The ceiling above spun in circles, twirling so much Dom had to close his eyes for the sake of not puking. Sweat lined his forehead as he tipped the bottle to his lips. He’d been drunk for a while now―a day or two, maybe a week, possibly more.
He pinched the bridge of his nose. He didn’t want to think about the other night when she’d stood at the kitchen patio, and how he couldn’t stop himself from walking up to it. Something had called to him, and wildly, he caved. That same morning she had stepped out her door, and he’d seen the words and questions beginning to form on her tongue as she started to speak, but he quickly ducked into his room for refuge.
And though the liquor was supposed to be his distraction, it did little to soothe his thoughts and urges. If anything, being drunk amplified them. The only thing that stopped him from going upstairs and humping the fuck out of that woman was the fact that he couldn’t walk to save his life.
All he could do was lay there and drink and think, while his brain ran everywhere, unveiling haunted memories of his old life. Like the lashes, the starvation, the crunching sound of his wings as they were ripped out. Recollections flashed in his mind, a relentless horror movie of his past. He winced and put the bottle to his lips. A nightmare. That was all it was.
He couldn’t cope with memories. And no, he didn’t cry when he remembered them—he got angry. Bad things happened when he got angry. Vampires ended up dead, women winded up with a mouthful, and a pack of Oreos was savagely eaten.
If it was morning or afternoon, he didn’t know. Didn’t care to know. What did time matter anyway? He was in a never-ending cycle of years and centuries. Forever lost with no sense of direction. He was solely here to breathe, fuck, and eat.
Escaping Hell had been his life’s goal, and he conquered that long ago. Then it switched to obtaining money. He got that. Now, what was left to conquer? To escape? To defeat? He had everything and wanted none of it.
“Did you drain all these bottles dry?” He opened his eyes and found Aidyn staring down at him. Dom had dropped at least thirteen bottles of Jack on the floor. “If you were human, you’d be dead by now.”
“Mm,” was the most Dom could reply.
Aidyn’s lip quirked. “Do you need help to your room?”
He closed his eyes and shook his head so the room wouldn’t spin.
“I think you do.” His brother paused. “Jade!”
“Yeah?” her voice answered at the door of the bar.
“Can you watch him real quick? You know, make sure he doesn’t fall off the counter and kill himself?”
And then he heard his brother whisper, “When I get back, I’ll give you five bucks to help me get him up to his room.”
Dom glanced over at her as he heard his brother’s footsteps fade. She stared out the window, her long, dark curls shining in the sunlight. The downward curve of her lips matched the sullen, dry look in her eyes. As if struck by a cinder block, Dom’s heart dropped and his hands became shaky. He didn’t need her touching him. Dear God, it would line him up for more trouble. He could walk just fine—with a little help from walls and other sturdy objects.
Eh, maybe he could crawl instead.
He rolled off the counter, thinking his feet were more than stable enough to hold him. His legs buckled beneath him as they touched the floor, sending him face first to the polished tile.
Jade kneeled by his side. “Are you okay?”
He groaned, wanting to melt into the floor for looking so fucking stupid. An electric shock blasted his body with heat as her hand touched his. His heart pounded faster as he peered up and saw Jade picking pieces of glass out his skin, dabbing at the blood with a cloth.
Why did he have to keep breaking liquor bottles in his hand—the same hand?
She picked chunk by chunk out of his palm, laying the sharp pieces in a pile next to her. She wrapped the bloodstained cloth around his hand. Her fingers wiped the tiny, stray crystals from his palm. Her skin was silk, softness in all its glory as it brushed his own.
“Do you think you can stand up if I help you?” she asked.
He eyed her mouth as her teeth toyed with her bottom lip. He shrugged, not remembering what she had asked.
“I guess we could try.” She huffed.
His gaze glued to her like a magnet, soaking up the sheer presence of her closeness. The face she made was adorable. And dammit, he never found anything adorable. She wiped the back of her hand over her forehead, pushing stray hairs out of her eyes, eyes that appeared lost and exhausted. He pushed himself off the floor, but his good hand slipped in the pool of liquor.
The world flipped and suddenly he lay somewhere else. Somewhere dark.
He quivered against the stone, the fever setting in.
“The boy’s ill, I think,” a guard’s voice said from the other side of the iron bars.
“What do you mean?” a deep voice growled in aggravation.
“His back . . . it’s contorting.”
“Give me the damn key.”
A dark mass neared the door. Keys jingled as metal clinked and the iron bars opened with a loud creak. His vision blurry, Dom struggled to see the person approaching. He shut his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again the man with the silver eyes was kneeling in front of him.
He gripped him by his hair, jerking his head back. “What’s wrong with you, boy?”
Dom only wheezed. The man’s hand palmed his back, feeling the distorted shoulder and the tearing skin.
“He can’t be more than eight. He won’t make it through the night at this rate. You want me to throw him in the pit?”
“No, I’ll deal with my . . . him myself.” The man lifted him into his arms. The guard gave a quizzical look. “Tell no one what you’ve seen. If you do, I’ll make sure you never speak again.”
“Dom?” Jade’s concerned voice drew him back to reality. “Dom?”
He blinked, eyes staring straight at Jade. Her hand cupped his jaw as she caressed him with her fingers, delicately tracing his skin with her nails.
At first, he wanted to jerk back from the closeness, but the warmth of her touch made him stay. It was inviting . . . soothing. Soft and caring. And he wanted more of that—needed more of that. She had touched him like that once before drawing a reaction out of him—and he would’ve had the same reaction had he been sober. The touch alone unleashed something fierce inside him. A hunger so raw he thought he’d starve to death if he didn’t get it.
