When they first meet, Jordan takes Samuel’s breath away—but not in a good way. Jordan knocks Samuel, a gatekeeper from a world called Eden, flat on his ass. In Jordan’s defense, Samuel did freak him out, appearing out of thin air the way he did. Luckily, the appearance of the unicorns preempts a possible fight.
Relieved to have found Eden’s unicorns, Samuel is astonished that Jordan knows about them, despite the fact that their horns have been concealed by magic. Attempting to remove the halters that bind them, Samuel is rendered unconscious.
The question now is how to get the unicorns back to Eden, as well as solve the mystery of who has stolen them to begin with. But just maybe Samuel and Jordan need to deal with this attraction between them that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Are their feelings tied in with the mystery of the unicorns?
“So be it.” Selina, Eden’s Queen, rose from her dark green velvet cushion in the corner of her private chamber. She held out her hands to Samuel. “Bring our unicorns back and close the gate, Samuel.”
Samuel clasped Selina’s small hands in his. “I wish I knew what to expect. I’m not keen on going to another world.” He sighed. “But, of course, I will, since the unicorns were led away through one of the gates I guard.”
Selina’s delicate red eyebrows furrowed. She didn’t quite manage to perform a scowl but it was close. Despite the earnestness of the situation, Samuel had a hard time suppressing a smile. Selina could do almost everything, but scowling? No.
She said, “You’re a skilled gatekeeper. It could’ve happened to anyone.”
“Just my luck that it happened to me.”
“Destiny wouldn’t choose you to step into the world known as Earth if there wasn’t something of personal importance to you.”
Samuel barely suppressed a groan. Selina believed in destiny a great more deal than he did. She squeezed his hands, her lips quirking into a knowing smile. Heat rose in his cheeks.
“I didn’t mean to insult you,” he murmured.
Selina let go of his hands and tossed her long braid back over her shoulder. “But you don’t believe me either. It’s all right. Come with me.”
Samuel trailed after her. They went through the wooden door which led from her chamber to her private library. The air smelled of old books and parchments combined with the scents of flowers. She guided him to a secluded alcove, where she beckoned him to take a seat on a small wooden stool that had seen better days.
Carefully, Samuel lowered himself onto the stool, wincing when it creaked under his weight. Selina sat opposite him and, with a dramatic flourish, removed a blue linen cloth that covered something on the table between them. Samuel’s eyes widened when he recognized the object.
The pulsating crystal ball drew his attention and caused his blood to rush in his veins. Selina considered him with a playful smirk. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Samuel tore his gaze away from the crystal ball with effort, even though the flickering lights and shadows in it called to him. He gave a curt nod. “Very. Why are you showing it to me?”
“I feel there’s a strong reason for you to visit Earth. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of what you can expect there. Give me your hands.”
Reluctantly, Samuel intertwined his hands with Selina’s. He’d seen Selina and, before her, her mother, command the crystal ball. A chill had always settled over the audience, as it was a battle of wills. The crystalline object would only submit to an absolute but kind authority. Those who had tried to steal the ball over the centuries had ended up dead, since they wanted to use it without having the power for it. Samuel shuddered at the thought of Selina losing the battle against the energy.
“Don’t worry,” Selina said, as if reading his mind.
“My dear Selina, I’m a gatekeeper. Worrying is part of the job description.”
Selina laughed, a light, tinkling sound that reminded him of a young girl, completely at ease with the world. Part of his concern slid away and he smiled at her. She closed her eyes, pressed their interlaced hands against the crystal ball and chanted the spell.
Sudden coldness gripped Samuel’s fingers and crawled up his arms until it reached his shoulders. A dreadful feeling accompanied his body’s sensation, then, as fast as it had started, the chilliness receded.
“Look into the ball,” Selina demanded. “What do you see?”
Samuel peered through the veil of fluctuating lights and shadows. Slowly, the haze retreated and allowed him a closer look. Frowning in concentration, he said, “I see pastures, with herds of horses milling about. A farmhouse in the distance. Several males riding on horses, obviously patrolling the fences. I don’t believe I’m looking at some place in Eden. The men’s clothes aren’t like ours.”
Samuel tilted his head from side to side and was about to give up and say he didn’t see anything else when something caught his eye. “Can you zoom in a bit?”
“I can try.”
For a moment nothing happened, then the picture in the ball changed, became clearer and moved closer. Samuel observed a young man in tight fitting pants of a fabric he couldn’t pinpoint, and a long-sleeved shirt. He removed the hat he was wearing to wipe sweat from his forehead. The young man tucked strands of his dark blond hair behind his ears and expelled a long-drawn breath.
A stone pebble hit the young man square in the back of his head and he swiveled around, rubbing the lump. Samuel’s heart skipped a beat because even though the man tried to conceal it, he could clearly see the resignation and fear in his blue eyes. Someone approached him, on horseback, and they exchanged a few heated words that ended with the rider doubling his reins over and slapping the young man’s back.
Samuel gritted his teeth, and only when Selina gasped in pain did he realize that he was hurting her by clenching his hands hard around hers. He briefly described the scene to her, anger tinting his voice. He still had no idea why the crystal ball showed him this scene when a white horse trotted over to the distraught looking young man. The horse nudged its nose against the man’s hands and he grasped the blue halter before he stroked the horse’s nose. Although there was nothing to see, the man caressed a spot on the horse’s nose, the spot where the unicorn’s horn normally grew.
“I know where our unicorns are,” Samuel blurted.
* * * *
“What the fuck?” Samuel groaned. After locating the unicorns on Earth, he’d opened a gate at night and stepped through it, not expecting any trouble while retrieving the unicorns.
But something had gone wrong because he found himself sprawled on the soft grass, rubbing his aching jaw. The darkness around him wasn’t absolute—a sparse scattering of stars in the sky illuminated his surroundings. As he searched for his gate, he came up empty. There had been no time to stabilize it and, annoyed, he conceded that it probably had collapsed.
“Who are you? Or should I ask what are you?”
Samuel opened and closed his mouth several times, wondering whether he needed a healer or if an ice-pack would be sufficient. He sat up and observed the man who’d knocked him to the ground. The same man he’d seen in Selina’s crystal ball.
“I asked you a question!”
“Well, it would’ve been easier to ask your question first instead of knocking me out. Just a well-meant piece of advice for next time.” Samuel hauled himself to his feet and shook his head to clear it. His jaw would sport a wonderful bruise tomorrow if he didn’t do something about it. This guy sure had a powerful fist.
“I didn’t allow you to get up!”
Samuel fixed his gaze on the man, taking stock of him He’d seemed small in the crystal ball but that didn’t have to mean anything. Still, even in real life he came across as small but lean, with bright blue eyes that looked rather huge in his finely chiseled face. Pretty. Really pretty.
“I’m talking to you!”
“You’re not talking, you’re screaming,” Samuel said. “Scared?”
“Why would I be scared of someone who stepped out of nothingness? Although it looked like some kind of opening, which is all kinds of weird and... and... who are you?”
“I’m Samuel, nice to meet you...?” Samuel smiled and extended his hand, knowing he’d surprised the other man with his casual manner.
“Hello, Jordan. Now, how about we start again? I think we got off on the wrong foot.” Samuel clasped Jordan’s trembling hand in his. “Don’t be afraid.”
“Afraid? No, no, I’m not. I mean, why would I be? It’s an everyday thing that people show up out of thin air. Haha! See? I’m not afraid.”
“Ah, yes, I noticed how not afraid you are.” He’d also noticed how good Jordan smelled. Sweet, like a ripe fruit, mingled with a sharpness he couldn’t pinpoint. He licked his lips as he tugged Jordan closer. What was it that drew him so inexorably to Jordan? He didn’t even know if Jordan posed a threat or not.
