“Remi! You can’t kill Daimons at the front door!” Dev Peltier shot across the main bar floor of Sanctuary at a dead run, with his wolfwere brother-in-law Fang Kattalakis hot on his heels.
“Sure I can,” his identical brother snarled in his earpiece. “Watch me!”
Dreading the scene of his shapeshifting twin ripping the heart out of a demon on the busy streets of New Orleans underneath a closed circuit police camera, Dev considered teleporting to stop the coming disaster, but that would only worsen this fiasco.
And guarantee them both some special quality time in a high security government lab someplace where they’d never be seen again or heard from again.
He and Fang barely reached the open front door in time to grab the tall, muscled mountain that sometimes passed as a human being before Remi ate the petite blonde standing nonchalantly under the outside streetlight.
And that bastard fought them with everything he had as they pulled him back from his would-be victim. A victim who didn’t appear concerned at all that she’d narrowly escaped certain death.
Remi even bit Dev in the shoulder as he struggled against them.
“Dammit!” Dev snarled. “You better have had your rabies shot, boy!”
Growling in that unique way that only a shapeshifting bear could, Remi continued to try and throw them off so that he could reach the woman who still hadn’t moved.
In fact, the Daimon yawned. Then checked her watch as if the entire event left her bored out of her mind. “Can I go in now? You two have him leashed, right?”
Fang’s jaw dropped at her nonchalant tone. “You know, Medea, given what happened the last time a bunch of you showed up here, you’ve got a lot of nerve.”
“‘Course I do. It’s what makes me the bad guy. And I’m told my half-brother’s upstairs, playing poker with your little brother. So if you don’t mind . . .” She headed inside as if she didn’t have a bar full of shapeshifters who’d love to make her their lunch.
Remi continued to curse them both. “They killed Maman and Papa! How could you let her waltz into our bar like that?”
Dev kept his brother in place with his forearm across Remi’s throat. “Because if you harm one hair on her head, we’ll lose our Sanctuary license again. Think of your nieces and nephews!”
Remi’s gaze fell to Fang, and Dev knew that had finally reached through his brother’s temporary insanity and need for blood vengeance. Their sister— Fang’s wife— had just given birth to a son and daughter. And Dev’s own wife was pregnant. Last thing any of them wanted was to risk enemies crashing the gate again. Above all, they had to maintain their limani standing so that no shapeshifter or demon could war here again.
All of them had lost too much during the last battle that had shattered their family.
The fire went out in Remi’s eyes as he finally stopped struggling against them.
Releasing him, Dev stepped back to eye Fang. “So what idiot put hothead on the door tonight?”
Fang cast him a disgruntled glare. “I be said idiot. Thank you very much. Thought he was you. Could one of your bastards cut your hair so that I can tell you apart?”
Dev rolled his eyes. Then pointed to the double bow and arrow tattoo on his biceps. “I do have one mark that distinguishes me, you know?”
Fang scoffed while Remi started for the door.
“Hey, hey!” Dev caught his arm. “What’cha thinking, punkin?”
“That Maman should have eaten you when you were whelped.”
Dev snorted. “You can’t go in there and start a fight with her. Need I remind you there’s a shit ton of human tourists in that bar and Max is a bit preoccupied tonight with his dragonswan.”
Remi’s nose twitched in that way that said he was hellbent for blood. “Can’t his brother mindwipe them, then?”
Good question. Falcyn might have the same powers as Max. Then again, he might not. “No idea. You want to ask Falcyn?” That surly dragon shapeshifting bastard was the only creature alive with a worse attitude than Remi.
Unless you counted the former Dark-Hunter Zarek. Though to be honest, Dev would run Falcyn up against Z any day. Thrice on Sundays.
Proof to the point? Remi backed down immediately at the thought of speaking to Falcyn, and that was something his brother never did.
“I’m going to go watch her,” Remi grumbled before he headed inside.
Dev growled low in the back of his as he met Fang’s irritated smirk. “I know. Dev, go watch your brother.”
“And find me someone else to guard the door.”
“Where’s your earp . . .” Dev’s voice trailed off as he remembered that one of Aimee’s favorite things was to nibble Fang’s ears in the backroom when no one else was around. Disgusted with the thought of his baby sister touching anything male in a sexual way, he grimaced. “Never mind. I’ll grab Cherif. You can’t miss him. He’s the one who looks like me, but isn’t.”
“That could also be Quinn.”
“Don’t remind me.” It was hell to be one of four identical quads. Only Aimee and the Dark-Hunter Acheron had ever been able to tell them apart.
And Dev’s wife, Sam. She’d never once confused him with his brothers, which was one of many reasons he loved her.
“Double time, Bear!” Fang snapped. “Don’t need your brother starting some shit while we’ve got humans around to witness it!”
