“Gem?” Kynan’s hand came down on her shoulder, startling her out of her pathetic musings but soothing her with his heat.
God, he was hot. Dark, spiky hair, blue eyes, deeply tanned skin. His athletic build was made for marathons both in and out of bed.
She blinked. “Sorry. I’m distracted.”
“We’re all worried about Shade and Skulk.”
“Are you? Truly?” Her question came out more sharply than she’d intended, and she carefully leveled her voice with the next one. “Do you honestly worry about them?”
“You think I don’t care because they’re demons?”
“It occurred to me.”
“I’ve known humans who were more evil than either of them.”
The answer gave her hope, a light, fluttery feeling in her belly. “Could you … could you ever, um, be with a demon?” The question was out of her mouth before she could take it back.
Vocal cord damage sustained during his Army days had left him with a rough, gravelly voice, but now it went even lower and rougher. “What are we talking about? Sex?”
Her mouth went dry, and a shiver of both desire and anxiety raced through her. “I–I don’t know. I just … could you see yourself with one?”
One long finger trailed along her jaw, the most intimate contact they’d ever had. “Never.”
With that, he stalked out of the room.
Kynan ground to a halt just outside the lounge door, his heart pounding, his breath searing his throat. The shadowy hospital halls closed in on him, and he had to brace himself against the wall as a dizzying sense of vertigo bore down on him.
What the hell had just happened back there? In all the years he’d known Gem, he’d never caught more than a friend-vibe from her, but suddenly, she’d seemed … wanting.
Wanting him? Why? He was damaged goods and a Class-A asshole. Not to mention the fact that for over eleven months, his libido had been as dead as his wife.
But suddenly, as he stood there with Gem, his body had resuscitated as if it had been jacked up by a defibrillator.
She’s a demon.
“Half demon,” he muttered to himself.
But the demon half is as bad as it gets.
Jesus Christ. He stood there warring with himself in the hallway, his scrub bottoms revealing his current aroused state, and why? He’d just made clear that he could never become involved with a demon, not even for something as shallow as sex, because sex had never been shallow for him.
Man, the incubus brothers would laugh their asses off if they knew that about him. How he’d always considered sex to be something special, to be shared between two people who cared for each other. But it wasn’t as if he was judgmental of those who didn’t feel the same way. He’d grown up the son of a call girl who had gotten out of the business when his wealthy, married father paid her a large sum to keep quiet. He’d seen the best and worst of people growing up and then again in the Army during battle. People did weird shit when they were stressed or hurt or just because of their upbringing.
So no, he didn’t judge, and he didn’t jump to conclusions.
Maybe he’d simply misinterpreted Gem’s question. Maybe she hadn’t been talking about sex—or, at least, sex with her.
Maybe he was a f**king idiot, because he knew damned good and well what the conversation had been about, and his dick knew, too.
Not that it mattered, because nothing could happen between them, no matter how sexy she looked in her leather miniskirts and thigh-high stockings—which he just realized at this very moment were unbelievably hot.
Fuck. He was in a shitload of trouble, and he had no idea how to dig himself out.
Shade paced, thinking of a plan to get them out of the dungeon. He watched the Keepers who came and went, trying to get a bead on their patterns, species, and sex. Seducing a female would give them their best shot at escape, and so far, he’d seen two—the female imp who had taken him from the cell earlier, and another who fed them.
Runa had fallen asleep a few minutes ago, so he sat next to her, back against the wall, and thought about Roag, hoping to remember something that might shed light on why Roag blamed Shade and his brothers for what had happened to him in the fire at Brimstone.
Runa’s soft snores lulled him as he thought about the last day he’d seen Roag alive.
The first ambulance run of the day had been a bust. By the time Shade and Skulk had arrived at the alley where a Soulshredder had been injured, he’d died, leaving behind only a thin, greasy oil slick on the ground. Returning from the run, Shade had turned into the condemned parking garage, spiraling down several levels beneath the New York City streets. Deep underground, a garage door shimmered, invisible to humans, but a beacon for demons. Shade had punched a button on the ambulance’s dash, and the gate opened, allowing the rig to enter. They’d emerged inside a giant parking lot adjacent to the hospital.
