“Are you all right?” Cailin asked as the stench of demon blood, heavy and thick in the air, burned my nostrils. “I’ll clean up here,” she said, and then growled low in her throat as my increasing hunger swirled around her.
“So,” Casiar said loudly, and I grimaced as I stepped around the puddle of blood and out into the bedroom. Grabbing the small plastic cup containing the bullet, he followed me from the bathroom and let out a whistle at the sight of the blood-drenched mattress. “Where are you off to?” he asked a moment later, and then cursed as my nose began to bleed. I groaned as a splitting headache followed a second later. The pain intensified, and my hand shot out, slapping the wall for balance as my world spun around me. “Damn it,” Casiar muttered before he teleported, taking me with him.
“Shit,” Ari said and coughed as she choked on the blood she was drinking. Her cool hand caught me before I could fall on my ass. She lowered me onto the couch as I clutched at my head. My vision darkened, and at the scent of human blood—prepackaged or not, my hunger rose.
“You have him?” Casiar asked, and I could barely hear him over the rush of blood and the pounding of hearts in my ears. Ari said something I couldn’t make out as she cupped my chin, tilting my head back and wiping away the blood with a napkin that she grabbed from the table. I was no longer bleeding, but the headache persisted in having its way with me. “If you need me, shout.” At her nod, he disappeared. I dropped my hands to her shoulders, and she stiffened, eyeing me warily.
“I can feel your hunger,” she said, and I tensed as she dropped her hand and pressed something sharp against my stomach. My hands moved to her own hand, and she tightened her grip on the blade as I tried to remove it. I could have easily taken it from her, but half of me didn’t want to disarm her. She straightened and pulled her hand out of mine. “Stay put, I’ll be back.” She headed into the kitchen, grumbling something under her breath.
“Sweetheart,” I growled. “Those won’t help,” I said and let out a snarl, going taut as her blood suddenly filled the air. It was all I could do not to flash into the kitchen and rip into her throat. She appeared in front of me a few seconds later, and I snatched the cup of blood from her hand and drained it in one gulp. She took the glass from me before I could shatter it.
“Viviana is in the sparring room, shall I get her?” She disappeared before I could grab her. I hissed, cursing as she reappeared with Viviana just seconds later.
“Are you serious?” Viviana spluttered and jerked away from Ari’s arms and into mine. She gasped as I tightened my hold around her. “Shit!” she exclaimed as Ari sat down beside me. Shit indeed, I thought as she began to struggle. I took in a deep breath and let it out with a growl as I stared at the pulse in her neck. Only Ari’s painful grip on my upper arm kept me from ripping out Viviana’s throat. If she applied anymore pressure, she was going to snap it, and I seriously had enough healing to get on with.
“If you value your life, dear girl,” I hissed in Viviana’s ear. “I suggest you stop fighting me.”
“Have you heard the phrase easier said than done?” she asked, and then let out a pained gasp, stiffening as I sank my fangs into the side of her neck. Growling, I pulled fast and hard, silently groaning as hot blood filled my mouth and slid down my throat. My growls turned into a snarl as Viviana pushed against my arms. Ari released me, only to stick her fingers into my mouth, making it difficult to feed. With another snarl, I jerked my fangs from Viviana and reluctantly allow Ari to take her from me. I licked away the remaining blood, and then stiffened as a cold burning sensation came over me. I sucked in a sharp breath, holding it as invisible fist wrapped around my heart and squeezed ever so slowly.
“Tristan!” Ari exclaimed. “What’s wrong?” Pain exploded in my head and breath whooshed from me as I doubled over onto the floor. Just as suddenly as the pain came on, it was gone, leaving me gasping and another pounding headache in its wake.
“I have to go,” I snarled and teleported.
The moment I appeared, I was bombarded by screams, the sound of fighting, and the overwhelming scent of sulfur. Someone just died a slow death here, and I looked around the bloody scene, blinking as I saw Trynnadon crouching over a body—a body with no head… or rather, a body with a head that was nothing more than melted mush on the ground. I appeared beside him, and my hand flashed, grabbing his wrist and squeezing, enough that he couldn’t move. “Tristan,” Trynnadon growled and looked around.
“Who was it?” I snapped.
“James,” he hissed and cursed.
“Tell me,” I said and released him.
“He was shot in the head,” he said and glared. “He died screaming.”
I nodded, inwardly wincing. “Where is the demon that shot him?” He pointed to the sky, and I glanced up, seeing nothing. Of course, if I were the shooter, I wouldn’t have stuck around to see what happened next. The cold burning sensation was fading, and I glanced around, scowling. I growled as demons began to flee the scene. “Let them go,” I said both out loud and mentally.
“You’ve got to be fucking joking!” Brynna snarled. “They fucking killed one of us,” she hissed.
“And they will kill more before this is all over and done with,” I snapped.
“You’re no fucking fun,” she spat and tossed a blade through the air toward me. I caught it effortlessly and sheathed it as the remaining demons disappeared from sight. “What now?” she asked, glaring at me.
