Kiss of Crimson (Chapter Thirty)

When Chase strode out of Dante's living quarters into the hallway, Gideon was waiting there.

"How's it going in there?" the warrior asked.

"She's still unconscious, but I think she's in good hands. Dante is determined that she'll be all right, and once that warrior gets an idea in his head, there isn't much that's going to stand in his way."

"True enough," Gideon chuckled. He was holding a portable video device, which he now turned on. " Listen, I tapped into some Rogue activity on satellite surveillance earlier tonight. More than one of the subjects appear to be Darkhaven civilians. You got a minute to take a look, maybe provide some ID for us?"

"Of course."

Chase glanced down at the small screen of the hand-held as Gideon called up the images and fast-forwarded to a specific frame. The night-vision footage, zoomed in on a decrepit building in one of the city's industrial slums, showed four inpiduals exiting from a back door. By the gait and size of them, Chase could tell they were vampires. But the human they were stalking had no idea.

The recorded feed played on, and Chase watched, repulsed, as the four Darkhaven youths closed in on their prey. They attacked swiftly and savagely, like the Bloodlusting predators they were. Gang-style attacks on humans were unheard of among the Breed; only vampires turned Rogue hunted and killed like this.

"Can you tighten up this frame?" he asked Gideon, not really wanting to see more of the carnage but unable to look away.

"Think you recognize any of them?"

"Yes," Chase said, his gut convulsing as the focus closed in on Camden's disheveled, feral appearance. The second sighting of the youth in the past few hours, and irrefutable evidence that he was beyond retrieving. "They're all from the Boston Darkhaven. I can give you their names, if you like. That one there is called Camden. He is my brother's son."

"Fuck," Gideon whispered. "One of these Rogues is your nephew?"

"He started using Crimson and went missing nearly two weeks ago. He is the real reason I came to the Order for help. I wanted to locate him and bring him back before this happened."

The other warrior's face was grave. "You know that all of the inpiduals on this satellite feed are Rogues. They're addicts now, Chase. Lost causes–"

"I know. I saw Camden earlier tonight, when Dante, Tegan, and I were at Ben Sullivan's place. As soon as I looked into his eyes, I understood what he was. This only confirms it."

Gideon was quiet for a long moment as he clicked off the device. "Our policy on Rogues is pretty plain. It has to be. I'm sorry, Chase, but if we run across any of these inpiduals in our patrols, there is only one course of action."

Chase nodded. He knew that the Order's stance when it came to dealing with Rogues was unwavering, and after riding shotgun with Dante for the past few nights, he knew it had to be that way. Camden was gone, and now it was only a matter of time before the Bloodlusting shell that was left of his nephew met a violent end, either in combat with the warriors or through his own reckless actions.

"I have to go topside and do something for Dante," Chase said. "But I'll be back within the hour, and I can give you whatever info you need to help get these Rogues off the streets."

"Thanks." Gideon clapped him on the shoulder. "Look, I'm sorry, man. I wish things could be different. We've all lost loved ones to this goddamn war. It never gets any easier."

"Right. I'll catch you later," Chase said, then he strode away, heading for the elevator that would take him to the Order's fleet garage on ground level. As he rode up, he thought about Elise. He'd come clean to Dante and the others about Camden, but he was still keeping the truth from Elise. She needed to know. She needed to be prepared for what had happened to her son and to understand what it meant. Chase wouldn't be bringing Cam home now. No one could. The truth was going to kill Elise, but she deserved to have it.

Chase stepped off the elevator and reached into his coat pocket to withdraw his cell phone. As he walked toward Dante's coupe, he hit the speed dial for his home. Elise picked up on the second ring, her voice anxious, hopeful.

"Hello? Sterling, are you all right? Have you found him?"

Chase stopped walking, cursing inwardly. For a long second he could not speak. He didn't know how to phrase what he had to say. "I, uh… Yes, Elise, Camden has been sighted tonight."

"Oh, my God." She let out a sob, then hesitated. "Sterling, is he… Please, tell me he's alive."

Shit. He hadn't expected to do this over the phone. He thought he'd call her and let her know that he' d be there to explain everything later on, but Elise's maternal worry knew no patience. She was desperate for answers, and Chase could not keep them from her any longer.

"Ah, hell, Elise. It's not good news." In the heavy, utter silence that held on the other end of the line, Chase launched into the facts. "Cam was spotted tonight, running with a group of Rogues. I saw him myself, at the apartment of the human who's been dealing Crimson. He's in bad shape, Elise. He's… Christ, there's just no easy way to tell you this. He's turned, Elise. It's too late. Camden has gone Rogue. "

"No," she said finally. "No, I don't believe you. You're mistaken."

"It's no mistake. God, I wish it was, but I saw him with my own eyes, and I've seen surveillance footage of him collected by the warriors as well. He and a group of other Darkhaven youths–all Rogues now–were caught on satellite, attacking a human in full public view."

"I need to see it."

"No, trust me, you don't–"

"Sterling, listen to me. Camden is my son. He's all I have left. If he's done these things, as you say–if he's become such an animal and you have some proof of this–I have a right to see it for myself."

Chase drummed his fingers on the roof of the black Porsche, knowing that none of the warriors was going to appreciate him bringing a civilian into the compound.

"Sterling, are you there?"

"Yeah. I'm still here."

"If you care the least bit for me or for your brother's memory, then please, let me see my son."

"Okay," he said, relenting at last and consoling himself with the idea that if he granted her this dubious request, he would at least be present to catch Elise when she fell. "I have some business topside, but I'll swing by the Darkhaven in about an hour to pick you up."

