Raziel has watched each of his guardian brothers find their mate knowing that while Toby is his own, the time for them to meet hasn't been right. When that time finally arrives and Raziel has Toby wrapped in his arms, he can't shake the feeling that their time together will be fleeting.
Nothing in Toby's life has been by his own choice since the moment Denzel ripped him from his mother's womb. Now that Denzel is dead and Eydan is in charge, nothing has changed. All he has ever wanted has been to find his mate and have a place to call home, but fate has set his path in a different direction.
Visions have shown Toby what he must do to stop the war, but they have also revealed a truth that he has kept from everyone, especially his mate. He wants to be held, to experience the touch of his mate's skin and the softness of his lips just once before giving in to his destiny. While Toby is the only person who can end the shadowkin plague that threatens Preter, to do so, he must sacrifice it all...
It was funny how the slow drip, drip, drip, of water from somewhere behind Toby could be comforting. It was certainly better than complete silence, and a definite improvement over listening to the snores and grunts the shadowkin made while they slept. The voluminous rumble of their snores as it reverberated around the tunnel walls was nearly deafening. During the daytime, when they left the mineshaft Eydan had stuffed them all in, Toby was thankful to be left in peace. Well, apart from that continual dripping, of course. That just gave him something to focus on, instead of letting his mind drift to desperate or morbid thoughts.
The shadowkin numbers had once reached into the several thousand. Now less than five hundred had survived their last encounter with the guardian and council forces. Toby hadn’t been allowed to be part of the battle, of course, but his thoughts had been with the guardians, praying they decimated each and every one of the bastards who had been part of his life since birth.
Denzel had often boasted about how he had stabbed Toby’s mother in the stomach with a syringe of his own blood, and then held her down as she screamed in the resulting premature labor while Toby’s father was restrained and forced to watch. How he’d pulled Toby from her womb the moment his head had appeared and cut the cord with a dirty dagger he kept strapped to his thigh, spiriting Toby through a portal before his mother had even touched him. Denzel would laugh at how he had left her bleeding to death while Toby’s father tried in vain to save her. From that horrific moment Toby’s life had been Denzel’s to command.
Now that the shadow elf leader was dead, Eydan had claimed Toby for himself. It didn’t matter. Eydan had gotten to Toby many times behind Denzel’s back, and Toby had learned the hard way not to bother trying to tell his asshole of a parental figure—if that was what you could call Denzel. The man had been a monster, but at least he never did more than beat or starve Toby. No, all the really bad things Toby had suffered had been at the hands of Eydan, and now there was nobody to stand in the way of his depravity...nobody at all. It was only a matter of time before Eydan paused in his efforts to gather more power and turned his interest Toby’s way again.
Toby had no idea what Eydan was doing, but he went out each day for a few hours and came back in a worse mood than when he had left. Except for today. Eydan came out of the elevator, grinning like a loon as his usual handful of mages trailed behind him. They upended a sack onto a crate Eydan had been using as a table since dragging them all into this hole in the ground. It had contained an odd assortment of objects, and the men grinned as they poked and prodded through it all.
The mine had been deserted for more years than Toby cared to think about, the elevator entrance overgrown with vegetation and only visible if you knew where to look, not that it would do anyone looking for it any good. The mages had placed a glamour over the entrance, and unless you knew where to look, you would miss it.
Eydan had pulled its whereabouts from the mind of an elderly farmer before he handed the old man over to his beasts for a quick meal on the go. They had been hiding within its depths since they had left the farm a couple of weeks before.
Eydan and the mages carefully arranged the objects on the crate. Candles, herbs, a few colorful stones of some kind, and a couple of jars of things that looked like they were once attached to other living things. Toby shuddered at the sight. At least they didn’t look like they were human.
Toby would have loved to have gone outside and felt the sun on his face for even a few moments. Being shackled to a support beam in one corner, the only sunlight he received came through a few cracks high up on the wall that allowed just a few slivers through. It was Toby’s only way of judging time, and from the way they had turned from bright yellow to pale blue he knew the sun had set and night had fallen. Eydan and his inner circle seemed oblivious to time as they prepared for some sort of ceremony, stopping only occasionally to refer through the pages of one of their worn tomes.
None of the men even glanced Toby’s way. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that one of the shadowkin had been so old when he was transformed that he didn’t even have teeth anymore, Toby wouldn’t even get fed or watered. The man—well at least he had been a man before Denzel himself had transformed the farmer—shuffled around the mineshaft, performing any small menial tasks Eydan demanded, and generally staying close to Toby. It was strange, as if there remained a trace of the man from before who felt drawn to Toby, or perhaps sympathized with his position within the horde. Whatever it was, Toby didn’t mind, and the man-beast never growled or snarled his way. He simply delivered Toby a fabric-wrapped parcel of food and a refilled bottle of water a couple of times a day, which was far more frequently than he had been fed under Denzel’s command.