Thanks to s’genesis, Roag had been able to shapeshift into something bigger and meaner, and he’d ripped that Aegi apart. When the pub erupted in flames, the only thing that had saved his life was that the demon he’d shifted into was immune to fire. Shifting into another species didn’t bring with it the special gifts unique to the species, so Roag hadn’t been completely immune, but he’d received enough resistance to prevent him from burning to a pile of ash. Still, if not for Solice showing up after the slayers left, he’d have died.

He’d always despised Wraith, despised the attention showered on him by E and Shade, but since that day at Brimstone he’d wanted Wraith to suffer as no one in history ever had. And when Roag was satisfied that Wraith had suffered enough, he would die. But not before playing skin and organ donor. Wraith would give back what he’d taken from Roag.

A commotion at the end of the hall grabbed his attention, and when he looked up, his heart, what was left of it, stopped.

“My lord,” a Nightlash minion said, “we found her near the Harrowgate …” The Nightlash carried Sheryen’s crumpled, broken body in his arms.

Roag stared at Sheryen as she was placed at his feet.

A bloody, injured Darquethoth limped forward. “We chased your brother and his female. They attacked—”

“Who killed Sheryen?” he rasped. “Who?”

“Your brother’s mate, my lord.”

Rage rolled through him, rattling his bones, stretching his joints, making his leathery skin crack until blood streamed from the fissures.

“Summon a necromancer.”

The Darquethoth hissed. “But master—”

“Do it!” Roag roared. “Now!” He would have his lover back. Consequences be damned. “And get a new spy into the hospital.”

“Yes, master.”

“I will have Wraith,” he swore, “and I will ruin my brothers’ lives, but first I will have that bitch’s head on a spike.”

Roag knelt next to his beloved, his entire body shaking as he pulled her into his arms. Thank the Great Satan she’d died near a Harrowgate, where the demonic energy prevented her body from disintegrating.

With a silent prayer, he willed the necromancer to hurry. Sheryen must be reanimated before her body began to decay, and the clock was ticking.

“Fear not, my love.” He brushed his mouth over hers, glad she couldn’t feel his scarred, stiff lips. “Soon, I will be wearing Wraith’s skin, and you will feel the pump of Runa’s blood in your veins.”

He smiled at the thought, the delicious irony that only the blood of the one who had killed her would bring Sheryen back to life.

Chapter 8

Runa lay on the floor of Shade’s cave, her body aching with residual postshift tenderness, her stomach knotted with hunger. She also ached with arousal, an inconvenient side effect of the shift from beast to human after a full moon. The effects usually lasted an hour or so as the primal animal hormones raged inside her human body. It didn’t help that she’d awakened na**d on a blanket that was steeped in Shade’s scent.

Bad enough that he affected her when he was with her. Now he was doing it from a distance.

Need twisted her insides, made her clench her thighs and her teeth. She hated this phase of the werewolf change, when no amount of self-gratification was enough. Raw, violent urges roared through her, and it was probably a good thing Shade wasn’t here, because she knew damn good and well she’d attack him.

For sex.

Where was he, anyway? she wondered. Her stomach rumbled, and her mouth watered. Why had Shade not delivered food last night as he said he would? Had something happened to him? She sat up, only to feel the heavy tug of the chain attached to her ankle.

She was tired of being chained. From one dungeon into another in a matter of hours. In her heightened sexual state, she studied the whips, canes, and flogs that decorated the walls of Shade’s bedroom. The masks and gags and cuffs. Disgusting. Disturbing. And yet … what would it be like to be at Shade’s mercy, to have his strong, talented hands wielding the tools he could use for pleasure … or pain.

He’d always been relatively gentle with her … relative to all of this, anyway.

I wasn’t the gentlest lover, was I?

No, she supposed he hadn’t been. He hadn’t allowed her to touch him except during sex. He’d commanded her actions in bed, and some part of her had liked the way he handled everything. When he was in charge, she could relax. Between her brother’s illness and her coffee shop’s imminent closing, her plate had been full, her spirit all but broken.

