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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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There was a moment of hesitation; then Damien began relaying the details. “I didn’t get a lot of usable information out of Phineas’s surviving lycan. The beast was incoherent with grief. He did say that the vampire who attacked them was sick. I’m not sure if he meant physically ill or mentally twisted. The attack was especially brutal, so it could very well be the latter. Phineas’s neck was gnawed down to his spinal cord.”
Lindsay cleared her throat. “Lycans? As in werewolves?”
Adrian glanced at her. “Werewolves are demons. Lycans share a bloodline with them, which allows them to shape-shift in a similar manner. But unlike weres, they were once angels.”
“And as a heads-up,” Damien added grimly, “they get very offended if anyone calls them werewolves.”
“Angels.” Lindsay’s eyes were wide and dark, the irises a mere sliver of brown around dilated pupils. “Why didn’t they become vampires?”
“Because I needed reinforcement,” Adrian said. “We came to an agreement—I would petition the Creator to spare them from vampirism if they agreed to help me keep the vampires in line.”
“Were they part of the same group of angels, the vampires and the lycans?”
“Yes.”
Her only sign of disquiet was the way she twisted her glass of water back and forth on the countertop. “I’m sorry about your . . . Phineas.”
“My second-in-command. My friend—no, more than a friend. He was like a brother to me.” Adrian had retracted his wings during dinner, but they unfurled again, flexing with his inner agitation and thirst for battle.
Her gaze followed the upper curve of one wing, softening. He felt that tender look as if she’d touched him directly.
She slid off the stool and stood. “Do we know enough to hunt the bastard who killed him?”
Her use of “we” didn’t escape him. “We will.”
Damien shot her another look, this one less antagonistic than the previous. “From what I could gather, Phineas was ambushed. He stopped only to feed the lycans.”
“Where is the surviving guard?”
“I put him down.”
“I didn’t authorize that.”
“It was him or me, Captain.” Damien straightened his shoulders. “He charged me. I was forced to defend myself.”
“He assaulted you?”
“He tried. In my opinion, it was a deliberate suicide.”
Elijah had been correct in saying that no lycan would be able to watch their mate die on purpose—they couldn’t live without each other. But if the surviving lycan planned on dying shortly after . . . ? “Phineas’s wound—you said his throat had been gnawed on. Is it possible the bite wasn’t inflicted by a vampire?”
Damien’s head tilted to one side. “Are you asking if it could’ve been a lycan mauling? Yes, it’s possible, although I would wonder about the lack of blood at the scene. There was some initial arterial spray, but otherwise, he was drained.”
It was concerning that Phineas had walked into a snare. Sentinels weren’t susceptible to hunger, so it was the lycans’ prompting that led him to pull over where danger awaited him. If Jason’s speculation about a lycan uprising had merit, Adrian was facing a battle certain to spill over into mortal lives. He couldn’t afford to rule anything out. “Report to Jason now, then see me in the morning. I want to go over this again after you two put your heads together. That will be all for tonight.”
The Sentinel bowed slightly and left the kitchen.
Lindsay stifled a yawn behind her hand, reminding Adrian that she was mortal and her body was still running on eastern time.
“Let me escort you to your room,” he said.
Nodding, she rounded the island, her movements fluid and graceful, despite her exhaustion. “You and I need to talk tomorrow, too.”
“Yes.”
She came to a halt in front of him and crossed her arms. “You said you wanted me.”
“I do.” The urge to pull her close, to take her lush mouth and discover the taste of her was riding him hard. A purely human reaction he couldn’t control. They’d never worked together before, in any of Shadoe’s previous incarnations. Shadoe herself had remained neutral, preferring not to choose between her father and Adrian. This would be the first time they’d work in alignment, pursuing similar goals. The thought of sharing his true purpose with Lindsay, of being known in all ways for whom and what he was, affected him in ways he couldn’t have foreseen. “Want” seemed too tame a word for the power of his attraction to Lindsay Gibson.
Her lashes lowered, veiling her eyes. “How bad a sin is it to lust after an angel?”
“The sin is mine, for lusting after you.”
Her throat worked on a swallow. “And if it goes beyond just lusting? Am I going to get struck by lightning? Or worse?”
“Would that deter you?”
“I’d hoped I’d earned some brownie points by ridding the world of things like the dragon.”
“I’ll help you earn more.” He couldn’t wait to get started. Already, she’d proven herself to be remarkably resilient and adaptable. In a matter of hours, she had learned that the vampires and humans she’d thought she knew were only a small piece of a much larger underworld. And she had taken it all in stride, because she was a survivor, a fighter, a woman he anticipated having by his side in the days ahead.
“Will I need them?” Lindsay fell into step beside him. “You didn’t answer my question, so I’m thinking I will.”
“The sin is mine,” he repeated, leading her down the hallway to the room set aside especially for her. He always made room for her in his homes, as a reminder to himself of both his fallibility and his capacity for humanity. For him, the two were joined. He couldn’t have one without the other, and he had neither without Shadoe.
They reached Lindsay’s bedroom door. He opened it for her but didn’t move inside. As unavoidable as his transgression was, it was resistible—for now. It wouldn’t be for long. Not after going without her for as long as he had. And Shadoe’s innately assertive sexuality only upped the stakes. Whether she reincarnated during bawdy, adventuresome epochs or in eras of inhibition and repression, she was always quick to seduce him. And he was always quick to fall.
Lindsay stepped into her room, but hesitated just beyond the threshold. She spoke over her shoulder. “It probably wouldn’t.”
Adrian arched a brow in silent query.
“Deter me,” she clarified.
He was smiling when she closed the door.
CHAPTER 7
 
“You’re going to teach her how to hunt her own family? Her friends?” Jason asked, following Adrian into his office.
