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Blood & Ash (Lost Realm #1)

Blood & Ash (Lost Realm #1)

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Blood & Ash (Lost Realm #1)

ratings:
4/5 (5 ratings)
Length:
174 pages
2 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 13, 2011
ISBN:
9781466005662
Format:
Book

Description

War is coming...

Ash has never left the palace. For seventeen years he has been kept close by his father and brother, bound by their vow to protect him. He has grown up safe, innocent, and lonely.

Now the fae Realm is under attack, and the witches have threatened Ash personally. To protect his younger brother, Skye has done something unthinkable. He has brought a vampire into the Realm.

Azrael owes Skye a great debt. He takes his position as Ash's guardian out of loyalty to his brother, but everything changes when he finds himself falling for the young prince: the first mortal he's loved in a thousand years.

With his enemies closing in, and the king slowly dying, can Skye trust Azrael to protect Ash while he prepares to defend the Realm? Will Azrael be able to control his feelings for Ash as he reconciles the demons from his past? And will Ash ever feel like he truly belongs anywhere?

'Blood & Ash' is the first book in the Lost Realm series.

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 13, 2011
ISBN:
9781466005662
Format:
Book

About the author

Born in Liverpool, Kate Aaron is a bestselling author of the #1 LGBT romances What He Wants, Ace, The Slave, and other works. She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights. Kate swapped the North West for the Midwest in October 2015 and married award-winning author AJ Rose. Together they plan to take over the world.


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BLOOD & ASH

Book One in the Lost Realm Series

Kate Aaron

Copyright 2011 Kate Aaron

Croft House

CHAPTER ONE

Ash sighed heavily as he stared out of the window. The beautifully manicured grounds swept before him: magnificent rose gardens; geometrically perfect flowerbeds and borders receding into the distant wall and the high, iron gates. Not a soul was visible from his vantage point, he might have been the only being in all creation, and he was bored, bored, bored. He pulled a cord impatiently, his sharp ears picking up the faint jangle of the bell ringing in the servants’ quarters across the still courtyard.

My Lord? The man bowed low from the waist and rose to almost vertical, his eyes never meeting Ash’s.

Where’s Skye?

Prince Skye is still out with the army, Sire. We do not anticipate his return before morning.

Ash huffed. Until his brother returned, he knew he was forbidden to leave the palace. He dismissed the man with a flick of his hand and began pacing. Three whole weeks he’d been cooped up inside, with no-one to talk to and nothing to do. It wasn’t fair. And no-one here would tell him anything even if he asked, Golem made sure of that. He pulled the cord again and the man returned soundlessly, so fast Ash was sure he hadn’t stepped further than the other side of the door.

Send for Rowan, he ordered. The man nodded, bowed, and exited again. At least he had one friend in this castle. Within moments he heard a gentle tap on the door and a young page entered. Tall and slim, with the same dark hair and smiling eyes as Ash himself, Rowan and he had grown up together, playing as children in the palace gardens.

Man, I’m glad you called. Rowan collapsed onto Ash’s bed.

You’re busy? Ash was surprised.

You bet. We’re expecting the warriors back at sunset, so we’re turning down all the suites now. The advance party arrived an hour ago but they couldn’t tell us how many would be coming back.

You mean— Ash started forward.

No, no, Rowan reassured him hastily. I think they’re all okay, but the warriors are splitting up. I know a group have gone to the north gate, and a relief party’s gone to join those at the west, but your brother’s bringing some home before heading out again.

How come no-one’s told me any of this?

I’m sure Skye’ll tell you himself, when he gets here.

But if he’s going out again that means I’m going to be cooped up forever! Ash cried in dismay.

Not from what I’ve heard. Rowan looked smug.

What have you heard?

You’ll see.

*****

It wasn’t until the following evening that Skye finally summoned him.

Brother, they embraced tightly, what’s happening? I’ve heard the warriors are heading out again? Ash had watched the servants pack the supply trains all day.

They are. Skye looked older, and worried. And I must leave too. There are forces threatening our Realm and I must safeguard our borders while Father is away with the Council.

I could help, Ash smiled winningly, you know what a good shot I am.

You’re a fine archer, Skye agreed, patting his younger brother’s shoulder. But you’re no warrior. Your place is here.

But I hate it here, I’m bored out of my mind. You can’t leave me here again, you can’t!

Don’t worry, Skye smiled. I think I’ve found a solution. Ash, meet Azrael. Skye beckoned behind him.

Ash turned and gasped as he watched a man approach them, the like of which he’d never seen before. He was no fae, that was clear from his ears, but he was still strikingly attractive with his tanned skin, dark eyes and shoulder-length brown hair. Azrael stopped before Skye and nodded curtly at Ash, who gulped as he felt his stomach flip-flop.

Azrael is one of my most trusted Generals, Skye continued, he has consistently proved himself worthy of that trust, and the gratitude of our people. I will leave him here as your minder for the duration of the campaign. You will abide by his decisions at all times, and show him the respect that his position deserves: do you understand?

Ash gazed blankly back at his brother. Hmm?

