An omega elven king finds his alpha. Unfortunately, he’s a human construction worker.
Dustin is changing species, and the elven king who accidentally set the events in motion won’t let him go free. Sure it’s for his best interest, but Dustin fears the loss of control, and rebels, even if it makes him feel bad because he’s growing to love the finicky elf whose ass smells and tastes like candy.
Casersis just wants what is best for his beautiful alpha, especially as his feelings for the young man grow. But Dustin fights him at every turn. Doesn’t he know that if the humans find out he has magic, he’ll end up a science experiment?
If they want to be together, Casersis and Dustin must find a way to compromise. Once in a lifetime takes on new meaning when you live forever.
I’d like to say Shadetree was a gorgeous, sprawling metropolis in the middle of a picturesque forest in Pennsylvania. But being poor, all I ever saw were the slums and the ugliness of this city. It closed around me as I walked down the lowest level of the three-tiered sidewalks toward home. My home? An efficiency apartment on the fifth floor of the Seymour Commons Apartment Complex, nestled deep in the heart of the low-income district under my legally assumed name, Dustin Juniper. You know, it’s that place in each city where the wealthy people put the poor kids. Out of sight, out of mind. But as I walked on the “poor level” of that three-tiered sidewalk—the level that had roads, crosswalks, and other inconveniences the wealthy didn’t want to deal with—oblivious to the wealthy elites traversing the levels above me and on the aerial bridges between skyscrapers, I desperately wished I wasn’t in the business district. At least in the low-income district, people minded their own damned business and avoided touching each other at all cost. There were a few nice people, some who helped out. But the general rule remained: keep your head down, your nose and hands to yourself, and don’t stand out.
Keeping my head low and my hands stuffed in my pockets, I prayed I could make it out of the throng before anyone looked at my ripped jean jacket, dirty clothes, and worn work boots and accuse me of pickpocketing them, or worse, grabbing their ass just because I look sleazy after working a full day in construction. Just yesterday, the police apprehended and questioned me for touching a woman inappropriately when she had bumped into me. If it were a man, it would have been less laughable. I’m as gay as they come. But thankfully, the officer on duty knew my parents before they were murdered and took me home after the woman left, assured I’d be “taken care of.”
It all grated on my nerves, making me feel lesser. But wasn’t that what I had been taught my entire life? That, as someone who works construction, whether I was one of the best on my team or not, whether everyone listened to me over the foreman half the time or not, I was lesser because I was poor.
I glanced up to judge where I was going, breaking myself out of the dark spiral my thoughts had swirled down. Ahead of me, a sleek black limousine blocked the intersection, right where I was headed to cross the street. The tire-less vehicle hovered bare inches above the thin solar panels that made up the road, purring just above a whisper as it idled next to the curb. The car’s driver stood next to the back passenger door, holding it open as he chatted to the man he served.
I stopped a few feet away, waiting for the Elite to get on with his day so I could cross in safety. It was debasing, but I wasn’t about to walk around the car and get hit in the middle of the road while some wealthy socialite took their time to make a grand exit and head into one of the elegant skyscrapers that housed some of the country’s top corporations.
Someone shoved me from behind, a large male hand. At the same time, I felt the swipe of a box cutter at my ass. If I’d been wearing a wallet in my back pocket, I’d have just been robbed.
The joke’s on them. I never owned a wallet and damned sure wouldn’t take one with me to work. Had no use for it. My identification and money access were stored in my CommLink implant. But poor people weren’t supposed to have these implants. Not that I was poor before my parents died. Idiot with the box cutter and giant meat-hands didn’t know that, though.
But that shove sent me sprawling. I snatched my hands out of my pockets, thrust them out before me to regain my balance. Tried to stop my forward momentum. Just as I thought I’d eat the limo driver’s elbow, and possibly the sidewalk, my palms met a well-muscled chest covered in the softest fabric I’d ever touched, and something cold and tingly pressed into the fingers of my right hand.
