“Do you think he’ll cooperate?”
Niall stopped. He pressed his body flat against the wall at the sound of his uncle’s voice. He’d planned to go clubbing, confident everyone had already left for the night. Normally by this time they were all off at social events, or, as Niall privately called them, ‘sucking up to the queen parties’.
“He’ll do what I want. It’s time for him to marry. I’ve even made a list for him to choose from.” His mother’s tone pierced icy shards of disdain through his skin.
“What if he doesn’t like your choices?” his uncle persisted, ever the sly voice of innuendo and scandal. There were weasel shifters less sneaky than Niall’s Uncle Virnen, and none as mean.
“Then I’ll persuade him.” They laughed together, two partners pleased to crush others in their pursuit of common goals.
Niall’s stomach gurgled and swirled in protest as he pulled his magic around him. The hair on his arms and neck rose, reacting to both the dangerous situation and his escapist magic. He raced past the doorway, breath held and nerves clenched to the edge of pain. A single drop of sweat slid down his hairline and worked a straight path down his nose. He twitched.
The rumble of voices concocting evil plans followed him down the hall. He didn’t need to hear any more. He’d known his days were numbered. Mother had planned Niall’s life since she’d first strategized how he should learn to walk. She also choreographed his whippings when she thought he’d twitched a pinky out of line.
Now they’d come up with a way to hold him in the painful, steel bear trap of marriage. Before he could say no, they’d have him shackled and bound. He had no futile belief they’d truly give him any say about anything. They might present him with the illusion of a choice, but reality wouldn’t match the pretty fiction they created to get him to go along.
Tonight he would take control. For once he stop letting others run his life and do something for himself. Tomorrow they’d drag him back to his broken life but tonight was his. He’d be caught and punished, but they’d whip him even if he did nothing. His mother’s guards relished the taste of his pain and the marks on his body. More than one had licked at him while he dangled from magic draining manacles, dripping out his life force.
His own guards had broken him out of his last captivity and more than a few of his mother’s guards had met with an unhappy accident.
Burying his past horrors deep, Niall swiped a set of keys from the rack in the garage. The red convertible suited his mood tonight.
Although the queen’s guards saw him leave the estate, no one moved to intervene. His mother must not have sent out word to keep him confined. For once, his luck ran true.
Niall lowered the convertible’s hood. The breeze whipped around him, ruffling his hair and granting him an unprecedented wave of freedom.
What if I just keep driving?
They’d hunt him. His mother’s trackers would find him, capture him and teach him a lesson about never wandering away again. He had no self-delusional belief he’d ever escape the guards permanently, unless through death.
The magical tracking devices on him alone could trigger a hunt if he didn’t return first thing tomorrow. He might have slipped the leash for the moment but he could still be yanked back like a dog on a magical spiked choke chain.
It took several turns down narrow alleys before he found the building he’d heard about. The unremarkable outside didn’t hint at the secrets inside. Niall had eavesdropped on some of the other fae talking about the bar and the hot hook-ups they found there. Tonight he’d be the one on the prowl.
A spot of street parking opened up and Niall slipped the car neatly inside. Hopefully it was a harbinger of good luck. He put the top back up before sliding out of the car and slammed the door behind him. If his hand shook a bit when he locked the door, he ignored it.
The bouncer at the door stopped him. “Identification?”
Niall pulled out his driver’s license and handed it over.
Read more on July 14th when it releases for early download in the An Unconventional San Diego Anthology!
Coming in Third will also be available as single title. On early download on November 24th!