“I’m a Sentinel. I can take care of myself.” As firm as his voice was, it was softened by the warmth in his extraordinary eyes.

“I won’t stay here if you won’t let me come. Childish, I know, but it’s all I’ve got as leverage.”

“You’re blackmailing an angel.”

She shrugged. “So sue me.”

His wings materialized, flexing along with his jaw. “I can detain you.”

“And then my father will create a big stink about me falling off the face of the earth and you’ll have even more trouble on your hands. Hey—don’t get your wings in a twist. It was partly your idea to keep him in the loop. Besides, I know you want to catch the ones responsible, and every day that passes, the trail grows colder. I don’t know if you have the same sixth sense I’ve got or not, but if not, we both know I can find them real quick. And they won’t see me coming. I’m just an average, everyday artery to them.”

“Blackmail works both ways, Lindsay. I want something in return.”

“Oh?” She was instantly on alert. The glimmer in his eyes was too . . . triumphant, almost as if she’d played right into his hands.

“Your reason for hunting—the someone you’re avenging—I want to know who it is.”

“I was talking about a generalized ‘someone,’ ” she prevaricated.

Adrian studied her for a long moment, then said, “Very well. I’ll take something else, then.”



He was kissing her before she could blink, having moved so fast it felt like she’d missed entire frames in a film reel.

She was shocked into stillness. He sealed his mouth over hers, his firm, sensual lips pressing softly. The gentleness was unexpected, considering the tightness with which he cupped her face in his hands. His tongue slid along her bottom lip, then slipped inside. The silken caress in her mouth made her shiver, then moan. Adrian kissed with the leisure of a man who took his time making love, which was a luxury she’d never had time for. Sex was for scratching an itch and for feeling human for a few stolen moments. It had never been this slow, deep melding. And this was only a kiss. What the hell would he be like in bed?

Her toes curled. Her hands caught his waistband, hanging on for the ride. Behind her closed eyelids she absorbed the taste and scent of him, the feel of him so close. She felt as if he’d found a way inside her. She was aware of nothing else. Just the feeling of him sifting through her like curling smoke . . .

Lindsay wrenched away with a curse. “Were you just inside my head?”

“I needed to know if your past was a liability.” Adrian licked his lips as if savoring the flavor of her.

The primitive gesture did crazy things to her insides, but she was too furious to be swayed by it. “So you violated my privacy by digging in my brain to find the personal things I didn’t want to talk about?”


“Fuck you.” Lindsay would’ve loved to walk away in a huff, but she was stuck by their location. She wondered if he’d planned that all along.

“I know who you want,” he said, “and I assure you, you’re going to need my help to snare her. You’re definitely going to need my help getting her to identify her accomplices.”

She stared at him, wondering how it was possible to feel violated and hopeful at the same time. He’d seen the attack in her mind, seen that Amazon-sized bitch with the flame red hair and skintight black leather outfit. “You didn’t recognize the two guys with her?”

“There are thousands of vamp males with spiky, crayon-hued hair like that. Even body size and ethnic features aren’t much help when the memory is as fractured by terror and grief as yours is.” His wings flapped restlessly, as if her remembered pain affected him. “At some point during the attack, you stopped seeing and started focusing on feeling. That’s what resonates most in you—how it felt to watch your mother bled dry, how it felt waiting for your turn.”

Which never came. There hadn’t been a scratch on her when she broke away screaming for help. The damage they’d inflicted had been entirely mental and emotional. Watching her mother being drained of life. Hearing the lurid taunts. Feeling the pressure of claws against her flesh as she was being held down . . .

“But you know the woman?” she pressed, needing a clue. Anything at all that could help her find the vampires responsible for the event that had forever changed her life.

“Oh yes. Vashti is unmistakable. She’s second-in-command of the vampires.”

“Second-in-command . . . Vampires like that are running the show? And that’s not enough to wipe them all out?”

