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The door at the top of the stairway scraped open, but Kian didn't bother to look up. Only one person ever ventured down here.
His master, coming to steal more of his life-force to enhance his own potency.
Kian's body ached with hunger. These iron chains wrapped around him grew heavier every day. He was a resilient being, but even he had his limits, and he'd almost reached his.
"Three hours, and the destination is nothing but a dank hole in the ground."
He glanced up at the unfamiliar voice, surprised to see the man standing before him. A human, dressed in an immaculate white dress shirt and black slacks. "Who are you?"
"Paul." He slipped his hands into his pockets and walked around the cell. "No windows, no doors other than the entrance, and no more clues." He looked down at Kian, his startling blue eyes cool, disinterested. "Which means you must be the point of this dream."
"Dream?" Yes, now that the suggestion had been put forth, he could see the signs. The fog at the edges of his vision, the lack of substance to the grey stone that made up the walls around him. But he was also experienced enough to recognize that this was a dreamscape laced with magic. "How did you get here?"
"Happened the way it always happens. Mazes, puzzles, riddles. And now I'm here." Paul crouched in front of him, reached out. "To free you, apparently."
"No!" Kian scrambled away, and the chains binding him to the floor yanked him down again. The iron collar around his neck choked him, and he coughed and sputtered as he tried toregain his breath. "Chains ... enchanted ... without a key..."
His face calm, Paul pulled a large iron key from his pocket. "This key?"
He stilled when he caught sight of it. "Where did you get that?"
"These dreams always have one possible goal. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out, but I always do." He reached forward again. "Hasn't taken me this long since I was a boy, though."
The chains rattled and clanged as Kian twisted his body, just barely escaping Paul's touch. "Please, don't." Dream or no dream, in this state he'd suck the human dry if freed.
Paul sighed and sat on the cool stone floor. "An emotional component; I'm never good at solving those."
Curious, cautious, he turned to take another look at his visitor. The man's beauty dazzled the senses, even in the dim light of the single bulb hanging above them. His raven hair and strong, cut features drew the eye in ways Kian had never before experienced, while the blue in his gaze glittered like pure, precious gems. Yet there was a coldness about him that he couldn't fathom. "Emotional component?"
"It's hard for me to relate to people, so when empathy is required to solve a puzzle, it takes a lot longer." He rested his wrists on upraised knees. "I don't think I've felt anything substantial since I was a child."
How could a human with no true emotions walk into another's dream? The very act required profound sensitivity. "Do you know what I am?"
He shrugged. "I usually have dreams like this when on a particularly intricate case. One could argue that my mind is working through a subconscious manifestation of a challenge I'm facing in my waking life."
No dream walker he'd ever met spoke like this. "Case?"
"I work at Harcourt, Coleman, and Krauss."
Kian fell silent, trying to comprehend the cold human before him.
"How long have you been here?"
He met Paul's sapphire gaze, forced himself to ignore his hunger. "I'm not sure. Years, I think."
"I've been enslaved to provide pleasure for a master."
"Enslaved," he repeated softly, although his expression didn't change. "That's not right."
Kian sensed that the human said the words because of some internal moral code, not because he was particularly outraged. "You're a strange dream walker."
Nothing registered on the other man's face. "Dream walker?"
He didn't know. How could anyone be unaware of such a gift? "It's rare magic."
"There's no such thing as magic."
The enchanted chains restricted Kian's true power, so he was in no position to convince him otherwise. Besides, disbelief often proved an adequate form of protection for humans. "Alright."
Paul studied him a long moment. "Why don't you want me to set you free?"
"Because I'll kill you if you do."
"Ah." He got to his feet, leaned down. "It's just a dream." He grasped the collar around Kian's neck, slid the key into the lock fastening it.
The key turned, the lock tumbled, and the collar fell away.
"Sorry, but I can't wake up until I accomplish the goal." Paul straightened. "And I'm a busy man. Too busy for dreams."
Kian stared in shock as the human faded from sight. The fog at the edges of the cell engulfed the room, swirled around him, and darkened into black.
Kian opened his eyes and sat up. The iron collar around his neck clattered to the floor, taking the rest of the chains with it. Sweet, hot fire filled his body--his power returning full force.
Slowly he rose to his feet, running his hands over the raw skin of his throat, his arms, his wrists.
