Soul Familiar (Collection)
by Kate Steele
eBook BIN: 06121-01965
My name is Alex Layton and I’m a soul familiar. What’s a soul familiar? Witches and wizards use familiars to enhance their powers. Soul familiars become not only partners with their chosen mates — we bond with our partners, heart, body, mind, and soul.
I’ve found my soul mate, but to keep him, we face a challenge. Magical combat designed to test our bond and its strength. If we pass, we live happily ever after. If we lose… let’s just say I refuse to lose. All we have to deal with is the powerful and practiced duo consisting of a fellow soul familiar and his mate who are gunning for us, and one accident of nature whose erratic powers are making our spells produce daffodils instead of dragons.
Tyler Montgomery and I have run out of time. If we win, our bond becomes permanent. If we lose, we are separated forever. With options like those, fate had better watch her ass.
The Soul Familiar collection contains the previously published novellas Lucky Dog, Unpredictable, and Fated.
“Are those facing challenge ready to begin?”
I turned my head, my gaze locking on the most beautiful, violet-blue eyes I’d ever seen. Should other eyes somehow manage to outshine them, I would never notice. These are the eyes that see me as friend, as partner, as lover. The eyes of my soul mate, Tyler Montgomery. In answer to my unspoken question, he nodded his head. There was confidence and determination writ large in his regard, not to mention something even more precious to me at this moment. A level of warmth, trust, and caring bestowed on me and unsurpassed by the efforts of any other living being. I returned his gift full measure, then gave my attention back to the Council of Elders and replied in a voice that rang with conviction, a voice echoed by that of my lover.
Eight hours earlier…
It all felt so good. The firm mattress beneath me. The firmer body that blanketed me from above. Tyler’s mouth was fused to mine, his tongue doing a unique, twisting, sensual dance in my mouth that shut my brain functions down while heightening the sensations of every other nerve ending in my body. Arms looped around my shoulders and neck, he undulated against me, bare skin sliding across bare skin, our taut muscles flexing in a mutual, lazy rhythm as we tried to absorb each other.
My hands were full of sculpted yet plump flesh. Tyler’s ass. Those smooth cheeks tensed and released within the curve of my palms each time he ground himself against me. Our hard cocks were sandwiched between our bellies, and I could feel the flinty buds of his aroused nipples boring into my chest just as I’m sure he could feel mine. Roiling rivers of sensation flowed from the top of my head to my toes and back, or perhaps it was just the hot rush of blood pouring through my veins. At times like these, such things are not always clear. I do know for sure that my heart was pounding and my lungs were laboring as I poured each life-giving breath into my lover and took his in return.
My need continued to rise with every passing second, the fire in my loins burning, my cock aching to be buried within him, but I held on, held off, wanting this to last and last and last. I needed him, needed Tyler with every ounce of desire, passion, and love I possessed. He was my all, my everything, and I knew, even as we tried desperately to crawl inside one another, that in a matter of hours it could all be over.
That fleeting thought swept through me, rousing a torrent of enraged denial. With a mindless growl, I bucked and twisted. Rolling Tyler beneath me, with a flurry of movements more instinctual than reasoned, I physically joined us. Fully, completely. His tight entrance — already lubed and ready — softened to ease my way in, and the hot, moist chamber that awaited within molded itself to my burrowing shaft. Gasping for air, I voiced my defiance aloud, a harsh, rasping promise to any and every power in the universe.
“Never. Never, never, never, never! I will never let him go. Do you hear me? Never.”
“I hear you,” Tyler answered, his own voice rusty and hoarse. “And so does whoever else you’re standing up to. I’m not going anywhere. Not now. Not ever. Now give it to me, Alex. Everything. All of you. Fuck me. Fill me up.”
Tyler’s desperate plea got me moving. Following the mating dictates of nature ingrained into every male since time began, I pumped my hips, thrusting my cock deep within the sheath of his velvety passage.
At first it was just me, alone in the knowledge of my feelings, my sensations, my impressions of what transpired between us, but with each stroke the barriers between us weakened. Tyler’s consciousness bled into mine. Ethereal tendrils, born of Tyler’s essence, wrapped around my sense of self, sinking their roots into me until we were no longer two separate entities, but one. One spirit, one soul, one body joined and experiencing every touch, every sound, every taste and smell created by our lovemaking.
Not only did I feel my hands touching his skin, I felt his skin being touched. Just as breath left my lungs, I sensed it warm and caress the flesh of his throat as though his throat was my own. As friction brushed across my tongue and pressure was exerted against my teeth, I experienced the wet caress across his shoulder and the sharp pleasurable pain of my bite as it dug into his muscle.