“I want you all on the medical floor,” I said. “Now.” Taking Trynnadon by the arm, I hauled him to his feet and teleported.
As we appeared in the medical wing of the HQ, Trynnadon cursed and went straight for the blood. A moment later, Brynna followed by a dozen hunters appeared around me. Outside the opened door that led out into the hall, Sarisa appeared, Sergei close to her side. I inwardly smiled. He wasn’t going to let her out of his sight any time soon. “Sarisa, I don’t expect you to be here.” She scowled and shook her head, stepping into the dimly lit room. I looked to Sergei, who shrugged. I tried to get her to rest after hunting, but she won’t have it, he said into my mind. Women, I silently muttered.
“Strip!” Sarisa said cheerfully. “All of you except for Sergei and Tristan.” The gathering hunters looked at each other, then at her. Crossing my arms, I leaned against the wall behind me. Sarisa let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m sure we’ve all seen each other naked before. Now take off your clothes.” With grumbles and curses flying about, they quickly stripped. “Good. That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Brynna snorted and scowled at the floor. Sarisa nodded and pointed into another room, which was the bathroom. “Wash up,” she ordered. “Now.”
“Sven,” I said as he appeared behind Sergei. “Is Sathia freed?”
“She is. She’ll be here—” He stopped abruptly. “Never mind, she’s here.”
“That I am,” the demon drawled from the hall. “Now if you please, move out of my way.” Sven and Sergei stepped into the room, stepping aside for her to enter. “Good to see you again, Tristan.”
I smirked. “Likewise, Sathia.”
“Tell me, has your mate forgiven me as of yet?”
“As of yet,” I drawled. “She hasn’t forgiven any of us.” She chuckled and stalked into the bathroom, stopping just inside the door. “Trust me,” I said dryly.
“Shut the fuck up.” Okay then, I thought and laughed softly. “One of you so much as touch a blade, I will start tearing off heads, got it?” She paused. “Damn,” she muttered. “Some nice asses up in here.”
“I don’t swing that way, demon,” Brynna drawled. “But thanks.”
“You just want to be gutted, don’t you, hunter?”
“Enough!” I snapped. “Brynna, if you do not want to bleed ichor and screaming in pain, mind your tongue.”
“Asshole,” she muttered but said no more. Sathia gave me a pout before stepping further into the bathroom. The sound of showers turning on suddenly filled the room, and I walked over to Sarisa, who was shifting from one foot to another. I rested a hand on her shoulder, and she straightened, favoring her left leg. Cupping her chin, I stared deeply into her dark red eyes.
“Is she safe to be around?” she asked, low enough for only me to hear.
I chuckle. “No,” I said. “But she is one of the demons we can trust.” I glanced toward the bathroom and shrugged. “You’ll be fine as long as you don’t provoke her, like Brynna was doing.” She nodded and grimaced. “Your leg still pains you, does it not?” From the doorway, Sergei sighed. “Are you blocking Sergei from feeling you?”
“No,” she lied, and I scowled at the bitter taste at the back of my throat. She sighed. “I’m fine.” Sighing, I led her to a chair and gently pushed her into it. Crouching in front of her, I pulled up her pant leg and stared at the bullet wound. The puckered, angry-looking red wound was stark against the paleness of her skin.
“Why have you not completely healed yourself?”
I glared at her. “You know full well what I mean.”
She shrugged. “Perhaps I’m keeping it as a memento.” Her leg twitched as I made a move to touch it. I paused, a hair’s breath away from connecting. She slapped my hand away and covered the wound with her own. White light seeped from between her fingers as she healed herself. When she was done, it looked like she hadn’t been shot at all, apart for the occasional twitching of her leg.
“She has healing magic?” Trynnadon asked in surprise.
“I do, and I’m proud of it, thank you very much.” She hesitated. “I’m sorry about your friend,” she said quietly. He nodded, and then let out a gasp. Callan is dead! Donnica mentally shrieked. Oh my god, someone help me.
“Watch him,” I snarled and teleported. Ignoring the cold burning sensation that redoubled upon another death of a vampire, I streaked across the sky. Within seconds, I was directly behind the fucking imp who was aiming a gun at Donnica. A fucking imp was shooting vampires… a stupid god damn shit for nothing fucking imp no less, was shooting my vampires. A fucking. Imp! With a snarl, I snatched the son of a bitch by its pointy horn and spun it around to face me. Glowing red surprised eyes met mine, and he squeaked. My other hand shot out, yanking the gun from his hands. Jailyn! I silently snarled. A moment later, the necromancer was flying through the air beside me. At the sight of her, the imp let out a squeal. Xorik appeared in front of us, and his ass was practically bouncing in midair.
