[Siren Epic Romance, ManLove: Erotic Alternative Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, M/M, shape-shifters, fae, HEA]
What is the value of a law long considered obsolete? How does one decision affect the course of the entire history?
Most people never get the chance to find out, but Phoenix and Rachen do. Much to their dismay, they find themselves in a reality torn apart. The draechen emperor, Shtamakarein Tersain, rules the world with an iron fist, but he doesn’t realize his mate is the man he considers his worst foe, Sari. His brother Hareematek hunts the nearly extinct werewolves, not knowing that his other half is among them. The entire world—paranormal and human—is at war.
Phoenix now faces the hardest decision of all—having to choose between the life of his mate and that of countless others. And when his powers disappear, the situation grows even more hopeless.
Will love be enough to fix the broken bonds? Can the world be reborn from the ashes, or will it collapse into ruins of a mutated history?
NOTE! You are purchasing Siren's newest imprint, the Siren Epic Romance collection. This is the final book in the Chronicles of the Shifter Directive series. The series shares an overall story arc with many crossover characters playing major roles in each book. These books are not stand-alone and should be read in their numbered order.
A Siren Erotic Romance
Scarlet Hyacinth is a Siren-exclusive author.
" 'What if the Directive hadn't been created? Would the world have been better, freer? Would cooperation between the paranormal species have spawned naturally? Or had the Directive been an alternative for something even worse?' Oh wow...I can hardly believe I'm at the final book. And I have to admit that I read the blurb before I read the book. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes it isn't. This time it was good. For you see, I'm not a big fan of the whole alternate reality when it's messing up a world I already love. Don't get me wrong, I love an entire book/series based on fantasy and alternate reality, but in 'From the Ashes', Scarlet Hyacinth took my world and jumbled it all up, so the people who were supposed to be together weren't, and I was holding my breath through the reading, waiting until everything got straightened out again. If you've done what I strongly recommended, then you've read this series in order. So you know that at the end of the previous book, the Ancient Horror tried to steal and use all of Phoenix's powers, which are considerable. Rachen managed to trap the Ancient Horror inside himself and then Rachen died. I know, right? It was agony. Phoenix in his grief did something using earth's energy, and all of a sudden Rachen was alive next to him, the draechen guards were confusing Rachen with his twin, Karein, and then Karein showed up with Caelyn? What? No. No. No. No. I won't stand for it, I said. So, you can imagine my trepidation when I opened up this book. In this crazy, mixed-up world, the Great Sacrifice never happened, the Directive doesn't exist, Karein is emperor, Caelyn is his consort, Hareem is general for the draechen troops, werewolves apparently no longer exist, Karein has been at war with the sprites, and Sari, his mother and father, are Karein's greatest enemies and on the run. Plus, a whole lot more. Now do you understand my upset? Every page I turned I was waiting for it to be put back to rights, for Phoenix to figure out what he did and fix it. I'm telling you, it was a nail biter. Yikes. Especially since these new incarnations of my favorite characters could sense something missing, something just out of reach...oh, it was frustrating. If you're thinking I'm going to tell you...think again. I have been consistently impressed with the author's writing throughout this series and this final book is no exception. In fact, I'm stunned by the intricacies of the story and how she brought all the pieces together in one seamless, flowing manner. The author could've taken the predictable and easy route, but she didn't. She definitely didn't. Instead what I got was this finale with bits and pieces of each reality woven together into a tapestry that, literally, knocked me off of my feet. I cried through more than one moment and it was heartbreaking, but it was also cleansing, much like Phoenix's fire. As a devoted reader of paranormal stories, particularly shifters and magical creatures, I can honestly say that this is one of the best series I've ever read. Read it. You won't regret it." -- Christy Duke, Rainbow Book Reviews
The first time Rachen had stepped onto Draechenburg soil on his own feet, he’d experienced a strange sensation of wrongness. Countless times, he had walked through the Draechenburg halls, but he’d been in his brother’s body. Taking it in with his own senses was different.
He felt that way now, like he was somewhere familiar, yet very foreign. The sky seemed bluer and the air crisper. Rachen would have blamed it on his near-death experience, but that really didn’t explain his brother’s peculiar behavior.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing in my palace?” Karein asked, staring straight at Rachen.
Rachen stared right back, unable to believe his ears. “Karein, what is this all about? What do you mean? And what are you doing with Caelyn?”
Karein narrowed his eyes at Rachen. “I have no idea what kind of game you’re playing here, stranger.” He turned toward Phoenix and glared. “And you. I’ve already settled things with Elusia. I don’t want sprites in Draechenburg. You’re trespassing. I don’t care whose son you are. I can and will throw you in jail. I’m not amused by you playing with illusions that look like me.”
