Chapter Thirty-seven


Rehvenge prowled around his house, going from room to room with a restless, punching stride. His visual field was red, his senses alive, his cane left behind hours ago. No longer cold as he always was, he'd ditched the turtleneck, hanging his weapons on his bare skin. He felt all of his body, reveled in all the power of his muscles and bones. And there were other things, too. Things he hadn't experienced in...

God, it had been a decade since he'd let himself get this far gone, and because this was engineered, a deliberate recession into the madness, he felt in control¡ªwhich was probably a dangerous fallacy, but he didn't give a shit. He was... liberated. And he wanted to fight his enemy with a desperation that was downright sexual.

So he was also frustrated as hell.

He looked out one of the library's windows. He'd left the front gate wide-open, trying to encourage visitors. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

The grandfather clock chimed twelve times.

He'd been so sure the lesser would show, but no one had come through the gate, up the drive, to the house. And according to the periphery's security cameras, the cars that had passed by on the street were only those indigenous to the neighborhood: multiple Mercedes, a Maybach, several Lexus SUVs, four BMWs.

Goddamn it. He wanted that slayer, badly enough to scream, and the urge to fight, to ahvenge his family, to protect his turf, made sense. His bloodline reached back into the warrior elite on his mother's side, and aggression ran thick in him; it always had. Add to his core nature the anger about his sister and the fact that he'd had to rush his mahmen out of her home in broad fucking daylight, and he was a powder keg.

He thought of the Brotherhood. He would have been a good candidate for them, if they'd been recruiting before his transition... Except who the hell knew what they did anymore? They'd gone underground as the vampire civilization had crumbled, becoming this hidden enclave, protecting themselves more than the race they were sworn to defend.

Hell, he couldn't help thinking that if they'd been more focused on their job and less on themselves, they could have prevented Bella's abduction. Or found her right away.

Fresh anger stirring, he continued to walk through the house in a random pattern, looking out of windows and doors, checking monitors. Eventually he decided the aimless waiting was bullshit. He was just going to lose his mind wandering around here all night, and he had business to take care of downtown. If he set the alarms and they were triggered, he could dematerialize in the blink of an eye.

When he got up to his room, he went to his closet and paused in front of the locked cabinet in the back. Going to work unmedicated was not an option, even if it meant he had to use a gun instead of hand-to-hand on the lesser if the bastard showed up.

Rehv took out a vial of dopamine as well as his syringe and tourniquet. As he prepared the needle and wrapped the rubber tube around his upper arm, he stared at the clear fluid he was about to pump into his vein. Havers had mentioned that at this kind of high dose, paranoia was a side effect in some vampires. And Rehv had been doubling up the prescribed load for... Jesus, ever since Bella had been abducted. So maybe he was losing it.

But then he thought about the body temperature of that thing that had stopped in front of the gates. Fifty degrees wasn't alive. Not for humans.

He injected himself and waited until his vision came back and his body went away. Then he dressed warmly, grabbed his cane, and headed out.

Zsadist stalked into ZeroSum, totally aware of Phury's silent worry looming behind him like a damp fog. Good thing he found his twin easy to ignore, or all that despair would have sucked him down.

Weak. You're so weak.

Yeah, well, he was going to take care of that.

"Give me twenty minutes," he told Phury. "Then meet me outside in the alley."

He didn't waste any time. He picked a working human whore who had her hair up in a chignon, gave her two hundred dollars, then practically pushed her out of the club. She didn't seem to care about his face or his size or the way he moved her around. Her eyes were not tracking at all, she was so high.

When they were out in the alley, she laughed too loudly.

"How do you want it?" she said, doing a little dance in her skyscraper heels. She stumbled, then put her hands up over her head and stretched in the cold. "You look like you take it rough. Which is fine with me."

He spun her to face the bricks and held her in place by the back of her neck. As she giggled and pretended to struggle, he restrained her and thought of the countless human females he'd sucked over the years. How clean did he get their memories? Did they wake up from nightmares of him when their subconscious stirred?

User, he thought. He was a user. Just like the Mistress.

The only difference was, he had no choice.

Or did he? He could have used Bella tonight; she'd wanted him to. But if he fed off her, it was only going to be harder for both of them to let go. And that was where they were headed.

She didn't want to be ahvenged. He could not rest while that lesser took up space on the earth...

More than that, though, he couldn't bear to watch Bella destroy herself by trying to love a male she shouldn't. He had to get her to walk away from him. He wanted her to be happy and safe, he wanted a thousand years of her waking up with a peaceful smile on her face. He wanted her well mated, with a male she could take pride in.

In spite of the bonding he had for her, he wanted her to know joy more than he wanted her with him.

The prostitute wiggled. "We going to do this or what, daddy? 'Cause I'm getting kind of excited."

Z bared his fangs and reared back, prepared to strike.

"Zsadist¡ªno!"

Bella's voice brought his head around. She was standing in the middle of the alley, about fifteen feet away. Her eyes were horrified, her mouth open.

"No," she said hoarsely. "Don't... do it."

His first impulse was to get her the hell back to the house and then yell at her for leaving. His second was that he had his chance to sever ties between them. It would be a surgical maneuver, involving a lot of pain, but she would heal from the amputation. Even if he wouldn't.

The whore looked over, then laughed, a high, happy trill. "Is she going to watch? 'Cause that'll cost you fifty bucks extra."

Bella put her hand up to her throat as Zsadist held the human between his body and the brick wall of a building. The pain in her chest was so great she couldn't breathe. To see him so close to another female... a human, a prostitute at that... and for the purpose of feeding? After all they had shared last night?

"Please," she said. "Use me. Take me. Don't do this." He spun the female around so the two of them were facing front; then he clamped an arm across the woman's chest. The prostitute laughed and undulated against him, rubbing her body into his, her hips moving in a sinuous twist.

Bella put her hands out into the frigid air. "I love you. I didn't mean to insult you in front of the Brothers. Please don't do this to get back at me."

Zsadist's eyes locked on hers. Misery shone in them, an utter desolation, but he bared his fangs... then sank them into the woman's neck. Bella cried out as he swallowed; the human female laughed again with a lilting, wild sound.

Bella staggered back. And still his eyes didn't move from hers, even as he repositioned his bite and drank harder. Unable to watch for a moment longer, she dematerialized to the only place she could think of.

Her family's house.

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