouldn’t be killed—at least not right away.

A never-ending tattoo.

This is the tattoo that never ends; yes, it goes on and on, my friend. I started to do it, not knowing what it was, and I’ll continue doing it forever just because… This is the tattoo that never ends… Oh fuck.

Could he make up some excuse to do it slowly while he figured things out? He could deliberately drain the batteries for his gun and have to return to replenish them. He could…er…um…

His mind went blank…apart from that bloody song.

Unfortunate, since he had no one to rely on but himself. He wouldn’t be missed except by skins upset he’d disappeared without a word. He knew nobody of influence. He might be a brilliant tattoo artist, but it wasn’t exactly a skill no one else had.

The faeries led him into one of the most beautiful rooms he’d ever seen. It had windows open to the outdoors, long, wispy drapes fluttering in a warm breeze, a sea of flowers inside and out. The brightness of everything dazzled him. He tried hard to make his tattoos vibrant with colour, but nothing beat the real thing. If he was going to die, at least he’d had this. He put his bag on the floor and waited.

A door opened, and Cavan snapped, “Bow.”

Fuck that. “He’s not my king.”

But the blow behind his knees sent him crashing to the ground, and he threw out his hands to save himself from face-planting. Bare feet came to a halt next to him. Lovely toes. Inigo looked up past white trousers and a loose white shirt into a perfect face and gulped. He wasn’t into long hair, but maybe he’d make an exception. Straight dark hair fell to the guy’s shoulders. His eyes were a deep turquoise, his skin a flawless cream, and Inigo’s gaydar pinged loud and clear. He adopted his want-to-fuck grin and waited for the answering smile.

He didn’t get it. Which pissed him off. He was good-looking too. Tall, dark, and vampire handsome. The lover who’d sketched him and repeatedly told him he was gorgeous was long gone, but sometimes Inigo took out the drawings to look at himself.

No more than once a year.

Okay, twice a year.

Sometimes more.

The king held out his hand, and Inigo heard the sucked-in breaths from all around the room. Don’t touch the vamp. He has cooties. He let the faerie haul him to his feet and waited for the flare of lust to heat his groin, the desire for blood to excite his brain and push out his fangs. Nothing happened. Hmm, that’s strange. The king let his hand drop. Inigo was six-two, and this guy had to have another four inches on him, plus he was all muscle. Why weren’t faeries light and fluffy? They sounded as though they should be.

But they were like catnip to vamps. Everything he’d ever read confirmed that, so his fangs’ lack of interest gave him a clue something was up—apart from his cock, obviously. Though he suspected his other head wouldn’t have said no if an invite to bed was on the cards. Because I’m an idiot. Well, I’m not, but my cock is.

“I’m Oberon the Seventh. Faerie king.”

“Inigo MacIntosh. Tattoo king.”

Oberon laughed. “Indeed. And the reason for your presence at my court.”

“To give you a tattoo.” Oh hell, talk about stating the obvious. Say something else so he doesn’t think you’re a dummy. “Don’t faeries know how to tattoo?” Inigo wanted to slap his hand to his head. Think before you open your mouth, moron. “I’ve never tattooed a faerie. I was under the impression ink won’t stay on your skin.”

“It will when you add a special ingredient,” the king said.

“I hope you’re not going to tell me that secret ingredient is blood taken from a vampire’s cock using a heavy gauge needle.”

“If only,” Cavan muttered.

Oberon chuckled and signalled to one of the guys who brought over a scroll, not a needle. Phew.

“This is what I want,” Oberon said.

Inigo unrolled the curled-up paper to reveal a brightly coloured image that looked like a cross between a bird and a dragon with wings outstretched. Nothing complicated about it.

“You want me to tattoo this exactly, or you want me to improve it?” Inigo sensed everyone in the room stiffen and added, “I mean add a touch more detail.”


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