DEMON ARMS

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CHAPTER 15

Dorian sat in the back during his Magical Arts class. Unlike Body Magic, this course was gratefully free of shifters. It focused on sorcery as a business. No shifter would be caught dead pursuing magic in such a way and today he was absolutely grateful.

After the reflection room incident he managed to avoid Wylie for over a week. Seeing him hurt too much. It made him feel too much of everything. It was misery. Not seeing Wylie was also driving him crazy, and catching small sights of him during the day was even worse. God, he hated this so much.

Master Thane was droning on about something concerning the properties of crystals. Dorian had heard it all before and didn’t feel like hearing it again. Even though he had avoided Wylie, he couldn’t stop thinking of him.

Wylie softened for him. He flattened his scales and retracted his claws just for him. What could he do for Wylie? Explode him if he ever kissed him without a null-collar. It was hardly a fair fucking trade-off. His only way to be with Wylie was to live his life in a collar as a null. Also a shitty trade-off.

God, why? He was doing so damn well. He should have listened to that annoying but brilliant inner voice. The one that told him to walk the fuck away the day he smacked into Wylie Doe and started sparking. But no, he was an idiot and apparently he hated himself on top of it.

Dorian did his best not to groan as he recalled the most recent incident of doom which occurred right before class. He hadn’t been paying attention. He just assumed the shifters were out in the yard running their afternoon sprint of animal survival they always did. He nearly walked smack into Wylie again. The dragon’s hiss his was only warning. Wylie was with Fox and Forest, the two shorter shifters following him around like riffraff puppies.

Wylie didn’t say anything to him. Nothing about how Dorian was dodging him the last week, nothing about being pissed or hurt or fucking anything. He just stood there staring at him with such damn feeling in his eyes like he fucking understood what he was going through.

Fuck, maybe he did. Even though Wylie had a dragon in his ear, he never pressured him, never tried to force the damn mating thing on him. Wylie was able to see he was dealing with his own shit and gave him all the space he needed.

Fuck.

Self-loathing was not a new feeling for him, but it was damn near overwhelming as of late. Dorian tried to focus on the teacher, and when that didn’t work, on the other sorcerers talking quietly in front of him.

There weren’t many pure sorcerers at the Academy. Not that magic users were super rare. Those with enough power to end up in need of the Academy, usually had family or a master to guide them and keep them out of trouble. That Vincent was there suggested he didn’t have anyone back home. The other two magic users, Jake and Antonio, were pretty much at the end of their stay.

Sorcerers didn’t talk a lot about what brought them to the Academy. Hell, they barely talked at all. Sorcerers mostly viewed each other as competition. Even though Antonio and Jake shared a dorm for over six months, once they went back out into the real world, they’d make a point to stay in separate territories for fear of angering the other. It was stupid shit which made Dorian wish for a life without the trappings of magical powers.

It didn’t mean he was willing to actually live without magic, though.

“I was thinking a bonfire. You know, all of us.”

“With the shifters?” Jake’s head was ducked as he peered up at Vincent with a slight scowl. “Seriously?”

“What? You can’t spend a damn hour at a party with shifters?” Vincent gave him a challenging look. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were frightened.”

Scoffing at the very notion, Jake and Antonio exchanged glances and considered. Dorian got up from his seat. His anger was barely contained.

Fucking Vincent. He was just looking for another way at Wylie. Like the guy really wanted sorcerers and shifters to be best fucking friends all of a sudden? It was all just too fucking much. Dorian dismissed Master Thane’s questioning look. He headed for the nearest door while he pulled his cigarettes free.

Dorian groaned internally when he got outside into the Academy yard. Michael was sitting by a large potted tree. He scowled and lit a cigarette and made his way over to the instructor. “Master Whiteheart.”

Michael raised a brow at Dorian’s tone and insistence on using his formal name, but didn’t say anything. He let Dorian smoke in peace for a few minutes.

It didn’t feel like peace, though. Dorian twitched under his scrutiny. “What?” he finally snapped. He kicked at a small rock and listened as it clattered down the walk.

