Raine leaned back in his chair. The music rolled through him like aural sex. He couldn’t pull his gaze from the guitarist. The musician’s fingers flickered across the strings with an almost fae-like skill. Raine had entered the club to get a quick drink and hide from his troubles for a bit. He’d stayed because the man fingering the notes enthralled him. Despite the stories of fae abduction, rarely did the fae find humans enchanting. This one, with his whiskered face and careworn smile, had Raine pinned to the spot. He’d snarled at more than one bar-goer who stood between him and the gorgeous man on the stage. How dare they talk! How dare they even breathe while the guitarist played?
Entranced, Raine couldn’t stop staring at the blond. An aura floated around him, calling to Raine. The guitarist’s bloodline must’ve been touched by the fae. Being a full prince, Raine knew when he saw a human with magical roots. The guitarist’s voice floated through the loud club as if he were singing just to Raine.
A flash of blue eyes struck Raine like Cupid’s arrow. “Oh, I’m going to make you mine,” he whispered.
He’d never coveted a person before, but this man—this beautiful man, he would belong to Raine.
Seeing the line of musicians filling the hallway, JB tightened his hold on his battered guitar case until the hard plastic bit into his fingers. Nerves rattled through his body like an earthquake, shattering his confidence as they went. He had to get this job. The cops had shut down the club where he currently played, claiming it was a drug haven or that it harbored prostitutes or something like that. He didn’t really pay attention until the ‘Closed’ sign went up, along with the boards across the windows. When JB had told Raine about the club shutting down, his lover had smiled crazily, like Christmas had come three months early.
Raine had never liked the bar where JB worked. He always claimed the owner watched JB’s ass too much for Raine’s comfort. Of course, Raine didn’t appreciate the way anyone looked at JB or that other men had eyes.
“Hey, JB!” Mike Nelson nodded from his spot farther up the line. Mike had gelled his short blond hair until it stood up in spikes, covered his arms with multiple bracelets, and dressed in strategically ripped clothing. His fit body drew more than one interested gaze.
JB nodded back. He and Mike often auditioned for the same gigs. Mike had the sort of star presence most musicians dreamed about, while JB had a more low-key style. Needless to say, they weren’t buddies. They’d be frenemies if they’d been friends first.
Quickly sliding into line, JB resolutely pushed the competition out of his mind. He needed to focus on his possible future employment. Nothing would derail him faster than fixating on Mike instead of focusing on his own music.
The ad claimed the clients were looking for someone who could play a stringed instrument, vocals optional. Kind of an odd request, but a musician looking for work didn’t question eccentricity, especially considering the generous salary listed.
How hard could performing for some VIPs be anyway? If it turned into a regular gig, JB could come home without reeking of cigarette smoke and booze for once. As long as the job didn’t involve removing his clothes, JB would take it if offered. Hell, forget that. He’d even be up for working in the nude if it got him a timely paycheck.
He didn’t suffer from excessive modesty, even if his husband’s head would explode. Before he’d left the apartment, Raine had told JB to walk away if he had to take off even one piece of clothing. “Because if they think they’re going to get a cheap thrill over my man, they’d better think again.”
Why Raine thought anyone else would want to see JB’s skinny, naked ass, he didn’t know, but Raine’s gravelly threat almost had him heading back to bed and letting the man mark him all over again. JB could still feel the sting from Raine’s teeth on his shoulder from the night before. Raine liked to leave reminders of their lovemaking on JB’s skin, as if warning others from his man.
Unfortunately, JB really needed a job, and this one appealed to him more than any of the other auditions currently posted. If he didn’t get a gig soon, he might as well throw in the towel and live off his man.
Raine would be ecstatic.
After three years of living with Raine, JB knew he could survive just about anything as long as he had Raine beside him. Raine had helped JB through alcoholism, supported him with his struggling career, and removed him from a bad boyfriend situation. In return, Raine had JB’s complete devotion.
Although JB knew he should be focusing on what he wanted to play, he couldn’t help glancing over the competition. There were the usual young, fresh kids, still in school and looking for a weekend gig, along with the sallow-complected older guys who’d seen more action than JB ever wanted to experience. JB exchanged head nods with a few musicians he recognized, and the rest of them, he ignored.