What was his became mine, and mine his. All the pleasure, passion, doubt, desperation, joy, excitement, need and desire was ours, magnified twofold into one gigantic, tumultuous bubble of existence. Instinct alone kept me moving, that and a lust so pure and sweet it demanded fulfillment. I thrust into my lover again and again and though it was I who fucked him, I, in turn felt penetrated, taken, fucked, hard and fast and deep.
The need to come morphed from a niggling craving to a full-fledged ravenous hunger. It gnawed at our bellies, the multiple stabs of its razor sharp teeth sending bright, glowing streams of lava-like heat shooting up our spines and into our balls until it erupted in a flood of hot seed that raced the lengths of our cocks, bursting free to drench the tight sleeve of Tyler’s passage and the slim space between our torsos.
Our cries rang out in unison; our bodies shuddered and jerked. Our orgasm washed over us in a tsunami that sent us tumbling into a maelstrom of near-agonizing pleasure. It blanked our minds and vision with the sheer power of its being, holding us in what seemed an endless stasis of bliss.
As much as we’d like such experiences to last, they don’t. Gradually our climax relinquished its total dominion over us and ebbed away. What remained were two men, exhausted, sated, boneless, and entangled together in a stunned yet oh-so-satisfied heap.
Tyler was the first to stir, his hand rubbing my back. “You’re hot when you’re defiant,” he teased with a husky rasp.
I managed a snort of amusement. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, and I love you, you know. That’s never gonna change.”
“Same here,” I answered. “I wish I could come up with something more profound, but I guess that says it all.”
“It’s more than enough,” Tyler softly replied then sighed. “Shall we get cleaned up?”
“Not yet. This is one time I don’t mind being sweaty and covered with cum.”
“Don’t complain if you wake up and we have to peel ourselves apart.”
“I won’t. If you knew I’d been considering sealing us together with superglue you’d know how unlikely I’d be to complain about something like that.”
“Are you that worried?”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but I have confidence in us. I know my own abilities and I’ve watched you grow into yours over the past few months. We have everything we need to win this contest, including the motivation.”
“Especially the motivation,” Tyler emphasized.
I closed my eyes. I believe I dozed as often as I lay there awake and aware of every nuance of my surroundings. My thoughts drifted in random patterns, never really settling in one place, which gave me ample time to enjoy the sensory impressions I wallowed in. The bedroom windows were open. The air that drifted in brought the scent of dirt and grass and ozone. It had rained a few hours earlier. I always love how the rain intensifies the outdoor, earthy scents.
Inside, the aromas were even more to my liking. Male sweat and cum times two. Wafting on the warm and slightly humid air, it was an invisible haze of musk that surrounded us, concrete evidence of the sex we’d indulged in. You know, cleanliness has its place, and I’m all for it. I shower every day, but there are times, especially like this, when the pheromones emitted by the body’s natural secretions satisfy some primitive need. It cements the bonds between mates. Who else would tolerate and even enjoy your b.o.?
As the few remaining hours before our fate would be decided passed, Tyler and I made the bed our haven. There were lazy strokes of fingers against warm skin and firm muscle, languorous kisses and softly murmured words. We didn’t talk about the love we had for each other but rather simple things: places we’d like to go; the new recipe for chicken marsala Tyler wanted to try; my burgeoning interest in earning a pilot’s license. Even as we dozed we touched, never losing contact with one another, until inevitably, by mutual consent, we left the fragile sanctuary we’d constructed.
Though we showered together, we kept it strictly to the business of getting clean. Afterwards, we did all those other little chores that people do when morning comes and they ready themselves to face the world. Each act drove away the last wisps of the languid haze we’d wrapped ourselves in and served to sharpen our awareness. We chose to wear simple, comfortable clothes. There was no need or desire to impress anyone with our fashionable wardrobe, only the strength of our magic. After tucking his shirt in and zipping up his jeans, Tyler stood with his gaze on our rumpled bed.
“Should we change the sheets and make it up before we go?”
“Leave it. We’ll do it when we get back.” No way was I going to tell him that it was a just-in-case measure on my part.
If something went wrong, I was going to need those dirty sheets. Our essences were mixed together on that cotton fabric, and if the Council tried to separate us, I had a plan to try and cheat their decree. Would it work? I didn’t have a clue, but I knew I’d try everything in my power to bring us back together if by some horrible twist of fate we lost today. If there’s one thing that can be said about me, it’s that I’m stubborn, and I don’t take kindly to those who would try to dictate my life or that of my soul mate.
