The Sentinel Wars, Book Five
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They are the Sentinels. Three races, ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique abilities to protect humanity against their eternal foes: the Synestryn. Now, for one Sentinel, the only way to reclaim her forgotten past is to follow the blood.
Hope appeared out of nowhere, naked and alone, a woman without past. The only thing she knows is that she is imbued with a strange power. It’s in her blood. And two men want to possess it.
One is Logan, a Sanguinar demon-fighter who needs Hope’s essence to survive. As a vampire he’s well-equipped to find her a like-blooded mate whose progeny could sustain his race for generations. The other is Krag, a Synestryn lord whose desire is to enslave Hope, and drain her of the lifeforce. With it he could control humanity forever.
When Hope and Logan both fall prey to Krag, a powerful desire grows between them. But is it enough to thwart their captor’s diabolical plan and his demon warriors, and survive a vampire’s destiny written in blood?
Kansas City, Missouri, March 16
When death comes for you, it will not be gentle.
Logan hadn’t truly understood Sibyl’s prophecy of his death until this moment. But now that he was staring into its jaws, he realized what she had meant.
A Synestryn demon crouched behind a run-down three-story building, its eyes glowing a bright, feral green. It was huge, making the Dumpster beside it look like a milk crate. Heavy muscles bulged in its limbs, quivering in anticipation of the kill. Its breath billowed from all four of its nostrils, creating pale plumes of steam in the cold night air. Bright moonlight gleamed across its skin, reflected off the viscous, poisonous fluid that leaked from its pores.
Logan had never seen anything like it before, but the human, Steve, groaning in pain on the pockmarked asphalt near the demon’s feet, was testament to the power of its poison.
The man’s wife, Pam, stood pressed against the cold brick, staring in horror at her husband. Her pregnant belly protruded from her slim body, promising the hope of a new generation.
Logan could not let anything happen to that child.
Steve was still moving, but if Logan didn’t do something soon, he wasn’t going to survive. Not that there was much Logan could do. After days without feeding he was weak, his powers now dwindled to the point he barely had the ability to walk upright.
Hunger churned inside him, demanding that he seek out the blood he needed, but there was no time to feed. No time to gather his strength. No time to call for help.
If this couple and their child — a child he’d worked so hard to see created — were killed, many of his people would starve. Logan could not allow that to happen.
The nameless creature lunged for Logan, bounding up from the pavement in a powerful leap so fast it made the thing look like a streak of moonlight.
Logan pitched his body to the left, hoping to avoid the attack. His shoulder slammed into a brick wall. Pain lanced across his back and down his spine. He slid to the dirty ground before he could catch himself.
The demon careened into a loading dock door, busting through it like tissue paper. The metal screamed as it gave way. Corrugated strips flew into the darkness of the run-down building, leaving behind a giant gaping hole.
A blow like that had to have stunned the demon, or even knocked it out.
Logan needed to carry Steve away from this place, and he knew the man’s wife would follow. He’d made it only a few yards when he saw the feral green glow of two large eyes within the gaping hole in the doorway.
A sickening sense of defeat churned in his empty belly. Not only was the Synestryn still on its feet, but Logan now knew he was completely outclassed. If barreling through that metal door didn’t slow the thing down, there was nothing Logan, as weak as he was, could do to stop it.
The demon lumbered through the opening, angling itself for another attack.
Steve pushed himself to his knees. He wavered there, next to a frozen mud puddle, between a discarded mattress and a rotting wooden pallet. His skin was roughened by goose bumps. With every passing second, poison went deeper into his system.
Time to grab the couple and run. Leave the Synestryn for someone else. It wasn’t his place to destroy the demon. That was best left to those who were stronger than he.
Which currently included ninety percent of the planet’s occupants, no doubt.
Logan shoved himself to his feet and sprinted across the slick pavement toward Steve. The tread of his boots slipped over the remnants of dirty snow left from the last storm, but he managed to stay upright and close the distance.
