I wrote this after doing a lot of research on unicorns. Let me know what you think.
Of Fire and Ice
The two shifters approached the stream. He had fought and was injured. She had felt the draw of another magical being. The phoenix landed beside the stream and waited. He knew she was near. The sweet, innocent magic of the maiden laced the air.
The unicorn stepped into the glade hesitantly. The phoenix cocked his head, watching her, and holding his wing tightly against his body. She was on the opposite side of the stream. They regarded each other. Neither shifted into human form. He limped toward the stream, unsure of how one asked that a stream be cleansed. His blood trailed behind him, scorching the earth.
Taking a few tentative steps forward, she touched the stream with her horn, purifying it. Relieved, he took great swallows of it. Even though it drowned the fire inside of him, the stream’s healing powers were more vital than the flame within. It would return in time for the next battle. As his wing healed, he collapsed beside the stream, finally shifting into human form. The poison in his shoulder was being pushed out from the blood wound.
“Thank you,” he breathed, smiling at the unicorn.
Her form shift was as fluid as the stream. One moment, a unicorn watched with its sweet, serene gaze, the next a maiden gowned in the same shimmering silver appeared.
“Why didn’t you renew by flame?” she asked. She stayed opposite him beside the stream but sat on the mossy bank.
“The serpent’s venom. I was aiding a village under my care that Lucian attacked,” he explained.
She was more beautiful than he’d heard. Her eyes seemed huge and innocent—so innocent. It felt wrong to desire her even though her ruby red lips seemed meant for passion.
“I have not welcomed you to my care,” he said. “I apologize.” She was in his province, and he’d meant to come see her. His people had come to be healed and had spoken of her sweet nature.
She smiled, but seemed nervous.
“Do you intend to claim rights?” she asked. She hugged her legs to her chest. There was no fear there. Some uncertainty, but no fear.
“I hadn’t thought on it,” he said honestly. Maybe it was just as well he hadn’t come to see her before he was too injured to do more than talk about the old tradition of claiming an untouched who stayed on a liege shifter’s land. He dropped his head to the ground. He was alone, and he’d been alone for nearly a century, his whole life. For nearly a century, his land had gone without a healing shifter since his mother had died. This one was young, probably the age she appeared. She smelled like a newly bloomed sweet pea flower. There was a promise in the scent. “Where are you from?” He stretched, wincing. The poison was seeping out, but his flame would need to scorch his throat again before he could consume and renew.
She stood and pulled her gown up above her knees to wade across the stream. “I’m from the north kingdom, ruled by the gryphon known as Tyrone. Two maidens were born. My sister stayed.” Her legs were porcelain and shapely, and he watched the water shimmering on her skin. Would the stream’s water taste even more sweet on her skin?
“You came here,” he stated. She must have known there was the possibility that he’d claim rights over her if she settled here. What did that mean?
“My father sent me here. He said you’d be a good ruler.”
Never before had ruler meant what it meant to him now. He wanted to rule over her in ways that his mind longed to explore. His body was beginning to agree with his mind’s designation.
She kicked the water from her feet and shook her skirts out, waving more of her delicious scent across him. His ability to perform rights was becoming less of a consideration to his body. Never had a female been so delectable in his mind. She knelt beside him. Out of consideration for her, when he’d changed form, he’d conjured pants over his lower body. As it was, her eyes traveled across his bare chest, and a blush stained her cheeks.
“I am called Phoenix also,” he said. It was rare that a shifter was known by the same name as their shifted form, but his father had been known as such and the tradition had carried.
She nodded. Her fingers reached toward a wound on his stomach, but he grabbed her wrist.
“Your name, sweet maiden?”
“Helena,” she said, smiling and meeting his eyes.
Her eyes were icy blue, and her skin felt cool as the stream beside them. He released her hand and dropped his head back, closing his eyes. When her fingers touched his skin, his muscles clenched.
“Pain?” she asked.
Not the kind she believed. He shook his head. “There hasn’t been a maiden shifter in this province in my lifetime.”
“You’re unaccustomed to being healed,” she said.
He’d let her believe that. If he kept his eyes closed, he could rein in his response to her. Possibly. Her scent was searing into his soul more than the flame that lived inside him did.
Her fingers slid softly across the cuts on his skin. The newly healed skin tingled. A fire built in his veins rather than his throat. Could she feel his passion building? Her silver hair brushed his stomach as she leaned across him, but he kept his eyes closed. She touched the injury on his shoulder, the worst of the lot. He sensed her movement as she went to his other side. Leaning down, he felt her lips touch where Lucian’s venomous bite had penetrated. Hopefully, Lucian’s injuries were severe enough that he wouldn’t recover, but dragons always seemed to.
