A warm hand gently prodded his neck, his chest. "She won't like it," the male said with a sigh, brushing something cool and wet onto his neck. "I think she feels a kinship with you. Both being different, both being anomalies of sorts."

Who was the male speaking of? Not Juliet. The female? he wondered. The voice that had made him feel grounded, the voice that had soothed him? Scent floated into his nostrils again. That same scent. What was it? Something pungent. Antiseptic? Oh yes, of course. The talk of salve, healing-the prick of a needle. He was in a medical facility. But why? What had happened to him?

"How did the sun do this to your skin?" the male said. "And how the hell do you live and breathe with no heartbeat?"

The answers, the full and unedited truth, which had clearly being perched on the edges of his mind, suddenly came back to Synjon in a panicked rush. Juliet was dead. The mad vampire Cruen had killed her. Synjon had flashed her out of her caged prison and to the rainforest she'd loved so much, the forest where she'd wanted them to live out their long lives together once upon a time. But instead of them living there, Synjon had come alone, to release her body to the sun.

Inside his chest, something squeezed. After placing her on the solid earth, he hadn't been able to walk away, hadn't been able to leave her when he'd just found her again. Instead, he'd stood his ground, choosing to die with her, follow her into the afterlife where they could find another rainforest to live within.

Christ . . . and he'd almost done it, almost succeeded. He'd felt the sun blazing down on him, claiming his skin as it had hers. Until something had rushed him, covered him.

Saved him.

Wrenched him away from Juliet.

"You look pained again, Male," said the doctor, his voice drifting upward. "I know no other answer but oblivion. Rest easy. Perhaps tomorrow you will know peace."

Synjon felt his lips move, part, then black warmth sucked him in once again.

* * *

This time when Synjon woke, the pain in his face and neck was so excruciating it felt as though a truck were driving back and forth over them. But with that pain came the awareness that his body was no longer heavy and immobile. He swallowed, inhaled deeply, feeling both the action of his throat and the rise and fall of his chest. He made a quick mental inventory. Every muscle felt alert and ready to spring, every bone ached with lack of use. His mind was clear, and if he wanted to open his eyes and take in his surroundings for the first time, he knew he could.

But he wasn't sure if that was the wisest course of action. What waited for him? Who might attack? Though he felt the readiness in his blood to fight, he didn't know if he had the strength to match it.

"Why won't he heal, Brodan?"

The female. She was back, Synjon mused, his skin humming as her voice wrapped around him like a soft blanket.

"I don't know," the male answered, his tone ever frustrated. "Nothing I give him seems to have any effect."

"But he will recover," she said with deep conviction. "I know it. We just have to give him more time."

"We don't have more time, Petra."

Petra. So she had a name, this one who fought for him. "No one has to know he's here," she continued. "You have him in a secluded area. Keep him medicated. I won't say anything to anyone."

The male sighed. "You don't understand, Pets. He is in horrific pain, and keeping him asleep has become far more difficult. His body is starting to reject the drugs."

"Then give him different drugs!" she cried.

There was a moment of silence, and Synjon had the most desperate desire to open his eyes and see the look that was passing between the pair.

"Why are you acting like this?" the male demanded, his tone far less gentle now. "You don't even know this male. He is nothing to you."

"I saved his life!" she exclaimed.

Synjon's blood froze in his veins.

"Maybe you shouldn't have."


The male sighed. "Maybe you should've let him die."

She's the one! Syn cried out in his mind. She was the one who'd pulled him from the sun, from Juliet . . .

"I'm pretty sure doctors aren't supposed to say things like that," the female said with barely masked fury.

"You need to face some facts here, Pets. The male's burns are dire and he won't heal. I've done everything I can. And shit, even if he did heal, what kind of existence would it be? Look at him. He's a monster. No one will care for him. No one will touch him. And if he's anything like us, desperate for the touch of another being, he won't want to continue living."

"That's bullshit," the female said, her tone resolute.

Even through Synjon's extraordinary physical and mental pain, heat rumbled within his chest. How was it possible that this female fought for him? This female he didn't know? It was extraordinary.

Petra's voice was barely above a whisper when she spoke again. "If you were burned and in pain and no one knew how to help you, would you expect me to turn away from you, Brodan?"

"Come on, Pets. Our . . . friendship is different."

"How?" she asked. "This male could have the same kind of friends elsewhere. Family. A lover."

"A lover, eh?"

The grin, the lightness, the heat, in the male's voice inflamed Synjon, and he nearly allowed another feral growl to escape his chest. Clearly this male wanted Petra, and even clearer was her disinterest in him. Didn't the doctor get it? Didn't he understand what stood beside him?