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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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A helicopter waited on the pad in front of them, its whirring blades churning the oppressively dry and gritty air. Its rounded side was emblazoned with both MITCHELL AERONAUTICS and Adrian’s winged logo.
“You have doubts.” He focused on the details because he couldn’t afford to vent his fury now. Inside, he was shattered by grief over the loss of his best friend and trusted lieutenant. But as leader of the Sentinels, he couldn’t appear diminished in any way. Phineas’s death would send ripples through the ranks of his elite unit of seraphim. The Sentinels would be looking to him for strength and guidance.
“One of his lycans survived the attack.” Despite the roar of the aircraft’s engine, Jason didn’t need to raise his voice to be heard. He also didn’t cover his seraph blue eyes, despite the pair of designer shades perched atop his golden head. “I find it a bit . . .
odd
that Phineas was investigating the size of the Navajo Lake pack; then he gets ambushed on the way home and killed. Yet one of his dogs survives to call it in as a vamp assault?”
Adrian had been utilizing the lycans for centuries as both guards for the Sentinels and heeler dogs to herd the vampires into designated areas. But recent signs of restlessness among the lycans signaled a need for him to reevaluate. They’d been created for the express purpose of serving his unit. If necessary, Adrian would remind them of the pact made by their ancestors. They could have all been turned into soulless, bloodsucking vampires as punishment for their crimes, but he’d spared them in return for their indenture. Although some of the lycans believed their debt had been paid by their predecessors, they failed to recognize that this world was made for mortals. They could never live among and alongside humans. Their only place was the one Adrian had made for them.
One of his guards ducked low and pushed through the air turbulence created by the helicopter blades. Reaching the aircraft, the lycan held the door open.
Adrian’s power buffered him from the tempest, allowing him to proceed without effort. He looked at Jason. “I’ll need to question the lycan who survived the attack.”
“I’ll tell Damien.” The wind whipped through the lieutenant’s blond locks and sent his sunglasses flying.
Adrian snatched them out of the air with a lightning-quick grasp. Vaulting into the cabin, he settled into one of the two rear-facing bucket seats.
Jason occupied the other one. “But I have to ask: is a guard dog that can’t guard worth anything? Maybe you should put him down to reinforce that by example.”
“If he’s at fault, he’ll pray for death.” Adrian tossed the shades at him. “But until I know otherwise, he’s a victim and my only witness. I need him if I’m to catch and punish those who did this.”
The two lycans dropped onto the opposite row of seats. One was stocky, a bruiser. The other was nearly equal in height to Adrian.
The taller guard secured his seat belt and said, “That ‘dog’s’ mate died trying to protect Phineas. If he could’ve done something, he would have.”
Jason opened his mouth.
Adrian held up a hand to keep him quiet. “You’re Elijah.”
The lycan nodded. He was dark haired and had the luminous green eyes of a creature tainted with the blood of demons. It was one of the points of contention between Adrian and the lycans that he’d transfused their seraph ancestors with demon blood when they’d agreed to serve the Sentinels. That touch of demon was what made them half man/half beast and it had spared the souls that should have died with the amputation of their wings. It also made them mortal, with finite life spans, and there were many who resented him for that.
“You seem to know more about what happened than Jason does,” Adrian noted, studying the lycan. Elijah had been sent to Adrian’s pack for observation, because he’d displayed unacceptable Alpha traits. The lycans were trained to look to the Sentinels for leadership. If one of their own ever rose to prominence, it might lead to divided loyalties that could spark thoughts of rebellion. The best way to deal with a problem was to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Elijah looked out the window, watching the roof recede as the helicopter lifted high into Phoenix’s cloudless blue sky. His hands were fisted, betraying his breed’s innate fear of flying. “We all know a mated pair can’t live without each other. No lycan would ever deliberately watch their mate die. Not for any reason.”
Adrian leaned back, attempting to ease the tension created by restraining wings that wanted to spread and stretch in a physical manifestation of his pained rage. What Elijah had said was true, which left him facing the possibility of a vampire offensive. His head fell back against the seat. The need for vengeance burned like acid. The vampires had taken so much from him—the woman he loved, friends, and fellow Sentinels. The loss of Phineas was akin to severing his right arm. He intended to sever far more than that from the one responsible.
Knowing his sunglasses wouldn’t hide the flaming irises that betrayed his roiling emotions, he shuttered his gaze . . .
. . . and almost missed the glint of sunlight on silver.
He jerked to the side by instinct, narrowly missing a dagger slash to the neck.
Comprehension flashed.
The pilot.
Adrian caught the arm reaching around his headrest and snapped the bone. A female scream pierced the cabin. The pilot’s broken limb flopped against the leather at an unnatural angle; her blade clattered to the floorboard. Adrian released his harness and spun around, baring his claws. The lycans shot forward, one on either side of him.
Without a guiding hand at the stick, the helicopter pitched and yawed. Frantic beeping sounded from the cockpit.
The pilot ignored her useless arm. Using the other, she thrust a second silver dagger through the gap between the two rear-facing seats.
Bared fangs. Foaming mouth. Bloodshot eyes.
A goddamned diseased vampire. Distracted by Phineas’s death, he’d made a fucking major oversight.
The lycans partially shifted, unleashing their beasts in response to the threat. Their roars of aggression reverberated in the confined space. Elijah, hunched by the low roof, pulled back his fist and swung. The impact knocked the pilot into the cyclic stick, shoving it forward. The nose of the helicopter dove, hurtling them toward the ground.
The wailing alarms were deafening.
Adrian lunged, tackling the vampress with a midsection hit and smashing her through the cockpit window. Free-falling, they grappled.
“One taste, Sentinel,” she sing-songed through froth, her eyes wild as she struggled to bite him with needle-sharp canines.
