Prince of Passion

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Like the wings of a raven, night swept the land, drenching the small Scottish village in darkness. Keiran Sinclair welcomed the obscurity for it matched the growing weariness inside him.

He sighed heavily and leaned upon the wooden table before the hearth. The inn was small, but clean, and though he should be out searching for his mate, exhaustion and the cold had driven him indoors. He liked the village because it was near the pass that would lead him home.

Home.

The fire warmed the chill that settled into his bones from the frigid temperatures that had fallen two days ago. He missed the warmth of Drahcir. He pined for the gentle, loving smiles of his mother and the way his father asked his opinion as heir to the throne. But most of all, he missed his three brothers.

As eldest, he’d left Drahcir first. He expected to be the first to return. Yet he was destined to be last.

Keiran rubbed the heel of his hand into his eye, sending red flashes behind his lid. His eyes felt as if sand was embedded in them from the sleepless nights, and his body was drained down to his soul.

For so long, he’d searched for his mate, moving from town to town, and even from time to time with the help of the Fae. When Aimery had sent him to his youngest brother, Sorin, with a warning, it had taken everything Keiran had inside him to walk away from his brother and not help as he yearned to do.

Seeing Sorin had been wonderful. But parting had cut Keiran deeper than any blade.

All he could hope for was that Sorin made it back to Drahcir with his mate.

Keiran snorted as he lifted a mug of ale for a long drink, letting the liquid burn a trail down his throat. It was the damned curse that sent the brothers from the safety of their magical kingdom to search for their mates, a curse from a spoiled, selfish Fae princess who had been toyed with by one of his ancestors.

His hand clenched around the mug. If only Keiran could find his ancestor and strangle him before he could damage the entire Sinclair line.

Each brother had left Drahcir. They had until the fifth moon of the Harvest year to return with their mates. Since time moved slower in Drahcir than anywhere else, the time was different in Scotland when they stepped from their gate.

If only finding their mates was easy, but the task was complicated by the Tnargs, vicious beasts with one task in mind—kill the Sinclair mates. When Keiran’s ancestors managed to locate their mates and elude the Tnarg, the Fae princess had stepped in and moved future mates throughout time in her attempt to destroy the Sinclairs.

Fortunately, there was Aimery, a Fae commander and friend to Drahcir. It was Aimery who helped the Sinclair brothers, but there was nothing he could do for Keiran.

Keiran tossed back the rest of the ale and slammed the mug on the table. Anger and frustration threatened to drown him. He turned to gaze into the fire and blew out a shaky breath.

I’ve failed. I’ve failed everyone—Drahcir, but more importantly my family.

His family and all of Drahcir would cease to exist if he didn’t return with his mate, and it looked like that was exactly what would happen. All because he hadn’t been able to find the woman destined to be his.

The fifth moon of the Harvest year was in days. How could he locate his mate and convince her to leave her world and family behind to travel to a magical kingdom in such a short time?  It was impossible, which is just what the princess had wanted.

As heir to Drahcir, it had never entered Keiran’s mind that he would fail. For over four years, he had been searching for the woman that would match him completely, the woman he would be bound to for eternity. Surely, he should have found her by now.

“Would you like another?”

The melodic, soft voice reached him through his musings. He blinked and turned from the fire to find a woman beside him. Her hair was the color of honey streaked with gold. Ringlets had come loose from her thick braid and framed her face.  He wondered what her hair would look like falling around her and if it would feel as smooth and soft as it appeared.

“My lord?” she asked.

Keiran cocked his head to the side as he gazed into her unusual gray eyes. There was something almost familiar about the girl, as if he should know her.

Finally, he nodded. “Aye. I’d like another.”

The corners of her mouth lifted in a smile before she turned on her heel and moved to the bar. Keiran watched her hips sway as she walked and felt himself respond to her curves. She walked with the grace of a queen and the command of a general, a heady mix for a man who had been without for too long.

But there was something in her face that told Keiran he had seen the girl before. But where? He had ventured near this village when he’d left Drahcir, but not once had he stopped at the inn.

He looked more closely, noting the way her honey-colored brows gently arched over her large eyes that tilted upward every so slightly at the corners. Her cheekbones were high, her determined chin telling him she was from good breeding. His gaze lowered to her mouth, marveling at the full, dusky lips that begged for attention.

She was of average height and had an easy smile, as though the world hadn’t yet beaten her down. Her soft curves in all the right places made Keiran take notice. Her skin was the color of cream, glowing warm in the firelight as she approached.

“Here you go,” she said and set down the mug.

Keiran flipped her a coin, amazed as she caught it deftly in her hand. “What’s your name?”

She refused to meet his gaze. “My name?”

He hadn’t missed the way her brows had furrowed before she questioned him. “Aye. Your name?”

“Senga, my lord.”

He liked the sound of it. “Well, Senga, why are you no’ at home tending your husband?”

A slow smile spread as she briefly met his gaze. “Because I have no husband, my lord.”

He was more than surprised. Senga was a very comely girl, the kind most men would marry in a heartbeat. Keiran glanced around the nearly deserted dining area. “I find that difficult to believe.”

“Not so difficult actually,” she said and turned her gray eyes to him. “I won’t settle for just any man.”

Something inside Keiran roared to life at her words. He sat up and held her gaze. It had been a long while since he had eased his body with a woman, and he was certainly up for the challenge.

“And what kind of man is that?” he asked.

She lifted one slim shoulder in a shrug. “One who loves me and doesn’t want me simply to birth his children so he’ll have someone to tend the fields with him.”

Keiran chuckled. It had been so long since he’d felt like laughing. “I gather that’s a problem here?”

“More than you could imagine.”

He sat forward in his chair, intrigued. “Sit with me,” he urged and scooted out the chair opposite him with his foot.

Her eyes twinkled. She glanced at the chair and licked her lips. “I cannot.”

There was something about her accent that wasn’t quite right. He could hear the Scottish brogue, but he didn’t think it came naturally.  “Sure you can.  There are few of us left, and if someone needs you, they can give you a shout. Sit with me. Please.”

She twisted her white apron in her hands and glanced around the room before she sat.

Keiran leaned his forearms on the table. “Where are you from?”

“A village near here.”

His gaze narrowed. The more he spoke with her, the more he thought he knew her. Impossible. “You’ve only lived here?”

“I’ve moved around,” she confessed.

“Often?”

She leaned back and raised one brow at him. “Why the interest in where I’ve lived?”

“Because I’d swear I’ve seen you before.”

She sighed, her smile gone as she blew out a soft breath. “That’s because, Prince Keiran, you have. In Drahcir on the day you left. I was the girl by the gates,” she said before she rose and walked off.