The statues he’d had commissioned were perfect without being gaudy. Janus Monroe grinned as he studied them where they stood on either side of the altar. This room was a little small, but they didn’t overpower it despite the size.
The lighting issues had been corrected too and the scrolls hung on the wall were easily readable while the mural of the wolves ever watchful near the stream in the wood gave even more interest to the wall.
“Jan, you realize how crazy this all is, right?” the voice of his friend Evan drifted up the aisle to him and he turned for a look.
The taller man was clad in casual navy pants and a corn meal yellow button-down open at the throat showing off the stainless-steel chain. His black hair was cut short, the curls gleaming in the light.
“It’s just crazy enough to work,” Janus said with a little laugh. “So far, we’ve got fifty followers all moving into our commune to join in the worship of Anatole, the wolf-headed God and his consort, the healer and Goddess of magic, Ruby.”
Evan shook his head, lips pursed. “I cannot believe you, man,” he exclaimed. “Only you could end up laundering money for the mob and starting a religious cult to cover it up. This isn’t going to work, so I hope you’re saving up, so I’ll be able to bail your ass out of jail without putting my own in a sling.”
Janus chuckled. “Relax, sweetie everything is under control. The feds are never going to find out. This is coven of wolves, the religion of Wolf Song is a perfect cover,” he said. “You have no idea how easy it is to convince people they need a change in the way they live.”
Evan came up beside him in the room that was the picture of understated elegance and comfort. All of his followers could kneel at altar and light candles, give an offering, or just pray while others could take up residence in the pews as they contemplated their lives and asked the God or his consort for help.
Evan slung a careless arm around him. “You’ve taken everything I said and expanded on it, turning it into something that’s too real not to believe.”
“You believed it which is what gave it foundation and meaning to me,” Janus said honestly. Evan was a Wiccan who’d created his own tradition after years of studying and belonging to a coven.
Janus had practiced himself as a child, guided by his parents but as an adult, Janus had drifted away from religion in search of things he’d never had at home, including acceptance and love. His parents’ deaths had left him adrift when he’d been sent to live with Christians who not only rejected his religion, the only thing that had given him stability, but later him.
“I don’t have a problem with you using my concepts for a real group or coven, but Jan, this is beyond that,” Evan told him and glanced around the room. “The room is perfect for worship and communing with deity, but it’s just not going to hold up.”
“It’ll be fine, Evan, trust me,” he said. “Are you going to stay here and help me run the place? I mean I do have to manage that casino, so I could use your help here.”
“I have an actual job, remember?” Evan asked with an amused smile.
“I know, but I need you, and there is a paycheck in it,” Janus told him with a grin. The money he was making was out of this world and that’s why he’d started this cult. He needed to hide because the feds were starting to look askance at him.
“What are you calling this for tax purposes?”
“A non-profit religious organization,” he said. You’d be amazed at how wide a berth places like this get.”
“I’m sure,” Evan said. “Just be careful. Those mob boys might start to get nervous with your conveners hanging around.”
“They’re not hanging out at the casino, and they have no idea how I’m funding this place. They think it’s from private donations and stuff like that. And some of it is. It’s all picture perfect on paper.” It had been, but he was getting worried with the mob boss he was working for under the gun.
The man could be arrested any day and the feds had widened their circle to include employees of the casino and restaurant he operated. The place looked like a small land-based set-up from the outside, but inside there were rooms for betting on sports and the horses.
“Come on, let’s go get a drink,” Janus said. “I want to run a few ideas I have for the coven by you.”
“What kind of ideas?” Evan asked carefully.
Janus laughed and gave his friend’s arm a tug. “Come run this place with me as a high priest you won’t be sorry, honey.” Not in the least since he could provide a good life for them without Evan having to work so much.
“I’m not going to agree to anything more than teaching a class or two,” Evan replied as they headed back the way Evan had come.
“Good because that’s what I want,” Janus exclaimed. “Some of my flock is psychic. I want you to teach them how to develop their inner powers starting with the meditation class.”
“Only you, Janus,” Evan muttered. “Only you could go into something like this full tilt with the expectation of keeping your ass out of a sling.”
“Come on.” Janus rubbed his hand up Evan’s arm enjoying the solid feel of his muscle. He’d always wondered what it would be like to have Evan in his bed, naked and sweaty and so—
“We’ll see,” Evan said turning to walk out with him.
