Shade plucked the ever-present pack of gum out of his shirt pocket while Wraith went straight for the coffee pot. “What’s up? Did one of you nail Gem?”
“No.” Eidolon dragged a hand through his hair. “Gem thinks her parents were taken by The Aegis, but not for the black market. Whoever has them is using them for leverage. They want her to perform the surgeries and organ removals. Apparently, the operation is growing, and they need more help.”
“Fuckers,” Wraith muttered, still facing away as he poured his coffee.
A tic pulsed in Shade’s jaw, and when he spoke, his tone was glacial. “They got Nancy.”
Wraith spared no love for the nurse, but when something pained Shade, Wraith took it to heart. “Is she dust?”
Without spilling a drop of coffee, Wraith swung around in a fluid, predatory motion that, even after all these years, still surprised Eidolon. Because despite Wraith’s I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and childish fits, he was a lethal sonofabitch with expertise in every ancient and modern fighting technique known to man or demon. He wasn’t about to let anyone hurt him ever again.
“I told you we should have killed the Aegi bitch,” Wraith growled.
“She had nothing to do with it, and she doesn’t know anything.” Eidolon was sure of that. She’d been too shocked by what had been done to Nancy.
Shade let out a harsh laugh. “Sounds like someone is thinking with his dick.”
“Finally.” A thread of amusement shot through Wraith’s still-irate rumble. “Damned inconvenient timing, though.”
All he could think about was Tayla, no matter how hard he tried to shake her from his mind and off his skin.
A beeper went off—Shade’s, which meant an ambulance run. Palming the device, he glanced at it, then shook his head and did a double-take. “Fuck me.”
Wraith peered over Shade’s shoulder. “Nope, wrong brother.” He bared his teeth at Eidolon in a cold smile. “Looks like your little slayer misses you. Got herself all beat up and in need of a lift to the hospital.”
Tayla waited in the alley between a Chinese restaurant and a liquor store. Scott had splattered blood in the alley, blood Jagger had collected from a Daeva demon he’d tortured a week ago. Now she sat against the wall, hand pressed to the oozing wound in her side, stomach churning from a combination of pain and the mingled scents of demon blood and cheap takeout.
She’d called the hospital from a pay phone, and the strange thing was, no one had actually answered. She’d heard a click, a growl, and then the line went dead. Really, she had no idea if the call had gone through. If she hadn’t been in so much pain, she’d have gone home, screw the assignment. As it was, she could barely walk, so until she regained some strength, she had to sit still and hope the stench of Daeva dim-sum didn’t make her puke.
Her patience paid off when, fifteen minutes after the call, Eidolon’s brother, Shade, and a female Umber demon he called Skulk arrived. She couldn’t decide if she should be happy that Eidolon’s brother had been dispatched or not. Clearly, he was no fan of hers, but then again, at least he was familiar. Better the enemy you know, and all that crap.
No one spoke as Shade carried her, not so gently, to the waiting black ambulance that passersby didn’t seem to notice. She remembered how Eidolon hadn’t worried about his BMW . . . maybe whatever spell encompassed his car also protected the ambulance. The demons would be safe; humans didn’t see demons unless demons wanted them to see or the human was either trained or gifted.
Like Tayla, who had been able to see the fiends since the day her mother died.
“I’ll ride with her,” Shade said to the Umber, as he laid Tayla on the stretcher.
Skulk glared at Tayla from the rear ambulance doors, but she slammed them shut, leaving Tay alone with Shade. The same soft, reddish-gray light she’d noticed in the hospital illuminated the interior of the ambulance, and the same inscriptions were scrawled on the walls and ceilings. Aside from those things, she could have been inside any human emergency vehicle. Any human emergency vehicle staffed by demon paramedics.
When Shade lifted her shirt with gloved hands, she resisted the urge to slap them away. She also resisted the urge to compare him to Eidolon, something that would be easy to do, given the identical tattoo running the length of his arm, the muscular, powerful body, the sculpted features of his face, the lusciously long eyelashes . . .
