The hawk shifter flew overhead, circling Petra in the cloudless sky as she stumbled back and forth in front of the mouth of the cave—the same Rain Forest cave she’d pulled a burning, fiercely stubborn Synjon Wise into after he’d tried to follow his lover into the sun seven months ago.
Now it was Petra’s turn.
Not to burn, but to feel the constant aftershocks of a misery she couldn’t shake.
Tears ran down her cheeks, another great sob exiting her tight throat. She was in so much pain. Unimaginable and inescapable. Her body, her swollen belly, her mind, her heart . . .
No. She had no heart. It was silent. An empty, useless organ.
It was a realization that had once filled her with curiosity. She was a vampire. A veana. Not a shifter, like her adopted family. Gone were the perpetual feelings of being an outcast among a society who wanted nothing more than to embrace her. Now she had living proof of her own existence. Now her questions could truly be answered.
Who did she belong to? Where were others like her? What could she expect from her life? How long would that life be?
He had gifted her with those answers. That male. The dark-haired, dark-eyed paven who’d come to the Rain Forest to bury his beloved, and himself if Petra hadn’t been there to stop him. Inside the shelter of her tree house so many months ago, Synjon Wise had told her everything, offered her a future. He’d just had to kill someone first. She could hear his voice in her head even now. That deep, rich accent.
Vengeance before romance, love.
But the one he’d had to kill, the one who had murdered his Juliet, well . . . he was Petra’s only connection with the outside world. Her only connection to her blood. He was her father.
Another pained cry wrenched from Petra’s lungs, from deep inside, from the place where the ache seemed to originate, and she stopped and gripped the cool, moist curve of the cave’s entrance.
She heard her mother’s voice somewhere behind her. “What can we do?” Not the mother who had given her life, but the one who had raised her. As part of her pride, a cub to be cherished.
The beautiful lion shifter Wen had been the best mother any creature, shifter or vampire, could hope for. Now she nearly wailed in pain at Petra’s distress.
“I don’t know,” said the other female, the one who had brought Petra to the Rain Forest a week ago. This was her biological mother, Celestine. A Pureblood vampire who was as desperate to make up for lost time and bond with her daughter as Petra was to push her away.
She didn’t need another parent. Especially not one who considered her part in creating Petra a grave mistake.
“You’re a vampire, like her,” Wen continued, her unsteady voice carrying on the breeze. “Surely you’ve seen this kind of—”
“Never.” Celestine’s tone was emphatic, impassioned. Fearful. “Her sister, my daughter Sara, is also in swell, but she is an Impure. She never went through Meta. Getting pregnant before you’re of age, before you experience your transition, is very rare.”
“Do you think that’s why she’s reacting this way?”
“Emotional surges are expected in pre-Meta swell . . .”
“But not like this.”
Celestine paused before saying, “No, not like this. And not this far along. The surges are purported to be very early on in the pregnancy.”
“What are we to do?” Wen said, her own voice breaking with emotion. “She’s been here a week, and every day—every hour—it grows worse.”
Their impassioned chatter grated on Petra’s exposed nerves, searing her mind with agony. Her nails scraped against the rock.
“There must be something we can give her to ease this suffering,” Wen continued. “This strange hunger. The pain.”
“Blood,” said Celestine.
“She won’t drink it,” Wen returned. “I’ve tried. You’ve tried. She—”
“Stop it!” Petra snarled over her shoulder, tears raining down her cheeks, relentless. “Stop talking about me as if I’m not here!”
Both females froze in the glare of the sunlight, their gazes cutting to her immediately. Petra despised the fear and empathy she saw in their eyes. Or maybe their expressions made her feel frustrated . . . or was it desperately sad? She didn’t know.
Whimpering, she gripped the underside of her large belly. She couldn’t decipher her feelings. There were too many of them, and too much of them. What was wrong with her? And was it affecting her baby?
Celestine moved toward her. “You must drink.”
“No,” Petra growled. Blood. Just the thought of it on her tongue, running down her throat, made her gag, made her vicious. She hissed at the both of them and pressed herself back against the mouth of the cave. She wanted to drink, wanted to feed her growing balas, but she couldn’t keep anything down. Gods, wasn’t vomiting worse for the child?
