No, she wouldn’t kill him. The Vampire Council imposed strict guidelines regarding the butchering and disposal of humans, as did the councils for most demon species, and though the rules allowed her one kill per month, she hadn’t killed in several.

Perhaps her reluctance to take lives had something to do with the fact that she’d been a nurse since before she turned vamp. Or maybe it was because she rarely achieved the high her kind experienced at the moment of death.

She simply didn’t have an addictive personality, as long as chocolate didn’t count.

Even when she had killed, the victims had been woman-abusing scumbags and child molesters who deserved to die. Now, that gave her a high.

Unfortunately, she rarely dined on scumbags anymore. They had a tendency to drink or do drugs, and ingesting either left her dizzy for days. Smokers were the worst; their blood tasted nasty and gave her migraines.

Her intended victim tucked his hands in his coat pockets and watched the traffic light two blocks away, probably expecting a ride. He looked as if he might be heading to one of the upscale Manhattan hangouts where the electric-blue drinks cost more than she’d made in an entire month as a human nurse.

Nancy smiled and moved toward him, let her h*ps sway in her tight hunting dress, the classy red one that showed lots of skin and attracted both men and women. She’d changed out of her scrubs before she left the hospital, as per policy, though she didn’t usually dress to kill.

She giggled at her own wit, suddenly glad she’d decided to catch her own snack tonight instead of raiding the hospital’s blood bank. Doc E didn’t mind if staffers tapped a bag every once in a while, but she’d already sucked down two units of A-neg this week because she’d been too lazy to hunt.

“Are you waiting for a cab?” she asked, and her snack-to-be turned, startled. “I called for one an hour ago, and it never showed up. I have a very important party to get to.”

He watched her through narrowed eyes. Maybe he wasn’t as stupid as she’d thought. He was goodlooking, though . . . chin-length brown hair, full lips, five-o’clock shadow. Maybe she’d do him while she fed from him. Shade wasn’t always available for a rendezvous in the hospital’s supply closet, and Wraith acted as if she had a disease.

Now, Doc E . . . she’d pay to wrap her legs around that brother. Too bad he was a freak of nature, probably the only Seminus demon in history who didn’t bang everything he touched. As far as she knew, he took his pleasures outside the hospital, because no one on staff admitted to screwing him or catching him screwing anyone else.

The man raked his gaze over her body, and she sensed him relax, though a low-pitched, unclean energy buzzed in the air around him. This one might be a Dark Soul, a killer of his own kind. A serial murderer, maybe a sociopath. His dark energy wasn’t strong; he hadn’t killed another human yet, but someday he would.

Perhaps she would dispatch the man, after all. Do humanity a favor.

“You can share my ride if you let me buy you a drink.” He stepped closer, touched her elbow.

“I’d like that.”

Glancing over his shoulder behind him, she took note of the passing vehicles, the people down the street. None paid any attention. Mouth watering, she shoved him into the alley, slammed him against the building wall. He grunted and tried to wrench his hand free of his coat pocket.

Her fangs ached, throbbed in time with the pulse in his jugular. She went up on her toes, sank her canines deep into his neck, and waited for him to stop struggling against her superior power.

The sharp sting of a needle in the back of her neck came as a total surprise. So did the knee to the groin.

The dark-souled one yanked her head away from his throat and hurled her to the pavement. Weakness turned her limbs to noodles, leaving her at the mercy of the man who crouched next to her, rage burning in his eyes.

“Filthy bloodsucker.” He reached up, put pressure to the bite wounds in his throat, and if her heart hadn’t already been shriveled, the sight of his ring, turned so she could see an Aegis shield etched into the band, would have done the job. “Do you know what people will pay for vampire parts? Bitch, it’s time to reap what you have sown.”

He smiled, and for the first time since becoming a vampire, Nancy knew terror.


On the surface, Eidolon wasn’t opposed to torture. Most demons weren’t. Besides, his former career had demanded a certain amount of pain-giving, though it had been his duty to make sure the individual on the receiving end actually deserved the pain.

