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Eyes of Darkness: Pittsburgh Vampires Vol.7 by B.A. Stretke (1)


A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.” - Osho

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

“A group of cat shifters moved into town two months ago and set up business on Canal Street. As you know, they’re close to the Ruby Light, but their business is simply a bar and not in competition with nightclub like the Ruby Light. They’ve opened an Irish style pub called ‘The Black Rose’ and it operates as a neighborhood drinking establishment.” Andrew read through his report as given to him by Ian. “They’re business is supporting them and looks to be thriving. The group consists of eight male cats, the dominant family name is Stewart, but Ian found that two have the surname of Casey.” Andrew finished and waited for questions.

Master Nikolas Hadden kept tabs on every new paranormal that hit town. This was his town and the best interests of his Coven and the Imperial Club were always foremost in his mind. When a group of cat shifters moved into Pittsburgh and set up shop he sent one of his investigators to find out their background and their intent.

“Where did they last live?” Nik asked.

"They lived in Cleveland for the last thirty-three years and before that, they lived in Minneapolis for fourteen years," Andrew said after referring to his notes.

“Did they run the same type of business in those cities?”

“Yes, they operated an Irish style pub in both cities.”

“Any issues arise in their previous locations?” Nik continued to dig.

“They left Minneapolis following a string of fires that plagued their business. No record as to the cause. There were no issues in Cleveland according to the records.” Andrew finished.

Nik turned to Josef who was seated to his left. “Keep an ear to the ground in regard to the Cats.” Nik thought for a moment before continuing. “This group could be a front, have Ian continue his investigation. Something about the power emanating from this group has me questioning who they really are.”

"Yes, sir," Josef replied.

Lando Ricci sat at the bar with his friend Ian Turner, who had just turned in his report involving the newcomers in town. The cats were a small group that rolled into town a couple of months ago. Ian spent the last week finding out everything he could on the group. Lando was glad that Ian had been chosen for the duty instead of him.

It wasn't that he didn't like cats, it was just that he found them tedious and unnecessary. In the shifter world, strength and size were everything. These were house-cats for fuck sake and ridiculous in Lando's opinion. The only thing they had going for them were sharp claws and agility. They were no match for other shifters or most humans for that matter.

He just hoped that the Coven didn't end up being the babysitter for these vulnerable shifters. Becoming nursemaids for a bunch of cat shifters was not on his bucket list.

“They’re a tight group. It wasn’t easy getting information. Even the data search didn’t produce what it usually does.” Ian began as they sat and relaxed. The evening crowd was not expected for another couple of hours, so they had time to sit before taking up their posts as guards.

Security of the Club had tightened and increased since the attack several months ago. The attackers hadn’t gotten far before being killed, but the weaknesses in the Coven’s defenses were brought out and new security measures were put into place.

“Master Hadden wants continued surveillance of the group, so Josef has me assigned to the cats until further notice.” Ian did not appear overjoyed with the prolonged assignment, but he was a soldier and he followed orders.

“Better you than me, man.” Lando grinned and took a long swig of his beer. “Sounds like the Master doesn’t trust them.”

"Too little information out there and all of it basic. That's enough to get you wondering what they have to hide." Ian responded thoughtfully. "Tonight is my last night on guard duty until we figure out what's up with the cats. I'll miss the Club atmosphere."

“Well then, you’ll have to hope for a speedy resolution to the theory of the pussycats. I’d say if you need help just call, but I really don’t want to have to deal with a clowder of house cats.” Lando teased.

“You will be the first one I call.” Ian punched Lando in the upper arm for emphasis. “You could use a little broadening of your horizons. Get out and meet new people.”

“My horizons are broad enough. I meet plenty of people. I work front door security, remember.” Lando shot back.

“We probably should get to it. The doors will be opening soon.” Ian stood up and downed the last of his beer.

Lando patted him on the shoulder. “Enjoy the cats and good luck with figuring out their master plan for world domination.” Ian gave him the finger as he headed to the garage entrance where he was working security for the evening. Lando returned the gesture and headed towards the front.

Thomas Casey and his father Edward joined with the Stewarts decades ago in Minneapolis. Their previous group refused to accept Thomas, so Edward left. Thomas was adopted and not all cats were open to members not connected by blood. It was a strange rule based on loyalty and the belief that only blood allows for true loyalty. Thankfully the Stewarts who were a mash-up of cousins, brothers, and friends had no such rule and welcomed them.

Their time together in Minneapolis proved to be a testing ground for what the Stewarts would tolerate. They allowed Thomas and Edward to stay even as Thomas matured and his true nature was revealed. They weren’t afraid of him and saw his budding strength as an asset. But he was also vulnerable and tended to attract a bad element and foster superstition. They contacted the mystical Gallic witch who possessed power great enough to cast a spell that would hide Thomas’s true nature although it came at a hefty price. It gave Thomas the freedom to live as one of the Stewarts.

He was grateful and indebted to the Stewarts for giving him and his father a home. There were no guarantees because cats were notoriously self-serving. But for now, they had a life that served them both. Thomas and Edward had a home and the cats had protection.

Now they were starting fresh again in another new city, but this time it had nothing to do with Thomas’s growing pains and a need to get out of town. It was a natural process due to the fact that shifters do not age and at some point, the locals begin to notice.

Pittsburgh held a lot of promise for a small and well-run pub like theirs. The location was good and after only two months they were settled and prospering. There were many diverse shifter populations in Pittsburgh but so far no one had caused them any trouble, apart from a few pub brawls, which come with the territory shifter or not.

The one thing that intrigued Thomas the most was the Imperial Club. It was owned and operated by the Hadden Coven. Thomas was warned, as were all newcomers, to never cross the Hadden Coven. They were powerful and for all intents and purposes, they owned this town. He had no intention of crossing anyone who didn't cross him first.

Considering the status distinction between their small Irish pub and the Imperial Club, he doubted he'd ever meet anyone from the Hadden Coven. He accepted that the Imperial Club was a place he would never see except from a distance. 

“Thomas, help with the new dishwasher, they’re unloading it off the alley.” Thomas’s father called from the kitchen. Thomas was out front cleaning the tables but quickly moved to assist in the installation of the new dishwasher. The one that came with the place had given up the ghost yesterday and had left Thomas with the duty of hand washing and sterilizing the glassware. It wasn’t a duty he wanted to maintain for long.

“You guys aware that the dance studio next door is going up for sale? Could give you room to expand and maybe add a dance floor and music.” One of the men delivering the washer commented.

"No but thank you for the tip." Gerald, the eldest and de-facto leader of the Stewarts responded with interest. He turned to his brother and requested that he look into it and get them some information. They'd discussed buying a larger venue when they were first moving to Pittsburgh but then settled for a smaller bar with a proven track record.

"You might want to act quickly because I also heard that Nik Hadden's people were also looking at it." The man added, and everyone's heart sank. There was no way they could outbid someone like Master Hadden. Gerald told his brother to check it out but if the Hadden Coven was interested in it then to just let it go.

Thomas finished and headed up to his room for a rest before the evening rush. He worked in the kitchen and also bused tables. He wasn’t good with people like the Stewart boys and he preferred anonymity. Hiding was in his blood.

He could hide in the kitchen and go unnoticed just the way he liked it. He was close by if needed but Ira and Earl, a mated pair and the primary bartenders, were masters at handling difficult people and therefore things rarely got out of hand.

Following the installation of the dishwasher, he headed upstairs to his room for a quick nap before the evening rush began. He worked late into the night so grabbed a nap whenever he could throughout the day.

He was awoken by a knock on his door and his father popping his head inside. “Time for work.” He announced. “The place is beginning to hop.” Thomas rolled out of bed and quickly changed his t-shirt to one sporting the logo of the establishment and followed his father downstairs.

Lando finished his shift and stopped in the kitchen to pick up a quick snack to take to his room. The evening had been pleasant and uneventful. But these days, no matter how quiet it got the guards never relaxed. Their duty had become laser focused. He was just entering the elevator when he received an urgent call from Ian.

It had been three days since they sat at the bar and discussed Ian’s assignment regarding research and surveillance of the cats. Lando’s first thought was that Ian had completed the job and was looking to hang out. Unfortunately, Ian followed through on a previous promise and was calling Lando for help.

“A couple of jackals have been casing The Black Rose. I believe they plan to make a move sometime this evening. They’ll most likely wait until after closing which is in about ninety minutes. I could handle them myself, but I would appreciate your back up. I don’t know how this group of cats are going to react.”  When Ian finished, Lando could not help but chuckle.

“Sure.” He said sarcastically. “But you do know that you will owe me for this.” He added. Babysitting house cats, what a fucking blast that’s going to be. Once he backed Ian with this current situation concerning the cats, he would most certainly be delegated to assist him until the job was finished. Fuck was all he had to say.

“Meet me under the awning of the drug store across and up the street from the pub.” Ian failed to hide his pleasure at pulling Lando in.

“Payback will be a bitch.” Lando comment as he closed the call.

Thomas remained in the kitchen during peak business. He just didn’t like crowds or people getting too close to him. The other cats accepted that he worked better alone in the kitchen. Every evening once the bulk of the customers had left he would go out to the main room and help with the cleanup and closing.

He finished with the glassware at hand and checked his watch. It was near to closing so he dried his hands and turned away from the sinks and headed for the main room. A shadow passed by the side window of the kitchen that looked out onto the alley that ran between the pub and the dance studio next door. He stopped and stared at the window.

Lando met up with Ian by the drug store and noticed the pub was closing up. “Where are the jackals?” He asked and started to visually sweep the area.

“They were inside for about thirty minutes and then left twenty minutes ago. They acted like they were leaving the area and heading north, but I know they’re coming back.” Ian informed.

“How do you know that?”

“They were discussing it as they walked right past me. Stupid fucks.” Ian spat the words.

“Jackals aren’t known for their intellect, just for their unbridled brutality. If they’re targeting the cats, we need to act before they have a chance to hurt them. The cat shifters have no defense against monsters like them.” Lando stated and suggested they move closer to the pub.

“I thought you didn’t like cat shifters?” Ian teased as he fell into step next to Lando.

“It isn’t a matter of like or dislike, this is a matter of common decency.” Lando was not a fan of the cats but that didn’t mean he wanted them left to the jackals.

They heard glass breaking and screams from the right side of the building near the back and immediately focused their speed in that direction. When they arrived, the scene was not what they’d expected. The large window was smashed and had allowed the jackals entrance but from the looks of it, entering the broken window was the final act in their attack.

Lando and Ian stepped through the window and into the kitchen of the pub. There lying on the floor in a large pool of blood were the remains of the two jackals. Standing in a semi-circle beyond the carnage were the cats. There wasn't a mark on them not even blood spray and yet the room was covered in it.

Lando did a quick count and realized one of the cats was missing. “Was anyone injured?” He zeroed in on the taller man in the center as he was giving off the only air of authority. The others looked a mixture of terrified and guilty.

“No, we are all fine.” The man said very carefully.

"Who killed these men?" Ian asked truly perplexed by the idea that the cats standing before him had accomplished it. Lando took the opportunity to study the men standing there as Ian questioned them. Duplicity was coming off them in waves. He pulled out his cell phone and called the Coven.

“We need a clean-up at the Black Rose.” He paused and eyed each of the cats. “Two jackals attempted an attack and were killed by the owners. We’ll stay until you arrive.” He closed the call and took up the questioning where Ian had left off.

"You say that you surprised them and as a group . . . killed them . . . two jackals that are trained from birth to be ruthless killers. You overpowered them both without getting even a drop of blood on any of you?" Lando interjected repeating their claim very clearly and posing it as a question. He watched as every head nodded in the affirmative.

"One of you is missing. Where is the eighth member of your group?" That question brought about several mumbling attempts at an explanation until finally, an older man stepped forward.

“My son, Thomas, is not well. He is in his room.”

“What is your name sir?” Ian stepped up to continue the questions when the clean-up crew arrived and Lando moved back to the window and began giving them instructions.

“Edward, my name is Edward Casey.” Lando half listened but didn’t comment. The removal and clean-up needed to be handled swiftly in order to keep it from the awareness of the citizenry and the local authorities. Shifter and supernatural existence could never be revealed, even the lowest and most debauched of their kind understood the importance of secrecy.

Thomas listened from the landing. It gave him a view of the room without anyone being able to see him or scent him considering the distance and the terrible smells that currently filled the room. Even if they did scent him, he simply smelled like the other cats.

The medallion that he wore around his neck covered his natural scent and left him smelling like the shifters he lived with. He smelled like a basic cat shifter. His father had bargained with a being called the Gallic Witch for the amulet years ago back in Minneapolis and its power had allowed him to hide in plain sight for years.

He watched the formidable dark-haired vampire question the cats and it ate at him that he had to hide. But there was no other way. Their experience in Minneapolis taught them all that hiding was the only way for Thomas.

The others arrived and the handsome one with the dark hair moved to assist them while the one with sandy hair went back to the questions. They knew the room was filled with lies but they weren’t getting irritated or violent as Thomas had half expected them to. They just asked more questions. They were playing one off the other in order to get the men standing there off balance and cause them to reveal the truth.

Thomas had seen this technique used before but never so expertly as these two vampires. They were smooth and flawless, you wouldn’t see it if you weren’t carefully studying the interchange.

