Silk Bonds by Kate Hill
(erotic paranormal novella)
From Changeling Press
Recovering from an accident that almost killed her, Lourdes realizes she must reevaluate her life. She takes a job categorizing books in the vast private library of Alexi Marius, a wealthy, reclusive and sinfully gorgeous man.
Lourdes is soon seduced by her brooding employer. As she and Marius explore their sexual desires, she discovers he’s hiding a secret more dangerous and unbelievable than she ever imagined.
Alexi watched the creatures of dusk flee toward the distant mountains. He should probably join them, but that was no longer possible. Not for a traitor like himself.
What was he a traitor to? Beasts who would kill him without the slightest hesitation? Beings who raped, pillaged and used their powers to bleed worlds, leaving behind devastation and dry husks where life had once dwelled?
Alexi closed his eyes for a moment. Now at the end of a long battle, he focused inward. Sweat stung raw wounds on his face and body, but he scarcely noticed. He felt the steady throb of his heart in his chest and listened to the rasp of his breathing. Hundreds of images clashed in his mind.
The good. The evil. Driven from one kingdom to another, accepted nowhere, he had been trapped in a cage forged of lust and indulgence without thought to consequences. All his life he had lived in the shadow of a mother of clouds and a father of smoke. Alexi was part of both worlds, yet they had tormented him.
They had paid the price for their intolerance.
He'd slaked his thirst for vengeance and relinquished his hunger for acceptance. Now he needed no one, but somewhere in the midst of hardness and hatred, he had salvaged a shred of compassion.
As the battle for Earth drew to a close, the destruction of that young world was almost inevitable. Alexi had made his decision. He alone held the secrets of the creatures of smoke and while he would not betray those secrets to his mother's people, he had turned dark magic against itself. Without him, Earth would have been overrun and destroyed.
His eyes snapping open, Alexi turned to King Alban. Tall and powerfully built with dark skin and black hair, the King held Alexi's gaze. The leader's long, curved sword dripped with the blood of the people of smoke. Alexi's people. Yet the King's people were his as well.
"Sir." Alexi inclined his head slightly, more a gesture of politeness than a show of respect, for he had no more love for Alban than he did for Queen Wera of the smoke people.
"Because of you, we have won the battle for Earth. You have given us the power to drive off Wera's minions. We are grateful."
"I didn't do this for you," Alexi stated coolly. A moment ago he would have sworn he was too tired to muster the energy to mask his emotions, yet he managed to keep the disdain from his voice as he spoke.
Alban's brow furrowed. "You are a complex creature, Alexi. I don't understand your sympathy for the beings of Earth, though I'm happy to know you can still feel gentler emotions. In spite of our gratitude for your help, we cannot allow you to remain in our kingdom. Too many of our people bear you ill will."
With a snort of contempt, Alexi said, "I don't believe your concern is for me, Sir."
"Whether you know it or not, I do care for you, Alexi. Your mother still cares for you too."
Once more Alexi closed his eyes for the briefest moment and sighed. "Tell her I hope she is well."
"You should tell her yourself."
Alexi leveled his coldest stare at the King who drew a deep breath and released it slowly.
"But I see you're not ready," Alban continued. "As I said, you cannot live among us. At least not right now, and you cannot return to the smoke people. They would destroy you."
"I have no wish to return to them, nor to you."
"To live in this world without shelter from smoke or clouds is next to impossible."
"I'll find a way," Alexi stated, unable to keep the defiant edge from his voice.
"There is an alternative."
"One that serves you?"
The King smiled gently and lifted his hand. For a moment Alexi thought the bastard might touch him in compassion, but he seemed to think better of it and let his arm drop to his side.
"My offer is this," Alban said. "As you know, even though we have won this battle, the portal to Earth remains intact. We don't have the power to seal it, yet we have the responsibility to protect it. We need a defender, someone to guard this portal. That defender will live on Earth. He will be given weapons empowered by the oldest magic users in our kingdom."
"Let me guess. You're offering me the chance to live in exile on Earth, among those humans."
"You understand the magic of the smoke people. That is how you enabled us to win the war. Your magic combined with our weapons will keep the portal safe. Isn't this a better alternative to execution by Queen Wera or scratching out a living in the wilderness?"
"Living among those primitives is the same as being in the wilderness."
Again the King smiled. "Those primitives will grow and learn. Time on Earth passes more quickly than you imagine. They dwell in caves now, but in a few thousand years, who knows what progress they'll make? Of course you must be discreet in mingling with them. The less contact the better."
"So regardless of where I live I'm doomed to isolation," Alexi stated, glancing toward the mountains. The creatures of smoke were scarcely visible now--the only sign of their presence was in the glimmer of their torch lights, shining like fireflies on a dark night.
"Your very conception was an abomination, but you have proven you can rise above your cursed existence. I'm offering you a chance to live in peace."
Alexi could scarcely believe what Alban had just said. Glaring at the King, he spoke in a rough whisper, "Peace? My sole purpose is to fight my father's people, possibly for millennia, and you call that peace?"
The King's pale green eyes shone with pity and Alexi's hand trembled on his sword. Pity from any cloud creature sickened him. They were so self-righteous. So smug. Gentle and giving yet conveniently violent. The last thing Alexi wanted was pity from the king of these creatures, no more than he wanted approval from the vicious, alabaster-skinned queen of the smoke people. What he wanted was to be left alone. Perhaps the closest he'd come to peace would be among the humans.
"You must decide quickly," Alban said. "You may stay at my palace for a while, but--"
"There is no need. I'll go to Earth, if you trust someone of my blood to keep his word."
"I trust your heart."
"You think I have one?" Alexi snapped.
Sighing, the King rubbed a hand across his face. At the moment he looked as tired as Alexi felt.
"Return to the palace with me, Alexi. Rest. Prepare yourself. Tonight my soldiers will guard the portal. Tomorrow, you will leave for Earth."