She shook her head. “I’m staying with you. I can help. Besides cooking, the one thing I got to do a lot of at ShadowSpawn was patch up wounds. And I can help with the females and children.” He was about to refuse her offer when she jammed her fists on her hips. “Hello, I can whip out a portal and take care of anyone who tries to attack us. Or I can go through it myself to escape. Don’t treat me like an invalid.”
She was right. He wanted to protect her, but she was doing a fine job of that on her own. “You win.” He pressed a kiss into her hair. “But don’t expect to win often. I hate to lose.”
She grinned. “You’ll learn to love it.”
The brush rustled, and he wheeled around to see Tena emerge. She had Rasha with her, her hands bound behind her back, her feet loosely hobbled with wire. She looked as pissed as a wet cat.
“Sorry, chief,” Tena said. “But I found her tied to a tree, and the bitch wanted to tell you something. Said it was important.”
Rasha sneered at Tena, but when she turned to Hunter and Aylin, her expression turned contrite. “Is Kars dead?”
“Unfortunately, no.” Hunter tugged Aylin more firmly against him. “But Tseeveyo will never hurt anyone again.”
Aylin squeezed his hand. “If my father is still alive, he’ll never stop coming after you.”
Rasha closed her eyes, and when she opened them, they were liquid with what Hunter would swear was defeat. “Let me handle our father. I’ll get you out of the contract.”
“I think it’s far more likely that you’ll help him plot against us,” Hunter said.
Hunter expected a defiant comeback, so the fact that she merely sighed told him how defeated she truly was. “Does that mean you plan to hold me prisoner?”
It was tempting. But now that both clans had been soundly trounced, there was no point. Holding Rasha would only make Kars even more volatile and prone to revenge. Aylin was right; Kars would never let this go, and even if he could no longer launch a full-scale attack on MoonBound, he could still cause a lot of damage. A wounded bear was far more dangerous than a healthy one. He turned to Aylin. “She’s your sister. This needs to be your decision.”
For a long time, Aylin stared down her twin. It wasn’t until Rasha, once the alpha of the two, looked away that Aylin nodded. “Let her go. But Rasha? After this, our father is dead to me, and if you betray us, so are you.”
MoonBound had won. And just as important, no one had seen Myne helping from the periphery, slaughtering humans and enemy clan members alike. Rasha probably hated him more than ever for tying her to a tree for Tena to find, but he couldn’t care less.
What he did care about was whether she was going to keep her word and help Aylin and MoonBound, too.
He followed her from a distance, staying far back until she finally located her father. Kars was several miles away from the battle, one hand badly broken and clutching a human head in the other.
Very carefully, Myne eased close to the pair as Kars held up the head. “This should be Hunter’s. It will be Hunter’s.”
“Father,” Rasha said, sounding saner than she ever had, “you need to let this go.”
“Let this go?” he bellowed. “Hunter has no honor! He went back on his word. He humiliated our entire clan and shamed you. I swear to you, I will destroy every MoonBound male, and I’ll force him to watch as his females and children are dragged to ShadowSpawn in chains. Then I’ll skin that bastard alive and wear him like a coat in every battle from the day of his death on.” He snarled. “And Aylin, that traitorous whore. I’ll beat her daily for the rest of her sorry life. She’ll never see another day in the sun for as long as I live.”
“No, Father,” Rasha said, knocking the gruesome trophy out of his grip. “You won’t do any of that. You’re going to leave Aylin and MoonBound alone.”
He stared, speechless, before his face went crimson and his eyes flashed with fury. He struck out, slapping Rasha so hard she rocked backward.
What a great father. Kind of reminded Myne of his own late sire.
“You will never speak to me that way.” He leaned forward aggressively and practically snarled his words. “No female ever speaks to a clan chief with such disrespect, not even my own daughter.”
Rasha spit blood on the ground, splattering pink drops on a patch of snow. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. You will listen to me, and you will accept Aylin and Hunter’s mating.” She smiled, a sneaky, knowing smile, and Myne wondered what card she held in this game. “Or I’ll tell Aylin that you’ve been lying to her since the day she was born.”
