Authors: Laura Wright
Bronwyn felt so helpless standing there in the middle of the entryway. She wanted to run to him, pity him, comfort him—but Lucian didn’t respond to that. Or wouldn’t. She forced down her own agony at seeing his suffering and fixed him with a glare. “If getting
back at Cruen is your goal, then offing yourself—as you put it—defeats the purpose, I believe.”
His gaze flickered up.
She continued. “Cruen wants his mild-mannered undead prize, undead.”
The grim line of his mouth twitched. “Smart-ass.”
“Yes, well, it takes a smart-ass to recognize an asshole.”
In that moment, that brief moment in the darkened entryway, she saw him—just a hint of the bad boy, the smart-mouthed
who had always teased her to the point of exhaustion. Her heart ached for that
, her body too…
“My brothers,” he began through gritted teeth. “They’ll come here.”
“Good. We need all the help we can get.”
He pushed away from the railing and hobbled past her, over to a window. With great effort, he yanked down one beautiful tapestry window covering and tossed it at her. “Here. Cover yourself.”
“Embarrassed by me,
?” she said, wrapping the fabric around her shoulders, grateful for the warmth even as she chided him.
“I wish it were that.” Pale and exhausted, he dropped right where he stood, his backside hitting the hardwood by the front door with a smack, his body slumping against the wall.
Bronwyn started to go to him, but he growled at her and shook his head. “It’s hard enough just having you in the same room. Nude, smelling like me, like sex. The more aroused I get, the less sanity I can hold on to.”
She swallowed and closed the fabric even tighter
around herself. The last thing in the world she wanted to do was torture him—not anymore, not in this way. “I’ll get some clothes for you too.”
He laughed bitterly. “What’s the point? Animals wear only their fur.”
“Well, since you have no fur as of yet,” she said, fighting for calm as she turned and headed up the stairs, “I’ll get you some clothing.”
“Fine,” he uttered, too tired to argue now.
She didn’t like that—the quick way he acquiesced. She needed to keep him mocking her, teasing her—she needed to keep him
. Again, she forced the light, playful sound into her tone and called over her shoulder, “And try not to feel too sorry for yourself while I’m gone.”
Lucian felt like a slab of steel that was being crushed, then flattened out, then crushed again. It took every effort to lift his head and watch her go. An effort he shouldn’t have bothered with. The curtain had shifted, and wasn’t covering her ass completely. He could just make out the twin curves of both smooth, soft cheeks. A surge of animal-like lust roared through him, but the weakness in his limbs forced him to remain where he was. Thank God for small and short-lived favors, he thought, his tongue lapping at the tips of his fangs as he watched her delectable heart-shaped ass move and sway in her hurried stride.
Fuck, he was in no position to stare at something he could never have again. But he would always remember. Remember it, remember her in his arms, that sweet, supple backside tucked in his hands as he pumped in and out of her body.
His teeth ground together. He’d give anything for
another round—hell, for weeks and weeks of rounds. But it wouldn’t be him holding her, touching her, moving in and out of her body. It would be the Breeding Male—the thing she despised, the thing that raped and hurt and could make only one reasonable decision—create
The shock of that thought weakened him further and he dropped back against the plaster wall and wished for death to take him. But the sound of a door smashing open and heavy footsteps on the hardwood had him pushing himself to stand.
His brothers stormed into the room, their faces masks of concern even in the dim light, their eyes taking in his nude frame, the hard cock between his legs, the pathetic, pain-filled fighting stance he was in.
“What the hell happened?” Alexander said, getting to him just in time to catch him when his legs gave out.
Dropping down on his haunches, Nicholas touched his shoulder. “Are you all right?”
Flinching from the touch, Lucian uttered a terse, “Fuck no, I’m not all right.”
Nicholas dropped his arm, concerned frustration coating his words. “What happened,
Lucian fixed his gaze on the far wall. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Like hell it doesn’t,” Nicholas said.
“It’s done!” Lucian returned with as much force as he could manage.
Alexander leveled him with a hard stare. “We need to know exactly what went down to help you, to fix this.”