Letting out a bear growl in his throat, Dev went to find Remi before the bear really did eat the Daimon, and start another war they didn’t need to fight.
Medea screwed her face up at all the humans in the dark, noisy bar as they swayed to the music of the Howlers. Gah, how she hated them. Though to be honest, it would be quite a feast for her should she choose to indulge, not that she needed their blood to feed— unlike the others of her kind.
For her, it was just fun.
And payback . . .
More tempted than she ought to be, she forced herself to ignore all the throats that would be so easy to rip open and searched for her half-brother’s familiar face. Though she and Urian were technically enemies who fought on opposite sides of this war, he was still one of the few people she considered her friend.
Right now, she had dire news he needed to hear.
“Hey baby! You looking for me?”
Medea curled her lip at the cheesy come-on line. Worse? The filthy human stank of cheap alcohol and some cologne he must have bought off a clearance drugstore aisle. “Out of my way.”
“Ah, now, why you want to do me like that?”
Laughing, she bit her lip seductively. “Sugar, you have no idea what I really want to do with you . . .”
His eyebrows shot north. “Oh yeah?”
“Ummm-hmmm.” She stepped into his arms as she dreamed of gutting him on the floor.
An instant later, he was snatched back and shaken like a dog would do his favorite toy. “Take a hike.”
The human started to attack, until he caught sight of the man who’d grabbed him. That took every bit of bluster out of him and he quickly dashed away.
Not that Medea blamed him. This Were-Hunter was huge, even by their inhuman standards. Tall. Well-muscled. His caramel skin would make any woman’s mouth water. And to her instant horror, she wasn’t immune to his charms.
In fact, she was strangely breathless as her gaze went to a pair of silvery blue eyes that practically glowed. Between that and his black hair, she’d almost think him a Dream-Hunter. Indeed, his powers were strong enough to be godlike.
The air around her was rife with them. It crackled in a way that was reminiscent of Acheron Parthenopaeus— an Atlantean god who pretended to be a Dark-Hunter for reasons only he knew. More than that, she couldn’t even tell what breed this particular Were-Hunter belonged to. Bear, wolf, bird, lion, leopard, panther, tiger, dragon, jaguar, cheetah or jackal. He was that powerful.
“What are you?”
Falcyn felt an odd half smile curve his lips. A rare, rare thing for him. But then it’d been a long time since he’d seen a morsel as tasty as this one. Her white-blond hair was an unusual shade, but natural. And it contrasted sharply with her black eyes.
And she wasn’t just a Daimon. There was something a lot stronger inside her. Something he could taste and smell. The scent of it was like honey to his tongue.
“Hungry,” he whispered.
She actually rolled her eyes and stepped around him.
A sound rumbled out of him that was even more rare than his smile. Took him a few seconds to realize it was a laugh.
No one had ever been so dismissive of him. Mostly because he ate those idiots and picked his teeth with their bones. And before he even realized what he was doing, he was after her.
She paused in the crowd to turn around and glare at him. “Oh, I see. You’re a dog. Well, Fido, I’m sure there are some nice little humans over at the bar who’d like to take you home and pet you. I’m not one of them. So go on, boy.” She clicked her tongue like a human would do their pet or a stray they were trying to get rid of. “Go on! Shoo!”
As she started to leave, Falcyn licked his lips. “So you’re the queen bitch of the Daimons. They told me you were something else. But how many of them know you have demon blood inside you?”
She quirked a brow at his question, then gave him an insidious smile that made his cock jerk. “Before or after I kill them?” Her gaze narrowed as she swept a gimlet stare over him that said she was sizing him up for battle. “And you would be wrong about my title. The queen would be my mother.”
“Then what would that make you?”
“Daddy’s most precious little girl.”
He belly-laughed. Something that made every Were-Hunter near them step back and gape.
That finally took some of the bluster out of her as she caught sight of their uncharacteristic actions.
And fear. Especially since they never feared anything.
“Who are you?” she asked with a note of reservation in her voice.
“It’s not so much who am I . . . as what am I.”
Medea felt a tremor of fear finally roll down her spine. “You’re not one of them, are you?” The Were-Hunters had been created aeons ago by the king of Arcadia in a desperate attempt to save the lives of his sons from a curse placed upon their mother’s race by the Greek god Apollo. Seeking to elongate the lives of his sons, the king had bargained with a Sumerian god to magically splice their DNA with animals.
It’d worked and created two races of shapeshifters. Those who held human hearts, called Arcadians. Human in their base forms, they could take animal form. And the Katagaria who had animal hearts and were able to shift into humans.
The “man” in front of her shook his head slowly to indicate that he fell into neither group.