Tears in her own eyes now, Wen started rolling up her sleeve. “You can have mine, baby. Take all the blood you need. Please, Pets.” She bit her lip, the loving childhood nickname swallowed up by a sob of despair. “Seeing you like this . . .”
Overhead, the hawk cried, swooping in low, before returning to the sky. Petra glanced up and growled at the bird. She’d told Dani she didn’t want to see her, didn’t want a ride over the treetops of the Rain Forest, didn’t want the female’s looks of sympathy or fear. But her best friend refused to leave, to retreat to her nest.
“Our blood won’t stop this, Wen,” Celestine said gently. “I’m afraid she needs his.”
“The father of the child . . .”
Father! Petra silently screamed. Synjon Wise was no father. That bastard wanted to kill her, and the baby. She’d seen it on his face in the dim light of the mutore Erion’s dungeon a week ago, heard it in his voice when he’d repeated her admission about the child she carried being his.
She turned and ran into the cave. Sobs burst in her chest, scraping her throat. She wanted to get away from her mother and Celestine. From everyone. From light, heat, sound. She wanted to search for darkness. Maybe it would claim her.
No. Fuck no. She had to survive for the balas. She had to fight her pain and misery, grant this child the home and family it deserved.
“Oh, gods!” she heard Wen cry. “It’s not possible to bring Synjon Wise here, is it? To ask him to care for her and the child? After what was done to him, does he even remember their time together?”
“His memories weren’t taken, just his emotions,” Celestine said, her voice echoing inside the walls of the cave. “He knows about her and the balas. He knows that she carries the grandchild of his enemy. The question is, will he care?”
Petra met the back of the cave. It was dark and wet and cold and rough, but it welcomed her. Breathing heavily, panic and sickness and fear and anger rippling through her, she curled up against it and tried to force every thought, every feeling, every memory out of her mind.
But it was impossible.
Along with the staggering emotional and physical pain in her body, her brain conjured her past, flipping by, scene after scene. She saw every bit of her childhood in the Rain Forest. She saw the hunts, the shifters, her friends. She saw her work, helping shifters with their early transitions. She saw her brothers.
She saw Synjon.
Once again, she experienced the desperation and pain of dragging him inside the cave she huddled in now. She felt his interest in her, both mentally and sexually. She felt his kiss, his touch.
She felt the moment he’d placed a child in her womb.
Tears flooded her cheeks. He was responsible for this, what she was going through. And yet he was completely at peace, his brain turned off to any and all emotional connection. She didn’t know if she was grateful or pissed off at the Romans for striking the bargain between Cruen and Synjon. She’d hoped for so much more than just being free, her balas momentarily out of harm’s way as she’d watched Synjon’s emotions being bled from his body on the dungeon floor.
She’d hoped for something of the male who’d held her, kissed her, cared for her once upon a time in the tree house that she had yet to return to.
Petra swiped at her eyes and whimpered. As she leaned into the cool, hard rock, growing more and more lost but still blindly determined to do anything and everything to protect her child; Synjon Wise was out there in the world somewhere, devoid of care, of concern. The balas and its mother the furthest thing from his mind.
Within his sprawling penthouse of glass and brick, Synjon Wise sat comfortably at his Bösendorfer, his fingers moving quickly across the keys as he played something light and pointless.
The party guests circulated through the six thousand square feet of interior space, leaving the wraparound terraces and 360-degree views of Manhattan to the shard of moon and the cold December night. It was his third party in seven days. The first had been the very night he’d bought the place. The small crowd had been courtesy of his Realtor. Broadway actors, artists, financiers, Pureblood and Impure vampires. He’d never thought much about owning a flat, or dipping into the massive wealth he’d accumulated over the years. He’d been far too busy working, spying, following the trail of vengeance . . .
This was so much better.
This was a blissful nothingness.
And the vengeance? It would be coming to him now.
He glanced up from the sheet music he didn’t need to read. The dull hum of conversation, the deep thirst of those who continued to empty glass upon glass of Dom Pérignon White Gold, and the females whom he’d instructed not to come near him until he ceased playing. It was a far cry from the manic scene in the mutore’s dungeon a week ago. Here, no pleas for mercy pinged off the walls, no shocking secrets were revealed, and no blood was being extracted from his person.
In this house, he did all the drinking.