He didn’t want to look at them, didn’t need to see the disgust-laden pity that would shadow their eyes
when they realized the truth. “You don’t get it,
. There is no fixing, no help. I need to be chained up or destroyed now.” He turned his gaze on them. “That’s the only
“Good, you’re both here.” Bronwyn hurried down the steps, dressed in jeans and a black sweater, her dark hair swirling about her face. She went straight to Alexander. “We were taken, sent to Cruen’s reality, and forced to…”
“Stop!” Lucian barked, then waved their concerned looks away. “What’s done is done.”
Cursing, Nicholas turned to Alexander. “That’s why they offered up a safe haven.”
“Who?” Bronwyn asked him.
“The Order,” Nicholas said, his voice a mass of despair as he put it all together—island, blood exchange with Bronwyn, sex, Breeding Male. “When we found out you both had returned, and that someone was after you, we went to the Order.” His gaze shifted to Lucian, the old anger riding his words. “But we were never pulled in. A certain member came to us in the Hollow, told us to get to you immediately.”
Titus. Lucian sneered. The one who had started this whole fucking mess with his seed! He slammed his hand back against wall. Damn! Felt good—that kind of pain, the self-inflicted kind felt good. “Too bad our father didn’t contact you while I was on the beach in Cruen’s reality.”
Bronwyn had given Alexander a bundle of clothes and the older
knelt in front of Lucian, his eyes trying to connect with his younger brother as he helped him tug them on weakly. “No one could get to you,
. We all tried.”
Titus could have gotten to him, Lucian thought bitterly, the clothes feeling like sandpaper against his tender skin. But why hadn’t he? Why was he always on the fringe of helping, but never fully committed? Hell, Lucian thought blackly—because he was just another seed spilled while he’d been in the grip of the breeding animal.
No matter what that
had said in the past, Lucian was no son to him.
Bronwyn was speaking then, and her words brought his attention back to the moment. “What about Synjon?” she said, her eyes on Alexander. “Is he with you? Did he come with you?”
“He went off on his own,” Alexander told her. “To look for you.”
Nicholas shook his head. “He should know where you are, should feel where you are. I know exactly where Kate is at this moment. I don’t get it.”
Like a tidal wave, indescribable pain flowed over Lucian, blanketing him in its misery, and he screamed like a dying animal.
Beside him, Nicky stared at Alexander for answers. “What’s wrong with this? Why is the transition to Breeding Male so drawn out?”
“Why isn’t it like morpho?” Alex added. “Quick pain, over and done. It’s like fucking torture!”
“I believe it was designed to torment,” Bronwyn said, her tone a grand attempt at sounding professional. “Throw the new Breeding Male into a maelstrom—into a pain so unyielding that his mind would shut down. A way of destroying any resistance to the gene taking full control of his actions.”
“Good,” Lucian growled. “Shut me down before I
turn into a fucking raping monster. I don’t want to know—don’t want to be aware of my actions or their outcome.” He gripped his skull as racks of pain went through him.
Nicholas put his wrist in front of his brother’s mouth. “Drink, Brother.”
Lucian swiped at the arm. “Get off.”
Again, the wrist was before him. “Titus said it would ease the pain while you go through the process. Like morphine to a human.”
Alexander stepped in and threatened, “Do it before I hold your lily-white head down. Do it before that Beast of a brother of ours—that
I never believed existed—shows up here and tries to get past the enchantments on our property.”
“He could drink from me.”
Lucian looked up at Bronwyn, at her sincere and worried expression, then quickly jerked away from the searing temptation. He wouldn’t stop if it was her.
“Do it, damn it,” Nicholas urged.
With a curse, Lucian bent his head and promptly bit down on his brother’s vein. Blood flowed into his mouth, onto his tongue river-quick. It wasn’t sweet and satisfying like Bronwyn’s blood, but it was strong and rich and he took deep pulls into his throat.
After a few minutes, he disconnected and lifted his head. He waited for the pain in his head, belly, cock, bones to recede—even a fraction. But as the moments ticked by, pain continued to slam him from all sides.
Help the pain, my ass,
he thought. It was like taking baby aspirin for the migraine from hell.
Barely took the edge off.
“We need to talk,” Nicky said, his expression dead calm, dead serious.