They weren’t anything to worry about.
Finding an empty space along the wall, JB slid until his butt reached the wooden floor then stretched out his feet in front of him. He might as well get comfortable. He knew from experience it would take at least a few hours before his turn came up, assuming they didn’t hire someone before they even heard him play. It wouldn’t be the first time. They were under no obligation to listen to JB just because he showed up. A musician’s life didn’t include fairness in the job description.
Opening his battered guitar case, JB lifted out his instrument. With the guitar in his hands, JB felt settled for the first time since arriving for the audition. Left to him by his daddy, a man who died while JB still wore diapers, he thought of it like an old friend. When Raine had offered to buy JB a new guitar, they’d had their first real fight.
Taking a slow, cleansing breath, he started tuning his guitar, the familiar motion a balm for his shaky nerves. JB closed his eyes and strummed a few bars before warming his throat on the piece he was writing for Raine. He and Raine weren’t the mushy type of lovers. JB had never even said those three little words, but the knowledge lived strong and fierce between them. JB hoped this song would show Raine his feelings without making his lover uncomfortable.
Sinking into the music, JB jerked in surprise when someone kicked his left boot. He had to blink a few times to pull himself out of the well of deep concentration he’d slipped into. Scowling, he looked up to find a muscular, black-haired man standing above him wearing a frown like the one JB’s mother used to give him when he’d particularly annoyed her. The stranger reminded JB a little bit of Raine. Something about the way both men stood as if they were in charge and expected everyone to listen to their demands. When Raine gave JB his commanding look, it made JB harder than a rock. With this guy, JB had to resist the urge to pull the knife from his boot and stab the stranger in the foot. He hated assholes on principle.
JB always carried his knife. He never knew when the place he played might have some questionable clientele. Raine had gifted it to JB on their first anniversary. Some people gave flowers—JB’s lover wanted him to be well armed.
“Hey, man,” JB greeted the intruder with a guarded look as he struggled to keep his temper in check. What kind of person interrupted a man mid-song?
“You’re up next,” the stranger said. His eyes were dark and flat as if this entire situation bored the hell out of him.
JB glanced up the line. There were at least thirty musicians ahead of him.
“I don’t want to cause no trouble,” JB drawled, eyeing the disgruntled expressions on the other musicians’ faces. They looked like they’d happily disembowel him for cutting ahead in line.
“You’ve been requested.” The man’s expression didn’t encourage a negative response.
JB shrugged. If the client wished to hear him next, he wouldn’t say no. He needed a job no matter what Raine said. He knew his lover would be more than happy to take care of their bills, but a man had to have his pride, and JB had more than his fair share. He was no man’s kept boy.
JB stood with his guitar in one hand, his case in the other, and nodded to the dark-haired man. “I’m ready.”
The stranger looked him up and down before turning and walking along the hall. JB hurried after the guy, trying not to trip on instrument cases or people as he went. He could tell from their expressions that more than one musician wouldn’t mind watching JB fall on his face.
They stopped before a door with the word ‘stage’ printed on it.
The guy turned to talk to JB, his tone as serious as death. “Don’t ask them any questions. When I open the door, I want you to walk onto the stage and play that song you were playing before.”
“But it’s still a work in progress,” JB protested. “I have more polished pieces ready for the audition.” He always liked to bring his best to the table. How much would they be able to tell from a half-written song?
The man scowled. “I’ll warn them that you’re still working on it, but you play that song.”
JB shrugged. “Okay.” He wouldn’t argue with a man over a rough piece of music. The customer was always right and all that crap. “Can I play another one after?” Maybe he’d get a second chance if they liked the first one enough.
“If it’s necessary.” The man’s tone indicated JB had one shot, and he’d better not blow it. It took a lot of effort to resist the urge to turn around and leave. After all, JB didn’t think he’d get the job with the audition piece requested by Mr. Tall, Dark, and Scowly.
