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Paul's Dream cover art

  Excerpt: Paul's Dream

  Rowan McBride

  Available now at Liquid Silver Books

  ISBN: 978-1-59578-385-1


Paul's Dream © 2007 by Rowan McBride. All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part without author's permission.

Prologue

 

Even in those cold, dark corners hidden in dreams,
this fire will burn forever.

 

The door at the top of the stairway scraped open, but Kian didn't bother to look up. Only one person ever ventured down here.

His master, come to steal more of his life-force to enhance his own potency.

Kian's body ached with hunger. These iron chains wrapped around him grew heavier every day. He was a resilient being, but even he had his limits, and he'd almost reached his.

"Three hours, and the destination is nothing but a dank hole in the ground."

He glanced up at the unfamiliar voice, surprised to see the man standing before him. A human, dressed in an immaculate white dress shirt and black slacks. "Who are you?"

"Paul." He slipped his hands into his pockets, walked around the cell. "No windows, no doors other than the entrance, and no more clues." He looked down at Kian, his startling blue eyes cool, disinterested. "Which means you must be the point of this dream."

"Dream?" Yes, now that the suggestion had been put forth, he could see the signs. The fog at the edges of his vision, the lack of substance to the grey stone that made up the walls around him. But he was also experienced enough to recognize that this was a dreamscape laced with magic. "How did you get here?"

"Happened the way it always happens. Mazes, puzzles, riddles. And now I'm here." Paul crouched in front of him, reached out. "To free you, apparently."

"No!" Kian scrambled away, and the chains binding him to the floor yanked him down again. The iron collar around his neck choked him, and he coughed and sputtered as he tried to regain his breath. "Chains... enchanted... without a key..."

His face calm, Paul pulled a large iron key from his pocket. "This key?"

He stilled when he caught sight of it. "Where did you get that?"

"These dreams always have one possible goal. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out, but I always do." He reached forward again. "Hasn't taken me this long since I was a boy, though."

The chains rattled and clanged as Kian twisted his body, just barely escaping Paul's touch. "Please, don't." Dream or no dream, in this state he'd suck the human dry if freed.

Paul sighed and sat on the cool stone floor. "An emotional component. I'm never good at solving those."

Curious, cautious, he turned to take another look at his visitor. The man's beauty dazzled the senses, even in the dim light of the single bulb hanging above them. His raven hair and strong, cut features drew the eye in ways Kian had never before experienced, while the blue in his gaze glittered like pure, precious gems. Yet there was a coldness about him that he couldn't fathom. "Emotional component?"

"It's hard for me to relate to people, so when empathy is required to solve a puzzle, it takes a lot longer." He rested his wrists on upraised knees. "I don't think I've felt anything substantial since I was a child."

How could a human with no true emotions walk into another's dream? The very act required profound sensitivity. "Do you know what I am?"

He shrugged. "I usually have dreams like this when on a particularly intricate case. One could argue that my mind is working through a subconscious manifestation of a challenge I'm facing in my waking life."

No dream walker he'd ever met spoke like this. "Case?"

"I work at Harcourt, Coleman, and Krauss."

Kian fell silent, trying to comprehend the strange human before him.

"How long have you been here?"

He met Paul's sapphire gaze, forced himself to ignore his hunger. "I'm not sure. Years, I think."

"Why?"

"I've been enslaved to provide pleasure for a master."

"Enslaved," he repeated softly, although his expression didn't change. "That's not right."

Kian sensed that the human said the words because of some internal moral code, not because he was particularly outraged. "You're a strange dream walker."

Nothing registered on the other man's face. "Dream walker?"

He didn't know. How could anyone be unaware of such a gift? "It's rare magic."

"There's no such thing as magic."

The enchanted chains restricted Kian's true power, so he was in no position to convince him otherwise. Besides, disbelief often proved an adequate form of protection for humans. "Alright."

Paul studied him a long moment. "Why don't you want me to set you free?"

"Because I'll kill you if you do."

"Ah." He got to his feet, leaned down. "It's just a dream." He grasped the collar around Kian's neck, slid the key into the lock fastening it.

"Wait! Don't!"

The key turned, the lock tumbled, and the collar fell away.

"Sorry, but I can't wake up until I accomplish the goal." Paul straightened. "And I'm a busy man. Too busy for dreams."

Kian stared in shock as the human faded from sight. The fog at the edges of the cell engulfed the room, darkened into black.

*****

Kian opened his eyes, sat up. The iron collar around his neck clattered to the floor, taking the rest of the chains with it. Sweet, hot fire filled his body—his power, returning full force.

Slowly, he rose to his feet, running his hands over the raw skin of his throat, his arms, his wrists.

Free.

The human had used a dream to enact real change in the waking world. A great deal of power, and he was completely unaware.

Kian would have to deliver a personal thank you.

The door above scraped open, and he glanced up, half expecting to see his rescuer walk down the steps. But it wasn't Paul.

It was his former master.

Richard Davis froze in place, staring first at the chains on the floor and then at the creature standing in the center of the room.

Kian looked him over—took in Richard's broad shoulders, the muscled torso and long legs. His gaze settled on the prominent bulge in the crotch of his trousers.

Time to take back all that had been stolen from him.

Lifting his head, Kian let a vicious grin shape his mouth.

"You seem to be quite fond of bondage, Richard. We'll see how you feel about it when I'm through with you."


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