Lucian wiped his mouth. “So talk.”
“The Order has offered you safe haven until Cruen is caught.”
“What does that mean?” Bronwyn asked. “He’s under their protection?”
Nicholas nodded. “At a
. He will be”—he shook his head, the words coming slow and painful—“contained. He’ll have the blood he needs, everything, until we can—”
“I don’t want their help,” Lucian interrupted blackly, trying to stand. “I’ll get to Cruen myself.”
“Look at you,” Alexander said, gesturing to his
-like attempt to get on his feet. “You can barely stand, and you’re shaking like a junkie.”
“Is that right, Nicky?” Lucian rasped, gripping the wall for support.
Shrugging his shoulders against the bitter dig regarding his past addiction to the vampire blood drug,
, Nicholas said, “Hey—you have my permission to be the biggest asshole on the planet right now, little brother.”
Baring his fangs, still bloody from their meal, Lucian uttered, “Oooh, yum—
. My favorite snack next to dog shit.”
will find a way to get to you if you’re not protected,” Alexander said, then shook his head. “I still can’t believe a Roman brother would work for the enemy, betray his own.”
Nicholas grunted. “He is no Roman brother,
Then he turned his gaze on Lucian. “You can’t stay here.”
“Who says I am?”
“What is your plan, then?”
Standing now, Lucian attempted to move away from the wall. “Get myself lost.”
Alexander turned away, cursing. “I don’t believe you. You’ll be caught within a day.”
“That’s exactly what he wants,” Bronwyn added quickly. “He wants the
, the Beast, to find him and take him to Cruen. It’s like a double death wish—Cruen’s and his own.”
Lucian glared at her. “You’re a real peach, Princess. You know that?”
She shrugged dispassionately, but her large, expressive eyes told a different story. “They deserve to know the truth.”
“You’re fucking nuts!” Alexander raged. “You know that?”
“Yes, I’ve heard,” he snarled.
“Luca, clearly the Order knows what’s happened,” Nicholas said in typical Nicholas fashion. Trying to reason with the unreasonable. “They are deeply grieved—and I’m quoting them on that. I don’t use that kind of bullshit language.”
“Are they?” Lucian said with venom. “I must’ve missed the condolence bouquet and card. They sent it here? ‘Sorry for the loss of all reasoning and control.’”
“Lucian, you’re being a stupid ass, but more disconcerting is that you don’t seem to give a shit about anyone else’s feelings but your own.”
“Well, get used to it!” he raged, glaring at them all. “I am the Breeding Male!”
Alexander and Nicholas stilled, their eyes glued to their little brother as the truth in his words slowly sank in. It was a sobering moment for all of them.
“Take the safe haven, Lucian.”
They all turned to Bronwyn, who blushed, but didn’t look away from their gazes. “Please.”
“I want no safe haven,” he uttered, then sucked in a breath as pain hit him square in the chest. “If I have to live in chains, then I’ll be the one who decides when and where and who gets to have the honor of engaging the lock.”
Bronwyn sighed, her frustration evident.
He gritted his teeth. “Cruen is mine to destroy. I will be the one to take him down.”
Alexander shook his head. “Not possible.”
“Your skin, your eyes, every twitch in your body. You’re unstable as hell, and the moment you get in his presence, he’ll have you captured.”
Nicholas took over. “And then whatever plan he has for you will be on.”
“Fuck that,” he rasped. “I’ll die first.” Shivers, cold and pain-laced stuttered down his back, gripping each vertebrate, tugging, ripping…
Watching him, Nicholas sobered, asked in a soft voice, “How bad is the pain,
Through gritted teeth, Lucian managed to say, “Living inside a volcano.”
Nicholas put a hand on his shoulder, begged him to listen with his eyes. “We will track him down. Alexander
and I, and Dillon, if we can get to her. The Order said that Cruen may have a cure to stop the Breeding Male gene altogether—kill it dead. If he does, we’ll find it.”
Lucian despised the flare of hope in his chest. “They told me that too. I call bullshit.”
“You call nothing,” Nicholas said, as behind him Bronwyn leaned back against the opposite wall and shook her head in frustration. “If there’s even the slightest chance we can save you, we’re taking it.”