His fists unclenched and clenched again, and Wraith got the distinct impression he was hiding something. “I’m good. I just want to be rid of this damned lycanthropy. Now I know what mutts chained in backyards go through. Did you get anything from the tests?”
“Nothing yet. Be patient.”
“Patient, my ass. I don’t want to go through another full moon.” Shade sank down on the couch. “But I might have something that’ll help. Runa was experimented on by the military. They were trying to cure her, and whatever they did gave her the ability to shift at will.”
Eidolon got that excited look on his face, the way he always did when he was working on a medical mystery. “That explains a lot. Some of her DNA was so abnormal that I was starting to think she had demon somewhere in the family tree. But if experimentation is responsible … you just saved me a lot of time.”
Shade leaned forward and braced his forearms on his knees. “We might have another problem. Our favorite Aegi-turned-doctor.”
“Kynan? What about him?”
“Apparently, her brother and Kynan were both in the Army. Probably a secret division. Runa is involved as well, and she was sent to find Kynan. They know about the hospital, and I think Kynan told them.”
“Fuck.” E glanced at his watch. “He’s on shift now. Wraith and I will have a little chat with him. Did you hear about Ciska?”
Wraith scowled. “What about Ciska?”
“She died right after you brought her in.”
Ciska? Dead? Shock and grief collided with confusion. “What? How?” Wraith had been with her just last night. In his office. On his desk. He was supposed to meet her in the on-call room in an hour.
“What do you mean, how can she be dead?” Eidolon asked. “You saw her. She was mutilated.”
Wraith flicked his cigarette butt into the sink. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You handed her off to Gem. You don’t remember?”
“Do you really think I’d forget something like that?”
E stared at him for a moment, his gaze contemplative, as though he was working out how much to believe. Finally, he shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled something out. “There was a message on her. It’s addressed to you.”
Wraith took the bloody cloth from his brother. I know what you did. The writing sent a chill up his spine.
“Hell’s rings,” Shade growled. “It was Roag who brought her in.”
Wraith’s stomach bottomed out. “Roag was here? In the hospital?”
“That bastard. That f**king bastard!” Eidolon snarled and slammed his fist into a cupboard. For a long time, he stood there, hands braced on the counter, head hung low. Wraith recognized that position, the I’m-going-to-compose-myself-before-I-kill-my-brother stance, except for once, he wasn’t the brother in question. “What does the message mean?” E finally asked, his voice tight with barely contained rage. “What does he know?”
Wraith’s first instinct was to lie, but not to protect himself. The truth would hurt Shade, and he’d already experienced more than enough pain over the last few days. And Eidolon … this might be the last straw for him. Wraith wasn’t stupid—he knew E kept him on staff to keep an eye on him, to keep him out of trouble. But after this, E probably wouldn’t give a shit anymore.
“Wraith?” Shade’s voice was low, soothing. “You need to come clean.”
Eidolon swung around, his expression confirming everything Wraith had been thinking. Already disappointment swirled in his dark eyes. Nothing new, there.
Wraith cleared his throat because some big-ass lump seemed to be stuck in it. Both brothers went taut, as though bracing themselves for whatever he’d done this time.
“What happened at Brimstone was my fault. I tipped off The Aegis because I knew Roag would be there.” He met Shade’s gaze. “I set him up to die.”
Closing his eyes, E shook his head, but it was Shade’s reaction that concerned Wraith the most. Because of him, Roag wanted revenge, and Skulk was dead.
Shade sat there, his expression shuttered.
“Say something,” Wraith said. Begged, really. When Shade remained silent, Wraith took a deep breath, needing to know where his brother’s emotions were, but he got nothing. No scent save that of his female. And sex.
“Dammit, Shade! I’m responsible for the situation with you and Runa. I’m responsible for Skulk’s death. Don’t just sit there!”