Her soft mouth brushed his skin before she sucked at his skin, drawing the remaining poison out. The action shouldn’t have been sensual. Unicorn shifters were well known for their ability to purify wounds and neutralize poison. It was sensual and soft and the wave of passion that swept through him felt the opposite of pure. He clenched his jaw against a moan of pleasure. She was so innocent. The coolness of her skin and mouth contrasted with the heat of his skin and made each place they came in contact more obvious. Her hand rested on his stomach and another on his shoulder near his neck. Every inch whispered with innocence and her sweet scent.
The skin knit beneath her administrations, and she kissed it as it closed finally. She didn’t do that with his subjects, did she?
“Helena,” he whispered, opening his eyes. He felt on fire, consumed with a need for her. Her hair fell around them as she moved to linger above his face. Her mouth inches from his own. Strands of silken hair brushed his skin. It was a silver waterfall.
“Yes, my Liege?” she whispered. Her lips were the only part of her that weren’t as pale as snow. They were as plump and red as a ripe cherry.
“Phoenix,” he corrected.
Her sweet lips curved in a smile. “Your body will heal.” Her eyes drifted across his chest before returning to his. “It is well-made.”
“It is on fire,” he said, stretching with discomfort. Her nearness was making his veins burn with need. The flame was returning to his throat, but it felt like a pale shadow to what the rest of his body felt.
“Are you still injured?” she asked, her brows drawing together in concern.
“Nay, Helena,” he said. He closed his eyes against her innocence. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t take that. Maybe in a few years after he courted her properly. In a few months, he could convince her to kiss him. He’d go as slow as she needed.
“Oh,” she whispered.
So she understood. Hopefully, she would leave so he could tame his wayward passions. Perhaps a dip in the stream would ease the ache in his veins as much as it had healed his other pains.
Instead of a retreat, he felt the touch of her lips against his. Ice and flame met. His mouth warmed hers. She gasped a breath, and his tongue tasted it. She tasted as sweet and enthralling as she smelled. The delicate fingers resting on his shoulder whispered across his skin to cradle his head.
Phoenix clenched at the ground beneath him, his hands tore the mossy bed, but he couldn’t touch her. The burning would consume them both. Even a literal flame was building in his throat.
Helena’s tongue touched his lips, and he opened his mouth eagerly. Yes, Helena. Yes. She stroked his tongue with her own and the flame in his throat felt soothed. Just as his wound of earlier, she drew the heat of his mouth into her own. Pulling back, she pulled a strand of her hair behind her ear and said with a faint blush, “Phoenix, I don’t know how to do this.”
“You’re doing just fine,” he assured her, swallowing. He lifted his head an inch and kissed her softly before backing up. “I don’t want to push you if you’re not ready.”
Her blue eyes glanced at his hand, fisted in the moss.
“Is that why you won’t touch me? It’s not because I’m not doing this right?”
His hand immediately went to her waist. “I’m barely able to prevent myself from touching you, Helena. Innocence taken is innocence lost, though.”
Her body had been hovering above his, but she rested it across his. He was not this strong. In a moment, he would have to be the one to leave, injured or not.
“Innocence given is innocence won,” she said.
Her words let loose the fire, and his other hand left its mossy bed to pull her mouth down to his. Helena moved, pulling him atop her, inviting the heated pressure of his needs. Helena. He ached for this. He wanted this. Perhaps he was even meant for this, but not before he married her in front of his people.
He slid to her side even as his body cursed him.
Her eyes opened, and the icy blue had shifted to a violet. They blinked in charming confusion.
“I’ll see you as this province’s Lady before I claim you,” he explained.
She smiled, relieved, but said with a frown, “I feel hot and wounded inside.”
He felt the same way. “Phoenixes have their own way with healing wounds,” he said, tugging her body into line with his. He kissed her mouth and murmured, “We sear them closed with a flame.” He let loose. His body lit and consumed. The fires licked their skin. He screamed his release, half-phoenix and half-man. She cried out in passion as his intensity melted the ice in her veins. Her gown was on fire. Her soul was on fire. A moment later, her body’s sweet healing poured out across him, extinguishing the flame. They lay replete in each others’ arms.
He’d heard that a phoenix and unicorn’s mating was one of cold heat, but he’d never understood.
“I feel reborn,” she whispered.
Phoenix kissed her forehead. Her skin was already cooling. He wanted to heat it up again. “For the first time, I feel whole,” he said.
A week later, they married. A union forged in heat and later cooled in passion. Fire met ice. In sky and earth, there was never a more passionate pair than the phoenix and his unicorn.
Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sparrow
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