Jordan’s eyes grew wider, if that was even possible. “Okay, okay, I might be slightly anxious. Could you please let go of my hand?”
Samuel reached out for Jordan’s other hand and interlaced their fingers. “Doesn’t it feel good to you?”
“I-I... no, I mean—”
A whicker interrupted Jordan’s stammer and he jumped. Samuel sighed as he turned his attention to the big, white horse striding toward them. A blue halter sat snug around its head and it flicked its ears back and forth. The halter was wrong, so very wrong. No unicorn should ever be burdened with something so mundane.
“Hello, Ariel,” Samuel greeted her, and brushed a gentle hand over Ariel’s soft nose.
“Gatekeeper,” she said.
Samuel winced. Right. Gatekeeper. That was him. Now if he’d only managed to keep all gates closed—at least the ones he was responsible for. But no, someone had accomplished to not only open a gate but to keep it open while, at the same time, concealing that the gate was open. Worst of all, this same person had abducted Eden’s unicorns. A nightmare in itself because, without the unicorns’ combined powers, Eden’s plants would wilt and the sun lose its power.
“It speaks? I-I mean I know it’s a unicorn and all, but it can speak?” Jordan asked, baffled.
Of course he’d seen Jordan caress Ariel’s horn in Selina’s crystal ball but to hear him ask about her, without any trace of timidness, baffled Samuel. He asked, “You know what she is?”
“It’s quite obvious, isn’t it?”
Samuel gazed back at Ariel, who stood silent, her head hanging low. She inspected him from sad, dark eyes, and Samuel swallowed. A spell had been cast around her to give her the appearance of a white horse, but of course he could see through it. He’d always know her and her companions, no matter the attempted disguise. But for someone on the other side of the barrier to notice it? That was trouble in the making.
“Doesn’t she look like a horse to you?” he asked.
“I saw Don bring her in, then do whatever he did to disguise the horn. I thought I’d dreamed it, but you can still feel the horn. I guess it only works when you’re not close. He did the same to the other four.” Jordan pointed to the other unicorns that loomed as large, dark shadows in the night.
They approached them slowly, almost tentatively. Each wore a blue head collar, and each stared at Samuel from dark, liquid eyes, almost as if close to tears. The sight of Eden’s usually proud and elegant unicorns so dejected tore at Samuel’s heartstrings. Whoever had dared to hurt them should receive a fitting punishment.
Samuel let go of Jordan before he met the other unicorns halfway, saying their names in greeting and stroking their velvety noses. “Siris, Silver, Cassia, Jumoke. I’m glad I finally found you.”
“We are relieved to see you, gatekeeper,” Ariel said.
“I’ll take you back home now.”
“Home? Where is this home and why do they call you gatekeeper?” Jordan, who’d obviously followed Samuel, asked.
“As you’ve probably already deduced, we come from a different world, but we can transfer from one world to the other if we wish. The gates from your side of the world have to be kept closed, and to make sure of it we have gatekeepers,” Samuel explained.
“You didn’t do a very good job then if Don stole five of them.”
Anger flared up within Samuel. He turned in a deliberate slow motion to face Jordan. “I don’t need to explain myself to you.”
Jordan shrugged. “You don’t like to be called on your mistakes, I guess.”
“There were no mistakes!” Samuel snapped, losing the fight against his anger. He glared at Jordan, who’d taken a step back when he started yelling. “Whoever opened the gate knew what he was doing. I never realized a gate was open until someone captured our unicorns. Whoever did this is very powerful.”
“Okay, okay, you don’t need to yell. Sheesh!” Jordan held up his hands as he took another step backward.
Samuel’s eyebrows knitted together. Jordan might make a dash any second now and he couldn’t have that. What if Jordan was lying? How could he trust Jordan when he said he didn’t bring in the unicorns? For some reason, Jordan didn’t seem to belong to this world; there was something about him that spoke of magic and power.
Assuming Jordan didn’t lie—and Samuel’s gut feeling prompted him to believe Jordan’s words—then he needed to know about that Don guy. He also really needed to card his fingers through Jordan’s mop of blond hair and experience whether it felt as soft as it appeared.
“Wait!” Samuel called out. “Don’t run away, I have some questions.”
“Why should I answer them? You didn’t answer mine.”
“I did answer your questions. It simply took me a while to get around to it.” Samuel tried hard to muster up all of his patience.
“You wouldn’t have told me that you’re a gatekeeper.”
Samuel gritted his teeth, then let out a long breath. “You shouldn’t have any knowledge about my world. It’s a peaceful place, infused with magic. If people of your world should learn about it they’d try and find ways to infiltrate ours. Eden would be destroyed in a short time. Is that explanation sufficient for you? Why do I even bother? Maybe you’re the one who captured the unicorns?”
“What? No! I didn’t! I wouldn’t!” Jordan protested.
“No! Please, I didn’t. I fed them and I talked to them. I did everything I could think of to keep them comfortable.” Jordan came closer, but he stayed out of Samuel’s reach. He directed his pleading gaze at Ariel. “Please, you tell him.”
“The young one is correct. He did all the things he said.” She lifted her head, then walked up to Jordan and nuzzled his face. Jordan gasped in surprise but slung his arms around her neck and hugged her. Samuel's mouth fell open. Unicorns were not known to be very affectionate creatures, and for them to display it so openly... Jordan had to be special. Ariel added, with a light, teasing tone in her voice, “He talks a lot.”
Jordan blushed and quickly turned his face into Ariel’s mane. Samuel’s heart skipped a beat at the sight. So very pretty.
“Ah, yes,” Samuel said, for lack of something more profound. Jordan cast a glance at him but averted his eyes when he caught Samuel staring at him.
“Gatekeeper, will you open a gate for us now?” Siris asked.
Ariel gave Jordan a gentle nudge, then paced toward the other unicorns. “I fear we will not be able to cross the barrier with these halters on.”
Samuel shrugged and lifted his hand to pull the halter down. As soon as he touched the fabric, a bright, searing pain shot from his fingers through his body. Samuel’s terrified scream echoed in the night’s air while the unicorns shrieked in panic. Then everything went black.
* * * *
“Samuel? Hey, Samuel!”
Hands prodded at Samuel, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember his whereabouts or why every freaking muscle, bone, joint, what-have-you, in his body hurt. No, not only hurt, but stung and burned, as if he was seriously injured. He blinked his eyes open and locked his gaze onto bright blue eyes that shone suspiciously wet.
Without thinking, Samuel raised his hands and cupped Jordan’s cheeks. Jordan sucked in a breath before he nuzzled into Samuel’s hand and said, “I thought you were dead. You looked dead, or you really should be dead. There were flames all around you and you were screaming and... and...”
“I’m okay,” Samuel said, hoping to wipe the worried expression from Jordan’s face. As an afterthought, he added, “I think. Help me up?”
Jordan’s voice sounded high-pitched and tearful when he replied, “Should you do that? Let me get a doctor to look at you first. I should have run for the farm immediately and called an ambulance, but Ariel and the others wouldn’t let me go. They insisted I stay with you.”
Samuel grasped Jordan’s arms and pulled. Albeit reluctant, Jordan helped him into a sitting position. Samuel’s head swam. For a moment, he leaned on Jordan’s shoulder to get his bearings. All the while, he stared at the unicorns, who’d formed a circle around them. Protective mode.
Ariel glanced backward and said, “He is whom you’ve been seeking for so long.”
“What?” Samuel jerked. “That can’t be possible.”
“Sometimes the impossible happens.”
“But not this!” Samuel exclaimed. Although... the crystal ball had shown him Jordan first and then the unicorns. Selina had stressed for him to go to Earth, told him there would be something important waiting on him. Could it really be?
