June 17, 2024

Short

The chill of the night seeped through the frosted glass of the hotel window as Rumi gazed out at the sleeping town of Solstice Haven, a small town just a breath away from the border of the Sun Kingdom. His fingers curled around the worn wood of the window sill, fingernails digging into the rotting frame. 

Inside, his chest tightened. 

Adrian. 

Rumi didn’t know what to do with the man who had once held his heart. Now Adrian only brought a sour taste to his mouth and a dull ache behind his eyes. 

Growing up in his family, Rumi was no stranger to conflicted emotions, yet the turmoil that swirled within him tonight felt different, heavier, as if it held the weight of an entire ocean. 

With a sigh, Rumi turned from the window. Adrian was slumped in the chair Rumi had bound him to, wrists chafed and eyes glassy. He looked up at Rumi through pale lashes. 

“You can’t do this,” Adrian rasped. “You love me.”

Rumi drew a sharp breath, anger and something else – longing, regret, lust – swirling in his gut. He wanted to slap that smug look off Adrian’s face. He wanted to kiss him, fuck him, make him scream in ecstasy instead of pain. 

“The only thing I feel for you is disgust,” Rumi said. The words tasted like ash. 

“Liar.” Adrian’s lips curved into a bloody smile. One of his teeth was missing. “You got me out of that cell because you couldn’t stand the thought of me getting executed. Because you still want me, because you still-“

Rumi backhanded him, claws raking Adrian’s cheek. Adrian whimpered, and for a moment pleasure flooded Rumi, heady and dark. 

Then nausea rose in his throat. What was he becoming?

Adrian tilted his head up, eyes half-lidded, mouth slack. Blood dripped down his chin. “Do it again,” he purred. 

Rumi stumbled back, bile burning the back of his tongue. Adrian’s gaze followed him, hungry and triumphant. 

Rumi turned away, hands shaking. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew this couldn’t continue. He should never have left Aquavaris with Adrian–and once his mother found out, she would surely tell him the same. 

But Rumi had wanted more time to sort through his feelings before the man he’d wanted to marry was executed. Was that so bad?

His teeth dug into his lower lip. 

“Everything I did, I did for you,” Adrian insisted. “To make sure that you would be in power, because I love you.” 

Rumi’s heart ached at the raw emotion in Adrian’s voice, but he couldn’t allow himself to be swayed by sentiment. It wasn’t true. None of it. 

“Love doesn’t lead someone to plot murder,” Rumi said coldly, the frosty air of Solstice Haven seeming to seep into his voice. “You made your choices, and now you must face the consequences.”

“Rumi, please.” Adrian’s voice softened as he attempted a different tactic. “Remember the good times we shared? The nights we spent together? We had something real, something beautiful. Can’t you see that?”

He wasn’t wrong – they had shared moments of passion and tenderness that still haunted Rumi’s dreams. A shiver ran down his spine as he recalled the sensation of Adrian’s lips against his own, the taste of their mingled love lingering on his tongue.

“Those memories are tainted now,” Rumi said, his voice cracking as he tried to suppress the rising tide of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. “You betrayed me, Adrian. You used me.” 

“I swear, my feelings for you were genuine,” Adrian insisted, his eyes searching Rumi’s for any sign of hope, any hint of forgiveness. “I know I messed up, but I still love you.”

Rumi stared at Adrian, wanting desperately to believe him. But as he looked into those familiar blue eyes, he saw not love or remorse, but deceit. It broke his heart all over again, the realization that Adrian was lying to him, that he would never be able to trust the man who had once been his everything.

“Stop lying,” Rumi whispered. “Just stop.”

Adrian’s eyes widened, and for a moment, Rumi saw something flicker behind them – fear, perhaps, or maybe even genuine regret. But it was gone as quickly as it had appeared, replaced once more by the cold, calculating gaze of the man who had betrayed him.

“Fine,” Adrian spat, his voice filled with bitterness. “But you’ll never be able to forget me, your highness. I promise you that.”

