What Doesn't Kill You

Valentina Heart

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After another disastrous sexual escapade, Jae only has escape in mind. Running down the stairs, he slips, falls, and blacks out. The first thing he sees once he wakes up is a gorgeous stranger offering him a beautiful future in ju...
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Full Description

After another disastrous sexual escapade, Jae only has escape in mind. Running down the stairs, he slips, falls, and blacks out. The first thing he sees once he wakes up is a gorgeous stranger offering him a beautiful future in just a single gaze.

Kian is a light demon who’s been looking for his chosen one for years. Even with that set goal in mind, it's never been an easy path. Once he sees Jae, all the pieces fit into place. The clock starts ticking but they have to run for their life, run hard, if they're going to get that perfect future.

With demons at their heels and dangers lurking around every corner, Kian and Jae have to rely on each other -- find their strengths, defeat their enemies and nurture their delicate, still forming connection. What doesn't kill them is definitely going to make them stronger.

  • Note:This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.

Excerpt
Jae jumped down the steps two at a time, way too impatient and furious to wait for the elevator. He kept thinking about that jackass and how humiliated the whole episode had made him feel. He had terrible luck with men, as if all the scum of the homo world homed in on him and made a point of making Jae suffer. What little bit of confidence he’d managed to find was slowly dwindling; hell, it was plummeting straight toward the ground. Jae could almost feel that moment approaching, that moment of utter despair when he would beg for affection. It didn’t matter if he fucked or was the one on the receiving side, these men treated him like he was nothing but a convenient body to be used, and more often than not, he was. Or he was a punching bag, a pissing stop between lovers. Jae was an invisible nobody, and it was only a question of why, exactly, it had taken so long for the tears to cloud his vision.

It was no surprise that on the two flights of indoor stairs before he was out on the sidewalk, his legs managed to somehow tangle, tripping him. He flew over a set of six stairs like a stuntman and landed painfully on the last few steps. The tumble down had felt excruciatingly never ending. With every twist and slide he’d felt the hard stones beneath him, and more than one edge had cut into his flesh. Then everything went utterly dark.

* * * *

The first thing to reach his semiconscious mind as he came to was the pain. Dull sensations of agony rippled through his body, took his breath away, and made groaning seem like the only available option. As Jae slowly opened his eyes, he found a pair of deep, black eyes staring intently back at him. The fear he felt in that first instant had him flinching back, but that only made him groan louder as his back protested in flashing pain.

“Here, let me help you,” the stranger softly said as he laid tender hands on him.

Groping him didn’t feel much like helping, and without thinking about it, Jae tried to squirm away. A new wave of discomfort had his eyes watering, and he stilled, deciding right then and there he didn’t fucking care what the stranger did to him as long as he didn’t move him.

The stranger’s warm fingertips felt as if they were made of silk as they casually brushed Jae’s exposed skin. If not for the pain pulsing through his body, he would have surely groaned at the sensation, and his tongue would have made a few devilish, unthought-through comments. The stranger was gentle and kind, however, murmuring soft reassurances Jae was too out of it to understand. Just the sound of his voice gave Jae a sense of calmness, as if the voice were a living, breathing thing on its own.

The stranger turned Jae’s twisted limbs and positioned him carefully on his back, and one of the stranger’s palms ended up on his forehead. The stranger put his other hand under Jae’s shirt, where it rested comfortably on his suddenly fluttering belly. A stunning man was touching him in a manner that was almost loving. After the scene he’d just been through upstairs, this man could have been a serial killer and Jae wouldn’t have cared. He wasn’t above enjoying the unexpected attention, especially when the stranger’s touch burned right through him, giving him the biggest wood of his life.

The moment the stranger settled and closed his shocking but gorgeous black eyes, warmth started spreading from the man’s palms to Jae's flesh. Like hot rocks placed on tired skin, the warmth began to consume Jae’s whole body. It was pleasant, and all the hurt places started to tingle. Then the pain seemed to just fade away. The handsome stranger didn’t remove his palms when the tingling dissipated. Kneeling above Jae, he looked into his eyes. What flashed in those exotic eyes was sweet, warm, and comforting. It not only looked, but also felt, like affection and maybe even something more.

There weren’t any words to describe the sensations rioting through him. Jae was hot inside, his heart swelling as if everything from those eyes was pouring into his chest. Suddenly all pretenses and masks were gone, and what was left of Jae was the raw, exposed flesh of a man who was wounded so deeply he wanted to spend the rest of his life hidden and crying. Those eyes burned with such tenderness and understanding that they took Jae’s breath away and introduced him to a whole new dimension of existence.

