Monday, April 26, 2010

Repertoire by Mychael Black

Prologue

“Where are our leaders? Where are they when their people need them?”

The crowd gathered slowly, cautious at first. Standing on a pedestal that once bore a marble visage of St. David, Tomos towered over his subjects, arms upraised toward the ever-darkened heavens.

“I will tell you where they are,” he continued, voice carrying along the scant breeze to reach those in back. “As we fight for our lives, as we crumble under the threat of starvation, our leaders sup on the finest to be had. They drink and dine, then leave us to battle our neighbors—our own families—for the scraps left behind.” He blessed the flock with his best smile as whispers and nods drifted through the growing throng. “No longer will we sit and beg for that to which we are entitled! Join me, and together we shall reclaim our city! We will take Cardiff back from the outsiders, from those Norman invaders who now seek to destroy us!”

The roar of voices echoed, threatening to deafen even Tomos. He had the people in the palm of his hand. All of Wales would soon follow.

Chapter One

“Where is he from?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“You mean you don’t know?”

Jacob glanced up. “Has he ever told you anything about his past?”

“No.”

“I rest my case. Vincent Sheridan is a very guarded man… dragon… whatever.”

Devon Hart rolled his eyes and dropped into the armchair. Jacob returned to whatever he’d been doing. “What are you doing anyway?”

“Nothing my brother needs to know about,” Jacob said, giving Devon a pointed look.

Speaking of… “How long does he usually take when he goes out?”

“A few hours, sometimes more. It depends on how hungry the dragon is.”

Devon shuddered. When he’d first found out that Vincent killed when he fed, Devon had been pissed. After all, their biggest fight to date had been about Devon’s occasional killing of humans when he bled them. Then he realized that Vincent didn’t kill people. In human form, he couldn’t recall seeing Vincent ever eat to begin with. In dragon form, Vincent had a penchant for cattle or other large animals. Devon couldn’t quite find fault with him on that, especially when Vincent only had to feed in dragon form once every three months.

“So, what are you doing?” Devon asked again.

“I’m just as curious about my brother’s past as you,” Jacob muttered, flipping through the pages of yet another book. When done, he sighed and set it on top of the already-massive stack beside him before pulling over another.

“He’s obviously not blood relation, so how did he come to be a ‘brother’?”

“Sarah and I met many years ago, as cubs. No, we aren’t related by blood, either. In our case, as with Vincent, family is what we made it. She and I ran a small group of shifters, though our efforts tended to be less than effective. Neither of us have a head for leadership, nor are we alpha material. We met Vincent by accident one evening. He’d been hunting and we stumbled onto the…” Jacob wrinkled his nose. “…act. Vincent devours everything—blood, bone, flesh, hair—and we had the dubious honor of watching him. Sarah nearly fainted and I just couldn’t move. It’s not every day you stumble upon a dragon.”

Devon chuckled. “Yeah, I know that feeling.”

“Anyway… Vincent seemed full enough to not have two after-dinner snacks, and he let us go without a word. Sarah didn’t believe me when I told her I knew he’d seen us, and a couple days later Vincent proved me right. He showed up at the little cottage we had. He couldn’t believe we were actually living in such a tiny place with nearly twenty-something shifters.”

“How did I know he was the one behind the huge house?”

Jacob grinned. “I think Vincent would be cramped in anything smaller than a castle. He found this place. Granted, it’s not a castle, but a mansion is just as good. It was conveniently abandoned and, within a few hours of finding it, he had us all moving in.”

“Talking about me again?”

Devon looked up, giving Vincent his best innocent smile. Vincent simply raised an eyebrow. “Okay,” Devon sighed. “Yes.”

“Do tell.” Vincent sprawled on the couch, looking as deliciously decadent as the black leather he sat on.

“Uh…”

Devon couldn’t tear his gaze from the sight of his lover stretched out, dark gray dress pants just barely tight enough across Vincent’s crotch to tease. The half-buttoned black shirt parted just enough to reveal the stripe of crimson scales emblazoned diagonally across Vincent’s chest. Since their union a year ago, Vincent had become more comfortable, no longer hiding his true form from anyone. Now, if only Devon could convince the man to keep his straight black hair loose and not tied back all the time.

“Earth to Devon.”

Devon shook his head and blinked over at Jacob. “Huh?”

“You were drooling.”

Sinking a little lower in the chair, Devon grumbled, “Can you blame me?”

“Frankly, yes,” Jacob laughed. “He’s my brother. And a guy.” He winced. “Sorry, Vince, but I just can’t do the whole guy thing.”

“Understood.” Vincent lifted a hand from where it rested on the back of the couch and crooked his finger, beckoning Devon over.

“I’m going to want to leave, aren’t I?” Jacob muttered without looking up.

“Yes.”

Devon smiled and went over, straddling Vincent. Jacob grumbled and collected several books, muttering something about no peace before he left the room. The second the door closed, Vincent flipped them, putting Devon onto his back on the couch, hovering over him. Devon moaned and opened to the kiss, thighs cradling Vincent between them. Vincent kissed and nipped his way along Devon’s jaw and down to his neck.

“Vincent…”

“Hmm?” Vincent nuzzled Devon’s neck, the hot breath drawing a shiver from the base of Devon’s spine up to his head.

“Who are you?”

Vincent froze. “What?”

