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The Christmas Curse

By Ruby Moone


Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

Visit jms-books.com for more information.


Copyright 2017 Ruby Moone

ISBN 9781634865821

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.


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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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The Christmas Curse

By Ruby Moone

December 1806

If asked, Jared Templeton would have said he was not a dog kind of man. His interactions with canines of any kind usually ended with him being at least growled at, and on occasion, bitten, so he was somewhat surprised when a large, shaggy beast with suspiciously large, shiny teeth appeared beside him one evening and trotted alongside him as he walked to his Mayfair home. As the collar of his great coat was turned up to his ears, his hat pulled low, and his hands safely encased in leather gloves, he felt safe in acknowledging the beast’s presence.

“Hello dog,” he said, casting it a sideways glance.

The dog looked up at him, tongue lolling, and Jared could have sworn it smiled. It huffed a short bark, its breath misting in the cold air, then looked ahead, and loped along beside him. Jared couldn’t help but smile. How odd. The dog stayed with him from Piccadilly, all the way to his Half Moon Street house, and sat beside him patiently as he opened the door.

“Well, goodnight,” he said to the dog who was looking up at him, tail swishing.

It barked.

“I see. Thank you for your company.” He bowed and went into the house. He headed for the study, which overlooked to road, and saw the dog sit for a while on his front step and then trot off down the street. So began a curious friendship.

* * * *

The following day the dog joined him on his walk home, again from Piccadilly, and Jared was surprisingly pleased by the company. It trotted alongside him until he arrived at his house and fished in his pocket for the key. The dog sat patiently by his side as he did so, and then leaned heavily on his leg and looked up at him.

“Are you venturing a hint?” he asked the dog as he pulled the key out of his pocket. The dog leaned even more.

“You may be acting friendly now, but I assure you if I pet you, you will be growling at me in no time at all.”

The dog dipped its head and rubbed against him.

“Oh, come now. Doing it a bit brown?” Jared risked a cautious pat to the head. The dog leaned into the caress, and then licked his gloved hand. Jared petted it again, and tried not to notice the beast was shivering in the frigid December air.

“You should go home now. Get warm.” He gave him one last caress, and then went into the house confident that the dog looked robust, well fed and cared for, meaning he did have an owner somewhere and would most assuredly not be spending the night in the cold.

A week later, the dog was still meeting him on Piccadilly and escorting him home. The weather had warmed, unexpectedly for December, no doubt as a prelude to snow, so he took off his glove to deliver his now customary petting once at his door. He was amazed at how soft the dog’s fur was. Deep, thick, and endlessly inviting waves of dark brown and tan. The dog whined softly, and pressed against his hand. Jared smiled and scratched his ears and again, he was sure the dog smiled.

“You like that.”

The dog cautiously licked his bare hand. It was warm and wet and Jared was reluctant to say goodbye. Eventually, he closed the door and then went to watch him trot away.

* * * *

Another week passed, and Christmas was fast approaching. Every day, the dog greeted him and trotted alongside him, and Jared had taken to chatting to him as they walked. On days when it wasn’t raining, or freezing cold, they sat on a bench near Green Park for a little while. The dog jumped up beside him and leaned against him, keeping him warm, and Jared told him about his day. It was good to have someone to talk to who he knew could never betray his secrets. In his line of work, a man had to take care, very great care. He was always utterly scrupulous about checking that there was absolutely no-one in earshot before unburdening himself to his companion. Working for the Alien Office meant he was unable to discuss his work with anyone since it largely involved the monitoring of people, if one were to be polite, spying if truthful. Monitoring the activity of foreign agents on British soil was tricky work, but suited to someone like himself who preferred a solitary life and had the knack of blending in. It was good work for an unremarkable man.

“You are jolly easy to talk to,” he said to the dog as they leaned against each other in the cold. “Although I imagine if my colleagues could see me now they would be certain I have bats in my attic, and have me in Bedlam before you could blink an eye.” He laughed and the dog’s tongue lolled and he nosed his hand until Jared took off his glove and scratched his ears. “You’re not a French spy, are you?” he said, and laughed when the dog licked his hands and then tried to reach his face.