But Shade did just that, until Wraith couldn’t stand it anymore. He turned away, propped an arm on the wall above his head and closed his eyes to wait. No matter what they did to him, he wouldn’t fight back this time. He deserved whatever they dealt.
When Shade finally spoke, his voice was as deadly cold as an arctic wind. “I don’t have to ask why. He was out of control. But goddamn you, why didn’t you tell us a long time ago?”
Because I didn’t want you and E to hate me. They were all he had in the entire world. They were the only reason he was still alive.
“Shade might not need to ask why you did it, but I do.” Eidolon’s voice was as hot as Shade’s was icy, which meant E wasn’t even trying to summon his Justice Dealer calm. “Taking Roag down should have been a group decision, and you f**king know it.”
“Right.” Wraith wheeled around. “You would never have agreed. Your precious Roag could do no wrong. Me? I can’t do anything right. But I’ve never done to women what he did.” Wraith shuddered at the memory of the last human female of Roag’s he’d found, the one that put Wraith over the edge, gunning to take down Roag at the next opportunity—which happened to be Brimstone.
“And yet,” Eidolon said, “you’re looking forward to s’genesis, when you could turn into something as evil as Roag. How does that make you better than him?”
The writing on the walls began to pulse as Wraith’s temper blasted through him. But after a glance at Shade, who had closed his eyes and sat quietly, probably thinking about Skulk, Wraith backed down. “The difference,” he murmured, “is that I don’t want the insanity that could come with it.” He pegged E with hard eyes. “Roag did. And if it happens, I’ll expect you to do what’s necessary.”
Shade buried his face in his hands. “Dammit, Wraith. Just … fuck.”
“I know. I really stepped in it this time. But if you’d seen that woman … if you knew—” He broke off and turned away from his brothers once more. He shouldn’t have allowed himself to get pissed. Should have just let them beat the hell out of him. They still could. They still should.
After a long moment, footsteps thudded across the black stone tile. He braced himself for a blow, but it never fell. Instead, arms wrapped around him. Eidolon’s. A heartbeat later, another, heavier weight settled against him.
“Brother,” Shade rasped, “it was a stupid thing to do, but you couldn’t have known Roag would survive and come back worse than before. So from now on, no more fighting, no more regrets.”
Eidolon’s voice was as shaky as Shade’s. “Roag is trying to drive a wedge between us. To weaken us.” He pulled back to turn Wraith around. He cupped Shade’s cheek with one hand, and Wraith’s with the other. “From here on out, we stand as one.”
Shade jerked as if he’d been goosed, and his eyes flared gold. “We test that stand as one thing now,” he said, moving swiftly toward the door. “Something’s wrong with Runa.”
She could feel Him. The One who had turned her into a werewolf, a monster she couldn’t escape.
He was here.
The curve between Runa’s neck and shoulder where he’d bitten her burned as if his teeth were still buried in her flesh. Her whole body tensed, vibrated with seductively dark power. An oil slick of malevolence floated beneath the surface of her skin, disgusting her even as adrenaline gave her an electric high. She’d read that the relationship between a sire and his therionidrysi was powerful and evil.
She felt the truth of that in every cell.
“You can get dressed, now.” Dr. Shakvhan helped Runa off the metal table, and while the beautiful succubus fretted over the medical equipment in the room, Runa changed out of her hospital gown and back into her jeans and sweater.
It wasn’t easy, not with the way her hands shook with excess energy. Tension coiled in every muscle, all the way to her bones. When Dr. Shakvhan turned her back, Runa darted out the door. She was going to find the werewolf, and she was going to kill him.
Right here in the hospital.
The female came at him. Luc didn’t recognize her, but he knew her, and he knew what she wanted.
He caught her by the throat just as the pain struck her. She writhed in his grip, not because he held her a foot off the ground, though that couldn’t have been comfortable, but because she’d tried to hurt him, and now she was paying the price. Luc had never tested the Haven spell, had no idea what it felt like to suffer what she was going through, but even if he had, he doubted he’d have much sympathy. Nothing fazed him anymore.