Thomas was thankful for his speed because he hadn’t realized that the vampires were watching them. The Jackals went down so fast it was hardly a fight, but it allowed him time to disappear before the two vampires arrived. They were fast, lightning fast, but he was faster.

The dark vampire was astonishingly attractive. He'd never found himself attracted to vampires before but this man was definitely calling to him. Vampires, as a rule, were attractive but this dark Adonis had an air that enthralled and intrigued beyond the physical. His friend was also fine looking but he lacked the depth that the other possessed. Thomas shook his head and forced himself to focus on what was taking place and being said and away from his crazy carnal observations. He needed to pay attention because his very life might depend on it.

 

Lando felt a presence beyond the seven men standing there. The one called Thomas was close by. The scent was distinctive cat but there was something else there, something that stirred like a subtle current below the surface. It wasn’t powerful enough to identify but it gave him pause for thought.

"I'd like to see you son, sir," Lando asked the one called Edward. They stood there in silence for a few seconds. The cats were obviously concerned about something. The clean-up crew was finishing the window replacement, and everything would be completed shortly. Lando felt the need to see this other cat and he never questioned his instincts.

"I'll go see if he is well enough to come downstairs." Edward avoided eye contact and headed for the staircase by the far wall. Lando watched him wondering what could be the matter that would cause the tension he was feeling.

There were cats here and nothing else, so why the duplicity? After a few moments of awkwardness, Edward returned with a young man who looked incapable of attacking anything larger than a blade of grass let alone two deadly jackals.

Lando wasn’t sure what he was seeing but something didn’t add up. “Thomas.” He stated, and the young man nodded. He was a petite young man, around five feet as a guess, he had a delicate build with a heart-shaped face and dimples. He was adorably cute and as far from a vicious killer as Lando could imagine.

Thomas stepped behind his father when Lando made to approach him. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He clarified. “Did you see what happened here?” Lando asked and again the man simply shook his head. He didn’t scent fear from Thomas. He wasn’t afraid of him, but he did feel a raging discomfort at being the center of attention. He tried to catch Thomas’s gaze, but he purposely avoided eye contact.

Lando observed him for a few moments and then turned away and walked back over to Ian and then left through the back door. Ian stayed and informed the group that an informal investigation would be held and they would be required to repeat their statements.

Ian met Lando outside and they walked together back across the street to where Ian had originally been observing the pub. They were hidden and could keep an eye on the pub for the night.

Nothing that happened made any sense and that in itself spelled trouble. The cats were hiding something or someone because no way in hell did those guys even all seven of them together kill two jackals so clean and so quick.

“Well, do you think it was the little guy from upstairs?” Ian chuckled.

“Someone killed those beasts and they did it in the few seconds before we arrived. That requires considerable strength and speed. Whatever it was, took them out the moment they set foot in the kitchen. Let that roll around in your head for a second." Lando said. 

"There isn't anyone in that building that appeared capable of doing the damage that I saw," Ian answered. "So where does that leave us?"

"Standing here for the rest of the night," Lando called in the report to Josef and then made himself comfortable. He doubted the cats would make any moves tonight so soon on the heels of killing two jackals and garnering the attention of the Hadden Coven.

He noticed all the lights on upstairs over the pub went out one at a time until only one remained and for some reason, he knew that room belonged to Thomas even before he saw him in the window.

The little man left an impression and Lando couldn’t shake the feeling that there was so much more than what he allowed people to see. He couldn’t see him killing two jackals, the thought was ludicrous, but he had information about who did, Lando was certain.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Thomas stared out his window knowing that they could easily see him but felt the compelling need to keep track of the dark vampire. His father told him the man’s name was Lando and his friend’s name was Ian and they were soldiers of the Hadden Coven.

He watched through the darkness that shrouded them where they stood beneath the Pharmacy awning. Nothing in the night was ever hidden from him. Lando looked pensive as he studied the window in which Thomas stood. He never shifted his gaze even though he could likely see that Thomas was watching him.

His face was all hard angles and deep lines. His hair was dark like Thomas’s but whereas Thomas had long waves that met his shoulders, Lando had a professional cut that was tight, and his hair was straight. His eyes were a dark blue like a merciless storm on the ocean. Those eyes could cut, and they could destroy. He was a powerful soldier with powerful connections. Thomas was not afraid, but he was totally captivated.

Thomas felt the heat of that gaze deep in his soul and it stirred the longing for a connection, a real understanding that can occur between people that are meant for each other. He knew why he was drawn to the Lando and why he was compelled to watch him. He’d observed such connections between others and knew the importance and the significance to the feeling, but this was not his destiny.

The vampire was the epitome of perfection. He was beauty and lethality combined. Thomas’s cat was reaching out to the essence that was Lando, but Thomas pulled him back and tucked him behind the curtain so to speak. Now was not the time to fail, this was a new town and a fresh start and there was no place for a vampire mate in Thomas’s life.

Thomas scented the vampire as his mate the moment they came within a few feet of one another. The scent suppression provided by the medallion around his neck kept the vampire from recognizing him. But Thomas knew the vampire was his mate immediately and his cat had charged forward demanding to know the wonderful smelling stranger.

He’d kept his head down and maintained a distance throughout the interview which allowed him to hold his cat back from claiming the gorgeous vampire.  A claiming there on the kitchen floor probably wouldn’t have gone down really well. Thomas smiled at the thought.

The smile dropped from his lips as the reality of his life and the bargains that were made hit him. He had a mate, he met him this evening, but he could never claim him and that thought tore at his soul. He turned away from the window when his father entered the room.

“I don’t think they believed us, but they didn’t make an issue of it.” Edward walked over to Thomas and cupped his face in his hands. “Don’t worry, you’re safe. No one would ever think that it was you who saved us.”

"That's not what worries me." He said and glanced towards the window. "The one called Lando is my mate." He stated and saw the shock and sadness on his father's face. "I'd hoped that I'd never meet my mate knowing that I can never claim them. Today is truly one of the saddest days of my life."

Thomas let his grief show, his father was the only one to ever witnessed his weaknesses. He cared for the Stewarts but in front of them, he had to remain strong and invincible. If they saw a weakness, his position with the cats could be compromised and he may be told to leave. 

He was discovering now that controlling his emotions was getting harder by the minute. Finding his mate was going to tax his ability of self-control like nothing ever had before. His cat was fighting him and his cat was strong.

“I’m sorry Thomas. Like you, I to had hoped you’d never meet your true mate. This vampire is strong, resourceful and very smart. If he discovers who you are to him, he will not let you go.” Edward added to Thomas’s already mountain of concerns.

Thomas pulled the amulet out from under his shirt and held it between his fingers. “This guarantees that he will never find out.” The statement was firm and yet heartbreaking at the same time. Thomas wanted Lando to fight for him to make things right and to stand by his side but that couldn’t be. Bargains were struck and promises made that could not be undone except by death.

Edward put out his arms and Thomas walked into his father’s embrace. Neither spoke because there was nothing to say and no options to investigate. Thomas’s life belonged to another.

Lando stripped and stretched out on his bed once he got back to the club. He and Ian had been relieved at sunrise by Kristof and Andre who took over the surveillance. Following his interview with the shifters, Josef decided that the inconsistencies were a real concern. Considering that the jackals were butchered by these peaceful creatures, Josef was not taking any chances on the safety of his men and ordered them to work in pairs when dealing with the cats.

Lando struggled to quiet his mind and find some rest but it was impossible. The cat shifter named Thomas was ruling his thoughts. He was small, shy and so desperately wanted to disappear when being scrutinized. The little shifter sparked an interest that Lando failed to comprehend. He smelled like cat and looked the stature of a cat shifter but there was something else that eluded him.

On a normal day Lando would have put it down to simple lust and the temptation to make the shy little kitty purr, but this was different. Thomas called to him physically, he felt the sensations of desire the moment the man entered the room and the feeling never left. Even now he could feel his body react to the memory of the little cat. What the hell did it mean?

He rolled to his side trying to find comfort, but he could not release the thoughts of Thomas. "He knows something," Lando mumbled and rubbed his eyes. It was a long time before he finally fell asleep and even then, his dreams were consumed by the dark-haired kitten. That final thought stayed with him when he woke.

Lando and Ian returned that evening to their post watching the Black Rose. Kristof and Andre reported nothing out of the ordinary. Following the incident with the jackals, the pub returned to normal as if the attack had never happened.

“I just can’t figure out how the cats took out the jackals. I’ve run every possibility through my mind and apart from some intervention, I have no idea how they did it.” Ian commented as they were observed the pub. “It’s kind of unnerving.”

“What did you think of Thomas? What’s your read on him?” Lando had some theories that he wanted to bounce off Ian.

“He looks nothing like the others, especially his own father. He and Edward are as different as night and day.” Ian verbalized Lando’s own thoughts. “Edward is obviously a reddish blond calico which is typical of the Scotch/Irish whereas Thomas is dark as the night. Perhaps he takes after his mother, but I didn’t detect a trace of similarities between them.”

“Neither did I and I was looking closely.” Lando agreed. “I just don’t know what that means to our investigation.” He knew Thomas was hiding and protecting something or someone. That consideration caused a spike of jealousy to course through him and it stunned him for a moment.

“You okay?” Ian asked as he stared at Lando. “You looked really pissed for a moment.” Ian smiled.

“Yeah, I’m fine. The case is just puzzling me.” He wasn’t prepared to share his unexpected jealously over the possibility that Thomas had a significant other. The reaction was confusing but clear. He wanted the little man and the attraction was growing.

He shook his head to clear the unwanted surge of lust and continued with the surveillance. “What did you find out about Thomas during your original background search. Was there anything similar to this that happened in Minneapolis or Cleveland?”

“A rash of fires was the only oddity to happen in Minneapolis. They had considerable property damage both inside their establishment and in their adjoining property. I thought it looked like vandals trying to get them to leave and so did Josef, so I didn’t go too deep. Maybe I need to give the information another examination.”

“Whatever you have, send me a copy.” Lando made the request and Ian nodded.

"Their time in Cleveland was quiet. No issues or concerns from any of the local paranormal factions." Ian continued. "That was all I could find on them. Prior to Minneapolis, this group did not exist it would seem they came together in Minneapolis."

“Let’s go inside.” Lando pushed away from the wall he was leaning on and started towards the street. Ian caught up quick enough but did not seem keen on going inside.

“They’re going to know we’re watching them if we go in for a beer.” He voiced his concern.

“They are well aware of our presence, Ian. Thomas watched me from his bedroom window for well over an hour last night. They know so we might as well get up close and personal and see how they react to our presence.” They entered through the front door and took a table off to the side.

Thomas watched Lando and his friend from the kitchen window and fought with his cat who was demanding they get closer to the handsome vampire. It was hard to deny his cat since he too wanted to get closer. The pull was strong, he felt the need in every part of his mind and body.

“Do you need to go to your room?” Thomas was pulled out of his needy thoughts by the sound of his father’s voice. Thomas turned from the small window and shook his head, not wanting to leave just yet. The feeling of having his mate close was both terrible and wonderful. He wanted Lando so damned bad and yet he wished he’d go away.

"I can handle it." He tried to assure him with a fake smile and went back to washing the glassware. He didn't have to look at Lando to know that he was still there and the feeling of him so close pressed in upon him. His father let out a long heartfelt sigh and placed his hand on Thomas's shoulder.

"Again son, I am so sorry, and I can't think of any way to fix this." Edward was sounding guilty and Thomas didn't want that. His father did the only thing that he could at the time and under the circumstances to save them all.

“You talk as if I’d have a chance with that drop-dead gorgeous vampire out there. Look at him Dad, he is so far out of my league it is pitiful. From what I’ve discovered, he is one of the heads of security for the Imperial Club, he would no more take an interest in me than I would fly to the moon.” Thomas put on his best I’m okay and everything will work out fine expression and then turned his attention back to the dirty glasses which were piling up.

"He would have to be blind or insane or both to not want someone as special as you for his mate," Edward stated and patted his shoulder. "If there were any way that I could undo the agreement I made, I would gladly do it."

“Just let it go, Dad. There isn’t anything that anyone can do, and it is no one’s fault.” Thomas pressed for understanding. “It is what it is.”

“It has been so many years and no one has not come for you, perhaps the witch has moved on and forgotten about you.” Edward threw out the possibility, but Thomas was not buying it. The spell was at a considerable cost and energy the day the deal was struck, and Thomas had no doubt that someday the witch would come for payment. But he nodded indulgently and let his father have his fantasy. The witch wanted the ultimate black cat for a pet and most certainly wasn’t going to just give up.

Lando and Ian continued to sit and observed the room. The pub was not large, and it was easy enough to keep eyes on the entire area. There were a small group of wolf shifters on their left that looked to be on the verge of causing a scene and there was a smattering of other shifters along with humans throughout the rest of the pub.

"Everything looks as it should," Ian observed idly as he took a sip of his beer. "We've found evidence of no others residing here apart from the eight cats. There doesn't appear to be anyone here who could have taken out the jackals in such a spectacular fashion. So again, where does that leave us?"

"The cats did it," Lando stated calm and serious. "Either one or all vanquished the intruders." Lando tapped his finger on the table top as he once more scanned the room. "I've counted seven cats. I see them repeatedly but never Thomas. It seems to be a pattern. Why do they hide Thomas?"

