Authors: Jordan L. Hawk
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Gay, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Genre Fiction, #Gay Romance, #Demons & Devils, #Psychics, #Vampires
It knows better now. Its eyes go yellow. “Damn you!”
Bones and ligaments crack loudly, and a sound of pain escapes as it reforms its stolen flesh: jaws extending into a muzzle, arms lengthening, proportions of toes and feet altering, its shoes splitting apart and falling into tatters along with a great deal of its clothing. Matted brownish fur sprouts across its skin, coarse and clotted with dander. Nails become claws; teeth, a serrated row of fangs. Its scent intensifies, delicious.
The mortal screams again. She throws the empty gun at the werewolf. It snarls and snaps at her, and the moment of distraction is as good as any other.
Gray rushes it, his own fangs sharp and ready. At the last instant, it twists, the claws of one hand shredding his shirt and laying open his chest to the bone. Gray falls back, a pulse of etheric energy sealing the wounds closed without scar, and the two circle one another warily.
The fight is on.
* * *
John burst through the front door, gun and athame both drawn, Sean on his heels. They’d heard a woman’s scream all the way from the street; there was no time for finesse, no time for anything but to act and hope they weren’t too late.
He was greeted by the sight of two figures entwined with each other, just as they burst through the railing of the staircase. They twisted like a pair of fighting cats, plummeting to the first floor in a rain of shattered wood.
Gray was on the bottom when they hit. The lycanthrope reared back, saliva and blood flying from its teeth. John didn’t even think, just dropped the athame to brace the Glock and fired a silver-jacketed round into the wide target of the lycanthrope’s chest.
It let out a startled howl of pain—then went flying across the room and into a wall as Gray heaved it off. The impact left a deep crater in the plaster. A second later, Gray was on his feet and moving toward it, faster than anything human—or nearly human—had the right to move.
The storm of etheric energy was enough to steal John’s breath. Gray’s eyes were black as oil slicks, and his hair snapped in an unfelt wind, twisting and twining like Medusa’s locks. Dark mist boiled off of him, and the smell of ozone filled the air as the pressure in the room dropped.
The lycanthrope shoved itself off the wall, snarling as it lunged at Gray. Blood flew, claws opening gashes in flesh, each of them healing at an accelerated rate. John swore frantically, trying to get a good angle to fire, but they were too close together.
“Shit!” Sean yelled, and brought his gun up.
“Hold your fire! You’ll hit Gray!” John shouted over the lycanthrope’s infuriated howls.
“Dammit, John, it isn’t human anymore! Caleb’s gone!”
“No.” He risked taking his attention off the fight for an instant, grabbing Sean’s arm and forcing the gun down. “Trust me, Sean.”
Sean’s eyes went wide. He grabbed John and yanked him violently to the side, just as Gray crashed through the space they’d occupied. The drakul struck a mirror, falling to the ground in a hail of silvery shards to lie there unmoving.
John’s heart skipped a beat. He started to turn—but the lycanthrope was too fast, on him already, its charge hard enough to knock him over a chair and into a sideboard. His gun hit the ground and went skittering away.
John blinked, trying to make his dazed brain function. The lycanthrope bent over him, its stinking breath gusting over his face, as it prepared to rend him to pieces. He tried to get up, to move at all, but the air had been knocked out of him. He could only watch as death came closer and closer—
“Leave him be,” growled a voice like thunder.
Gray’s claws sink into the flesh of the werewolf’s shoulders, hauling it back from its prey. Fury pounds in his veins: he has never cared about a demon’s mortal victims before. But he does this time.
Taken by surprise, the demon tries to fight, but Gray has the advantage. It cannot bring its claws into range to do more than rip at his thighs, wounds he ignores easily. Hauling it further from the mortals, he shoves it to its knees. Unhooking claws from one shoulder, he sinks them instead into its distorted head, wrenching the skull to the side so hard a vertebrae snaps.
An instant later, his fangs drive through the skin and into the jugular beneath. The grooves in them channel a veritable fountain of blood into his mouth, and for the first time since finding himself in a living body, he feeds.
It is nothing like before. Then, it was pleasant. A mild sensation, filtered through dead nerves.
This…this is ecstasy.
