Sitting in the large, sun-soaked cafeteria with the voices of excited students all around him, Daniel could not look away from Mason Blackthorne. It was a problem, and not a new one. He’d had a thing for the blond for years now, but lately things were getting worse. Dangerous. Something was different about Mason and it was driving him crazy.
Oh, he still looked the same. Mason Blackthorne was one of the hottest sorcerers Daniel had ever met, and that was saying something. With enough magic everyone looked damn sexy. It was just something innate about using the power, like the magic sank into the cells and transformed the wielder with each spell. Daniel was used to being surrounded by beautiful people, was used to being one himself with his dark hair and strange, gold eyes, yet Mason managed to stand out like a glowing flame to his senses.
To call Mason pale would be an understatement. The boy’s skin was pure cream, his hair platinum white. Average height but lithe and toned, Mason was a glint of moonlight most of the time, the only color he revealed being his red lips and maddening cerulean eyes that glowed in certain light. Mason was stunning and Daniel wished that was the reason he couldn’t stop staring at him.
He tried valiantly to focus on what his best friends William and Tiana were saying across from him at the table. The couple was getting an apartment together, both of them having already applied and been accepted as magical regulators in training. He didn’t want to think about the fact that it was his last day at the Academy of Magical Arts and Sorcery. Daniel was giving up magic and hadn’t told anyone yet. It was for the best. It was time to finally let magic and Mason Blackthorne go for good.
It was the only answer. Surely anything else would lead to him destroying the beautiful boy and himself in the process.
Daniel didn’t want to live in a world of magic. After four years of advanced sorcerer training, he no longer had any doubts. It didn’t matter that he had raw talent and even greater power. He had been named an Elite, a title bestowed on only the most illustrious of sorcery students, Daniel being the only one during the last five years to receive the honor. Since the title, he had been interview repeatedly in three different newspapers, offered two internships, one of them into the Council of Esteemed, and had received two dozen offers from Masters around the world hoping he would choose them for formal apprenticeship. Daniel had the magical world in the palm of his hand and he was determined to leave it all behind.
Unfortunately there was a loud, roaring, bloodthirsty beast inside of him that wanted to stay.
Ours… We must make him ours…
It had been a difficult year. Two months ago Daniel had lost his chronically ill grandmother, his only guardian since he was a small child. It had almost been a relief when Sofia Warweaver finally passed away. Even though he was away at what would be considered the equivalent of college in an academic setting, the majority of his attention had been spent dealing with the doctors and nurses keeping the sorceress alive. Her mind had failed in the end, the women a shadow of her former powerful glory as the curse that had been cast on her before Daniel was born took its slow, torturous course of eating her away.
It had been a reminder to him of just what magic did, even to the most powerful. And his Grandmum had been one of the greats. Older than what she claimed, certainly, although she managed to look under forty when Daniel last saw her, she had lost both her son and daughter to terrible warlocks over twenty years ago, that daughter being Daniel’s mother. For all her power, she had not been able to save either of her children and it had broken her more than the curse that struck her down.
Take him… Claim him…
Daniel, eyes having managed to find their way to his breakfast of scrambled eggs and ham, slowly looked back up to where Mason was chatting obliviously with his friends.
You can smell him… He wants us… He’s aching for us…
“Shut the fuck up,” Daniel muttered under his breath. His beast did not, growling lowly in his ear, commenting on all the ways Mason chose to not look in his direction, the boy blatantly ignoring them like the little flirt he was.
Over the table… He won’t fight us… He’s begging for us… Just cross the room, push him down to the table, and take him… He’ll give in… He wants to give in to us…
Daniel was not a crazy person, even if he did have a dark voice rumbling in his ear to fuck Mason Blackthorne senseless. He was a shifter, one of the rare mythical shifters at that. The beast inside of him had never walked the earth in any other form, waking up in the oldest, strongest family bloodlines to experience life with a human host. It was supposed to be a great honor to hold a beast within. Daniel had found out very quickly that it was not, the blood lion within him an absolute menace. The moment it had woken up he had caged the beast to keep it from taking over his body and transforming him into a wild animal. No, Daniel wasn’t a crazy person, but if he had to deal with the beast roaring over Mason Blackthorne for another month, he was going to go out of his fucking mind.
