Chapter 19

"I'll be out in a second."

"I'll be waiting."

Nicholas left the bathroom, intent on giving Kate the time she needed to get herself together-both mental y and physical y-despite his concerns over the male's scent he had detected earlier. Granted, she was hiding something, but then again so was he, and he didn't think her secrets had anything to do with meeting someone in the bathroom.

There were a few women waiting outside the door, their expressions heavy on both interest and embarrassment.

Nicholas nodded at them. "Just a few more minutes, ladies."

They smiled at him like they knew what had happened behind the bathroom door and they wouldn't mind a repeat performance. Listening, watching, or participating.

Shit, neither would Nicholas.

After scanning the dance floor for Alexander, who had been hidden so undercover that Nicholas had yet to connect with him, he moved into the shadows of a nearby curtain and watched the bathroom door like a hawk. Any male that went by and so much as paused by the door elicited a soft, fierce growl from his throat. The severe reaction surprised Nicholas. He had never been a possessive paven-it wasn't something that worked wel in his profession-and he had no interest in becoming one his profession-and he had no interest in becoming one now. It was just her. He'd seen no mark on her skin and yet he couldn't stand the thought of anyone touching her, scenting her, taking her blood . . .

His fangs dropped and he licked his lips, wanting more of what was on his tongue and rushing through his veins and bel y right now. Was this how it would always be for him-hell, for them? A constant state of desire mixed with distrust? Would either of them break or bend, even for a second?

Would either of them reveal their secrets to the other?

He stared at the bathroom door, ready to see her emerge in that dress, her face flushed, her eyes stil heavy with the aftershocks of orgasm as she searched the dim passageway for him. Would she be as desperate to see him as he was to see her? And when their eyes connected, maybe even their hands as they moved through the club to get outside and to the car, would she despise herself for feeling that desperation?

His questions went unanswered. He never saw Kate, couldn't wait for her to come through that door. The scent that hit his nostrils and flared into his lungs was rank, poisoned-deadly.

Dare was here.

And he was close by.

One second ticked by as he weighed the option of remaining where he was, waiting for Alexander to emerge, waiting for Dare to get close enough to Kate so he could take the bastard out. But Dare wasn't stupid. Just as Nicholas possessed the power of scent, Dare had it too.

Nicholas possessed the power of scent, Dare had it too.

Besides, waiting was bul shit.

Nicholas took off, his hand closing around the gun at his back. He hated fol owing his nose like a dog, but that's what he was now thanks to morpho-an animal. Predator in search of prey.

A slow groove pounded a deep bass through the speakers as he circumvented the dance floor, which was packed, patrons barely able to move more than an inch in any direction. For one brief second he lost Dare's scent, and he was so amped up to capture and kil he wanted to grab the first thing that walked into his path and dive-bomb into their throat with his fangs. But then it returned, the sewer stench of the Impure who was feeding off something evil, and Nicholas resumed the hunt, through the crowds, past the bar, to the stage . . . There was no performance going on out front, but his instincts told him, warned him that it was al happening behind the scenes.

Pocketing his weapon, he eyed the oversized human male who stood guarding the backstage area and quickly moved to his left, where a frat party was taking place.

Knocking two drunken spiky-haired boys together caused an instant brawl, and as the guard leaped down to break it up, Nicholas headed up and behind the curtain.

He barely got three feet before-


In a rush of movement, Nicholas jumped on Dare, pul ing him down, needing to get a hand free to grab his weapon.

But it was limbs and fists and head butting, until Nicholas brought his elbow down on the Impure's neck. Stil on the brought his elbow down on the Impure's neck. Stil on the ground, he reached behind him for his weapon, and in under a second had it trained on Dare's temple.

Problem was, Dare had a gun pressed against Nicholas's temple, too.

Nicholas locked eyes with the Impure, a deadly clash of wil s, nostrils flaring, fangs dropped.

"This is fun," Dare whispered.

"Not as fun as hauling your rotting carcass to the Order,"

Nicholas returned.

"Perhaps," Dare said. "But you won't be the one to do it, Son of the Breeding Male."

Nicholas remained silent, but released the safety on his gun.

"In fact," Ethan continued without even a hitch of concern in his voice, "you wil be the first to drop your weapon."

Nicholas pressed the muzzle deeper into the Impure's temple.

"Not ready to surrender just yet, eh?" Dare's eyes drifted to the ceiling. "Perhaps if I offered you something? Gray Donohue's life?"

Nicholas's lip curled. "Gray? What do know about Gray?"

"Or perhaps an incentive that only you could appreciate."

His eyes slammed back to Nicholas. "How about cash? Or would you take a personal check?"

Aggression rushed over Nicholas like an avalanche threatening to bury him alive, and he snarled at the Impure.

This was fucking out of control. Maybe he wouldn't mind getting his own head blown off if he could manage to take Dare's off first.

"But maybe I should ask," Dare continued, amusement greasing his tone now. "What is your going rate now, Nichola?"

Nicholas froze.

Dare grinned. "Did one of your patrons give you that name, or was it your pimp?"

The world suddenly imploded. Nicholas saw nothing but red, and sixty shades of it at once. In that moment, Dare could've put a bul et in his brain or his body and he would've done nothing but drop.

"What did you cal me?" he rasped.

Dare's grin widened. "The name of a secret whore, one who's been working for a long time, one who continues to sel his cock, his mouth, his ass-"

"Shut up!" Nicholas roared, his finger shaking on the trigger.

"Do it and I'll flash," Dare warned. "And I'll be bringing al my new information with me. Who knows who I'll run into on my way home? Your brother out there in the club tonight?"

