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Her favorite part of the day. That last peaceful bit of daylight before the bogeymen came out. Funny how the edge of the day had been awakening the memory of her merging ceremony so often of late. Or maybe it wasn't.
She hadn't balked when the Order had made the offer to become one of them. Yes it meant a part of her would become evil, but someone had to stand against the darkness. If it was the only way, she'd take it. Someone had to.
The merge made her stronger. Faster. Gave her supernatural powers. Long life. Theoretically she was immortal, but unless she had a bonded mate she would eventually give in to the evil invading her soul and her own people would be forced to hunt her down. Kill her. It had all been explained with great care before she'd joined. She'd had decades before she needed to worry about that though and in the beginning when David's loss was a fresh, raw wound that was fine. The thought of another man touching her had made her skin crawl.
But now, sixty years later, Winter Bennett was running out of options and was having a hell of a time concealing that fact. It wouldn't be much longer before her demon half took over and her own people would be forced to exterminate her.
No. It was a denial born of steel-tested determination. She would never allow that to happen. When it was too late, she'd end it herself. Once the idea would have saddened her. But she was so tired, and a quickly repressed voice admitted, lonely that the end didn't seem like such a bad idea.
She ignored the call of her old friend Gia Drake, one of her lieutenants and best friends, and concentrated on the encroaching night, on stilling the beast that lived inside her, that lately threatened to consume her. The demon refused to be denied and she refused to surrender to it. For the moment at least, they were at an impasse.
"Winter." A soft voice, a softer hand coming to rest on her shoulder as the other woman came to join her at the glass doors.
Her lips twisted in the slightest smile as she turned to face Gia. She and Dupree Jackson were her oldest and most trusted friends. They'd been created in the same year and should all be feeling the same stress. But Winter saw no strain, no tension on her old friend's face and knew there was only one possible explanation why.
"Who is he?"
The only way to save the hybrid soul was to bond it with someone else. Someone purer. Someone not reborn of evil the way those in the Order were. There were always exceptions of course. Very occasionally two hybrids managed to bond together. It was as if the two human halves of their souls created something stronger, almost superhuman. Gia was the child of such a pairing. She'd grown up in the Order, understood the risks inherent in merging with a demon better than most and had taken it anyway. Now she frowned and shook her head. Denial was bright in her eyes.
"Don't know what you're talking about."
Winter laughed. She had to be kidding. The change in her was plain to see. "Oh come on."
"You know I haven't bonded with anyone. I'd have to ask for your permission to do it."