WILLIAM…FLOATED. A second after the thought formed, something cold and hard pressed against his razored back. Wheels began squeaking, little bumps up and down shooting fire through him, and he realized he’d been laid flat on a gurney, someone carting him away. Do not groan. Do not cringe.

“This one looks dead,” a masculine voice said. It was unfamiliar. Fiftyish. With the raspy quality of a smoker.

“No, sir. Not yet.” Another male, this one young, probably early twenties. “But if you think he’s bad, you should see the other one. The demon.”

“Now that just won’t do. I need them both alive.”

“But, sir—”

“Do not question me, son. Do whatever it takes, but keep both these creatures alive.”

A pause, an audible gulp. “This one isn’t a demon, though. We should—”

“I don’t care what the hell he is. He was with the other one inside that bloodbath. He deserves what he gets.”

No pause this time. “Yes, sir. I agree, sir.”

The gurney hit another bump, a bigger bump, knocking William’s head a second time. Just as before, there was no stopping the darkness.


The slow, rhythmic beep blended with the sound of rushing footsteps and frantic breaths. William blinked open his eyes, and gods, that hurt. It was like he had splinters under his lids and each of those sharp little pieces of wood had scraped at his corneas. When he was finally able to focus, he frowned.

A thick layer of film coated the room and everyone in it. People were rushing all around him, but he couldn’t make out their features.

“We’re losing him!” someone—a female—shouted.

“His demon—”

“I know! I’m doing my best, but that may not be good enough.”

They were talking about Kane. About losing… William tried to raise his arms. He would help save the warrior. Only his wrists were bound to his bed, and he didn’t have the strength to break free.

What the hell?

“Doctor, this one’s waking up.”

“Damn it, I’m not ready to deal with him. Give him another ten cc’s. He’ll keep until I get this one out of the danger zone.”

Something sharp jabbed at his shoulder, and his mind suddenly spun out of control.


William fought his way out of the darkness and immediately regretted it. The pain! He ached all over. His skin felt charred, his bones as smooth as pudding and just as soft.

“That’s the way. Just a little more.”

His lashes parted. For a moment, the world spun. But soon, everything righted itself and he found his gaze settling on a pretty female. Fatigue had drawn her delicate features taut. She wore a white lab coat and had a stethoscope anchored around the back of her neck. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and a pair of wire rims sat on her nose.

“You’re probably wondering who I am and why you’re here.”

That would be a big, fat affirmative, though he could guess the answer. The Hunters had made their next move. He remembered hearing the hate in the voices of “sir” and company when they’d discussed the demons.

William’s gaze moved to his bound wrists, his bound ankles. They hadn’t trusted sturdy rope, but had used thick, heavy chains. Next he took stock of his injuries, and he realized only a miracle was keeping him in one piece. He felt like a box full of tattered Christmas ribbons, his flesh so ripped he could see the equally ripped muscle underneath.

“Well?” the woman prompted.

“Don’t care.” He had to unlock his jaw to speak, causing his temples to throb. “The man…” No other words would form, his throat simply too raw.

“He’s alive,” she answered, knowing what he desired.

Thank gods. Relief speared him. He could deal with anything else she said.

“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this, but you have a right to know. Your friend…he’s currently being transported to the deepest pits of hell.”

Except that.


KAIA HAD KNOWN STRIDER possessed a brutal streak, and she’d thought she liked that about him. Now, she was pretty sure that streak was going to get him killed. Because she was freaking going to murder him! Painfully. After she drank him dry, that is.

His “big plans” for her? More blood-drinking. Or so she assumed. An entire day had passed since she’d woken from her nap, but that was all he’d let her do.

Of course, she had to ensure he regretted his choice. Had to show him the consequences of teasing her into thinking they’d kiss and touch and, well, make sweet, dirty love until their hearts exploded from the strain.

She didn’t need more blood. Earlier her bones had snapped back into place and her cuts had woven back together. She was completely healed, utterly capable of a little ravishing, but every hour on the hour he would cut his wrist and hold the wound over her mouth. Even now, she was suckling, swallowing a delicious mouthful of his rich, warm blood now spiced with the sweetness of cinnamon.

