Authors: Dana Marie Bell
“You’ll see.” Shane slung an arm around his mother’s shoulder. The poor woman was so tense she jumped. “Let’s go inside and have a nice cup of tea. Okay, Ma?”
“But, Moira.” Aileen refused to allow her son to turn her, keeping her gaze focused on Jaden. She was wringing her delicate hands. Jaden was worried she’d start ripping off fingers if she tugged any harder. “Where is Duncan taking my daughter?”
If I know my bond brother, to the nearest bed.
“Probably back to Dunne’s new house.” He pointed to Leo, who was cuddling his wife close to his side. Ruby was a delightful armful, with rounded breasts and hips and a pouty mouth that Jaden, under other circumstances, would have loved to taste. “Don’t worry.” He stared down the road. He couldn’t catch even a fleeting glimpse of the limo. “Your daughter’s with the best man I know.” He turned to face them again and plastered a smile on his face. “Tea sounds good.” The bow he gave them was exaggerated. He was delighted when Ruby giggled. “Shall we?” He offered the brunette his arm, grinning when she took it. He stuck his tongue out at Leo and sauntered into the house with the newest Dunne, trying his best to pretend that he wasn’t bleeding to death inside.
Las Vegas, two weeks before Christmas…
Jaden danced across the floor, wondering what the fuck was wrong with him. He was starving, and not just for blood. But none of the many hot, available bodies called to him. Hell, at this point he’d be willing to
for a body that appealed, but none of them did. Not one, damn it. Not even the blond with the blue eyes whose build so reminded him of…
Okay, not going there.
Jaden loved a big, strong man, and dayum if that guy didn’t have big and strong down to an art form. Not even the stupid Santa hat detracted from his looks.
Then the guy had to go and ruin it by lifting some little twink up in the air and almost dropping him.
Jaden laughed and rolled his eyes.
He hit the edge of the dance floor and made his way through the crowd, pausing only long enough to check his watch. Almost two thirty, and he still hadn’t fed
gotten laid like he’d originally planned. As a vampire he couldn’t even get good and drunk without a little veinicular help.
Jaden sighed and propped up a wall. It was pretty fucking bad when the best part of the evening was a lame vampire joke. He hadn’t been laid in more months than he could count, and sucking without fucking was, well, chocolate without peanut butter. Coke without rum.
Turner without Hooch.
Jaden rubbed his chest. The ache that kept him from following that blond’s tight end right to nirvana had been growing by the night. He knew exactly who to blame for it too.
Damn it, he missed them. He missed them both so much it hurt.
He grimaced and stared down at the small Asian woman in front of him. “Yeah, I’m good.”
She shook her head, her glossy black hair shimmering under the lights. “If you’re hungry I could feed you.” Her startling eyes looked up at him with a mild expression, almost as if she was offering to order him something off the dollar menu at Taco Bell.
Akane Russo had the weirdest eyes of anyone he’d ever met. One eye was dark brown with a startling light hazel star in the center. The other eye was a pure light hazel. Black brows were a straight slash above them, giving her a stern expression.
Those eyes freaked him the fuck out every time he saw the woman. Considering how many times they’d worked together over the years, he’d found himself freaked out quite a lot. He’d long ago become used to the sensation and counted her as one of his few real friends. “Nah. I’m good.”
One brow rose in disbelief. It was almost Spockish in its elegance. “You sure? You look really hungry, Jade.”
He grinned and tried to make it look like he meant it. “I’ll be fine.”
She shrugged. “All right then. But eat soon, okay? I’d hate to have to hunt your ass if you go feral.” She started to walk away, ignoring his shiver, but before she got very far she turned back. That golden star in the center of one of her eyes widened. “There’s something different about you.”
He had no idea what she was seeing, but there was a curiosity in her expression he could live without. He had no desire to be dragged off to her lair and dissected. “My shirt is new. It’s Marc Jacobs.” He spun, making sure to leer at her over his shoulder. “You like?”
Her eyes rolled, the star shrinking to its normal proportions. “Please. I’m probably the only piece of ass in this bar not interested.”
He wiggled his butt, confident she would turn him down. “You sure?”
