By Shelby Rhodes
Wringing his hands, Ryder’s gaze ran over the eerily still form of his father, Ionas Rogwyn. His mother, Amara, sat by the bed, her face tear stained and pale as she desperately clutched her husband’s hand. It took all his strength to hold back his own tears.
Everything had gone downhill so fast. Not only for his father but for so many others. An insatiable hunger followed by a deadly sleep.
The urgent call from his King had not done justice to the horrors of what had greeted him on his return. In mere months the people of Salice went from a life of peace and happiness to being washed in a cloud of darkness and fear. For the Wasting Plague had returned and if history repeated itself, death would follow.
“When did it start?” Ryder softly asked.
“Two weeks ago. One after another, citizens started to fall. Your father was searching for a cure when it hit him,” King Garin’s deep voice rumbled from behind him. In an attempt to not impose on such a private moment of despair, the man had stayed by the door.
Ryder looked back at the King. The statuesque man appeared wane—nothing like the strong presence Ryder was used to. For a brief moment, his worries for his father were pushed aside with the fear that his King would be next.
“No, no, I am fine.” King Garin paused and swallowed painfully, his eyes becoming glassy. “My son…the prince,” he croaked.
“I’m sorry.” Ryder reached out to him, and the King moved forward to clasp his hand. After a deep breath, he took to his knee. Bowing his head, he asked the question that had plagued his mind since returning from his travels. “What do you wish of me, my King?”
“There are very few left who lived through the previous tragedy.”
Since the Wasting Plague last surfaced over two thousand years ago that wasn’t a surprise. Only sorcerers, sorceresses, werewolves and a few other magical creatures were capable of living so long. While the population of Salice was heavily dominated by sorcerers and sorceresses now, back then, the Kingdom had been full of mostly humans.
“Our choices are limited. And I would not ask this if there were any other way. All our options are fraught with danger.” The man hesitated.
He needn’t have. Ryder knew the directions of his thoughts. “You want me to seek out my grandmother.”
The King sighed. “Yes. She was there. And if the rumors throughout history are correct she stopped its spread. We need her. Missives were sent to her, however, our messengers…”
Ryder laughed, but felt little joy. “Let me guess, they came back worse for wear?”
“Yes. She has always had a soft spot for you. And has informed us that she will speak to no one other than you.”
Calling any of what his grandmother, Mora, felt for him soft was a vast overstatement. The old witch cared for no one. She just happened to find his slightly sassy attitude entertaining. Even so, her patience with him was marginal and Ryder had been on the receiving end of her magic more than once—each a very painful experience.
He knew what the King wished, and while the man was not ignorant of Mora’s history, Ryder wasn’t sure the King fully understood what dealing with his grandmother entailed. There was always a price.
“The only other possible option is the wolves, and they would sooner slit their throats than help us.” The man huffed in frustration. “Even so, I did try to contact them. But their king, Brogan, refuses even the barest of communications.”
Considering werewolves had a strong hatred towards magic users, Ryder couldn’t say he was shocked. Werewolves had started off as humans and were cursed by one of them, a bit hard to get past that.
“I will go.”
His mother stood suddenly, the look in her eyes became frantic as she threw herself at him. Yanking Ryder away from the king, she clasped him painfully to her. “No! You can’t send him into the woods! It’s too dangerous!”
“No, please! My Little Red, such dangers await there…I can’t… I can’t lose you both…” She cried, her voice giving out.
The King knelt, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Amara, we haven’t lost them yet. This is our only hope.”
His mother let out a sob and slid to the floor.
Three days later
After three days on horseback, Ryder was actually happy to be walking. Not that he had a choice.
When it came to exploring the Yore Forest, otherwise knowing as the Bewitching Woods, walking was the only option. Non-magical animals such as horses refused to venture inside, thus proving that horses were smarter than many of the humans and various others who decided to have a skip through the woods.
There was no doubt that his path into the forest would be fraught with danger.
Thornes grew everywhere, jutting out like claws from the ground. There was only a thin road to follow. The sun seemed to cut off abruptly at the entrance as if hinting that any who entered would find only their demise. And for most that was true. But not for him.
Staring at the path, his mother’s cries filled his mind. His mother was one of the most. She did not possess strong magical abilities due to her human father. Amara also had no idea that he had yet to find the limits of his powers. It wasn’t that he couldn’t become exhausted by expending vast quantities of magic, it was more that he hadn’t yet found a spell he couldn’t cast.
Ryder’s father and King Garin were the only ones who knew that unlike most, he had not discovered the end of his magic as near all sorcerers and sorceresses did upon reaching their twentieth year.