He looks good today…
Mason did, in fact, look fucking hot as hell, the boy dressed in tailored slacks and a collared short-sleeved shirt like the privileged preppy brat he was. His biceps, tight and toned, were looking particularly interesting as the blond leaned his elbows on the table to talk to his neighbor, cerulean eyes lighting ever so subtly on Daniel’s intense stare before looking away with a small grin.
He wants us… We should take him… Have him… Keep him…
“Shut up, you stupid furball,” Daniel muttered, wishing Mason would stop grinning every time he looked his way.
He’ll be tight… Loud… His cries for us will echo off the walls…
Daniel really needed to get the fuck out of there. It was the last day of class. Tomorrow he’d be officially graduated and no longer required to share a cafeteria, hallway, or classroom with Mason. Just one more day to endure, and he’d be free from this insanity.
“Seeing as you’re talking to yourself, I’m going to assume you haven’t been listening?” William broke in, only looking slightly annoyed when Daniel glanced at him blankly. William, tall with light brown hair and dark eyes, had been attempting to draw Daniel into conversation for the last ten minutes. His failure was only mildly disheartening, having grown used to his friend’s strange behavior. “Blackthorne?” He asked when Daniel’s golden gaze began slipping away again. “Has he hexed you again?”
Grunting noncommittally, Daniel forced his attention to William and Tiana’s expectant faces. He hadn’t felt it necessary to reveal to his friends of four years that lately whenever he was fighting with Mason he was also trying to hold back the beast from tearing the boy’s clothes off. The two knew about the Blood King inside him and had accepted a lot of weird behavior from him as the consequence. Still, some things were just a bit too much to share.
“We were asking if you’d like to join us on our vacation, Daniel,” Tiana spoke up. “I hate to think of you all alone in that big house now that your grandmother has passed away.”
Daniel winced, picking up his fork so he could pretend to eat. “I’m going to be really busy this summer. The Estate needs to be settled, things boxed up—That sort of thing.” He didn’t meet Tiana’s eye. Daniel was actually homeless. With the death of his Grandmum, the large Warweaver Estate had been spelled shut to everyone. He couldn’t even get to his own things until the reading of the will, something that wouldn’t occur for another month. “Besides, you two haven’t had a chance to be alone since you started dating. I’d hate to be a third wheel.”
William shot Daniel a grateful look. Tiana worried too much and William was a bit oblivious, but Daniel loved them both and didn’t want to burden them with his own shit.
He had met his Aunt April for the first time at Sophia’s funeral. He knew the woman existed but she had never contacted him after his father’s death. He hadn’t given much thought to why until face to face with his aunt. She was terrified of magic, and more so, the people that wielded it. Her brother and his family had been obliterated in the blink of an eye and she had not been able to take in the nephew that had survived. Until now, when she had demanded Daniel live with her family that summer until the will was settled. Daniel, with no place left to turn, had hesitantly agreed.
April’s only stipulation was that he didn’t perform magic while at the house. And well, that had been more than fine with him. It would be a summer without magic while finally getting to know the only family he had left in the world. And maybe, if things went well, it would be a lot longer than a summer.
“Oh, the Trinity’s here.” Tiana jumped up, her silky red hair flipping over her shoulders as she scraped her chair back to get a copy of the sorcery rag before they were all snatched up. There were a few different newspapers dedicated just to the magical going ons in the world, even though the main papers still had a section for magic users. Daniel had stopped reading them once he started finding his own face staring out at him since named the newest Elite. It was just bizarre.
He’s calling us… Can’t you feel his power? The dragon is calling us to claim him…
Daniel groaned inwardly, hunching into his seat as he tried to pull his beast from its focus on Mason.
He wants us… If we reveal ourselves he will bend to us… Cry for us…
Daniel wasn’t certain that the King was wrong. Something had changed about Mason. About three months ago when he’d been watching the last of his grandmother’s life slip away, Mason Blackthorne had woken up different and his beast had not shut up since about it.
Mason and Daniel didn’t have a traditional relationship to begin with—Well, unless you counted on the playground. Mason loved to annoy the shit out him every chance he got, from casting little hexes on him, to challenging him in class, to outright sabotaging his homework. The blond just couldn’t leave him alone and Daniel had been more than okay with it.