Rumi turned away from Adrian, fumbling to remove the royal insignia from his loincloth. He needed to get out of here, and he didn’t want to be recognized when he did. 

Leaving the room, he slammed the door behind him. 

At the end of the corridor, he found a side exit and stumbled out into the frigid night. 

The chill soothed his fevered skin, calmed the storm in his mind. He sucked in a deep breath, the crisp air scouring away Adrian’s scent from his nostrils. 

Rumi walked without direction, wandering the quiet streets of Solstice Haven. Frost crunched under his boots with every step as he tried to outrun his thoughts, but they clung as tenaciously as Adrian’s gaze. 

There was a bar at the end of the road, dim light spilling onto the sidewalk along with the sound of music. Rumi quickened his pace, drawn to the promise of liquor and escape. 

He stepped through the door and into a cloud of warmth and noise. The bar was filled with a motley crowd – shifters, vampires and mages rubbing elbows over drinks and games of dice and cards. 

Laughter bubbled around him, conversations weaving a tapestry of sound that provided a comforting backdrop to Rumi’s own thoughts. He didn’t want to be alone tonight, not when the memory of Adrian’s betrayal still burned like an open wound.

“Can I get you something?” the bartender asked, his voice warm and inviting as he leaned against the counter, wiping down a glass.

“Ah, yes,” Rumi hesitated, scanning the rows of bottles that lined the shelves behind the man. “A glass of your finest whiskey, please.”

“Coming right up,” the bartender replied, reaching for a bottle with practiced ease.

As Rumi waited for his drink, his gaze swept across the room, taking in the various patrons who filled the space.

A vampire slid into a shadowy corner with a willing mage on his arm. A wolf shifter challenged an ice dragon to an arm wrestling match, their table collapsing under the force of their grip. 

Even when his drink arrived, Rumi’s gaze slid over the crowd again and again, restless, searching. For what, he couldn’t say. A willing body to lose himself in, perhaps. A fight to work out the rage and frustration simmering in his veins. 

His gaze locked onto a man at the far end of the bar. He was pale under the dim lights, his dark hair falling in luxurious waves around a face that seemed carved from marble. Piercing blue eyes stared back at Rumi, a smile playing about his lips. 

“Your drink, sir,” the bartender said, placing the glass on the counter in front of Rumi.

“Thank you,” Rumi replied absently, his attention still focused on the enigmatic stranger.

“See something you like?” the bartender chuckled, following Rumi’s gaze. “That’s Vidar. Interesting fellow. Vampire, you know.”

An unexpected thrill raced down Rumi’s spine. He had always been the obedient prince, never straying far from the path laid out for him by his parents. He wouldn’t have been caught dead approaching a vampire at a bar… 

But so far, following his parents’ instructions hadn’t exactly brought him happiness. Tonight, he wanted something different. Something dangerous and new. 

A way to prove to himself that he didn’t need Adrian anymore. 

As if sensing his thoughts, the vampire approached Rumi at the bar. “I couldn’t help but notice you staring,” he said, his voice smooth as silk. “Would you like me to buy you a drink?”

Rumi felt his heart begin to race, the pull of desire tugging at him like a current threatening to sweep him away. “Thank you,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper as he fought to maintain control. “But I already have one.”

“Ah, well then,” Vidar’s smile deepened, revealing a pair of fangs that promised both pleasure and pain. “Maybe your next drink, then.”

“Maybe,” Rumi agreed.

The dimly lit bar seemed to fade into the background as Vidar slid into the seat beside Rumi, his ice-blue eyes holding Rumi captive. The air between them crackled with electricity, and Rumi had to stop his tail from twitching nervously.

The vampire held out a hand to him. “Vidar,” he introduced himself. 

“Muir,” Rumi lied, shaking the vampire’s hand. His palm tingled where they touched, a whisper of awareness that spoke of danger and temptation entwined. 

“What brings a water dragon to a place like this?” Vidar asked. 

“I… I needed a change of scenery,” Rumi admitted, his eyes flicking down to the crimson liquid swirling in Vidar’s glass.

