FULL STORY - Extra Guardian of Eternity
By Alexandra Ivy
Magnus strolled into Styx’s vast library, his long, dark blond hair pulled into a queue at his neck and his dark eyes hard with impatience. As always, he was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that was stretched to the limit over his massive chest. The vampire was one of Styx’s elite guard, the Ravens. Which meant he was a well-trained warrior, a lethal predator, and he had the social skills of a spitting viper. Actually, that was an insult to the viper.
Equally indifferent to the latest fashions, Styx, the current King of Vampires, was dressed in leather pants, a black shirt and heavy shit-kickers. He had dark hair that was pulled into a braid that fell past his knees, and an amulet was hung around his massive neck. But while Styx was pure predator, he did have a loving mate to help smooth away the rough edges. Magnus, on the other hand, remained a gruff, solitary creature who avoided company whenever possible.
Which was why his mood was tilting from foul to downright shitty after rushing to the opulent house on the outskirts of Chicago to find Styx was calming sipping brandy as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
What the hell? Magnus was willing to pledge his loyalty to his king, but this was his evening off and he’d been planning to spend the night at the shooting range. He wasn’t happy to receive an urgent text only to arrive and discover there was nothing to kill. He’d even brought his favorite sword.
“Your text said it was an emergency,” Magnus growled, glancing around the library in a vain hope of some nasty creature lurking among the towering shelves of books. Nothing could be seen beyond the ridiculous froufrou furnishings and massive desk that was set next to the fireplace.
“It is.” Styx set aside his glass, his lean face unreadable. “I had an unexpected visitor sneak into my house just before sunset. Unfortunately for her, my alarm system includes a powerful spell that trapped her the second she managed to enter through a basement window.”
An intruder? The evening is looking up.
Magnus tapped the hilt of his sword that was strapped around his waist. “Do you want me to kill the trespasser?”
Styx shrugged. “I suppose that will be up to you.”
Up to him? Magnus arched his brows. There was a trespasser into Styx’s royal residence and the king was giving Magnus the choice what was going to happen to the intruder? The Anasso didn’t run a democracy. Hell, he was the definition of an anal control-freak. Which mean there had to be a reason he was giving up even a small portion of his authority.
“Why me?” Magnus demanded.
“Because she claimed that she’s an old friend of yours and that she’s here to return one of your possessions.”
Magnus scowled. “She?”
A wicked smile curved the king’s lips. “Very definitely a she.”
“It’s a trick.”
Styx arched a brow. “How can you be so sure?”
“I don’t have friends.”
Magnus arched a brow. “Bullshit?”
“There isn’t one Raven who wouldn’t put down their life for you,” Styx informed him, moving so he could clap Magnus on one broad shoulder. “And Darcy has adopted you as if you’re some motherless chick.” The Anasso gave a shake of his head. “She’s been driving me insane with suggestions of potential females that might meet your insanely high expectations.”
Magnus tried to deny the renegade warmth that filled his heart. It was true that since he’d become one of Styx’s personal warriors, he’d become a part of something that was very close to a family. And Darcy, Styx’s mate, had been a pleasant shock. The kind-hearted pureblooded Were had refused to be put off by Magnus’s gruff manner. Instead, she’d made it her personal mission to try and find him a suitable female who could properly train him.
He’d tried to tell her it was an impossible task. He’d found his mate centuries ago, only to have her betray and abandon him when...
Magnus abruptly stiffened, struck by a sudden suspicion.
“Tell me about the intruder.”
Styx slowly smiled, making no effort to disguise his rampant curiosity.
It was no doubt that need to poke his nose into Magnus’s private business that’d kept the intruder from being killed on the spot. Sometimes the Anasso could be worse than a mother hen.
“She claims to be a fire sprite,” he at last drawled.
Even prepared Magnus felt as if he’d just been hit by a cement truck. “Impossible,” he breathed, shock and an emotion he wasn’t prepared to acknowledge, jolting through him.
