Shaking off the thoughts that were taking him down a well-worn path he didn’t want to walk today, he stepped out of the water and strode into the cave. Runa was in the kitchen, wearing one of his T-shirts and a pair of drawstring boxer shorts she must have cinched to the limit at the waist. The shirt dwarfed her, fell to midthigh but didn’t cover nearly enough.
“I found some soda in the fridge,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Help yourself to whatever you want.” He slipped past her to get to the bedroom, where he changed into leather pants, a tank top, and boots. When he finished, he was surprised to find Runa standing in the doorway.
“I want to know what all this is,” she demanded, her eyes full of that new stubbornness he wanted to hate, but admired no matter how hard he tried not to.
“I’d think it would be obvious.”
“You never … you never used anything like this with me.”
An image of Runa spread-eagled on his St. Andrews Cross and at his mercy licked at him, and his pulse pumped in an erratic rhythm. He might hate the room and everything in it, but only because he had to use it. Wanting to use it was a different thing entirely.
“No, but I wasn’t the gentlest lover, was I?”
“I don’t know.” Her gaze dropped to her bare feet. “I don’t have much basis for comparison. There was just that one guy before you …”
Something caught tight in his chest. He forced himself to inhale and exhale because he really needed to stay upright and a sudden lack of oxygen, combined with what she’d just said, would put him on his lid right now.
“You haven’t been with anyone since me?”
Her brows framed a fierce glare. “I’ve been a little busy, what with being a werewolf and all.”
A fierce, possessive instinct surged through him, swelling him with pride, swelling other parts with arousal. Mine. Only mine.
He ground his molars. Good gods, they’d been mated for all of a day and already he was growing close to her. Wanting her.
It could not happen.
Anger replaced the anxiety, summoned from that dark place inside that was a bottomless well. He grabbed her wrist, dragged her into the room. “Time for a little lockdown,” he growled.
“Shade! What are you doing?” She struggled in his grasp, but the additional strength her lycanthropy had given her didn’t come close to matching his. At least, not while she was in human form.
As gently as he could, he took her down to her hands and knees, held her immobile with one hand on the back of her neck as he reached for the morphestus chain that had been secured deeply in the rock. The links, reinforced with demon magic, had been designed to hold even the strongest beings, and the cuff he snapped around her ankle would adjust to the correct size automatically, so when she shifted, it would expand to accommodate her larger frame.
“Nightfall is coming.”
“Yeah,” she snapped, “in what, a couple of hours?” Her foot struck out, nearly catching him in the thigh.
“Something like that.”
His gaze drifted over her, the way her head was down so her hair formed a curtain around her face, hiding what was no doubt an expression of fury. Her perky ass was raised up, rubbing against his hip with every angry motion. He could take her like that, right here, right now. A flick of his wrist would tear the flimsy boxers away. A twist of his fingers would free his throbbing shaft.
His instincts fired even as his mind screamed at him to resist his urges. Cursing, he released her and leaped away. She let out a furious, base curse of her own and lunged, grabbing for his leg. She missed, but barely. “Don’t do this!”
“You’ve given me no choice!” he thundered, knowing it wasn’t fair to punish her for his lack of self-control, but fair wasn’t something he was concerned about at the moment. “You make me want you, and that can’t f**king happen.”
She recoiled, her mouth falling open. “Well, excuse me for being in your brother’s dungeon and having absolutely nothing to do with any of this.”
Now he felt like an ass. He stared down at her, the way she sat back on her haunches, the huge T-shirt hiked up enough to reveal the cotton boxers stretched tight over the hills and valley of her sex between her spread thighs. She looked vulnerable and sexy at the same time, but mostly vulnerable. This had to be terrifying for her, mated to a demon without her consent, chained up in a strange place, and on the verge of changing into a werewolf.
Oh, hell. He squeezed his eyes shut, willed himself to come down a little. “Look, I don’t like this any more than you do. But I’ve got to head to the hospital. I’ll bring you back some steaks or something. Before morning.”
