Gray had a hard-on the size of New Jersey, but he wasn't going there. Not now, not yet-not until he knew she was ready. Sounded kind of nuts in his head, because ever since he'd met Dillon she'd been openly sexual, up for anything-with anyone.
But now he knew better.
He didn't know the details-but he knew better.
She pulled herself even closer, her core pressed against his thigh, her face buried in his side. For a second, he'd thought maybe she'd been crying. He didn't know...but maybe he'd heard something, and maybe his T-shirt was wet where her face was tucked in.
But that had to be sweat, right? D was no tear dropper. Hell, the veana got pissed, not sad. She got annoyed, not sad. It was her way.
"You got some seriously talented hands, Male." She glanced up, grinned. "You just said I couldn't call you 'Impure,' right?"
No tears, Gray thought, but those hazel eyes were glassy and a little red. Could be from climax. Shit, she'd come pretty damn hard a moment ago.
But even as he reasoned away the possibility that Dillon had gotten even the smallest bit emotional from their encounter, he couldn't stop himself from reaching out and brushing his thumb along the upper ridge of her cheekbone. The skin felt pliant, cool with the last shades of moisture. His chest hitched like he'd just had a blade thrust into it.
Her mouth thinned and her eyes hardened. "What are you looking for?"
"Just looking at you."
"You're staring. Thinking. I can feel it."
"Stop being so suspicious, D," he said, moving his hand down, running his fingers across her mouth. "Don't you recognize this? What we're doing here?"
He attempted a hurt-guy look. "Come on, baby. It's post-orgasm cuddling. Basking in the glow and all that shit."
She opened her mouth and swiped at his fingers with her fangs in play. "I don't do that."
"Well, now you do," he said, wishing every damn movement she made wouldn't keep cranking up his need for her to blistering. "I suggest you get used to it."
"Fine." She lifted up on her elbow and gazed down at him. "So. What are we supposed to do here? Share our feelings?"
He laughed at the look of utter disgust on her face. "How about we just talk?"
She shrugged. "You first."
His gaze locked with hers, and he took a risk. "What do you want to do after this? After you get complete control over your shift?"
The question surprised her, as he'd known it would, and her body stiffened a little. "We're getting deep, eh?"
"I don't know, okay?"
She sounded defensive. What a shocker.
"You haven't even thought about it?" he said.
Annoyance on top of the defense, Gray mused drily. So much fucking fun.
"Maybe you need to," he said, his hand on her back. "Keeping out of the Order's way, off their radar, is going to require some strategy and planning."
Her jaw tightened. "I know."
It wasn't like he wanted to be thinking about this shit. He'd just touched her, made her cry out-wanted to again...and again-all night long if she'd let him-but like his gift of hearing the thoughts of others, these kinds of thoughts just weren't a choice. His brain went there too damn much. The thing wanted to know where his veana would be next week, next year-and if she saw him in any corner of her life.
"I can help if you want me to," he said, knowing he was a fool for offering, and yet..."Come up with a plan. Ask around about safe houses; if there-"
"What is this?" she said, sitting up, a scowl on her face.
"Just talking, D." He released her, dropped back on the pillows. "Back and forth, swapping info."
"Sounds more like an inquisition to me." Her body was going rigid, screaming its defense, total shutout. But the eyes, her hazel eyes told a different story. "Are you trying to get rid of me or something?"
Oh, baby, I'm trying to keep you.
"Get rid of you?" he said, keeping his tone light. "Not a chance. I need you."
Her mouth softened.
"You got the flash, D," he said, grinning. "The way into the Paleo."
"Nice," she muttered drily, but at least a thread of her defensive tackle was gone.
"Hey, you volunteered." He lifted his brow. "Which surprised me, you know. Since you don't really give a shit about the Impures."
"That's true," she said, all heat, all irritation-all D. "But I give a shit about you."
He grabbed her hand, threaded his fingers through hers. "Awww, baby, that's so sweet."
"Shut up," she snarled.
Grinning, he pulled her toward him. "I'm going to kiss you now."
"Thanks for the warning." She lifted her chin.
"Hard, wet, and lots of tongue."
"And for the play-by-play."
"Stop talking." His hand cupped the back of her head. "Or I'll put more than my tongue in your mouth."
"Promises, promises," she drawled, closing her eyes.
He chuckled as he captured her mouth. Groaned when she wrapped her arms around his neck and captured his mouth right back.
Goddamn, there was nothing in the world like Dillon's mouth. It could spew angry words, snap you in half with its sarcasm, suck you in and make you come-make you fly to the fucking moon and back-and kiss you like it was desperate to know every inch of you.
Kind of like now.
