Seth flicked his Bic and tossed the lighter onto the heap of black and nasty. He and his brothers were far enough into the woods of the Don Valley that anyone who happened to be out at four a.m. would simply think that three dudes were rocking an illegal bonfire. As an ode to dead daemon singed his nostrils, he sighed. This knot of Leviathans was exceptionally fierce and, sad to say, one of the toughest battles they’d fought to date.
It seemed the enemy upped their game.
With his bones aching and his hemoglobin leaking out of his side, right leg, and left pec, he limped over to Bo and Brennus. “You okay, Celt? Viking, you good?”
His brothers gave him a grunt and a nod. He took that as his cue to stagger to a patch of mossy ground and collapse. Closing his eyes, he tried to block out the incessant hum of wasps rattling around in his head. He’d never really been a migraine guy, but lately, he’d had more than a few.
He’d tried everything to get it the hell gone: sleep, booze, meditation, human painkillers. Next on the list was a lobotomy, and if that didn’t work, he’d go full decapitation.
The worst part? The throbbing got worse when his blood got pumpin’, so sex and fighting nearly brought him to his knees. Not enjoying his two favorite pastimes really pissed him off—like, seriously—Pissed. Him. Off.
Bo lit up and sucked in a lungful of sweet-scented sedation. “You coming to the house for food before you crash?”
Since the two of them both lived in Zander’s massive country-styled home, Seth figured the question was aimed at him. “Nah. I’m meeting up with a waitress from the Rum after she finishes closing up the bar.”
Brennus rolled to his feet and started corralling discarded red-metaled weapons into a pile. “Ye cannae avoid yer twin forever, brother. If ye lived the lifespan of a human, maybe then, but centuries and millennia will drag on if ye don’t bury the hatchet.”
“And when he says bury the hatchet,” Bo said, exhaling a cloud of blue smoke, “he doesn’t mean in Phoenix’s chest.”
Though, the idea held merit.
Part of him wanted to ask about Phoenix and his new wife. He’d met the female twice, and she seemed to care. He hoped it worked out—he did. He just didn’t think it would.
Storme was a witch. And witches be bitches.
Always. End. Of.
Seth forced himself onto his knees and got his Docs planted firmly in the crushed grass. After the world took a tipsy-topsy spin, things eventually came back into focus.
He glanced down at the hole in his side and the gash across his pec. Things were improving, just not at his usual heavenly healing rate. Fucking Shedim weapons.
Limping over to his duffle, he pulled out the metal detector Z forced them all to carry now as SOP. He flipped it on and pointed it at himself. When the readings came back at him with a whole lotta nothing, he figured he’d skip the visit to the clinic.
Doc Drina wouldn’t do anything different.
Secure in his self-diagnosis of being red-metal-free, he pointed the detector out to the world and helped with cleanup. He had no idea how many of these weapons they’d recovered over the past year, but by Cassi’s account of what she saw in Gregor’s lair, they had a loooong way to go.
When Bo finished his smoke, he grabbed a pair of gloves from the duffle and shoved the weapons into a canvas bag. When that was done, and everyone was confident they’d found them all, they said goodnight.
Seth watched his brothers dematerialize and headed back to the patch of newly-scorched earth. That charred mess of what used to be part of Gregor’s mutated Serpentine army was all he had to show for his night.
He used to think that was more than enough, back when he had a brother to head home with. Now, his life consisted of an empty apartment and a splitting headache.
Fuck the upgrade.
Kyrian tracked his wife’s scent down the hall of the three-storey mansion he’d rented and let the thrill of the chase feed his beast’s desire. Technically, it might be cheating to use his heightened Otherworld senses, but given that both of them had the ability, he didn’t think it broke any rules.
Besides, drawing Cassi’s arousal and excitement into his lungs only made him burn hotter to claim his prize. “It’s two wins each, sweetheart. This is the deciding round.”
He could play hide-and-seek with her for the rest of his life and die a happy man. He glanced in a third-floor bathroom as he counted down his time. He had to admit, with his ebony wings and wearing only the leather dom briefs she bought from some BDSM shop on Queen Street, he looked and felt fucking badass. And that was before factoring in the puncture marks on his neck and the scratches on his back and shoulders.
This sexual staycation thing was happening on the regular.
A timer on the second floor rang off a two-minute warning and he got serious. The prize awarded for a win was a session of sexual carte blanche.
Needless to say, they both wanted to win.
Kyrian had come yesterday and hooked up a sex swing in a locked bedroom down the hall. He had every intention of knocking this round outta the park and breaking the thing in like you read about.
“You better be resting up, sweetheart,” he said, checking under the desk of the upstairs library before heading down the hall. “’Cause I want you at top form for my next big win.”