They sat until Jared was shivering and then set out towards his house. Lights shone in the windows of the houses opposite as people gathered, getting ready for dinner and an evening of entertainment. As he watched, the dog nuzzled closer and nosed at his hand again. He stroked his head absently.

“Are you alone on Christmas Eve night too?” he whispered, whimsically. The dog barked. It started wagging its tail, its rear end dancing about as he pressed closer. Jared stroked its head.

Jared hesitated, then unlocked the door. “I swear you understand what I say.” He sighed and looked at the dog. “Come in,” he said, holding open the door. The dog hesitated on the threshold, looked up at him, and then trotted in. Candles burned in the hallway as always, but the house was empty, his staff having left for the day. He preferred not to have live-in staff, which outraged his family, but he could easily eat at his club, he rarely entertained, and on the very odd occasion he had company, he preferred not to have to sneak about. His valet arrived early in the morning to dress him and ensure he was presentable, a housekeeper and a parlour maid ensured the place was neat and tidy and that he didn’t starve, and that suited him fine.

The dog ran this way and that, sniffing his way along the floor, pausing here and there, and then sniffing some more. Jared dispensed with his outer clothes and hung them neatly. The hallway was freezing cold, but the study promised warmth. He opened the door, and indeed, the fire still burned, candles were lit, and the room was cosy and snug. He held open the door, and the dog trotted through and made straight for the fire as Jared quickly shut the door. He turned around a few times and then settled himself as close to the blaze as he could get. Face on his paws, he looked up at Jared, and again, Jared could have sworn he smiled. He piled more logs on the fire, lit a couple more candles, and held his hands out to the warmth of the blaze.

“Are you hungry?” he said to the dog. His ears pricked up, and he looked at him, but his head remained on his paws. Jared sighed. “I’ll wager you are. Wait there.”

Jared set off to the kitchens, and wondered if the dog had an owner somewhere. He didn’t seem to be underfed, and his coat was glossy and thick. He had to admit he would be reluctant to lose his company.

The kitchen was warm as the large range burned steadily thanks to his housekeeper’s detailed instructions, and her insistence on tutoring him in the art of the range so it could be maintained in her absence. Jared put a kettle on to boil, and then headed for the pantry. He found his customary roast beef supper on a plate. When the kettle boiled he made himself some tea, added bread and cheese to his meal, and set off back to his guest.

When he returned, the dog was exactly where he left him. Sitting up now, head cocked to one side, he was clearly waiting patiently as he’d been told to do, ears upright and alert. When Jared walked towards him with the food in his hand, the dog whined and dipped his head low. He was trembling, and his tail wagged in a shivery kind of motion. Jared smiled at him. He was a handsome beast. Long brownish black fur and a sharp, pointed muzzle. He was probably a breed of some kind, but Jared had never paid enough attention to dogs to know what he might be. He just knew he was an incredibly handsome dog with intelligent green eyes.

“Here.” Jared put the plate he had brought for the dog onto the floor and put some beef and some bread on it. The dog stared at him. Immobile, almost frozen. Jared was puzzled. His father’s dogs always fell on food like the starved animals they probably were. This dog appeared to be waiting for permission.

“Eat,” Jared said. “Please?”

The dog moved to the plate and sniffed tentatively, then delicately picked up a piece of the beef and ate it. Jared watched as he put some of the meat into his own mouth and chewed. The dog picked up some bread and ate that, and then methodically cleaned the plate.

“Do you like cheese?” Jared asked, and put some cheese onto the empty plate. The dog sniffed it and then reared back with a muffled growl.

Jared laughed. “I’ll take that as a no!” He picked the cheese up off the plate and replaced it with the last of the roast beef. The dog looked at him for a moment, and then came to him and licked his hand before polishing off the last of the food.

Jared drank his tea and watched the animal settle down in front of the fire. He listened to the church bells strike eleven. Almost Christmas. He thought of his family at home in Sussex. He might have liked to see them at Christmastime, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to enter the circus that was the Templeton household. It would be party after party, all the great and the good trying to outdo each other, and every girl within a twenty-mile radius on the hunt for a husband, aided by his mother. He was safer in his little house in the city, and he sent silent thanks, yet again, to his grandfather for bequeathing him the sanctuary he so badly needed.