* * * *
The next day Janus got off work at the casino and headed to his office. Evan had asked him to have dinner with him and he really wanted to make it nice if not special. Things could change between them—maybe but he wouldn’t know if he didn’t try.
“It’s about time you got here,” a cold voice said from the doorway of the bathroom.
Janus jumped and turned to face the mobster he was working for. “Carlo,” he said carefully. “What are you doing here?” Carlo rarely showed his face at the casino to minimize any problems they could have.
The feds were always watching Carlo and might get suspicious if Carlo started coming around. They certainly would start paying Janus more attention than he needed because prison orange wasn’t his color.
“I was going over the books with Franco,” he commented pushing a hand into his slacks pocket. “Something looked off.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know what you mean? I’m not cheating you. I did exactly what you told me too.”
“Did you?” he asked. “I’m getting the feeling that’s a lie with that nice new compound of yours.”
“That’s just to keep the feds off my ass,” Janus muttered. “But I didn’t use your money to make it happen.” He moved to his desk but didn’t sit down.
Carlo didn’t usually carry a weapon, but he always had someone in tow who did. Carlo was the gentleman mobster who didn’t get his hands dirty.
“I’m light twenty thousand,” he said. “Last time it was fifteen. I want my money, Janus.”
Janus shook his head. “Maybe you should look at Franco,” he snapped. “My books are clean here and at my compound. I can account for every dime.”
“Then, you better start,” he said. “But don’t think I’m going to fall for your tricks. You’ve been working for me long enough to have figured out how to cook the books in your favor.”
“Cook the b—are you insane?” he exclaimed. “I leave that you because I don’t have a high-ass lawyer to get my ass out of jail if I’m caught lying to the feds. So look to your own.”
Carlo strolled over to him, brown eyes hardening. “You better get my money within two days, Janus, and we’ll forget about this. I’ll call it a loan.”
“You can call it whatever you want, but I don’t have your money,” Janus growled. “Going toe-to-toe with you isn’t on my agenda. I know I’d never win.”
“You’re damn right, so get my money by midnight. Two days.” Carlo reached out to slap Janus’s cheek and Janus blocked the contact.
“Don’t touch me,” he said. “And don’t keep threatening me. I’ll be here but I won’t have your money because I didn’t take it. Like I said. You better check Franco or his bimbo girlfriend. She does the books better than Franky especially when he’s had a few.”
Carlo backed away from him and headed to the door. “I’ll collect myself.”
“You know where to find me,” Janus retorted. As soon as the door closed Janus cursed and kicked his trash can. The door opened after a brief knock and he jerked around.
Janus wasn’t carrying, and he didn’t want to die, but he’d known that was a very real possibility when he’d gotten into bed with Carlo.
“You scared me,” Janus said with a sigh. “What are you doing here? We were going to have dinner at your place.”
“I know,” Evan said striding toward him. “I just got a bad feeling and decided to come check on you.”
He sighed and tried to brush things off, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t hide from Evan at any rate. Evan took his hand and the slightly rough skin made his skin heat. That’s when he knew he had to have those hands on him tonight.
“What’s going on with them?” Evan asked softly, concern in his warm brown eyes.
Janus ran his hand up Evan’s chest. The dress shirt and tie did nothing to conceal the hard strength beneath. He ached to explore the muscle and feel it against him, inside him.
“Carlo’s having problems with his people and he’s blaming me.”
“What kind of problem?”
“Someone’s stealing from him, probably Franky or Franky’s woman,” he said. “She’s got a coke and gambling problem. She dropped six grand on a baseball game and lost.” He shrugged. “Franky covered it.”
“Why are they even allowed to gamble in here?” Evan demanded stepping closer to him and Janus couldn’t say he objected. The man smelled good, sexy like leather and spice.
“I don’t know but I don’t argue with Carlo. Franky’s been fucking with the books and now Carlo thinks I’m stealing from him.”
“You should talk to the feds and DEA,” Evan said. “They could get you out of this mess.”
“I can’t,” he said in an irritated tone. He knew drugs were being ran through here, sold here, but he didn’t stick his nose in that. He also knew there was some loan sharking going on too, but he kept that to himself. He pulled away from Janus and sat on the edge of his desk.
