Chop Suey

For your listening pleasure: tinysong.com/EjTt

Fuck! Can you—

Shawn tried to port, but nothing happened. Fucking Rhenium could not only burn us, but the shit could trap us as well. Lovely.

I think we’re fucked, he said. But I’m shooting the first fucker that shows himself.

Danny, get out! I screamed through the mind link.

In the distance, outside, a vampyre screamed. It better not have been Danny, or his twin Dana would kill us both. I’d rather fight off a gaggle of harpies than deal with that slayer.

The after-effects of grabbing the Rhenium-coated bars lingered on my burning hands; I hissed and rubbed my palms down my pant legs. Not that it did any good. I needed Nico to heal me from this shit, and that wouldn’t happen anytime soon.

Shawn’s brow knit together. Huh, can’t even turn to mist. Interesting.

What the fuck do we do now? I asked.

He paced around his cage, Kimber in his right hand, finger on the trigger, looking a bit like Brandon Lee as The Crow in his long black duster.

Let me think, he replied while walking in a circle. He jerked to a stop, facing me, and we stared at one another for a brief moment. Then his arm shot up and he pulled the trigger without looking at his intended target. It was the perfect headshot, right between the eyes. The guy fell back with a thud and a clang as his gun hit the metal floor.

“Nice!” I said with a laugh. Then I heard several guns rise, lock and load. Shit.

“Unless you’d like both of your bodies filled with Rhenium-coated bullets, I’d suggest you don’t do that again.” The voice came from behind the crates.

“Show yourself, Roberts, you fuck,” Shawn shouted.

“Chicken shit mother fucker,” I mumbled.

“Will you stand down?” Roberts asked.

Shawn looked at me and I nodded. See what the hell he wants. He’d have killed us outright if he didn’t want something.

Good point, Shawn replied. “I won’t shoot anyone else. Biting, I can’t promise. You’ve got me pretty pissed.”

Roberts laughed and stepped out slowly from behind the crates. “Which is why you’re in a cage.” He stopped at the body and looked down, and then his eyes lifted to meet Shawn’s. “Nice shot. His vest was worthless.”

“Which is why I never aim for the body. What the fuck do you want?” Shawn said with a sneer. “You haven’t killed us and we still have our weapons.”

Roberts cracked a smile, a crooked, chipped tooth catching a gleam from the lights above Shawn and me.

“You’re quite observant, Shawn,” he said and stepped over the dead man. “And yes, I know that you are Shawn, and he” —he nodded my direction— “is Trent. I happen to know Shawn is the trigger happy one between the two of you, though you both were trained as assassins.” His eyes were the color of stone from this distance, his hair slicked back, and he stood before us wearing a black leather trench coat, but looked all business attire underneath.

“That doesn’t answer the fucking question,” Shawn said.

“Nice test,” I said and crossed my arms over my chest. “I can see you value your men’s lives.” He looks like a fucking movie villain, I said to Shawn.

Shawn snorted, and Roberts’ tilted his head.

“Something amusing?” he asked while removing his gloves. His eyes flicked back and forth between us. Excitement hit his face and he pointed first to Shawn and then to me. “You’re doing it, aren’t you? Communicating?”

Shawn and I looked at one another. How in the fuck . . . ?

He stepped closer, between our cages. “Gentlemen, why do you think you’re not yet dead?”

Shawn cocked his head and laughed. “We are not going to be guinea pigs for you. We did that long enough for the government.”

Roberts turned to him with a quick snap of leather. “And who do you think funds this project?”

“Goddamn it.” I kicked the bars and pointed a finger at my twin. “I told you, Shawn. They’ll never fucking let us go.”

He glared at me. “Calm the fuck down, Trent.”

Roberts looked back at me before returning his attention to Shawn. “I see your brother doesn’t share in your attitude for killing.”

“Then you don’t know him very well,” Shawn replied. “Or did you forget that scene in front of the house?”

“Oh, I haven’t forgotten anything about that night,” Roberts said. He paced between our cages, stopping a few feet past the edges of our prison before snapping around to walk back. “Where is Nicolette? And the one with the red and black hair.”

I quirked a brow. They don’t know Thalia’s name.

That’s a good thing, Shawn replied. “They’re safe.”

Roberts nodded and leaned toward Shawn. “At your place? We’ll find out soon enough.”

My throat closed with fear.

“Like you know where my place is, jackass,” Shawn replied. Try to link with Thalia.

I tried, but my mind remained blank, which had me on the brink of panic.

Stay calm. The Rhenium’s probably preventing it, which would explain the scream we heard outside.

Doesn’t explain why we can still talk to each other.

Sure it does. We’re twins. There isn’t a substance that can prevent our communication.

