When she didn’t answer, Eidolon’s Justice Dealer cool disintegrated, and he grasped her by her collar and yanked her to her feet. His right temple throbbed, letting him know just how close to violence he was. He knew, though, that any roughness he aimed at Tayla wouldn’t be to kill her. No, he’d shred her clothes with his bare hands and take her hard, show her what he was, what she was, and that she was his.
Dammit. Grinding his molars, he brought the conversation back to less pleasant violence.
“You tortured him, didn’t you?” Gods, he could hear her heartbeat pounding, fragmenting the silence in the room, shattering his thoughts.
“Not me. He was already dead when I . . . he didn’t give anything up. He didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know about the hospital. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything.”
To Tayla’s credit, she’d seemed genuinely upset that she’d brought an explosive device into the hospital, upset that her colleagues had tortured Yuri to death. It should have been Eidolon they’d captured. If the s’genesis hadn’t been acting up when it had, he’d never have given the on-call pager to Yuri after Luc’s surgery. And, oh, shit.
Eidolon released Tayla and turned to his brother. “Yuri gave Gem a ride home. See if you can locate her.”
If glares were death rays, Tayla would have been seared to ash by the look Shade gave her as he stalked toward the door. He reached for the handle and paused. “What are we going to do with her now? Hand her over to the Male-concieo or do her ourselves?”
Eidolon moved to his brother and lowered his voice. “I still need to talk to her.” When Shade would have protested, Eidolon cut him off. “She saved my life.”
“And you saved hers. You’re even. Kill her.”
Planting his open palm against the door jamb hard enough to make Shade jump, Eidolon leaned in so close he heard his brother’s heartbeat. “Do not argue with me about this.”
“I don’t like what’s happening to you, E. A year ago you’d have done the right thing.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m finally turning into a Seminus demon and doing the selfish thing. Seems to be working for you and Wraith.”
Shade snarled a vile curse and charged out the door, slamming it loudly behind him. Eidolon let out his own snarl of frustration. Low blows weren’t his style, but lately they were falling out of his mouth when the last thing he needed right now was to be fighting with his brothers. Shade, especially.
Eidolon’s own anger flared bright and hot as he rounded on the cause of the tension between them.
“You came here to lead your Aegis colleagues to my hospital.”
The betrayal streaked through him, and he had no idea why. They were enemies. He’d expected something like this. But for some reason, the knowledge that she’d wanted to destroy what he’d worked so hard for tore at him.
“I don’t need to ask why. That you hate us is obvious—”
“I don’t hate you,” she said hoarsely. Her gaze cut to him, full of misery, slicing him like a scalpel. “God help me, I don’t hate you.”
Shock made him take a step back. “You’re lying.”
“No. If I hated you, I’d have let that bomb go off in the hospital instead of the parking lot.”
He laughed, a hollow, bitter sound. “You were saving your own skin.”
“I suppose I’d think the same thing.” She studied the floor. “Was anyone hurt?”
“Yes,” he said, angry again. “The Aegis didn’t destroy my hospital, but it did take out a few staff members. Do you realize, little killer, that your own colleagues set you up to die as well?”
A ragged sob shook her. The tears she’d been holding back fell. “I was a sacrifice. For the greater good—
“For the greater good?” Eidolon saw red. Blood red. He closed the distance between them in a single stride and seized her shoulders, fought the urge to shake her until her teeth rattled. “Do you honestly believe that?”
She looked up at him, the pain in her gaze turning her eyes into a murky mire. “I have to.”
“Because if I wasn’t a great sacrifice, then I was nothing to them.” She blinked, and a tear ran down her blotchy cheek. “They’re all I have. If I’m disposable . . .”
Ah, damn. The anger leaked out of him as if he’d been shot full of holes. He was a freaking emotional sieve. Before he could think better of it, he pulled her against him, held her while she sobbed into his chest.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to snarl and strike and draw blood for what she’d done. Cuddling her, pressing his lips to the top of her head, rubbing her finely muscled back . . . yeah, bad f**king idea.
It certainly wasn’t supposed to feel this good. Nothing felt this good, not anything that happened while fully clothed, anyway.
Her hard body, soft in the right places, tucked against his in a perfect fit, and the way he stood between her legs as she sat on the edge of the desk made him remember that they could fit together even better. His c**k stirred at the thought, and gods, he needed to get his head on straight.
“Yuri,” she said, her voice trembling as violently as her hands on his shoulders, “was he a doctor?”
“Yeah. A good one.” A shudder wracked her body, and even though he shouldn’t, he felt the need to alleviate her guilt a little. “He was also a hyena shapeshifter and a cruel asshole.”
“Still, what they did to him . . .”
He’d probably deserved. Eidolon didn’t voice that, though. He’d lost a talented surgeon, and replacing him wouldn’t be easy.
A noise outside his office drew his attention away from Tayla, and what he saw through the window made him curse.
“I really hope that guy isn’t a doctor,” she said, drawing back to watch Wraith, swaying like a sapling in the wind, in the outer office. He stumbled forward a few steps, and then fell back against the wall.
“Fucking perfect,” Eidolon muttered. “Stay here.”
He threw open the door and crossed to Wraith in four strides.
Eidolon seized his brother by the throat and lifted him off the ground. “You idiot. Secor des unez!”
Wraith laughed, flashing fangs. “Oooh, the language of Justice. Big E is pissed.”
“I told you to lay off the humans.”
“Yeah, and I’m pretty f**king sick of the reruns, man.”
With a roar, Eidolon heaved Wraith across the room. His brother hit the floor and rolled into the wall. Before he could sit up, Eidolon was on top of him, slamming his head into the carpet.
“E!” Shade’s hands closed on his shoulders. “Eidolon. Let him up.”
