_______

With a loving lick, the vampire released his bite.

So much better than fantasy. Legs gone boneless, Cas stumbled back to his bed, sprawling on the furs. He grasped for his anger, wanting to stoke it, but all he felt was . . . peace. His body floated, euphoria drugging him.

Mirceo traced to lie beside him, resting his head on Cas’s chest, his long black hair fanning out. Warm puffs of his breath breezed over Cas’s dampened skin.

What if the prince is mine?

“Listen to that mighty heart beating,” Mirceo murmured. “You can deny you love this all you want to, but your body tells a different story.”

The vampire’s intoxicating scent—sandalwood and a touch of blood—lit up Cas’s mind. He shallowed his own breaths, just to take in more of that scent.

It was a tantalizing tease, with an undercurrent of fire—like Mirceo as a person.

Cas stared down at that long black hair. He’d gripped it before, but hadn’t registered the feel of it. Could it be as soft as it looked? His fingers decided to find out, threading themselves through Mirceo’s hair.

Soft like silk. Cas grew heavy-lidded with satisfaction. He gazed up at the nuances of the cave ceiling not with resignation and misery, but with a fragile hope kindling inside his chest.

He allowed himself a few moments to explore this afterplay. He’d always vaulted out of a partner’s bed as soon as he’d come. Restless Mirceo had as well. Yet now the two of them lazed together.

Advertisement..

Outside the winds howled. Inside the fire crackled. I could lie like this forever.

Reading his mind, Mirceo said, “This is almost as good as the release that got us here. Who knew?”

Who indeed? It was too good. “You always split well before the morning after.”

“Depends on how drunk I got the night before. But to your point, I wasn’t much of an afterglow kind of male. I always felt panic after sex. I don’t know why.”

Cas did. Because Mirceo was terrified of commitment. Fear doused Cas’s hope, his instinct for self-preservation rising. This situation boiled down to a simple equation: If I claim him as my own and he rejects me, then I’ll be destroyed.

More simply: Mirceo equals doom.

Cas shook his head hard. All of this agonizing would be moot if they didn’t survive the next few hours. He needed to focus on their hunt, or he’d get them killed. “Up with you. We should talk some logistics.”

Mirceo sighed. “Very well.” He rose and adjusted his clothing. Tracing to sit on one of the trunks across from the bed, he secured his hair back with a leather tie.

Cas pulled his pants up over his still-swollen shaft. The mere glimpse of those fang marks nearly landed Mirceo back on the furs. Focus! “How long can you keep us in mist form?” He buttoned his shirt.

“By myself, indefinitely. With you, I don’t know. Let’s say half an hour.”

“Then we should . . .” He trailed off, catching sight of the vampire’s leavings on the floor of the cave. Pearlescent seed against opaque sand. Riveting—

Mirceo kicked more sand over it, burying it, breaking Cas’s stare. Eyes merry, he said, “Had to, or else you’d never be able to concentrate—and some of us are professionals here.”

Hating that the vampire was right, Cas struggled to concentrate. Where were we? Ah, half an hour. “That won’t be enough time for us to cross the entire gulg valley. But I have an idea to get past them.” Cas would turn a negative into a positive. He didn’t explain his plan, and Mirceo apparently trusted him enough not to demand details.

“Do you think the sorcerer’s guilty of all those things on the poster?”

Cas held up a palm. “Ah-ah. We don’t care. Never concern yourself with any specifics other than who, when, where, and how much,” he instructed, as if the prince was actually his new hunting partner.

“You aren’t a touch curious about Harea?” Mirceo asked. “Or sympathetic? He sounds larger than life.”

“Not at all. He’s just a job.”

“If the Gaolers are so imposing, why don’t they go after the sorcerer themselves?”

“I don’t know,” Cas said. “Some say they can’t enter all dimensions.”

“They provided no contact information. How will we get paid?”

“I think they’re keeping tabs on the sorcerer. The second Harea leaves Poly, they’ll sense his new location. We’ll take him behind the Red Flag and wait for them there.” Cas traced to the flap again, glancing outside. “It’s time.” He turned back, snagging supplies from a trunk: a large tarp, mystical restraints, and two long rolls of cloth to cover their eyes and faces.

Mirceo donned his sword and his trench coat, then drew on a pair of gloves from his pocket. “Then let’s be away.”

“You can’t go out like that. You need more protection.” Cas tossed him a roll.

The vampire caught the cloth, blinking at him.

Cas unwound his own. “Watch me. It starts at your head. That will put this thin gauzy part over your eyes.” He knotted the end around his neck.

“A little help here. I haven’t had five centuries of practice with this.”

Cas scowled. “Now I’m to dress you?”

“I’d much prefer the opposite, but yes, I’ll need assistance. Whereas I mastered my blowjob technique on my first foray, I’d rather not risk my flawless face.”