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Tiger Boys

Tiger Boys
ASIN: B00LYPZIZW
Publisher: Linda Gayle
Release date: July 19, 2014
© Linda Gayle

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Grad student Jules has always felt different. He’s got buddies, sure, but relationships make him turn tail and run. Dreams of tigers and memories of a mysterious great-grandmother make him wonder if there’s something his parents aren’t telling him. When an unexpected inheritance offers clues to Jules’s destiny, he’s intrigued, to say the least. It doesn’t hurt that the news is delivered by a sexy Russian who seems to know Jules better than he knows himself.

A prince of a powerful tiger clan, Sergei Sidorenko wants to live as an ordinary man. But his family nags him to take his place as king. They offer him a deal: teach the lost prince Julian how to shape-shift and control his untapped sorcerous talent. Then Jules will be king, and war between the once-rival clans will be avoided. Most importantly, Sergei will be released from clan obligations forever. It sounds like an easy out. But Sergei doesn’t count on Jules being so temptingly innocent, so eager to learn. Lessons in sorcery turn to lessons in love. And Sergei falls hard for Jules.

Dark clouds gather over the tiger clans. In a bid to seize power, Jules’s ambitious older brother, Anton, works on the key to immortality. And he needs Jules’s flesh and blood to finish the spell. Tangled in Anton’s machinations, with a traitor in their midst, Jules and Sergei must fight for their lives—and for the love that destiny would deny them.

 

excerpt

Nevertheless, he'd gotten a taste of it last night, scented the hormones in the air, the testosterone rising, the earthy undertone of sweat lightly springing to Julian's skin when Sergei touched him. And God help him, he was having a hard time stopping touching him.

Without warning, he swung the car to the off ramp. "Let's get some lunch," he said. It was past noon. It wasn't unreasonable, and it would give him a chance to walk off his tension.

"Where are we?" Julian asked.

"Close to the Connecticut border." Sergei stopped at a red light at the end of the ramp and looked for signs of civilization. Already he missed the city and the easy access to everything. Who knew where they'd find a restaurant around here.

"There's a McDonald's," Julian said helpfully, pointing down the road to the right.

McDonald's? God help them… The boy had no culture. Sergei turned in that direction, hopeful there might be other eateries nearby. "Maybe something else?" he suggested lightly.

They passed the golden arches but found little else. A deli, a pizza place, Chinese take-away. Besides wanting something that wouldn't give him heartburn, Sergei wanted some privacy. It was time for Julian's first lesson. With their limited schedule, there wasn't any point in delaying.

"How about Chinese?" he said finally.

"Sure, whatever. I'm easy," Julian said with a grin.

Oh, boy, if he was, they were both in a world of trouble…

Sergei wheeled the car around and headed back to park in the Panda Princess's lot. As soon as they got out of the car, the smell of greasy Chinese food greeted them. Well, still better than fast food.

Hunched into his jeans jacket against the wind, Julian asked, "Suppose there's an ATM anywhere nearby? I didn't get a chance to get any cash before we left."

Sergei waved him off. "Don't worry about it. Everything's on me."

"I can't do that," he protested. "At least let me buy lunch." He held up his ATM card, and Sergei shrugged.

What a nice guy. Such a nice guy, he thought with a sense of deepening despair. He tried to picture him tearing into a haunch of raw meat. Um, no.

"I'm glad we found this place," Jules said, opening the door for him. "I could only get a salad at McDonald's, anyhow. I'm a vegetarian."

Oh, shit. "Really? No meat at all?"

"Nah, not for years."

"Interesting." Sergei dragged his hand through his hair and tried not to cry.

At least the restaurant was fairly empty. Only a few tables were occupied. The lighting was low, the walls decorated with cheap Chinese prints. Red paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. A moon-faced, middle-aged woman came to seat them. She stared at Julian's black eye and abrasions, but said nothing, and they followed her to a booth next to another couple. Sergei tipped his head toward the back. "Can we sit somewhere more private?" he asked.

She smiled and mumbled something in broken English and tried to put them in the booth anyhow. He asked again, this time in Mandarin. The woman's eyes widened and she nodded then hustled them into the back.

"Wow," Jules said, sitting opposite him without taking off his coat. "You speak Chinese?"

Sergei hung his coat on a hook next to the table then sat. "Sure. Comes in handy when you're dealing with Oriental merchandise."

"Oh, yeah. Do you speak any other languages?"

"Russian, of course. Arabic, a little Japanese. Not much."