His fingers gripped her, and he growled as he sucked her tongue into his mouth. Dillon cocked her head, letting him take her deeper, then biting at his lower lip when he released her. Fuck, she tasted good. He went for a deeper angle and she followed him. Hot and heavy, they kissed, teeth knocking, his heart pounding, her fingers digging into his skin, their moans escaping hungry mouths.
When their lips parted, when she was breathing every bit as hard as he was, Gray found her gaze and whispered against her mouth, "Are we going to talk about what's happened, why you feel like you do-the memories you won't let me see?"
"Not today or ever?"
She drew back. "Why are you pushing me?"
He released a frustrated breath. "Shit, Veana. You know why."
Her eyes looked bruised, or maybe that was her expression, and she sat up again.
Gray stared at her back, released a frustrated breath. Why the hell couldn't he just leave this alone? Forget the pain and vulnerability he saw in her eyes every goddamn time he touched her? Maybe because he wasn't a dickhead-or maybe it was just simply that he cared way too damn much. Whatever had happened to her was brutal, something she couldn't control-no doubt sexual-and he was determined to find out what it was.
And who it involved.
Rage like he'd never felt before moved over him like a mudslide, threatening to consume him whole. He closed his eyes and inhaled-real fucking deep until there was no more air left in the room. His hand itched to hold his blades, to sharpen them until they cut pipe as if it were butter. Until they cut the skin off the one or ones who had hurt this veana, then the muscles, bones...His lip curled and his fangs descended. He'd ended the life of one male who'd thought he could touch this veana. Another death on his hands was nothing.
"We have work to do," he said, pushing that bloody fantasy into the back of his mind. For now. Struggling to keep the death march out of his tone, he added, "We need to go meet with Uma. Get a plan together for tonight."
"We don't need her," Dillon said with sudden heat, glancing over her shoulder. This was heat of a different variety.
Gray pulled back the sheets and got out of bed. "She's great in the field. Quick, smart, and has a killer rapport with the Impures." He tossed her a look that said no negotiation here. "I need her."
Dillon leaped to all fours on the rumpled bedding, growled at him.
Gray's cock twitched. Damn veana. Did she have to go there? Right now when he was barely able to stand up with the shaft of granite in his jeans? When she was all veana again, he lifted an eyebrow. "Was that your cat?"
"Yes," she hissed. "And totally controlled by me."
"Well, put it away before I strip, climb back in that bed, and teach it some manners."
Again, she flashed him her jaguar's face. Again, she growled.
"I'm not joking around here, D," he warned, knowing his eyes were as fierce as his face now. "A male can take only so much-Impure though he is."
For a moment she just stared at him, and though Gray couldn't hear her thoughts, he could see her thinking behind those eyes-no doubt wondering how far she could truly push him. Then she sat back on her haunches and sniffed, mewed. "My blood runs too wild through your veins, I think."
Damn right. Gray leaned on the bed, got in the cat's face. "There's no reason to be jealous, D."
She turned back into a veana in under a second. "You didn't just say that."
Laughing, shaking his head, Gray stood up and buttoned his jeans, tucked in his shirt. "Come on now. Out of bed."
She did as she was told, but the moment she stood up, her jeans-his jeans, fell to the floor and pooled around her ankles.
Gray stared at her legs-long, perfect, edible stems. Thank Christ his T-shirt covered her core or this would be done-he'd be done. They wouldn't be going anywhere-not for at least an hour. He cursed. "Are you trying to give me the worst case of blue balls in history?"
She attempted to look innocent. Didn't work on her. "They keep falling off. I need my own shit."
"We'll get that done. But in the meantime, I'm sure Uma has something she can loan you." Like, immediately.
She cocked her head. "Oh, now you're just asking for it," she growled, shifting into her jaguar state and leaping on him.
He went down with a thud. Cursing and laughing.
Twenty minutes later, dressed and back to her veana self, Dillon stood in Uma's kitchen and watched the Impure female bang some pots and pans around.
Or as the humans called it, cooking.
Sitting on a stool beside her, Gray sampled some vegetable thing in a sauce and made a noise far too close to the one he'd made when they were lip-locking earlier.
Blue balls. He was going to know black and blue balls if he kept this up.
"You didn't have to do this," he said to the tall, blond creature at the stove.
"I know, but that was a tough go down in the Paleo last night, and then the memory bleed today." She turned and gave him a brilliant smile.
Dillon sneered. It was like a freaking commercial for whitening toothpaste.
"With all the blood loss," she continued, "you need to eat to get your full strength back."
Oh, how Dillon would love to crush this female beneath her paws. Maybe rip out of few of those teeth with her claws. Didn't this bitch know what stood before her? Yes, a killer mutore, but more important, the one who had given this male her blood-marked him deep in his veins. Fed him in the only way that mattered.