“Looking to make new experiences?” Vidar mused, his gaze never leaving Rumi’s face. 

Rumi felt a flush creeping up his cheeks as he fought the urge to squirm under the vampire’s intense scrutiny. “Sort of,” he murmured, cursing his own hesitation. 

He shouldn’t be allowing this vampire to get under his skin. 

And yet… His gaze traced the strong line of Vidar’s jaw, the fullness of his lower lip. What would it be like to kiss him, to feel the graze of fangs against his tongue? 

Rumi’s thoughts were interrupted as Vidar leaned closer, his breath hot against Rumi’s ear. “I can show you new experiences,” he whispered, his voice sending shivers down Rumi’s spine.

Rumi’s heart was pounding in his chest as he met Vidar’s gaze, feeling the weight of his own desire mirrored back at him. He knew he should be cautious, careful – but something about Vidar made him want to throw caution to the wind, to let go of all his inhibitions and just… *forget* everything for a night.

Except that he couldn’t forget. 

Just like Adrian had promised, it was impossible for Rumi to banish the thought of the duke from his mind.

Even now, images of Adrian flashed before his eyes. His features drew into a scowl. He shouldn’t be thinking of the man who’d betrayed him. Adrian didn’t deserve him. 

“What’s bothering you?” Vidar asked. 

Rumi shook his head, tried to shake the thought of his ex. 

Adrian had never loved him, had he? 

Rumi swallowed hard. He hadn’t loved Adrian either. Not at first, but he’d fallen for the man, gradually. He’d allowed himself to be used by the duke in the worst way. 

And now Rumi only wanted to hurt him back. “There’s someone waiting for me back at my hotel room.” 

“We can go to my place instead,” Vidar suggested. 

Rumi considered that, but then another idea took root, fueled by the mix of desire and anger simmering within him. 

It was madness, but that seemed to be the theme of the night, starting from the moment he’d decided to break Adrian out of his prison. 

“The person in my room won’t bother us,” he said. “He’s my ex, and I’ve got him tied up.” His eyes narrowed. “I want him to see what he’s lost, and that I don’t need him anymore.” 

 He held his breath when he was done speaking. Surely, Vidar would recognize that Rumi had lost his mind, but the vampire only studied him quietly. “You want to use me as a pawn in a kinky game you play with your ex?” Vidar’s eyes glittered with interest, and Rumi allowed himself to breathe again. 

“It’s not a game,” he said. “He broke my heart, and I want to break him.” 

Vidar leaned in even closer, his breath hot against Rumi’s skin. “I can help you with that,” he whispered, making Rumi shudder. 

The vampire stood up, his hand outstretched. “Come with me,” he said.

Rumi took his hand, feeling a jolt of electricity as their skin touched. He followed the vampire out of the bar, leaving behind the dimly lit room and the curious gazes of the other patrons.

They walked the short distance to the hotel, and with every step, doubt and anticipation warred within Rumi. 

By the time they reached his room, arousal had won out, heat pooling low in his belly. He fumbled with the key card, hands trembling. 

The door swung open to reveal Adrian, eyes widening at the sight of them. Rumi sucked in a sharp breath, hurt and anger rising like bile in his throat. 

Vidar squeezed his hand. “There, there. I’ve got you.” His voice was soft, meant for Rumi alone. 

Rumi exhaled slowly, stepping into the room. 

Adrian glared at him with undisguised hatred, his usually immaculate clothes rumpled, his flawless complexion marred by a bruise on his cheek. The sight should have filled Rumi with satisfaction, but instead, guilt gnawed at his insides. 

Which was bullshit. 

He shouldn’t feel guilty. Not after everything Adrian had done. 

Rumi dragged his gaze away from Adrian and looked at Vidar. The vampire’s ice blue eyes gleamed with predatory interest as he watched Rumi, a slow, sinful smile curving his lips. “There’s no need to feel conflicted, little dragon.” The vampire rested his hand on the small dip between Rumi’s wings. “I’m happy to assist you any way I can.” 

