"Yeah." A deep voice. Dark, arresting. Menacing.


"Gideon told me to call," she blurted in one panicked rush of breath. "Something's happened to him and I--"


Click.


"Hello?"


The dial tone buzzed in her ear.


It wasn't even ten minutes later that Savannah found herself standing beside an unresponsive Gideon, staring up into the hard face and unreadable eyes of a massive Breed male dressed in black leather and pulsing with lethal power.


He hadn't knocked, simply strode right in without a word of greeting or explanation. And he'd arrived on foot apparently, from where, Savannah could only guess.


Since she'd met Gideon and learned about his kind, she was coming to simply accept some things as simply part of the new reality.


Still, she could hardly curb the impulse to scrabble out of the disturbing male's way when he came farther inside the house.


The place was his, there could be no doubt about that.


He was the one who put the box of ashes in the hidden room below the kitchen.


It was his wrenching sorrow Savannah had glimpsed when she touched the reliquary.


He stared at her now without any emotion whatsoever. His green eyes didn't so much look at her as through her.


He knew. He knew she'd been down in his private cell filled with death.


Savannah could see the awareness of her breach all over his grim face, although he said nothing to her. Did nothing, except grimly go to Gideon's side. He bent his big body and went down in a crouch on his haunches beside Gideon. A low curse hissed out of big male.


"He won't wake up," Savannah murmured. "After I came back from making the call, I found him like this, unconscious."


"He's lost too much blood." The voice was the same deep, threatening growl that she'd heard on the other end of the line. "He needs proper care."


"Can you save him?"


The tawny head swiveled to face her, bleak green eyes raking her. "He needs blood."


Savannah glanced down at Gideon, recalling his sharp reprimand that she not come near him. He'd been furious, desperately so, even though it had been obvious that he wanted to drink from her--needed to. "He didn't want me. He told me to stay away from him."


That unsettling stare stayed locked on her for a long moment before the vampire returned his attention to his fallen comrade. He inspected Gideon's leg wound, snarling as he assessed the damage. "So, you're the girl."


"Excuse me?"


"The Breedmate my man here hasn't been able to stay away from since he saw you on the TV news earlier this week, talking about the sword used to kill his brothers."


Savannah felt a twinge of confusion. An odd niggle of dread. "Gideon saw me on the news? He knew I'd seen the sword?" She shook her head. "No, that's not right. We met at the library where I work. He didn't know anything about me before then."


The other warrior glanced over at her once more, a flat look that made her discomfort deepen even more.


"Gideon was looking at some of the library's artwork. It was just before closing, and..."


Her words drifted off as an unwanted realization began to settle on her.


Right. He just happened to be at the library, not looking for books, but browsing artwork outside her office. Flirting with her. Quoting Plutarch and practically charming her pants off under the Abbey Room murals.


Pretending he knew nothing about the fact that her roommate had been murdered the night before by a goddamn vampire--one of his own kind.


Savannah felt oddly exposed. Like a fool who had arrived two minutes after a punch line.


"Are you saying he sought me out that night?"


The warrior swore, low under his breath, but he didn't answer her question. There was no need. She knew the truth now. Finally, she supposed.


Gideon had seen her interview on the news and pursued her to get information on someone he was determined to find. Someone he believed was his enemy, perhaps connected to the murders of his brothers.


He'd used her.


That's why he knew where she lived, why he was always in the right place at the right time with her.


He was tracking her the way he would any other prey...or pawn.


God, was everything between them just part of some plan? Some private vendetta he meant to pursue?


Savannah staggered backward a pace, feeling as if she'd just been slapped.


He was still using her today, encouraging her to touch Rachel's bracelet so he could learn more about Keaton and the vampire who'd attacked him.


Now Gideon was lying there at her feet, wounded and weak, unconscious and bleeding--maybe dying--because of his damned quest.