And really, he could respect torture as an art form—a skilled master could keep his subject alive indefinitely. Someone trained in medical sciences knew how to inflict the maximum amount of pain with the maximum amount of effectiveness.

So yeah, on a superficial level, he could appreciate his colleagues’ discussion. Deep down, though, the part of him that had built UG from concept to the third-wing lava bath would rather see a body heal than be slowly taken apart.

“I have the perfect place to torture the Aegi scum,” Yuri said, kicking up his feet onto the break room couch. “My basement is extremely uncomfortable.”

Eidolon couldn’t agree more. He’d seen the basement in Yuri’s three-story Suffern home, and while he hadn’t been shocked to learn of the shapeshifting hyena’s fondness for BDSM, he had been surprised at the size and contents of the dungeon.

“You wouldn’t want to get blood all over that shiny rubber floor.”

“It hoses off.”

Blaspheme, a False Angel who truly enjoyed her ability to fool humans into thinking she was the real thing, shoved Yuri’s feet aside so she could sit, and then took a sip of the iced tea in her hand. “So, Yuri, how often do you have to wash your floors?”

“Two or three times a week. It’s not always blood. Petroleum jelly, honey, urine . . .”

Eidolon folded his arms over his chest and braced a hip on the snack counter. “Nice.”

Yuri shrugged. “The females are almost always willing.”

“The slayer won’t be.”

“That’s the point. I can make her talk. A few hours of hanging from my razor cuffs while I flog her will have her spilling her guts.” He grinned, revealing slightly elongated canines. “Which will also hose off the floor.”

A low growl brought Eidolon’s gaze around to the doorway, where Wraith stood, his eyes burning gold.

“No one told me about the staff meeting.”

Yuri didn’t spare Wraith a glance. “Because you aren’t staff, phlegmwad.”

“This isn’t a formal meeting, Wraith,” Eidolon told him, before his brother could go off on their chief of surgery.

Dressed in low-slung jeans and a Jimmy Buffet T-shirt, Wraith bared his fangs and stalked into the break room, and Eidolon knew his anger had nothing to do with feeling left out of a staff meeting.

“You aren’t going to torture the Aegi.” Wraith grabbed a Styrofoam cup and reached for the coffee pot.

“For once, I’m with my brother,” Eidolon said. “We don’t need to torture her for information. We can turn her loose, watch her.”

More than watch. Touch, take, taste. The thought blasted through his brain, along with images of Tayla’s na**d body sliding against his. He’d move inside her, deep, hard, and she’d find her release if he had to spend hours getting her there.

His failure with her ate at him, ripped into his most basic instincts and told him to try again, to take her over and over until there was no doubt that the other day was a fluke.

Gods, he was losing it.

“So that’s your idea? Spy on her?” Yuri rolled his eyes, black marbles spinning in their sockets. “Yawn.”

“That’ll take too long,” Blas said. “Yuri has these thorny flails . . .” She shivered, and Eidolon caught the scent of lust, which made his own ramp up a notch. “Let’s just say that fragile human skin won’t stand up to them.”

Wraith hurled his fresh cup of coffee into the sink, splattering it on the walls and counters. “You two can beat yourselves into pulps all you want, but you are not torturing the woman. Kill her outright or let her go, but no burning of limbs or peeling of skin or hanging from hooks. We clear?”

Yuri bounded to his feet, nearly knocking Blaspheme’s glass out of her hand. “Who made you chief of staff? You need to shut the f**k up and go back to being a gofer.”

The writing on the walls began to shimmer and pulse. Had it not been for the Haven spell, the room would have erupted in fists and claws. Instead, Wraith collected himself, his hands clenching reflexively even as he smiled. “E, did you tell them she’s half-demon?”

“She’s what?”

“A half-breed,” Wraith drawled. “You know, one parent is human, the other is demon? Dickhead.”

Yuri shot Eidolon a confused glance. “Aegi are human.”