Knowing at least the minimum of what he could do, Ryder wished he could have used that knowledge to soothe her worries about the various dangers in the woods. The only thing she really should worry about was what would happen when Ryder reached his grandmother’s. The woman was a touch insane.
Hopefully, insanity didn’t run in the family. Ryder pulled up the hood of his brown cloak to hide just one of the reasons he was nicknamed Little Red—his bright fire red hair tended to be a beacon. He was powerful, but he wasn’t an idiot. There was no reason to purposely draw attention to himself.
As for the other part of his nickname…Ryder was frustratingly, painfully short—being four eleven sucked to say the least.
With a sigh, he set off. A murky gray environment greeted him on entering. It was indeed amazing how the world went from bright to dull in seconds.
There were other weather zones in the forest. So much magic permeated the woods that from one step to another you could go from spring to winter. It just so happened that the entrance of the woods from the Kingdom of Salice was an area where it was mostly dead and deadly.
As Ryder ventured further down the path, hissing and sounds of movement greeted him. It was unnerving at first, but after an hour of walking and nothing actually attacking him, the noise had become more of an annoyance than anything.
Stopping, with his hands on his hips, Ryder glared at his surroundings. “Oh, come on, just attack already! This is getting ridiculous.”
And attack they did. Creatures of horror burst through bushes and wild thorns, coming out from behind trees, leaving the shadows that they had hidden in. A scorace came from his left, the cat-like creature’s fangs dripped with poison. Ryder rolled to the side, dodging its monstrous claws as it jumped towards him.
He had to maneuver around the attacks of multiple beasts before he found a chance to take them down. Hands moving quickly, symbols formed, the words of the spell filling his mind.
Ryder’s unspoken chant had a spell springing forth from his fingertips, its bright light hitting the creatures, encapsulating them in stone, freezing some midair. Those in the air fell and embedded into the forest floor. Others became perfect statues, or more accurately, gravestones.
Werewolf Prince Bane watched grimly as the small man took down some of the most dangerous creatures in the forest with the wave of his tiny hands.
When his father sent him to check on the unknown visitor that had entered his forest, Bane had expected to find either some idiot human who entered on a dare, a very dead idiot human, or another messenger from King Garin.
Instead, Bane found a sorcerer that would need a step stool just to reach the sink. He had to be under five foot. The man’s sea green eyes were intelligent, and while his features were delicate, there was a nice plumpness to his cheeks.
During the battle—one that Bane had briefly considered jumping in on—the man’s hood had fallen back, and revealed the brightest red hair he had seen in a long time, pulled into a long braid. Despite what he was, Bane decided he wouldn’t mind taking a bite out of the beautiful little morsel. And he just might, once he figured out what the hell he was doing here.
Bane let out a low howl. The noise drew the sorcerers gaze, but knowing the man wouldn’t be able to see him through the plant life, he ignored it and signaled the closest scout to meet up with him.
Dangerous though the forest may be, Ryder reached his grandmother’s home without much hassle. It helped that the closer he got, the less wildlife he encountered.
Ryder couldn’t blame the creatures for avoiding her. His grandmother had a temper and killed easily and often. She also tended to eat what she killed. Hopefully, the rumors about which enemies his grandmother had consumed were exaggerated. Ryder had no interest in being related to a cannibal.
He grimaced, very much wishing he hadn’t decided to remember that little tidbit as he sat across from the woman.
Despite her white hair, Mora had a youthful appearance. But the slightly off-putting, calculating gaze of hers stopped her from being beautiful. She also had a good foot on him in height.
“So nice of you to come and visit! I was starting to believe you had forgotten about me. How could you abandon your dear sweet grandmamma for so long?” She whined.
Ryder rolled his eyes. “Drop the bullshit. You know why I am here, and it is not to visit my dear sweet grandmamma. You have never been, and never will be, sweet. In fact, visiting you can be quite hazardous to my health so I would like to get this over with.”
There was a flash of something in her eyes before she let out a laugh. “Aww, Little Red you never let me have my fun.”
“Your type of fun usually ends with me bleeding so I think I’ll pass on that, thank you.”
“What’s so wrong with a little bit of bleeding?! It just makes it all more exciting,” she said with a wicked smile, one that faded a bit when Ryder just stared at her with disgust. “Fine, fine.
So you are here about a cure for the Wasting Plague are you?”
“You know I am.”
“I will give it to you,” she said. “For a price.”
Ryder sneered, “Of course. So what is it? What price do you put on your son’s life?”
Tsking, Mora leaned back in her chair. “Now, Ryder, you know perfectly well that family ties mean nothing to me.”
“Sorry, for a moment there I had forgotten you were a raging selfish bitch.”
