With Teeth

For your listening pleasure: tinysong.com/gHne

 

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

Roberts turned away from Trent. “We’ll see about that.” Then 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. Damn newbie.

Fuck.

Roberts stopped right between Trent 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 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,” Trent said.

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

What are you doing? Trent asked me through the link.

Trust me, he’s not playing around, I 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.

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

Yes. Get ready.

He gave a subtle nod and waited for my sign. I’m sure he’s expecting an explosion, and I may just give that to him.

“Eight, aside from yourselves?” Roberts asked.

“Correct,” I said. “Good luck finding them now. I wouldn’t bring a vamp into this compound that couldn’t port out of it.”

Roberts raised his katana in front of Danny. I nodded to Trent before sending a burst of magic at Roberts. Trent did the same thing, only his wrapped around the two vamps, shielding them, while I held Roberts’ sword.

“Sorry, man, I can’t let you harm them,” I said. “Especially that one. His sister would kill me, and she’s a better slayer than you’ll ever be.”

Roberts struggled with the blade, attempting to free it from my magical grasp. “Kill them!”

About that time, Trent and I shielded ourselves, each in a ball of purple energy just like the ones Trent had around Danny and Oscar. I tilted my head up at Trent, who then raised Danny and Oscar into the rafters while shots ricocheted off our shields. I watched as several of Roberts’ men dropped from their own bullets. Even Roberts fell to one knee with a howl of pain.

“You didn’t know we could do this, did you, Roberts?” I said. “Your fucking Rhenium may block our vampyric powers, but not our magic.”

Trent laughed. “How’s that knee feel, Roberts? Here, let me help you out with that.” Trent swung his other hand around, and from inside his cage it looked as though he grasped at nothing, but outside was a different story. The way our magic worked is that it’s like an extension of our limbs, so really, Trent decided to wrap a hand around Roberts’ knee, digging his thumb into the bullet hole.

Roberts screamed.

“Oi!” I shouted at my twin and jerked my head up to the ceiling.

“Shit,” he said and let go of Danny and Oscar. Danny could shield himself. “Sorry,” he shouted up to them.

Danny gave a nod as he wrapped himself and Oscar in a green shield. Then he pulled his own damn katana out of thin air and jumped over to where the controls were for our cages. We couldn’t mist out, port out, or touch the metal, so Danny would have to free us. It was the only way.

He sliced and diced the guy at the controls, then started punching buttons. The cages began their slow ascent, and Trent and I stood ready, continuing to shield ourselves.

Trent knocked Roberts other leg out from under him in the meantime. It was kinda funny to watch.

I let go of Roberts’ blade and it fell to the floor next to him. Then I pushed out with my hands, sending a shockwave of magic toward his men. They fell, ran in all directions before crates toppled over them, and soon, Roberts was the only one left.

I kept my shield up, not trusting that we were alone just yet, and I looked over to Trent, who’d released his grip on Roberts.

“Yo, that was too fucking easy,” I said.

He nodded. “But they didn’t know we could do that.”

I shrugged. “Maybe they did.”

He raised a brow. “Let’s find out.” Trent stepped forward and picked Roberts up by his coat lapels. He still had his shield around him, but it was more form-fitting now rather than a bubble.

Danny landed at my side with Oscar. “How’s he do that?” He’s asking about the shield.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. We just think it and it happens.”

Trent shook Roberts. “Did you know about the magic?”

Roberts mumbled and his head lolled to the side.

“I call bullshit on the way he’s acting,” I said as I stepped up to them. I grabbed his leg and lifted the pant leg up to look at his wound. “Yeah, just a fucking graze, mother fucker. Talk.” I pressed my thumb against the wound and he screamed. Okay, so it was a bit more than a graze, but he shouldn’t be all non-communicative like that.

“Didn’t . . . know,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Riiiight,” I replied. “Trent, hang him.”

Trent grinned. “With pleasure.” His magic extended his hands in smoky versions of the limbs, carrying Roberts up toward the rafters. Then a chain fell from the ceiling and wrapped around his neck. He gasped and clutched at the chain. Guess that woke him up.

Atem dropped from the walkway above, landing next to Oscar and scaring the shit out of the poor excuse for a vamp. “What is he doing?” His voice was thick with a Sudanese accent.

“Fucking around, apparently,” I said, and I slapped Trent’s shoulder. “You gonna kill him or what?”

“What the fuck do you think the chain is for?” he replied in a snarl. He let go and Roberts’ full weight hit the chain.

I tipped my head up at Atem. “The others make it out okay?”