“My thought exactly.” Styx shrugged. “I thought they were extinct.”
“No. There was a small tribe that survived the efforts of the previous Anasso to hunt them into extinction,” he said, not bothering to explain that he’d learned about them in a seedy bar in Morocco nearly a century ago. “Where is she?”
“So you do know her. Do you intend to share the spicy details?” Styx slowly smiled, only to heave a resigned sigh when he met Magnus’s stoic gaze. “Fine. She’s in the dungeons.”
With three long strides, Magnus was at the door to the library. “I want some privacy when I question her,” he demanded, too caught in his furious disbelief to consider the fact he was tossing out orders as if Styx was a fledgling and not the King of all Vampires. “Turn off the cameras.”
Magnus reluctantly halted and glanced over his shoulder. “What?”
“Do you intend to kiss her or kill her?”
His lips twisted into a humorless smile. “The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
Fia was stretched on the narrow cot when she caught a familiar scent. Magnus. Keeping her eyes shut she sucked in a deep breath, savoring the icy aroma of leather, steel, and thundering power. Holy hell. The smell intoxicated her. It’d always had. From the second the tall, golden haired vampire with eyes as black as sin had walked into the demon bar.
Sliding off the cot, she rose to her feet and headed toward the iron bars that were swiftly stealing her powers. Joy exploded through her as she caught sight of her former lover moving toward her with the liquid grace of a predator. It’d been nearly a century since she’d seen him, but she’d memorized every chiseled line of his fiercely male face and the sculpted perfection of his massive body.
She felt ridiculously nervous, she acknowledged, her hand lifting to push back her thick tangle of crimson curls that fell to her waist before she was smoothing the white spandex pants and matching top that clung to her slender body. It wasn’t that she feared Magnus. Or even the Anasso.
But her entire future happiness depended on her not screwing up the next few minutes.
Yeah. Nothing like a little pressure...
“Fia.” Her name sounded more like a curse as Magnus suddenly stood in front of her cell, studying her as if she were something he’d scraped off the bottom of his boot.
Fia kept her spine rigid and her chin angled to a militant angle even as her heart clenched with regret. She’d expected his anger, even his disgust, but that didn’t ease the pain at the sight of his cold eyes and the beautiful male face that looked as if it’d been carved out of granite.
“Hello, Magnus.” Her voice was thankfully steady. Good. This was difficult enough without Magnus knowing her emotions were a hot, tangled mess. “Are you going to stand there glaring at me or are you going to let me out?”
He stepped forward, his hands grasping the iron bars as he glared down at her. “Styx takes a very dim view of trespassers, little sprite,” he drawled. “It could be years before he decides you’ve been suitably punished.”
She narrowed her eyes the precise shade of garnets. “If that’s a joke it’s not funny.”
He folded his arms over his broad chest. “You know me well enough to know that I never joke.”
Well, that was true enough. Magnus was many things. Strong, loyal, and indecently sexy, but could never be called light-hearted. Hell, just earning a smile from him felt like an epic victory.
“I wasn’t trespassing. I was only trying to return something that belongs to you,” she said.
He curled back his lips to reveal his large fangs, his icy power wrapping around her...not to hurt, but in a blatant warning.
“You’re only making it worse, Fia,” he growled. “Now you’re not only an intruder, but you’re a thief. You might never get out of this cell.”
Despite her grim determination to maintain her composure, Fia found herself reaching for the gold chain that was looped around her neck, giving it a tug to pull out the small amulet that had been tucked beneath her stretchy top. With one jerk, she broke the chain, allowing the tiny charm to fall into her palm.
Her quick temper had always been her downfall.
“You know what...screw you.” She threw the amulet through the bars, directly into the pale, arrogant face. She wrapped her arms protectively around her waist, as if that could halt the pain of rejection that was thundering through her. Damn him. He was supposed to...what? Offer her instant forgiveness? To know that she would never deliberately hurt him? Okay, it was unfair, but that was exactly what she wanted. “Take this and go.”