“You are pushing it, Ryder,” his grandmother warned.
He knew he was, but at the moment he didn’t care. So many lives were counting on him. Ryder’s grandmother would draw this out if he let her. She reveled in taunting others with what they wanted, and with him, it always seemed she was trying to test his powers.
Crossing his arms, he snorted, “Tough shit. What do you want?”
Crossing her arms as well, she glared.
“What. Do. You. Want?” Ryder ground out, letting his raw magic rise up.
Hers answered his, rising as well, almost mixing. Their blood relationship showing through the similarities of their magic.
Suddenly she smiled and licked her lips. “My, my, how you have grown Little Red.”
Mora shuddered as if taking pleasure from their magic interacting, which was gross on so many levels.
“As you have given me such a treat, I will tell you what I want.”
Would it have killed her to be less creepy? Probably would, Ryder thought with exasperation.
“I want a wolf.”
“A werewolf, a specific werewolf. Prince Bane Oldin to be exact.”
Eyes widening, Ryder screeched, “Are you insane?! Do you want to start a war?!”
“He started it! Skulking around my home…I’m sure he is planning to eat me.”
“Werewolves don’t eat people!”
Slamming her hands down on the table, she hissed, “Lies! They have before.”
“Yeah, thousands of years ago! I will not kidnap the damn prince of the werewolves!”
“Then I guess your father is going to die. Along with King Garin’s twit of a son and too many others to count. Wonder how they will feel when they find out you could have stopped it if you had only done one small task.” She smiled smugly.
The bitch! Shit, what was Ryder going to do? Did he have a choice?
No, he didn’t, but he would damn well make sure she didn’t harm the prince. At least, he would try. It all depended on if he could even get his hands on the man. Due to how werewolves were created, they were invulnerable to spells. They were also deadly and possessed physical strength that few could surpass.
Feeling resigned, Ryder asked, “What do you plan to do with the prince? And how do you expect me to capture him?”
That bitch, Bane thought vehemently as he listened to the conversation going on inside the witch’s house. It turned out alerting her to his presence when he had gone to fetch the wayward werewolf child had been a mistake.
His father ignoring King Garin’s messengers had been a mistake as well. Animosity and hatred aside, even they would not be so cruel to do nothing while thousands died.
Bane wasn’t sure if they could help or not. But his father was overly tight-lipped about that period of time, which meant he knew more than he let on.
It took very little for him to get over the shock of finding out the redhead was Mora’s grandson. Bane had gone from being suspicious to sympathetic with each word spoken.
Worse he had seen the young sorcerer’s face fall and then harden. Ryder would do what his grandmother had asked.
Bane snorted in disbelief as Mora went on about her plans while swearing she meant him no harm.
The bizarreness of the kidnapping plot aside, something was not right about all this. A small infraction should not warrant such actions. Was she genuinely insane or just planning something more sinister? Would she really let so many die? Her own son was in danger. None of it made sense.
Many of the rumors surrounding Mora Rogwyn told of someone who should have been snuffed out years ago. Bane had often wondered if her power prevented anyone from attempting.
Knowing all that, he decided there was only one option, only one way to possibly get the answers he needed. And that was to play along.
To Be Continued...
Vampire King Adrian Bloodhart has faced many challenges in the thousands of years he's been reigning. However, he had thought he'd moved past the stage of his life that was littered with assassination attempts. And, as if the attacks weren't irritating enough, he finds himself saddled with a personal bodyguard he doesn't feel he needs or even wants.
When Xavier Dayden had agreed to guard King Adrian, he had expected to be guarding a mature adult, but what he got was a petulant child. Adrian is odd as hell and too sexy for Xavier's peace of mind. When Xavier finds his control slipping, he's conflicted. Giving in could lead to so much more than a one night stand, but was it worth the possible heartbreak?
The choice is made when tragedy strikes where it is least expected and, as Adrian's walls crack and fall, Xavier is there to pick up the pieces. Through the heartache, love is finally in their grasps.
Buying Link: http://www.bookstrand.com/book/adrians-bodyguard
Xavier Dayden stood back and watched as King Aiden composed his thoughts. There was going to be an argument for sure. However, his kings fully intended to win the fight that was about to happen.
He briefly wondered how he had never met King Adrian. He had met the man’s father at the age of twenty-five—the man had been as much of a bastard as the previous Arcadian king, Davin.