“He’s the smallest of the lot and that’s saying something because they are all tiny men. Also, he struck me last night as being painfully shy. He’s vulnerable and they protect him.” Ian wrote it off but Lando just kept tapping his finger and scanning the room. He could feel the tension from the wolves raising and was wondering how the cats were going to respond to it.

It happened like a burst of energy, like a small crack in a straining dam. First, a spilled drink, followed by an unintentional backhand to the face and the wolves were at it. Ian made to jump up and try to quell the fray but Lando stayed him with a firm hand holding him to his seat.

"Let it play out," Lando said and Ian instantly understood. Lando watched the bartenders eye the action and then jump in to try and calm the wolves. It didn't work so the other cats, the ones in the kitchen and across the room came forward and attempted to break up the fight before too much damage was sustained. Finally, Thomas came out of the kitchen and eyed the room before stepping forward. Lando noticed that all eight cats were attempting to calm the wolves but were failing.

“If this is how they handled the jackals, I am at a loss to comprehend how they succeeded. This looks like the beginning of a shit show with the cats as the losers.” Ian made the sharp comment and Lando agreed.

The cats were trying to separate and talk them down and it wasn't working. One of the wolves grabbed Thomas by the front of his shirt and threw him to the side. For some reason, he could not explain Lando was instantly on his feet and confronting Thomas's attacker. He grabbed the wolf that had laid hands on Thomas and punched him square in the face and threw him across the room.

Suddenly all the wolves descended upon Lando and just that fast, Ian joined the fray with a smile on his face. He’d clearly been aching to get involved and work off a little excess energy. The wolves were dispatched quickly, each one having been beaten and tossed out.

"That didn't take long," Ian said clearly disappointment. "I thought they'd be tougher." Lando turned to see Thomas crowded into one of the corners and the other cats stood together near the bar. They all looked on in a sort of tense anticipation, it was very uncomfortable. Edward, Thomas's father rushed over to him but stood back as if expecting something and not wanting to be too close when it happened.

Lando had enough of the games and walked over to Thomas, crowding him further into the corner with his presence. “No more lies, tell me what is going on here.” He spoke directly to the small man folding in on himself and staring at the floor. “You’re not afraid of me, so look at me. What are you hiding?”

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

Thomas wanted to defy him, wanted to walk away, but he couldn’t. Their growing bond was holding him in place and demanding that he respond to it. He wanted to either laugh or cry at that prospect, but he resisted both. Neither reaction would have been correctly understood by anyone other than his father.

He watched as Lando locked eyes with him and the connection was felt to his bones. This vampire was determined and shrewd and nothing Thomas could say now would have any effect. He knew that Lando felt it too. The fact that he rose so quickly to defend him spoke volumes. Thomas was sure that the need and the energy surging through his system was not just his alone. 

The large vampire was an image of exactness as he appeared ready to make Thomas talk. His hair had gotten mussed in the fight with the wolves and it gave him a rough sexy look that called to Thomas just as everything about this man called to him. His cat began to stir in earnest and Thomas fought to keep him down but the overwhelming authority present in his real-life mate was breaking down his walls. His cat was urging him to submit.

Those dark eyes bore into him and demanded obedience and answers. Thomas had never felt so helpless in his life. He was caught in the vampire’s stare and couldn’t look away. Lando was moving closer and all Thomas could do was stand still with bated breath.

Lando was losing himself in the depths of the gold-rimmed black eyes that stared at him. They were filled with a combination of fascination and worry. He wanted to run, Lando could feel the man’s desire to flee, but it wasn’t fear or shyness that drove Thomas. He took a step closer and noticed that the wolf had torn Thomas’s t-shirt open and there lying against his chest hanging by a leather cord was a gold medallion.

Magic radiated from the one-inch diameter disc. Lando kept his eyes on Thomas and reached out and took the medallion in hand and pulled it free. The cord dangled from his grip as he held the cold metal in the palm of his hand. He could feel the power of the piece pulse through his hand and up his arm and then extinguish abruptly and completely.

The energy from the disc had been intense and focused and now that it was gone Lando could see Thomas clearly. There was a reason Thomas looked nothing like his father Edward. Lando doubted now that they were even distantly related.

Thomas was not a standard cat shifter, he was something distinctly different and more important than that, Thomas was Lando’s beloved. His instincts and nature recognized Thomas for who he was upon their first meeting even if his conscious mind had not. This little enigma belonged to him.

Thomas remained still, waiting and watching. Lando was surprised but not shocked as he might have expected at the discovery of Thomas as his beloved. The constant draw and the unquenchable interest in the little cat shifter made complete sense to him now.

"You know who I am. Why were you hiding from me?" Lando was aware that although he didn't know Thomas was his beloved he was quite certain Thomas knew that they were fated. Lando was not hiding so Thomas would have scented him when they first met in the kitchen.

Thomas continued to stare at Lando, his eyes now pleading for understanding. Lando took another step closer completely blocking Thomas into the corner of the room. The scent filling his nose was cat but not the small domestic variety. Thomas’s scent was fierce and wild with an aura of untethered potency.

Lando leaned in closer and asked his question again. “Why were you hiding from me?”

"You don't want to be associated with me," Thomas stated softly emotions roiling through his words. Lando felt for him but continued to question. He needed to understand why his beloved would believe such nonsense.

“What kind of shifter are you. You’re not a cat like your father.” Lando reached out and touched Thomas’s shoulder briefly. Thomas snapped his head up and held Lando’s eyes in a desperate grip.

“Did you kill the jackals, Thomas?” He pressed further.

“My son has done nothing wrong.” Edward broke urgently.

Lando shifted his gaze to Edward and then back to Thomas. "Tell me, Thomas." Lando used his soothing 'trust me' tone. "Your kills were justified. You're safe, nothing will happen to you. You have my promise."

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Thomas said as he took a half a step closer to Lando.

"I keep every promise that I make," Lando assured.

Lando saw the sudden resignation in Thomas’s eyes and knew what was coming. He took a step back just as Thomas shifted, shredding his clothes and filling the entire corner of the room with his amazing beast.

Thomas was a feline, but he was not your average cat. He was massive and black as the night with eyes dark and deadly. A golden glow emanated from the depths of those dark eyes. They were trained on Lando but not in a threatening manner. He could see the desire for acceptance filling the expressiveness of those beautiful eyes.

Thomas was a rare and endangered black jaguar. Lando had never seen one before but there was no doubt as to the fact that Thomas was one. In the past, they were feared to the point of being nearly wiped out. The black jaguar was considered bad luck, malevolent and a bringer of death and darkness. These irrational beliefs and superstitions had been mostly discarded now.

“Fucking hell, what is that?” Ian marveled at the creature that stood before Lando.

"This spectacularly magnificent jaguar is Thomas Casey, my beloved," Lando spoke clearly and with affection letting Thomas know that his cat was perfect as pride shown in Lando's eyes.

The jaguar moved forward its steps sleek and fluid watching the room and keeping Lando always in its stare. Lando felt the beast recognize him and felt the flood of ownership coming from the cat and filling his mind and emotions. Thomas may have been hiding from him, but his amazing cat definitely was not. Lando remained still as Thomas’s cat sniffed and rubbed against him. He found the action quite erotic actually.

Edward stayed close but did not try to interfere. The others had disappeared from the room. Thankfully the bar had been completely emptied when the fight with the wolves had begun. Ian had quickly closed and locked the main doors as soon as Thomas had shifted. He stood behind Lando ready to act if needed.

“I guess that answers the question of who killed the jackals.” Ian broke the silence.

Lando did not comment. He held out his hand to the jaguar and watched as the cat licked his palm and then stepped back and within seconds shifted back to Thomas. He stood there naked and expectant.

Lando quickly shook off his jacket and put it on Thomas not wanting Thomas's beautiful body on display. Thomas wrapped himself in the large jacket taking deep breaths of the scent that it carried. His father ran to the other room and came back with a change of clothes for Thomas but he was hard-pressed to let go of the amazing smelling jacket.

“Why the magic and why were you hiding from me?” Landon led Thomas over to a chair and had him sit down while Lando took a seat across from him. Ian remained by the door making sure no one interred. Edward moved to stand behind Thomas.

"It is a very long story, sir," Edward spoke for his son who was having difficulty finding the right words.

"I have all night," Lando assured but never took his eyes off Thomas.

Silence fell for a few more minutes and then finally Thomas began to speak and to explain. He was at a loss as to how to handle this. Half answers or diversions were not going to cut it. He would have to be open and completely honest.

“I am bound to another and that promise cannot be broken without severe consequences.” Thomas decided to begin with the worst news and then move on from there. He saw the anger flare in Lando’s blue eyes at the statement of prior ownership. It wasn’t something Thomas had any say in and currently had no way of escape.

"It is my fault." Edward blurted and held onto Thomas's shoulders. "Let me explain," Edward told a story of tremendous personal loss and then of finding a newborn kitten whose mother had been killed and taking that kitten and raising it as his own.

“I knew Thomas was going to be a large cat when he hit puberty, but I didn’t care, he needed me.” Edward got choked up and Thomas reached up putting his hand over his father’s where it rested on his shoulder. “People in my original group were afraid of what he might become and ordered us to leave. As you know, Thomas’s breed of cat is enormous and can be deadly. I found a home with the Stewart group while in Minneapolis, but things started to happen which put us all in danger.”

Thomas listened as his father laid out his past and watched as Lando took in every word. He was a formidable mate and Thomas wished that he’d been free to pursue a life with the impressive vampire. He was strong and handsome, and Thomas wanted to bath in his scent and fall asleep in his arms.

“Word of Thomas’s identity was leaking out and shifters were becoming anxious and uncomfortable. You must know the rumors regarding black jaguars, that they are bad luck and kin to evil. They began to target us and try to force us from the area. Thomas was attacked and severely injured. It was before he’d come into his own and his power was not sufficient to defend himself.” Edward took a deep breath and held it for a moment before letting it out slowly.

“I did something very stupid but seemed the best option at the time. Remember that I saw what shifters had done to Thomas’s mother. They caught her in a weakened state following giving birth and were able to overpower her. Thankfully she had been able to hide Thomas and he survived.”  Edward’s explanation took on a desperate tone.

“What did you do, Edward?” Lando’s tone was calm and even but demanded an answer all the same.

“The Stewarts put me in touch with someone who could help us. I called upon a power to protect him.” Edward said and dropped his gaze. Lando looked at the medallion in his palm.

“Magic, you called on magic for protection?” It was a question, but it was obvious Lando already knew the answer. Edward nodded his head and did not look at anyone whereas Thomas stared at Lando feeling suddenly defiant and needing to defend their choices.

“He did the only thing that he could at the time. If he’d had days to mull over the situation and bring it to a consensus of his peer perhaps things would have been different, but he didn’t.” Thomas needed Lando to understand.

“I’m not judging you or your father, Thomas. I only want to know the situation so that I am better able to protect and defend you against anyone stupid enough to make a claim. You are my beloved Thomas and I will not share or hand you over to another. You belong to me and no one else. No one will take what is mine. Do I make myself clear?”

Thomas was knocked back for a moment by Lando’s easy statement of ownership and position. He belonged to Lando and that was the moment that the fight rose within Thomas and he began to resist the prior inevitability of his life. He would fight for his mate because Lando belonged to him. This was his destiny prescribed by Fate not life with the witch.

“The Stewarts put my father in touch with a mystic that they referred to as the Gallic Witch and who they also called Mal. He’d tried other magics, but they lacked the influence to be able to contain an animal like me. The Gallic Witch had a force of command that dominated my cat.” Thomas looked down at his chest and realized this was the first time in decades that he’d been without the control of the witch’s amulet and it felt good and he felt free even if he wasn’t.

"The amulet contained the power necessary to hide my identity. It allowed me to appear as the cats I lived with. For this service, the witch claimed me as a pet. The amulet was adhered to my person and could not be removed, even by me. The witch did not factor in the power of a true mate apparently.” Thomas gave a half smile and watched as Lando’s eyes lit up.

Lando once again glanced down at the disc in his palm before speaking. “Did the witch claim you formally or just as a matter of business?”

“When the witch calls for me I am to go. I have not been formally claimed, only bartered. It has been many years since my father made the agreement and I have not seen the witch again. Perhaps they have found their own mate and have forgotten about me.” Thomas repeated the words of his father and prayed it was true.

Lando got to his feet and Thomas kept watching him wondering what he planned to do. "You and your father are coming back to the Imperial with me," Lando stated without giving them a choice of refusal. "My coven resides at the Imperial and my Master, Nikolas Hadden will need to speak with you both. As my beloved you will be considered as any member of the coven is considered. But Master Hadden must know the extent of the danger and how best to proceed. You are one of us now Thomas and you are mine to protect."

Lando gave a half smile and reached out for Thomas’s hand. Thomas was once again taken aback by Lando’s straight and to the point manner of handling things. Everything seemed so easy when Lando was in control.

“Just like that?” Thomas asked. “You’re okay with me being who I am? Your master and your people will be okay with what I am?” Incredulity seeping from his words. 

