From Chapter Twenty-Five
Outside, the buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets, the occasional bleat from an oversized frog and the general whispering of the trees reached him. Besides his ache to be wrapped up with Kaia, peace fell over him. The dryad chose and secured a wonderful piece of land.
The Scarlet Queen bothered him, increasingly so as the sun lightened the blue of the sky and his mind grew crisp and fully awake. She didn’t use her powers on the two of them while she had opportunity to, unless she’d gone complacent through her power over others. And Severins himself was too low in the ranks for her to do the dirty work. Still, what he’d just learned about the pixie nagged him.
Scarlet had been rigid with her hands, placing them oddly on her thighs and at her sides, twitching ever so slightly, but she could have simply been eccentric. He’d met his share of odd fae over his lifetime. Without being aware of her normal behavior, Severins merely had assumptions—nothing concrete enough to plan around. The side of his head pounded in time with his heartbeat, and heat warmed the sky like his early mornings in Afghanistan with steel beach soaking up the sun and reflecting a steaming ninety degrees by breakfast.
Somehow, Afghanistan seemed easier than this. The routines, knowing the enemy, knowing the men he worked with. Severins sighed and stepped off the porch, pacing the brisk lawn as he searched for a signal on his cell. He found a spot by Kalib’s car where he maintained two bars and view of the trailer.
He dialed home.
His mother answered. “Who is this?”
“Where have you been? Your leave started a week ago.” The worry in her voice weighed on his shoulders.
“I’ve fallen into something. I won’t make it unless it’s safe. Right now, it isn’t. And before you ask, I can’t tell you like this…I’m supposed to pick up Shawna, and since I can’t, I want you to. Be ready for anything.”
“Severins, you’re worrying me.”
He needed her worried, because a worried maman meant a protected pup.
“Just keep her safe for me until I get there, okay?”
“Yes, my son, I will protect her with my life.” She sounded resolved and very much like the warrior wolf she’d always been. “Give me some clue as to what I might prepare for.”
“The Scarlet Queen.” Bodies moved inside at both ends of the house. “I need to go. Je t’aime, Maman.”
She told him that she loved him, too, before he walked around the house. No signs of anyone on or near the property. But he clearly felt Kaia moving through the house.
She met him on the porch with a sleepy smile. “Hey there, Big Bad Wolf. You weren’t marking your territory on any of Eilon’s precious plants, were you?”
Severins eased her against him, running his fingers through her hair to release her scent into the air. Everything inside burned for her with such intensity that his senses sharpened. But the general cool touch of her fingertips blazed against his biceps. Bending to kiss her forehead, the same unnerving heat greeted him. “Are you feeling all right, beautiful? You’re burning up.”
“Hmm?” The strength of her surprised him as she squeezed him closer, pushing his torn shirt up his torso. “I feel fine.”
Rubbing her body against his sent a jolt of need through him. But when she lifted her face to him, the green of her eyes took on a reddish-brown ring as though the fields burned under the relentless, Oklahoma sun. She pulled at him again, but apprehension hit him instead of arousal. “Why don’t we find a soft bed of flowers to desecrate?”
Framing her face with his palms, he bent for a better look. The colors of her irises darkened along the rim, spreading like vines toward her pupils. Pliable magick wove between them, and sirens rang in Severins’ head. “Shit.”
Yanking her into his arms, he carried her inside, restraining her thrashes. “Oi,” he called in the doorway. “Little help.”
Kaia’s elbow connected with his nose, and the crunch of cartilage shot pain straight into his brain. But he held onto her until Kalib took her. Blood dripped onto his fingers as he tipped his head back until the dryad offered him a fresh towel with some ice.
The vampire struggled with Kaia in attempts of subduing her without harm. He succeeded in pinning her to the chair in which he’d slept. Bending to get a good look at her, he swore. Profanity cut short, Kaia pressed her mouth to his before she floated into the leather with a grin unbefitting of her gentle persona.
“Chai would never do that. You’re not her.”
The laugh that bellowed from her made the ivy quiver and retreat, pressing against its support in fear. She writhed in her seat, and the vampire used his hips to pin her knees together. Kaia purred at him.