“You’ve been different.”

“So?”

“Moody,” Michael elaborated.

Dorian huffed and rolled his eyes. He exhaled smoke through his nose.

“Your magic has been all over the place,” Michael continued. “Erratic spikes at all hours of the day. I’m growing concerned.”

He didn’t have to say just what he was concerned about. Dorian took out another cigarette in silence. That was the way of the Academy. They let you work at your own shit until they saw you were totally going to fail. Then they swooped in to keep you from fucking it all up. The thing was, Michael was jumping the gun. He didn’t need help. He was dealing on his own.

Dorian looked up and froze when Michael pulled a letter from his back pocket and held it out in offering. Once he saw the return address, Dorian continued to stare until Michael took his hand and placed the letter in it. “Do you want a collar?”

He shook his head slowly. “No… Just, stay until I’m done. Just in case.” Dorian stared expressionlessly at the envelope. He forced his fingers to move and he stiffly tore open the back. He felt very cold all of a sudden as the sun failed to reach him.

His father was well. Business was good, and he was considering retirement so he could spend more time at home. He was thinking of taking an apprentice. His mother had started a small non-profit to help raise funds to screen children for sorcery abilities. Janette was practicing for the school play but his parents were concerned she was neglecting her studies. The Winter Ball was fast approaching. Would he be stable enough to attend this year? Alastor’s parents were asking about him. They were planning a memorial and wouldn’t Dorian be honored to speak?

Each word was a knot in his gut. The tone was cold, even and familiar.

Of course, if he wished to bring his friends, he could. Just, shifters were so very different. It would be unfair to have them taken away from their peers where they were best understood.

His mother. She was always so concerned with how other people felt when she was trying to avoid social embarrassment. It wasn’t her fault. His father was probably muttering in the study as she wrote. He probably warned, again and again, to make sure he didn’t bring any of those horrible animals with him.

It was the world he was from. His parents’ world. The world of sorcery and rich, coldblooded, cutting assholes who all thought they were better than everyone else.

Michael watched silently as fire spread from Dorian’s fingers. The paper curled and turned black until ash floated away on a breeze teasing by. Dorian let the pieces disintegrate, and finally lit the cigarette he neglected and took a long hit.

“You have to talk about this stuff, kid. You can’t just keep it all inside.”

“Wanna fucking bet?” Dorian glanced his way with his expression blank. “I’m fine. You can sense my magic; it’s perfectly smooth.”

Michael wasn’t convinced and he sighed as he straightened. “You’re hiding from your own shit and if this keeps up you’re headed for an explosion. It doesn’t go away. It just sneaks up and hits you when you least expect it.” He gave Dorian a pointed look. “That means different things with your power.”

Dorian shrugged unconcernedly. “Well, guess we all better hope I have a collar at the time.”

It was the shittiest, most intense wake-up call he needed. If his father didn’t tear Wylie apart verbally, his grandfather would just tear the scales from his beautiful flesh. He could lie to himself about his power not harming Wylie, but Dorian knew he’d never be able to protect him from his family.

Wylie was having a difficult week. Extremely difficult. Oh, the Academy was fine enough. Leo had backed the fuck off after he kicked his ass. He was hardly pleasant, but Wylie wasn’t expecting miracles from an alpha type. Fox and Forest were cool enough and taught him more than a few ways to pass the time. He even had his first run-in with Justin when his inner werewolf made an appearance right before the full moon.

It was awkward as fuck having the kid go from sweet to crazy bitch in two seconds flat. But they settled it once Justin came to his senses. The werewolf was territorial about random things, food one of them. Wylie would not be reaching over his tray again anytime soon.

No, Wylie’s problem was Dorian. He wasn’t sure if he freaked the guy the fuck out with the whole dragon marking his mate thing, or if Dorian was freaking over the sparking thing or what. All he knew was Dorian wanted nothing to do with him. His inner dragon was heartbroken.

