This wasn’t how Vyr Daye’s happily ever after was supposed to be.
He pushed open the door of the mansion but could tell Riyah wasn’t here. The creaking of the door echoed, and the place was dark and cold.
Inside of him, the Red Dragon moved in discomfort. It wasn’t because this place was dark like the shifter prison he’d almost died in. It wasn’t because of the cold that made the dragon slower and weaker. It wasn’t because he wasn’t greeted by his Sons of Beasts Crew. Again.
It was because he still couldn’t push into Riyah’s mind. She’d kicked him out of her head months ago and hadn’t lifted the veil for him to feel what she was feeling. Not even once. Not even when she slept.
That distance made his dragon want to burn everything.
Being an Alpha was supposed to be so different.
Being open about his dragon with the public was supposed to be different.
Happily ever after was supposed to be different.
Vyr had ruined everything.
The worst part? He was always going to ruin everything. Monsters had destinies just like everyone else, and sometimes good people got caught up in the fate of demons. And sometimes it broke them.
Vyr set his duffle bag on the scuffed wood floors and flipped on the light.
Nox was sitting there. Vyr startled hard, but kept his face blank. He was getting better at showing no emotion. Just like his father, the Blue Dragon, Damon Daye.
“I can’t sense you anymore,” Vyr murmured, frowning. Maybe it was another hallucination. Those happened more frequently now. “What have you done?”
“Not me, Sky-Lizard. Riyah’s protecting us now.” He pointed to his head. “No trespassing in the old noggin’ anymore. Not after that war with Rogue Pride.”
“It wasn’t a war with them,” Vyr growled, feeling utterly betrayed. By Nox. By Riyah. Fuck. Softer, he said, “I was only after the Tarian Pride.”
Nox snarled up his lip, and his eyes flashed bright blue for a moment. And then he forced a smile and a laugh while shoving a present across the coffee table. It was in the shape of a book and wrapped in paper with tacos and Santa hats. “I got you a belated Christmas present.”
“The assload of coal you dumped on the front lawn wasn’t sufficient?” Vyr asked.
“Just so you don’t get joy out of opening your thoughtful gift,” Nox said, standing and stretching his back. “I got you a book called How Not To Be A Possessive Dick For Dummies.”
“That’s the most offensive gift I’ve ever been given,” Vyr said, allowing a small internal smile but nothing more.
“Wasn’t a compliment.”
Nox shrugged up his shoulder and made his way toward the hallway. “Hey, Vyr?” he asked, turning just before he disappeared.
Vyr dragged his gaze from the present. “Yes?”
“You know who still believes in you?”
Vyr couldn’t name anyone, so he answered with a head shake.
Nox thumped himself on the chest and gritted his teeth. “Me. Nevada. Candace. Torren will never quit, even if you succeed in burning the whole fuckin’ world.” Nox swallowed hard and gritted out, “And Riyah. She’s still here, man.”
“Protecting my own Crew from me.”
“So stop giving her a reason to protect us. This is the way it was always going to be—”
“No, this isn’t okay—”
“It is! You know why? Because you’re the real End of Days, right? It was never Kane who was going to claim the world. It was always you. Guess who called that shit from birth? Me! And Torren! And we picked you anyway because we believe in you. It was always going to be up and down. Good, steady times punctuated by rock-fuckin’-bottom and your control slipping. But you know what you learn when you’re at the top? Nothing. And you know what you learn at rock bottom?” Nox snarled up his lip and his eyes flashed brighter. “Everything.”
Vyr’s eyes burned, but he didn’t know why. He’d cried twice in his whole life. Once the day he thought the New IESA had killed his dragon. And once on the worst day of his life, six months ago. What was wrong with him? He only knew one thing for sure. “I’ve failed her—”
“Shut the fuck up. None of that self-pity shit here, Red Dragon. Riyah knew what she was getting when she chose you. And so did the rest of us. Remember that video you made us? When you needed us in that prison? When you needed us to be there for you? You said, ‘Come. Here.’ And we did. No questions asked, we came for you.” Nox jammed a finger at Vyr. “You owe us. Come. Here.” He swallowed hard, his eyes rimmed with moisture that fell to his cheeks, and he ran his hand down his face roughly to dry it. “Come back.”
Nox disappeared into the dark hallway. He’d changed over this last trip. He was angry now. Not normal Nox who was angry at the world but kept his sense of humor. This was a tired Nox. This was a side of him Vyr had never seen. Vyr’s fault. This was all on him.
He needed to figure out a way to stop the Red Dragon from his plans and fix his Crew.
In a hoarse voice, Vyr called out, “Where is she?”
“Orchard,” was all the Son of the Cursed Bear said.
Vyr rolled his eyes closed and sighed. Fuck.