No one outside of his brothers had ever taken care of him as Tayla had last night, as she was doing even now. The newness of the situation left him off-balance, tilting toward her physically and emotionally.
In a move that went completely against his nature, he stepped back. “Thanks for helping me.”
She grinned. “Consider it partial payment on my hospital bill.”
Her smile sent a jolt of lust through him. His groin filled with heat and blood, and the right side of his face throbbed. This was insane. His control was slipping in a downward spiral that was becoming harder and harder to recover from. Shade had transfused him last night, but the s’genesis was rising in him again. It was happening more frequently, so either the transfusions weren’t working, or he needed them more often.
They stared at each other for a moment. Slowly, the smile slid off her face. “Look, ah, Shade said that what happened last night was because of something Wraith did. Is that true?”
“Shade has a big mouth,” he growled.
“So it’s true.”
He sighed. She deserved an answer after what she’d done for him last night. “To keep their existence secret, vampires are allowed a minimal quota of human kills. Going over results in severe punishment.”
She rubbed her eyes and yawned, and he figured Q and A was over, but then she said, “So why are you their whipping boy instead of Wraith?”
“I volunteered.” Shade had, too, but his curse was more than enough to deal with already. “Wraith would never survive the torture.” Not with his mind intact, anyway.
Tayla shook her head. “I still don’t understand why you can’t tell him to stop doing what gets you punished.”
“It’s too late. We kept it from him from the beginning. If he knew he was the cause of my pain . . .” He blew out a breath. Wraith would either go insane, go on a rampage, or both. “That’s one of the reasons he’s working at UG. Shade and I figured it would keep Wraith busy and out of trouble.”
“I’m guessing the plan didn’t work?”
“It did,” he muttered. “You should have seen Wraith before UG started up. And speaking of the hospital, I need to head there for a while.” He urged her back into the bed and pushed her into the mattress. “Get some rest while I’m gone.”
She nodded and closed her eyes, falling instantly asleep. He dressed quickly in jeans and a blue buttondown he left untucked and took the nearest Harrowgate to the hospital, where he approached Solice, the on-duty triage nurse.
“Have you seen Gem or Wraith?”
“Haven’t seen Gem.” Solice jerked her thumb down the hall. “But I saw Wraith go that way with Ciska.”
Shit. Ciska, the Sora demon nurse, radiated sex like a contaminated nuclear power plant. Wraith couldn’t resist her if he was in a coma.
Eidolon took off down the hall toward the cafeteria, following the perfume of arousal that ended at the supply closet door, where a muffled giggle and thumping sounds told him as much as the scents did.
He threw open the door, not surprised to find Wraith’s face buried in Ciska’s neck, his hands groping her breasts, her scrub bottoms pooled around her ankles. The fly of his jeans was open, but Eidolon tore his gaze away before he saw more than he wanted to.
Wraith lifted his head to look at Eidolon with golden eyes. Blood dripped from his fangs until Ciska licked it off with her forked tongue.
“I need to talk to you.”
Ciska’s tail whipped up to nudge the front of Eidolon’s pants where he sported a raging hard-on, thanks to the overpowering scent of female arousal. She stroked his shaft through his pants until he cursed and stepped back. With a saucy smile, she swung her tail away and wrapped it around Wraith’s cock.
Wraith threw back his head and groaned. “Bro, either give me a minute or join us.”
It wouldn’t be the first time he shared a female with one or both brothers, but for some reason, all he could think about was Tayla. Which wasn’t good. “Hurry up.”
He slammed the door and stood in the hall, his sex heavy, aching. Images of Tayla, her body pliant yet strong beneath his, flashed in his head until he was ready to howl in frustration—frustration that wasn’t entirely physical. The fact that he couldn’t bring her to cl**ax gnawed at everything that made him an incubus.
Muttering under his breath, he told the triage nurse to page Gem, and then he settled himself in his office with an IV of his blood set at full bore. Gem arrived ten minutes later. She looked as if she’d just rolled out of bed two minutes ago, her bloodshot eyes framed by dark circles.
Eidolon felt a possessive rumble rattle his chest at her tone. “I told you she’s mine. I won’t let you hurt her.”
“She might already be hurt. I went to her apartment—”
“She’s at my place. She’s safe.”
“Oh, thank heaven.”
“Heaven had nothing to do with it,” he said wryly. “And why are you so relieved?”
“The bastards called,” Gem said, closing the door.
“They won’t wait any longer. They said they need me right away.”
“The person they were using can’t do the procedures. Apparently, whoever it was was injured in an explosion.”
Eidolon’s stomach bottomed out. The organ-harvesting operation could be based anywhere in the world—or underworld—and the individual performing the surgical work could live and work anywhere as well. But Eidolon didn’t believe in coincidences.
“The hospital explosion.”
“That’s what I’m thinking. How many were injured?”
“Three killed. Seven injured. Two seriously.” He shoved his hands through his hair, ignoring the tug of the IV line. “Of the seven, four are well enough to work.”
“So that means one of the three is the cutter.”
Rage bubbled up in Eidolon at the thought that one of his trusted staff could have been involved in something so heinous. Traitorous.
Something pricked his memory. Derc, the male he’d treated a few days ago. He’d been aggressive, rude .
. . until panic set in when Eidolon asked him about his surgical incision. At the time, it had seemed odd, but now, knowing that someone inside the hospital had been involved . . .
And something Nancy had said bothered him, as well. She’d fingered The Aegis, but what if she’d said something else? She’d been whispering. Her voice had gurgled, been mushy.
The three injured staff members . . . Reaver, Seknet, Paige.
“The human nurse?”
He nodded. “Nancy said something to me before she died. Aegis. But it could have been Paige. Or Paige’s . . . something. And Paige was present when a patient of mine went into a death panic. He must have recognized her.”
