Prince of Desire

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After years of searching, he had finally found her.

After weeks of watching, he would now have her.

Lucian Sinclair inhaled the cool, crisp air of the Highlands. He had waited for this day for as long as he could remember. Ever since his father, King Urises, had told his sons they must find their mates before the fifth moon of the Harvest year, Lucian had prepared.

Drahcir, his homeland, was deep in the heart of the Ben Nevis Mountains. A land so secret that no one knew of its existence, and it was essential to its survival that it continue that way.

Centuries ago, a scorned Fae princess cursed their small kingdom. Since that black day, the princes and princesses of the royal house had been forced to seek their eternal mates and convince them to return to the kingdom, or the city and its occupants would cease to exist.

Already Lucian had spent nearly two years searching for his mate, but now that he had found her, he wanted to make sure he trod slowly in approaching her. Thankfully, time moved slower in his hidden city, allowing him the time needed to accomplish his mission.

He watched as she finished cleaning the tables in the small tavern, her glorious brown hair hanging down her back in a thick braid. Her laughter drifted to him through the open window as she and the owner’s wife talked and put the last chair atop the table.  It hit him square in the chest and settled into his skin.

She said something and turned her head so that her face was in profile giving him a view of her slender neck and easy smile.  She was small, her body holding all the womanly curves he could want.  Her aura, which had led him to her, glowed bright and solid despite her meager living and tired body.

Soon he would take her away from all this. Very soon.

His hand flexed on the hilt of his sword as she opened the door to the tavern, casting her in the warm glow from within.  Her face was heart-shaped, her forehead high, her chin stubborn.  Dark brows arched over her wide, midnight blue eyes.  Her lips were wide and full, a wicked temptation for a man such as Lucian.

He held his desire in check and watched as she waved good-bye to the owners and walked from the tavern. She came within inches of him as he hid in the shadows.  He reached out and touched the end of her braid that hung to her hip as she walked past. Lucian waited until she ventured down the road that led to her tiny cottage before he whistled for his stallion. His horse came immediately.

It was everything Lucian could do not to snatch her up and carry her away with him to Drahcir as he hurried to mount his horse. She must enter the gates of the kingdom willingly or all would be lost. Many times he cursed the rule the Fae had put into place, but his family was bound to it just as they were bound to the hidden city.

He kept a firm hand on the reins as Elad pranced beneath him, eager for a run. Lucian counted to ten then loosened the reins to give the stallion his head. He loved the night and everything about it, both the velvety darkness and the brightness of the moon, both the sounds and the peace.

He traveled almost halfway to his mate’s cottage when he heard the male laughter…and then the ear-piercing, soul-shredding scream.

Without a doubt, the yell belonged to his mate. With a growl, he unsheathed his sword and nudged the stallion into a run.

The wind whipped at his hair and cloak as the ground raced beneath Lucian. His blood froze in his veins as he realized because he had been so careful to give his mate time, he might have sent her to her death.

What Lucian saw when he came upon the group made him explode into an ice-cold fury. Four burly, filthy men surrounded his mate. Three held her while another unlaced his trousers.

The need for retribution consumed, overcome Lucian. He leaned low over his mount and charged them, narrowly missing his mate, but he wasn’t a famed horseman for nothing.

It was just the surprise he needed to scatter the men. He wheeled Elad around by using his knees and waited, rage settling his body into cold, biting calculation.  He, like his three brothers, was known to have a temper.  But Lucian didn’t explode in his wrath.  He was like the snow and ice that hid his kingdom – chilly in his regard, remote in his dealings, and lethal in his intent.

He narrowed his gaze on the attackers, his heart pounding a dull thud, thud as they looked around until they located him.  Sitting atop the black stallion with his black cloak, he blended into the darkness, becoming one with the night.

Lucian would use it to his advantage.  He’d never feared the night.  Instead, he’d embraced it, welcomed it…learned it.  As if, somehow, fate had known it would come down to this day, this very night when he would need it for his mate.

He spared a glance at his woman.  She had scrambled against a tree, molded to the trunk as if she could blend into it.  Her eyes were wide, her chest heaving, but his mate wasn’t given to hysterics.  To his delight, there was murder in her gaze as she stared at the men who had dared to do her harm.

Her gaze shifted, searching for him.  Lucian wanted to tell her everything would be all right, but he didn’t want to give away his position quite yet.  He’d comfort her when it was over.  For now, he had men that needed to be shown a lesson.

Elad pawed the ground with one hoof, sensing Lucian’s need for retaliation.  “No’ yet,” he leaned low over the horse’s neck and whispered.

“Where is the bastard?” one of the attackers demanded of his comrades.

One came out of the trees not far from Lucian’s mate.  “All I saw was the damned horse.”

“There was a man,” the third said as he got to his feet from his prone position on the ground.

 “Aye, lads.  One man.  Against us four.”

This last of the brigands was obviously the leader of the small ramshackle group.  Easy enough to take down, Lucian thought.  He could prolong the men’s pain, exacting his judgment on them.  Or he could end it quickly and get to his mate.It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

Lucian smiled when all four men noticed him.  He gave a little bow of his head, mocking them.  The leader motioned one of his men to attack. Lucian didn’t even move Elad.  Instead, he kicked out his right leg, landing the toe of his boot square against the man’s nose, smashing bone instantly.The man howled and fell to the ground with his hands over his face.  The smell of blood permeated the air.

Lucian stared at the other three, waiting for their next move.  He didn’t have to wait long as all three attacked at once. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted his mate still standing sentry by the tree.