Lying? About what? Must be a f**king great card.
He snorted. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would, and I will. I promise you, I’ll tell Aylin how she was the firstborn, not me. She’ll know that when you saw her twisted leg, you considered drowning her in the bucket you had ready to drown the second twin. But it’s bad luck to kill a firstborn twin, so you had to keep her. When I was born, you told everyone I was first and that you decided not to kill the second twin, Aylin, because a raven appeared and told you not to.” She smiled around wicked, bared teeth. “And the fools who hang on your every word believed you. Well, except the midwife, who knew everything. Funny how she was killed by humans a few days later, isn’t it?”
Every drop of blood drained from Kars’s face. This just kept getting more and more interesting, didn’t it?
“Lies,” he rasped.
“You told me yourself. One night when you were drunk and pining for my mother, you confessed it all. I kept quiet all these years, because, like every other fool at ShadowSpawn, I believed that you always do the right thing for the clan. So I let Aylin think she was a curse on our people, like you said. I let her believe that she was the reason our mother died. I treated her like shit to make you happy. But I’ve seen how things can be different, and now I know how poorly you’ve led our clan.”
He hissed. “Hunter has brainwashed you. Filled your head with insanity —”
“Hunter has nothing to do with this. He’s too soft on his people, and he runs MoonBound like it’s a big theme park. But his clan is in far better shape than ours, and his people love him, which is more than can be said for you.”
Some of the color came back into her father’s cheeks, leaving them splotchy with anger. He raised his hand to strike her again, and she dared him with her stare. Myne might despise the bitch, but he had to admit, she didn’t back down from a fight. It was her lone admirable trait. For some reason, that made him think of Sabbat, whose lone negative trait was that she was human. Well, that, and she killed vampires for money.
“Do it,” Rasha said quietly. “Do it, and I swear it’ll be the last time you ever touch me.”
“You ungrateful, spoiled little bitch. I should have drowned you. I should have drowned you both.”
A quick flash of hurt crossed Rasha’s face but was gone a heartbeat later, replaced by the familiar, ever-present icy mask of indifference. “And I should have stood up to you a long time ago,” she shot back. “For me and Aylin. But whatever. I’m doing it now, so here’s the deal. Things are going to be a little different for ShadowSpawn from now on. And you’re going to let Aylin and Hunter live in peace.”
Fury darkened Kars’s gaze. “Or you’ll tell her the truth.”
“Oh, I’ll do more than that. I’ll tell everyone in our clan the truth. I’ll tell them how you’ve been lying for a century. That you named a second-born twin as heir and killed the clan’s midwife in order to keep your secret. Best-case scenario? Some will desert ShadowSpawn, and those who stay will never trust you again. They probably won’t listen to you, and you’ll have to defend every decision you make. Worst-case scenario? They’ll rise up and banish you.”
He swallowed. Hard. “They’ll do the same to you. Maybe worse.”
“Maybe. But I have options. There isn’t a clan out there that wouldn’t take me, a born female from a second-generation vampire.” Oh, Myne could think of one clan that wouldn’t take her. Shrugging, she studied her father, who suddenly looked very old and very tired. “So what’s it to be? Are you going to leave Aylin and Hunter in peace or not?”
For a long time, a storm cloud brewed in Kars’s expression, and Myne thought the chief was going to refuse. But finally, he let out a gruff curse. “I’ll agree to your terms,” he said. “But you are a huge disappointment.”
“Then don’t look in the mirror, Father, because I turned out just like you.” Pivoting on her heel, she walked away, heading in the direction of ShadowSpawn’s territory.
Myne flicked his tongue over his titanium fangs, his brain working to process everything he’d just heard. Aylin was the firstborn and true heir to ShadowSpawn. It was a revelation that, in Hunter’s hands, could destroy Kars.
Or Myne could use it to his own advantage. But how? And to what purpose?
