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Author Charlie Richards

Giving love and imagination free reign

Underwater Secrets

Written by Charlie Richards for the Love is Always Right event in 2012


A well-cared-for cottage, sided with natural planks, sits at the edge of river or lake, completely surrounded by trees. A deck with comfortable chairs spans the entire width, with an attached dock at water level.


Dear Author,

For the past three years the two men who live here have been blissfully happy. Their love has made this house a home and their relationship gets stronger every day. Today a knock on their door will change everything. One of them hasn't been entirely honest and the gorgeous man on their doorstep has secrets to tell.




genre: paranormal

tags: contemporary; merman; established couples; soul mates; family drama

content warnings: none

original web address on goodreads:

Chapter One

    “So you’re him, huh?”

Kyle’s brows knit and he couldn’t hide his confusion. “What?”

The stranger who stood in the doorway smirked and snorted, as if Kyle’s ignorance was truly an inconvenience for him. Kyle had to admit, the guy was good looking, with high cheek-bones, a straight nose, full lips, and a full head of thick brown hair. But the eyes gave him cause for concern. They were cool, calculating, and the slate gray color seemed to see right through him.

“You’re Damian’s Adelfi Psychi. His mate.” The guy rolled his eyes, shifting his weight in agitation, and muttered. “Gods, has he really not said anything to you yet?” The stranger ran a bronzed hand through his hair before focusing on him agian. “His husband?”

The man’s wording seemed quaint, and his erratic emotions concerned Kyle. Instead of answering, he said, “I’m sorry. Who are you?”

“Babe, who’s at the door?”

Damian’s voice echoed through their lakeshore home. The stranger’s lips curved into a shit-eating grin, relief filling his gray eyes. “Damian’s home! Fantastic! Let him know Darius is here.”

Kyle still didn’t like the way the guy was looking at him, or his attitude, but he could see no reason to deny the guy’s request. Especially since they both already knew that his husband was home. “Wait here,” he growled. Pushing the door halfway closed, Kyle walked the few steps down the hallway to the dining room where Damian was waiting at the table for him. The stranger at the door had interrupted their supper.

“There’s a guy named Darius at the door asking for you,” he said. Kyle was surprised to see his husband’s naturally golden skin pale at his words.

“Darius?” he whispered the question, as if he didn’t want the words to be true.

Kyle nodded, his concern increasing at his man’s reaction. Just who is this guy? He crossed the room and sank his fingers into Damian’s thick dark hair, surprised when he realized the brown shade was nearly identical to the guy at the door. He tilted his husband’s head back and stared into his husband’s vibrant green eyes. Damian’s distress caused lines of tension around his full lips, and Kyle felt an overwhelming urge to soothe the man. He pecked a kiss to his lips. “Yes, honey. He said his name is Darius. Do you know him?”

Damian’s lips parted, and his tongue darted out, wetting them. “Yeah. Maybe. I have a brother named Darius,” he admitted.

He cocked his head and stared at his husband of two and a half years. He didn’t even bother hiding his shock. “You mean from your family that disowned you for being gay? What do you think he’s doing here?”

“Awe, is that what you told him, Damian? That we kicked you out of the family for being gay? Couldn’t you have come up with something more original?”

Kyle jerked his head around, irritation flooding him that the stranger had the audacity to just walk into their home without an invitation. And now, to find him leaning against the kitchen bar, his arms crossed, and a cocky grin on his face, Kyle wanted to deck the guy. But if he really was his husband’s brother, that wouldn’t be appropriate.

“Hello, Damian. It’s good to see you again,” Darius murmured, the mirth in his eyes fading to be replaced by affection as he stared at Damian. It certainly wasn’t the look of a man who was disgusted with his brother’s lifestyle.

Looking down at his husband, Kyle became even more perplexed. He watched Damian rise from the chair, cross the room, and pull Darius into a back-pounding hug. When they drew apart, Damian was smiling. “It’s good to see you, too, brother.” Concern flickered over his lover’s expression. “But what are you doing here?”

Darius’s gaze glanced toward Kyle, who waited by the table, still confused and waiting to see what would happen next. This had to be the oddest reunion he’d ever witnessed.

“I’m sorry, Damian. I couldn’t stop it. Father found out.”

Damian’s skin once again paled. “He found out,” he choked out. Not liking the near agony resonating in his husband’s tone, Kyle crossed to the man. Pleasure immediately filled him when Damian pulled Kyle close into a tight embrace. He heard Damian swallow hard. “Is he coming here?”

“Yes. I wanted to give you warning, but I think he’s only a day behind me,” Darius admitted.

“A day,” Damian whispered.

Kyle felt his husband’s body shudder against him and he reflexively tightened his arms. “Hey, surely your father can’t be that bad,” he crooned, rubbing his hands over Damian’s back, massaging his spine.

Whoever this guy’s father was really freaked his poor husband out. Over the three years they’d known each other his husband hadn’t said much about his family. Ninety nine percent of the time he’d instantly shut down and change the subject. One night when they were both drunk, Damian had let slip that his father was a powerful man and had a number of other children from a number of wives. Once he’d sobered, Kyle hadn’t been able to get anything else out of him, and not wanting to drive a wedge between them over something from Damian’s past, he’d let it go. It wasn’t like it affected them. Kyle didn’t talk to his family either.