She laughed, the sound remarkably sweet from a woman he’d once seen rip the head off a Black Court vampire. “I’m sure. I don’t poach, remember?”
He frowned and wondered what the hell she was talking about. Before he could ask she waved good-bye and headed back to the dance floor.
“Freaky ass dragon bitch.”
She glared over her shoulder at him. “I heard that.”
That startled a laugh out of him. How she did that he’d never know, but it sounded like she was standing next to him in a nice, quiet room. He shook his head and turned back to the dancers. He had no idea if he was going to be able to find a
meal tonight, but he was sure as hell going to try.
The sight of the blond man bent over the red-headed twink brought home that no, he wasn’t. Damn it.
He headed toward the door, his hunger effectively demolished by the thought of Duncan and Moira. It still amazed him that she’d let him in after his role in kidnapping her sister-in-law Ruby. The human had been a trouper when faced with the Deranged Darling.
Just thinking about Kaitlynn was enough to have him clenching his teeth in rage. So he brought forth the memory of how he’d made her pay oh-so-dearly for everything she’d done, including the murder of her own father. She’d been bitter going down his throat, but at least he had the satisfaction of knowing she’d never hurt anyone else ever again.
Duncan was now head of the Malmayne clan and newly mated to Jaden’s dream woman. Too bad Jaden couldn’t be there with him to celebrate. The way Moira had defended her new sister-in-law had earned Jaden’s undying respect. He’d left a piece of his heart in her soft hands. Hell, he’d left fully half of it there, since that’s all he’d had left to give. Duncan owned the other half, and had for a century.
He couldn’t even muster up any enthusiasm when his favorite song came on. It had been a while since he’d heard Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”. He always smiled when he heard the line, “I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray.” Everyone thought that the line was “rose on the
”, but they were wrong. He’d looked it up one night, wondering why that line haunted him.
A rose on the gray. Damn it. Visions of Duncan’s gray eyes and Moira’s fiery hair danced before him.
Aw, hell. Now he was getting all mushy and stuff. Next thing he knew he’d be sending little Hallmark moments to the both of them over Facebook or something. If he didn’t get himself under control soon he was going to wind up destroying all of them. Duncan, ah, beautiful Duncan and his sweet little leprechaun deserved better than that.
This was Jaden’s burden to bear, and bear it he would. No matter the cost.
He left the club, still starving, snarling at the small, blonde female who sidled up to him.
“Leash it, Blackthorn. I’m
not in the mood.”
Jaden stumbled as that smooth
voice washed over him, sweat already popping out on his back.
Fuck. What did I do to draw Robin’s attention?
“Consider it leashed.”
The amused smile on Robin’s face wasn’t what scared the shit out of him. It was the flash of iridescent green in those guileless brown eyes that did. “Good.”
They walked for a bit, but it was anything but soothing. Finally, Robin spoke. “We have a problem that you’re uniquely situated to deal with.”
He didn’t dare run away screaming like a little girl no matter how badly he wanted to. It just wasn’t in the macho vampire code. “And what would that situation be?” Thank God his voice was steady. He didn’t think he could show his face at the next vampire convention if he acted like a total wuss.
Robin eyed him sideways. It didn’t matter that the form Robin walked in was a full head shorter than Jaden’s, he still wanted to crap his pants. “A Malmayne situation.”
No fucking way.
“Sorry, you’ll have to find someone else. Someone a little less prejudiced.”
Robin turned and faced him. “Look, I have an idea how you feel.” Those cupid’s bow lips looked weird wrapped around the deep voice of the Hob, but there you go. The man was a strange motherfucker. “If the two people I wanted most in the world wound up mated to each other, leaving me out in the cold, I’d be pretty pissed too.”
Jaden ignored the pity in Robin’s expression and focused on the cold determination. He couldn’t deal with the fact that apparently Robin understood why he refused to return home.
“But there are…rumors that Kaitlynn was involved in more than just wanting Leo Dunne to herself. The Malmayne name is being linked to some dark doings.”
