Hope cupped Rory’s face in her hands. “You’re one of us. Welcome to the family.”
Family? A family who fought demons and had a “safe” room stocked like some kind of survivalist nutcase? That didn’t sound like her kind of family. “Whoa. Hold on a second. I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
“Let it go, Hope,” said Cain. “We’ll deal with that after she’s patched up.”
“Patched up? What happened?”
Rory tried to pull her hand free of Cain’s, but he didn’t let go. She glared at him while she answered Hope’s question. “Just me and my suckful luck with monsters. You know. The usual.”
Logan walked in. His nostrils flared and his eyes seemed to glow. “Your bleeding. It’s gotten worse.”
“That’s my fault,” said Cain. “I collapsed. She came down here to help.”
Logan’s mouth flattened as he looked at her and then Cain. “I see. We’ll deal with that in a minute. Right now we need to stop the bleeding.”
“They’re compatible,” said Hope.
Cain scowled at her. “Not now, Hope.”
Rory’s confusion deepened as she watched the silent play between them. Hope was looking like she’d just opened a shiny new toy. Logan was clearly trying to take that toy away, and Cain kept a tight grip on Rory’s hand like she was going to float away if he let go.
Rory wanted to mind. She wanted to be pissed off, because that was a lot easier to deal with than all of this unsettling, sappy, tingling nonsense.
Cain rose to his feet in one graceful move. He held on to her hand, his thick fingers laced between hers. In one easy lift, he set her on the edge of the gurney.
He didn’t back away, though she could see his body tense as if he was getting ready for her to kick him in the balls or something.
“You need to let go of her,” said Logan.
“I know,” said Cain in a tone that warned Logan to back off. “I’m working on it.”
“Do it slowly. I’ll do what I can to ease the pain.”
“Pain? Will one of you please explain what the hell is happening here?”
“In a moment,” said Logan as he grabbed Cain’s wrist. “Just hold still.”
“Ease hers,” said Cain. “Last time we stopped touching, it hurt her, too.”
“Interesting,” said Logan, and then he looked at Rory like she were a new and intriguing puzzle for his amusement.
She almost told him that it wasn’t pain she felt, but if she’d done that, she would have had to tell them about the visions, and she wasn’t about to do that. She didn’t know these people. She didn’t trust them. Even though she and Hope had been through something horrible together, that didn’t mean Rory was ready to be BFFs.
Logan laid his hand on her forehead, and she flinched away from his touch. His fingers were slender and cool, not at all like Cain’s. She didn’t like the way Logan’s hand felt on her. It was . . . wrong somehow, like a kind of betrayal she couldn’t understand.
“I won’t hurt you,” said Logan. “Just relax.”
She had no intention of doing any such thing, but a second later, she felt her tension drain away. She sat there on the edge of the bed, swaying and content. Even knowing that whatever he’d done to her was fake, she couldn’t find the energy to care.
Cain took several deep breaths like he was about to go free diving, and then eased his grip on her hand. His fingers loosened and slid between hers, inching away. She was sure he hadn’t meant it to be a caress, but she felt it all the way to her curling toes. Those heated vibrations trickling into her wherever he touched seemed to cling, wrapping around the tips of her fingers. She swayed toward him, eager to deepen the contact again, but he continued to back away, keeping just enough distance between them that she couldn’t make any headway.
Finally, after she was gripping the edge of the gurney to keep from lunging toward him and getting more contact with his skin—wherever she could find it—the slightest bit of his index finger was still in contact with hers.
Electricity arced between them, so intense she swore she could hear it crackle. There was something precious and powerful in that tiny contact—a promise of something she didn’t understand, but yearned to possess all the same. She recognized the power, as if a piece of her had been chopped off at birth, only to return to her now in this form.
It was hers and she wanted it.
He broke away, and all thoughts of power were crushed from her head. The relentless stream of images was there, waiting for her, ready to strike. Within seconds, she was completely blinded by the flood of lights and colors that did not belong. Never before had it been this bad. Not even in the daytime. There were too many sights. She couldn’t absorb them all.
The flow of images nauseated her. Her head spun. She held on to the bed, but even that solid support did nothing to pin her in place.
She tried not to panic, but terror was clawing at her, tearing at her resolve until it lay in tattered shreds. She had no control, nowhere to hide. All she could do was sit here while the visions slammed into her, driving her closer to the brink of madness.
Cain’s world was engulfed in agony. He’d never felt anything like it before—not even on the night he’d nearly died—the night he’d failed his duties, and Sibyl had been stolen from her bed.
This was different. Deeper. It was more than merely physical pain. It was as if his soul were being wrenched from his body—pried out by a red-hot crowbar.