He knew, thanks to Luc, their werewolf paramedic, that if wargs didn’t feed in beast form, didn’t feel the tear of flesh and crunch of bone between powerful jaws, they woke up in their human bodies feeling ravenous, grumpy, and still craving the taste of raw meat. An unsatisfied were-beast would rampage in human form even after changing back at sunrise.
Runa looked away from him. “I don’t want you to see me like that.”
“Like what? A warg? You think I’ve never seen one? Honey, I’m a hundred years old. I’ve seen them, treated them, screwed … ah, yeah, I’ve been around a warg or two.” She said nothing, and since he still felt like he’d just kicked a dog, he sighed. “I’ll toss the food through the door and I won’t look. Okay?”
“Whatever,” she muttered. She tugged on the chain. “This is going to hurt when I shift.”
“The cuff will expand.”
“Of course. One size fits all is probably a necessity for you, isn’t it?”
Feeling her angry gaze on his back, he stalked to the kitchen, grabbed a pack of gum from the cupboard, and wondered what he was going to do now. Wondered how he was going to tell his brothers that he was bonded, that Skulk was dead, and that their deceased brother was not only alive, but behind the organ-harvesting ring that had recently been plaguing their people. E would probably go all stiff and silent. Wraith would hit the ceiling. They’d react differently, but he had no doubt they’d agree on one thing.
In order for Shade to live, Runa would have to die.
Kynan stood in the staff break room, listening to Wraith and Reaver, a fallen angel and damned good healer, poke fun at the slasher movie playing on the large-screen TV. It wasn’t Kynan’s first choice of brain-drain programming, but he wasn’t going to complain, since this was the first time in days that Wraith had done more than pace and snarl. He was just happy Shade had called and was okay.
He glanced up from grabbing a sandwich from the fridge in time to see one onscreen couple go at it, which pretty much guaranteed they were going to get slaughtered at any moment.
Wraith shot Reaver a grin. “Bet that’s one of the bennies of falling, huh? Pleasures of the flesh?”
The ex-angel shrugged. “It doesn’t suck.”
Wraith cocked an eyebrow at the action on the screen. “She does.”
Reaver’s mouth turned up in the smile that made every female in the hospital think thoughts the poor ex-angel couldn’t even begin to comprehend. “That’s the best.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Wraith said.
Kynan nearly choked on his peanut butter and jelly. “You’re almost a hundred years old and you get laid a dozen times a day. The math doesn’t add up.”
Wraith rolled his eyes. “A, a twelve-pack is a slow day. And B, most of the females I hang with have teeth like razors. If you think their mouths are getting anywhere near my di—”
“Code silver, ER.” The female voice crackled over the intercom.
“Cool.” Wraith grinned, and Kynan shook his head. Only Wraith would get excited about some sort of creature going apeshit and wreaking havoc in the hospital.
The Haven spell discouraged violence by causing extreme pain if anyone tried to hurt another intentionally, but an angry, hurt demon on the rampage could tear the hospital apart and cause a shitload of collateral damage.
Kynan shot out of the break room with Wraith and Reaver on his heels. They rounded the corner to the ER and, as a group, skidded to a halt. A massive, black-furred werewolf stood in the center of the room, holding his head and howling. A male nurse stood nearby, hand pressed against a bleeding wound near his occipital horn.
“The warg tried to attack me,” he said.
The were, still cradling his head and making so much noise that Kynan’s own head was starting to hurt, was definitely paying for his mistake. “What’s taking so long with the trank?” he shouted at Ciska, the triage nurse, who was fumbling with the emergency med box at her desk, kept stocked with tranquilizers for exactly this type of situation.
Reaver ran a hand through his mane of golden hair. “That’s a big-ass wolf.”
“Bigger than Luc,” Wraith muttered, which was saying something, because Luc was a tank on legs.
The warg finally brought his claw-tipped paws away from his head. Saliva dripped from his jaws and rage burned in his eyes. Kynan had battled dozens of unusually large werewolves in his Aegis career, but this one would have been considered a trophy kill.