Eilon sniffed at the southeast corner of his house, reaching behind him with a distracted gesture. “Bosex. Hawk. Resting in an oak a kilometer from here.”
Grown rigid, Eilon stomped his foot, his skin marbled, and ivy sprouted in place of his hair. “No. No! Nobody marks my trees. My trees!”
“Hey, oak boy.”
Eilon whipped his head around, black eyes wide and terrifying. The knobs at his knuckles sprouted thick, sharp thorns.
“Got anything to keep her from hurting herself or us?”
Black gaze swung to Kaia and back, before he shifted, ordering Kalib to bring her closer. Eilon coaxed the vines on his wall, and as the vampire set her against them, ivy wrapped around her limbs, torso, and throat. Long stem-like fingers flicked at the last vine. “She needs to breathe.”
The vine unraveled from her throat and tangled itself around her waist. Kaia jerked forward after Eilon, laughing as more vines held her.
“You’ll never win. Just let them take me.” Her body rolled against her restraints. “We’ll all dance in blood as your bodies are butchered, your bones gnawed on, and we add you to the fire like kindling.”
The bleeding in Severins’ nose stopped, and he felt it for the break, shifting it into place as he shouted his rage. Those bastards infiltrated her mind. This wasn’t a power present during their capture, and he’d never heard of a bosex that could pull this stunt off, nor a vampire without eye contact.
“Can fae perform a trick like that?” Kalib asked Eilon; he must have come to the same conclusion.
Kaia began a low, eerie song in a language he didn’t understand—her voice sounded unlike her own. Eilon stood transfixed by it until Severins skirted him toward the door.
“I know of one. The Scarlet Queen’s apprentice—a babe stolen from a very powerful family. She can do more the closer she comes.” The dramatics seemed to lessen the more danger seeped into the little house and the louder Kaia’s voice became.
Each of them stood at the ready, so Severins took his role. He pointed at the vampire. “Keep the front door in sight. Stand between anything that wants to get inside to Kaia. And you,” he pointed at the dryad, “Head southeast. Distract them if you can’t take them. I’m searching for whoever’s causing this.”
Haunting giggles cascaded out of Kaia, twisting a knot in Severins’ gut. He took a long whiff of the magick as his nose cleared and healed. “I’ll go first.”
They each moved in the precise movements of trained men. Severins followed the faint traces of magick through the trees, but it turned him around and had him retracing his steps until his wolf senses overlapped and became his downfall. Fewer animals rustled around than he expected. The magick was stronger; he could taste it, but he’d gotten lost in the woods for the first time in over six hundred years.
Stopping, Severins listened.
The trees grew silent.
The air went still.
He braced himself for attack and waited.
The whoosh came from his right.
Severins turned to meet it.
Sharp jabs greeted the muscles as his back met the tree behind him.
A familiar fist met his ribs, and he returned the favor, finding the hawk’s flesh. Sharp streams of light reflected off the golden hue of him.
Grabbing a hold of him, Severins gained ground, twisting Eric to the left.
The swift pressure in his side made him grunt, and he knew he’d been stabbed. He held back no restraint as he shoved the hawk back into the tree, aim intact; a sharp, broken branch pierced Eric’s middle. The wood produced a wound less threatening than his own, but it rewarded Severins the time to retreat.
At the porch, he pulled the blade out and fell to his knees. The vampire stood behind him in seconds. “Silver-plated. Cheap but enough.”
Plated silver meant serious damage to his internal organs, but it didn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t heal, but he didn’t have the time for this kind of wound. They wanted him down, that’s for sure. And they got him there.
Kalib pulled Severins up, maneuvered him inside, and gave him the shirt off his back. “Press this to it. I’ll find the nymph.”
And the vampire disappeared.
When Sergeant Severins Bouvier’s wolf senses bring him to a tiny accountants’ office, he unknowingly steps in the middle of a manhunt.
Kaia doesn’t trust Sev, but she’ll have to rely on him once a rogue group of creatures catches her scent.
Now, they’re on the run together, and chasing after her ex is the only way of ending this nightmare.
If you like the dark and sexy plots of the Dark Hunters and paranormal twists of the Anita Blake Series, you’ll love the Loving Red saga.
Buy Loving Red to start this sweetly sadistic affair today.