He enjoyed their strange game, forever transfixed on the vicious expression Mason made right before he struck. They had a bizarre interaction, extremely intense and one that Mason seemed quite happy to pretend was nothing more than childish rivalry even as he fueled Daniel’s attraction into a burning flame. And if he’d been fully human, maybe that would have been easy enough to resist. But the beast inside him full of power and terrible, malevolent instincts had different plans for Mason.
The Blood King found the taunting game fascinating. A lion toying with a soft, fragile mouse, his beast had flexed claws while Mason nibbled, twittered, and fluffed his whiskers whenever Daniel walked into the room. And in response to Daniel’s attention, Mason had become outright teasing, his otherworldly eyes flashing in laughter as he stared too long, hands brushing over him in electric moments as they passed too close. Even lips against his ear once, Mason leaning in to whisper something lewd and asinine while he’d been reading. It had become a very riveting game.
Take him now… He’s calling us, wants us… We must have him…
Then it had all gone to shit.
Mason was no longer a mouse. Months ago something had changed in the boy that made the King stare intrigued and possessive. Snapping, caustic energy, luminous and unrestrained had begun to crackle just beneath the blond’s surface. It was deadly, powerful, and awesomely alluring. To the point that Daniel’s beast could no longer concentrate on anything but said power whenever Mason was near. He’d been forced to push back to keep the blond at arm’s length and safe from his beast. He had enough control over himself, his beast still only a caged animal roaring inside him. But sometimes when Mason came too close, snapped his power too loud with clamping jaws and slashing talons, Daniel lost himself, the beast rearing up to… Well.
Screwing Mason Blackthorne into a wall was not an activity Daniel felt healthy, for himself or the obnoxious, rich brat.
It was an extremely complicated issue, seeing as Mason was fucking gorgeous, adorably snarky, and usually fun to be around when not hexing him. Fine, even when hexing. It didn’t really matter. It was a lost cause, one Daniel should never have indulged in. No matter that Mason flirted with him every chance he got, in cruel, cutting ways to shock him. No matter that his beast roared loud and demanding whenever the boy was near, snapping and rattling its cage until Daniel was brooding and ready to break something for want of the blond. They could never be together.
Even if Mason Blackthorne came to him on hands and knees and begged, Daniel would never, ever, touch the boy, no matter how much he wanted to.
Tiana gave a huff when William began to prod her, finally handing the newspaper over to her boyfriend, who always demanded the sports section before she became ensnared in the pages. Daniel’s eyes were across the room again, watching Mason bow his head as he read his own paper. For the life of him, he just couldn’t keep his eyes off the boy.
Mason was biting his lip, thoughtlessly gnawing on the flushed flesh as he flipped through the oversized pages. His hair, shining blond and silvery, was hanging down loose, soft around his shoulders. Slowly a tint of pink began to reach the perfect, creamy skin of his cheeks as he stopped and started reading intently.
The terrible things he would do with Mason Blackthorne’s lips. The things he would make him say, beg… He could make Mason beg. Beg for more, for harder, and faster, and every drop of seed he had to give him…
“Son of a—Phsssh!” William spluttered, spraying orange juice all over the table and the paper he was reading. “Holy hell,” he uttered between coughs. “The fucking… ass… is getting bonded.”
Daniel wasn’t sure who or what he was referring to, but he was grateful for the distraction. It had been enough to draw his attention from Mason and the heated thoughts swirling in his mind once again. God, he really needed to get the fuck out of there.
“What?” Tiana asked, snatching the paper from William when her boyfriend showed more interest in choking on his drink than finishing his thought. “Oh. My. God.” She gaped, jaw falling open and staying open.
Narrowing his eyes at his friends’ display, Daniel grabbed the damp paper from Tiana’s slack grasp. On the third page a large black and white image of Mason stared back at him, looking restrained and cool with mild hints of nervousness around his mouth. There was no fucking escape from the brat. Daniel resisted the urge to crumple the paper up, instead folding the page so he would not have to stare at Mason Blackthorne’s face as he read the article beneath.
Unreal. Fucking bizarre.
“It’s a joke, right?” Tiana asked. “A dragon? He’s looking for suitors because he’s part dragon? I never saw him as having a beast.”
