But the moment he touched her, his gaze cleared and he focused on her face. "What are you doing here?"
"I saw your light and I was worried about you."
Fang pulled back, his features tormented as he raked one hand through his dark hair. "I can’t breathe, Aimee. I can’t relax. I’m terrified of going to sleep. What if I don’t wake up again?"
The fact that he confided that to her told her exactly how upset he was. "You’re all right. You’re back and you’re safe."
"Am I? I couldn’t wake up earlier."
She pulled him into her arms and held him close. "It’s over, Fang."
Fang wanted to believe that, but how could he? "No, it’s not. I can still feel them clawing at me. I can hear the flapping of the Reapers’ wings and see the Harvesters looking for victims. They’re coming for me. I know it."
She pulled his face into her hands and made him look at her. "I will stay with you and make sure no one takes you back."
"Listen to me," she said firmly. "You don’t seriously think that I went through months of hell, stalking Daimons and descending into Kalosis to let them have you again, do you?"
Well, when she put it that way. "No."
"Then trust me. I’m not going to let them come for you. If there’s one thing a bear can do, it’s fight."
Fang nodded. He returned to bed. Aimee pulled the blanket up over him and sat down on the edge.
He took her hand into his and held it close to where Thorn had branded him. But she couldn’t see the mark through his T-shirt. He wanted to tell her about the bargain he’d made.
If only he could. The truth was, he was ashamed that he’d been unable to protect her without it.
Most of all he was scared the demon inside him would manifest and hurt her.
"If I do anything strange, you leave me immediately. You understand?"
Aimee furrowed her brow in suspicion. "Strange how?"
"I don’t know. Try to eat you?"
She arched her brows at that. "Ooo-kay. You do that sort of thing a lot?"
"Not really, but who knows after all this. I might even sprout horns and turn into Simi when you’re not looking."
"Well, I promise if you come at me with bad juju, I will tear out your guts. And if you transform into a teenaged female Goth demon, I’m going to laugh my butt off."
She laughed. "You’re the only one I know who could find that threat a relief."
Fang tried to smile, but his exhaustion was overtaking him. There was something about Aimee that made him feel safe. Before he knew it, he was finally asleep.
Aimee sat there for an hour, watching Fang sleep. It was so strange to see him like that. He reminded her of her nephew who didn’t like the dark.
Only Micah was four.
What horrors had Fang been through down there that he was still so haunted by them?
"I wish I could help." But only time could heal what had been broken inside him. All she could do was be there when he needed strength and friendship.
What are you thinking?
She needed to keep her distance from him. Yet it was so hard when all she wanted was to strip her clothes off, slide into bed beside him, and pull his body deep inside hers.
There was something so infectious about him.
What if he’s my mate?
Surely the Fates wouldn’t be that cruel.
Oh, what was she thinking? Of course they would. They’d conspired to have men eat their own children. Mothers kill their babies. There was no one more treacherous than the Moirai.
Her heart heavy, she ran one finger over his grizzled cheek. She loved how he felt. How he looked.
Most of all, she loved his sarcastic, bitter humor.
Letting out a tired breath, she leaned back against the wall. "What’s going to become of us?"
Eli looked up as Cosette entered his study. The light-skinned Creole woman was as beautiful as her ancestor, Marie Laveau, one of the most notorious voodoo priestesses in the world. A mere slip of a woman, she wore a white flowing skirt and pale blue peasant top that fell off one shoulder. Her blond hair was pulled back from her face by a red scarf so that the tight curls fell out of control to her shoulders.
But it was her green almond-shaped eyes that were haunting. She reminded him of an untamed cat and swished across the floor with a seductive gait that would draw the notice of any straight man who saw her. That gait also caused unseen bells to chime with every move she made.
Damn, she was gorgeous.
"What can I do for you?" he asked, shutting the planner he’d been making notes in.
"We have a problem, cher."
"And that is?"
"My demon is dead."
Eli didn’t move for three heartbeats as those words sank in. "What do you mean?"
"My spirits have told me that a loup-garou slew him as he went for the whore I’d sent him to kill. It is hard for me to frame your enemies while my servants are slaughtered before they can carry out their assignment. I just thought you should know."
Eli folded his hands with a calmness he certainly didn’t feel. The demon was supposed to have killed a student and then leave evidence to implicate Kyle Peltier for the murder. The alley of the attack had been carefully chosen since it was a block away from a club the young bear was renovating.
"I’m not happy, Cosette."
"Do I look to be celebrating?" She pinned him with a glower that would make a lesser man fear for his soul.
"Can you not summon another demon?"
She made a sound of deep aggravation. "Summoning one of his strength is not an easy thing to do. I was in bed for three days afterward."
"The details don’t really concern me."
"Well, they should."
"And why is that?"
One corner of her mouth lifted into a mocking smile. "The universe is one of careful balance. What you send out always finds a way to return. This loup-garou is a hunter, a chaser for another. My spirits have told me to leave him be."
He scoffed at her superstitious bullshit. "You should be careful, ma petite. There are things far scarier in this universe than your hunter."
"I know this to be true. But . . . there is something evil brewing here in this city. A convergence of spirits. It concerns me."
"You should be more concerned with failing me. I don’t like disappointments." He drummed his hand idly over the black leather as he contemplated her news. "Tell me . . . did your spirits happen to give you the name of this loup-garou?"
"They called him Fang."
His hand froze midstroke. Fang . . .
That bastard who was supposed to die. The one who’d laid his filthy paws on his son.
Eli pulled his hand back as raw, unmitigated rage poured through him. "You have no idea how unhappy this makes me."