“Gatekeeper, do you not trust me?”
Samuel’s tongue got stuck on the roof of his mouth. It couldn’t be true! Yet, saying so aloud would mean calling Ariel a liar. She could look into the future, and she knew things no one else did. She’d never been wrong before.
She surveyed him, expecting him to answer. He sighed. “I do trust you.”
“Are you always talking in riddles?” Jordan asked.
“Only if we want to befuddle people from this world.”
Jordan struggled to his feet with Samuel in his arms. Despite his small frame, he was strong. Jordan’s muscles worked underneath his hands in a tantalizing manner. His cock perked up and pressed against the front of his breeches. Damn, but Jordan got him all hot and bothered, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if what Ariel said was the truth. It would also explain the sense of magic emanating from him.
“I think it’s safe to say that you’re not able to get the halters off,” Jordan said.
The unicorns loosened their circle, but stayed close to Samuel and Jordan. Ariel said, “I believe the young one is correct. You need help in freeing us from them.”
Samuel pinched the bridge of his nose and held on to Jordan’s shoulders with his other hand. The stinging sensations ebbed away to a tolerable level but the lightheadedness remained. “I’ll have to call Selina.”
“Who’s Selina?” Jordan asked.
“She’s our world’s Queen. The wisest and most courageous person there is, one with a heart of gold,” Samuel replied. “I have to open a gate to communicate with her. Can you help me to that boulder over there? I need to sit down.”
Jordan walked him over to the boulder, then helped him to lower himself onto it. Samuel nodded in what he hoped came across as gratefulness and concentrated on his spell. During his incantation, Jordan’s gaze bore into him. Samuel forced himself to keep focused.
When he finished the spell, a small opening appeared in front of them, only a few feet away. Samuel held his hands up to form a message ball, then quickly spoke the words and let go of the message. Jordan gasped when the silvery globe whizzed away.
“What was that?” he asked.
“A message ball.”
“Cool. Like a message in a bottle, only it’s a message in a ball.” Jordan still gaped at the open gate, tilting his head this way and that, looking awed.
Samuel lifted one eyebrow while his lips twitched into a smile. Sweet.
He cleared his throat. “Something like that. It’ll take Selina a while to respond, so why don’t you tell me what you know? How our unicorns came to your place and who is this Don you’re talking about?”
Jordan flinched. Samuel’s hand shot out to snatch one of his wrists, to thwart any attempt at running away. Jordan swallowed as he inspected Samuel’s hand around his own. Heat streamed from Jordan’s wrist into Samuel’s body, engulfing him. Contentment seemed to fill every fiber of his being and only Ariel’s softly spoken “Gatekeeper” reeled him back in.
After shaking his head, he released Jordan’s hand and patted a spot next to him. Jordan’s face fell in disappointment but he accepted Samuel’s invitation.
“I was out here one night, strolling around because I couldn’t sleep,” Jordan started, “and I got tired so I sat down next to that fence over there, when suddenly a crack appeared. I thought I was dreaming, especially when Don guided a unicorn out of this crack.”
“That was me,” Ariel added. “He surprised me. I was grazing and this man threw a rope around my neck. He then cast a spell that immobilized me, and put on the halter. After he withdrew the rope and broke the spell, I had no other choice than to follow him. The halter is cursed.”
“You couldn’t have told me that before I tried to pull it off you?” Samuel asked.
“Magic works in different ways on unicorns and other magic users. I hoped you wouldn’t be affected.”
“A warning would have been nice anyway.”
“As you wish.” Ariel turned her back on him, her head held high. The other unicorns sidled up next to her, forming a line.
Samuel expelled a long breath. Great, now he’d pissed off a unicorn. Not only a unicorn but the unicorn. Ariel was the oldest and most powerful unicorn in Eden and falling out of her grace could prove to make life difficult, or at the very least uncomfortable. Not because Ariel was resentful, but because her absolute faith and trust in him might suffer.
Before Samuel had a chance to think of anything to make it up to Ariel, Jordan got up from his seat and walked up to her, brushing a hand over her flank, as he circled around to stand in front of her. “Why are you mad at him? He was hurt, and I don’t know anything about magic and how these things work, but maybe he could have prepared himself and it would have hurt less? Are you so above things that you don’t feel pity?”
Samuel’s muscles locked and he even forgot to breathe for a moment. Did Jordan just call Ariel arrogant, or something of the like?
Oh, today sucked on so many levels, it was almost funny.
For a moment, no one said anything, then Ariel lowered her head and rubbed her cheek against Jordan’s, eliciting a surprised yelp from Jordan. After he’d braced himself for Ariel’s affections, Jordan patted her long neck and tangled his fingers into her mane.
Ariel nudged him aside so she could look at Samuel. “Gatekeeper, I apologize. The young one is right, and though I should be above these feelings, I was angry and only concerned about my own well-being. I wish to go back very much, as my existence in this world wears me down.”
Samuel swallowed and hoped his words wouldn’t come out as a croak. “I understand, Ariel. We’ll bring you back as soon as possible, I promise.”
She nodded and gently nibbled along Jordan’s neck, which caused Jordan to laugh and pull away. Samuel cast Jordan an amazed look. Jordan had been outright with Ariel, a tactic Samuel had never tried so far, and it had worked like a charm.
The unicorns scattered into a loose formation, looking more peaceful than before. Samuel let out a breath he didn’t know he’d held and waited for Jordan to come back to him. When he was in arms’ reach, Samuel grasped his hands and pulled him on his lap.
“What are you doing?” Jordan asked in a high-pitched voice. He didn’t put up a fight against Samuel’s hands-on approach, though.
“I need some physical comfort and I need to make sure you’re all right,” Samuel said. His need to touch, to feel Jordan, was too overwhelming to refuse. He’d never experienced anything like it. Sure, he’d been attracted to other males but never in the way Jordan enticed him.
Jordan pulled him out of his reverie by asking, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
It took Samuel a moment to gather his thoughts. “You just told off the unicorns’ leader. No one has ever had the audacity to do so.”
Jordan’s body stiffened as he darted a worried glance from Ariel back to Samuel. “What could’ve happened?” he whispered.
Samuel shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Why are you so afraid to call her on her poor choice of words then?”
“I... I don’t know. No one questions anything a unicorn says,” Samuel replied.
Ariel chimed in with her soft, melodious voice. “Maybe it’s about time we’re reminded how we treat others. Maybe then people would have tried to help us when this man caught us.”
“You mean people saw you being taken away and they didn’t do anything? That’s a sacrilege!”
“They were afraid, very afraid. I think we need to mingle more with the common folk again,” Ariel said, then walked over to Cassia, her mate, and slung her head over Cassia’s back.
“Doesn’t sound like paradise to me, more like you have the same problems we have in this world,” Jordan said.
“Paradise?” Samuel echoed, confused by Jordan’s choice of words.
“Your world’s named Eden, that’s like the Garden of Eden in the Bible, which is an important religious book here and hence a paradise.”
“Oh.” Samuel mulled this over. “That would fit.”
“But obviously it’s not without problems, either.”
“No world is,” Samuel replied.
“You mean there are even more?”
Samuel regretted his answer when Jordan’s eyes grew wide and his slight frame trembled. He pulled Jordan into his chest and cupped the back of his head, threading his fingers through Jordan’s thick hair. Just as he’d imagined it to be, his hair was soft and silky. Perfect.
“Don’t be afraid, Jordan. Gatekeepers make sure the worlds stay separate.” He grimaced, then added, “Except that I failed and I still have no idea how Don managed to conceal that he opened a gate. We need Selina’s advice, but I swear to you there’s nothing for you to fear.”