He might have been a little heartbroken too, except he still wasn’t sure what the fuck he was even doing with Dorian. He hadn’t come to the Academy expecting any of this. Not the magic, not friends, not his dragon changing and becoming more prominent in his life. He sure as fuck hadn’t been expecting to find a guy a part of him loudly demanded he spend the rest of his life with.

Just a taste of blood and Dorian fixed his dragon problem in an instant. Wylie never dreamed his demon arms would one day be nonlethal. Dorian made it happen without him having to kill anyone.

Wylie looked around at his surroundings. Theodore had shown him the current room, located not too far from his classroom. Theodore had decorated it as a home away from home for his inner dragon. Visually, it left a lot to be desired. It was dimly lit with rocky outcrops he could only assume were magical in origin. It was like being in a cave, one with crystal formations and scratchy floors. His dragon liked the room even as Wylie twitched at the sorcery used to create it. Although he was capable of doing a lot of magic, he wasn’t used to it at all.

With a sigh, he pushed his scales further over his body and called the dragon forth. His shirt was ruined, now shreds on the floor. Even though he could get his scales to lie flat, he still transformed with them out and sharp. He was working on it. He was working on a lot of stuff. Ever since Theodore showed him the dragon room two days ago a switch had flipped in his inner beast. It wanted to be strong for its mate. It saw how Theodore looked—powerful, beautiful and full of regality—and he wanted to be that way for Dorian. Surely his mate would relent and stop their game of chase if they could do a full transformation.

Wylie gave up trying to explain to the creature that Dorian had damn good reasons for resisting. Dorian’s magic was out of control and well, fuck, Wylie was a total fuck-up.

He hadn’t shared with Dorian just how much he was destroying his life before the Academy. It was self-sabotage if he ever saw it. Just, while he could point out to a stranger how she was fucking up her life and needed to fix it, Wylie couldn’t do the same for himself. He could see his patterns but couldn’t break the cycle.

Ending up at the Academy was a twist of fate. He should have ended up in Roth’s gang. You know, robbing people, maybe hurting people, maybe in Daiker already or even dead. He told himself he was going in for all the right reasons, but time to think just revealed the same old patterns again. Roth’s gang was just another very familiar dead end. A way to finally fuck-up his life permanently. And for real, he just didn’t know how to be any other way.

Dorian deserved better than him.

Wylie turned when the door to the hallway opened without warning.

“Oh, shit… sorry.” It was Vincent. He stared wide-eyed at Wylie like he was shocked he existed. Which reminded him he was almost completely covered head to toe with black dragon scales now.

Wylie had noticed Vincent following him around a lot. He wasn’t sure just what Vincent wanted from him, but he could guess given the intense look that went along with his dogged steps. “Lost?” Wylie asked even though he knew it wasn’t the case.

Vincent stepped into the room. He was blind to the crystal formations and rocky floor as he stared at Wylie intently. Wylie was starting to feel self-conscious. No one had seen his new dragon form yet, including Theodore. The damn near hungry look in Vincent’s eyes as he stalked forward was unsettling.

“Did you want something?” Wylie’s frown grew when Vincent walked right up, and circled around him. He looked at him from head to toe.

“Never seen one transformed,” Vincent mused under his breath as he took in Wylie’s mirror black form. Besides his face and a trail of transparent scales leading down his chest, Wylie was covered in the shiny, black, iridescent scales. “I heard—but I never could have imagined. Too rare… too beautiful to be destroyed…”

“What?” Wylie’s fingers twitched at his sides as he held himself still. Vincent was standing too close for comfort. Vincent, like many of the sorcerers, was absolutely beautiful. Just shy of Wylie’s height, his aristocratic features were nearly ethereal. His beautiful silver eyes were wide and flecked with sparks of light and shadow. Those eyes were currently fixed on his. His flushed lips parted as he wet his lips silently.

Vincent didn’t seem interested in talking. Wylie took a step back when a minute ticked by with him still staring. He considered walking out the door to see he would continue to stare when Vincent finally spoke.

