Leonidas’s heart lurched, and he scrambled up from his repose on the cave floor. He and Leksander had made a pact—whoever went wyvern first, the other would end it quickly. And now his brother was winging toward him, a silver bullet come to end his torment. Leonidas was ready… although his heart was pounding out of his chest at the site. Despite hours of trying to effect his death on his own, the prospect of it winging toward him charged him anew. His tail swished the cave behind him, and his blood rushed in his ears. He stood, wings spread but outwardly as calm as he could manage, while Leksander landed at the edge the cave entrance.
His silver talons screeched against the granite as he grabbed his purchase. He stayed back from the protection of the wards and peered intently at Leonidas, trapped in his magical cage. My brother? Leksander’s thoughts reached him as the ice-blue eyes of his dragon raked across his body. Leonidas’s wyvern dragon was bronze, like his normal dragon, but with none of the smooth, elegant form and burnished scales. His wyvern was bony and brutish and ridged with hardened scales, as rough and wild in appearance as his mind was supposed to be. Still here, Leonidas sent the thought in return.
Fucked until the end, it would appear. Leksander reared back, leaping away from the ledge and lifting into the air. He flew a short ways off, then turned back, looping toward the cave. Twice more he circled. He was outside the reach of Leonidas’s thoughts. When Leksander finally returned, he once again alit at the edge of the cave, just barely clinging to the lip where the barrier of the wards didn’t reach… only this time he shifted into his human form. “Drop the wards,” his brother said. Did you bring an angel blade? Leonidas sent the thought to him.
Because I don’t think you can strangle me in human form, my brother. Even if I let you in, my true wyvern wildness might emerge on the cusp of death. The last thing he wanted was for his brother to die in this tomb alongside him. Or worse, fail to keep him contained and let his wyvern loose to go attack Rosalyn. “Let me in, and we’ll talk,” Leksander said calmly. Leonidas frowned. All right, but once you’re inside, I’m raising the wards again. Just in case. Leksander nodded his agreement. Leonidas lifted his taloned claws and motioned to wipe away several of the wards he’d conjured.
The focus of his fae magic and the slinky black lines of his runes skittering down his hardmuscled arm made fast work of it. Leksander stepped inside the cave, and Leonidas reversed the conjuring, raising the magical cage once more and locking them both inside. He wasn’t too worried-Leksander had always been the strongest of the three of them. Born a minute after Lucian but a minute before Leonidas, Leksander was the cooler head, the keener eye, and the strongest in fae magic, as if a portion had been doled out to all three, but Leksander had gotten the larger share.
You no, when Lucian locked himself in his tomb, I told him he was being idiot. ” Leksander paced the small length of the cave-only about fifteen feet on a side-peering at the walls and Leonidas’s rough wyvern form by turns. “You, I’m not so sure. ” I fell in love, Leonidas thought in his direction. I could hardly help it. You of all people should understand. Leksander ducked his head and studied the flick of Leonidas’s bronze-spiked tail. “I do. ” He grimaced and met Leonidas’s gaze. “I should have known you would be too susceptible. Too inexperienced in this sort of thing.
I shouldn’t have pushed you, my brother,” Leonidas laughed, which for his wyvern form meant puffs of smoke laced with dragonfire huffing out of his gaping mouth. He had to look like every horror depiction of dragons that ever were dreamt. You didn’t cause me to fall in love, my brother. And don’t fool yourself. Could you stop loving Erelah? Even if you were on the brink of losing your life? Leksander was back to shaking his head, and Leonidas felt a stab of guilt for baiting him. Especially with the burden Leonidas was placing on him—to sully his talons with his own brother’s blood.
Just end it for me, Leonidas pleaded. Take your talons and your fae magic and lop off my head. And be quick about it, will you? I don’t want to feel it. Then go back to Erelah and tell her how you feel. Bear your heart. You’ll no longer have the treaty to worry about. Make use of the time you have left. That was his one regret—that he hadn’t kissed Rosalyn one last time before his wyvern took him. Leksander frowned, his gaze hard on Leonidas. He steeled himself, ready for his brother to spring forward, shift, and slice his head clean from his shoulders.
Leksander tensed but didn’t move. Finally, he said, “Leonidas, you’re still a man. ” It won’t last. For the love of magic, would he have to convince him? “I know. ” Leksander gave him a quick nod. “But you still have to try. ” Leonidas cocked his head. Try? What the hell are you talking about? Leksander held his gaze as he stepped forward. Leonidas’s heart pounded as he got close-was this his brother’s way of surprising him? Catching him unawares so it would be over faster? He couldn’t help rearing up as Leksander approached.