On impulse, Samuel dropped a kiss onto Jordan’s hair. Jordan wrapped his arms around Samuel’s middle and pushed his head firmly underneath Samuel’s chin. Warmth lulled Samuel into an almost transcendental state, one where only Jordan mattered.
* * * *
Samuel didn’t realize how much time had passed until a plop and a cascade of glittery stars informed him of Queen Selina’s arrival. She floated through the gate, her long, dark green skirts billowing behind her. A serene smile lit her face when she discovered the unicorns.
Her two guide dogs, with dripping fangs and gleaming green eyes, flanked her, each almost as huge as a small pony. Selina stepped barefoot onto the grass, something she always did, and pushed her long, plaited red hair back over her shoulder.
“Samuel, I received your message. Did you find the person who captured our unicorns?” Selina walked over to Ariel, frowning when she stroked along her nose.
“Not yet, but I will.”
“I see,” she said.
A meaningful glance toward Jordan on his lap heated Samuel’s cheeks. Jordan gaped at Selina, or maybe he gaped at her dogs, but he did in fact gape. One of the dogs sniffed the air and strode toward them, an intent look on his face.
Jordan’s breathing accelerated as he tucked his legs up under his chin, which made it all the more challenging to hold him. Samuel tightened his embrace and said, “These are Selina’s guide dogs, they will not harm you.”
“Are you sure?”
Selina twisted her left wrist and that simple gesture stopped the dog from coming closer. It yipped but turned around when Selina pointed her finger at her side. Jordan lowered his legs and cast an embarrassed look at Samuel. “Sorry about that.”
“No problem. They do look scary.” Samuel put Jordan on his feet and rose as well. After interlacing their hands, they walked toward Selina, even though Jordan communicated his reluctance quietly but clearly.
As they approached Selina, she muttered a spell. Seconds later, Ariel’s horn became visible. She neighed and raised her head, and the tip of her horn flashed in bright, iridescent blue. Jordan stopped and pointed at Ariel with an awed expression on his face.
Selina grazed them with a fond smile before she asked the other unicorns to come to her. One by one, they approached her and she revealed their horns, all gleaming in the night. Their whole appearance changed from subdued and resigned to at least a shadow of their usual pride.
“Real unicorns,” Jordan whispered. “They’re so beautiful.”
“That they are,” Samuel agreed. When Selina turned toward them, he told her, “This is Jordan. He has taken care of the unicorns, and he knows the man who abducted them.”
“Good, then he can guide you to him. I want to talk to this man,” she said in a cold voice.
“But first things first. You said in your message the halters are cursed?”
Samuel nodded. Selina approached Ariel, who lifted her head from Cassia’s back. She stood completely still when Selina raised her hands to inspect the halter without actually touching it. After she finished, a deep crease had formed between her fine eyebrows.
She turned around and walked up to Samuel but, instead of giving him instructions, she laid a finger underneath Jordan’s chin. She scrutinized his face for what seemed an eternity, then said, “You have no idea, do you?”
Puzzled, Jordan said, “No, I don’t think I have. This is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“The man who captured the unicorns pulled magic from you and infused the halters with it,” Selina told him.
“So much magic, all unused and untrained,” Selina muttered. Louder, she said, “I wonder how this man was able to retrieve the magic from you. Has anything unusual happened when you saw this man—what’s his name again?”
“Don,” Samuel supplied.
Jordan blushed to the roots of his hair and tried to pull his face away from Selina’s hand. She clicked the fingers of her other hand and Jordan stopped in an instant. She demanded, “Tell me.”
“I... I... you see... it’s, um...” Jordan trailed off. He directed a pleading glance at Samuel who was about to open his mouth and beg Selina to stop embarrassing Jordan when she said, “Through sex. I see.”
“Through sex? You had sex with the man who abducted our unicorns?” Samuel sensed a dull, pulsating throb behind his eyes.
“I didn’t know he’d steal your unicorns. In case it eluded you, I didn’t even know of Eden’s existence before you told me about it!”
“So, you’re having sex with him?” Samuel squeezed out. The pulsating throb had changed from dull to skull-splitting within seconds.
“No! It was just once. He believed he could tell me what to do afterward and I’m so not into that shit. I’m my own man.”
Samuel blinked at Jordan, who by now wore a fierce expression. “How did he take it?”
“Like anyone who thinks he’s God’s greatest gift on earth—badly. He told everyone on the ranch I’m a slut and a thief. Some don’t believe him but others do. It’s kind of an uncomfortable situation.” Jordan’s gaze dropped to the ground. Long strands of hair fell forward and obscured his face from Samuel’s view.
Samuel pulled Jordan against his body and hugged him. At first Jordan didn’t react, but when Samuel cupped the back of his head he let out a shuddering breath, and his arms fastened around Samuel’s waist.
“That’s why you spend time here at night, right?”
Jordan nodded. “Don doesn’t know I saw him bring in the unicorns. I snooped around his room to find something that would give me a hint on how to help the unicorns, but I didn’t find anything. I also tried to get the halters off, but every time I tried I woke up an hour or so later, lying flat on my back, with one of the unicorns resting next to my side. I gave up on removing the halters a few days ago. I probably should’ve warned you.”
“I’ll live.” Samuel smiled wryly.
“I’m glad,” Jordan whispered. At least Samuel wasn’t the only one perceiving some kind of magic pushing them together.
“You did good,” Selina said. “It’s only due to your own magic that you didn’t suffer the same pain as Samuel did.” She turned toward Samuel. “You need to find this man and bring him here. We need to find out how to break the spell.”
“I can show you the way to his room. He should be in bed by now,” Jordan said.
Samuel clamped his arms tighter around Jordan. “All right, but you’ll do exactly as I say. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I thought I possess so much magic?” Jordan quipped, a small smile lighting up his face as he peered into Samuel’s eyes.
“You don’t know how to use it. Please let me deal with this guy, okay?” Samuel made sure everything he needed was secured to his belt—whip, rope, and several small flasks containing useful fluids. It never hurt to be prepared.
Jordan nodded his assent and, hand in hand, they walked across the pastures, toward a dark bunk house in the east.
* * * *
Although there was a full moon, its beams barely cut through the heavily clouded night sky. Jordan switched on a small torch light when they both stumbled over hidden pebbles one time too often.
“No wonder the boss doesn’t want the horses in this pasture. We’d forever pick their hooves or they’d be in pain,” Jordan murmured, mostly to himself it seemed.
Samuel squinted through the night, but he could only see large pastures stretching around them, separated by long-winding fences. Sometimes a whicker or snort broke the silence, but the horses in the pastures blended with the darkness around them.
When close to the bunkhouse Jordan switched off the light, Samuel said, “Why don’t you leave it on? I don’t want to bump into anything by accident.”
“I’d rather not. Last time I used it around here one of the other guys woke up and thrashed me because he thought I was a thief.” A tremor ran through Jordan’s body. He let go of Samuel’s hand to climb over the fence. His boots crunched on the dirt when he came out on the other side.
Samuel followed him and made sure to interlace their fingers again. He squeezed Jordan’s cold hand firmly while he did his best to rein in his temper. No one would ever touch Jordan again. Except him, of course. He’d just have to break the news to Jordan—later. Now they had business to attend to.
They crossed the ground and Jordan unlocked the bunkhouse door. He pulled Samuel inside, then closed the door with a soft click.
“Don’t want to wake anyone up,” he whispered. “The other ranch hands get testy when someone disturbs their beauty sleep.”
“All right,” Samuel whispered back. They stood next to the door, both breathing fast, while Samuel waited for his eyes to adjust. “It’s really dark in here.”
“Yeah, the guys don’t like even the slightest hint of light during the night and—” Jordan broke off when bed springs squeaked in a room nearby. Samuel tightened his hold on Jordan’s hand.