The stranger’s irises turned from a pure, what seemed like never-ending black, to a swirling, almost hypnotic brown. The warmth of it was so completely comforting and extraordinary that just looking away felt offensive. But the moment was far from over, because the stranger smiled, oh so sweetly, and just like that, all thoughts of warmth and comfort flew from Jae’s mind, only to be replaced by pure, gripping lust. What was wrong with him?

Jae had to admit the man was gorgeous, all black hair and tanned skin, with teeth white enough they were capable of lighting up the hallway. There was a discrete glow that shone from every inch of his exposed skin, and Jae sensed a connection forming in those short few minutes, his inner self was joined by another, brighter creature, his mind was entwining with that of the stranger. It was a connection that overruled everything else.

There was no time to process the sensation, however, and barely enough time to take another breath before the knowledge of things he never knew existed found their way into his head, information about a world so different from his own, of creatures despicably cruel and immortal men born to fight. It was almost as if he was able to see right into Kian’s mind. Yes, the stranger’s name was Kian, a name he suddenly just knew, a name as beautiful as its holder, and Jae had to blink, had to see the man again in the new light where he wasn’t a stranger anymore. It was almost overwhelming.

“Shhh... You will soon know all that I know. Just take it easy,” Kian said.

The connection was far from over. Jae knew what Kian felt, he experienced the same sensations. He shuffled through Kian’s memories, almost too similar to watching a fast slide show of colorful pictures. It was like magic. But even more than that, Jae became vividly aware of everything Kian held in his heart, of a door opening to let out a flood of emotion straight into Jae’s chest. A piece of home was entwined with Jae’s soul, and he was suddenly in a place where everything was just as it should be, with Kian right there at last, right there beside him to share it all.

There were no words between them and no motion. Everything Jae wanted to say dried out on his tongue, and they were just two people staring at each other intently, fascinated by this new sparkly thing, of new discoveries and sharing all those long-held secrets. It wasn’t until Jae was standing on shaky feet, held securely upright in Kian’s arms, that he realized he knew more than the stranger’s name. He was so close and very right--he was everything that mattered.

“Don’t question it. We are one now, a perfect match.” Kian stepped closer. “All my significant memories and experiences were just shared with you. My life is yours now, and while it might be too much information at the moment, it will even out. You will remember things you didn’t realize you knew. All in good time, as they say here. Just be patient, Jae. There are no secrets between the promised ones,” Kian whispered as he softly grazed Jae’s jawline with his fingertips.

Jae moved away like he’d been burned. Why was he so trusting? Why was he letting Kian hold him? He still felt the residues on his body of sex with another stranger and already he was sinking into another trap, another disappointment.

Kian pulled him back into his arms. “Don’t move away. You know you can trust me. Just feel it.” He pressed his palm against Jae’s chest, giving freely of his warmth, and without any resistance, Jae relaxed again.

“The promised ones?” he asked, confused, grasping at the lingering strands of their conversation, somehow instinctively trusting Kian and knowing all the answers were there, almost within his grasp.

“Yes, we are that. We are the promised ones. Two people who are destined to love and cherish each other. No distance could ever stand in our way. You are my promised one. I’ve searched for you for far too long.” Kian trailed off, lost in thought, and suddenly Jae saw it all in his mind, the long, difficult journey from the scorching flames of some other world, burned valleys and buildings in ruins, the blood moon and night jungles; so many indescribable shapes, both animal and plant forms, and in the midst of it all, Kian desperately but persistently searching. Searching for that one irreplaceable person his whole being had been yearning for.

Jae came to with a gasp, as if plucked out of the deep end of a pool. He breathed in the present, sorting through so many images, so much information, trying to make sense of it but barely succeeding. He was losing his ever-loving mind, and he didn’t much care. Everything around him felt right. Everything about the man who held him was perfect, true. He felt more fucking safe than he ever had before in his life, and it was almost liberating, almost enough for Jae to let go completely, to surrender to the flow and follow the tide.

With every connection, he seemed to get more--more of Kian, his past, his present, more of these overwhelming feelings. He saw just how deep Kian’s love went, and how many years he’d searched for his promised one, for Jae, not knowing what he looked like or even his name, not knowing if he would ever be able to hold him close to his heart, if they would ever get to share that one fate-sealing kiss.

