The smell of blood preceded the patient, and yeah, this would be a trauma home run. Kynan jogged toward the gate, coming to a shocked halt as Wraith stumbled out. Holy crap. The demon must have gone a couple of rounds with a giant blender.

He was holding one shoulder, the arm hanging uselessly to the side, blood running in a stream to the floor. Deep lacerations scored his entire body, exposing ribbons of tendon and white bone, but he was grinning as if he’d just gotten his first blowjob.

“Page Gem and call Eidolon at home,” Kynan told the triage nurse. “Now.” E had gone home an hour ago, but he needed to be here for this.

Kynan hooked an arm around Wraith’s waist to keep him upright. “Shit, you weigh a ton.” He guided Wraith toward one of the available rooms. “What happened?”

Wraith groaned as he sank down on a table. “Shot.” He peeled his hand away from his shoulder, where blood oozed from a sharply defined hole.

“The other wounds aren’t from guns, man,” Kynan said, as he gloved up.

“Machetes.”

Only Wraith would get himself chopped up by machetes. “Out hunting African rebels again?”

“Maybe.”

“Keep pressure on that bullet wound.” Obviously, Wraith’s airway and breathing were fine, so he quickly checked the demon’s pulses in all of his extremities. Everything looked good, but emergency medicine in a demon hospital was a hell of a lot different from in a human hospital, mainly because every demon species had different normal vital signs, constitutions, death thresholds … for the most part, Kynan winged it.

Kynan cut through Wraith’s shirt with a pair of trauma shears and then carefully peeled the cloth away. Dried blood stuck the fabric to his skin in places, but this was the easy part. Those wounds were nasty.

The curtain separating the cubicles swept open, and Gem entered. “Wow. You get into a fight with a really big cat?”

“Funny, Gem. Now why don’t you get your funny ass over here and suck my—ow! Fuck!” Wraith glared at Kynan.

“Sorry.” Kynan tossed the bloody shirt to the floor. “The fabric is embedded in the lacerations.”

“My ass. You did that on purpose.”

“Can’t prove it.” Kynan probed one of the deeper cuts. Seminus demons healed rapidly, and Wraith’s bleeding had slowed, but not enough. “If it makes you feel any better, E’s on his way. He’ll have you all healed up and back out hunting genocidal maniacs in no time.”

Gem thumbed up one of Wraith’s eyelids. “You been draining junkies again?”

Wraith gave an indignant grunt. “No.”

Kynan hooked his stethoscope’s earbuds into his ears. “But you fed on the Africans, didn’t you?”

“Well, duh.”

When Gem shot Ky a questioning look, he said, “The fighters are feral. Completely wild, half out of their minds on kanif and harder drugs.”

“That explains the glassy eyes.”

“What happened?” Eidolon stalked into the room, dressed in tan cargos and a blue linen button-down.

“The usual,” Gem said. She gestured to Ciska, who was preparing instruments. “Get a unit of blood. Any species.”

“Dammit, Wraith,” Eidolon murmured. “Why do you do this to yourself?”

Kynan slid the stethoscope’s cold bell against Wraith’s back. Wraith winced. “There were only, like, a dozen guys. And then all of a sudden I was fighting the entire f**king army.”

“You were supposed to be looking for Roag.”

“I was. I took a lunch break.”

Eidolon bent to inspect Wraith’s shoulder. “You’ve been shot.”

Wraith snorted. “Cowards. Seriously. Who brings a gun to a knife fight? That’s cheating.”

“You don’t have a gun?” Kynan asked.

Wraith made a face of disgust. “It’s not very sporting to shoot people.”

“So you’re saying that you didn’t shoot the people who shot you?”

“Hell, yeah, I shot them. Disarmed a punk and took out as many as I could before I hoofed it to the closest Harrowgate.”