Lando was certain of what he wanted and of what had to be done and was puzzled by Thomas’s reaction. “I am more than okay, Thomas, I am thrilled beyond wonder and words. You are my beloved Thomas, you are the other half of my soul. Whatever happened to you before, whatever you call yourself or believe yourself to be, your heritage and bonds will never turn me away. You are mine. All of you, everything that makes you who and what you are now belongs to me.”

Lando took Thomas’s hand and held it with the firm certainty of his conviction and Thomas felt it. Lando saw it in his eyes and in the way his body lost its tense rigidity. “Come.” He said, and Thomas followed. Ian followed them out with Edward by his side.

“Do you need to speak with the others? Let them know that you’re leaving with us?” Ian asked Edward as they stepped out onto the sidewalk.

"No, they have already left," Edward stated matter-of-factly.

“Left, what do you mean?” Ian asked and glanced over to where Lando stood with Thomas.

“They fear the witch. They’re gone and they won’t be back.” Edward added.

“They just up and left you? Is that how it is in the cat world?” Ian was having considerable difficulty getting his mind around the blatant abandonment.

“Not all cats, but the small breeds are more into every man for himself. They see no value in self-sacrifice unless it is for a mate or an offspring. They took us in and I am thankful for that. They left Minneapolis to aid me in hiding Thomas as he matured, and they put me in touch with the witch. But the Hadden Coven and The Witch, it would be too much for them to take on. The witch is dangerous and powerful. I do not blame them for their actions.” Edward was resigned.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Lando was shocked by the fact that the cats abandoned their own. Sure, Thomas was adopted but they'd raised him as their own and now they just take off without a word. That was cold even in paranormal circles. He wondered how it would affect his beloved. Edward seemed to have expected it so perhaps Thomas too knew it was coming. Either way, it was no way to run a community and it lowered Lando's regard for the small shifters.

He'd received permission to house Edward at the Coven. As his beloved’s father and considering he was now without a community to support him, he became Lando’s responsibility. If he wanted to move on to another group of cat shifters, Lando would help him and if he chose to stay with the coven he would be welcome. Lando planned to make all things as easy and comfortable as possible for his beloved.

Thomas had a lot on his mind and had been raised with some twisted beliefs about himself and his place in the world. The Gallic Witch was definitely a problem waiting to happen but Lando was more than ready to take on anyone who dared to get in the way of his happiness. He didn’t wait nearly two hundred years to have his beloved, his soul mate taken from him, wasn’t going to happen.

He led Thomas to his quarters, as Ian took Edward to a room just down the hall and promised to see to his comfort. The meeting with Master Hadden was scheduled for early morning so both Thomas and Edward could hopefully rest and prepare themselves for the many questions that were sure to come. The situation was unfortunate but Lando was over the moon with having finally found his beloved.

He had stood jealously by and watched Ellis as he fought to win over the affections of his beloved Gavin and all the time Lando had wished to find his own. He never would have guessed that his beloved had been so close and was just waiting to be discovered.

It was the pinnacle of every paranormals existence and everyone dreamed of the day they found their own beloved. Lando had never considered the possibility of his beloved being outside his species but he found that it did not matter in the least. He was drawn to Thomas from the beginning and every moment they spent together he could feel their connection getting stronger.

Thomas was a black jaguar, a mythical beast thought to have been nearly wiped out due to superstitious fears. There were legends and terrors surrounding the existence of the black cats but it was all myth. Based on the elimination of the jackals, and the sheer size and ferocity of Thomas’s cat, Lando was fairly certain that the lore regarding the strength and ferocity of the black jaguar was based on truth.

His beloved was a sweet, shy, soft-spoken little man in his human form and a beast of massive strength and proportion in his shifted form. Lando was proud and pleased with what Fate had gifted him and he was prepared to defend his claim to the death if necessary. Life without Thomas, now that he'd met him, would not be possible.

“I would like for you to stay in my quarters. I have a guest room and you are welcome to use it, or you can join me in my bed. I am not expecting anything from you that you are not ready to give, but I would like to keep you close.” Lando wanted to be straight to the point and make sure Thomas knew exactly what he wanted. He gave Thomas the options and would respect his choice.

“My cat is clamoring for me to claim you, but there is so much that needs to be discussed. I would like to use your guest room tonight but please do not take that as a statement on what I am feeling for you. It is just for tonight and until we are clear and you know what is at stake. The witch will come for me.” Thomas was thoughtful and Lando could see the sincerity of his words and his worries.

“I understand, but I need you to understand that I will protect and defend you to my last breath.” Lando moved to stand in front of his beloved and slowly gathered the man into his arms. It was then that he realized how good it felt to hold him like this. Thomas fit against him perfect and natural as he rested his head on Lando’s chest. They stood like that for several minutes drinking in the scents and closeness of each other.

“I don’t want you to be put in danger.” Thomas breathed the words against Lando’s chest.

“We will handle this Thomas, I promise.” Lando placed a kiss to the top of Thomas’s head and then slowly released him. “Go and try to sleep. We will work this out. Magicks can be dealt with the Coven has done it before.”

“This witch is different; this witch is old and mighty with power gleaned over many centuries. This witch will not be easily thwarted, if at all.”

Thomas was sounding shaky so Lando pulled him back into his arms and did his best to sooth the anxiety bleeding from his beloved. “If you can, let it go for tonight. Rest and we will present your situation to the Master in the morning. The Hadden Coven will not run out on you.” The action of the Stewart cats was still burning Lando and couldn’t help letting his attitude seep into his words.

"Small felines are who they are," Thomas commented. "The Stewarts helped us once and I cannot be angry with them for leaving now. I and my father knew the score when we joined their group."

"Well then let me be angry for you. No one bands together unless they intend to be there for one another. Running is too cowardly for me to even comprehend. Besides, they're the ones who hooked you up with this witch to begin with and how many times were you there to defend them against their enemies?" Lando responded and Thomas gave a short soft laugh. The sound rang through Lando's mind and settled in his heart.

"It was the deal that we had. They provide us with cover and a home and I provide them with protection." Thomas was being too practical about it all and Lando wanted him angry like he was angry.

"I think they're a bunch of rank assholes," Lando stated.

"On that, I will agree with you." Thomas wrapped his arms around Lando's middle and laughed. He loved holding Thomas and he wished he could just keep him in his arms until all threats were abolished.

Lando made sure that Thomas was comfortable and resting before leaving his quarters in search of Kristof. Kristof was a wolf shifter and mated to Master Hadden's personal assistant Andrew. Kristof came from a wildlife of private bodyguards and assassins. He had a wide and varied experience in life and he was also a shifter.

Lando wanted to find out more in regard to his beloved and the threat against him and thought Kristof may have some insight. Kristof was in his quarters with his mate when Lando came knocking.

"Come in sit, I might even make you some coffee," Kristof told him but Lando shook his head and stayed by the door.

“I thought maybe we could take a walk. I have some things I’d like to discuss with you.” Lando tried not being too ominous but the look on Kristof’s face told him he wasn’t successful.

“What is it, what’s wrong?” He came up beside Lando.

“I found my beloved and there are problems.” Lando gave him the short version. He respected Andrew, but he really just wanted to talk with a fellow soldier and friend who also happened to be a shifter.

"Go Kristof," Andrew told him. "Your friend wants privacy so give it to him." Andrew was always very perceptive and right now Lando loved him for that.

“Okay, okay, come on let’s go.” Kristof followed Lando out into the hall and down to the balcony that overlooked the main room of the club. They took a table near the rail and ordered two shots before settling in for their talk.

Lando wasn't sure where to begin since he had so many questions, so first, he explained the incidents of that evening. Kristof had been on surveillance earlier in the day with Andre, therefore he had a basic understanding of what was going on with the cats.

“Thomas is my beloved. I didn’t know it yesterday because he’s been wearing a scent suppression charm given to him by a witch. Today I saw him shift and he is a magnificent black jaguar.” Lando paused when he noticed Kristof’s eyebrow were meeting his hairline.

“A black jaguar? Your beloved is a black jaguar?” He asked.

“Yes, a massive beast, and absolutely gorgeous.” Lando could not help but be proud.

"From what I understand, they're nearly extinct," Kristof added. "They're also feared on a superstitious level. I don't buy into it but there are many that still look at them as bringers of death. I worked with a crew once that was charged with killing a rogue black jaguar. They called him the eyes of darkness because of his eerie golden black stare. He was ferocious, stronger than any shifter I'd come across and it took all nine of us to bring him down." Kristof looked at Lando directly. "The black jaguar is said to possess magical and mythical abilities of strength, agility, and speed that make them nearly invincible."

"Well, they aren't invincible if your crew was able to bring one down and Thomas's mother was killed by a mob of shifters who feared her." Lando declared and sat back in his chair and looked around the club that was bustling with business just below them.

“I’m just saying this because there are still many narrow minds out there that may see Thomas as an unnatural threat and seek to harm him. You will have to be very vigilant in his protection.” Lando was curious as to Kristof’s sudden level of intensity regarding this issue.

"What aren't you telling me, Kristof?" Lando leaned forward with his forearms on the table and held Kristof's gaze.

Kristof glanced away and stared at the back wall for a few moments before answering. “The one they called the eyes of darkness and claimed to be rogue was actually just an innocent shifter. He wasn’t rogue, but I wasn’t aware of that until he was injured beyond recovery. It was then that I left the mercenary business and went into strictly protection. The locals were afraid of him and wanted him dead, so they hired a bunch of professionals to do the job.” Kristof turned back to Lando.

"I'm sorry that happened to you." Lando expressed. "But you're right I'll need to be vigilant even here in the coven." He glanced around the room again wondering if his people would accept his beloved. He hadn't thought of Thomas running into danger here in the coven itself but in light of Kristof's comments, he now felt unsure.

“His identity was discovered when they were living in Minneapolis and some of the locals decided to try and burn him out. Thomas was young and vulnerable, and they managed to hurt him before he was able to get out of town.” Lando had gleaned this from the information Ian had sent to him. “Following that incident, his father contacted a witch who cloaked his scent.”

“The magic that hid his scent from you could it continue to hide him from the general public?” Kristof asked.

“No, that’s the other half of this problem.” Lando took a deep breath and once again sat back in his chair. He downed his whiskey in one and set the glass back onto the table before continuing.

He explained about the Gallic Witch and the bargain that was struck between the witch and Thomas's father. "The cats claimed that the witch had the power to subdue the great cat and called upon him to do so. They also ran as soon as the situation went south. For real, that group of assholes has left town leaving Thomas and his father to deal with the witch on their own. Thomas saved them countless times but the minute he needs help they disappear." Lando was still frustrated at their lack of loyalty and it seemed to bubble out into every conversation.

"Wow, they are assholes." Kristof agreed. "But I heard that some of the small shifter breeds are like that. I think it has to do with their inability to fight. They run, it's how they've learned to survive."

“Don’t give them practical reasons for their asshole behavior, I want to hate them, and I refused to see them as anything other than rank bastards.” Lando shot back and Kristof barked a laugh.

“Duly noted.” He saluted. “Rank bastard assholes every single one of them.”

“Thanks. So, do you know anything about this Gallic Witch? Thomas said the witch also goes by the name Mal.” Lando got back down to the seriousness of the situation.

“Witchcraft is not my area of expertise. I usually stay as far away as possible. They are a sick bunch in general.” Kristof looked disgusted.

"This witch is supposed to be all-powerful and very old. Been around for centuries apparently and plans on taking up with my beloved at some point. Why would this witch trade a protection spell for a mate? Why not just go find your own mate or beloved or whatever a witch calls their bonded one?" Lando was getting irritated again so he took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Black jaguars are said to have powers over the darkness. They can see beyond what any other shifter can see. They can see hearts and intent, they see evil and light. It's a legend but it is said that the black jaguar has the ability to walk through hell. They are one with the darkness. They are the eyes of darkness." Kristof sounded almost poetic in his description, but it was bullshit as far as Lando was concerned.

“He’s my beloved. He’s a kind and gentle little man with a fearsome beast inside of him. I met his beast and it is not evil and there was no darkness in those eyes, only curiosity and allure.”

“The beast knew that you were his mate. He wouldn’t scare or harm you for the world but that doesn’t mean he’s harmless. Remember the condition of the jackals.” Kristof reminded.

“He was justified in killing them. They broke in and intended to do great bodily harm to everyone they came in contact with.” Lando jumped to Thomas’s defense.

“I think the witch wants Thomas’s power. The black jaguar would be quite a bonus for a witch. Even if there were no mystical powers, the cat could still stir fear in the hearts of the witch’s enemies.” Kristof ordered two more shots one for him and one for Lando. “The witch might be bargained with if you can come up with something worth more to the witch than a mythical beast on a leash.”

Kristof left him with answers but also a few more questions. Lando felt like he had a better handle on what was happening, but he still wondered as to the true powers of this ancient witch and whether bargaining was an option.

He made his way back to his quarters, not wanting to leave Thomas alone too long. Thomas was resting when he left, and he hoped that he was still asleep.

Lando stood by Thomas’s door and listened. He was sleeping, Lando could easily hear his steady breathing so he did not disturb him. He ached to go in and at least see his beloved, but he feared if he opened the door Thomas would wake up, so he quelled his urges and headed to his room that was just down the hall from Thomas’s.