Rachen couldn’t understand anything anymore. Had the world gone completely mad? By his side, Phoenix remained deathly silent, his mind whirling as he attempted to figure out an explanation to these developments.
For his part, Rachen clearly remembered summoning the full extent of his abilities. He distinctly recalled feeling his blood boil and his body finally surrendering to the overwhelming pain. At one point, everything had gone black, and then, the next thing he knew he was on the cliffside with his mate.
It was more than obvious that they had to address the issue somehow. Still hoping that this was a huge misunderstanding, Rachen said, “Karein, we seriously need to talk to you in private. This is important.”
Karein shot him a disbelieving look. “You must be joking. Guards…”
His voice trailed off as his glance fixed on Phoenix again. For a few moments, he didn’t say anything at all. One draechen soldier finally dared to ask, “Your Imperial Majesty?”
At that, Karein seemed to snap out of his trance. “Accompany our guests to a cell. I believe they’ll find that coming into Draechenburg uninvited is a bad idea.” He hummed thoughtfully, scanning Phoenix from head to toe. “On second thought, take the sprite to my quarters. I want a word in private with him.”
Rachen didn’t like the way Karein was looking at his mate at all. He took a step forward, shielding his lover from sight. Phoenix still seemed in shock, and he barely even acknowledged Karein’s comment at all. That lack of reaction worried Rachen, a lot.
Nevertheless, he had no intentions of allowing anyone to touch his mate. He had no idea what had happened and why his brother was acting like this, but until he figured it out, he’d guide himself following one very simple rule. Protect Phoenix.
“Over my dead body,” he said.
“If you insist, I assure you that can be arranged,” Karein shot back.
At that, Phoenix finally recovered from his shock. “No, it can’t.” He dropped to his knees and pressed a hand to the rock. Rachen just watched his mate, waiting for Phoenix to figure out exactly how fucked they were.
He sensed Phoenix’s connection to the earth, but oddly, it didn’t feel as strong as before. Phoenix released a lost little sound, obviously not understanding any of it either.
The guards didn’t seem to care much about Phoenix and Rachen’s opinion on Karein’s command. They fanned all around Rachen and his mate, surrounding the couple like a particularly malevolent cloud.
Rachen attempted to shield his mate with his own body. He’d eagerly sacrifice himself for his mate if need be. He’d done so once before, and he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. In truth, he had no idea what in the world could determine his brother to act like this. He considered changing shapes and attacking them, but he was vastly outnumbered, and Phoenix seemed very weak.
As the draechen soldiers gathered around them, Phoenix got up once more. Going around Rachen, he faced Karein and Caelyn. “Please tell us,” he whispered. “Where is Imperial Consort Sareltae? I’d very much like to speak to him.”
His voice trembled, a million thoughts rushing through his mind and into his connection with Rachen. Karein’s glare grew even fiercer. “Sareltae?” he repeated, as if in disbelief. “An Imperial Consort? If you’re referring to the person I think you are, you truly have no sense of self-preservation.”
Karein’s eyes started to glow with interest once again when he took in Phoenix’s body. Since Rachen and Phoenix had been in shifted form, they were both naked. While normally, neither of them was too self-conscious, the appreciative look in Karein’s eyes changed that.
Caelyn tensed visibly. “Your Imperial Majesty, I humbly request an audience with you,” he told Karein.
“Perhaps later on, Caelyn,” Karein said. “Come now. Go to your quarters.”
Caelyn’s shoulders slumped. He turned to go, and once again, Rachen was stricken by the wrongness of the dynamic between them. Then again, nothing was quite as strange as Karein’s reaction upon hearing Sari’s name.
Karein was supposed to beam sappily. His gaze was supposed to go distant as he spoke with Sari through their mate bond. More importantly, he was supposed to be at Sari’s side, with his arm wrapped possessively around the fae’s pregnant belly.
There had to be someone here that had preserved sanity. “Is Hareem here?” Rachen asked, all the while doing his best to shield his mate’s nudity from sight. “Kaelezrin?”
The ancient warrior would surely be able to talk some sense into Karein. Kael had survived death and come back after centuries of being trapped in a damn obelisk. Surely, he must have some idea as to what craziness seemed to have gripped Draechenburg.
Camden melted in his embrace, wrapping his arms around Sage and releasing soft gasps of pleasure. Sage took Camden up on his invitation and devoured his mate’s mouth. Camden’s forked tongue met his, and pleasure shot down Sage’s spine upon experiencing the distinctive feel of Camden’s kiss.