“This might mean The Aegis isn’t involved. They wouldn’t blow up the person they need to perform the surgeries, right?” Gem’s voice went as cold as he’d ever heard it, her eyes went black, and for the first time, he saw the demon in her human-shaped wrapper. “I want my parents back. We need to talk to Paige.”
“She’s in a coma.” He pinned Gem with a hard stare. “But I’ll make sure I’m here the moment she comes out of it.”
Tayla might have blown up the hospital, but now, it seemed, she’d done him a favor.
Tayla woke to the delicious smell of something spicy and Italian. Assuming that a dangerous demon wouldn’t have broken into the apartment to cook, she showered in Eidolon’s luxurious bathroom—
white marble with a shower stall the size of her apartment’s bedroom—and when she got out, a plush robe lay on the bed.
Smiling at his thoughtfulness, she donned it and padded to the kitchen, where he was stirring some sort of cream sauce on the stove.
“Hey,” she said. “You look good for a guy who nearly died last night.”
“Is that what Shade told you?”
“Actually, he said you weren’t easy to kill.”
He poured some spiral noodles into a colander. “I’m not.” He shot her a wink. “But don’t think I’ll tell you how to do it.”
That stung. It shouldn’t. She understood—she wouldn’t tell someone trained to kill her how to go about doing it. But it still hurt.
She climbed onto a bar stool and sat at the island as he scooped pasta and sauce onto two plates. It smelled awesome and looked even better. “You keep surprising me,” she murmured, as he slid the plate in front of her.
“Because I can cook? I’m a hundred years old. You learn a few things in that much time.”
“I guess I’m just surprised that you’re so . . . domestic.”
Grinning, he pulled up a stool next to her. “I do my own laundry, too.”
“I’ll bet you have a maid, though.”
His grin turned sheepish. “Maybe. Now eat. Doctor’s orders.”
Smiling, she picked up her fork. One bite, and she was lost to ecstasy. The pasta melted in her mouth, and the cheese sauce exploded with complex flavors that warmed her from the inside.
How long had it been since she’d eaten real food? The Aegis didn’t pay well, mainly because funding came from largely private sources and, according to Lori, a few government agencies that siphoned off money where they could. But with so many cells around the world, most of the money went toward supporting the group rather than the individual. Which was why most Guardians lived at headquarters, where they were sheltered and fed as much boxed macaroni and cheese and canned ravioli as they could eat.
She finished her plate before Eidolon was halfway through his, and that was when she noticed the reason he’d stopped eating. His eyes, focused on the gaping openings in the robe that bared the swells of her br**sts and one thigh, glowed gold. She became aware of the cool air that caressed her exposed skin, and of the burning stare that negated it. The promise of untamed sex radiated from him, the hunger in his eyes having nothing to do with the food on their plates.
“God, Hellboy, what are we doing?”
Abruptly, his eyes flashed back to their normal color. He closed them with a sigh. “I don’t know.”
She could still feel the heat of his gaze lingering on her skin like an erotic sunburn. “I wish . . .” What?
That she were a kid again? Being abused by druggies her mom brought home? That she were a teen?
Living in foster homes and the streets? That this was a month ago, when she was alone with nothing but hate to keep her alive?
Because truth was, she’d never been happy. Until now.
“What do you wish, Tayla?” Eidolon was looking at her, his gaze warm and soft.
He took her hands, pulled her so that her stool slid across the tile and she was practically in his lap. “Tell me.”
“I just wish . . . I wish I had something of my own. I have nothing to my name. I’ve had very little of value in my entire life. All I have is The Aegis and my word, and now I don’t even have The Aegis anymore.”
He dug into his jeans’ pocket and withdrew a small silver band. “You have this.”
“My mom’s ring,” she whispered. She slipped it onto her finger, the familiar weight comforting and welcome, and she could hardly breathe for the emotion that clogged her throat.
Next thing she knew, she was in his arms and he was kissing her neck and telling her she was beautiful and sexy and that he would give her anything she wanted.
She wanted to cry. No one, no human, had ever said those things to her, had ever made her feel beautiful and sexy.
“This is crazy,” she moaned, as his hands slipped inside her robe and cupped her breasts.
“And?” He nipped her shoulder, where the collar had slipped down. She wanted him to bite harder, but he licked the spot, soothing it, wringing shivers of pleasure from her.
“Just saying,” she sighed, because when he touched her, all other worries and cares flew out his highrise window.
She shifted to give him better access, her hip brushing against the bulge behind his jeans’ zipper, and he hissed against her skin. “I need to be inside you. I want to take you until we both pass out.”
“Oh, God, yes . . .”
He moved so quickly she didn’t have time to blink, and then the robe was gone and she was na**d on his lap. Grasping the zipper tab on his jeans, she tugged, releasing his straining erection. It filled her hand, hot and heavy as she wrapped her fingers around the thick length. He was so hard she could feel his pulse slamming into her palm. Her thumb flicked over a drop of liquid at the tip, and he closed his eyes and groaned as she spread the moisture around the smooth cap.
She longed to taste him, something she’d never wanted to do. Before now, sex had been a way to feed herself; she wasn’t proud of it, but sex had been about life and death when she lived on the streets. Now she wanted to give pleasure to the one who had given her so much, and her mouth watered.
She shimmied off his lap, but he misunderstood and came to his feet with her. “No.” She stayed him with the flat of her palm on his broad chest. Dragging her hand down, over steel-cut abs, she fell to her knees before him.
His sharp intake of breath drifted down to her, and another groan followed as she took him in her mouth. Smoky, spicy flavors burst in her mouth, unlike anything she’d ever tasted. Her tongue tingled, and the sensation spread down her throat, to her spine, her very core. When he touched her hair, she felt it everywhere.