Lando stripped down to his briefs and crawled into bed. He wasn’t going to sleep tonight but at least he might be able to rest. His beloved was going to need him in the following days and Lando intended to be prepared and ready for whatever arose.

His mind wandered to the little man in the room down the hall. He was beautiful and Lando looked forward to marking and claiming the man as his own. There were issues, but nothing would deter him from his beloved, but waiting was an absolute bitch.

Thomas’s wavy dark hair, dark eyes, and porcelain skin was a combination that excited and aroused. Lando had found him handsome from the beginning and the need to get closer and understand the little cat had urged him on. Now he was here with his mate in the next room. His life was nearing perfect and he would not let anyone or anything mess it up.

The prior commitment was not valid when it came to bonded couples. True matches were sacred and honored. Whatever was between the witch and Thomas was nullified the moment he and Thomas had met, it was the way of the paranormal world.

He was still deep in thought when he heard Thomas move from his room and walk down the hallway. Lando felt him standing at his door and softly spoke asking him to please enter. Thomas opened the door slowly as if afraid he would disturb Lando.

"Come in," Lando repeated and sat up and moved to a seated position on the edge of his bed. He motioned for Thomas to sit down next to him. "What's wrong? You having trouble sleeping?"

Thomas was dressed in the sweatpants Lando had given him to sleep in and looked tousled as if he'd had a difficult rest. He sat down next to Lando but kept a distance of several inches. Lando wasn't sure what he needed but whatever it was Lando was more than willing to help.

"We're mates sweetheart," Lando said softly as he leaned towards him. "You're allowed to sit a little closer."

“Not if I want to keep my wits about me. If I get too close all I want to do is climb into your lap and start kissing you.” Thomas answered honestly and without guile.

"You'd get no complaints from me," Lando responded with a smile which Thomas returned as he glanced up at Lando through his long black lashes. That look, right there set Lando on fire. No one ever looked at him like that, it was erotic and expectant and Lando was ready to drag Thomas onto his lap.

He considered that Thomas might be right about the inches of separation if they planned on talking and not fucking. Although as Thomas’s delicious scent filled his nose and his mind all thoughts of talking began to vanish.

"I need to talk to you," Thomas stated and just like that Lando had his head back in the game and was listening carefully. He nodded and reached over to cover Thomas's hand with his own where it rested on his thigh.

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Thomas sat there feeling all kinds of stupid. Here he was a formidable force in shifted form but as weak as a newborn kitten in his human form. He wished he was as strong as Lando and could put people back on their heels just by walking into a room. But he refused to put his mate in danger or to force his mate to have to defend him against the witch.

Vampires were imposing and had some crazy impressive skills, but Thomas met the witch and knew what his mate and his mate’s coven would be faced with. It wasn’t fair to put so much onto people he just met. These people who had no part in the calamity of his life shouldn’t be called upon to save him. Right now, as things stood, he and his beast belonged to the Gallic Witch.

The bargain was struck and as far as he could see there was no way out. He didn’t want his mate fighting to the death for him. The very thought brought his cat to the edge ready to defend what was theirs. His mind was circling every possible solution while his heart reached out for his mate.

"I knew you the moment I saw you. I was on the stairs and you were questioning the Stewarts about the break-in. I thought you were magnificent." He looked at Lando and saw their link and wanted so badly to reach out, but he had to explain.

"This witch is more than any of you are anticipating. I won't be able to protect you because the witch can suppress my cat and my cat is my only weapon. I want you Lando, more than I ever thought was imaginable." Thomas was having a difficult time saying what he wanted to say.

Lando’s steadfast support and expression told him that he would not be convinced of Thomas’s attempt to suggest they go their separate ways. His cat had already begun to mark Lando as his own, so separation would be traumatic. His cat never submitted to a single living thing and yet here it was ready to roll over for Lando.

“If you’re trying to say that I should let you go, that isn’t ever going to happen. I understand your circumstances and I understand the risks but walking away is not an option for me.” Lando tightened his grip on Thomas’s hand before letting go and putting his arm completely around Thomas and pulling him close. He wasn’t surprised when his mate so easily read his thoughts, it was a common side effect of predestined mates.

“You hardly know me, Lando. You shouldn’t have to forfeit everything for me.” Thomas turned his head into Lando’s bare chest and breathed in the intoxicating aroma. His cat stirred and pushed forward, and Thomas recognized the need to get closer. He didn’t resist this time as his emotions took over and the need for Lando swamped him, he craved the touch of his mate.

“You are a shifter, Thomas, you know exactly what I am willing to forfeit for my beloved. I know you feel it too and even though you fight it, I see the desire in your eyes every time you look at me.” Lando dropped his head to the side and took a quick taste of Thomas’s lips.

Thomas was surprised at first and then overcome with the intensity of the act. Just a soft kiss had his skin prickling and his heart racing. His mate was scrambling Thomas’s senses and his cat was suddenly desperate for the attention and scratching at the edges of his consciousness. Thomas threw caution to the wind and reaching up, wrapped his arms around Lando’s shoulders.

Lando’s response was immediate. He took Thomas and in one swift movement had him laid out on Lando’s bed with Lando stretched out on top of him. The kiss was never broken, Lando held him in a grip that drained all his resolve and left him trembling.

Thomas let his hands roam the length of Lando’s hard muscular back and come to rest on his narrow hips. He was built like a sexy dream, tall, hard and broad. He drifted lower and skimmed the solid mounds of Lando’s amazing ass causing a delicious moan to escape from the man’s ravenous lips.

"Don't stop baby," Lando begged while pressing his hard length down onto Thomas’s. Thomas could feel that Lando was a large man and eagerly increased the pressure of their groins in an attempt to increase his pleasure. Thomas massaged the hard-muscled cheeks while they fell into an erotic rhythm of thrusts and pants.

The decadent sensuality began to ratchet up when Lando looped his thumb in the band of Thomas’s sweatpants and worked them down to mid-thigh. Thomas was going out of his mind when his hard cock scratched against the fabric of Lando’s briefs. The sensation sent a fresh wave of stimulation across his delicate nerve endings. He was suddenly awash in delicious chills and he closed his eyes savoring the ever-mounting excitement.

Lando quickly removed his own briefs and Thomas couldn’t help himself and reached between them to encircle Lando’s massive member in his grip. It was a handful and then some, but Thomas was more than prepared to handle it all. He stroked it several times reveling in the velvety softness encasing the hardened steel before he became lost in the marvels that Lando was eliciting with this oh so talented mouth.

The room was filled with the scents of their lovemaking and the sounds of lustful wicked pleasure. Thomas was not completely inexperienced, but his few lovers had been without depth or an eye on forever. This experience was completely different, and every move and every word pushed their relationship forward with a desire and drive towards eternity.

Things were building, and commitments were being made. Thomas felt his heart opening to embrace this man this vampire, his mate. His cat was struggling to sink his teeth into the beautiful man and complete his claim, but Thomas locked him down and held him fast.

Lando rained kisses down Thomas's throat and across his narrow chest. His body was small and delicate and exactly everything that turned Lando on. He sucked one nipple into his mouth and teased it mercilessly before pricking it slightly and tasting his beloved. The blood was euphoric and Lando didn't know if it was because Thomas was his beloved or had something to do with the power of the beast. Either way, Lando was hooked for life.

Thomas felt the bite and it pushed him to the edge at record speed. Before he could mentally process the feeling, he was coming in hard spirts, painting Lando’s firm abs with his seed. The action heightened his arousal rather than diminish it which boggled his mind completely. The orgasm was the precursor to the total event. He held onto Lando pressing his body closer demanding more and responding lusciously to Lando’s expert ministrations.

Lando was surprised by Thomas’s eagerness but delighted at the same time. He moved back to place several open mouth kisses to Thomas’s throat before slipping his thick muscled thighs beneath Thomas’s elegant legs angling his lower body upwards and giving Lando a proper view of his prize.

He watched Thomas touching himself and reaching out eagerly for Lando’s hard cock and it nearly had him coming before he ever got inside the lovely little man. Lando grabbed the lube from his side table and quickly covered his cock and began a rapid stretching of Thomas’s tight little entrance. He kept his eyes on Thomas and kept him on the edge of climax as he finished prepping him for Lando’s large cock.

Thomas felt his eyes rolling back into his head when Lando inserted three of his large fingers into his now slippery channel. It was a feeling like no other, so sensitive and so full and the electric pulse of pleasure never stopped. Thomas frantically stroked his own cock in a desperate need for more but Lando knocked his hand away and took over as he pounded Thomas’s ass with his fingers.

“Are you ready for me baby?” Lando whispered against Thomas’s ear and all he could manage to do was nod rapidly with his breath coming out in short rapid bursts. The anticipation of fulfillment was overwhelming. Lando moved closer raising Thomas’s ass even further before removing his fingers and replacing them with his hot, leaking cock.

Thomas's breath caught in his throat as Lando bore down and pressed inside inch by inch filling and stretching him. "So good," Thomas repeated over and over as Lando thrust into him completely burying himself to the base.

“You feel like heaven baby. Better than good, better than all things.” Lando mumbled and Thomas clutched at Lando’s shoulders holding him close and reveling in the sensations rocketing through his system.

Lando began with a slow thrust and built a steady rhythm of plunging deep and pulling out until just the head remained and then plunging back inside. The rhythm began to accelerate as the climax began to build between them. Thomas could feel the momentum cresting and Lando slammed inside and held fast as his orgasm consumed him. Thomas felt the flood of hot seed fill his channel and seep out run down his crack it was amazing. At that moment Thomas exploded drenching them both in his essences once again.

Lando dropped on top of Thomas and took him in a near crushing embrace. Thomas felt Lando’s sharp teeth graze his neck but Lando did not break the skin. In turn, Thomas’s teeth also dropped as his cat fought to claim its mate. Both men held onto each other as they came down from the heights of their ecstasy catching their breath and steadying their hearts.

Lando came so hard he saw stars as he filled his beloved and put the first seal on his claim. His instinct was to bite and feed and in doing so complete his claim and their bond. But Thomas had asked for time and Lando had promised not to do anything that Thomas didn’t want to do, so he resisted. It took all of his resolve to keep from sinking his fangs into Thomas’s smooth white skin.

He held him and together they settled as Lando gently slid free from Thomas’s tight embrace. “You make my blood burn, Thomas. Soon I will claim you and we will be one.” Lando pledged.

He heard Thomas whimper and reach out to hold him, so he carefully slid off of him and settled himself at Thomas’s side still within the amazing little man’s embrace. “We will work this out Thomas, do not fear. You are mine and I am yours and that is all that matters.” Lando crooned into his ear as he reached down and pulled the comforter up to cover them both. They fell asleep in each other’s arms feeling both confident and worried.

Thomas woke early having slept sporadically throughout the night. Although every time he woke he found himself bundled in the arms of his mate and that was the most wonderful thing to experience. Their lovemaking had been amazing but had left them both wanting more in regard to their bond.

Lando’s words of last night kept ringing in his ears and filling his mind, ‘I am yours and you are mine’, they were truth, but could they ever be realized? He nuzzled his face against Lando’s bare chest and breathed in his scent which reminded Thomas of fresh air and pine needles. What was he to do?

“Stop thinking so hard, baby. Relax and just let me hold you a while longer.” Lando’s sleepy tone washed over Thomas and he readily complied with his request. When next they woke, Lando was positioned up on one elbow looking down into Thomas’s face.

“What are you looking at?” Thomas asked as he stretched feeling so comfortable and at home in this man’s arms.

“The most charming shifter upon this earth," Lando stated and kissed him lightly. Thomas couldn't hold back the full-face smile that overcame him. Lando leaned back and his eyes traveled Thomas's face over and over. 

“I’ve heard it many times over the past year as my friends have found their beloved, that nothing compares to knowing your beloved and finally holding them in your arms. At the time I indulged them with feigned understanding but today I understand, truly understand the feelings they were trying to communicate and lacked the words to do so.” Lando trailed his fingers down the side of Thomas’s face and Thomas leaned into his touch.

“I adore you Thomas and nothing on this earth will ever keep me from you.” Lando kissed him again and this time pricked his plump bottom lip with his fang and tasted his beloved once again. The heady flavor exploded in his mind and strengthened his resolve. He felt Thomas moan and wrap his arms around him pulling him down upon him.

It was not a shock when he felt Thomas's fangs scrap across his shoulder followed by a slight sting. Thomas had not claimed him, but he had marked him and that was splendid. Step by step they were drawing closer and their bond was becoming stronger.

He knew why Thomas needed to go slow, it was his apprehension regarding the witch. Thomas feared making a claim that he would be forced to leave. But even with that hanging over Thomas’s head, the little man could not resist marking his mate.

Thomas might not be ready but Lando was fulling recognizing the fact that Thomas’s cat was ready and anxious to complete their bond. The massive black jaguar purred and whined for attention whenever Lando was close. “I love it when you purr.” Lando breathed the words against Thomas's throat where he was nuzzling, licking and kissing the open temptation. The throbbing vein in Thomas's throat was calling to him like mad.

"My cat has never cared enough about anyone to purr in their presence," Thomas admitted. "He is at home, just as I am." They began to rub against each other, petting and kissing as their desire pushed them when Lando's cell began to ring. It was the tone he set for Master Hadden so ignoring it was not an option.