He snatched the amulet an inch before it connected with his nose, his brows snapping together as he opened his hand and studied the small charm that rested in his palm.
He slowly lifted his head, his eyes dark with an emotion that was impossible to decipher. “Why try to sneak in the most heavily guarded lair in the world?” he at last demanded. “Why not just knock on the front door?”
She shrugged. “I was going to leave this in your private rooms and disappear before you knew I was here.”
Not surprisingly he instantly knew she was lying. Magnus hadn’t been chosen as a Raven by Styx because he was stupid.
“Bullshit,” he growled.
Her chin tilted another inch higher. “Excuse me?”
His icy power wrapped around her, the dark gaze studying her pale face. She clenched her teeth. Once he’d looked at her with a blatant male fascination that made her heart pound and her knees weak. The kind of look a male gave a female when he’d decided that she was the answer to all his prayers.
Now...not so much.
“If you just wanted to return my amulet then you could have sent it to me,” he pointed out in a cold voice of reason. “Or left it outside the gates with a note.”
Both reasonable choices. She wished now that she’d chosen one of them.
Ridiculously she’d thought she could actually make him listen to her. As if the past century could be erased and he would ignore the fact that she’d simply disappeared after he’d asked her to be his mate.
Magnus wrapped his fingers around the amulet that was still warm from Fia’s skin. He’d had it made by a silversmith when he’d risen as a vampire to mark his new beginning. It’d disappeared along with Fia mere hours after he’d pledged his heart and soul to her.
At the time he’d told himself it was yet another example of just how unworthy she’d been of his love.
She’d not only stolen his heart, but his property. In his dark broodings he’d imagined her laughing as she’d returned to her family of grifters to reveal she’d managed to completely fool the besotted vampire. It was an image that had haunted him for the past century.
Which was why he’d charged down to the dungeons, fully intent on...his breath hissed between his aching fangs. Bloody hell. He didn’t know what he was going to do, but the second he’d caught sight of the familiar oval face with the large garnet eyes and the tumble of fiery curls he’d been nearly overwhelmed by the explosion of emotions. Lust, love, and a treacherous joy. This female might have betrayed him, but she was still the woman he’d chosen as his mate. Which meant that he still wanted her with a desperation that made his entire body tremble with need.
And worse, he couldn’t shake the suspicion that Fia had a specific purpose in allowing herself to be caught by Styx.
A purpose that involved him.
“I wanted to make sure you got it,” she muttered, her thick fringe of lashes lowering to hide her eyes.
A sure sign she was lying. “That’s not it,” he growled, narrowing his eyes. “You wanted to be caught.”
Her expression remained militant, but she took a revealing step backward at his accusation.
“That’s so typical of you,” she muttered. “Arrogant ass.”
His lips twisted. “You don’t know anything about me. Not anymore.”
“I...” Fia halted, as if it was suddenly difficult to speak, an unexpected tear gliding down her cheek. “Yeah, maybe I don’t.”
Shit. Pain sliced through Magnus’s heart. Shoving the amulet in his pocket, he grabbed the bars of the cell. “Fia.”
She tilted her head so her heavy tangle of curls would hide her face. “This was a mistake,” she muttered. “Please just go away, Magnus.”
Magnus’s hands gripped the iron bars until they began to bend. This cell was designed to hold a fey, not to resist the power of an angry vampire.
“Not until you tell me why you’re here.”
“Because I wanted to see you.” She jerked her head up to glare at him in an agonized frustration. “Are you satisfied?”
Satisfied? His body felt as if it was going up in flames, the past hundred years being scoured away by the avalanche of emotions that seared through him.
“Not nearly.” With one fierce yank he had the cell door off its hinges and was tossing it aside. Styx wasn’t going to be pleased with the damage to his dungeon, but at the moment Magnus didn’t give a shit about anything but getting his hands on the pretty fire sprite who’d claimed his soul.
“But I intend to be.”
Her eyes widened as he stalked into the cell, instinctively backing away. Not out of fear. No. He could already smell the sweet spice of her arousal.