Devon held Vincent’s head and lifted it to see his eyes. “You know everything about me there is to know. I know next to nothing about you.”

“There isn’t much to know.”

“You’re a dragon, Vincent. I’d say there’s a lot to know. How old are you?”

Vincent stared at him for several seconds before answering. “I lost count at eight.”

“Eight…hundred?”

The smirk he got should’ve told Devon he was going to get the shock of his life. “Thousand.”

Eyes widening, jaw dropping, he let his hands fall limply away. “Eight… thousand?”

“Yes. Last I checked, anyway. I could’ve missed a few centuries here or there.”

Devon couldn’t even begin to wrap his brain around that much time. Then again, even after two years together, he still had trouble processing the fact that he was in love with a creature that devoured large animals whole and stood as tall as a three-story building when in his true form. Vincent lowered himself completely, the press of his muscular body short-circuiting any further thoughts from Devon’s brain.

“You asked.”

“Yeah, but—”

Devon groaned when those lips came down on his again, silencing him. Unable to grasp the age thing, he simply shoved it out of his mind in favor of the heat and taste of his lover’s kiss. A slight hint of copper lingered from Vincent’s hunt and Devon found himself hungry, his own growl almost startling him with its intensity. He rolled them and Vincent hit the floor with a grunt. Devon ignored it and shoved the collar of his lover’s shirt aside, fangs sinking deep into Vincent’s neck.

“Fuck!” Vincent fisted his hands in Devon’s hair and held him close, shuddering beneath Devon.

Fire flooded Devon’s mouth and scorched his throat. He gulped down mouthfuls, knowing damn well he could take more from Vincent than he could from a human. The richness of Vincent’s blood paled in comparison to the power it held, and Devon wanted desperately to delve deeper into the dragon’s psyche, to find the secrets Vincent held locked away.

Full and sated, Devon licked the wounds closed and kissed his way up to Vincent’s mouth. Vincent released his hair and smoothed both hands down Devon’s back to his ass. They rocked together, their moans mingling as they sought the perfect amount of friction. With a slight shift, Devon straddled Vincent and moved faster, grinding harder.

“Vincent.”

“Right there.” Vincent grabbed Devon’s hips and angled him just right. With a thrust and rock of his hips, Vincent pushed Devon over the edge.

Devon shuddered, gasping and panting as he came. Vincent followed behind him with a groan, head tilting back as he pushed upward. Devon felt the thick cock pulsing beneath him, despite two layers of pants. He collapsed onto Vincent and buried his face in the bend of Vincent’s neck.

“Christ, get a room!”

Too boneless to move, Devon just laughed. “Hi, Sarah.”

Vincent’s sister walked into the office and dropped into an armchair. “When you two are done devouring each other, I have some news.”

Sighing, Devon pushed himself up and discreetly glanced between them. Thank God for dark pants. He kissed Vincent one more time and stood, offering his lover a hand. Vincent got up and grimaced, which only made Sarah roll her eyes when Devon looked over at her.

“I’m so not going to ask.”

“Don’t,” Devon laughed. “Just… don’t.”

“So, what news do you have?” Vincent asked her as he straightened out his disheveled shirt.

“There’s some trouble in Wales.”

Vincent froze, his back to them. Devon watched muscles go tight and Vincent’s body turned rigid. “Where?”

“Cardiff.”

Devon glanced at Sarah, but she stared at her brother. “What’s going on?”

Finally, she turned her attention to Devon. “It seems someone has declared himself ruler of Wales and he’s set up shop in Cardiff.”

“What does that have to do with us, though?”

“Not so much us…” Sarah looked back at Vincent, who now stood at the window, arms crossed, tensed back to the room. “…as it does Vince.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m Welsh.”

Devon went over and sat on the edge of the desk, facing Vincent. “Now might be the time to tell me a bit more, Vince.”

Vincent sighed. “There isn’t much to tell, Devon. I’m an over eight-thousand-year-old Welsh dragon.”

“How about start with when and why you came here?”

The door closed quietly, and Devon didn’t need to look to know Sarah gave them some much-needed privacy. Vincent sat down in the chair behind his desk and tipped his head back, eyes closed.

“I came here about three hundred years ago. I stuck to the wild, not wanting to interact with anyone or anything else. Before then, I was in Wales.”

“Were you in human form in Wales?”

“Sometimes. Dragons are magical creatures. Each of us possesses a range of abilities, and we can learn others. I learned illusions early, as a drakeling. When I first shifted into this form, I knew I’d found the perfect alternative to the dragon’s bulk. I also learned what it meant to be with a human.”

“Have you… ever sired other dragons?”

Vincent chuckled softly. “No. I’ve seen my fellow dragons mating. It’s a violent thing I don’t care to experience.”

“Can’t blame you there,” Devon muttered. “So, what’s this thing with Cardiff? You know what’s going on, don’t you?”

Vincent’s eyes opened and he pinned Devon with a steady gaze. “I know who’s behind it.”

“Who?”

“An old adversary.”

“Dragon?”

Vincent nodded. “Another who has the ability to shift into human form.”

“Why doesn’t someone kill him? I know it’s possible.”

“Because, like me, Tomos possesses other abilities in the realm of magic. He’s not so easily destroyed, Devon.”

“So, what do we do?”

“We’re going to Cardiff.”