“Yes.”

“Who screamed?” I asked.

“That was Oscar,” Danny replied.

“Where the hell is Xander?” I asked Danny.

“He vanished quick,” he said, and pointed to Oscar. “That’s when Oscar screamed because he’d turned around and there were guys with guns everywhere.”

“I’m gonna kick his ass,” I said, and looked around. “What about Vinnie and them?”

He shrugged.

Atem cleared his throat. “Scott, he is hiding in that first building. I do not think they found him.”

I nodded and looked up at Roberts, who was still moving around, kicking at the air. “Fucker takes a long time to die, don’t he?” I pulled my Kimber, aimed, and fired a shot at him. “That should do it. Atem, go find Scott and the others. Meet us at the rendezvous point.”

He nodded and quick as a flash, he was gone.

I then slapped Danny upside the head. “What the fuck? You didn’t think about using your magic before all that shit Trent and I did?”

He shrugged. “I guess not.”

I pointed a finger at him, pressing the tip against his chest. “I’m tellin’ your sister if you die it’ll be your own damn fault.”

“Go ahead,” he replied. “She’ll probably agree with you.”

Trent snorted and I fought to keep the anger, but I quickly lost the battle. “Fucking asshole.”

Danny gave me a big toothy grin and pushed up his glasses. Fucker didn’t really need to wear them anymore. I guess it’s like a security blanket for him.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here already,” I said.

“Still wanna torch the place?” Trent asked as we head toward the side door. Apparently, they’d coated the damn building with Rhenium because none of us could port. That shit wasn’t cheap, either. Guess it didn’t matter if the government was paying for it.

“What, and draw more attention to the place?” I said and stepped outside. “Fuck that. There’s gonna be enough to deal with once that ivy moves past the fence.”

“Not our problem,” Trent said, and vanished from my side.

“Good point,” I mumbled. I took one last look around, conjured up a fireball the size of a softball, and tossed it behind me, through the open door.

So long, Roberts. Do me a favor and don’t rest in peace.

I disappeared to meet up with the others, and look at that, they were all there.

No casualties in my group. I count that as a major win. Score one for the vamps.

 

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The Wretched

For your listening pleasure: http://t.co/vcGxDWZ

Both Trent and I vanished from my front step and appeared in the desert, near the compound.

Trent looked around the dark barren landscape, his eyes settling on the seven vamps in front of us. “It appears Oscar’s lost again.”

Danny shook his head. “I swear, that boy really needs to learn this shit.”

“Well, somebody go find the dumbass,” I snapped before whirling on Trent. “I’ve got it. What about a virus none of us can carry and that kills so quickly, there’s no chance anyone could escape?”

“Does that even exist?” Trent asked.

“Of course it exists,” I replied. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re talking about our government.”

“Why are we talking about viruses?” Danny asked as he stepped up to us.

“Shawn wants to drop one into the compound,” Trent replied.

“Hey, you had the same fucking idea,” I said. “Don’t put it all on me.”

“Yeah, I know and I’m not, but you have Nico to think about,” Trent said, and he grabbed my left arm. “Thalia is a vamp like us and whatever we did wouldn’t hurt her, unless it had Rhenium in it, but Nico’s half human.”

“Fuck,” I grumbled and spun around to pace, pulling out of his grasp. “Okay, fine, we’ll just go shoot the goddamn place up.”

“Now, now, we need to consider that too,” he said and took a step forward. “They have the Rhenium coating their blades so it’s likely on the ammo too. We can’t just barrel in there like we would any other place.”

“It is on the ammo. I’ve already had a bullet in me.” I scratched my chin, and wondered how the Cabale would have known where I was for that job. Interesting. I’d have to look into that later. An idea hit me and I grinned widely. “Not to worry, twin. I’ve got a plan.”

Trent really didn’t like the smile on my face, judging from the expression on his. He thought it meant pain. I could see the worry in his eyes, but he should know me. I wouldn’t do anything that’d get him killed.

Usually.

Besides, if they killed my twin, I’d be hell-bent on revenge, and that’s sort of my trade. It wouldn’t be the best idea to place me in that position.

Danny appeared with Oscar at his side. I could see the boy was embarrassed as all hell, since he wouldn’t look at me, so I decided to embarrass him some more.

I pointed at Oscar. “Your new nickname is Nemo.”

“Like Captain Nemo?” he asked with a creased brow.

“No, like the fucking clownfish,” I said, “because we’re always looking for your lost ass.” I stepped closer to him, towered over him and leaned forward. “You need to learn coordinates—longitude and latitude. They’re really not all that difficult.”