The warmth spread, as it had every time he’d fed her like this, tickling her nerve endings, reminding her of what they weren’t doing.

“Just a little more,” he said, his voice all kinds of husky. His forearm flexed beneath her grip.

Her eyes closed as she savored his decadent flavor, her murderous thoughts fading. Would she ever get enough of him? No, never, she decided a second later. He’d well and truly addicted her. Not just to his kisses, as she’d already realized, and not just to his blood, but to his presence. His wicked smile, his warped sense of humor.

What would she do if he left her after the games as planned?

Normally she would tell herself she’d find a way to keep him. She would pat herself on the back for her strength and cunning, and bask in the knowledge that she could do anything she wished. Having just survived the ass-beating of a lifetime, she wasn’t quite so optimistic. Besides, what hope she did have had to be directed at the coming games.

So, by gods, she would hoard a thousand different memories of Strider. Just in case. They’d keep her company during the long, cold winters alone, and sleep beside her during hot, sultry summer nights. No matter where he was or who he was with, she would never be without him.

In order to make those memories, she first had to seduce him. Soon. Forget revenge. Even now her body hummed for him, desperate for deeper contact. If only he would let her drink from his jugular…

She’d asked, repeatedly, and he’d said no, repeatedly. Did he not trust her? Or did he not trust himself? She imagined urging him to the mattress and splaying herself on top of him. Her breasts would mesh into his chest and her core would settle over his straining erection. And yes, he would have an erection. She would make sure of it.

She would rub herself against him as she drank from him. He would moan, his hands settling on her ass to move her faster, harder against him. Soon that wouldn’t be enough, for either of them, and he would rip at her clothes. She would rip at his. They would be naked and—

Before she could swallow another mouthful of his blood, he jerked away, removing her fangs from his vein and severing all contact. “Enough,” he said, panting. “You’re medicated properly now.”

She’d been writhing on the bed, she realized, panting herself. Had been angling toward him, her legs parting, her core desperate for him. Gods, she was already wet, aching.

He stood, walked away. He stopped and turned. Then he faced her, propping himself against the TV stand. She sat up, trembling and hot, enjoying her first full view of him since she’d exited the bathroom a few minutes ago, having showered and changed into the fresh clothes Bianka had brought her. At that time, he’d already positioned himself at the edge of the mattress and had merely motioned her over.

She’d thought…hoped…but no. She’d reached him and rather than throw her down and conquer Kaialand, he’d tossed her down and fed her again.

As she studied him, she lost her breath. His pale hair shagged around his fallen angel face. His lips were red, as if he’d chewed them. A lot. He wore a black T-shirt that read I Heart William.

“William gave it to me,” he said with a shrug, noticing where her gaze had lingered.

Just hearing William’s name made her snicker inside. The dark-haired charmer had a crush on her, and she couldn’t wait until he realized why she’d always turned him down. She’d probably laugh so hard she’d pee herself!

Anyway, she didn’t care about Strider’s T-shirt, but about the pecs underneath it. They were hard and well-defined, his nipples slightly puckered—definitely lickable. At the shirt’s hem, she could see the bulge of his weapons, tucked into dark denim. That denim also covered the bulge of something else she’d really like to see, but whatever.

With only the slightest twinge in her side, she pushed to her feet. “I need you to be brutally honest right now,” she said.

Wariness cloaked his features. “Okay.”

“How pretty do I look?”

His gaze dropped, following the line of her body. She wore a red lace halter dress that veed in the middle, all the way to her navel. The hem stopped just below the curve of her ass.

Strider’s pupils did that expanding thing, almost always a prelude to touching. “You need to put on a pair of pants.” His voice was a croak. And he did not move toward her.

This was one of those times when “almost” sucked the big one. “Duh. As if I’d go out like this. I’ve got a pair…right…” She looked around. “There.” She stalked to the nightstand and lifted the “pants” in question. A scrap of red lace spandex that wouldn’t fall below her dress.

With a quick step, step, tug, she shimmied into the material and once again faced off with her consort.

His mouth hung open. “We were just sitting on the bed, together, and you were just drinking from me, your mouth on my skin, and you didn’t have any panties on?”