Treasured by Cari Z
erotic urban fantasy M/M novella
novella (22,000 words)
ICover Art by Winterheart Design
Daniel Hart is a graduate student at the University of Arcane Studies, who works in a museum and mostly enjoys his calm, routine life. Everything changes when he meets Rhys Daveth, a visiting businessman with mysterious connections who pursues him with a passion that Daniel has never experienced before. The chemistry between them is undeniable, but things take a turn for the worse when Daniel is arrested for a crime he didn't commit, one that he suspects his new lover had a hand in. Once the truth comes out, Daniel will have to choose between the future he had planned and something deeper, more exciting and far more dangerous than he could have imagined.
The first time I met Reese Daveth, he startled the ever living hell out of me.
My only excuse for not knowing he was a foot behind me and trying to get my attention was total, complete preoccupation with my work. That’s good, right? That’s admirable. Okay, so staring like a besotted lover at the collection of enchanted amulets on loan from a larger exhibit wasn’t exactly my job, but it was related. In a way. Kind of.
I was a grad student at the University of Arcane Studies, getting my doctorate in the history of magic, and working in the university’s small museum. I didn’t have nearly the power required to adopt one of the more strenuous majors, like Magical Defense or Rites and Laws, but I had the bare minimum of talent required for admission. Those of us who couldn’t make our abilities directly useful to society by being healers, telepaths or mages studied softer magical disciplines. History fit right in there. It hardly made my mother happy, and her reluctance to help out was what student loans were for.
I was in the process of attaching the nameplate for the exhibit to its enchanted glass case when I got distracted. The curator was supposed to identify exhibits, but she'd been working nonstop at the other museum since the artifacts had arrived. That left me to finish arranging things here, since I was the only other person keyed to the wards on the cases so I could touch them without setting off alarms. My hands were poised to attach the nameplate, but the compellingly bright blues and whites and golds beneath the glass had stopped me short.
I don’t know how long I stood in a stupor in front of the case, but I definitely remember coming out my reverie. A sudden sharp tap on my shoulder followed by a loud, “A-hem,” shocked my body back into motion. I proceeded to jerk away, the nameplate falling from my hands to the floor as I spun around with a shout.
“Steady there,” a warm voice laughed. I stared at the cause of my distress, my breath catching in my throat. I'd just flipped out in front of a shifter. A hot, gorgeous, probably licensed to kill shifter of some sort, and that wasn’t the kind of thing you wanted to do with a group that reacted poorly to jumpiness.
Shifting demanded such an incredibly high metabolism that it was impossible for them to be anything other than muscled and wiry, every edge sharply defined. Easy to identify. This guy had that kind of a build, long and lean like a runner, but he wore a very nice, tailored to fit suit, much nicer than he’d be wearing if he worked for the government. His hair was long too, free flowing like a black waterfall across his shoulders. His eyes were dark brown and his skin tan, his accent sounding British.
“Sorry,” the man continued, sounding anything but sorry. “If I’d known I was going to frighten you like that I’d have been a bit more restrained.”
“I wasn’t frightened,” I said automatically, resenting the fact that I'd actually been. Things very rarely took me by surprise, and when they did I tended to be a little over the top. I lowered my hands back down to my sides and tried to relax. “Can I help you?”
“Perhaps,” he replied with a small smile. “But don’t let me interrupt your work, mate. Got things to do here, I see.”
“Right.” I glanced around the floor until I saw the nameplate, a few feet away. I bent over to pick it up, trying not to move like I was nervous. When I stood back up again and saw the smirk on his face, I figured I'd failed miserably with that. “This will just take a second.” I turned back to the display case and centered the plaque on the top front edge of the glass, then spoke the attaching charm. The small surge of power flowing through me left me feeling both energized and weak at the same time, like I wanted to bounce off the walls but couldn’t because my legs would fall out from under me. Charms weren’t my strong suit. I wavered.
“Easy, mate.” In an instant the man’s arm was around my waist, holding me firmly. He was taller than me by a few inches, but far wirier, and he didn’t seem even seem to register my weight as I sagged a little against him. Shifters tended to be stronger than they looked. “All right, then?”
“I’m fine,” I said, swallowing heavily before I moved away from him. Coming into close contact with a shifter wasn’t exactly relaxing, especially not one as good-looking as he was, but it did motivate me to stand on my own two feet. “Thanks. What can I help you with?”
“I was more curious than anything else,” the man replied easily. “I’m in town for the week, was looking for things to do, so I came by here.” He gestured towards the case. “I haven’t seen pieces like those since Istanbul.”
“They’re originally from Istanbul,” I replied, relaxing a little. Talking about work was something I could do much more comfortably than standing around fumbling with nameplates. “They came in with the Karun Collection.”
The man tilted his head slightly as he looked between me and the case. “I thought that was being held in the Museum of Art and Science.”
“It is. They loaned us some of the lesser pieces.”
“Smaller, maybe,” he said as he stepped closer to the case, eyeing the amulets speculatively. “But hardly lesser. A God’s eye is a powerful amulet of protection, and there are some very fine examples here. Some of them even have secondary enchantments on them, I see.”
“You can see that?”
The man grinned again. “Read it on the plaque.”