“I have to answer.” He said regrettably and rolled over to grab his phone from the side table. He abhorred letting go of Thomas so kept one hand on hip as he answered the phone. “Yes, sir.” He said, and it was Andrew on the phone informing him that the meeting was being rescheduled for three o’clock.

That was good news. Now he had time to feed his beloved and they could still spend a few more minutes in bed enjoying each other’s bodies.

Josef and Nik sat in the conference room with the three guards from the Club, Ruby Light. The Ruby Light was also completely owned and operated by the Hadden coven but no one outside of the coven itself was aware of that fact. Nik liked to have eyes and ears everywhere and the nondescript little club had always been a great source of useful information. They even hired a few non-paranormal employees in order to look average and unassuming to other paranormal groups.

The three guards Daniel, Vincent, and Leo took care of all the security needs of the smaller club. Master Hadden called this meeting when news of a particular subject began to run through the workforce of the Ruby Light.

“Who started the rumors?” Nik asked.

“A member of the service staff. Wilfred Blanc is a server at the club and he began the story that a black jaguar was at the coven and that darkness was to befall all that lived and worked at the Imperial.” Daniel answered.

“Where did it go from there?” Nik continued.

"It began last night and traveled fast through the service staff to the management and was being picked up by a few customers before we recognized the threat. We cleared the thoughts of everyone at the club before they left the premises as a precaution." Daniel stood straight and gave Master Hadden his complete attention. Daniel led the security detail for the Ruby Light with Vincent and Leo as his subordinates.

"Tell me what you know of Wilfred Blanc," Nik questioned further even though he'd already gotten the report filed by Daniel which had been the cause for this meeting. Nik had also requested Wilfred's personnel file as it related to his employment and his file of membership in the Hadden Coven. These men worked with Wilfred Blanc, not closely but they saw him regularly and they would have a clearer impression of the man than those of cold dead files.

Their descriptions of Wilfred Blanc were well thought out and carefully delivered. It was obvious that they did not want to cause more grief than was earned, but Nik had no time for half stepping. He leaned forward and pierced them with a stare that physically hurt.

“Tell me who he is and why he is running his mouth in my establishment about a person I brought into the coven.” The ‘I’ was annunciated clearly and with considerable force. He was not wasting time with niceties. Vincent and Leo cast their eyes down in silence and respect and Daniel took the floor.  

“Yes, sir.” He said, sharp and to the point.

“Wilfred stated that he heard the rumor that a jaguar shifter was coming to the coven last night while picking up stock from the Imperial storeroom. He gave no names because he said it was talk among many. He knew the myth connected to this beast and ran with it once he returned to the Ruby. When told to stop he did not until the situation at the Ruby Light got out of hand. The workers were fearful of having the jaguar in their midst and panic went through the staff like wildfire until we were able to clear the place and restore some sense. Wilfred has a mouth that runs non-stop but never has he deliberately fanned dissent until now.” Daniel stood silent and waiting for Master Hadden’s orders.

Nik looked at the other two guards. “Do you have anything to add?”

“No, sir.” They both said, aware that Master Hadden had the ability to see their minds and know that for himself.

“I want names of everyone who voiced a problem with having Thomas here with us. Do not try to hide anyone.” The order was clear and firm. Josef took them from the room and assisted in compiling the list. Every name was called upon and each person was brought before Master Nikolas Hadden for assessment.

It was a rough and emotional few hours. No one was banished but many were put on social restrictions. Wilfred Blanc and two of his cohorts were demoted from service staff to janitorial duties of the lowest rank.

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

Lando had ordered lunch from the kitchen to be delivered to his quarters. He and Thomas had stayed in bed till eleven before getting up and showering. He would have loved to have showered with his beloved, but he knew it would be an unbearable temptation.

Thomas needed to relax and prepare himself for the meeting with Master Hadden. Lando knew it was worrying him and therefore didn’t want to push him farther than he was comfortable. Although keeping his hands off his beloved proved to be impossible. He seemed to thrive on Lando’s closeness just as Lando derived strength from Thomas. It was a two-way street formulated by Fate where both were made better by the presence of the other.

The first shock of the day came when Andrew stopped by to inform them that Edward had requested that he be moved to reside with a group of cat shifters in Meadowlands, a suburb of Pittsburgh. It threw Thomas for a few seconds, but he pushed down his disappointment masterfully and maintained an expression of stoic steel.

“He said that he loves you but that you need to take the next leg of this journey alone. He won’t be leaving for about another hour and he wants you to come talk to him.” Andrew said picking up on the hurt that his words inflicted but not drawing attention to it.

Thomas shook his head. “No, he has to do what he believes is right. He brought me this far in life and I will be forever grateful for that.” Lando could see that Thomas had a tenuous hold on his emotions. He’d seen this before. The years of hiding had taught Thomas to hold in his emotions, to not let himself feel. Lando knew that Thomas had to let go and process all that he was feeling.

Lando finally had to say something as Thomas’s eyes became liquid but not a single tear fell. “Get mad Thomas, it’s okay.” He urged and took a step towards him just to have Thomas take a hasty step back. His chest began to rise and fall rapidly as his eyes turned completely black and the golden glow encircled them. The shift was about to occur.

Lando pushed Andrew out the door and stood in front of it when Thomas tore through his clothing leaving shreds upon the floor while his cat took over. In less than a second, the giant jaguar filled the room standing straight and tall but with its head pressed against Lando’s hand. The grief Thomas had been denying erupted and his cat took over. It wasn’t there to terrorize or destroy, it was there to channel the uncontrollable pain into energy.

"I'm your home now." Lando rubbed his hands over Thomas's head and placed a kiss there. "You're mine and I will never abandon you. If you want, when things are settled I will help you search for your birth family." Thomas slowly shifted back as Lando caressed and soothed the large cat. The shift was instant as before and Thomas fell into Lando's arms crying and clinging to him. "It's okay, baby." He kept saying until finally, Thomas heard him.

Lando led him over to the sofa and they sat down together. He reached behind him and pulled the throw off the back and wrapped it around Thomas on the off chance that someone might come into the room and see him naked. He then pulled Thomas back into his arms.

“I’m okay.” He reassured Lando who was clearly looking ready to find Edward and kick his ass. Lando tried to hide his resentment knowing that Edward must have a good reason for all of this.

“You will be, baby, you will be.” Lando paused and then continued. “The man has raised you since you were a kitten. There has to be something more here. Go talk to him.”

Lando could see Thomas shutting down and resisting. "Hear him out, Thomas. Don't leave things unsaid."

After lunch arrived, they ate, and Thomas got dressed. Thomas agreed to go see Edward and say goodbye. Luckily Lando had asked to have Thomas and Edwards' things brought to the coven last night. He thought Thomas would appreciate having his own things around him but was surprised when only a very small bag was delivered to him.

Thomas had few clothes and even fewer personal items. Lando wasn't sure if it was a choice or due to circumstances but he planned on ordering Thomas a new wardrobe and he would have to accept because it was a gift from his mate. Thomas deserved to dress and be seen as the majestic cat and gentleman that he is.

“Why don’t you try and rest for a while after you talk to Edward. You didn’t get much sleep last night.” He suggested to Thomas. “I need to check in with my boss and I will be back to escort you to the meeting at three.”

He came up to Thomas and pulled him close for a deep and searing kiss. “I love the way you taste baby.” He smiled, and Thomas blushed. “I won’t be long.”

Thomas knocked on Edward’s door and waited. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say. How do you say goodbye to the person who saved you and raised you? How do you put all those feelings and memories into words?

Edward answered the door with his usual broad smile. “I’m glad you came.”

“How can you just leave? After everything, how can you just leave me and go live with another clan?” Thomas held back his tears. He was mad and he didn’t want to cry.

“It’s your time son. You have your mate and he will fight for you now. This is the way of cats and all shifters. Your mate must become your world and those who cared for you before must step back.” Edward took Thomas’ hand and squeezed it.

“What if I still need you?” Thomas whispered.

"I'm not going far away. Just far enough to allow you and Lando to grow. He's a good man and a strong man. He will take care of you better than I can because Fate has made him for you. This is your destiny. Cats lean on their parents for years until their time comes and they leave the den and forge their own path and live their own destiny. This is yours, my son."

Edward took Thomas in his arms one last time. “If you need me you can always come to me, but this is your time now. Let yourself love and be loved.”

Thomas smiled at the man who had kept him safe and made him the man he is today. It was not out of self-service that Edward walked away, but out of love. Thomas had to walk on his own.

Lando called and arranged to meet Josef in the lounge on the second floor. He wanted to discuss the meeting and the expectations or concerns that might arise. Josef arrived looking pensive and wary and after he ordered coffee for them both Lando sat back in his chair and voiced his observations.

“This isn’t going to go well, is it?” He stated careful and measured.

Josef looked across at him puzzled for a moment. “Oh, this look isn’t for you, sorry. It’s been a very full morning.” He took a sip of his coffee and then Lando went ahead with his questions.

“Which is the bigger problem, the black jaguar or the Gallic Witch?” Lando began. Josef told him of the rumors and the fear but also assured him that the situation was in hand.

"Nik doesn't like destructive gossip especially when its intent is to undermine his authority. Hopefully, the concerns will be laid to rest quickly. No one other than the weak minded are persuaded and those spreading the lies have been dealt with." Josef took another sip clearly needing the pick me up.

“What about the Gallic Witch, any word on that front?” Lando worried about public opinion but not as much as he worried about a powerful witch trying to stake a claim on his beloved. “Do you know anything about this witch.”

"The witch is a legend mostly, very few have had contact. The witch's power is considerable according to reports but remember, you are Thomas's mate and Fate always prevails. Keep that in mind and the fact that we are all behind you." Lando wished that he was as confident as Josef was as to the outcome.

This was the first time he ever suffered from doubt or insecurity. Is whole life he had a clear understanding of himself and his world never did he doubt his own abilities until now. The ‘what ifs’ began to cloud his mind stealing his determination.

"This is your beloved, your responsibility, your life, and your love. You will naturally feel a level of uncertainty in your actions but don't let it take you over. The importance of this person to your existence is the reason for your sudden fear of failure. You will not fail, Lando. You are unflappable and steady in all things. Hold onto that." Josef's words had the power to push all the damaging considerations to the back of Lando's mind and fill him with the confidence he knew was real.

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s not an easy road for sure. Fate has made sure that we all have had to work hard and fight for our beloveds. But they are worth every minute of the effort and anything it takes to have them. Your life is just beginning Lando.” He smiled and raised his glass in congratulations.

“Thank you, sir.”

Thomas tried to do as Lando asked, but relaxing and resting were beyond his capability at the moment. He remembered the witch when the Stewarts and Edward called upon that power to contain the black jaguar. The memory was fuzzy, it was decades ago and Thomas was near unconscious during the casting. He did remember clearly the force of the energy that shot through him when the witch sealed the spell. It was astonishing, and it held his cat in check.

When the witch shows up Thomas will not be able to use his Jaguar in defense. The witch controls the large cat. The witch can't make Thomas act against his nature such as attack anyone, but the spell gives the witch the power to stifle his shift and immobilize his cat. Thomas got up from the sofa and began pacing the living room. The three o'clock meeting was drawing near, and the anticipation was consuming him.

He stopped pacing and stared at the door when he heard a knock. He wasn’t sure if he should answer it or not. It was still forty minutes before his scheduled meeting and Lando had not returned yet. He continued to stare, and the knock came again. Curiosity overcame his reticence and he opened the door.

“Thomas Casey?” The man asked.

"Yes," Thomas answered and waited.

“You need to leave this coven. You are not welcome here.” The man spoke like he was afraid, but Thomas could scent no fear coming from him. He did not respond and was ready to close the door when the man held it open and leaned closer.

“If Lando, the guard, is really your beloved then you should let him go. Your presence in his life will only destroy him. Shifters do not belong in covens and do not belong with vampires. It is unnatural.” The man’s intent was becoming clearer and as much as Thomas despised his hatred and bigotry he also recognized some truths.

The man leaned a little closer before delivering his parting shot. “Get out before Master Hadden kills you and your boyfriend. That is what the meeting today is really about, you know. You think you are powerful, but you are not powerful enough. You will not be able to save yourself and you will not be able to save Lando.” The man then turned abruptly on his heels and hurried down the corridor to an exit.

Thomas stood there for a few moments with his hand on the door and staring out at nothing. “Was that really Master Hadden’s intent? Did he plan to bring them both to him under the guise of having a talk just to have them both killed? Thomas closed the door and stepped back. He needed to decide, and he needed to do it quickly. Lando would be returning soon and he would not be allowed to leave. If he were going to leave, he needed to do it now.

Thomas had not yet met Master Hadden but Lando spoke respectfully of him. He didn’t sound like a man who would trick you into believing he cared and then lure you to your death. If the Master wanted them eliminated, he would have done it already without games or tricks.

As the thoughts planted by his visitor swirled around him, he became consumed with the fear that Lando would be harmed either by Master Hadden or the witch and it would be his fault. The fear of reprisal had been there buried beneath Thomas’s desire for his mate.

Now that he was actually looking at all the ways this could go terribly bad he began to consider running. This wasn’t to save himself, this was to put distance between his disastrous life and Lando. Lando shouldn’t be made to pay for something he had no control over.