“Hey, I was taught in the public school system here,” he said.

“That’s no goddamn excuse,” I said. “So were Trent and I.”

“Yeah, but you guys were in the military.”

I looked at Trent. “I’m tellin’ ya, it should be a fucking requirement.”

He nodded with a chuckle. “What’s the plan?”

“All new vamps need to go through some sort of boot camp, but as far as tonight goes—” I growled at Nemo and stepped into the center of their circle “—here’s what we’re going to do . . . .”

* * * * *

I crouched just outside the electrified chain link fence and studied the compound from a distance. I’d already described the area I’d been in previously to the others. So why’d the fucking place look deserted?

“Shit, I think they’ve vacated,” I said. The lights were still on, but I couldn’t see any guards in the towers or elsewhere.

Trent frowned. “Did anyone see you last time you were here?”

I slapped a hand to my face. “Mother fucker.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said.

“I left the son of a bitch alive, and a few others saw me.” I stood up. “I just wanted to find Nico. Let me go scout real quick.” I vanished from the perimeter.

I appeared right in front of the last door I saw before porting to Ireland. Fucking thing was wide open. The vines were still there too. I stepped through the doorway and took a quick look around, listening for any sign of life. All I could hear was the hum of computers and the ventilation system . . . and the vines still crawling along the floor. At the rate they grew, the whole place would be covered in a few days. A large ivy plant growing in the middle of the desert? Yeah, try to hide that shit from the public.

Once I knew the place was clear, I linked with my brother. I need you or Danny in here.

His voice popped into my head. You need to be clearer than that. What do you need exactly? We have different skills.

I need someone who can hack into the Cabale’s shit. Which one of you can do that?

Danny’s on his way.

Fucking liar. I knew he could do it too. Then again, maybe he just wanted to make Danny feel useful. Poor little geek boy.

A second later, Danny appeared just outside the door. He ran a hand through his straight black hair, adjusted his wire frame glasses. He looked like a Japanese Harry Potter.

He whistled low. “What’s with the vines?” he asked and took a step inside, taking care to not touch the moving plant.

“Trystan was here,” I replied, and then pointed to one of the desks. “See if they’ve wiped the system.”

“No shit?” Danny walked behind the console and sat at the computer. “What was she doing here?” His fingers flew over the keys as he worked his way into the system. I took a look around again.

“Fuck if I know. They probably captured her. I’m gonna check some other areas,” I said. “I’ll have the others come over here first.”

I stepped outside and crept around the corner. When I could see them, I signaled Trent. Yo, it’s clear in this building.

The seven of them ported over to me and looked around, hands on weapons, just in case.

“Danny’s in this building, hacking in,” I said. “I’m gonna check the other buildings. Trent, you come with me. Oscar and Xander, go in with Danny and keep your eyes open. He needs to work without interruption, so that’s your job.” They nodded and walked inside. “Vinnie, Miguel, and Paul—you go check that small building. Don’t engage if you don’t have to. Just scout it out and report back to Danny.” The three vanished, and I had only two left—Atem and Scott. “I need you two to look at the building near the front of the compound, okay?”

Atem gave a quick nod and vanished before Scott could twitch.

“Well, don’t just stand there, Scott,” I said. “Go cover the man.”

“Sorry, he’s like a fucking phantom,” he said and vanished.

I shook my head and started walking toward the biggest building in the compound. “I swear, these newbies. Where’d he find them?”

Trent walked at my side. “Hell if I know, but the new ones are practically all we have left. I think you’re right about the training shit. If the Cabale are still here, those guys won’t make it out alive . . . except maybe Atem.”

I nodded. “Xander’s not too bad, though.” He agreed and we both ported closer to the building, materializing next to one of its walls. I signaled to Trent to go high and I’d go in at ground level. He gave a short nod and disappeared.

I held my Kimber up as I walked along the wall until I found a door. It was unlocked, so I pulled it open and peered inside. The place looked pretty dark, but my eyes could pick up even the minutest of details right down to the dust-covered shelves.

Looks like a warehouse, I said through the mind link as I entered quietly. Crates stacked high along the walls. I carefully made my way through the maze to the opening in the center.

Perhaps their weapons supply, Trent replied.

I grinned. We should blow it up.

Laughter filled my mind. I don’t think so, pyro. I thought you preferred the stealth shit.

I did until they kidnapped my girl. My eyes scanned the center, picking up its details—steel floor, which made me think there might be something below. You see this?

Trent appeared at my side. All clear up there, as far as I can tell. He looked at the floor. Looks like there’s a lower level.