Damian sucked in a breath, obviously trying to pull himself together. He eased away and cupped Kyle’s face. To his surprise, he sealed his lips over Kyle’s and kissed him, hard. Damian pressed his tongue against Kyle’s lips and he opened to him. Plunging in deep, Damian held his head steady as he stroked his tongue inside, plundering Kyle’s mouth in an all-consuming kiss, as if branding himself on every one of Kyle’s senses.

By the time Damian lifted his head, Kyle’s lungs burned from lack of oxygen, his dick was so hard it pressed painfully against his jeans, and he could think of nothing but feeling his lover bend him over the nearest flat surface or chair and fill him with the thick ridge pressing against his own. Sadly, the fear simmering in Damian’s green eyes told him that wasn’t going to happen even before his husband spoke the words that Kyle knew would bring his world crashing down around him.

“There are some things I haven’t been completely honest about.”

A high pitched laugh escaped Kyle before he could stop it. He took a deep breath and backed a step. “What things?”

Damian followed him, not letting more than a foot of distance get between them. He brought up a hand and tried to guide him to the sofa. “Maybe we should sit.”

Kyle noticed that Darius had moved to stand near the sliding glass doors that opened to their back deck. A deck that was half built over the water of the still bayou waters and where he and Damian had spent so many mornings enjoying their first cups of coffee as they’d watched nature come to life. Somehow, seeing the other man enjoy their special view made everything worse.

He glared at his husband and planted his fists on his hips. “Tell me what the hell is going on, Damian,” he demanded. “What have you lied about?” Just saying those words had bile rising up his throat, but Kyle swallowed it down.

“Almost all it,” Damian admitted.

Kyle blanched. “What—What does that mean? You don’t love me? We’re not married? You have a wife and kids somewhere? What!?!” His voice rose with every word, every possibility he spoke make his stomach roll harder. Suddenly, Kyle realized he wouldn’t be able to keep down the few bites of supper that he’d taken before Darius had interrupted them. He turned and sprinted for the bathroom, just making it in time to spill the contents of his belly into the toilet.

Chapter Two

“Oh, you totally fucked that up, brother.”

Damian stared after his retreating lover, his heart, his Adelfi Psychi. “Shut up,” he growled, glaring at Darius. “This is all your fault,” he snarled, even though he knew it wasn’t the truth. He should have told Kyle years ago about his family. About himself. Now, as he hurried to the bathroom and the sounds of his retching husband, he could only pray it wouldn’t be too late to repair the damage he’d done.

He found Kyle sitting next to the toilet, his forehead resting against the cold porcelain, his eyes closed. Even pale and wan, his brows furrowed in emotional turmoil, Kyle was the most stunning man Damian had ever seen. He loved the way Kyle’s lean, five foot eleven build tucked so well against his own six foot two body. He loved tracing Kyle’s high cheek bones, angular jaw, and arched brows with his lips before he nibbled Kyle’s sinfully tempting thin lips. He loved gently sucking on the bottom one before opening his husband’s mouth wide and plunging in deep to taste his natural masculine flavors.

Just thinking about it had Damian’s shaft filling and he had to turn away. Focusing on preparing a cool cloth for Kyle’s face gave him a moment to get his overactive libido under control. It didn’t matter how many times he made love to Kyle, it was always the same, and always would be, until the day he drew his last breath. Now, how could he explain to his husband of over two and a half years that he was a merman, his father was a member of the royal court, and since Damian had found his Adelfi Psychi, it had now given Damian the right to join the court as well and take over his father’s duties? Oh, and Kyle’s life could be in danger, since his older brother still hadn’t found his own mate, and wouldn’t be too pleased by being replaced as next in line.

He settled on his knees in front of Kyle and wiped his love’s face gently. “I’m sorry I completely fucked that up, baby,” he whispered. “Please, I beg you. Let me explain.”

“You have two minutes before I gather enough strength to stand up and slug you.”

Kyle’s muttered words made him smile faintly. That was his baby, strong, level-headed, slow to anger, and wonderfully passionate once he made up his mind about something. Relief filled Damian that Kyle didn’t stop him from continuing his ministrations. He needed to touch his mate right now, mostly to assure himself that he hadn’t fled. But would Kyle once he heard Damian’s explanation? He prayed he wouldn’t.

Knowing he had a lot of explaining to do, he started with Kyle’s earlier questions. “I love you more than my own life, which is one of the reasons I didn’t share this with you earlier,” he admitted.

Kyle cracked an eyelid open, looking at him with a clear expression of disbelief.

Damian held up his free hand. “I’ll come back to that,” he promised. “I don’t have a wife. I don’t have kids. My family didn’t kick me out because I’m gay. Most of us are all pretty much bisexual, although we often have a preference.”

“Us?” Kyle whispered. “You mean your brothers and sisters?”

Damian shook his head. Taking the plunge, he replied, “No. I mean my race. My kind.” He sucked in a breath at Kyle’s lifted brows. Letting out he dropped the first bombshell. “Kyle, I’m not human. I’m a Briny Nix. What you’d call a merman,” he added, elaborating when Kyle’s disbelieving look turned to confusion.

