Faerie horses should at least show up on time. That's Aidan's opinion, anyway. He's been waiting for the pooka all night, to catch it stealing apples from human orchards. This Magical Enforcement Division assignment's supposed to be easy -- and Aidan could use the break, after a previous case gone badly wrong. But when the apple-thief pooka does show up, it takes the shape of a gorgeous young man ... who doesn't seem to mind being captured at Aidan's hands.
Ink left his herd to seek out adventure, and he's found it in the form of a devastatingly handsome MED agent. He's always been up for a challenge, and Aidan Callahan is certainly that: gorgeous, powerful, and good at his job. Ink's perfectly happy to let Aidan put a hand -- or an enchanted bridle -- on him, especially with that note of command. It'll be simple and fun, a decadent magical one night stand ... and Ink knows they'll both enjoy it.
But this night isn't simple. Ritual magic and Aidan's own complicated gifts collide, and the family legacy he's been avoiding becomes important, though Aidan's starting to think it isn't as important as keeping Ink in his arms.
"It's been a long night," Aidan said. "I'd rather not arrest you for stealing apples. There'd be paperwork. And I have to be in San Diego to talk to some mermaids about fishing rights tomorrow. Can you just pay for the damn fruit?"
The pooka stretched, showing off every inch. Every extremely impressive inch. "You're welcome to look for any money I might have."
"Tempting --" It was. Oh, it was. "-- but no. You can pay with magic. Orchard blessings. Clear water. Anything that'd restore balance."
"Maybe," the pooka said. "But this one, tonight, wasn't about that."
"What was it about?"
"You don't know? The tradition. The pooka's share. Do you need me to explain?"
"So you're admitting theft."
"I'm not admitting anything. I took something, but it was mine. Or should've been."
Aidan narrowed eyes. "Are you part of a herd? Are there more of you? What would your Lead Mare say about --"
"No." Just that: no. The pooka no longer looked as amused. Ears flatter. Tail, which had been sliding deliciously along one bare leg, frozen.
Touchy subject, then. A history, maybe even some pain. Family-related. Aidan, who could sympathize, said, "Ah. Okay, then. Just you and me. A bargain. Personal. I won't even do it on behalf of the MED. Only myself." A faerie-bargain would be binding; they'd each have to fulfil their promised obligations. Restoring that order, that balance.
What he'd just suggested would make it more intimate, more private, though no less binding. About them, the two people in question. Not official, not representative of anyone else, not carrying that weighty import.
The young man gazed at him. Those ears came back up.
"I mean it," Aidan said. "If it'll get you to agree."
"You didn't ask," the pooka said, "why I don't have a herd."
"Is it any of my business? You don't have to tell me."
"And you offered to make it personal. Whatever'd get me to agree to repayment."
"Whatever would work." That smile -- faerie, youthful, impish -- streaked through the clearing like impossible sun in the crevices of night. "Especially if it's ... personal."
"I'm not sure," Aidan said, "that that ... what you're suggesting ... would be exactly ... ethical. Um. Or something." Vocabulary had become difficult. That smile, and the way the pooka had taken a few steps closer, with an expression that said he knew exactly what effect this was having.
"You want me," the young man said, "and I want you, and you're not commanding me, you're not using magic on me ... you found me, but you didn't trap me. And if you're you, and I'm me, and it's ... personal ..." He paused for a lip-lick. That tongue was swift and left a hint of shine over curving lips. Aidan nearly groaned.
"We might make that part of the bargain," the pooka murmured. "If we both want to. And, for the record, I don't mind being commanded. In ... certain situations."
Aidan's cock was extremely in favor of those situations. His whole body agreed, simmering with awareness. They weren't quite touching, but almost. Aidan himself remained fully clothed, jeans and shirt and jacket and boots. His pooka was naked, right here and so close and not shy about it, beckoning him on. Making him want to leap, to plunge in, to taste mobile plush lips and drink up every sound they let out.
And his pooka wasn't chained, wasn't restrained, was standing here saying words about want and command ... and those wide night-pool eyes were so molten and inviting, promising a challenge and submission, hot and sweet as cinnamon honey ...
"You do like that idea," the young man announced, and dropped to both knees.
Right there at Aidan's feet. Gazing up. Plainly equally aroused, hard and flushed and undeniably male.
"Oh," Aidan said, mostly because he could barely think.
"Oh yes." This came with a small head-tilt, wry and playful. "I want you. I'm not only trying to seduce the MED's sexiest agent, either. I mean I am, of course I am, but I want you. I trust you."
This declaration spilled out into the world. It landed open and honest and genuine: the young man wanted him, and trusted him, and meant it. Had looked at him and seen that: someone to believe in. Someone who'd be compassionate. Who'd hold a given gift in careful hands.
Aidan's world, in the form of an apple orchard and a kneeling faerie-spirit, spun itself around. Became someplace new: someplace where he was that person.