Prologue

 

Jack

 

Teague wasn’t the only one who had bad dreams—at least not this night.

Two days after the Werewolf Debacle, as Jack was starting to think of it, he lay beside his lovers. He should have been hearing their breathing in the dark, but instead he was sweating, trying to recapture the dream that had ripped apart his night. Jack had been a big reader as a kid, and he’d spent much of his childhood in stories of knights and ladies, quests and battles—silly, idealistic bloodshed for a sheltered, bloodless boy. This dream had been just like them. He remembered bold lines and fairy-tale colors—just like a comic book or a kid’s story. And just like a comic book or a kid’s story, the movements had been broad and stylized—it hadn’t looked real at all, but the beautiful parts had been more beautiful and the scary parts had been terrifying….

Unlike in real life, where she was a rather plain college student, Lady Cory was very beautiful in the dream. Her hair was a glorious scarlet waterfall, and her eyes flashed green-brown fire. There were no freckles to make her average, and her cheekbones seemed to have moved up and gotten a little narrower. The results were lovely and terrible and terrifying—there was nothing of the friendly, frightening human being Jack had been humanly jealous of. In her place was an inhumanly beautiful, cold and bloodless monarch, the kind men would die for and women would kill to serve.

Teague stood before her—wearing armor polished to a sheen, of course. He held his helmet under his arm and knelt with his head bent forward in servitude.

“I give to thee, my lady, all that is in my power….” Not Teague’s words in real life, of course, but Jack could see the sentiment was real. The lady could too, and she bent her head and replied. Her words were humble, but her face was haughty and indifferent, and Jack felt a blaze of anger in the dream because he knew—just knew—that bitch had no idea what it was she was being offered.

“Your sacrifice is unnecessary, sir knight. You serve us well. Be happy, go home to your lovers. Be well.”

Of course Teague wouldn’t just let that stand, now would he? He’d have to go and do the noble goddamned thing and make her accept what he was offering.

Jack watched in horror as Teague turned the sword inward, and—grabbing it by the blade—thrust it into his chest. Of course, in real life this would be impossible since he was wearing two tons of armor, but just for Jack’s dream, because he was horrified and freaked out, that fucking sword slid in like the steel plating was butter. And the damned lady of the house, she did nothing. She did jack-fucking-diddly-shit as Teague reached inside that wreckage of metal and chest cavity and pulled out his still-beating heart.

In the dream Jack started to scream—one of those terrible screams you make when you’re asleep, where your mouth is open and your chest is working like a bellows but no sound comes out. Teague looked at him with that beautiful fuck-me grin and winked. When he spoke, blood frothed and bubbled from between his lips. “Don’t worry, Jacky. There’ll be enough for you when she’s done.”

But Lady Cory was gnawing on the thing, flashes of scarlet blood coating her cheeks and dribbling down her chin, and Jack was pretty damn sure there was going to be nothing left.

Jack’s eyes opened in the dark, and his heart—still securely in his chest, unlike Teague’s dream heart—hammered blood in his ears.

He turned to Teague, that bantam, wiry body back-spooning into Jack’s arms, just in time for Teague to gasp like a swimmer who’d been under for too long. He struggled to sit up, making what sounded like suppressed screams in his throat, but Jack tightened his embrace and forced Teague to lie down.

After a few moments, Teague’s body relaxed. He turned away from Katy, who was soundly asleep, and let Jack kiss his forehead and nuzzle his cheek. As Teague’s breathing calmed down and his terrible shivers stopped, Jack spoke, his voice startling in the dark.

“What do you dream about, beloved?”

Teague hauled in another breath, and Jack felt one final, convulsive shiver rock his scrawny, tree-root body.

“Letting you down,” he said after a moment. Jack kissed his forehead. It was still clammy from the dream, and Teague made a rough sound in his throat before his shoulders came down in that self-protective cocoon Jack recognized so well.

“Impossible,” Jack said fervently. He was thinking that his dream could wait. Teague had enough on his mind.