He punched into her rib cage, rending flesh and splintering bone. Fisting her pounding heart, he bared his teeth in a smile.
His wings snapped open in a burst of iridescent white tipped in crimson. Like a parachute deploying, the thirty-foot expanse halted his descent with teeth-rattling abruptness, ripping the beating organ free of the writhing vampire. She plummeted to the earth, trailing acrid smoke and ash as she disintegrated. In his hand, the heart still pumped, spurting viscous blood before losing life and bursting into flame. He crushed the fleshy organ into a pulpy mass, then tossed it aside. It fell in burning embers, billowing away in a glittering cloud.
The helicopter whined as it spiraled toward the desert floor.
Tucking his wings in close, Adrian dove toward the aircraft. One lycan peered out the windowless cockpit, his face blanched and eyes glowing green.
Jason shot out of the damaged helicopter like a bullet. He circled back, his dark gray and burgundy wings a racing shadow across the sky. “What are you doing, Captain ?”
“Saving the lycans.”
“Why?”
The ferocity of Adrian’s glare was the only answer he deigned to give. Wisely, Jason banked and came around.
Knowing the beasts would need to be spurred through their innate terror of heights, Adrian compelled the one standing in the cockpit.
“Jump.”
The angelic resonance of his voice rumbled across the desert like thunder, demanding undeniable obedience. Mindlessly, the lycan tumbled into the open sky. Arrowing directly toward him, Jason snatched the guard out of harm’s way.
Elijah needed no compulsion. Exhibiting remarkable courage, the guard launched himself from the doomed aircraft in an elegant dive.
Adrian swooped under him, grunting as the muscle-heavy lycan slammed onto his back. They were mere feet away from the ground, close enough that the beating of his massive wings sent sand twisting upward in spiraling gusts.
The helicopter hit the desert floor a heartbeat later, exploding into a roiling tower of flames that could be seen for miles.
CHAPTER 2
 
There was a walking wet dream in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.
Lindsay Gibson spotted him at her boarding gate during a cursory surveillance of her immediate perimeter. Arrested by his raw sensuality, she slowed to a halt in the middle of the concourse. A low whistle of appreciation escaped her. Perhaps her luck was finally turning around. She would certainly welcome a silver lining after the day she’d been having so far. Her takeoff from Raleigh had been delayed almost an hour and she’d missed her original connection. From the looks of it, she had barely made her rebooked flight, if the number of passengers standing by the gate was any indication.
Finishing her assessment of the crowd around her, Lindsay returned her attention to the most decadent-looking man she’d ever seen.
He paced sinuously along the edge of the waiting area, his long jeans-clad legs maintaining a precisely controlled stride. His thick black hair was slightly overlong, framing a savagely masculine face. A cream-colored V-neck T-shirt stretched over powerfully ripped shoulders, hinting at a body worthy of completing the package.
Lindsay pushed a lock of rain-damp hair back from her forehead and cataloged every detail. Unadulterated sex appeal—this guy had it. The kind you couldn’t fake or buy; the kind that made handsomeness a bonus.
He moved without looking, yet unerringly avoided a man who cut through his path. His attention was occupied by a BlackBerry, his thumb rhythmically stroking over the trackpad in a way that caused places low in Lindsay’s belly to clench.
A drop of rainwater slid down her neck. The cool, slow trickle heightened her physical awareness of the guy she was devouring with her gaze. Behind him, the view of the tarmac revealed a gloomy gray late-afternoon sky. Sheets of rain pelted the windows framing the terminal. The inclement weather was unexpected, and not just because there’d been no rain in the forecast. She always anticipated weather conditions with uncanny accuracy, but she hadn’t felt this storm coming. It had been sunny when she landed, then began pouring buckets shortly after.
Usually, she loved rain and wouldn’t have minded having to step outside to catch the interterminal bus to her connecting flight’s gate. Today, however, there was a morose quality to the weather. A weight of melancholy, or mourning. And she was empathetic.
As long as she could remember, the wind had spoken to her. Whether it shouted through a storm or whispered through stillness, it always conveyed its message. Not in words, but in feelings. Her dad called it her sixth sense and he went out of his way to act as if it was a cool quirk to have instead of something freakish.
That inner radar drew her to the luscious man by her gate as much as his looks did. There was a brooding air about him that reminded her of a brewing storm gathering strength. She was strongly attracted to that quality in him . . . and to the lack of a wedding band on his finger.
Pivoting, Lindsay faced him head-on and willed him to look at her.
His head lifted. His gaze met hers.
She was hit with the sensation of being buffeted by the wind, the gusts whipping through her hair. But there was none of the chill. Only heat and seductive humidity. Lindsay held his stare for an endless moment, riveted by the drawing pull of brilliant azure irises, eyes that were as tumultuous and ancient as the fury of the weather outside.
Inhaling sharply, she turned and walked to a nearby gourmet pretzel shop, giving him the opportunity to chase her obvious interest . . . or not. She knew instinctively that he was a man who pursued.
She reached the counter and glanced up at the menu. The smell of warm, yeasty bread and melted butter made her mouth water. The last thing she needed before sitting on her ass for another hour straight was a carbohydrate bomb like a giant pretzel. Then again, maybe the rush of serotonin would soothe nerves jangled by the sensory input from the large number of people around her.
She ordered. “Pretzel sticks, please. With marinara sauce and a diet soda.”
The clerk relayed the total. Lindsay dug into her purse for her wallet.
“Allow me.”
God . . . that voice. Tantalizingly sonorous. Lindsay knew it was
him
.
He reached around her and she breathed in his exotic scent. Not cologne. Just earthy, virile male. Crisp and pure, like air cleansed by a rainstorm.
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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