Authors: Dana Marie Bell
“It’s entirely possible the blood bond they share held off the worst effects of an interrupted bond. It’s also possible that they’ve never started Claiming one another. If they’ve never shared a kiss the both of them could believe that any attraction they feel is due to the blood bond.” Aileen sighed. “I’m not as up on my vampire bonding as you are, but from the way you described it that’s what I’m guessing has happened. The three of you need to get together and find out for certain, though.”
“Damn.” She shook her head, totally confused. “But how would their interrupted bond affect
bond with Duncan?”
“That’s the problem. Jaden blood bonded both you and Duncan before Duncan Claimed you. Did Jaden ever kiss you?”
She touched her lips again. She’d dreamed that Jaden had kissed her the night he’d come to kidnap Ruby. What if he really had?
What if, with one simple touch of his lips, he’d Claimed her without even meaning to?
“I think so, but I was pretty out of it. What would that mean for all of us if he started Claiming me?”
“It means you’ve got a tribond.”
Moira rubbed her forehead.
Damn damn damn.
“I think I’m getting a headache.”
“Moira. How do you feel about Duncan?”
I want to save him. I want him to stop hurting. I want to see him laughing again.
“I want his happiness.”
“How do you feel about Jaden?”
May the Mother be merciful on those two, because I’m not going to be.
She sighed, knowing what was going to have to be done. “I want his happiness.”
“And men are?”
Moira’s lips curled up in a silly grin. “Daft.”
Filled with new resolve, Moira sat up straight. “I’ll fix this, Ma.”
I’ll get both my men in the bargain.
“That’s my girl.”
Jaden stopped at the edge of the drive, suddenly uncertain of his welcome. He’d shut Moira and Duncan out of his life, shoved them out of his head with force at times. He wasn’t sure how they’d react to his sudden return, necessary though it was. He definitely wasn’t certain how Duncan would react when he found out Jaden had started working for Robin Goodfellow full time. How would his bond brother take Jaden’s defection from the family?
At the time it had looked like the only thing to do. He would be away from his biggest heartache yet still be able to keep Duncan and Moira safe. Keeping those two safe was more important to him than any White Court acceptance, any Black Court blandishments waved in his face. It was more important to him than his own life.
Not that he planned on laying that particular commodity on the table any time soon. He kind of liked his skin wrapped around his bones, thank you very much.
He studied the front of the brick mansion and smiled. Duncan had gone all out on the whole holiday thing. Lights were strung everywhere. He bet when night fell the house would be a beacon of cheer for anyone passing by.
For the first time in eight weeks he allowed Duncan into his mind, but only so far. He couldn’t let Duncan in all the way or the man would figure out
why Jaden had stayed away. He couldn’t bring himself to face Duncan’s pity, or worse, his scorn.
The relief and anger that washed through him staggered him in its intensity.
“Get your ass up here.”
That cold Malmayne temper of Duncan’s was roused. How bad were things going to get once Duncan realized that Jaden’s return was merely temporary? He figured the fireworks, once started, might actually be kind of fun. It would certainly provide him with even more of an excuse to leave when the task was done.
He got out of the car, careful to put a carefree expression on his face. He wanted Duncan to think he’d been out on the town, partying with and fucking anything that moved. He couldn’t allow Duncan to know the truth. Not yet, maybe not ever.
God, being noble sucked ass. Thank God Robin had gotten him a bite to eat before bundling him on the plane for Nebraska. Too bad he’d been unable to enjoy more than the bite. He could have used the relief sex would have brought, but the little redhead had reminded him too much of Moira. He’d eaten, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it. Robin had to be aware of that, damn him. He’d even offered to join Jaden in the big bed behind him, romping together just the three of them.
Jaden had said no. He never,
wanted to witness Robin’s idea of “romping”. Robin’s grin had held way too many teeth for his comfort.
Hell, even after a hundred years Jaden couldn’t classify himself as a party animal. He was by no means celibate, but even during the seventies he’d kept it in his pants more often than not, only giving in when the hunger for sex and blood became more than he could bear.
Wouldn’t Duncan be shocked to find
out? His Lordship probably had him pegged as a regular man-whore.
