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"You saved his life," Mira finally managed to croak out of her dry throat, swamped by gratitude for this woman she hardly knew. "I thought he was dead, but you found him. You took care of him. You and Doc didn't know him at all, but you didn't let him die . . ."


Candice frowned slightly, gave a mild shrug. "He needed help. We gave it. That's all."


"You did all that, even though he was Breed."


"If you saw someone bleeding and broken in the street, would you stop to see if he was different from you before you lifted him up?"


Mira fell silent as Candice's words sank in. And then she knew a profound shame, because she realized that, not very long ago, she might have been the one to turn her back. Her hatred and mistrust of humans, rebels in particular, was so blind and deep, she likely wouldn't have even broken her stride if it had been one of them in need of her help.


It was ugly, what she'd allowed herself to become.


For so long, she'd held people like Candice and Doc and Nina in contempt, lumped together with lowlifes like Vince and Rooster - villains all of them, to be squashed under her boot or skewered by her blades.


And now . . . ?


She withdrew her hand from beneath Candice's loose grasp, feeling undeserving of the kindness she was being shown. She felt regret for the loss these people had suffered today. And she felt fear for what their future might hold, if what Kellan saw in her eyes eventually came to pass.


The coldness that thought brought with it settled in Mira's chest like ice. She needed to find some distance from the dread that was pressing down on her when she considered the price all of them might pay if her vision proved true.


Mira summoned what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "You should rest now. I'll let Doc know how you're doing."


At Candice's nod, Mira backed away from her bedside and pivoted toward the door. She paused there, gratitude rising inside her, swamping even the darker tide of emotion that was doing its best to pull her under.


She looked back at the human female who'd done the impossible eight years ago, bringing Kellan back from the dead and delivering the miracle Mira had hoped for so desperately. "Thank you for saving him."


Candice smiled. "My part was easy. Now it's your turn."


Chapter Fourteen


HIS CLOTHES WERE STICKING TO HIM IN THE HUMIDITY OF the bunker, his hands and forearms splattered with caked, dried blood. Even the faint, stale copper tang of the dead red cells had Kellan's head pounding and his muscles twitching with aggression as he stalked through the main corridor of the fortress.


He wanted to kill, not only because the predator in him was provoked by the scent of so much spilled blood today but because people he cared about - good people - had met with undeserved harm.


Because of him.


Because they'd trusted him as their leader, and he'd let them down.


He hadn't gone after Vince that morning like he'd intended. He still seethed with the urge to tear down all of Boston to find the bastard, but his crew had needed him here more. And the rational part of his brain reminded him that Mira was right: A full-scale pursuit in broad daylight would've been suicidal. He'd be dead soon enough, according to her vision. And he couldn't help thinking that the fact he hadn't run out into the sun today only fortified that he was still on a direct collision course with the fate he'd glimpsed in Mira's eyes.


Kellan's boots thudded hollowly in the corridor as he strode toward his quarters to change his clothes and clean up. The marked silence of the bunker around him was striking. He didn't like it. Didn't like knowing that he'd brought this trouble down on the base.


Despite living on the outermost fringes of the law, Kellan and his small band of rebels had never had violence cross their threshold to attack from within. They'd never lost one of their own before, not even in the field. They'd been lucky, keeping a low profile, running tight operations, and living off the grid. Avoiding the kind of unwanted attention and notoriety on which other rebel factions seemed to thrive. Now that they had suffered this blow, their shock and grief was running deep.


Kellan was no stranger to the feeling.


All of this bloodshed brought him back to his past, when he was a sheltered Darkhaven youth and evil had robbed him of his family. In a single night, a madman's violence had destroyed the Archers' primary estate in Boston, stripping Kellan of everyone he loved but his grandfather, Lazaro. Fortunately for the two of them, the Order had stepped in to offer its shelter and protection. They'd brought Kellan and Lazaro into the fold as the Order's own, a kindness Kellan could never hope to repay.


Especially not now.


And Mira . . .