He spent a good half hour ruminating in the firelight whilst the dog snoozed on the rug. It was surprisingly companionable. He was staring into the flickering light when the dog shuffled closer. It rather crept across the rug on its belly, and then laid its head on Jared’s booted feet.

Jared peered down and laughed. “Are you tired?”

The dog blinked at him.

“Perhaps we should go to bed. I’ll leave you here with the fire. You will be warm enough.” He got up and threw more coal and wood onto the fire, banking it so that it would burn through the night. He bent and petted the dog’s head. “Sleep well,” he whispered.

* * * *

Jared made his way upstairs to his bed chamber, still deep in thought. He ignored the whining from the study, sure that the dog would settle down. In his chamber, he undressed and hung his clothes carefully before pulling his nightshirt over his head, settling the soft material over his naked skin. He banked the fire and sat in the chair beside it. It was difficult not to think of Matthew. He stretched out his naked feet, wondering where his slippers were, but the fire warmed them. Matthew. The man who promised him the world, and then married a pretty girl. The man who couldn’t understand why Jared was upset, why he didn’t want to be his grubby secret. Jared scrubbed his face and lay his head against the warm leather of the chair.

A noise from downstairs startled him. A sharp bark. Two. Accompanied by rather vigorous scratching of the door. Then the dog set up with a continuous barking. Heaving a sigh, Jared got up from the chair and pulled on his robe. He ran lightly down the stairs listening to the cacophony from the study, disappointed that his generosity in allowing the dog to stay inside was misplaced. He’d warmed himself, been fed, and now he wanted to roam the streets again. No doubt looking for companionship. And why not? Jared half wondered if he shouldn’t be doing the same.

He opened the door, and the dog whined and twined about his legs, rubbing its head against him, and licking anywhere it could find.

“There now,” Jared said, patting it and petting it and getting thoroughly licked. “Do you want to go home now? Is that it?” Jared went to the door and set about unbolting it, but the dog stared at him for a moment and then bolted upstairs. Jared shook his head, and locked the door again. He ran up the stairs, but there was no sign of the dog. He went to his bed chamber, and there it was. Sat in front of the fire, tongue lolling, and dammit if the creature wasn’t smiling again.

Jared’s heart melted. He closed the door, undid his robe, laid it over the chair, and then sat cross legged on the floor in front of the dog in his nightshirt. The firelight flickered over them both, and the logs crackled and hissed.

“I’m taking it you want to stay?”

The dog wagged its tail hard, and edged a little closer, dipping his head. Jared took its face between his hands and scratched his ears. The dog’s eyes closed in an expression of bliss. Jared smoothed the fur and stroked gently. He settled himself on the rug with his back against the leather chair, and the dog lay partly on him. Jared stared into the fire and buried his hands in the dog’s fur, enjoying the feel of him lying beside him, and not feeling quite so alone. He lay his head against the arm of the chair and stared into the flickering firelight as he ran his hands through the soft fur.

“So, where did you come from?” he asked. “Why did you pick me to follow?” The dog licked his hand. Jared sighed and kept petting. “This is not how I expected to spend Christmas, you know. I thought I was going to spend it in bed being thoroughly pleasured by a handsome man.” He smoothed the dog’s ear. “Does that shock you?” He looked down at the dog who was leaning heavily. It nosed his hand, so Jared continued petting him. He stared into the fire again. “I thought he loved me. I’ll wager that shocks you even more.”

The dog shifted until he could lay his head on Jared’s chest and look up at him. His eyes were a deep, mossy green and seemed to be filled with adoration. It was welcome. “I don’t know why you picked me to follow, but I am terribly glad that you did,” he admitted, stroking the dog’s head again. “Do you know, I hadn’t realised how lonely I’ve been?” He scratched the dog’s ears thinking how true that was. He naturally kept himself to himself. Large groups exhausted him, but sometimes he yearned for someone to share his life with. Hence his attempt with Matthew.

“Thank you for coming to me.” Jared found he felt curiously emotional. The gratitude that he felt in the companionship the dog had offered him was deep and profound.

