"I thought he really liked me. He had his pick of anyone he wanted in school, and he'd just broken up with the prettiest, most popular girl in my class. But there he was, pursuing me." She sighed softly, still moving her finger along the curve of Gideon's dermaglyphs, whose color was rising not in desire again, but anger for her pain. "We went on a few dates, and after several weeks, he started pressuring me to take things further with him. I was a virgin. I wanted to wait until I met the right one, you know?"


Gideon caressed her arm, letting her talk, while inside he knew where this was heading and he didn't like it.


"Finally, I gave in," she said. "We had sex, and it was awful. It hurt. He was clumsy and rough."


Gideon growled. He didn't want to imagine her with another man, let alone one who would be so careless with her.


"We dated for a couple of months afterward," she went on. "Danny never treated me any better. He just took what he wanted from me. After a while, I started hearing rumors that he had been calling his old girlfriend again. That he was only with me to make her jealous. They got back together, and I didn't even know about it until I saw them making out at one of his games. He never cared about me at all. He pretended to be one thing with me, but the whole time we were together, he was only using me to get something he really wanted."


"Bastard," Gideon snarled. He was pulsing with fury, wanting nothing better than to teach the little asshole a lesson. Throttle the human son of a bitch for hurting her. "Savannah, I'm sorry."


"It's okay." She shook her head where it rested against his chest. "I learned from it. It made me more careful. More protective of myself, of my heart. And then you came along..."


She looked up into his eyes. "I've never imagined I could feel all the things I feel with you, Gideon. I never understood how lost I've felt--all my life--until I found you. I think it must've been fate that brought us together at the library a few nights ago."


A pang of guilt stabbed him at the mention of how they'd first met. Only he knew it hadn't been fate at all that sent him to her that night. He'd first sought her out as a warrior on a private mission to gather intel on the sword and whoever had it now.


That mission had soon changed, once he came to know Savannah. Once he came to care about her so swiftly, so deeply. He should have come clean about their initial meeting before now. He should have done it right then--would have--but before he could summon the first word, she covered his mouth in a tender kiss.


It was all he could do not to end her sweet kiss and blurt out the other damning words that were on the tip of his tongue: Be with me. Bond with me. Let me be your mate.


But it wasn't fair to ask so much of her, not when she was just entering his world and he still had unfinished business to attend.


He still had hidden enemies to eliminate. And he wouldn't assume for one moment that killing the Rogue who'd accosted her at South Station removed the whole of the threat that was stalking Savannah.


Recalling that encounter made him go tense and sober. She must have felt the change in him, for Savannah drew back from him now. "What is it? What's wrong?"


"Last night, at the bus terminal," he said. "Did you notice anyone following you? Watching you, before or after you arrived? I don't mean the Rogue that cornered you, but someone else. Someone who might have been aware that it was happening."


"No. Why?" Apprehension flickered in her searching gaze. "Do you think the Rogue was with others? Do you think I was targeted somehow?"


"I think it's a very real possibility, Savannah. I'm not willing to assume otherwise." Gideon didn't want to alarm her unnecessarily, but she also had to understand how dangerous the situation could be for her outside. "I think the Rogue was sent to find you for someone else."


More than likely, sent to silence her, a thought that made his blood go icy in his veins.


Savannah stared at him. "Because of what happened to Rachel and Professor Keaton? You mean, you think the one who attacked them is now after me? Why?"


"The sword, Savannah. What else did you see when you touched it?"


She shook her head. "I told you. I saw the Rogues who killed those two little boys. And I saw you, striking someone with the blade. You killed someone with it."


Gideon gave a grim nod. "In a duel, many years ago, yes. I killed the Breed male who made the sword. His name was Hugh Faulkner, a Gen One Breed and the best sword maker in London at the time. He was also a prick and a bastard, a deviant who took his pleasure in bloodshed. Particularly when it came to human women."


"What happened?"


"One night in London, Faulkner showed up at a Cheapside tavern with a human female under his arm. She was in bad shape, pale and unresponsive, nearly bled out." Gideon couldn't curb the disgust in his tone. There were laws among his race meant to protect humans from the worst abuses of Breed power, but there were also individuals among their kind like Faulkner, those who regarded themselves above any law.


"Few of the Breed males in the establishment would consider rising up against a Gen One, especially one as nasty as Faulkner. But I couldn't abide what he had done to the woman. Words were exchanged. The next thing I knew, Faulkner and I were outside in the darkness, engaged in a contest to the death over the fate of the woman." Gideon recalled it as if the confrontation had just happened yesterday, not some three-hundred years in the past. "I had earned some renown for my skill with a sword, more so than Faulkner, as it turned out. He lost his blade almost immediately and stumbled. It was a fatal misstep. I could've taken his head then and there, but in an act of mercy--stupidity, in hindsight--I stayed my hand."


"He cheated?" Savannah guessed.


Gideon gave a vague nod. "The minute I turned to walk away and retrieve his fallen blade, Faulkner began to rise up to come at me. I realized my mistake at once. I recovered quickly--and before Faulkner could get to his feet, I rounded back on him and cleaved him in half with his own damned sword."


Savannah sucked in a soft breath. "That's what I saw. You, killing him with the sword I touched."


"I won the contest and sent the human woman away to be looked after until she was well again," Gideon replied. "As for Faulkner's sword, I wish I'd left it where it lay that night, next to his corpse."


Understanding dawned in Savannah's tender eyes. "The twin boys I saw playing with the sword before they were attacked in the stable by Rogues..."


"My brothers," he confirmed. "Simon and Roderick."


"Gideon," she whispered solemnly. "I'm sorry for your loss."


"A long time ago," he said.


"But you still feel it. Don't you?"


