Dangerous Magic

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Forest near Wolfglynn Castle
Summer, 1128

The darkness pulled at his soul, demanding release, yearning to ravage the land in blood and death. Every day it became harder and harder to fight it, to remember the man he used to be. 

But then again, he’d known the outcome of his battle from the first moment the darkness had seeped into him.

Cade paused in sharpening his sword and looked over the turbulent sea to observe the small rowboat as it neared Wolfglynn Castle. Every morning, he watched the boat bring the beautiful, vibrant Francesca to the castle, her fiery hair drawing his gaze like a beacon. And every evening, he watched her return to the small isle across the sea.

It had become a ritual, just like honing his weapons and stalking the forest for an enemy he knew would strike soon—very soon.

Cade’s gaze jerked away from Francesca as something stirred in the trees. He stood, sword at the ready, and walked silently toward the sound, listening for warnings that it might be him.

“Cade?”

He stopped and sighed. 

“Cade. Please,” Drogan called from where he stood at the edge of the foliage. “Just talk to me.”

But Cade didn’t dare. It was painful enough being so near a man he had called brother, but Cade was willing to bear the torture in an effort to save Drogan’s life. It was only because of Drogan that Cade didn’t go hunting for Nigel himself.

Baron Nigel Creely. Cade’s lip curled in a sneer at the mere thought of him. The bastard had turned Cade into what he was, the same man who had already tried to kill Drogan once. 

Drogan had won the first battle, but Nigel hadn’t given up. Cade knew all too well that once Nigel wanted someone dead, he would stop at nothing to see it done.

Which was why Cade hid in the forest.

“Cade. I know you’re out there.” Drogan sighed and ran a hand through his auburn hair. “What do I need to say to get you to come inside the castle?”

There’s nothing you can say, brother.

The darkness had nearly claimed Drogan, but he had managed to fight it, and with his woman by his side, Drogan had beaten it once and for all. Cade didn’t want to put the darkness near Drogan again, not when it was so much a part of Cade that there was no separating the two anymore.

He moved as close to Drogan as he dared before he stopped and watched his friend. Cade still remembered being told he was transferred to the king’s private guard. Cade had been young, so very young, but his talent with a blade had brought him to Gerard and Drogan—two of the finest swordsmen in all of England. 

The two were a handful of years older than Cade, but they had quickly formed a brotherhood. Cade had eagerly learned everything the men had taught him, and each month, his skill continued to grow.

Which was what caught Nigel’s attention. If only Cade had known then what he knew now, he would never have allowed Nigel to sink his claws into him.

Drogan shifted from one foot to the other, his hand on the pommel of his sword as his gaze scanned the trees. “You know you are welcome anytime, Cade. I’d like to introduce you to my son. Serena wants to get to know you as well. And I just want to sit across from you and share a meal as we used to.”

Cade closed his eyes. He knew he shouldn’t listen to Drogan. It was too easy to let his friend’s words affect him. Drogan thought he knew everything about him, but Drogan knew nothing. If he had an inkling as to what Cade had done since that fateful night so many years ago when their brotherhood had broken, Drogan wouldn’t invite him into his castle.

“I won’t give up on you,” Drogan murmured before he turned on his heel and strode toward the castle.

Cade leaned back against a tree and sighed. God, how he missed talking to Drogan and Gerard. When he had learned of Nigel’s plans to kill both men, Cade hadn’t hesitated to ensure his friends’ survival.

Gerard and his family were once more at their castle, and though the threat of Nigel would never go away, for some reason Nigel wanted Drogan before Gerard. Most likely it was because Drogan had led their brotherhood. Drogan had been the strongest of them, the best of them. 

While Cade had been the weakest, the worst.

His gaze snapped open when he smelled lilacs and felt the tingle of magic along his skin. He whirled around to find the witch, Francesca, standing twenty paces from him.