Behind him, the demon snorted out a heavy breath.
Logan spun around to face the thing, putting his body squarely between it and the pregnant woman.
“Please,” whispered the woman in a voice trembling with fear. “Save him.”
“Go,” ordered Logan. “Run. I’ll protect him.”
“I’m not leaving him.”
“Think of your child.”
“I am. He needs his father.”
There was no more time to argue. The demon charged.
The woman let out a frightened whimper. The heartbeat of the baby boy inside her sped up, as if sensing the danger it could not see.
That child deserved to live. If this demon got hold of the mother, both she and the baby would die because of the blood flowing through their veins.
The injustice made outrage unfurl in Logan’s body, spreading dark wings of anger. That demon was not going to take the child — not while Logan still drew breath.
Claws extended from Logan’s fingertips and his fangs lengthened. His natural weapons were nothing compared to the wicked blades the Theronai carried, but he refused to go down without a fight.
In the back of his mind, a hysterical part of him giggled at the notion of defeating such a creature. At his full strength he’d have a chance, but he was far from that — so far he couldn’t even remember what it felt like not to be weak and hungry and cold.
But he had anger on his side, and it fueled him now, giving strength to his wasted limbs.
With a burst of speed, Logan charged the oncoming monster. He leaped to the top of a trash can and propelled himself over the thing’s shoulder. His claws dug deep into the demon’s slippery flesh, making it howl. Slick, mucuslike poison collected under his fingernails.
Logan straddled the demon’s back, trying to choke it with his legs. One wide paw batted at him, its talons raking across his forearm.
Pain sliced up Logan’s arm. Poison entered his system.
His first instinct was to shove the last of his dwindling reserves of power into creating an antidote, but there was no time for that. He had to kill the Synestryn before the poison incapacitated him, or being poisoned would be the least of his problems. And Steve’s.
The creature headed for the cavelike shelter of the building, carrying Logan along for the ride. As they shoved through the opening, jagged metal sliced his skin, tearing a cry of pain from his lungs.
Logan fished beneath his coat for the dagger he kept hidden there. He stabbed it into the top of the creature’s head, hoping to skewer its brain. Its skull was too thick and the blade slid to the side.
The cut to its scalp was deep, making the beast roar in pain. It reached back, grabbed Logan by the head, and whipped him off.
Logan was slammed against the concrete floor. Or maybe it was a wall. His vision was full of bright lights, so it was hard to tell. All he knew was pain and a foggy weakness that kept him pinned to the ground.
A deep vibration beneath him told him that the demon wasn’t finished yet. It was still on its feet and it was getting closer.
Steve was growing weaker by the second. He pushed himself to his feet, and the effort left him panting. Pam was by his side in an instant, her precious face staring up at him in worry. “We need to get you to a hospital.”
“You know that won’t help,” he told her. As one of the Gerai, he knew enough about the Synestryn to realize that there was nothing a human doctor could do for him. “I need Logan.”
His wife’s face paled as she realized what he meant to do. “You can’t. You can’t go in there.”
“I don’t have a choice. I’ll die without his help. And he’ll die without mine.”
“No,” whispered Pam. Tears flowed down her cheeks. “You can’t go in there. Please.”
A wave of weakness shook Steve, telling him he was running out of time. “Go. Someplace public. Well lit. I need to know you and the baby are safe.”
“I won’t leave you.”
“There’s no time to argue. You’re going. But I won’t be long. Promise.” The vow settled over him, comforting him. He kissed her mouth, praying it wouldn’t be the last time. “Go, love. For our baby. Go.”
She nodded. Sniffed.
Steve gently pushed Pam away. She stared at him, her expression a mix of fear and love. “Don’t you dare die.”
Steve hid his weakness the best that he could as he bent down and picked up a discarded section of two-by-four. It wasn’t much of a weapon, but he’d find a way to make it work.
He’d promised to be quick, and he’d never once broken a promise to his sweet Pam.
