“Oh, yes, but Mistress Kiara is with him.”
Kiara? “I’m sorry, who is that?”
Iza searched my face. “Mistress Kiara is Master Conah’s soulmate. Did he not mention her?”
No. No, he hadn’t. Why hadn’t he? It was no big deal. So, he had a soulmate like Nera.
“He may have mentioned it, I don’t recall,” I lied.
“Mistress Kiara hasn’t left his side since she arrived yesterday. With the wedding mere months away, it’s come as a terrible shock.”
“Oh, yes.” The imp nodded eagerly. “It will be the fanciest affair in the whole of the realm.” She clasped her hands together. “Soulmates and lovers. It’s like a fairytale.”
But the blood was pounding in my ears, and no one heard the splinter of my heart.
Stupid. Falling for a guy without knowing the facts. Four days. Come on, Fee. Four days? Keep your vag in your pants, woman! It was fine. An infatuation. Infatuations faded.
Stupid heart getting ahead of my head. Making connections without my permission. Conah was taken. He was about to be married to his soulmate, so why had he looked at me the way he did? Said the things that he did?
I wasn’t crazy. I hadn’t imagined it … had I? No. He’d said things, romance novel things, and he’d looked at me like he wanted to kiss me. I was not imagining that.
This wasn’t just me. Wanker. Forget him, he had Kiara, but Peiter deserved justice. And the dagger needed to be found, and I needed a fucking distraction.
I made my way toward Mal’s quarters. Did he know about Evelyn? Could I get him to tell me what the fuck he and Conah had been arguing about before we left for the club a few days ago? I also needed to bawl him out for not being there for Conah. If he’d agreed to help find the damned dagger…
And pigs might turn themselves into bacon.
Why was Mal’s part of the Dominus quarters so creepy? And incense? What was with the incense? I knocked on his door.
I knocked harder.
He opened it a moment later, bare chest, joggers hung low on his slender hips so his tantalizing V was on display. For a moment, there was real surprise on his face, but then he plastered his signature cocky smile on and stepped back to allow me to enter.
“I knew you’d come crawling eventually.” He casually strolled over to his nightstand and picked up a glass of dark liquid.
He took a sip and then smiled, showcasing crimson-tinged teeth.
Yep, blood. I suppressed a shudder. “Not crawling, Mal.” I entered his room and tried not to choke on the incense. “Can you tone it down?”
He looked down at his chest, tongue in cheek. “I’m afraid this body cannot be tamed.”
I gave him a flat look. “I meant the incense.”
“So, you do like the sight of my exceptional abs?”
“But you don’t like incense.”
“Not when it takes over the oxygen in the air.”
He padded over to the window and pushed it open. “Let’s get one thing straight, Fee. I’m not having sex with you. I’m not the rebound guy.” He canted his head. “Fine, I’m totally okay with being the rebound guy, but you’re not healed yet. And I am not getting bawled out for breaking you.”
“I thought I was already broken.”
His face froze for a split second. “I have no idea what you’re talking about?”
Transparency, people, was it too much to ask for? “I heard you and Conah arguing the other day. You said I was broken and that he knew it and you knew it, but I didn’t know it, or something like that …”
“Great recall, but”—he wagged a finger at me—“you see, when you eavesdrop, you take the risk of grabbing the wrong end of the stick, and then you get into all sorts of trouble. Your mind starts making connections and—”
“Conah admitted you were talking about me, okay. He just won’t tell me what you meant.”
“And you think I will?”
I crossed my arms under my breasts. “Will you?” I grit my teeth. “Please.”
“Ooh, that had to hurt.”
“I don’t know what Conah told you, but we weren’t talking about you.”
He was lying. “Bullshit.”
His expression grew cold. “Think what you want. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.” He set his glass down and picked up a shirt from the bed. “Now, is that all? If you want me to pat you on the back and comfort you because you found out Conah’s taken, then you can piss off. I don’t do that shit.”
“I don’t need you to …” God, he was infuriating. “Fuck you, Mal. I didn’t come here about that.”
He dropped the shirt he was holding. “Where did you hear that name?”
