Sequel to Port in a Storm
Three months ago David Stanton rescued a runaway kitten in the rain. Now he's got an infamous -- and infamously powerful -- feline shapeshifter living in his house, helping with his white-witch business, and making him smile. David’s falling in love fast, but there's still the problem of Colin's past ... and the secrets he's obviously keeping.
Colin Rue fled his vicious warlock, found a kindhearted white witch and fell in love, and he never wants to leave. But he isn’t sure he’s good for David. After all, he’s a runaway with a scandalous past, he’s never tried to settle down before, and he’s making David’s life way more complicated.
But when a fire threatens the neighborhood, David needs Colin’s magic to help. If together they can save people, maybe Colin’s got a purpose after all ...
A small streak of woodsmoke and shadow flowed through the back door, leapt across the living room, and landed on his lap, turning into Colin in the process. David, who'd had a second of warning -- his wards knew his boyfriend, and the magical channel between them swelled like a river with proximity -- dropped the book and caught him, nose to nose, laughing. "Hey, you're back."
"Hi, you." Colin wriggled, unabashedly unclothed. David, who would never have the same exhibitionist streak and who also worried almost certainly too much, already had a blanket and plopped it onto his head. Colin was extra-sensitive in the moments after a change. Everything on overload, he'd said once. This could be wonderful fun when naked in bed, and a minor source of stress for David's emotions otherwise. His kitten got cold easily.
And said interestedly, "Pastrami? Should I make a joke about sharing your meat?"
"Yes I saved you some, please make all the jokes, and only two onion rings, sorry. Attack of Brian." Colin Rue in his lap transcended every fantasy he'd never known he could have. Long-legged, lovely, and currently laughing, emerging from knit blanket-folds with rumpled dark hair and a mouth that had tempted countless wizards and witches.
Maybe not countless. A number certainly existed. He'd never asked. He wasn't sure Colin knew.
He tried not to think about that one. Not out of jealousy -- or he didn't believe so -- but because something in his chest splintered, quick and cruel, when he did. He'd once upon a time seen a drunken Colin Rue being kissed by the equally intoxicated North American Arch-Mage at a coast-to-coast coven gathering, letting the man pull power from the kiss, from his body, until the annual ceremonial bonfire roared up twice its normal size and thundered with ecstasy and brought light to the world.
Colin stretched out one infinite leg, tucked it back up. He wasn't heavy, and even if he had been David wouldn't have minded. Could hold him here in their oversized chair in lowering afternoon sunshine for as long as might be wanted. That was another truth. Indelible.
Like light, he thought, across the world.
He said, "Did you have a good day?"
"I did, thank you." Colin studied him, dove in to land a kiss on the corner of his mouth: sudden and swift as a hummingbird's dart. Sweet as nectar. "Is there something you want to ask me? Not that you have to, if you don't -- I thought I felt something. Just now. But never mind. If you didn't want to."
Layers upon layers, in those sentences. Curiosity: Colin would always be a cat. Generosity: Colin didn't want to push. Connection: they'd left that tiny shared channel, a thread of linking magic for power and protection, running crystalline between them ever since Colin'd shown back up on his doorstep, and of course emotions carried when they were close. Hesitance -- and David flinched internally at that recognition. Colin didn't want to anger him? Didn't want to persist in asking, in case his new witch grew displeased or even cruel? Didn't want to be thrown from a snug harbor?
His heart hurt, uncertain, trying to do no harm.
"Nothing big. Only wondering what you've been up to." He ran a hand along Colin's back, tracing the curve of flexible spine, knowing every touch'd be magnified by newly-shifted nerves. "Missed you, kitten." Truth like celestial copper, drawn from stars. He had.
"So did I," Colin agreed, shamelessly arching into the petting, "about you, though it's not as if I've been gone for weeks ... you saw me this morning ... oh, nice, right there ..."
"Think I did more than see you," David said, entertained through the sharpness of not-yet-and-maybe-never loss. Maybe nothing was wrong. Maybe Colin Rue wanted nothing more than this: sunshine, kisses, a local witch's sturdy hands. "Or did you forget already, and you need me to remind you ..."
The scents of honeysuckle and jasmine and starflower wove themselves into the afternoon, sunbaked, glowing.
After, with Colin -- with both of them -- sticky and flushed and limp with pleasure, he rested his cheek in that silky hair, leaving his hands where they'd ended up between slim thighs, and shut his eyes. Echoes of bliss swam through their bodies. The world spun itself into sugar around them, and he thought that this must be perfection, and in that moment he knew it was true.
Colin said drowsily, "In answer to your question, I wasn't up to anything terribly exciting. Mostly neighborhood gossip. Oh, you might want to know this one, I know Sophia from down the street has been asking you about love-spells and I know you don't do that but you won't need to even say no, she thinks her husband's been having an affair but he's not, he's taking a creative writing class."
"Really?" Neither of them had stirred. He could listen to Colin forever, just like this.
"Oh yes. Poetry. Secretly, at night, at the junior college. He's embarrassed that he might not be any good, but I was talking to Madam Rosa's raven and she says she overheard him mumbling bits out loud in the park and it wasn't bad, if you can trust a raven to know poetry."
"Can you? Did you want your sandwich?" Compulsive caretaking. Couldn't help it.
"Depends on the raven. And yes I do. But I don't want either of us to move. It's a terrible dilemma."
"I adore you," David told him, which wasn't quite I love you but so close, so close, while he wondered if his heartbeat might be audible, "and I could --"
The back gate rustled bluebells at him. A client. A drop-in.