The human had used a dream to enact real change in the waking world. A great deal of power, and he was completely unaware.
Kian would have to deliver a personal thank you.
The door above scraped open, and he glanced up, half expecting to see his rescuer walk down the steps. But it wasn't Paul.
It was his former master.
Richard Davis froze in place, staring first at the chains on the floor and then at the creature standing in the center of the room.
Kian looked him over--took in Richard's broad shoulders, the muscled torso and long legs. His gaze settled on the prominent bulge in the crotch of his trousers.
Time to take back all that had been stolen from him.
Lifting his head, Kian let a vicious grin shape his mouth.
"You seem to be quite fond of bondage, Richard. We'll see how you feel about it when I'm through with you."
"Mr. Graham, I'm sure you would agree that this is a cut and dry case."
Paul's gaze didn't waver as he studied the smug look on opposing counsel's face. They sat across from each other at a long mahogany table. He didn't usually handle simple contract disputes, but it was for one of their most important clients, so Paul was called in. "It is cut and dry, Mr. Sterling. In my client's favor."
Sterling shook his head. "Turner Concrete revoked their offer before Kite Construction could accept. They notified Kite of the termination via courier--a direct communication. There is no contract."
Was this their entire argument? "Communication of a terminated offer only voids a potential contract if the offer is revocable. Kite relied on this offer in determining the costs of a substantial job. They then submitted a bid based on these costs and won the bid, thereby relying on Turner Concrete to their detriment. Turner was well aware of this, and now they are obligated to deliver the product at the price offered."
The grin faded from Sterling's mouth. He turned his head, whispered something to his co-counsel. Then he turned to his other side to discuss the issue with his client.
Paul kept his gaze locked forward, waiting.
Sterling leaned on the table, linking his hands together. "We're prepared to honor the agreement."
His face expressionless, Paul opened a folder and pushed it to the other side. "This is a copy of the original contract. As you can see, Martin Kite has already signed it. If Mr. Turner signs it today, then our firm will drop our suit against you."
Sterling took a few minutes to look it over before handing the contract to Sam Turner, who gritted his teeth as he signed it. Once done, Turner and his team of four lawyers stood and exited the room.
Martin jumped to his feet. "Hot dog! That was fantastic."
Paul took the contract, slid it into his briefcase before snapping it shut. It hadn't been anything spectacular--this was basic contract law. How they thought they could slide by with ignoring the facts was beyond him.
"I'm glad you're satisfied with the outcome, sir." He straightened, looked at the barrel of a man in front of him. "We value you as a client."
Laughing, he grabbed Paul and planted a loud kiss on his forehead. "You're a crackerjack kid, you know that?"
"I try, sir."
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he ruffled Paul's hair. "And cool as ice. That's why I always ask for you when I get myself into a jam."
A smile touched his lips. A few more clients like this, and he'd make partner before he was thirty. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate your faith in me."
Still chuckling, Martin left the conference room.
And Paul moved on to his next case.
It was past ten when he had done enough to head home. He walked out of the elevator and into the vast lobby of the Harcourt Building, mentally reviewing a list of restaurants that would still be open this time of night.
He turned, saw a man leaning against one of the marble columns. Waves of copper hair framed his face, curled under his chin. He seemed out of place here, dressed in a midnight blue t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"
The man approached, a playful smile on his mouth. "You don't remember me?"
Light caught his brown eyes, made them shine like polished bronze in the sun. "You do seem familiar."
"Understandable, I suppose. It's been almost four years since we met." He stopped just short of bumping into Paul, standing a couple inches shorter. "I imagine the memory of me is much like a dream."
His eyebrows drew together. "Very familiar," he said softly.
He chuckled--a full, rich sound. "That's something." His warm smile reached all the way to his eyes. "Ah, Paul. You are even more striking than I remember."
It made him uneasy, that intimate gaze. "Who are you?"
"Somers, but knowing my name will not help. You never asked it."
Paul glanced away. "Oh. You're someone I've hurt."
Kian ducked his head, catching his gaze. "Quite the opposite, actually. You saved me."
Staring into those eyes coaxed that familiarity into tugging at him again. "Saved you?"
