Out of the (Werewolf) Closet
Series: Watchtower Series , Book 3.0
By: Anna Marie May | Other books by Anna Marie May
Published By: Anna Marie May
Published: Dec 09, 2012
ISBN # NNMRMY0000003
By: Anna Marie May | Other books by Anna Marie May
Published By: Anna Marie May
Published: Dec 09, 2012
ISBN # NNMRMY0000003
Word Count: 39,522
Available in: Epub, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
DescriptionWaking up collared to his worst enemy wasn't the most horrific thing that happened to Rick: waking up to an impending forced marriage was. And as if this wasn't bad enough, he couldn't deny that underneath all the anger, he was actually attracted to Tom, King of bloody everything and enemy to his people since the dawn of days. And yet, Tom's bumbling efforts to get closer to him, his puppy dog eyes and surprising honesty are slowly winning him over. But travelling to the cursed land where no one outside Tom's Clan had set foot on in centuries was only the start of their adventure.
Betrayal from within and his promise to Aidan to investigate the ancient magic of the Watchtowers, make Rick's life more than just interesting but even in his wildest dreams, he couldn't have anticipated where his search would lead him.
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains elements of dubious consent.
Reader Rating: (1 Ratings)
From Jymbo (top2bottomsreviews)Anna Marie May will take you on a delightfully entertaining adventure in a land deep in history, legend and lore. Her uncanny ability to solve one problem while simultaneously creating even more mystery will both amaze and amuse you. Her attention to detail informs the reader without being distracting or boring.
From Pixie (mmgoodbookreviews)This is a wonderfully written book that opens up the world and adds to the world building of the previous books. So, I will recommend this to those who love fantasy, hidden secrets, obsessed Kings, betrayal, new discoveries, more puzzle pieces, hot sex and a great ending with the sure knowledge of more great stories to come.
Soft, silken sheets caressed his body, and for a moment all was well with the world.
"Come here," a deep voice grumbled nearby, sending shockwaves of something indefinable up and down his spine. The voice… it reminded him of someone.
* * * *
"You really are something, aren't you?" The teasing tone had him tensing.
"I don't see why you would care." Rick shot back, not pleased with this stranger trying to rile him for no good reason at all.
"Don't you know who I am?"
"Should I?" Rick wasn't one to back down so he held the stranger's gaze without allowing his unease to show.
"I am Tomas Allington."
Rick gaped. The statement was so simple and yet, it held so much promise. Promise of violence and mayhem to come since Tomas Allington, ruler of Allin and nearly of the entire known world, was the enemy of Rick's people. Lantea, Rick's home and where his father was King, was the last stronghold outside of Allington rule. What had his father been thinking by sending him to school here? Surely, he must have known he would run into the heir to Allin!
* * * *
Back in the present, Rick found himself lifted, the sheets gently cascading down his naked upper body and pooling around his waist.
His legs seemed to move of their own volition, scrambling for any sort of hold while an unknown force lifted him by the neck like a wayward kitten. His eyes fluttered open. The world around him swam out of focus, hidden behind a veil of what could be floating water or morning mist. He lifted a hand, trying to reach out, wanting to break through the barrier, but someone else snatched his hand away and pressed it back down onto the sheets.
He groaned, back arching, but not in any kind of pleasure.
"There," the voice grumbled again. The satisfied tone was accompanied by a metallic click, shaking Rick's world from top to bottom.
"What?" His voice was nothing but a whisper while his brain frantically scrambled to connect the missing dots.
The mysterious force slackened, allowing his body to slump back onto the amazing sheets while he searched for a hold like a drowning man. Coughing and gasping for air, he realized he wasn't just imagining the constricting force squeezing his throat. There was indeed something firmly fixed there. What the hell?
This time when he raised his hands to investigate the cold, foreign object around his throat, he encountered no resistance.
His nimble fingers found a bracelet of sorts, secured tightly around his throat. He couldn't wedge a finger in-between it and his skin, and regardless of how much he tried, he couldn't find an opening. He craned his neck and nearly hurt himself trying to catch a glimpse of it. When he couldn't see with his eyes, he raised his hands, deciding to feel the object instead. Slowly and carefully, he traced its outline. It was maybe as wide as a thumb. The surface seemed to be smooth, and metallic. He wasn't big on jewellery but he imagined this was what some of those huge ring-like silver necklaces ladies liked to wear would feel like. Wait… there were faint etchings in the surface, kind of like writing, or maybe something more artful?
