ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: Sharing of this story is suggested, encouraged and applauded, but the author’s name IS NOT to be removed from it for any reason whatsoever. Please do not offer it for sale; it is a free read story for CJ England’s fans and designed only for those who are 18 and OLDER.
All characters in this story have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
They made their way over to the gaming tables where a chocolate-eyed blonde woman was tapping her foot impatiently. Her narrowed gaze watched the man playing the roulette wheel. It was obvious to both Lara and Amy that gambling wasn’t her thing. But her face lit up when she saw them coming.
“Lara!” she squealed. “Thank God. Please tell me you’ve come to take me away from all this.”
“Come on, baby,” the tall, dark blue-eyed man next to her cajoled. “You know you’re my good luck charm. Much better than —” he shuddered, “— a rabbit’s foot.”
“Peter, Bunny, I want you to meet a new friend of mine.” Lara grinned at them both. “This is Amy Cassidy.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Amy,” Bunny said with a smile. “Which tall, dark and handsome belongs to you?”
Amy blinked. “He’s in the bar right now, but how did you know Givré was tall, dark and handsome?”
Peter laughed and tapped his own chin. “See? CJ likes tall, dark men. And her heroes are always handsome, just like her heroines are always beautifully unique. So she bet the odds.”
“Like he’s been doing all night.” Bunny crossed her arms and glared up at Peter. “And not so well, I might add. If this keeps up we’re going to have to mortgage the ranch in Easter Village.”
Amy blinked a second time. “Easter Village?” The light dawned, and her eyes went wide. “Oh, my God. You’re Peter Cottontail.”
“In the fur, so to speak. But I’m human for the moment.”
“You’re the Easter Bunny.”
Peter just grinned. “Another fantasy come true. Right? Just like your special snowman?”
“You’re real.” Amy shook her head and glanced over at Lara. “And you were right. Majorly fantastical. I can’t believe it.”
“That’s what brought Bunny and I together,” Peter said seriously. “Too many humans not believing. So my father challenged me to start with one. If I could make Bunny believe, I would be the next Easter Bunny. And then some day, everyone could be made to believe again.”
“Of course he didn’t tell me all that until too late.” Bunny gave her lover a light punch in the stomach. “And I almost walked away and never came back.”
“Seems to be a real theme going here,” Lara murmured. “You all know Justin kept things from me, too.”
“But you both made it through.” Amy stared at the two obviously happy lovers. “It all came out right in the end.”
“Happy endings are a must,” Bunny stated. “But there are hurdles to jump over before we get there.”
“Yep. Not only my hiding of the truth, but a false accusation of embezzlement and a crazy jealous rabbit intent on revenge.” Peter leaned over to give Bunny a gentle kiss. “If we hadn’t had some really strong Easter magic, I’m not sure it would have come out right.”
“There is magick all around us, if only you look for it.”
They all turned and Lara sighed again. “See what I told you? Another tall, dark and handsome. And look at the men with him. Where does CJ find all of them?”
Amy smiled and put out her hand to the small blonde woman with beautiful leaf-green eyes. “Hi, I’m Amy.”
“Hello.” The blonde returned the smile. “I’m Talia and this is my mate, Prince Calion Sáralondë of the Calen’taur Elves. And these—” she swept her hand in an all encompassing wave at the men who stood at the ready behind them, “—are the Royal Guard. They protect him—”
“And you,” Calion put in with a lifted brow.
Talia rolled her eyes. “And me.”
“Protect you from what?” Bunny asked.
“Talia was stolen from your world and brought into mine by orcs.” Calion’s face tightened. “But I was able to rescue her before any lasting damage was done.”
“Why did they take her?” Lara’s eyes had widened at the tale. “What did they want?”
“To prevent the prophecy from coming true.” Talia glanced up at her mate and all could see the love in her eyes. “But we still don’t know what the complete prophecy is.”
“Together, we will come to understand it, Tia maer,” Calion promised, his hand touching Talia’s cheek. “We have gone through so much…”
Talia rubbed her cheek against his fingers lovingly. “Prejudice and hate.”
“Fire fever and my own stubbornness not to believe.”
“Betrayal and death.”
Calion’s eyes saddened briefly. Then he took a deep breath. “Yet with all of that, we found forgiveness, love and loyalty. We were even granted a miracle. And most important of all, we know now we are mylari…”
“Soulmates,” Bunny sighed dreamily. “CJ definitely believes in them. I think she touches on that theme in all her books.”
“But just what did you mean about the magic?” Peter asked Calion. He took the other man’s measure. The prince was, as Lara had said, tall with a lean, muscular build. Brilliant sapphire eyes under slightly tilted eyebrows gazed around the room with an air of absolute command. From under his long dark hair peeked ears that ended in an obvious point. “I can see you’re no more human than I am.”
