“You picked the wrong day to come out here.” Kelson pulled his hoodie over his head, his clothes becoming quickly soaked. His shoes squished as he continued to hurry through the forest. “Why didn’t you check the forecast before you asked me to go hiking with you?”
Emery held his jacket over his head, hurrying along the path behind Kelson. His dark hair was already matted to his head, the rivulets of water streaking down his face getting into his eyes and mouth. “Why would I think to check the weather when the skies were bright and sunny earlier?”
A twig snapped, the sharp sound alerting Kelson. At first, he thought it was a deer or other animal trying to run for shelter in this driving rain. But now he wasn’t so sure. The sound was growing closer, not fading further away. But who else would be out here in this kind of weather? Another hiker like them? Poor shmuck was probably as drenched as Kelson and Emery.
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Emery spoke louder, the rain making it difficult to hear.
“Yes.” Kelson dodged a large puddle that was quickly turning into a small pool. He wasn’t sure why he bothered. His feet were already soaked through and his jeans were like wet, denim logs clinging to his legs. Still, with the way his luck was going, there was probably a large sinkhole under that pool waiting to suck him in and drown him.
His hands became cold and clammy, but he had nowhere warm to put them. His jacket was just as soggy as the rest of him. Kelson began to shiver, hurrying in the direction where Emery had parked his car. The ground was becoming quickly washed out, the smell of ozone clinging heavily in the air. He wiped the rain from his eyes, blinking to see the trail he and Emery had taken. The ground was disappearing, becoming a stream instead of a path that would lead them out of here.
Emery grabbed the back of Kelson’s thick sweater. “I think we’re going the wrong way!”
Kelson stopped to look around, pulling the edge of his hoodie outward to try and stop the constant drip getting into his eyes. “No, I’m almost sure this is the right way. We have to keep going. That small bridge we crossed is going to be flooded out soon.”
Emery’s eyes widened, as if he’d forgotten the small river they’d crossed when first venturing into the woods on their hike. Kelson glanced over his shoulder, hearing something behind him. He scanned the area, but all he saw was a wet forest.
“Let’s go before it’s too late!” Emery shoved Kelson’s shoulder to keep them moving. They had hiked two miles into the woods before the rain had started. Kelson guessed that they were still a ways from the car. If it weren’t for the bridge that could trap them, Kelson wouldn’t try to rush out of here.
How much wetter could he get? Kelson sped up, trying to hurry back to the car so he could escape this torrential downpour.
Kelson turned to see Emery hurrying toward him. He knew his friend was a city boy, and the idea of exploring the woods had fascinated him, but Emery was out of shape, huffing by the time he made it to Kelson.
Before they began to move again, Kelson froze, hearing muffled voices close-by. He normally would have checked to see if whoever it was needed help, but the wet hairs on his cold neck stood on end. His instincts made tight knots form in his stomach. “We need to hurry.”
Though the rain drowned out a lot of noises, Kelson could still hear the muffled voices. Even hurrying down the path, those voices kept pace.
“Wait!” Emery yelled.
Kelson spun around, stumbling back when his foot caught on a root. His body twisted as he fell, his chest hitting the ground with a hard thump. His palms skidded across the muddy surface, catching sharp twigs and small rocks. His hands stung and his chest hurt, but Kelson jumped to his feet, looking for Emery.
His friend was nowhere in sight.
The only sounds Kelson could hear were the rumbling thunder and the rain falling in sheets. He frantically searched where he’d last seen his friend, about ten feet back. The rain was coming down too heavily, washing out any tracks that might have been left behind.
Kelson ran his hands through his wet hair as his mind raced to figure out where Emery could have gone. They hadn’t been that far from each other so Emery shouldn’t have gotten turned around. Using the back of his hand, Kelson cleared the rain from his eyes, feeling his heart beat hard in his chest. What if Emery had fallen into some kind of pit? He’d never heard of one being discovered in the forest lining Brac Village, but it was possible. What other explanation could there be?
The muffled voices returned once again. Kelson turned in the direction of the voices, hoping his friend was with the strangers, but he didn’t see anyone. The only thing he could scent was wet earth. That wasn’t going to help him.
Stepping off the path, Kelson tried to listen for the voices, tried to track where they were coming from. He was shaking, from the cold rain perhaps, but also from the fear that was creeping up his spine, wrapping around his chest, and settling in his heart.
Kelson spun just as he felt a sharp pain pierce his side. He went down and the forest faded away.
Kelson buried his face in Rakeym’s chest, trying his best to rid his mind of the horror he had been through.
“Better?” Rakeym asked.
Kelson opened his mouth to say yes, but nothing came out. A lump formed in his throat, threatening to cut off Kelson’s airway as Rakeym’s hand moved over his body, warming him from the inside out. Kelson had been against mating Rakeym before because the guy had only wanted to scratch an itch. This wasn’t touching just for the sake of slaking a need. Kelson could feel the desire, scent the arousal, and taste the passion that was clinging to the air.