After a while, Jordan sighed and tugged Samuel behind him. They walked past a large table, with at least ten chairs placed around it, and then ascended a flight of stairs. At the top of the flight, Jordan whispered, “Don’s room is at the back. It’s the biggest and quietest room.”
“Which one is yours?”
“Mine?” Jordan asked, clearly surprised by Samuel’s question.
“Yes, where’s your room?”
“Right here, opposite the stairs.”
“Here? So you’ll hear anyone who comes up the stairs, no matter at what time? They don’t think too well of you, do they?” Samuel didn’t give in to his impulse to snarl, no matter how strong the desire became. He doubted it would do Jordan or him any good.
“I’m the youngest and the newest, and don’t forget I’m gay. But at least they respect me for my ability to work with the horses. Most of them, anyway.”
Despite Jordan’s obvious attempt at sounding nonchalant or brave or whatever-else, Samuel detected a deep trace of sadness in his voice, almost bordering on resignation. After taking in a sharp breath, he ushered Jordan along to show him the door to Don’s room.
They entered silently. Samuel cast a spell that would keep any noise inside the room. No need to alert any of the other guys.
Jordan clutched his hand in both of his. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“He stole our unicorns, Jordan. That was a really bad idea. Stay here.”
Samuel extricated himself from Jordan’s grip and fumbled his way to the bed at the other side of the room. Before he reached it, the overhead light went on and a deep, bass voice asked, “Who the hell are you?”
Samuel stopped and squinted until his eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness. When he could focus, he eyed the muzzle of a gun. He swallowed and raised his eyes to look at the person who aimed the weapon at him. A heavyset man with small eyes and a nose that showed the daily use of alcohol glared at him.
“My name’s Samuel. Now would you please lower your weapon?”
The man—Don—swung his legs over the bed’s edge and Samuel took a step back. Not because he was afraid but because he was repulsed. He cast a quick glance at Jordan. He couldn’t picture Jordan having sex with this reeking, sneering asshole.
“Jordan?” Don had followed Samuel’s gaze. “What are you doing here?” A smug smile appeared on Don’s face. “Ah, changed your mind, didn’t you? That’s my boy. Did you bring this guy along to have more fun?”
Samuel’s jaw dropped. Did Don just—?
Jordan fared no better. He gawked at Don and tried to form sentences. Nothing except stuttered words came out. Grinning, Don hauled himself to his feet, secured his gun, and laid it on his bed stand. As he walked toward Jordan, lust written all over his face, Samuel shook his head.
He tapped on Don’s shoulder as the other man brushed by him. When Don turned his head, Samuel swung his fist and hit Don square in the jaw. Don crumbled to the floor with a pained cry.
Samuel wasted no time. He rolled Don on his side and bound his wrists with a special, magic-infused rope. Don hissed and kicked as Samuel struggled to pull him back on his feet. When they both stood, Don murmured something and the rope around his wrists caught fire. Jordan gasped and his eyes grew wide.
“I’d extinguish the flames if I were you. This rope is built to withstand such nonsense. Although if you’d rather die a horrible death, I won’t hold you back.” Samuel stood back a few careful feet from Don.
The flames licked at Don’s hands and had already singed the back of his shirt when he cried out the counter-spell. The air stunk of burned flesh as Don’s face lost color.
“Is he... hurt?” Jordan wrinkled his nose in obvious revulsion.
“Just burns, most likely. Nothing life-threatening. How can you even be concerned about him? He stole our unicorns!” Samuel slapped his hands against his side, unable to keep his frustration inside any longer.
“Just because he did something wrong doesn’t mean we should do the same,” Jordan replied.
Samuel opened his mouth to argue but clicked it shut when Jordan’s words fully registered. Damn, he wasn’t only pretty. No, he had to be compassionate and responsible too. A deadly combination. At least for Samuel’s libido.
Don’s gaze darted from Jordan to Samuel. “You know about the unicorns?”
“Yes, and as you probably know they don’t belong in your world, so I’m bringing them back,” Samuel replied.
“You can’t.” Don smirked.
“We need them back.”
“This world needs them as much. Think of all the good they could do here. Your world is doing fine on its own, but here... people die because of wars no one wants. They die because of illnesses no one can cure. We need them here!” Don’s voice rose in passion.
“You wanted to make our world a better place?” Jordan asked, obviously perplexed by Don’s words.
Samuel narrowed his eyes. Did Jordan really believe this shit? “I don’t care. You’re coming with us and then you’ll help us get rid of the halters.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I’ll kill you if you don’t,” Samuel replied.
* * * *
“You what?” Jordan squeaked.
“Jordan, he’s dangerous.”
“But he just—”
“No! He’s a liar and you’re really naïve for trusting him,” Samuel snapped.
Jordan recoiled as if he’d been hit and wrapped his arms around his torso in a protective gesture. Samuel pinched the bridge of his nose. Hurting Jordan had been the last thing he wanted to do. He cast a glance at Don, whose smirk had increased.
Samuel gritted his teeth, ignored Jordan’s wounded expression, and kicked Don’s boots from where they stood lined up in front of the bed toward Don. “Pull them on.”
“My hands are bound.”
“I’m sure you’ll figure out something. Otherwise you’ll just have to walk barefoot.” Samuel smiled at Don.
The smirk vanished from Don’s face and made way for a murderous glower. As soon as the first curse tumbled from Don’s lips, Samuel clicked his fingers to establish a prepared magic net around him, which would thwart any of Don’s attempts at using magic. Don’s face turned red when he discovered that none of his tricks worked. Samuel crossed his arms above his chest and tapped his foot, indicating Don’s time was up.
Don sneered at him but awkwardly hopped to his boots and pushed his feet into them. Samuel caught a flash of a toothy grin right before Jordan slammed against the door to Don’s room. White-faced, Jordan slid down, whimpering.
“Jordan!” Samuel rushed to his side and stroked over Jordan’s hair, face, shoulders, anything he could reach.
“I’m okay,” Jordan rasped, “he just knocked the air out of me.”
“He won’t be able to do that again,” Samuel replied with conviction.
He kept on bending over Jordan’s body, shielding him from Don’s direct view and chanted softly in his native language. When he was almost done, he tapped a finger against Jordan’s temple and a thin, golden tendril drifted from there into his hands. Seconds later, he sent the spell away.
Samuel turned around to watch Don writhe as a golden light engulfed him, then seeped into him. Slowly, the soft light vanished and Don stood there, in the middle of his room, and said, “Command me.”
“Oh, it’ll be my pleasure to command you.” Samuel extended his hand to Jordan and helped him to his feet.
After a quick glance from Samuel to Don, Jordan said in a small voice, “For a moment, I seriously believed him. But given how he treated me, that’s not a realistic assumption, is it?”
“I don’t think so.”
Jordan lowered his gaze to their intertwined hands. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you.”
“Oh, come on now, Jordan. You’ve only known me for a couple of hours. It’s fine.” Samuel yanked Jordan into a bone-crushing embrace. Again, his fingers cupped the back of Jordan’s head and his fingers wound around thick strands of hair.
Jordan chuckled as he leaned against Samuel, a sound Samuel liked very much. Holding Jordan felt right, so very right that everything else dropped into the background. They breathed in unison for a while, forgetting about the world around them, especially unicorn-stealing people.
It pained Samuel, but he gently pushed Jordan away. After pressing a firm kiss on his lips, he said, “Let’s bring Don to Selina.”
Jordan nodded and touched his lips with his fingers. When he discovered Samuel staring, he flushed and snatched his hand away. Samuel’s lips twitched into a smile. Receptive. How lovely.
