A tale of two horns core.., p.1
A Tale of Two Horns (Corent City Tales Book 1), page 1
A Tale of Two Horns
A Tale of Two Horns
Being one of the rarest shifters that exist, Charlie tends to hide his unicorn from the world, choosing to surround himself with what he loves — books. Owning one of the best bookstores in the area, he dedicates his life to his passion, and to spending time with family and friends.
Knox Vaughn is a hero, a larger than life Siberian tiger shifter who has earned the respect of everyone in the paranormal world. Few know the real man, the one who fights for his family and friends and hides who he really is inside.
When a simple mistake thrusts Knox into Charlie's bookstore, he finds himself smitten with the young unicorn. Two lives couldn't be more different on the outside, but Knox has a secret, one he's never shared with anyone other than his family. One that proves he's not so different from Charlie after all.
Unable to ignore the chemistry between them, Charlie and Knox grow closer, but as they do, trouble descends on the small paranormal community, threatening to keep them apart. The two must come together, trusting in what they feel so they can overcome the threats to their union.
When secrets are revealed and truths admitted, bonds form that won't ever be broken. Still, when it comes to tigers and unicorns, it might not be enough to save them.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used factiously. Other names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
A Tale of Two Horns
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 by Hannah Walker
The moral right of Hannah Walker to be identified as the author of the work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.
No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise without prior permission by the author, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is an erotic book and contains graphic sexual content which should only be read by people sixteen and over.
For my readers who take these journeys alongside my characters.
Emma and Kris, as always, thank you for the sprinting company.
To my Betas, Emma, Tammi, Alyson, Shannon, Debbi, and Jesus. Thank you for all the work you do for me.
Dr. J. Rosado, your medical help has been invaluable. Thank you for everything.
Jessica, thank you for helping make my work the best it can be.
My cover designer, Catherine Dair
Table of Contents
Meet the Author
Charlie Taylor opened the door to A Tale of Two Horns, the bookshop he co-owned with his sister, Evie. The rich aroma of paper assaulted his senses, and he breathed deeply. There was nothing as comforting as being in his favorite place. Books meant everything to him. They’d been his solace, his escape in his younger years when his parents had forced him to stay home. Oh, they weren’t cruel or anything, but as a unicorn shifter, he was rare, incredibly rare, and that made him a target for hunters.
Spending so much time hiding in his room, he’d cultivated a love of the written word. How could anyone not enjoy delving into stories of heroic deeds, magical worlds, and incredible romance? They were his escape, his view into worlds he could never hope to visit, worlds that existed nowhere else but in the author’s mind. How he longed to experience a love like the ones he read about in his favorite books. To Charlie, there was nothing better than curling up on a lazy Sunday afternoon, reading an epic story of the love between two men while they attempted to save the world.
Flipping the sign to open, he switched on the lights, powered up the till and took a long sip of the raspberry and blackberry Frappuccino he’d picked up on his way into work. Addicted to the things, they were his guilty pleasure, alongside carrot cake. Evie always told him he would get fat, but when things tasted this good, it was so hard to ignore them. Which was why he found himself sneaking his treats in before she got there.
A chime dragged his attention to the doorway, and he grinned at seeing Mitchell, the delivery man. “You’re early today.”
The rhino shifter carefully set his stack of boxes on the long table beside the till. “I’ve got a half-day today. The boss is letting me go early seeing as Anna’s mating ceremony is tomorrow.”
“Is she excited? What about you?” Charlie leaned against the glass counter, the rare and treasured books housed underneath.
“She is. I still find myself wanting to gut Oscar.” Mitchell cracked his knuckles.
Charlie chuckled, “You know you don’t mean that. You're a gentle giant who adores his sister. You even like Oscar.”
“I do like him, but that’s my baby sister. If he so much as harms a hair on her head…”
“You know he won’t. He adores her. I’d say he follows her around like a puppy, but he’s a bear shifter…” Charlie winked.
Mitchell tipped back his head and laughed, long, loud, and soulful. “I always could count on you to make me smile. How’s business?”
“Going well. It should be even better with that delivery.” Charlie tipped his head to the boxes Mitchell had carried in.
“Oh? Something special?”
“The latest Davidson. You know everyone has been waiting to find out who the serial killer is. I swear that guy has all his fans in a frenzy over this one. I would love to get him to do a signing here.” Charlie sighed.
“Is he a para?” Mitchell stole a bite of his carrot cake, winking.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’ve not even tried to approach him. I do know he self-publishes his books and that all the big publishers are desperate to sign him. He turns everything down though. He doesn’t even go to conventions, so no one knows anything about him.”
“That’s a shame. Seeing a star around these parts would be good.”
Charlie shook his head. “What, are the Vaughn brothers not stars enough for you?”
Mitchell groaned. “Just because they are Siberian tigers, they think they are all that.”