Ash! This is important, Skye sighed, exasperated. I need to know that you’re safe while I’m gone, and Azrael has kindly consented to look after you. I know bringing a vampire into the Realm is unorthodox…

Ash stopped listening at vampire: his eyes snapped back to Azrael and he noticed for the first time the sallow tinge beneath his honeyed skin, his stillness, his pointed teeth. Ash gulped again as Azrael resheathed his fangs and smirked. Skye had clearly gone mad. Vampires had never been welcome in the Realm; had never co-operated with the fae in the past. What made Skye think this one was trustworthy? Ash stole another glance at Azrael, quickly looking away when he saw that the vampire was still staring openly back at him.

It was unnerving, the way the vampire stared, the way his hungry gaze crept over Ash in an almost proprietary manner. It was impertinent—didn’t the creature have any manners? It wasn’t like he’d never seen a fairy before: he was a General in the army, he must be used to the sight of Ash’s race. When had that happened, anyway; when had Skye appointed vampires to command the warriors? Ash racked his brains, trying to recall if Skye had ever mentioned Azrael to him before. Surely he would have remembered if he’d known that his brother had such exotic acquaintances?

Skye moved away and the vampire followed, looking back and smirking at Ash over his shoulder as he left. Ash scowled. What did he even need a bodyguard for anyway—and certainly one as striking as Azrael. Weren’t bodyguards supposed to blend invisibly into the background?

Ash’s gaze turned lingering as he watched his brother lead the vampire around the great hall, introducing him to the palace staff, who bowed uneasily to their strange new guest. Azrael prowled behind Skye, his movements fluid and easy, almost graceful. He really was exceptionally handsome…

Ash jumped as Rowan sidled up and elbowed him in the ribs, raising his eyebrows in Azrael’s direction. Ash replied with a wry grimace, which spread into a broad smile and a hastily stifled snort of amusement as he turned to see Golem’s introduction to the new arrival. The palace’s Chief of Staff had never been one to disguise his feelings well.

Azrael glanced in their direction, and for a second Ash thought he saw a fleeting smile grace the vampire’s lips before Rowan nudged him to take advantage of the distraction and they slipped silently away.

The image of Azrael burnt on his retinas as he lay in bed that night. He was tall—over six feet—and well-built: even fully dressed, Ash had seen the muscles that rippled under his skin as he moved. The thought of seeing Azrael naked jumped into his mind unbidden and a surge of lust shot through him. What was that? He couldn’t have sexual thoughts about Azrael, he was a man—a dead man.

Men aren’t attracted to other men, Ash told himself sternly. It must be some kind of vampire magic. He repeated the thought uneasily as he fell asleep, but the twitch in his loins said something quite different.

CHAPTER TWO

Ash woke and stretched lazily before padding to the window to look outside. He gasped and shrank back into the shadows of his room as he saw Azrael standing in the garden below the window. He crept forward to the sill and peered out surreptitiously. The vampire’s back was turned to the palace, his face to the sun rising over the distant eastern hills, his arms outstretched as the first rays bathed his skin. Ash leant further over the sill, staring rapt as Azrael inhaled, accidentally knocking some loose render which fell with a clatter. He froze as the vampire whipped round, fangs extended and an animalistic snarl distorting his handsome features. Ash recovered his senses and fled back into the safety of his room, trying to shake the guilty feeling that he’d infringed on a very personal moment. A light tap at his door made him start.

Come, he recovered himself, expecting one of the pages—Rowan, perhaps. Instead, Azrael stepped into the room and softly shut the door.

I’m sorry, Azrael said, I think I just frightened you.

No, I’m sorry, Ash countered, I was intruding. I didn’t mean to spy on you.

It’s okay. Azrael smiled at him. Skye told me that I’d be able to walk in the sun in your Realm, but standing there, seeing the sunrise for the first time in a thousand years… He trailed off, lost in thought.

Ash’s jaw dropped. A thousand years of night? He couldn’t imagine it. He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to reach out to Azrael; to touch him. Even as he thought it he blushed furiously and moved to dress himself, acutely aware of how exposed his body was in his night clothes.

I’ve embarrassed you. Azrael eyed him stonily. I’ll leave.

No, wait, Ash called him to stop.

Azrael’s head reappeared around the door he’d already closed behind himself.

How do you move so fast? Ash blurted the question out, and instantly regretted it for making him sound like a dumb kid. The doubt fled as Azrael re-entered the room.

That’s not fast, he smiled, I can move quicker than your eyes can see.

Is that how you got to my door from the garden?

Azrael nodded.

What else can you do? Ash was fascinated.

In response, Azrael lowered his fangs until the tips showed. What do you think I can do?

Ash gulped nervously. Can you control my mind?

Azrael burst out laughing. Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea?

Ash mumbled and turned away to pick up the outfit his page had laid out the previous evening. As Azrael continued to stare, he coughed nervously.

Do you mind? he asked when Azrael failed to take the hint. I’m trying to get dressed here.

Don’t tell me you’re embarrassed? Azrael looked surprised,

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