Rumi’s breath caught. He should tell Vidar to leave, to forget this whole twisted scheme. But the memory of Adrian’s betrayal burned fresh in his mind, and underneath the guilt, anger still simmered. 

Anger, and something else. A bone-deep craving to show Adrian that Rumi wasn’t his anymore. To make him suffer the way Rumi had suffered. 

“He doesn’t deserve you.” Vidar brushed the back of his knuckles down Rumi’s spine. “Not after the way he hurt you.”

A sharp exhale from Adrian. The ropes binding him to the chair creaked as he strained against them. “I always knew you were weak,” he spat at Rumi, his voice dripping with disdain. “But I never thought you’d stoop so low as to mingle with a bloodsucker.”

The venom in Adrian’s words cut through Rumi like shards of ice, igniting a fury within him that he could no longer repress. He refused to allow Adrian to hold any power over him any longer. 

“Watch your tongue, Adrian,” Rumi growled, grabbing Vidar by the arm and pulling him close. “Or you might just find yourself without one.”

Vidar’s eyes sparkled with mischief as he met Rumi’s heated gaze. “Let me help you forget, dragon,” he whispered, his breath hot against Rumi’s lips. “I promise you, you won’t even remember his name when we’re through.”

With a final surge of determination, Rumi pressed his lips against Vidar’s in a fiery kiss that consumed every fiber of his being. He felt the vampire’s fangs graze his lower lip, a sharp thrill that sent shivers down his spine. 

Vidar tasted of wine and something wild, utterly intoxicating. His lips moved hungrily against Rumi’s, tongue delving deep to tangle with his own. Fangs pricked Rumi’s lower lip, a sharp counterpoint to the slick heat of Vidar’s mouth, drawing a gasp from Rumi, and then Vidar’s hands roamed over Rumi’s body, stroking down his sides and gripping his ass while Rumi’s fingers twisted in the vampire’s shirt. He moaned into the kiss as their hips rocked together and arousal settled hot and heavy in his guts. He relished the friction of their bodies… and the helpless noises escaping Adrian. 

Rumi glanced his ex’s way to find him straining against his bonds. Rumi didn’t know if Adrian had ever loved him or not, but one thing was for sure; he’d considered Rumi part of his possessions… and seeing another man abuse his property must be pure torture to him. 

Good. 

Rumi would have stayed loyal until his death… if Adrian hadn’t turned out to be a conniving asshole. 

“Don’t do this,” Adrian said. “You’re better than this.” 

Rumi turned away from his ex and claimed Vidar’s mouth again, moaning loudly as clever fingers found their way underneath his loincloth. Vidar’s hand closed around Rumi’s hard length, stroking slowly. Sparks of pleasure shot up Rumi’s spine and he bucked into Vidar’s grip with a desperate whine–which, yes, maybe he made that sound a little louder than it had to be.

Vidar responded by pushing him against the wall, the solid surface cold against Rumi’s back. His ice-blue eyes locked onto Rumi’s before his mouth moved to kiss his neck, and Rumi found himself lost in the sensations coursing through him – the taste of danger in the air, the subtle scrape of fangs against his skin, and the possessive grip of the vampire’s hands on his cock. “Look at you,” Vidar murmured against Rumi’s neck. His thumb brushed over the tip of Rumi’s cock, smearing precome. “So eager for me.”

Rumi shuddered, glancing at Adrian. His ex stared at them with a mixture of longing, anger and disgust that made triumph roar through Rumi’s veins. 

Tonight, Adrian would know exactly what he’d lost.

Vidar led Rumi to the bed, looming over him with a predatory gleam in his icy eyes. He stripped off his shirt, revealing pale, sculpted muscle that made Rumi’s mouth water. 

“I’m going to make this good for you,” Vidar promised, voice rough with lust. He leaned down, lips and fangs tracing over Rumi’s collarbone. 

Rumi arched into the sensation with a gasp, cock throbbing almost painfully. He tangled his fingers in Vidar’s hair, pulling him down for a hungry kiss. 

