Ula hadn’t forgotten him, and when she felt her season coming on, she’d sought him out, arriving two days ago on his doorstep. Other males had challenged him; a she-warg’s season attracted males from miles around. He’d battled the other males, unable to resist the draw of her heat.
Nor could he resist the draw of the moon, and his muscles began to stretch tight under his skin. Ula shoved away from him, her expression one of ecstasy and misery as her own body trembled, her muscles writhing.
Blood pounded through his veins. His joints popped and contorted, the discomfort always on the verge of overwhelming the pleasure of the transformation.
But no, the real pain would come after he’d made the change and then realized his human side had locked him away, unable to hunt, unable to feel the tear of flesh and bone between his jaws, the warm tang of blood pouring down his throat.
Ula completed her change before he did, and she stood on two strong, silver-furred legs, watching him with silver eyes. Her lips peeled back from her sharp teeth in a snarl, and he snarled back, willing his body to hurry. Her mating scent had grown stronger, making his mouth water and his sex throb.
Throwing back his head, he howled as the last of the transformation took him, and then Ula was on him, snapping at his shoulder, claws digging into his chest. He took her down to all fours, more than ready to mount her, but she didn’t give in. He had beaten his opponents, but he had one more test to pass in order to prove himself worthy of fathering her cubs.
He would have to subdue her by force, and once she was satisfied with his performance, she would allow him to take her. They would mate in beast and human form for three days, and then, exhausted, would probably sleep for another three.
It would be the first time he’d ever asked Eidolon for so many days off work in a row.
Grasping her haunches, he covered her as she crouched on the straw-strewn floor. He closed his powerful jaws over the back of her neck, pinched her scruff between his teeth.
She growled, twisted, raked her claws over his flank. He felt nothing, was too deep in the feel of her body, the rasp of black fur on silver, the heat radiating from between her legs. With every motion, the tip of his shaft inched closer to the place he wanted to be.
The sound of the door opening didn’t register until it was too late.
“Shit,” shouted a male voice. “There’s two of them!”
Luc wheeled around.
He launched at the man standing in the doorway, crossbow readied, but Ula was a split second ahead, and she struck the slayer full in the chest. The extra-narrow crossbow bolt pierced her neck, and even as her claws tore open the slayer’s rib cage, she shifted to human form.
“Morph dart,” she gasped, rolling off the dead man. She came easily to her feet, but as a human, she was weak, and she didn’t stand a chance when the female slayer at the base of the stairs shot her through the heart with a silver-tipped killing bolt.
Ula crumpled to the floor in a pool of blood.
Bastards! Roaring with rage, Luc body-slammed the female slayer to the ground so hard he heard the unmistakable and satisfying crack of spine. Two more slayers, males, came at him with stangs. Luc pounced on the closest, claws ripping, teeth snapping, and then pain, white-hot and searing, exploded in his gut when one of the man’s blades found its mark.
“Get him,” the guy screamed, and Luc felt another stab of pain in his side. The other male had injected him with something, silver nitrate, probably. Agony like a million razor cuts spread through his veins and sucked the air from his lungs.
His vision grew fuzzy, dimmed to a pinpoint. He had to get out of there. He lurched toward the stairwell, barely avoiding the swing of a cudgel aimed for his head.
“Goddammit, Cole, don’t kill him! He’s worth thousands.”
Chills shivered over his skin, ruffling his fur. Their goal was to take him alive. No way in hell. Panting with pain and effort, he scrambled up the stairs, the sounds of cursing following him. He didn’t bother opening his front door; burst through it in a shower of wooden shards. Dropping to all fours, he sprinted down the street. The night air revived him, gave him a temporary burst of strength and speed.
He had no idea how long or far he ran, keeping to the shadows and ducking behind parked cars, but when the adrenaline ran out and he began to fade again, he was in unfamiliar territory, caught on the edge of the city and well out of his suburban neighborhood.
Fire seared his lungs with each breath, and nausea tumbled in his stomach.