The feminine giggle down the hall wouldn’t have been audible for a human, but he now had a direction. Jogging down the fancy runner, his heart started really pumping.
“I taste sweet victory, Cass, and it tastes an awful lot like the nectar of a certain Mistress of Shedim I know and love.” He entered the room he’d heard her in and got searching. Despite his chatter, he was taking it down to the wire. Wherever she was, she’d dug in good.
After checking behind the curtains and under the canopy bed, he headed for the closet. She was here. Her scent, tainted with the sweat and sex after a long, enjoyable day, was rife in the closet—but she wasn’t there.
Confused, he stepped back. No. Her scent was definitely stronger in the closet. He took another look. In the distance the time was ringing off a final countdown.
Damn it. Where was she?
Three. Two. One.
As the buzzer sounded off his defeat, he stared at the innocuous hangers mocking him from the hanging bar. Damn it. Where the hell was she?
The soft click of a lock brought his lovely wife’s glowing smile into view.
“A false-fucking-panel? That has to be cheating.”
Cassi burst out laughing and slid into the closet proper. “No. It’s resourceful. When you told me you’d booked this place, I called the rental office and asked if there were any panic rooms or hidden passages. I asked—they answered. Not cheating. You’re just a sore loser.”
She strode out of the closet, giving her cocky strut a little extra swagger. Her see-through babydoll brushed the rounds of her ass and his beast roared within. Cassi feeling confident and powerful was the sexiest thing on the planet.
“Fine—you win—but I still want to try out my surprise in the locked bedroom. Maybe you’ll compromise on the final session and we can see if we can work it in?”
Cassi bit her bottom lip and brushed a teasing finger over her nipple as if it helped her think. “That depends. Are you going to make it worth my while?”
He had her over his shoulder and was jogging down the hall in a split-second. Her squeals of delight were the balm to soothe everything in life that had ever weighed on him. He smacked her ass, and she kicked and wriggled in his hold.
There was no chance he’d drop her. She was the most precious thing life had ever given him and he’d have to be dead to let her go—even then, he didn’t think he would.
The doorbell rang and Kyrian cursed.
“Ignore it,” he snapped, his beast incensed at even the thought of an interruption. “No one knows we’re here. It’s not for us. They’ll go away.”
He unlocked the bedroom he’d been saving as his grand surprise and set his mate on her feet. She stared at the sexual apparatus hanging from the ceiling and her beautiful citrine eyes grew wide. “And what do we do with that?”
The doorbell sounded again and Kyrian’s wings flared. He was going to fucking decapitate whoever was down there if they didn’t get the hint and fuck off.
“Remember when you had me strung up in your dungeon? I thought turnabout was fair play. I’m going to lock you up and torture you all night long.”
Cassi’s pupils dilated as her arousal bloomed hotter. “And will there be pain and blood.”
Oh, the glory of a Darkworlder. His cock throbbed behind the tiny swatch of leather, bursting to get at her. “Oh yeah, a little pain and all the blood you want to take.”
The fucking doorbell rang again and his beast snapped its tether. Kyrian cursed a string of obscenities. Turning to the hall, he started running and then shot his molecules to the front step.
Cassiane had a hard time making her legs work as Kyrian bolted down the corridor. Eyes white and his beast in full control, he was screaming in ancient tongues as he disappeared. He would kill whoever was at the door—she had no doubt. She raced to the main bedroom, grabbed her robe, and unhooked her sash from the floor. Kyrian’s possessive alter-ego would gauge someone’s eyes out if they glimpsed her naked.
Robe in hand, she flew down the stairs, stuffing her arms in the holes and gripping the two halves of silk together.
She didn’t hear anything. That made her nervous. At least if there were angry voices or the sounds of a fight, she might get there in time. Struggling with the deadbolt, she finally got the door open and raced out onto the step.
“Kyrian, stop.” He had a male suspended in the air by the throat, pressing him against the brick of the house. The man was blue in the face, his grip sloppy as he fought Kyrian’s hold. “Kyrian, my love, let him go.”
But it wasn’t Kyrian making the decisions—it was his beast. Glowing green in the darkness, his Watcher’s tattoo lit up the night. His eyes were no better. Thankfully, darkness had fallen, and the neighbors wouldn’t see anything. Actually, humans wouldn’t see it anyway. Thank the Dark Prince.
Cassi ducked under the wall of ebony wings and got right up between them. She cupped her husband’s face. “Look at me, my darling. I need you to see me.”
His beast’s base need was to protect her and give her what she needed, so she played that up. “You’re scaring me right now. Where is my playful husband? I want him back. No one need die for an interruption. You need to calm, my love. Look at me. I’m fine. This male . . .” She studied him for the first time, and it was his incredible multi-colored hair that she recognized.