As their tongues slid together, Vidar’s hands roamed Rumi’s body, squeezing and caressing. His fingers found Rumi’s nipples, pinching and rolling the sensitive buds until Rumi was writhing beneath him, muffled cries caught between their lips. 

When Vidar’s mouth left his to blaze a trail of kisses down his chest, Rumi let out a low moan. His hips rocked upwards, cock sliding against Vidar’s abdomen, seeking friction. 

Vidar’s fangs scraped over one nipple and Rumi cried out sharply, back arching. The mix of pleasure and pain sent heat flooding through his veins, his cock leaking onto his stomach. 

“Suck me,” he demanded, fingers tightening in Vidar’s hair, desire drowning out everything else in his head. Almost everything. In the back of his mind, he was aware of Adrian watching them, rage and longing twisting his handsome features. Rumi moaned loudly, putting on a show as the vampire’s tongue and fingers worked his body. 

“Someone’s enjoying themselves,” Vidar purred, shoving Rumi’s loincloth aside to reveal his fully erect cock. He leaned down, his breath hot on the exposed skin, and without any further warning, took Rumi’s length into his mouth.

“Fuck!” Rumi gasped, unable to hold back the curse that escaped his lips. The sensation of Vidar’s cool lips wrapped around his cock was unlike anything he’d ever experienced – both surreal and utterly intoxicating. The danger of having those sharp fangs so close to his most vulnerable part only served to heighten his arousal, driving him wild with anticipation.

“Gods, yes… just like that,” he moaned, unable to keep his voice from cracking as Vidar sucked him deeper, the vampire’s tongue swirling around the head of his cock before dragging languidly down the shaft. His breath hitched when he felt the pressure of Vidar’s fangs against his skin, a tantalizing promise of pain and pleasure.

Rumi rocked his hips, fucking up into Vidar’s mouth as Vidar hummed in encouragement. The vibrations went straight to his cock, pressure building at the base. More and more, until Rumi could barely take it. 

“Please,” he gasped. He was so close, every nerve ending alight with need.

Vidar pulled off slowly, a smug smile curving his lips, and Rumi whimpered at the loss. But then the vampire’s fingers were rolling his balls, sending sparks of pleasure through his body. 

Rumi’s gaze slid to Adrian. Anger twisted Adrian’s features, but there was longing there too. 

It twisted Rumi’s guts, seeing him like that, and he had to look away. 

“You’re acting like a common whore,” Adrian spat. 

Rumi’s face flushed and he shot his water magic towards Adrian, silencing him by wrapping tendrils of water around his mouth. Driven entirely by spite, Rumi closed his eyes and moaned loudly as the vampire sucked him deeper into his mouth. 

Heat flooded his veins and he arched sharply, allowing himself to focus only on the electric need coursing through him with every brush of the vampire’s tongue against his hard cock. He cried out as his orgasm tore through him, spilling his seed in Vidar’s mouth. Vidar swallowed around him as if he refused to let a single drop go to waste, and aftershocks of pleasure raced through Rumi. 

And still… as Rumi lay there on the bed, his chest heaving and his mind reeling from the intensity of his orgasm, he couldn’t help but feel that something was still missing. A hollow emptiness lingered within him, a relentless ache that gnawed at his heart. 

He was still not satisfied. 

He was still hurting. 

Without thinking, he rolled over.

“Fuck me,” he rasped. 

“Are you sure?” the vampire asked, stroking one hand down Rumi’s side. 

“Go hard,” Rumi demanded. “Give me everything you have.” *Drive me out of my mind.* 

Vidar’s eyes darkened with hunger, and he didn’t need to be told again. He unzipped his pants, releasing his own hard cock, and positioned himself at Rumi’s entrance. Without warning, he thrust forward, burying himself deep within Rumi in one swift, merciless motion.

The pain was intense – a searing, burning sensation that tore through Rumi like wildfire. But he embraced it, welcomed it even, for in that moment of blinding agony, all thoughts of Adrian were swept away, leaving only the raw, primal connection between himself and the vampire currently claiming him.

