From the Goodreads M/M Group Love Is Always Write event – Soulmates
by: Andrea Speed
Sometimes, when the power filled him, it was better than sex could ever hope to be.
The electricity surged through him, nearly lethal but not at all painful. It was a rush that made his heart pound furiously in his ears and made heat pool in his chest as he tasted metal; it felt like he was made of nothing but pure incandescent radiance.
Oh, he could hear the screams around him, feel the alternate powers whipsawing through the air, but he was too incandescent to care.
The poor Ravenhurst coven. To think they could stand in his way was laughable. Damian made short work of them, spells like curses flying from his lips as he used a dagger to slit the throat of the warrior mage trying to put a suppression spell on him. His blood spurted like water from a hose, and Damian put his hand in it as the man fell, drawing power from the blood. When he was hit with a thrall spell, he used a boomerang spell to hit the witch and drop her to the stone floor of the mausoleum. The other warrior mage came for him. He planted his bloody palm against his forehead and said, “Aduro.”
The man screamed as his eyes smoked, and he clawed at them in agony as the eyeballs liquefied and ran down his face like thick tears. Damian left him to die as went deeper into the tomb.
It was empty, of course, free of even its decayed dead and worn out ghosts, but that wasn’t a complete truth. He could feel the magic rippling around him like a scrim, and he felt out with his power, using his mind to push it into every corner, every crack in the mortar and stone, every mote of dust. There was brief resistance before it shattered, and beneath it he could feel the black power of the sigil, the one meant to bind and trap him, neuter his magic. Pathetic. Was this the best they could do? Frankly he expected better of such an old coven, but so many of the mighty had fallen before him, he wasn’t sure why he was surprised. Age and numbers couldn’t hold up against desire and power.
Damian opened his mind’s eye and saw the sigil was painted on the ceiling of the main chamber ahead of him, where the coven’s head, Mitchell, hid within a cloak of shadows, waiting for Damian to step into the trap before revealing himself. He smiled as he focused his power like an arrow and shot it towards the ceiling, an invisible bolt that could be felt as aftermath. Mitchell gasped as the ceiling cracked, but could do nothing as it rained down upon his head in big stone chunks. Damian waited until the dust had started to settle before he made his way to the broken room, and the shattered remains of Mitchell. As he’d hoped, he was still alive, but just barely.
Damian removed a large chunk of ceiling so he could find Mitchell, although the dust had caked on the blood and made it look like his face was covered with ashes. His eyes were two black pits in his ruined face. “Where is he?” Damian demanded. He didn’t name him; he didn’t need to.
Mitchell coughed up blood before rasping, “Somewhere where you’ll never find him, monster.”
Damian grabbed the wizard by the head and tried to force his mind into his, but even as he made the intrusion, he could feel Mitchell’s life essence fading away, escaping him long before he could reach it. “Damn it!” he cursed, dropping the dead man’s head.
Not that it would help them. He would find the boy, and he would possess him, no matter who – or what – he was.
When Damian first saw him, using his second sight to spy on a supposedly “secret” gathering of the Ravenhurst coven, he wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating or not. He thought perhaps that it was a spell, meant to deliberately confuse him, but the more he investigated, the more he discovered his initial impression was correct: he was real.
The boy looked about twenty-three, which was the age Kieran had been when he died. He was also a dead ringer for Kieran: same long, lean build, same sky blue eyes, same chocolate colored hair, and long fingered hands. Upon seeing him, Damian was at once enraged and yet almost crippled by the fierce aching of his heart. Kieran had been his only true love, the reason he had wanted to better himself and embrace his destiny of becoming the most powerful sorcerer the world had ever known.
And, of course, he had killed him.
Kieran, as beautiful and beloved as he was, was weak. Damian tried to be strong for both of them, but in the end, Kieran was just too frail. He became scared, somehow thought the power was “warping” him when really it was giving him new vigor. He never felt so alive when infused with so much magic. But Kieran betrayed him, and tried to help the Blackwell coven depower him. They all died, and Damian happily absorbed their power.
Of course he regretted killing Kieran. How could he not? But by choosing to side with his enemies, Kieran cast his lot, and had to know the price of failure was death. On the other hand, Damian was now free to do as he wished with whoever he wished, and love was a weakness a man in his position could ill afford. In fact, Kieran’s death had strengthened him, his life force like an adrenaline shot to his soul.