As much as he tried to rationalize and force himself to wait and speak with Lando, the more his reactionary mind warned him of the danger to his mate. His cat was suggesting they run but take their mate with them. It was a tempting thought but that didn’t solve the problem of the witch. Lando would only be safe if he were away from Thomas. That was the only solution Thomas could see.

He grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. Lando had removed the amulet so Thomas was no longer hidden from other paranormals. But he was a rare species, and many would not recognize what he was only that he was feline. If they did identify him chances are they would not engage due to the legends and myths surrounding the black jaguar. He would be okay for a while.

Everything in him was fighting against leaving but deep in his heart, he knew it was the only way he could be sure that Lando was safe. He left a short note for his mate explaining his actions as best he could and then he left.

Lando met with Ian briefly following his sit down with Josef. Ian had heard about the situation at the Ruby Light and was giving him a heads up on what had taken place. Josef had eluded to the trouble but had not gone into detail.

“How did they even know? I only arrived home with Thomas last night.” Lando was understandably annoyed.

Ian shrugged his shoulders before answering. “Thomas is special, and gossip travels fast.” Was Ian’s only conclusion. “People were discussing it in the stockroom and this guy Wilfred heard it and took it to the Ruby Light. The people here have no issue with your beloved, the talk is positive, curious, interested but not fearful or angry. The trouble arose with the folks at the Ruby Light.”

“Who the fuck do they think they are to be judging my beloved. They open their fucking mouths again and I’ll take their fucking heads off.” Lando shouted.

"Fuck yeah," Ian shouted in support and patted Lando on the back. "If I can help in any way, just ask." He added more seriously. "I stand with you, you know that."

“I know and thanks.”

"I haven't found my own beloved yet, but I know that when I do I will not let anything stand in the way of our happiness. Fated bonds are sacred for a reason." Lando was touched by his friend's support and unconditional acceptance.

“We meet with Master Hadden at three to discuss the witch’s prior claim on my beloved and the ramifications of this supposed claim.” He sneered as he said the words. “I assume if the other issues are still rife we will discuss those also.”

"Master Hadden doesn't put up with troublemakers. If they don't learn their lesson the first time, they don't get second chances." Ian walked with Lando to his quarters as they continued their discussion.

The moment he entered the room he knew something was wrong. The quiet was too complete with the air still and the scent of his beloved fading. "He's gone," Lando stated abruptly and began looking around as if he thought Thomas may be hiding. Ian found the note by the door and called Lando's attention to it.

He took it and read it. Thomas had stated he feared for Lando’s safety in the face of the discord that his presence has caused in the coven and with the impending confrontation with the witch. “I can’t let you forfeit your home or your life for me. If I go away the witch will follow me, and you will be safe. I’m sorry I couldn’t risk you getting hurt. Love Thomas” Lando folded the note and placed it back on the table.

“He believes that he’s protecting me. He’s running because he thinks it will draw the witch away from the coven and ease the tension here at the coven.” Lando spoke to Ian. “I’m going after him. I think I know where he’s headed. Will you let Master Hadden know the circumstances and that I will report as soon as I return with Thomas?”

“Yes, of course. Good luck.” Ian watched as Lando raced down the hall.

He took the stairs because the elevator would be too slow. Vampires could move at a shocking speed when pressed to do so and he was giving it all he had right now. Lando was in the basement and in his car in seconds. He waved off the guards by the door and sped away.

Ian pulled out his phone and dialed Andrew who told him to meet Master Hadden in the main conference room. "Just report to him directly," Andrew explained. "Josef is there also." Ian closed the call and dropped the phone back into his pocket. He decided to take the note Thomas had written to Lando just in case Master Hadden wanted to see it.  Thomas and Lando had a meeting with the Master at three o’clock so considering it was now three-fifteen, someone would have some explaining to do. The note should make it all clear.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Lando drove quickly through town to the Black Rose. It was closed and dark, but he had a hunch this is where Thomas would go first. He instantly felt the aura of his beloved enveloping him as he got out of his car and headed towards the back door. He reached out with his mind to touch Thomas, but he met only darkness. Thomas had closed himself off.

The back door opened unimpeded and he entered quietly, closing the door behind him. Thomas was upstairs, his scent was strong and even though he was closed off Lando could still feel his anguish. He took the stairs two at a time and walked the short distance to the one bedroom that looked out onto the street. He remembered watching Thomas in the window the first night they’d met.

He opened the door and Thomas did not try to hide or run. He sat quietly on the edge of his bed and stared at the floor. "It's not easy to run from your mate," Thomas said and glanced over at Lando by the door.

“I will always find you, Thomas.” Lando walked over and sat down next to him and placed his hand on Thomas’s knee. “Please don’t ever run away again. We will get through this together. Don’t write us off without a fight.”

Thomas turned on him suddenly and jumped to his feet. Lando had obviously hit a nerve. “I would gladly fight to the death for you, but I will not stand by and let you get hurt because of the shit in my past. I’m a black jaguar, even if we convince the witch to release me how are you going to live your life at the coven with a frightening monster like me as your mate. People will turn on you I’ve seen it before. Fear can make people do terrible things and I won’t set you up for that kind of life.” Thomas was panting by the time he finished, and his heart was beating out of his chest.

Lando did not comment but listened and then reached his hand out to Thomas who took it immediately. Lando pulled him back down to sit beside him.

"I fully understand why you ran but I do not agree with it, and I am asking you to not do it again," Lando spoke clearly and watched as Thomas dropped his gaze to their joined hands. "My people will not be a problem for you. As my beloved, you are welcome and accepted. My people are not superstitious idiots." Lando paused and then added once he thought about what Ian had told him.

“There were a few from the smaller club that started spreading rumors, but the Master ended it and it will not happen again. The people of the Imperial are behind you Thomas I promise.” Lando put his arm around Thomas and tucked him close pressing Thomas’s head against his chest.

"I want to claim you, Thomas. I want there to be no doubt who you belong to. I want my claim to be set so no other can step forward." Lando hadn't intended upon making such a request but under the circumstances, it seemed necessary and urgent and he always trusted his intuition.

"Yes," Thomas said with conviction and looked straight at Lando. "I may not be able to protect you. My cat is fierce when it comes to you, but the witch is in control."

“We’ll face it together because I won’t give you up.” Lando threaded his fingers through Thomas’s waving dark hair and pulled him closer for a kiss that was tentative and searching at first and then very quickly turned intense and passionate.

Thomas opened eagerly to Lando’s pressure and allowed him to penetrate and eat away at Thomas’s mouth with his tongue. It was spicy and rich and Thomas held on seeking more.  He felt Lando move his hand to his waist and start to push up Thomas’s t-shirt slowly baring his naked chest and abdomen to Lando’s rough exploring hands.

Thomas loved being touched by this man he had tenderness and aggression in just the right balance and measures. His t-shirt was jerked over his head and Lando tossed it mindlessly on the floor. The kiss deepened as Lando’s hands traveled every inch of Thomas’s bare flesh.

The excitement was building at an astounding rate and the air was heavy with the combination of their intoxicating lust and need. Thomas needed skin so he frantically began pushing at Lando’s jacket until he got it off of his shoulders and then Lando helped him take it off and it was thrown to the floor on top of Thomas’s t-shirt.

There were still too many clothes in the way. Thomas’s hands went after the Lando’s tie first and then laid into the buttons of his white cotton shirt. Lando pushed his hands down under the loose-fitting sweatpants that Thomas was wearing to cup his ass in such a delicious hold that Thomas couldn’t hold in the needy little whine that escaped.

Lando tore off his shirt and flipped Thomas onto his back on the bed before rolling on top of him and pinning him spread eagle beneath him. His eyes spoke of his desire and his determination to have Thomas. It was a feeling of ownership that caused a sensational thrill to work itself through Thomas’s body leaving him trembling with the need to be taken.

Lando latched onto Thomas's neck and sucked hard raising a lovely mark that he intended to taste later. He would sink in his fangs right there and complete their bond. He moved slowly down Thomas's beautiful body kissing his way down his chest to the waistband of his sweatpants. He tasted the saltiness of sweat and the erotic flavor of Thomas's arousal. It was stirring his desire to a rapid peak as his cock hard and leaking strained against the confines of his pants.

"This is going to be hard and fast baby," Lando confessed while pulling Thomas's pants down and off. "I promise you sweetness and finesse the next round but for now I need to mark and claim you."

“I need to mark you too. My cat is yowling for attention and he is likely to take over if we don’t hurry.” Thomas’s words were slurred and breathless. Lando was so turned on, he hurriedly opened his pants and freed his now aching cock. He gave it a few strokes to appease the pain while deep throating Thomas’s stiff member.

Thomas felt the warm moist embrace of Lando’s mouth on his sensitive cock and he couldn’t believe the effect it was having on him. He was so close to losing it that he felt his vision begin to blur. No one had ever touched him like this, it was amazing.

Lando’s mouth was hypnotic in the way it held him and stroked him with perfect suction and perfect pressure. Thomas buried his hands in Lando’s hair and with a loud groan came down his throat pumping stream after stream of hot seed into Lando’s mouth. He continued to lap and swallow until every drop was gone. Thomas shuddered with the release of such marvelous energy.

Thomas noticed that Lando was stroking his own cock and lining it up with Thomas’s eager hole. It was then that he realized Lando had loosened and lubricated him while he had been sucking Thomas off. The man was a marvel.

Lando had enthusiastically eaten Thomas out and gloried in the taste of his beloved. Now he was prepared and ready to be taken and by the blissful look on Thomas’s face, he was needing it as much as Lando. 

With no time to take his pants completely off, Lando pushed them down his thighs and out of the way. His beloved was laid out so gorgeous and so willing. There was nothing between them at this moment, no troubles, no worries, only their shared desire for one another. Thomas' eyes shifted from black to black and gold as his expectancy built.

Lando spread Thomas’s delicate thighs apart and positioned himself on top but slightly to the side. He leaned on one thigh and pushed the other up and outward, it gave him a delicious view of himself entering his beloved. He glanced into Thomas’s eyes and then back down to where they were about to be joined as he drove himself forward in one hard rapid thrust.

Thomas felt the stretch and the burn and then the extreme pleasure surged through him lighting every nerve ending. He moaned salaciously and dug his nails into Lando’s shoulder as he shivered with excitement. He filled him completely in a way no one ever could before.

Lando pulled out slowly, unbearably slow and then thrust back inside sending Thomas to new levels of ecstasy.  He mewed, and he knew it was pathetic, but it was impossible to control. The need for this man, his mate was beyond anything he had control over. The pace was slow for an excruciatingly long time or maybe it was just seconds, but the buildup was worth it as Thomas felt his mind and body melting under the intense pleasure.

Lando couldn’t resist any longer with a deep growl signaling his control was breaking he sped up and hammered Thomas’s ass with a relentlessness that had them both shaking and breathless. In one final thrust while the wave of ecstasy washed over him Lando smashed inside and held fast and let go filling his beloved with his essence pumping stream after stream into his tight channel.

Thomas held on as Lando road him fast and hard saturating him with a delicious feeling of decadence as he felt Lando’s warm seed bathing his insides. The next moment was pure agonizing rapture when Lando gathered him into his arms and sunk his fangs into the tender mark he’d made on Thomas’s throat.

The reaction was immediate, and Thomas came again in strong bursts emptying everything that was left and leaving him breathless. Lando had tasted him before but it was light and tentative, and this was deep and enveloping pulling everything from Thomas and drinking him down. Thomas could feel their bond begin to snap in place and just that fast, his cat took matters into its own hands.

Thomas struck sinking his teeth into Lando’s shoulder marking and claiming the vampire as his own. He felt Lando quake with the effects of the bite and also heard him moan with pleasure.

Lando was stunned by the intense emotion communicated through Thomas’s bite. It was

Overwhelming in its power and passion. He slid his fang free and licked the wound until it was healed into a glorious claiming scar. He felt as Thomas did the same leaving a matching scar on his shoulder. "I love you, Thomas, no one will ever come between us," Lando vowed amidst the euphoria that surrounded them.

"We have video of Wilfred present at Lando's apartment door. He appears to be talking to Thomas. Based on his body language he appears angry and agitated. Thomas is still and silent. Wilfred leaves and it is about fifteen minutes later that Thomas leaves using the back staircase and exiting through the kitchen." Andrew reported. Master Hadden, Josef and two men from security, Kristof and Andre along with Ian sat together in the main conference room located on the balcony level of the club.

Ian had informed those present of Lando’s situation and also gave over the note left by Thomas addressed to Lando. This was followed by Andrew’s report. Master Hadden glanced over at Kristof who immediately rose and left the room.

It was only minutes before Kristof returned to the conference room with Wilfred Blanc and two others that had previously assisted Wilfred in his attempt to destabilize the membership with his lies. Ian moved to stand by the left wall giving the center of the room to those who had just entered.

Surprisingly only the two standing behind Blanc looked scared. Blanc a former server and now the lowest in the Coven hierarchy appeared cocky and insolent. He seemed to be under the mistaken impression that he possessed power over this council. Ian didn't put much hope in the man leaving this room alive.

Wilfred Blanc joined the Hadden Coven about twelve years ago and had worked his way up from janitorial to a server at the Ruby Light. Everyone had the opportunity to rise in rank if they chose or to excel in a course of study and secure an administrative or security-related placement.

