Authors: Laura Wright
“Lucian?” she began.
“I’ll get us out of here,” he said quickly, his eyes darkening as the skin around his muscles tightened with strain.
Bronwyn bit her lip. “And then…”
“And then I’ll slit the throats of everyone responsible for putting you in my path.” He lowered his chin and said slowly and blackly, “Stay in the water.”
“Where are you going?”
“To find a way out of here.” With that, he turned and dove under the water. With great speed and precision, he swam toward the shore.
Two hours later, after investigating every inch of the “island” and finding nothing but vegetation and more water, Lucian stood on the sand, his chest exposed to the warmth of the false setting sun, his white hair shifting in the manufactured breeze, and faced reality. He could no longer act cavalier and brazenly confident about his ability to get them off this plane.
This was Cruen’s doing—this exquisite prison. It was obvious and purposeful and undeniably worrisome, and as night slowly descended around him, and Bronwyn continued to exist in the sea alone, stand on
her rocky perch under the water, Lucian fought for calm inside himself. He was growing weary from hunger, and the scent of her—even with the mark upon her hand and the sizable distance between them—was demanding entrance inside his nostrils.
Control was a funny thing. When you had somewhere to run to, to escape the call of blood, the need was no longer fierce. But without the escape hatch, desire chased you like a demon.
The flickering jabs of ferocity unnerved him, sobered him. He wouldn’t allow her to see his concern or his hunger. Just as he wouldn’t allow her to tell him what the Beast had said, what he’d predicted would happen to her, even though he had a pretty good idea.
He walked to the water’s edge. She was still out there, her unclothed form hidden beneath the water’s surface. Safe from his gaze, his need. For now.
She had to be getting cold.
He cupped his hands around his mouth and called, “Come out.”
“Can’t,” she called back.
“You can and you must. It’s growing dark.” He could practically hear her thoughts, her concern. “You can wear my shirt. It’ll cover…everything.” He took the extra-large button down and spread it out closer to the water, then walked away and kept his back to her.
She was silent for a good minute; then he heard her swimming, coming toward the shore.
It wasn’t his way. Chivalry and thoughtfulness. In his many years of life, Lucian Roman had considered only Lucian Roman. For the most part. But this
, the princess, she needed his care. Even if it was done sparingly and cautiously.
“Lucian?” she said after a few minutes, her voice closer now, perhaps just a few feet away.
“Don’t worry, Princess,” he uttered. “Eyes down.”
He wouldn’t look, but he wanted to. Hell, he wanted to so fucking bad he ached from nose to nuts.
She was quick putting on the shirt, and in under a minute, she called out, “Okay.”
He turned around, keeping his eyes off of her and those legs peeking out from under the white cotton that not so long ago covered the skin of his chest.
“Why don’t you sit?” He gestured to a huge chunk of palm he’d ripped from one of the trees. “It’s not the lap of luxury or anything, but it’s something. It’ll keep your ass off the sand.”
“Thanks.” She did as he offered, then pushed her knees up inside her shirt for warmth. And yet she continued to shiver.
“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I’m fine.” The quiet defeat in her tone bothered him. Bothered him more than it should. She was cold and scared—and fuck, he wasn’t going to touch her.
“Are you hungry?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Not yet.”
Good. Feeding her would be absolute hell. But he’d do it. If he had to, he’d do it.
“I’m just tired,” she said.
He felt her eyes on him, and he made the mistake of looking, of meeting her gaze. As always, her beauty was lush and undeniable, and had a strength he couldn’t relate to.
“You go to sleep,” he said, turning back to the water, scanning the horizon, the length of beach, for anything
that threatened. “I’ll keep watch. See if that brother of mine shows his face.”
Bronwyn did as he said, lying back against the long strip of palm. She was quiet for a while. Then out of the growing dusk, she whispered, “Lucian?”
“Yeah.” He glanced down at her, couldn’t help himself. Just as he couldn’t help the way his eyes moved over every inch of her: smooth legs under white cotton, the curved outline of an unbound breast, the delectable peak of one nipple pressing against the fabric of his shirt.