Concentrating on the task at hand became more and more difficult, but somehow Samuel ordered Don to walk ahead of them. They left the bunkhouse as quietly as they’d entered, then crossed the yard toward the fence. There, they had to help Don climb over it. Afterward, Jordan used his small torch light to illuminate their way back through the pastures.
* * * *
“There you are!” Selina exclaimed. “I was wondering if you needed help and—” She stopped mid-sentence and gaped.
“Selina?” Samuel asked.
“This is the man who captured our unicorns?” she whispered. Her voice trembled and tears spilled over her cheeks.
“What’s going on?” Jordan whispered.
Samuel shrugged. He honestly had no idea. This whole incident was getting stranger and stranger. Ariel stepped up to their side and rubbed her nose along Jordan’s cheek in greeting. Jordan smiled and reciprocated the gesture with a pat on her neck.
“Don?” Selina asked. “Is that really you?”
“You know each other?” Samuel gazed from one to the other. Selina seemed shocked while Don seemed... a whole armada of emotions flitted over Don’s face but none stayed long enough for Samuel to properly describe. “What is going on here?”
Selina squared her slender shoulders and said, “So that’s why no one could ever find you.”
“No one in Eden believes anyone would rather live in another world,” Don sneered.
“And you enjoy it?” Selina asked.
Don gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Better than staying in Eden and enduring the pitiful looks.”
Selina floated to them and stopped only a few inches away from Don. She lifted her hands and, with great gentleness, framed Don’s face with her hands. “I’m sorry I had to tell you the truth, Don, but you’ve hurt a lot of people by leaving without a word and without a trace. Your parents are devastated.”
Don drew in a sharp breath. “I was a disappointment to them.”
“No, you weren’t. You still have a home in Eden.” Selina pulled her hands away. “Why did you abduct the unicorns?”
“Why not?” Don countered.
“You must’ve had a motive for stealing them,” Selina said. “No one would go through all the trouble you did without an ulterior motive, especially since you know the possible repercussions.”
Don’s complexion became chalky white. In a hoarse voice, he asked, “Did they change those repercussions during my absence?”
“No.” Selina’s voice hardened. “But since expulsion from Eden would be no punishment, we’d have to come up with something different. Maybe a life as a unicorn’s servant would fit?”
Samuel snorted. “That’s not much of a punishment. The unicorns would forgive him sooner or later. How about he becomes a servant to a Harpy? I’ve heard King Ralin got tired of his current one.”
Don shuddered and his eyes conveyed his absolute terror. Selina played along with Samuel and added with a wistful smile, “That’s very thoughtful of you, Samuel. I haven’t offered Ralin a gift in a long time and I’m sure he’d appreciate the gesture.”
“No!” Don shouted.
“Then tell us why you abducted the unicorns,” Samuel said. From what he remembered of some kind of scandal years ago, he puzzled a few pieces of information together. “You wished to be more than a friend to Selina, but when she rejected you, you left Eden and then had sex with a man and stole our unicorns? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Don glared at him. “Selina didn’t just reject me years ago. She told me I wasn’t interested in women. That I should seek a nice young man. She bewitched me! After she told me that, I could only ever think of other men and nothing good came out of it!”
“Wait—you captured her unicorns because she wanted to help you with your sexuality?” Jordan asked. “If I recall correctly, you seemed to enjoy the sex.”
“Could we not talk about you sex with him?” Samuel asked, pointing from Jordan to Don and grimacing. “It’s making me queasy.”
“Don’t you mean jealous?” Selina chimed in, smiling.
“Jealousy sounds bad. My word choice is much more... eloquent” Samuel replied.
Jordan snorted and bumped his shoulder against Samuel’s. “Jealousy sounds good in my book. I don’t think anyone has ever been jealous because of me before.”
Samuel blinked at Jordan’s admission. How could anyone not want to be close to Jordan or keep him to themselves? With a sigh, he turned his attention back to Selina and Don, exactly when Selina told Don she would take him back to Eden. Don’s face became ashen. “I can’t.”
“There are a lot of things you did which I thought you couldn’t. Now it’s time for me to do something you believe you’re incapable of,” she said. “Do you wish to show Samuel the gate you kept open all the time or shall I?”
“Why would I wish to do that? I’m taking it he’s the gatekeeper? Not much of a keeper if he can’t do his work, eh?” Don scoffed.
Tension built up in Samuel’s shoulders as he listened to Don’s jeer. Jordan squeezed his hand and whispered, “Don’t let him get to you.”
Selina shook her head, then told Jordan, “Please lift your hands to Samuel’s temples, close your eyes and admit to the attraction you feel.”
Bewildered, Jordan’s gaze bounced from one to the other but he did as Selina demanded. At the first, light touch of Jordan’s fingertips, a rush of warmth filled Samuel’s mind and heart. He stared into Jordan’s bright blue eyes, losing himself in them.
A crackle filled the night air but neither Jordan nor Samuel looked away from each other. Only when Selina said, “You may withdraw your hands now” did they lose their connection. Samuel snatched Jordan’s hand immediately, then found a gate, hovering in the air behind them, that was wide open. As usual, the gate’s surface fluctuated like waves and was framed by intricately woven woodwork. A beautiful sight that always caused Samuel’s heart to flutter with pride.
Don spat on the ground. “Fine. You broke my spell and found your gate, but you won’t be able to eliminate the magic in the halters without my help and I won’t help you if you dare to bring me to Eden.”
“The idea of gifting you to Ralin sounds more and more interesting,” Selina pondered aloud. “And anyway, you don’t have to help us anymore.”
“What? Why not?” Samuel asked. “Isn’t that why I needed to get him, so you could ask him how to get rid of the halters?”
“Samuel, I had enough time to look into his innermost thoughts. Don’s barriers were down, thanks to your spell, which means he couldn’t defend himself. I know what he did, and I know what you need to do to counter his spell.” She walked toward Samuel, her bare feet making no sound on the grass. Only her long skirts rustled lightly as she crossed to them, a smile on her face and a twinkle in her green eyes.
“What is it I have to do?”
“Destiny worked its magic for you, Samuel, like I said it would. Accept your fate and unite with the one who completes you. This will destroy the halters’ magic and also close the gate Don opened. I should have figured it out earlier, but I never guessed who was behind all this.” She brushed a hand over Samuel’s hair, then did the same to Jordan, who gazed at her wide-eyed.
After she stepped back, she took Don’s elbow and guided him a few steps away. Don looked ready to either bite her head off or crawl into a hole. He probably hadn’t decided yet which was the better option. However, the fear of becoming a servant to the Harpy King loosened his tongue. “Okay, okay, I’ll tell you why I stole the unicorns! Please hear me out! Everyone knows that without the unicorns’ power Eden will die.”
“You wanted to destroy our world?” Selina gasped.
“Of course not! I wanted to scare you. I would’ve appeared out of the blue with Eden’s unicorns and therefore become Eden’s savior. My shame would’ve been erased and I could’ve come back to Eden and be someone people look up to.” Don’s ramble ended abruptly when he fell to his knees in front of Selina.
“Oh, Don,” Selina whispered. “We’ll set this unfortunate incident straight. You have my word.”
She lowered herself to the grass, with her skirts fanning out around her, and pulled Don into her arms, swaying back and forth and murmuring something into his ear while he cried.
A lump formed in Samuel’s throat and from the look of it, Jordan fared no better. He was the first to gather his wits and avert his eyes. He asked, “What destiny or fate is your Queen talking about?”
Samuel swallowed. He understood Selina’s words, but how could he convince Jordan of something he himself had never thought possible? Samuel opened his mouth, clicked it shut, then tried again. After the third attempt, he groaned and simply tugged Jordan into his chest, hugging him till Jordan protested about creaking ribs.
“May I explain, Gatekeeper?” Ariel asked.