The blood is rich, infused with etheric power, and he drinks it down in a near-delirium of pleasure. The taste, the feel, the sheer physicality of the act make him moan, and he leans into the demon, wanting more. Every nerve sings, his entire body attuned to this one primal act.
Then there is nothing more, the demonic essence absorbed. All that remains is a rapidly-cooling husk, already starting to decay, as if the mortal body had died the day the demon had taken it.
He drops it regretfully, wishing there had been more. He’d never known—
Pain blazes through him as a sliver of ice buries itself in his back.
With a roar, he twists, throwing the mortal woman aside. Taking advantage of his distraction, she snuck up behind him and left a knife embedded in one kidney. He tears the weapon out, the wound already healing, and hurls it aside.
This injury is nothing. Far worse is the one she gave with her betrayal. She hurt Caleb, and Gray must protect him/them. Whimpering in terror, she scrambles away, and he follows.
He tasted her blood once. It was not food, but it had a certain sweetness he had not appreciated at the time.
The memory of ecstasy curls in his belly. Would mortal blood give the same pleasure?
“No! Oh God, stop, it’s Melanie, stop!”
Caleb does not wish this. But Caleb does not want many things Gray does.
The mortal woman is crying now. Beaten, defeated, curled into a ball at his feet. Easy prey.
With a last growl in her direction, Gray lets go and folds back into himself.
* * *
John’s finger hovered over the trigger. It had all happened so fast, and now Gray had turned violent like any other NHE. He loomed over the cowering woman, beautiful and terrible, and John had to shoot, had to. He had to protect her from Gray.
But his finger was frozen, the nerves between brain and hand shorted out. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t bring himself to act.
A look of utter contempt flashed across Gray’s features as he stared down at Melanie. The sense of power faded, the smell of ozone vanishing. Gray’s hair drifted down to rest on his shoulders, and a moment later his eyes were human once again.
Caleb fell to his knees, hands clasped over his mouth. His dark eyes were almost round as he stared at the cowering Melanie.
“John?” Sean asked tensely.
“Stand down.” He didn’t know exactly what had happened…but maybe the details didn’t matter at the moment. “Call Kaniyar, and see if Ms. Jansen needs help.”
Ignoring the sobbing woman, John walked over to Caleb. When the other man didn’t look up, he dropped into a crouch by him. “Caleb? Are you all right?”
Caleb blinked dazedly through tears, all his snarky defiance wiped away. “J-John?”
“Yeah.” He’d hoped to hear Caleb use his first name…but not like this. Not out of desperation.
John put his hand on Caleb’s shoulder. Tremors shook his thin frame. “It’s going to be okay.”
“N-No.” Caleb swallowed convulsively. “I don’t think it is.”
He sounded so lost it broke John’s heart. Even though it wasn’t exactly professional, John wrapped his arms around Caleb.
He half-expected Caleb to shove him away. Instead, the other man pressed his face into John’s shoulder, arms going around him, hands clinging to his coat like he was the only bit of flotsam in a flood.
“Shh,” John murmured, stroking the silky black hair. It was tangled from Gray’s power; little swirls of energy sparked from the locks, like tiny kisses against John’s fingers. “I’ve got you. I’m not going to let you go.”
“John?” Sean asked uncertainly. “Kaniyar is on the way with a squad. What should we do with Ms. Jansen?”
What had been her role in all this? “Hold her for questioning,” John said. “She’s a member of Fist.”
“Got it. I’ll read her rights.”
“Thanks.” He should stay and give Kaniyar his report. But if he did, Caleb would be subjected to questioning, and given how hard he was shaking, John knew he couldn’t take much more right now.
Fuck it. Kaniyar wanted John to bend the rules; she’d have to live with the consequences. “I’m taking Caleb back to the condo. Tell the chief I’ll be in on Monday with a full report.”
“John—” Sean started.
John shot his oldest friend a hard glare. “He just stopped a killer. I think he’s earned a little slack, don’t you?”
Sean’s mouth flattened…but he nodded reluctantly. “Yeah. I guess.”
John rose to his feet, pulling Caleb with him. “Come on. Let’s get you home.”
* * *
Caleb was still shivering when he stepped inside the familiar confines of the condo.
Everything felt…dreamlike. Completely unreal, from the hardwood floors, to the couch, to the man locking the door behind them. Nothing was real, except for Melanie, her face contorted with terror while he loomed over her. Wanting to taste. Wanting to—
Starkweather came up behind him.