Charlie grinned. Most of Corent City, one of the three paranormal cities in the United States, adored the Vaughn brothers, Knox in particular. Knox was the eldest, always stern, deep in thought and imposing. He was big, yet lithe and graceful. Charlie only ever saw him when he was in Corent on business, although what business it was, Charlie had no idea. The man certainly never came into his bookshop.
“Seriously though, having Callum Davidson come here for a signing would attract a lot of attention.”
“But we don’t know if he’s para.” Charlie slumped. “It’s just a pipe dream.”
Mitchell patted his shoulder, sympathy oozing freely from him. “I’d best be off if I’m going to finish my rounds before lunch.”
“Send Anna my love, luck, and congratulations.” Charlie waved as Mitchell walked toward the door.
“I will.” With a tinkle of the bell, Mitchell was gone.
Sipping at his Frappuccino, Charlie carefully opened the boxes and ran a hand over the cover of the latest blockbuster. He couldn’t wait to read it that night. He had a date— a fruity drink, cozy pajamas, and A Date with Death. He couldn’t wait.
Humming to himself, he made sure the order was complete, along with the banners, stands, and all the promotional material, and tucked them away in his office. The release date wasn’t for another week. Instead, he opened the website with upcoming releases, checking out what he needed to order in. Lost in the list, he didn’t hear the tell-tale tinkle of the door. It wasn’t until a gentle nudge to his leg had him looking down, that he realized he wasn’t alone.
Crouching, he ruffled his nephew’s mane. “Hey there, Danny, how’re you this morning?”
Danny’s grumble still sounded adorable as it tinkled with the natural bells of the unicorn speech. He was two, and typically full of energy.
“Aww, did you not sleep well last night, kiddo?” Charlie scooped him up as he smiled at his sister over the counter, the twins in her arms— Faith and Jasper. They were adorable little bundles of fluff at only two months old.
“He had a nightmare. He’s missing Lane.” Evie blinked a couple of times, pushing tears back.
Charlie leaned over the counter and hugged her. “How long till he comes back?” Lane was part of the Paranormal Assault Force, or PAF, who traveled around the paranormal enclaves chasing after criminals and shifters lost to their feral sides.
“I don’t know, the council called him in at a moment’s notice. He didn’t know how long or even where he was going.”
“If you need me to come and stay…” Charlie let the words trail off.
“Thanks, little bro, I should be okay. It was just tough when Danny couldn’t sleep, and the twins needed feeding.”
“Take a nap in the office later. You know I’ll look after them. Besides, Sam and Alfie will be at the café as always. If they do venture outside, they’ll keep an eye on them.”
Sam and Alfie were both retired. Sam was a bear shifter who doted on the little shifters around, no matter what species they were from. Alfie was a mage who protested he hated all things little, but secretly loved the cubs and kitts who often played in the square.
A Tale of Two Horns was on Cavendish Square, a cobbled pedestrian area in one of the magic districts. There were cafés, magical toy shops, and even a small self-defense studio. The shops sold everything and anything, from wands, spells, potions, to cakes and books, you name it. With a real community vibe, it was a home away from home to Charlie.
“You sure?” Evie’s gaze was full of hope.
“Of course, what are little brothers for?”
Evie buzzed a kiss on his cheek and took the twins to the playpen set up behind the tills. Faith was fast asleep within seconds. Jasper, staring up at his mama, twirled one of his blond curls between his fingers and sucked on his thumb. It wouldn’t be long before he was asleep as well.
“Why not go now? It’s quiet, the twins are almost asleep, and Danny here will keep me company, won’t you?” Charlie ruffled his mane, receiving a small nudge on the forearm from Danny’s horn, which, like all unicorn shifters at that age, was a little, rounded nub, incapable of doing any damage.
“Go, Sis.” Charlie shooed her out of the room. Grabbing the kiddie-sized table and chair, he waited for Danny to shift back to human, and set him into his seat, coloring gear ready. He grinned as Danny stuck his tongue out, concentrating on the colors. Finally, he held up a gorgeous purple crayon triumphantly. Charlie gave him a thumbs up, and they both settled into the peaceful morning.
Walking around the store, Charlie smiled as he came across the section with all of Davidson’s books displayed. Running a finger down one of the spines, he pushed back the sadness welling inside him at knowing he could never meet his favorite author. That was the frustrating thing about living in Corent, a para city. The humans of the world didn’t know they existed. A magical barrier surrounded the city, and every other enclave like it. Not only were people persuaded to change direction anytime they came close, but they were also convinced, magically, to forget anything they might have seen. It was what kept the paras in Corent safe. Charlie was thankful for that, but at times like this, he almost wished he was human… almost.
The tinkle of the doorbell, modeled on Danny’s laugh in his unicorn form, broke him out of his musings and he walked back to the front.