“I’ve never got on with people,” he told him. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like them very much.” He rubbed his cheek against the top of the dog’s head and ran his fingers through his deep coat. “Nanny always said I was a difficult boy. She certainly slapped me often enough, and my father…well. The less said about him the better. He caught me kissing one of the stable boys. Didn’t like that at all.”

The dog shuffled closer and licked Jared’s face.

“I think that’s why I get on well with working in the Alien Office. No-one to spill secrets to. Would you like to stay?” he said, looking at the dog and scratching his ears. “For good?”

The dog shuffled even closer and closed his eyes.

“I’ll take that as a yes. I’ll get you a leash tomorrow and we can go for long walks.”

The dog leaned heavily, and Jared shifted until his arms were around him, stroking and petting. They sat like that for a while, until the church bells chimed midnight.

“Midnight,” Jared whispered as the bells pealed. As the last bell faded, he bent and kissed to dog on the head, then rubbed his face against the spot. “Happy Christmas,” he said.

The dog whined and licked his face.

Jared permitted it for a moment. “Thank you. I love you too,” he said and smiled as he wiped his hand over his cheek.

The dog squirmed out of his embrace and ran around in a circle then stopped. He put down his head and made soft whimpering sounds.

“What is it?” Jared asked, sitting up to pet him, but the dog shied away.

* * * *

The dog went rigid. Jared moved to comfort it, but as he held out a hand he stopped, unable to process what he was seeing.

The fur was disappearing. Melting away to nothing. In its wake a pale, muscled body was revealed. The dog grew in size and Jared backed away, almost falling over the chair. He held on to the back of it, placing it between him and the dog…thing…like a shield, and stared.

It stood. On its hind legs, only they weren’t hind legs, they were human legs. Long, muscled, human legs. Naked legs.

The dog shook himself. The last of the animal fur melted away and Jared found himself staring open mouthed at the most handsome young man he had ever seen. Tall, like himself, in fact, they stood eye to eye. Dark hair stood in wayward curls about his head. Deep green eyes, and far, far too much naked skin, muscle, and sinew. A smile started at the corner of his mouth, revealing slightly crooked white teeth, and a dimple in one cheek.

Jared was speechless.

“Hello.” The man’s voice was gravelly. There was an underlying huskiness to it that feathered across Jared’s senses, making him shiver.

“Hello?” Jared’s voice was barely a whisper.

“Thank you.”

“Um…my pleasure…what just happened?” Jared’s head was whirling but his manners remained intact. His dog had just turned into a man. A man. At the stroke of the clock, he turned into a man. A naked man. Jared tried to keep his eyes on the man’s face.

“You released me from a curse.”

“A curse. Of course. Yes. A curse…What curse?”

The man took a step forward, holding out a hand. “Black. Wesley Black.”

Jared took the hand and shook it, manners still in place.

“Templeton. Jared Templeton.”

“I owe you a debt of gratitude,” Wesley Black said, moving closer, his green gaze roaming over every inch of Jared.

Jared backed away. “Um, really. Um…. Ah…” He was shaking his head and he could feel a tremor begin in his stomach. Still desperately trying to work out what had happened, Jared felt his head swim and had he been a fainting type, no doubt he would have keeled over.

“Please don’t be afraid,” Wesley Black said, head on one side like the dog had done. The expression in his green eyes was curiously familiar.

“What happened to my dog?” Jared said, his voice low. His heart was pounding now. “What did you do to my dog?”

“Well…I was cursed, you see. Cursed to remain in animal form.”

“Remain?”

Wesley Black scratched the back of his head. “Well,” he paused and looked at Jared and grimaced. “This is hard to explain, but…well…I am a shifter,” he said, as though that explained everything. I can change form as you just saw. Normally, I can change back and forth at will, but I was cursed to remain in dog form almost three months ago. To break the curse, I had to find…” He seemed to bite off the word he was going to use. “Someone,” he added cautiously, as though testing the word for size.

“Someone?”

The man nodded, all the time watching Jared carefully. “I had to find someone on a full moon that fell on Christmas Day. The bells have rung, it’s Christmas Day, and tonight there is a full moon. Had I not found you, I would have had to wait almost twenty years to try again.”

