V-Tach has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Now, only the Belmont Stakes stands between him and racing history. But the Test of Champions has defeated many a Triple Crown dream and not all horses finish the trail.
The disappearance of magical horses struck home once with the disappearance of Xanthos. When Achilles “Pat” O’Peleon, Vee’s mate, is stolen, the shifter is determined to track him down, but the odds are against them, and so is the clock, for the day of the Belmont Stakes looms ever closer.
Are the púcca jockey and his racehorse shifter up to the task of finding and freeing the magical horses? Will they make it back to the track in time for the Belmont or will they be forced to abandon their dream in the face of greater need? What price is the pair willing to pay for victory, both on and off the track?
The sun had set hours ago and now only the singing of crickets filled the calm air with sound. To the casual observer, nothing moved out there, as if the world was paused, waiting for the dawn. Pat knew better—the night was alive, a more furtive, frantic life than that of day but just as full.
As he slipped toward the barn, an owl drifted overhead. Pat watched its flight. It was a barn owl, of course. The owl flew on, and after a moment, Pat walked into the barn.
Vee snorted a greeting.
Pat entered the stall and wrapped his arms around Vee’s neck. “You ready, me boyo? I’ve got clothes for you.”
Vee nuzzled him. Is this safe, Pat? Brenden thought it was dangerous for us to change.
“I’ve learned the illusion spell. If anyone looks in your stall, they’ll see you sleeping in the corner. And we’re going to Otherworld. We’ll be safe there.” Pat had it all planned out and was confident in his abilities. He laid out the clothes for Vee and stood back. “Once you shift, I’ll cast the illusion.”
Vee offered no further objections. With a sound like the rustling of leaves in a breeze and a veritable cascade of golden sparkly motes that mostly concealed a yawning void, Vee shifted into human form.
Pat couldn’t help but leer at the drop-dead gorgeous, porn-star, body-builder hunk of a man that was the magic’s rendering of a racing-fit thoroughbred into human terms.
Viktor smiled at him, bold as a jaybird, and reached for the clothes…slowly.
Pat groaned and forced his eyes, and mind, elsewhere. He had to cast the illusion before they got caught. He raised his hands, absently tracing the outline of the figure he imagined, letting wisps of power flow into the lines as he willed the seeming of V-Tach into being. Illusions were disgustingly easy. All it took was a little magic power, the ability to imagine something and concentration. By the time Viktor was dressed, an illusion of a sleeping V-Tach filled the stall precisely as the real horse would have. Pat, who knew every line and bump of his mate’s equine form, had cast a near-perfect replica image.
Viktor looked at the illusion. “That is me?”
“It is. You’re as gorgeous a horse as you are a man.” Pat smiled.
Viktor laughed softly and struck a pose for Pat. “So long as you like what you see.”
“Oh, I do,” Pat told him, coming up beside him and wrapping him in a hug. “I love you, Viktor. I always will.”
“I love you, too, Pat.” Viktor returned the hug, and for several minutes, they just stood there, wrapped in each other’s arms, comfort and love.