The color of suffering was a dark, sickly yellow, and Hope Serrien knew she’d see it on a night like tonight.
A cold front had swept down over the city, slaying any hope that spring was coming soon. Power lines glistened with a layer of ice, and icicles dripped from street signs. The sidewalk under her feet was slick, but even that couldn’t keep her indoors tonight. A night like this brought death to those who had no place to escape the cold.
And cold wasn’t the only enemy on the streets. There were things out here. Dark, evil things. People were going missing, and Hope feared they hadn’t simply moved onto warmer climes.
Sister Olive was a middle-aged woman who ran the homeless shelter where Hope volunteered. She’d insisted that Hope stay indoors tonight, but the nun had never truly felt the frigid desperation of having no place to go. She’d always had a warm, safe place where she knew she belonged.
Not everyone was so lucky.
Hope shifted the canvas bag on her shoulder and walked faster. She always carried sandwiches and blankets in case she ran into those in need — those who refused to come to the shelter. With any luck, they’d all have better sense than to be stubborn on a night like this.
She scanned the street, paying close attention to the dark crevices between buildings and inside recessed doorways. That glowing, yellow aura of suffering was not hard to miss.
Or maybe Hope had just had a lot of practice at spotting it.
If Sister Olive knew how Hope found people in need — if she knew Hope could see auras — the nun would probably have her committed. Good thing that wasn’t something that came up in normal conversation. Hope wasn’t sure she could lie to a nun.
A flicker of unease made Hope pull her coat closed more tightly around her neck. She’d seen things at night — things she knew couldn’t be real. Dark, monstrous things that slinked between shadows, hiding from sight. Their auras were black. Silent. She couldn’t read them, which made her question whether the monsters even truly existed outside her imagination.
She probably should have brought one of the men along with her to ward off any problems. But how would she explain to her escort how she knew where to go? It was better to do this alone and keep her secrets. Fitting in among normal people was hard enough when she didn’t draw attention to her ability.
Hope forced herself to head toward the one place she hadn’t yet searched for those missing souls. She hated getting near the run-down Tyler building — it brought up too much pain and confusion, too many bad memories. She’d promised herself that tonight she’d put her ridiculous fears aside and look for her friends there.
The three-story brick structure rose up into the night sky. The lighting here hadn’t been maintained, leaving deep pools of darkness to hover about the building like an aura of decay.
A heavy thud and a screech of wrenching metal rose up from behind the structure.
There was definitely someone back there. Or something.
Images of those dark creatures flickered in her mind. Her muscles locked up in fear, and for a moment, she stood frozen to the pavement.
The real danger out here tonight was the cold, not monsters, and the longer people were left to suffer in it, the more dangerous it became.
Hope forced her legs to move. Her first steps were slow and shuffling, as if her own body was working against her. Then slowly, she picked up speed, shoving all thoughts of monsters from her mind.
As she crept down the alley that led to the back of the building, she heard more noises she couldn’t quite identify. There was a grunt of pain and the rattle of wood tumbling about. Once, she almost thought she heard a woman’s voice, but she couldn’t be sure. The only woman she knew who was too stubborn to come in out of the cold was her friend Rory.
Hope cleared the corner, and the first thing she saw was the gaping hole where the overhead door had been ripped open and partially off its track. The metal looked like it had been punched in with a giant fist, leaving jagged shards behind.
From inside the opening, Hope saw a brief flash of color — the sickly yellow of suffering.
Desperate fear washed over her, making her lurch forward through the ragged opening. It was too dark inside to see, so she fished inside her satchel for the flashlight she always carried.
A feral growl of rage rose up from her left. It wasn’t a human sound. Not even close.
Primal fear surged through her, and she had to fight the need to curl into the smallest space possible so she could hide.
Her search for the flashlight became frantic, her gloves hindering her as she fished around in her bag.
She located the hard, heavy cylinder, only to have it slip from her grasp.
Heavy, pounding steps shook the floor. A woman cried out in fear somewhere to Hope’s right.