The dermoire on Eidolon’s arm began to shimmer as he channeled healing energy into Wraith. Before Kynan’s eyes, Wraith’s lacerations began to knit together. Wraith groaned, baring his teeth. His fangs elongated, and Kynan could practically feel them throbbing. The healing process could be painful—Kynan had endured the pain a couple of months ago after being bitten by a Cruentus demon during an ambulance run.

Ciska returned with the blood and handed it to Wraith, who bit into the bag.

“That’s disgusting,” Kynan muttered.

Wraith cocked an eyebrow. “You volunteering to play Big Gulp?”

“You wish.”

Wraith snorted, but before he could spew some smartass remark, E nodded in satisfaction. “Done. Now for the bullet wound.” He glanced at Ky. “We’ll need a local for this.”

“I’m fine,” Wraith said.

“This is going to hurt like hell, bro. Ky, get the shot.”

“I said, I’m fine.” Wraith’s voice was a low growl that vibrated the air in the room.

Eidolon got right up in his brother’s face, his eyes gold—which meant he was either aroused or pissed, and since Tayla wasn’t around …

“We’re not doing this tonight, Wraith. You got the fighting out of your system. Sex probably, too. And, I see, a little chemical assistance. It’s time to chill out.”

“No. Local. Anesthetic.”

Narrow pinpoints of red began to poke through the gold in E’s eyes as his anger hit the next stage of pissed. This was going to deteriorate into a critical situation, and fast.

“Get the shot, man,” Shade said from the opening in the curtains, a new dermoire around his throat and a new female at his side. His mate?

Kynan couldn’t be sure. She wore jeans and a short-sleeved silk blouse that revealed toned arms that were unmarked by the mate-dermoire Tayla had.

Wraith’s eyes flashed ice—he’d obviously noticed the same thing. At least it took his focus off the issue of the injection.

“Get the shot,” Shade repeated, his voice low and soothing. “If E says you need it, you do.”

Wraith scowled, but if he was going to listen to anyone, it would be Shade. “Fine. Yeah. Whatever. Gimme the shot, human.” As Ky brought the needle near the wound, Wraith grabbed his wrist. “Make it hurt.”

“It’ll make my day.”

In the silence that fell, Kynan could hear Wraith’s low, steady growl as he stared at the new female as if she was an enemy. Shade had picked up on Wraith’s animosity, and the two brothers locked gazes. This was bad, though Kynan had no idea why or what the hell was going on. But a break in the tension would be a good idea right about now.

He knew he shouldn’t do it, but as he injected the local, he said, “Hey, Wraith. I have a new X-Box game. Really violent. I plan to get seriously f**ked up and play tonight. Want to try to kick my ass?”

Wraith’s head swung around. “Why are you asking me?”

“Because you’re always beating the hell out of me in the gym, and I want a chance to take you down.”

Wraith’s eyes narrowed, as if he knew this was a trick, but he couldn’t resist the bait. “I do knock you around, don’t I?”

That was a no-shitter. Kynan had been training with Wraith for months, learning new fighting techniques and honing the old ones, but he’d never acquire even a tenth of the skills Wraith had mastered.

“I’ll kick your ass in the game, too,” Wraith said, not so much as flinching as Ky pulled the needle out of his flesh.

“You don’t stand a chance.”

Wraith snorted. “I’m so going to grind you into dust.”

Eidolon offered Ky a subtle nod, a silent thank-you for defusing an explosive situation. Ky returned the nod and made the mistake of glancing over at Gem. He might have snuffed the fuse from one stick of dynamite, but it was clear by the glint in her eyes that the thing between him and Gem still burned.

Chapter 10

Shade didn’t wait around in the ER to answer questions or listen to lectures about Runa. He took her to the lab, plunked her into a chair, and gave the technician, Frank, one of the few humans on staff, orders to take enough blood to run every test available.

Then he waited just outside the door where he could see what was going on, because no way was that man going to touch Runa without Shade’s being present. He’d have preferred to draw the blood himself, but he knew his brothers would be showing up at any moment to ask questions he didn’t know how to answer.

