Bitten by Ecstasy

By: Naima Simone



But he had to go. From now on it would be him, his secret, his addiction and his shame. The Fab Four.

“So you were going to leave without saying goodbye?”

Bastien’s hand stilled over the knob of the back door, his back going rigid as tension strummed through his body like a live wire. Slowly, he lowered his arm and pivoted to meet the patient purple gaze of his best friend.

Nicolai Abioud, former Dimios of their race, stood in front of him, muscular arms crossed over a wide chest. The ex-judge and executioner of the hippogryph people—and the male Bastien trusted most above all others—appeared as if he’d just jumped out of bed. But even rocking a serious case of bedhead, stubble and wrinkled jeans, Nico was still intimidating as hell.

“I would have called when I arrived where I’m heading.”

A dark-gold brow arched high. “And that is?”

Bastien closed his eyes, regret a heavy stone in his heart. Damn, he longed to confide in Nicolai. Just utter the words.

Remember when I told you about Evander’s ambush? Well, I neglected to confess the reason I’d been on my way to find you in the first place. Your sister, the woman I loved, rejected me to marry a stranger of noble blood. Oh that’s right. You didn’t know I was in love with her. And yeah, another thing. I came out of the whole Evander deal changed into a blood-addicted monster and it scares the shit out of me.

How many times during the past two months had he almost confessed his dark secret? Countless. But fear had gridlocked the words in his throat. Logically, he acknowledged Nicolai wouldn’t condemn him. Not only had the two men been friends for nine hundred years, but Nicolai had fallen in love and bonded with a human woman, watched her transform into a hippogryph and abdicated from his role as Dimios to be with her. If anyone could sympathize with life-altering changes, Nicolai could.

Yet he couldn’t push the confession from between his lips. How could he just announce to someone he was flawed, a freak? An abomination? Worse, how did he admit fear and shame to a male who had placed his life on the line every day for centuries in service of his people? A man who faced down the monsters of their race with unflagging courage?

Bastien knew just the right way to reveal the bit of information.

He didn’t.

Besides, while Tamar might have once been human, she was now a hippogryph, one of them.

Bastien didn’t know what the fuck he was.

“Bastien.”

He opened his eyes, met the weight of Nicolai’s stare. “I can’t tell you, Nico,” he murmured.

Nicolai’s mouth firmed into a grim, straight line and his arms lowered to his sides.

“Can’t?” he asked softly. “Or won’t?”

“Does it matter?” Bastien returned just as quietly.

“Damn it, Bastien,” Nicolai snapped. He pivoted on his bare heel, thrust his long fingers through his hair and fisted the strands in a wincing grip at the back of his head. In spite of the gravity of the situation, Bastien couldn’t prevent the slight lifting of his lips at the familiar gesture. He’d joked on many occasions how Nicolai would go bald one day if he kept pulling on his hair as if engaged in a tug-of-war with his scalp. Then, as quick as it appeared, his smile disappeared. Here was something else he had to sacrifice. The last remnant of familiarity. Anger poured through him like hot lava. And in its molten wake left the ashes of his life.

Nicolai paced several steps away before wheeling around and eating up the distance he’d placed between them.

“Do you think I don’t know there’s something you’ve been keeping from me?” he demanded. “We’ve been friends all my life. Aside from Tamar, there’s no one I love more. Whatever has been eating you from the inside out since you came back, you can tell me.” The anger bled out of Nicolai’s voice, leaving a solemn entreaty for Bastien to trust him, to have faith in him.

Bastien wanted to…damn, he wanted to reach out, crack himself open like a walnut and expose all his darkest secrets to the light of their friendship.

The longing lurched inside him, hard and desperate. Yet even as he parted his lips to unburden his soul the hunger rumbled in his stomach. Not as strong as when he’d awakened, but enough to remind him why he could no longer delay his departure.

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