Kyle barked out a surprised laugh, his widening in shock. “I’m sorry. What?”

“I can prove it, love,” he replied.

His lover waved a hand in front of him, and Damian rocked back on his haunches, giving Kyle the space he knew his husband was asking for. Kyle rose and headed into the bedroom without a word. He pulled a suitcase from the closet and started piling clothes into it.

Seeing his mate’s actions, Damian gasped and ran to the bed, trying to wrestle the bag away from Kyle. “What are you doing?” he squawked, hardly recognizing his own panicked voice.

“If you wanted to move on, you should have just told me. You didn’t have to make up wild stories,” Kyle roared, glaring angrily, although Damian could see the hurt and pain in the man’s blue eyes. “I thought you at least had enough respect for me to give me that much.”

“I’m not lying! Not this time!” Damian added. “I’m really not human. You can’t leave me, damn it. You’re my Adelfi Psychi. My soul mate,” he cried, his heart breaking into a million pieces as he saw Kyle was ignoring his words.

Hearing a throat clearing, he glanced over his shoulder to see Darius standing in the bedroom doorway. “Show him.”

“Shit, I didn’t want to do it this way,” Damian whispered, but as he watched Kyle close the suitcase, he realized he had no choice.

Using increased strength he’d always kept in check around his human mate, Damian grabbed Kyle’s shoulder and spun him around to face him. Then he forced the struggling man back a few steps until his back was pinned against the wall. He allowed his hands to shift into the claws he used to fight other mermen and sliced them into the plaster and wood wall next to Kyle’s head. He’d never actually hurt his mate, but he needed to make a point.

Kyle’s eyes widened in shock, his blue eyes fixed on Damian’s clawed hand six inches from his face. “Holy shit.”

“Yes,” Damian whispered back, letting other changes take place, scales on his arms, the razor-sharp battle fin at his elbow, the canines he repeatedly sank into the mating mark on Kyle’s shoulder when he mounted him. He changed for only a few seconds, just enough to prove his words, that Damian really wasn’t human.

“Oh, my god,” Kyle murmured. “What are you?”

“I told you, Kyle,” he replied, returning his features back to look human. “I’m a Briny Nix, a water spirit, and you are my Adelfi Psychi, my soul mate.” He smiled slightly. At least Kyle was listening now, and he hadn’t shoved him away. They stood toe to toe, hip to hip, chest to chest. “Think back when we met, love,” he pleaded. “You told me yourself that you’d never fucked on the first date before, but you couldn’t help yourself with me. That’s because your soul felt the draw to mine. Something in you recognized that we were meant to be together.”

Kyle was nodding, but his eyes were a bit glazed. Not wanting to overload his mate, he pecked a kiss to his lips and then grinned. “You always give me a hard time swimming in the bayou all year long. Now you know why it doesn’t bother me,” he teased.

His mate finally truly focused on him, his gaze searching his face. “Right, that makes sense,” he whispered. Damian grinned, pleased they were making headway, but then Kyle’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and if Damian hadn’t been pressed against him, his limp body would have dropped like a stone.

Chapter three

“Gods, you really suck at this. No wonder you never told him.”

“Shut the hell up, Darius. I trusted you to keep father off my back. You know I never wanted to be his heir,” Damian snapped back.

“Then you shouldn’t have gone to Baton Rouge. I told you Victor was living there now,” his husband’s brother countered.

Damian groaned. “Ugh. I forgot you told me that.”

Kyle stayed still, letting the two voices roll through his mind as he slowly returned to consciousness. What the hell had happened? He searched his memory, trying to remember why he was lying on the bed, still clothed except for his shoes, with a throw blanket tucked around him. Then he remembered, and he had to force his brain to focus on taking several long deep breathes to keep from panicking all over again.

The bed dipped next to him and fingers ruffled through his hair in a familiar soothing way. Except now everything was different. Kyle jerked away and scrambled up to lean up against the headboard. The hurt look on his husband’s face, like he’d just kicked his favorite puppy, nearly had him crawling into his lap. Instead, he held up a hand and softly said, “I’m still assimilating. Please, just give me a little more time.”

“Are you going to reject me?” Damian whispered the question, hardly able to meet Kyle’s eyes.

He immediately shook his head, and Kyle realized it was true. Unless… “Do you act different around me than anyone else?”

Damian frowned. “I… I don’t think I understand the question,” he finally admitted.

Kyle nibbled his bottom lip for a second, brows scrunching as he tried to figure out exactly what he wanted to know as well. Letting out a sigh, he leaned forward and touched Damian’s cheek. He watched Damian nuzzle into his palm for a second, then Kyle asked, “Your personality, I guess. Are you different when you’re with your… people? Would you treat me different? Is that why you’ve kept us separate?”

“I will always treat you with love and compassion, my soul,” Damian answered quickly. “Even if we were in my people’s court, it would be no different, and you would be treated with the same respect deemed appropriate for my station.”

Shaking his head, Kyle grimaced. “I have no idea what that means. Why didn’t you trust me to tell me about this?” That was really the crux of the problem, wasn’t it? “I feel like you didn’t trust me,” he admitted.

He watched Damian’s face fall, a grimace crossing the handsome man’s features. “It’s not that I didn’t trust you, Kyle,” Damian murmured. “I had planned to tell you.”