I nodded slowly.

“Fascinating,” Roberts said with a wide grin. “Simply fascinating.”

Shawn rolled his eyes. “Okay, so you want to study us. What the hell for?”

“The way you two move, everything you do, it’s like one person in two bodies,” he said. “Your movements are so fluid.”

“And you wanna build more like us, right?” I said with a snort. “‘Fraid that can’t happen unless you’ve got hyper connected twins in your ranks. Shawn and I have been like this since birth.”

Roberts shook his head. “Oh no, I don’t want vampyres. I kill your kind, remember?” He started pacing again, locking his hands behind his back. “No, we do intend to rid the world of you two, but we thought it would be a waste to pass up the opportunity to study you first. Of all the vampyres we’ve encountered, the two of you are quite different from the rest. The black sheep, as it were. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Shawn quirked a brow at me. “He’s not as stupid as he looks.”

I snorted. “I don’t know, he looks pretty damn stupid to me. Where’d you get that outfit, Roberts, the villain outlet store?”

He smirked. “Coming from the man who dresses just like his brother.”

“Hey, we don’t do that shit on purpose,” I said. “It just happens.”

“My point exactly, Trent,” he said, and stepped a lot closer to my cage. “You two are one.”

“We’re not going to be your test subjects for whatever sadistic purpose you have in mind,” I said.

He turned away from me. “We’ll see about that.” He turned his head to the side, nodded once, and resumed his pacing between our cages as guards walked Danny and Oscar out from behind the crates. Danny sneered and struggled while Oscar just trembled all over.

Fuck.

Roberts stopped right between Shawn and me. “I’m sure you know these gentlemen. I believe they arrived with you.” He slowly untied his coat and opened it. Then he reached inside and withdrew a katana.

I swallowed hard.

“I also believe there were more than these two, but they refuse to talk,” Roberts said as he made his way toward the two vamps. “So, gentlemen, how many did you bring with you? If you answer, neither of them will lose an appendage.”

“You can’t be serious,” I said.

“Hold on,” Shawn said quickly. “We had eight with us.”

What are you doing? I screamed at him.

Trust me, he’s not playing around, he replied. This isn’t a fucking video game, Trent.

I understand that, but

I’m trying to buy us some time. Look at my hand.

I shifted my eyes briefly to his hand and caught a faint flash of purple between his fingers before I averted my eyes again. Holy shit, it still works.

Yes. Get ready.

I gave a subtle nod and waited for my brother’s sign. Knowing him, it’d be huge.

I don’t know about you, but I’m expecting an explosion.

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Entwined

For your listening pleasure: tinysong.com/nOra

When the back of the chair broke, I’d left the breakfast nook to go hit my heavy bag once or twice in one of the back rooms so I wouldn’t do anymore damage to furnishings. Seeing someone else feed from Nico proved a bit more than I could take, which pissed me the hell off too. She was a fucking healer. What was I going to do when she did her damn job with other vamps that weren’tfemale? What if that’d been my brother instead?

Fuck. This just had bad idea written all over it.

Trent and Thalia took off not long after I returned. I heard my twin trying to convince Nico I wouldn’t hurt her. But the fear was still in her eyes as she stood in the kitchen, unmoving or unwilling to move because she had to get around me if she wanted to lock herself in the bathroom again.

I stared at the broken pieces of chair on the floor. If I couldn’t fix this, those pieces would symbolize our relationship. “Nico, look . . .” I said as I stepped forward, over a piece of wooden chair.

She took a step back, shaking her head. “Don’t come near me.”

I stopped and cocked my head to the side. “Do you really think I’m going to hurt you?”

“I don’t know you anymore,” she said, the words nearly catching in her throat.

“Don’t know . . . ?” I took another step toward her. “Are you fucking kidding me? You find out one new little thing about me and it throws your whole world off?”

“I wouldn’t call being a goddamn assassin little.” She’s trying to hide behind anger. It usually worked for her, but I could still smell the fear.

I held my hands out before me. “Okay, wait. You’re fine with me being a vamp—who kills people to feed, by the fucking way—but you’re not cool with me doing that for a living? Kinda fucked up moral system you got there.”

“Fuck you,” she shouted and bolted to get past me.

I stepped in her way and caught her around the waist. “You forget I’m faster than you.” My lips peeled back, exposing my fangs. Running on her part was a really bad idea.

“Put me down, Shawn.” She struggled against me.

“I can’t do that,” I said. “You’ll run.”

The fear returned to her eyes briefly as she looked up at me. “What would you do to me if I ran?”

I pulled in her scent as I closed my eyes, savoring it to the point I’d licked my lips before answering. “I don’t think you want to find out.”

