“Did you eat that?” Rory asked, eyes wide in shock.
Cole rubbed at his midsection. “I don’t think it agreed with me, what was it?”
“Why would you eat it?” Rory demanded, voice high with panic. “You don’t just come into someone else’s house and consume a 600-year-old toadstool!”
“Is that what it was?” Cole frowned. “I don’t like mushrooms.”
Rory laughed, slapping a hand over his mouth when it came out unhinged.
“Was it poisonous? Why would you put out a poisonous mushroom for a guest?” Cole asked, sinking onto the couch.
“It was a toadstool, not a mushroom, and you are not a guest!” Rory shouted. “You walked in here asking for a hammer!”
“Oh, yeah,” Cole looked up at him. “Did you find one then?”
“No, I didn’t find a freaking hammer, Cole!” Rory slumped onto the couch beside him in defeat. “My mother is going to kill me. She’s going to kill you. No, she’s going to make me kill you, then make me relive it for the rest of my miserable life.”
Cole’s broad hand rubbed Rory’s back, warm and soothing. “Was it a family heirloom, then? Because those should be tomatoes, not mushrooms.”
Rory laughed despite his misery because he found Cole hopelessly charming, even in dire circumstances.
“It was a toadstool,” he reminded Cole, giving in. “There’s something I should tell you about myself before my mother appears.”
“She going to apparate into your living room?” Cole teased, squeezing his thigh and spreading warmth through Rory’s body.
“Pretty much, she’s the Fey Queen of Winter West,” he said, watching Cole closely.
“Oh,” Cole said, his brows pulled low. “That explains a lot, actually.”
“Like what?” Rory asked, incredulous.
“Well, you can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes,” Cole grinned when Rory rolled his eyes, but his smile slid into something more subdued and private as Rory met his gaze. “And I’ve always thought you were too good to be true.”
Rory’s mouth went dry and he shivered against the heat of Cole’s thigh against his. “I’m true,” he whispered, then cleared his throat. “I mean, I’m real. Just because I’m Fey doesn’t mean I’m not real.”
“Fey royalty,” Cole reminded him with a sad smile. “And further out of my league than I could have imagined.”
“No,” Rory shook his head, in a hurry to explain. “I’m not even important, I swear. I’m like, forty-ninth in line for the throne, I’m nothing.”
Cole cupped his cheek and Rory grew dizzy at the incredible warmth that surged through him. Cole was the only thing that had ever made him feel anything but cold.
“Rory, Rory, you’re… everything,” Cole confessed, the truth in his words purer than the frost of a winter morn.
Rory surged forward, capturing Cole’s lips in a searing kiss. His lips warmed against the soft curve of Cole’s mouth, his tongue an anchor against the tempest of Rory’s need.
“You’ve always been the difficult one,” Rory’s mother sighed, causing them to spring apart.
“Mother,” Rory sputtered, grasping for Cole’s hand and a suitable explanation.
“Save it,” she told him in a bored tone before turning to the horned creature beside her. “It seems this one is unavailable for marriage at this moment; may I offer you something in a lighter shade? A green aura, perhaps? I have a daughter who has quite an affinity for creatures who rut.”
The creature bowed its head in acquiescence, stomping one hoofed foot before disappearing. The Queen looked Cole over with a careful eye before giving Rory a smirk.
“I knew you’d be trouble the moment you were born,” she told him, amused. Rory flushed and ducked his head, but he held tight to Cole’s hand.
“I love him!” Cole blurted, cheeks pink. “If that makes a difference. I love him like mad.”
“You do?” Rory breathed.
“He does,” the Queen assured him. “But if you plan on keeping him, be sure to train him not to eat things he doesn’t know the origins of. A wrinkly, green, enchanted toadstool, Cole, really?”
Cole shrugged bashfully. “I thought it was one of his fancy vegan concoctions.”
The Queen rolled her eyes, looking so much like Rory Cole had to bite down a startled laugh. “Well, child, I will bless this union because you’re spoiled and incorrigible, but keep him in this realm and away from your siblings or you’ll regret it.”
“Thanks Mom, I will,” Rory promised, eyes dancing with glee. The Queen ruffled his hair with affection before placing her hands on the top of their heads. She muttered a few words Cole didn’t catch, and then with a loud crack, she was gone.
Cole blinked and looked around, his ears ringing. When he looked to Rory, he found a dark blue aura shimmering around him and a shining golden string that trailed from the pinky finger of his left hand to the one on Cole’s right.
Rory toyed with the string, sending a jolt of desire and elation straight to Cole’ heart. “So about that toadstool…”