Sadly, Camden was still dressed, which dissatisfied Sage a great deal. Well, that was a problem that could be easily fixed. In one simple motion, Sage tore off Camden’s shirt, his claws slashing at the material and reducing it to scraps. He discarded the remnants of the garment on the floor and went on to caress every inch of silky skin he’d uncovered, never once giving up on the kiss.
He was instantly drawn to his mate’s nipples, which had already peaked, as if demanding Sage’s attention. As he swirled his tongue inside Camden’s wet cavern, he tweaked and rubbed those naughty bits of flesh, swallowing Camden’s whimpers as the young naga expressed his excitement for Sage’s ministrations.
He only tore his mouth away from Camden’s for that exact same reason, because Camden’s muffled moans were quickly driving him wild with need. His dragon roared inside him, demanding that he claim the young naga in every way.
“Yes,” Camden gasped out, tilting his head back in a beautiful gesture of submission. “Yes, please. Sage…”
Sage released a low growl at the sinful sight of his mate offering himself to him. He shoved Camden against a nearby couch and climbed on top of his mate, already reaching for Camden’s pants.
Distantly, he acknowledged that this was hardly the time, or the place, to engage in sexual interaction with his mate, but throughout his life, Sage had learned something very important. He had to seize the moment, to enjoy every second he had with Camden, because no one ever knew what would come next. It could very easily be peace, or it could be another even more destructive war. With the differences between them, there were countless things that fought to separate them on a regular basis. If he’d managed to steal a few moments away from the rest of the group, by the Overlords, he would use them to make love to Camden.
He had every intention to tear Camden’s trousers like he had with the naga’s shirt, but some part of him recalled that they weren’t exactly in their private quarters and didn’t have Camden’s full wardrobe at their disposal. At the last moment, he pulled back and summoned all the training and discipline that had been engrained in every fiber of his being from a very young age.
For once, being an ice dragon came in handy. He managed to rein in his passion, or rather, to buy himself some time. He used it to remove Camden’s shoes and throw them onto the floor. After that, he went on to unbutton Camden’s pants. His mouth watered as his fingers brushed over Camden’s dick, and he truly had no idea how he managed to continue with his plan.
He did note that frost was starting bloom down the couch, avoiding Camden, but advancing more and more, a proof of Sage’s mounting arousal. Camden liked to compare Sage to a blizzard, and maybe he was exactly that. Fortunately, his magic couldn’t hurt the young naga, so Sage allowed it to flow out of him, knowing that Camden actually liked it when Sage let go.
In response, Camden reached for him, too, trying to disrobe Sage with frantic hands, and mostly failing. A few buttons flew as Sage’s shirt finally ripped. That sound almost seemed a switch, since what little control Sage had managed to muster snapped.
He pulled off Camden’s pants and tossed them away, too, uncaring where they landed or if he’d ripped them. At this point, his full focus was on Camden. His mate had chosen to go commando, perhaps anticipating that they’d end up fucking eventually. The end result was that Sage literally froze in awed lust at the sight of his naked mate, laying there, his face flushed, his dick leaking copious amounts of pre-cum. He was practically begging to be ravaged, and Sage proceeded to do exactly that.
It was hard to choose between what he wanted to touch and taste most. In the end, he picked the tight little buds that had drawn his attention earlier. As he lowered his mouth to Camden’s left nipple, he snaked his hand between their bodies, gripping Camden’s hard prick into his fist.
Camden arched against him, his arms tightening around Sage as he tried to thrust into Sage’s hold. “Oh, Varuna… Sage…”
Sage smirked around the bit of flesh in his mouth, all the while rubbing his thumb over the leaking tip of his mate’s dick. But Camden needed more, and so did Sage. He released his mate’s nipple with a wet pop and licked down Camden’s chest and abdomen, until he finally reached his prize.
Camden’s hand buried itself in Sage’s hair, guiding him, and Sage accepted his mate’s silent command. He took Camden’s prick into his mouth, groaning as the flavor of the naga’s pre-cum hit his taste buds.
The vibrations made Camden shiver with pleasure, and that very same ecstasy echoed into Sage. He took it as encouragement, and he bobbed his head up and down Camden’s cock a few more times. After that, he changed the pace, wriggling his tongue around the slit instead, or tracing Camden’s dick with the slick muscle.
He continued his sensual torture of his lover, making Camden writhe under him. Of course, by doing so, he was tormenting himself, too. Through their connection, he experienced every sensation Camden did, both his rapture at the wet heat enveloping his prick, and his desperate need for more. It was sweet agony, a drug that Sage had become addicted to after a single taste and that he never wanted to give up.