“Are they here?”
Charlie ran the last few steps and flung his arms around Matt, his best friend. “I missed you. How was your weekend away?”
“Forget my weekend. Is A Date with Death in yet?” Matt was almost bouncing his excitement was so great.
“It is, but you’re not getting a copy until I hear about your weekend.” Charlie crossed his arms.
“Urgh.” Matt threw up his arms. “It was about what I expected. They can’t find any logical reason why I can’t cast spells, other than to say there is some sort of block there, but it isn’t static. It keeps moving about, so they can’t treat it.”
“Surely they must have some idea what it is? You went to the doctors at the Mage Council. If they have no idea, what can be done?” Worry rippled through Charlie. Matt hadn’t been able to cast properly for a couple of weeks, and no one could find out the reasons why.
“They’re researching until they find something. I have lots of exercises to do, and we have to hope that will help. In the meantime, I’m staying active and about to throttle my best friend if he doesn’t hand over the goods.” Matt made a throttling motion with his hands.
Charlie stepped around the counter, and lifted a small package, holding it above his head. “Is this what you were after?”
Matt jumped up, trying to reach it. Danny, happily coloring at his table, giggled away. “It’s not funny.” Matt pouted. “Please, Charlie Choo?” He used his old nickname for his friend.
“You’re still Matt the Minx, even after all these years.” Charlie retaliated with Matt’s own nickname. Taking pity on his friend, he handed the parcel over. “Why do I feel like I’m a dealer, passing over some shady substance?”
Matt chuckled as he clutched the package to his chest, stroking it lovingly. “My beauty, you’re safe, you’re with papa now.”
“Maybe I should be worried about you,” Charlie teased.
Matt sent daggers with his eyes. “Don’t try and pretend you haven’t already set up your evening with this book. I know you too well.”
“You know I have. You’re welcome to come around…”
“Nope. I plan on reading in bed. That way when I eventually pass out, unable to keep my eyes open, I’ll already be in bed and don’t need to worry about waking up in odd positions.”
“Do you plan on getting any sleep?” Charlie shook his head.
“Not until I finish the book, no.”
“What about work?”
“Mama is letting me take the late shift at work.” Matt’s family owned one of the spell shops in the square where A Tale of Two Horns was.
“Lucky. I still have to open in the morning.” Charlie slumped.
“I’d offer to bring you coffee, but I know you hate the stuff.” Matt shrugged, picking up his espresso from where he’d left it on the counter.
“It smells good, but there’s something about it…” Charlie scrunched up his face. “I’ll stick to my Frappuccinos.”
“You and your fruity drinks. Admit it’s because you’re a fan of rainbows and you just like the
Charlie’s hand went to his hair. While his hair was naturally such a pale blond it was almost white, he’d added streaks in it, pink, purple, green, red, orange, and blue. He narrowed his gaze at his friend. “Sue me, I’m a typical unicorn who loves rainbows.”
Matt grinned. “And I love you just the way you are.” A knock at the window drew their attention.
“You’d better get going. It looks like your mama is in a bad mood.” Charlie patted Matt’s shoulder.
“She wants me sorting out the spell parchments today.”
Charlie winced. The parchments were old, and for some weird reason, Matt always seemed to end up with dozens of paper cuts anytime he had to sort them out. With a quick hug, Matt raced out the door.
Standing at the door of his bookshop, Charlie smiled as he watched Faith, Jasper and Danny chase after bubbles Alfie was casting around the tables of the café next door. The twins may only have been a couple of months old, but like all unicorns, in shifter form they were on their feet shortly after being born. Sam was keeping watch, making sure no one got too close and they weren’t bothering anyone. Leaving the door open, he went back to work, pouring over the accounts. His least favorite task, he typically left them up to Evie, but she’d been so exhausted lately, he needed to help as best he could. With one ear trained on the younglings outside, he slowly made his way through the papers.
A sudden high-pitched squeal had him slamming his pen down and racing to the door. His mouth dropped open at what he saw.
Danny was cowering on the ground, his front legs covering his eyes, wrapped up in as much of a ball as he could. Standing over him was none other than Knox Vaughn. Alfie was cuddling the twins and Sam was down on bended knee trying to coax Danny to go to him. “What happened?” he cried as he raced forward.
A deep voice washed over him as he crouched down. “I am sorry, I was walking through the square when something slammed into my ankle. It hurt, so I whirled around and roared on instinct.” Knox frowned down at him. “I had no idea it was this little one. I think I scared him. I didn’t mean to.” Knox was running a hand through his deep brown hair. “I know I have a reputation of being fierce, but never with the cubs.” He dropped into a squat beside Charlie and held out a hand, palm up to Danny. “Young one, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Your horn slammed into my ankle, and it took me by surprise.”
by Hannah Walker have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes