Authors: Laura Wright
Dillon’s entire body flooded with anxiety as she fought to keep her head clear of thoughts.
“Hey,” Gray said, his hands on her back, his tone worried now as she began to shake. “What’s wrong? What the hell is it? Do you know where this guy is?”
“Get out,” she uttered.
Gray cursed. “Don’t lose it, D. Don’t lose your mind over this. It’s not worth it. I’ll swear to that.”
“Get the fuck out of here. Now!” Slowly, she turned to him, her eyes wide, her entire body trembling. “You heard that, right?”
Gray didn’t say anything for a good five seconds; then he nodded and stood up. “That I heard,
She returned to her wall.
“You need anything,” he said, “just pick up that phone on the table behind you. I’ll be here before your next breath.”
She said nothing, thought nothing.
Then she was alone.
Her mind free.
But her body, not so much.
Bronwyn’s hands moved over the smooth skin of her belly, still flat, yet beneath a life was growing. A life she had sworn to love: to him, to herself—and to the
. And she would. She would with everything that was in her no matter what came her way. And there would be much coming her way after she left the wild beauty of the Scotland
, the calm protection of the cottage and the not-so-calm protection of the Breeding Male.
She released the grip on her belly and reached for the shirt she’d laid out on the bed. In a wave of sweet- smelling cotton, she dropped it over her head and pulled. Evening was coming on now, and as it had always been for her, contemplation bloomed in the night, like jasmine. Loving her
was not the question or the concern that plagued her heart now. What worried her were the things surrounding her announcement of her child. And she would announce it, to her parents, to Syn, to anyone who asked—for she was not ashamed, would never be ashamed of her child. And to that end, she would make certain her daughter knew the pride she felt for her.
Bron reached for her skirt and stepped into it, then put on her shoes. Synjon, her dear friend, would no doubt offer to remain by her side if she wished, stay with her out of duty and loyalty, maybe even offer to claim the child as his own. But Bron would never do that to him. She would never do that to him or to her child.
had a father, and though he would be an
unreachable, impossible force someday, it didn’t change the truth.
Just as it didn’t change the way she felt about him, the depth of her love for him.
It wasn’t unreasonable to think that her parents would reject her for lying to them, shaming them, but that would be their shame alone. She was no longer the fearful
, the child who had only cared for a planned and safe future. She was a
now, grown, passed through into her Meta and come out the other side someone who understood true love. That would sustain her—that and the vow she’d made to her unborn
to be a strong and capable mother.
Dressed and ready, she left the room she now shared with her lover and ventured down the hall and into the living room. There she paused and let her gaze rake over the very fine specimen standing near the fireplace.
“Well, well, Lucian Roman,” she said with appreciation, yet undisguised confusion. Black jeans encased his long muscular legs, and the thick black sweater that stretched across his wide chest made his white hair glow and his pale, savage eyes smolder. She had to swallow before she continued. “Don’t you look nice this eve.”
“Thank ye, lass,” he replied in the Scottish brogue that was becoming standard in his speech now. “But it’s nothing to how fine you look.”
As his gaze moved over her covetously, she smiled. “So, did you dress up for our farewell, or are you headed out like me?”
He looked suddenly annoyed, then grumbled, “I’ve decided to accompany you to town.”
“Really?” she said, surprised—knowing she’d heard him correctly, but not believing it.
“I suppose the dog must follow its mistress.” His eyes narrowed.
As did hers, but not on his face—on his wrist. “Yet the dog seems to be without his chain tonight.”
“I smashed it against one of the rocks down at the loch. Finally broke the piece of shit off, but I may have broken my wrist right along with it.”
She went over to him, took his wrist in her hands—so thick and strong, like another part of him, she thought wickedly. Her eyes lifted. “Does it hurt?”
He caught her wicked glare and the corners of his mouth lifted. “Unbearably so,
She blinked once, twice. “Shall I blow on it for you?”
His gaze went hot and heavy-lidded, and he inhaled deeply. “How ’bout you blow me, I blow you, and we blow off this bullshit in town.”
Though her skin tingled, and her core clenched in the memory of just such an action earlier that day, she shook her head.
He growled. “Fine.”
“Come on, now. We’ll have fun.”
He snorted. “What we’ll have is weapons. I have two blades hidden on my person right now.”
“I’m sure that will go over well in town.”
“We must be vigilant, Bron. Always.”
“We are protected here. The Order’s magic is very strong.”
He looked utterly unconvinced. “And then there is the small issue of how unkindly we may be treated. You understand what might go down there, right?”
She sobered somewhat. “I do.”
His chin dropped, his eyes darkened. “Do you also
understand how I will react if they do? Or God help them, if they say anything to hurt you?”
“I understand,” she said, holding out her hand for his. “Ready?”
He looked down at it and barked.
Her laughter echoed through the cottage, and when he swept up her hand in his own and she gently blew his pain away, they left the safety and comfort and seclusion of the cottage and walked out into the cold evening air, completely unaware of the three words being carved into the exterior stone wall of the cottage behind them.
Beware the Beasts.
hile Dillon continues to refuse us,” Alexander said, his tone heavy with frustration as he walked the tunnels below the SoHo house with his brother, “Whistler never does.”
Nearly as on edge as Alex, Nicholas snorted with derision. “Where there is only a price to be met, things are far simpler.”
“The Eyes are the only simple path we tread these days.” Alexander checked his weapon…just in case. “Luca is contained, and though I hear reports of his well-being, I grow in concern.”
“As do I.”
“Bronwyn’s mate has not only been impossible to locate, but refuses to keep in contact with us as he seeks Bronwyn—the one vampire whose location is known to us. Ladd still has no father—you still have no
, and we have no Cruen or antidote to the Breeding Male gene.”
