Darwin looked at the red door and wondered if it was too late to make a run for it. After all, he didn’t have to use the gold key provided to him. The money he’d spent would be forfeited, but he could just write it off as a coward fee. Besides, the person behind the door might not even be interested in a dark fae. Most people weren’t.
Unfortunately, the reason he’d paid an exorbitant fee to come to this matchmaking club still existed. He longed for a mate. Not just anyone, but someone handpicked for him. Someone created just for him. The owners of this place swore they could match anyone to their perfect mate.
Supposedly, his possible match was already in the room. It would be bad manners to leave the poor soul waiting, especially if he or she was as nervous as Darwin. His hands shook so much he almost dropped the key.
“It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine,” Darwin whispered to himself. He had to calm down or he’d have a nervous breakdown on the doorstep. Not the impression he wished to make on a possible mate.
Although he preferred men, Darwin didn’t know for certain his match was male. There was no guarantee of which sex would be on the other side of the door, just that the person would be a good match. The agency had been quite clear on that point when he’d filled out the form. Darwin didn’t know what he’d do with a female. Luckily, he didn’t have to agree to mate with whomever they chose. He or she was just one potential partner. The most perfect one they could find, but there wasn’t an ironclad contract to bond forever.
Loneliness ate at him. He ached for companionship, and since few of his kind were still around, he had to find it with someone other than a dark fae. He just wanted someone to hold him in bed when the shadows danced on the wall, a mate who wouldn’t freak when Darwin needed to spread his wings—literally. The screams still echoed in his mind from the last time he’d shown them to a potential partner. Wings were great in theory, but they were rare enough that even people in the para-community didn’t always appreciate them.
Club SoulFinder claimed to be able to match anyone with a perfect mate. Darwin didn’t know if he believed their hype, but he was tired of being alone. Even a good night of passion sounded fabulous at this point. The men he met in nightclubs, at work, or out doing errands were always intimidated by him. Humans found his fae beauty overwhelming, and other fae found him too strange, too intelligent or any number of things they didn’t want. He wasn’t thick and muscular or blond like the golden faekin. Darwin’s hair, shiny and dark, tumbled down his narrow shoulders in glossy waves. His green upon green eyes, instead of the more common summer gold, finished off the differences between him and the other fae.
In either world, Darwin was a freak.
That was why he’d given up trying to meet someone serendipitously. He needed professional help. At three hundred years old, Darwin wasn’t getting any younger. Most of the fae his age had already paired off. Flipping the key in and out between his fingers, Darwin stared at the door another long moment before taking a deep breath and sliding the key into the lock then rotating it until it clicked.
This could be either the biggest mistake or the greatest idea of his life.
Hoping for the best, Darwin turned the handle, then pushed open the door.
Available for Early Release here
Elijah Trenton watched as the professor’s assistant held up cards that broke down Professor Kalvin’s long-winded speeches into short, memorable paragraphs and timelines. He didn’t know her name since the professor had never introduced her—one more strike against the pompous ass in Eli’s opinion. Eli appreciated all her help because History of Spell Casting definitely wasn’t one of his strengths.
His father would say that Eli didn’t have strengths of any kind.
Eli wrote down her shortcuts quickly, his hand flying across the paper. He could review them later when he had more time, but from experience he knew her notes would make a great deal more sense than the professor’s rambling lecture. Professor Kalvin took great delight in testing students on the minutest details instead of the broader scope of important history. Eli didn’t know a single student who enjoyed the class. Unfortunately it was a pre-requisite to anything more interesting. He could’ve pushed it off a few more years, but Eli was of the rip-the-bandage off train of thought. He’d rather finish it now than have to anticipate it a few years down the road.
Besides, there was a perk to the class, in the form of Devin Stewartson. The sexy man sat two rows ahead of Eli and to the right. Eli spent a great deal of time ignoring the professor and staring at the gorgeous triplet. It just wasn’t fair that there were three of them. He’d heard around campus that Dan had bonded with a fire wizard and Dean was straight—that left Devin as his only option. Not that it mattered—he’d always been attracted to Devin more than his brothers. Devin’s upbeat personality pulled at Eli. Maybe because Eli didn’t have a bubbly personality, Devin’s charm called to him.
“If you stare at him any harder he’s going to get a hole in the back of his head,” Porter whispered.
“Shut up.” Eli shoved his friend on the shoulder good-naturedly. The professor gave them a strange look but carried on with his boring lecture.
Eli returned his attention to the assistant. She hadn’t moved on to the next card. Instead, she froze as if listening to something no one else could hear. Her eyes widened and she pinned Eli with a frightened look.
“Duck!” she shouted.
She’d never spoken before, but her terror transmitted to Eli as if she’d injected it directly into his veins. Without hesitation, he dropped his pen and slid beneath his desk.
“What are you doing?” whispered Porter.
Porter peered at Eli hiding beneath his desk, his blond hair flopping across his curious brown eyes. Porter was Eli’s best friend and generally tended to follow Eli’s lead even if he didn’t know where he was going.
Eli grabbed Porter’s jacket, yanked him beneath the desk and shouted, “Everyone, get down!”
“Shit!” Porter yelled as he tumbled to the floor. “You’re going to get into trouble.”
He tried to get up, but Eli kept a tight hold on his friend’s shirt, keeping him by Eli’s side. “Stay.” He didn’t know what was going on, but something was coming, something bad. He could feel it in his bones.
“Mr Trenton, is there a reason you’re underneath your desk?” the professor asked in his slow, dry voice. The sound always brought to Eli’s mind the image of crispy fall leaves and zombies. A strange combination, but he refused to claim responsibility for his bizarre daydreams. Sometimes his brain went off on tangents.
Eli didn’t get out from beneath the desk to respond, even if it was completely unfair that the teacher didn’t even ask about Porter. Porter got away with everything, while the professor commented on Eli’s every action. He wondered if his father had talked to the professor. Any teacher’s evil fixation on Eli was usually the result of his father’s interference. Conrad Trenton had a way of bulldozing over people and not considering anyone’s concerns but his own and sometimes those of Eli’s older brother.
The pressure in the air raised the hair on Eli’s arms in tingly bursts of electricity. “Don’t you feel that? Everyone get under your desks!” he yelled. He kept his white-knuckled grip on Porter’s shirt, refusing to let his friend even lift his head. Eli relaxed a bit when he saw that Devin had taken his advice. He didn’t know what was coming, but he couldn’t stand it if his crush became injured.
Eli gritted his teeth as wild magic flooded the room. Electricity snapped and crackled through the air, slamming into desks and people with equal fervor. Screams pierced Eli’s ears and a low hum vibrated down his spine.
Unable to stand to look, Eli squeezed his eyes shut. The combined stench of burning flesh and ozone singed his nose and had his stomach threatening to revolt. Students continued to scream as wicked pops of energy found new places to land. Not daring to peek, Eli and Porter remained frozen on the floor until the only sounds were the moans of the injured and the frantic whimpers of the other students.
When all electrical sounds had faded, Eli opened his eyes. The students in the row ahead of him peered at him from beneath their desks.