Eidolon felt like shit. Utter, stinking, shit. The kind produced by bone devils after gorging on a live meal.
He’d come to Shade’s place, the Jackson Heights apartment where his brother stayed when he was working or when he needed a normal place to bring his human sex partners. To his relief, Shade had been gone all night, which was fine because Eidolon had been too juiced to sleep, and even if he hadn’t been, he was terrified to close his eyes for fear that when he woke up, he’d have completed the s’genesis. Not that it couldn’t happen while he was wide awake, but he’d rather not waste a single moment of being who he was.
The downside was that he’d spent the entire night thinking about Tayla and the part she’d played in Roag’s death.
He looked up at Shade from where he sat on the balcony, looking out at the garden park below. His brother wore his usual black leather pants and jacket, and not surprisingly, he smelled of sex. “Hey.”
“Figured you’d be at the hospital with Tay. Isn’t she supposed to be talking to her Aegis boss?” Shade came outside, closing the sliding door behind him. “Aw, E, you look like hell. What’s up?”
How to answer that. Shade hated Tayla enough without knowing what she’d done.
“E?” Shade hooked a chair with his foot and planted his ass in it across from Eidolon. “You’re making me nervous.”
“Tayla was there,” he finally said. “She was there when Roag died.”
Shade sucked air between clenched teeth and looked at Eidolon for a moment. “I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. We knew The Aegis was responsible.” Shade stood. “So, you gonna sulk all day? Or do you want to catch a movie or something before the field trip to the zoo tonight?”
Eidolon jerked in surprise. “Did you hear what I said?”
“Your slayer might have whacked Roag. Bummer. But I’m seriously craving greasy popcorn.”
Eidolon burst out of his chair and right up into Shade’s face. “What the fuck is your problem?”
“My problem?” Shade jabbed a finger at his own broad chest. “You’re the dumbass who has never seen Roag for what he was. Me and Wraith? We’re going to thank Tayla next time we see her.”
Snarling, Eidolon seized Shade by the throat. “He was our brother.”
“He was a monster.” Shade bared his teeth.
“Shut up!” Eidolon flung Shade against the balcony railing. Shade fumbled for the rail, and for a split second, it looked as if he would go over and plummet the fifteen stories to the ground. Eidolon grabbed his brother’s shirt, yanked him so hard they both stumbled backward. The scare broke his anger, but it sent Shade’s into orbit.
“You blind, self-righteous fuck!” He shoved Eidolon into the glass door. “Do you intentionally block out how he was off screwing some whore in an alley while we were putting Wraith back together that night in Chicago? Do you not remember how he went completely batnuts after The Change, how he was raping and killing?” Shade closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and when he opened his eyes again, his expression was softer, and so was his voice. “You know it was only a matter of time before a demon took him out. The Aegis just got to him first.”
Eidolon swallowed. Looked down at the concrete deck. Rubbed the back of his neck but couldn’t stall any longer. Shade had him by the balls with that truth of his. “Holy hell,” he breathed.
“Man, I know you two were close, maybe because Wraith and I left you out, what with the weird mind connection. I don’t know.” Shade clapped a big hand down on Eidolon’s shoulder and shook his head ruefully. “I’m sorry about Roag. Sorry for you. But I was never able to grieve his loss.”
Eidolon frowned. He and Roag had been close, but not in the way Wraith and Shade were. Even now, as he looked at his brother who, with his long hair, looked more like Wraith than Eidolon, he could feel the wall between them. A wall that had never existed between Wraith and Shade. Those two were open about everything—the phrase “too much information,” wasn’t in their vocabulary. But Eidolon’s more reserved nature had paired well with Roag’s secretive disposition. Secretive and… cruel. Eidolon swayed, thankful for Shade’s bracing hold. Gods, but he’d overlooked so much…
“Where have you been?” Shade snarled to Roag, as Eidolon lowered Wraith’s shattered body from the ceiling, the chains that held him clanging.
Roag sauntered across the abandoned brewery, kicking through the piles of vampire dust, looking calmly at the two left alive, cuffed to each other in a puddle of their own blood. “You two handled things well enough.” He jerked his chin at Wraith. “Looks like you found our long-lost little brother. Not much left. Leave him. We’ll go find the whore I just balled.”
Shade and Eidolon had known Roag for ten years before they’d found Wraith, twenty-two years old and nearly dead, but never had they seen the ice-cold side of him until that day. It had only grown worse after that, Roag’s strange jealousy of Wraith causing a rift between all of them. Eidolon had played peacemaker for decades, until Roag went through his s’genesis ten years ago.