“Didn’t Eidolon tell you to take it easy?” he growled, and she rolled her eyes.
“Stubborn human.” He wrapped his hand around her wrist, pressed two fingers to her pulse. “So. You’re f**king my brother, huh?”
“Not one to beat around the bush, are you?”
“Not so much.”
A strange warmth washed over her, and when her heart should have been pounding with nervous energy, it slowed, along with her breathing. Relaxation turned her into a puddle. Pleasure tingled through her, as if the blood in her veins had turned to carbonated cream. She hadn’t felt like this since she’d been a teen smoking joints with her delinquent friends.
“What are you doing to me?” she asked, hoping the slur in her voice didn’t sound as pronounced to him as it did to her.
“I’m slowing your bodily functions and triggering a rush of endorphins. Helps ease the pain.” He hooked his stethoscope’s earbuds in his ears and pressed the bell to her chest. “It also gives you a false sense of well-being that’ll make it easier for me to manipulate you.”
“Cool. Can Hellboy do that?”
“Eidolon has a different gift.”
“I’ll say,” she sighed.
He made her feel good in other ways. Ways that sent a wave of heat rolling through her lower body just thinking about them. Were all the brothers so alike, and yet so different? She eyed Shade as he inserted an IV line into her left hand, his skilled efforts efficient but relaxed, as if he could do it in his sleep.
Eidolon came across as focused, tense, and in control. Shade, on the other hand, seemed more laidback, but she wasn’t sure it was in a good way. More of an I can kill you and not care less sort of way.
Tiny pinpricks of pain spread through her right arm, one of the familiar sensations that preceded a loss of function. She winced, and Shade smoothed a palm over her belly, but she shook her head. “Not the wound. It’s my arm. Right one.”
Frowning, he reached across her body to her shoulder, which had gone numb. “Make a fist.”
She tried. “I can’t.”
“Has this happened before?” When she hesitated, he tipped her chin toward him with his other hand.
“Slayer? Answer me.”
The command in his voice made her bristle. She did not follow orders given by demons. “I already discussed this with Hellboy. Ask him.”
She caught a whiff of something tangy. Whenever some part of her body gave out, her sense of smell grew more acute—a strange response, and one that lent credence to what Eidolon had said about her demon parentage.
Even though she refused to admit it out loud.
“You smell funny.”
“It’s called irritation,” he muttered as he pushed his fingers firmly into her elbow joint. “The problem is your nerves. They’ve shut down somehow and aren’t allowing control to the muscles.” His large palm moved slowly upward to her shoulder. “I need you to sit up.” She did, and his hand drifted around to her back, then up her neck. It felt good in a way it shouldn’t, good enough that she didn’t even notice that the rig had pulled to a stop until the back doors opened.
Eidolon stood there, his expression stony, his eyes nearly black and revealing nothing. Her chest constricted so she could barely breathe, because God, she’d forgotten how beautiful he was in scrubs, the way his broad shoulders filled out the top, how the V-neck revealed tan skin lightly dusted with dark hair. The markings on his muscular arm writhed almost hypnotically, and she nearly sighed at the visual orgasm it was giving her.
Even all Mr. Grimface, Eidolon was the hottest thing she’d ever seen.
“Yeah, I missed you, too, Hellboy.”
Eidolon pegged her with an exasperated look and grabbed the stretcher. “What did you do now?”
“She got into a fight with a Daeva.” They wheeled her into the dark ER, where humanoid and nonhumanoid beings glared at her with unconcealed hatred.
“I wasn’t looking for a fight,” she protested.
Shade gave her a flat stare, so like Eidolon’s. “You just happened to be taking a walk in demon central and got ambushed?”
“What happened to the Daeva?” Eidolon asked. Silence fell like a guillotine blade as everyone waited for an answer.
Pride made her want to say she’d killed it, but not being suicidal . . . “It got away.”
“Uh-huh.” He and Shade settled her into a cubicle and closed the curtains to shut out the gawkers.
