Gray paced inside the cell, so fucking frustrated he wanted to ram his fist through the brick wall. He couldn't reach out to his warriors, and since the Order member had been there, the other inmates on his floor were suspiciously quiet. He wasn't sure if the white-haired veana had shut down the frequency inside the walls of the prison or had just put the fear of the Order's wrath into every one of the prisoners' minds.
Whatever was making the world so soundless around him was also allowing for thoughts of Dillon and the "deal" the Order had made to come through loud and sickeningly clear.
The Impures would have a seat on the Order, a way to bring to light all the changes they wished to make and fight for without actually having to bleed. Seat, voice, issues heard-and all for the low, low price of his true mate.
This time when he reached the brick wall, he did slam his fist into it. Pain rocketed into his arm, made the mark of the jaguar hiss and sting and bleed.
She's not here to blow on you, he told the thing.
Goddamn it. If she'd betrayed him-if she really had laid those poisonous bread crumbs down for him to follow, then they were dead. She had to know that. She didn't care, didn't love him like she'd claimed to last night.
Fuck, could a lie be told that convincingly? And if so, was her freedom really so vital to her that she would destroy not only what was between them, but her very soul?
He shook his hand, trying to get rid of the sting.
And then there was the flip side of this sizable predicament. If he refused to believe it and told the Order to shove their deal up their collective asses, would he be once again choosing his veana over the Cause?
Jesus...and after she'd left him, no word, no note, no nothing. True mates-no blessing, only a curse.
He felt the veana approach. Hour's up, ladies and gentlemen. He growled when she made her appearance at the bars of the cage. "Do you have an answer for me, Gray Donohue?"
She looked startled. "I gave you sufficient time to think-"
"Wake up, Veana," he snarled, moving toward the bars until he was just inches from her face. "My answer is no."
From startled to combustible in one second flat. "I thought you had intelligence," she spat, her fangs dropping, her eyes turning a deep and menacing red. "But you are just like your father."
"Your flattery makes my balls twitch," he said, pushing his chin at her. "You have my answer."
Her upper lip curled and she leaned in and whispered, "Your balls will do more than twitch when they are laid out on the stone slab inside the Paleo."
With one last snarl, she whirled around and flashed from his sight.
Gray headed straight for the brick wall and, once again, let his fist fly. If blood was going to be spilled for this cause, he'd be drawing it first.
"He went into Mondrar hours ago," Vincent said, his dark brown eyes thick with concern. "We haven't been able to contact him or the Pureblood we've been working with since."
Standing on the exterior steps of the Impure credenti's main hall, Dillon stared at the warrior, unable to process what he was saying for a moment. She'd arrived at the new credenti with Celestine barely five minutes ago. Gray's blood still within her, she'd managed to get through the enchantments again and was on her way to his cottage when Vincent and Piper stopped her.
"He should've been back by now," Piper said, the cold November wind picking up around them. "We're going to have to go in."
"I don't understand this," Dillon said, her mind reeling, her jaguar fighting to get out, get to her mate. "He's an Impure. He would've been found out the second he entered that hole. His heartbeat-the Order knows the heartbeats of every inmate."
Piper's face blanched. "Is that true?"
"Goddamn it." Dillon gripped the railing. "I knew he was planning something, trying to find a way to get her out-but I didn't think he was expecting to do it himself!"
"Our Pureblood contact said nothing about this," Piper said, clearly upset. "Would he have known?"
"Known and used it?" Vincent added, his jaw working tight, his eyes hot. "Could that be what we're talking about here? A double cross?"
"I don't know," Dillon said, her brain working. "But either way, he's fucked." Fear crept into her chest, threatened to take apart her ribs and squeeze at her lungs. "We're going to need Purebloods to help get him out. You three remain here and try to work some mental magic, see if there's any way into the Order you haven't tried."
They both nodded.
"I'm going to take Gray's mother to the Romans right now, get all the brothers onboard, and form a plan of attack."
Vincent turned his gaze to Celestine. "You're Gray's mother."
"That's why you left?" Piper asked Dillon, her eyes wide. "Why didn't you tell him?"
"What?" Dillon said, her mind so focused on the task at hand she didn't understand what the female was getting at.
"Why didn't you tell him where you were going?" Piper repeated, harsher this time. "He thought you'd bolted."
Dillon stilled, felt Celestine do the same beside her. Bolted? He'd thought she'd run...Oh God. Of course he had. Her mind flew backward to every single time she'd run from him. Oh God. She was such an idiot. Why would she think that saying "I love you" and letting him see the horror of her past would immediately make him trust her?