Jae didn’t have any coherent words. It was inconceivable to him that someone had searched for him, for the always discarded Jae. Even more, had searched for him for years on end, never giving up, never losing hope, and always loving. The connection was overflowing with information and kept overloading all his senses. Jae held on to Kian, his last anchor to the world and to reality, as he desperately tried to come to grips with the excessive influx of information.

He felt whole in a way he never had before, both in body and mind. Despite the headache he could sense forming, everything else faded. Just he and Kian existed, just that excruciating need to unite their wanting bodies the way their minds were already irreversibly joined.

But Jae still had a functioning head on his shoulders. Despite his willing heart and his more than interested body, he wasn’t one to just leave everything and head off into the sunset--or some demon realm as it were--without question. He was scared, quickly going on terrified, and wasn’t even sure anymore if he could trust himself.

So when Kian said, “Come, love, we must go,” in a panicked rush, Jae stood still, his mind running through all the questions he had until there was one ready to be voiced.

“Why can’t we stay here? I don’t even know you.” The attempt was weak, only half felt, as even then Jae knew he would say yes, would just go with the demon and surrender his life to the path ahead. But a little struggle was better than nothing, he supposed, reassuring himself.

“They will find us. They already sense we are near, and every second is time we just don’t have. Please, Jae. Please come with me,” Kian begged, and as Jae relented, Kian pulled him closer, supporting his still-unsteady body, and led him outside. Jae worked with him and followed, though somewhat trepidatiously. He knew there was no other possible choice; he knew from that moment on, wherever Kian went, Jae would obediently follow. It was a drastic change for a man who had a will of his own, who had opinions and was perfectly capable of making decisions. Not to mention how dangerous it was to give all his trust to one man, to discard all his experiences, all the pain and hurt he’d been through, only to blindly follow someone once again. Somehow the center of his world had moved from his own ass to Kian’s, from his well-being to that of another man. Again. On the other hand, he had to admit he didn’t want anything to happen to him, so if he looked at it from that angle, following Kian was a sensible thing to do.

But that didn’t mean he couldn’t ask, “Where are we going? And who are they? Give me a second here.”

“The catchers will be after us soon,” Kian supplied, worry etching his features. “They are like vultures, and our union is a feast, waiting for them to come and rip us apart. I am sorry we don’t have more time. I will try and explain it all on the way.” He firmly held on to Jae’s hand as they exited the building.

Everything was so terribly bright outside, the sun shining mercilessly, putting them in a spotlight. Jae could indirectly feel the danger lurking close by, as if their pursuers were just around the corner. Though Jae knew he was experiencing this through his connection with Kian, it still seemed as if they were his own feelings that had always been present but only now were more intense.

“The information will come in rushes of information whenever we connect in any way. Be it making love or healing, or even just the desire to know what’s in the other’s head. It takes time we don’t have now, though. I am sorry, my love,” Kian said while they hurriedly walked by the side of the tall buildings.

Jae shook his head to dispel all the info he didn’t want to think about at that moment. He pretty much didn’t want to think about any of it, so he focused on the issue at hand. “So where will we go?” He thought about it and whispered mostly to himself, “It’s so strange. I can almost feel the answer in my head, but I can’t reach it.” He looked at Kian. “Tell me.”

“We must go and see Verdelet. He has to confirm our union, so we can be safe.”

“Verdelet...” Jae mumbled. “Is he the guy I keep seeing in my head--no hair, sharp teeth, and long fingernails that could kill a person?”

“Yes.” Kian smiled. “Believe it or not, he’s one of the better-looking demons. He presides over all the ceremonies, and if a union or any other type of connection between demons hasn’t gone through him, it isn’t official. I just hope we make it there in time. Verdelet has so much work to do that he secretly employs the catchers to reduce his volume of business. It’s the way the other realm works. Secrets are never truly secrets, and going around the rules or bending them is not the same as actually breaking them,” Kian patiently explained, causing chills to pass through Jae’s body. He couldn’t say the day was turning for the better; in fact, it seemed to be taking a permanent downward spiral.

They were walking on the edge of the sidewalk when Kian lifted his palm and stopped a taxi. “Palm Tree Motel, please, and hurry,” he said to the driver. At first glance Kian appeared oblivious to the turmoil going on inside Jae’s head, but Jae knew Kian was doing the equivalent of listening to all his thoughts and doubts but politely staying quiet, giving Jae time to come to grips with what was to be his future. A piece of cake, that. Jae snorted, wishing the sarcasm would be enough to postpone the imminent breakdown. He could always hope.

Copyright © Valentina Heart

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