“She’s already doing that.” Adrian rounded the desk. “And she’d continue with or without us. This way, I’m giving her a chance to survive.”
Jason whistled. “After all these years, you’re still an angel.”
“Did you doubt it?”
“No. But there are some who wonder if Syre’s daughter makes you . . . human.”
Not Shadoe herself, but his love for her. Mortal love was not for angels, whose objectivity must be absolute. “Those who have doubts should take them to the Creator. I need the trust of everyone in this unit. If I’ve lost it, I’ve lost my usefulness.”
“You’re well loved, Captain. I can’t think of one Sentinel who wouldn’t consider it an honor to die for you.”
Adrian settled into his chair. “As I consider it an honor to lead you all. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.”
“It’s just hard not to feel restless.” Jason scrubbed a careless hand through his blond hair. “Our job is to babysit the Fallen forever. ‘They shall never obtain peace and remission of sin. They shall petition forever, but shall not obtain mercy.’ Sometimes the punishment seems as much ours as theirs.”
“So be it. We have our orders.”
“And that’s everything to you.”
“As it should be for you. What are we, if not Sentinels?”
Jason hesitated a moment, then smiled sheepishly.
“Right.” Adrian returned the conversation to his immediate concern. “I want Lindsay put into the training rotation as soon as possible.”
“How? She’s as fragile as an eggshell. She may hold her own with other mortals—maybe even a vampire or lycan with the element of surprise—but hand-to-hand with a Sentinel? Very few beings can survive that.”
“We all know our own strength. It’ll be good for us to pay more attention to how we use it.”
“At what cost?”
“She’ll be an asset.” Adrian swiveled his chair around, absently noting the lightening of the sky that signaled the coming dawn. “No one sees her coming. That stealth can be useful to us in a variety of ways.”
“Use her as bait?”
“As a distraction.”
“She’ll definitely be that.”
Adrian addressed the slightly mocking note he heard in his lieutenant’s tone. “Do you have a problem with your orders?”
The smile left Jason’s face. “No, Captain.”
“In the last forty-eight hours, the two highest-ranking Sentinels were attacked. You saw the minion on the helicopter—she was diseased—and Damien mentioned possible illness in his report on Phineas’s attack. I’ve ordered updates from all the Sentinels in the field. I want you to sift through them as they come in and see if there are similar mentions there.”
“What are you thinking?”
“One or more of the Fallen is giving their blood to enable these minions to come after us in daylight. Syre called me about the pilot, so he was aware of her location, but he sounded genuinely surprised by my assertion that I was attacked unprovoked. He suggested that it wasn’t in her nature to make such a move.”
“You know you can’t trust him. He jacked her up with some kind of drug, then called to see how you fared in your run-in with her. How else would he know she was with you?”
“Right. That was my thought from the beginning—that he was playing innocent to dodge the blame. We both know he wouldn’t call me about just any vamp, so his interest alone speaks to his guilt. But when I mentioned the attack on Phineas, he didn’t say a word. I didn’t expect him to take responsibility for it, but the lack of any acknowledgment whatsoever . . . ? No denial, no questions to fake ignorance, nothing? I find that really fucking strange. He can’t trust me any more than I can trust him, so he’d never admit that his control over the Fallen is slipping. Maybe he’s feigning cluelessness about the attacks, but if he’s not and he really has no idea what’s going on, there could be a cabal or even a coven of vampires out there who are setting us up to war with one another. They can’t take Syre down, but they know I can and that I will if he’s gone rogue, which would leave the field wide-open for a coup.”
Jason’s brows rose. “Hoping you’ll do the heavy lifting? Fuckin’ A. It would be poetic justice if we completed our mission because of a vampire revolt.”
Adrian had ceased to think in terms of justice and injustice long ago. “I need to know if Syre is behind these attacks or not. Regardless of his culpability or innocence, we can use the information to weaken his hold on the Fallen. Either he’s deliberately jeopardizing their dreams of redemption or he’s jeopardizing them through neglect. Neither is helping their cause.”
“Their
hopeless
cause. You want to turn the Fallen against Syre?”
“Why not? As you said, a revolt would benefit us. Especially if he’s making it easy to incite one.”
“I’m on it.” Jason left.
Adrian decided a workout was what he needed to shed his lingering restlessness. Lindsay would wake soon. He needed to have a clear mind to solidify his plans for her before then.
 
Lindsay stirred from her dreams before she was ready. Part of her mind still clung to sleep, longing for another touch of wickedly knowledgeable hands, another whisper of firm lips across her throat, another brush of silky white and crimson wings . . .
Her eyes opened on a soundless gasp, her heart racing and her skin hot. She was painfully aroused, her thoughts filled with flame blue eyes and raw, sexual words spoken in a purring voice of sin.
Scrubbing a hand over her face, she kicked the covers off and stared at the exposed wood beams above her head. Her future had taken a monumental detour when she’d caught Adrian Mitchell’s eye. Her life had been so black and white before—get up, go to work, come home, and in between kill anything that set off alarm bells. Now everything was so complicated.
Lindsay rolled out of bed and crossed the massive bedroom to a private bath that was the size of her old apartment back home. There was a fireplace by the bathtub and a stunning mosaic in a shower that had six showerheads. She’d never even stayed in a hotel as luxurious, yet she felt comfortable and at ease. Despite the opulence, the overall effect was soothing. The soft yellow and blue palette kept the space light and airy, a look she gravitated to because her life could be so dark.
After washing her face and brushing her teeth, she returned to the bedroom and found her gaze drawn to the unadorned wall of windows facing the west. The view was of rocky hills covered in dry native brush. The vista inspired feelings of remoteness and isolation, but she knew the city wasn’t far away.
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
13.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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