Dinner was smelling delicious, the air full of coconut milk and spice as Korin and Ádan came in the front door. It was still a little early; Lily was just getting the bar ready up front while Holli and Verania tended to the food. They all greeted Korin cheerfully, with extra smiles for Ádan as they moved through the kitchen towards the stairs.

It occurred to Korin, they probably knew, or suspected, exactly what he and Ádan were getting up to in Korin’s room. He tested that thought, waiting for the fluttery jolt of panic that had become so ingrained, living in the south.

There was a flare of anxiousness; his heartbeat sped up; his chest tightened. Then it let go. The girls were still smiling, Holli a little flushed as Ádan offered a flirty compliment. If they knew—and how could they not?—they didn’t care.

Without noticing, he’d clenched his hands into a tight fist. Korin forced himself to relax. So many things were different here; he was still getting used to it all. So many things that he’d worried about all his life, and now…

They climbed the stairs to Korin’s tiny room. It might not be much, compared to the underground mansion that belonged to Ádan and his friends. The wizard-knight safehouse that, even in its decay was more opulent than anyplace Korin had ever been made welcome.

But this was his. Korin’s space, night after night after night. Where he was welcomed. Where it was assumed he would come home to. Where he could have a guest whenever he liked.

Ádan toed the door closed behind him and Korin turned to slide into Ádan’s arms, to resume the kiss they’d begun at the palace.

Ádan’s hands slid up Korin’s back to wrap around his shoulders and cup the back of his head. Ádan’s lips were soft, a relaxed, searching kiss that Korin was happy to surrender to.

It was nice to be able to relax. The first time he and Ádan had been together—well, first times were always fraught. The second time had been after he’d found out the truth about Ádan, still dazed and reeling from all that had happened that day. And the third time, night before last, he’d been so desperate to see Ádan again after his weeks away, he hadn’t been of a mind to take anything slow. Tonight, though, for the first time, Korin felt no rush, no fear.

It was a new experience, and not just with Ádan. It wasn’t like he and Jonathan had ever had more than stolen moments, rushed and urgent. What would it have been like if Jon had been able to come to Triome with Korin?

Which was an awkward thought to have in the middle of kissing someone else. Korin pulled back, suddenly unsure.

Ádan’s arms loosened enough to give Korin space, but didn’t let go. “You’re thinking deep thoughts,” he said softly, brushing his fingers lightly back through Korin’s hair.

“I can’t seem to stop myself.”

“It’s all right. I like it when you think.” His soft smile spread into a bright grin. “I like it when you do just about anything.”

Ádan moved towards the bed and Korin let himself be drawn along. They settled side-by-side, backs against the wall, and Ádan put an arm around Korin’s shoulder, pulling him close. “Anything you want to talk about?”

Not about Jon. How could Korin even be thinking about Jon? Jon wasn’t here, and if he had been—would Korin trade away Ádan? What kind of a thought even was that? Nothing he could say to Ádan, certainly. So he flailed back to the earlier line. “It’s weird for me, being here with you,” at Ádan’s sardonic raised eyebrow, Korin hurried on, “and not being worried about anything. Nothing hanging over us. No threat or fear or need to rush.”

A shadow flickered through Ádan’s expression, quickly banished. But not so fast Korin didn’t catch it. “What?” he asked.

Ádan shook his head. “It’s nothing.” At Korin’s disbelieving look, his fingers tightened, pulling Korin closer. “Okay, not nothing. Just…an impossibility.”

Korin fought down another burst of fear. “What’s impossible?”

Ádan leaned his head down to rest his forehead against Korin’s. His answer was delivered in a murmur. “I wish I could promise—that I could be that man who could say it will always be like this. That there will never be any threat or rush or…” He trailed off, closing his eyes.

Korin tilted his head to brush light kisses across Ádan’s eyelids. “I don’t want you to be that man or any other man. I want you to be you.”

Ádan’s words were a bare whisper. “You can’t deny things would be easier if I’d been the person I was pretending to be.”

They hadn’t talked about this. By unspoken agreement, they’d avoided the topic while Korin was healing. Then Ádan had been away. Everything that hung in the air between them—Ádan’s deception, the fact he was a knight, the power he was tied to, a guardian of.

The power that Korin was dreaming of. That might actually be reaching out to Korin, whispering to him in the night. But Korin really wasn’t ready to talk about that.

“The one thing I can’t deny is how I feel about you. I don’t want you to be different because then you wouldn’t be you, Ádan. And Ádan is the person I want to be here with.”


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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