“When?” he asked incredulously. “We’ve been married over two and a half years. We’ve lived together for almost three. How you talked me into moving in with you after only knowing you for two weeks is still a mystery to me,” he admitted. Once upon a time, he’d never have believed in love at first sight, but Damian had made him believe it. Now he wondered if that faith had been misplaced.

Damian reached out and took his hand. Kyle let him, suddenly feeling cold and needing his husband’s warmth and comfort, needing his lover to tell him everything was okay.

“I was afraid,” Damian whispered.

Kyle cocked his head, his brows drawing down in his confusion. His husband was the most self-assured man he knew, strong, confident, the epitome of everything masculine. It had shocked Kyle when the man had approached him at the diner. He never would have guessed that Damian was gay. “Why? What could you possibly be afraid of?”

Damian let out a shuddering breath, then met Kyle’s gaze with a soulfull look. “Losing you, Kyle. You’re everything to me. At first I didn’t tell you because I wanted you to get to know me, then I wanted you to fall in love with me. By that time, I’d convinced you to marry me, so I worried if I told you that you’d call it off, then I worried it was too late to share something that life changing,” he whispered. “You’d think everything I ever told you was a lie, just like you do now.” A tortured expression twisted his features, and Damian dropped his gaze, focusing on their joined hands.

He squeezed the hand he held, then moved his other to Damian’s jaw, encouraging him to look him in the eye. “Tell me now. Tell me everything.”

Nodding, Damian shifted position, bringing their knees into contact on the bed. Sparks of desire crawled up his skin at just that simple contact. Kyle fought the urge to pull his lover close, uncertain if he could keep from tackling his lover and saying to hell with their problems.

His husband blew out a breath and started slowly, his mouth opening and closing a couple times as he seemed to struggle to find the right words. “I told you I’m a Briny Nix,” he started. “We’re just one of a myriad of what you’d call paranormal creatures out there.” Kyle’s jaw dropped at that little revelation, but Damian held up his hand, cutting off any questions. “Let me get through this,” he whispered. “Please. I’ll answer anything once I’m done.”

Kyle jerked his chin in a semblance of a nod, willing his husband to continue.

“My kind have been here for millennia. We've watched the progression of man, and for the most part, we'd always stayed out of humans' way." His smile turned brittle for a second as he said, "When our ancestors crossed paths, it's the stuff of myth and legend when it didn't turn out so well. Most of the time, I can sadly say it's because my people didn't have respect for humans as a species until a few centuries ago."

He grimaced and shook his head, before refocusing on his story. "With the dawning of technology that could map the smallest crevice of the ocean floor, we realized we needed to send some of our people back among you to keep the rest of us safe." Damian smiled slightly and lifted a hand as if to touch Kyle before letting it drop.

"Briny Nix live several hundred years, but don't reproduce nearly as often," he admitted, "because many of us spend our time searching the globe for the one soul that will complete us. Our

Adelfi Psychi

," he elaborated. "Some get tired of searching. They find someone they care about, or someone they're willing to reproduce with, settle into one form, and have children."

With so much information being thrown at Kyle, he struggled to keep up. When Damian paused for breath, he latched onto the last confusing phrase he'd heard. "Settle into one form? What does that mean?" He'd already seen his husband's hands and arms change, and his teeth, and wasn't that just the freakiest thing he'd ever seen? Could they change even more?

"Mermen can shift shapes, their forms based on ancestry and sometimes area. The nobility don't turn into an animal, but their skin and fins turn into lethal weapons," Damian explained, the look in his eyes expressing his concern at Kyle's reaction. "Others, like those who are guards, turn into what many would consider sea monsters. Massive marine animals that keep us safe from any who'd attack us or invade our territory. Then there are some who turn into whales, or orcas, and sometimes even sharks or fish. Regardless of what their aquatic animal form is, their base form is a merperson, and they can all become human."

Kyle's head was spinning again. He didn't know what to think, how to make sense of everything his husband had just dumped on him. Whatever expression passed over Kyle's face had Damian stiffening. The man, the Briny Nix, tried to pull his hand away, but Kyle tightened his grip, not letting the man get away. "No, just let me absorb for a moment," he whispered harshly.

Watching through his lashes, he saw Damian's jaw clench. Why the hell was his lover upset? Kyle was the one whose life was just turned upside-down. A flash of anger surged through him, and he glared at Damian. "That was a shit-load of information you just dropped on me," he snapped. Kyle knew he shouldn't let his temper get the better of him, but he couldn't seem to help it.

Damian's features immediately took on a pained expression. "I know, my heart. I am sorry."

He took several deep breaths, trying to calm his racing pulse and get his thoughts in order. What he'd just been told seemed unbelievable, but he had a funny feeling his husband would be all too happy to prove it. And before true belief seeped into him, Kyle probably would need that.

After several minutes of silence, he lifted his gaze and took in the worried crease marring his husband's brows. "So what about you?"

Cocking his head, Damian frowned. "What do you mean?"

"You told me a hell of a lot about your kind," he said, waving a hand distractedly, "but you never really told me about you. What about your family? Why does your father coming concern you so much? Will he be disappointed you took me … a human … as your lover?"