“Wait,” she breathed, her hair dancing on a breeze created by her inner magic. “What are you doing?”
“This.” He reached to wrap her slender body in his arms, pulling her hard against his chest as he lowered his head to bury his face against the tender curve of her neck.
“Magnus.” Her hands landed on his chest, but even as he prepared himself to be pushed away she was instead arching against him in ready capitulation.
Something raw and broken deep inside him eased as her fiery heat wrapped around him.
Fia lost track of how long they stood in the cell clinging to one another.
Not that she was complaining.
She’d counted down every year, every day, every hour until she could be free to seek out this vampire. Now that she was pressed against his hard body she felt as if she was waking from a hideous nightmare.
“Where have you been?” he demanded, his fangs scraping her throat as his hands lowered to cup her ass.
She shivered, deliberately brushing against the thickening length of his arousal. Right now all she wanted was to strip off his clothes and kiss him from the top of his golden head to the tips of his toes. God almighty. She’d missed him. The sound of his voice. The pleasure of his touch. The comfort of knowing he would be at her side when she turned her head...
Unfortunately, they had too much between them to solve it with sex.
No matter how freaking fantastic that sex might be.
“Working off my indenture,” she slowly admitted.
“Indenture?” His head jerked up as he studied her with a scowl. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She swallowed a sigh. This wasn’t going to be an easy conversation. Not when Magnus already hated her family.
“My family managed to become indebted to a mountain troll—”
“You mean Isali became indebted,” Magnus snapped, knowing her older brother too well.
Isali was lazy, self-indulgent, and morally corrupt. But he was one of less than a hundred male fire sprites left after the purge, which meant that he was treated like a God.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“The idiot,” Magnus muttered. “What did his debt have to do with you?”
She wrinkled her nose, trying to forget that last, painful argument with her family. It still made her heart ache with the sense of betrayal.
“My father decided the family had more need of Isali’s talents as a breeder, since I refused to do my duty and produce children,” she said. As the mate of a vampire she wouldn’t be able to pro-create. Something desperately needed by the fire sprites who were on the brink of extinction. “So I was elected to take his place with the troll.”
The remaining bars on her cell exploded outward as Magnus’s fury blasted through the air.
“That son of a bitch.” He abruptly released her, as if afraid he might accidently hurt her. “I should have killed the bastard the night I caught him trying to cheat me at cards.”
Fia reached up to frame his face in her hands. The last thing she wanted was to have Magnus charging off in search of revenge. Not after she’d sacrificed so much to keep him safe.
“Instead you lured me into the private rooms and had your wicked way with me,” she said, her voice filled with a husky promise.
As she hoped, Magnus was instantly distracted, his hands grabbing her hips to jerk her hard against his straining cock.
“I didn’t lure you,” he denied, his stark features softening, as if remembering the night she’d walked into the crowded bar. At the time he’d been busy choking her worthless brother after he’d been idiotic enough to try and use a marked deck when he was playing cards with a vampire. Instantly Magnus had dropped Isali on the floor, then, knocking several drunken fey out of his path, he moved to stand directly in front of her.
“No, you tossed me over your shoulder and hauled me away.”
He lowered his head until their noses were touching. “You were mine.”
Her lips parted, but before she could say a word, he was kissing her with a sheer hunger that sent shockwaves of pleasure through her trembling body.
Magnus struggled against the thundering need to lay Fia on the nearby cot and lose himself in her enticing heat. He’d been alone for so long, his bed cold and empty.
But first he had to make sure that this was no fleeting hookup. Or worse, some nefarious plot by her wretched family.
If she left him again it would destroy him.
End of story.
“To be yours is what I wanted more than life itself,” she assured him in soft tones.
His hands compulsively moved up the slender curve of her waist. “What? A few nights of fun with the besotted vampire?”
Her hands threaded through his hair, her pale face hardening with determination. “No, to be yours.”
“If that were true then you wouldn’t have left.”