She struggled even harder to get away, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy holding on to her. Nico was stronger than most. She knew at a young age she was quite different from the other kids. But fear was never really a factor for her before. It weakened her. Normally, she could put up a pretty good fight against any vamp. I’d seen evidence of it.

“Let go of me.” Fear irrationalizes everything. Nico’s a smart girl, but when terror was the overriding factor, all those smarts flew right out the goddamn window.

If she wasn’t dhampyr . . . “Nico, really, I’d suggest you calm the fuck down because this is doing one of two things to me right now.” I knew the scared dhampyr shit was because of her recent experience with Cianán—the fucker. I should kill him outright. She’d never put up with my shit before and she certainly wasn’t afraid of me then.

But to top off being a snack for the Druid master, she’d just become what dhampyr feared most—hunted by both humans and vamps. I saw the look in Cianán’s eye. It wouldn’t be long. And then it wouldn’t be long before others figured it out.

Which was the other reason I couldn’t let her go.

She froze, but trembled all over.

My gut twisted. Who the hell was this girl? Not my Nico, that’s for damn sure. I pushed her up against the wall and she let out a whimper. I grabbed her face.

“Open your eyes and look at me,” I said, a low growl rumbling in my throat.

She kept her eyes shut tight.

My hand flattened hard against the wall next to her. “Damn it, Nico, look at me!”

A tear ran down her cheek. My finger swept it up and I stared at the droplet.

Warmth flooded my mind and it dawned on me that perhaps I should be the one to calm down. I drew in a deep breath and relaxed my shoulders, letting my hand fall away from her face and dropping to one knee.

“Please, Nico . . . .”

I knelt before her with my head down.

“There’s a part of me, of my soul, that is so dark, it’s like a black hole; a void in space.”

She didn’t move, but I could tell she was watching me, listening to me.

“You’re the only light I have—” I swallowed hard, trying to choke down the words. It felt like Trent was the one talking instead of me. “—and I would die protecting you, keeping you safe.”

I knelt, still as a statue. She had to make the first move. Any movement on my part would send her careening around the corner and through the house . . . and it would kick start the predator in me.

Her fingers drifted through my hair, but I still didn’t stir. She needed to set aside her fears. They were new to her, so likely difficult to comprehend in her half-vampyre mind. Human fears she’d had yet to uncover in her twenty-five years.

I had to be a rock—her rock if she’d allow me. I realized that I wanted nothing more in this world than the beauty that stood before me. I wanted to tell her I’d stop . . . stop killing people for money, but the words hung in my throat.

“You won’t . . . hurt me?”

I grinned. “Not unless you want me to.” I tipped my head up to look into her chocolate brown eyes, and her hand fell, brushing the side of my face. I reached up and pressed her hand against my cheek.

The corner of her mouth twitched.

I stared resolutely into her eyes. “I love you, Nico.” I turned my head a little and kissed her hand. My nostrils flared at the scent of fear still lingering on her skin. Beneath that . . . chocolate. Nico was mine, and after watching two other vamps feed from her, I needed to mark her. I should have the last time I was with her. Cianán would have known then.

But that probably wouldn’t have stopped him.

She dropped to her knees and took my face in her hands. “Jesus, that must have been a real bitch to say.”

A grin split my lips, flashing fang. “There you are. Fuck, woman, you had me scared for a minute there.”

She cocked a thin brow. “You, scared? That’s laughable.”

“I know, right?” My arms slipped around her and pulled her closer to me, and my eyebrows jumped. “Wanna play predator and prey?”

“Is that what you were talking about with the running?”

“Yes and no,” I said. “If you ran scared, it wouldn’t have been a game.” A flash of fear hit her eyes. “Just remember not to run when you’re scared and all will be well with the world. You should know that shit anyway.”

She grinned. “Yeah, I do, but that dude kind of fucked me up.” She rubbed her neck where Cianán bit her. “It’s like I can still feel his fangs in me.”

“Really?” My brow dipped. Okay, this was not cool and shouldn’t be happening. “So where do dhampyr go when they need fixin’?”

She snorted. “Well, cowboy, they get themselves all fixed up on their own.”

“How?” I’d been curious about this for some time now. I’d had an idea she was dhampyr, but didn’t know if she needed blood or not—at least, not until a recent visit—because she never took it from me. During that visit, I’d smelled and tasted the blood on her lips. It pretty much connected the dots.

“Blood.” She traced a line down my neck, over the large vein pulsing with immortal undead life and likely her blood. “You’ve already given me some.”

“Do you need more?”

She grinned and nodded.

I let go of her and she slid off my lap. “Then I suggest you run.”