The man caught me by the biceps and gently righted me as if I wasn’t street scum, as if I hadn’t just tried to plow the man down. He waited until I had my balance, and when I looked up into the man’s startling blue eyes, I gasped. My wits finally returned to me, and I nearly vomited the apology, “I’m so sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
The man narrowed his eyes as if he heard the lie in my voice. But he said, “It’s all right. I remained where I was so you wouldn’t sprawl straight onto the floor of my car.” His voice was as silky and deep as a calm ocean. It flowed over me and left a pleasant tingle in its wake. Concern and something else I couldn’t name shone in the man’s intense blue eyes. “Are you all right?”
I shivered, both from the autumn chill and the smoky quality of the man’s sensual voice. My right hand started to burn, and I cradled it against my chest as I replied, “I don’t know how, but I think I burned my fingers on something.” I knew it was impossible, but my fingers hurt.
With a tender touch, the man teased my hand out of my death grip and tickled my fingers until I reluctantly unclenched my fist. As he examined them, he lightly brushed the pads of his fingers over my calluses and tutted to himself. “It does not appear to be a burn, but you are, indeed, injured.”
Something dark flashed in the man’s eyes when he looked back up at me. He didn’t let go of my hand, but his grip remained gentle. Firm enough to keep me from pulling away, but he wasn’t forceful. Yet.
I stared at my hand as the ridges of the man’s necklace appeared on my fingers as if I were branded by it. And as the design completed, the world tilted.
Everything spun. The bright streetlights and setting sun dimmed, and the world went black. I fell or could feel myself falling, but before I hit the ground, strong arms caught me, and the last thing I felt before darkness completely overtook me was the man cradling me against his soft-as-clouds sweater and his breath tickling my ear as his voice echoed around me, “All will be well, young one. Come back to me.”
And I wished I could.
“Come back to me,” his voice echoed.
My head finally stopped spinning. Golden light stung my eyes even from behind my closed lids. I brought my shaking hand up to rub at them and groaned. I blinked them open to try and see what hospital I’d been taken to, mostly to find a way to sneak out before I’d have to pay any fees. But hospitals didn’t smell like fragrant flowers mixed with grass and pine. They smelled like antiseptic and fever to me. Always had, and I’d hated it.
But the scent of flowers, heady and thick, wrapped about me, as did an unseasonable warmth. It was late autumn in Shadetree, but here the balmy temperature was pleasant and felt good against my skin. I started to rub my hands over my chest but froze. My jacket and shirts were gone. After a quick check, I sat bolt upright. Not only was I nude, but I sat in grass almost as soft as that man’s sweater. I blinked more to adjust my eyes to the bright light and get rid of the tears caused by the sun and gasped again.
The grass I sat in belonged to a meadow filled with flowers so vivid that their colors hurt my eyes almost as much as the sun. The grass was so soft under my bare skin that the blades and flowers tickled my inner thighs and lower back. It was almost sensual, and part of me wanted to stay here forever.
But here was not home. Staying here meant no money, no food—I looked down at myself and grimaced—and no clothes. But how did I get here? And more importantly, how did I get home? I had to move, so I got up and stretched to test myself. Was I weak? No. I actually felt better than I had in a long time. The dizziness was gone. But so were Shadetree’s streets, the people, and everything I knew.
I turned in a tight circle to see where I was, where I could go, but the meadow seemed to stretch on forever. In one direction, I spotted the faint outlines of what looked like the towers of some grand fairytale castle in the far distance. How close were they? How long would it take me to walk there? Would I instantly get arrested for indecent exposure?
“Great. Well, if this is a dream, walking in the buff won’t kill me,” I muttered.
Startled, I jerked to look around but found and felt myself to be alone.
“Hello? Where are you?” I called. “Who are you?”
“I am Casersis,” the voice replied, sounding much like the one belonging to the man who I’d nearly leveled at that limousine. “Might I know your name?”
My name? Who did this guy think he was? “I’m D.J.,” I replied. He was being nice, so I had to give him something. But I didn’t trust giving out my full name, and most people called me D.J., anyway.
Casersis, though, wasn’t happy with that. “Those are initials! They are not a name!” he cried indignantly.
