Bullshit. She was falling for him already. Lindsay wondered if he had any idea how annihilating his occasional displays of tenderness were. They knocked her on her ass every time. She might have some defense against the searing intimacy if she thought it was a seduction tactic, but his behavior seemed devoid of ulterior motive. His actions seemed innate . . . or irresistible. The thought that he couldn’t help but be tender with her scared her more than flying without a plane. Fear and arousal created a potent mixture.

Burying her face deeper into his neck, she clung to his powerful body, feeling every contraction of muscle as he climbed over a rocky hillside. He held her securely, so tightly no air passed between them, with a surety and confidence that soothed her anxiety. Flushed by surging adrenaline, she grew hotter by the moment despite the chill of the morning and her bare arms. Her breasts grew heavy and her nipples puckered into tight, hard tips.

As they banked to the right, her shirt rode up. Her breath caught at the feel of his bare flesh touching hers. His skin was hot, the hard muscles beneath it flexing as he beat his massive wings. Her hair whipped the sides of her face and her eyes closed. The wind sang with something akin to joy.

The rippling of his washboard abs against her flat stomach was undeniably sensual, the rhythmic clenching perfectly mimicking how he’d feel while fucking her. The hard length of his erection was a demanding pressure, making it impossible to ignore her own growing arousal.

She writhed, rubbing against the thick rigidness of his cock.

They dropped several feet. She screeched. He muttered something foreign with the vehemence of an expletive.

“Behave,” he admonished, tightening his hold to the point of immobilizing her.

“You’re the one with the hard-on.”

He tugged her chest even closer, crushing her breasts against him. “Your nipples prove I’m not the only one.”

They crested another hill, then swooped downward, landing neatly in a small clearing on the far side. Lindsay didn’t let go right away. Instead, she did what she’d wanted to do earlier: she pressed her nose against his skin and inhaled. His fingers shoved into her hair, his palm cupping her scalp and holding her near.

He breathed roughly. “How you tempt me, tzel.”

“Should I be insulted or turned on when you call me things I don’t understand?” Her tongue fluttered over his throbbing pulse; then she scraped her teeth gently across it.

Adrian groaned. “Do that again and I won’t be responsible for the gravel you may later find embedded in your back.”

“Ouch.” She stepped back. Glancing around, she realized he hadn’t brought her here for an isolated tryst. The dry brush and rocky ground wasn’t at all conducive to taking their clothes off.

“Sentinels and lycans have very keen hearing,” he explained, restoring his immaculate appearance with a single swipe of his hand through his hair. “If I want to speak to you privately, I need to do so away from the house.”

“What do you have to say that you don’t want them to hear?”

His wings dissipated. “It isn’t what I have to say, but the manner in which I say it. And how I look at you when I say it.”

Her brows rose questioningly.

His brilliant blue gaze swept over her, lingering on the hardened points of her nipples. She pulled her shoulders back and let him look.

Adrian’s expression softened. “I don’t bring women to the house. The lycans don’t know what to make of your presence and they’re paying close attention to me, looking for cues.”

Lindsay tamped down the warmth wanting to spread through her. After a lifetime of feeling out of sync with the world, she was now somewhere she felt comfortable, a place she alone fit into. Was it possible her square peg had finally found a square hole? “Of course you don’t bring women here. How could you explain a legion living under your roof and a pack of wolves prowling the perimeter? Unless there are others out there like me . . . ?”

“No,” he said softly. “I can safely say that you are unique in the entire world.”

“But you’d invited me over for dinner before I killed the dragon.”

His arms crossed, which tightened his biceps and made her hot for him all over again. “Some things you just know. I knew when I saw you that bringing you into my life was inevitable.”

“Even as a human with nothing special about her.”

“There was always something special about you, even then.”

She turned her back to him. Her affection for him was building irrationally fast and she couldn’t seem to stop it. “I can’t see how I’ll be more than a pain in the ass for you.”

“As you said, they don’t see you coming. You can be a lure for vampires, and I can use you to my advantage. Is that answer acceptable?”

Lindsay looked over her shoulder at him. Mercenary and ruthless: she didn’t begrudge him that. She understood the need to be that way. If using her to draw in vampires was the way she could be helpful, she’d go along with it. Innocent people were dying. Victims with families, including little children like she’d once been. She wished someone had been mercenary and ruthless in saving her mother. “An artery to use for bait? Yes, that would be acceptable to me. But I want to know more about the whole angel-turned-vampire thing. And the angel-turned-lycan thing. Knowledge is power and all that.”

“Agreed.” He waited until she faced him. “Shortly after Man was created, two hundred seraphim were sent to earth to observe and report on their progress. These angels were known as the Watchers. They were a scholarly caste and they were given strict orders not to interfere with the natural progression of Man’s evolution.”

“They were only supposed to ‘watch.’ I get it.”

“They didn’t obey.”

She smiled wryly. “I figured.”

“The Watchers began to fraternize with mortals, teaching them things they shouldn’t know.”

“Such as . . . ?”

“The creation of weapons, warfare, science . . .” He waved one hand in a markedly casual gesture. “Among many other skills.”

“I’m following.”

“A warrior caste known as the Sentinels was created to enforce the laws the Watchers were breaking.”

“And you lead these Sentinels?”


“So you’re the one responsible for turning the fallen angels into vampires,” she accused, her heartbeat quickening with anger and horror.

“They are responsible for what they are. They made the choices that led to their fall.” He studied her with those fathomless eyes. “Yes, I administered the punishment. I stripped the Watchers of their wings. Wings and souls are connected, and the loss of their souls led to their blood drinking. But I’m not accountable for their mistakes, any more than a police officer is responsible for the crimes committed by offenders.”