"Did you know there are one hundred and twenty-three 'Pauls' employed by your firm? That's why it took me so long to find you. If I hadn't taken the time to sift through investigators, paralegals, librarians and such, I would have found you much sooner." He grinned. "I should have known from the beginning you could have only been a lawyer."
Paul still couldn't figure out where he'd met this man. "Why were you looking for me?"
Kian's bronze eyes focused on his lips. "In retrospect, I shouldn't have started with your Italian office, either. But I needed ... I needed to be in a warmer environment. Just for a while."
That touch of sadness seemed to run deep, and Paul softened his voice, not wanting to bring any more of it to the surface. "Are you alright?"
The sadness evaporated with a little flick of his head. Kian edged closer, his gaze still locked on Paul's mouth. "I wish to have a drink with you. Let's go--right now--to some dark, out of the way bar. We'll sit too close, we'll speak too softly. Then we'll go back to your place and I'll sear the memory of me into your body so you will never forget me again."
Although he often received propositions for sex, no one had ever been quite this bold about it. He glanced around the lobby, empty save for the clerk at the front desk and a couple of security guards. Paul wouldn't mind going home with Kian--he had one of those bodies that promised physical satisfaction--but decided against it. "No thanks."
Shock flickered over his face. "You're ... You're turning me down?"
The man acted like he'd never been rejected before. "Yes."
Hank, a security guard, walked up to them. "Is everything okay, Mr. Graham?" he asked, his eyes never leaving Kian.
"I'm fine, Hank."
The guard took a deep breath, causing the thick muscles of his chest to strain against his pale blue uniform as he took a step closer to Kian. "And what about you?"
"Confused, but unharmed."
Hank lowered his head. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do to help you out?"
Paul's gaze traveled over the normally stalwart guard's body. He took note of the impressive erection tenting the big man's trousers, thought that Kian would be getting lucky tonight after all, and began to walk away.
"Don't leave, Paul." Looking annoyed, Kian turned his head and spoke into the guard's ear.
Paul couldn't catch the words, but whatever he was saying really got to Hank. The man's cock throbbed against his pants as his breathing came harder. His skin turned a dusky shade of red as faint moans streamed from his mouth. As his hands curled into fists, that big body began to rock back and forth.
All at once, Hank stiffened, and a huge wet spot appeared at his crotch. He gasped for air while Kian spoke a few more words, and tust happened didn't affect you at all." He paused, ran his fingers through his copper hair.
"It affected me a great deal. That's why I'm asking how you..."
He closed the distance between them. "See the night clerk over there? His hand is thrust deep into his pants because the very sight of me makes him lose all control."
Paul glanced over his shoulder, saw that the clerk did indeed seem to be in a state of bliss. "How do you know he's thinking of you?"
"Because that's what I am, Paul. I'm every dirty thought, every sweat-drenched urge you've ever had. I'm the fire that fuels your libido." He leaned closer. "The whole of my attention is focused on you. Why aren't you on your knees, drinking from my cock?"
Apparently, in his past, he'd managed to save a mental patient. "Go home, get some sleep."
That shocked expression returned to his face. "Why don't you want me?"
"It's not that. I don't want to hurt you, not after I went to the trouble of saving you." He smiled. "Even if I don't remember it."
Kian fell back a step.
The man had obviously come a long way to find him. Paul didn't think it was right not to acknowledge his effort. "Do you need cab fare? I'll give you enough money to get you wherever you need to go."
He shook his head. "No, I don't need cab fare."
Was it a good idea to leave him alone here? He hesitated, but there was nothing he could do for Kian. He hadn't broken any laws, thankfully, and he hadn't done anything that warranted a stay in a padded room. Paul certainly couldn't take him home--that could turn an obviously unhealthy attachment into full-blown obsession--and he didn't need the complication.
"Will you be alright, Kian? You do have a place to stay, don't you?"
Kian hooked his thumbs into his pockets. "There is no need to worry about me, Paul."
He stopped short, realizing that was exactly what he'd spent the last several seconds doing. Paul didn't worry. About anyone.
All the more reason to walk out of here.
"Take care, Kian." He turned, left the building without looking back.
He ignored the words echoing in his head. Although the statement seemed to have been true enough with Hank, he knew it didn't apply to him. As much as he enjoyed sex, he just wasn't built for passion.
And he'd never been one to play with fire.