Nicholas released a weighty breath. “Let us see if this one can shed any light on our smorgasbord of troubles, shall we?”
Up ahead, at the very end of the tunnels, where stone wall met iron stairs leading to the subway, Kate and Sara were waiting with a very familiar member of the Eyes.
Alexander went directly to his mate, while Kate met Nicholas halfway, then returned with him to the nervous-looking Eye.
Nicholas offered no pleasantries to the Impure, just a demand for information. “Do you have a location for us, Whistler?”
The male shook his head. “No one can get to Cruen. Not even the Eyes. Not even with the kind of currency you’re willing to put out. It’s been attempted, but the only ones who can find their way in and out of his laboratory are his children.”
“Children?” Alexander repeated, his brow furrowed. “That piece-of-shit member of the Order has spawned?”
Whistler shook his head. “They are not from his body. They are foundlings, what he calls his Beasts.”
,” Kate said, her gaze first on her true mate, then on Alexander. “Sara and I spoke with Whistler before you arrived. It seems Cruen has several
in his compound.”
Nicholas stiffened beside him.
“That bullshit legend again,” Alexander sneered, his gaze narrowing on Whistler. “How much are we paying you for these lies?”
is no legend, I assure you,” Whistler told him, his eyes as serious as the Romans had ever seen
them. “More like a nightmare. A living nightmare.” He paused, then glanced at Nicholas. “The
, your twin, was born with this mutation.”
“So I’ve heard,” Nicholas uttered through clenched teeth.
“And he is one of them. One of Cruen’s adopted pack.”
gasped, while Nicholas remained composed, though his tone was cold, steely. “This is insane.”
“And impossible,” Alexander added quickly. “There is no such thing. No one has ever seen one, no one—”
“They are seen at birth only,” Whistler said, every inch of him looking as truthful as a saint. “They shift immediately into their Beast state when air enters their lungs. Understandably, when this happens, the mothers are horrified. They want nothing to do with it, and get rid of it as quickly as possible.”
“Get rid of it,” Nicholas repeated, a bristle of ire coating his words now. “How do they manage that?”
Whistler shrugged. “Sometimes the mother will suffocate it, drown it—sometimes the father will drain it of blood.” He glanced at both Kate and Sara, who had begun to utter words of horror, shaking their heads. “You must understand, a
is a bad omen on a
. The parents, family, all would be ostracized by the community—singled out by the Order as a
who produces the mutant gene. They might even be killed themselves. To most, these are soulless beings, wrong, beneath even the lowest of animals.”
“I don’t believe this,” Alexander said, though he didn’t feel altogether certain of his opinions anymore.
Would that truly happen? A mother killing her
? He cleared his throat, wondering for a moment if his own mother had wished to do such a thing to him when he’d exited her body. Only stopped because the Order deemed a child of the Breeding Male of higher value to themselves.
Beside him, Nicholas remained on one direct path. “I know my brother wasn’t killed at birth.”
Whistler nodded. “No.”
“What happened to him after he was born?”
Whistler’s gaze faltered. “Some
are thrown out like trash after their breath has been extinguished; some, only a few, survive—”
“You mean survive their botched execution,” Nicholas said blackly.
Whistler nodded. “They are sold into a slave trade.”
“Oh God,” Kate uttered, gripping her mate’s hand.
“For what purpose?” Nicholas said.
Whistler shook his head. “Anything the vampire who buys it wants. Sex, servant, toy.”
Nicholas growled. “Call him an ‘it’ again and you will feel the wrath of my fangs, Whistler.”
Ready to give in, give up his belief and his rant that
were nothing but myth to be feared, Alexander asked, “How many are there like this?”
“It’s impossible to tell.
are very uncommon. Death is still the preferable way to deal with them. The ones who survive must be low in numbers, to stay undetected.”
“The Order must know about them.”
“I would believe so, and they would be killed outright. They cannot be allowed to exist, much less reproduce.
Though they are Pureblood and descendants of the Breeding Male, they aren’t
—they aren’t worthy of breath and life.”
“Cruen was a member of the Order,” Kate said, watching her mate’s horrified expression. “And he had these
from infancy. Clearly the Order did nothing to harm them.”
Whistler shrugged. “Cruen has done many things the Order has no knowledge of, yes?”
Pacing the floor of the tunnel, Nicholas said, “You said my brother is with Cruen—you called him Cruen’s child.”
“From what information I could gather, Cruen bought five
infants from a flesh seller in London and brought them home”—Whistler shook his head, as if this was an odd thing he was saying—“and raised them.”
“As his own
?” Nicholas asked, his black eyebrows lifted.
Whistler nodded. “That, and as weapons, as soldiers.”
Stopping, Nicholas turned and eyed Alexander. “Cruen may send these weapons to fetch the prize he wants so much.”
Though his gut clenched, Alexander shook his head. “Lucian is protected in the
. No vampire can get past the Order’s charms.”
Whistler made a sound, a soft, uneasy sound that made them all turn to face him. “Remember,
are not just vampires,” he said. “They have a very different genetic structure. The Order’s magic may or may not keep them out.”
was a dark, cold, miserable village that scented of animal shit and housed a community whose stares and jibes about his sire had made his young belly ache every minute of every hour of every day. As Lucian walked through the gates and down the path toward the center of town, he had very little belief that what he was about to walk into would be any different. But this time he didn’t care. This time he wasn’t looking to be accepted or welcomed. In fact, he almost hoped they’d try something…just a little something so they could see what he’d turned into—what their unfeeling, ungenerous ways had helped him become.
Unfortunately, that looked as though it wasn’t going to happen.
Immediately upon entering the town square, Mai rushed up to them, her skirts long and blue, and waving prettily in the gentle breeze, just like her hair. She laughed a rolling laugh as Bronwyn quickly smothered her with a hug.