Pressing his tongue against the tip of one fang, he drew blood, the tiny prick delivering a dose of pain-pleasure that made him shiver. Pain and pleasure. Two sides of the same coin. It was what gave him joy, and what made him miserable.
Movement drew his attention away from his peculiar preferences, and he looked over to see Kars kick the human head across the clearing before limping off after Rasha. Myne supposed that was his cue.
It was time to get the hell out of MoonBound’s territory. Out of Washington. Maybe out of the Pacific Northwest.
Or maybe he’d just hit the city scene, see what Seattle had to offer. Because one thing was certain: Myne didn’t belong in a clan. He never had, and when he thought back to that day all those years ago when Hunter had sent him and his brother packing, he realized that the guy had done him a favor.
Because ultimately, pleasure and pain were the only family he needed.
Two weeks after the battle that destroyed NightShade and decimated ShadowSpawn, Aylin was still amazed that she belonged to such an incredible clan.
Hunter had gladly taken in NightShade’s survivors, mostly females and children, so the compound was bursting at the seams, but no one seemed to mind. Baddon was, even now, arranging for needed supplies to expand the living quarters and common areas. The biggest challenge would be getting the provisions to MoonBound without human notice.
And that was where Aylin came in.
The supplies would be delivered to the cabin where she and Hunter had stayed on the first night they’d met, and from there, MoonBound members would haul the provisions and building materials through an Aylin-created portal to the clan’s compound. She’d spent hours each day learning to hold the portal open, and now she could keep it gaping wide for nearly ten minutes before she had to close it and rest. Even the time she needed to recover was decreasing, and she could reopen portals about an hour later.
Even better, the human threat had taken a significant turn. The information Nicole had leaked to the media had caused a political shitstorm, and not only had Daedalus’s practices come under fire, but all vampire hunting had been temporarily banned.
The loss of hundreds of humans had raised protests everywhere, and while some protesters called for an immediate extermination of vampires, the majority wanted all violence to stop. Newspapers and magazines had begun to interview anonymous vampires, and the leader of a hidden city clan had come forward with a request to begin a peaceful dialogue between the two races.
Unfortunately, he was found nailed to a cross in the center of the city a couple of days ago, igniting violent responses on both sides. Still, Nicole was hopeful that this was the beginning of change.
Change was definitely on the horizon for vampires, anyway. The most stunning developments of all following the battle were still happening.
Four clans from around the Pacific Northwest had sent representatives to Hunter. Word of the battle had spread, and MoonBound was becoming something of a legend. Kars had been on the right track when he tried to rally clans behind him – vampires were ready for a leader. But he wasn’t it. Now clans were lining up behind Hunter and Aylin, their desire for a united vampire nation spurring them on.
But the situation with ShadowSpawn was the thing Aylin found the most amazing. Kars had sent a peace offering, a white dove that had to have been Rasha’s idea. And with it was a message:
I, Karshawnewuti Redmoon of ShadowSpawn clan, declare eternal peace and allegiance to MoonBound clan, so long as I live.
Rasha had been true to her word, but how she’d accomplished such a feat was a mystery. And Aylin figured it would remain that way.
The one dark cloud hanging over the clan was the presence of someone who had given away secrets and put MoonBound in danger. But she, Hunter, and Riker had agreed that right now, the risk of sabotage was low, given the growing peace among the clans. So for the time being, they thought it best to play it cool, to give the person a chance to think he or she was off the hook. The traitor would eventually screw up, and in the meantime, Hunter and Riker could devise a trap. They would get their spy – they just wanted to do it without hurting anyone else.
A tap at her chamber door came right on time, and Aylin opened it to find Nicole standing there in a lacy green knee-length dress. She grinned when she saw Aylin.
“You’re gorgeous,” she said. “Hunter is going to flip out.”
Aylin hoped so. Hunter’s Cherokee background had fascinated Aylin, so she’d researched traditions and clothing, and with only days to prepare, she and several clan members had put together an ensemble fitting for a mating ceremony with a clan chief.READ MORE >>