We walked out carefully, scanning the area with our eyes and guns as we covered each other. Our movements perfectly opposite of one another—I’d step forward and he’d cover my back, the direction we came from; he’d move ahead and I’d take his place. That way we got a nice three-sixty view.

It fucking stinks in here, he said.

Burnt vamp flesh. Now we know what they did with Seth.

Trent growled low, barely audible to normal human ears, but loud enough in my ears to make me turn around. His glowing purple eyes met mine, signifying his anger and that the magic was ready to come out and play.

Anger isn’t going to help, big brother, I said calmly. Let’s see if we can find a door that leads below.

He nodded, spun around, and took a few steps away from me. It looks like a trap, he said in my mind.

It is, I replied right as the metal cages dropped on us and locked into place. I briefly closed my eyes, until I heard Trent stepped forward in his cage.

He grabbed the bars and yanked his hands back, but not before I heard the sizzle. Fucking Rhenium-coated iron. Shit.

Fuck! Can you—

I tried, but nothing happened. Apparently, Rhenium could not only burn us, but the fucking shit could trap us as well.

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

Danny, GET OUT! Trent screamed through the mind link.

In the distance, outside, I heard the scream of a vamp. I hoped it wasn’t Danny. His twin, Dana—a vamp slayer—would kill Trent and me, if we survived this mess.

Mother. Fucker. Roberts was a dead man.

Valentine (NSFW)

For your listening pleasure, a little love song: tinysong.com/q9hP

This is likely NSFW ‘cause I say shit like ‘fuck’, ‘cock’, and all manner of swearing . . . you know, the norm for me, only better. *grins* Hey, if you haven’t figured out by now that my posts aren’t safe for work, it’s your own damn fault.

A grin split my lips and I flashed fang at the woman I loved. “There you are. Fuck, woman, you had me scared for a minute there.”

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

Just hearing the sarcasm drip from those lips had my cock twitching in my jeans. Her voice always sent a current of the shivers through me—the good kind.

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

She trailed a finger down the side of my face as her head tilted. “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. “You should know that shit anyway.”

She smiled. “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, Shawn.” Her voice quivered a bit, the fear still lingering. A nice healthy dose of it hit my nose.

“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.

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?” My cock pressed against the fly of my jeans, begging to come out and play.

She grinned and nodded.

Oh, it was so on . . . I let go of her and she slid off my lap. “Then I suggest you run.”

With a sly grin, Nico got to her feet and bolted around the corner. I counted one . . . two . . . three’s a good number . . . and jumped up. I ran down the hall, following her giggles around corners, through passageways and rooms. My loft wasn’t small by any means. It’s the one good investment I’d made recently.

It’s her fault. She’s got me thinkin’ all responsibly and shit now. Fuck.

Halfway down the hall, I removed my Roy Rogers and socks. I needed the stealth with this woman. She had vamp hearing. Yeah, I could just port, but where was the fun in that? I came around the last corner and drew in her scent, which mixed with the damn air freshener, throwing me off a bit. I crept into the room, ears perked and listening to any sound not associated with the settling of the foundation or the heat that just kicked on. Very faint breathing, in the corner, behind the door . . .

I jumped back and swung the door shut.

Nico screamed and ran to her right, across the room, but she didn’t get halfway before I snatched her up.

“Gotcha,” I said and threw her over my shoulder. I slapped her ass as she struggled and laughed. “You’re terrible at this game, ya know. We’ll need to practice.”

“Sorry, I’m not used to running from vampyres,” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied as I carried her down the hall. “You’re used to running them through with your sword. That doesn’t kill them, you know.”

“I know,” she said and pinched my ass. “It makes them think before fucking with me, though.”

I jumped a little. “Hey, watch that.” A grin split my lips and my hand slid up her thigh, running around the back to the inner thigh.

She jerked. “Shawn!”

“What?”I said all innocent-like. I stopped in the hallway and looked around. It was like a fork in the road, essentially. “Where should I go? The bedroom?” I turned so Nico could look down the hall. “The rec room? Nah, we just came from that direction.” I turned again. “Or the patio on the roof?”

“Not the roof, unless you want the whole neighborhood to hear me,” she said.

“Patio, it is,” I replied and turned around to head in that direction.

“Shawn, no, it’s too cold outside right now.”

“I’ll warm you up,” I said and reached for the doorknob.

She kicked the door shut right as I opened it. “No!”

“C’mon, Nico, stop fuckin’ around,” I said and went for the knob again.