Daniel shrugged distractedly as he read, realizing he had never mentioned it to his friends. He really didn’t need them to know just how crazy he was about the kid. His eyes followed down to where Selina, Mason’s mother, was said to have passed down strong dragon ancestry to her son when conceived. Dragon genes were prominent in the Rowe family bloodline and woke up during the early twenties.
William shook his head, finally able to get his coughing under control. “Being part dragon isn’t the issue. He’s a conduit. Anyone looking for a hit of power will be running him down to force a bond.”
Daniel then got to that part; the very special ability Mason had locked inside him. Unimaginable power that the boy couldn’t access alone but his bondmate could, the sorcerer of choice capable of wielding it however he so desired.
Daniel paused, taking a slow breath as his blood lion gave a rattle to its cage. That would be the wild power that had been driving his beast insane lately. It wasn’t unique… it wasn’t just him. Every beast that got a look at Mason would sense it too. They would all want him.
He is ours…
Daniel ignored the creature and turned back to the paper. Mason needed a bondmate, soon, before some power hungry jackass decided that they’d have that power no matter how the boy felt about it. And the mate had to be powerful and fierce because those power hungry madmen would have no issue in killing Mason’s chosen just to chain the dragon and have it at beck and call exclusively.
It was a chilling situation, Daniel’s mind wandering to his dead parents and sister, their lives cut down because of insane men that had wanted power so much they had drained it from the living. It was the seedy dark side to sorcery no one talked about; insatiable greed in the hands of powerful men. Mason wouldn’t be killed, but he would be enslaved for the rest of his life, some monster draining him dry whenever he wished if the boy were captured.
Mason would be seeing suitors that summer, going through a selection process to find an acceptable bondmate. Until then, the boy would be locked in his house, protected from any maniac that would try to kidnap and force a bond on him.
Daniel threw the paper into Tiana’s waiting hands, scowling darkly at the table top. Suitors. How many fucking sorcerers wanted into Mason’s pants? Probably a shit ton if they only had a look at the gorgeous boy. Fucking absurd. With furious restraint, Daniel raised his eyes and sought out Mason’s face across the room.
The blond was in full out angry blush, pink having turned to red as he ripped his paper in half right down the middle of his photo. His parents must have had the article published in the hopes of attracting eligible suitors. Mason’s handsomeness, wealth, and many talents had been listed at the end, most with glaring tones of innuendo.
“I don’t understand,” Tiana mused aloud, reading through the article again. “Why are they calling for powerful sorcerers? Wouldn’t Blackthorne want to be bonded to a sorceress? I mean, bonding is like some antiquated form of marriage, but with magic.”
“He’s gay,” Daniel said darkly, eyes fixed on Mason, who was taking the torn pieces and ripping them again, slowly turning the paper into a mess of long strips. Gay, containing a dragon, and apparently a conduit. How many fucking sorcerers would be chasing after the boy now?
“Oh… Ohhh.” Tiana blinked up, looking at Daniel. “Is that something… Like, you can tell your own kind?”
He glanced her way, the corners of his mouth curling in a grim smirk. “As in beast, or as in fag? Both seem to apply.”
Tiana nodded mutely, then turned back to the article. Only to look up again, eyebrows raised inquiringly. “So are you going to…?”
Slowly and deliberately, Daniel turned his full attention to Tiana while William spluttered again on his juice beside her. “Tia, I want you to finish that sentence. And then I want you to stop and realize just how fucking halfwitted you are.”
Tiana glared, staring Daniel down as her ill-tempered friend tried to intimidate her. She had grown used to his foul moods and dark power years ago and never allowed it to get the best of her. “You are both gay. You both apparently have powerful beasts. And you are both absolutely and madly obsessed with each other,” she hissed lowly. “It is not an unreasonable thought that you might want to date him.”
“You are out of your goddamn mind,” Daniel growled, hands biting into the wood of the table as he gripped hard. It didn’t matter that his beast was agreeing with the girl, very much wanting to claim Mason, and preferably before any competition showed up.
“Yeah? Then why are you so angry?” Tiana shot back, picking up the paper and unfurling so he was forced to stare at Mason’s obnoxiously attractive face. She knew Daniel wanted Blackthorne, for years now. She just couldn’t figure out why he refused to admit it, especially since he’d apparently known the kid was gay the whole time.
