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“Nev, good to see you.” Carl pulled his old friend into a warm embrace. “We really need to try and meet up when it’s not a life or death situation.”
Nev laughed and Carl winced at the slap to his back. How was a human mage so strong? “That we should my friend. Now, are you going to remember your manners and introduce me to your lovely mate or are you going to leave him hovering in the doorway?”
Carl winced again, this time from being called out. He hadn’t realised Tristan hadn’t stayed by his side when he’d gone to great Nev.
Pulling himself up to his full height he beckoned Tristan closer and wrapped an arm around his mate’s shoulders as soon as he was near enough.
“Tristan I would like you to meet my old friend Senior High Council, Elder Neville Poindexter, otherwise known as Nev. Nev, this is my true mate, Tristan, formally of the Nirthfell family, now of the Jade Clan.”
Nev raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment on the introduction. Instead, he took the hand Tristan held out and raised it to his lips. With a smirk at Carl, he gave a florid bow and kissed the back of a now spluttering Tristan’s hand. “It is so good to meet you. I pity you being fated to this frumpy old vamp; I hope you can teach him how to loosen up and have a little fun.
Carl chuckled when Tristan scowled and snatched his hand back. “I’ll have you know I am very pleased with the mate fate has chosen for me.” Carl reeled him in so he could wrap his arms around Tristan. It was his turn to scowl again when Tristan continued. “Also, I don’t know what you mean about needing to loosen up or being grumpy. I mean just last night Carl and I were playing hide and seek with our friend’s kits.” Carl squeezed until Tristan squeaked and slapped his arm, but it was too late, the damage was done.
Nev was staring with his mouth hanging open. “Carl? Playing hide and seek? With kits? Did someone get video evidence? The stern, serious, straitlaced elder played a game.”
Carl growled and gave chase when Nev yelped and ran from the room.
Tristan chuckled and watched the friends play. There was no other word for it. Carl could have caught Nev at any time, but obviously wasn’t even trying. No human—mage or not—could outrun a vampire.
After a few minutes both males flopped down in a nearby settee and Tristan joined them, yelping when Carl pulled him down into his lap.
“So, my mate, Nev here has agreed to help you retest yourself to see what level mage you actually are. I’ve told him about the spells I’ve seen you do, and he agreed with me that there is no way your level is as low as your family told you. What do you say? Want to know for sure what your level is?”
Tristan swallowed the lump in his throat. With everything going on he’d forgotten that Carl had said he knew someone who could help him to see what his level was now he was grown. He still wasn’t sure he was as high as Carl thought, but he did think he had risen in levels since he was last tested.
“I would be honoured to have you assist.” Tristan bowed his head to
Nev. He may be an old friend of his mates; however, he was still a high council elder.
Nev nodded in return. “Well, there’s no time like the present. Carl do you have a bowl of some sort we can use, and a knife?”
Carl shifted Tristan until Carl was standing and Tristan had taken his place on the settee. “I’ll see what I can find.”
An awkward silence filled the room once Carl left.
“Well,” Nev began, “all joking aside, I am glad to see Carl find his mate. He has been looking for a long time and I know he wanted the person fate thought was perfect for him.”
Tristan smiled. “I don’t know if I am perfect, but I do know that all I want is to make him happy.”
Nev grinned. “I would say that sounds pretty perfect to me.”
Carl came back holding a plain white soup bowl.
“This is the best I could find, and the cook said she wasn’t letting me have any of her knives to use in some mage’s blasted blood rituals. Her words, not mine.” He went silent for a moment. “Would my claws do the trick. They’re sharp and with our mating bond Tristan will heal almost immediately.”
Nev nodded. “Your claw will be fine as long as Tristan is fine with that?”
Tristan shrugged. “As long as it won’t interfere with the ritual, I don’t have any objections.”
Nev looked around the room.
“Okay let’s use that table. Sit in a chair and lay your hand palm up on the table.”
Tristan did as requested.
“Carl, you stand behind him and when I tell you to, cut his palm enough so he can get a few drops into the bowl.” Carl nodded. “Right here’s what we’re going to do. Carl will cut your hand and you will let three drops fall into the bowl and then you’ll recite this spell.”
Tristan repeated the spell until Nev was satisfied he had it memorised perfectly.
“When the spell takes, you’ll feel a rush of power and the blood in the bowl will change colour. I’ll explain the colours once the spell is complete. Shall we?”
Tristan nodded and braced his hand on the table as Carl leant over his shoulder claw extended.
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