And she was standing over him like an idiot, feeling helpless and afraid...terrified that she had let herself fall in love with him, when all she'd apparently been to him was a means to an end.


It was easier to accept that he was Breed--something far other than human--than it was to realize she'd been played this whole time. The hurt she felt was like cold steel in the center of her being.


One other person had used her to get something he wanted more, but Danny Meeks had only taken her virginity. Gideon had taken her heart.


Savannah took a step back. Then another, watching as Gideon's comrade from the Order adjusted the tourniquet around his savaged thigh and prepared to carry him back to where he belonged.


She felt cool air at her back as she edged out the open door and into the night.


Then she pivoted and bolted, before the first hot tears began to flood her cheeks.


Chapter 15


"Savannah."


Gideon jolted back to wakefulness on a shout, his sole concern, his every cell, honed in on a single thought...her.


He sat up and felt the sharp stab of pain answer from all over his body, the worst of it coming from the deep gash in his thigh. He was in a bed. Lying in the Order's infirmary. He breathed in, and didn't smell any of the ash or sweat or blood that had crusted every square inch of him following his ordeal at the Minion's house. Someone had gone to the trouble of cleaning him up after patching him back together.


"What time is it?" he murmured out loud. How long had he been unconscious? "Ah, shit. What day is it?"


"It's okay, Gideon. Relax." A gentle female hand settled on his bare shoulder. "You're okay. Tegan brought you back to the compound last night."


Last night.


"Danika," he rasped, peeling his eyes open to look up at Conlan's Breedmate, who stood beside him, a roll of white gauze bandages in her hand. "Where is she? Where's Savannah?"


The tall blonde gave a sympathetic shake of her head. "I'm sorry, I don't know."


Damn it. Gideon threw off the sheet and swung his legs around to the side of the bed, ignoring the hot, spearing complaint of his wounds. "I need to see her. I need to find her. Keaton's Master is still out there somewhere. She's not safe--"


"She's gone, man." Tegan stood at the threshold of the infirmary room. His face was grim, barely an acknowledgment as Danika quietly slipped out and left the two warriors alone. "My fault, Gideon. I didn't know--"


"What happened?" A spike of adrenaline and dread shot into his veins. "What did you do to her?"


"Told her the truth. Which is apparently more than you'd done."


"Ah, fuck." Gideon raked a hand through his hair. "Fuck me. What did you tell her, T?"


A vague shrug, although his green eyes stayed unreadable. "That she's been your personal obsession since you saw her on that newscast the day of the attack at the university."


Gideon groaned. "Shit."


"Yeah, she wasn't exactly happy to hear that."


"I have to go to her. She could be in danger, Tegan. I need to find her and make sure she's all right. I have to make sure she knows that I love her. That I need her."


"You're not in any condition to leave the compound."


"Fuck that." Gideon heaved onto his feet, grimacing at the agony of his wounded leg, but not about to let something as trivial as a recently severed femoral artery keep him from going after the woman he loved. "She's mine. She belongs with me. I'm going to tell her that, and then I'm going to bring her back."


Tegan grunted. "Kind of figured you might say that. And I'm way ahead of you, my man--for once, maybe. Got the Order's charter jet on standby, fueled up and waiting for you at the private hangar. You just need to tell the pilots where you want to go."


"Louisiana," he murmured. "She'll have gone home to Louisiana."


Tegan tossed him a stack of fresh clothing that had been set next to the bed. "What are you waiting for, then? Get the fuck outta here."


With the thick shadows of the Atchafalaya swamp looming up ahead, Gideon hopped off the back of the old pickup truck he'd hitched a ride on outside the Baton Rouge airport. His leg wound ached like a son of a bitch with every mile he ran, deeper into the dense vegetation and drooping, moss-laden cypress trees of the basin.


Savannah's sister, Amelie, lived on a remote road in this sparsely populated stretch of marshlands. Gideon knew precisely where to find her; after waking in the infirmary, he'd lingered at the Order's compound only long enough to run a quick hack on the IRS databases, which coughed up her address in no time at all.


