Gray pressed the earbuds deeper into his ears, pressed play, and walked out of the club. Hustling past him as Metal ica wailed into his head, ladies and gents in their evening wear kept their heads low, their hickeys hidden as they scattered into the streets like roaches-the six a.m.
walk of shame.
Al but one.
The dark-haired woman Marina kept pace with him as he moved down the street. Her eyes up and wary, she looked real fresh, as though she hadn't been out al night. Gray picked up the pace. He didn't want anything to do with that, hearing what was going on in that pretty head of hers-not in the daylight.
He waved her off and headed down the al ey. Just wanted to get to the park, sleep a little near the fountain before he thought about heading to SoHo for a shower.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder, yanking him back. He whirled around, his instincts and al the combat he'd been forced to participate in over that past couple months rising to the surface of his skin.
But it was just the woman. Marina. Gray stared at her.
Breathing easy and looking interested in more of what Breathing easy and looking interested in more of what she'd had in the club.
What the hel ?
Smiling, she tapped her ears, then lifted her hands. She wanted to talk.
Gray turned down the music. Just a thread, just so he could hear her. "What's up? Need something?"
She moved closer to him, catlike, her eyes heavy with flirtatious energy. "I don't live far," she cal ed over the din of street traffic.
Gray shook his head. "Another time."
"Why? You have somewhere to be? A veana to get back to?"
"Yeah, and her name is Death Magnetic," he said, then palmed his iPod and cranked up the sound on Metal ica's best album.
He left the woman standing there, her hands on her hips, lips pushed out into a pretty pout. He was halfway down the al ey when he realized what she'd said, what she'd cal ed a woman.
He whirled around, his eyes locking on the woman's. She grinned at him, real wide this time, showing off a set of bride-white fangs.
Before Gray could move, before he could use any part of himself as a weapon, he was grabbed from behind. Steel arms had his shoulders locked in place and his head yanked back. His earbuds dropped out of his ears and the New York City streets rushed in, sounding like a low-grade New York City streets rushed in, sounding like a low-grade cocktail party in his mind. Then two sets of fangs drove into either side of his neck like hot needles, and in seconds he could hardly see, much less hear, and liquid black swal owed up the day.
Nicholas walked into the library and dropped into the chair opposite Lucian. He had just left Kate in the hal way upstairs and al he could think about was getting back up there, inside her room-inside of her. He pointed his finger at the near-albino and said, "I real y don't need a bal - busting session from you right now."
Lucian lifted his brows. "The veana taking care of that?
No, on second thought, that would be a blue-bal session."
"Watch yourself," Nicholas warned.
"I can see why you lost track of the time. She's one hot piece of-"
Nicholas shot out of his seat and had his fangs extended over his lower lip and his hands plastered onto either side of his brother's face. His little brother, his duro, his savior from a time when he'd thought his body would be ripped apart by a gang of tricks in the back al ey behind his house when he was barely out of short pants.
"Easy, Nicky," Lucian said grinning, his lip curling back.
The near-albino welcomed the fight, got off on the fight.
Nicholas shook his head slowly, his hands trembling on his brother's cheeks. "I love you more than my own life, would do anything for you-you know that. But speak of her again like that and I won't be able to control myself. Do you understand?"
Lucian's eyes grew curiously amused. "Question is, do you understand?"
Nicholas released the paven and dropped back into the chair, his chest heaving as he tried to calm the fuck down.
This was misery. Or just plain old-fashioned stupidity.
"Did you take her blood?" Lucian asked, his nostrils flaring.
"She took yours."
"That shouldn't bond you." He gestured to Nicholas with his hand. "Not like this. Maybe you need to stay away from her."
Maybe I need to see her skin, run my tongue over every inch until I find that mark. Nicholas shook his head, against the words, the feelings, the images running through his brain. "I need her," he said, and when Lucian cursed, he clarified. "I need her to bring in Dare."