So when Shade took her to his place for dinner and a few hours of sex, and then promptly brought her home, or when he’d meet her at a hotel, screw her hard and fast, and take off afterward, she’d been okay with it, for the most part.

And actually, hard and fast sounded really good right now. Just thinking about it brought a low growl into her chest and wetness between her legs. The wolf-beast in her wanted to get down and dirty. Wanted to submit to a powerful male, but only after a stimulating, hardcore battle.

She had never believed she would want to have sex with someone she hated, but maybe hating him would make it easier. It was just sex, right? No emotional attachments, no falling for him again. Just. Sex.

Except, could their relationship remain that way, now that they were bonded? He’d made it sound so … permanent. But maybe the R-XR could find a way to get her out of it. And if not, well, they had a few things to work out, because they couldn’t spend decades—or even centuries—hating each other.

She shook her head, because she refused to believe this was permanent. There had to be a way out, and she’d do whatever she had to in order to find it.

Where was he?

The sound of footsteps vibrated in her ears, still sensitive from her shift. Yes. Heart pounding, she stood and swept up the blanket to cover herself. She’d stripped last night before she’d morphed into beast form, and now she wished she’d dressed this morning.

When Shade rounded the corner, she wasn’t sure if she was relieved to see him or not. He filled the doorway, both massive shoulders brushing the sides of the stone frame, his broad chest expanding with each forceful breath. The scent of his arousal and anger came to her on a hot draft of air.

Excitement shot through her. Uncontrollable, shivery excitement.

“Damn you,” he said, in a voice that had been scraped over sandpaper. “Damn you for making me burn like this. For you.”

Even dressed in scrubs, he stole her breath. He was carrying a bag of fast food, and his eyes were gold lasers that burned everywhere his gaze lit on her skin. He said nothing as he tossed the food to the floor and closed the distance between them.

She sighed his name, hating that she’d done it but unable to take it back. Not when she was already on fire for him. She closed her eyes, waited for him to kiss her, but he spun her, pushed her against the wall so his chest pressed against her back. His erection prodded her backside through the fabric of his scrub bottoms, and she couldn’t help but rub herself against him like some sort of feline in heat.

“I hate how you do that to me,” she whispered.

He popped her h*ps back with one hand splayed on her belly. “Do what?” He roughly kicked her feet apart.

“Make me forget how much I dislike you.”

“Welcome to my world.” He slapped his palms on the stone on either side of her head and covered her body with his. “I don’t want this, but here I am.”

For a moment she thought he’d take her like that, against the wall. But he remained motionless, dominating her in a primitive, animal message. The male animal was larger, stronger, and he would have his way with his female.

She began to tremble with forbidden, naughty anticipation. One of his hands tore away the blanket she still held uselessly to her br**sts as the other clamped down on her hipbone and turned her to bring her hard against him. His erection ground into her belly, an immense, unyielding presence.

“Touch me.” His fingers dug into her hip while the other hand came up to tangle in her hair. “Do it now.” His pelvis arched into her, a not-so-subtle command.

Oh, yes. She wanted—needed—to touch him. But the beast still raged inside, desperate for more than a merely pleasant release. It wanted wild and erotic, with an edge of danger.

Her core went molten at that thought.

Feeling frisky and aggressive and more than a little stubborn, she nipped his collarbone hard enough to make him suck air. “Make me.”

His body went steel-rod stiff. “What did you just say?”

She boldly met his gaze. “I said, make me.”

He looked so floored, so utterly shocked that she almost laughed. Almost, because instantly, his shock veered sharply to anger. The hand that had been in her hair grabbed her wrist. She snarled, struggled against him, but he didn’t give an inch. He brought her hand inside his pants and forced her to palm his cock.

“Now,” he said, in a deep, guttural rasp, “stroke me.”

