Yeah, and then he’d cracked in half. So exactly how well was this shit working for him.

He felt torn in two for reasons he couldn’t bear to look at too closely.

What if iAm was right. And Xhex had been kind rather than accurate that night of the shooting.

* * *

Therese traced her lover’s face with her eyes, the features so perfect to her, so sensual, so masculine, so… compelling. Those black irises, the dark skin, the skull trim.

“Sometimes I feel…” she whispered.

“What.” Trez stroked her hair back. “Tell me.”

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve always known you.”

“You have,” he murmured.

Therese laughed in a rush. “Fate, huh.”

“Yes.” He was so dead serious that she was taken aback. “I believe in fate. Don’t you?”

Fantasies about a future with him aside, that question made her flinch. She had been born to someone who’d given her up. Just set her on a doorstep, and left her there in the cold, to die. So even as she spooled out whole destinies for her and this male, when it came to discussions of fate, she was troubled. Was she supposed to have been killed by neglect as an infant? Or was the saving that had happened, but that now felt temporary, what she was supposed to have gotten? On that theory, what if people’s fates were doled out like pieces of mail, some of which, by the law of averages, inevitably were mislaid. Destroyed. Delivered to the wrong address.

Did she get someone else’s parents by mistake? Did someone get hers?

And what of coming here and meeting Trez—

Okay, she really did not want to think right now, she decided. And what do you know, Trez didn’t seem to either—especially as he brushed his fingers through her hair again and his hand lingered on her shoulder.

Smiling, she eased down against the pillows and ran her fingertip over her own jugular vein. Then she arched, desire curling inside her core.

“I don’t want to talk anymore,” she said.

Instantly, his scent flared, dark spices filling her senses.

“Right now, I want something else from you,” she said. “And I want to give you something.”

Eyes heating, Trez moved his own body down so they were face-to-face on the pillows. “I’m hungry.”

“Me, too.”

“Take from me first,” he said as he cupped the back of her neck and urged her to his own throat. “Take from me so I can give strength to you.”

She had a moment of pause. But then her own instincts took over.

Nuzzling into the side of his throat, she ran her sharp fang over the vein he was offering to her. She had a thought that she wanted to go slowly, but hunger clawed into her gut, a reminder that it had been too long since she’d done this. Since she’d taken care of herself in this way.

And it had been even longer since there had been a sexual component to it for her.

Licking up his neck, she reached down his body and found that he was hard again for her. Ready for her. Hungry for her.

With a hiss, she reared back and then punched her fangs through his throat—while at the same time, she began stroking him between his legs.

“Oh, fuck!” he barked as he rolled over onto his back and pulled her on top.

Throwing a leg over his hips, Therese sat his erection up and impaled herself on it. As she did, she began to suck on his vein, drawing him into herself. She didn’t dare start moving, however. She didn’t want to hurt him, and as the dark wine she swallowed warmed her gut, she was struck by such a greed, she was worried she would ride him hard and rip his throat open.

But if the goal was to bring him a release, it didn’t seem to matter that she wasn’t moving.

Trez started coming without any friction at all, the draws on his jugular enough to send him over the edge. And she was glad. She was so glad.

He had known such pain.

When he was with her, she wanted him to give him the pleasure he deserved.

And maybe even… the love.


No, I better go back. At least for a little bit.”

As his female spoke up at the sink in the kitchen, Trez glanced at his phone. It was almost eight now. They had come down here about twenty minutes ago, reclothed in what they had been wearing the night before, whereupon she had had another bowl of carefully apportioned raisins with bran, and he had rocked another set of dueling slices of toast.

They’d both had milk. In glasses.

Real hard partiers, high rollers they were.

Although upstairs, in that big bed? They had nothing to be ashamed about when it came to having a wild time.

“Did you happen to get another phone?” he asked. “I mean, in the five minutes you’ve had to yourself since you lost your other one, of course.”

“No.” She smiled as she put her bowl in the dishwasher. Then she pointed inside the machine. “So you’ve got two items in here. At this rate, you’ll have to run it in February.”