“It’s enough to wipe her out, and her accomplices.” Adrian’s mouth thinned into a grim line. “You and your mother were ambushed in broad daylight. The Fallen are the only vampires who aren’t photosensitive. They can bestow temporary immunity to minions by sharing their blood, but either way, one—or more—of the Fallen is ultimately responsible for the attack. Considering that, it’s a wonder you survived. They should have killed you, too, to protect their identity.”

“I wasn’t enough of a threat, I guess. Stupid move on their part.” She blew out her breath in a rush. As pissed off as she was at Adrian for picking her brain without her permission, she also wanted to kiss him senseless. He was now the key to unlocking the mystery of that day. She now had the “who”; she just needed the “why.” Then she could kill the fuckers and close that chapter of her life. “So, now that we’ve gotten the extortion portion of this discussion out of the way, I’ll be going with you.”

“You will follow orders implicitly.”

“Yes. I promise.” Lindsay made a gesture of an X over her chest. “Cross my heart.”

Adrian beckoned her with a crook of his finger. “We need to head back.”

Her body hummed with excitement and growing exhilaration. She suspected that if he ever flew with her over longer distances, she just might orgasm midflight. Like a biker bunny who got off on the vibrations of a Harley-Davidson. Adrenaline had always made her hot. Adrenaline combined with Adrian was an inferno. Her gaze took him in, sliding over him from the top of his dark head down to his bare feet . . . which weren’t quite touching the coarse ground.

She was so screwed.


Syre swiveled his desk chair around and faced the carefully crafted Main Street scene outside his office window. Reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, the small town of Raceport, Virginia, was modernized by the dozens of Harley-Davidson motorcycles lined in neat rows along the curbs.

“Adrian admitted he killed her? He just came right out with it?”

His lieutenant’s normally melodic voice throbbed with anger and sorrow. Vashti paced like a caged animal, her stiletto-heeled boots clicking rhythmically across the hardwood floor.

“Yes,” he answered quietly.

“How are we going to retaliate? What are we going to—?”

“Don’t do anything, Father.”

The eerie calm in his son’s voice broke Syre’s heart more than fury would have. Pushing to his feet, he faced his only living child. Torque lingered in the shadows by the threshold, avoiding the advancing rays of the sun that slanted over Syre’s desk and cut the room in half.

“Nikki wants—wanted—peace between us and the Sentinels.” Torque’s handsome features were ravaged by grief, his sloe eyes red rimmed and his mouth bracketed with deep-set lines. “She would never wish to be the cause of a war.”

“Your wife didn’t cause this,” Vash snapped. “Adrian’s brought war on himself.”

Syre clasped his hands at the small of his back. “He claims she attacked him.”

“Fuckin’ ridiculous.”

“I would agree, but he said she was foaming at the mouth. Rabid. And he didn’t recognize her—he has no idea he killed my daughter-in-law. How is that possible, unless her appearance was drastically altered? Nikki’s been missing for two days. Who knows what was done to her during that time? She could’ve been poisoned with drugs.” He looked at his son, who’d often witnessed just how horribly a minion’s unique body chemistry could react to certain human drugs.

“Maybe it’s not Nikki, then,” Vash said quickly. “Maybe it was someone else.”

“It was her,” Torque confirmed hoarsely. “I felt the moment her life slipped away.”

Syre nodded, knowing that the usual bond between vampire and minion was doubly strong when love was involved. He himself felt Shadoe’s deaths keenly, no matter the distance between them. “What do we know about the abduction?”

Torque scrubbed a hand over his face. “She was dropped off at the airport around ten o’clock. I called the coven at midnight, because she was late picking me up in Shreveport. Viktor was sent to look for her. Nikki was gone and there was a trace scent of lycan dogs around the helicopter.”

Looking at Vash, Syre commanded, “Track the lycans. Bring them to me.”

“I thought you’d never ask.” Her amber eyes were cold and hard as stone. A half century past, a pack of lycans had ambushed and killed her mate. She now harbored hatred so poisonous it was killing her in slow degrees. “I can get them to tell us what Adrian’s orders were.”

