He wanted to, but she’d know he was lying. His body knew as well. The lightheadedness had come back, and he could feel his muscles turn watery. If he took off his gloves, he’d see his hands shimmering in transparency. He was falling for her so hard his heart hurt. The heart that would soon stop beating because the curse would turn it to shadow. Permanently.
She threw up her hands. “You’re impossible.”
He stalked toward her, and he gave her credit for standing her ground. He stopped so close their chests brushed. “Were you telling me the truth earlier? If I wanted to take you, right now, right here, where anyone could walk in, would you refuse me? Because you’re pissed?”
She raised her chin. “No.”
Gods, her spirit excited him. Challenged him. Made him want to find a way to make sure she was his in every way, curse be damned. He tangled one hand in her hair and held her as he lowered his mouth to hers. The first brush of his lips against hers sent a spark of electricity through his veins. When her tongue slipped out to stroke the seam of his mouth, the spark ignited so fast his body became flame.
Runa worked him into a frenzy without even trying. It was time to take back some control. Roughly, he wrenched her head back so she couldn’t move, was at the mercy of his mouth as he teased her. Tiny, soft kisses and nibbles made her whimper.
Finally, when he was good and ready, he whispered, “Open for me. Now.”
He froze. “You said you wouldn’t deny me.”
“But I didn’t say I was going to keep letting you control me.” One corner of her kiss-swollen mouth lifted into a mischievous smirk. “And that’s what you’re doing. You want to prove that you’ve got me wrapped around your finger. Well, screw you. I won’t deny you sex. You want it, you can have it. But your other little controlling games? I’ll deny you those and fight you every step of the way.”
Amusement made him smile even as irritation stirred his blood. Had she still been the Runa he’d dated a year ago, he could have reined her in with a gentle hand, kept her as little more than an outlet for sex with no worries about the curse. But this little fireball she’d become was too hot to handle with anything less than a firm hand. A firm hand and a new angle of approach.
Because he would not kill her—and when he thought about it, he realized he’d known that from the beginning. She would not die because of him. He’d brought the curse upon himself, and Runa would not be made to pay for his sins.
Shade would pay. Either he’d take himself out, or he’d succumb to a fate worse than death. But either way he was going to take Roag with him.
Kynan had flashbacks of being called into the principal’s office as he approached the administrative wing of the hospital. Eidolon had ordered him to appear before him, and Ky had felt his gut knot.
Eidolon’s office door was open, and inside, the doctor sat on his desk, arms folded over his chest, long legs crossed at the ankles. Wraith stood in the corner, his blue eyes iced over.
This couldn’t be good.
“Close the door.” Eidolon’s command was as cold as Wraith’s gaze. “And then tell me how you know Arik Wagner.”
Kynan had to swallow the lump of oh-shit before he could find his voice. “I knew him from my Army days.”
“Give me your hand.”
Where was this going? Kynan wondered, but it didn’t occur to him to disobey. Eidolon took Ky’s wrist and pressed his fingers to his pulse. “I’ll tell you the truth. You don’t have to play lie detector, if that’s what you’re doing.”
“It is,” Eidolon said, and for some reason, that stung. “Now, tell me how he knows about the hospital.”
Oh, man. Kynan’s heart rate revved like a race car engine. He’d done nothing wrong, but what he’d done during his time in The Aegis now felt like a huge betrayal.
“I told him about UG, last year when Tayla told me all about it. But it was before I started working here.”
“Who else knows?” When Kynan didn’t answer, Eidolon squeezed his wrist. “Who else?”
“I can’t answer that.”
Eidolon’s eyes were flecked with angry gold. “You damned well better answer that. I have to protect the hospital.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Then why did the Army send Arik’s sister to find you?”
Not good. “I didn’t know he had a sister.”
“He does,” Wraith said. “And she just happens to be Shade’s new mate.”
Small f**king world. Small f**king Army. Dammit, he shouldn’t be surprised that they had sent someone after him. Though he was no longer active duty, he’d shared information with them—until he started working at UG. After that, he’d all but severed his ties with The Aegis and the R-XR. He helped out Tayla when she needed him, but he avoided The Aegis when he could. There were too many memories, and he didn’t like the reminders that he was playing for the other side now.
If the military knew he’d been working with the enemy, they’d haul his ass in, and they could keep him imprisoned—or worse—for God knew how long.
“Please, Kynan.” Eidolon’s tone was as close to pleading as Ky’d ever heard it. “Answer the question.”
Wraith lunged, and in the span of a heartbeat, Kynan was dragged back into Wraith’s body with an arm around his chest, and paralyzed by a finger pushed painfully hard into the base of his skull.
“I was just starting to like you, human,” Wraith murmured into his ear. “So I really hope you haven’t done anything to jeopardize this hospital.” The demon’s voice was low and rough as he continued. “Let’s see what you’ve got in your little human mind, ’kay?”
Guardians wore jewelry imbued with magic to help them resist psychic attacks, but Kynan had tossed his ring months ago. Still, he’d learned basic shielding techniques, and he quickly slammed barriers into place around his thoughts.
Wraith laughed. “You think I can’t wear those down?”
Suddenly, Ky was on a beach. Alone except for a female figure in the distance, walking toward him. She wore a knee-length, pink sundress, the kind Lori used to wear. A pang of longing shot through him as the woman drew closer. His heart started beating faster. She looked a lot like his wife. She smiled.
This was Wraith at work. He knew it, but he couldn’t stop himself from gasping, “Lori?”
She closed the distance at a run, threw herself into his arms. The impact and shock knocked him to the ground, taking her with him.
“You’re dead,” he said. “This is bullshit. Wraith, knock it off.”
