“Dreams can change. I know this as well as anyone. In time, I’ll convince you.”

“In time?” Cas narrowed his gaze. “How do you keep finding me?”

“I figured you would return to this palace. But just in case, I have Trehan’s scry talisman.” Mirceo pulled a faceted crystal from his pants pocket, displaying it. “This has been passed down through his line—the House of Shadow—for generations. It’s how he found you in Abaddon.”

The crystal held Cas’s gaze rapt.

“When I couldn’t locate you for weeks, my uncle entrusted the priceless crystal to me, because he knows how important you are to me. He feels bad about the way he treated you. Do recall that he was under the influence of poison when you two faced off.”

If not for that crystal, Trehan never would’ve found Abaddon or entered the tournament. Cas could’ve won, marrying his friend and remaining beloved by his people. He would be king of the very dimension that had scorned him.

Instead, he’d returned from five centuries of hell just in time for a spoiled, dissolute princeling to stalk him—using the same fucking crystal!

Cas’s hand shot forward to snatch it. Bane of my entire godsdamned existence! Baring his fangs, he squeezed his fist with all the new strength in his body.

Before Mirceo’s disbelieving eyes, Cas crushed the thing—crushed it, then released the glittering dust on the night breeze. “Try finding me now.” He teleported away.

_______

Abandoned among the Forbearer remains, Mirceo punted a severed head. Damn it! Somehow he’d lost ground with his mate—and he’d lost the scry crystal forever.

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How would he locate Caspion now? Luckily, Mirceo was a genius and would come up with a solution. Soon.

Until then, what would he do? Just as Mina had said, Caspion had other reservations about Mirceo. He exhaled a gust of breath. Evolving as a person? There had to be another way. . . .

Aha! Galvanized by an idea, he traced back to Dacia, to a laboratory deep within the bowels of the castle.

A large hearth fire illuminated workbenches covered with arcane magic supplies. Beakers wafted yellow smoke. Dried animal parts and bundles of herbs dangled from racks.

Mirceo glanced around, but spied no one. “Balery! Where are you? I need your help!”

A comely, pointed-eared fey emerged from a back room with her dark hair knotted atop her head. “What is it now?” She wiped her hands on a work apron, leaving smears of green slime. “You’re worse than Lothaire with the yelling.” Balery was a concoctioness and oracle; her ever-present pouch of seer bones was affixed to her belt.

The bones that told me of my mate. “This is urgent! My demon wants pups. I don’t suppose you or someone you know could turn me female for a year?”

She rolled her doe-brown eyes. “There are easier ways to go about this, vampire.”

“How? Tell me.” He quelled the urge to grab her hands; Balery had poisonous skin. “Please.”

“You’ll need an egg.”

“Yes! An egg.” Pause. “What do I do with an egg?” Mirceo squinted with suspicion. “What kind of egg?”

Peering at the ceiling, she muttered, “Males.” She looked at him again. “You’ll need a vampire or demon egg. Or any species, really. Though not a giant’s. Food costs,” she added knowingly.

“Say I can get one. What then?”

“With a little of my magic, the demon’s seed or yours—or a splice—will fertilize the egg. Then you’ll be ready for the next step: finding a female to carry your bundle of joy.”

A female? Mina would do it! Females loved having babies all the time.

“After a species-specific gestation period, you and your mate will have offspring.”

“Have you done this before?”

“Of course.” She made a scoffing sound. “You really are a young thirty, prince.”

He sighed. “So I’m coming to believe.”

“Some fated pairings require an extra step to reproduce. You and your mate aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last.”

Mirceo pictured himself and Caspion as parents to a toddling pup and grinned. What possibility! “This sounds perfect. I would like to throw gold at this problem and delegate all parts of it.” He waved his hand grandly.

Her eyes went wide. “Out of my lab, Mirceo! OUT!”

“Wait, wait! I was jesting. Mostly. In all seriousness, I will move mountains to give my mate whatever he needs. So how do I get an egg?”

“I should have a few around here somewhere.” She opened and closed a couple of drawers.

“I don’t need one just yet. He still has his seal.” And without the crystal, Mirceo couldn’t even find Caspion to tell him this good news. Ah, but Mirceo knew the demon’s interests. He would track the tracker.

You can teleport, mate, but you can’t hide.

“His seal?” Balery said. “I can’t help you with that. Come talk to me when you wear your demon’s mark.”

Once Caspion claimed Mirceo, he would bite his neck, leaving his demonic mark forever. Soon. “I will. Thank you, Balery!” He blew her a kiss. Then he traced to Mina’s suites, calling, “Sister, I need a tiny favor.”

FOURTEEN

Going insane . . . For the last four days, Cas hadn’t been able to focus on anything.

Sitting on the bed in his beach hideout, he squeezed his head in his hands. He felt as if he were back in Poly, enduring the hellishly slow passage of hours.