How was this possible? Nicholas thought, his brain squeezing inside his skull. His two worlds col iding like trains running the same track.

Shoot. Shoot the motherfucker.

"What do you want?"

Dare exhaled. "What do you think I want, paven? I want the balas. I want you and yours to back off and let the uprising come to pass. Let the Impures free so they can final y have what they deserve."

"And what is that?" Nicholas growled.


"You deserve nothing but a long, pain-fil ed death, you piece of shit."

"But you'l stil do as I ask, won't you?" His eyes were heavy with purpose now. "And one more thing."

"Fuck you."

Dare shook his head. "Don't think I carry enough cash.Bummer."

"I think I can arrange for a freebie just this once," Nicholas said menacingly. "I think you'd like it. Or maybe your ass is already being serviced." Nicholas cocked his head to one side. "Who is pul ing the strings back there?"

But Dare wasn't taking the bait. "I want the balas and the veana."

"Not a fucking chance," Nicholas bit out.

"Bring them to Time Square tomorrow night, just after sundown"-he leaned in closer and whispered-"or your Impure sister-in-law wil never see her brother again and your brothers wil have every detail of your long and very rich career as a cock-for-hire."

Dare flashed from the alcove, leaving Nicholas sitting there, alone, on his knees, air trapped inside his lungs. A cyclone of self-disgust and self-hate spinning within him.

Nicholas let his head drop forward and lifted his gun, trained the muzzle that had moments ago been on Dare, on himself. It felt good, cool on his temple. It was the easy way out. Quick, messy . . . but he wouldn't have to be the one to clean it up.

He didn't move, barely breathed, his lips feeling so dry.

His secret, his shame, in the hands of the enemy.

He itched to squeeze the trigger.

Which was worse-let Lucian be morphed, let him be turned into a Breeding Male, let Gray die, give an innocent child over to a demon . . . and then there was the veana-or let his brothers know he was a liar and a filthy whore who had never stopped fucking anything that walked upright.

Nicholas shut his eyes, his lip curling with ire and desperation. Alexander and Lucian saw him as the honorable one, the paven they counted on for rational thought and a controlled manner-the paven who had left his hole and his profession in France for a new life and a clean future. But it was nothing but a joke.

He was nothing but a joke.

A worthless piece of gutter trash.

For a moment, he remained there, stil and trembling, no thought in his head as he forced air in and out of his lungs.

Then he eased the gun from his temple and opened his eyes.


Her blood pulsed through his veins, her life force, her passion, her ferocity-her drive for freedom, al gripping hold of every cel in his body and attempting to reorganize his wil and purpose.

She waited for him in the bathroom. Or had she left, gone into the crowd looking for him?

A new fear gripped him.


Was he looking for her? God, had he found her?

Nicholas was up and out of the alcove in under a breath, his gun back in his waistband where it belonged.

Kate ignored the knocking on the bathroom door. Back off, she wanted to yel through the wood. Didn't they get it?

Didn't they understand how insane and complicated her life had just become, and that she needed a minute in front of the mirror to process?

Or ten.

'Course they didn't.

She couldn't stop staring at the mark just above her right nipple. Twenty minutes ago, it'd been a freckle, a tiny little nothing from birth, and now it was the mark of her true mate. Granted, this wasn't uncommon. A veana could develop the mark of her true mate at any time before Meta, the transformation at age fifty into an adult vampire female.

But to develop the mark fol owing a sexual encounter-her first, in fact-well, that she'd never heard of.

She reached up, touched the spot. It was softer than the rest of her skin, as though it were coated in oil.

Top lip. Bottom lip.

A kiss.

"Come the fuck on, bitch!" someone cal ed through the door.

Yanking up her dress and grabbing her purse, Kate unlocked the door and charged through it like a feral cat.

Her nerves driving her irritation, she took on the first female she saw, number one in the long line.

"Who are you cal ing bitch, bitch?" she chal enged, chin deep in the woman's face.

The black-haired female blanched, her pale brown eyes trained on Kate's mouth. "Sorry. Holding it for ten minutes. You know."

Fangs in, Kate. Jesus. Get ahold of yourself.

She quickly curled her upper lip over her teeth, gave the woman an apologetic, toothless smile. "Sure. Sorry."

Stepping back from the terrified woman, Kate walked past the line of girls and headed for the dance floor.

Thankful y, the paven she sought stepped right into her path only seconds later.

"I'm here," she said, her hands itching to touch him. "Just like I said I'd be."

"Good. That's good."

He looked distracted, to say the very least. "What happened?" Her eyes moved over his face, his eyes the blackest she'd ever seen them. "You look upset. Are you hurt? Did you see Dare?"

He didn't answer, just grabbed her hand. "Let's get out of here."

Kate fol owed him into the sea of swaying bodies.


"Come, Kate, please," he cal ed back to her, picking up the pace. "We need to go."

"Where to? Another club?"

"Back to the house."

He walked ahead of her, straight across the dance floor, his eyes scanning the crowd, his body tense as an alpha wolf. Kate was no wilting flower by any means, but things had changed. Back in that bathroom, things had changed big time-whether she wanted them to or not. Nicholas was her mate. And though she would never give up her freedom, even for love, she would protect him, care for him for as long as they were together. Her DNA demanded it be so, and though she hated to admit it, so did her heart.

She squeezed his hand and hustled forward.

He glanced back, his eyes a weary, indecipherable question she didn't have the answer to, but she gave him a soft smile and a nod of encouragement anyway. The flash of pain-laced desire that crossed his black eyes cut her to her core, but the look was gone in an instant, and the moment they exited the club and hit the sidewalk, so were they.

The limousine and its driver were left waiting at the curb.

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