Bitten by Ecstasy

By: Naima Simone

Maybe Nicolai would accept Bastien. But Bastien didn’t trust himself. He didn’t know what he was capable of if the craving catapulted from bearable to insatiable.

What if he transformed into a mindless, raging beast? What if he went after Nicolai? Or Tamar?

A groan pressed against his sternum and broke free in a hoarse, low cry.

No. He couldn’t risk their safety.

Couldn’t risk morphing into a rogue—a betrayer and traitor to their people—and forcing Nicolai or one of their friends to be responsible for hunting and executing him.

“Nico, I—” He bowed his head and turned around, reaching for the doorknob once more. “I’m sorry.”

“Bastien,” Nicolai barked and grabbed Bastien’s arm, his fingers digging into his biceps. “Damn it—”

A hiss exploded from Bastien as he whipped around, knocking Nicolai’s hand away. Fangs pierced his gums and dropped down, filling his mouth, nipping his drawn-back lips. Through a scarlet, misty haze, Bastien watched his friend stumble back, Nicolai’s eyes wide and black with shock.

Terror slammed into Bastien. Its icy blast cleared his vision, forced his incisors to recede. Monster, a small voice purred inside his head. Bastien shuddered at the insidious accusation. He struggled for the control dangling just outside his reach. He grappled with the beast prowling in tight circles deep inside him, snarling and demanding to be liberated. Evander had stolen so much from him that day five months ago. It wasn’t just his face Bastien no longer recognized when he glanced into the mirror—it was him. The man. The hippogryph. The healer.

Yes. He groaned, fumbling behind him as his chest rose and fell on the harsh pants roaring from his lungs. I am a monster. His shaking fingers finally closed around the knob. Desperate, he twisted it, his gaze never leaving Nicolai’s pale features. Sickening dismay faded from his friend’s eyes and pity entered and, somehow, that compassion stabbed as deep as any rejection.

With a snarl that veered dangerously close to a sob, Bastien wrenched the door open, spun and bolted into the night. He didn’t slow or stop. Not when Nicolai bellowed his name. Not when the cliff the house was built on disappeared under his feet.

As he plunged toward the dark waters below, he called to the magic within him. Obedient, it rushed to greet him, sizzling over his flesh like a live wire—across his arms, down his spine and legs to the soles of his feet. Bone snapped, realigned. Muscles and tendon stretched, reformed and reshaped. Pinpricks darted along his arms and back as feathers sprouted, forming huge wings that caught the wind and halted his fall toward the Sound.

With a flap of his wings and a kick of his equestrian hind legs, he curled his talons into his body and climbed toward the night sky, following the diamond-bright stars to his destination.

To her.

Chapter Two

Even at night the streets of Dublin teemed with life.

The people here reflected their city—old standing shoulder-to-shoulder with young, character and history in every face and line, spirited and full of pride.

Laughter, chatter and music spilled into the night from the pubs and shops, their bright lights like mini beacons on the sidewalks, illuminating the pedestrians strolling and milling around outside. Lyrical accents and rich brogues filled the air, adding their own melody. A light mist fell—a negligible rain for Dublin natives—its fresh scent mixing with the earthiness drifting off the River Liffey.

For two hundred and fifty years Sinéad had walked this land among the humans. She’d been fifty years old when she’d been assigned this territory of Ireland’s largest city to guard. And in the following two and a half centuries she’d witnessed famines, mass immigration, religious and governmental upheavals, a country’s liberation. It was a stalwart and fearless country, abounding in beauty and magic…

“You look lonely, babe. I got something to handle that.”

“Come get some of this American cock, baby doll. Bet you never had one like this!”

Drunken cackles and the requisite crotch grabbing followed the lewd catcalls, snapping her free of the evening’s charming lure.

Fucking tourists. As useless as tits on a bull.

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