Rakeym wanted him in a way that a man who was filled with hunger wanted another. When Kelson gazed up into Rakeym’s face, the man’s mismatched eyes grew darker, his nostrils flaring slightly as his hand slowly lowered to the top of Kelson’s backside. One lone finger slid into the crease, teasing, but didn’t touch the entrance.
Kelson’s breath grew shallow, his pulse quickening. God, Rakeym was so fierce and so closed off. Kelson wanted to break down those walls, to know the true leader, to find out who the real Rakeym was. The man was sharing his body, but Kelson wanted his heart.
Kelson gripped the long, obsidian braid in his hand. He began to unthread the hair, running his fingers through the satin strands. Rakeym groaned.
“You like your hair played with?”
“My hair has significance,” Rakeym said, his voice low. “For Sentinels, the length represents years of training and dedication. It shows that I mastered the art of war.”
As he unwound the last of the braid, Kelson asked, “What would happen if you cut it all off?”
Rakeym’s body stiffened as his brows drew together. “I would be shunned and my rank stripped. I would still hold the markings on my back, telling all of my birth as a Sentinel, but that would be all I would have.”
“The Shadow elves have too much pride.” Kelson ran his fingers over the tips of Rakeym’s long, pointy ears and was stunned to see the man shudder. He did it again and his mate’s fingers tightened on the flare of Kelson’s ass. Kelson smiled with the newfound knowledge of how to turn Rakeym on. Rakeym’s ears were just as sensitive as his scalp.
Kelson sucked in a breath when Rakeym clasped his ass tighter with those strong fingers, bringing the two men closer, before lowering his head and flicking his tongue across the seam of Kelson’s lips. He nipped Kelson’s lower lip before working his way to the shell of his ear. Rakeym drew the lobe between his teeth. Kelson could feel perspiration coating their bodies, the room becoming so hot that he had to throw the covers back in order to cool off.
“A’maelamin.” Rakeym’s breath blew across his ear. “How I have been hoping for you, melamin.”
Kelson didn’t have a damn clue what the man was saying, but his skin flushed hot as his chest rose and fell in quick pants.
Rakeym could tell Kelson that he looked good in a potato sack and Kelson wouldn’t care, just as long as the guy kept talking in that deep, rich accent. Rakeym’s tongue slipped inside Kelson’s mouth, dissolving any and all resistance that might have been lingering in the air between them. Kelson let the walls come down, pushing closer, wrapping his hand in the strands that felt like cool water cascading over his fingers.
Shoving at the waistband of Kelson’s pajama pants, Rakeym curled his hand around Kelson’s cock. His fingers smoothed over the swollen head as the man teased Kelson with his tongue. Fire. Heat. Kelson swore he was burning alive in Rakeym’s arms. He gasped when Rakeym’s tongue traveled the length of his throat, sucking the skin, causing Kelson’s cock to throb twice as hard.
Desperation filled him. Kelson wanted his pants off. He wanted to throw his leg over Rakeym’s muscled thigh and open himself up for his mate. He arched his back once his legs were free, their skin gliding against each other. Rakeym bit at one nipple before sucking it into his mouth, sending Kelson into a quaking, shuddering response that tore a cry from his lips. His body sang, hummed, and sizzled with Rakeym’s touch, his lips falling apart as he tried to accommodate more air.
“Cry for me, melamin. Tell me how much you love what I’m doing to you.” Rakeym worked his lips to Kelson’s other nipple, giving it just as much attention. Kelson could feel Rakeym’s erection straining against his soft, leather pants. He rocked his body on the bulge, wanting to feel it sink deep inside of him. As if reading his mind, Rakeym reached between them, releasing his shaft. Kelson ground his hard cock into his mate’s abdomen, fighting for friction, desperate for release.
When Rakeym reached for the hem of Kelson’s shirt, Kelson stopped him. “Leave it on.”
Rakeym didn’t look the least bit pleased, but dropped his hand to pull his own shirt over his head and shove his pants off. He twisted around and reached for the nightstand.
They were in Rakeym’s bedroom but Kelson had a good idea what was in that drawer. As Rakeym reached, Kelson took a second to look down between the man’s legs and then swallowed tightly. Rakeym’s cock was hanging low, the heavy weight of the thick muscle pulling his shaft down until it stood out straight. Kelson wasn’t sure his ass would accommodate that cock. Rakeym came back with a jar of clear liquid, unscrewing the cap, his eyes concentrating on what he was doing. Kelson bit his lip, knowing he was about to be claimed, his heart thumping loudly in his chest at the thought.
Setting the jar aside, Rakeym’s hand glistened with the clear liquid before he lathered his cock. “I can’t stretch you.” The man looked genuinely remorseful. “My nails…”
Kelson didn’t need the man to explain any further. The sharp points would tear Kelson apart if Rakeym even tried. For a fleeting moment, Kelson wondered how anyone could look at Rakeym as a freak of nature, a mutant. He was breathtakingly beautiful, every damn inch of him.