Still, in very quiet moments, he realized he missed him. Kieran had been beautiful, and he’d loved Damian with a passion that was almost frightening, although leavened by its charming naiveté. He believed in things like true love and storybook endings, which was amusing at first, but tiring near the end. Damian could still remember how Kieran looked at him right before he killed him. There was remorse, yes, and fear, but something else, something he was never quite sure he could define. Was it guilt? Resignation? The knowledge he had made a mistake turning his back on his love? There was no way to know.
He’d seen none of that mystery in Mitchell’s eyes. He accepted his death with no feeling at all, like he knew this was how it always was going to end. Damian ripped the useless protective amulet from around his neck, and used Mitchell’s blood to draw quick symbols on his arm, casting a tricky glamour on himself. Now he would look like Mitchell to the few surviving members of his coven, and they would be unable to see through it no matter what counter-spells they were using. He had made sure to include a few Hollywood injuries, superficial ones that looked like he’d been in a battle, but in a way that left him still looking good. If he went overboard, he’d be overselling it, and he didn’t need someone fussing over him when he needed to make this quick. Not that time was of the essence anymore, but wasting minutes with the few remnants of the Ravenhurst coven was beneath him. He was the most powerful sorcerer the world had ever known, and no one said no to him anymore.
With the amulet, he was able to cast a location spell that let him know where the rest of the Ravenhurst coven was hiding. For some reason, they were protecting the boy, possibly just to annoy him. Maybe he was a novice, unable to withstand any magical resistance, and therefore little more than cannon fodder. That would make him much easier to ensnare.
What was left of the coven was hiding out in an abandoned church in the middle of the woods, which was appropriate and yet deeply silly. The first thing you learned in magic was there was no such thing as hallowed ground. No place was naturally sacred. There were spells that could replicate the effect, but they were difficult and never lasted long. They’d have no effect on him, but novice witches liked to lean on them like they were important. He could barely remember being that naive.
The inside of the church was broken and abandoned, salted with so much dust it looked like it had been abandoned since the dawn of time. A large cobweb sagged in the eaves like a discarded wedding veil, and the small bones of dead rodents crunched under his feet as he stepped inside. It looked abandoned, it smelled abandoned … but the locator spell brought him here. Ravenhurst wasn’t powerful enough to pull off such a trick.
As he walked the aisle and looked at the few broken remains of pews, he realized either he’d been had, or they deliberately set up house here, and instantly abandoned it the moment Mitchell and his gang left. Cute. That would delay him for maybe five minutes? Sad. Now it was easy to believe that Mitchell was the best they had.
It was then he sensed a hint of magic, and threw a revealing spell. Suddenly, he saw the boy lurking in the far corner, close to where the altar would have been. Damian’s heart leaped into his throat. He hadn’t expected to find the boy so easily, and certainly not alone. “Took you long enough,” the boy said. Maybe Damian was going mad, but he sounded just like Kieran. He felt the glamour melt away, like a translucent caul had been torn from his body. That was impossible, and yet, it happened.
“Who are you? Where’s the rest of the coven?”
He smiled, and it was a familiar lazy smile that pricked at his heart. “You walked into a trap, Damian. And you know exactly who I am.”
A million potential spells ran through his mind, power made his fingertips burn, but this threw him off more than he thought possible. It was like the world had shifted slightly on its axis. “No, you’re not. Kieran’s dead, and you stink of magic.”
“Of course I do. Magic brought me back to life.” Kieran took a step forward and held his hands out in supplication. Those same long, slender hands that he could almost feel stroking his skin, trailing along his spine, stroking his hair. “And you killed me. I should hate you for that.”
This couldn’t be real. Damian’s stomach turned with the thought that maybe resurrection was possible, and that Ravenhurst were the last surviving coven for a very good reason. They knew more about life and death than he had ever glimpsed. “Do you?” Why was he buying into this? This wasn’t real. There was no way this was Kieran.
“No. Oh, I did for many years, but now I realize it wasn’t you. You got addicted to power, Damian, and it consumed you. You’re a shell of your former self.” Kieran took off his shirt, which he hadn’t been expecting, but why not? It showed off his lean torso, his flat stomach, and the port wine birthmark splashed across his chest like a bloodstain. That would be hard to replicate, and it looked remarkably accurate, so much so that Damian felt his heart skip a beat. “Yes, Ian, it’s me.”
Only Kieran had ever called him Ian. He felt dizzy with the impossibility of it all. “How … why would they bring you back? I don’t understand.”
