“Great plan there, hero. She can die of a chill and blood loss,” Simon taunted from the bubble that trapped him. His inability to move didn’t extend to his lips.
“I should have used more sage,” Dayne mumbled as Simon kept babbling. “It’s safe now,” Dayne said when the fire had died.
Simon struggled within the magic that trapped him. “Who are you talking to?”
Anthony entered the circle, an unmistakable leer on his face as he looked hungrily at Greta. He wore his basic black, but his blond hair flowed loose around his face, which was caked in blood.
“Looks like I get a taste after all.”
It looked like he’d had plenty of tastes already.
Simon laughed. “Oh, this is a great plan. Vampires are entirely untrustworthy. He’ll take too much.”
“Shut the hell up!” Dayne said. He turned to Anthony. “Do it.” Dayne went to one side of the altar and threaded his fingers through Greta’s. “He’s not going to hurt you. I could have whipped up a potion to counteract the drugs, but there wasn’t time. It’s clumsy, but he can siphon the poison out of your bloodstream.” Anthony knelt on the other side of Greta and gripped her chin, turning her head to the side. His breathing deepened, obviously aroused by the sight of her half-naked and bleeding. He licked a long trail up the side of her neck, and she shivered.
Dayne’s grip tightened on her hand. “Just get on with it.” Anthony chuckled and sank his fangs into Greta’s throat. She gritted her teeth, expecting pain, but what she felt instead was intense and unexpected pleasure. He took gentle tugs, and some delirious part of her thought maybe she should have taken him up on his offer before tonight.
“Okay, that’s enough,” she said as the strength in her voice returned. She struggled, but he growled and continued to drink.
The drugs didn’t seem to affect his strength as they had hers.
Dayne grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and pulled him off her. Anthony was laughing, driven half-mad from the power of her blood. He gave a howl of pure pleasure that could have rivaled that of any therian and ran off into the woods to hunt.
She felt the change come over her as the moon warmed her skin.
The chains clanked against the stone altar, and her paws easily slipped out of them. She could feel her body mending itself, healing the damage she couldn’t have taken for much longer in her human form.
“What do you want to do with him?” Dayne gestured to Simon.
Greta shifted back and quickly slipped the white gown over her head. The cuts on her body were already healed. She’d been strong enough to shift and strong enough to heal, but Simon had success-fully drained some of her power into him. She felt revulsion at the kindred feeling flowing between them as they shared not only blood now, but power.
“We can’t let him live,” Dayne said. His eyes were intense, imploring her to understand.
“No, we can’t. Help me.” She dug into Simon’s pocket for the key and unlocked the chains bolted to the altar. The two of them worked quickly to restrain the tribe’s fallen leader.
Greta bent to retrieve the ritual knife. Her human eyes locked with Jaden’s cat eyes. Jaden looked from Simon to Greta, then back to Simon. Then she turned and ran off into the woods following the path Anthony had taken.
“I’ll do it,” Dayne said, holding out his hand for the knife.
Greta’s hand shook, and she gripped it more firmly. “No. It has to be me.”
Simon couldn’t continue living, and she wouldn’t let him die a quick death with her power coiled inside him. It wasn’t fair for him to take that to his grave. She bit her lip as she pressed the blade into Simon’s flesh. She took no joy in the act. There was nothing to be gained from orphaning herself but closure.
Simon screamed, thrashed, and begged, much less stoic even than she’d been. Greta forced herself to look away. She was tempted to snap his neck and end it, but she pressed on, unwilling to let him take any small victory to the afterlife.
It was still raining when the life slipped from her father. Dayne draped his coat over her shoulders and took her back to the cottage.
She looked so lost. She’d kept insisting he do the ritual. He should have told her no, but he knew she sought atonement for the blood she’d spilt. Or perhaps she still thought he planned something villainous and wanted to complete her induction into evil.