Jaden shivered. “Duncan would never…” Not in a million years would Duncan ally himself or his clan with the Black Court. Only something of that magnitude would draw the personal attention of the Hob.
“No, we don’t believe Duncan is. But there are other factions in the Malmayne clan who apparently
Oh, hell no.
If Duncan had any clue that the Malmaynes were inching toward the Black he’d flip his fucking lid and go after whoever was stupid enough to endanger them all.
The noble asshole would get himself killed. The same sense of
that sent Duncan into that alley after a raggedy vampire would send him riding off in his white limo, ready to take on the world.
All hail Duncan Do-Right.
“My job?” He could already tell this was not going to end well.
Robin smiled. Jaden shivered. “Find out who it is and deal with them, however you see fit.” Robin reached up and patted his cheek, the tips of his long, black nails startlingly cold in contrast to the warmth of his palm. “I trust your judgment.”
Jaden’s head drooped. He rubbed his forehead, willing the ache away. The Hob had just given him carte blanche on an assassination job. It wasn’t the first one he’d been assigned since becoming a Blade, but it was the first one where he’d have to go after a loved one’s family.
Well, looks like I’m well and truly fucked. Just not the way I’d hoped to be.
When he looked back up, Robin was gone.
Akane Russo looked over at the tiny, blonde female who’d just sat next to her. She recognized that scent. It was one every dragon was taught from birth. “Sir.”
Those full, pouty lips quirked up in a smile. “We have a situation.”
Akane nodded, pretending that deep, masculine voice was totally natural coming from those very feminine lips. “Where to?”
“The Malmayne estate in Nebraska.”
“On my way.” She dropped the glass to the top of the bar and started toward the door.
“Don’t you want to know the assignment?”
Akane smiled, not even bothering to turn around. They could hear each other just fine, despite the sea of sweaty humanity. The star in the center of her iris went wide, letting her see what she needed to. She already had a clue what was going on with her erstwhile partner. “Jade needs me.” She flipped her hair back over her shoulder and sniffed, getting a whiff of the Hob’s rich, earthy scent again, a hint of which she’d recently caught on someone else. “Are you going to tell him or let him figure it out on his own?”
“What would be the fun in telling him?”
“That’s mean.” There was no answer; the Hob had already left. “He certainly knows how to make an exit.” She shook her head and made her way to her convertible. She had a plane to catch and a vampire to watch over.
She just hoped Robin knew what he was doing.
Moira watched Duncan pace the length of the library and back again. What was wrong with her?
The better question might be, what is wrong with him?
Weren’t they mated? Hadn’t he Claimed her, taken her to his home? Told her he cared for her? So why? Why hadn’t he touched her? Beyond a few kisses and some increasingly sad smiles, he was so…distant. Why did he pace night after night, mourning something he couldn’t explain?
feel like mourning?
If it wasn’t for the fact that she and Duncan were destined mates she would have left by now, her heart and pride in tatters. But Aileen had told her to be patient, that something was desperately wrong. It was up to Moira, as Duncan’s future wife, to find out what that something was and rectify it. So far, Moira hadn’t been able to figure out anything other than Duncan was steadily growing worse.
She was tired, oh so tired. Duncan’s depression dragged at her, and not even the comfort of her mother could ease the pain. She accepted that Duncan wanted her, needed her. He’d made it clear the one time she, in desperation, offered to leave him alone. She hadn’t meant forever, she’d meant just for a few days, but the desolation in his eyes had made her stay. She’d fallen asleep in his arms, calming him, soothing him. Letting him know that she was there for him, whether he wanted her or not. But the Binding and the Vow remained undone, and without that connection Moira wasn’t certain how much more she could take before she broke. She
, without a shadow of a doubt, that Duncan needed her, that the Claiming wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t destined to be together. But something held them
back from taking the final steps that would bind them together forever. If it hadn’t, she would have gotten him drunk and taken care of the matter herself.
Something tugged at both their hearts, and she was desperately afraid of what it might be. Not even the cheerful Christmas decorations she’d roped the entire household into putting up brightened her mood, and she
watching Christmas lights twinkle at night. The human holidays were her favorite time of year, but she just couldn’t get into the spirit of it.