Calion shook his head and his lips curved into a smile. “No, as Talia said. I am elven.”
“And the magic?” Amy prompted. “I know Givré came to life through the magic of the Christmas spirit. Is that what you meant?”
“There are many types of magick,” the prince answered. “Your world is filled with it if only you open your eyes. Look around this room.” He nodded towards the bar. “You see that group of men over there? The ones surrounding the woman with the golden eyes and white-blonde hair?”
“Yes,” Lara glanced at the bar then back to Calion. “They made quite an entrance when they came in. There are six men called the Chosen and each of them has two protectors. They were called to join together by the Peacekeeper. When I spoke to her, Kira said they were here to save the world.”
Peter laughed. “Is that all?”
Calion smiled. “They speak the truth. They fight against an evil that threatens all human kind. Something that has been lying in wait since the beginning of time. But, fortunately, this group has a magick that is stronger than anything I have ever seen. The men are Gallegar, king of the San Francisco vampires, Danolas, High Priest of the San Francisco Society of Witches—”
“He was one of the magick welders that made it snow,” Lara interrupted.
“It looks very real,” Calion approved. “It adds just the right touch to this special night. And the rest of the Chosen are just as magical. Lucas Kane is a Master Shapeshifter and is second in command over his clan. Yet not for much longer. Soon he will fight for his right to lead. Benjamin Carmody is the Sovereign of the Superhumans, a genetically more advanced form of human.”
“And the guy with the golden skin and hair?” Peter nodded towards the glowing man. “He has ears like you. Is he elven?”
“Yes. He is Koran, heir apparent to the throne of Faerie. Those extraordinary beings who live either in the Faerie Mound or in the human world.”
“He’s different than you?” Lara asked.
Calion nodded. “I am from beyond the Faerie myst. My world lies in another dimension, if you will. I am the heir to the throne there. Two separate kingdoms.”
“There is another woman with them,” Bunny observed. They watched as the beautiful redhead shook her fist in a long haired blond man’s face. “Whew, she’s got a temper.”
“Like someone else I know,” teased Peter.
“That is Brianna Muldoon,” Talia interjected. “She is destined for Danolas. Another witch, but she is from Ireland.”
“Calion, aren’t you one of the princes who made the lights?” Lara pointed up to the tiny faerie lights over their head. “Justin met you earlier?”
“Yes.” Calion gazed upwards at his handiwork. “I worked with the one known as Koran to magick them up. Do you like how they look?”
“They’re perfect.” Amy smiled as the glowing lights danced amongst the greenery. “They look real.”
“They are real. Just because they are magick does not make them any less real.” Calion cocked his head. “Is that not right?”
“Very much so,” Amy agreed. “Givré is a real man even though he was brought to me through magic.”
Lara opened her mouth to speak, but she was drowned out by the sound of a horribly loud hoarse, rasping scream from outside. “Kree-eee-ar, kree-ee-ar.”
Bunny put her hands over her ears. “Good Lord. What is that? It sounds like a rusty steam whistle. But louder.”
Amy also covered her ears. “I don’t know, but it’s gotten everyone’s attention. See?” She motioned with her chin to where her lover was standing warily just outside the bar. “It even got Givré away from ESPN.”
“Oh, my God,” Lara said through clenched teeth. “I totally forgot. CJ mentioned some guests would be arriving from off-world on Skyhawlks. That must be them now.”
Peter grimaced. “Son of a bitch. You’d think they’d muzzle that thing. It’s so loud it’s shaking the chandelier.”
Another Skyhawlk made its presence known and then a third.
“They sound very large,” Calion shouted. “We have birds such as these beyond the myst. Do you have a place for them to land?”
Lara nodded. “Justin built something on the casino roof. Some sort of landing pad. But now that I’ve heard them I just hope it’s strong enough.”
A moment later, there were several noisy shuffling thumps on the roof that made the whole boat sway. Then all went quiet. For a few long seconds everyone stood in shocked silence. Then the band began playing the Donner Boys’ hit, Second Chances and slowly all returned to normal.
“Whew. Glad that’s over,” Peter muttered.
“Look, is that them?” Bunny pointed to the two men who had just walked in the salon door. One was long and lean with blond hair and eyes the color of the sky in the morning. The other quite different, tall and powerfully built with odd banded tattoos running horizontally across his chest. His face was triangular and his ebony eyes were large and round. His straight dark hair hung to his shoulders.
“No. But they are from off-world as well.” Lara bit her lip in concentration as she tried to remember the details. “I think the Skyhawlks gave them a ride, but they aren’t from the same world.”
“Who are they?”
Follow Your Dreams