A scream ripped from his throat, ringing as a howl through the darkness. Going up on two legs, he opened his mind, sought the nearest Harrowgate. North. Several blocks away. Too far, but his only hope.
He loped toward it, no longer bothering with concealment. Operating on instinct alone, he rounded a corner and slammed into a woman. She smelled of rage and hurt that veered instantly to stark, icy terror. The emotions collided with his identical ones, intensifying them in a massive explosion.
Out-of-control hunger, the need to take something apart, made him tremble as he towered over her.
“Run, Little Red Riding Hood.”
In beast form, his words came out as a snarl, and she screamed like a f**king B-movie horror actress. The slayers would hear. Panic eroded what little remained of his humanity, and he struck, sinking his teeth into the soft spot between her shoulder and neck. She pounded against his chest, kicked wildly in futile defense as he shook her like a terrier with a rat.
A slayer’s voice broke him out of his murderous rage. The woman moaned, hanging limp from his jaws. In the distance, the sound of pounding footsteps echoed off the surrounding buildings. Time’s up.
With a toss of his head, he flung the woman’s unconscious body behind a Dumpster and sprinted down the sidewalk, bouncing off light posts and street signs in his insane bid to get to the Harrowgate. To the hospital.
Suddenly, something like a fist to the kidney knocked him off his feet. Another crossbow bolt. Blood splashed all over the pavement, and it took all his strength to stand, to limp toward the sewer grate ahead, all the while holding on to his beast form, which was far stronger than his human one.
Each breath was like breathing water, each step was agony. He welcomed the pain, encouraged it, because it kept him from passing out.
If he passed out, The Aegis would have him.
And he had a sneaky suspicion that if they took him alive, he’d wish he were dead.
Demons and netherworldly creatures rarely gave up the ghost without a fight, and tonight, Tayla was glad for that. She needed to cause pain. She needed to purge herself of everything that evil, lying demon doctor had said.
But no matter how much she pummeled the drekavac, a spindly, long-limbed demon with an oversized head and fangs as long as her forearm, she couldn’t get Eidolon’s words out of her head.
You are half-demon.
“No!” she shouted, and drove her heel into the drekavac’s midsection. The ugly creature crumpled to the floor of the abandoned warehouse, a shooting gallery for drug addicts, where she’d found it searching for humans to sicken with its breath. Beneath the demon, a dark stain marked the floor, and she wondered if it had been made by birth blood.
Letting loose a roar of rage, she kicked the demon, kept kicking it, long after it was dead, until the sound of footsteps broke her out of her mindless violence.
“ ’Sup, honey.”
A man was walking toward her, his gait ambling but predatory, as though his body couldn’t quite keep up with his intentions. His glazed eyes gave nothing away except that he was stoned off his ass.
“You got some sort of dog, there?” Then he blinked, and she knew the drekavac’s body had disintegrated. Aboveground, all demons disappeared within moments of their deaths unless they died in an area specially designed to keep bodies intact. Aegis labs, for example.
“Worse,” she muttered, and stepped around the junkie as she headed toward the exit. She’d always hated this place, but it was a demon magnet and made for a rich hunting ground.
The man’s grimy hand closed on her shoulder. She froze, her fists clenched at her sides.
“Get your f**king paw off me.”
“Or you lose it.”
The guy yanked her backward, and her tenuous hold on her temper snapped. She grabbed him by his ragged Army jacket collar and lifted him off the ground. With a hard shove, she drove him into the warehouse wall. He laughed, too shitfaced to realize the danger he was in.
“Take it easy, bitch. You want me, you only gotta ask.”
A shudder ran through her. This was the kind of guy her mother used to hang out with, the kind she’d always assumed had fathered her. She’d thought this was as bad as it could get. But now she knew the truth could be far worse.
“Shut up. Just shut up.”
“Bitch ain’t playin’ nice.” He started to struggle, but she shoved harder, felt the strain of his clavicle bones as they bowed, on the verge of breaking. “Ow, fuck!”