Neither one of us was particularly hungry. Instead of food, we drank strong cups of dark Colombian coffee for an added burst of caffeine-induced energy. Kohe joined us. The little gargoyle didn’t drink coffee, but he scarfed down a couple of bananas and an apple. Before leaving, he fixed those big brown eyes on each of us in turn and gently patted our cheeks before disappearing. Me he gave an especially long look.
My ally was silently telling me he was prepared. No matter how the day’s events might unfold or how the Council might tamper with my or Tyler’s memories if we should lose, they couldn’t touch Kohe. He was my ace in the hole. My own little supernatural flash drive, if you will. If needed, Kohe would open the deleted files and do a system restore on my memory. I’m not particularly computer savvy, but even I know it’s a smart move to back up your data.
“We can’t lose now,” I said with a smile. “What would our baby do without his mommy and daddy?”
“And just which one of us is the mommy?”
“Well, your hair is longer than mine.”
Tyler gave me the evil eye. “Just wait till we get back.” He brought his mouth to my ear. “I’m gonna do things to you no mommy ever could.”
“Ooo, daddy. Bring it on.”
It was weak banter, but we managed creditable smiles.
“Ready?” I asked. We knew there was no more time to linger.
“Let’s do it.”
With a nod, I summoned a portal. It formed before us, a nimbus of light with darkness at its center and a synchronized step forward took us into the ether corridor. In seconds we arrived at our destination, the stage that would serve as the battleground for our magical combat.
It was actually quite a beautiful, peaceful place. I’d been here before in this open meadow, surrounded by a forest of trees. It was just as I remembered it. The grass was lush and green and wildflowers abounded. Here and there were outcroppings of boulders and a wide, beautifully sparkling river diagonally bisected the open field. I had once told Tyler during one of our training sessions that using natural elements to perform magic were the ideal and this place provided plenty of everything we needed.
The whole area sat atop a flat peaked mountain, whose brothers of various heights, surrounded us, some so tall they bore snow at their summits. Had we been there for a different purpose, this is the kind of place I’d have chosen for a picnic.
Unfortunately, the vista was ruined by two things. A group of thirteen men and women, the Soul Familiar Council of Elders, was present in the form of a hologram. They hovered to our left above the tree line, an odd sight indeed as their seated images were being projected from the Council chambers. The second thing that spoiled the view, an even bigger eyesore in my opinion, was our opponents, Blake Whitten and his partner, my former lover, Lucas Tarrasen.
We faced them across the angled slash of river that separated us. As a unit, Tyler and I took their measure, just as I’m sure they took ours. They looked fit and confident, but then so were we. I was glad. This was going to be a good contest and I felt anticipation rising until I could no longer contain the smile that pulled at my lips.
“Something about us you find amusing, Alex? I promise you won’t be smiling for long,” Blake called. A frown had formed between his brows.
You’d think I might have trouble hearing him across the wide expanse of water that separated us, but this place was ensorcelled. An explosion of epic proportions could go off here and wouldn’t be picked up by any type of modern detection device. It was undetectable by radar and satellite, and the field of power generated around it enhanced the acoustics to an extremely fine degree. I didn’t even have to raise my voice to reply to Blake’s fretful inquiry.
“See, now that’s your problem. You always take things so personally.” I rubbed my hands together. “I was only thinking about how much I’m going to enjoy this.”
“I’m certainly glad you think so. It’s just that much more shock you’ll have to deal with when losing wipes that smile off your face. Which will be a nice little bonus for us.”
“Why so testy, Blake? Didn’t your boy put out last night?”
Blake’s frown deepened, and the supercilious look of boredom on Lucas’s face turned sour. Yeah, even for me it was a petty, juvenile gambit, but you know what they say, all’s fair in love and war, and I wasn’t above trying to rattle them with a little trash talk. Besides, I was just following Blake’s lead.
“You guys really need to learn to relax,” I continued. “You’re always so uptight. For instance, take Tyler and me. Last night our, shall we say, commune with the Gods, was absolutely sublime. One for the record books. Nearly blew the top of my skull off.”
Tyler turned his gaze to me, one brow rising in a gesture of mildly disgruntled inquiry. Apparently he wasn’t exactly thrilled with me broadcasting even the unspecific details of our love life. I sent him the most wicked smirk and wink I could dredge up. “At least I didn’t brag about the fine points… and they were fiiine.”
His grin was instantaneous along with his slight snort of amusement. When he gave his head a resigned shake, I knew we were on solid ground. Tyler wouldn’t get upset with me over such a minor infraction, but just the same, I now knew not to push it.
“You always were vulgar, Alex,” Lucas commented.