“Do you have that much?”
“Yeah, but I’m not handing it over to him, so Franky and his bitch can keep doing what they’re doing,” Janus muttered.
“He’ll kill you,” Evan said. “I don’t want you to die over something like this.” He moved closer. “You’re my best and oldest friend.”
“Is that all?” Janus asked and laughed a little nervously at the query in Evan’s eyes. “I just meant—”
Evan cut him off with a kiss. It was soft and mere press of lips but it burned Janus to the depths of his soul.
Hungry for more, he curled his arm around Evan’s neck, fingers stroking over the thick hair at Evan’s nape. He parted his lips and Evan’s tongue darted inside, the taste of mint on his tongue.
“Mmm.” Janus leaned into him and Evan wrapped his arm around Janus’s waist, urging him to his feet.
Evan’s strong hand brushed over his ass, cupped and squeezed lightly before he bent his knees and rubbed against Janus slow and sensual. Janus broke the kiss the friction making his dick so hard it ached.
“What was that?” he asked breathlessly.
“Just wanted to let you know it was a little more than the concern of a friend talking,” he said in a low voice that caressed Janus low and slow.
“What—I mean, why else then?” he asked hope fluttering in his stomach. They’d been friends a long time, gotten each other through some painful times, but neither of them had ever made any moves to cross that line.
Friendship was a small-town with a special code that was never spoken yet indelibly imprinted on the mind. Dating each other seriously had to go against that all things considered. If the romance soured, you pissed off a good friendship.
But what if it didn’t?
And even if it did, would the moments in Evan’s arms be worth the risk?
“I think you know,” Evan said. “We both do. We’ve been carefully skirting the attraction between us for years now. Neither of us ever wanting to speak what’s really on our minds when those awkward silences strike.”
They never lasted but they did crop up once in a while especially after one of them stared too long at the other or held the other’s gaze a little longer than he should. Electricity crackled between them then just like it did right now.
And like then, he was nervous, his palms damp with it.
“So, what are we going to do about it?” Evan asked. “Keep on pretending we don’t care the other one is dating someone when we’d rather be that guy who’s in each other’s beds?”
“Everything could be ruined,” Janus said softly.
“It could be eventually anyway,” Evan insisted. “I don’t know how many more men I can watch you with before I walk away. I know none of the are right for you.”
“And you are?”
“I might be the one, but we’ll never know if we don’t take that chance,” Evan whispered. “I don’t mean friends with benefits. That’s shit and somebody’s really bound to end up hurt. And I’m not about that. I don’t want to hurt the only man I’ve ever really loved.” Evan cupped Janus’s cheek.
Janus swallowed tightly. “Yeah.” He put his hand on Evan’s. “Let’s see where we go then,” he answered. There was nothing else to say because he wanted this chance more than he wanted his next breath. “I’ll meet you in two hours at your place. I want to check something on my computer first.”
He had some records and security camera footage that might yield something helpful in getting Carlo off his back for now. Janus would rather deal with that tonight than take chances.
“Don’t be late,” Evan said with a smile. “And we’ll figure out a way to get you out of this mess,” he promised.
Janus grinned. “Yeah, we will.”
* * * *
After Evan was gone, Janus sat down at his desk and got his lap top fired up. The security footage was always downloaded onto SD cards wand flash drives as per his instructions. Janus was a little worried Carlo or one of his people would turn on him.
As a result, Janus had a file ready to go to the FBI if anything happened to him. That file included conversations he’d had with Carlo here in his office as well as footage from the tiny camera that was always on and recording here. That was as much for his benefit as his protection.
The feds had come in and interrogated him about Carlo a few times in the last month and he had that on file too. He didn’t trust agents anymore than he trusted mobsters. That was the very reason, the information would go to multiple agencies and agents.
He inserted a card and began going over the footage. He’d been sitting there for fifty-five minutes when he found something of interest.
“Carlo won’t find out, honey,” Tangela, Franky’s girlfriend said. “And if he does Janus will take the fall for it.”
“I know. I know. I need help,” she said in a mocking tone.
“You do,” Franky said. “We both need to get clean before we end up doing something stupid that gets us killed.”
She gave him an exasperated sigh. “I like coke and I like gambling. You get clean.”