Damian's brows shot up. "No! Oh, gods, no! That's not it at all," he quickly assured. "Kyle, I --" He paused. "Can I hold you, please? I need to touch you, make certain you're still here."

He whispered the admission and Kyle smiled largely, unable to hide the pleasure Damian's confession caused him. Kyle slowly stood and peeled off his clothes, stripping to his boxers. He saw the heat of desire light up his lover's eyes and smiled, knowing they probably wouldn't do anything about it for quite a bit, but it felt good nonetheless to be that wanted.

"Join me."

It took only a moment for Damian to add his clothes to the pile and crawl under the covers next to him. Damian reached for him and Kyle went to him willingly. Settling his head on Damian's broad chest, he gently ordered, "Tell me about your family."

Chapter Four

Damian relaxed into the mattress, his arms wrapped securely around his

Adelfi Psychi

, and everything felt right in the world. He knew his husband was trying hard to accept, to understand, and for that he'd feel forever grateful. He prayed to whatever gods would listen that since his human hadn't yet run screaming for the hills, what he was about to share wouldn't change that.

"I'm one of three sons from my father's first mate," he whispered. "Darius is my younger full-brother. My other full-brother is Drake. Only the three of us are eligible to receive my father's title and position in the Nixie Court."

"Nixie Court?"

The concerned, whispered words had Damian tightening his grip on his husband, as if that act alone could keep him from mentally withdrawing. "Yes. My father is an elder on the court, the Second Duke. He's nearing the end of his life and has been encouraging all of us to take a mate for some time. He didn't care which of us," he added. "According to Nixie law, whichever child from an elder's first mating who takes a mate of their own will be granted that elder's title and position."

Kyle's brows drew down. "That's an odd way to do it. Even a bit progressive if it includes females."

Chuckling, Damian replied, "Yes, that includes our women, and any male who says they're weak is either foolish or just plain stupid. I've seen some of the most lethal intrigue played out between women." He pressed a soft kiss to Kyle's forehead, knowing they had to get back on track. "My mother was my father's first mate," he murmured. "I am the middle of three sons, but I'm the first to take a mate."

He waited for Kyle to put the pieces together. It didn't take long. "Oh," his husband breathed the word out slowly. His muscled body tensed in Damian's arms. "That means …"

When no more words were forthcoming, Damian nodded. "Yeah. That's why my father's coming. He wants me to take over his duties."

"Oh," his

Adelfi Psychi

whispered again. "Can you do that from up here?"

"I'm afraid not," he whispered. "We could come up for visits, but we'd need to move there," he admitted.

Kyle craned his neck back so he could look up at Damian's face. "We? How could I live underwater with you? It is underwater that we're talking about, right?"

"Yes, my love," he replied, threading his fingers through Kyle's short brown hair. To Damian's relief, Kyle pressed into his touch. It pleased him that his beloved would still take pleasure, and even reassurance, from his touch. It gave Damian hope.

"How is that possible? I'm human. I can't live under water."

His hand dropped to Kyle's neck, kneading the tight tendons he found there. "You like it when I bite you when we make love, right?" he asked. He'd never questioned his mate's responses before, but he needed Kyle to be able to make the correlation.

The skin under his palm heated, and he glanced down to see a blush working its way down Kyle's neck.

Oh, yeah. That's hot

! He fought a sudden wash of lust. He wanted to change the heat of embarrassment to passion. His human's muttered confession didn't help him regain his fragmenting control.

"Yes, you know I do."

"Good." He breathed the word as he caressed Kyle's smooth skin. "Biting you mixes my saliva into your blood. It allows your body to make certain changes, like forming gills so you can breathe under water. As long as I continue to do that, you can stay with me under water indefinitely."

"That's -- that's amazing."

"It is, isn't it," he said softly. He continued to stroke his mate's neck and spine, loving the play of muscle under his fingertips.

Kyle growled softly and levered up onto his elbow to stare down at Damian. His brown eyes gleamed in the light of the moon coming through the window. Cupping his cheek, Kyle took Damian's mouth in a deep kiss. Damian relaxed into the contact, happy his mate still seemed to desire him just as much as he wanted Kyle, willing to let him set the pace and lead the way where he would.

And it didn't take long for Kyle to make it perfectly clear what he wanted. Still tangling his tongue with Damian's, his free hand slid down to tweak Damian's nipple, then he moved further down his chest, underneath his underwear, to tangle his fingers in Damian's pubic hair. Every few seconds, the tips of his fingers ghosted over Damian's erection, making the engorged, sensitive flesh flex and twitch.

The light brushes sent shock waves through Damian's system, driving his lust higher and higher. Letting out a growl, he grabbed the man's wrist and then rolled him onto his back, settling on top of him. He used a knee to separate his smirking human's thighs and settled his boxer covered erection against Kyle's. "Are you in need, my love?" he grunted, thrusting his hips.

Kyle bucked under him. "God, yes. Fuck me, Damian," he moaned softly.

Damian paused, knowing his man must be going through a myriad of emotions. He brushed his knuckles down Kyle's jaw. "Are you certain?"

"I will always need you, Damian," Kyle replied, his voice just as soft. The truth of his love and desire burned brightly in his gaze.