She grasped onto the flashlight and powered it on as she ripped it from the bag. The beam of light bobbed around, catching motes of dust as it passed.
Hope aimed it toward the sound of torment. The light bounced off of something huge and shiny. Something pulsing with muscle, and moving so fast she couldn’t keep the light trained on it.
Its aura was black nothingness.
Panic gripped her tight. She needed more light to ward off the thing. Something as hideous as that would hate the light. She felt it on an instinctive level, as if she’d been taught how to protect herself from the monster.
Hope swung the light around to the employee entrance next to the pulverized overhead door, hoping there would be a switch nearby. Surely, whoever came in through that door would need to have access to lights, right?
The beam of light shook in her grasp, vibrating with the trembling of her hands as she searched. It seemed to take forever, but as she neared the door, she saw a series of switches.
She sprinted over the dusty floor, praying that the power here was still on — that whoever was trying to sell this place had left the lights on for potential buyers.
Hope shoved all four switches up at once. There was a muted thunk, then an electric buzz. Light poured down over the room, and while many of the bulbs were burned out, it seemed as bright as the surface of the sun compared to a moment ago.
She blinked her eyes and turned, forcing herself to look at what her flashlight had touched.
The room was large and open. Lines that had been painted on the floor to outline separate areas were now covered in dust. A stack of wooden pallets had toppled, and the dust from their fall had not yet settled.
Across the room was a giant, hulking creature poised over someone she couldn’t quite see. All she could tell was that they were surrounded by that yellow aura of hunger and suffering she’d come to know so well on the streets.
The beast’s head swiveled toward her, the movement sinuous and fluid. Its green eyes fixed on her, and she swore they flared brighter for a brief moment.
An unnatural fear rose up inside Hope, screaming for her to run. She knew what this thing was. She didn’t know its name or where it came from, but she knew that it wanted her blood.
A roar filled her ears as a distant memory tried to surface. Her head spun and she clutched the wall behind her to stay on her feet.
Please, God. Not now.
As much as Hope wanted to remember her past, she wouldn’t survive the distraction. She fought off the memory, mourning its loss even before it passed.
The beast snorted out a heavy breath, sending four curls of steam into the cold air. Its mouth opened, revealing sharp, wicked teeth.
Hope was sure the thing wore a sinister grin.
“Run!” shouted a man.
She couldn’t see him, but it was his aura that peeked out from behind the monster. It pulsed with a flare of bright blue courage, and a second later, the monster roared as if it had been struck.
Now that its attention was no longer focused on Hope, her knees unlocked and started working again. She needed to find help. Fast.
She turned to do just that, when she caught a glimpse of an aura peeking out from behind the toppled pile of pallets.
Hope rushed over and found a man lying unconscious on the floor. One side of his face had darkened with a bruise, and in his loose grip was a board covered in the same shiny stuff that coated the monster’s skin.
His aura was faint, the colors flickering like the flames of a dying fire.
He wasn’t going to make it if she didn’t do something.
Across the room, a crash sounded as the fight wore on. Hope didn’t waste time figuring out who was winning. It was going to take all her strength to get this man out of harm’s way. Just in case it was the monster who won.
She shoved the pallet pinning him down off of his legs. His jeans were dark with blood.
Hope patted his face, hoping to wake him. His eyes fluttered open, but she doubted his ability to focus. His pupils were huge and a cold sweat covered his brow. “Logan. I need Logan. Poison. He can fix it.”
Hope didn’t know how he knew that, but she doubted he’d waste his breath lying.
Her gaze slid across the room to the fight. The man battling that beast must be Logan. She had to help him. She had no idea how to defeat the monster, but she’d seen a length of metal pipe back near the door, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.
* * *
Logan looked up from the floor where he landed. The spots cleared just in time for him to see the demon’s giant, slimy foot hurling toward his head.
Logan rolled aside, dodging at the last instant. Chips of concrete flew into his face, stinging as they hit. He smelled his blood a moment before he felt the hot trickle of it sliding down his cheek.