A rap on the door had Franky getting up from behind Janus’s desk. “You aren’t supposed to be in here. Go into the bathroom.”
She did, and Franky opened the door. He stepped out and was gone for two minutes before Tangela came back out and sat down at the computer. She called up a program and changed some numbers before going to the wall safe and opening it.
She shouldn’t know the combination. He changed it every week, but Franky knew it, so she obviously did too. She removed a stack of bills and closed the safe before scurrying back into the bathroom.
Franky came back in five minutes later.
“What took you so long?” Tangela demanded.
“I have go,” he said. “A delivery is coming in and Carlo wants me to be down there.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll just go out on the floor and have a few drinks while I wait.”
“Go home, Tan,” he insisted. “I’ll come over later, and we’ll have a serious talk.”
“About what?” she demanded.
“We can’t keep doing this,” he said. “I’ve got a bad feeling that one day that little twerp is going to catch me fixing the books or something.”
“Stop being a worry wort and get me fifteen from the safe,” she said with a pout. “I feel lucky.”
“No. I need to get down there to help get that coke processed and moved. There are a couple of agents snooping around.”
“Fine,” she said with a put upon sigh. “I’ll just have a drink and go home.”
They left his office, but Janus found her again on the casino’s security footage gambling. She lost fifteen grand.
He also found some footage of the coke delivery and the four men testing and talking about what would happen to it from there. He spent another twenty minutes going over the footage of the last four days before taking what he needed and putting it into the files.
When Janus was done, he reset the send timers and got up to leave. Pulling open the door, he came face-to-face with Carlo’s head of security, Arlo.
“Arlo,” he said coolly. “Excuse me.”
“Get back inside,” Arlo ordered. “Carlo asked me to have a chat with you about some missing money.”
“I told him I didn’t have it, now back off.”
Arlo shoved him back inside. “Don’t make this hard, man. I like you. I really don’t want to kill you.”
“Like I told Carlo. Talk to Franky and Tangela. She likes to dip in the till as well as the coke, but you already know that since you’re more than happy to keep her supplied for a little pussy. I bet Franky has no idea what’s going on with that.”
He sighed shaking his head. “That’s none of your business.” He slipped his hand inside his suit and Janus hurried for his desk where his own weapon was secured.
Arlo screwed on the silencer just as Janus got the drawer open. The bullet pierced his shoulder and pain exploded through his arm but that didn’t stay his hand. Janus pulled his gun free and turned and fired off a couple of rounds. At the same time, Arlo fired again.
One of the shot slammed into him making Janus gasp before he and Arlo both sank to their knees on the carpeted floor.
* * * *
Evan wiped away another tear as he sat on the couch in his living room. The will had been clear so everything Janus had was his now including that damned ruse of a business, his coven and new religion.
He didn’t want any of it, but he was at least going to get justice for Janus. The nanny cams in Janus’s office had caught the murder on film. But it wasn’t just that. The information that had shown up in his inbox ten days ago had already resulted in arrests and indictments of Carlo and members of his mob family.
More were coming thanks to the thorough files Janus had kept. That wouldn’t bring Janus back or give them that chance he’d finally been bold enough to ask for.
But he was doing what Janus wanted legally and as per his body. Janus and his religion. Evan knew it was fake, but he’d honored Janus’s wishes. He’d turned his comatose body over to a cryonics lab for storage.
Even if they did manage to bring him back, Evan doubted Janus would be the same. The shots had damaged his brain according to the doctor. The doctor had urged him to let Janus go but he part of Evan just couldn’t do it. It would be like Janus wasn’t really gone.
A flicker of something caught his attention and Evan turned. A big gray wolf stood there staring at him with blue eyes for a moment before it vanished.
He sighed brushing it off even though he’d been seeing them ever since Janus was shot. He’d even seen one at the interment center where he’d left Janus to be frozen. He’d left the new silver wolf pendant around Janus’s neck almost as if he thought the wolf would watch over him.
But did he really believe that?
Ten years later…
The howl of a wolf woke him in the early morning hours and Evan groaned as he rolled over. He climbed out of bed and went to peek out the window of his single-story home located on the vast grounds of the compound.
Sitting not far from the window was a big gray wolf. It stared at him with blue eyes and threw its head back and howled again before walking off.