A flash on the terrace snagged his attention even as he continued playing. Three massive fanged blokes appeared on the flagstones, their eyes narrowed, their expressions grave in the bleak moonlight as they quickly assessed their surroundings, then headed for the glass doors. Synjon knew them, of course. One far better than the other two, and although the memory, the history, he shared with them held a good amount of tension, he knew absolutely that they were not his enemies.
Dressed in black and taller, wider, and far more fearsome than any of his guests, the three males entered the great room, bringing with them the winter chill and a swimming pool’s worth of testosterone. Every set of human eyes widened, every pair of human feet drew back. His fingers still sliding over the keys, Synjon tracked the males, waited for them to spot him, scent him. It took no more than a moment before they did, before a pathway was created across the polished stone floor.
Syn continued to play as the Roman brothers approached, stalking him like prey. They appeared rather tense. Syn wondered what that felt like.
The one he knew best, a nearly albino vampire male with a perpetual sneer, spoke first. “Nice party. But I think our invitation got lost in the mail, Brit Boy.”
There was a time when Syn had risen to the male’s caustic play. Reveled in it, in fact. He had no interest now. “You weren’t invited, Lucian. In fact, none of you were.”
The male turned to his skull-shaved brother Alexander and snorted. “Good to know the guy still has some asshole left in him.”
Alexander didn’t respond. His focus was entirely on Synjon, his tone serious as he spoke. “We have a problem.”
“We?” Synjon asked, his fingers moving into Bach’s Concerto in F Minor. He used to despise the piece, had been forced to practice it over and over as a balas, but now he felt only the smoothness of the keys against his skin.
Alexander’s voice dropped, and his eyes narrowed. “The veana who carries your child—”
“Petra,” Syn supplied, picturing the dark-haired veana and feeling . . . nothing.
“Yes,” Alexander ground out. “She hasn’t gone through her Meta. We didn’t know that before. When we brought her back home . . . We didn’t know a veana in swell who hadn’t gone through her transition would react . . . She’s losing her mind, Syn.”
Synjon looked up, assessed the male. He couldn’t imagine why Alexander was telling him this. “Now that you’re here, would you like to stay? Join my guests?”
A growl rumbled in Alexander’s chest. “No.”
“Perhaps you’d like something to drink?”
“Christ,” Lucian muttered, leaning against the piano.
“Someone to drink, then?” Synjon caught the eye of one of the humans who enjoyed feeding his vampire guests. She grinned hopefully at him.
“We’re not here for a party,” Nicholas said tersely, moving around to the other side of the piano. “Petra is ill, Syn. She can’t control her emotions. She’s in pain. She’s going out of her mind. It happened soon after she returned to the Rain Forest. You have to—”
“Attend to my guests,” Synjon said evenly. There was so much to do—he had to select his blood donor for the evening as well as his sexual conquests. He had discriminating tastes in both. But first, a little Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. Rachmaninoff used to make him snarl.
Times changed, it seemed.
Arching an eyebrow at the three males, he said, “If you’ll excuse me.”
“Excuse me?” Lucian repeated, giving Syn a disgusted look. “Whatever happened to ‘Get the fuck out of my way, you bleeding tossers’?”
Useless. Words with emotions attached.
“I don’t react to people and problems with threats and anger anymore, Lucian,” he said, his voice even. “I take care of them quietly, quickly.”
“That’s too bad,” Lucian muttered. “Merry fucking Christmas.”
“We should go, find another way to help her,” Nicholas said tightly. “This paven doesn’t give a shit about anything. And it’s our fault. We made him that way.”
“Cruen made him that way,” Alex amended.
“We forced him, held him down and allowed that ancient bastard to drink the emotions from his blood.”
“We had to.” Alex’s gaze slid away from Synjon. “He was unreasonable and dangerous. We couldn’t risk having Petra or the child harmed.”
Lucian growled, pushed away from the piano. “Well, now he feels nothing for them, and Cruen got to run free.”
Not free, Synjon mused, closing in on the seven-measure coda. “Well, gentlepaven, it was a successful plan all around. I’ve never felt better.”
“You feel nothing,” Lucian returned.
“Oh, I feel quite perfect where it matters—all things physical. I’m not burdened with tedious, irrational emotions. It’s all very civilized, really.” Rachmaninoff ceased to exist, and Synjon glanced up at Alexander. “I appreciate what was done to me.”
“What about all that is being done to Petra? All she can’t control?” Alexander returned with barely disguised menace. “She needs your blood. Now.”