Their gazes were still locked. The predator in her got all hackles-raised at the challenge in his eyes. The female in her got all shivery. The woman who had done a lot of growing up in the last eleven months decided that it didn’t like being ordered around. It was time to show this male that she wasn’t going to roll over and play the submissive.

Smiling, she closed her fingers around his thick length. It pulsed in her grip, the hot blood pounding in a raging tide against her palm. The head pushed up through the ring of her fist, which she couldn’t close fully. He felt good, so good … she waited until the glint of triumph sparked in his eyes—and then she shoved him as hard as she could. He stumbled back. She sank into a crouch, ready to spring.

“You—”

She struck him in the gut with her shoulder, putting her entire body into the hit. He grunted and fell backward, coming down on the bed more gracefully than she’d have liked.

Her victory was short-lived. He came at her like a tank, spun her and slammed her face-first to the floor hard enough to knock the breath from her lungs. He pinned her with his weight, his long body stretched out on top of hers.

Hot breath fanned across her cheek as he growled into her ear, “What happened to my timid little Runa?”

Timid. The reminder of the power he’d had over her, the power to break her heart, really ticked her off.

“She died in the jaws of a werewolf, you son of a bitch.”

Beneath him, she writhed, trying to break free of his grip but feeling her arousal grow with every motion. His c**k ground against her ass, a hot brand between her cheeks. She could feel every ridge, every bump through the thin cotton of his pants, and now as she struggled, it was to push her h*ps up. To get him where she needed him to be.

“Would a son of a bitch make you moan?” His tongue swept along her jaw, a warm, wet stroke that forced a moan from her throat, just as he’d said.

“Yes,” she panted. God, she was going to come like this.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

In an instant, his weight was gone, but his palm came down on the back of her neck to hold her cheek to the floor. His other hand slid beneath her h*ps to lift her so she was on her knees. She heard the rustle of fabric as he pushed down his scrub bottoms.

“I’ve wanted to do this to you since yesterday, when I dragged you down to chain you here.” He inhaled a great breath and let out an appreciative purr, and she knew he’d scented her desire. “I had you positioned like this, open to me. Vulnerable.”

Vulnerable. In this position, she couldn’t move, was completely dominated. It chafed, made her want to strike back, and yet, she quivered with excitement and her arousal ran down the inside of her thigh. She knew Shade saw, because he groaned.

“I want to lick you,” he said roughly. “I want to start low on your thigh and drag my tongue up through that sweet juice until I hit the spot that makes you scream.”

Oh, God. She whimpered, pumped her h*ps as his words triggered the beginnings of an orgasm.

“But I can’t trust you not to fight me, can I?”

“Yes,” she gasped. “Trust me.” She wanted his tongue buried between her legs, wanted him to lap at her, to take her with his mouth until she collapsed.

His finger slid up the inside of her thigh instead, catching her slick juice. “Too bad I’m such a son of a bitch.”

Straining, she jerked her head around enough to watch him suck his finger as he locked his gaze with hers.

The erotic sight tackled her, and she detonated.

“Oh, yeah.” Shade released his grip on her neck and entered her with a swift thrust of his hips. Her core grabbed him, the spasms that rocked her body clenching and milking with such strength that he hissed, pushed deep, and just held on. “Fuck,” he groaned. “Oh … fuck.”

She felt him swell inside her, and then he was pumping so hard she was scooting forward on the floor. The front of his thighs slapped the backs of hers and his fingers gripped her h*ps with bruising force.

This was what she’d wanted since she woke up. She rejoiced in the furious pace, the brutal pounding, the wet sounds of erotic play … his shout as he released inside her.

Another cl**ax took her by surprise, ripped through her body like a strike of lightning. Shade kept pounding into her, his h*ps jerking as his second release wracked his body. Another came for her, and another, until she was sobbing with pleasure and exhaustion.

She welcomed both, because all too soon, she’d be wide awake in a strange world with a demon who didn’t want her, and another demon who wanted her … but wanted her dead.

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