His human form was so much smaller than Leonidas’s wyvern that his brother had to reach up to get a hand on Leonidas’s shoulders, just below wear his wings were tucked behind his back. Leksander stared up into his eyes. “If you love her, fight for her. ” What? Leonidas wrenched away and paced the tight confines of the cave. Leksander had to leap out of the way not to be lashed by Leonidas’s spiked tail as it slithered past. What the fuck, Leksander? I’m wyvern. “You could do it,” he said coolly, turning to face Leonidas as he paced.
Agitation was a rumbling wave traveling through his body, amping up the wildness that seethed under his skin. He hadn’t lost his mind yet, but it felt just a hair’s breadth away in time, as if any moment, his rational brain could just slip away into darkness. “You have the write equipment, my brother,” his brother insisted. “It could be done. ” That’s fucking sick! Leonidas vented his anger in dragonfire, which curled around the cave, barely missed Leksander, and backdrafted onto Leonidas. He growled through the burn, but it wasn’t anywhere near as horrible as what his brother was suggesting.
Yes, he had the right equipment-wyvern forms were a rough bastard of a dragon, but they had a human-sized cock, just right for raping and impregnating. That was the whole purpose of the beast. A singular, mindless, take-no-prisoners propagation of species, should a dragon fail to find a mate before the end of its time. It was primal. It was barbaric. And there was no fucking way he was doing that with Rosalyn, even if he still was a man between his ears. “Hear me out,” Leksander said, but he was batting at his clothes, stamping out the part that had lit with stray wisps of dragonfire.
He edged as far away as he could get in the small cave. There’s more? Dragonfire leaked out of Leonidas’s gaping maw. There is no way I’m asking Rosalyn to literally fuck a dragon. And really… what the hell, Leksander? That won’t even work for the treaty. For the love of magic… Agitation sent him stomping around the cave again. Leksander hustled out of his path. “Just calm down and listen. ” Leonidas roared his frustration but kept the dragonfire inside this time. Then he slammed his dragon fist into the solid granite. There was a satisfying spike of pain and smear of blood… nd it helped to lance the agitation enough that he could sag roughly to the floor. I’m listening. But he couldn’t even look at his brother. What madness was he even contemplating? Leonidas should pull down the wards and toss his brother out. “You fight for her. You win her over. ” Leksander waved a hand at Leonidas’s hulking wyvern form. “She already knows you love her. That has to hold some sway. ” I couldn’t win her love as a man, and you think I can win it as a beast? Leonidas just shook his head. You’re crazier than I knew. And then what?
If she loves me, she’ll have sex with a wyvern? Holy fucking magic, Leksander. No. Just… no. “You’d rather brake the treaty than at least try this. ” Leksander glared at him. Hell yes. Leonidas dragged his bronze talons through the dirt of the cave floor and banged his head back again the wall. I’m cursed, my brother. That’s all there is to it. Now just fucking end it, will you? End it or get the fuck out and let me suffer in peace. Leksander growled and paced, but he didn’t leave. He scrubbed a hand across his face and kept talking. “You’re still a man.
You haven’t completely gone wyvern. The curse isn’t working—”The curse is working just fine. Leonidas gave a snort of disgust that transformed into vapors of dragonfire leaking out of his snout. Leksander stopped his pacing and turned to him. “Then we have to break it. ” Leonidas scowled. I’ve tried a hundred times, “Not with this level of magic. ” Leksander had a gleam in his eye. What are you talking about? But Leonidas sat up a little in his spot leaned against wall. “Your curse was born of love and death. Ancient magic. ” Leksander was stroking his chin, thinking.
Leonidas’s hopes lifted, probably cruelly, because there was no way his brother could conjure a solution to this. Could he? “Now you’re in love—with a witch—and also facing death. More ancient magic. There has to be some way to connect it. Some way to cancel out the curse by redeeming yourself with this witch. ” He snapped his fingers and pointed one at Leonidas. “That’s it! That’s why you’re drawn to her. She has to be connected to Meridi. ” The original which who cursed him? What in the name of magic— “Witches live a long time. ” Not that long. Leonidas scowled at him.
What was Leksander after? “You said she was a purebred witch, right? And a powerful one. There just aren’t that many covens, and there have only been a few generations of witches between now and then. There’s a decent chance she’s actually descended from Meridior at least related to her. In a broader, more ancient sense, all witches are sisters. And if that’s true… ” You think she could connect to the curse. Leonidas shook his head. How could that be? “It’s possible. If you can redeem what you did to Meridi by making it up to Rosalyn, then maybe, just maybe… you can brake the curse. “