"There you would be wrong. I do know. But listen to me. My spirits are never wrong. An evil power will emerge here and it will threaten us all. We should beware."
Eli intended to do more than be wary of the trouble. He was going to rely on it and use it. And that is what gave him a brilliant plan.
Why hadn’t he thought of this sooner?
Sanctuary laws didn’t apply to all species. There was one in particular that they neither protected nor monitored. A species who wasn’t bound to follow Omegrion rule.
Forget Varyk and what he was working on. This was so much better. It would be something that the Peltiers would never see coming.
Something that would destroy them forever.
"Cosette, my wily child, I have a new idea for you and your spirits."
True to his words, Fang stayed on at Sanctuary to work as a bouncer. Papa Bear had tried to make him a waiter, but one evening of that had proven disastrous since Fang lacked the proper temperament.
Whenever someone complained about their food, it didn’t go well for them.
But for Aimee’s intervention, there would still be a tourist in traction. And there was now a hole in the wall being patched by Quinn that was coming out of Fang’s next paycheck.
So he worked as muscle when they needed it while Dev stayed at the door and monitored who came and went.
It wasn’t the worst job in the world and it left him free to watch Aimee without her brothers tearing his eyes out of their sockets. Better yet, they paid him to keep an eye on her and make sure no one came on to her while she worked. It was definitely a job with perks.
And how he loved to watch her. The way she’d laugh with their regulars or tease the younger humans who’d come in to eat with their parents in the daytime. She always brought them special treats and would even sit down and draw with them if they weren’t busy. She loved children of all species.
He couldn’t help but wonder how much better she’d be with her own cubs. . . .
There was an unrivaled grace in everything she did and it made him ache just to watch her.
If only he were a bear. . . .
That thought tortured him constantly as they brushed past each other while trying to stay indifferent. It was so unfair, but then he knew that was how life went. And he seemed to be its whipping boy most days.
"Hey, Fang?" Remi barked in his usual distemper. "Give us a hand."
He turned his head to see Wren, Colt, and Remi trying to move the heavy speakers onstage to a new position so Angel, the lead singer of the Howlers, wouldn’t bitch again about feedback.
Hernia here I come.
Aimee paused on her way to the bar to watch as Fang leapt up onstage without touching it. Shoving her notepad into her pocket, she bit the pencil in her mouth at the gorgeous sight of his backside.
The pencil snapped in two.
Spitting out pieces of lead and wood into her hand towel, she scoffed at herself. Yuck! Could anything be more gross?
And it was all Fang’s fault.
What am I doing?
Ogling the finest piece of ass in New Orleans.
Well, there was that. She watched as his muscles bulged while he lifted one side of the speaker tower while the group of them slid it across the stage.
"Damn . . . have you ever seen a better sight?" Tara, their human college student/waitress, asked as she stopped by her side. "I love working here. Days like this, I think I should be paying you guys for the privilege."
Aimee laughed. "You know, I very seldom think about it."
"That’s because you’re related to most of the fine hot meat here. Pity for you. ‘Cause to the rest of us . . ." She made a growling noise that belied her human birth.
Aimee shook her head. Good thing Justin hadn’t heard that. He’d be on the prowl to make her repeat that sound while nak*d. Or better yet, make her purr.
Tara sucked her breath in sharply. "That’s it, baby. Bend over and pick that up. Take your time with it, honey. No hurry at all. Ooo, mama!"
Aimee laughed until she turned to see who Tara was talking about. Anger snapped as she saw Fang’s rear cupped way too tightly by his jeans. Worse, his shirt had ridden up to show a tantalizing glimpse of his lower back and the tight, tawny skin she was dying to taste.
She had a sudden urge to rip the human’s hair out for daring to even glance at him. More to the point, she wanted to hang a sign around his neck that read: Mine. Look at the risk of losing your eyeballs . . . and hair.
"We need to get back to work."
Tara pouted. "Spoilsport." She trotted off to check on a table while Aimee took another look at Fang. At least he was standing again. But with his weight on one leg and his hands on his hips, he was even sexier than before.
An image of walking up to him and laying her body against his went through her. In her mind, she could already feel him there as he leaned his head back while she trailed one hand over his hard chest, down those perfect abs until she could dip her hand into his jeans and cup him in her hand.
Her body throbbed as she felt herself getting wet at the very idea. Maman had been right. The quickening was almost impossible to resist. It left her hungry and irritable.
And it didn’t help that she was going into heat again. It was why her brothers were being particularly careful about letting the humans too near her. They wanted to protect the bloodline as closely as her parents did.
So why didn’t she?
Fang’s skin crawled as he got the fierce sensation of being watched. Expecting an enemy, he scanned the dark club and was surprised to find Aimee openly staring at him as if she wanted to take a bite out of him.
That was fine by him since he wouldn’t mind having a piece of her either.
He jerked around at Colt’s angry snarl. Rushing forward, he grabbed his end and helped to move it. But he could still feel Aimee watching him. It made every nerve ending in his body sizzle and his groin swell to the point he was practically limping.
By the time they’d moved the speakers into their new position, Aimee was gone.
Fang wanted to curse.
It’s for the best.
Yeah . . .
He jumped off the stage to find Fury waiting for him by the bar. Instant rage singed him. The bastard was currently living with Vane and that really didn’t endear him to Fang in the least.
"You want something?" Fang asked churlishly as he reached behind the bar to grab a beer. One of the perks of working here. Free alcohol.
"Yeah." Fury turned to face him. "I’m abdicating the pack."