It made sense, he supposed. When Adrian’s father, King Kade, stilled ruled, he avoided venturing into Vadin, as it was a mess to say the least. When Adrian Silvermore Bloodhart took over, he had just been named the captain of the guards. For years he mostly remained in the castle. Then when King Rand died—murder by his own twin brother—King Davin started a war with the Kingdom of Vadin. At the time, he had been forced to be Davin’s personal bodyguard. He had been stuck in the castle being King Davin’s “faithful” bodyguard—or so Davin believed up until the moment he allowed Tristan to remove the bastard’s head.
It was quite a shame that he hadn’t met the man earlier, he mused. He did find it a bit odd that Adrian was barefoot. However, it was easy to ignore when Xavier examined the rest of him. Adrian was beautiful and had a voice that was pure sex. It was causing an alarming amount of sexual scenarios to run through his head, so much so that he had been forced to adjust himself.
Forcing the thoughts away, as they were seriously inappropriate considering the current situation, he turned his focus back to the conversation going on around him.
“Yes, rumors. We ignored them at first, as rumors more often than not are just that. However, the rumors started to multiply. When more tales of attacks reached us, ones more violent than the previous, we decided it was time to investigate ourselves if there was any truth behind them. What we found, Adrian, was not reassuring. Many of your people are worried about the future. They fear what could happen. They fear for your safety.” King Aiden paused and then asked, “Adrian, is there a reason for them to fear for you? Are the rumors true? Have there been multiple attempts on your life?”
The Vampire King appeared uneasy with the line of questioning. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he said, “I think it would be best to have this conversation in the privacy of my throne room.” Adrian turned without another word, scurried through the gate, and hurried back down the path that led to the entrance of his castle.
Xavier almost laughed at how quickly he retreated, but held it in, as he doubted his kings would find any humor in the situation. They considered King Adrian one of their closest friends, and the situation worried them.
Both the twins and the guard—who had been standing behind King Adrian—sighed as they watched him retreat.
As the man disappeared into the castle, King Aiden murmured, “I suppose we should follow…”
The guard grimaced and motioned them forward. “Yes, please follow me, King Tristan, King Aiden. I apologize for his rude behavior. He has been unusually stubborn about this whole mess.”
“It’s fine, Baylin. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy when you informed us of the situation. Obviously, he’s a bit out of sorts. Considering the situation, it’s understandable. You have nothing to apologize for,” King Tristan demurred, speaking at last.
Out of the two, Tristan was the peacekeeper. He was more levelheaded than his twin and was unlikely to let his temper get the best of him. King Aiden, however, enjoyed a good fight and usually was the first to jump in. He also tended to be a bit harsher with his words.
Though, Tristan’s temper was a sight to see when unleashed. Overall, the two seemed to balance each other out, making up for each other’s faults.
Xavier followed them in and through the castle to the throne room. The rest of the entourage, who arrived with the kings, were shown to their rooms.
There were two guards stationed outside the throne-room doors when they arrived. The throne room itself was empty aside from King Adrian. Two thrones, sitting side by side, faced King Adrian—thrones he would bet were not there earlier. As his kings sat down, the doors closed behind them, sealing the three kings, the guard Baylin, and himself inside.
They all remained quiet as the sound of the doors closing echoed throughout the room.
The hairs on the back of Xavier’s neck stood—someone was watching him. With so few in the room, it was easy to figure out who.
Adrian was examining him closely. “And who is this?”
King Aiden started to answer, but stopped when King Tristan grabbed his shoulder. Tristan seemed quite aware that now was not the time to reveal why Xavier was here. He would have to agree with the assessment, as King Adrian looked ready to bolt already.
“We’ll tell you why he’s here in time. Please take comfort in the fact that we trust him with our lives. Now, Adrian, please tell us the truth. What is going on?” Tristan pushed gently.
With a heavy sigh, Adrian admitted, “The rumors are true. There have been multiple attempts on my life, but it’s really nothing to worry about. I can take care of myself.”
King Aiden narrowed his eyes, anger building. “What about the rumors that each attack is more brutal than the last?”
Adrian began to fidget on his throne. “That rumor may also be true…”
Aiden slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair. “May be true? Adrian, it’s a yes or no question. What is being done to guarantee your safety? Is anything being done? Also, why weren’t we informed of this when it first started? Not only are you our friend, but you also rule a country that we share borders with. This is a serious matter. We could face major diplomatic problems if you are unseated. Citizens of both countries could get hurt. Why are you being so foolish as to refuse a bodyguard? Have you lost all common sense?”
Xavier winced—in his outburst, King Aiden had revealed too much. The slip-up was not one King Adrian was likely to miss.
“And how do you know I’m refusing a bodyguard?” the man asked coldly, and turned to glare at the guard Baylin. “You dirty little fink! You couldn’t win an argument, so you went and tattled on me?”