This wasn’t a healthy way to cope. Rumi knew that as he gritted his teeth against the onslaught of sensation. But he didn’t care. He just needed to feel something other than the emptiness inside of him.

Fully sheathed within him, Vidar leaned down, pressing his lips to the sensitive juncture where Rumi’s neck met his shoulder. Rumi shuddered, anticipation thrumming through him like the beat of a thousand wings. And then, without warning, he felt the sharp, exquisite sting of Vidar’s fangs piercing his skin.

He cried out, hips bucking helplessly, though he knew he couldn’t dislodge the vampire. While Vidar had his fangs in him, all of Rumi’s dragon strength seemed entirely useless, blocked. Pain lanced through Rumi, sharp and bright, but then Vidar started to drink, and the weirdest sensation flowed through Rumi, making him feel light-headed, making his cock twitch and harden against his thigh. 

*Fuck.*

He didn’t think he could get hard again so soon. 

“Greedy little thing,” Vidar murmured against Rumi’s neck, but he wrapped a hand around Rumi’s length, stroking firmly. Rumi gasped, writhing under Vidar’s touch. His nerves were on fire, hypersensitive, and each stroke of Vidar’s hand threatened to send him over the edge again. 

“Please,” Rumi whimpered, clenching his hands in the sheets. He was so close, and all he needed was—

Vidar leaned up and rolled his hips and Rumi cried out at the burn and stretch. It was too much and not enough and he needed more. 

“Harder,” he gasped. “Give me everything.”

A dark chuckle rumbled in Vidar’s chest and he drew back, only to slam into Rumi again. Rumi arched, nails tearing holes in the sheets. Yes, this was what he needed. To be filled and fucked until he couldn’t think, until everything else faded away and all that was left was pleasure and sensation. 

Vidar pounded into him relentlessly, hips snapping forward over and over. Rumi sobbed with each thrust, cock leaking onto his stomach. The coil of heat in his gut wound tighter and tighter until it threatened to overwhelm him. 

“Come for me,” Vidar growled, fangs gleaming. He sank his nails into Rumi’s hips, hard enough to bruise, and slammed his cock against Rumi’s sweet spot. 

The sharp pleasure sent Rumi tumbling over the edge with a scream. His vision whited out as he came, cock spilling thick jets of cum across his stomach. 

When he came back to himself, Vidar was still sheathed inside him, petting his hair with an almost fond gentleness. “Enjoy that?”

Rumi could only nod, utterly spent, as darkness crept into the edges of his vision. The last thing he saw before everything went black was Adrian, staring at him with an unreadable expression.

***

Rumi awoke to a sore ache in the lower half of his body. The scent of sex lingered in the air and memories of the night before flashed through his mind. 

Vidar was gone. 

Of course he was. Rumi hadn’t expected anything else, though disappointment still pricked at the edges of his consciousness. 

Across the room, Adrian strained against the bonds holding him to the chair, eyes flashing with impotent rage. “He left as soon as he was done with you,” he snarled. “Are you proud of yourself for letting that man debase you?”

Rumi leaned up on one elbow and met Adrian’s gaze steadily. “You’re the only one who ever debased me,” he said softly. “I can see that now.”

He reached for his phone and winced as he checked the time. Six missed calls from his mother. Wonderful. The last thing he needed was a lecture from her right now. 

Wouldn’t she just love to hear that he’d spent the night with a vampire? 

As he listened to her increasingly frantic voicemails demanding he bring the duke back to the palace immediately, he walked over to Adrian and crouched before him. 

“Seems you’re being missed at your own execution,” he said. 

Adrian’s brows rose briefly before his expression settled back into a sneer. 

“And what do you plan to do with me now?” he scoffed. “Keep me around as an audience for your perverted games?”

Rumi sighed and stood, fingers combing through his hair. He glanced back at the rumpled bed, remembering the feel of Vidar’s hands on his skin, the way the vampire had slammed into him, hard and fast.  

“That vampire used you,” Adrian spat. 