“Can I take you to get a phone?” He put his hands up. “You’d pay, I swear. It’s just we could drive by the Verizon store on the way to your apartment.”

“Oh, it was just a burner, and I can get myself home.” She turned around and leaned back against the counter. “I can dematerialize directly into my apartment. I know the layout and I left the window cracked.”

Trez tried to keep a grunt to himself. “I can still drive you back.”

“I know you can.”

“Look, I’m not being a pain in the ass on purpose.” Nah, it was just a gift he had. “But you should have a phone, and not because you’re a female or anything—hey, what if iAm needed to get a hold of you? Or Enzo. To change shifts.”

When in doubt, play the job card, he thought.

“It’s Monday, remember.” Her eyes grew low-lidded. “Which was why we got to stay in bed for a little extra…”

“Yes, we did.” Trez purred. He couldn’t help it. “And you know, I didn’t realize how much I liked the start of the workweek until now.”

There was a long moment. During which he had a feeling she was considering the idea of a change of elevation—namely to the second floor, back to that bed. And he would be a “yes” on that, go figure.

Except then she looked away with a blush. “You are too hot for me.”

“No, you are.”

They both laughed. Then she shook her head. “You know, you’re probably right.”

Trez deliberately put his fingers to the bite mark that she’d licked closed. “About what? The fact that you can take my vein anytime you want?”

“I need to return the favor, by the way,” she drawled. “You didn’t feed from me. We got distracted.”

“In the best sense of the word. And I’d still be going down on you right now if I could.”

His female let out a bark and then a snort. After which she clamped both hands over her mouth.

“Now why you gotta do that?” he asked. “You don’t need to be quiet in this house.”

“I have the worst laugh in the world.”

Trez thought back to the time they’d spent together up at Rehv’s Great Camp, on the lake near Saddleback Mountain, the two of them huddled in an old Victorian four-poster bed, a homemade quilt pulled up to their chins, quiet conversation, whispers of love, and a glimpse of eternity uniting them whether they were joined sexually or not.

He had told silly jokes. And she had laughed.

Stolen moments… on a timeline that had been far too short.

“I love your laugh,” he said.

“You don’t have to be charming.” She walked over to where he was sitting at the table and put her arms around his shoulders. “You’ve got me already.”

Trez put his hands on her hips. “And I want to keep you.”

Her lovely eyes blinked. “I believe you do.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” God, that was all he wanted to do. “Why wouldn’t anyone.”

His female stroked his face. Then in a hoarse voice, she whispered, “That’s not a rhetorical question to someone who was abandoned by her birth mahmen and sire.”

Trez hugged her close. He’d never thought of the Chosen like that, but he supposed it was true. They had no true parents. They were bred to serve, given no choice in the matter—in spite of their name—and expected to suck it up if they didn’t like their role in the species. There was no love. There was only duty.

“I am so sorry,” he said with emotion.

They embraced and held each other for a long time. And he told her he loved her in his mind because he briefly lost his voice.

When she pulled back, she cleared her throat. “Where were we?”

“Just where I want to be,” he murmured.

She smiled. “Oh, right. My phone. Enzo and iAm. You do have a point—and I don’t know why I’m being so stubborn about getting a new burner. I didn’t pay a lot for it, and yet I resent like hell that I have to spend even a dime to replace the thing. And that’s just stupid.”

“So we’re going to Verizon.” He clapped his hands together in triumph. “Hot damn—”

“I have another phone.”

She walked over to her purse, the one she had lost hold of at the club. Opening the top, she glanced in and glanced up again. “You know, it’s really empty in here without a wallet. Thank God I’m not a human with a driver’s license to lose or an identity to steal, huh.”

His female reached in. Unzipped a pocket. And withdrew a cell phone.

As she held it in her hand, she stared at the thing, seeming to reacquaint herself with her own possession. “I haven’t fired this up since I left. It’s out of juice, though, I’ll bet—yeah, no juice.”

“We have cords.” He got up and started looking in drawers. “Fritz always has something of everything in the houses he kits out—found ’em. What kind is it?”