William, once again gaining control of his coughing, crushed the paper down, grabbed Tiana around the waist, and pulled her against his tall form so that she fell away from Daniel’s menacing glare. “Tia, you’re sticking your nose in it.”
“He called me a halfwit!” She muttered with a petulant huff.
“He’s going to do a hell of a lot worse if you don’t stop pissing him off about the pain in the ass. Daniel, calm down!” William ordered, slamming his fist loudly on the table to break Daniel from his angry, low growl.
Daniel blinked out of his glower, looking up and around while the other students sitting at the table gave him wary glares. He had become rather dangerous lately, prone to moods and violent outbursts at the slightest of provocation since Mason’s energy had started sparking. He hadn’t hurt anyone yet, that they knew of, but it seemed to be only a matter of time.
Scowling darkly, Daniel’s gaze once again trailed over to where Mason was sitting, only to meet an answering blue glare. Fucking Blackthorne.
He flipped the blond off, rewarded with a vicious snarl and a returning rude hand gesture. Then the fucker blew him a kiss, his beast practically salivating at the sight, and Daniel got up and stormed out of the cafeteria.
Glare following as Daniel left, Mason turned to Jackson. “Fucking Cross.”
Jackson Falkner just rolled his ice-blue eyes, ducking beneath long black hair and reading the paper he had refused to let Mason tear up. His friend had issues with Daniel Cross, usually resulting in endless, drawn out monologues filled with more obscenities than usable words. Not commenting was the only way to keep from encouraging Mason into said rants.
Unfortunately, Mason rarely needed the encouragement, and this was one of those times.
“Fucking headcase, probably making fun of me with his fucktard friends. Like I wanted my fucking life put in the damn paper like a damn fucking fool. Now the whole fucking school knows I’m not only a fucking conduit beast, but that I also like cock. Fucking shithead, crazy ass, Cross.”
Jackson didn’t bother pointing out that Cross had actually no fault in Mason’s life being dragged out in the paper. It was exclusively his friend’s terrible, manipulative parents. Mason’s parents were always doing things to embarrass the boy, to the point that Jackson wondered if it wasn’t intentional. Really, a call for a bondmate didn’t need such details. Those were normally given later in privacy once an interested suitor had approached.
“What exactly makes your parents think you can blow as good as you get?” Suzy drawled, her long blond hair sparkling in the light, brown eyes flashing teasingly as Mason turned his glare to her. “Is this something they’ve seen first hand? Or do you just share far too much information?”
“Fuck off,” Mason grumbled, trying to grab her paper so he could destroy it, only to have her hold it out of reach.
“Oh no, I’m framing this. And did you see Cross? He was pissed. Must be jealous he has competition for your special, freakish affection.”
Mason rolled his eyes, stabbing his fork into the table until it stood vertically into the wood. Suzy had a theory, the miserable bitch, and insisted on trotting it out every time Cross showed any emotion towards him. Of course, most Cross ever showed towards him was anger, even more explosive recently than before. Mason didn’t know what the asshole’s problem was and he didn’t fucking care. It just made things more fun when he sabotaged his spellwork.
“They’ve gone too far,” Jackson interjected before Suzy could once again run down her many reasons she was certain Cross was gagging for Mason’s dick. “Mentioning you were a conduit before you’re bonded—They’ve put you in serious danger. You’re not even safely hidden within your ancestry walls yet.”
Mason bit his lip, well aware. His parents meant well, in their overbearing arrogant need to show him off, and themselves as a result. But letting the whole fucking world know that he was a conduit was asking for every crazy warlock in the vicinity to come knocking on the Academy’s front door to kidnap and rape him. It was concerning, to say the least.
“Stupid fucking Cross and his fucking show off Elite power. Couldn’t get a goddamn article on that championship duel he won to bump this fucking disaster my fucking parents put out. Fuck, fuck, fuck… fuck… fuck…” Mason started dropping his head on the table, clunking repeatedly to every muttered curse. It helped a little.
Jackson reached over and placed his dark hand beneath his friend’s forehead before he could smash his brains out. “This needs a strategy. What the fuck are you going to do? You’re putting everyone at risk as long as you’re here.”
Mason glared, resting his face in Jackson’s palm. “I suppose I’ll find the biggest, baddest motherfucker in the school and have him make me his bitch.”