"I'll be waiting." That incredible warmth was back, Tess mused from within the dark tide that held her. She stretched her senses toward the engulfing heat, toward the wondrous scent and taste of the liquid fire that fed her. Conscious thought seemed to dance just out of her reach, but her nerve endings clicked on like strings of tiny lights, as though her body was slowly thawing, coming alive inch by inch, cell by cell, after a long, cold sleep.

"Drink," a deep voice beckoned her, and she did.

She drew more of the heat into her mouth, swallowing it down in greedy pulls. A strange awakening began somewhere deep inside her as she drank from the source of that powerful warmth. It started in her fingers and toes, then spread up into her limbs, an electricity that hummed through her in undulating waves.

"That's it, Tess. Take more. Just keep drinking, angel."

She couldn't have stopped if she'd wanted to. It seemed as though each sip made her thirsty for another, every swallow only adding fuel to the fire that was building within the very core of her. She felt like an infant at its mother's breast, vulnerable and uninitiated, trusting completely, needing on the most basic level.

She was being given life; she knew this in that primitive part of her mind. She had been near death, maybe close enough to touch it, but this warmth–this dark elixir–had pulled her back.

"More," she croaked. At least she thought she had spoken. The voice she heard sounded distant and weak. So desperate. "More… "

Tess shuddered as an abrupt absence of warmth answered her demand. No, she thought, a dark panic rising with the loss. He was leaving her now. Her protective angel was gone, along with the font of life he' d given her. She moaned weakly, forcing her listless hands to reach out and search for him.

"Dante… "

"I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."

The chill vanished as a heavy weight settled in alongside her. Heat warmed her entire length, heat from him as he pulled her up against him. She felt strong fingers at her nape, guiding her head closer to his voice, pressing her mouth to the firm column of his neck. Warm, wet skin met her lips.

"Come here, Tess, and drink from me. Take all you need."

Drink from him? Some fading part of her consciousness rejected the idea as nonsensical, unthinkable, but another part of her–the part that was still spinning wildly in the tide, grasping for solid ground– made her mouth seek out that which he so willingly offered.

Tess parted her lips and sucked long and hard, filling her mouth with the roaring force of Dante's gift.

Holy. Hell.

As Tess locked her mouth down over the vein he'd opened for her in his neck, Dante's entire body went as taut as a bowstring. The hungry suction of her lips, the silky caress of her tongue as she drew his blood into her mouth and swallowed it, made his cock stand up at attention, a fierce, stone-hard erection like he'd never experienced before.

He hadn't known how intense it would be to let her drink from him so intimately. This was the first time in all his existence that he'd ever given his blood to another. He had always been the taker, feeding out of necessity and often for pleasure, but never with a Breedmate.

Never with a woman who moved him the way Tess did.

And the fact that she fed from him now out of pure survival instinct, because his blood was the very thing–the only thing–her body needed in this moment, just made the act all the more erotic to him. His sex throbbed, hungry and demanding, a heavy pressure that he wanted to ignore but couldn't.

Christ, but it felt as if she were sucking on that very male part of him, each pull of her mouth ratcheting him up tighter, nearly sending him straight over the edge. With a groan, Dante fisted his hands in the silk sheets of his bed, holding on as Tess fed from him in primal need.

Her fingers started twitching where they clutched his shoulders, kneading his muscles in a mindless rhythm as she continued to draw his blood into her mouth. Dante felt her strength coming back to her with each passing minute. Her breathing grew deeper, no more the rapid, shallow compression of her lungs but a cadence of long, healthy draws.

Feeling her vitality return was the greatest aphrodisiac he had ever known. It took Herculean effort not to catch her in his arms and press her beneath him so he could slake his own thundering need.

"Keep drinking," he told her, his mouth full with the presence of his extended fangs and a tongue gone thick with his own thirst. "Don't stop, Tess. It's all for you. Only for you."

She moved up closer to him now, her breasts crushing against his chest, and her hips… God, her hips were rubbing along his pelvis, undulating in a subtle, instinctual motion as her mouth continued to work feverishly at his neck. He rolled onto his back and held as still as he could for her, his eyes closed in exquisite torment, his pulse raging.

Restraint was not something he was accustomed to practicing, but for Tess he would endure the agony all night if necessary. He relished it, actually, as much as his desire for her shredded him in pieces. He lay back on the mattress and absorbed every nuance of her body's movement, every soft mewl and moan she made against his throat.

He might have lasted longer if Tess hadn't crawled up over him, her mouth still fastened to his vein, her hair falling loosely onto his chest. Dante's spine arced beneath her, rising up off the bed as she sucked deeper now, her slender body feeling hot to the touch, moving all over him in slow erotic waves.

She started riding him, her thighs spread across his hips, her sex grinding on his as if they were naked together and making love. Even through the nylon warmups he wore, he could feel Tess's intense heat. Her panties were wet from desire, the sweet scent of her arousal slamming into his brain like a hammer.

"Christ," he gasped, reaching up to grab the headboard as her feeding rose to a frenzied crescendo.

She rocked on him, faster and harder, her blunt human teeth latching on to his neck as she sucked deeper than ever at his vein. He felt her climax swelling, breaking loose. His own was roaring up on him fast as well, his shaft surging, leaping, ready to blow. The second Tess came, Dante surrendered to his own release. The orgasm crashed into him, laying him low, wringing him out. He was lost to it, unable to stop the fierce pulsations that seemed to go on endlessly as Tess settled on top of him in a sated, heavy sleep.

After a while, Dante unclamped his hands from the headboard and brought them down gently on Tess' s slack body. He wanted to be inside her, needed it like he needed air to breathe, but she was vulnerable right now and he would not use her. Now that she was out of danger, there would be other times for them to be together like this, better times.

God, there had to be.