The scent of his anger, tainted with a touch of fear, got her heart pumping faster. Good. Because someone else should feel the way she did, as if their world had crashed in. Misery loved company.
“Does this hurt?” she whispered, and his glassy eyes went wide with terror.
The sound of multiple footsteps barely registered in her mind, but her body revved with adrenaline. She was ready to throw down and take no prisoners.
Frowning, she looked over her shoulder. “Kynan. Did you find—”
“Janet’s body was gone.” The three Guardians with him lagged behind as Ky moved toward her, his eyes on the junkie, his hand hovering over his stang holster on his chest. “Demon?”
She gasped. “What? What did you say to me?”
“Is that a demon? Tayla? Are you okay? Do you want me to finish it off?”
Oh, right. He wasn’t talking about her. Finish it off. She was an it. Because demons were its. So really, in a way, he was talking about her.
She turned back to the man in her clutches. His face had gone bloodless and pasty, his breaths rapid and shallow thanks to the pressure on his clavicle and trachea. Oh, God, what had she been about to do? He was human, not a demon.
You are half-demon.
“No!” she shouted, but she wasn’t sure if she was talking to the voice in her head or to Kynan. Still, she released the junkie, watching numbly as he slid to the ground. “No. He’s human. Scum, but human.”
The guy crawled off, muttering, “You’re crazy. Fucking certifiable.”
Kynan approached, cautiously, as though she might bite. “Why don’t you stay at HQ for a few days?
Janet’s death has hit us all hard, and I think we need to be together.”
“You mean I shouldn’t be alone.”
“We’re all here for you, Tayla.” The warmth in his smile was meant to comfort, but it didn’t make her feel any better. If anything, it only emphasized how disconnected she felt right now.
Disconnected to what made her human.
“I—I have to go.” She brushed past him, turning a deaf ear when he called out to her.
“No hunting, Tayla. Not alone, and not until we clear you for duty.”
She fled. Fled her fellow Guardians, fled the warehouse where she’d been born. But the one thing she couldn’t get away from were Eidolon’s words.
You are half-demon.
The transfusion worked. As the last of the second unit of blood drained into Eidolon’s body, the terrible lust eased, the maddening itch just beneath the surface of his skin died away.
Gods, he’d been strung out by the time he arrived at UG, his mind taking him back to being inside Tayla and then firing him up with new scenarios, all involving the slayer. He must have been writhing in the car seat, because twice Gem offered to ease him, her proposal nothing more than a physician’s obligation to relieve suffering, though the scent she gave off spoke of her state of arousal. He knew his body was giving off fuck-me pheromones in copious quantities, a fact that had been confirmed the moment he walked through the ER doors. Every female he’d passed had been drawn to him, some touching themselves without seeming to realize it. He’d been tempted, so tempted to take them all . . . individually, at once, he didn’t care.
Though he knew in his mind, he’d be thrusting into Tayla. Sex with her was pure adrenaline. Untamed. Raw. The kind of sex the demon in him had always wanted, but his logical, civilized brain had never allowed him to have. Entering her had been exquisite, a freefall of sensation that demolished coherent thought and left him with the ability to do nothing but feel when in the past, sex had been more about satisfying his body’s demands while his mind remained detached. He hadn’t known his mind could join in the sex act like that, so wholly.
It was amazing. Shattering. Terrifying.
He’d used a freaking knife on her.
He’d damned near gone back to her apartment.
Instead, he’d grabbed Yuri, made him promise not to allow Eidolon to give in to his needs. Not while the glyph was trying to break through on his face. Though he had no proof to back it up, he suspected that sex during s’genesis pangs would hurry the change along, if not complete it altogether.
So Yuri sat across from him in the lab, arms crossed, one foot propped up on a technician’s stool. “You got it together? Because I have better things to do than babysit you.”
“Yeah, I’m good. Thanks.”
Yuri stood and adjusted the stethoscope around his neck. “You should probably take time off work until all of this is under control.”
“Until the transformation is complete, you mean.”