The creature’s foot was raised, poised for another attack. Logan’s body shook with weakness, so cold he could barely feel his limbs. Only the dull throb of pain managed to get through the growing numbness of his body.
He was running out of time. Soon, the poison would incapacitate him, making him an easy meal.
There was no way Logan was walking away from this alive. The child had to be his first priority. He just needed to buy Pam enough time to escape. If her child survived, he could one day save others of Logan’s race.
The thought brought him a sliver of solace.
It was time to pull out all the stops. He gathered up a bit of power and burst from the ground, shoving his dagger deep into the demon’s groin. The beast howled. Black blood spurted from the wound.
Logan shoved the blade sideways to slice open a large wound before jerking it out. He stumbled backward as the demon clutched at its wound, trying to stop the flow of blood. Not that it would do any good. That blow was fatal. It was just a question of how long it would take the demon to bleed out and whether Logan would survive until it did.
It thrashed around, spraying blood across the floor in a black arc. One giant fist lashed out at Logan, knocking him back into a wall. Pain radiated out from his spine, but at least now he was out of the way of more blows.
The demon’s eyes flared bright green as they fixed on him. He saw a streak of movement, heard a battle cry. A woman ran across the floor, wielding a pipe like a sword.
Logan screamed for her to stop, but he was weak and out of breath. All he managed to get out was a growl of warning too low to reach her.
She slammed the pipe into the demon’s leg. It roared in anger and turned around to face the new threat.
She hit it again and jumped back out of its reach. It took an awkward step toward her and slipped on its own blood. It toppled to the ground, nearly crushing the woman beneath it. She got out of the way just in time, backing up until she hit a large wooden crate.
Black blood pooled under the demon. Its tongue swept out to lap up its own blood in a vain attempt to heal itself. But it was too late for that. It was bleeding too fast.
Finally, with a last shuddering breath, the demon died.
There wasn’t time to revel in the kill or celebrate their victory. Logan staggered away to where Steve had landed, so he could rid the man of poison. He’d just made it to Steve’s side when his legs simply gave out.
The longer he waited to finish this, the more likely it was that the scent of his blood would draw other Synestryn to him.
Steve, his family, and the mystery woman needed to be long gone before that happened.
Logan closed his eyes and concentrated on manufacturing an antidote to the poison within his veins. It was slow, and every bit of energy he used had to be dragged out of the deepest recesses of his body. Each spark of power slowed his heart. His breathing became shallow, and he was so cold that his breath no longer misted in the frigid air.
By the time he was finished, he was blind, shivering uncontrollably, and could barely move. Even his own head was too heavy to support.
He couldn’t draw the antidote from his veins as he normally would have done. There was no syringe and no time. Instead, he closed his mouth over Steve’s and forced the antidote through his saliva glands and into the human’s mouth.
Moments later, Steve moved. The movement was weak at first, then grew as the man’s strength returned.
“You need blood,” said Steve.
“Not yours. Poison.”
“I’ll find help.” Like a rag doll, he moved where Steve pushed him, too weary to even speak and tell him not to bother. There wasn’t time.
Cold sank into his body — a bone-deep cold he knew would never leave him. His breathing began to falter and his heart’s rhythm stuttered as it slowed.
Pain and cold surrounded him as death came for him. And as Sibyl had said, it was not going to be gentle with Logan. It was going to scrape every last breath from his lungs and wring every last beat from his heart, forcing him to endure every second of pain and cold and hunger. He would find no peace in oblivion.
There was still so much work to do and now he was leaving his brothers to do it all alone. But selfishly, that was not his last thought. His last thought was how much he wished for one single moment of warmth before he died.
Hope stared in shock at the scene that played out before her. One moment that poisoned man had been at death’s door, and the next, he was on his feet, heading straight for Hope. All from a kiss from Logan — a man too beautiful for words.