“That’s unfortunate for her.” Syn jerked his chin in the direction of the great room. “As you can see, I am otherwise engaged.”
“He’s lost,” Luca muttered. “Fucking lost.”
Synjon stared at the three faces, all twisted into ravaged masks of worry. It suited them—that intensity, that feral, predatory glare. But it held no interest for him. He was rather relaxed—though he could use a pint or two, perhaps a quick, hard fuck as he continued to wait for the inevitable. The one guest he wished to see above all others. The one who would come begging.
Alexander spoke through gritted teeth, “Syn, your child and Petra . . . they could both die without your help. Your blood.”
Done with this repetitive, pointless conversation, Synjon replied smoothly, “Then I suppose they will die,” before he returned to the cool white keys and another song from his past: Nirvana’s “Drain You.”
Cruen despised being laid out on his back.
Even if he’d been the one to request it.
Near his ear, the one that was still intact, the one Synjon Wise hadn’t gotten around to slicing off with his razor-sharp blade, the female bloodletter’s breath came quick and sharp as she sucked. She’d been at it for over an hour. Retrieval and extraction being the primary goal. But it wasn’t going well. Bruises painted Cruen’s wrists and thighs. The vein in his neck was her final resting place.
He was starting to grow concerned.
Freedom was nothing to a vampire without power. And he was becoming weaker with every moment that passed.
The bloodletter pulled her fangs from his vein, her head from the curve of his neck, and turned toward her metal spit bowl. She deposited a mouthful of blood with a cough and a sputter, then returned to him. Framed by a cap of short black hair, her ashen face and deep-set blue eyes held an almost wry concern.
“You embedded them too deep,” she said, blood staining her teeth.
Cruen eyeballed the extractor, his skin itching, attempting to heal. “I didn’t embed anything. I removed and released only.”
“I don’t know what you released, but it wasn’t emotion.” She snatched a cloth from the table and wiped the blood from her mouth. “That cluster of bubbling intensity inside your mind remains. And it’s too far for me to reach.”
With excruciating effort, Cruen forced his weakening body to sit up on the stained pallet. Rising anger fueled his thoughts. “I’ve taken and released emotion hundreds of times. It is a simple procedure.”
The bloodletter stood, grabbed the bowl, and walked over to a nearby sink. “Not always.”
“What does that mean?” Cruen demanded to her back, his voice sounding fearfully thin.
“Most of the time, the extraction of emotions is transient,” she called over her shoulder. “In and out. There and gone. But sometimes it can stick, become a permanent fixture within the mind.”
Apprehension washed over Cruen as he watched the female dump his blood into the sink. Permanent? That couldn’t be. All he had performed was a basic emotional extraction in Erion’s dank dungeon. Taking Synjon Wise’s passion to kill in exchange for walking free.
“The one you drained,” said the bloodletter, “was he familiar with this type of grab?”
“I don’t know,” Cruen said tightly. “He used to be a very competent spy for the Order. And a military operative for the government.”
The female released a weighty breath, then turned and came to stand before him. Her gaze remained serious. “I don’t think this was an accident. Not with the depth of those implanted emotions.”
“What?” His nostrils flaring, Cruen growled, a sound that used to have anyone who heard it shaking. Now it felt as feeble and nonthreatening as a balas. “Are you saying the paven whose blood I extracted did this to me on purpose?”
“That is my belief, yes.”
Cruen stared at the female, his lips parted. This was madness. Why would Synjon Wise permanently implant his emotions inside Cruen? Yes, the paven wanted revenge, had ever since he’d found out that Cruen had not only taken and caged his beloved veana, Juliet, but had taken her life as well. But why wouldn’t he have just continued with his torture? The bloodletter’s assessment had to be wrong.
“Does this paven have a beef with you?” the bloodletter asked, as if reading his thoughts.
A beef? Cruen sniffed with lackluster humor. “The paven whose blood and emotion I ingested wanted me laid out in the sun—after he made sure I suffered first, of course.”
The female’s eyes narrowed, her expression tight and resolved now. “You were hoping that by taking his emotion you would be taking his desire to kill you?”
“Let’s just say it was a bargain struck. A bargain that was intended to benefit all.” Protect us all. Cruen, Petra, and the balas as well. Even that bastard Synjon Wise. If he had truly hurt Petra or the child, he would no doubt have suffered gravely for it.