But this wasn't just jewellery, because if it were meant to be only an ornament, there would be a latch and he would be able to get it off! Panic coursed through his body and his eyes snapped wide open again, like a deer caught in headlights.
"Relax, Rick." This time a man came into view, sitting way too close for Rick's comfort.
His Fey blood sometimes gave him a unique outlook of the world, but his ancient heritage also came with a few drawbacks. Not wanting people, especially strangers, close enough to touch him was one of them.
* * * *
"You're very skittish, you know that?" his friend and current love interest said.
"I don't know what you mean." Rick tried to downplay it, not wanting to get into this topic. Why couldn't the man accept he didn't want to hold hands, be touched, or crowded?
"Well," his probably-soon-to-be-ex-lover continued, "you shy away when I want to hold you, and you don't even want to sleep in the same bed as me after sex. Doesn't this strike you as odd?"
"No," Rick countered, trying his best to avoid yet another hug attempt. "I'm a private person. I like my space."
* * * *
Rick clearly recalled the incident from years ago in Nirs Taris where he'd gone to school. It wasn't as if he was anti-social, but up until this moment he hadn't quite realized how pronounced his aversion to touching strangers was. Sure, in the heat of the moment, touching was fine, but afterwards? He liked his space. As to why, well, he still hadn't quite figured it out. But if he had to venture a guess, then he would say it had to do with his love of being outdoors. He felt free among the trees, beneath the stars, and listening to the crashing ocean waves. There were no restrictions there, no expectations he had to live up to. He was simply allowed to exist. Maybe this was why he didn't do so well in bigger cities or crowded situations.
He tried valiantly to focus his bleary eyes. The world around him was still nothing but a shimmer in a once-steady place, but he was beginning to make out a few details.
Honey-brown eyes with gold flecks, dark brown, messy hair, sinful lips and… and freckles?
Everything around him began to vanish as if he were being sucked into a void. He closed his eyes in a reflex, protecting him from the sudden abyss staring back at him.
"Oh, hell no." The man cursed, grabbing Rick by the face, big hands cradling and shaking him slightly. "Open your eyes, Rick. Look at me," he ordered, and something in his tone told Rick this man was used to having his orders obeyed.
And to his everlasting shame, he found himself trying, struggling against the void, fighting to open his eyes once more.
"There you are," the stranger cooed.
Rick's hackles rose instantly. He wasn't some kind of pet or small child in need of encouragement. His irritation at the comparison was enough fuel for him to open his eyes. Blearily, he blinked up at the world.
"Where am I?" Rick mumbled. When the room continued to swim around him, he turned to look at the man again. He was closer to him, maybe he would provide a better target for trying to stabilize his senses?
Seconds later he regretted his decision with all his heart. He recognized the man before him.
He pushed himself backwards, not caring that his head connected with the headboard or if his limbs were flailing left and right. He hit his knuckles on something sharp. Compared to his rapidly beating heart and the echoes of thousands of screams inside his head, the pain in his hand was nothing but a small fly buzzing about.
Strong arms reached for him, grabbing him by the shoulders.
"No." He struggled. He scrambled to latch on to something while he kicked his legs about wildly, attempting to hit anything in his vicinity. An image of a fish on dry land flopping about to get back into the water came to mind, but Rick had a stubborn streak a mile long and he refused to accept such an apt and fatal comparison.
"Calm down," the man said while trying to subdue him. How was he supposed to calm down?
He was in the hands of Tom Allington, King of Allin and Rick's sworn enemy. The man who had haunted him throughout their years at school by stalking him and making his life miserable whenever he got the chance. Even now, years later, Tom was still a constant threat, trying to invade Rick's homeland.. He knew he'd recognized the blasted voice!
What had happened? How had he ended up in the clutches of his worst, and only, enemy?
He frowned. How had he got captured?
He tried dredging up his last memory, but his mind drew a blank from the time he had crossed the city limits of Nirs Taris, capital of Allin. Maybe he had been a fool to go there in search of information on the Watchtowers, but honestly, the place was big. How was Rick supposed to know Tom had every single guard in existence looking for him?