Opening the door, the man, whose name JB still didn’t know, waved for him to enter first. Nervous energy jolted through JB’s body like a lightning storm when he peered at the brightly lit stage. He took another slow, cleansing breath to find his center before walking across the wooden boards. His boots thudded on the stage, the sound echoing in the cavernous room with each step he took.
JB squinted under the blinding lights. He couldn’t see the audience, and the heat from the light bulbs soaked his shirt with sweat before he’d even started. JB nodded toward where he guessed people were seated, as he couldn’t see them, before setting down his guitar case and launching into Raine’s song. In JB’s mind, the melody lacked a bit of something he had yet to define. The piece needed more fine-tuning, but the client requested that music so they were going to get it. Taking a long, slow breath, JB blocked out everything else and focused on singing his love story. His heart bled across the stage with each strum of the guitar.
The song finished with the notes fading into a soft melody, ringing of love and commitment. At the end of the song, a long silence greeted him. No coughing, no mutters or whispers that JB could hear, only quiet.
“I can play something else,” he offered even as his hopes sank faster than his cousin’s rowboat after a gator ate half of it.
Silence never came before a job offer, at least not in JB’s experience. Sighing, he kneeled beside his guitar case, opened the latches, and quickly settled his instrument back inside before snapping it closed again.
Standing up, he bowed to his mute audience. “Thank you for the opportunity.”
No sounds came from the silent listeners when JB turned to leave. He was almost glad he didn’t get the job. Anyone who couldn’t even thank him for coming lacked basic manners. JB didn’t like to work for people like that. He headed back to the door he’d entered through. Tomorrow, he would scan the ads again and find another place to audition. He’d find something eventually. Somebody always needed a musician somewhere.
The weight of failure rested heavily on his shoulders, and although he tried to philosophically brush off the lack of response, silently he wondered where he’d gone wrong. Maybe the people he sang for didn’t have the same musical taste as the guy who plucked JB from the line. He knew he had a good voice and his guitar playing was top-notch, but somehow he never seemed to catch a break. There apparently weren’t a lot of jobs for battered country singers with attitude. JB sighed again. Raine would be happy, he preferred JB at home anyway.
Grabbing the door handle, a tingle of electricity zapped JB. He didn’t know how, but apparently, he’d collected a crap load of static crossing the wooden stage.
“Shit.” JB shook his hand and reached for the handle again. He gave a soft sigh of relief when he didn’t receive a second jolt.
Opening the door, his pleasure over not being shocked vanished.
Walls, floor, a glowing mysterious light source were all white.
“What the fuck?”
Walking through the doorway, JB looked around, his mouth dropping open. Where were the other musicians? For that matter, where the hell did the building go? This hallway didn’t look anything like the one JB had left to enter the stage. Maybe he’d gone the wrong way. Turning back around, he stopped in surprise.
The wall, smooth and unblemished, mocked him with its blankness. Had he fallen and hit his head on the stage? Would he wake up in a hospital bed with a million monitors beeping around him like in the movies? What the fuck had happened? JB reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.
Even the display didn’t show. Damn, he’d forgotten to charge it last night. His lover would have more than a few choice words about JB’s forgetfulness, and none of them would be friendly. Sighing, he shoved the damned thing back into his pocket. He hated technology, and it hated him back with equal measure.
JB stomped his heel to test the hardness of the floor. His foot tingled from the contact, and an echoing noise told him the weird hall really did exist.
Without any other choices, JB headed down the corridor. After all, he couldn’t go back since the door had disappeared behind him.
“This is like a creepy sci-fi flick,” JB muttered.
Maybe the dark-haired dude had slipped him something when he wasn’t looking. He’d believe it more if the man had touched JB or given him anything to drink. JB clung to the dream theory as if it were his last hope for salvation. Now all he had to do was figure out how the hell to wake up.
JB walked and walked for the longest damn time before he spotted an exit. A black door appeared before him without warning. The rectangle had no distinguishing features other than its color—no exit sign or writing of any kind. JB truly didn’t know if this would be the exit, but he damn sure didn’t want to stay in the creepy white world a second more than he had to. His palms oozed sweat while he considered his other options. Well, he could…
Fuck it. He didn’t have any other choices.