“Bad imp,” he squeaked. “Bad, bad imp,” he said again and slapped the one I was holding. “Can I kill him, Jailyn? Pretty please?” Donnica flew to my other side, and she glanced nervously at the gun in my hand. Xorik finally looked at me when Jailyn remained silent. “Can I kill him, Tristan? Pretty please?” Flicking the safety on, I pocketed the gun. Then I grabbed my imp around his neck and squeezed hard. As the imp clawed my arms to shreds, I teleported once again, taking Jailyn, Xorik, and Donnica with me.
The moment we appeared back in the HQ’s basement, I tossed my imp across the room. His skull made a lovely resounding crack as it smacked hard against the wall. Jailyn, the icy cold of death magic rolling off her in waves, stepped up beside me and offered her wrist. I took it and buried my fangs in deep. Her hot blood slid down my throat, cooling like ice in my veins. After several more pulls, I reluctantly withdrew my fangs and licked the punctured holes close. Jailyn stepped back, as shadows writhed in agitation behind her. Xorik let out a squeak and clutched at my pants, as if I was going to protect his ass from Jailyn’s wrath.
“Go,” she finally growled, sounding very demon-like herself at the moment. “And do not return until I summon you.” With one last glanced at the unconscious imp across the room, he leapt away from me and disappeared in a flash of fire and the smell of sulfur. Jailyn took in several deep breaths before nodding to me. “You can go, too,” she said in a more normal tone. “I’ll let you know what I find.” Nodding, I put my hand on Donnica’s arm and teleported back to the medical floor. Trynnadon was a blur as he lunged for Donnica, grabbing her and looking her up and down.
“I’m okay, Tryn,” she said and tried to pull away from him. He growled and dragged her into the bathroom, Sarisa following in their wake.
“Your hunters are clear,” Sathia said, stepping from the bathroom. “And your protectors,” she said dryly. “But of course, it doesn’t hurt to wash up… just to make sure.” Casiar suddenly appeared beside me, a cursing Ari with him.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” the necromancer said dryly. “But keep your mate away from me. She won’t stop asking me who died.”
“Did you tell her?”
“No!” Ari all but yelled. “I swear if one of you doesn’t tell me, I’m going to Jailyn or Riordan.”
Casiar cleared his throat. “Jailyn is out.” She frowned. “If you value having your skin intact… she’s currently and most certainly and slowly killing the imp oh so painfully and very slowly.”
“Oh,” Ari said, grumbling. She scowled at me expectantly and I sighed.
“James and Callan.”Casiar rubbed his chest and grimaced. “Tell me about it,” I muttered and groaned. “I think I’m going to call a Council meeting.”
Casiar nodded. “I’ll let Jailyn know.”
“Council of all,” I said.
“Well, fuck me,” he muttered. “Let’s hope there’s no bloodshed this time. The first couple of times, as I recall, didn’t go so well.”
“Sathia,” I said, glancing at the demon. “Can you get word to Dezmordai?”
She nodded. “I can. When will the meeting start? And where?”
“In an hour and under the Night Life Bar.”
“You got it,” she said and was gone.
“Can we sit in on the meeting?” Donnica asked.
“Yes, can we?” Ari agreed.
“No,” I growled.
“But,” Ari spluttered as Donnica grumbled. You cannot be in the meeting, but you can hear everything I hear, I silently said to her. “Fine,” she said grudgingly. Reaching out, I put a hand on Casiar and led him from the room and down the hall. I dropped my hand from him as I felt a presence behind me.
“So,” Sarisa said with a heavy sigh. I glanced back at her to find her limping slightly. Fuck, I silently growled. If that limp was permanent… and I bet it was, she would have to retire from being a hunter or fight me to stay if she so choose. If she picked the former, she’d be the first hunter ever to drop from her rank. “I don’t suppose I could be in on this meeting, can I?” You know, Casiar drawled in my mind. That wouldn’t be a bad idea, having her there. Hey, I mentally said sharply. She’s not a tool, you know. He grimaced. I didn’t mean it like that, and besides, she wouldn’t see it like that. Sarisa cleared her throat. “I’m still here,” she sang. “And if you’re talking about me, you can speak where I can hear you.” I chuckled and glared at Casiar.
“You have a point, Risa,” Evelyn said as we stepped through another door. “Tell them.”
“Oh, I always have a point.” She tapped a cool finger on my arm. “So can I, and why is it every time I see you, you’re covered in blood?” I glanced down at myself and grimaced. Sarisa picked at the dried blood, peeling it off like peeling away paint.
“Yes,” I said with a sigh. “You can, but you will cloak your presence from the room.”
“Very well, I can do that.”
“And you better talk to Sergei.”
She sighed. “I will.” She frowned. “Will he be there?”
“He will be.” Stopping at the table, I stared up at the ceiling. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the gun and set it on the table. “I need to clean up,” I said and nodded to the gun. “Be careful with that. If anyone else get so much as a drop of demon blood or dies today, I’m going to call an all out war. And,” I growled. “It won’t be just demons that came through the gate.” They all of course, stared at me.
“You’re serious,” Casiar said and winced.
“Deadly,” I growled and teleported.