“Yeah, I know. I brought Narcan.”
“Screw that,” Wraith slurred. “I ate that junkie fair and square.”
Still straddling his brother, Eidolon ground his molars until they hurt. “Did you kill him? Is the junkie dead?”
Shade knelt, scrubbed a hand over his face. “Any witnesses?”
“Don’t give a shit.”
“Give it a rest already.” Wraith used his tongue to caress one of his fangs as though tasting the blood that had flowed over it when he ate the human junkie. “The Vamp Council won’t touch me, and you know it.”
No, they wouldn’t. As a Seminus demon with vampiric tendencies, he fell into a gray area between both species, and the Councils had nearly gone to war over the laws he should be required to obey. Punishment for various offenses was an especially sticky and sensitive matter, and both Councils had finally, with Shade and Eidolon’s help, agreed to a compromise. Wraith didn’t know about the agreement, and if Eidolon had his way, he never would.
“Arrogant asshole,” Shade muttered, as he pinned one of Wraith’s arms and then tugged the cap off the syringe with his teeth.
Wraith hissed and struggled. Eidolon roughly slammed his knees onto his brother’s shoulders to hold him in place while Shade shot him up with the Narcan, one of the few human medications that worked as intended in demons.
“I’m so sick of babysitting you,” Eidolon said, knowing he should be more understanding.
Eating a drugged-up human—always male, since Wraith wouldn’t touch a human female for sex or blood—usually meant something had set him off, made him remember the trauma of either his childhood or his torture. It was something he didn’t talk about, other than to say that he’d been forced to watch human females suffer and would not be responsible for doing the same. As a result, he fed only from other demons and human males. The occasional junkies were an escape for him, but Eidolon was the one who would pay for his transgressions.
Wraith snarled, his eyes already losing the glassy sheen of his drug high. “You should be babysitting your whore.”
“You should have been eaten at birth.” Consumed by rage, Eidolon stood before he killed his brother.
“Shade, did you get hold of Gem?”
“Ah, yeah. And brother, she had a message for you. Said to tell you the twenty-four hours is up. What’s she talking about? She was riled. Definitely channeling her inner demon.”
“It’s nothing,” Eidolon lied. “Did either of our ambulances survive the explosion?”
Shaking his head, Shade came to his feet. “Nope. And the parking entrance collapsed.”
“Shit. Has the glamour spell been repaired?”
“Yeah. The entrance is hidden from human eyes.”
The entrance was generally hidden anyway, since it sat on the basement level of a condemned parking garage Eidolon had purchased, but still, what a f**king mess. He glanced at Tayla, who stood in the doorway, her expression haunted in a way that seemed to go deeper than the immediate situation.
“What the hell are you staring at?” Wraith snapped, the downslide from his high doing nothing to improve his mood. He levered into a sit and leaned back against the wall, head back, glaring at Tayla with hooded eyes.
“I didn’t know demons did drugs,” she said, and Wraith grinned coldly.
“I don’t. I do blood.” He ran his tongue over the points of his fangs. “Come here, and I’ll do you.”
She snorted. “Dream on.”
“Ah, so you’re selective about the demons you do?”
“Wraith,” Eidolon said, his voice low, edged with warning that his brother ignored.
“What? Seems a little hypocritical. Anyone with as much demon in her as she’s going to have—”
This time Wraith listened, but Tayla had moved closer. “What do you mean, I’m going to have?” She turned to Eidolon. “I’m already half-demon. How much worse can it get?”
“You haven’t told her?” Wraith laughed and leaped nimbly to his feet, the effects of all drugs completely worn off. “Allow me.”
“Told me what?”
“Nothing,” Eidolon said, but Wraith was moving toward her, blue eyes as bright as a cat’s before it pounced.
Eidolon stepped between them, but Tayla grabbed his arm, swung him around. “Please . . . tell me.”
He’d wanted to wait until her body had taken her as far as it could go so she’d realize she needed his help, but Wraith was forcing his hand. And maybe now was the right time after all. The Aegis had betrayed her—her own kind had cast her out and tried to kill her when they should have protected and cherished her. Learning she belonged to another world might open her mind up to new possibilities.
“Tayla, let’s go into my office—”
“Don’t jerk me around,” she said, planting her feet and crossing her arms over her chest. “Whatever it is, I can handle it.”
Eidolon ran his fingers through his hair. “Fine. I told you that you were half-demon. What I didn’t tell you is that the reason you’re having the problems is that when the Alu bit you, it activated dormant DNA.”
“Dormant DNA?” She swallowed and licked her lips. “What are you saying?”
“Geez, humans are stupid,” Wraith said, propping a shoulder against the wall. “He’s saying it’s taking over. It’s either going to kill you or rob you of everything that makes you human.”
She glanced at Shade, who nodded, and then at Eidolon. “I don’t . . . that can’t be right.”
The sound of Wraith’s cold laughter dropped the temperature in the room. “Welcome, slayer,” he said.
“Welcome to hell.”
Tayla didn’t speak a word as Eidolon, freshly changed into jeans and a charcoal sweater, guided her through the hospital’s dark halls. Her thoughts were still frozen at the place where Wraith had said she was going to lose everything that made her human, and it was all she could do to stay conscious, let alone talk.
She certainly couldn’t think.
Ahead, a sleek, black arch framed a glowing gate like the one she’d seen in the tunnel at Nancy’s apartment.
Eidolon uttered something in a language she didn’t know and ushered her through it. They came out on the other side in what looked like a cave of black marble, with maps carved into the polished stone wall. Eidolon touched one that appeared to be a crude representation of the United States, and then an even cruder carving of New York state glowed red next to it. After a few taps, another arch appeared.