“I’m trying to get the shifters together for a thing tonight. You know, because we’re all so divided.” Vincent combed his fingers through his long, blue-black hair. His gaze still took in Wylie’s shirtless form. “I’d really like you to come. The shifters like you and, well, you’re new. You’re not stuck in the idea of one group or the other. It’s weird, right? That the sorcerers never spend time with the shifters?”

“Uh… I guess.” Wylie had nothing against sorcerers. Theodore warned him about sorcerers because he was a dragon shifter. No one at the Academy treated him badly, though. Besides Vincent constantly fighting with Fox, he’d yet to see a sorcerer act rude to a shifter. “No one’s bothered me here,” he said truthfully.

“You look really different,” Vincent blurted out. His pale skin was slightly flushed. “Are you… Are you safe to touch?”

Wylie nodded and watched as Vincent edged closer with fingers extended towards his chest. His gray eyes had a daze to them and Vincent looked ready to sway against him. With a meaningful look, Wylie quickly grabbed his wrist to keep Vincent from touching. “I like someone. A lot.”

“Oh.” Vincent peered up into his white-blue eyes. “I won’t tell.” He went to press up against him but Wylie stepped back and kept him at arm’s length.

“I really like him. My dragon would never let me hurt Dorian like that,” he said determinedly. He really hoped Vincent would get a clue already.

Vincent glanced away with his expression closed off. “You know he can’t be with you, right? It’s a total lost cause with his magical affliction.”

“That’s my problem.” It wasn’t something Wylie wanted to get into with Vincent of all people. “What time is this thing?”

“Eight. We’re going to have a bonfire out back.” Vincent looked mildly nervous and asked after a pause, “Can I get your email? It’s, uh, easier to contact that way. I’m hoping we can do one of these nights twice a month, you know? To help us get along.”

Wylie didn’t see any harm in it. He gave him his email and Vincent conjured up a small notebook to write it down. Vincent shut the door when he left, but not before sending a final hungry glance his way.

Wylie stared at his hand sleek with black scales and free of claws. Even Vincent thought being with Dorian was impossible.

The dragon hadn’t turned aggressive the entire time Vincent was there. His dragon was really getting better. He hadn’t expected it to happen so soon—at all, honestly—but it seemed Vincent was the proof. His dragon didn’t trust him but also knew it didn’t need to slice Vincent up unless real danger showed. It was a huge improvement, one he wasn’t sure how to get used to just yet.

It wouldn’t matter, would it? The dragon was working so hard for someone he couldn’t have. Wylie had grown very good at shutting down hope for things he couldn’t have. His dragon, though… It was a part of him but also separate. It didn’t want to give up no matter what Wylie said.

Somehow Vincent convinced all the shifters to show up to the bonfire. Dorian wasn’t sure how, nor how he got the other sorcerers to attend. He wasn’t surprised to see Will. As an elf halfling, Will didn’t care about the history of bad blood between sorcerers and shifters. Even Christopher was there; the incubus was hunched over by the fire where his strange red eyes glinted in the flame. Vincent had gotten all the patients to show. Amazing considering he had the personality of a psycho.

Dorian was there for one reason—one he willingly admitted to himself—to keep Vincent away from Wylie. He was there to play cockblock and nothing else. No talking to Wylie, no looking at him, no trying to get into his pants. No matter how tight they were.

Dorian currently had the bonfire between them. He was strategically next to Vincent but made a point not to talk to the obnoxious sorcerer. And if he happened to find himself moving closer to where Wylie was standing with the other shifters, he could blame it on Vincent’s movements.

“There is no way in fuck I’m going over there,” Jake muttered when Vincent tried to pull him over to the side with the shifters. Dorian could hear Fox howling something enthusiastically on the other side of the fire pit. The group of shifters had claimed the spot since the event began and were sitting upwind of the smoke. Yeah, Vincent might have gotten them all there but he couldn’t make anyone talk to each other. Even in the dark, the boundaries between the two groups were clear.