The door was flung open by none other than Lord Malmayne himself. Jaden frowned.
He looks like shit.
“Hey Dunc—” That was as far as he got. The fist to his mouth knocked him down, shocking him. The trickle of blood at the corner of his lip told him more about Duncan’s rage than anything. It was the first time Duncan had ever bled him.
It was the first time anyone but another vampire had blooded him, actually.
Shit. I’m impressed.
have you been?”
He blinked and sat up. Damn, Duncan had hit him
He kept forgetting how strong the Sidhe could be, especially one who’d been a warrior once. “Two’s company, or so I’ve heard.” He got gingerly to his feet, ignoring the glare Duncan shot him.
“Where were you?”
If anything, his flippant answer seemed to have pissed off his bond brother even more. “Here. There. Everywhere.” He leered at his friend. “Thinking about you and Moira’s underwear.” He waggled his brows, hoping for a laugh. A smile. Hell, just a little less hostility would be nice.
No, wait, I want him hostile. Don’t I?
“I needed you here. Not off doing whatever the hell it was you were doing.”
“I had a fun time doing it, too.” He put his hands on his hips, desperate to brazen this one out. “What’s the matter with you, anyway? You shouldn’t have even noticed I was gone.” He batted his lashes at Duncan, who was aware that Jaden swung both ways. “Of course, if I’d noticed you missed me
much I would have been back sooner.” He ignored the dangerous narrowing of Duncan’s eyes. “Where’s your lovely wife, by the way?
” Duncan turned on his heel and actually stomped into the house.
Jaden blinked, stunned for the second time that day.
Huh. The Bonding must be affecting him.
He expected that fiery display of temper from his…
little leprechaun, but never from Duncan himself. The man was always calm, cool and collected. More than once he’d saved Jaden’s ass by refusing to lose his legendary cool. Yet here he was, so pissed off he was stomping.
If the man wasn’t mated Jaden would have been flattered. As it was he wondered how long it would take him to wrap up this ugly assignment and knock the dust of the Malmayne household off his canvas sneakers.
“Are you coming in or are you going to stand there and roast all day?”
Jaden rolled his eyes and sauntered into the house. “Fuck. You’ve gotten cranky, old man.” Duncan’s response? A low growl that sent shivers down Jaden’s spine. He quickly thumped his cock, the pain stilling his newborn erection. “So much for connubial bliss.”
“Jaden. Shut the hell up.”
Jaden shut up. He followed Duncan into his study, watching the other man closely. He frowned. What the…? Were those silver hairs in among the gold? Fear skated down his spine. In all the time he’d known Duncan the Sidhe Lord had never changed, not by a hair. New clothes and haircuts came and went, but underneath it all was still the same Duncan Malmayne who had pulled his ass out of a dirty alleyway and given him a home. To see silver there after only two months was frightening. “Duncan?”
Blazing gray eyes met his across the desk. “Henri is pushing for the nullification of my marriage to Moira.”
That had to be the beginning of why Robin had sent him here. “Henri likes to talk out of his sphincter. What else is new?”
Like silver threads through gold? What the fuck?
“Well, his sphincter is pushing out even more shit. He wants you punished for the murder of Kaitlynn.”
His eyebrows shot up. “That was sanctioned.” In more ways than one, and he’d play that card if it came down to it. Even if the sanction was posthumous. Not even Glorianna would interfere with a sanctioned Blade assassination.
“Even so, the clan is beginning to get on my nerves. They want…hell, I’m not sure
they want. Leo punished for not abiding by the marriage contract and binding himself to Kaitlynn, Ruby for taking Leo away from Kaitlynn, me for not enforcing the contract once Dad was dead.” He rubbed his eyes wearily, the anger beginning to leech from his face. “They believe that Moira isn’t good enough to fulfill the contract.”
Jaden leaned back in his chair, balancing it on two legs. He tried to hide the white-hot flash of rage over the thought that
believed Moira wasn’t good enough. “Why are they so frigging eager to see this done the way
want it done?”
Duncan’s expression froze. “Good question.” He settled down behind his desk, becoming visibly less ruffled. “It’s not as if we can bring Kaitlynn back from the dead.”