After parking in an ambulance stall, he’d headed for the break room, where Eidolon was arguing with Wraith, over something stupid, no doubt. Roag was propped against one wall, eyeing Solice, a vampire nurse, as she bent to raid the fridge.
“Shade,” Roag said in his Irish brogue, “I’m trying to talk our brothers into going to Brimstone. They’re refusing. Again.”
“Why do you even try? No one wants to go.” Not even Wraith was crazy enough to hang out in lust-filled demon bars.
But Roag no longer cared about consequences. He was a slave to his instincts and libido. Even now, as he watched Solice, the scent of lust rolled off him in waves. Licking his lips, he crossed to her, hauled her against him, and shoved her face-first into the wall.
Eidolon cleared his throat. “No sex in the break room. You know the rules.”
As though he hadn’t heard, Roag continued to caress the nurse, and Shade braced for a battle. But when Eidolon took his first step toward the pair, Roag backed down. “You’re so uptight, E.”
“I’ll meet you at the bar when I get off shift,” Solice purred, and Roag grinned.
“We’ll play spank the naughty nurse.” He nipped her earlobe and released her. She swayed, affected by his incubus pheromones as he stalked toward the door. Most females would avoid a posts’genesis Seminus demon if they recognized what he was, but since vampires couldn’t conceive—except in Wraith’s mother’s lone case—vamps had no reservations about screwing them.
“Idiot,” Shade said as the door closed behind Roag. “He’s going to get himself killed.”
Once he was gone, Wraith came to his feet, a wicked gleam in his eyes. “One can only hope.”
Shade blinked out of the replay of the day Roag had been killed. He’d dozed off, and gods, he’d much rather be back in the dream than in the reality he’d awakened to.
He looked at Runa as she stared down at him and his heart pounded. It was only a matter of time before he fell for her, and the consequences of his emotional weakness would make a lingering death seem fun in comparison.
Shade had never feared anything, but the Maluncoeur, cast on him by a pissed-off warlock eighty years ago, scared the ever-living crap out of him, and if he wasn’t careful, Runa would be his doom. Because even now, his body was surging to life, demanding that he possess her over and over, until she became addicted to him. And it would happen. With every orgasm, his s**en would bond her more strongly to him, a chemical process that would result in more powerful, longer orgasms and a release of endorphins that would linger for hours. In short, she would learn to crave him as much as he craved her.
If only he hadn’t given in to the needs of the human female so long ago, the beautiful silent film starlet who had f**ked her way to fame and who demanded rough, violent sex from Shade as a form of penance. If only he’d not killed her husband when he found Shade na**d with his tied-up wife. If only that husband hadn’t been a warlock who’d thrown the curse at Shade in his last, dying moments.
I call thee, servant of Evil, Demon of Vengeance, I call thee, Arioch, who giveth revenge, who taketh away life. I command thee, bind this demon to the Maluncoeur, to a life eternal of unslakable thirst, relentless hunger, unending pain, unrelieved desires. He shall not know love, lest he pass into shadow and Maluncoeur. Come hither, Come hither. Accomplish my will.
Eighty years later, the warlock’s words were as clear as the day they’d been uttered through bloodied lips.
Runa patted his cheek with a cold hand. “Hey. You awake?”
He brushed her hand away before he did something stupid, like pull her down on top of him. It didn’t escape his attention that she still didn’t bear the mate markings on her arm. “What is it?”
“Finally.” Snapping out of his haze, he came to his feet and slid, na**d, against the cold stone wall. Footsteps rang out—soft, light. Definitely female.
He eased toward the cell door, where the shadowed corner would hide him. He gestured to Runa, who fell into place on the floor as they’d discussed, a length of chain wrapped around her neck.
She did a damned good job of looking dead.
Shade was going to do an equally good job of looking invisible.