“Did you see that fucked-up email Vincent sent?” Fox gave another hoot of laughter.

Wylie did his best to pay attention to his lively friend. “Was it bad?”

“Fucking hilarious. Sexy but terrifying, that guy.” Fox’s grin split his face. “Seriously, read it when you get a chance. In his attempt to invite us he called shifters—”

“Dimwitted but well-intentioned animals,” Forest chimed in. He was much less enthusiastic than Fox. “Laugh all you like but that guy is messed up.”

Fox shrugged. His gaze drifted to where Vincent was trying and failing to get the sorcerers to come over and say hello. “He’s harmless enough.”

Forest didn’t bother to keep the disdain from his snort. “You’re so begging at his feet. You know he’s never going to give you the time of day, man.”

Fox grinned again. He gave another howl and sprawled back on the grass surrounding the pit. “Vince gives me the time whenever I ask. He just happens to be threatening to hex me while calling me a moron at the same time.” He uncapped a water and chugged it down while ignoring Forest’s eye roll.

Wylie was sitting beside the two. He burned a stick in the fire and did his best to bite his tongue. Fox didn’t seem to give a fuck that Vincent was staring at him since he got there. If shifters recognized one thing, it was attraction. Still, he didn’t want to upset Fox by mentioning it. He liked Fox. He had no interest in Vincent and, if Fox enjoyed being yelled at by the gorgeous psycho, he wasn’t going to interfere.

Leo gave a grunt while glaring at Justin. He was behind them all, aloof as he refused to join the party. He also refused to leave. Justin held up a singed marshmallow on a stick to the towering Leo and smiled beckoningly. Justin was so short and slender in contrast, and Wylie watched the exchange warily. Leo was grumpy as hell since their fight, and was full of snarls and defiant glares. When Leo finally responded to the werewolf, it was another wordless grunt. He took the offered stick and ate the marshmallow in a sharp bite.

“So, not to state the obvious here, but he keeps looking at you.”

First glancing over at Fox, Wylie followed to where he indicated. Dorian was standing with the other sorcerers. Wylie caught a flash of Dorian’s eyes before he looked away. The small group looked awkward as hell as they stood stiffly like they were at some middle school dance or some shit.

Wylie still wasn’t sure just why the sorcerers felt the need to be separate from the shifters. Leo was the surliest out of all of them and he never spoke negatively about sorcerers. Well, unless it was personal. Antonio cast a spell too close when Leo was eating and he was vocal about it. But still, not violent. It wasn’t a reason to act like the shifters were going to beat them.

“Hey, Dorian!” Fox jumped up and Wylie grabbed for his shirt. It was no use. Fox ducked around him with a wicked grin. Fuck. Whatever. It didn’t matter how persuasive or annoying Fox was, Dorian wouldn’t talk to him anytime soon.

“He’s got skills,” Forest muttered with a begrudging smile. Not only did Fox herd the sorcerers their way, he also managed to get Vincent to yell at him at the same time. “Shit, I have this really strong feeling one of us is going to be thrown into that fire by the time this night is through.”

Probably Fox, Wylie silently agreed. He moved over so Justin could crouch next to him and roast another marshmallow. Shifters avoided sugar but the little werewolf seemed ready to rot all his teeth out. It was a special occasion so they stayed quiet, but Forest was keeping a sharp eye on Justin just in case he started going crazy wolf while full of sugar.

“Aren’t the masters worried we’re going to burn the place down?” Wylie asked Forest.

“Nah. We can magic it out really quick.” Forest waved his arm around the area. “Besides, there are so many wards in place. Theodore or Michael would be out here in a second if something bad went down. They pretty much let us do what we want.”

Wylie involuntarily scowled in jealousy. Bitterness was an ugly taste in his mouth. The freedom these guys had just to live was so different from the group homes. Kids might have been allowed to do stuff like this where he was from, but they wouldn’t have. They were too afraid to break an unspoken rule and be sent off to somewhere even worse. Thrown away. The patients at the Academy never had to worry about that. Someone loved each of them enough to bring them to McPherson and get them help.