The bloodletter was staring at him, her lips rolled under her teeth.
“What?” Cruen demanded, his skin now healed, his mind jumping. His body being stripped of energy with every breath. He needed to find strong, pure blood to bring back his power and his strength.
“The paven has done this to make you suffer,” she said in a quiet voice. “But also to make you his prey.”
“Prey?” Cruen ground out. How absurd. “He feels nothing for me now. No anger, no hunger for revenge. He won’t come after me.”
“He won’t have to. Because you’ll be going to him.”
Cruen lifted his upper lip, flashed his fangs. “Never.”
The female shrugged. “You might even fall to your knees before him and beg.”
The insolence! Cruen’s fangs dropped and he hissed. He had limited strength, but there was nothing he wanted more at that moment than to rip the vocal cords from this female’s throat. Clearly, she was taunting him now. Perhaps trying to extract more money.
Pulling on every fiber of strength he possessed, Cruen leaped from the table, and with a fearsome snarl, headed for the door, and for his guards on the other side. The guards that would have to flash him home, as he was quite without the power to manage it himself.
He pulled the door wide and was almost through it when he heard the bloodletter’s words of doom on the air behind him.
“One final word, my lord. If you ever want to find peace or strength, if you ever want to function normally again, you’ll have to find this male and give back what you took.”
“Despite what’s occurring with your mental and emotional state, everything within you is working well and is healthy.”
“For now,” Petra said, pulling her eyes from Brodan and shifting on the bed in her room at her mother’s house. Unable to keep herself still for any length of time, and hating to be around groups of people, she’d refused to go to the clinic when her mother had insisted that she see Brodan for a checkup.
The doctor, who was also a bear shifter and one of Petra’s closest friends, placed his warm hands on her stomach and gently prodded around the balas. “I wish you’d come stay with me, Pets. I’d feel better if I could watch you full-time.”
“That’s a good idea,” Wen agreed, hovering somewhere near Petra’s head, along with Celestine. “It’s not far, my dear, and with you a few months from your time . . .”
“I don’t want to be watched.” Petra closed her eyes and attempted to breathe through the waves of misery and depression threatening to consume her. “I’m sorry, Brodan. For acting like a complete asshole most of the time when you’re just trying to help me. I appreciate the offer. I just . . .”
“Pets, look at me,” he said, his voice clear and strong through her haze. “Please.”
It took everything she had to turn back and face him. He was such a great male, handsome and strong and caring. And if her luck didn’t completely run out, the male she would turn to when the balas was born. But, right now, if she continued to engage with him, be touched by him, scent him, she was going to bite him. Hard. And not out of hunger. Out of irrational anger. Her fangs were already dropping and saliva was pooling in her mouth.
“Tell me what you need, Pets.” His eyes implored her. “You know I’ll do whatever you ask.”
“Can you find a way to stop this?” she said, her tone pathetic even to her own ears. “Turn off this insanity inside me before I explode or lose my mind? Or gods help me, do something terrible. Hurt you or my family. I don’t know how long I can keep this anger and sadness and manic energy penned.”
He reached out and brushed a few strands of hair back from her face. The gesture repelled her. Like every touch she’d experienced in the past week: her mother, her brothers, her best friend. It all made her recoil.
Brodan acted as if he hadn’t noticed. He was also incredibly kind. And she was a great fool for not giving herself to him ages ago when he’d made it clear he wanted to be more than friends.
“We’ve known each for how long, Pets?” he said, his voice low and masculine but gentle.
Petra forced a bleak smile. “Forever.”
“And you’ve always trusted me.”
“Of course. What are you asking?”
“I want to try something.” He left her side and dug into his medical bag, which was propped up against some books on her dresser. When he returned he was holding up a bag of blood.
Petra cringed, her insides recoiling, panic rushing through her. “I’ve tried drinking blood. I can’t make myself swallow it. And what I do manage to force down comes right back up.”
“I know.” He gestured for Wen and Celestine to hold the bag and tubing. “I want to try putting it directly into your vein.”
“Oh,” Celestine exclaimed. “That could work.”
“Yes, indeed,” Wen agreed.
Hope flared inside Petra, and she quickly pulled up the sleeve of her shirt. There was nothing she wanted more than to shut off these overwhelming feelings racing through her, controlling her. “Whose is it?” she asked him.