Opportunity abounded at the Hadden Coven for those who followed the rules. Rule number one was Nikolas Hadden was Master and founder of this Coven and his leadership was singular. Rule number two never challenge the leadership or authority of Master Nikolas Hadden unless you are prepared to die. Ian wondered if Blanc were prepared or just stupid.

Master Hadden had given Blanc and the others a chance to redeem themselves and secure a place back within the Coven structure. All Blanc had to do was shut his fucking mouth and quit fanning the flames of discord and rebellion in the lower ranks.

With Master Hadden giving him a second chance, Blanc must have viewed it as a weakness. Unfortunately for him, his decision to continue to undermine the Master’s orders was going to prove fatal for sure.

Ian watched closely as the two men behind Blanc took several steps back as if getting themselves clear of the debris field. They knew what was coming even if Blanc thought otherwise.

"You were told," Nik said and turned his gaze upon Blanc. Blanc stepped forward and began to speak without permission.

“I have the duty to warn others of the filthy jaguar that you have allowed in our midst and to alert them to your insanity.” Those were Blanc’s final words. If he had more that he wanted to say, no one would know because it was then that Master Nikolas Hadden incinerated him on the spot from where he sat at the table. It took him no effort and in less than a second Blanc was a pile of ash on the floor.

Nikolas Hadden’s power was rumored and felt but rarely seen in a display such as this. His stare alone had reduced Wilfred Blanc to nothing. Nik shifted his gaze to the other two vampires and they flinched hiding their faces in their hands.

"The two of you will be led out of the city at midnight. Do not return." Even though they were being banished the relief they felt was palatable. They had supported Blanc in his belief but had not openly defied the Master, therefore, they were given leniency.

“Thank you, sir.” They both said as Ian lead them from the room. The room remained silent until after they’d left.

"I received a text from Lando," Josef announced. "He has Thomas and they will be returning very soon. Also, he has claimed Thomas, their bond is complete."

Lando helped Thomas get dressed as he too pulled himself together. He just couldn't keep his hands off his newly bonded beloved. Touching became a priority. Lando glanced at the claiming mark on Thomas's throat and bent quickly to place a gentle kiss to the healing scar.

Thomas shivered and snuggled against Lando’s chest. “You make me so damn happy Lando. I wish we could just disappear and leave all the trouble behind us.”

“Trouble, by its very nature, is never left. It always follows you until you deal with it.” Lando rubbed his palms up and down Thomas’s back soothing and reassuring him. “Let’s return to the coven and put things right. We’ll face this together; the witch cannot override the rights of a fated and bonded couple. It will be okay, I promise.” Lando kissed the top of Thomas’s head and then led him to the door.

Thomas froze and gripped Lando tightly while anxiety swamped him. “The witch is close, Lando, I can feel the energy buzzing around my brain. The witch is calling me.” Lando bundled him up close and hurried him out the door and into his car.

“You are mine Thomas, only mine, resist baby. Don’t let them in.” Lando had called Josef earlier to let him know that he and Thomas were mated and would be returning to the coven soon. Now he put in an urgent call stating that the witch was close and trying to influence Thomas. He was ordered to return immediately to the coven. Lando had no problem following that order.

"They are on their way," Josef reported after closing his call. "It sounds like the witch is in town. Thomas said he could feel the energy of the witch." He added.

“Well then, I guess we wait for the Gallic Witch to show up or was the witch’s name Mal? I forget.” Nik interjected as he was about to stand.

"I prefer Jean Jacque Batiste." The thundering tones filled the room and were followed by the sound and vibration of an explosion. Everyone rushed from the room to the edge of the balcony that overlooked the main room of the club. Master Hadden leaped over the railing to the floor below followed very quickly by Josef and the guards.

The front doors had been blown out of their frames and lay smashed in the middle of the room along with considerable plaster and brick. The man standing there amid the destruction was quite calm and a complete surprise.

The witch who everyone assumed to be female was definitely not. The legend tended to lean towards the understanding of the Gallic Witch to be a woman although it was never stated outright. 

The man stood tall and lean and was dressed in an impeccable dark grey suit. His jet-black hair was long and straight and hung well below his shoulders. It looked like pure silk parted in the middle to perfectly outline the aquiline features of the man’s face. His eyes were emerald green and set amid long lush lashes. This man was gorgeous but then he was a witch and looks could be deceiving.

He looked at Nik and his eyes rounded in astonishment. “You are powerful. Good.” He said and smiled as if he were anticipating an exciting battle.

“Why do you insult me in this manner?” Nik asked cold and detached as he watched the intruder closely.

“I am here to collect what is mine. You have my mate here, a beautiful and exotic black jaguar named Thomas Casey. He belongs to me.” The witch moved a step closer moving amongst the debris with grace and ease. “Bring him to me and we will leave.”

"There is nothing here that belongs to you," Nik said and took a step closer. The witch grinned, and the green of his eyes seemed to glow as he took in the entirety of the room.

“Are you sure about that?” He quipped. The witch turned towards Josef and raised his hand and released a force of concentrated energy, but Nik stepped in front of him and took the blow which would have injured Josef severely but only knocked Nik back a step.

The witch looking every bit the twenty-first century CEO, well dressed, cultured and intelligent pulled an amulet bag from his inside pocket and began to recite the ancient words of an ancient spell. Nik gathered his forces and hit the witch in the solar plexus knocking him backward. "Your spell casting does not scare me, witch." Nik roared

The witch, with a big smile, began to move on Nik just as Nik stalked forward. The guards led by Josef formed a semi-circle behind Nik. “I have spells you can’t even imagine, vampire. I am a witch. I am the first of my kind. I have ruled empires. You will give me what is mine or I will take it.”

Two people stumbled through the broken entrance of the club and rushed in. Lando and Thomas stopped and stood only a few feet behind the witch. He turned and with a smile of pure malevolence welcomed the newcomers.

“Now that was timely. Hello Thomas my pet, so good of you to present yourself to me.” The witch reached out his hand towards Thomas and beckoned him to come. Lando quickly pushed Thomas behind him and faced the witch prepared to defend his beloved.

“Really?” He said sarcastically and lifted an eyebrow at Lando’s bravado. “Don’t make me kill such a prime specimen of manly beauty as you.” He winked and Lando flew across the room tumbling over tables and landing on the hard floor.

He cocked a half smile at Lando who was pulling himself to his feet and moving towards Thomas. Nik struck the witch from behind drawing his attention away from Thomas for a second. He returned fire and when he turned back to Thomas, Lando had reinserted himself between them. The witch rolled his eyes and shook his head.

The witch appearing bored with the tedious back and forth raised his hand ready to end Lando when Ian ran into the room coming up beside Lando in a defensive stance. Master Hadden moved quickly to protect them before the witch let loose his power but it wasn’t necessary. Jean Jacque Batiste was not moving. His glib banter was silenced and he looked utterly shocked. His smug superior expression had suddenly given way to surprise and disbelief.

“This is astonishing, incredible, unbelievable.” He whispered it like a chant and took several steps to the right to stand before Ian. “It is you.”

Ian was baffled at first and then when he looked directly at the witch his expression turned devastated. “Fuck, no.” He uttered painfully.

“Fuck yes, my love, fuck yes.” The witch smiled a true heartfelt smile, no guile or sarcasm apparent. He turned to Thomas and immediately freed him from their bargain.

"You are free, I release you for I have found my eternity." With that, the witch stared into Ian's eyes and disappeared leaving everyone to wonder what the hell just happened?

Thomas threw himself into Lando’ arms and held on. “Is he gone? Is he gone forever?” Thomas asked needing confirmation.

“He’s gone but I don’t think that it is forever.” Lando cast his eyes over to Ian who continued to hold that look of devastation.  “It’ll be okay Ian.” Ian looked at him shook his head and walked away.

 

EPILOGUE

 

The witch, Jean Jacque Batiste did not return. Master Hadden sent Ian to Harrisburg that evening to spend a few weeks with the team there working and lobbying at the capital. Ian needed a change of scenery and welcomed the chance to get away for a few weeks.

Nik and Josef sat at a small table on the balcony and surveyed the damage. The crew was cleaning up and putting the club back to order. Thankfully they had previously in the day closed the club for the night anticipating trouble, but they hadn't anticipated this level of destruction. They'd thought broken furniture maybe a broken window not that the witch would blow out the front of the building.

“I’m getting tired of remodeling Josef. Why won’t our enemies stop tearing up my club?” Nik stated anger edging his words. “If we call it another gas leak people are going to think this place is a death trap.”

“It could have been worse. Jean Jacque Batiste could have gone on a full rampage. It seems rather tame really with him just blowing out the front of the building.” Josef offered.

Nik turned to look at him with disdain. "Remind me again why I saved your life." He taunted. 

Josef laughed deep and hard. “You love Isaac and you wouldn’t want him to have to go on without me.”

"Yes, I knew there must be a reason because it is certainly not because of your charm and understanding support." They lifted their glasses together in a toast. "To a year of constant renovations."

Lando and Thomas settled into Lando's quarters and had scheduled their bonding celebration which would include Thomas becoming a fully recognized member of the coven. No one bothered him about his heritage and most found it to be both exciting and fortunate to have such a fierce and capable shifter in their numbers.

"We haven't gotten out of this bed in two days," Thomas said with a giggle.

“I have two weeks off and I plan to keep you in bed for the first week and then the second week I would like for us to go and visit Ian in Harrisburg.” Lando rolled on top of Thomas and began kissing him relentlessly.

"I love you, Lando." Thomas managed to whisper as his mouth was being pillaged by his wicked mate. “You changed my life and gave me a real home with people who don’t treat me like a freak. They’re tentative with me but I can scent the fact that no one fears me here. I am so happy.” Thomas shifted so that he could rub his hardening cock against Lando’s thigh.

“I love you too and I love your cat. He’s majestic and magnificent and you are exquisitely beautiful. You are truly a gift in every way.” Lando kissed him again and pressed his thigh harder giving Thomas the purchase that he was seeking as he rode him through his orgasm. “You are so gorgeous when you come, baby.” He reached down and stroked him a few times to aid in completion.

"I'll never get enough of you," Thomas stated emphatically.

"Everything I have and everything I am is yours, baby." With that said they rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. "I love shower sex," Lando commented and Thomas eagerly agreed.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this story. Please rate and review, I welcome all feedback. –B.A. Stretke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

B.A. Stretke is a Gay Romance and fiction author who publishes through Dreamspinner Press, LLC, and Amazon.com.

 

B.A Stretke began writing as a hobby. He read his first Jane Austen novel as a teen and was instantly hooked. The age-old dream of being a novelist took hold. Now long into adulthood, and a few years as an editor under his belt, B.A. is a full-time writer.

 

B.A. spends his days reading, engaging in sarcasm, and plotting the next storyline, often leaving little head space for much else. He loves hiking through the Northern Michigan woods he calls home, often finding inspiration for his books. Writing and finding that perfect cup of coffee occupy the rest of his time.

 

B.A. Stretke lives in Northern Michigan with one royally spoiled cat and his dear friends and family.



 

You can connect with B.A. Stretke on his website:

Follow him on Twitter @BAStretkeWriter

Like him on Facebook! B.A. Stretke

 

 

More Books from B.A. Stretke:

 

Pittsburgh Vampires

  • Meant To Be
  • Bad Reputation
  • Blond and Broken
  • Master DuCane
  • Love Is Danger
  • Surrender To Me

 

Dragon’s Blood M.C.:

  • Apex: The Dragon’s Mate
  • The Dragon’s Heart
  • Loving The Hellhound
  • Runaway
  • The Bad Boy
  • The Call of the Dragon
  • Finding Forever

 

 

Crimson Vampire Coven:

    Crimson Love

    Trusting Fate

    For Now and Forever

    My Vampire Lover

    The Vampire Code

    The Crimson Sorcerer

    The Crimson Omega

    The Crimson Alpha

    The Crimson Beta

    The Dragon King

    The Demon Lord

    The Dragon Knight – The Crimson War

    The Crimson Redemption

    Crimson Christmas

 

Pack Rules – Rue Pack Wolves:

    Mine

    Alpha Mate

    The Enforcer’s Mate

    Forever Mine – The Beta’s Mate

    Lost and Found

    The Omega’s Mate

    The Doctor’s Mate

    Finding Home

    Owen’s Mate

    Saving Jeremiah

    Jackson’s Journey

    Jesse’s Love

    The Master’s Beloved

    The Vampire’s Chosen

 

The Wolves of Belle Fourche:

    The Wolves of Belle Fourche – The Alpha’s Claim

    Surprised by Forever

    Healing Scars

 

Lonepine Wolf Shifters:

    Lonepine Wolf Shifters

    Reluctant Mate

    Jamie’s Mate

 

Superiorland Wolf Pack:

    The Werewolf’s Mate

 

The Dark Side:

    The Dark Side - Vampire Romance

 

Sparrow Ridge Wolf Pack:

  • Omega Mine
  • The Omega’s Love

 

Other Stories:

    Risk and Reward: A Gay Love Story

    Bound By the Gods

    Signed and Sealed

    The Art of the Deal

    Save Me - A Supernatural Romance

 

 

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