When an ancient enemy is summoned to destroy his pride, a lion shifter must fight to protect the man he loves.
Kees van der Veer has never forgotten the mysterious stranger who seduced him on Millennium Eve and who promised that when the time was right, they would be together again. Returning to Amsterdam after fifteen years away, he is reunited with that stranger, entering into a world of love and danger he could never have imagined.
Arjan is a lion shifter, part of a pride who has lived in Amsterdam since its Golden Age. He has spent fifteen years regretting the need to drive his destined mate away after one night of blissful passion. But only once they meet again can he reveal to Kees the truth of his heritage. When an old enemy is summoned to destroy the pride, Arjan must act to protect not only his family but also the man he loves.
Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of light BDSM and food-play.
General Release Date: 16th January 2015
The Present Day
Kees stared out of the plane window at the fields of North Holland, laid out in a neat patchwork beneath him. In a few minutes, they’d be landing at Schiphol, and he would set foot on Dutch soil for the first time in fifteen years. Part of him had thought he might never come back. When he’d packed his bags and left home, days after Millennium Eve—the night that had changed everything—he’d somehow known he was saying goodbye to his mother for the last time, even though he’d promised her he would come back and visit as soon as he was settled in London.
Less than two months later, before he’d even found his feet in his new home, his mother and his oma Annie were dead, killed in a gas explosion that had wrecked their apartment block. Numb with grief and shock, Kees hadn’t even been able to face going back for the funeral.
In the intervening years, nothing had drawn him back to Amsterdam. He’d kept in touch with Johnny, not wanting to lose contact with his oldest and best friend. Though who would have thought life would turn out the way it had for either of them?
Johnny had gone down to see Tyler, the pierced guy from the squatters’ party, and his band play at the Paradiso, and struck up a friendship with them. When their bass player had walked out in some row over ‘creative differences’, Johnny had auditioned to become his replacement. Fifteen years on, he was still a member of Chaos Theory, touring the world and regularly topping the rock charts. Kees had every one of the band’s albums and on their last tour of the United States, he’d even gone backstage at their Madison Square Garden concert. When they’d met up after the gig, Johnny had asked him if he had any plans to go back to Amsterdam.
“Not as long as I’m needed in the office here,” had been his emphatic reply. “After all, what’s there for me any longer?”
It was a question he’d asked himself many times and when he did, his thoughts would inevitably drift to that golden-eyed stranger. After that fateful party, he’d pondered the guy’s words over and over, wondering what he’d meant when he’d said Kees was meant to be his but only when the time was right. He could only conclude that he had been rejected due to his inexperience. So he’d gone away, first to London then to New York, to learn and grow, and become a man. He’d had lovers in that time, and every one had taught him something new about himself, whether they realized it or not, but there had never been anything to compare to that first, incredible time.
‘You are meant to be mine.’ The words were burned in his memory. Sometimes he thought he was stupid for holding onto that promise, to the thought that one day they would be together again. But if you’d really believed that would happen, you would have gone back to Amsterdam long ago, to find him and show him what you’ve become. Still, he knew that for all he projected an air of self-assurance, deep down he was still the same uncertain, vulnerable boy standing alone while the party went on around him.
The distinct bump as the plane’s wheels made contact with the runway brought Kees back to awareness of his surroundings.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Amsterdam,” came the pilot’s voice over the intercom. “The temperature here is eighteen degrees and overcast. You may now turn on electronic devices, but please do not unfasten your seatbelt until the plane has come to a complete halt at the terminal…”
Kees was one of the first off the plane, yet another of the perks of flying business class. The company had, of course, made the booking on his behalf, just as they’d found him suitable accommodation for the length of his stay here. Everything had to be in order for this job, the biggest of his career by far. They’d always had faith in his abilities to get to the bottom of any problem, and this was his opportunity to repay them.
Clearing passport control and collecting his luggage were formalities. Kees looked around him as he emerged into the arrivals hall, having been assured someone would be waiting to meet him. Sure enough, a man in a charcoal gray chauffeur’s uniform, complete with peaked cap, stood holding a piece of paper on which was printed ‘KEES VAN DER VEER’. He made his way over to the driver, wheeling his suitcase behind him.
The man smiled, and tipped the brim of his cap in greeting. “Goedemiddag, Meneer van der Veer. Did you have a pleasant flight?”
“I did, thank you, and please, call me Kees.” It felt slightly strange to be talking in his native tongue again. Even when he’d met up with Johnny after the Chaos Theory concert, they’d found themselves speaking in English so as not to exclude the three Americans who made up the rest of the band from the conversation.
“Of course. May I take your case?”
“Oh, there’s no need for that.” Kees hated being fussed around, even though he knew the chauffeur was only doing his job. “Let’s just get out of here.”
He followed the man out through the arcade of shops that dominated the entrance hall of the airport, marveling at how the area had expanded in size while he’d been away. Dozens of self-service ticket machines had been erected by the front doors and at almost every one, passengers waited to buy tickets for train services to the center of Amsterdam and stations beyond. Kees and the chauffeur—whose name, he’d managed to discover was Rick—bypassed these queues, as well as the long line of people standing patiently at the taxi rank.
Rick’s car, a sleek, black Mercedes, stood in the short-stay parking area close to the terminal entrance. He hefted the suitcase into the boot then came round to open the front passenger door for Kees.
“So, were you out of the country on business?” Rick asked, as he pulled the car out into the traffic waiting to join the motorway.
Kees shook his head. “This is the business trip, if you want to look at it like that. I work in New York.”
“Now there’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Been there long?”
“Thirteen years, almost. Before that, I was in London for a couple of years. This is the first time I’ve been home since.” He glanced out of the car window at a collection of new-looking apartment blocks, screened off from the road by high fences. The bright, graffiti-like ‘for sale’ banners that adorned one of the blocks brought back irresistible memories of a dockside building that bore the slogan ‘the soul of Amsterdam—not for sale’—memories of the events that had unfolded within its neglected walls. He shook his head, willing away thoughts of the night that had caused him to flee the city in search of something he’d never quite found.