Taking a deep breath, JB turned the knob and straightened his shoulders to brace himself for whatever might be on the other side.
“I hope there ain’t a lion behind here,” JB grumbled. How had a simple audition turned into a trip to Wonderland?
Raine would be pissed if JB didn’t return home soon. The few times he’d gone out with the boys after a night of playing and had forgotten to call home lived in his mind as a blazing warning. Some days, JB thought he could still feel the heat of his red ass after Raine had spanked him.
Clutching his guitar case handle tightly, he took a deep breath. Deciding to use the rip-off-the-Band-Aid approach, JB pushed the door open and plunged through the opening in one smooth motion.
He froze on the other side.
A gold and silver ballroom spread out before him like something out of a child’s storybook with marble columns, gold chandeliers, and people dressed in enough colors it looked as if a rainbow had thrown up across the sterile perfection of the room. On a pedestal of white stone, in the middle of the scene, sat a gold throne. JB’s heart slammed against his chest so hard he worried for a moment it would beat out of his body.
“Welcome.” A female voice spoke behind him.
JB spun around. When he caught sight of her, he damn near swallowed his tongue. Her hair glinted like gold, her flawless skin had a touch of caramel, and her lips were the pinkest he’d ever seen without lipstick. Not to mention she had clear emerald eyes, and JB found himself staring longer than what could be considered proper.
She smiled, and JB knew if he didn’t already have a man, he would seriously consider switching teams.
Blinking, JB tried to recover his composure even as his mind screamed he should be more concerned about where he had ended up and who the hell these people were. He still hoped he might be dreaming. He pinched his arm.
Not a dream. When he finally found his voice, he babbled like an idiot. “I don’t mean to stare, ma’am, but you’re even prettier than my husband.” Until now, he’d considered Raine the most beautiful person he’d ever seen.
A slight tilt of her mouth increased her beauty tenfold. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that comparison before.”
JB shrugged. “Maybe no one else has a man as pretty as mine.”
A breeze moved through the impossibly beautiful room, sending a haunting scent to JB’s nose. He sighed at the familiar fragrance.
“What do you smell?” the woman asked.
“Honeysuckle and roses, like my mama’s garden.” JB smiled at the memory.
His mother had been an amazing gardener who defined ‘having a green thumb.’ Unfortunately, JB didn’t inherit her talent. Any plant unlucky enough to fall into his clutches had a sad, neglected demise. Even Raine’s amazing gardening skills couldn’t compete against JB’s black thumb of leafy death.
The woman gave a delighted smile at JB’s description. “That’s a wonderful memory of your mother.”
“Yes, ma’am, it is,” JB agreed.
Of course, his mother couldn’t even remember his name now, but Alzheimer’s did that to people. JB scanned the room, seeking something that might look familiar. A nudge that would tell him his imagination had run wild.
“I don’t want to be difficult, but where am I, how did I get here, and who are you?”
The urge to curse hovered on the tip of his tongue, but he’d been raised not to use bad language in front of a lady. How could this be real? How could any of it be real?
“You will address her as Your Majesty, human, while you’re in her court.” Another voice had JB looking over his shoulder.
The new man reminded him even more forcibly of his Raine than the guy at the auditions had. This man oozed testosterone as if it were cologne, the scent musky and alluring. However, his eyes were a cold silvery blue, and his striking face had a stern cast as if it had been a while since he last had a reason to smile. He looked at JB as if he were a cockroach who’d scurried into the fancy ballroom and needed to be quickly squashed before people started screaming.
“Who the hell are you?” JB blurted out.
“I’m Wrin,” the newcomer said.
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
Wrin had said his name as if he expected JB to bow down to him. JB didn’t bow to anyone. Despite his similarity to JB’s lover, Wrin’s wintry eyes were completely unlike Raine’s laughing dark green ones. A pang of longing pierced JB like a knife to the heart. He missed his man.
Wrin’s cold eyes raked JB up and down until his gaze reached JB’s hand. He grabbed JB’s wrist in a tight hold.
“Where did you get this ring?” he demanded, shaking JB.