Logan lay still and pale, his face a work of art even in his suffering. And he was suffering. His aura did not lie. It was the color of bile — of pain and sickness — streaked with the bright red of pain, tainted with black shards of hopelessness.
His face was gaunt, with stark shadows under his cheekbones. Dark hair fell over his wide forehead, highlighting the striking paleness of his skin. Blue tinged his full lips and she fought the urge to warm them with her own.
Hope was still staring in shock as the poisoned man came toward her. His movements were a bit shaky, but purpose filled his every stride. “You have to help him. He needs your blood.”
A spike of fear struck her as she realized she knew nothing about these men or what they wanted. The mention of blood had her mind reeling, going through all the ritualistic killings she’d heard of over the years, the whispers of what might have befallen those who’d gone missing. The things humans would do to one another were sickening.
Hope backed away, but the stranger caught her arm. “Please help him. He’s dying and needs blood. I have to find my wife.”
“I’ll call for an ambulance.”
“I know this is a lot to accept, but look over there.” He pointed to the sagging corpse of the monster. “That thing is real, as are a lot of other things in this world. Right now, you need to accept that fact and save a dying man.”
“I don’t understand.”
The man’s mouth tightened in anxious frustration. “Go to him. Tell him you offer to help him. He’ll do the rest.”
That made no sense. “Stop it,” she said, jerking her arm out of his grasp.
Love brighter than any she’d ever seen coursed through his aura, twining with fear. “I need to find my wife. She’s out there alone, pregnant and scared out of her mind.”
His wife was a lucky woman. Hope had never known a man who loved as deeply as this one did.
He stared down at her, worry twisting his face. “If I could help Logan myself, I would, but I was poisoned. He saved my life. Please. Please save his.”
With that, the man turned and left to find his wife, disappearing through the opening in the metal door in an awkward, hurried sprint.
Hope looked down at Logan. His aura had shrunk. The colors dimmed. He had only a few minutes left to live.
She glanced over at the dead monster. He’d killed it. He’d apparently saved that man from poison somehow.
There were a lot of holes in Hope’s memories — things she would never know about herself. But there was one thing she knew for a fact: People who would willingly sacrifice themselves for another were rare in this world. She could not stand by and do nothing while one of them died.
She fell to her knees beside his body, ripping the gloves from her fingers so she could check for a pulse and make sure he was still breathing.
His leather coat hung open along his front, letting the cold sink into his body. If she didn’t do something, she feared he wouldn’t survive until an ambulance arrived.
Hope stripped out of her coat and covered his torso with it, praying the heat clinging to the quilted fabric would be enough to see him through. Immediately, the frigid air slid through her sweatshirt, its icy fingers stealing away her warmth.
She ignored the chill and jerked a blanket from her bag, sending a stack of sandwiches flying. She tucked that around him as well to keep him warm while help arrived.
With one hand, she pulled her cell phone from her back pocket, while feeling for his pulse with the other hand. It was faint, but there.
“Hold on,” she whispered to the stranger. “Help is on the way.”
She’d just dialed 9 when the man’s eyes fluttered open. They were a pale, silvery gray — so light that they seemed to almost glow in the darkness. She’d never seen eyes like his before. The color was mesmerizing, luring her to stare and keep staring.
Hope was sucked in by his gaze for a moment before she remembered what she was doing. “You need to hold on. I’m calling for an ambulance now. I’m going to help you.”
She moved to finish dialing. The phone was knocked from her hand and went flying across the concrete.
He’d moved so fast she hadn’t seen his hand strike out until it was too late. Shock streaked through her, and by the time she’d processed what he’d done, he’d grabbed a fistful of her hair and jerked her head to the side.
His gaze fixed on her throat, and she was sure she saw light spilling from them.
Fear cut off her scream. Her body seized up. All she could do was stare at him and wait for him to release her.
“I’m sorry,” he growled, letting out a rough, animal sound.