He held his breath and waited for it to pass, but the longer it went on, the harder it became for him to remain calm. The pain should have begun to fade by now. It should have loosened its grip enough that he could pull in a breath. And yet it went on, strangling him and robbing him of his strength.
And then he heard something weaving between the pounding beats of his heart booming in his ears. Rory. She was making a gut-wrenching sound of frustration and defeat.
Cain lunged toward her, the need to make her pain stop driving him to act.
“No,” said Logan. “Not yet.”
Someone held him back physically. It took Cain a second to realize that it was Hope who was blocking Cain’s progress. She was much stronger than seemed possible, and that shock was the only thing that kept Cain from fighting his way back to where he was touching Rory’s skin.
With an effort of will, he forced his eyes open. The edges of his vision were cloudy, fogged with pain.
“Breathe, Rory,” said Logan. “You’re okay now.”
Rory pulled in a stuttering breath, but it was deeper than before. Her dark eyes were open wide, terror stark and pale as it haunted her expression. As he watched, some of the color came back to her cheeks, driving away the ghostly paleness.
“Good. That’s it. Just like that.”
Cain, once again in control of himself, looked down at Hope. His voice was calm, even though everything inside of him was roiling in chaos. “Let me go.”
The woman lifted her hands. “Don’t touch her.”
It was the only thing he wanted to do, but he knew better. He couldn’t walk around holding on to her for the rest of his life. They had to take care of her wound. That had to come first before anything else.
Cain stepped back and shoved his hands in his pockets to remind himself not to touch Rory. But that didn’t stop him from watching her and making sure she was okay.
Her eyes were open, but she didn’t appear to be able to focus on anything. Her stare was distant, as if she were blind. The silver rings piercing her skin glittered as she shook under the bright fluorescent lighting. Logan laid a long, elegant hand on her brow, and it was all Cain could do to keep from drawing his sword.
Logan was a friend. A healer. Rory needed him, which meant Cain could not lop off the other man’s hand, no matter how much of a possessive statement Cain wanted to make.
Slowly, the distant vacantness in her eyes faded as she looked at him. As soon as her gaze connected to his, he felt it all the way through him, warming places he hadn’t known were cold until just now.
There was desperation in her gaze, as if she were drowning and he was the only one who could extend his hand to save her. The thought puffed him up, driving away the lingering effects of his battle with the pain of losing her touch. He felt stronger, more solid, like he could go on for years with no rest if that’s what she needed him to do.
That sudden flood of purpose left him shaking all the way down to his boots. He hadn’t had that in a long time—not since his little girl had grown up and left him. Since then, he’d been floundering, flailing around for some reason to keep on pulling in his next breath. The way Rory was looking at him now, he no longer questioned what it was he needed to do. It was clear.
She needed him to save her from whatever it was she’d just endured.
His luceria vibrated frantically, celebrating her nearness, clamoring for more.
She looked so small sitting there, so vulnerable. Her bright pink hair, glaring under the fluorescent lighting, was hard to see past, but he did see. Believing was the hard part. Despite her size and appearance, power radiated out of her gaze. He couldn’t stop staring.
Her dark eyes sucked him in, making him forget all about the world spinning around them. He knew there were things he should be doing. He simply didn’t care. He was content to stay here, staring into her eyes for as long as she’d let him.
She licked her lips. His gaze dropped to watch the path of her pink tongue. He couldn’t have stopped himself if he’d tried.
Hot, fast need gripped him. He tried to shove it away before it got a toehold, but he was too slow. His body heated, and sweat prickled along his spine. It was only through a sheer effort of will honed by decades of self-control that he was able to keep his cock from swelling.
He couldn’t let himself want her. Whatever inconvenient reaction he was having was simply a trick the luceria was playing on him—a way of forcing him to get closer to her and convince her to tie herself to him.
The idea was compelling, and he had to take another step back to remind himself that it wasn’t going to happen. He’d been through this once with Jackie. He knew how it ended.
Logan’s voice cut through Cain’s fog, reminding him they weren’t alone. “I stopped the bleeding, but there’s some damage to her joint I must heal.”
“How did you do that?” asked Rory.
“Magic. Now hold still. I need to cut away the bloody cloth and burn it.”
“What happened to you?” asked Hope.
“I fell on a nail,” said Rory.
“She was attacked by demons,” said Cain.
Hope gave Rory a comforting smile. “You’re going to be fine. I’ll find you something else to wear. Be right back.”
Logan sliced the leg of Rory’s jeans off at her thigh and removed her shoe and sock. He wiped away the smears of blood, leaving whole, smooth skin.
Cain should have averted his eyes and given her some privacy, but even that small act was too much for his depleted willpower. The pale curve of her thigh teased him, making him wish he could see more of her. He wondered how her skin would feel, and how far up she’d let his hand slide before she stopped him.READ MORE >>