“Bet that comes in handy.”

“It’s convenient,” he agreed, returning his attention to cooking the last of the batter-coated shrimp and vegetables.

His energy levels were thrumming now, as they always did when Shadoe was near. Her proximity—the unique force of two souls in one vessel—allowed him to achieve the greatest levels of power of which he was capable. Life-force energy from souls was the primary source of seraphim sustenance and the reason why the Fallen had turned to blood drinking—they still needed life-force energy to survive, but the stripping away of their souls forced them to obtain that energy through direct means.

“So,” Lindsay began, “you hunt vampires.”

“I do.”

“But the guy in the grocery store, he was a dragon.”

“He was.”

She took a deep breath. “Are there also demons? I mean, angels and demons always seem to go hand in hand.”

He pulled the last of the tempura out of the oil with a strainer, then turned the burner off. “The dragon was a demon. There are other classifications of beings that fall under that designation.”


“There are some creatures who have fangs and drink blood that are demons. But they’re not my problem. My responsibility is other angels—fallen angels. The vampires I hunt were once like me.”

“Like you. Angels. Really.” Her lips thinned. “But aren’t demons everyone’s concern? They’re the bad guys, right?”

“My mission is sharply defined.”

“Your mission?”

“I’m a soldier, Lindsay. I have duties and orders, and I follow them. I expect those whose job it is to hunt demons feel the same way about their responsibilities. It’s not my place to intercede and I wouldn’t regardless. Frankly, I have enough on my plate.”

“But someone is taking care of them?”


She stared at him a moment, then nodded slowly. “I didn’t know. If someone’s vibe is off, I’ve taken them out.”

Adrian’s grip on the counter tightened. It was a miracle she was alive today. “How do you sense this vibe? How does it feel?”

“Like I’m walking through a Halloween fun house and I know something is about to jump out at me. My stomach quivers and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. But it’s really intense. There’s no mistaking it for anything else.”

“Sounds scary. Yet you hunt the things that scare you. Why?”

Lindsay set her chin atop steepled fingers. “I don’t have aspirations of saving the world, if that’s what you’re asking. I hate killing. But I can feel the evil in these things for a reason. I can’t turn my back on that. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

“You feel you have a calling.”

She took a slow, deep inhalation. The silence stretched out. “Something like that.”

“Who knows that you hunt?”

“You and your guards, and whoever you tell.”

“All right. This is a no-brainer, but I have to say it anyway: you’re going to have to trust me,” he said softly. “I have no chance of helping you otherwise.”

“That’s what you intend to do? Help me?” Her shoulders went back. “Did you know about me when you saw me in the airport?”

“Did I know you could sense demons and vamps, and were actively hunting them?” he clarified, deliberately narrowing the scope of her query so he could answer honestly. “No. I saw you, I wanted you, and you made it clear there was a possibility I could have you. I acted on that.”

Lines bracketed her mouth and eyes. A muscle in her jaw twitched with tension. “And that sort of coincidence just rolls right off your back?”

“I happened to be in the same place you were at the right time. After that, we met because you sensed I was ‘different,’ right?”

“Actually, I thought you were the hottest man I’d ever seen. The vibe came later. As for right place/right time, I should have been on an earlier flight. I missed my connection.”

“And I was attacked by a vampire this morning, which resulted in the crash of my helicopter and a need to travel commercial. See?” He shrugged. “Random chaos.”

“You’re an angel. Aren’t you supposed to preach about a divine plan or something?”

“Freedom of choice, Lindsay. We all have it. Today you and I were affected by the ramifications of other people’s choices.” He held her gaze. “But you don’t really want to get into a theological discussion with me. You want to avoid talking about the events that led you to hunt. I’m not going to push you—yet—but we’re at an impasse until I know what’s going on with you.”

She stared back. “You’re so sure I have a story to tell.”

“I saw you in action. It takes years of practice to learn how to wield a blade like that. Who taught you?”

“I taught myself.”

Fierce admiration heated his blood. “What materials are you using to forge your blades? You must use at least trace amounts of silver.”

“Yes. I figured out most . . . things have a negative reaction to it.”

“Dragons don’t. In fact, aside from two points of weakness, they have an impenetrable hide. Your blade would’ve bounced right off of him if he’d shifted.”

Lindsay held up her left hand and showed the pad of her thumb. A straight crimson line betrayed a recent injury. “Some creatures have a negative reaction to my blood, too. I always smear a little on my blades before I toss them, just in case. The blood by itself won’t kill, but it gives my weapons a chance to get the job done. Found that out the hard way.”

Adrian’s mind spun with the implications. She was mortal, but even if she’d been a naphil like Shadoe, her blood shouldn’t have any effect on others.

She continued to eat, blissfully unaware of his confusion.

Reining in his thoughts, he said, “So you dedicated what had to be a substantial portion of your free time to learning how to kill things that frighten you. You have a strong sense of right and wrong, Lindsay, but no one who’s sane begins killing things without provocation. No matter how evil you sense someone may be, you had to have witnessed that evil firsthand to resort to lethal force. Something tipped you off, and something else keeps you motivated. Vengeance, perhaps?”

“And you want to help me get it?” Her expression was wary and assessing. “How would you do that, exactly ? Why would you?”

“Why not? Our goals are the same. You’ve been lucky so far, but that won’t last. One day soon you’re going to take down a demon or vamp who has friends who’ll hunt you, or you’ll miss your target. Either way, your days are numbered.”

“Can you teach me the difference between vampires and demons?”

“So you have a preference.” He crossed his arms. “I can point you in the right direction and give you backup. I can train you how to hunt more effectively and show you how to kill without relying on surprise. Right now you’re floating aimlessly, waiting for random encounters. I can give you focus and specific targets.”

