He looked up as if sensing my regard, and our eyes locked. Okay, maybe they didn’t lock. I mean, he was pretty far away, and I was standing in the gloom of the balcony, but it felt like he could see me, but then he turned back to the bartender.
I focused on the crowd again. Where are you, clue number one? A group of guys caught my eye. Four of them dressed almost identically. They stood at the edge of the dance floor, but their attention wasn’t on the dancers, it was on the bar. I followed their gaze to Conah. Wait, were they watching him?
The strobe lights slashed across their faces, painting them in blue and red, but it was their eyes that had me gasping—empty, dark pits in their faces. Couldn’t other people see it? What the hell? Wait … No, their eyes were fine now.
I had to warn Conah. Something wasn’t right. I pushed away from the balcony.
“Hello again.” A rumbly, gravelly voice caressed my senses.
My breath was already coming shallower as I turned to face the husky-eyed, golden-haired guy from the other night. He was standing a few feet away from me, hands loose at his sides, posture relaxed, but my instincts warned me he was ready to pounce. Heat simmered to life in my veins, sudden and desperate, and a weird clawing sensation bloomed to life in the pit of my stomach.
Where had that come from?
He was huge. How had I forgotten how large he was, how broad-shouldered, and that face … Chiseled, brutal, and feral … I took an involuntary step toward him, and he sucked in a sharp breath, just like the last time. The last time, when I’d touched him. Would he moan if I touched him again? My brain was fuzzy but focused at the same time.
No, this wasn’t real. This was him. His feelings being pushed onto me. He was attracted to me, and I was picking that up like a radio station.
I really needed to learn to shield and fast. Focus, Fee. I stood taller, battling the urge to bridge the gap between us, to climb his body, wrap my legs around him, and claim his mouth with my tongue. I curled my hands into fists, nails biting into my palms. I needed to get away from him before I did something stupid and totally out of character. Seriously, he needed to stop thinking sexy thoughts.
“Don’t run,” he ordered.
My body froze on his command. What? Hell, no.
He took another step. My breath twisted in my throat, my lungs tight with fear and anticipation. My body throbbing with a need I didn’t understand. Okay, I did understand it, but what the fuck? Who was this guy? Intense was an understatement.
And then a shadow blocked his path, cutting me off from him. Cutting the invisible strings that bound us.
Conah. Thank the pastry gods!
I sagged against the railing, free of the strange compulsion to lick the stranger. I guess being confronted by Conah had put a damper on the guy’s libido. My body was my own again, still simmering with the aftereffects of whatever the fuck that guy was feeling, but not as intensely.
“Back off, Grayson,” Conah said. “Find another conquest. She’s with me.”
“A Dominus … a demon?” He sounded confused.
“Yes, a demon,” Conah replied. “You need to work on your sense of smell.”
“There is nothing wrong with my sense of smell.” He sounded perplexed.
I peered around Conah’s bicep, and Grayson locked gazes with me, his dark brows drawn in confusion.
Conah’s body rippled with tension. “We’ll be leaving now.”
Grayson inclined his head, but his eyes—those fucking piercing eyes—remained fixed on me.
Conah grabbed my hand, and the world splintered.
We materialized outside, a good distance away from the club, but close enough to still see the queue snaking out from the doors.
Conah didn’t stop to look back, though. He gripped my hand and tugged me away down the street.
I trotted to keep up with him. “What was that about?”
“That was Grayson Loch being a domineering wanker.”
It was the first time I’d heard him swear like this. “Who is he?”
“Alpha of the Regency Pack. Fucking loup-garou royalty in the shifter circles.”
“What does he want with me?”
He stopped and stared at me as if trying to put together a puzzle. “Fee, have you looked in a mirror lately?”
Mal’s hot gaze on my naked body came to mind.
“You’re an attractive woman,” he said. “And Grayson is a very hot-blooded loup.”
“But I thought you said demons smell bad to a loup.”
“They do. But you’re not pure demon. You have demon blood, which is different. We don’t know how that changes things. We don’t know how that will affect your connection with the scythe.”
“Conah, I heard you and Mal talking earlier, you were arguing about me …”
He ran a hand over his face in agitation. “It was nothing. You shouldn’t worry about it.”