Groaning at Kyle's exquisite response, he rolled over and reached for the lube in the bedside table. "Clothes off," he ordered while removing his own.

It pleased Damian how quickly Kyle complied. He knew his

Adelfi Psychi

needed to reconnect with him just as much as Damian needed the same, but that didn't mean he wanted to rush this bit of returning trust his mate was giving him. Setting the lubricant on the pillow, he settled half on Kyle and took the man in a slow, lingering kiss.

He slid his tongue into his human's mouth, tangling them together, scraping over nerve endings. Smiling against Kyle's lips, he buried one hand in the man's hair to tilt his head, nibbling his bottom lip sensually before he deepened the kiss. Pleasure filled him when Kyle moaned and gripped Damian's shoulders and ass.

Dropping his hand to Kyle's chest, he pinched first one nipple, then the other, into sharp little points. He nibbled and sucked his way down Kyle's neck, loving how the sounds of his lover's grunts and moans of pleasure filled their bedroom. He latched onto one nub, twisting and pulling the other just like he knew Kyle enjoyed. With his other hand, he caressed the man's side and hip, finally cupping his ass and pulling them closer.

He moved up so their groins fit tightly together, causing their shafts to rub together in delicious friction. Resting his forehead on Kyle's, he stared into the passion-darkened brown eyes he'd come to love so much. "You are everything to me," he purred throatily. "I would do anything for you." He said the words, and knew they were true down to his very soul.

Kyle smiled up seductively. "Then love me, Damian."

"I can do that," he said, grinning.

Grabbing the lube, he poured a generous amount onto his fingers. He tossed the tube aside and lowered his index finger to Kyle's clenching hole and slid the digit inside. Sighing, he enjoyed the intimate feel of opening his mate, readying him for his cock. He brushed Kyle's gland every few strokes, and it took less than a minute for the man under him to begin to writhe.

"Now," Kyle panted. "Please now."

Taking in the half-lidded, passion-glazed expression on his

Adelfi Psychi's

face, he couldn't deny either of them any longer. Damian lined up his dick and slid all the way home with one, firm stroke. His body shuddered as Kyle swallowed him in tight, sucking heat.


Adelfi Psychi

, my heart, my mate," he babbled as he settled into a quick thrust and retreat rhythm.

"Yes, yours," Kyle moaned, lifting his hips, searching for that perfect angle.

Damian didn't disappoint his man. He scooped up Kyle's legs, settling them into the curve of his arms as he leaned close. He almost folded the man in half as he began drilling into him. It never ceased to amaze Damian at his human's amazing flexibility. Then Kyle clamped his anal muscles down on his cock and all thought stopped.

A low growl of need rolled up through his chest, and he slammed into the man beneath him again and again. He lowered one hand to Kyle's cock, loving the way the thick, hard organ fit in his palm, soft velvet over hard steel. As he jerked his

Adelfi Psychi's

dick, Kyle spurred him on with nails that bit deep into his shoulders and a litany of muttered words that Damian's pleasure soaked brain couldn't begin to decipher. His balls pulled tight with pleasure as tingles danced up and down his spine.

He felt the warm pulse of cum soak between them just as Kyle's rectum clamped down on his cock, squeezing his orgasm from him. Damian growled out his pleasure as he buried his cock deep one last time and let the warm, heady waves of endorphins roll over him, his dick spurting streams of seed inside his beloved.

When he could remember how to move, Damian carefully lowered his lover's legs. Both of them groaned as his softening cock slid from Kyle's ass. Damian leaned down and pecked a gentle kiss to Kyle's lips. "I'll be right back," he whispered.

His steps were unsteady as he made his way to the master bath and cleaned himself up. He warmed a clean cloth and returned to Kyle. He paused to stare at his man, admiring the strong lines, the toned muscles, and the now-flaccid cock lying against his thigh. Kyle cracked open an eye and smiled. He held out a hand and Damian went to him, settling next to him on the large bed.

After cleaning him up, he pulled Kyle close and kissed the top of his head. "Get some rest, my heart."

"Mmm, I love you," Kyle muttered, firmly wrapping an arm around Damian's chest.

"And I love you," he whispered back. He listened to Kyle's breathing even out as sleep took its hold over his lover.

His beloved human had had a difficult day. He'd learned some hard truths about the world, and Damian felt quite certain that Kyle still didn't completely believe everything. But he would. Especially after his father's visit tomorrow. And Damian knew they'd find a way to work everything out, together.

Kissing Kyle's brow, he gently eased away from the sleeping man, hating the necessity of it, but he needed to know if Darius still lurked in his home. Damian slipped from the room on silent feet. He found his brother sipping a cup of tea in the front room, his gaze riveted to the dark waters of the bayou beyond their deck. Damian strode over to stand next to him, joining him in staring out into the night.

Darius broke the silence first. "Your

Adelfi Psychi is resting


"He is. This has been stressful on him," Damian stated.

"It could get worse before it gets better."

Damian didn't like his younger brother's prediction, but it would be foolish to discount the possibility. "You are welcome to the spare bedroom. The sheets are clean."

After a nod of acknowledgement, Damian turned away, intent on returning to his sleeping lover. Darius caught up with him in the hall. "I'm sorry he had to find out this way."