“A better analogy would be a penal system that releases criminals who are more dangerous after incarceration than they were before it.” Lindsay ruffled her curls in frustration. “Why do they have to drink blood? You don’t, and they were once angels like you.”

“They’re still physiologically seraphim. Severing their wings didn’t make them mortal. They can’t ingest the food you eat. We look similar to mortals on the outside, but we are not the same. We aren’t built the same. Your bodies create energy through physical chemical processes; we aren’t designed that way.”

She nodded slowly. The wings—and the way they appeared and disappeared—were more than enough proof of how different they were. “And what do the lycans do? How do you use them?”

“They scent vampires in hiding, raid nests, and herd vamps into sparsely populated areas where they’ll cause the least amount of damage to mortals.”

“You said there are a hundred sixty-two Sentinels now. The rest . . . died?”

His chest lifted and fell with a deep breath. “They were casualties, yes.”

“How many lycans are there?”

“Several thousand from an original twenty-five, because they can breed.”

“And how many vampire casualties have there been?”

“Hundreds of thousands. But they’re still ahead, because they can spread vampirism to mortals much faster than the lycans can reproduce.”

“While you’ve been stuck with a static number, minus the ones you lose along the way?” Lindsay exhaled in a rush, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task Adrian faced. “Why can the fallen angel-vampires spread their sickness? I don’t understand why that’s okay.”

“I don’t have an answer for that. If I was to hazard a guess, I would say it has something to do with freedom of choice. The choice of the Fallen to refrain from sharing their punishment, just as they should have refrained from sharing their knowledge. And the choice of the mortals who are Changed into vampires.”

“You’re assuming the mortals have a choice.”

“There are those who seek the Change. Most especially ones who are ill or crippled in some way. Ones who want to live, no matter the cost.”

She shuddered. “Who wants to live like that? I’d rather be dead.”

Adrian took a step closer. Then another. “The better question is, who wants to die like that? Most mortals don’t survive the Change. Of those who do, many become feral and have to be put down. The Fallen don’t have souls. When they spread their affliction to mortals, who do have souls, the Change causes irreversible damage. Some minions can survive without a soul, but most lose their empathy and then their minds.”

“You call them minions?” Her nose wrinkled. “Even the term is disgusting.”

A breeze ruffled his hair, luring a thick black lock to hang over his brow. The slight blurring of his sharp perfection made him look younger than the early-thirties range she’d originally pegged him for.

Lindsay now knew what an illusion that was. His eyes, so brilliantly hued, were ancient. The length of time he was discussing so casually was unfathomable to her. Ages. Eons. Trying to imagine the history he’d seen was almost frightening.

“You’re here,” she said carefully, hooking her thumbs in the waistband of her pants, “to punish angels who taught mortals things they shouldn’t know yet . . . but you’re going to teach me things I wouldn’t know otherwise. Do the rules that applied to the Watchers not apply to you?”

“I’m going to teach you how to better defend yourself, but within the limitations of your mortal body. Basically, nothing you couldn’t learn elsewhere from mortal masters of self-defense.”

“Good.” She released the breath she hadn’t known she was holding. “Now that I know the basics, I want to go with you when you leave.”

He shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m dealing with. Until I do, it’s too hazardous.”

“There’s someplace safer than by your side?” she challenged.

“By my side is the most dangerous place for you to be.”

The temptation he presented proved that, but . . . “I’ll take my chances. Besides, I’m already packed.”

When his face took on an arrogant look of command, Lindsay held up a hand. “Think carefully,” she warned, “before you answer.”

Adrian paused. The stillness that settled over him was absolute.

She’d known within moments of meeting him that he was used to giving orders and having them obeyed without question. He was going to have to get over that with her.

“Your way or the highway?” he asked with dangerous softness.

Lindsay lowered her hand. “I do what I do—I kill heinous things—to avenge someone. I do it for the victims, because they couldn’t do it for themselves. If I can help someone who has a name and a face, friends, a life I’ve seen . . . Do you understand? You said you would give me a focus, and that’s the kind of focus I want. I want to help you find whoever killed your friend.”

“I’m not hunting today.”

“Bullshit. You’re going after information. You want to see if you can pick up anything around the scene where your friend was killed. And if you find something, you’re not just going to call it a day and come home. I don’t need to be trained to be helpful. I’m lethal already.”

“With the element of surprise,” he qualified. “In hand-to-hand combat you’d be dead before you could blink. And when word gets out about you, you’ll be hunted. You’re not ready for that yet.”

“No one can be totally ready for that. And when my time comes, it comes. Everything happens for a reason.”

“Now I’m calling bullshit.”

“You have to take me with you,” she said in a voice that brooked no argument. Then she gave him “the look,” the one she’d given him in the airport to snare his interest. She wasn’t above using her feminine wiles to get her way.

He smiled. A full, seductive smile that rocked her back on her heels. “You can’t manage me, Lindsay. I’m more than happy to be the recipient of your persuasive skills, but not if you’ll be pissed off when it doesn’t get you what you want.”

That smile was kicking her ass. Crackling electricity raced across her skin, making the hair on her nape stand on end. “Adrian—”

“No.” The curve of his mouth straightened abruptly. “I won’t make a tactical error because of my craving for you. My mission—and, most of all, you—are too important to risk.”

The tightness that constricted her chest was fueled by respect. She had a sudden crazed desire to crawl all over him naked. “I have responsibilities, too, Adrian. I know those things are out there. I wish I didn’t. I wish I couldn’t feel them coming. But I can, and there’s an accountability that comes with that curse. But that’s all about what’s in it for me. For you, I can be useful and I can watch your back.”