He crept off an unpaved road to stalk up on the modest, gray-shingled house with its covered porch and soft-glowing light in the windows. There were no cars in the unpaved driveway out front. No sound coming from within the small abode as he stole toward it.


He climbed up the squat steps leading to the porch and front door, his thigh muscle protesting each flex and movement. His talent reached past the thin walls of the house, searching for telltale life energy. Someone sat in the living room, alone.


Gideon knocked on the front door--only to discover it wasn't closed all the way.


"Savannah?"


A muffled groan answered from inside.


"Savannah!" Gideon had his gun in his hand now, storming into the place, his body filled with alarm.


It wasn't Savannah. Her sister, no doubt. The early middle-aged black woman was bound and gagged on a kitchen chair in the center of the living room. Evidence of a scuffle were all around her, toppled furniture, broken knick-knacks.


But no sign of Savannah.


Amelie Dupree's eyes went wide as Gideon approached her with the pistol gripped in his fist. She screamed through the gag, started to flail in panic on the chair.


"Shh," Gideon soothed, working past his terror for what might have happened to Savannah. He tore Amelie's bonds loose and freed the cloth from around her face and mouth. "I'm not going to hurt you. Where's Savannah? I'm here to protect her."


"They took her!"


Gideon's blood ran cold. "Who took her?"


"I don't know." She shook her head, a sob cracking in her throat. "Couple of men came here, showed up about an hour ago. Tied me up and they took my baby sister away at gunpoint."


Gideon's growl of rage was animalistic, lethal. "Where did they take her? What did these men look like?"


Amelie sagged forward, her head in her hands. "I don't know, I don't know! Oh, God, somebody gotta help her. I gotta call the police!"


Gideon took the woman's shoulders in a firm grasp, compelling her to look at him. "Listen to me, Amelie. You have to stay put, call no one. You have to trust me. I'm not going to let anything happen to Savannah."


She stared at him, doubt swimming in her anguished eyes. "Are you the one? Are you the one who broke her heart back there in Boston, sent her back here last night like her whole world was falling apart?"


He didn't answer to that, even though the blame settled heavily on him. "I'm the one who loves her. More than life itself."


"Don't let them hurt her," she cried. "Don't let those men kill my sweet Savannah."


Gideon gave a solemn shake of his head. "I won't. I swear my life on that."


No sooner had he said it, a vehicle approached, pulling up alongside the house outside. The dull rumble of the engine went silent, followed by the crisp thump of two car doors closing a moment later.


Gideon lifted his head, every battle instinct coming alive inside him. He whirled around to head out the front door, his gun at the ready.


There she was.


Standing on her sister's front lawn in the darkness, caught in a headlock by a human man--a Minion, Gideon realized at once. The big thug held the nose of his pistol jammed up against Savannah's temple. She'd been crying, her face streaked with tears, lips ashen from terror.


All the blood rushed out of Gideon's head, started pounding hard in the center of his chest.


It was then he noticed the second man, a Breed male, standing at ease in the shadows of a cypress tree nearby. He was dressed in a tailored navy wool overcoat, his brown hair impeccably cut, and swept back elegantly from his face. Held in a loose grasp in front of him stood a gleaming length of polished steel. The long blade glittered in the moonlight.


Gideon didn't need to see the hilt to know there would be a bird of prey--a falcon--tooled into the handcrafted grip.


Hugh Faulkner's blade.


But this was not the Gen One sword smith Gideon killed back in London all those centuries ago. He'd never seen this vampire before, he was certain.


"Drop your weapons, warrior."


Gideon glanced from the Breed male to the Minion holding Savannah, calculating which of the two he should kill first to give her the best odds of getting away unharmed. Neither was a guarantee, and he was loath to risk making a mistake that carried such a high cost.


"Put them down now," the vampire drawled. "Or my man will blow her pretty head off."

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