Todd Ruger is a sentry, a very good one, some might say the best. He was eleven when he and Nick were bound as master and slave. Todd spent the years Nick lived in the slave village waiting for the day Nick could leave and they’d be together, bit by bit building a life for both of them. He took his role of master seriously. It was his responsibility to provide for Nick, protect him and along the way he learned to love him. Todd loved Nick deeply and completely. They were more than a pair of sentries. Todd and Nick were friends, lovers, mates.
Eighteen months ago, Nick left the small village where he’d spent his entire life being raised and trained as a slave. Blessed with a unique skill set, Nick became a sentry. He took his place beside his master, Todd Ruger, defending society against the many paranormal threats that abound. They became more than master and slave, they became mates. Nick had found a home with Todd and together they became a family. Eventually, Nick’s special abilities and skills attract the attention of the second most powerful man in New Colorado Protectorate’s government, Vice Chancellor Clarke. Or, maybe certain people knew of Nick all along and just now had cause to use him. He believes Nick might be the answer to explaining Chancellor Shaffer’s sudden, unusual behavior.
Forced to go undercover the Chancellor’s Estate, Todd and Nick discover an ancient and deadly creature preying on residents of the estate. The same creature that is radically effecting Chancellor Shaffer. A creature only Nick can see in its true form. It hunts using specialized skills and has Todd and Nick in its crosshairs. Even if they defeat the creature and survive, they still face the possibility of being torn from each other when their lives are thrown into chaos by the thing they’re hunting.
Gaze flicking up for an instant, Nick swallowed the gasp when he got a look at the chancellor’s face. Again it morphed from human to something else. Shaffer shifted his weight back, brought one arm up, and the next thing Nick felt was the sting of the back of Shaffer’s hand across his face. The blow jerked his head to the side and sent him tumbling off balance to the floor.
Clamping his lips shut against the defiant snarl of “My master will kill you” that was pushing to spill out, Nick bit his lip and pulled his legs under him so he was kneeling, not sprawled over the floor.
“You do have a problem with that, don’t you, boy?”
“You startled me. I’m sorry.”
Shaffer snorted, crossed his arms over his chest, and paced around so he was at Nick’s back. Leaning in close, he spoke next to Nick’s ear. It was all Nick could do to keep from jumping and flinching away from the hot, fetid breath and low voice. “You’ll have to work on that, Nick.”
Nick closed his eyes slowly and tried to suppress the shiver working down his spine. The fact that Shaffer -- it -- knew his name started his insides churning. A strong hand clamped around his neck and tugged. Obediently, Nick stood, hands at his sides, staring at the floor.
He hadn’t been struck since he was seventeen, not like that. Todd never hit him in that manner, and he’d learned young how to avoid it from the tutors in his village. In the time he’d been with Todd, probably eighty-five percent of his physical contact with another human was from Todd. Very occasionally, Jimmy would give him a hug or a pat on the shoulder, but Nick was happy being off-limits to anyone but Todd. His master never pressed the issue or forced him into unwanted contact with others.
Being backhanded by Shaffer unnerved and incensed him all at the same time.
Far off in the distance, lightning streaked the sky, making its color intensify for a few brief seconds before settling back to deep purple.
Shaffer gave him a shove, and Nick stumbled before coming to a hard stop face-first against a wall. A low, distant roar of thunder reverberated through the building and into Nick’s chest, making every muscle clench. Shutting his eyes tight, Nick forced his mind to focus on the picture of Todd he thought up and hoped this creature that was Shaffer couldn’t read minds.
He felt more than heard Shaffer move in behind him. The creature trailed a pointed finger across Nick’s shoulders, making his muscles go tense and rigid. Leaning in until his chest barely brushed Nick’s back, Shaffer dipped his head and brushed his nose up Nick’s neck and over his cheek, inhaling deeply. “I can smell your master or mistress, whichever it is, on you.” Another deep inhale. “Ah, master, male, virile, his scent is as intoxicating as yours. You’re no orphan. Why are you here?”
Jerking in a sharp breath, Nick scrunched his eyelids tighter against the horrible image of Shaffer’s real face. “My master died.”
Shaffer’s laugh was low, hot air blown against the skin along the back of Nick’s neck, just under his hair, making a few strands ruffle and then settle against his skin again. “Not yet. His scent is all over you, and it’s fresh. That was no spur of the moment tryst.” He pressed his body to Nick’s, rubbing against Nick and blowing out a deep moan that was pure desire. A long, thick, pointed tongue darted out of Shaffer’s mouth and slithered over Nick’s jawline. “I can taste him on your skin, and so much as mentioning him amplifies the scent you give off. It’s quite delightful.”
Nick tried turning his face away, but Shaffer’s hand came up and clamped against his head, holding him in place. His other hand moved around and reached between Nick’s legs, long, pointed finger stroking along the groove where hip met groin. Spikes of cold, raw fear shot through Nick, radiating out from his spine.
“Not interested, boy?” His hand moved to Nick’s inner thigh and Shaffer squeezed.
“Please ... don’t ...” Nick whispered, begging.
A finger trailed through his hair and scraped lightly over his scalp. “Never been with anyone but him, have you?” Nick shivered when its tongue crept down and under the top of Nick’s tunic to slime over his shoulder, another luxurious inhale. “Hmmm ... makes you taste so good, smell so good when you think of his hands, not mine, on you. Lucky me, I’ve found a nice young bonded pair, twice the pleasure.”