As he slipped into the splash of darkness near the door, he shivered, his skin cells shifting and darkening until he couldn’t see his own hand. Very few beings could detect him now, thanks to the inherited Umber demon ability to turn to shadow in the presence of shadow.
The footsteps fell harder, louder. A second pair.
Breathing slowly, evenly, to keep his heartbeat steady, he waited, hoping whoever was approaching wasn’t sensitive to the sound of beating hearts and rushing blood. Vampires, especially, were a pain in the ass that way.
“Master said you no come here!” Desperation bled into the harsh whisper of a male outside the door.
“I want to see the Seminus,” the female voice purred. “Roag and I aren’t bonded yet, so I can do what I want. He doesn’t know I’ve returned from Eternal. I have time to play.”
Through the bars on the door, Shade could scent her lust, and for the first time in eighty years, he didn’t experience even the smallest stirring of arousal.
He slid a glance at Runa, and his dick jerked. Damned bond.
The female peeked through the bars. Her pale, translucent skin, violet eyes, and pointed ears identified her as a Bathag, a cave-dwelling species. So … Roag had found himself a female to bond with.
“He’s gone. Who let him out?” She rattled the door. “He killed the warg.”
“No do this,” the male cried. “No!”
The iron lock clicked. The door swung open, and the female stepped inside, looked directly at him. He held his breath, tried—and failed—to keep his heart rate down. After a long moment, the Bathag turned away.
As she moved toward Runa, Shade struck, both hands clamped on either side of her head—but at the last second he didn’t snap her neck. He should, but if what she said about bonding with Roag was true, his brother was in love with her.
She could be useful.
Runa leaped to her feet. “Behind you!”
He whirled, blocked a strike from the male who’d followed the female inside. In three moves, he had the skeletal demon broken and dead, and Runa had the female face-down on the floor. Runa straddled the Bathag, one hand holding the back of her neck, the other wrenching the Bathag’s arm behind her back.
Though he scarcely had time to dick around, he stood back for a moment and admired the sight of his mate overpowering and—
Shit. He shook himself out of it. “We’ve got to go.”
Runa’s eyes shot wide. “Shade!”
Two Darquethoths burst into the cell, their fluorescent eyes, lips, and slashes in their obsidian skin glowing bright orange in the dim dungeon light. They moved fast, but he tore through them, making an opening for Runa as they spun away.
“Come on!” he shouted, and grunted as a rope wrapped around his neck. One of the Darquethoths slammed him into the cell door. Pain sliced up his spine.
A roar of rage echoed through the dungeon, and then Runa was there in a flurry of fists and feet, ripping some impressive moves on the Darquethoths. The rope slipped free, and he planted his fist in a Darquethoth’s face. The male crumpled to the ground at the same time as the other, who had taken a blow to the head from Runa’s foot.
The Bathag struggled to her feet. When she locked eyes with Shade, she hissed, and the ground began to shake. A stone in the ceiling crashed to the floor in a cloud of dust, and shit, she was going to bring the entire place down.
Runa’s pupils dilated and narrowed wildly. Her fingers elongated. Night was falling as fast as the ceiling. Shouts came from somewhere. More Keepers.
“We have to go!” He grabbed Runa’s arm. He wished they could take Roag’s female with them, but the Bathag would slow them down.
The ground beneath them rolled and bucked as they dashed out of the cell.
Ahead, two Keepers fought to stay on their feet. Shade went through them like a bowling ball through pins. Without slowing, he dragged Runa up the narrow, winding staircase. They burst out of the stairwell and out onto a grassy expanse. Gray mist surrounded them, featureless save for the thick tendrils that swirled at their feet. Here and there, the veil thinned, allowing a view of rocky cliffs and scraggy trees in the distance. Behind them, a stone wall rose sharply, disappearing into the fog.
They’d been held in a castle.
“Where are we?”
“Ireland, I think.” A guess, based on the landscape, but also on Roag’s background. Upon his first maturation, he’d emerged from Sheoul, the demon realm deep inside the earth, to live among humans in various Irish cities, eventually becoming involved with the IRA. Nothing excited him more than causing trouble.