Deeper inside the cave. Deeper still...

The next time Lucien paused, Kane hunched over and dry heaved. The warrior didn’t release him—perhaps he knew Kane would have bolted. When he finished, he straightened and wiped the moisture from his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Just a little farther, I think,” Lucien said, and flashed again.

“I can make it.” Maybe.

At last the warrior stopped at the top of a smoky cliff.

Kane croaked out, “Here.” Patchouli saturated the air, a scent he knew far too well.

Still battling the urge to run, he crouched and peered down at a land littered with jagged rocks and black dirt. There were trees, but they were gnarled and without any sign of life. In the center was the tent Tink had mentioned, big and flesh-colored—Kane knew the Rainbow Rejects had skinned people to make it.

Tink was inside. Bound to a post. Helpless.

Fury overshadowed the worst of his revulsion. The men themselves sat around a fire pit, roasting marshmallows, utterly at ease. Probably strategizing the best way to “romance” Tink.

My Tink. No one romances her but me.

“What are you guys doing here?” a familiar voice demanded from behind.

Kane twisted while palming a dagger. He came face-to-face with William.

“Willy Willy Boo Bear!” Anya said with a grin. Her beautiful face lit with delight. “I’ve missed you like crazy.”

“Well, I haven’t missed you, brat.”

“Have, too.”

“Have not.”

A slap fight broke out.

Normally Kane would have been amused. Now? His nerves were too frayed.

“Enough,” Lucien said, and the ridiculous fight of the she-cats stopped.

“I’m going to kill your boys,” Kane said. And fast. He wanted out of this place.

“Funny, but I’m going to kill my boys,” William gritted, taking the spot beside him. “They actually left me for dead in Séduire. And good thing, too, because the Phoenix burned down the king’s gardens, and someone has to face punishment. He’s picked your Tinker Hell, because, apparently, she’s to blame for everything. He’ll be sending a contingent of soldiers after her.”

Kane studied the area, plotting the best course of action against the Rainbow Rejects, saying distractedly, “Too bad she belongs to me now, not him.” If he climbed down the cliff, he would be easily spotted. The Rainbow Rejects would be distracted, would leave their posts to fight him. Lucien could flash into the tent, and whisk Tink to safety.

“He’s certain you’re tired of your Tink by now. He’s expecting a thank-you hug.”

That was because, to Tiberius, she had no worth.

The man needed to be taught better.

“Forget the Fae. Where’s White?” he asked. If necessary, he would fight her, too.

“She helped her brothers ambush me, but at least she came back to doctor me,” William said. “Therefore, I only put her in time-out.”

William had once put a Hunter in time-out. The male had chewed through his own wrists in an attempt to escape the pain the warrior had unleashed.

“By the way,” the warrior added. “Have you noticed anything unusual about your wedding ring? I’d always heard it had strange powers, but I never wanted to risk my precious life by putting it on.”

Kane judged the distance from the bottom of the cliff to the campfire. “So you risked my precious life instead?” If the Rainbow Rejects opted not to fight him, they might have enough time to get to Tink before Lucien could flash in and free her.

It was a chance he’d have to take.

“Uh, yeah,” William said. “Hello. I’m smart like that.”

“The ring shows me when an enemy is near.”

“What?” Electric blues narrowed to tiny slits. “Give it back.”

Kane ignored him, saying, “I’ll take care of the Rainbow Rejects. Lucien, you’ll take care of Tink.”

“What about me?” Anya demanded.

“You get to cheer us on.” Lucien would never forgive him if something happened to his precious.

“Hold up,” William said. “If I know my boys, and I do, they’ve bound your Tinker Hell with special chains. Lucien won’t be able to cut her loose, and if he can’t cut her loose, he can’t flash her. He’ll need a key.”

A complication, but not one that was insurmountable. “Do you have a key?”

“I do.” William offered no more.

Kane massaged the back of his neck. “Get the key and I’ll give you the ring.”

“I was hoping you’d say that. This is gonna take me a while, so I’ll see you when I see you.” A grinning William vanished.

Kane wasn’t waiting a while. Not here. Not with Tink so close. “New plan. You two stay here until William gets back, then swoop in and grab Tink. I’ll get the Rainbow Rejects out of the area.”

He didn’t wait for their reply. And he wasn’t going to waste time climbing. His sense of urgency rising, he stood and jumped, falling down...down...down and landing on his feet. Impact split the bones in his shins, but he didn’t care, his adrenaline too high to let him feel such pain. A scowl marred his features as he straightened.

