Everlasting Bad Boys Excerpt
Can’t Get Enough
Running a comb through her freshly washed hair, Shalin looked at the courtyard beneath her window. Not surprisingly, very few of the human servants were about and the few that were, quickly scurried toward one of the many buildings so they were out of the rain. Then she saw him, marching through the rain, uncaring his clothes were getting soaked.
Ailean stopped and spoke to a large, burly human. She’d guess the woman was the local blacksmith based on her dress and the size of her arms. Laughing at some joke of his, the female placed her hand on his forearm and Shalin’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
With a quick hug, the blacksmith walked away and Ailean continued onto his destination. She watched until he walked into the stables.
He loved doing this. It was one of those things he could do and still focus on something else completely. Like why his family had suddenly lost their collective minds. Never before, in his nearly hundred and fifty years, had they ever cared about what he did or who he did it with. But now, suddenly, he had the lot of them trying to push him away from Shalin as if they thought he’d purposely hurt her.
Could involving himself with Shalin only lead to hurting her more than anyone else because she truly was innocent? He hated the thought of hurting her and hated the thought of never laying with her even more.
So focused on his thoughts and feelings-something Ailean rarely paid attention to for more than three seconds at a time-he didn’t notice Black Heart’s growing nervousness until she bucked suddenly. Ailean placed his hand on her flank, felt the tensing muscles. He crooned to her softly while he slowly, carefully stood. It wasn’t like Black Heart to be so jumpy around him. He’d ridden her and many from her line into local battles when he’d fought as human. She’d never balked before although she could smell what he was.
“What is it, girl?” he asked softly. “What has you so nervous?”
“Is she for tonight’s meal?” that sweet, innocent voice asked.
And Black Heart kicked at the stall door, forcing Shalin to back up.
“Hhhm. She may be tough of hide, Ailean,” Shalin said in all seriousness. “She’ll be hard to chew.”
Ailean quickly stepped in front of Black Heart before she could knock down the stall door. “Ssssh,” he sang softly. “It’s all right.”
Once he had her relatively calm, he glanced over his shoulder at Shalin, forcing himself to ignore how beautiful she looked in another one of his cousin’s gowns, this time a deep blue. Like before, it was too big for her and kept falling off her shoulder, giving just enough to tantalize and tease but still hold everything back. “She’s not dinner, Shalin.”
“Then what are you doing with her?” she asked, honestly confused.
“For what if we’re not going to eat her?”
“Because I like to.”
“Oh.” Shalin looked down the long rows of stalls. “What about that one?” She pointed at Dragon’s Gold. “She looks like she’d be tasty and enough for two.”
Dragon’s Gold, only a few feet away, jerked back and kicked her stall door.
“Shalin!” he snapped, startling her attention back to him. “We don’t eat horses here.”
“No. These are working animals. Just like the dogs.”
“Aren’t you running out of food options?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “We make do.”
She wandered off, glancing into each stall.
Ailean took a moment to brush his hand over Black Heart’s snout. “It’s all right, girl. It’s all right.”
Black Heart clicked her teeth together and motioned with her head. Ailean looked up in time to see Shalin open one of the stalls and step in.
“Gods, Shalin! Not that one!”
Ailean shot over the stall gate, not able to take the time to open it, and charged after the dragoness. He stumbled to a stop when he found her petting the enormous pitch-black horse inside.
“I can see why you enjoy this,” she murmured. “It’s quite soothing.” She looked up at him. “What’s his name?”
“Hhhm.” She ran her hands through the horse’s long mane of hair. “He’s not as clean as the others and his mane’s a mess. Why?”
Ailean smiled at the accusation in Shalin’s voice and crossed his arms over his chest. “That’s because no one else has ever been able to get near him except to give him a little food and water. He’s known for having broken more ribs, arms, legs, and heads, than any other horse in my province. He’s mean, cranky, and foul tempered. No one trusts him and we think he enjoys hurting people. Hence the name Nightmare.”
At his words, Shalin shrugged. “He seems to like me well enough.”
“That he does.”
“I’ll clean him myself then.”
“Shalin, wait — ”
“It’s not fair. All the others tended to and not him.” Shalin grabbed a bucket and headed out to get water. “I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider among your own,” she said so softly he almost didn’t hear her.
“I’ll take care of him,” she said again before disappearing out the stable door.
Ailean watched her go. It still astounded him Shalin was born a royal. She never acted like it.
And perhaps Nightmare wasn’t as big a bastard as they’d all originally thought if Shalin found some good in him. Ailean almost believed that too, until Nightmare reared up on his hind legs and brought his forelegs down on Ailean’s chest, sending him flying back into an empty stall. A human might have been killed but like Black Heart, Nightmare knew exactly what Ailean was and how much he could take.
As Ailean tried to get his breath back, Shalin reappeared with a bucketful of water and one of the stable boys to assist her. She glanced down at him.
“What are you doing?”
When he didn’t answer, mostly because he still couldn’t, she shook her head. “So lazy, Ailean the Wicked.”