“You’ve achieved your dream. You’re the most powerful sorcerer in the world, and all your rivals have been wiped out. There’s no weapon that can stop you. But they scoured your past and found your weakness.” He pointed to himself as he started slowly walking towards him, slinking like a stray cat in search of a friendly pet. “Me.”
“Bullshit,” he exclaimed, feeling the accusation hit him like a stone. It was true, wasn’t it? It was why he was so glad he was dead. He was a weakness he couldn’t afford. “You were once. You’re not anymore. You’re dead.”
Kieran smiled. It was that semi-sarcastic, semi-seductive curve of the lips that infuriated him. Damian never knew if he wanted to fuck him or fight him after he gave him that smile, and he still didn’t. “I was. You did feel bad about it, didn’t you? For a little while. But then the magic hardened you and you didn’t care anymore.”
“You betrayed me!” he spat, letting righteous anger wash over his pangs of guilt and lust.
Kieran shrugged a single shoulder, and as he neared, Damian could feel the magic coming off him prickle his skin like static electricity. No single mage he’d encountered gave off this kind of power. “You were leaving me. You found a new love, and it was taking up all your time. I couldn’t compete with magic.”
The hair on Damian’s arms was standing up now, and he could taste ozone and copper. While this seemed liked Kieran, something was very wrong. He called up energy, felt it sing through his bloodstream, and readied himself for a shielding spell. “You never had to. Why are you giving off so much energy?”
“Ah. You noticed?” His smile grew slightly wider, and now his eyes started to faintly glow. “They brought me back as a vessel for white magic. I’m a suicide bomb, Ian. According to their seer, it was always prophesied that I would destroy you.”
“Love would destroy me, not you,” he replied, feeling heat pool in his groin. God, he wanted him still. He knew it was wrong, and yet that had never stopped him from wanting something before.
Even now, knowing that he was talking to a resurrected corpse, feeling the energy crackle around them, Damian could still remember the taste of his skin, the warmth of his body, how he could make him feel like the most powerful man in the world long before he became just that. Kieran had been naive, insecure, and ultimately faithless, but he had loved him beyond all limits. At one time, he’d felt the same about him. Somehow, it felt like someone else’s memories, a glimpse of a life that had never quite been his own.
Kieran’s eyes seemed to burn through him, right to his core. Sorrow transformed his face, making him look younger and haunted. He held his arms open, and said, “I really have missed you, Ian, in spite of it all.”
The longing to step into those arms was fierce and undeniable. But he also knew it would be a horrible mistake. “You haven’t really forgiven me, have you? You just want to destroy me.”
“No. I want you to forgive me … and join me. We can still be together.”
“I exist nowhere else.”
Something inside Damian cracked. He had missed him, just like he had loved him once. No, he still loved him and had never stopped, even after he killed him. Why else had he wanted to find his doppelganger so badly, to the detriment of everything else? Damian felt tears welling in his eyes as he realized he couldn’t just leave him, nor could he bring himself to kill him again, if that was even possible. “I am the most powerful sorcerer that has ever existed. You shouldn’t be beyond my reach.”
Kieran’s smile was heartbreaking. “Didn’t someone once say love makes fools of us all?”
Damian gingerly touched Kieran’s chest. He could feel the inferno of magic raging beneath his skin, but his flesh was still oddly lukewarm, as if he was so cold the heat could barely get through. “I was so close,” he told him. “The world could have been mine.”
“Was it worth the cost?”
He wanted to say yes, but the word lodged in his throat. “I don’t know,” he admitted.
Kieran cupped his face, his skin cool yet comforting against his cheek. “It’s time to let go, Ian. Kiss me.”
Somehow Damian knew that that was death. Yet it seemed right, karmic somehow. A fate not only deserved, but just. “I’m sorry,” he told him, and for the first time in a long time, he meant it. He felt like his old self again, the one he used to be before magic became the all consuming passion in his life; the one where he was just a simple man who loved a beautiful man.
Kieran just took his face in his hands, and Damian watched as his eyes became orbs of pure, blinding white light. “I know.”
Damian kissed him, feeling his soft lips before the light curdled the power in his veins, and the energy began to burn him from the inside out, crisping his flesh and boiling the tattered remains of his soul. But even as he was torn asunder, he couldn’t help but smile as Kieran pulled him into a final, deadly embrace.
At least he wasn’t alone anymore.