“What was that?” he muttered. He hadn’t seen a wolf in nine years. Well, he saw one once a year on the anniversary of Janus’s shooting. It was as if the God didn’t want him to forget. He’d take flowers to the place where he and Janus had had their first unofficial date as teens.
Back then, things had been so simple despite the complications of coming out.
He touched his hand to the window. “I’ll see you there,” he said and went back to bed, but Evan didn’t sleep. He laid there for another hour before rising and taking a long shower and dressing.
He had duties as the leader of the high priest of the Coven of Wolves which was now a major order in the witch world. He owed it all to Janus and his crazy move to hide the money he’d gained through illegal means.
A tight smile touched his lips. “I miss you, Jan,” he said. Even after all this time, he still wished Janus was here.
Evan climbed out of the shower and dressed in his usual casual pants and button-down. The first order of the day was a class with the initiates. They weren’t witches of the coven yet. They had a year and a day to study before they could join the coven.
He reached for his watch and his cell phone chimed. “Alex, answer the phone,” he instructed the speaker that was hooked to his phone.
The phone stopped ringing. “Hello?” Evan asked.
“Is this Evan?” the crisp voice asked.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“I’m Katy from Glacier Cryonics,” she said. “I’m calling because we had a major power outage last night and—”
Oh no. Janus was gone.
“Your friend Janus was affected,” she told him.
“I’ll be right there,” he said. This time he’d have to make arrangements to bury Jan. And he’d have to say goodbye all over again.
“That’s good,” she said. “We simply aren’t prepared to handle him here.”
“What do you mean?” Evan asked with a frown as he grabbed his car keys and wallet.
Evan had to struggle to hold on to the phone, his jaw unhinged as his heart stopped. “A—did you say he was awake?”
“Yes. The doctor checked him out, but you’ll need to come and get him.”
“I’m on my way,” he said. With shaking hands, Evan hurried to the dresser and removed several items before getting a bag from the closet.
He put the items inside and raced from the house out to his driveway. His place was situated away from the compound itself in a secluded little spot near the man-made creek that extended to the heart of the compound.
He had to focus hard on the drive, his min wondering, fear making his skin cold. What would Jan be like?
How much occupational therapy would he have to have?
Would he even be anywhere near the man he’d once been?
“Don’t get your hopes up,” he ordered himself. “The doctor said he’d likely be brain damaged.”
When Evan reached the center, he whipped his car into space taking up two slots. He cut the engine and ran up to the multi-story building. He reached the reception area and was directed to Dr. Mosely’s office.
When he reached it, the man was seated behind his desk.
“Where is Janus?”
The other man stood with a smile on his face. “He’s in the exam room, but he’s fine. I’d like to run a few tests, but he’s against it.”
“Well, I know when he first came in ten years ago he was more or less brain dead. I’d like to find out how—what went on in his body over the last ten years.”
“I’m sorry,” Evan said with a shake of his head. “I want to see him. I’m not consenting to anything before that.” Janus had known his own mind and if he wasn’t allowing this, Evan damn sure wasn’t about to.
“Of course,” Mosely led him next to an exam room where Janus was seated on an exam table in a hospital gown, blond hair tousled, big blue eyes filled with consternation.
“Janus,” Evan said tentatively as he reminded himself not to expect too much.
“Hey, Evan,” he said quietly. “What am I doing here?”
“You don’t remember what happened?”
“I know it’s ten years later according to that mad scientist,” Janus said irritation in his tone. “I want to get out of here.”
“Of course. I brought you some clothes.” He gave him a smile.
“Doc do you mind?” Janus asked. “I want to change so I can get out of here. I’m starving.”
“Like I said, J—Mr. Monroe. I’d like to run a few tests.”
“So, what?” Janus asked. “Did you bring my wallet? I pay this dude for his whatever and get out of here.”
“I’ll deal with it.” Evan handed the bag off and took the doctor’s arm and tugged him from the room.
“Your friend could have a serious brain issue,” Mosely said. “I need to—”
“I’ll take him to a doctor,” Evan assured him. “But as for you guys, I’ve already paid for the month so there is no bill to settle up.”
“True, but you don’t understand—”
“I understand you aren’t getting your hands on him and if you don’t stop I’ll make sure everyone dealing with you finds out what kind of people you are. None of it will be good trust me.” The members of the coven, the vast coven would make damn sure this place was closed down once Evan went public.
