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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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For the first time, he thought perhaps the Sentinels hadn’t been tested so much as served as test subjects to answer the question: Was the Watchers’ fall unavoidable?
“You’re right, Captain,” Jason said, remaining on the porch. “This can never get out.”
Damien ran a shaking hand through his dark hair. “We need to clean this place.”
His hands fisting at his sides, Adrian continued to survey the damage. More than two lives had been lost here. A seraph had willingly mutilated herself in an attempt to fall. Then she’d tried to turn her lycan. If they’d succeeded, they would both be vampires now—a new class of vampire. And they would have opened the door to others to try the same. The mere knowledge of what they’d done held immeasurable power.
“Something went wrong here,” Adrian thought aloud. “Maybe ingesting lycan blood affected her fall. Maybe he could have Changed if she’d fed him her blood sooner. Maybe there was no way for them to succeed. We can’t know unless it’s tried again. Perhaps again and again. Whatever possibilities this desperate act might inspire in others must die here, with them.”
Although he spoke as if it could be contained, Adrian knew the idea would merely lie dormant for a time, waiting for another fertile mind to conceive of it.
He knew, because the idea had once been his, long ago.
And not so long ago.
CHAPTER 16
 
“She’s here in Anaheim.” Torque shielded his eyes against the headlights of a car pulling into the parking spot in front of his ground-floor motel room. “But Adrian’s been gone almost a month, barring a one-night visit over a week ago when he was seen out with her.”
“It can’t be Shadoe then,” Syre said with a sigh of regret.
“I can’t say that for certain. She has a lycan guard. If she leaves the hotel for any reason—which is rare—he’s with her. It’s possible that Adrian just doesn’t want to put her at risk while he’s hunting.”
“Leaving her with one guard? Away from the Point?”
“She’s working for Raguel and living on his property. She doesn’t need a lot of protection when she’s under the wing of an archangel.”
Syre exhaled harshly.
Torque frowned at the sound, hearing a wealth of disquiet and frustration in it. Not what he would have expected from his father while discussing Shadoe’s possible reincarnation. “What’s wrong? What aren’t you telling me?”
“You remember what Adrian said about Nikki? About her appearance and behavior?”
“Like I’d forget fucking lies like that.”
“Torque . . .” Another weighted pause. “I’ve received two reports of similar sightings. These came from within our own ranks.”
“Sightings of what?”
“Disease. Infection. You haven’t heard anything?”
“No. But the cabal here is successful because of its discretion. They keep to themselves and stay focused on watching Angels’ Point.” Torque’s spymaster cabals, known as the kage, were comprised of his most trusted minions, those who took orders without question and deeply respected that he was the son of Syre. “What kind of infection are we talking about?”
“Unreasoned aggression, mindless thirst. Adrian’s description of foaming at the mouth and bloodshot eyes has been corroborated.”
Torque sank onto the edge of the bed, his heartbeat quickening. “Nikki was only gone two days . . .”
His father’s worn, comfortable desk chair creaked over the cell phone receiver. “If it’s not possible for you to definitively establish the woman’s identity by the end of the week, I want you to come home. Depending on how widespread this sickness is, we could be looking at an imminent war with the Sentinels. We need to be prepared.”
A young family of tourists walked by Torque’s window, laughing and chattering with little regard for the lateness of the hour. He turned his head away from the simple happiness he would never know and looked at the clock on the nightstand. “I think it’s even more important that I find out who this woman is. Think about it, Dad. What if Adrian’s behind everything that’s happening? What if he’s deliberately staging these attacks to give him the excuse to come after you? It would make sense if the blonde is Shadoe.”
“A blonde?”
The pain in his father’s voice iced Torque’s blood. If the woman was his sister, they were as far from looking like twins as could be. “Yeah. And I’m dying my hair now to get the blond out. How ironic is that? I’ve got a job interview with her tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. That’s why I asked you to overnight the Fallen blood to me. I have to head out in daylight.”
“Did it arrive?”
“Yes. I’ve got it.”
“Vashti should be there shortly, if you need more. I’ll be waiting to hear reports from both of you.”
Torque was tired of waiting. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. In the meantime, think about the possibility of Adrian orchestrating these attacks and the illness.”
“He wouldn’t go to the extent of killing Phineas. They were as close as brothers.”
“Anyone will sacrifice a lot, Dad, if they’re desperate enough. It can’t be a coincidence that Vash is tracking Nikki’s abductor right back to the Point. While you’re investigating the reports of sick minions, see if you don’t also hear reports of vamp abductions.” Torque scrubbed a hand over his face, feeling weary and irritated by the chemical stench of hair dye. “I think what you’re hearing are carefully planted rumors, but if there’s any truth to them and Adrian is involved, he has to be abducting vamps to infect. And if so, someone out there is missing those who’ve been abducted. Like I’m missing Nikki.”
Missing her so badly it was eating him alive. Inside, it felt like he was screaming at the world through soundproof glass.
“I’ll look into it, son. As always, I’m grateful for your counsel.”
“Yeah, well, I wish we had better things to talk about.”
 
Lindsay glanced at the clock. She had fifteen minutes until her next interview. Although she knew she shouldn’t, she wanted to call Adrian. The phone call she’d just ended—the one to the bladesmith who fashioned her custom throwing knives—made her want to hear Adrian’s voice. She spent a moment spinning her phone around and around on her desk; then it rang. When she saw Adrian’s name on the caller ID, she snatched it lightning quick.
“Hey,” she answered, too fast. “I must have thought you up.”
“Lindsay.” He exhaled harshly. “I needed to hear your voice.”