Annoyance flared in my chest. “Don’t you think I have a right to know?”
He made a sound of exasperation. “Yes, of course, you do. But I need to be sure. I need to know for sure that what I tell you is fact, and I need to have solutions.”
“To my being broken?”
His eyes widened, and he grabbed my shoulders, hauling me close, so he could look down at me. “You are not fucking broken, okay. You’re amazing, and strong and, fuck, Fee, you have no idea how enticing you are with your confidence and your compassion and that pouty fucking mouth of yours.”
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and exhaled through his nose. “I’ll be damned if I’ll put a dent in that with misinformation.”
His lips were so close, too close. His eyes darkened, focused on my mouth. My pouty fucking mouth. Kiss me.
He released me and turned his face away. “I can’t.”
Fuck had I said that out loud?
His shoulders rose and fell as he took a deep breath. “I promise you, once I have answers, I’ll let you know.”
Anger pricked at my throat. “I have a right to be involved, Conah. I’m not a fucking child. I can help figure shit out.”
“I’m trying to protect you.”
“I don’t need you to protect me. I’ve been protecting myself all my life. I don’t need anyone.”
He reached for me, and his fingers brushed my cheek. “We all need someone, Fee. And we all need protecting sometimes.”
He walked off again, expecting me to follow, and my ire rose. I was a grown woman. A woman who’d taken care of herself all her life. How dare he treat me like a damsel who had no clue.
“Fuck you, Conah. I’m going home.” I crossed the street and headed toward the nearest train station.
Forget the dagger, forget Peiter, forget reaper land. This was a mistake. This wasn’t my world. I needed to get home to Cyril and Cora. I needed my things, my room. I needed a moment to think.
I broke into a jog to get away from him. Unlikely that would work, but still. I took a left at the intersection onto a quiet cul-de-sac, and then a right down a side street. I knew this area well. Five minutes, and I’d be at an underground station. I exited the side street and crossed the road to the station. The moon, full and proud, looked down on me as if to say, you go, girl, you got this. But it didn’t feel good.
This felt like running away.
Fuck me and my anger.
Guilt gripped me. I glanced back. No sign of Conah. Had he given up following me? No … He wouldn’t have … What was I doing, storming off like this? Fucking childish move. I’d go back and smooth shit over. I turned and started walking back the way I’d come. Warning bells went off in my head a moment before a male bellow cut through the silent night.
I broke into a run, boots hammering the ground, and then skidded to a halt at the entrance to the side street. I peered around the wall, into the dark. Déjà vu assaulted my senses as I found Conah on his knees, shoulders heaving, while several figures surrounded him. No. This could not be happening again. Fucking alleys. I caught a glimpse of the nearest one’s face. There were dark pits where the eyes should be. These were the guys from the club, the ones who’d been watching Conah. Not hooded figures but something else.
They circled Conah like vultures.
Fuck. I had to do something. But I had no weapon. Why hadn’t I insisted on bringing my dagger? The dagger I had no idea how to use, but how hard was it to fucking stab someone? Urgh. Impotence was a band around my chest. I’d failed to save Peiter. I couldn’t fail Conah too. I had to do something.
The scythe. I had my scythe. It would have to do. Problem was, we hadn’t covered how to make it appear in training yet. What else did I have? A clutch with a stick of lip gloss and some money in it. Fucking great.
A figure materialized out of the darkness, tall, slender, too pale, and most definitely female. Crimson eyes looked down on Conah from a lofty height. Long crimson hair kissed high cheekbones, and strange ridges skated across the bridge of her nose. But even with the ridges, she was too beautiful to be a monster. What the fuck was she?
“Hello, son of Adam,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Fucking hell, even her voice was beautiful, like sunshine and honey.
Conah raised his head. “No hooded figures to do your dirty work tonight, Evelyn?”
Her brow furrowed. “Hooded figures?”
Conah coughed and clutched his torso. “Never mind.”
He was testing her, and he’d just confirmed she had nothing to do with Peiter’s death.
“I heard about your brother,” Evelyn said. “Tell me … How did he die?”
She moved so fast she was a blur, and then she had Conah by the hair, head yanked back.
“You will answer me, reaper.”
“No,” Conah bit out. “No, I won’t.”