Damian looked at Darius and shook his head. "This isn't your fault. It's mine. I should have told him years ago." He shrugged. "We are a couple. We'll get through this." He said the words with confidence he didn't yet completely feel, but if Darius sensed his doubts, he had the good grace not to say anything.

After a quiet goodnight, Damian returned to his bed and his husband. He held the man close, their heartbeats synchronizing into the age-old rhythm of sleep, and Damian prayed this wouldn't be the last time.

Chapter Five

Damian woke to the feeling of Kyle's body stretching beside him. The smooth skin of his chest against his own, the scrape of rough leg hair, and the clench and retract of Kyle's strong, blunt fingers on his shoulders had a smile curving his slowly waking lips. All these were things he'd never get enough of, and Damian knew it.

"Good morning, my love," he rumbled, his voice still thick with sleep.

Kyle grunted, but opened one eye to peer up at him. A smirk caressed the man's lips and for a moment, they just stared at each other. Damian knew the exact second that the previous day's events resurfaced in Kyle's mind. Kyle's brows creased as a frown marred his open expression.

"It wasn't a dream, was it?"

He shook his head. "No, Kyle. It wasn't a dream."

Kyle's gaze dropped to Damian's chest, and he wondered what the man was thinking. He heard his man let out a slow deep breath, then he nodded once, as if making a great decision. "Okay, then. We need to get up. The bathrooms need to be cleaned before your father comes." He lifted his head and gave him a trembling smile. "What time do you expect him?"

A surge of emotions roiled inside him, pride, lust, contentment, love. It was all there as he brushed his knuckles across Kyle's cheekbone. "I'm not sure," he whispered. "Let's get dressed, eat, and then I'll be your willing slave to help you clean however you want."

He liked the wicked grin that flashed across Kyle's face, telling him some of his husband's feisty personality was resurfacing. Damian laughed. Kyle threw a pillow at him. In retaliation, he grabbed his human mate and rolled until he lay on top of him. "I love you, Kyle. Never forget that."

Kyle smiled up at him, warmth filling his brown eyes. "I know. You should have told me all this long ago, but I still love you. Nothing will ever change that," he assured as he smoothed the pad of his thumb over Damian's bottom lip. He leaned up for a quick kiss, then stated, "Now get up, big guy. My bladder can't handle that kind of pressure right now."

Barking out a laugh, he rolled off the man and to his feet. Damian watched his

Adelfi Psychi's

naked backside as Kyle strode into the bathroom, and he fought the urge to join him. Instead, he headed for the kitchen and the coffee, knowing Kyle would need a strong pot after yesterday's excitement.

He made a cup of tea for himself and Darius, somehow not surprised to see his brother strolling into the room right as it was ready. After his brother took a sip of the English Breakfast blend, Damian told him, "Since you were the bearer of bad news last night, you get to help us with a few chores to get ready."

Damian grinned as he listened to his brother's groan.


Kyle curled his hands into fists, trying to hide their trembling. It had been foolish to expect Damian's father to arrive in a car. After all the talks, all the things his husband had explained, he should have known better, really. It still didn't prepare him for this.

He'd just finished mopping the bathroom floor when Damian had instructed him to get cleaned up. His father would arrive within twenty minutes, his husband had said. Kyle hurried through a shower and shave, then pulled on a pair of nice jeans and the polo shirt Damian had laid out on the bed for him. He'd shouted a question through the house about the wisdom of such casual clothes, but Damian had been insistent.

Once dressed, he'd headed for the foyer, but Damian had intercepted him. Now, Kyle stood on the back deck, watching how the spring sun danced across the rippling, dark bayou waters, like glittering gems flashing in the water as the waves crested and broke. Waves that shouldn't be there, since no breeze ruffled the boughs of the cypress trees.

Then two dark-haired heads broke the surface of the water, followed by tanned torsos, thickly muscled arms, and – holy shit! – the beginnings of a fish's tail. The aqua and silver scales caught and refracted the light, making it difficult to really make out much detail as the two men swam forward.

As the creatures, mermen, closed the twenty feet between the waves where they'd surfaced and the end of the dock attached to the deck, Kyle studied them. High cheekbones, long dark hair, dark eyes, bronzed skin, heavily muscled arms, and serious, watchful expressions all screamed powerful guardians.

Once the two men took up positions flanking the dock, another head broke the surface. Long, white hair gleamed in the morning light, rivulets of water trickled down a muscular chest, just adding to the majesty of the merman's regal bearing. Considering the man's obviously advanced age, Kyle decided that Damian's father looked damn good. He glanced at his husband out of the corner of his eye. Would Damian look like that someday?

Damian caught him looking, and gave him an encouraging half-smile. When the merman reached the dock, he raised high in the water, showing off glittering silver and blue scales covering a powerful tail similar to a dolphin's. Between one second and the next, the tail split and formed two thickly-muscled legs, a soft-looking deep blue sarong surrounded his waist, and the man stepped onto the wooden planks and strode confidently toward them. The two guards followed.

"Greetings, Father," Damian said, stepping forward.

The two men stood staring at each other for all of two seconds before the older man grinned and wrapped Damian in a backslapping hug. "Well, met, my son," the older man replied. Then he glanced over at Darius. "And you, my youngest, are in so much trouble."

