The king was dead.
The wizard king was dead, and now Gareth was—
Fucked. Well and truly fucked without lubrication. On top of it all, Gen was still missing.
Gareth tried not to snarl at the man’s simpering tone. If the guy shoved his nose any further up Gareth’s ass he’d be able to sniff Gareth’s pastrami on rye. “What?”
The long-suffering sigh as the man took a seat on Gareth’s couch tempted him to do horrible, terrible things. He sounded like this was such a chore for him.
Like Gareth wanted the fucking job of king of the wizards. Stupid seers and their spells. What the hell did they know? All Gareth wanted from life was to help his father with his graphic design business and live a quiet, peaceful life with his mate by his side.
Instead, he got his door pounded on at oh dark hundred by a guy who barely came up to his shoulder and insisted on calling him sire.
“Sire, there are arrangements to be made. We must move you to court as quickly as possible, so the transfer of power will be seamless. The ritual that will initiate you as king must be performed at the next full moon.”
Gareth understood rituals and timing. As a wizard, his power relied on them. “The next full moon is in three days.” Not a lot of time to prepare.
“And if we don’t perform it then, we must wait for the next full moon. Your crowning must have the approval of the gods.”
Gareth glanced toward his study, to where the Beckett spell still waited for Gen to arrive. “I’m in the middle of a ritual myself.”
The man, who’d introduced himself as Abraham McDorman, the court’s steward, grimaced. “I’m afraid your ritual must wait. The king ritual must take precedence.”
Like hell it did. There was no way anyone was interfering with his spell to call his mate to him. “You understand I’m a Beckett.”
McDorman nodded. “Yes, sire.”
“Then you also understand the Beckett curse?”
McDorman’s expression turned stricken. “I’m… No, sire. I’m afraid I don’t.”
Aw, shit. This guy was clueless. “You are aware I’m a werewolf?”
“Ah. I’ve been informed of your affliction, yes.” McDorman once more appeared merely stressed instead of horrified.
“We’re wolves because of a curse, cast long ago by a witch who felt she’d been wronged by my ancestor.”
Curiosity replaced some of the stress in McDorman’s expression. “I’ve heard some of the tales, sire, but I would prefer to hear the truth from you.”
“Why is that?”
McDorman sniffed disdainfully. “I’m not a fan of gossip, sire.”
Good man. His estimation of McDorman went up slightly. “Apparently my ancestor couldn’t keep it in his pants.” He ignored the surprised snort of laughter from McDorman, but again, his estimation of the nervous little man went up. “He vowed to love a witch, but in the end he bowed to pressure from his family and chose a more suitable wizard to take to wife. The witch, pissed off beyond sanity, cursed my ancestor.”
“Making him a dog in truth as well as inclination.”
This time it was Gareth who was startled into laughing. Maybe McDorman wasn’t quite as stuffy as he seemed. “Exactly. But the karma police hit her upside the head, returning the curse to her threefold. Theresa Langhorn lives now as an immortal, giant bunny.”
“Her descendants are all vegetarians.”
The man’s lips twitched.
“So great-great-blah-great-grandpa wound up eating great-great-blah-great-grandma, which seriously freaked out his kids. His son, in turn, tried to figure out a way to fix the curse, and wound up turning himself inside out, which seriously freaked out his kids.”
“I would imagine so.” McDorman shuddered delicately.
“But Becketts are stubborn. In time one of our ancestors came up with a way to coexist with our wolves.” Now came the important part. “The curse that changed the Becketts so long ago has morphed into something more. The symbiotic relationship we now share with our wolves means we are mostly in control of our other halves, but that control comes at a price. It’s been a long time since a Beckett has eaten anyone.” He smirked, thinking of some former lovers who’d had no trouble with Gareth’s appetites. “In a bad way, that is.”
“What price would that be, sire?” McDorman’s gaze drifted toward Gareth’s study.
“Every Beckett has a mate somewhere in the world. When the loneliness becomes overwhelming, we cast a spell to draw our perfect mate to us, calling to the one person who both the wolf and the man can accept as theirs.”
“It means that we do not have to put forth the effort to find you a consort.”
Gareth’s wolf growled. No way would it accept anyone but their destined mate. “Yeah. Let’s not do that.” The wolf would destroy anyone he tried to mate with who wasn’t theirs. “But there’s always a price to pay.” The familiar words sent a pang through him. He prayed to the Goddess that Gen’s price for helping them hadn’t been too steep. “If the mate never appears or if the Beckett refuses to cast the spell, his wolf half will slowly drive him insane and kill him.”
“Oh.” McDorman paled. “That is the ritual you’ve cast.” At Gareth’s nod, he sighed. “Sire, I’m not certain the court will survive without you while we wait for your mate. Due to King Steven’s illness, there have been some power struggles, some decisions made that perhaps should not have been. It will take a king to reverse some of those decisions.”
“Wonderful.” Gareth was stepping into political dog doo his first day on the job.
“Is there any chance we could perform this ritual again after we crown you?” He held up his hand when Gareth opened his mouth to protest. “I would be more than pleased to aid you, sire. I would not like to serve an insane monarch.”
“Thank you, but no. I can’t put it off, and it’s important that it completes before we crown me.” If the court couldn’t handle his mate, he would break with tradition and deny himself the crown, no matter what the court’s magic had told them. Gareth couldn’t be king without his mate by his side. But perhaps…
Yes. Perhaps the court could be useful after all. “There’s a reason I can’t put it off, one beyond my wolf’s desire to have its mate. I have reason to believe my mate may be in danger.”
McDorman’s eyes went wide. “You know who she is?”
Gareth hid a grin. If his brothers heard the bullshit pouring out of his mouth they’d flay his ass. It went against everything they believed in for Gareth to name his mate before she’d arrived, but he knew, deep in his soul, that Gen was the one. “Yes.”
“Then we must find her.” McDorman pulled a tablet PC from his pocket and pressed a button. “What information can you give me on your mate?”
“Her name is Genevieve Godwin.”
The tablet PC fell to the floor. “Um, I’m sorry? Did you say Godwin, sire?”
“Is that a problem?” Gareth was willing to force McDorman to accept his mate or remove him as steward.
“Is she one of those Godwins?”
Obviously McDorman had heard about Davis and his asshole sons. “She’s an Own.”
The man relaxed. “Ah. Then she is not one of those Godwins. Most excellent.”
Shit. He’d better clarify, or this could go south. If he had to work with the man he needed his trust, and keeping his mate’s magical status a secret wouldn’t work in the long run. It was why he was going to surprise Daniel with his position in the court. He wanted family close by in case Gen’s last name became an issue with the rest of the court. “I’m sorry, but she’s a warlock Own.”
McDorman slumped in his seat. “Oh, dear. Vivian Godwin won’t like this at all.”
Gareth scowled. How many Godwins were there? “Who the fuck is Vivian Godwin?”
“The matriarch of the Godwins, sire. She rules the family much as you will rule the court. And she’s not known for her patience or her compassion.”
“Gen is known for both.” Just the thought of his sweet mate had him smiling like a sap. “She saved me from Davis Godwin, at great cost to herself.”
Some of the color came back to McDorman’s cheeks. “Then I swear to you, sire. We will find her as soon as possible, and bring her home.”
Gareth couldn’t agree more.