And the face, he mused with the grief of a captive
—that face held such exquisite beauty marred only by the strength of worry…
“It’s not a predicament,” she said, her dark eyes on his.
“No, it’s not,” he uttered.
Her distress tore at his gut. “It ain’t good.”
She curled her arms into her chest, her hands under her chin. “We’re stuck here, aren’t we?”
He scoffed, then shook his head. “Can’t be, Princess. Can’t be. Because if we’re stuck here, it’s only a matter of time before I turn into the Breeding Male.”
he son approached the father and inclined his head. It was as it had been decades ago when Cruen had gathered his young Beasts around himself and revealed to them how and why they were living inside the secret laboratory of an Order member. Cruen grinned as he recalled how each one had dropped his chin in submission and understanding—and most important, in allegiance. It had been a proud moment, nearly as glorious as the day he’d created the first Breeding Male. There had been no questions about the ones who had given birth to them, who had then thrown them away like so much rubbish. To each Beast, he was their family.
“Father.” Erion came to stand beside the metal table in Cruen’s laboratory, his size unnerving, his form that of a vampire. “It is done. They are together. Trapped. Ready to fulfill their destiny.”
“Very good,” Cruen remarked, returning to his work, his eyes pinned to the Titan 80-300 Cubed microscope
and the blood samples beneath. “It won’t be long now.”
“How will you know when the event has occurred?” Erion asked.
“I will feel the shift. I have always felt it.”
“The shift into Breeding Male status.”
“Yes.” He glanced up into the cold diamond eyes of the child who was not of his body, but of his creation. “I will call for you when it does. The moment they are released from my reality, you and your brothers will seize them.”
“You want both the Roman brother and the
Cruen nodded. “Where their purpose will be revealed to them.”
“And if they refuse?”
“If they refuse, put up a fight or play dead,” Cruen said, repressing his annoyance at these questions. “Just bring them to me.”
A slash of heat moved past Erion’s eyes, but he said nothing—merely nodded.
“You have work, do you not?”
Standing stiffly, Erion gave a sharp nod. “The caged one must be fed.”
“Let her know she will have her needs taken care of very soon.” Cruen grinned, then turned back to his blood sample. “Very soon.”
Bronwyn slept not. Her eyes refused to stay closed for longer than a few seconds. They either swept over the landscape in search of the one who had snatched her from her Veracou, or over the
who sat immobile and vigilant beside her.
The darkness of the Beast’s reality was not the same darkness of the real world. It was as though a lavender haze coated the sky and made all who sat beneath it ever wary.
Even Lucian Roman.
Especially Lucian Roman.
Sitting back on his heels, he was as alert as a bat, his body poised and ready to fly at anything or anyone who threatened them. It was strange to feel safe and protected by the very
she should fear.
“Aren’t you tired?” she asked him softly.
Lucian glanced down. “I don’t sleep.”
“Me either. Well, not lately anyway.”
“Too much on your mind, Princess?”
“Something like that.” The sad seriousness in his expression no doubt matched her own, and she expelled a heavy breath. “We need to talk. About why we’re here, what they want, what we need to—”
“No.” It was a solid and direct response. But it hardly deterred her.
“Lucian, come on.”
He shook his head. “Not yet. Not ever if I can get us out of here.”
“I’m beginning to believe that impossible. The thing that brought me here—”
“You may refer to him as ‘Dead Meat.’”
“Nicholas’s twin,” she said with a small smile. This was growing more difficult by the second. His attitude and unwillingness to discuss a course of action was making her more anxious. Did he think
wanted to talk about it? About what the monster had said to her?
She stared at his pale, beautifully startling face with all its sharp angles and fierce expressions. God, was it
better to bite her tongue and wait like he so obviously wanted? Or would waiting only make it worse.
She swallowed thickly, knowing it needed to happen. Knowing she should just let it rip. They needed to work together, be honest with each other. Now more than ever.
Sitting up, she braced herself on her arm and faced him fully. “He told me that you will be the next Breeding Male.”