“Whoa, watch it there.” Wylie was up in an instant to catch Fox before he stumbled backward into the flame. Fox gave him a roguish grin. He unashamedly loved the fact Vincent shoved him. He might have some damn issues. He looked half ready to go fox and start running circles around the angry sorcerer.

“Alright?” Dorian came over to help Fox straighten up. “You must have a death wish.”

“We all gotta go someday. If I happen to be staring into angry silver eyes at the time…” Fox’s grin was lazy as he looked over to where Vincent was bitching to Jake about him.

“I keep thinking you’re the smart one, then you do shit like this.” Dorian shared a concerned look with Wylie. “Some things are just really bad for you, Alvarez.”

Fox clearly didn’t care. He twisted his bandana back in place and swaggered over to his angry-eyed crush. It left Wylie and Dorian staring at each other awkwardly.

“I should, um…” Dorian tilted his head towards the three other sorcerers but made no move to join them.

Wylie remained silent. He was fairly certain whatever came out of his mouth would be the wrong thing. He was still confused when it came to Dorian although his dragon wasn’t. The creature was well aware Dorian was collarless and looked particularly sexy in the warm fire glow. The last time they’d been this close was their day together in the reflection room. It was difficult not to think about it, even harder not to see Dorian the way he was that day; nude, gasping, dripping in his seed. He let Wylie scent him as his and then hadn’t talked to him since.

“Did you want a…?” Dorian held up his cigarette case. Except for the slight tremor of his hand, he seemed completely at ease. But Wylie could smell his turmoil.

“Sure.” He didn’t realize just how well-behaved his dragon was being until Dorian’s fingers brushed his when he handed him a cigarette. Wylie’s form gave a ripple, and he stepped back when scales sprouted over his body. His t-shirt was slashed by the longer scales on his shoulders. “Crap,” he muttered. He quickly flexed his scales down and retracted his claws. It was too late; his cigarette was sliced in half. “Damn it.”

He looked imploringly to Dorian. He hoped he might take pity since he was the reason his dragon reacted. Dorian was staring at him in wide-eyed awe. Small sparks jumped off his skin and were lost in the fire. Wylie dared a glance around and found everyone staring at him with similar expressions. It was the first time he revealed his improved transformation to all of them. Apparently Vincent’s reaction wasn’t unique.

“Is it complete?” Dorian finally asked. He sounded breathless.

“No, not yet.” Wylie tried to ignore the uncomfortable sensation of being stared at. He indicated his forehead. “Guess I’m missing some horns. Wings too, and a tail.” He was a walking, glittering waterfall of black rainbow scales and not much else, but it seemed to be eye catching. His dragon purred from the attention Dorian was giving them.

“And you’re safe?”

He fought a sudden, overwhelming urge to grab Dorian by the arm, pull him against his chest, and kiss him soundly. Dorian was staring at him hungrily now his sparking was under some control. A fucking week he ignored him. It was mind-boggling Wylie managed to stay away so long.

Exhaling heavily, Wylie held his arm up and revealed his scales were completely flat.

Dorian’s fingers unconsciously reached for him. His power was chained the last time he touched his scales. Now that it wasn’t, Wylie’s dragon was reacting to his magic. The creature wanted to claim his mate properly and taste the crackling power and the body it belonged to. As if Dorian could tell, his fingers sparked the instant he touched Wylie’s arm.

“Shit, sorry.”

Wylie grabbed his hand and held him still. “Didn’t hurt. My scales are resistant to magic,” he reminded quietly.

Dorian stared at where his hand was captured. He carefully extracted it from Wylie’s grasp. “Resistant isn’t the same as withstanding a magical explosion.”

Wylie read the sober message in his hazel eyes. “No, probably not. Your magic is powerful. It would be unrealistic to expect that.”

