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Theo watched the glass slip from Miranda's fingers and crash to the floor as the goblin walked into the restaurant.
"Oh, my God," she breathed.
He exchanged a quick glance with Miranda's best friend, Olivia. It was clear that Miranda could see the goblin and that only meant one thing.
She possessed fae blood.
For Theo, it explained everything. He understood then that, on some level, he'd already known Miranda had fae heritage. He simply hadn't realized it. From day one he'd felt a strong pull toward her. In fact, he'd never felt drawn to a woman this way, not this powerfully. Not even once in his very long life.
He should've realized it earlier.
Miranda stared with wide eyes at the greenish-colored creature in the doorway. Her blue-green eyes were like a sea, emotions ebbing and flowing within them. Theo clenched his fists in his lap, wanting nothing more than to comfort her. He wanted to reach over and tangle his fingers gently through her blonde curls, draw her close to him for comfort. But that would seem strange to her since Miranda didn't know about her heritage yet. She didn't feel the pull like he did. Not yet. She was attracted to him, Theo knew that much, but the attraction was shallow.
For the moment.
If he nurtured it, it would bloom.
"What's going on?" asked Will. He was one of Olivia's mates and was also a Gaelan warrior. Olivia's other mate, Mason, sat on her opposite side.
"The doorway," Olivia replied tersely. The goblin turned and fixed his gaze on the table. "There's a full-blood here who wants to see you and Mason."
Mason and Will both centered their gazes on the goblin, and then slid from their seats.
"Want me to come?" Olivia asked.
Mason shook his head and looked meaningfully at Miranda. "You better stay." Will and Mason walked toward the goblin. The three of them talked quietly, and then left the restaurant. They'd been working on a case for some time now and this was possibly related to it. Olivia was in training, learning how to wield her newfound abilities as a seer and find her place as third in a Gaelan partnership, but she wasn't yet ready to fully engage in Gaelan business yet.
Olivia exhaled slowly and examined the remnants of the Chinese food on the table. "That's either a break...or it's trouble."
Miranda stared blankly at the large fish tank behind Theo's chair. "Guys, I think I-I might be sick. Maybe I need to go home and sleep for a while. I'm seeing things."
Olivia covered Miranda's hand with her own. "You're not sick, sweetie. I saw it too."
Miranda's wide eyes snapped to her friend. "You saw that-that thing?"
"It was a goblin," said Theo, "a full-blooded adult goblin. A servant to a kingpin, most likely."
Realization swept over Miranda's face. She laughed. "This is some kind of practical joke! You hired that guy to come in here all dressed up and you're acting like he's real."
"No, honey," Olivia answered. "We didn't "
Miranda turned to the waitress who'd come to clean up the shattered glass. "Miss, did you see that man who just came in with that mask on?"
The waitress' brow furrowed. "Uhhh."
"He was wearing a blue shirt, tan pants and a black jacket."
"I saw a man dressed that way, miss, but he wasn't wearing a mask." She smiled. "Actually, he was pretty cute."
Miranda's face fell.
"It's glamour," Olivia said quickly in a whisper, letting the waitress finish cleaning up. "Goblins use a glamour, a type of magick, to disguise themselves as human. Only some people can see through the glamour. Hobgoblins, the smaller and less dangerous of the species, are skilled with glamour. The full-blood goblins are less skilled, but they're the ones you really have to watch out for."
"Okay, I'll play along. If only some people can see through the glamour, why could I see through it?"
Theo glanced at Olivia. "You're a seer. You have something in your genetic makeup that gives you that ability. It's very rare. Olivia has it too. The skill can come upon you at any time." He paused. "Now is apparently your time."
"What kind of something?" Miranda asked suspiciously.
Theo drew a breath. This was too much for her, too soon. "Fae blood, Miranda."
She laughed and clapped her hands with delight. "This is fun. You guys have great imaginations. So how is it my best friend just happens to have fae blood too?"
Theo paused for a moment in thought before speaking. "It's actually not that big a coincidence. On some level, you both sensed blood kinship and it drew you closer. In other words, subconsciously, like attracts like. You bonded as friends because on some level you knew you shared something."