The words left her tongue and hovered in the air. She watched him for a response, for his eyes to change and his lips to curl back. But there was none of that. In fact, he chuckled. But the sound wasn’t exactly merry. It bordered on bitter.
“Oh, that.” His jaw twitched and she felt him shift an imperceptible amount away from her. “It’s not like you didn’t suspect it.”
“I know. But I thought it couldn’t happen for another hundred years or so.”
“And it won’t.” He returned his gaze to the sea.
“Then everything is fine?” she said, her muscles softening slightly with relief. “The Beast was lying, trying to scare me—”
Refusing to look at her, he said, “It’s not exactly fine, Princess.”
“But you just said…”
“There was one thing in my long life that never attracted me. One thing I never allowed myself to do, to give. Perhaps I had a built-in deterrent. Perhaps I was just the selfish bastard everyone thinks I am. Until…” His eyes shifted to her mouth. “You.”
Bron didn’t understand at first. Her mind shuffled through memories and thoughts, confused and searching.
Until one stopped her cold. One night in Lucian’s bed, sick and starving. “Oh, God.” She licked her lips involuntarily. “Your blood.”
His gaze remained fixed on the water.
She shook her head. “You’ve never given your blood to anyone else before?”
It all made a terrible kind of sense to her now. You give, you get…It was the law of nature, be it a good outcome or a bad one. “Your cells changed when you fed me, didn’t they?”
He nodded. “But only halfway.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean only halfway? What does that mean?” Her mind reeled and wavered, tried to focus in on what she knew as a genealogist. “Are you saying that the change into a Breeding Male has two parts?”
She never knew, never suspected this. “One part blood and one part—?”
He turned then and his gaze raked down her body. “Sex.”
He said the word so quickly it stuck in the air, but after a moment it began to swirl, circle around Bronwyn with heavy intent.
“The Beast,” she whispered as the false sunlight broke through a false cloud and warmed her skin. “He said you would come here for that, for sex. He said you would plant your seed inside—”
“Cease!” He cursed under his breath, slammed his eyes back to the water. “I have the gene, okay! The change is inevitable, but as long as we don’t have sex,
you will remain
and I will remain myself for another one hundred and seventy-five years.”
“But you clearly have the urge—”
“I have the urge with every female, Princess,” he said flippantly. “You’re nothing special.”
Bronwyn would never have expected to feel such a profound pain slice through her with his words, but she did. It was her sad truth. She belonged to Synjon in word and promise, but her body, her unbeating heart…Well, unfortunately, they both seemed to want to belong to Lucian Roman.
She lifted her chin and pretended a meat cleaver hadn’t sliced her in two. “Maybe I’m not special to you, but your blood is inside me and that makes me special in a whole other way.”
His jaw tight enough to crack a couple of teeth, Lucian stood up. His strong, muscular body was momentarily bathed in sunlight, making him look like a god carved in marble.
“Nicholas’s twin said you would go after me,” she continued. “That we would…have sex here. That we would breed and you would begin your destiny.”
“It won’t happen,” he uttered with ruthless defiance.
“I’m glad you’re so sure of yourself.”
“Go to sleep.” He started walking away, toward the shoreline.
“Because I’m not all that sure of me,” she called after him. “Hey! Hey—I’ll admit it. Right here, right now, in front of you and whoever is listening or watching.” When he didn’t stop or turn around, she jumped up and ran down to the shoreline, grabbed his arm,
and yanked him to face her. “My body and my blood want it—they want you.”
“Try telling them both to fuck off—that works for me.”
She wasn’t listening to him. “But my heart…”
“Doesn’t beat, Princess. Just like mine.”
“Must you always be so cruel?”
“You enjoy my cruelty.”
“No, I don’t.”
“It’s what makes your mouth water and your pussy cream.”
She gasped, dropped his arm, and slapped him hard across the face.
He didn’t even flinch. “Oh, please do that again,” he whispered, his nostrils flaring.
Shaking now, her eyes filling with tears, Bronwyn slapped him again.
“More,” he hissed, his eyes blazing down at her as his body closed in. “One more time, Princess. Just to make sure I understand.”