“Twenty years?”

The man nodded. “Until the next time the full moon occurs on Christmas Day.”

“Of course. I see.” Jared blinked and tried to think of something to say. “Why me? Why did you seek me out? Couldn’t you have sought anyone else?” he said, baffled beyond belief. “And who cursed you? What did you do? How does one even become cursed?”

The man hesitated, and then moved closer. Only the chair separated them. Jared clung to it.

“Well,” he began, then scratched his head. “Well, the person who cursed me was someone…unpleasant.” He nodded a couple of times as though pleased with the word and the explanation. “Yes. Unpleasant. And no, it couldn’t be just anyone.”

Jared waited and then shrugged, raising his eyebrows. “So it had to be me?”

The man stared into Jared’s eyes for a long time making his heart race and his skin prickle. The linen of his nightshirt brushing his skin felt almost too much.

“I had to find someone who would…love me.”

Silence beat between them.

“Love you?” Jared repeated, feeling heat creep up his neck.

The man nodded and lifted his chin. A muscle ticked along his jaw. “Someone who would love me, and…someone who could be my mate.”

The words bounced around Jared’s head.

“Let me find you something to wear,” Jared said, changing the subject. He couldn’t take any more. He turned away from the sight of all that muscled, naked skin, dark smatterings of hair and—Jared swallowed—erect flesh. Jared closed his eyes and tried not to focus on anything below the man’s waist. He fumbled in a cupboard and brought out a clean nightshirt and dressing gown.

“Here.” He averted his eyes and handed it to him.

Wesley Black’s face tightened as he looked at the garments and frowned. Then, his shoulders drooped along with another part of his anatomy. He took the nightshirt and gown, that intelligent green gaze searching Jared’s for a moment as he did so, and Jared began to feel ridiculously guilty that his response had somehow been…lacking. Why the hell he should feel guilty, the Lord alone knew. And what in the Lord’s name was all this nonsense about mates? What should his response have been?

“What is it?” he was forced to ask as Wesley Black stood holding the clothing.

“You’re disappointed in me,” Wesley Black said softly, accusing, and definitely shocked.

That took Jared by surprise. “Disappointed in you? I’m not disappointed! I’m…I’m astounded, shocked, terrified even. How can I be disappointed? I had no expectation.”

Wesley Black put the garments onto the bed. His member that had been joyously bobbing about was now soft and long. It looked as defeated as he felt.

“Oh, Christ,” Jared whispered, a hand going to his mouth. His heart sped up in his chest as an awful realisation struck him forcibly. It was like a punch to the chest.

Oh Christ!” The words came out as a moan as the reality of what he had done sank in.

“I talked to you.” He clutched at his hair. “Did you understand what I said?” he said, staring wildly at Wesley Black. “When you were a dog, did you understand what I was saying?” His voice became increasingly high pitched. Please say no, please say no. Jared felt ill. He had spilled his soul to the dog, emptied his heart and felt comforted, and…. Oh Christ, he had even told the dog his darkest, most shameful secret, and now that dog was a man…Oh Christ! Jared felt sick. He had told him secrets about the Department. Told him about Matthew.

He could barely breathe.

“What?” Wesley Black looked up at him. Suspicion in those green eyes.

“You heard me, didn’t you? You heard everything that I said. You understood me.” Jared’s voice was a horrified whisper.

“I could understand what you were saying, if that’s what you mean.” Wesley Black was regarding him oddly.

Jared’s knees gave way. He sank into the chair by the fire, hand over his heart, mouth dry. He closed his eyes. “What do you want from me?”

He felt Wesley Black move closer. “Anything you wish to give me.” His voice was soft. Low.

Jared opened his eyes and stared sightlessly into the fire. “I see.” He mentally calculated how much he could give the man to buy his silence.

“Very well. Once the bank opens I will make whatever transaction you want.” There was too much at stake to argue. His life, his reputation, to say nothing of the secrets that, if told, could destroy his country. It was too much to bear.

“Pardon me?” Wesley Black was frowning.

