Bad things happen for a reason.
Adam Neive’s expiration date is closer than he would like, and it’s only a matter of time before he loses his position as a Ganymede counter-boy. When a friend helps him secure a part-time job at a whiskey bar, his only thought is to escape the looming shadow of the brothels. He never expected another run-in with the witch Sebastian.
Fourteen months after being booted from his coven, Sebastian has become convinced his brother’s death is connected to the wolves of The Whiskey Den. He just needs Adam’s help to discover how. But things are not always as they seem, and justice is more elusive than expected.
When an announcement from the House of Witches changes everything, Adam will need to choose between life within the safety of the king's Monastery and the uncertainty of the city. While Sebastian will have to decide if his family's honor and the life he thought he had lost forever is worth more than the life he's only begun to realize he wants.
After the doors were locked at two-thirty, and most of the staff had gone home, M had introduced himself, and he and Sebastian had shared a few drinks together at the bar.
M made small talk about the business and his family, and if it hadn’t been obvious to Sebastian that it was all a ploy to get him naked, he would have thought he had the wrong guy. Hugo would have found the conversation tiresome. Too tiresome to wade through for that first quickie.
His brother had never been good at feigning interest in other people’s lives. He’d barely been able to feign interest in the lives of his own siblings. Unless, of course, they crossed some invisible line he’d drawn.
“But enough talk.” M pulled the glass from Sebastian’s hand and smiled. “I have a better idea.”
“Finally. I was beginning to wonder whether you even liked men.”
Sebastian allowed himself to be manhandled -- nudged and nipped -- and expertly herded down the long, dim hall. They pushed through a door and into a dark room, and M flipped on the lights. The walls were lined with nearly empty racks, a few stray coats, left-behinds from who knew when, and a long counter with a set of drawers marked >o?Lost and Found.
The moment he pushed the door closed, M began unbuttoning his shirt, and in moments had discarded it and pulled his T over his head.
Sebastian had to admire his speed, and the expanse of his chest, even if he had no interest at all in the wolf.
“You don’t mind if I smoke, right?” Sebastian pulled out his lighter, as he pretended to search for a cigarette with his other hand.
“No, you don’t.” M swiped it from his fingers and tossed it into the pile of discarded clothes. “No smoking in my place. Ever.”
Well, fuck. That had been his father’s lighter.
“Now take that off. I want to see you.”
Sebastian smiled, taking his time removing his coat and dropping it to the floor as he murmured a few simple words of an incantation, and then reached to splay his fingers over M’s breastbone.
“Not exactly what I had in mind, my little witch.” M grabbed his wrist, stopping him, and spun Sebastian around, pushing him hard against the wall. Empty metal hangers scattered across the floor, and M tugged at the waistband of Sebastian’s pants. “You’re right that we’ve wasted too much time already.”
In other circumstances, Sebastian might have found it a great start to a night. But not like this. Before he’d even thought about it, orange flames sparked from his fingers -- his instinct for survival kicking in -- overriding years of discipline to not reveal himself in public.
Conjured fire was far more powerful than any lighter, so it took only a thought to send M tumbling backward. He slammed hard against the floor, and Sebastian moved fast to press his hand, now wreathed in flames, against the wolf’s muscled chest.
“Tell me what --”
“Shit, shit, M.” A man stood at the door, eyes squeezed shut, mortified. He began backing out of the room but bumped into the doorframe. Sebastian had been so distracted that he hadn’t heard anyone walk in. “I’m so sorry.”
“Adam?” Even after all these months, just seeing him again made Sebastian’s heart pound in his chest.
Adam opened his eyes, this time truly taking in the scene, his gaze landing on where Sebastian’s hand flickered against M’s chest.
“Sebastian? What in the fuck is going on?”
“It’s not what it looks like.” The wolf stirred underneath his hand, and Sebastian focused harder on his spell.
“Really? M wasn’t trying to fuck you in the coatroom?”
“Okay, well maybe it does.”
“Did you drug him?”
“What? No, of course not.” Sebastian knew that for all Adam knew about him, there was no of course about it. “Now hush, so I can concentrate.”
He looked back down at the man under him. Shifters weren’t like humans. Humans were easy to manipulate through magic, but shifters took far more effort.
“I’m calling for help.”
“No, you’re not.” Sebastian didn’t want to have to cast on Adam as well. Not because he wasn’t sure he was strong enough to control both him and the shifter, but because of a whole slew of other reasons he didn’t want to examine. “Tell me about Hugo.”
The wolf’s eyes blinked open, but he didn’t answer.
“My brother came here the night he died. Was it to see you?”
“No.” The wolf shook his head slowly, his eyes vacant as if he was looking right through him. “Hugo.”
“What happened to him?” Sebastian was aware that Adam had moved to his side and knelt to get a closer look. “Who would want him dead?”
“M? Adam? Everything okay?” The call came from somewhere in the bar, and Sebastian and Adam looked at one another.
“Fuck.” They said the word in unison, and Adam pushed up.
“Just grab your coat and go home. If I can buy you time, I will.”