He didn’t have the heart to tell her he didn’t need her blood anymore with Simon dead. He took it anyway, draining about a tablespoon’s worth into a small clear vial. He opened a book, chanted, and felt the magic flare up and disperse.
He’d performed a spell to help the flowers in the garden grow better. With her blood, it was going to be quite the botanical extravaganza. She’d like it at least. He was deeply grateful for magical languages. It was the only thing preserving an ounce of his reputation.
The first thing Greta said after the magic faded was, “What about Charlee? She tried to help me cross the border.”
“She’s fine. Anthony wiped her memory last night.” They stood staring at each other, and then she flung herself at him, raining kisses over his neck, forcing her tongue into his mouth. Her hands wandered down his back and over his ass, and her eyes glittered with need.
“Damn woman, how many days does this go on?”
“Couple of weeks sometimes. Was in a cage. No pills.”
She reluctantly pushed herself away from him. Dayne could see the cogs turning furiously in her brain as she realized she didn’t have to stay with him; he wasn’t her only option. She turned to leave.
“You’re not going anywhere.” Dayne felt the possessiveness curl around him as he grabbed her hand and moved it back to his backside where she’d been kneading his flesh and practically dry humping him moments before. “Let’s go upstairs.”
“You really don’t have to do this.”
“Let’s go upstairs,” he repeated. He wasn’t sure what could be going through Greta’s mind to make her think sleeping with her was a chore. He knew how she felt about the cycle, and he was sorry she hadn’t taken her pill in time. He should have thought of it before they’d started the ritual.
He scooped her up and carried her up the winding staircase.
“Your room or mine?”
“Yours,” she murmured against his neck.
Dayne took her upstairs and made love to her.
Greta woke to birds chirping outside the window and a distinct desire to shift and go chase after them. She felt sore from the previous night’s fight and . . . other events.
Her pills were on the nightstand with a bottle of water. She swallowed one down.
Dayne’s back was to her and he was curled in a ball like a large, old, and well-preserved squirrel. She wanted to curl her body around his and go back to sleep; let him wake her later. But she couldn’t. She was sure she’d been a nice diversion, but he’d only agreed to let her stay until after the full moon, and she wasn’t about to show her naiveté by hoping for more. She was twenty-eight, not eighteen. It wasn’t as if he’d professed undying love.
Dayne’s hand closed over her wrist. “Good kitties don’t run away,” his sleep-filled voice rumbled.
Greta gave him a questioning look.
“I thought you said just until after the moon?” Practically every sexual encounter they’d had had amounted to pity sex. She couldn’t handle further pity or possible rejection.
She’d become stupidly attached to him.
“You might need me to keep you safe,” he hedged.
Greta bristled and jerked her arm away. “I can take care of myself. I don’t need your goodwill. Thanks anyway.” Dayne chuckled and let his hand come to rest lightly on her thigh. “Yes, I saw that in action last night when you were tied down to an altar like the star of a B movie, complete with heaving bosom.”
“I was not heaving. And anyway, you just came to rescue me because you needed my blood. What was the spell for anyway?” She hoped it wasn’t for something world-ending.
“Oh, please. It was a huge hassle rescuing you. If I just needed blood, I could have taken one of the morbidly rubbernecking gawkers standing on the sidelines in the woods. Please stay.”
“I don’t need a man.”
He scooted up behind her and trailed kisses over the back of her neck. “Didn’t say you did. But I’m a very old man, and I now know the joys of having a pet around the house. Though in hindsight, seeing how well you listen, I should have gotten a dog.” Greta smacked him on the arm. Dayne pulled her back and flipped them so he was straddling her. He planted a long, slow kiss on her lips. “Now, stay. You took your pill, right?”
“Good. I’d like to make love again without you thinking I’m doing it out of some twisted mercy. If you want me without the heat interfering, that is.”
His hands started to stroke over her flesh and she relaxed and allowed her legs to fall open. A contented purr began to rumble through her chest. This was how Greta became kept.
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