JB jerked free, self-consciously rolling the heavy gold ring with his thumb. Memories of the sweet ceremony where Raine slid the jewelry on his finger flashed through JB’s mind.
“My husband gave it to me.” He didn’t mention a ring with a similar pattern pierced Raine’s cock.
They weren’t friends. Wrin didn’t need to know intimate details of JB and Raine’s relationship. Raine insisted JB should have a wedding ring, but refused to put one on his own hand. Something about jewelry on Raine’s fingers bugged him. In the end, Raine pierced his body as a compromise. According to Raine, if anyone other than JB saw Raine’s ring, they were too fucking close.
“That doesn’t belong to you. It has a fae pattern on it. Where did you get it?” The man had the balls to try and slide it off JB’s finger.
Instincts kicked in, and JB punched Wrin so hard the man’s skull thudded against the marble when he fell. JB would’ve felt bad if he weren’t so damned angry.
“Let’s get one thing clear,” JB said, shaking his stinging fist. “My man gave me this ring, and you can take it off my cold dead body.”
JB stood over Wrin and debated pulling out his knife as anger surged through him like a tsunami wave. When had he turned so violent? The people in this dream world really knew how to push his buttons.
He saw other people approaching from the corner of his eye. He froze. If he were going to die in this bizarre place, he’d do it with his ring on.
“Understood.” Wrin scowled up at him.
“Good.” JB offered Wrin a hand up. After all, he’d knocked the man down.
Wrin took JB’s hand, but released it as soon as he could stand on his own and took a few steps back. He kept a cautious eye on JB as if he were a wild animal that might snap at any moment. Considering JB’s behavior so far, he couldn’t really blame him.
“You’re very strong for someone your size,” Wrin said finally.
JB couldn’t stop the grin spreading across his face. “So I’m told.” He turned back to the lady after Wrin didn’t retaliate with a punch of his own. “Sorry for the violence, ma’am. My mama raised me better than that.”
She threw back her head and laughed. “Trust me, JB, when I say more than one person has wanted to do that for a while.”
JB thought she enjoyed him punching Wrin a little too much. Her eyes glowed with pleasure when she faced him. JB decided now would be as good a time as any to ask his questions.
“Begging your pardon, but you never did tell me where I am, how I got here, and if I’m going to be here much longer. I’ve gotta call home to let my man know if I’m gonna be late. It’s our arrangement, and he’s the worrying sort. He keeps thinking I’m going to get abducted or something.”
JB had always rolled his eyes at Raine’s paranoia because until about five minutes ago, he’d thought Raine’s worries were ridiculous. After all, who would steal a broke two-bit musician with few prospects? JB wouldn’t laugh off Raine’s concern now. Now he worried Raine had been right all along.
“Unfortunately, my dear musician, you won’t be returning to your former life. You’re in the throne room of the fae court. I’m Queen Brialla. This is my son, Wrin.” She smiled as if her explanation made everything better. He swallowed a few times so he wouldn’t puke on her pretty floor while she continued. “If you tell me where you live, I’ll be happy to have a messenger let your husband know you’re fine.”
Discreetly, JB lifted his hand and pinched his arm again.
“Ow!” Damn. Still not a dream.
The queen watched JB with amusement. “Is there a problem?”
Of course, there was a problem. He’d been abducted by imaginary people. JB swallowed back his words. If he were going to survive his encounter with crazy people, he should pretend to agree with them. He could make his escape as soon as he figured out exactly where he’d landed.
JB had one thought stuck in his mind: he had to return to Raine.
“I-I have to get home.” He hadn’t exaggerated when he said Raine worried.
The man’s fanatical obsession about JB’s safety had caused more than one argument. Every time JB left the house, Raine practically forgot to breathe until JB returned to his side.
JB kept hoping he lay in a hospital bed lingering in a coma or something more palatable. He’d rather be hooked up to a bunch of machines and close to death than be trapped in this pretty palace away from his man.
“I’m sorry, my dear, but now that you’ve entered the mound, you can’t leave. Humans can’t handle the transition back to the outside world once they’re exposed to the magic of the fae.”