He was a major figure in witchcraft and had political influence that could get mountains moved whenever he wanted to. But he wasn’t like that. He’d tried to do good things that Jan would be proud of since this whole coven had been started by him.
“How do you think people will react when they realize cryonics is a viable option? They will be eager to hear—”
“When I’m done, all they’ll think is Janus was in a coma for ten years and by the grace of our Lord and Lady had he awakened now. This won’t do your clinic any favors, so back off.”
Janus emerged, bag in hand. “Let’s get out of here, Evan,” he said. “I need to make a few calls.”
Evan took Janus’s arm. “Are you okay?”
“I can walk, Ev,” he remarked, humor in his eyes and Evan grinned at him.
Same old cocky bastard. “Okay.” He was taking him to a doctor though no matter what Jan said.
* * * *
Janus had fought the visit to the hospital but in the end, Evan hadn’t relented. While he’d waited, Evan had made a few calls to the coven to let them know to cancel all his classes because of a personal emergency.
Now, he was watching Janus devour a burger and fries.
“I can’t believe it’s been ten years and the food has changed.”
“Less fat,” Evan said. “More organic foods and grain fed cows.”
“They’re still trying to kill us,” he muttered. “What happened to Carlo and his cronies?”
“He was killed in jail along with the guy who shot you,” Evan said. “I can’t believe there’s no sign of trauma. The doctor told me you were going to be brain damaged more than likely, but here you are.”
Janus smiled. “Here I am, ten years older and ten years—are you seeing someone?”
Evan laughed. “There’s this sexy guy I visit a few times a week.”
“Visit?” He asked with a frowned. “I guess you’re serious about this guy. That’s okay. I’ll have to get my head around time moving on without me.”
“You won’t believe this, but the coven is now big. It’s a world-wide phenomenon. The craft has become a recognized religion and it isn’t just treated like some crackpot thing for freaks.”
Janus stared at him. “What? The Wolves?”
“Our Goddess Ruby and her consort, Anatole.”
“Are you serious?” he asked and then laughed. “I can’t fucking believe it. What a difference a decade makes.”
“You’re going to be so awestruck when you see it,” Evan said. “Everyone knows who their founder is and think you’re a brave visionary.”
“They know about the mob coming after you, trying to destroy the coven. They know you as the founder.”
* * * *
Janus was still amazed two days later at how a joke had become a tradition that was not only respected but influential. They’d gotten a president elected along with senators, governors, and mayors. The coven was heralded for it’s good works and brotherhood.
Christians weren’t too happy with them, especially the Catholics, but Janus thought that was hilarious. They were never happy with anyone who might look more benevolent than them. When the truth was they were probably still self-righteous pricks who wanted to dominated religion.
The climate had changed to along with cars—they drove themselves. They didn’t hover yet though the suspected that was the next big thing. The fall was colder than it used to be here, but that was probably some scientific prediction connected with global warming or something.
He took a sip of his coffee and stared out from the window. Some initiates were gathered beneath a tall tree whose leaves had already turned to gold and plum. The grass was neatly trimmed but already turning brown. It was barely mid-September according to the calendar in Evan’s planner.
That was one thing that hadn’t changed. Ev was still a pen to paper planner. He smirked but he watched as Evan worked with his group and decided he’d better sit in on some of the sessions himself. So, he could show his appreciation for what the divine had done for him.
“You gave me another chance,” he murmured, eyes on Evan. “Us another chance. I’m going to do things right—no criminal activities just a nice quiet life.”
He finished his coffee and sat down at Evan’s desk to search the web to find out more about what was going on in the world.
Janus typed in the coven’s name and was floored at the hits. He went through web page after web page and couldn’t believe his eyes.
“What’s up?” Evan asked, and he looked up.
“How long have I been sitting here? I mean how long since your class was over?”
“An hour,” Evan told him coming to the desk.
“I really can’t believe it,” Janus murmured. “Wolf Song and the religion are all over the place. I know you told me, but I can’t get over the sheer size of things. And the initial book of shadows is out there with my name. You gave me credit for your work.”
“You changed stuff remember?” Evan asked with a grin. “So, this really is all on you. I think you should speak on All Hallow’s Eve next month. Everyone knows that’s your favorite Sabbat next to Beltane.”