If only she knew just how true that statement was. Theo had been attracted to Miranda in a deep way from the moment he'd first met her. It had been very strong, but he hadn't known until Miranda had seen the goblin that it was because she had fae blood. That fact, coupled with the unusual attraction he had to her, meant that she was his mate. Theo had no doubt of that. Not only was she his mate, she was Marco's mate as well.
Miranda was their third.
Theo sat staring into Miranda's blue-green eyes. Confusion bled into anger. She was meant to link with him and Marco. Happiness and fierce possessiveness surged through him.
"Okay, joke's over," Miranda replied. "You've gone far enough. It's really funny and all, but come clean. You guys are starting to piss me off."
Olivia looked uncomfortable. "It's no joke, Miranda. Plus...there's more, but you need to absorb this before you hear the rest. We didn't have any idea that you would be able to see through glamour. I'm sorry we're not more prepared to explain things to you."
"I should have known," Theo said meaningfully. "I should've guessed."
Olivia's gaze snapped to his and held. Theo could tell she knew exactly what he wasn't saying out loud.
Miranda leaned forward and forced Theo's gaze to her face. "Look, I really like you, but I'm getting sick of this and you guys are scaring me half to death." She stood and grabbed her coat and purse. Before leaving, she leveled her gaze at Olivia. "And you just have no excuse."
Olivia and Theo watched Miranda leave. He wanted to follow, but Olivia was right, she needed time to think about what had just happened.
"She's pissed," said Olivia mournfully.
"No, she's not pissed, she's scared."
Olivia nodded, then leaned forward, rested her head in her hands and groaned. "What the hell just happened? I thought Miranda was normal, human...one hundred percent human." She lifted her head and stared at him. "And you! You thought she might not be completely human and you didn't say anything?"
"I wasn't sure. I only suspected because I'm strongly attracted to her. Now I know it's not just lust."
"God, this is wild." Olivia shook her head. Her brown shoulder-length hair slid over her shoulders. "That was her first time. Poor Miranda."
"If the blood is there, the skill can awaken at any moment. She's lucky we were here. Otherwise she might have gone for months not knowing what was going on and afraid to tell anyone. She might've ended up like you, thinking she was crazy."
Olivia nodded. "You're right." She bit her lower lip. "What are you going to do?"
Something clenched hard and fast inside within Theo as those words were spoken out loud. He felt elated and protective all of a sudden. "I'm going to make her mine."
"Don't you mean ours? There's Marco to consider too."
A feeling of possessiveness made Theo grit his teeth. He had to admit there was something inside him that didn't want to share. He didn't answer her.
Unseen by the shoppers around him, Theo leaned back and watched Miranda. As a full-blooded Tylwyth Teg, he had the ability to use glamour to disguise himself. He wasn't quite invisible in the formal sense of the word. He'd made himself unremarkable. When a person's gaze landed on him, he or she hardly noted his existence and then forgot him the moment they looked away.
Miranda allowed the salesperson to fasten the strap of the red high-heeled shoe around her ankle. Theo envied him. When the salesman the male salesperson smiled at her a little too long, masculine interest flickering over his face, Theo clenched his fists.
Theo wanted her, wanted her more than he'd ever wanted a woman. From the first time he'd seen her, the first time he'd scented her perfume, he'd wanted her. Now that he knew she was the third in his Gaelan partnership, he wanted her with a soul-deep hunger that nearly made him insane. The knowledge had triggered something primal inside him. After all, he had been waiting hundreds of years for her.
But he had to go slow. Miranda was being initiated into a world completely foreign to her. If he moved too fast, he'd only end up pushing her away.
He watched her walk across the floor to a mirror to admire the pretty shoes. The salesman watched her with appreciation in his eyes.
Theo wanted just a little time with her, watching her, when she was his alone, because he knew she wasn't. His partner, Marco, also had a claim on her, the same deep and inexorable claim that he had. Theo knew it was wrong to keep the knowledge of their third from Marco, but he just couldn't seem to help himself.