“It’s what people call me, so it works.” I wasn’t about to give up that easily. No matter how much I hoped he could get me back home.
Casersis’s sigh seemed to tickle my ear, and I spun around again. “Where are you?” I demanded.
“I am sitting in the limo, and you are currently cradled on my lap, quite limp.”
I frowned and hugged myself. This wasn’t going as I had hoped. But I wasn’t even sure what I had hoped for. “Then, I am dreaming. How are you talking to me, then?”
“I am speaking into your ear, though I hear you in my mind,” Casersis replied. “Can you feel my breath?”
I frowned harder but went quiet. After a moment, I felt the tickle along the shell of my ear again and shivered. “Yeah. It’s faint, though. Kind of like the breeze where I am.”
“What is your name?” Casersis asked again.
Ugh. I sighed and hugged myself tighter. Might as well… “Dustin. Dustin Juniper.” Not really a lie. I’d had it changed from my birth name when I was sixteen.
The breath left my ear, and I heard Casersis murmur, “Charles, drive us around the city.”
“Yes, Mr. Ardal,” the driver replied.
Vertigo overcame me for a moment but then went away. I knelt in the grass, suddenly glad for the warmth of the sun on my skin as a deep chill ran through my body.
“Dustin, what do you see?” Casersis asked.
I looked around again as if I hadn’t seen a thing. “I’m surrounded by grass and different kinds of flowers I’ve never seen before. There’s a building off in the distance. I can’t tell what it is, or how far it is, but it’s tall and almost looks like a castle’s towers.”
Casersis gasped, then went quiet. I shifted in my kneeling position to sit with my feet tucked under my knees in the grass to give myself some comfort. For some reason, I wanted to hide, even though I didn’t quite know what I was hiding from.
No answer came. I trembled and huddled down. Terror gripped my insides because Casersis was the only link to home I had. “Casersis… I’m scared.”
“Scared” was an understatement, but that’s all I’d admit to. I was alone, without clothes, and even though the meadow’s grass was soft, it looked like miles of walking to that building, and part of the journey looked like it might go through a forest. No thanks.
“What’s going on?” I tried again. “Where am I?”
For all my twenty years, I had never been this scared. It wasn’t quite to the point of full-panic terror, but I was scared enough that I didn’t want to move from my new seat in the tall grass. So, I plucked a few blades while I waited and tore them to shreds. My mind went bonkers. I could have mowed the entire area with my nervous shredding.
Did Casersis leave me? Did he dump my body somewhere? The ghosting of breath no longer tickled my ear. No sounds came except for the chirping of birds and crickets.
Finally, the breath returned. “I am sorry, Dustin.”
The soothing, soulful timbre of his voice had my muscles relaxing without my permission, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. I dropped my head into my open palms, let out the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding, and asked, “Where am I?”
“I do not know,” came Casersis’s lie. I knew it was a lie by the way he hesitated, the way his voice changed tone ever so subtly. Few could ever lie to me, and he sounded guilty about it. Guilty and evasive. He went on, “I do know, however, that your mind has left your body. You must come back to it.”
So, I wasn’t dreaming? I was out of my body. Not sleeping, but missing. What the actual fuck? I swallowed hard and shrank down further. “Then where did my mind go? How can I get back to my body if I don’t know where it is?” I was nearly shrieking at this point and couldn’t stop the venom that entered my voice. “How do I know you aren’t lying about this like you did when you told me you don’t know where I am?”
“So many questions,” he said with a slight hint of exasperation. I could already tell he was normally a master of evasion. It wouldn’t work with me. I would get answers whether I had a body with hands to wring them out of his neck or not. “Calm yourself, Dustin,” he cooed near my ear, his breath tickling the fine hairs along its shell. “You are safe. I will guide you back, but you must calm down. Let the sun relax you. Let the breeze soothe you. Let the earth beneath you cradle you.”
Yeah. Right. I sighed and rubbed my face. The only way I could relax was by lying on my stomach, and somehow lying face down in a meadow didn’t have any appeal. Bugs crawling around my junk and face wasn’t my idea of relaxation, okay?