Lindsay leaned back in her chair. “You don’t even know me.”

Her proclivities, while deeply troubling, provided him with an ideal excuse to keep her close. “I’m holding the front line in a battle in which I’m outnumbered. I can use every soldier.”

“But this isn’t all I do. I have a regular life and a job.”

“So do I. We can work out the logistics together.”

She caught her lower lip between her teeth. After an interminable moment, she nodded. “Okay.”

Perfect. He enjoyed a moment of sharp satisfaction. Then he heard the front door opening. A moment later, Damien stepped into view.

Adrian’s focus shifted to the expected report on Phineas’s death. “Join us.”

The Sentinel entered the kitchen. He glanced briefly at Lindsay, then turned his attention to Adrian. “Captain.”

Introducing them, Adrian made a point of identifying Lindsay as a recruit.

Damien’s seraph blue eyes returned to her. “Ms. Gibson.”

“Call me Lindsay, please.”

“Speak freely,” Adrian prompted Damien, giving the Sentinel a look that told him to hold his questions about Lindsay’s incarnation of Shadoe until later.

There was a moment of hesitation; then Damien began relaying the details. “I didn’t get a lot of usable information out of Phineas’s surviving lycan. The beast was incoherent with grief. He did say that the vampire who attacked them was sick. I’m not sure if he meant physically ill or mentally twisted. The attack was especially brutal, so it could very well be the latter. Phineas’s neck was gnawed down to his spinal cord.”

Lindsay cleared her throat. “Lycans? As in werewolves?”

Adrian glanced at her. “Werewolves are demons. Lycans share a bloodline with them, which allows them to shape-shift in a similar manner. But unlike weres, they were once angels.”

“And as a heads-up,” Damien added grimly, “they get very offended if anyone calls them werewolves.”

“Angels.” Lindsay’s eyes were wide and dark, the irises a mere sliver of brown around dilated pupils. “Why didn’t they become vampires?”

“Because I needed reinforcement,” Adrian said. “We came to an agreement—I would petition the Creator to spare them from vampirism if they agreed to help me keep the vampires in line.”

“Were they part of the same group of angels, the vampires and the lycans?”


Her only sign of disquiet was the way she twisted her glass of water back and forth on the countertop. “I’m sorry about your . . . Phineas.”

“My second-in-command. My friend—no, more than a friend. He was like a brother to me.” Adrian had retracted his wings during dinner, but they unfurled again, flexing with his inner agitation and thirst for battle.

Her gaze followed the upper curve of one wing, softening. He felt that tender look as if she’d touched him directly.

She slid off the stool and stood. “Do we know enough to hunt the bastard who killed him?”

Her use of “we” didn’t escape him. “We will.”

Damien shot her another look, this one less antagonistic than the previous. “From what I could gather, Phineas was ambushed. He stopped only to feed the lycans.”

“Where is the surviving guard?”

“I put him down.”

“I didn’t authorize that.”

“It was him or me, Captain.” Damien straightened his shoulders. “He charged me. I was forced to defend myself.”

“He assaulted you?”

“He tried. In my opinion, it was a deliberate suicide.”

Elijah had been correct in saying that no lycan would be able to watch their mate die on purpose—they couldn’t live without each other. But if the surviving lycan planned on dying shortly after . . . ? “Phineas’s wound—you said his throat had been gnawed on. Is it possible the bite wasn’t inflicted by a vampire?”

Damien’s head tilted to one side. “Are you asking if it could’ve been a lycan mauling? Yes, it’s possible, although I would wonder about the lack of blood at the scene. There was some initial arterial spray, but otherwise, he was drained.”

It was concerning that Phineas had walked into a snare. Sentinels weren’t susceptible to hunger, so it was the lycans’ prompting that led him to pull over where danger awaited him. If Jason’s speculation about a lycan uprising had merit, Adrian was facing a battle certain to spill over into mortal lives. He couldn’t afford to rule anything out. “Report to Jason now, then see me in the morning. I want to go over this again after you two put your heads together. That will be all for tonight.”

The Sentinel bowed slightly and left the kitchen.

Lindsay stifled a yawn behind her hand, reminding Adrian that she was mortal and her body was still running on eastern time.

“Let me escort you to your room,” he said.

Nodding, she rounded the island, her movements fluid and graceful, despite her exhaustion. “You and I need to talk tomorrow, too.”


She came to a halt in front of him and crossed her arms. “You said you wanted me.”

“I do.” The urge to pull her close, to take her lush mouth and discover the taste of her was riding him hard. A purely human reaction he couldn’t control. They’d never worked together before, in any of Shadoe’s previous incarnations. Shadoe herself had remained neutral, preferring not to choose between her father and Adrian. This would be the first time they’d work in alignment, pursuing similar goals. The thought of sharing his true purpose with Lindsay, of being known in all ways for whom and what he was, affected him in ways he couldn’t have foreseen. “Want” seemed too tame a word for the power of his attraction to Lindsay Gibson.

Her lashes lowered, veiling her eyes. “How bad a sin is it to lust after an angel?”

“The sin is mine, for lusting after you.”

Her throat worked on a swallow. “And if it goes beyond just lusting? Am I going to get struck by lightning? Or worse?”

“Would that deter you?”

“I’d hoped I’d earned some brownie points by ridding the world of things like the dragon.”

“I’ll help you earn more.” He couldn’t wait to get started. Already, she’d proven herself to be remarkably resilient and adaptable. In a matter of hours, she had learned that the vampires and humans she’d thought she knew were only a small piece of a much larger underworld. And she had taken it all in stride, because she was a survivor, a fighter, a woman he anticipated having by his side in the days ahead.