The boys glanced up. The moment they spotted him, they leaped to their feet. But they didn’t run.

“Must admit, I expected you sooner,” Red said, unfazed.

“This is our territory,” Black said. “You should have stayed away.”

Green rubbed his hands together with glee.

“Tink is mine, and I will never share her.”

Kane and the Rainbow Rejects launched toward each other, meeting in the middle. A black mist instantly puffed around them, locking the four of them in a circle of menace. He’d expected it, and was ready to go with a dagger and an ax, hacking at his opponents. The males arched to elude impact, then, as they straightened, slashed at him with their growing claws. Maybe they made contact. Maybe they didn’t. Still he felt only the fiery edges of his rage and determination.

He looked at Red, smiled—but launched the ax at Black.

Black wasn’t prepared, and had no time to react. The metal embedded in his throat, severing his windpipe. He hit the ground, and stayed down.

Red roared, a testament to his rage. Green bared his teeth in a fearsome scowl filled with fangs. Kane palmed a second dagger, and attacked with more vigor. He remained in constant motion, slashing, ducking, slashing again, cutting the pair to ribbons.

“Kill you,” Red snarled, going low and knocking Kane’s ankles together.

He hit the ground, but rolled back to a stand before either male could pin him.

Silent, he stalked forward and hit at them with renewed strength, driving the pair backward. But Green worked his way behind him, and struck, probably drilling a hole in the back of his skull with the slam of his fist.

Kane nearly blacked out, but didn’t let it slow him. He went low, spinning, kicking out his leg, knocking Green down...rising, nailing Red in the shoulder.

The warriors quickly recovered, swiping at him. He had to crisscross his arms again and again, his body arcing one way then the other, to avoid being pummeled and land other blows.

Realizing this was getting them nowhere, he allowed Red to hit him, because he couldn’t sidestep it and strike at Green. He pounded his fist into Green’s chest, sending the warrior stumbling back. Kane followed. The moment Green righted, Kane performed a hard jab to his jaw, followed by a second kick. This time, the dazed warrior fell. Kane was there when he landed, twisting his neck—breaking his spine.

Green stayed down, too.

Red jumped on Kane’s back, wrapped his arms around his neck, and tried to do the same to him, exactly as Kane had hoped. He rolled into the movement and ended up face-to-face with the guy, as if they were hugging. He wasted no time sinking a dagger into Red’s side, straight into a kidney.

Grunting, the warrior stumbled away from him. Kane threw the second dagger and cut into the male’s thigh, forcing him to his knees. Then, determined to end this once and for all, Kane kicked him in the face, breaking his nose and sending him flying back. He grabbed two more daggers, and, when Red rolled over to push upright, shoved the blades into his shoulders, pinning him down.

Disaster shrieked inside his head, and a second later, a rock fell from the cliff and careened toward Kane. He darted out of the way a split second before contact. Red wasn’t so lucky.

The black mist melted away as Kane stood. He felt...ragged, desperate, as he stumbled forward, searching the area, wishing he were anywhere but here, his panic returning now that the fighting was done. He needed to leave. Had to leave. Now. Where was Tink? He needed to grab her and get her out of this hellhole. First, though, he probably needed to breathe. Why couldn’t he breathe?

As he patted at his throat, finding no external obstruction, he spotted Lucien, Anya, William and Tink sitting in front of the fire. He stopped. Tink’s black hair was brushed to a glossy shine, her skin scrubbed clean, and her clothes in perfect condition. She was safe. Relief and joy intermingled, a potent combination that managed to chase away the worst of his panic, opening his lungs and allowing him to suck in a measure of oxygen.

William eyed his boys, who were still lying on the ground. “They’re not dead. Only a beheading will kill them.”

Kane moved forward, intending to deliver the final blow.

“Don’t,” William said, stopping him. “I’ve changed my mind. They’ve learned their lesson. They’ll never approach your woman again. I’ll make sure of it.”

Very well. Kane didn’t need to see them dead—he just needed the reassurance that his mine was safe from them.

He faced Tink.

She stood, wiping her hands against her thighs. Nervous? Or frightened of him? He was covered in blood, after all.

“Kane,” she said.

He took a step toward her. “You’re free. That was fast.”

William shifted. “Yeah, so, I was mistaken about the chain and key. Anya got her out. Go figure.”