A gay fantasy novel of forbidden love set against the backdrop of war.
War is coming...
Ash has never left the palace. For seventeen years he has been kept close by his father and brother, bound by their vow to protect him. He has grown up safe, innocent, and lonely.
Now the fae Realm is under attack, and the witches have threatened Ash personally. To protect his younger brother, Skye has done something unthinkable. He has brought a vampire into the Realm.
Azrael owes Skye a great debt. He takes his position as Ash's guardian out of loyalty to his brother, but everything changes when he finds himself falling for the young prince: the first mortal he's loved in a thousand years.
With his enemies closing in, and the king slowly dying, can Skye trust Azrael to protect Ash while he prepares to defend the Realm? Will Azrael be able to control his feelings for Ash as he reconciles the demons from his past? And will Ash ever feel like he truly belongs anywhere?
“How did you become a vampire?”
Azrael shook his head, laughing silently.
“You,” Azrael smiled. “You’re very direct, do you know that?”
“Sorry,” Ash blushed. “I don’t mean to pry. If you don’t want to talk about it…”
“It was a long, long time ago.” Azrael sat back, remembering. “I was unlucky: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that was all. He was lonely so he stole me from my bed and made me a vampire.”
“How did you feel?”
“I don’t really remember those first few weeks,” Azrael admitted. “He took me far away from my home and together we hunted in the city. I must have killed so many people, I was always so hungry then…” he trailed off, lost in the memories. “But then he brought me this one man,” he paused, his eyes squinting as he recalled the details, “he looked so much like Tariq, and it’s like I woke up, I remembered who I was. I hated him for what he’d done to me. That night I killed my Maker and I headed home. I ran through the night, killing anyone that crossed my path and feeding on them, sleeping in shallow graves at the side of the road. It was such a risk, but I had to get home, you know?” He looked to Ash for understanding. Ash slowly nodded.
“He thought the mob had taken me, at first, when he came back and I’d gone. Then he thought a wolf had carried me away. Finally, when he’d heard nothing and I still hadn’t returned, and he’d searched the hills and fields for miles looking for my corpse, he thought I’d left him.” Ash looked away as the vampire wiped his eyes quickly, pretending not to see the red smudge on the back of his hand. “When I came back, he was horrified. He couldn’t believe what I’d become, how I’d changed. And I was so scared that I’d hurt him. So scared. The hunger would blind me, it was so intense. I couldn’t control myself.”
“What did you do?” Ash whispered.
Azrael looked up at him. “It doesn’t matter now. Like I said, it was a long time ago.”
“But who was he? Tariq, I mean.”
“My lover.” Azrael stared at him. “Surely you realised that?”
“Your lover?” Ash felt his face turn crimson. He fidgeted in his chair, not looked at Azrael.
“Ash,” Azrael laid a hand on his arm, stilling him. “I thought you knew? I thought…well, never mind what I thought. Does that make you uncomfortable, that I’m gay?”
“You’re what?” Ash stared at him.
“Gay. You know.”
“No, I don’t.”
“I like guys, Ash, always have. I’m not interested in women.”
“Not at all?”
“Not like that. When I was human I was a simple goat herder. My lover Tariq and I lived in a tiny hut miles from anywhere so that we could be together. The world didn’t understand people like me then. But surely there are people in the Realm who are gay?”
“I don’t think so.”
“None at all?” Azrael was incredulous. “Do you mean because it’s forbidden, or do fairies not feel that way?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s forbidden, I’ve just never heard of it before.”
Azrael gave a low whistle. “Imagine if you did though – fancy guys, I mean – and you lived here. I can’t imagine what that would feel like: being the only one.”
Ash nodded sadly, avoiding Azrael’s eyes. So it had a name, and it wasn’t unusual in the world, just among the fae. Somehow, the thought didn’t comfort him; it only made him more miserable.
“So you and Rowan,” Azrael seemed to think aloud, “yesterday, when I came into your room, I thought I interrupted something.”
“Me and Rowan?” Ash was shocked. “What made you think that?”
“Nothing, nothing,” Azrael assured him. “Just my own dirty mind jumping to the wrong conclusion. Forgive me,” he smiled, “whenever I see two men together I automatically think of sex.” A growl of lust sounded deep within Ash as he heard him say the word. Azrael watched him as he squirmed uncomfortably. “Maybe I’m not the only one?” He asked gently, studying Ash.
“I thought it was you,” Ash blurted out. “I thought you were controlling my mind, making me feel things. I’ve never felt anything like this before, but when I look at you…” he trailed off, embarrassed he’d said so much.
“I can’t control your mind, Ash,” Azrael assured him softly. “Whatever you’re feeling is coming from you alone.”
“But I can’t be the only one, can I?” Ash stared at him, aghast.
“I don’t know,” Azrael answered honestly. “I doubt it thought. There’s a whole world outside these palace walls that you know nothing about.”
“But why now, why with you? I’ve never felt anything like this before, with anyone. My stomach keeps going funny and I can’t breathe properly when I see you.”
Azrael laughed. “It sounds like you’re attracted to me. I’m flattered.”
“But why you and no-one else?”
“Why do we find anyone attractive?” Azrael countered. “If it makes you feel any better though, I’m sure the only reason that it’s me is because I’m the first stranger that you’ve ever met.”
“It’s not just that,” Ash insisted, “I think you’re beautiful.”
Azrael was kissing him before he even had time to realise what he’d said, or be embarrassed. They parted slowly, Ash’s breathing heavy.
“How’s your stomach holding up?” Azrael smiled down at him. In response Ash clung to him, kissing him again.
This was incredible – better than he’d ever imagined. The touch of him; the feel of him. He ran his hands down Azrael’s muscular arms, feeling the soft, cool skin under his fingers. He pushed his body into Azrael’s, wanting to touch him all over. The other man ended the kiss and gently held him at arm’s length.
“Stop,” Azrael breathed, “I shouldn’t have done that, it was wrong.”
“Why is it wrong?” Ash fought to control his legs, which had begun to shake uncontrollably.
“Because,” Azrael smiled, stepping back, “I’ve been asked by your brother to protect you, not corrupt you.”
“You’re not corrupting me,” Ash frowned, indignant.
“Ash, you don’t even know if what we’ve just done is illegal in the Realm or not.” Azrael sighed, looking at him tenderly. “And even if it’s not, I doubt your people would be happy for us to be together.”
“What does that matter, if we’re happy?” Ash reached out to touch him again, but Azrael shrank away.
“Ash, I’m a vampire.” Azrael glared at him. “Don’t tell me that you don’t know what that means. I know no-one wants me here. Your brother gave me this opportunity because he trusts me, and I won’t betray him.”
With that he stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. Ash jumped. His head was spinning with the events of the last half-hour. There were people like him in the world – and maybe in the Realm. Why had no-one ever told him? Why had he never heard of it before? And Azrael had kissed him. He closed his eyes, feeling again Azrael’s mouth on his own, Azrael’s cool tongue probing his hot one, the sensual grip of his strong hands around his waist. How could that be wrong? How could it be against the law? And how could he get it to happen again?