Gideon relaxed his hold on the pistol, then stooped to set it down.

"All of them. Slowly."

He took off his weapons belt and put it on the ground at his feet. The bandaged gash on his thigh was bleeding again, seeping through his pant leg.

The other vampire sniffed the air dramatically, lips peeling back in an amused smirk. "Not so untouchable, after all."

Gideon watched the Breed male turn Faulkner's sword on its tip in the moist earth of Amelie Dupree's front yard. "Do I know you?"

The vampire chuckled. "No one did. Not back then."

Gideon tried to place him, tried to figure out if, or when, their paths might have crossed.

"You wouldn't have noticed me. He hardly did, either." There was an acid resentment in the tone, but something else too. An old, bitter hurt. "His unacknowledged bastard. The only kin he had."

Gideon narrowed his gaze on the other male. "Hugh Faulkner had a son?"

A thin, hate-filled smile stretched the polished facade of his face into an ugly sneer. "A teenage son who watched him die at your hand, slaughtered in the open with less regard than might be shown common swine. A son who vowed to avenge him, even thought he had no use for me in life." Hugh Faulkner's bastard smiled a true smile now. "A son who decided to take from my father's killer the only family he had left too."

Gideon bristled, fury spiking in his veins. "My brothers were innocent children. You arranged for those three Rogues to go in and murder them?"

"I thought it would be enough," he replied evenly. "I thought it would settle the score. And it did, for a long time. Even after I came to America to begin a new life under a new name. A name I built into something prestigious, something respectable: Cyril Smithson."

Gideon vaguely recalled the name from among those of the Darkhaven elite. A wealthy, socially important name. One that could be destroyed within the Breed's civilian circles, if word of its patriarch's ignoble, murderous past were to come to light.

"Knowing I took your last living kin might have been enough, even after I found myself in Boston and watched you carrying out your missions as one of the Order," Smithson went on. "But then my do-gooder Breedmate foolishly donated some of my private things to the university, including my father's sword. When I went to retrieve it, Keaton was in his office pounding into a young slut. She saw me and screamed." The Breed male clucked his tongue. "Well, I couldn't be blamed for what happened next. The girl saw my fangs, my eyes."

"So you killed her too," Gideon said.

Smithson shrugged. "She had to be dealt with. Her roommate, here too."

Gideon followed the vampire's glance toward Savannah. She was breathing hard, breast rising and falling rapidly in her fear. Her eyes locked on to Gideon's, pleading, praying.

Smithson spun the sword idly with his fingers. "This blade was never supposed to leave my possession after the Rogues brought it to me with your brothers' blood on it. You were never supposed to know the truth of what happened that night. Now that you do...well, I suppose it's all come back around to the beginning again, hasn't it?"

The vampire lifted the sword, testing its weight. "I'd never been much good with blades. Crude weapons, really. But effective."

"What do you want, Smithson? A contest to the death with me, here and now?"

"Yes." He met Gideon's seething gaze across the yard. "Yes, that's precisely what I want. But I won't underestimate you the way my father did."

He slanted a look at his Minion. Two shots rang out in rapid succession, a bullet for each of Gideon's shoulders.

Savannah screamed. She struggled in her captor's hold now, her eyes tearing up as she looked at Gideon and the barrel of the Minion's pistol came back to her temple.

He barely felt the pain of the new wounds. His focus was rooted wholly on her, and on the wild, desperate expression in her gaze. He gave a faint shake of his head, unspoken command that she not do anything to risk her own life.

"That ought to level the playing field," Smithson remarked as the gunshots continued to echo through the bayou. "On second thought, another for good measure," he told his Minion. "The gut this time."

The Minion's hand started to move away from Savannah's head. Gideon saw it in agonizing slow motion--the twitch of muscle as the human's wrist began to pivot from its primary target to the new one at his Master's command.

Savannah, no!