“That’s what we’ve always assumed. But I don’t think she knows.” Yesterday, Eidolon had intended to tell her, before her revelation about her mother being killed by a demon. At that point, mentioning that her father might have been a demon as well didn’t seem prudent. “She’ll know soon enough. The demon DNA is taking over. She’ll need our help to survive. We can wait until she comes to us. Take her while she’s weak and bring her over to our side. Having a spy inside The Aegis would be invaluable.”

Yuri considered that for a moment, then shook his head. “Our people are dying, being cut up by some barbaric butcher. The Aegis is involved. We can’t wait.” His eyes glazed, his thin lips stretched into a toothy grin, and Eidolon once again caught the odor of lust, this time musky and bitter. “The slayer will look good in chains. Helpless. Bleeding . . .”

Wraith’s irises went gold again, and Eidolon alone knew why. Nearly eighty years ago, Wraith had been tortured nearly to death, a fate their sire hadn’t escaped.

Their father, by all reports half-insane, had been made to pay for his obsession with Wraith’s mother, for impregnating her during her transition from human to vampire and holding her captive until she gave birth.

Wraith had paid for their father’s transgressions as well, and some would say that in comparison, their father had gotten off easy. Eidolon and Shade knew their father had gotten off easy. They’d been the ones to put Wraith back together, literally, after finding him strung up by vampires in a Chicago warehouse they’d been led to by Wraith’s distress, which Shade, Roag, and Eidolon had felt like a homing beacon.

If only they’d found him sooner. But Shade, Eidolon, and Roag had found each other years earlier, had been content to wait for Wraith to come to them if he wanted to. Had Eidolon known the reason Wraith hadn’t come to New York was that his own mother had held him prisoner until he broke out of his cage at twenty, Eidolon would have gone to him. Instead, Wraith had gone on the run until the vampires caught up with him in Chicago, and by then, it was too late.

Before the threats began, Eidolon dragged his brother into the hall.

“E, don’t let them take her.”

“I won’t.”

“Let me put her down. I’ll do it now.”

“No,” he snapped, and then, aware that his brother was offering mercy, not getting off on killing, Eidolon took a calming breath. “I meant what I said. We can use her.”

Wraith brushed his shoulder-length hair back from his face with a sharp, impatient shove. “Bro, in case you hadn’t noticed, everyone in this hospital is ready to either string her up or slit her throat, so whatever you do, it had better happen fast.”

The door to Tayla’s room flew open. Hellboy stalked inside, looking unfairly sexy—and human—in tan cargo pants and a black button-down shirt that hung loose at the waist and clung to his broad chest to reveal sharply defined pecs.

“You’re being discharged.” He tossed a folded set of green scrubs into her lap.

“What, no hello?”

His expression tight, he freed her wrists from the restraints. “We don’t have time.” The ankle restraints popped loose with a deft flick of his fingers. “Get dressed.”

She glanced down at the scrubs. “What happened to my clothes?”

“Cut off.”

“Crap.” The Aegis issued an allowance for battle garb, but the next sum wouldn’t come for another four months and she was down to the dregs.

She eased off the bed, her stiff muscles protesting with twinges of pain. The only exercise she’d had for—days? hard to tell when there were no windows—had been to shuffle in chains to the bathroom to bathe or brush her teeth, and her body was telling her all about it. She didn’t bother asking him to turn around while she dressed; she’d never been modest, and besides, he’d seen—and touched—pretty much every inch of her body, inside and out. For his part, Hellboy watched with such intensity that she finally snapped as she tugged the pants up over her bare ass.

“Like what you see?”

If she thought she could shame him into looking away, she’d been dead wrong. His gaze snapped up to hers. “Yes.”

“I swear, I’ve never met any demon as annoying as you are.”

“You haven’t met my youngest brother.”

“Oh, good. There are more of you to kill.” She tied the drawstrings on her pants. “Speaking of which, where are my weapons?”

“Do you truly believe we’d return the tools you use to slaughter us?”

Yeah, dumb question, and man, were her bosses going to be pissed at the loss. “Did you cut off my boots, too?”

Larissa Ione Books | Romance Books | Demonica Series Books