Yet he bore the scent of a Katagari warrior. An animal at heart. She knew the raw, preternatural musk that permeated their breed. It was unlike anything else in the world. And though tinged with something else, it was unmistakable.
“Like you, princess, I’m something much, much older . . . Deadlier. And unpredictable.”
“I know you’re not a god.”
He approached her slowly, and while it wasn’t in her to ever retreat, she found herself stepping back to keep from being overwhelmed by the sheer size of him. By the magnitude of his powers that seemed to grow stronger the longer she was here.
“Nay, love,” he breathed in her ear with that deep, resonant baritone. “But there are things in this world that even the gods fear.”
And he was definitely one of them. She knew it with every single molecule of her being.
Medea blinked at the sharp tone of her brother’s voice.
The creature in front of her didn’t react to it at all. Other than to give her an odd half smile. He tsked at both her and Urian. “Do you really think to make me heel at your command?”
Tall and muscular, Urian narrowed his eyes while he rapidly closed the distance between them. His white-blonde hair fell loose around his shoulders, accentuating his sharp features as he kept his attention keenly focused on Falcyn, watching his every twitch.
Stepping between them, Urian gave her a bit of breathing room. “I would caution you to remember you’re in a limani.”
Falcyn snorted. “As if I give two shits for Savitar’s laws.” He raked a bitter stare over Urian. “Or you, for that matter. And even less for your boss. So don’t even think of dragging Acheron’s name into this as protection from my wrath. I dare him to say a single word to me . . . on any matter.”
Urian scowled at his words. “Is there nothing you fear?”
Falcyn’s gaze went past Urian’s shoulder to something in the crowd.
“Aye, but she’s not here.”
Medea jumped at the deep voice that spoke near her ear. Startled, she turned to see another strange man in the crowded bar. One who stood out as much as Falcyn, but for even more reasons. His hair was as pale as her own, if not more so, and his eyes a peculiar lavender shade. Yet for all his paleness, his skin wasn’t quite as white as she’d assumed someone’s with Albinism would be.
More than that, his ears held a bit of a point to them. For a moment, given the beauty of his features, she thought he might be fey . . . Adoni or such. But the way he moved and given the scent of him, she dismissed the thought.
No, he was more animal than that.
Languid and quick. A rare dichotomy that only a natural born shapeshifter could accomplish. And like Falcyn, the air around him was rife with preternatural powers that danced for his command. This beast was every bit as powerful.
Falcyn tsked at him. “Now, Blaise, why would you go and bring Xyn into this?”
Blaise let loose a charming grin. “Felt the need to rankle my big brother. Besides, everyone else fears you so.” It wasn’t until he stepped forward with his hand raised to feel his way through them that Medea realized Blaise was blind. “And if you’re through scaring the natives, I’ve got something I need to speak to you about.”
Falcyn sneered. “Rather spend time scaring the natives than listening to your whine.”
“Ah, now, you’re going to hurt my feelings.”
“You don’t have any feelings.”
“Not true. I had a lot of them, until you, Kerrigan and Illarion shriveled them into oblivion. But I think I managed to salvage one or two.”
Falcyn snorted. “Those are called hunger pangs.”
“Hungry for a kind word, you mean.”
“Well, you won’t be getting it here.” Falcyn gestured toward the stairs. “So off with you.”
Blaise sighed heavily. “‘Fraid I can’t. Must intrude. Can’t wait.”
Falcyn made a sound so deep in his throat that it vibrated through Medea’s body.
Urian pulled her back. “Well, then. We’ll leave you to your argument. Come, big sis. Let’s get out of here before Godzilla and Mothra go at it.”
“Before who and what?”
Urian shook his head. “One day we’ve got to do a movie marathon.” And with that, he pulled her toward the stairs.
But Medea couldn’t resist one quick glance back at the stranger whose presence still haunted her. Worse? He continued to watch after her with that penetrating stare like she was a hare and he was planning to make her his lunch.
“What are they?” she asked Urian as he led her upstairs to the less crowded area of the bar.
“Blaise is a mandrake. Falcyn . . . hell if I know. He’s one of the dragon breeds, but not a Were-Hunter.”
“If they’re brothers, he’d be a mandrake, too. Right?”
Urian hesitated. “I don’t think they’re really related. The dragons have an even more peculiar idea of what constitutes family than we do.”
She was so perplexed by that. “But If he’s a dragon and he’s not a mandrake or Were-Hunter, how can he be human?” Those were the only two kinds of pure-blood dragons who could take human form.
At least that she knew of, and given the fact she’d walked this earth for more than eleven thousand years, she knew quite a bit about shapeshifters and the preternatural world that had birthed her.
Urian paused to look from her to the two dragons in the crowd below. “That, Medea, is the question we’ve all asked and no one will answer.”