Gideon didn't even have time to bring the words to his tongue. She seized the opportunity to shift her weight as the Minion's attention flicked away from her. Savannah knocked the man's arm up, just as he pulled the trigger. The shot went wild, up into the trees, and Savannah broke loose of the Minion's hold.

"Kill her," Smithson ordered.

And in one awful, shattering instant, another bullet blasted out of the Minion's gun. It hit her in the back. Dropped her like dead weight to the ground.

Amelie shrieked and flew off the porch behind him to race to her sister's side.

Gideon roared. Horror and rage bled through him, cold and black and acrid. "No!" he howled, racked with an anguish unlike any he'd ever known. "No!"

He leapt on Smithson, took him down in a hard crash to the ground.

He pounded and beat him, the pair of vampires rolling around in a savage hand-to-hand struggle in the wet grass. Gideon was vaguely aware of the Minion racing toward them, the barrel of his pistol aimed down at the scuffle, but hesitant to shoot and inadvertently snuff his own maker.

Gideon ignored the threat and kept up his punishment of Smithson. They tore at each other, gnashing with fangs and teeth as they wrestled on the ground. Gideon's fury was a hungry beast, waiting for the chance to deal the final blow.

When Smithson turned his head to reach for his lost blade, Gideon pounced with lethal purpose. He grabbed hold of the other male's throat with his teeth and fangs, sinking them deep.

He bit down hard into Smithson's neck, ripping out flesh and larynx in one savage shake of his head.

Smithson jerked and flailed in agony, blood spurting everywhere.

His Minion stood in stunned silence, a brief hesitation that was all the time Gideon needed to finish them both in one strike.

He picked up Faulkner's sword and drove it into Smithson's chest.

The vampire convulsed around the blade, eyes going wide and bulging in their sockets.

Gideon heard another round of gunfire somewhere close to him. Felt a sudden, hard knock in the side of his skull, before his vision began to fill with red. Blood. His blood, pouring into his eyes from the hole now bored into his skull from the Minion's final shot.

Smithson's chest rattled with a wet, gurgling breath as death took him under. His Minion dropped lifeless to the ground at the same time, the mind slave's life tied inexorably to his Master's.

"Savannah." Gideon dragged himself over to where Amelie hovered at her side. Savannah wasn't moving. Her back was covered in blood. The gunshot wound a dark hole burned through her pale gray sweater, up near her ribs.

"She's dying!" Amelie wailed, not looking at him, but focused completely on her sister. She petted Savannah with trembling hands, her face stricken with sorrow. "You promised to save her. You swore on your life."

"Move aside," he rasped thickly, his voice unearthly, ragged from injury and anguish and the crowding presence of his fangs, which filled his mouth. "Let me help her."

It was only then that Amelie turned to look at him. She sucked in a sharp breath and recoiled. She scrabbled backward with Savannah held close to her as if she thought she could protect her from the monster, bleeding and hideously transformed from the man he'd been just a few minutes ago. "Oh, my God. What kind of devil's spawn are you?"

"Please," Gideon hissed. His vision was fading, his pulse hammering heavily in his temples, bringing excruciating pain to his skull. He had to act quickly. There wasn't much time to do what was needed before one or the other of them died. He reached for Savannah's hand, gently took her limp form out of Amelie's grasp. "Please, it's the only way. Trust me in this. Let me save her."

He didn't wait. Couldn't let another second tick by without feeding the power of his blood to Savannah's wounds.

He bit into his wrist and held the opened vein over her parted lips.

"Drink," he whispered thickly. "Please, baby...drink for me."

Deep red droplets splashed down into her slack mouth. The stream picked up speed, pulsing out of him with every labored beat of his heart. "Come on, Savannah. Do it. Please take this gift from me. It's all I have to give you now."

Her tongue began to flick softly. Her slender throat began to work, taking the first swallow from his vein. She drank again, then another. Her eyelids started to lift slightly, just a hint of response, but enough to wring a sigh of naked relief out of Gideon's chest.

She would survive.