I wrinkled my nose at that idea, and at that moment, Casersis chuckled. “What are you laughing at?” I demanded. How dare he laugh at a time like this?
“Your mind is so busy,” he said, not even bothering to try and keep the amusement out of his voice.
“No, Dustin.” His voice returned to his gentle tone, and it once again had that soothing effect on me. “I can only read what you say directly to me. Your other thoughts are your own and inaccessible to me. But I can feel you thinking.” He puffed a breath that washed over my face like the summer breeze that blew across my skin in steady gusts. He smelled of the meadow—grass and flowers and pine trees and wood smoke. “You need to let it all go. It is not conducive to our current quest.”
“I’m naked, Casersis,” I groused.
“And this is a problem?” he asked, and I desperately wanted to punch him. The amusement in his tone made me blush, and the urge to punch reached new heights.
Somehow, I kept myself calm and muttered, “I can usually only relax on my stomach.” I rubbed my belly then and remembered that I hadn’t had time for lunch on the job site. I was dirty, smelly, hungry… and in Casersis’s lap. Shit.
“Your belly is rumbling,” Casersis remarked. “We shall get you something to eat once you are back in your beautiful body.”
“Beautiful?” I gaped at nothing, my mouth ajar. Beautiful? Really? I blinked and cocked my head to stare off at those far-away towers. “You think I’m beautiful?” My earlier flush deepened until my skin felt scorched by the sun. From the brief glimpse I’d had of Casersis, I honestly was nothing by comparison. Casersis had long, silky black hair, the body of a God, piercing blue eyes, a straight patrician nose, and skin so creamy and flawless, he seemed almost too perfect to be real. And that was all just from the brief glimpse I’d gotten of him before my mind decided to take this little vacation.
Casersis hummed a breath. “I doubt there is anyone alive who doesn’t,” he mused. “But, that is neither here nor there. Focus, Dustin. Lie on your side in the fetal position. Pull your hands to your chest and close your eyes.”
I couldn’t help the frustrated sigh I heaved through puffed cheeks, but I complied. What did I have to lose? As I laid down, the tall grass cradled me, tickling my skin. The flower scent grew stronger as they and the grass closed around my face. I shivered as I tucked my hands to my chest and pulled my knees up. Finally, I closed my eyes and did my best to relax. “All right. I’m down.”
“Good,” he purred. “Now, focus on your body. Remember what you were wearing. Describe it to me.”
“Uhm…” Suddenly, I felt unsure, but again, what did I have to lose? “I’m wearing a gray thermal, long-sleeved shirt under a black Kaudien t-shirt. I wore my favorite pair of jeans. We weren’t working with concrete today at the job, and these are the only ones I own that don’t have at least one rough patch of dried concrete that won’t come out. I’ve got on white socks with gray toes and heels. I had them pulled up tight around my calves, but they fell down halfway through the job today, and I didn’t bother pulling them back up.” I shivered and curled up tighter. “And I’m wearing a black jean jacket. The right pocket is ripped from a brush with a broken chain link fence, and the back has a long rip from being mauled by an overly-loving pit bull who demanded hugs before she’d stop chewing my clothes.”
“…A dog attacked you?”
“With love.” I laughed fondly at the memory and explained further. “She didn’t hurt me. My jacket didn’t fare well, but she’s a cuddle-monster. She’s our mascot of sorts, always at the job with us because the owner likes having her near for protection. She adopted a litter of kittens the other day. I think they’re weaned, but she’s treating them like her pups and saved them from one of the construction trucks by jumping on the loader and barking.”
“Interesting creature,” Casersis breathed. “Now… what do you feel? Without opening your eyes, tell me exactly what you feel?”
“I feel… warm, but not like a few moments ago.” I shivered, though. “I keep getting chills down my back and arms.”
“Do you feel my arms around you?” Casersis asked, his voice closer. His breath puffed against my ear with every word. “Do you feel me caressing your face? You haven’t a hint of stubble.”