She didn’t look sorry. Her smug expression told JB she had him right where she planned to keep him. It took a few minutes before he could unclench his right fist. The urge to punch the woman almost overtook his good sense. The prince watched JB carefully the entire time. Smart man.
“Mound?” He latched onto the one word she thought important enough to prevent JB from getting back to Raine. “What’s a mound?”
She tilted her head, sort of like his dog, Buster, did when he heard an odd sound. “We’re fae. We live underground.”
JB looked around the room but couldn’t track the source of light making the space glow.
“I’m buried underground?” The light and airy room didn’t lend itself to the idea of being buried alive.
The queen gave a rather unladylike snort. “It is our way. You don’t have to worry about a cave-in or anything. Magic keeps our mound alive. Some people even think it has its own sense of identity because of how much magic it has soaked up through the years.”
Great, he’d been swallowed by a magical cave.
JB would’ve thought she made the whole thing up if he weren’t standing in a throne room he’d reached through a mystical hallway.
His heart slammed against his chest, pattering like a scared rabbit. JB heard a rushing sound in his ears and spots swam before his eyes. He clung to consciousness with a tenuous grip as he forced back the darkness sparkling at the edge of his vision. If he were going to make it back to Raine, he had to be strong.
“I need to go home.” More than that, he had to. Abandoning Raine couldn’t happen. He’d promised to never leave.
Even as JB demanded his return, he could see the rejection on her face. They weren’t letting him go.
“You signed paperwork to sing for me,” the queen insisted.
“I didn’t sign any papers. I saw your ad and just showed up.”
“Did we run an ad?” the queen asked her guard.
There was no way this would end well. JB’s stomach churned as the guard answered.
“I ran a small ad, only visible to those who were suited to live among us. The other announcements were sent out to agents. Performers were supposed to sign release forms before attending the audition.”
The pair turned back to him. “Do you have any fae blood, my dear?” the queen asked. “Usually, those who are most suitable have a bit of fae blood in their family.”
“No, ma’am. As far as I know, I’m all human.” Human, and getting the hell out of there as soon as possible. He didn’t say that last part. He wanted them to think he was resigned to his fate. No matter what they said about having to stay, he would find a way back to the surface. A hallway led JB there, and maybe he could find another one to return him.
“Wrin, why don’t you take JB to the doctor and make sure he’s all right. He looks a little pale.” The queen gave JB a reassuring smile.
Despite his anger at her, she did appear to be truly worried about his health. That didn’t stop him from pressing his argument.
“I’ll be just peachy as soon as you return me home. You don’t understand. I can’t run late or my husband will worry. I didn’t sign any contract. Isn’t there anyone I can appeal to? Some law that has been broken?” Surely they couldn’t just grab JB and keep him forever.
Didn’t the Fae have laws too?
“In this world, I am the law.” The queen turned around and returned to her throne.
Discussion over. Apparently, sympathy didn’t lead to compassion. The queen might feel sorry for JB, but that didn’t translate into returning him to the surface.
His heart sank to his feet. Forget dreaming, he’d entered a nightmare.
On top of everything else, JB knew Raine would turn the city inside out looking for him. Raine wouldn’t tolerate JB’s disappearance. He learned the last time he’d drunk too much and crashed at a friend’s house how little Raine approved of JB not checking in. Benny still jumped like a startled rabbit whenever he saw Raine after their little encounter.
Wrin jumped into the discussion where the queen left off. “I’ll send a messenger to let your man know you’re working. If it will make you feel better, we can manipulate his memories so he doesn’t remember you at all. It’s one of our stronger magics.”
JB stared at the prince for a long moment, horrified and speechless. JB had to swallow back the bile rising in his throat before he could respond to that idiotic idea and end up with his ass thrown in magical jail or wherever they kept their dissidents.
“You think that will make it all better? That the only man I’ve ever loved will forget about me? How is that a good outcome?” Rage had him spitting out the words like an angry cat.
“It’s better than letting him worry,” Wrin replied.
JB tried to control of his temper. His right hand clenched around the guitar case handle until his knuckles turned white. If any of them figured JB would take this well, their heads weren’t twisted on right. He planned to escape this fae hole or mound or whatever the fuck they called it and return home to his lover and his dog.