He shook his head. "I can speak Spanish pretty well, enough to get by. Where's the bathroom, how much does that cost, no meat on my taco, that sort of stuff." He grinned. Such an easy grin, too. Midwestern boy-next-door all the way, with his shock of auburn hair falling over his brow and his beautiful green eyes filled, discouragingly, with not a hint of malice.

Sergei's fingers itched for a cigarette, but he waited until they'd given the hostess their drink orders and she went away. "So," he said, looking Julian in the eye. "I imagine you must be bursting with questions."

Julian leaned his elbows on the table. "Yeah. I mean, what's this place like? Have you ever been there?"

"A few times, when I was younger. My uncle had a close relationship with Nadja. He introduced us. We both had a passion for history and the arts."

"Is it empty? Is anyone living there now?"

"No, no one lives there, but there's furniture. I think." He rolled his eyes a bit. "And heat and hot water, if we're lucky. My uncle sent my sister up ahead of us to turn everything on."

"Even though you didn't know I would come?"

"We hoped." He paused before he said, "It's important to both our families that you…understand your heritage."

"Yeah, my heritage…" Julian rested his cheek on his curled fingers. Despite his innocent features, there was a keen intelligence in his gaze. Along with a persistent spark of good-natured skepticism. "Could you explain the more Potterish aspects of it to me?" He sat up straight and placed his hand over his heart. "Let me guess. I'm the Chosen One. My secret powers are going to save the world. The mole on my butt is a magical symbol. Am I close?"

Mole on his butt, eh? Sergei laughed despite himself then shook his head. "Mm, maybe not quite that amazing." More amazing, in some ways, actually, but these things took time to explain. Still smiling, he withdrew his pack of cigarettes and took one out. The dry material would do for a demonstration. He held it between his fingertips and said, "You do have certain abilities you might not be aware of, however."

"Abilities… Okay. Like what? Can I fly?"

"Sorry, no."

"Aww."

"But," he said, leaning closer, keeping an eye out for the waitress, "you do have some control over the elements. Do you know what the four elements are?"

"Air, earth, fire and water?"

"Exactly. In the ancient days, alchemists believe that by controlling these elements, many things were possible. The transmutation of base metals into gold, for instance. The creation of an elixir they called the panacea that would cure disease and extend life." He handed the cigarette to Julian. "In Greek, alchemy was called the spagyric art. In Latin, it was referred to as solve et coagula."

"To separate and join together," Jules said, taking the cigarette.

Sergei nodded, pleased.

"I guess I forget to mention I took a couple years of Latin. Not that anyone speaks it."

"Comes in handy at moments like this," Sergei murmured. "The ancient alchemists…our ancestors," he said carefully, "managed to separate and join many things. In doing so, in mastering the four elements, they changed themselves and their progeny forever."

Julian turned the cigarette over and over in his fingers thoughtfully. "So you're saying both of us had alchemists for ancestors?"

"Yes. At the peak of their power, in time of the ancient khans, they were even called sorcerers. In medieval times, warlocks."

His eyebrows twitched and he sucked his lower lip between his teeth. "That's hundreds of years ago, though, right?"

"Thousands. Before Christ called Lazarus from the grave, before Moses parted the Red Sea, our forefathers controlled the storms, the rivers, fire and stone."

Julian slowly shook his head. "I don't believe it."

"I know you don't. That's why I want you to try something." He took Julian's hand and moved the cigarette down to the very tips of his fingers, so only the unlit end was pinched between them. "Light it," he said.

"With what?"

"Your fingers."

He laughed. "You're nuts."

"Eh." Sergei rolled one shoulder. "Don't know until you try, yes? Focus. Yes. Good." He leaned closer and lowered his tone, almost whispering. "Now, Julian, listen to me. You must feel the heat in your body flowing, ebbing along with your heartbeat. Feel it pouring through your veins. Feel it swelling in your hand. Your fingers are conduits, like wires, pure, uninhibited agents of heat, smoldering, pouring into the paper and the tobacco." He smelled the cigarette starting to light and restrained himself from getting too excited. His rhythmic tone had Julian staring at his hand, at the brown cigarette closed in his grip. "The paper is dry, brittle. It wants to burn. Its purpose is to burn. Burn it, Julian."

"Shit!" He dropped the cigarette and shook his fingers. His eyes were huge.

Sergei laughed softly. He picked up the cigarette and took a leisurely drag then blew out a long plume of smoke.

"I don't believe it," Julian said. "I don't fucking believe it."

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