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I frowned. Then again maybe I was making assumptions that didn’t hold water. Maybe they came back wherever individually they died, which would put Dageus somewhere in a German mountain range.


Like Barrons, I was pissed.

If Ryodan broke rules with impunity, how was I supposed to figure out where to draw my own lines? What were lines really worth if you just crossed them whenever you felt like it?

My role models sucked.

I circled the desk and perched on Ryodan’s chair, staring up at the LED screens lining the perimeter on the opposite wall, wishing I could read lips.

Dageus convulsed and collapsed to the floor. He shuddered and jerked as his beast tried to claw its way from inside his skin in a vicious battle for control of the vessel they shared. It wasn’t lost on me that Dani and I waged a similar war—she against Jada, I against a Book. I wondered if that was just what happened to people who served on the front line of the world’s battles, who as Dani would say lived large: they got taken by some kind of a demon eventually. I’d seen my share of Veterans back home in Georgia that had that look in their eyes, the one I saw in my own lately. Was it inevitable for people who walked too long in the dark night beyond fences? Maybe that was the price for not staying with the sheep. Maybe that was why the stupid sheep stayed.

Maybe they weren’t so stupid after all.

Then again, what happened to me occurred before I’d even been born. It wasn’t as if I’d had any say in the matter. Psychopaths were born every day, too. Perhaps inner demons were nothing more than the luck of the draw. I also drew Barrons, the best wild card a woman could hold in her hand. Inasmuch as that man could be held.

After what seemed an interminable spell of painful morphing, Dageus crawled back to the shadows, dragged himself up onto a stone ledge and lay there shaking violently.

I wondered what he was in for. Were the Nine like vampires, consumed by mindless bloodlust when first transformed into whatever the hell they were? I wondered if he was even capable of thought or if his body was undergoing such traumatic changes that he was a blank slate like me. I wondered how they planned to explain this to the other MacKeltar, to Dageus’s wife. Then I realized they obviously didn’t intend to since they sent the Highland clan home with what must have been someone else’s body to bury.

What a mess. I didn’t see any way this situation could turn out good. Well, except maybe for Chloe, if she was eventually reunited with her husband. I had no problem with Barrons’s inner beast. In fact, the more I saw of it, the more I liked it. More than the man at this moment, because he hadn’t come back to me first but at least now I understood why.

The door to the office whisked open and Lor stood framed in the entry. I glanced down to make sure the chair I was sitting in was actually visible and swallowed a sigh of relief. Apparently it was substantial enough that my sitting in it didn’t make it vanish. I eased out of it carefully, so slowly it made the muscles in my legs burn, as I tried to keep it from squeaking or shifting even slightly and betraying my presence. I inched around the side and backed against a wall.

Belatedly I realized the two previously hidden panels on Ryodan’s desk were now in plain view and the monitors that had been showing public parts of the club were showing things I wasn’t sure Lor knew. Private was too mild a word for Barrons and Ryodan. Stay-the-fuck-out-of-my-business was their shared surname. I had no idea if they’d told Lor I was currently invisible, but if they hadn’t I meant to keep it that way.

Lor glanced over his shoulder, up and down the hall, to ascertain whether he was unobserved, then stepped quickly into the office as the door whisked closed behind him.

I raised a brow, wondering what he was up to.

He walked straight for the desk but drew up short when he saw the hidden panel had slid out.

“What the fuck, boss?” he murmured.

He headed for the chair and drew up short again when he saw the panel behind the desk was also exposed. “Christ, you’re getting sloppy. What the fuck sent you outta here so fast you couldn’t close things up?”

His assumption worked for me.

Shaking his head, Lor dropped into Ryodan’s chair and slid the hidden panel out farther than I knew it went, revealing two small remotes. I eased near, peering over his shoulder, then drew back sharply when he dropped the chair back into recline and kicked his boots up on the desk with a wolfish grin. He fiddled with the remote, seemingly unaware that the monitors he was preparing to watch were already on.

I inched forward again.

He hit Rewind for a few seconds, punched Play, then looked straight up at the monitor I’d watched him and Jo having sex on no more than ten minutes ago.

Was he kidding me? He’d come up here to watch the sex he just had with Jo? Freaking men!

I refused to watch it twice. Once had been bad enough. I closed my eyes, waiting for him to notice what was playing on the monitors next to the one he was watching. It didn’t take long.

“What the bloody fuck?” he said in a near-whisper. I heard the sound of something breaking, bits of plastic hitting the floor.

Yep. He definitely didn’t know.

“Fuck,” he barked, staccato sharp.

After a moment, he growled, “Fuuuu-uuuck.”

Then, “Aw, fuck, fuck, FUCK.”

Lor seemed to have gotten stuck on the word he likes the most. No surprise there.

I opened my eyes. He was standing behind the desk, ramrod straight, legs spread, arms folded, muscles bulging, tense from head to toe. The remote was on the floor in pieces.

“Bloody fucking fuck, are you fucking crazy? Have you lost your motherfucking mind?”

I’d been wondering the same thing.

“We don’t do this shit. That’s rule the fuck number one in our motherfucking universe. Not even you can get away with it, boss!”

While I found it oddly reassuring to know there were repercussions, I found it equally disconcerting. The last thing our world needed on top of all its other problems was war breaking out among the Nine. Rather, now…the Ten.

“Sonofamotherfuckinggoddamnbitch! JaysustittyfuckingChrist!”

That was Lor. Man of few words.

He seized the second remote, punched a button, and the office was filled with harsh groans of pain. The Highlander was curled in a tight ball on the stone ledge. I glanced at Barrons and Ryodan, now sitting in stony silence, watching the Highlander. Apparently they were done arguing. Figured once we had volume they were no longer speaking to each other.