Roag had not come out of The Change well. He’d gone mad, had been unable to control his powers and urges. Shade was right; if Roag hadn’t died when he did, he’d either have been killed by other demons, or the Seminus Council would have eventually brought him to heel, and as the next-eldest sibling, Eidolon would have been required to carry out the punishment.
“Shit.” Eidolon sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands. “I need to talk to Tayla.”
“Has she agreed to bond with you?”
Eidolon looked up. “She doesn’t want me.”
Shade crossed his arms over his chest and braced one hip on the patio railing. “She’s a fool.”
“I can’t blame her. She thinks I want her because she’s my last resort.”
“Is she right?”
He swore, frustration and conflicting emotions churning in his mind. “I don’t know.”
“What is it about her that has you all wound up?”
A dull ache pounded in his chest. “She’s brave. Strong. What she’s lived through.” He shook his head, amazed at her resiliency. “She does everything with so much passion, something I’ve never had. For anything—until her.” He rubbed his breastbone as though he could relieve the empty sensation inside. “Fuck me, I love her.”
“Well, I’d say you have your answer. She’s not a last resort.”
“She’ll never believe that, and I don’t have time to prove it.” He locked gazes with his brother. “I can feel The Change, Shade. I’m not going to make it through another night.”
A pained light came into Shade’s eyes. “Maybe—”
“Don’t. I’ve already had a taste of how it’s going to be, and who I am now is not who I’ll be afterward. But I need some favors.”
“Anything.” Shade’s voice trembled.
“I want Tayla cared for. She’s to have full access to my bank accounts, and I want her set up in an apartment of her own.”
“Done. What else?”
“I need you to give her a once-over as soon as possible.”
Shade’s brow furrowed. “For what? Oh. Oh, man, you think you knocked her up?”
“You’ve been taking tact lessons from Wraith again, haven’t you?” Eidolon muttered. “I doubt she carries my offspring, but if she does, she’ll need to understand that going through with the integration is the only thing that will save them both.”
Shade shook his head. “I can’t do the procedure without you.”
“I’ve been thinking about that. I believe you can. You’ll need Gem, though. Using your gift and her blood, you’ve got a shot. If you don’t do it, she’ll die anyway. One more thing.” He took a deep breath and spat it out. “If I turn out like Roag—”
“You won’t,” Shade croaked. “You won’t.”
“Put me down.”
“Promise me, Shade. I don’t want to live like that. You have to promise me.”
Swallowing over and over, Shade nodded. Then he turned on his heel and headed inside. Eidolon followed. “What are you doing?”
Shade drew to a halt in the middle of his living room, head bowed. Something plopped to the floor at his feet. A tear. “I’m calling Wraith,” he said, his voice shot to hell. “We’re all gonna do the brother thing today, ’kay?”
“Yeah,” Eidolon said, his own voice cracking. “Sounds good.”
Kynan was still reeling from his meeting with Tayla five hours earlier. He couldn’t decide which was worse: people he trusted being demons, or people in his cell lying to him. Adding to his frustration was the fact that Jagger and four other Guardians were nowhere to be found, and when he asked Lori if she’d seen anything strange going on within the cell, she’d said no and then promptly seduced him. Which wasn’t unusual or a problem—he was a guy, after all—but afterward she’d been anxious to go out hunting, when usually, daytime sex sent her into a fit of domesticity. Guardians joked that they could tell how frisky she and Ky and been by how many batches of cookies she baked in a week.
Half an hour before sunset, just as he was preparing to dial Lori for a status check, the phone rang.
“What do you want?”
Her soft sigh crackled over the bad cell connection. “I guess you haven’t learned anything.” When he didn’t answer, because he wasn’t about to tell her that his spidey-sense was tingling, she sighed again. “We think the captured demons are being held at the old zoo. If any Guardians are involved, that’s where they’re going. Tonight.”
Something tightened in his gut, because as much as he wanted to get to the bottom of this, if only to prove that his people weren’t involved, he was terrified that Tayla might be right.
Or it could be a trap. He couldn’t trust anything she said. Not anymore.
“Kynan? Did you hear me?”
“Loud and clear.”
“Okay, then. Um, see you around.”
He hung up. Checked his watch. Tonight. It was already tonight. Quickly, he dressed to kill; leather pants, T-shirt, weapons harness, leather jacket, and finally, every fucking weapon he could load on his body. If this was a trap, he wasn’t going down easy. He was, however, going alone. If Tayla was right, he couldn’t trust any Guardians to go with him. If this was a trap, he couldn’t risk getting any of them killed.
One way or another, the truth was coming out tonight.