The minute he saw them on the bed, he knew he had been lying to himself. He had underestimated how he would feel seeing Adrian with someone else. It didn’t matter that the scent of arousal was absent or that neither of them were hard—he felt anything but calm. Rage raced through his veins at the sight of the two men nude together.
Xavier gripped the doorframe and growled menacingly as he struggled to control his anger. When the wood shattered under his grip, he realized he had frozen part of the doorframe.
“Get out!” He roared as he stalked toward the bed—he had to force himself to ignore Asa as he sprinted around him from the room.
Standing at the foot of the bed, he grabbed Adrian’s ankles and dragged him down until his legs hung off and their eyes met. “Mine!” he said with a growl before slamming his mouth onto Adrian’s. The kiss was more a hard press of lips before Adrian opened for him. The man tasted sweeter than he could have ever imagined.
Xavier growled into the kiss when Adrian tried to take control. The challenge was clear: if he wanted control, he would have to fight for it. It didn’t surprise him—he doubted many kings gave up control easily.
When he pulled away, both of them were panting heavily, their breath visible in the ice-cold air. The frigidness surrounding him felt strange against his overheated skin, yet comforting to his Ice Demon side. However, when Adrian began to shiver—despite the heat radiating from them both—he took a deep breath and forced himself to rein in his powers.
Glaring down at the man, he said with a growl, “You love to test me, don’t you?”
Instead of answering, the man reached up and ran his index finger over Xavier’s bottom lip. The action caused him to wince. There was blood on Adrian’s finger when he pulled back—he must have nicked his lip on one of the man’s fangs. Grinning up at him, Adrian licked the blood off his finger and hummed in pleasure.
“Shit…” Xavier licked his lips and grabbed Adrian’s ass. Pulling Adrian up against him, he sealed their lips together again. Adrian quickly wrapped his legs around his waist, moaning into the kiss. With Adrian wrapped around him, Xavier crawled onto the bed, groaning when Adrian began to grind his cock against his hard bulge. His cock was already throbbing, and the pressure was almost too much.
Adrian ran his nails up and down Xavier’s back before trying to pull his shirt off. “Off!” Adrian hissed when he broke their kiss.
“Impatient, love?” He laughed as he forced himself to let go of Adrian’s perfectly round globes, dropping him onto the bed.
Xavier’s anger had already vanished—he had finally thought of a way to turn the tables on the frustrating man lying beneath him. He grinned wickedly as he fully covered Adrian’s body with his own.
Adrian whimpered and whined. “Off now.”
Xavier just chuckled and started to kiss and nuzzle his neck. He knew how Adrian felt—he, too, yearned to feel bare skin pressed against his own. However, Xavier would be hard-pressed to hold back if he removed the thin barrier between them—and he had no intention of giving Adrian what he wanted so easily.
When Adrian grabbed the back of his shirt, most likely to rip it off, he took hold of his arms. “Oh no you don’t,” he said with a laugh.
The man whined and struggled as Xavier forced his arms above his head, took his wrists in his right hand, and held them down. “Let me go,” Adrian hissed.
“Why? Isn’t this what you wanted, baby?” Xavier asked, punctuating each word with a kiss.
“What I want is for you to fuck me!” he hollered.
He ignored Adrian’s outburst. Adrian moaned as Xavier trailed his tongue down the man’s throat. Continuing down, he took Adrian’s right nipple into his mouth. With his free hand, Xavier caressed Adrian’s other perky bud, rubbing his thumb back and forth across it before pinching it.
He grinned against Adrian’s nipple—the man was whimpering and trying to grind up against him but couldn’t find the right angle. Such an impatient little thing, Xavier thought with a chuckle.
Adrian moaned. “More!”
Xavier’s chuckle turned into a bark of laughter when his shirt was suddenly ripped from his body. Adrian had apparently remembered he could use telekinesis. “Naughty, naughty.”
“More,” Adrian demanded with a deep growl. Xavier laughed harder when his pants went the way of his shirt.
Never one for undergarments, he was no longer confined. His cock pulsed fiercely, dripping with the need to be inside Adrian. Each moan he had wrenched from Adrian had already begun to push him toward the edge, and without his clothes, his game would end sooner than he intended.
Books have always been a big part of Shelby Rhodes’ Life. Unfortunately, growing up writing had been a constant struggle for her. So, even with her head filled with stories she never tried to write them down.
It took two degrees in painting for her to finally gain the confidence to explore writing as a creative outlet. Now writing has become a way for her to dive into new adventures and explore new worlds.
With confidence she fully intends to explore everything that has been stuck in her head for years. It is her hope that others will join her on her adventures.
Siren author page: http://www.bookstrand.com/shelby-rhodes