“You will have everything I can give you.” Jared steeled himself and looked him in the eye.

Wesley Black’s jaws were clamped tight, and that muscle ticked along his jaw again. He looked angry. “I’m sorry I’m not more.” The words seemed to be dragged from him.

“More?” It was Jared’s turn to look puzzled.

Wesley nodded, a jerky movement. “I’m not an alpha.” He sat on the bed and fingered the linen of the nightshirt that sat beside him. “I thought…I thought…” He sighed and the anger left him. “Never mind. What do you need to go to the bank for? What do you have there that you can give me? I don’t understand.” He looked up and gave him a lopsided smile. “Is that where you keep your heart?”

Jared frowned.

Wesley Black sighed and spoke carefully. “You already gave me everything. I can’t have misunderstood, or the spell would be intact. You must have loved me for a moment.” He seemed to droop even further. “It was only when you saw me like this that you stopped.”

Jared’s head was spinning. Wesley Black stood up and came over to where Jared sat in his chair. He knelt beside him and took hold of his hand and kissed the back of it. His eyes squeezed tight as he pressed his lips to Jared’s skin, and his eyelashes were wet when he lifted his head.

“I owe you my life, and I thank you for it.” His voice was a whisper. “I’ll leave you now.” He rubbed his thumb over the spot that he had kissed, and then looked longingly at Jared’s mouth for a moment before making a soft, pained sound and, where Wesley Black had knelt, there was the dog.

The dog looked at him for a long, intense moment and then turned and walked to the door. His bushy tail that he usually carried like a flag was lowered.

“Wait!” Jared jumped to his feet. He couldn’t bear it a moment longer. He had no idea what the man was talking about, no idea how a man could slide from human to dog—he was sure there was something in all the terrifying science lectures he had heard recently that would explain it—but there was nothing in his understanding that could give him even the tiniest hold on it. All he knew was that he loved his dog. He knelt and held out his arms, and after a moment, the dog trotted back to him and sat before him, head on one side. Jared moved closer, and then wrapped his arms around him and closed his eyes.

“I will miss you,” he whispered. The dog whimpered and licked his face. Jared smoothed his ears, and the dog pulled away and ran from the room, leaving Jared so utterly bewildered he didn’t know which way to turn.

* * * *

Two days later, morning dawned crisp and cold, and Jared was still alone with an aching heart. The days and nights since Wesley Black had appeared and then disappeared from his life had been spent piecing together the conversation, attempting to work out what Wesley Black had been saying, and desperately trying to ignore the gaping hole in his chest that ached incessantly. It felt as though part of his soul was missing. He missed his companion walking home so badly he had taken to using a hackney. He couldn’t bear the loneliness of the walk.

He’d gone to bed on Christmas Eve and around four o’clock in the morning it had hit Jared with the force of a blow that he was not being blackmailed. Wesley Black hadn’t been asking for money, he had been offering himself. Offering love. As a man. He recalled those odd words. ‘I’m sorry I’m not more.’ Did he somehow think that he was lacking? That Jared had not wanted him? Jared swallowed. Every time he thought of Wesley Black his heart ached alongside other parts. He’d thought Jared wanted and alpha male, or whatever that was.

He’d used the word ‘mate’ and Jared didn’t think it was the cockney term for ‘friend’ he was talking about. He’d refused to even allow his mind to process that word for so long, but Jared said it out loud in the four o’clock inky darkness and felt his heart clench in his chest so badly he had to get up and walk about.

So now, here he sat, in his study with a plate of roast ham, wondering how on earth he could go about finding Wesley Black. His dog. His mate. How did he ensure the words that had passed between them when Jared thought he was talking to a dog stayed between them? He also needed to know if there were more like him. Where did they come from? Who were these people? Did they pose any kind of threat?

He allowed himself a moment to wallow in his fear and misery, but then steeled himself and went to the library and pulled out his maps and did what he did best. Started searching.