No, that wasn’t entirely true. The weird malevolent link he shared with this female fazed him. He felt as if he’d snorted evil-tainted co**ine. The high was incredible, but so was the raw, explosive desire to wreak havoc. He hadn’t felt this way since he’d hunted down his own sire and torn him apart with his bare hands.
“Let her go, Luc.” Shade’s voice was a low, controlled drawl as he and his brothers approached, but his expression was a mask of rage.
“Gladly.” Luc opened his palm and let her drop, but Shade caught her before she hit the floor. Too bad.
“Pain,” she gasped, holding her skull so tightly her hands were white.
Shade held her against him and shot Luc a look promising murder. “What did you do?”
“She attacked me.”
A faerie nurse nodded from a nearby cubicle where she was draining bloodpans. “He tells it true. Stupid girl.”
Shade petted the stupid girl’s hair, his glare still black with homicidal intent. “Why would she attack you?”
“Because I sired her.”
You could have heard a mouse tiptoing across the floor with the way the normally noisy ER went dead silent. Frank, one of the lab techs, actually froze midstep as he walked past.
Shadows shifted in Shade’s eyes, seething like living things. “You?”
“It was the night the slayers tried to take me.” The night they’d slaughtered his would-be mate before he had a chance to claim her. “They were on my ass, and she ran into me.” He shrugged. “If it’s any consolation, I thought I’d killed her.” He’d hoped so, anyway. The Warg Council was not forgiving when it came to killing or turning humans, though they definitely preferred the kill over the turn. The Warg Council was made up of born wargs, and if they had their way, they’d eradicate the earth of turned wargs, whom they considered second-class citizens.
Before that night, Luc had been lying low, avoiding catching the Council’s attention. He’d retained much of his humanity, had been living among humans, doing the right thing by locking himself up every full moon.
Then the slayers had attacked. They’d broken into his house and into his locked cell where he and Ula had been about to mate. They’d killed her and seriously injured him before he managed to escape. That night screamed through his memories, his nightmares.
He had no idea how long or how far he ran, keeping to the shadows and ducking behind parked cars, but when the adrenaline ran out and he began to fade again, he was in unfamiliar territory, caught on the edge of the city and well out of his suburban neighborhood.
Fire seared his lungs with each breath, and nausea tumbled in his stomach.
A scream ripped from his throat, ringing as a howl through the darkness. Going up on two legs, he opened his mind, sought the nearest Harrowgate. North. Several blocks away. Too far, but his only hope.
He loped toward it, no longer bothering with concealment. Operating on instinct alone, he rounded a corner and slammed into a woman. She smelled of rage and hurt that veered instantly to stark, icy terror. The emotions collided with his identical ones, intensifying them in a massive explosion.
Out-of-control hunger, the need to take something apart, made him tremble as he towered over her.
“Run, Little Red Riding Hood.”
In beast form, his words came out as a snarl, and she screamed like a f**king B-movie horror actress. The slayers would hear. Panic eroded what little remained of his humanity, and he struck, sinking his teeth into the soft spot between her shoulder and neck. She pounded against his chest, kicked wildly in futile defense as he shook her like a terrier with a rat.
A slayer’s voice broke him out of his murderous rage. The woman moaned, hanging limp from his jaws. In the distance, the sound of pounding footsteps echoed off the surrounding buildings.
With a toss of his head, he flung the woman’s unconscious body behind a Dumpster and sprinted down the sidewalk, bouncing off light posts and street signs in his insane bid to get to the Harrowgate. To the hospital.
He’d made it to UG, and Eidolon had saved his life. But what remained of his humanity had bled out through the deep wounds the slayers had dealt him.
He’d finally become the monster he’d always feared, but he couldn’t dredge up even an ounce of give-a-shit. It was only a matter of time before Wraith made good on the promise he’d made, the one that would ensure that Luc wouldn’t prey upon innocent humans.