Excerpt: Surrounded by Crimson
9 days until birth of the heirs to the Seat of Zeev, the Wolf Throne.
“He said yes!”
I heard my consort, Ushna Ahura-Yazda, bellow throughout the house. Curious over the obvious excitement, my sister, Neesie Janick, stepped into the hallway. We watched with bright smiles as my usually quiet and reserved husband announced to all listening that I had agreed to bond with him.
For us, this was indeed something special. We were Lycan descendants of Gilgamesh and Enkidu and blessed by the God Shamash with a Twin Flame. Ushna had lost his Flame when we were boys. I broke the bond with mine several years ago. We had both experienced losses that were known to kill strong men but together we nursed each other through deep despair that plagued each of us at different times in our lives. We built a future together and in nine days would be fathers. I listened to Ushna’s shouting and grinned happily. I ran my hand over my much distended stomach. By a miracle of the Gods, I was very pregnant with twin boys.
Just minutes ago, I had consented to magically tie my soul to Ushna’s. Different from the bond between Twin Flames, the words of an unusual spell would allow our spirits to be complete in this lifetime. In the future, when Ushna was reborn, he would be free of any tie to me and able to find his Twin Flame. I’d walk alone because the bond to my Flame had been irreversibly broken. But I wasn’t afraid. Revelations from last night had given me hope that my future would be entwined with Ushna’s as he’d been a part of my past. So when Ushna asked, I agreed. He rushed through the house with unrestrained joy, announcing my acceptance to any who would listen.
I took my sister’s hand. “Neesie, would you speak to Gregori? I need to know what is required for the ritual to bind Ushna and me together. I’d like to have everything ready when we take that step.”
Gregori Borchetta, a Magi of great power, was my friend and trusted advisor. I’d need his help to put together the ingredients for the binding ceremony.
Neesie regarded me with her big brown eyes, a single thick braid of hair draped over her shoulder. Her smile was infectious. “Sure. I’ll have it taken care of before we leave tomorrow for Georgia.”
I squeezed her hand then headed to the kitchen. My advisor Hakim, a priest of Shamash, waited for me when I walked in. I wouldn’t say we quarreled last night, but we’d had a difference of opinion regarding the dreams and whether or not they were of a past life. Everyone in the kitchen greeted me warmly, exclaiming over Ushna’s announcement. I blushed furiously from the attention as I grabbed a glass of orange juice and sat down at the breakfast table.
It was unnerving how Hakim watched me. I hated the tension between us and rubbed my hand over my pocket where I’d put the journal—Nikita’s journal. The book was proof my dreams were more than fantasy. Ushna allowed me to hold onto the diary for the time being. To have something of Nikita’s close was bittersweet.
Every Lycan had a destined Twin Flame, someone who was our perfect match. Ushna’s Twin Flame had died when we were children, but recently I had dreams of Ushna and his Flame in a past incarnation. Nikita had been his name then. He and Ushna loved me, wanted to claim me, but I’d been afraid it would break their bond, and I denied them. When discussing the dream of my previous life last night, Hakim voiced his doubts, believing they were nothing but simple dreams. I’d been angry with him even though I understood his reticence.
“Xenres,” Hakim said hesitantly. I gave him an encouraging smile. “Could I have a moment of your time this morning?”
“Hakim, you never have to ask. Come. Sit with me.”
Pulling out a chair, he placed a large tome on the table in front of him. Ushna entered the kitchen, vibrant and laughing, an arm around Gregori.
Gregori gave me a kiss on the cheek and a brief squeeze to the shoulder, whispering, “It’s about damn time you got your heads out of your asses.”
Ushna playfully pushed him away and gave me a scorching kiss that left me a little bit breathless. My gaze followed him to the coffee pot. Hakim and I were already sitting at the kitchen table with the ranch foreman, Randy Aikmen, and my childhood friend, Stanley Kendall. Both were speaking with Bixx Decimus, the leader of the Ophidians who had once been the personal guard to the Lycan kings.
Hakim graciously waited for everyone to be seated. He lightly ran his hands over the old leather-bound book in front of him, a pensive expression upon his face as he stared down at it. We waited, knowing Hakim would speak as soon as he’d put his thoughts in order. Once Ushna and Gregori had taken their places, Hakim addressed us.