He just wanted one more day of her to himself. Of course, he'd said that yesterday and the day before that.
He would tell Marco soon.
Miranda apparently had decided to buy the shoes. So Theo watched as she had the clerk box them up and she paid. He couldn't get the image of her in just the shoes and nothing else out of his mind. He could imagine her skin, soft peaches and cream, against the black comforter on his bed. The red shoes would look good against both his comforter and against her pale, pretty skin.
Her long legs would look good wrapped around his waist while he shafted long and hard into her.
Theo blew out a hard breath of frustration. He wanted her with everything he was. He wanted to keep her safe in the circle of his embrace, give her everything. Theo knew Marco would want the same would want to cherish her, protect her, pamper her...love her.
As he followed her out of the store and down the mall to a bar, he thought about the ways he'd take her when he finally had her in his bed. He wanted to hear her whispers; her sighs and moans in his ear. He wanted her silky skin under his hands, while he was buried root-deep inside her eager pussy. The mere thought of it made him hard.
In the shadowy entranceway of the bar, Theo disengaged the concealment spell he'd cast on himself and entered a good ways behind her. It was crowded. She took a seat at the far end of the bar and he took one near the entrance.
A black-haired man in his mid-thirties immediately took notice of Miranda as she crossed the floor, but she seemed unaware of the man's attention to all men's attention. Miranda seemed to have no idea how lovely she was, how attractive she was...and how males responded to her.
It made Theo crazy. He didn't think he'd ever felt jealous over a woman in his life, but he felt it intensely whenever another man even glanced at Miranda.
She settled in and ordered a cosmopolitan, sipping it as she waited for Olivia to arrive. Olivia was keeping a secret from her best friend, Miranda. Olivia was a part-blood Tylwyth Teg with special abilities. And now that her mates had injected her with goblin blood, letting that blood transmute the fae blood she already possessed, she was immortal...or at least immortal by human standards. The fae did grow old and die eventually, but it took many, many centuries.
Theo knew how absolutely crazy all of that would seem to Miranda, yet she had a huge surprise coming. Not only was she the mate to two full-blooded Tylwyth Teg men...she was a part-blood Tylwyth Teg herself.
Theo ordered bourbon and sipped, keeping one eye on Miranda. Yes. This evening he would tell Marco. It was way past time.
Out of the corner of his eye, Theo noticed the black-haired man get up and approach Miranda. Every muscle in Theo's body went rigid. The man sidled up to the bar on her side and set his drink down. He said something and laughed, but Miranda just smiled politely and drew away from him a little. The man said something else and Miranda looked down at the bar and played with her glass, obviously trying not to encourage him. Her body language was clear, but the man seemed oblivious to it.
Theo couldn't take it any longer. He got up and crossed the floor toward them with his drink in hand. The black-haired man watched him approach with a belligerent look on his long face and a challenge in his eyes.
"Leave her alone," Theo growled as he walked toward them. "She doesn't want to talk to you."
"Theo!" Miranda cried, her beautiful eyes sparkling and her short blonde curls bouncing. "It's so good to see you." Theo could see she genuinely meant that. She turned to the man. "I'm sorry, could you please excuse us?"
The black-haired man looked chagrined and left them alone.
"Sit down," Miranda said, patting the seat the other man had vacated.
Theo slid in and set his glass on the bar.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
Suddenly, he was at a loss, finding he couldn't lie to her. It wasn't like he visited the mall very often on his own. "I'm here to see you, of course," he answered with a grin.
She laughed. He loved the sound of it, so lilting and clear. There was something less happy in her eyes, however.
"Everything all right?" he asked.
She licked her lips. "You guys really weren't joking that day in the restaurant, were you? I've been...seeing things." She shook her head, letting her curls tumble around her face. "Strange things. I asked Olivia to come out with me today, so we could talk."
"You want to talk about this kind of stuff at the mall?"
"I wanted a little normality, I guess. I'm craving normality these days since I'm not sure exactly what normal is anymore." She fell silent and studied her glass with serious intent. "There are strange things in this world, aren't there? Things I never would've dreamed."