Janus laughed and got to his feet. “Evan you’re crazy,” he said breathlessly. “I can’t do that.”
“Yeah, you can,” Evan said softly. “I’ll be right by your side.”
“As what?” Janus asked seriously. “My best-friend, my first disciple?”
“I’m not seeing anyone,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get over you. Besides that, I’ve been much too busy with Wolf Song and the religion. After I took you to that center, I threw myself into the coven. It made me feel like I was close to you, still had a piece of you with me.”
“When you said you saw a guy twice a week?”
“Yeah, I mean you, Jan,” he said. “So, what I stand next to you as is up to you. I still think we have a chance though.”
Jan nodded, heart thumping as he cupped Evan’s cheek. “I’d like to find out if you’re the most perfect consort a man could ever have.” He rested his forehead against Evan’s, holding his gaze.
“I’m glad I waited for you.” Evan kissed him softly.
The Key’s Awakening is the second book in my Warriors of Aristaeus series which was based on a short story I wrote recently for one of our Manlove Fantasies contests. By the time I got to the end of the short story I was already thinking of how to turn it into a series.
In this book Hansel delves deeper into the dark world of magick and demons but this is just the beginning of an interesting ride for him.
Hansel is on the cusp of change, of a new world, but fear still lingers despite the love he feels for Dallan. He knows what his sister is, yet Hansel is unprepared for the rejection of his father and the new danger stalking him.
Dallan is fully aware of what a demon can do, but he learns he has not one demon to worry about but four. With pestilence demons in hiding ready to set disease loose on an unsuspecting city, Dallan is in a race against time, but he struggles to balance duty with the love he’s found.
Dallan doesn’t want to lose Hansel which leaves him with only one choice—awaken Hansel’s full powers. Only with the knowledge that he can protect himself, will Hansel be able to release his fears and allow the love growing between them to bloom.
Dallan arrived to find his lover sitting on the curb, his car already gone. Heart pounding, he threw open the door, and Hansel got to his feet and ran to him.
“Baby,” Dallan said on a rough sigh as he hugged around Hansel briefly before putting him away from him despite his fears and his need to keep Hansel in his arms. “Hey. Remember where you are.”
“Right now, I don’t care,” Hansel said breathlessly, one arm going around Dallan’s waist.
Dallan wanted to just hold him and soothe away all his fear, but he didn’t. At the moment, Hansel was upset, but tomorrow when someone reported him to the headmaster, he’d be grappling for words to keep from losing his job.
As a result, Dallan put distance between them again and took Hansel’s bag. “Let’s get you home,” Dallan told him.
Hansel didn’t argue. He merely rounded the car and climbed in on the passenger side while Dallan put his bag in the back seat before casting a look around. Some kids were looking on still. So, he cast a quick spell that would make them forget what they’d just seen, and he sent it out in waves.
The energy went out in a ripple of brown light so that the onlookers got triple dosed, and anyone he didn’t see, including anyone inside the building, would get enough of a hit that even their memory would be fuzzy. Satisfied with his work, Dallan climbed in and started the engine.
“I know you’re right,” Hansel said. “A few kids were still out there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tongues wag tomorrow. I just—” He growled, hands still shaking.
“It’s okay,” Dallan murmured and backed out before resting his hand on Hansel’s thigh, giving it a light squeeze. “Tell me what happened?”
Hansel relayed the story, and Dallan’s lips tightened. The Dark Moon Society had utilized some clever magick, but he wasn’t surprised.
“Why do they think the girl would give it to you?” Dallan asked.
“I don’t know,” Hansel muttered. “I don’t even know why she came to see me.”
“Did she mention the collection?” Dallan asked carefully.
“You and the Brotherhood want it too,” he mused. “Can you even use it?”
“The artifacts are corrupted by dark magick that could infect members of the Brotherhood, so they wouldn’t actually want to use them. Although, even without the book, your coven could can still conjure demons in a demon circle with a human sacrifice, a blood ritual.”
“My God,” he breathed out. “Would it be successful in calling up a master?”
“Maybe, but if they can’t get the artifacts one way, they may just call up a demon to attack you and the girl,” Dallan told him.
“Oh no.” He rested a hand on his chest, heart racing.
“With your training, you’re getting stronger every day, you could defend against a low-level demon as long as you showed no fear.”