“You clearly needed that,” Thorn said after their lovemaking session, lying next to his lover. His heart began to slow, his body hot but satisfied. “You always seem so desperate, especially lately.”
Kenneth nodded, his face red, and he took a few moments to catch his breath before speaking. “It’s…it’s the magic, sort of,” he said, and Thorn’s worries resurfaced. “The desperation, I mean. I’ve told you before, but when you’re around, and my magic increases…it’s intoxicating. Like being drunk, of sorts.” He stroked a hand down Thorn’s arm. “I’m not used to it. And…” he swallowed. “It makes me lustful. That doesn’t always happen with lifemates, but it does with you. Because I already want you.”
That eased Thorn’s concerns more than he wanted to admit. “Oh? What else happens with lifemates?”
“Actually,” Kenneth said. “That’s something we can find out together.”
“So…her name is Doctor Maibell?” Thorn asked. He peered up at the gold-gilded ceiling of the hall in the magi collegium, where swirled colors had been painted. He wondered if that was supposed to be a representation of the aether or something.
“Yes. She is a lifemate expert. Don’t worry, Thorn. She’ll help us both.”
“I don’t need help,” Thorn said. “Er…” that wasn’t entirely true. “I just want to understand this, is all.”
“Me too, really.” Kenneth gave Thorn a bashful smile. “Once we’re Enforcers, I can’t exactly go around losing control of my magic. Or, uh, being constantly distracted.” His face reddened.
Thorn stifled a grin, and reached over to give Kenneth’s shoulders a light squeeze as they entered a rotunda, where a woman in blue waited. He had spent some time in the medical wing of this building, but at the time he had been so worried about Alder and Kenneth that he hadn’t had time to focus. And once he was recovered, he just wanted to get out.
It certainly made the tiny infirmary at the inventor’s college look pathetic. Thorn frowned at the thought.
“Greetings, Lord Victeni.” The woman beckoned to Kenneth. “And this, I take it, is your lifemate?” Her statement grew less certain as she stared at him.
These things would probably go better if he wore robes like a mage. But he was no mage, and he wasn’t going to pretend to be one. “I’m Thorn,” he said, holding out a hand. She didn’t shake it.
“I…will take you both to Doctor Maibell.” She looked between Thorn and Kenneth for a moment, clearly confused, before turning and heading down one of the doors that lined the rotunda.
Thorn walked next to Kenneth, wishing he didn’t feel quite so out of place. If his friend Saul were here, he would be fleeing down the hallway in fear. Thorn wasn’t afraid, of course, not exactly. But he certainly didn’t feel at ease, either.
The halls were lit with glowing orbs that hung in place, not with electric lighting, and when the woman stopped outside a heavy wooden door, the orbs to either side flared, nearly blinding Thorn.
“So,” a voice said, and Thorn blinked through the pain in his eyes to see another woman, silhouetted from even more light in the room behind her. “Lord Victeni. I see you weren’t exaggerating.”
“I apologize.” The light died away, Kenneth’s face red. “I thought I was keeping more control than—“
“Relax. I put those lights there with a certain aether magic, to see if there are magi nearby who have poor control. Clearly, you do, and I can tell your enhanced magic is in turmoil with your lifemate here.” The woman smirked, then looked to Thorn. “And you…”
She paused, then her eyes widened. “Why…you either have the most exquisite control of your magic I have ever seen, or…”
Thorn took a breath, stifling a surge of nervousness. “I’m Kenneth’s lifemate,” he said. “And I’m talentless.”
The hall was silent, Thorn and Kenneth exchanging glances. Their escort’s eyes were wide.
“Well then,” Doctor Maibell said, her eyes narrowed. “Leilan, go on. You two—come inside.”
The door shut behind them, Thorn looking over the benches and couches that lined the room. What sort of doctor’s office was this?”
“Alright then,” Doctor Maibell said. “First of all, what sort of relationship do you two have?” she was speaking to Kenneth, he realized, not him. “Is he your servant?”
Anger kindled in his stomach, but Kenneth spoke before he could. “He is my lover,” Kenneth said, his eyes flashing.
Doctor Maibell held up her hands. “Peace, Lord Victeni. I’m sorry.” She finally turned her gaze to Thorn. “I was just assuming, based on the most…common relationship between a noble mage and a talentless.”
Thorn nodded, his jaw tight. He knew that all too well.
“A mage without my specific training would assume you both were lying. In fact, I’m sure Leilan probably thinks you’re insane.” Doctor Maibell muttered something, a phrase, then shook her head. “But its true. Your power is twice that of what it was when you saw me before. I wouldn’t have thought this possible.”
“What is it?” Thorn finally spoke up, frustration making his voice louder than he intended. “Someone explain to me what’s going on in a way I can understand. I know lifemates make each other more powerful, and I know I am Kenneth’s lifemate, but how it is supposed to work?” Privately, he feared every mage they met would react the way she would. Thorn, a talentless lifemate. A power source, a servant, to Kenneth, nothing more.
He had agreed to become an Enforcer. But if that’s what it meant, then that was not what he wanted.
“Take a seat, Thorn, Kenneth,” Doctor Maibell said. “I’ll explain things to you both. And we can figure this little mystery out, I hope, together.”