Uma turned then, her blond ponytail sweeping against her face and all that creamy skin, and with quick confidence, ushered the steaming ingredients onto a waiting plate. "This recipe is guaranteed to get your blood pumping again."
That's it! "Already taken care of, Female."
Both of them turned and looked at Dillon. Gray's eyes were glittering with twisted humor-dickhead-while the female had the balls to not appear scared, only strangely curious.
Maybe Dillon needed to snarl to get her to understand. One more time for the cheap seats. Her blood got his blood pumping. Not some freaking nasty-looking vegetable crap. She nearly said that aloud when the Impure decided to go all polite on her ass.
"Can I fix you a plate too, Dillon?" she asked, flashing that ten-watt again.
"I don't eat," she said.
"Oh, right; you're a veana. So you consume nothing but blood, then?"
"Unless I'm a jaguar," she returned. "Then I eat meat. Raw, and preferably still running away."
Uma stared at her, something close to humor in her eyes. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Good," Dillon said. "And Gray's right. You aren't as dumb as you look."
Uma's eyes widened, and Gray turned to glare at Dillon. "Remember what we talked about earlier? About keeping your mouth shut?"
"Or you'd put something in it," Dillon drawled, giving him an exaggerated wink. "Yeah, baby. I remember."
"Impossible veana." He narrowed his eyes, but Dillon saw the hitch in his chest, maybe even the pop of his zipper.
"Well, if you can't keep it closed," he said, "use it for something productive. Like telling us if you know of another way into the Paleo."
Dillon crossed her arms over her chest. "I do."
"Are you going to share it with us, or do we need to guess?" Gray asked, then quickly amended, "Don't make us guess."
"I've heard that there's another entrance below one of the nightclubs in the town nearby."
"And you can get us in there," Uma asked.
Dillon turned on the female and hissed. "Yes. I can get you in there."
"Very good." She sat down beside Gray and picked up her fork, then smiled again. This time she upped the wattage to blinding. "Shall we eat?"
Yes, Dillon thought, glaring at the female. Oh, she'd eat all right. Blond ponytail and all.
"He went under the bridge," Lucian called to Alex. "Fuck. Don't let him get away."
They ran through Central Park at top speed. That little bastard, Alexander thought. Even though it was night, he knew the brothers weren't about to flash, not in this heavy foot traffic. Lucian obviously thought the same thing as he kept pace alongside Alex. Helo, on the other hand, clearly didn't give a shit. Soon as water was in sight, the mutore slipped away from Alex and Luca, dove under the murky surface, and didn't come up again until Lucian and Alexander were around the corner.
And by then Helo had the Impure male by the back of his coat.
Impressive, Alexander mused as he eyed the dripping-wet paven with the sudden appearance of black lines, wavy tattoos shooting up his neck and spreading like tree limbs from beneath his shirt. Impressive, but not smart. If this member of the Eyes was even moderately intelligent, he was going to take one look at Helo, put two and two together, and come up mutore.
Deflecting attention, Alexander descended on the nervous-looking Eye. "What's with the running, Whistler?"
"Yes, Impure," Lucian added, his fangs dropping a threatening quarter inch. "You are never one to shy away from giving information for substantial monetary compensation."
"I have nothing for the Romans," he said quickly. "No news, no locations."
Lucian growled. "We didn't ask for locations. Hell, we haven't asked you anything yet."
Whistler looked at Lucian, then Helo. Something startled within him and he swallowed. "I don't have anything for the Romans," he repeated.
"Someone's shut you down," Alexander said, his eyes narrowing on the male. No question there.
Whistler didn't confirm. Or deny. Just kept acting nervous as hell.
"Who is it?" Lucian demanded. "The Order?"
"You're barking up the wrong tree here, fellas."
"Your Eye colleagues?" Alexander asked, taking a step forward.
Whistler sniffed. "We're done here. I have somewhere to be."
"Cruen?" Helo said, tattoos now gone, disappeared, and both his clothing and skin dry as concrete in summertime.
Whistler's gaze shot to the paven, his face ashen.
A cruel smile erupted on Helo's face. "You lie, you die."
Whistler's eyes closed, and before them, in the crowded park, the Impure disappeared-leaving no doubt in the minds of the pavens who remained just who he was working for.
The city had gone dark ten minutes ago and the sky was littered with stars.
Not that Gray could see and enjoy anything but bodies occupying seats and poles. He was belowground, inside the metal bullet, racing toward a location that was becoming way too familiar lately.