He watched Runa through the window, inexplicably pleased to see that she was looking around the lab with curiosity, not terror, as he might have expected from someone who had never been inside a demon hospital. Then again, she knew he was right outside the door, and he’d assured her that nothing bad would happen to her as long as he was near.

What a big, f**king lie.

His gut wrenched as he dragged his gaze away from her. He was growing too close, too fast, and this morning’s sex had made the situation worse. Not only had he lied through his teeth about servicing her—hell, he’d probably needed her more than she’d needed him—but the haunted look in her eyes when she’d brought up her father had been like an icepick through his heart.

There was a painful story there, and he had a feeling it was related to the darkness, the guilt, he sensed in her, but he didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to string her up as he had the females in his past in order to draw that darkness out through sex and pain. As long as she tried to keep it buried, he’d be okay. The moment she decided she wanted to open up about her past, the moment she decided she wanted to be rid of her guilt or whatever was staining her soul, he’d be forced to do whatever it took to extract it from her.

The thought made him queasy.

And what the hell was up with the lack of the mate-markings? Even after the second try this morning … nothing.

This was so not good.

E walked up to him, his concern obvious in his drawn brows and the tight set of his mouth.

“Where’s Wraith?” Shade asked. “I figured for sure he’d want to be here to drill me.”

“I sent him with Kynan. Told him you didn’t need both of us drilling you.”

“Bullshit. Wraith wouldn’t buy that.”

Eidolon grinned. “He didn’t. But I explained that I know what it’s like to have a mate, and I’d know how to deal with you. I told him anything he said would send you running for the hills and we’d never see you again.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

A grim scowl replaced E’s smile, bringing them both back to the place where Shade was royally fucked. “I know that. But he doesn’t.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’s rattled. He’s doing his best to deal with the Roag thing, and Skulk, and you being in the situation you’re in, but he’s taking things a little too well.”

“Which means it’s only a matter of time before he blows.”

Eidolon dragged a hand through his short, dark hair. “You didn’t say anything about Runa not being marked.” When Shade shrugged, E continued. “Can she sense you? Or is this bonding one-sided?”

Shade glanced through the door window at Runa, who was smiling at the lab tech as he held her arm steady for the blood draw. Mine. Shade swallowed hard. Rage and jealousy had made a fine blockage in his throat.

“Frank’s touching her. I should have done the draw. I still can—”

“Shade? Look at me.”

He wrenched his eyes away from Runa and Frank.

“Why didn’t you get the blood samples yourself?”

“Because I’m trying to keep my distance. But his hands are on her. I’m going to kill him.”

“It’ll get easier, bro. As the bond settles, the raging jealousy will ease up. Won’t go completely away, but it’ll get better. If it didn’t, I couldn’t have let Tayla keep working with men at Aegis headquarters.”

“Let her? Something tells me you wouldn’t have been able to stop her.”

E looked a little sheepish. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”

Shade sucked in a shaky breath and avoided looking through the window again. “The bond is one-sided. I don’t get it. I know we did it right the first time. And today I repeated her part of the ritual.”

“This could be a problem.”

“No shit.” Shade braced a shoulder against the wall, welcoming the support. “Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

Shade hesitated. Talking sex with his brothers had never been any different from talking sports. But this felt awkward and wrong, as if he were betraying Runa.

“Is sex … different for you since you took Tay as your mate?”

Eidolon’s brows shot up, and a knowing grin split his face. “Oh, yeah. Much better. Definitely a perk of the bond.”

“I was afraid of that.”

There was a brittle silence. Finally Eidolon said, “We’ll find a way to get you out of this. Both the warg thing, and the curse.”

Shade laughed bitterly. “Even if we find a cure for the lycanthropy, the curse isn’t going to end well.”

“There’s got to be a way. Something we missed.”

“We’ve been looking for almost eighty years, E. There’s only one way out, and it’s not an option.”

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