Her smile faded instantly. “What’s wrong?”
“Everything. I . . . I lost a Sentinel last night.”
“Adrian.” She sagged back into her desk chair, knowing how seriously he took his commitment to his mission and his Sentinels. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk about it?”
“She did it to herself. I put her in a position where she felt like taking a fatal risk was her only option to being happy, and she paid with her life.”
“She had a choice,” Lindsay argued. “It’s not your fault she picked the option she did.”
He breathed softly into the phone. “Do you believe in leading by example?”
“Yes.”
“Then I have some culpability. And truthfully, I envy her strength of will. I’ve faced the choice she did. I didn’t—I
don’t
—have the courage to do what she did.”
The steadiness of his voice was more alarming than if he’d been noticeably upset. “She’s dead. That’s not courage; that’s nuts. You need to come home. You’ve been away too long, and you’re tired. You need a break.”
“I need you.”
Her free hand curled around the arm of her chair. She couldn’t help wanting to be the friend he needed. Just as she couldn’t stop wanting to talk to him about her new job, her weapons, her day—anything and everything. Because he
got
her. And she was pretty sure he felt that way about her in return. “You know where I am.”
He said good-bye and she hung up, her heart heavy with worry.
The dreams she had about him each night kept her connected to him. She felt almost as if she was seeing him every day, as if they hadn’t been apart since she’d left Vegas.
The night before she’d dreamt of them making love in a horse-drawn carriage. They’d been in costume. Something historical, like she’d seen in movie adaptations of Jane Austen stories. She’d climbed onto his lap, pulling up yards of skirts and underskirts while he unbuttoned a pair of breeches. As she’d enveloped his rigid length within her, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her, disheveling her upswept hairdo and freeing strands of long dark hair. Gripping her hips, he’d thrust upward with barely restrained ferocity, driving her toward orgasm with single-minded determination. His eyes had glowed with that preternatural blue flame as he grated,
“Ani ohev otach, tzel.”
I love you, shadow.
Lindsay was frightened by her understanding of a language she shouldn’t know. She was confused by both the vast differences in each dream—exotic locations and an endless spectrum of clothing from all time periods—and the repetitious similarities. Adrian was always with her. He was always in love with her, and she was always insatiable. Their time together was always marred by a pervasive sense of desperation and her greedy determination to conquer him no matter the cost. She was always a woman who loved Adrian with a dangerous disregard for the consequences, yet she was never the same woman. Her appearance, her culture, her language and background—it was all mutable.
Lindsay straightened, taking a deep breath to clear her mind. She was growing more scattered as the days passed. More restless and unable to concentrate. She needed to resume hunting. Until she made peace with her past, there would be no peace for her in the present.
The phone on her desk beeped a notice that her next interviewee had arrived. A moment later, a handsome young Asian man appeared on the other side of her clear glass office door.
She gestured him in with a smile.
He entered with a quick and confident stride. “Good morning.”
“Hi.” Lindsay stood, shooting a quick glance at his application to read his name.
Kent Magnus.
She liked the sound of it. As they shook hands, she felt herself responding to him immediately and surprisingly—he wasn’t human, but he wasn’t making her hair stand on end either. He was dressed in a loose pair of khaki Dickies pants and a short-sleeved black dress shirt. His smile was wide and charming, and when they shook hands, his grip was dry and strong.
Good or bad, she couldn’t tell, because she was hit with the overpowering feeling that she’d met and talked to Kent before. “Have a seat, Mr. Magus. Please.”
He waited for her to sit before he did. “The Belladonna is impressive.”
“Isn’t it?” A fact that made Lindsay’s discontent only more annoying. Her job was a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and she wasn’t appreciating it the way she should be. “You’re applying for the night auditor position.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I have to say, you’re overqualified.”
“I’m hoping the position has room for advancement . . . ?”
Lindsay gripped her armrests. The especially strong sense of déjà vu his presence evoked made the room tilt. The previous address he’d listed on his application was Virginia, a state she’d driven through many times. It was possible she’d crossed paths with him at a gas station or diner at some point. She blinked through the black spots dancing before her eyes, then made a concerted effort to get her brain firing on all cylinders.
Kent wore his hair cut short. Like hers, it was the same length all around. He also had a great build, with broad shoulders and thick biceps, but he wasn’t as big as a lycan. She made a mental note to have Elijah classify him for her.
“There’s definitely room for advancement,” she assured him. “I noticed you’re new to the area. I confess I’m worried about whether you’ll decide to stay or not. The West Coast is very different from the East Coast.”
“Have you traveled to the East Coast often?”
“I just moved from North Carolina.” Unable to shake off her wooziness, she stood. “Would you care for some water?”
He stood when she did, displaying the etiquette she expected in men but had found sadly lacking in most of the applicants she’d seen over the last two days. “No, thank you. So you and I were practically neighbors.”
Pulling a bottle of water out of the minifridge in the bookcase behind her desk, Lindsay was relieved to feel less disoriented after standing. She took a long drink and noted his wedding band. An inhuman who was married. That threw her for a loop. “The hours are from eleven p.m. until seven a.m., and the days are Tuesday through Saturday. Will that be a problem?”
“Not at all. I’m a night owl.”
“Your wife, too?” She didn’t mean to pry, but she also didn’t want to train a night auditor only to lose him a short time later.
All charm and humor left his face. His beautiful amber eyes revealed a deep sadness. “My wife recently passed away.”
His application said he was twenty-six. Far too young to have suffered such a loss. Then again, maybe he was thousands of years old like Adrian. Or even several decades like Elijah. “I’m very sorry.”
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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