He lay there, staring, balking at the suffocating cravings.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Dom’s body stiffened, and his irises burned red with a look so hard and evil that Jade’s breath hitched in her throat. Hell. That was the only word to describe what lay in his eyes. She cupped his smooth cheek and a high volt of power shot through her fingertips, sizzling loud enough for her ears to hear. His eyes slid up to her and the red in them faded.
Her mouth parted as familiar eyes—the wolf’s eyes stared at her with such intensity, glowing so blue. For a moment, she thought she could hear their hearts beating together in sync, the tempo perfectly consistent with one another.
And then he passed out, drooling in her hand in the process. Lovely.
She blinked, wondering if she’d imagined the color change as she retracted her hand and wiped it off on her jeans. With a turn of her wrist, she glanced at her fingers, spotting the dark red burn marks on the pads of them. They were numb and tingling. Her brows knotted together. What the hell had happened? Was his body burning up, or was he a robot with wires and electricity running through his veins?
She looked at him, sweeping her gaze along his wide shoulders and down his hard back. Long scars covered him, the rough lines running horizontal, vertical, and diagonal. Her chest tightened.
Reaching out, she spanned her fingers over his back and traced the two jagged scars etched in his shoulder-blades. She wondered why they were dark when the others were light and seemed just as deep. She outlined another one that ran diagonally across his back. The puckered skin painted a gruesome picture, one with lots of blood and unimaginable pain.
“Our father gave him those.”
She jolted. Aidyn was standing over them, his gaze settled on his brother’s back. Aidyn seemed to be reminded of bad memories. The crease between his eyes showed and his mouth arced down.
“I’m guessing he gave all of you hell.”
“No.” Aidyn picked up a few empty bottles off the floor. “Just Dom.” He chuckled but it didn’t reach his eyes. “For the longest time, we didn’t even know he was our brother.”
“Where was your mother?”
“None of us were born from the same woman.”
“Well, where was his?”
Again, Aidyn scowled down at her. “She was a well-kept secret my father made sure no one ever found out about. Dom’s the only other person to ever see her.”
She dropped her gaze to Dom’s face. All lines were smooth and all creases were softened by sleep.
Aidyn cleared his throat and rubbed his face, trying to mask the pain he wore. “I guess we’ll have to put him on the couch.”
The room spun as Dom’s head swung in a circle. The walls, the floor, and the staircase blurred as Aidyn and Jade led him down the hall. He leaned on them for support as they walked to where the lounge opening sat just before the dinner hall. He was so out of it that he literally didn’t know where his head was, and then wondered why he smelled lavender. His eyes opened the best they could, and he found his nose buried in the top of Jade’s hair. He rested his cheek against the satiny tresses of her curls.
As they laid him on the white couch, he sprawled his legs out to keep from falling off. Jade’s gaze drifted down his body and stopped dead on the bulge in his jeans. The denim of his zipper was popped up like a tent. He eyed her as she chewed her lip. Did she have the same idea in mind? She flashed a glance his way and color filled her cheeks, telling him she did.
He gave her a wolfish grin that told her all the dirty things he had in mind. Without a word, she spun around and left the room in a hurry. Where was she going? He was bleeding and drunk and horny, and she was just going to leave him like that? His smile faded. Well fine. He didn’t need her staying around and bugging him anyway.
He rested the forearm of his unhurt hand over his eyes. Staying drunk wasn’t working for him. He had to find another outlet. Something simple, like sex.
Fingers took hold of his arm, and he flinched at the unexpected touch. To his surprise, Jade cradled his hand in her lap as she sat on the ottoman in front of him. She peeled the cloth from around his hand and checked it. Blood still covered his palm, and the gashes were bone-deep.
“I take it your wounds don’t heal fast with alcohol in your system,” she said, examining his hand.
The only thing he could do was stare at her, raking his eyes from top to bottom as she focused on nothing but his wound. She poured peroxide on his hand, the liquid fizzing as it touched the fresh cuts.
His attention remained on this human who was trying to help him as if he were a child with no brain to fend for himself at the moment. Part of that was true—he couldn’t fend for himself, much less stand. Heat seared his skin as her fingers caressed his large palm. She grabbed a new piece of cloth that lay on her lap and began winding it around his hand.
As she finished, she looked at him with her lips set in a thin line. “I’m pretty sure that’s the second time you’ve broken a bottle and injured your hand.”
He cut his eyes and looked away from her as he wrenched his hand off her lap.
She stood with a smirk. “Maybe if you stop drinking so much, you’d stop bleeding all over the place.”
As she turned to walk away, he lost his mind and took hold of her wrist, dragging her on top of him. With a hard bounce, she fell onto his chest, a squeak escaping her lips as her palms caught herself against his pecs. In a blink of an eye, she was trying to crawl off of him in a panic. But he kept her in place with a hand on her back. It didn’t stop her wiggling, which only added to the rubbing against his men below.
He leaned forward, eliciting a hitch in her breath. His nose skimmed her jaw, and he wasn’t sure if he was trying to calm her or inhale her. But he realized it was the latter as he caught a small hint of his scent on her skin.
His brother was right; it was so light he had to be up close and personal to sniff it out. But it was definitely there. He growled, trailing his tongue across the hot seam of her lip. He drew back and his eyes caught the swift sweep of her tongue as it flicked over the wet path he just made. Instinct kicked in and he leaned forward again, intent on having that mouth, dead set on sliding his tongue deep between those sultry, pink lips. His mouth brushed hers—and then a throat cleared.
Aidyn chuckled. “Don’t mean to ruin the moment, but you’re getting blood all over her shirt, Dom.”
That slapped him sober. He pushed her off him and she toppled to the floor with a loud “thump.” He didn’t even bother to see if she was okay as he hopped over the back of the couch and barreled past his brother, the floor swaying beneath him as he ran from the room, his eyesight worsening.
“What the hell’s your problem?” Aidyn called out.