A storm at sea leaves shifters Tony and his brother Daniel castaways on an unknown island. They soon discover they much farther from home than they imagined when they meet Brion, the elven mayor of the town of Rerenlion. They also learn all the island's shifters have been magically imprisoned in Stronghold for crimes against the populace. Brion tells them the only way they can return to their own world is with the help of King Cerdic, and gives them a letter of introduction, as well as one for safe passage to the capital.
The safe passage serves them well when they cross paths with elves who hate or distrust them for what they are. When they eventually meet the king, Tony and Cerdic are drawn to each despite the fact that Tony refuses to believe the island's shifters are guilty of the crimes that landed them in Stronghold. He offers to prove they were framed by having Cerdic send him to Stronghold as a spy from another world.
Will Tony be able to prove his theory and survive in the process? Will the shifter and the elf act on their mutual attraction in spite of their differences?
From the way the sun slanted through the windows, Tony knew it was a bit after noon when Lord Randel returned. He stood in the doorway, looking between the brothers, and then beckoned. "If you'll come with me, I'll take you to King Cerdic. He's awaiting you in the Audience Chamber."
Leaving the library, they (entered the Great Hall), turned right and crossed to the door behind the King's table. Lord Randel opened it, stepping back to let them enter first.
As soon as they had, Tony sucked in a breath. Seated across from them on an ornately carved, high-backed armchair set on a two-step dais was one of the handsomest men he'd ever seen. He had long blond hair that fell well past his shoulders, deep blue eyes, high cheekbones, and a sensuous mouth. He was dressed in a black vest trimmed with silver embroidery, over a long, brown tunic with inset gold panels on the upper sleeves and a matching peplum at the waist. Black pants and knee-high boots trimmed with silver completed the ensemble.
::Easy, Tony. Remember he's a king and an elf. Way out of your league on all counts even if he did happen to be gay, which is doubtful, I think.::
::I can dream, can't I?::
::As long as that's all you do.::
Lord Randel's "Your Highness, allow me to introduce Tony and Daniel Nichols," brought Tony back to earth.
* * * *
Cerdic looked at the pair of dark-haired men standing before him, his gaze homing in on the younger one. He was dressed in obviously borrowed clothing which was understandable from what he'd been told. They did little to hide his muscular build and the sense of power he radiated, even while in the position of supplicant. To add to his allure, he had dark eyebrows over deep, almost black eyes, and a pair of lips that begged to be kissed.
Reining in his libido -- as he knew the man, the shifter, was unattainable, as well he should be all things considered -- Cerdic gave a minimal bow of his head to acknowledge their presence.
"I understand you are begging for my help to return you to your own world." Cerdic smiled to himself when Tony, the younger shifter, bristled at his words.
"We're not begging," Tony said tightly, obviously ignoring his brother when he laid a firm hand on his shoulder. "We are asking, as strangers who are not responsible for our presence here, that you send us back. We understand you're the only one who can do so."
"I am, but why should I?"
Tony took a step forward. "Because you're not stupid, I hope. You must know that our presence has upset more than a few of your subjects."
From the expression on the elder brother's face, Cerdic felt certain he was upset with Tony's defiant reply, and was undoubtedly letting him know using mind-speak -- words the younger shifter obviously ignored as he waited for Cerdic's answer.
Cerdic tapped a finger on the arm of his chair. "I could send you to join your compatriots in Stronghold. You do know what that is."
"The place in the mountains where you've imprisoned shifters, treating them as enemies of the state."
"Because they are," Cerdic replied angrily.
"On what grounds?"
"That is not you business or your concern."
Tony shook his head. "As I shifter myself, I believe it is. They are my brethren, if not by birth than by species."
Cerdic looked past Tony at the Seneschal. "Lord Randel, please leave us and take Daniel Nichols with you. I wish to speak with this hothead alone."
"Your Majesty," Lord Randel protested at the same time Daniel growled angrily.
"Do it! If Daniel gives you any trouble, call the guards."
With a bow that didn't hide his smile, Lord Randel put his hand on Daniel's arm. "If you'll come with me, quietly please. Don't worry about your brother. King Cerdic hasn't killed anyone in at least two months ... that I know of."
Cerdic bit back a grin at his seneschal's words as he watched him and an obviously pissed off and very reluctant Daniel exit the chamber.
When they were gone, Cerdic stepped down to sit on the top step of the dais, beckoning for Tony to join him. When Tony didn't move, Cerdic chuckled. "Or stand there. It makes no nevermind to me. We can still discuss your concerns either way. It just seems you'd be more comfortable sitting."