She stood behind Jordan and peered at him from solemn, dark eyes. Samuel still didn’t trust his voice and nodded. He helped Jordan turn around so he could face Ariel but kept his arms wrapped around him. As he smoothed his hand over Jordan’s belly in circular movements, Jordan’s muscles fluttered.
“In our world, we have gatekeepers, a lot of them. Each one is responsible for a certain section, but we do have one gatekeeper who oversees them all. This gatekeeper is called the Keeper’s Crown and is a powerful magician. We’ve waited for a long time for a new Crown. Our present Crown is very old and exhausted,” Ariel explained.
“All right. So Samuel will become the new... Crown? Is that it? Why couldn’t he tell me?”
“A Crown only comes into possession of his abilities after he finds the one person who complements him in every way—spiritually and sexually. Samuel knew he had a chance to become the new Crown one day, as did other gatekeepers, but he’d given up hope of finding this special someone. You are the one, young one,” Ariel said.
* * * *
Jordan flinched hard in Samuel’s arms. “What? No way!”
“Don’t you feel it? It is conveyed that there’s an instant and powerful sense of connection and desire between the Crown and his partner.” Ariel tilted her head to the side, then took one step closer and brushed the tip of her horn against Samuel’s hands, which rested above Jordan’s navel. A dim blue light flickered where her horn touched them. A short while later the blue light spread out and soon engulfed Samuel and Jordan.
“We will now leave you to unite,” Ariel said and withdrew.
“Unite?” Jordan gasped. “Did she just tell us to have sex? Here? With several unicorns, two people, and two dogs hanging around? Did she hit her head or something?”
“Jordan, don’t make fun of a unicorn,” Samuel said. He pointed at Ariel and the other unicorns. “See, they’re giving us privacy. Selina and Don went away too. And, anyway, the light that surrounds us will block us from sight as well as hearing.”
Samuel fastened his hands on Jordan’s hips and turned him around. Jordan’s chest heaved up and down irregularly, and his eyes gleamed like sapphires in the dim star-littered night. Samuel pressed his lips against Jordan’s, and even though Jordan stiffened in his arms, he flicked his tongue against Jordan’s. That was all he had to do for Jordan to break out of his stunned bewilderment.
Jordan’s hands shot up and clutched Samuel’s head while their tongues slipped against each other, tasting and exploring each other’s mouths. Their lips smacked as they kissed. Whenever they came up for air, Jordan moaned softly. Samuel shivered at the sound.
In silent agreement they lowered themselves to the grass. Jordan gasped when he lay down. “Cold.”
Samuel shrugged out of his long coat, hauled Jordan up by the nape of his neck, and draped the coat on the ground. Then he slowly settled Jordan onto his back. “Better?”
Jordan nodded. Samuel wasted no time. He pulled Jordan’s shirt off, then caressed Jordan’s chest slowly. His fingers and hands tingled as he mapped the finely toned muscles. He lingered around Jordan’s nipples, rubbing and tweaking until they stood erect. Jordan emitted strangled noises and his fingers dug deep into Samuel’s shoulders.
“Off,” Jordan said and tugged at the shirt clinging to Samuel’s body. Samuel chuckled and undressed. Once bare-chested as well, he slid between Jordan’s legs and allowed their upper bodies to touch.
Multi-colored sparks ignited between them, causing them both to jump. Jordan asked, “What’s that?”
“No idea, but it doesn’t feel dangerous so I think it’s nothing to be afraid of.”
They stared at the sparkles firing off their connected skins, and the way they weaved a pattern around them, surrounding them in glittering colors.
“It’s beautiful,” Jordan whispered.
“So are you.”
Jordan flushed and closed his eyes. Samuel trailed kisses all over Jordan’s face, his throat, and chest. His cock pressed heavily against the confinements of his breeches. He undulated his hips, which pressed their cocks together, and Jordan arched his back in an attempt to get closer to Samuel.
“So lovely,” Samuel whispered.
“What are you talking about?”
“You, what else would I be talking about?”
“Don’t say stuff like that. Men aren’t lovely.” Jordan gasped. Samuel flicked his tongue over Jordan’s left nipple, then nipped the bud. Jordan cried out and his erection pulsated.
“Hey, no coming in your pants,” he chided.
“Then stop doing things to me that’ll cause me to cream them.”
Samuel grinned as he rose to his knees. With careful hands, he unbuttoned Jordan’s pants and pulled them off. He licked his lips when he caught sight of Jordan’s cock outlined in his underwear. After throwing the jeans aside, he bent down and mouthed Jordan’s cock through the fabric. He inhaled the strong scent and even became slightly dizzy from the sounds Jordan made. As he came up for air, he repeated, “Lovely, just lovely. And no, I’m not going to stop saying it. You haven’t been treated the way you should have been and you deserve to hear me say it every day.”
Jordan shuddered and turned large eyes on him. The sparkling pattern around them seemed to build a web, and the various strands of lights picked up the pace, swirling and twirling around them.
Samuel tore his gaze away from the web and pulled Jordan’s underwear off. Jordan’s cock lay heavy on his flat stomach, drops of pre-come pearling at the tip. Samuel’s own cock jerked. He unzipped his breeches and pulled them off along with his underwear. A groan of relief escaped his lips when his cock sprang free.
Jordan’s large eyes grew even bigger. “Wow, you’re... you’re big.”
Samuel regarded himself. While he wasn’t small by any means, he drew in a sharp breath upon seeing his cock. It seemed much larger and thicker than usual, and a thin string of precome oozed out of it.
Jordan sat up at the same time as Samuel lowered himself to his knees. He grasped Samuel’s cock in his hand, weighing and stroking it. Samuel hissed as Jordan’s touch ignited a burning desire deep within him.
“I want this inside me,” Jordan whispered. “I want it so badly my whole body hurts. Did you... did you use magic on me or something? Because that’s one seriously big cock you have there.”
“I didn’t use any magic on you but maybe that’s got to do with me becoming the Crown after we’ve united. I don’t know, I really don’t. I just know that I need you in a way I’ve never needed anyone before,” Samuel admitted, taken aback by the urgent longing to claim Jordan as his.
Jordan gazed at him, a fine flush covering his face and upper torso, then said, “Lube. I can’t take you dry.”
Samuel’s breath stuttered when Jordan bent forward after his declaration and sucked the tip of his cock into his mouth. It was all he could do not to snap his hips forward and drive his cock deep inside Jordan. The urge to fuck Jordan’s face became so strong, he feared he’d succumb to his desire any second.
Instead, he laid his hands on Jordan’s shoulders and pushed him away. Jordan panted. His lips were swollen, but he complied when Samuel guided him onto his back. Samuel even managed to smile before he spoke a short spell, then held a jar of lube in his hands.
“How convenient,” Jordan said.
Samuel cracked a laugh and swiftly opened the jar with trembling hands. Jordan lifted his legs and tucked his knees up to his chest, exposing his hole to Samuel. He groaned as he swiped his fingers through the content of the jar. While he sucked on Jordan’s balls, Samuel bent forward and smeared a generous amount of lube around Jordan’s hole.
From the corner of his eyes, he glanced at the spiraling web around them. All remaining holes had been plugged, and the web rotated in a slow, tantalizing manner. A sudden, flaring spark in a flashy red broke Samuel’s reverie. It also tore apart his patience.
He slathered his cock with lube, then guided his cock to Jordan’s entrance. Jordan’s chest heaved up and down and Samuel discovered a trace of fear lurking in his eyes. Nonetheless, Jordan nodded. “Please.”
Samuel pushed and, to his utmost surprise, he glided inside without meeting any resistance. Heat and tightness engulfed his cock and Samuel emitted strangled huffs and puffs. He wanted to take it slow, so he wouldn’t accidentally hurt Jordan, but Jordan had let go of his knees in favor of clutching at Samuel’s ass and pulling him closer.