"Just watch your back, Duro."
Right. Reaching into his pocket, Nicholas took out Ladd's sample and thrust it at his brother. "Here."
"What is it?"
"What do you want me to do with it? Build a nest?"
"Just take it."
"Take it where?" Lucian asked, palming the sample, staring down at the pale strands that were so like his own.
"Only one vampire I know who handles DNA," Nicholas said slowly, knowing what kind of reaction he was about to get.
Realization dawned quickly and Lucian shook his head.
Nicholas laughed, releasing some of the tension inside his body. "Are you scared of the beautiful and bril iant genealogist?"
"Yes, that's right. Shaking in my shit-kickers."
"Whatever it is, I need you to do this."
"He can't go into the credenti."
Lucian rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to be your errand boy."
Nicholas grinned. "Yes, you are."
"It's in Boston."
"Nice town," he said, feeling lighter and more like himself every second. Every second he was away from her . . .
"I hate fish."
"Luca . . ."
"Yes, and you can stil walk in it with no trouble." Nicholas popped an eyebrow. "For now."
Lucian growled. "Fine."
"Tel her to compare my markers with the balas. Tel her I need this ASAP. Tel her the Roman brothers owe her for this."
"Bul shit," Lucian said, this time the one to point an accusatory finger in his brother's direction. "Nicholas Roman owes her."
"Just try and act like a gentleman."
Lucian snorted his response as he stood up and walked out of the room.
On the long mahogany desk her father had built for her, Bronwyn Kettler typed furiously on her laptop before a picture window overlooking the snowy streets of her credenti. For most in the Boston credenti-any credenti real y-outside technology was frowned upon. Believing that electronics destroyed the dialogue and closeness of a community's membership, the Order had long ago placed a ban on any technological advances made after the telephone.
However, they'd al owed an exception in Bronwyn's case.
Her work was incredibly important to the breed, so important, in fact, that they al owed her free rein. And a good thing, too. Though she loved her home and family and her community, she was a modern veana at heart, and if she'd been pushed to reject her professional life and its trappings, she may have had to push back.
The nine-generation genealogy chart she was assembling for a private client, a very demanding client whom she'd yet to actual y meet, sat on the screen before her. It was stil missing several names. She was tired and not feeling herself as of late, and the work was coming too slowly. She had covered the Romans, of course, and their possible true mates, but she had yet to find the final three females who'd lain with the Breeding Male, and their supposed six offspring.
But she would.
Her own fascination with the subject, not to mention her constant confusion over who her future mate was, and if he belonged to the Breeding Male family, spurred her on. As her time grew nearer, the year of fifty, when meta would reveal the mark of her vampire, she grew more wary of her romantic future-and there was nothing she wanted less than to be forever connected to a Son of a Breeding Male; her own sister had been forced to lie with one twenty years before and had died just months into her swell.
A sudden growth of sound in the credenti street outside her window jerked her attention from the computer and she looked up and out. The afternoon's sunlight seemed to be everywhere at once, changing the colors of the leaves to pale yel ow, making the snowy ground glitter like diamonds-and keeping al morphed Pureblood pavens inside their homes for respite.
Unclear as to what was making the others gathered on the street point and bustle so vociferously, Bronwyn stood and leaned nearer to the glass.
Several yards away, a paven with hair the color of the snow at his feet was walking in healthy strides down the main road. He was tall, broad in the shoulders, and dressed in a long dark gray coat with black boots to match his even blacker expression.
As he walked, he stared straight ahead, acknowledging no one. He was so imposing, so terrifying, so undeniably beautiful that the credenti members who spied him were split in their decisions to run away or move in closer to get a better look.
Beneath the binds at her wrists and neck, Bronwyn's blood sped up with equal parts revulsion and excitement.
Lucian Roman. The terrifying angel.
Why was he here?
When a knock sounded on the door belowstairs, she knew she was about to find out.
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