Predictably, he joined the verbal fray by taking a potshot at my personality, a tactic that was pretty much useless. Since meeting Tyler, I’d been coming more and more to terms with my faults. In some cases I was even taking steps to improve them, but the main point here is when you’ve accepted your own shortcomings, it takes the sting out of it when someone points them out to you.
“Unlike the ultra refined, those of us who are vulgar at least manage to have fun. You remember fun, don’t you, Lucas? I’m sure you’re able to have it now and then… if only by accident.”
Lucas was cut off almost before he’d begun.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen. While I’m sure further discussion of your sex lives might prove highly entertaining, it’s hardly the purpose for which we are gathered here today.”
These words were spoken by Gerald Grant, chairman of the Soul Familiar Council and he immediately had our attention. Gerald is like that investment firm whose commercials used to be on television — when he talks, everyone listens. He’s been a fixture on the Council for the sum total of my entire life, not to mention my father’s as well. We’re talking seven hundred plus years here and that doesn’t take into account the years he lived before becoming a Council member.
If you’re picturing an ancient wizard type with long, flowing white hair and beard, forget it. Gerald is more like a well groomed CEO in his early forties with a touch of silver at the temples of his stylishly barbered hair. And no long flowing robes for him either. At the moment he was definitely going for casual in what looked like a loosely fitted white linen tunic over black jeans. For an old guy he was in optimal physical condition, definitely stylin’ and if he could read that thought in my mind, I’d probably get a zap from a bolt of lightning for insolence.
Physical appearance aside, he’s ancient and powerful. Fortunately for us, he’s also proven himself to be fair and impartial as well as a man well able to keep things in perspective. For someone who could easily descend into megalomania, he just doesn’t take life that seriously… a fact revealed by his next comment.
“Alex, I’m glad to hear the plumbing’s still in order. How’ve you been?”
“Fine, sir,” I replied with a grin. Did I forget to mention Gerald is my great-great-grandfather? “You’re looking well. I’m betting you’re still active in the bedroom.”
“Whelp. You’re as brash as ever. I always liked that about you.” Gerald turned his attention to Lucas. “You’re looking well, boy. Everything all right with you?”
“Very well, thank you for asking, sir.”
“How’s dear Cecily? We haven’t seen her in awhile.”
“She’s fine. I believe she’s visiting a friend in Ireland at the moment,” Lucas responded.
Cecily is the sister of Mattie, Gerald’s soul mate. She’s also a matriarch in the Terrasen clan which, by marriage, makes Gerald also related to Lucas as his great-great-uncle or something like that. I tend to lose track of these things. It seems we soul familiars all end up related in some way or other, perhaps that’s what makes us special… or strangely weird however you want to look at it. Not that in this case being related to Gerald does either Lucas or me any good. As I said, Gerald is impartial, almost fanatically so.
After finishing with Lucas, Gerald greeted Blake then turned his attention to Tyler. “And last but not least,” he said. “What’s your name, young man?”
“Tyler Montgomery, sir.”
I knew perfectly well that Gerald was aware of Tyler’s name. With Tyler having come under his scrutiny and being subject to Gerald’s judgment, he’d know just about everything there is to know about Tyler, just as I’m sure he did about the rest of us gathered here. By having Tyler state his name, Gerald was being honestly polite, but for some reason my heart began to pick up speed. Not that there was anything to be anxious about. I guess it was just seeing my lover under Gerald’s uncompromising eye that suddenly had me on edge. I knew Tyler would handle it with his usual composure, but it still made me nervous.
I hadn’t realized it until now, but I wanted Gerald’s approval which is just strange coming from a guy like me. I don’t usually give a shit what anyone thinks of me or what I do or don’t do. Guess that just goes to show how much I respect Gerald. Puzzling over this unexpected realization, I almost missed Gerald’s wisecrack.
“First of all my sympathies, Tyler. Dame Fortune was certainly in a capricious mood when she decided to tie you to Alex.” His remark invoked some snickers from the other Council members.
“Hey,” I protested, but was ignored.
“Be that as it may, are you wholeheartedly prepared to defend your bond?”
“I am,” Tyler answered.
His quiet conviction stabilized and sobered me. All the frivolous emotions and banter were relegated to their proper place in favor of serious mental preparation. This was it. No more delays.
“I understand Alex has explained the rules to you, and you’ve agreed to accept the consequences of this contest.”
“Very well, gentlemen, I see no reason to delay. Are those bringing challenge, ready?”
“We’re ready,” Blake and Lucas answered.
“Are those being challenged, ready?”
Exchanging a look that spoke volumes, Tyler and I turned our attention to the Council and spoke out as one. “We are.”
There were several beats of silence then the fateful word rang out.