Oh, I had his full attention now. “She attacked us with a bunch of vampires. She’s the Dread that fed off Conah. But he knew her. I got the impression that they were …”
“Intimate?” Mal’s lip curled in derision. “Oh, they were more than intimate, those two fucked like imps in heat. The noises she’d make … Evelyn was Conah’s first love. His epic love. They shared that gift.” He wiggled his fingers at his temple. “Their memory reading thing, and you may as well know”—he rolled his eyes—“because it’s bound to come up at some point that I’m the one who introduced them. I was fucking her first.”
His words made my neck heat. “But she’s a Dread.”
He looked surprised. “Not when I was fucking her, she wasn’t. Wait, Conah didn’t explain it to you?”
He muttered something under his breath. “Demons can be turned, Fee. Not Lilith’s bloodlines, but all others can be turned to Dread. It’s how the Dread have swelled their numbers over the years. They can kill, or they can turn.” He finally pulled on his shirt, covering his distracting body, and ran a hand through his thick, dark hair. “Dread can turn a demon, and vampires can infect humans who have a specific gene. I have no idea where Dread came from, but vampires are—”
“Bastardized demons, yeah, Conah told me.”
“Did he also tell you that it’s his bloodline that’s responsible for them. It was a son of Adam and Lilith who procreated with a human and produced the first vampire millennia ago. It’s why Lilith prohibited all demons from her bloodline from procreating with humans and ordered all vampires exterminated. But they breed like rats.” He shrugged. “Hard to eliminate the race. Vampires can’t kill a Dominus because they’d have to drain us, and they simply can’t stand the taste of a Dominus’s blood. Too much makes them sick. They can wound us, but we heal too fast for it to kill us. But, if Dread are now recruiting them …” He sighed. “Fuck.”
“The vampire that attacked me seemed to be enjoying the taste of my blood just fine.”
Mal frowned and ducked his head. “He would have stopped and handed you to Evelyn to finish off.”
But I’d stabbed him first. “Why the fuck didn’t I heal? I had the scythe. I healed from a stab wound last time, how come not this time?”
“I don’t know,” Mal said. “Maybe it’s because it’s the first time you’ve called the scythe. The last time Peiter handed it to you, it was still charged from its connection to him? Maybe the fact that you’re not pure demon means the scythe needs more time to connect with you.”
Conah had said there’d be stuff that might be different for me.
“I’d suggest summoning it frequently to get used to the connection.” He took another gulp of blood. “Now, if there’s nothing else …” He looked to the door.
But I wasn’t done. “Iza called Conah the last son of Adam.”
Mal sighed. “As of a decade ago, he is the last of his bloodline. Conah is prized. A rare demon indeed, and it’s why his union to Kiara, daughter of Mammon, is so important.”
“The demon of greed who rules the western regions?”
Mal’s brows shot up. “Yes. He prizes the rare, and it’s what our alliance with him is based on.”
Conah had said that Lilith was there smoothing over some political stuff to keep the peace. So, was this a political marriage?
He smirked. “Oh, don’t get it twisted. Conah loves Kiara and vice versa. They are literally made for each other, and you? You’re nothing but a curvy distraction.” He turned away and muttered, “One he almost killed himself to impress.”
Impress? What the fuck? His obnoxious tone, his whole attitude, had a tide of lava rising inside me. “Then maybe you should have been there.”
“What?” He blinked at me in surprise.
“You should have come with us. You should have been helping Conah find the dagger, not me.” The anger intensified. “He needed you. He needed someone who knows what the fuck they’re doing. He was almost killed because you refused to help!”
Mal’s face contorted in an anger that matched mine. “No. Conah was almost killed because he’s a fucking fool on a fool’s quest. You can’t find these hooded attackers, just like you can’t find the Dread. They find you, and all you can do is fight back when the time comes. Peiter forgot that after Vale was …” He made a sound of exasperation and tugged on his hair. “Peiter let revenge consume him, and it got him killed. Conah did the same. His need for vengeance almost got him killed. He knew the risks heading out there with you. He knew them, but he took you anyway. He put you in the line of fire. Untrained, un-fucking-tethered, useless you.” He spat the words at me like bullets. “There is only one thing to do in this situation. Wait for them to come for us. Wait for them to make a move, and then we pounce. Conah should have been training you to be ready for that moment, not running around after weak leads.”