“Shh.” She touched a finger to his lips, silencing him. “Tell me about Arik.”
He shook his head. His mind was getting misty, his memories unclear. His barriers were slipping.
“Kynan? Tell me.”
“Arik is part of the Raider-X Regiment. Army paranormal division.” Fuck. Did he just say that?
“Yes, you said it.” She nuzzled his neck the way she did when she wanted to make love slowly. “Did you tell them about the demon hospital?”
He blew out a long, slow breath, but it did nothing to release the tense feeling of wrongness about this. Wraith was … wait … who was Wraith?
“Tell me, love,” she whispered.
“Yes, I told them. But not where it is.” By the time he learned the location, he was no longer in contact with the R-XR.
“You should tell them.”
“I’ve missed you, Ky. I’m so sorry about everything.” Her hand slid down his abs until her fingers breached his waistband. She climbed on top of him, rubbed herself against him as Gem had done.
Gem had been so hot, so …
“Ky, please. Love me.”
“I loved you so much, Lori.” He gripped her waist, flipped her so she was on her back, and yanked her hands roughly above her head. He wasn’t going to fall for her shit again. “Until you betrayed me and threw me away,” he growled.
She arched her hips, trying to work him into arousal. It wasn’t working. “Tell me about the demon hospital. Tell me about what information you’ve been giving to R-XR.”
He frowned. “I haven’t contacted them since the night I caught you with Wraith.”
Wraith! You son of a bitch!
Suddenly, he was standing in Eidolon’s office, heart pounding. “Damn you,” he whispered. “Damn you.”
He lurched away from the demon, but his legs were too rubbery to support him, and he had to catch himself on Eidolon’s desk. Closing his eyes, he stood there, hunched over, trying desperately to bring himself fully back into this world. The images of Lori had been so real, even if they’d been wrong. But one thing hadn’t been wrong—even if it had been a surprise.
I loved you so much, Lori. Until you betrayed me …
Until. Holy shit, he didn’t love her anymore, did he?
He grappled with his surprise and his nausea as Wraith filled in Eidolon on everything that had taken place inside Kynan’s head.
“I regret that we had to resort to that, Kynan,” Eidolon said. “But we had to know what you weren’t telling us. The R-XR will be our secret as long as they don’t f**k with us. I promise.”
Kynan nodded, but didn’t open his eyes. He got it, knew why they’d been forced to take the information from him if he wouldn’t talk. He’d have done the same thing in a similar situation. Had done worse in the name of protecting The Aegis.
“Ky, if you need some time off, take as much as you need.” Eidolon left, leaving him alone with Wraith.
“You okay, dude?”
The room spun a little as Kynan swung around to glare at Wraith. “Go to hell.”
“Why are you mad at me but not E?”
“Because he’s in charge of this place, this staff. He’s protecting his hospital. But you …” You’re my friend.
God, did he really think that? Just because Wraith had stuck his fangs in him? Okay, it was more than that—they’d been sparring in the gym together for months, kicked each other’s butts in video games—but that hardly constituted a friendship. He must really be spiraling downward if he believed any different.
“You got off on it.”
“You think I liked using your dead wife against you?” Wraith asked quietly.
“You’re the one who said you don’t care about anyone or anything.”
Wraith went taut, as if he were offended. “That doesn’t mean I like to see the people around me suffer.”
Kynan snorted. “Yeah, you’re a real tender guy.”
“I would take your pain away if I could, human.” The words were spoken so softly Kynan barely heard them, and then Wraith was stalking away as though his feet were on fire.
Awkwardly, because his knees were still weak and his muscles had gelled, Kynan sank into Eidolon’s desk chair. What a mess. So much was bouncing around in his head now—Lori and Gem, his relationships with the hospital, The Aegis, the R-XR. He’d used work and alcohol to avoid confronting any of the issues, but now they were all crashing down on him at once.
One thing was clear; he needed to protect the hospital, and it wasn’t just because he liked Eidolon and his brothers. The things he’d learned here would be invaluable to human medicine—if he could convince Eidolon to share the knowledge. Hell, by Kynan’s calculations, nearly 10 percent of human diseases and illnesses had demonic roots. Human-demon matings, especially, accounted for a staggering number of maladies, as Gem had confirmed with her past work in a human hospital.
And what was up with Arik’s sister being bonded to Shade? He rubbed the back of his neck, groaning as he worked out the kinks. If she’d told Arik that Kynan was working at the hospital, he was screwed. The R-XR would send an entire team after him.
He needed to call Arik.
Once he did that, he’d have one more pressing issue. An issue that kept showing up in his dreams and his nightmares.
Surprisingly, Shade didn’t say anything about how Runa had stood up to him. In fact, she got the distinct impression that he’d liked it.
Good. Because he was going to be seeing a lot more of that. She knew she’d always been a bit timid, and hell, she could face it—a doormat. But the whole getting-bitten-by-a-werewolf thing had hardened her a little, and surviving Roag’s dungeon hadn’t hurt. Then there was the fact that Shade had a way of riling her up, and now that she knew how much he needed her …
Shame put some heat in her face as they walked the hospital’s dark halls. That he’d said that females have all the power in a relationship with a Seminus demon didn’t mean she should abuse that power.
“Where are we going again?” She studied the weird drains running along the hallway and wondered what they were for.
“My office. I need to post the new paramedic schedule.” He gave her a sideways glance. “Don’t touch that.”
She jerked her hand away from the gargoyle statue she’d paused in front of. “Why?” It was beautiful … smooth white marble shot through with black and gold veins.
Shade continued down the hall as she leaped back. She swore one corner of the gargoyle’s mouth tipped up just a bit.
“Your hospital is creepy,” she muttered, as she hurried to catch up.