“Don’t stop, please, don’t stop,” Jordan said. “Feels so good.”
Samuel pushed the rest of the way in and a body-wracking shudder ran through him when he was sheathed to the hilt inside Jordan, who cried out and twitched when Samuel pressed against his prostate. Jordan writhed underneath him and more drops of pre-come seeped from his cock and pooled in his navel. Samuel couldn’t resist and licked up the precious seed.
After he’d relished the taste of Jordan, he asked, “Are you okay?”
“I’m not hurting you?”
“No. It’s astonishing. I mean, you’re big, and it feels like you own me, but I’m not hurting, absolutely not. Now move,” Jordan demanded.
Samuel laughed, then lifted Jordan’s legs over his shoulders and braced himself. At first, he rolled his hips in small circles, getting a feel for Jordan’s reactions, but soon he pumped in and out of Jordan’s tight channel while the rotating web around them sped up.
Jordan met every thrust and together they rose toward their joined climax. Suddenly, Jordan stilled and opened his mouth in a wordless cry. At the same time, he clamped around Samuel’s shaft and his cock spurted semen between them. Heat flashed through Samuel’s body and, after a moment of complete stillness, he thrust two more times before he too emptied himself.
A moment later, the web around them expanded, then exploded with soft, plopping sounds. Multi-colored sparks erupted and showered them with tiny, twinkling stars that evaporated as soon as they hit their skin.
After lowering Jordan’s legs and withdrawing from his body, Samuel rolled Jordan to his side and lay down opposite him. Jordan’s eyes glittered. Samuel pulled him against his chest, running his fingers through the thick blond strands. Neither of them said anything for a long time.
Eventually, Jordan said, “That was amazing.”
“It was.” Like coming home after spending years in a foreign land where everyone acted politely around you but never touched your heart. For the first time since he’d become a gatekeeper, contentment and peace filled Samuel.
Jordan brought back reality when he lifted his head and asked, “I guess you have to check whether you can pull off the halters now?”
Samuel groaned and closed his eyes. “I’d rather stay here with you.”
Jordan pressed a series of small kisses on Samuel’s chest, then brought a little distance between them. In a hushed voice, he said, “Me too, believe me, me too.”
With a sigh, Samuel cupped Jordan’s face in his hands and gave him a thorough kiss. Jordan smiled sadly. “The... whatever it was that surrounded us, it’s gone.”
“And with it the warmth has gone too. It’s cold here.” Samuel got to his feet, conjured a towel and wiped himself clean, then did the same for Jordan. With a snap of his fingers, he commanded the towel to disappear again.
Jordan blinked at where the towel had been seconds ago, then swallowed. “This magic business really comes in handy.”
Samuel grinned at Jordan and extended his hand. Jordan grasped it and Samuel pulled him to his feet and right into his arms. “You’ll learn how to use yours in no time.”
“I will?” Jordan echoed. The wild-eyed look remained on his face but now an increasing curiosity and excitement had joined in.
“Of course. I’ll teach you.”
“How?” Jordan asked.
Samuel helped him dress before he put on his own clothes. When they were finished, he retrieved his coat and dusted it off. “You’re my partner now. You can’t stay here alone, and I can’t stay in your world for too long. You, however, will thrive in Eden. You belong with me, and that means you need to spend your life in Eden now.”
Jordan’s eyes grew almost circular. “You... you want me to give up my life here?”
“What is it you give up here? What is it you’d be missing?” Samuel knew the answer to his rhetorical questions, of course, but Jordan needed to come to the same conclusion. Jordan had never belonged on Earth. How he’d come here and survived for more than centuries was beyond Samuel’s understanding.
Samuel observed Jordan as he mulled his questions over. The slump in his shoulders showed the end of his contemplation. “Nothing, there’s nothing I’d give up here. I never felt welcomed anywhere but with you and the unicorns, and even Selina. There’s an instant connection, an instant feeling of belonging. It’s still a scary thought to leave all I’ve ever known behind.”
“I understand that and I’ll help you in any way I can.” Samuel held out his hand to Jordan, who, after a moment’s hesitation, placed his smaller one into Samuel’s. Together they walked a short distance, then Samuel called out for Selina and the unicorns.
A moment later, Selina floated toward them, Don trailing behind her. His hands were untied and he wore a sheepish expression. Samuel raised an eyebrow and asked, “Do you think it’s safe to leave him untied?”
“I added a spell to yours so he won’t be able to use magic until we deem it’s safe. We had a long talk and Don agreed to come back to Eden and talk to his parents.” Selina smiled and clasped Samuel and Jordan’s joined hands in hers. “Welcome Keeper’s Crown. I’m delighted it’s you. I’ll proclaim you at once when we’re back in Eden. I believe you’ll train Jordan yourself?”
“Thank you, and yes, I will,” Samuel replied.
Ariel stepped up next to them, lowered her head, and briefly touched her horn to their joined hands. “Blessings, my friends.”
A shiver ran from Jordan through Samuel. A blessing from a unicorn—it couldn’t get more significant than that.
Samuel let go of Jordan’s hand and squared his shoulders. “Okay, let’s see if I’m really capable of disposing of these halters.”
“Be careful,” Jordan said.
Samuel flashed him a smile even though his stomach knotted painfully. With a sigh, he reached out for the halter, braced against a sudden onslaught of terrible pain, but... nothing happened. He pulled the halter off without any trouble. Ariel pranced backward, shook her head so her mane flew around her, then reared and screamed while her horn gleamed brightly in the night.
The other unicorns crowded around Samuel and he swiftly pulled all the halters off. The unicorns dashed away, their tails held high and their long manes billowing in the wind, while their horns illuminated the night’s sky.
Samuel then walked over to the still open gate. He wasn’t sure how to close it, but on a whim he beckoned Jordan over. “I think I know how this works but I need your help.”
“I’m fairly new to all this, if you recall,” Jordan said. He looked dubiously from Samuel to the open gate.
“Just stand here and hold my hands, I’ll do the rest,” Samuel said.
He placed them sideways in front of the open gate, its swirling surface giving it a surreal appearance, then interlaced his fingers with Jordan’s. He wouldn’t be able to close the gate with his own magic, not even with the increased power of being the Crown now, because the gate had been open far too long for that, but if he combined his strength with Jordan’s it should be possible.
A rush of energy zinged through him when he started speaking the spell and his whole skin tingled. His voice grew louder, more insistent, more intense as he chanted. The gate collapsed in on itself with an ear-deafening crash once he’d spoken the last word.
When Samuel glanced at Jordan, he was gawking at the point where the gate had been and shaking his head. In the distance, someone switched on lights in the bunkhouse as well as the farm house.
“We better hurry,” Jordan said.
“Gatekeeper, will you open another gate for us?” Ariel asked. Her eyes had lost their sadness, and the same was true for the other unicorns. Cassia kept nibbling at Ariel’s left ear, clearly happy to be free of the halter.
Samuel nodded and opened two gates, one for the unicorns, so they could go to their usual grazing fields, and one for Selina, so she could go directly to her home. The unicorns bid their goodbye as they pranced from one world into the other.
Selina sent her guide dogs first, then Don. Before she stepped over the barrier, she said, “I’ll expect you want to show Jordan his new home first. I’ll hold back with the proclamation until this evening.”
Samuel nodded and sealed both gates when all travelers had gone through. He opened another gate that led to his home and tugged at Jordan’s hands. “Ready?”
Jordan drew in a deep breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be.” He laughed. “I’m going to Eden. Unbelievable.”
“You better believe it, because I’ll never let you go. You’re the one who completes me.”
Jordan smiled at him and, hand in hand, they crossed the border.