Theo could see it in her eyes and on her face; Miranda was struggling hard to understand the way reality had changed in the last couple of days and her place in this new world. He'd seen it before, people struggling with the concept that most of what they'd been told during their lives wasn't true.
"I understand," he replied in all truthfulness and took a drink of his bourbon. "Can I buy you another drink?" he asked, glancing at her empty cosmopolitan glass.
She looked regretful and shook her head no. "Sorry, I'm meeting Olivia soon. We've got an appointment for manicures." She smiled sadly and rolled her eyes. "All in the name of normality. She should be here any minute. After that we're going somewhere quiet to talk about...everything."
"I'm willing to discuss things with you too, Miranda." He leaned forward a little. "Would you like to have dinner with me sometime this week?" The question was out of his mouth before he realized he'd been asking it. Just then he saw Olivia enter the bar and spot them. "We could talk then," he finished.
Miranda smiled. "I'd love to," she answered in a warm voice. "I'm free tomorrow night if you'd like."
"How about I pick you up at eight?"
Miranda nodded. "I'll look forward to it."
Olivia reached them and kissed his cheek. "Theo! It's so good to see you."
"You too, Olivia." They'd just seen each other that morning actually. Theo was training Olivia in her Tylwyth Teg powers in order for her to take her place in the Gaelan triad along with Will and Mason. Miranda knew about none of that. Not yet.
"It's too bad we can't stay and talk more, but the manicurist awaits. Unless you want a manicure too, Theo?" she asked with a raised eyebrow and a twinkle in her eye.
He was almost tempted if only to spend more time with Miranda, but he sensed Miranda needed Olivia's company more than his right now. Theo laughed. "Uh, no. Thanks."
"I didn't think so." Olivia looked at her best friend. "You ready, Miranda?"
Miranda slid off her stool and gathered her packages. "I'll see you tomorrow night, Theo."
"Tomorrow night?" Olivia questioned with a smile. "What's happening tomorrow night?" Theo heard her ask as they walked through the bar toward the door.
"He's taking me to dinner," Miranda answered with a smile.
As they left, Olivia shot a meaningful look over her shoulder at Theo and smiled.
Theo turned back to the bar and sipped his drink, deep in thought. Someone slid onto the stool next to him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" The voice was deep, ragged and tormented-sounding.
Theo briefly closed his eyes before turning to look at him. Marco's blue eyes looked pensive. "I was going to tell you tonight. I'm sorry I kept it from you this long."
Without a word, Marco turned his gaze to the bartender and ordered a shot of tequila. He downed it quickly. "Damn," was all he said. He ordered another shot, drank that and stared at the empty glass. His dark hair fell into his eyes. "Damn," he repeated. "I can't fucking believe it."
"Why are you here, anyway?"
Marco's jaw locked for a moment before he spoke. "I knew it. Somehow I knew you'd found her. I followed you today to find out if I was right."
Theo sighed. "I'm sorry I kept her to myself for this time."
"I understand. I really do." He shrugged and grinned at him. "I would've done the same. Still, just being near her, seeing her...damn." He paused. "I have a powerful will to punch you out right now, friend."
"She has Tylwyth Teg blood. She just started seeing goblins, but it's all new to her and very confusing. That's why I didn't tell you. She needs time."
He let out a loud laugh. "Bullshit."
Theo played with his glass. "Yes, all right, perhaps there was an element of selfishness in there as well, but I'm serious. For all intents and purposes, she's human."
"So, basically, she knows nothing of our kind and she's mortal."
Marco gave a short, bitter laugh. "So, beyond the fact that there are two men bonded to her, there are some roadblocks."
"To say the least."
"I need to meet her, talk to her...touch her."
Jealousy flared in Theo. "I asked her to dinner tomorrow night. It wouldn't be good if you showed up. It might scare her off. She's in a delicate place right now."
"Theo." Marco was silent for several moments. "If you don't want to share her, expect competition." He got up and walked away. Copyright © 2009 by Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Copyright © 2006 by Anya Bast