How had he even known Rick was heading that way? Maybe Aidan, his warlock friend and source of his Watchtower adventure, might know.
Aidan's words echoed through his mind. You've got a traitor in your midst.
Well, Rick thought gloomily, from the looks of things, there's more than one. And if he ever got his hands on that man—or woman—he wouldn't be gentle.
Rick continued to struggle, but his efforts were in vain because he wasn't at his strongest. Something drained him, made him weak, slowly sucking away any strength he might've mustered. Eventually he aborted the effort.
His wrists were caught in a tight, bruising grip and pressed into the mattress by his sides. Tom was nearly sitting on him, keeping him contained. Tomas Allington, ruler of Allin, the boy who'd bullied him during his school years; the very same man was now sitting on him How was this his life?
"There," the blasted man cooed again, as if he hadn't just kidnapped him and put him into bed.
He was naked.
He was in the bed of his enemy.
"Argh!" A scream tore loose from Rick's throat, and he lashed out again, raising a knee and getting in a lucky shot.
Tom tumbled forwards, grunting in pain, but it spoke for the man's endurance because he never let go of his captive.
If anything, his hold on Rick only intensified, as if he never wanted to let go at all.
The gentle shushing attempt only made matters worse. The lucky kick had been a last-ditch effort on Rick's part. Suddenly, like a plug had been pulled, all energy ebbed out of his body, leaving nothing but a lump of limbs behind.
He slumped against the sheets, eyes squeezed shut, shaking his head. Maybe if he denied reality long enough, someone would take pity on him and make it all go away.
It was a thought, right?
"Look at me," the king commanded, and for some reason Rick complied. Maybe because he didn't want to poke the sleeping tiger, since apparently he was truly caught.
"You're mine now," Tom announced the moment Rick opened his eyes. "Your father signed the marriage papers and come tomorrow morning, you will walk down the aisle with me, and you will say the vows."
"I know you're part Fey. The collar around your neck will help you, but it'll also keep you in check. You'll get used to it in no time."
Tom reached out, trailing a thumb along Rick's neck, until it traced a line across the metal object fastened around his throat.
Rick gulped. A collar?
"It's supposed to keep you subdued, help you adjust. And," Tom's voice took on a wistful tone which Rick couldn't quite decipher, "it even suits your pale eyes."
Collar… Fey collar.
Rick blanched, staring wide-eyed at Tom, fear drenching every part of him. If the man wanted him dead, why hadn't he just rammed a knife through him? It would've been quicker and a lot more merciful.
"Dad would never agree to such a thing," he managed to say.
At least now the drain on his body, on his very soul, made horrible sense. The collar was already latching on to him, weakening him, and the blasted thing would keep sucking at his life energy until nothing was left. Then he would fall into a deep slumber from which there would be no awakening at all. At least this was what the legends said. As much as he wished those stories were going to turn out to be nothing but fairy tales, he feared they were going to be proven right.
It would be a slow death. Maybe not unpleasant because no pain was involved, but Rick would be conscious for most of it, feeling his life ebb away bit by bit while remaining powerless to do anything about it.
This was vindictive and needlessly mean, but should he expect anything else from the latest ruler of the vast expanse that was Allin? They might not have been at war for a long time, if countless skirmishes were to be discounted, but there had never been any love lost between the two nations. The only reason why Lantea had managed to stay unconquered was thanks to the Fey protection around their land. The invisible, magical barrier had kept armies out and had ensured the continued safety of the small kingdom. But in recent years their magical safety net had started to fail. This, more than anything else, had cemented the belief back home that it was only a matter of time before Allin's vast armies would march. Therefore, with so much history between them, Rick couldn't really expect Tom to be any different than his forefathers.
"Oh, but he did!" Tom answered cheerfully. "He loves you, and of course he didn't want any harm to come to you. Besides, through marriage, our world will finally be united without any bloodshed. Surely you prefer a more peaceful merging to a violent one, right?"
When put that way, Rick couldn't argue. And yes, he loved his father, but the man had his flaws. A difficult, though correct, call would've been for King Stanis, Rick's father, to give Tom the finger and tell him to go screw himself, but no one could be expected to be this ruthless when it came to a son and heir. Rick sighed. No, King Stanis would never have willingly signed his life away. However, their small Kingdom of Lantea couldn't afford a full-on war with the strong Kingdom of Allin. Their own knights were formidable, but Tom would win simply because he had more men to throw at any battle than Lantea did.