He released a heavy sigh. "I was to blame for not protecting them. Our parents were dead. The boys were my responsibility. Several weeks after the confrontation with Faulkner, I was out carousing in the city. Simon and Roddy were young, not even ten years old, but old enough to hunt on their own as Breed youths. I took it for granted that they'd be safe enough on their own for a few hours that night."


Savannah reached over and pulled his fisted hand up to her lips, kissed the tightly clenched knuckles with sweet compassion. He relaxed his fingers to twine them with hers. "My brothers were the reason I came to Boston. I joined the Order t hunt Rogues, after killing the three who murdered the boys, as well as dozens more for good measure."


"Hundreds more," Savannah reminded him.


He grunted. "I thought killing Rogues would make the guilt about my brothers lessen, but it hasn't."


"How long have you been trying to make it better, Gideon?"


He exhaled a low oath. "Simon and Roddy were killed three centuries ago."


She lifted her head up and stared at him. Gaped at him. "Exactly how old are you?"


"Three-hundred and seventy-two," he drawled. "Give or take a few months."


"Oh, my God." She dropped her head back down on his chest and laughed. Then laughed again. "I thought Rachel was nuts for lusting after Professor Keaton, and he was only in his forties. I'm falling in love with a total relic."


Gideon stilled. "Falling in love?"


"Yes," she replied quietly, but without hesitation. She glanced up at him. One slender black brow arched wryly. "Don't tell me that's all it takes to scare a three-hundred and seventy-two-year-old vampire."


"No," he said, but he did feel a sudden wariness.


Not because of her sweet confession; he would come back to that tempting pronouncement another time.


Right now, his warrior instincts were buzzing with cold alarm. He sat up in the tub, frowning.


"Keaton," he said flatly. "When is he due out of the hospital?"


"He is out," Savannah replied. "I saw him yesterday on campus. He looked awful, but he said he'd made a full recovery and the hospital released him earlier than expected. He was acting kind of odd--"


Gideon tensed. "Odd in what way?"


"I don't know. Weird. Creepy. And he lied to me when I asked him about the attack."


"Tell me."


She shrugged. "He told me he saw who killed Rachel and attacked him that night. Keaton said it was a vagrant, but the glimpse I got from Rachel's bracelet showed me a man in a very expensive suit. A man with amber eyes and fangs."


"Holy shit." Why he didn't see it before, Gideon had no idea. The attacker killed Savannah's roommate, but left the professor alive. That was no accident. "What else did Keaton say to you?"


"Nothing much. Like I said, he was just acting strangely, not like himself. I didn't feel safe around him."


"Did Keaton know you were going to the bus station last night?"


She paused, thinking. "I told him I was going home to Louisiana. I might have mentioned I was taking the bus--"


Gideon snarled and got out of the tub. Water sluiced off his naked limbs and torso. "I need to see Keaton for myself. It's the only way I can be certain." He thought about the hour of the day--probably just past noon--and cursed roundly.


Savannah climbed out too, and stood beside him. She put her hand on his shoulder. "Gideon, what do you need to be certain of?"


"Keaton's injuries the night of the attack," he said. "I need to know if he was bitten."


"I don't know. I didn't see that much when I touched Rachel's bracelet." She stared at him in confusion. "Why? What will it tell you if Keaton was bitten?"


"If I see him, I'll know right away if he's still human or if he's been bitten and bled by his attacker. I need to know if he's been made a Minion to the vampire who took that sword from the university."


"A Minion." Savannah went quiet now. "If Keaton was bitten, that will tell you what you need to know?"


"Yes." He raked a hand over his scalp. "The problem with that is, I'm trapped indoors until sundown."


"Gideon," she said. "What if I see Keaton now?"


"What do you mean?" He bristled at the thought of her getting anywhere near the man. "You're not going anywhere without me. I won't risk that."


She shook her head. "I mean, maybe I can tell you if Keaton was bitten during the attack." At his answering scowl, she said, "I still have Rachel's bracelet."


"Where?"


"Here, with me. It's in my purse in the other room."


"I need you to go get it, Savannah. Now."


Chapter 13


Savannah woke up from an unusually heavy doze, in bed alone.


How long had she been asleep? Her head felt thick, like she was coming out of a light anesthesia.


Where was Gideon?


She called out to him, but the empty house was silent. Pushing herself up from the mattress, she made a bleary-eyed scan of the dark bedroom. "Gideon?"


No response.


"Gideon, where are you?"


She sat up and tossed the sheet away from her. Turned on the bedside lamp. On the pillow next to her lay a piece of paper. A note scribbled on the back of the unused bus ticket that had been in her purse. The handwriting was crisp, precise, forward-tilting and bold--just like him.


Sorry had to do it like this. You're safe here. Back soon.


Savannah looked around the bedroom. Gideon's clothes were gone. His boots and weapons. Every last trace of him, gone.


She knew where he went.


Through the fog of whatever he'd done to her, she recalled his explosive reaction when she'd used Rachel's bracelet for another glimpse of the vampire attack that night in Professor Keaton's office.


Keaton had been bitten, just as Gideon suspected.


No longer the man he was, but a slave to the command of his vampire Master.


An individual Gideon seemed hellbent to find.


He had nearly climbed the walls with restless energy as the afternoon dragged on outside the house. He couldn't wait to get out of there. He'd paced anxiously, waiting for the chance to head out and confront Keaton, then hunt for the Minion's Master.


Savannah had wanted to go with him, but his refusal had been harsh and unswerving. He'd been adamant that she stay right where she was, leave him to deal with the situation as he saw fit--alone. Or with his brethren of the Order, if necessary.


It wasn't until she had insisted she wouldn't stay behind, digging her heels in with determination equal to his own that he finally gentled.


He'd kissed her tenderly. Brought her into the shelter of his arms, and carefully touched his palm to her forehead. Then...

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