No, not Starkweather.
John might be brainwashed by SPECTR, but he had seen what happened and hadn’t run screaming in the other direction. So maybe he wasn’t just brainwashed, but batshit crazy to boot.
It didn’t matter; he was there, when everything else in the world was falling apart. His hands closed gently on Caleb’s arms, fingers hot against skin gone cold from the inside out. “Hey. Talk to me.”
Talk. Right. Caleb hadn’t said a word the whole way back. Hadn’t done anything but hug himself and shiver like a man dying in a snowstorm.
“I can’t do this,” he whispered in a low, cracked voice. “I just…I can’t.”
The hands on his arms tightened. They were the only real things in the world right now; Caleb closed his eyes and concentrated on the simple, human sensation.
“What can’t you do?” John asked.
There were knives in his throat, and swallowing didn’t wash them away. “This! Any of…this. Don’t you get it? Melanie called me there to put me down. The last family I have, and she thought I needed to die. And I…for a minute, I wanted to let Gray hurt her. To make her pay.” He choked back a sob. “She was right. I am a monster.”
John slid a hand under his jaw, tilting his head back. “No,” John said softly, his blue eyes grave but certain. “You aren’t.” And leaning forward, he pressed his mouth against Caleb’s.
The kiss was tentative, the brush of soft lips asking, not demanding. Caleb’s heart went into overdrive, sensation exploding in his chest, and he pushed back, deepening the kiss, turning it passionate.
John responded, arms sliding around Caleb, pressing the hard length of his erection against Caleb’s thigh. And oh God, it felt so good, so fucking human, he half wanted to cry from relief and desire.
“Caleb,” John whispered against his mouth. Then he drew back, concerned eyes searching. “Maybe we shouldn’t be doing this. I don’t want to take advantage.”
Caleb gripped John’s suit jacket, willing him not to pull farther away. “You aren’t,” he panted. He couldn’t take it if John refused him now, not after Melanie’s rejection. He was in pieces, barely clinging together; a single wrong touch would shatter him completely. “I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you.”
The familiar, sexy smile curved John’s mouth. “Feeling’s mutual. But I can wait. Maybe—”
“No.” Caleb kissed him again, desperately, hoping to convey his need in a swirl of lips and tongue. “Please,” he breathed, when they broke apart again. “Show me I’m still human.”
John’s hands slid up to cup his face, calluses rough against the stubble on Caleb’s chin. “You are,” he said, without the slightest trace of uncertainty.
He kissed Caleb again: deep and hard and demanding. Caleb moaned, arching against him, opening and letting him do what he wanted. Caleb’s heart pounded and his dick ached, pressed against the zipper of his shredded jeans.
“Need you,” he whispered. “I want you in me.”
“Anything, babe. Whatever you need.”
They stumbled up the steps together, hands roaming. Caleb couldn’t stand to not keep touching, to not feel this, afraid John would come to his senses if he let go for even a second.
John’s room was only slightly larger than the guest room, but the bed was big enough for two. Caleb’s clothing was a ruin, shredded by claws and stained with blood, and as John removed each item, he threw it in the direction of the hall instead of the hamper. His big hands shaped Caleb’s body, sliding up his back to his chest, tweaking a nipple and sending a bolt of ecstasy straight down into his cock.
“You’re gorgeous,” John panted against his neck. He gripped Caleb’s ass, tugging him closer, fingers teasing the inside of his thighs. “I’ve been going crazy the last few nights, knowing you were across the hall.”
Everything was incredibly intense: the texture of John’s clothing against his bare skin, the caress of his hands, the heat of his mouth. “Want to feel your skin,” he said, tugging on John’s jacket.
John pulled his tie off and threw it in the direction of the hamper. “Me too.” He sounded breathless, and his eyes seemed to glow with need. He put his holstered gun on the nightstand, before stripping off his shirt to reveal a sculpted torso. It made Caleb’s mouth water. A few old scars showed here and there, breaking up the smooth skin: four parallel lines across his chest, and a single, nasty scar right down the center of one forearm, all the way to the wrist.
Caleb ran his fingers greedily over John’s chest, before following the dark trail of hair down to his belt buckle. He unfastened John’s pants, then shoved them and his underwear down together, freeing the other man’s cock.