* * * *

By New Year’s Eve, Jared knew he had failed. He had scoured every inch of London, talked discreetly to hundreds of people…it was what he was good at. It was what he was. A spy for the government. The man that found all the secrets, plots against the King, seditious plans and threats, foreign agents and plotters. The dark feeling that Wesley Black and his kind, whatever they were, represented probably the biggest threat to King and Country he had ever encountered had grown gradually stronger. The irony was not lost on him. On the one hand looking for a man who claimed to be his mate, but on the other hand someone he most certainly should turn over. His heart was heavier with each step.

The pavement beneath his feet was frosty and slippery, and his breath bloomed before him. New Year’s Eve excitement prickled in the air and as he passed grand houses he saw candles in their thousands lighting balls and parties. He trudged on alone through Berkley Square one last time, then down Curzon Street and on to Half Moone Street. Head down, hands in pockets, much in the way that he had been the first night he had found the dog, he made his way home.

A bark sounded in the stillness of the night. Jared stopped and looked around but saw nothing.

He got to the house, and unlocked to door. He divested himself of his outer garments and then stood in front of the roaring fire in the study, holding out his hands to warm them.

A soft knock on the study door saw him jump almost from his skin. He hesitated, then pulled the door open. Surely the staff had left.

There stood Wesley Black. Dressed in the clothes of a gentleman, much like himself, but with no hat. His dark silky hair still curled madly, his green eyes were watchful but hard, and his lips were drawn into a solemn line.

Jared put a hand to his mouth and choked down the emotion that swamped him. He had to swallow several times, and clear his throat before he could speak.

“I looked for you.”

Wesley nodded once. “I know.”

“We need to talk.”

Wesley didn’t move.

“Please, come in.” Jared gestured to the room and Wesley walked in. His spine was ramrod stiff, his shoulders back. It didn’t bode well.

Wesley stood by the fire and turned to face Jared. “You thought I planned to blackmail you.”

Jared bit his lip and frowned. “I did.”

“I’m not going to do that.”

Jared nodded. “I worked that out. Eventually.”

Wesley’s eyes were still hard. “Why are you looking for me?”

Now he was standing in front of Wesley, it was hard to remember anything at all. The man radiated energy and warmth and Jared wanted nothing more than to go and take him in his arms. He remained still.

“I told you things,” he said. “Told you things that I should never have spoken of.”

Wesley nodded, and frowned. “And?”

Jared rubbed a hand over his face. “For God’s sake, man, I told you about me. Who I am. What I am.” He put a hand on his chest.

Wesley looked confused.

The tension that Jared had been carrying for days burst forth. “Oh, for crying out loud. I’m a government spy. I work for the Alien Office. The Alien Office. I seek out people who would infiltrate the country…” He threw his hands in the air. “Here you are telling me that you are some kind of…of…Well, I don’t know what the hell you are, I only know I should be handing you over to the authorities not…not…” Jared was breathing heavily and gesticulating wildly. “I even told you about my…personal…interests.”

Wesley rolled his eyes and sighed. “Do you people know nothing about loyalty?”

“Loyalty?”

“The way you say it, you clearly don’t.” Wesley moved to stand closer. “You are my mate. I could no more betray you than I could cut off my arm.” His eyes were intense, his whole body taught as a bow. “Yet, here you are, threatening to ‘turn me over’ to someone.”

Jared was open mouthed.

“Have you stopped for a moment to consider how this is for me? Have you?” Wesley’s voice was rising. “You are a human! My mate.” He patted his chest and leaned forward, green eyes glittering. “My mate is a human. A human who doesn’t understand anything. A human who would hand over his mate and have him killed.”

“I didn’t say I would….”

“You inferred.”

“This is ridiculous.” Jared paced the rug in front of the fire. “This is ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous?” Wesley’s voice was rising again. “I’ll tell you what is ridiculous. Me feeling as though my heart has been torn out of my chest, as though my life has been ripped apart, shredded in front of my eyes by someone who doesn’t understand loyalty or love when it stares him in the face.”

Jared’s control snapped.

“I can’t love you!”

“Can you deny how you have felt whilst looking for me? Can you deny your heart has felt torn out the exact same way that mine has?”

Jared couldn’t speak. His eyes closed briefly. “Just tell me you won’t speak of what I told you with anyone.” His voice was calm. Quiet. Measured.