She pushed herself upright and slid through my arm, dropping to the floor. “I am not going outside!” A low growl came from her and she pushed me back.

My right brow cocked a second before I pinned her against the frosted glass door, grabbing her wrists and holding them above her head against the door. “How ‘bout right here, then?” She hissed and I pulled back to look at her. “You got fangs? Let me see.”

Her upper lip pulled back to expose little fangs.

“Aw, ain’t those cute?” I said.

Nico wriggled a hand free and slapped me. “Shut up. At least I can control mine.”

That, she could because I didn’t even know she had them until now. I chuckled. “Just teasin’ ya, babe, but hey, if you wanna get rough, I’m game.” I grinned. “Go on, hit me again.”

“You’re such a freak,” she said.

“Tell you what, I’ll let you go and you can run again . . . and hopefully do a better damn job of it this time.” I winked.

“Why would you need to let me go?” She pushed herself away from the door and slammed into me with her right shoulder. Then she pulled her other wrist free as I went down, and she jumped over me and ran down the hall.

I lay on the floor, laughing. “Well, shit.” Sly little minx, that one was. “Ready or not, here I come!”

I vaporized and appeared in front of her. She ran right into me, and I wrapped my arms around her and picked her up. “Ha! Gotcha again.”

“That’s cheating,” she said and slapped my chest.

I vanished with her to the bedroom. “We’ll start in here.”

Nico broke away from me, but when she backed up, her legs hit the edge of the bed and she went tumbling back onto the mattress.

I pulled my T-shirt up over my head as I laughed. “Well, that’s one way of climbing into bed.”

She licked her lips as she stared at my chest.

I leaned forward and grabbed her pant leg, tugging twice lightly before her fingers went to the button and zipper on her jeans. Once undone, I yanked her pants off as she slid back further on the bed. I climbed forward, over and between her legs. My head dropped low at her navel, and I took the hem of her T-shirt into my mouth and tugged with a growl.

She giggled and fell back.

Bitch was going to make me do all the work. Ah, fuck it, it was Valentine’s Day, right?

I slid my hands up her sides, catching her shirt between thumbs and fingers, and pulled the cotton tee off. I braced myself above her with one arm, and my other hand slipped behind her head and I pulled her up for a kiss. Her left leg slid up and anchored on my hip, and I pressed my groin against her. A soft moan filtered into my mouth. I nipped at her lower lip and made a trail of kisses and licks and nips down her neck. My hand slipped beneath her and unclasped the black lace bra, and I pulled it off and tossed it behind me.

Nico’s nipples were perfect. Dark pink, not too big or small, but I could seriously hang her bra on one of them. I loved that. My tongue flitted around one, drawing a gasp from her when I bit down and sucked.

Her back arched and my hand grabbed her side before gliding to her hip and working her lacey boy shorts off. I slid off the bed, pulling her with me until my knees hit the floor. My lips graced her inner thigh as I propped her legs right where I wanted them before my tongue flicked her clit.

She gasped and shuddered.

I grinned and slid my tongue along her pussy, savoring the way she tasted. Even that had sweetness to it, just like her blood, and man did I have a sweet tooth.

Nico writhed on the bed as I worked to bring her pleasure, my thumb placing just the right amount of pressure on her clit while my tongue plunged into her. My cock was so fucking hard by then that I damn near stopped what I was doing and dropped my pants. But I needed to do this for her, and I’d fucked up enough lately.

She moaned and clutched the bedspread. Then she looked me right in the fucking eye, which would be a huge turn-on for me if she was blowing me, so I had to wonder if it was the same for her.

Her back arched hardcore and I grabbed her hips tightly, burying my face in her so I could finish, until she screamed my name so loud I wished we’d been on the damn patio. Guess that answered my question.

I slowly climbed up, lifted her and carried her further back on the bed, and had to unlock her legs from around me so I could get my pants off.

“Just give me a minute, babe.” I hopped off the bed and dropped them, then crawled across the bed to my beautiful naked Nico. “Where do you want to bite me?” I grinned.

She held a finger to her lips while trying to decide. It was so damn cute. “I think the neck. I love your neck.”

I lay back and turned my head to the side. “I’m all yours, beautiful.”

“And when I’m finished drinking from you?”

I grinned. “If you leave me some energy, I’m gonna fuck you all night.”

She giggled. “Tell me what I want to hear, Shawn.”

I looked her in the eye. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Nico. I fucking love you.”

“I love you too, Shawn.” Nico leaned over me, and when I turned my head again, she bit into my neck.

Holy. Fuck. That felt fucking awesome!

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.”