If he could get the sexy sorcerer into a null-collar, it wouldn’t be something to worry about for the moment. All Wylie could think about was having him again, to taste him and hear him cry out. Given the hazy look in his eyes and the fresh scent of arousal, Dorian was thinking something similar. “Did you want—”

Dorian cut him off swiftly. “Can’t.” He pulled away. His gaze was suddenly cold and shuttered. Dorian nodded towards the shifters and sorcerers. They were in a loose group now but still divided. The sorcerers were hunched up like they were afraid to so much as brush against the shifters. “Where I’m from, shifters are animals. Less than human. Beneath us.”

Silent, Wylie glanced to where his pack watched. Their expressions were closed off. “Oh? That’s pretty shit.”

Dorian wasn’t done. “Things to be used; that’s what shifters are. Slave labor at best, parts for the rest.” He smiled cruelly. “My grandfather would have taken you apart. He would have skinned you and thrown your scales on the wall like a trophy. Then he would have used your magic to hunt down the rest of your family and do the same to them.”

“Dorian?” It was Justin. The sweet werewolf looked up at him with wide brown eyes full of pain. Wylie wasn’t sure what the hell had gotten into Dorian but he seemed in a rush to have every damn shifter in the Academy hate him.

“You’re not your grandfather.” Wylie hoped to remind Dorian as well as the shocked shifters. “I never once worried you’d do something like that.”

Dorian just shrugged and his expression grew colder. “Just because I play nice doesn’t mean I see you as an equal.”

His jaw tensed and Wylie stood taller. He glared back this time. “You want to hurt me, Dorian?” The question was unnecessary; he could see the truth in his body language.

“Wanting to fuck doesn’t mean I’d ever see you as worthy of being my boyfriend.” Dorian spoke quietly but the words were crisp and clear. “You’re a shifter. A failed one who can’t even transform fully. Even your own parents knew you were a lost cause, which is why they gave you away.”

“Son of a—Dorian!” Fox crouched and threw himself at Dorian. He was stopped frozen by a spell sent by the sorcerer’s raised hand. Without saying another word, Dorian turned from Wylie. He walked back to the Academy with hands in pockets and cigarette smoking between his lips.

“What the fuck is his problem!” Fox growled. The spell released once Dorian was out of sight. “Wylie, he’s full of shit. Don’t listen to that—”

“Chill.” Wylie held his hand up. The wry grin on his face did nothing to hide the bitterness he felt. “Just drop it.”

“He has no right!” Fox was red faced, Justin looked ready to burst into tears and Forest wore a scowl. Even Leo was standing stiffly with his chin raised defiantly.

“He has every right,” Wylie muttered under his breath. Everyone who touched Dorian Black was destined to be burned. The sparks hadn’t done the trick because of his scales, but Dorian was not to be denied. When magic failed he used words to push others away.

“None of that was directed at you guys, okay?” Wylie said to the pack. “That was all for me, and I don’t need anyone fighting my battles.” Sighing, he drew his scales in and pulled at his shredded shirt.

“He shouldn’t have said that.” Antonio stepped up to Wylie and Fox. “We don’t think that way. Yeah, we all have a relative or two that still talks shit, but it’s antiquated and backwards, and it’s just talk. No one goes around hunting down shifters anymore.”

“We don’t see shifters as animals,” Vincent said as he looked at Fox meaningfully. “Even if you’re annoying as fuck at times.”

“Dorian’s always so nice,” Justin whispered. He wrapped his hands around his arms as if cold. Will put his arm around his shoulders comfortingly and Justin leaned against him. Internally, Wylie sighed and wondered just what the fuck was going on in Dorian’s head. Did it really matter? Dorian sure as fuck didn’t want him and he was going to respect it.

It helped that on the inside, Wylie felt like he was bleeding out.

He crouched down in front of the bonfire and stared blindly into the flames. In a weird twist, Dorian’s hate speech broke the ice between the sorcerers and shifters. The two groups talked in hushed tones around him. Wylie blocked it out. His mind was unwillingly fixed on the unknown parents who gave him away so long ago. Loneliness felt like a weight crushing his heart.

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