He felt it with a certainty that humbled him. His blood would save her.

She was alive. Smithson was dead, unable to harm her.

Gideon had kept his promise to her, after all.

His vision faded from dull gray to black, a numbness creeping over his scalp. He had to struggle to remain upright, invisible tethers dragging him down.

He fought the heavy pull of his injury and cradled Savannah's head in his arm, centering himself with the steady rhythm of her mouth working softly at his wrist, drinking from him, healing because of him.

For now, that was enough.

Chapter 16

Savannah was resting in a chair in the back bedroom of Amelie's house when Gideon woke for the first time since the shooting.

It had been nearly eighteen hours of waiting, of hoping.

Of praying that by some miracle, he would come back to her.

She had tended him as best she could, fully recovered from the ordeal herself and having never felt stronger in her life.

Thanks to him.

She went to his bedside as his eyelids began to twitch. Leaning over him, she stroked his face, smoothed back the soft spikes of his blond hair. He leaned his face into her touch, moaning quietly. His eyes opened narrowly, squinting in the dim light of the shaded bedroom. "Where are we?"

"My sister's house," she answered gently.

He wheezed slightly, anxious now. "Are we alone? Does anyone know I'm here?"

"Just Amelie. It's okay, Gideon. She knows about you. I helped her understand what you are. She'll keep our secret."

"Where is she?"

"In the other room, watching television."

He turned his face toward the hallway wall, and Savannah guessed he was searching for Amelie through the extrasensory ability he possessed. "I can't see her. My's not working. It's gone."

Savannah could feel his agitation. His pulse spiked with it. He brought his hand up to shield his eyes. "So bright in here."

She glanced to the window blinds, which were drawn down and blotted out all but the most scant illumination from the afternoon sunlight outside. "I'm sorry. I thought it would be dim enough for you."

She walked over to the dresser and brought back a pair of bug-eye sunglasses. "Here," she said, carefully slipping them on his face. "Try these."

He opened his eyes and gave a mild nod of approval. "Better. Probably not my best look, though."

"You look pretty good to me." She smiled and sat down next to him on the mattress. "I wasn't sure you would wake up again. I wasn't sure it would work."

At his frown, she went on. "That night when you came back in such terrible shape from Keaton's place, your friend from the Order said you needed blood. And Amelie told me what you did for me last night, after I was shot. You saved me with your blood, Gideon. So, I had to try to save you with mine."

He blew out an oath. "The blood bond,'s permanent. Unbreakable. It's a sacred thing." His frown deepened. "This isn't the way it's supposed to be."

She sat back, feeling hurt. Feeling she'd done something wrong and he was disappointed. "I'm sorry if it wasn't what you wanted."

Gideon pushed himself up off the bed, and groaned in pain.

"Be careful," she said, trying to ease him back down. "You shouldn't be moving around, and I shouldn't be saying things that upset you. You were shot last night too. The one that hit me passed cleanly through my lung and ribs, but the one inside you..."

"Still in my head," he guessed grimly. "In my brain."

Savannah gave him a sober nod. "Amelie wanted to take you to the hospital--"

"No." He said it firmly, the same way he'd insisted the other night in Boston when she wanted to get him medical help for his injuries then. "Human doctors can't help me, Savannah."

"I know," she said. "So, I did the only thing I could think of."

He reached out, took her hand in his. "You saved my life." He swore again, more roundly this time. "When I realized you'd left...when I knew Keaton's Master was still out there somewhere, I couldn't get to you fast enough, Savannah."

She heard the rage in his voice for the enemy he'd wanted so badly to root out and destroy, and she nodded sadly. "I'm glad he's dead. For what he did to Rachel and your brothers, even to Professor Keaton. For what he did to you, Gideon, I'm glad Smithson is dead. I'm glad you got what you came here for."

He scowled. "I came for you, Savannah. I love you. I should've said it before. I should say it a thousand times now, so you'll know what you mean to me."


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