“Don’t even go there, Jaden.”
He grinned. He’d sooner eat, well, Kaitlynn than bring that bitch back. “Wasn’t going to.”
“Good.” A brief smile crossed Duncan’s face. “Welcome home.”
Jaden hid his wince. “Yeah. About that.” Icy fury once more glazed Duncan’s gray eyes, but before he could say anything Jaden’s chair was yanked back, landing him on his back. “Ow.” He looked up to find a pair of perky tits and furious green eyes glaring down at him. He smiled, inexplicably happy to see her again. “Hello, Moira.”
“Where the hell have you been?”
He licked his lips, tasting his own blood. “Is there an echo in here? At least you didn’t punch me.”
One slender foot began to tap next to his head. “Don’t tempt me.”
He eyed that foot, knowing full well what she was capable of. She couldn’t really hurt him, but she could damn well try. “Sweetheart, would you like to put that away? It might go off, and then how bad would you feel?”
She rolled her eyes and bounced her way over to Duncan’s desk. She perched on the edge, her arms folded across her breasts. “I’m going to repeat myself one more time. Where have you been?”
He didn’t even bother getting up off the floor. Knowing Moira she’d probably just dump him on his ass again. He crossed his leg over his knee and settled his hands behind his head. He smirked up at her. “Recently? Vegas.”
“What were you doing there?”
He mock frowned and wagged his finger at her. “Hey. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
She ground her teeth together. “Jaden.” Her shoulders slumped. “You know what? Never mind. Just shut the hell up.”
Jaden smiled and shut up.
Hell, this might actually be fun.
Duncan watched Jaden, aware that, suddenly, he was…complete. It was a strange sensation, something he shouldn’t be feeling. He had his mate, her glorious hair glistening in the sun streaming through the windows, her eyes glittering down at his bond brother. So why wasn’t it enough for him? Why, only now, did he know true happiness?
He’d missed Jaden. Perhaps it had something to do with the blood bond the two of them shared. Even now Jaden kept the link restricted, kept Duncan mostly out of his mind, but not even that could dampen his pleasure at the other man’s presence.
“We were worried about you, Fangsalot.”
Jaden snorted, his shoulders shaking with laughter. “Fangsalot? You’ve been hanging out with Ruby, haven’t you?”
Moira kicked his shin. “It’s not funny. Duncan and I were worried sick.”
Duncan frowned at Moira. Admittedly, he
damn near worried himself sick but Jaden didn’t need to know that. The vampire was unreasonably protective of him, and if he found out Duncan had been unwell Jaden would be all over him.
“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”
Duncan blinked. The cool nonchalance in Jaden’s tone stunned him. Hurt settled deep inside him. “I’ll be fine.” He shifted in his seat. What had happened to Jaden in Vegas? He’d never been cold to Duncan before. Usually he clowned around him, trying to break through the calm façade Duncan normally wore. “We need to discuss a few things.”
“Yeah, like a bath for me and a meal. I’m starving.” Jaden got to his feet with exquisite grace. “Let me get settled in and then we’ll talk.”
Duncan was seriously beginning to worry. His best friend wasn’t acting like himself. Duncan prided himself on being able to read the young vampire, but today he couldn’t sense a thing. “Is everything all right?”
Jaden been somehow hurt in Vegas? Damn it, he wished he knew what had happened out there!
“Yeah, everything’s fine. Don’t worry, old man. I just stink.”
A reluctant smile curled Duncan’s lips. Ever since that alley Jaden hated being dirty with a passion. He’d bathe twice a day whenever possible. “Fine. How about we meet here for a light dinner? Moira and I will fill you in on what’s been going on since you left for your…vacation.” He couldn’t keep the displeasure from his voice. “I’ll have Ian inform the kitchen of our needs.”
Jaden grinned, but something was missing. The spark that made Jaden so much fun to be around was gone, and in its place… Duncan couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it echoed through him down to his bones.
There was nothing left to do but watch Jaden walk out of the room, leaving behind him one very confused, hurt and angry Sidhe Lord.
Duncan narrowed his eyes. Something was very wrong with Jaden. His bond brother was still trying to shut him out. And Duncan was going to find out why.