Rumi grimaced. His ex was probably right about that, but that was all right. Rumi had used Vidar as well. All he’d gained, though, was some short-lived release. The hollow ache inside him remained, as vast and consuming as the sea stretching endlessly around his hometown. 

He looked at Adrian, bound and snarling, and steeled himself against the surge of mingled love and hate that rose within him. 

He had to end this chapter of his life, once and for all. 

Carefully, he checked that Adrian’s magic was still sealed by the bracelets clamped to his wrists, and then he untied the other man from the chair, manipulating the rope around his back so that his wings remained unusable. 

Adrian watched him warily, but made no move to stand. “Have you changed your mind about keeping me captive?” 

Shaking his head, Rumi studied his ex, cataloging each familiar feature – his sharp cheekbones, his tied wings, his eyes like frozen sapphires. Once, he had loved mapping Adrian’s body with his hands and mouth, learning every dip and hollow. Now all he felt was a bone-deep weariness. 

He realized now why he’d broken Adrian out of prison. 

Not because he didn’t want his ex to be executed. 

But because the dragon inside of Rumi couldn’t allow someone else to do that for him. 

“I’m taking you to your execution,” Rumi said quietly. “But not for my people to see. Your death will be mine alone.” 

Adrian’s eyes widened, and for the first time, Rumi saw fear flicker in their depths. “You can’t do this,” Adrian whispered, scrambling backwards. “You said you loved me. You–” 

“I did love you,” Rumi cut in, voice like steel. “And you made a fool out of me.” 

Before his ex could try to make a run for it, Rumi grabbed his arm, fingernails digging into Adrian’s skin as he held on tight. Adrian was taller than him, but Rumi was the stronger dragon, especially with Adrian’s magic sealed. 

“Where are you taking me?” Adrian demanded to know when Rumi opened the window and spread his wings, taking off into the air with his captive.

“Where do you think?” Rumi asked. Last night, he’d thought he’d picked this town at random, that he’d come here because it was the farthest he could run from Aquavaris without going through border control. 

In truth, his dragon had steered him here because the area was perfect for what needed to be done. Swerving only slightly, Rumi flew toward a nearby volcano. Smoke wafted up from it toward the heavens, as if reaching up to grasp the sun. 

Rumi’s heart felt charred, just looking at it. He could have used his own magic to execute Adrian, but a fiery death seemed more fitting for the man who’d betrayed him. Clutching his captive tighter, he flew on. The dragon within him roared in bloodthirsty anticipation, and for the first time since the chaos at his wedding, Rumi felt like he knew exactly what to do.

The air around them shimmered with heat as they landed at the rim of the volcano. 

Adrian stumbled as Rumi released him and fell to his knees. “Please,” he rasped. “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I love you, Rumi, I always have. We can start over, we can-” 

Rumi slapped him across the face. “You love no one but yourself.” 

He pulled Adrian up and dragged him to the edge of the volcano. Adrian struggled, trying desperately to free himself, but Rumi held on. He was not going to be swayed now. 

Spreading his wings once more, Rumi grabbed Adrian and lifted off the edge, flying toward the lava while his ex roared in rage. 

“You can’t do this!” Adrian cried.

Rumi hung Adrian over the churning sea of fire, watching terror and heat distort his features. “Are those going to be your last words?” Rumi asked, sorrow and joy going to war within himself until he didn’t know which was which, but he’d long handed control over to the beast inside of him. 

This was a job for a dragon, not a love-sick prince. 

“Please,” Adrian whimpered. “I don’t want to die.” 

Rumi bared his teeth. “You should have thought of that before you betrayed me.” 

He released his hold on Adrian, and with a despairing scream Adrian plunged into the lava. Rumi watched, chest heaving, as the man who had once meant everything to him was devoured by flame. 

His beast roared in triumph, and Rumi echoed it, a wordless cry of rage and grief. The pain was still there, molten and bright as the lava below, but now mingled with it was a fierce, primal satisfaction. 

Adrian was dead.

And Rumi was free.