She despised herself in that moment-her impulsiveness, her ignorance when it came to common courtesy in a relationship. But she would convince him that she could do better. That she would do better.
She just had to find him first.
She looked up at Piper, then Vincent. "I wanted to surprise him."
She felt Celestine's hand on hers, and before she could think of another thing to say, the older veana flashed them both away.
Titus had failed him.
And it would be the last time.
Atop the snow-capped mountain, Cruen stood beside Feeyan and affirmed their bargain.
"You will have her," she assured him, her white hair flying in the wind as she stared out to the mountains in the distance.
She tipped her chin. "The Paleo at nightfall."
"How can you be so sure she will come?"
"The male she loves is being blood castrated this very eve in front of all the Impures he so desperately wants to save."
Cruen felt a strange pull inside him. "Gray Donohue."
She nodded. "It is a show not to be missed-by either the caged Impures of the Paleo or the poor, lost lover who will never arouse him again."
"You sound almost giddy, Feeyan," he observed. It was a trait he knew well, one he prided himself on. Just not with this male, not with any child of Celestine's.
"I pray it will be an end to this Impure Resistance once and for all," she said. "And to the mutore." She said the final word with such disgust in her tone that Cruen had to keep his hands at his sides for fear he might grab her by the throat and bleed her dry right then and there.
But that time was not today. "I will be there," he said calmly, coolly.
Feeyan turned her head to look at him. "But remember, you must make it appear as if you've stolen her from the Order."
It looked as though he wasn't the only rebel within the Order. Power was a greedy veana. "They will not be furious at such a loss?" he asked. "Will they not see you as a failure?"
A smile flowered on her lips. "Not when I give them four mutore for the one I lost."
The blood inside Cruen, both ancient and demon-kissed, went cold. "What is that?"
"I have blood memories from Celestine Donohue," she said, her eyes alight with the excitement of a predator with her prey already caught and held inside her jaws. "There are more mutore. The Roman brothers harbor them."
Cruen's insides quaked. "Have you shared this information with the other Order members?"
"Not yet." Her eyes clouded with a rush of power. "But when I bring them in, before the others, there will be no doubt who is their leader."
Poor Feeyan, he mused, turning his gaze to the white slopes, his mind already planning for the night ahead. She would have no mutore to display, and the Order would have no leader to declare.
Dillon burst into the house, and with Celestine at her heels, they ran down the hall toward the main rooms. "Where is everyone? Hello!" Dillon shouted, panic clear in her tone. "Goddamn it! Answer me!"
They turned the corner, and at that very moment, the doors to the library flew open and Alexander and Nicholas came rushing out.
"Are you all right?" Alex asked, his brow strained, as they ushered Cellie and Dillon into the library.
"What the hell happened?" Nicholas asked as the room grew quiet. "Where's Gray?"
"Mom!" Sara was up and in her mother's arms in seconds. "Oh my God. I thought I'd lost you. What happened? Why were you taken?" She noticed Dillon then and forgot all the questions she'd just asked. "Dillon, thank you."
"You might want to hold off on that 'thanks' for a few minutes."
"Gray went into Mondrar to get Celestine too and he never came out." She put her hand up to stave off the questions. "We don't have time. I don't know what's going on in there or if something's happened to him." Her nostrils flared. "I can't scent him, but I don't feel as if he's hurt. Not yet." Her gaze moved around the room. "I need all the Pureblood males and females who can handle a weapon to help me get my mate back."
The words "my mate" reverberated throughout the room, but the pavens didn't remain still and seated for long. Both the Romans and the Beasts were on their feet in seconds.
"I need Glocks," Phane said to Alexander.
"And if you have a spare set of blades," Helo added, "that would do well for me."
Erion nodded. "Blades for me too." He nodded in Lycos's direction. "Ly only uses his wolf hardware."
That elicited a grin from the normally stoic paven, who seemed to be more than interested in going into the vampire prison.
"Well then," Lucian said, blood lust in his eyes. "Let's go hunting."
But the words were barely out of his mouth when the wall behind them began to shift and sway like waves on the ocean. And rising up from the deep were the words of the Order.
Gray Donohue will be blood castrated this day when the light is stolen by the stars. Spectators are not welcome to attend. Unless they are mutore.
No one said anything for one solid minute; then Lycos growled low and menacing, and Erion turned to them all and said, "They know we exist."
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