Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Roses and Thorns (Arundel 5)

Just one month shy of the 10th anniversary of contracting the first book in this series, I'm very excited to bring you the conclusion, Roses and Thorns. I loved Jareth from the moment he wandered into my imagination, so I'm thrilled about giving him his happy ending, even if it's with a very unexpected person.

Jareth’s always been treated as if he’s fragile, but there’s one person who doesn’t see him that way, one person who truly believes in him. And Jareth’s finally ready to admit he’s the only one who matters…

Tired of always deferring to everyone else and holding back in every part of his life, Jareth is ready to go after what he wants. He can’t remember the exact moment he realized he loved Marcus, but he’s going after his happy ending. He doesn’t know what to expect from the man who claims he’ll never love again, but Jareth knows he’ll regret it forever if he doesn’t at least try to win the heart of the flawed man who sees him the way no one else does.


Marcus climbed up on the footstool and ran a feather duster over the top shelf of his collection of flow blue dishes. At first, it had annoyed him to have to do this by hand, but now he enjoyed it. Dusting gave him a few moments each week to reexamine his collection. His son Gil had already made fun of him more than once regarding how domestic he was becoming, but he didn’t really care. A knock sounded at the door, and he descended and set the duster aside. He’d been wary of unexpected visitors since the day the queen mother had basically told him to get on with fucking her grandson—something that still baffled him a bit—so he glanced out the small side window by the door before actually opening it.
The young man standing there looked familiar, yet Marcus couldn’t put a name to his face. Part of him really missed his powers, while the rest of him felt like a fool for having relied on them so much over the years. He’d gotten used to the edge they gave him, and now he often felt lost. “Can I help you?” Marcus asked.
“Yes. I’m interested in the training you’ve been doing.”
“Are you? What’s your name?”
“Malvern. Everyone calls me Mal.”
Marcus looked at the young man’s wild curls. “Do you by any chance know what your name means?”
“Bare topped hill. Yeah. I’ve heard plenty of jokes, thanks.”
“Just curious.” Something about the man’s demeanor told Marcus to be cautious so he stepped out onto the porch instead of asking Mal inside. “What can I do for you exactly? Do you wish to be trained?”
“No. I want you to stop training someone else.”
“That’s something you should discuss with that person. I train anyone who wants it unless I have a good reason not to.”
Mal crossed his arms. “It’s Jareth. He’ll end up getting hurt.”
“I’d never let him be hurt. If he had an accident, his grandmother could help him. Nothing I’m teaching him is dangerous. And we aren’t using real weapons. We’ve had four sessions, and he’s made wonderful progress.” Marcus crossed his arms to mirror Mal’s defensive stance. “Most importantly, it’s none of your business.”
“I care about him, and you’ve misunderstood me. I’m not worried he’s going to break his arm. I’m worried you’re going to break his heart. Take advantage of him.”
Marcus didn’t have time to wonder how this young man had any inkling of something going on between him and Jareth. “And what exactly makes you think anything of the kind?”
“You’ll never appreciate him. He’s far too good for someone like you anyway.”
“Again, none of your business.” He took one step forward. “Are you an old flame? Perhaps someone Jareth broke things off with? I can’t imagine him liking a man who goes around threatening others because he’s jealous.”
“You’re a fine one to talk about threatening people. I read your confession.”
“So did Jareth. What’s your point?”
“You’re powerless now. You wouldn’t stand a chance against me.”
“Is that a threat? I’m not the kind of man you want to threaten.”
“Neither am I. Just end things with him, and I won’t bother you again.”
“I’m training Jareth. Nothing more. But if there ever is something more, it’s our business, not yours.” He chuckled. “Hate to keep repeating that, but you seem a bit thickheaded.”
“I’ll make you pay if you hurt him. I have my ways.”
“Because I’ve done things you find distasteful you assume I’ll hurt him? That’s not fair. Jareth can not only take care of himself but also make his own decisions. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Mal grabbed him by the sleeve. “I’m not asking. I’m telling. Leave him alone. I know your type. You’ll fuck him until you’ve had your fill. Then cast him aside.”
Marcus slapped Mal’s hand away and said, “You couldn’t be more wrong.”
“Really?” Mal smirked.
“Yes.” He pushed Mal and made him stumble up against the house. He held Mal there and said, “If Jareth ever comes to my bed, I’ll tie him there and never let him go.”
That made Mal scowl. “Then I’ll rescue him.” He began to fight against Marcus’s hold.
Marcus held firm and laughed. “I knew that would get you going. You see, here’s where you’re the most wrong about me. You think I don’t see Jareth for what he is. But I see him all too well. You’re right. He’s far too good for me. He’s too perfect for words, even down to his flaws, and there will never be another as sweet and beautiful as he is. I’ll consider myself lucky if I get even one night with him. And if I do get it, I’ll do all in my power to keep him.”
“But you have no powers!” Mal spat.
Marcus released him. “Magic can’t give you another’s love. And neither can jealousy or any of the foolish things it makes you do.”
“Am I in for a lecture now? You think you’re such a bigshot because the king let you off easy.”
“Easy?” Marcus advanced on Mal again. “Do you know what it’s like to be completely cut off from magic? If I still had my powers, I’d show you. Just briefly.”
“What? There’s no spell for that.”
Marcus laughed. “Of course there is. What do you think vardys is? An incredibly potent spell. There are simpler versions, ones that wear off. You obviously have a lot to learn about magic before you go around threatening anyone else.” He shoved Mal and made him fall backwards off the porch and land on his ass. “Leave now and I won’t tell Jareth about your visit.”
Mal’s face went red. “I know things about magic you’d kill to know! This isn’t over,” he said before using magic to transport himself away.
Marcus stood for a moment staring at the spot where Mal had landed, wondering if there was any substance to what Mal had said. He still didn’t know exactly who the man was, other than someone who obviously wanted Jareth for himself.
“Well,” Marcus whispered to himself as he went back inside, “looks like I better stake my claim as soon as possible.” He slammed the door and bolted it.