She gave a soft gasp as his hands moved to cup the soft swell of her breasts, his fangs scraping down the side of her throat.
“I had no choice,” she muttered, arching her back in silent invitation. “The debt had to be paid.”
He nipped her shoulder, careful not to draw blood. When he finally completed their mating it wasn’t going to be in a filthy dungeon with a dozen vampires within hearing distance.
“You could have told your father to go to hell and stayed with me,” he pointed out, his hand molding the luscious perfection that fit perfectly in his palm.
She gave a low moan, her hands tugging impatiently at his hair. He obviously wasn’t the only one who was anxious for some alone time.
“Not without putting you in danger.”
He stiffened at her low words, slowly lifting his head. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“My father threatened to use his powers against you if I didn’t give into his demands.”
Magnus gave a low growl, the temperature in the cell dropping by several degrees. Was she implying that he was too weak to protect himself, or her?
“You think I feared your father?”
Her expression tightened with exasperation. “No, which is precisely why I had to do something. You dismissed him as a harmless sprite, but he was capable of placing a spell on you that could have turned you to ash before you even knew you were in danger.”
He hesitated. He’d heard that male fire sprites had the power to destroy vampires, but he’d always assumed it was a myth.
“Why do you think the previous Anasso tried to hunt us into extinction?”
Magnus grimaced. “He was certifiably insane.”
“True.” She shuddered, no doubt recalling the centuries they’d been forced into hiding to avoid the one-time King of Vampires. “But he knew that there were a few of my people who were powerful enough to be a threat.”
“So your father blackmailed you into leaving?”
She gave a small nod. “Yes. I couldn’t risk having you hurt.”
Bloody hell. His heart twisted with regret. All this time he’d been cursing her as a bitch who’d betrayed him. When she’d sacrificed everything to keep him safe.
It was going to be a long time before he forgave himself. And the gods knew, he never intended to forgive her worthless family.
“Why did you steal my amulet?” he softly asked.
“Because it allowed me to maintain a connection to you even when we were separated,” she explained. “I could sense you, no matter how far apart we were separated. I had to be certain that my father kept his promise.”
“Goddammit, Fia,” he snarled in frustration, unable to bear the knowledge that she’d needed him and he had failed her. It ate like acid on his soul. “One word and I would have come for you. Anywhere. Anytime.”
“I know.” A wistful sadness darkened her eyes. “That’s why I didn’t contact you.”
His hands lifted to lightly trace the delicate lines of her face, a deep dread twisting his stomach. “The troll...”
“No.” Her tone was as unyielding as steel. “That’s the past. All I care about now is the future.”
Magnus wavered, quivering with the need to press for information. Not to hurt her, but to know everything about the troll he intended to kill before the week was over. At last, he forced himself to squash his furious need for vengeance.
That could wait. For now, he simply wished to rejoice in finally having her back where she belonged.
His fingers tucked her curls gently behind her ears, as his gaze savored the pale beauty of her face.
“Why did you sneak into the lair?” he demanded. “You could have called me and explained what happened.”
“Would you have talked to me or would you have hung up the minute you heard my voice?” she asked, her lips twisting as he grimaced. “Exactly. The same thing would have happened if I’d knocked on the front door. I had to do something to get you to listen to me.”
She was right. She had to do something dramatic to get past his bitter defenses.
He hoped she was prepared for the consequences of her spectacular success.
Out of patience, Magnus scooped her in his arms and headed out of the cell. He wasn’t sure he could wait until they were safely tucked in the privacy of his lair, but Styx had a dozen guestrooms. He intended to find the closest one.
“That’s the last risk you will be taking, my little sprite,” he informed her, even knowing that this independent female would always do precisely as she wanted.
The garnet eyes flickered with the fire that burned deep inside her, a wicked smile curving her lips. “Ah,” she purred in thick tones. “That’s the arrogant vampire I remember.”
“I failed to protect you before, but never again,” he swore. “From this day forward you’re never going to be out of my sight again.”