Shit! Raine better remember to feed Buster, or when he got home, JB would kick Raine’s ass. His lover hated the dog with a fierce passion, a feeling completely reciprocated by Buster. They both wanted all of JB’s attention and resented it when his focus was on the other.
He gave the prince his best smile. “Sure, that would really help. Thanks.” He avoided Wrin’s eyes as he fiddled nervously with his ring, drawing a small bit of solace from his connection to his husband. The inscription on the inside still made him smile whenever he thought of it.
To my everything.
It was an oddly sentimental gesture from his husband who exemplified the phrase ‘a man of few words.’ Besides his guitar, the ring was his most treasured possession.
“You can’t escape, you know,” Wrin said, casually ripping out JB’s heart.
He wondered for a moment if the prince could read JB’s mind or maybe his panicky search for an exit hadn’t been as subtle as he’d thought.
JB glared in Wrin’s direction. “Don’t you understand I have to get out of here?”
The prince shook his head. “Your man won’t even remember you after a few years. It’s an effect of the veil of the fae. I can help that along if you want. It’s how we’ve gotten away with taking so many people over the years.”
“He isn’t going to just forget me. He loves me.” JB would’ve scoffed at the sappy sentiment before meeting Raine, but he knew they were soul mates.
Despite the supposed fae veil, Raine would never forget him. However, JB would be lying if doubt didn’t nibble at his confidence at the fae prince’s words. He looked quite sure of what he said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find you a new man.” Wrin waved a hand at the crowd of people in the room. “There are many here who would love to sample a human.”
JB couldn’t let Wrin’s words go unchallenged, even though he knew he shouldn’t antagonize the prince.
“I don’t want a new lover. I want my old one.” He hoped he didn’t come across as a whiny human, but he’d be damned before he replaced Raine with anyone else. It had taken him a long time to trust someone with his heart, and he didn’t plan to ever do it again.
A sly smile crossed the prince’s face. “I’ll make you a bargain. If you please my mother with your singing, I’ll have your husband brought down here to be with you.”
JB shivered at the thought of his beloved Raine trapped underground, unable to leave. Raine didn’t deserve to be stuck in a fae mound because JB couldn’t live without him. No way would he seal Raine’s fate, no matter how much he yearned to be wrapped in his lover’s arms again.
“I’d rather stay up top with my man. If you return me to the surface, I promise not to mention this to anyone. I’m sure there are many musicians who would be happy to live down here and perform for you.” JB didn’t beg, but it might have been the closest he’d ever come in his life.
“You made your choice when you decided to audition.” The prince’s expression held no hope of compromise.
JB bit his lip to hold back the words bursting to get out and spill across the floor in an angry diatribe.
The prince continued, “You’ve entered the realm of the fae. You are now bound here, human, until the end of eternity. Whether you signed a contract or not, you are ours.”
Fear froze JB like a layer of ice across his body. “What do you mean eternity?”
Wrin shrugged. “You are essentially now a member of the fae. You’ll live forever unless someone kills you.”
Or unless he ended his life.
The thought dangled in front of him like a sweet promise. If he couldn’t be with Raine, why would he want to live? Only the dream of escaping prevented him from taking his knife and slicing his wrists right then and there. Surely there had to be a way out. He only had to find it.
“It can be good here among us, especially with one of your musical abilities. We, as a species, adore the arts.” The prince gave him a friendly smile as if everything were all right now.
They’d given him a job, were willing to hook him up with a fuck buddy, and in turn, JB would live forever. He supposed, from their perspective, they offered a sweet package.
From his side of the fence, he’d rather gnaw off his own arm to escape.
Panic formed a knot in his throat. No Raine. Forever. His stomach cramped with pain as the horror of his future unfolded before him. Terror struck him at the idea of an empty future without Raine. He couldn’t breathe. His heart pounded against his chest like a drum, and a loud thumping filled his ears. He knew his heart must be beating loud enough for the rest of the palace to hear.
“Fuck, he’s having a panic attack,” Wrin said in disgust.
Without warning, the world went black.