Rick's home was a small peninsula on the western edge of Allin, and since Tom and his family ruled over everything else on the continent, no other allies would come to his aid.
His newfound friends—a warlock named Aidan, and High King James Draconis of Averyn—were kind and good people, but Rick couldn't expect any of them to come to his aid, even if they did have ways to cross the ocean that separated them.
King James had his own battles to fight, and while they might've become allies and trading partners, their meeting was far too recent for anything more substantial than a cautious friendship And Aidan? Well, he was tied to King James, so anything he did would reflect on the high king, prohibiting him from coming to Rick's aid. They couldn't risk entering a conflict on foreign soil.
His eyelids drooped. Resignation took hold of him. He could continue to fight but what would be the point?
"You rest now." Tom patted his head then ruffling his hair. "I'm told the collar takes a lot of energy out of you when it's fastened for the first time. I'll come back and check on you later."
Rick kept his eyes closed, listening to Tom's heavy footsteps as the man retreated from the room.
How had his life come to this?
He balled his fingers into tight fists while uncontrollable sobs threatened to break free from deep inside him.
He curled sideways, pulling his legs to his chest until he was in a foetal position, and buried his head into the comfortable pillow.
Maybe he could stall. Maybe if he was cautious, he could hold on to his life for a bit longer.
But what would be the point?
Fey collars were an abomination, and as far as he knew, all but extinct. After all, the Fey had vanished countless generations ago and everyone had assumed they'd taken all their gadgets with them.
Legends of the ancient Fey were widely spread throughout the continent, but their origins could be traced back to Lantea. Once upon a time, long, long ago, the Fey were rumoured to have lived among the people, mingling with them, which was why the ancient Fey bloodlines still ran in all the folks of Lantea. Fey characteristics included pale skin, blue or grey eyes, and an affinity for the land. Second sight was a common side effect of Fey blood, a talent which Rick hadn't inherited. And yet, he was the first born in living memory whose looks combined nearly all Fey characteristics. There were some who thought this made him more Fey than human. His pale skin, light-blue eyes, and black hair with weird red streaks could just as well be a fluke of nature and not some sort of cosmic sign that he was almost a true-blood.
He was faster than most people, quicker to hide in the shadows, and he was stronger than a man of his slender build should be. His senses were keener than most humans' as well.
Back home, the Fey people were something out of legends. No one doubted they had existed since their magical barrier was proof enough. But no one knew what had happened to them. Some believed they had left, simply walked away, while others thought their races had intermixed to the point where there were no Fey people left. However, no one knew for sure.
Being the son of a king, even one as unconventional and easy-going as his father, set him apart naturally. Being born nearly fully Fey? Well, there was always a part of him which was proud to share such an elusive trait and to belong to such miraculous people, while another part of him loathed the fact. It was kind of a love-hate relationship he had going. It didn't do well for his self-esteem to always be at war with himself.
The fact that the collar worked on him proved what so many people had whispered behind his back—he was more Fey than human. In Lantea being Fey wasn't anything to be ashamed of. His people prided themselves on their strange and elusive history. Maybe it was time to stop running? To accept who he was? For a brief moment he'd forgotten what the collar meant for him. It meant certain death. This was its purpose.
He swallowed hard, throat constricting. Of course, the collar wasn't tight enough to physically choke him to death, but it sure as hell felt as if strong hands were tightly wrapped around his throat, squeezing all the air away.
He sat up in the bed in one fluent motion, raised his hands, and rested them on the collar. Maybe if he yanked on it long enough it would come loose.
There had to be an off switch because Tom had been able to place it around his neck. He started digging with his fingers, trying to push past the metal band, but nothing happened.
The skin around his throat tore, the tiny scratches started bleeding, and his fingers soon turned numb from his efforts.
Nothing to be done about it then.
All he could do was hold his head high and leave a good lasting impression.
If this was to be his death, then by the gods, he would go to the afterworld with dignity.
He would make his father and his people proud.
Let it be known that Prince Alric of Lantea, even faced with certain death and doomed to an unwanted marriage, went to the altar with his dignity and grace intact.
And maybe, as a parting gift from this world, he would find a way to take Tom with him.
All was fair in love and war, right?