Wesley actually growled. “You haven’t heard a word I have said, have you?”

Jared looked at him. Wesley took a step closer. So close Jared could feel his warmth. “I love you. I will always be loyal to you. I am your mate.” The words were hissed. Wesley waited, and when Jared didn’t speak he took a step back.

“I hoped you would be different to the rest of your race,” Wesley said. “I’d hoped that you might accept me and how things really are.”

“What are you talking about?”

Wesley smiled, but it wasn’t happy. “How things really are for those who care to see.”

Jared shook his head again. “Stop talking in riddles.”

Wesley shook his head too. “If you’d listen, you would understand.” He stared at Jared for a long moment, as though memorising him. “I must go.”

Jared’s heart clenched tight in his chest and his breathing hitched. “Go? Just tell me that you won’t reveal anything that I told you.”

Wesley seemed to vibrate with anger. “I just told you I wouldn’t! I offered you my loyalty and my heart. What more do you want? Do you want me to write it down? Carve it in blood? If I’d wanted to reveal your bloody secrets, don’t you think I’d have done it by now?”

Jared didn’t dare believe.

Wesley looked at him. Eyes flicking back and forth. He nodded once, bowed his head in defeat, and backed away.

Jared was horrified to feel tears prick at the back of his eyes. The pain in his chest became unbearable.

“You can’t go.” His voice was a thick whisper.

“Give me a reason to stay.” Wesley whispered. He searched Jared’s face and then a shiver ran through him. He walked to the door, opened it, and left Jared standing in the room. Alone.

* * * *

Jared stared at the door stupidly for a moment and then yanked it open. He ran into the hall, boots skidding on the polished wood. “Wait!”

Wesley stopped, one hand on the doorknob of the outer door. His head went down for a moment, then he seemed to brace himself and looked up.

Jared walked towards him. This was so wrong it didn’t bear thinking about, but he couldn’t allow him to leave. Couldn’t lose him. Not again. He stood in front of Wesley, almost nose to nose. They looked at each other, unblinking. Jared hesitated, and then brought up a hand and cupped Wesley’s cheek and watched those green eyes flutter closed as he pressed into Jared’s hand. Jared brought the other hand up, cradled his face, and then he kissed him. Hesitant. Close mouthed. Aching.

“I believe you,” he whispered. And he did.

Wesley made a soft whining sound and allowed Jared to kiss him gently before strong arms went around him and held him so tightly he could barely breathe. Wesley opened his mouth and Jared slid inside and their tongues duelled and fought, their hands grabbed and held and there, in the hallway, against the door Jared gave of himself and just felt. Something he had never, ever allowed, never considered. Felt all the aching love between them, all the passion, the energy, the fear…He pushed Wesley back against the door and aligned their bodies. Wesley grabbed his hair and held him hard, wrapped one leg about his waist, and thrust against him fully clothed. They grappled wildly, desperately. His crisis hit Jared hard and he bucked against Wesley, crying out. Wesley followed, gripping Jared painfully as he shouted aloud.

They leaned against the door, breathing heavily.

“Is that reason enough?” Jared whispered, his face buried in Wesley’s neck. He felt Wesley nod.

“How the hell are we going to do this?” Jared said, pulling back to look into his eyes.

Wesley’s lips quirked in a smile. It was a wicked, inviting, seductive smile. “I have no idea.”

Jared found himself smiling back. “Are there many others like you?”

Wesley’s smile widened. “Oh, my love. You have no idea.”


THE END

* * * *

ABOUT RUBY MOONE

Ruby lives in Lancashire in the northwest of England. All through school she was told that she would never get anywhere if she didn’t stop daydreaming. Eventually it occurred to her to write down the daydreams, and voilà! The beautiful men in her head came to life.

Ruby writes historical and contemporary gay romance but has a definite weakness for handsome men in billowing white shirts, breeches, and cravats. Oh, and she loves tea. Lots of tea.

For more information, visit rubymoone.com.

ABOUT JMS BOOKS LLC

JMS Books LLC is a small queer press with competitive royalty rates publishing LGBT romance, erotic romance, and young adult fiction. Visit jms-books.com for our latest releases and submission guidelines!



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