Jackson raised a brow while Suzy cackled happily and clapped. It was difficult to argue with the girl when Mason kept saying things that clearly showed an interest in the Elite sorcerer. He might not have been particularly tall or muscular, but Cross was the most powerful sorcerer to come out of the Academy in years. The kid had become damn near beastly in attitude, and no one could match him in fighting or much anything else for that matter. “Or instead of letting Cross fuck you, you could, you know, take a portal home.”
“Whatever,” Mason muttered, shutting his eyes.
It was bad enough he had to go through finding a suitable bondmate while so young and for such dire reasons. But now he had to do it while all his fucking classmates knew. He’d been able to get away with the other aspects that had arisen when his beast had woken up and started prowling. This was apparently the end of that.
No one had seen his physical changes associated with it, at least, not the weird ones. He had grown, his already toned body lengthening and strengthening to manifest the dragon now curled within him. But no one had seen the horns, or the scales, or even the claws, fangs, and wings. Even though power buzzed inside him, no one had noticed his spells becoming more powerful and explosive.
If he craved raw red meat once in a while, no one called him on it. Nor when he started sniffing people as they passed, seeking out information and potential suitors. So he was a little more surly, a little more cutting and vicious; not really anything to write home about. Mason had never actually been nice before.
But this. This fucking article business. This was nearly everything laid out in black and white. This was mortifying, not to mention dangerous. As strong as he had become when his beast awoke, he was not invincible. Part of his existence was to empower another, not wield such power himself. His dragon craved desperately for a companion to help ensure his survival. A protector. A lover.
Very much the last one.
The beast was preposterously horny. Like, fucking on your knees, begging for dick, horny. It was embarrassing. He had a permanent spell on all his underwear just to keep from looking like a degenerate around the academy. Thankfully no one noticed his constant tang of sex scent, no other beasts in the school to respond.
Well, except for fucking Cross. Daniel had never said a word to anyone, had never even suggested that he was more than human, but the day Mason’s dragon had woken, every telltale sign of the beast was suddenly blaring loud to his senses and impossible to ignore. Daniel was something, something powerful, and he wouldn’t let it out. Which was just like stupid, noble Cross. The kid had a stick up his ass that had only lodged in deeper since he’d been named an Elite. Always going on about not abusing magic, that the dark arts were the killer of the soul, blah, fucking blah. Daniel was a moralistic bore that wouldn’t cast a dark spell to save his own fucking life.
The jackass had also outright ignored everything Mason had thrown at him. Even when he’d managed to look like he’d accidentally fallen right into the Elite’s lap yesterday. The fucker had lifted him up like he weighed nothing at all, placed him on his feet, and left the class they were sharing even though there had been a half hour left. Daniel had started ignoring him, not responding to his pranks or taunts like he used to, and it was getting really fucking annoying.
Not that he wanted Cross, with his brooding moods, and fucking wild gold eyes, and sexy mouth… His inky black hair always mussed up in a stylish, freshly fucked look, his skin a warm, golden tan with that fit, toned body that just begged to be touched and kissed and licked… Damn it.
Fuck Cross, the fucking asshole. Fuck him hard, and deep, and on his fucking knees like the fucking slut he was.
“Mason, stop drooling on my hand,” Jackson complained, wrenching his hand out from beneath his head to let the blond clunk on the table.
Mason blinked up, not certain when his thoughts had once again strayed. The fucking dragon was misery; horny, powerful, and a glowing damn target for every eligible psycho in the area. It had also fixated on Cross like the boy was catnip, trying to get Mason to do things—Really messed up things that involved stripping naked and crawling on his knees, even in rooms as busy and full as the cafeteria. Seeing as he was only just starting to get to know his dragon, Mason still wasn’t sure if this was because Cross was hiding a beast, or if it was just because it was Cross. Either way, it was too fucking embarrassing for words.
Thank god he was going home in less than a week. He would be safe in the mansion. Safe from asshole students giggling behind their hands about him looking for a bondmate. Safe from rapist, power hungry madmen wanting to force a bond to steal his power. Safe to jerk at the ridiculous level needed to finally find some peace.
He couldn’t wait to go home and never have to see Daniel fucking Cross again.