“A combination of donors.” He swabbed the inside of her wrist with a square of wet cotton. “I want to see if you have a reaction to this first. If you do, we’ll give you the blood of each donor separately until we find a match.”
“And if there’s no match?” She hated to ask the question, but couldn’t stop herself.
Brodan gave her an encouraging smile. “Let’s not go there yet, okay?”
She nodded, her breath hitching in her lungs. Please let this work. Please.
With skilled fingers, Brodan quickly inserted the needle into the soft skin of her wrist, then followed up with a tiny plastic tube into her vein.
She bit her lip. Not from the pain. There was barely any. Whatever little pinch occurred on her wrist was drowned out by another onslaught of emotion. Tears scratched at her throat and she gritted her teeth against them and silently screamed. She was so fucking sick of tears! She was not this weak . . . But even with the effort, the admonishment, the salty bastards still came. Bubbling up. Blinding her. Escaping. Sliding down her cheeks.
In the moist blur, Petra saw Celestine, a cloth in her hand. The older veana leaned down and dabbed at Petra’s tears, while Wen whispered soothingly, “It will be all right, my Pets.”
“Did I hurt you?” Brodan asked, his warm hand on her arm, his tone heavy with concern.
“No.” Petra shook her head, blinking to get rid of the new tears forming in her eyes. “No pain, just fear. I’m scared, Brodan. I feel so completely out of control. This balas . . .” She turned her head away and cried softly for a second or two. “I’m already a terrible mother and the child hasn’t even been born yet.”
The new, though familiar, voice made Petra turn. Behind Brodan, standing in the doorway wearing only jeans and matching severe expressions, were her brothers. Big, tough, blond lion shifters, Sasha and Valentin had always been her closest allies and her biggest supporters. They made her laugh and protected her. She was so grateful to them—and she couldn’t wait to see them as uncles to her child.
“If this blood thing Brodan’s cooking up doesn’t work, we’ve got another plan,” Sasha told her, a slight sneer on his full mouth.
“Damn right,” Valentin agreed with a punch of feline ferocity. “We love you too much to see this continue.”
“This plan of yours is to be our last resort only, boys,” Wen said in her strongest maternal tone.
“Yeah, yeah,” Val said.
“I don’t want that piece of shit male here,” Brodan said tightly, watching the blood move through the tube toward Petra’s waiting vein.
“None of us do,” Sasha said with true venom.
Valentin growled. “But you know as well as we do that we’re going to have to take some drastic measures if this doesn’t work.”
“What are you talking about?” Petra asked, her insides growing cold with confusion and worry as she gripped the edge of the mattress with her free hand. “What drastic measures?” She looked at each male in turn.
Wen turned back to Petra and put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders. “Just a backup plan, my Pets.”
Inside Petra, anxiety mixed with confusion and a lack of control for one seriously potent cocktail. “For what?” she demanded, looking from her brothers to her mother.
“Shit,” Brodan said gravely. “For this.” His gaze met Petra’s. “Your vein just closed up. It won’t even allow the blood inside.”
Celestine cursed, and Wen squeezed Petra’s shoulders.
Brodan stripped off his gloves, then glanced over and nodded at Sasha and Val. “Do it.”
“Do what?” Petra cried out, trying to sit up.
But her mother held her down, whispering words of love, while her brothers released terrifying twin growls and rushed out of the room.
The party’s over.
Or was it just beginning?
Synjon took off his shirt and draped it over the black leather piano bench. He loved to fuck, needed the release to keep his muscles content, and though he didn’t allow anyone to touch him, undress him, or speak to him, he made sure that the females who spread their legs and bent over the polished black surface of his Bösendorfer came in ways, durations, and decibel levels they’d never known existed.
“Are we going to your bedroom or what?”
The female who had spoken out of turn, the female he’d chosen for tonight, stood near the glass doors that the Roman brothers had walked through only a few hours ago. Her arms were crossed over her chest, and she had one hip cocked in an I’m-the-bloody-shit kind of way. Her small, strong body was encased in a simple black minidress that paired well with her short blond hair, nose ring, and dark eyes. Blond hair and dark eyes. It had become his routine shag. For some reason, his body refused to take any female who sported the combination of dark hair and blue eyes.
It was bloody irritating.
He gestured for her to approach him. “Come, female.”