Not anymore, thanks to Tayla. At least, not in the New York City Aegis cell.
Ciska slammed the drug box closed, the noise drawing the beast’s attention. It leaped, knocking over equipment and chairs.
“Shit!” Wraith dived for the werewolf’s leg, catching it near the shin. “Shoot him!”
The beast swung. The blow caught Wraith in the shoulder and sent him flying across the room. For a heartbeat, everyone except the werewolf froze. Holy … crap. The beast shouldn’t have been able to strike Wraith without experiencing pain. It seemed to realize it had found a target, and in an instant, it was on top of Wraith and the two were tearing into each other.
Cursing, Kynan snatched the trank from Ciska and nearly got himself laid out as he jammed the needle into the creature’s flank. It howled and spun around, but went down with a thud before it could attack.
“What. The. Fuck?” Wraith leaped nimbly to his feet, his mouth and nose bleeding. He didn’t miss a beat as he landed one well-aimed kick in the unconscious beast’s belly. “You’d better not have rabies, you bastard.”
“I thought only you and your brothers could beat on each other without feeling pain.” Gem stood at the entrance to the emergency department, playing with one black and blue braid.
“Yeah,” Wraith muttered. “Me, too …” He trailed off, frowning. “Something’s not right.”
Kynan kept his eyes on the warg, mainly to keep them off Gem. “Ciska, where did the warg come from?”
She used her red, whiplike tail to gesture at the Harrowgate, which was invisible to Ky’s human eyes but which he knew existed between two polished marble pillars on the far side of the emergency room. “I heard a noise, looked up, and saw him in the middle of his change.”
Wraith crouched next to the beast and laid his hand on its head. “Oh, man,” he whispered. “Oh, shit. I know this vibe. His thoughts …” His palm smoothed the fur between its ears in a way Ky swore was almost loving.
“Wraith? What is it?”
“It’s Shade,” he said. “This werewolf is Shade.”
Blackness swirled around Shade, pinning him down as he drifted in and out of consciousness. He tried to roll over, but something more solid than the oppressive darkness was restraining him. He groaned. If he opened his eyes and found himself in Roag’s dungeon again …
“Shade, man, wake up.”
“E?” Shade dragged his lids open as far as they’d go, which wasn’t much. He peeked through slits at Eidolon, who was unbuckling the straps holding him down. Shade looked up at the chains and pulleys hanging from the dark ceiling, and felt a rush of relief. UG. He’d made it to the hospital.
Wait—why didn’t he remember anything, and why had he been restrained? How long had he been here? Where was … Runa!
Panic flared, but dimmed when he sensed her life force through the bond, sensed that she was safe, if angry, in beast form.
“What happened?” he asked, and shit, his throat was sore. He felt like he’d swallowed a spiny hellrat. Whole. And backward.
“Ah, well, looks like you got yourself mated.”
One hand came free, and he reached up to rub the telltale ring around his throat. “Wasn’t intentional.” When E’s brows rose, Shade shook his head. “I’ll explain later. Why am I strapped down?”
“You aren’t. All done.” Eidolon helped Shade sit up and offered him a cup of water, which he refused.
“You gonna tell me what happened?” And why was he na**d? Even his necklace was missing. Man, he was sick of waking up in strange places with no idea how he got there. Someone had laid a set of scrubs on the chair beside the bed, so he dressed while his brother ignored the question. “E? You’re freaking me out.”
“What do you remember?”
“Not much,” he said shakily. “I remember chaining Runa up.” Right after that, he’d hiked a few miles to his mother’s cave, something he did out of respect, making sure no other demons had set up shop, but that was a secret he kept to himself. “I entered a Harrowgate, and … and that’s all I remember.” He swore. “How long have I been here? She’s probably starving. I need to get food to her.”
“Runa’s your mate?” At Shade’s hesitant nod, E asked, “Werewolf?”