Just then, I felt him squeeze my upper body. It felt so good that I let out a soft purr and relaxed further. Casersis’s fingers trailed over my cheek and feathered into my hair. “I feel it,” I whispered. “And I don’t seem to grow hair anywhere except head, groin, eyebrows, and lashes. Weird family trait. Never had to shave my face in my life.”
“I see. Good. Focus on my touches. Try to open your eyes for me. Come back to me, Dustin.”
The hand in my hair massaged my scalp until it tingled. Fingers traced the whorls of my ear, making me hum with the pleasant waves of pleasure it caused. Casersis rewarded me with another hug and the press of his warm, soft lips to my forehead. I tried to open my eyes, but when I did, all I saw was blackness.
I stiffened and frantically tried to look around. My panic built as I felt suffocated by the darkness. “I can’t see!”
“You have not yet opened your eyes,” Casersis murmured against my ear. “Relax, Dustin. Relax.” I felt Casersis tuck my face into the curve of his neck and rubbed comforting circles at the base of my spine. The strength of the sensations gave me back a bit of my lost courage. It meant I was closer to my body. Didn’t it? Casersis seemed so calm. “This is not a race,” he said. “Trust that it will happen.”
The scent of the man wrapped around me stronger than before. But underneath that, he smelled of the meadow and something that was just indescribably Casersis. There was no chemical scent of cologne, and as his breath wafted over my face, I knew that was where the mint came from. It surprised me that I just now caught those underlying scents. It briefly made me remember holiday dinners with my parents, but I had to push those memories away so I wouldn’t lose my entire shit.
I took a series of calming breaths and whispered, “I’m relaxed.”
“So I can see,” Casersis murmured. “How do you feel?”
Struck by it, I blurted out, “Cherished.”
Casersis chuckled, but it was filled with a fondness I didn’t understand. “I am glad.” His warm hands smoothed over my back and rubbed the knots in my shoulders. “Try opening your eyes again, but do not despair if you still cannot see.”
I took another long, deep breath and obeyed. I felt my eyes flutter open, or at least, I thought I did. But again, I saw only inky blackness. My heart skipped a beat in fear, but I kept my voice level to report, “Nothing.”
“It may just take time,” Casersis said into my hair. His breath warmed that spot, and he combed his fingers through the strands, nails scratching deliciously over my scalp. “Focus on my touches, my voice.”
“Can we have a regular conversation?” I asked. “Because I’m getting a little freaked out again, and I want to stay relaxed.”
“Well, we could talk about your wardrobe, if you like.”
I gasped. Embarrassment heated my cheeks. I knew my wardrobe was poor because I was poor. Did he really have to throw it in my face? “What’s wrong with my wardrobe? I’m a construction worker!”
He seemed undeterred and unrepentant. “Ah, but you see? One with your beauty should not have such a profession! You should accentuate your delightful features. Instead, you hide them quite remarkably.”
“You’re a clothes horse, I take it…”
Casersis sighed and laughed. “You will, of course, let me dress you when this is all over.”
I snorted. “Oh, I will, will I?”
“I will get my way. You will see.”
“Yeah… sure. We’ll see.”
“Mmm, your shoulders are tensing. This is not good. A change in subject is in order,” Casersis mused. “Try opening your eyes again.”
A shiver went through me, but I obeyed. “Nothing. I can’t see anything.” Fear trickled into the pit of my stomach again, and I closed my eyes tight. “I just want to see! I don’t even care if it’s the meadow again. I can feel everything you’re doing to me. Why can’t I see?”
“Hush, Dustin,” Casersis whispered. “Hush, now. All will be well.”
“I won’t hush! I’m scared!”
Casersis sighed and kissed the side of my neck. “Do you trust me?”
“What?” I blinked at his abrupt change in subject, but again I saw nothing.
“Do you trust me?” he asked again.
Did I? Again, I really had no choice, and I admitted as such. “I… I guess so. I really have no choice at the moment.”
“I have a fairly good idea of how to get you back to your body fully, but I need your full trust, Dustin. I need you to trust that I will not hurt you in any way.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked, wary.
He pressed a hand to my crotch, and I stiffened. What… the fuck?
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