“Oh, Kyrian, stop. He’s Shedim—an honorable member of my house. Please, let him go. I want to speak with him.”
Kyrian’s brow pinched. Several pounding heartbeats later, his white pupils returned to green.
She gripped his hands, trying to pry them loose from the male’s throat. “That’s it, love. His name is Larkin. He was one of my father’s most trusted soldiers. I grew up with him. He is no threat to me, are you, Larkin?”
The male was long past being able to answer, so she just kept working on Kyrian’s grip. “If you let him go, I’ll give you my win. Your pick. Anything you want. Let’s go talk about the possibilities in private.”
She managed to pry his thumbs off and kept pulling, but couldn’t get any further. Sweet Prince, he was strong.
She needed to try something else.
Cupping his jaw, she turned his head and kissed him. Not a polite “in the company of one of her people” sort of kiss, but a tongue swiping, greedy, sexually-demanding meeting of the mouths. She devoured him and when strong hands stroked her back and secured her against his body, she knew Kyrian had resurfaced.
More than a little breathless, she eased back.
His eyes, pale green and burning hot with the sexual need she’d ignited, were exactly what she’d hoped to see. “Hello you. Glad to have you back.”
Kyrian frowned. “I’m never really gone, just . . . more.”
She brushed his cheek and turned him away from Larkin, toward the open entrance to the lovely mansion. There was no chance he’d let her stay out there alone, and she didn’t want Larkin inside their special retreat, so she figured the three of them on the front stoop was as good as it got.
“Give me two minutes to speak with him, and then we’ll go back upstairs.” She kept her gaze locked with Kyrian until he swallowed and dropped his chin in acquiescence.
She turned to Larkin, doubled over on his knees, coughing and gasping for breath. “I’m sorry about this, Larkin. What in the three realms are you doing here?”
He blinked up at her and winced as he swallowed. “Your father didn’t tell you?”
She shook her head. “No. What?”
“Last August, when he declared war on the Watchers, I wanted no part of it. Stryker ordered me to return to the castle and await discipline.”
He paused for a breath and color began to return to his cheeks. “I never disobeyed an order in all the centuries I served your family, but what he had planned didn’t sit well. Using innocent women to bring down an enemy—it wasn’t right.”
Cassi knew how merciless her father was with his troops. She couldn’t imagine the bravery it took for Larkin to stand up for his beliefs. “And where have you been all this time?”
He shrugged. “I found a human woman—a good woman—who accepts me. I live with her and help her with her business.”
“And she feeds you?”
“Blood, yes.” When Kyrian growled, he raised his hands. “She already knew of the Otherworld—sort of. She assumed I was a vampire and I never corrected her. She gives me her vein but I’m so hungry, Mistress. I haven’t wanted to kill and draw the attention of the Watchers, but I’m starving.” He gripped her wrist, his gaze pleading.
A feral growl cut the air and she withdrew her hand.
Kyrian’s fists were clenched, his shoulders rigid and tense. “Back the fuck up, asshole. You don’t know how close I am to ripping through you right now.”
Larkin’s strong jaw flexed and hollowed as he gritted his teeth. Ignoring the most fabulous, multicolored hair she’d ever seen, this man was fearsome and violent himself. Despite Kyrian almost killing him, he wasn’t one to back down.
A shiver gripped her spine.
“Larkin, you need to leave, but I’m not sending you away empty-handed. Just east of Queen and Church streets, you’ll find a company called DonorWatch. Go there now. Dougal is there and will feed you. I’ll meet you there tomorrow at dusk and we can talk more.”
Larkin’s eyes were far too glassy for her liking. No soldier should be brought to a point of desperation. “Thank you, Mistress, and may I ask a favor.”
“A favor?” Kyrian’s voice told her how close his dark side was to retaking control. “You come to a private space and hang around while we’re alone together, and she’s supposed to offer you a favor?”
Larkin took a step back and dropped his gaze. “Forgive me, Watcher, I meant no disrespect. Mistress Cassiane holds my undying fealty. I would never insinuate myself into a private moment if I weren’t in such dire straits. I’ll leave you both to your evening with my heartfelt apologies.”
“DonorWatch,” Cassi called out as Larkin turned to leave. “Queen and Church. Don’t forget. We’ll speak more tomorrow at nightfall.”
“Thank you, Mistress. I shall wait with bated breath.”
Cassiane waited until the darkness swallowed Larkin before she tugged Kyrian back inside. “Now, where were we?”
Kyrian stared at the closed door, a scowl etched on his face. “I hate that guy.”
Cassiane laughed. “No, you don’t. You’re overprotective, horny, and cranky. Come on, let’s fix that. I believe you said something about tying me up?”