“Kenneth,” Thorn said, his face reddening. “I’m glad.” He took his hand away from Kenneth’s lips and threw his arm around the mage, pulling him closer. They kissed hungrily, Kenneth moaning as his magic flared. The sensation of Thorn’s lips, of being pulled close by Thorn’s strong arms, was overwhelming.
The bulbs that illuminated the workroom burst all at once, sending them both into darkness as glass hit the floor with an ear-piercing roar. Thorn jumped back with a gasp.
Kenneth tamped down his control of his magic, watching as the swirls of aether stilled with his increased control. Damn.
“Second time you’ve done that,” Thorn said, his voice breathless from surprise. “I had to get all the bulbs replaced in my room.” Kenneth could barely see him in the dark, and he called up a globe of light, illuminating Thorn’s smirk.
“Sorry,” Kenneth said, taking a deep breath. “That was a poor showing, wasn’t it?” He hoped the glow from the orb didn’t show how red-faced he was.
Thorn’s laughter eased the worst of his embarrassment. “It’s flattering, really,” Thorn said. “But I’m certain the masters here won’t be too pleased. I’ll have to replace the bulbs for now—what say I meet you at the collegium?” Thorn strode across the room, striking something on top of the table, and then a fire burned on a small match. He lit a lantern in the corner, dust making the fire jump before it settled into a steady burn. “There, now I won’t need your light.”
Kenneth swallowed down disappointment. “I truly am sorry. Later tonight, then?”
“Sure.” Thorn moved back over to him, his scent and closeness making the aether in Kenneth’s vision swim. “At least at the collegium, I can do whatever I want to you without worrying about your magic breaking my things.”
Lust flared, and Kenneth shivered. “I like the way you think.”
“Good.” Thorn gave him the lightest of shoves toward the door. “Tonight, then. Be ready.”
Kenneth nodded, adjusting his robes to hide his swollen erection. He would be ready.
But first, he thought as he headed down the hall and toward the stables, he needed to begin to learn how to keep things under control. He had a little under two months to graduate, and if he lost control like that around his lifemate constantly…he shuddered to think of the shame. Especially when he would become an Enforcer after he graduated.
Lifemates were rare, and Kenneth had never imagined getting one. So when his professors had introduced the concept and informed the students entering the collegium about protocol related to lifemates, he hadn’t paid close attention.
After stabling Jade back at the magi’s collegium, though, Kenneth did his best to remember what he had been told. One name stood out in his mind—Ruta Maibell. She was the head doctor at the infirmary, had a lifemate of her own, and was an expert on raw magic. She could tell a person’s strength just by looking at them, and sometimes even found lifemates for mages who desired one.
People wearing the tell-tale blue of healer’s robes passed him by as he entered the infirmary wing, his shoes clacking on the marble floor. It quieted when he got to plush carpet, and the entire building seemed to hush when he entered a circular rotunda, almost like a smaller version of one of the lecture halls. Curtains covered doorways that led further into the infirmary, and overhead, sun beamed down through skylights. Plush benches lined the sides of the rotunda, and a pale man slumped in one of them. Kenneth took a seat as far away from the man as he could.
He realized his heart was beating fast, and he took a few breaths to calm it. He hadn’t been here since Thorn had been hurt.
Kenneth jumped at the voice, the person having moved so quietly on the plush carpeting he hadn’t heard them approach. A young man, probably a first year at the collegium, dressed in Healer’s blue grinned down at Kenneth. His grin faded slightly when Kenneth stood and towered over him.
“What seems to be the trouble today?” the healer asked.
“I’m here to see Doctor Maibell,” Kenneth said. “Is she available?”
The man’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “For lifemate consultation?”
Kenneth grit his teeth. “Yes.”
“I…yes, then. Follow me.” He beckoned, and Kenneth fell into step beside him. The young man was remarkably relaxed around nobility, and he tried to remember what family this man might belong to. No memories of any noble family with a son in healing came to mind, and he gave up on it when he was led to a heavy wooden door.
“I will tell her you are—“
The door swung open, a short, graying woman with eyes like an owls’ peering into the hallway. She looked Kenneth up and down, and her mouth set itself in a firm frown. With a wave of a hand to dismiss the healer, she nodded at Kenneth. “You think you have got yourself a lifemate?”
“I do,” Kenneth said. Her tone and stance in the doorway made him tense his shoulders. “I’d think I know that better than anyone else.” He had argued with the Dean about Thorn; he’d have no problem arguing it with this woman either, magic expert or no.
She stared at him, her mouth pursed, and finally nodded. “Come in, then.”
Kenneth had expected something like the Dean’s office, a sparse, utilitarian place of work with little other than a desk. Doctor Maibell’s office looked more like a sitting room, with couches along an enormous window that overlooked the collegium lawn, and a small desk that sat in front of a plush chair. Kenneth opted to stand.
“So,” Doctor Maibell said after a moment’s silence. “With power like yours, I imagine your lifemate’s presence must be quite distracting. Is that why you’re here? Losing control and all that?”
Kenneth coughed in an attempt to hide his blush. “Yes.”
“Not a surprise.” She waved a hand, moving over to her desk to write down some notes. “Well I can’t do much to help without whoever it is. Can you bring them here?”
Kenneth stifled a sigh. This was certainly going to be interesting.