She'd been there for him from the moment he first arrived on the Order's doorstep. A pint-size pain in his ass who wouldn't let any of his bullshit slide, not even then. He'd been so terrified of caring for someone after losing so many people he loved, he had refused to let anyone in back then.


And although he'd been a stupid boy, hardly able to recognize the bone-deep fear at the root of his sullenness and pain, Mira had been far wiser, even as a child. She'd seen right through him. She'd stubbornly taken him under her tiny wing as her friend and had refused to let go, not even when he pushed.


No, whenever he'd pushed, she'd dug in her heels and stood steadfast for him - just as she'd done today, taking it upon herself to pitch in like one of his crew, to show them true concern and support, in spite of how he'd left things with her.


He wanted to be furious with her for that, the way the caustic, aloof teenage boy she'd known so well would respond to such an act of defiant generosity of spirit. But the man he'd since become couldn't muster any anger. What he felt instead was a squeezing in his chest, an all-too-pleasant sense of gratitude and pride that she was his.


Should have been his, he corrected himself harshly.


And, as her damnable vision assured him, could not be his for long.


His answering curse was rough and self-directed as he rounded a turn in the corridor and stalked past the closed door of the bunker's shower room.


The water was running on the other side.


It wasn't Doc or Nina, seeing how just a few minutes ago Kellan had left the two of them with Chaz's body at the opposite end of the fortress. And Candice wasn't going anywhere for days. She was resting quietly in bed when he'd checked on her on his way here.


Keep walking.


That's what he should do. And yet he paused outside the door and turned the latch.


Mira stood naked under the spray of the shower, her head tipped back, water sluicing over her pale-blond hair and down her creamy skin.


Kellan's breath left him in a rush. Instead of quietly closing the door and moving on, he opened it wider and stepped inside the steam-filled room. He pulled the door closed behind him.


At the resulting soft click, Mira covered herself with her hands and arms and looked his way. There was uncertainty in her lavender eyes. Lips parted but unspeaking.


Kellan stood there, taking in the sight of her. "You stayed," he murmured.


She swallowed, water dripping off her chin, spiking her long lashes. "I stayed."


He nodded, but he could feel a scowl furrowing deep into his brow. "I just looked in on Candice. She told me that you'd been in to see her, said the two of you talked . . . about me?"


"Yes," Mira said softly, still hiding herself from him, not quite ready to drop her guard, not that he could blame her.


"You didn't tell her my name," he remarked. "You didn't tell her about my past with the Order." Head lowered, eyes rooted on her, he took a step forward. Then another. "You kept my secrets. All of them."


"Of course," she replied.


"You protected me," he acknowledged. Now he was standing directly in front of her, right at the edge of the open shower. "You did that for me, even though I gave you no reason to."


She gave him a faint nod, arms still crossed over herself like a shield. "Yes."


Her inhaled breath turned into a little squeak as he walked into the water with her, clothing, boots, and all. He stood before her, getting drenched head to toe and not giving a damn about it. "You could've made a clean break today. Goddamn, I wish you had."


"I - " she began, but he cut her off with a hissed curse.


"You could've been gone from all of this. Instead you helped clean up a mess that belonged to me, then you had the tenderness of heart to look in on one of my injured crew." He shook his head and gently took her hands in his, pulled them away from her naked body. He dropped a kiss to each of her clenched fists. "After everything I told you out there today, you stayed."


She stared at him, her lips parted slightly, breasts rising and falling with each rapid breath she drew into her lungs. Kellan was still holding her hands. Slowly he lowered them to her sides, away from the beauty of her nude body. "After everything I've done," he whispered harshly, "not only today, or eight years ago, when I left, letting you believe I was dead, but since the first day we met, Mouse. Ever since then, since the very beginning, you've stayed with me. You've always had my back."


"I always will," she replied. Her voice was quiet, but her eyes were resolute. "When you love someone, that's what you do."


Kellan went still. He could hardly move, could hardly command his lungs to pull in breath. "Don't say that, Mira. That's the worst thing you can say to me right now."