The subway car jerked to a stop, and Gray barely allowed the doors to open before he jumped off and headed toward the tight gap in the wall. He was through it in seconds, and took the stairs down into the tunnels two at a time. When his sister's message had found him, he'd been watching Vincent and Piper as they worked with the information they'd taken from his mind earlier-trying to sync up with the Order's mainframe. He'd wanted to stick around and see if they'd get anything, get anywhere, but family came before a mental exercise. He'd be a fool if he tried to pretend it didn't.
Once inside the stairwell, he headed into the passageway underneath the Romans' house. Before long, he saw her shadow in the distance and called out, "Hey, Sis. I can't stay long."
"I won't keep you."
Wasn't Sara. Wasn't someone he was expecting to see anytime soon. His guts twisted. Family came first, eh? Did that extend to this branch of family? After all he knew, all that Samuel had revealed to him?
With an irritated exhale, he came to stand before her in the torchlight of the Romans' tunnels. She looked as she always looked. Too young for her age, too gentle and kind for what she'd kept hidden from him and Sara. "Hello, Mom."
Celestine's eyes moved over every inch of his face. "It's so good to see you, Gray."
"Yeah. You too."
She smiled, and her eyes appeared hopeful. "That almost sounded like you meant it."
He did mean it. He had deep anger and resentment for this veana, true, but it hadn't killed the love. Not yet.
"Where's Sara?" he asked.
"I asked her if I could have a moment alone with you."
"Okay." His brows lifted. Waiting. Why was she here? What did she want? And more important, would there be anything said about the past-from her or from him?
Her eyes softened as she took in his face, as if she were having a memory. "You weren't taking any of my calls. I got worried."
"No need to worry," he said simply.
She shrugged. "All right. I got offended, then."
The warmth of her voice snaked through him, tugged at the boy within. After all, she had been a loving mother, no doubt about that. Did she not deserve a chance to earn back his trust? Come clean and explain her actions?
"Well, as you can see, everything is fine," he said. "I'm good. Fully embraced my vampire side, the Impure I truly am." His gentle sarcasm in that last bit wasn't lost on her.
Her head cocked to the side in a sympathetic way. "Gray."
But he didn't need sympathy. He needed the truth, and he was going to give her a chance to offer it to him. Could be their way back to mother and son, maybe even friends. He crossed his arms over his chest. "Why don't you tell me why you're really here?"
The softness and familiarity evaporated, and she took a deep breath, nodded. "The Order knows about your mutore."
Shock slammed into him, and he replayed what she'd just said. Then again. Not at all what he'd expected. Not what he'd wanted. And definitely not good. There was no way he was discussing Dillon here, with her.
"What's a mutore?" he asked, his brows coming together.
"This isn't a game, Gray," she said with deep worry in her eyes now.
"That's good," he said calmly, evenly. "Because I don't play games." Or play with the life and safety of that veana.
"They know you have her; they know you killed for her."
His jaw tightened, and he ground his molars. "If this is what you came so far to tell me, you wasted a trip." Disappointment stung. She wasn't here simply for a visit with her children. This was either a warning from her or a message delivered from the Order.
Either one sucked.
"I've got to go," he said. "Good seeing you. Have a safe trip back home." He turned to leave, head down the tunnel and back where he belonged. But her next words halted him.
"You think she wouldn't turn on you in a second?" She sniffed. "If the Order gave her a chance to remain free?"
Gray turned back ever so slowly, his nostrils flaring. "Like you turned on Dad?"
Sudden shock registered in her eyes, stealing away the concern from a moment ago. "What are you talking about? Why would you even say something like that?"
"I met someone in the Paleo," he said.
She paled, ghostly white under the glow of the torches. "The castration hole? You were in there?"
"Was nearly blood castrated. Would've been if that mutore hadn't gotten me out." His voice went low, dangerous-a warning he hoped she'd understand and heed. Do not screw me over with that bit of information or we're done. "Unfortunately, Samuel Kendrick wasn't so lucky."
His mother gasped. Shook her head. "No."
In that reaction, Gray knew that everything Samuel had told him in the Paleo was true. It wasn't that he hadn't believed him; it was more that he hadn't wanted to.
Gray shook his head. "He told me everything. About Dad, the Resistance, the Paleo." His voice dropped. "And afterward, when he came home."
"You don't understand," she said weakly.
"No," he said tightly. "That's true. How can anyone understand when they're continually lied to their entire life?"
She just stood there, tears in her eyes, defeat in her expression. Gray waited for her to say something, give him something that might possibly repair this collapsed bridge before them.
"You weren't supposed to know," she cried softly, "any of this-goddamn it. I did everything...Oh God-"
She turned and ran from him.
And he let her.
Standing in the shadows of the tunnel, Sara watched her mother retreating in tears. Then she heard Gray's footsteps, going back toward the stairs to the subway.
All that about their father, the Resistance, the Paleo-what didn't she know?
Goddamn them both, what didn't she know?
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