He said the words, but the sparkle in the man's green eyes, so similar to Damian's, made Kyle wonder, as did Darius's huge grin as he replied, "Hello, Father."

Finally, the man turned to Kyle. His gaze swept over Kyle's form slowly, as if assessing him, maybe deciding if he were worthy to be mated to his son. The old merman's face remained impassive, giving away none of his thoughts.

Damian held out a hand, palm up, and Kyle took it. Kyle was grateful for the show of support when his husband slid his arm around Kyle's waist and pulled him against his side. "Father, this is Kyle LaRoche. He's my

Adelfi Psychi

," Damian said, introducing them. He smiled at Kyle. "This is my father, Fabian."

Kyle held out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," he offered respectfully.

"So, you've known my son for over three years," Fabian rumbled slowly, taking Kyle's hand and giving it a firm shake. "I'm surprised it took this long for us to be introduced." The older man gave Damian a disapproving look before turning back to Kyle. "Do you know why that is, human?"

Kyle heard nothing derogatory in Fabian's tone, only curiosity and concern. Glancing toward his husband, Kyle discovered that Damian was blushing. He realized Fabian's disapproval stemmed from his husband's lapse in honesty with his mate, and he decided he needed to set Fabian's mind at ease that Kyle wasn't going to hold it against the man he loved. Smiling, he looked at Damian and stated dryly, "Because he's stubborn and a bit pigheaded, sir, but we're working on it. I'll have him whipped into shape in no time."

Fabian's laughter rang out over the now still waters of the bayou as Damian's jaw dropped. "I'm going to like you, Kyle LaRoche. You will do well with my son," Fabian replied, still chuckling. He clapped his hands together and grinned. "Now, I'd like a cup of hot chocolate. I haven't had one of those in decades. Can you make me one?"

"I'm certain we can accommodate you," Kyle replied with a grin. "Come on inside."

Ten minutes later, Kyle handed a large mug of hot chocolate, complete with whipped topping, to the aging Nixie. The man smiled his thanks, grunting happily after taking a sip. Kyle settled on the couch at a right angle where Fabian sat on an easy chair, his two guards standing behind him.

Fabian sighed, staring at them over the rim of his cup. Setting the still half-full mug on his knee, he said, "You found your

Adelfi Psychi

first. You are now eligible to receive my title, Damian."

Kyle felt his husband tense, the hand clasped in his own tightening. Before Damian could reply, Fabian held up a hand for silence. Smiling slightly, Fabian stated, "I received a message from Drake this morning."

"I suppose he's heard about my mate as well," Damian murmured. "I never intended to usurp him. I know how much he wanted to be your heir."

Fabian shrugged. "It is the way of things, but that is not what his missive was about. Well, at least not completely," he added. At Damian's questioning look, Fabian smiled. "He does send his congratulations, but the real reason is that he has, also, found his

Adelfi Psychi


Both Damain and Darius let out loud whoops, clearly pleased for their older brother.

"That's great!" Darius cried.

"Just leaves you trailing, D-man," Damian teased, leaning over to punch his brother in the arm.

Darius laughed and rolled his eyes. "Whatever, dude. I like my bachelor status."

Even as he said the words, Kyle saw the sadness and envy lurking within the depths of his gray eyes. A pang of sympathy filled him for Damian's younger brother, and he said a silent prayer to whatever gods cared to listen that Darius would find his soul mate soon. No one should be alone.

"That also means if you don't want the title of Second Duke, you can pass it to Drake."

Fabian's words may have been quiet, but they seemed to easily drown out the good-natured ribbing the brothers were still giving each other.

"What?" Damian whispered.

His father gave him a slight smile. "I've known about your

Adelfi Psychi

for two years, my son. It is only now that the rest of the court has found out that I've had to approach you."

Damian's jaw dropped, and he glanced first at Darius, who shrugged, to Kyle and back to his father. "You knew all this time? Why didn't you say anything?"

"You needed time, and I knew you really didn't want to be one of the dukes. If you wish to pass it to your brother, that is now an option."

Damian's brows creased and his gaze slowly slid to lock onto Kyle. He could barely manage to catch his breath when he saw the intensity of his husband's stare. Damian smiled at him. "All I've ever wanted, since the day I met you, is to be with you, my

Adelfi Psychi

. What would make you happy?"

Kyle opened his mouth once, then snapped it shut. He swallowed, forcing moisture into his dry throat. "I feel the same, my husband," he managed to reply, though his voice sounded hoarse. "I would follow you to the ends of the earth and beyond. If you want to be Second Duke, I'll stand at your side." He smirked. "Once you've explained what the husband of the Second Duke is supposed to do, anyway," he added. Then his smile faded. "If you want to stay right here in this house with me, I'd be happy with that, too." He finished with a shrug, not sure what else to say. "It doesn't matter to me what you choose, as long as I can be by your side."

Kyle found himself wrapped in two powerful arms, his face pressed tightly to Damian's chest. "My love, my heart, I will never let you go," Damian crooned, kissing his temple. "You will always be by my side." The arms loosened only marginally when Damian's head lifted a bit, and he said, "I formally renounce my eligibility for my father's title."