"Why?" She gazed up at him under the spray of the shower, her skin bathed in warm light from the heat of his eyes as their hazel color flashed with sparks of amber. "Why shouldn't I tell you how I feel about you?"


He searched for his voice but found only an otherworldly growl. "Because when you say that, it makes me want to hold on tighter to you when I should be letting you go. And I need to let you go . . . before things get any worse."


"Then let go, Kellan."


Her words took him aback. It was a command, spoken without edge, without the slightest waver. He stared at her beautiful face, at the courageous, unflinching eyes and impish nose with its smattering of light freckles. At the stubborn mouth that had never given him an ounce of pity, not even when it came to pleasure. A mouth that was pressed into a flat line now, waiting for his response.


"If you don't love me," she said, "if you truly want me gone . . . then let go."


He didn't. His fingers stayed clamped around her hands, going tighter, despite every sane and logical cell in his body telling him - no, demanding him - to release her now and walk away.


"Fucking hell, Mouse," he hissed, low and lethal. Then, without a second's warning, he brought his head down to hers and took her mouth.


The kiss was hard and deep and possessive. He couldn't give it to her any other way, not in that moment.


And she took him for all he was worth. He sent his tongue past her lips, groaning with animal need when she sucked at him, her mouth opening to him on a broken sigh.


His veins were on fire, shooting lava through his limbs, into his head and heart, into his groin. He laced his fingers through hers and guided her around with his body, until he was crowding her back against the wet wall of the shower. Her nipples were beads he could feel through the soaked fabric of his T-shirt. Her curves were soft and lush, melting perfectly against his hard planes and ridges.


Kellan lifted his arms, taking hers with them on an upward slide along the wall, until he held her hands high above her head. He pinned her there, caught in his grasp and bound by the weight of his body leaning into her. Still kissing her, devouring her mouth, he ground his stiff erection against her abdomen. She felt so good, his pelvis jerked on its own, his cock giving a hard leap behind the tight confinement of his jeans.


He dropped his head to her neck and kissed her there, making her moan and shudder beneath his lips. "Fuck, Mira," he growled against her delicate, water-sluiced throat. "Fuck."


He rocked into her, his clothing soaked, head delirious with the warm, wet scent of her naked skin and the sweet, honeyed fragrance of her arousal. His fangs throbbed, filling his mouth.


A taste of her sweetness.


He needed it now.


Her blood called to him, but it was another nectar that drew him away from her neck on a ragged snarl. Only then did he let loose her hands, sinking down in front of her, kissing his way past her breasts and ribs, then lower, along the muscular softness of her belly.


She made an impatient noise in the back of her throat as he took his time getting where he was heading, mouth and tongue and lips sampling every inch of tender skin they ran across. With one hand on her breast, he smoothed the other along her side, raising gooseflesh in his wake and making her tremble with tiny, sigh-laced spasms.


As he kissed her body, his roaming hand slid down the length of her thigh, then came around to the inside and began a lazy upward path along her tender flesh. A nudge of his fingers opened her thighs to him. He smiled against her stomach at her eager response, then delved the tip of his tongue into her navel while he trailed his knuckles over the silky petals at her core.


He parted her with his fingertips and slid them into her hot cleft. She quivered in his hand, breath catching and shaky as he stroked his thumb over the tight little pearl nestled at the top of her slit. Kellan's fangs surged even longer in his mouth, desire knifing through him.


He was down on his knees before her now, head lowering between her legs as the warm spray of the shower pelted him from above. On a deep growl, he turned his face toward the inside of her thigh and suckled the tender skin there. She moaned and gasped, her climax already building and he hadn't even put his mouth where he wanted it to be.


Kellan lifted her leg onto his shoulder, kissing her some more, taking wicked enjoyment in the fact that she was so ready for him, so eager and responsive. For him, he thought greedily. She'd said it herself that morning in his bed. There had been no one but him, not in all this time. Not ever.

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