She didn’t move. “A little premature, don’t you think?”
His nostrils flared. Perhaps he’d chosen wrong with this one. Perhaps he needed to fill her mouth with something.
“I want to see where you sleep,” she said, her tone close to defiant as she started walking toward him.
“I don’t sleep. And no one enters my bedroom.” Or my bed. It was sacred space. As was the room that lay beyond. The one he’d constructed for a very special, long-term guest he hoped would be arriving soon.
“Turn around and put your hands on the piano,” he commanded.
Her eyes flashed and her nostrils flared as she drew nearer. “So you don’t have to look at me? Is that it?”
With every look, every word she uttered, this female was growing more tiresome. In fact, Syn was wondering why he’d chosen her in the first place. With all the willing and wet hopefuls, why had he gone for curt and derisive? Both were heavy with emotional undertones—and he didn’t do emotions. Only physical, animal-like need. Hot, hard, release-filled fucking.
He regarded her with a lift of one dark brow. “Your choice, female. And it’s a very simple one. The piano or the door.”
Her mouth twitched. “You’re really something, you know that?”
He glared at her. Was that humor in her expression? He didn’t think so. In fact, he was starting to believe this encounter was a grand mistake. He cocked his head. “I’ll walk you out. My driver’s downstairs. He’ll make sure you get home without a problem.”
“I don’t need a driver, asshole.” She grinned wide. “I’ve got wings.”
Before Synjon could draw his next breath, two males rushed him from opposite sides of the room. Growling and snarling, they bodychecked him so bloody hard he lost his vision for a few seconds. What the hell . . . ?
Widening his stance, he shook his head, trying to clear his vision. He was a natural fighter and a seasoned killer, but over the past week, ever since Cruen had bled his emotions, his instincts had been slightly off. He was slower to react. And it showed now.
“I want to kill him,” he heard the female say.
“We can’t,” said one of the males.
“No,” said the other. “But we could hurt him a little.”
Even without full use of his sight, Synjon felt the steady heat come up behind him. He whirled around and shoved his elbow into the neck of one of the males, followed by a fierce head butt to the face. He heard a whoosh of air, and the male’s bloodscent rushed into his nostrils. Familiar. Not vampire.
But whether enemy or estranged ally he wasn’t sure.
Someone grabbed his arms, pinned them behind his back. Syn growled and slammed his head back, meeting flesh and bone.
“Fuck!” cried one of the males.
“Don’t let go!” yelled another.
Cuffs were snapped around Syn’s wrists and he was hit from behind by something hard, maybe metal. Not once, but twice. Then something smacked into his skull, and his vision went gray. He went down, knees, belly, head. Again he shook his head, willed his eyes to open and focus. His vision returned just as he was flipped over onto his back. He was about to shoot to his feet when one dirty, black boot clamped down on his windpipe while the other slammed him mercilessly in the groin.
Stars glittered on his retinas as one of the males loomed over him and uttered tersely, “Do you remember us, vampire?”
“Cats,” Syn hissed through gritted teeth. “Fucking pussycats.”
“That’s right. Val and I are taking you back to where it all began.” He pressed harder on Syn’s throat. “You’re going to feed our sister.”
No air was getting through. He fought to keep his eyes open, his brain functioning.
“And your cub.”
The glass door opened and Synjon felt a blast of cold air move over him. Weight lifted off his airway, and he was shoved to his feet.
“Ready to go for a ride, asshole?” the female said, moving out onto the terrace.
“Not interested anymore, love,’ Synjon rasped. “Not sure if I ever was.”
Suddenly Synjon dropped down, and in a series of quick, powerful moves, he sent his foot into the gut of one male and his knee into the other.
The pussy brothers were bloody well kidding themselves. Even with the fucked-up vision and the slow reaction time, he wasn’t going anywhere. He had a very important guest arriving soon. A guest who would beg him for mercy, and a quick death before he baked slowly in the sun.
A needle slammed into his neck then, cutting off all thought, all fantasy. Instantly, the room started spinning. Bloody bastards . . . Synjon braced for a fall, forced his fangs down and a growl from his throat.
The female on the terrace sneered at him. “I can’t believe she wasted her time on you.”
Seconds before Synjon blacked out, he saw the blond female leap from the ledge of his penthouse balcony and shift into a glorious, massive, and highly pissed-off hawk.