“If Adrian had something to do with it.”

Torque frowned. “Who else would be responsible?”

“That’s the bigger question.”

Vash cursed under her breath. With her waist-length red hair and black leather bodysuit, she embodied popular-fiction descriptions of vampiric beauty. She never hid her fangs, arguing that some mortals paid for vampire teeth veneers. “Adrian told you he killed Nikki. What more do you need?”

“Motive.” Syre arched his neck to relieve the building strain there. His fangs descended with the stretch, just as his former wings used to express his mood. “At his deepest core, Adrian is a Sentinel. That sounds simplistic, but it’s really not. He’s like a machine—he has his orders and he doesn’t deviate from them. That adherence to accountability is his greatest strength—and his most predictable weakness. He wouldn’t suddenly go rogue; it’s not in his nature. To strike this way—this would be a countermove, not a first assault.”

“Maybe his orders have changed,” Torque suggested wearily.

Vash snorted. “Maybe he’s lying. He might’ve made up the self-defense story to cover his ass, with the ultimate goal being to piss us off and make us retaliate, so he has an excuse to come after us. Maybe he’s sending a message.”

“You forget, he still answers to the Creator,” Syre said wryly. “And if he wanted to make a statement, he would have pinned a note to Nikki’s broken body and left her on my porch. He wouldn’t leave any room for speculation. My guess? Someone wants us to blame him. More disturbing, he thinks I sent Nikki to him in some compromised state of mind, so the reverse is true: we’re being blamed for Nikki’s actions. Who has the most to gain from a war between vampires and angels?”

“The lycans.” Vash exhaled harshly and began to pace again. Her long-legged stride ate up the twenty-foot distance between walls, back and forth, at a speed that would give most mortals a headache to watch. “Underhanded and clumsy suits the dogs, I suppose. But I didn’t think they had the balls—or the brains—to wriggle out of the Sentinels’ collar.”

Syre smiled grimly. It was a testament to Adrian’s leadership that he’d kept the lycans in his service for so long. Somehow he managed to keep each successive generation indentured by the bargain he’d made with their ancestors.

To this day, Syre admired the Sentinel leader for his foresight. The lycans’ finite life spans enabled them to breed. Unlike the vampires, who were sterile. Or the Sentinels, who were forbidden to procreate. Adrian needed those lycan pups to supplement his Sentinel ranks, which had never been reinforced.

“Remember,” Syre said grimly, “the lycans are descended from our fellow Watchers. They’re distantly related to you and me, so certainly some of our rebellious temperament exists in them. And while they were little more than beasts when they were first infected with demon blood, their mortality has given them an advantage—we remain the same while they’ve evolved.”

“So a renegade lycan or few sets us up to war with the Sentinels. Why? Mass suicide? Their sole purpose for drawing breath is to serve the Sentinels. They’re stuck right in the middle.”

“Maybe they no longer want to be. Find the ones responsible for Nikki’s abduction and we’ll ask them, but hold off on taking down any Sentinels for the time being.”

“We’re justified,” Vash argued.

“Do as I say, Vashti.”

“As you wish, Syre.” Pivoting, she went to the door. She moved like the huntress she was, with precision and deliberation. Syre trusted her with his life, just as he’d trusted her with Shadoe’s in her original incarnation. Vash had trained his willful daughter, instilling some much-needed discipline in her, and together the two women had been responsible for the eradication of thousands of demons.

Vash hugged Torque before passing him, murmuring a promise to hunt down the bastards who’d killed his wife. Then she left, taking her agitated energy with her. In the sudden stillness that descended in her wake, Torque’s shoulders drooped as if the weight of the world was upon them. He’d Changed Nikki because he had fallen in love with her, bestowing immortality so that she’d always be with him. Forever. Unfortunately, immortality was no safeguard against a Sentinel.

Torque crossed his arms and glared, his eyes glowing a molten amber. “Avenging Nikki is my right, not yours or Vash’s.”