“Where’s Wraith?” Shade asked.
“Hunting.” Eidolon’s deep voice resonated through her with almost the same effect Shade’s touch had had on her earlier. She’d forgotten how seductive his voice alone was. “Why did you call us, Tayla?”
Because my boss ordered me to. Guilt kicked her in the chest for just a second—until she glanced over at Shade, who looked as if he’d rather kill her than treat her.
“I don’t need anyone asking questions about this wound and why it won’t heal.” That much was true. The thought stung, because she felt herself drawing further and further away from the only family she’d ever known, and if she couldn’t count on them, she had nothing left.
“Probably smart,” he said, as he pulled on some surgical gloves.
When he finished, he and Shade moved her to a padded table, where she lay still while Shade gripped her wrist and Eidolon probed her wound, which didn’t hurt thanks to whatever Shade was doing to her. In fact, Eidolon’s fingers on her skin soothed all her aches, except the one that had started to inexplicably blossom between her legs. That one grew worse, and was it her imagination, or had Eidolon started to lose focus?
His long fingers no longer probed her wound, but were instead gliding over the skin of her stomach in long, sensual strokes. Through the thin latex of his glove, she could see his tattoo pulsing, pushing up on the material. His gaze snapped up to hers, glints of gold punching through the brown in his eyes.
“E!” Shade snapped his fingers in front of Eidolon. He jerked back when Eidolon hissed, the gold in his eyes spreading like spilled paint. “Shit. E, man, get it together. Do you need to transfuse?”
For a moment Hellboy stood there, chest heaving, and then he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“No. I’m fine.” His voice was a low, rough rumble as he returned Shade’s doubtful look with a hard one of his own. “I’m fine.”
She wondered if the s’genesis thing had anything to do with whatever was happening, but she didn’t ask, merely watched as Eidolon pressed his fingers over her wound. A tingle ran through her belly, similar to what she’d felt when he healed the facial wounds the Cruentus demon had given her during the sewer battle at Nancy’s.
“No response. I’m going to have to suture this again.”
“Why doesn’t it heal like the other wounds?” she asked.
“I think it’s got something to do with what’s going on with your anatomy.”
Shade and Eidolon exchanged looks. “You told her? What, you ran out of pillow talk?”
“She needed to know.”
Shade spouted something in another language, and Eidolon snapped back.
“It isn’t polite to speak in tongues in front of guests.”
“Fuck you, slayer.” Shade released her wrist, and pain tore through her abdomen. She gasped before she could stop herself and bit her lip to keep from doing it again.
“Dammit, Shade.” Eidolon grabbed a wicked-looking instrument and thread off the metal tray he’d pulled next to him. “Stop her pain.”
“We shouldn’t be treating her at all. You changed the refusal-of-treatment clause in the charter to include Aegi scum.”
“It’s something I shouldn’t have done.”
“Shouldn’t have done? Are you forgetting what happened to Nancy? To Luc? She could have been in on it.”
“Who’s Luc?” she managed, through gritted teeth.
Eidolon answered, but kept his angry gaze on Shade. “Paramedic. Werewolf. The Aegis surprised him in his house, where he’d locked himself up for the full moon. They killed his mate, tried to take him alive.”
“Animals,” Shade growled. “He even said they smelled like animals. Apes. But he took two of you scumbags out.”
Trey and Michelle. She drew a sharp, and painful, breath. Kynan said that the Guardians were ambushed. “Your were is lying. Guardians chased them—”
“Were you there?” It was more than a question; it was an accusation.
“Yeah. Right.” Shadows flitted in Shade’s eyes . . . actual shadows from within that turned his brownishblack eyes completely black as he looked at Eidolon from across the table. “What if she was? Would that make a difference to you? Or would you still be panting after her like a—”
“This conversation ends now.” Eidolon’s tone was a portent for trouble. “Numb her.”
Cursing, Shade grasped her wrist again, hard enough to cause pain on its own, but immediately, warm relaxation washed over her.