He became a blur of movement and enveloped her body in a crushing hug. He smelled of snow and desperation. His aura changed, pulsing with surges of bright blue victory. She felt the chill of his lips, then a sharp pain stabbed her neck. A moment later, a heavy, languid feeling fell over her, pinning her in place.
She couldn’t move. She couldn’t fight. And somewhere, a whispering presence in her mind told her she didn’t even want to try.
As his grip on her tightened and the ravenous tugging at her throat intensified, Hope just let go and drifted within his grasp.
He grew warmer. Or maybe she was getting colder. She couldn’t tell.
Pain that had been with her only moments ago turned to pleasure. Her body swelled with it, expanding with light and color. Tingling waves of warmth shivered through her limbs and pooled in her belly. A giggle bubbled within her, but she was too weak to let it out.
That pleasure grew until even the memory of pain was distant and inconsequential. All that mattered was drifting inside this cushion of comfort and purpose.
Whoever he was, whatever he was doing to her, Hope knew in her soul that he’d awakened something within her that would never again be lulled to sleep.
Power roared in the woman’s blood, stronger than any he’d ever tasted. Including the blood of the powerful Theronai Helen. Logan drank it down as survival instincts took over. He was heedless of his prey, gripping her tight so she couldn’t fight or flee.
He needed her, and he wasn’t going to let her go.
Weakness fell away as power seethed inside him, stretching his cells. Her blood was rich, more pure than any he’d ever tasted. He couldn’t get enough. Each sucking gulp filled him more, driving away the pain of hunger and biting cold.
Warmth suffused him, making him giddy with relief. His cock stirred for the first time in centuries, shocking him. But even that shock could not penetrate the joyous feeling of no longer being hungry.
Her heart fluttered, struggling to pump blood that was not there. Her breathing faltered, and her hands fell limp at her sides. A quiet sound of pleasure spilled from her mouth.
It was that sound that saved her life.
Logan finally overcame the drunken high her blood gave him enough to realize he was killing her.
Anger at his carelessness swept through him as he willed the puncture wounds on her neck to close and ripped his mouth away from her skin. She lay limp and helpless in his grasp. Too pale. Too weak.
Her honey-colored hair splayed across the sleeve of his black coat. Her eyes slid open, and in them he saw betrayal.
Logan didn’t understand why she’d look at him that way until he realized what she’d tried to do here tonight. She wore no coat against the cold, but there was one her size draped over his lap. A blanket lay crumpled between them. Individually wrapped sandwiches sat a few feet away, discarded on the floor.
He suddenly remembered her words, her sweet voice reassuring him that an ambulance was on the way.
She’d come to him, offering help, and he’d nearly killed her.
Guilt bore down on Logan, driving away the intoxicating haze of finally being full after so many years of hunger. Only seconds had passed, but even those had pushed her closer to death.
She needed fluids. Human blood. He didn’t dare risk giving her his own for fear the shock to her system would kill her, or that some trace of poison lingered there. And even if his blood didn’t kill her, he couldn’t risk leaving her drugged by the narcotic effects his blood could cause.
She needed her memories of tonight purged so they could not draw Synestryn to her, but she was too weak for that. He’d have to find her later, after the humans had restored her health. After he had checked and made sure that Steve, Pam and their child were safe.
Logan gathered up her body and rose to his feet. Muscles that had been withered for decades flexed, strong and solid in his limbs. The leather of his coat creaked against the stretch of his biceps. He reveled in that power — in feeling whole and strong, as he was meant to be.
There was a hospital not far from here. He ran toward it, his body gliding smoothly over the frozen ground. Buildings blurred past him as he moved. Wind tore at his face, but could not penetrate the warmth she’d given him.
Buoyant elation rose inside him, celebrating his survival. The woman in his arms was responsible for that, and he was not going to let her gift cause her death.
Logan would save her, and then when he did, he was going to find a way to repay her. He’d see to it that she was protected and cared for for the rest of her life.
The fact that she was heavily blooded, and therefore a perfect candidate for Project Lullaby was only going to make that easier.
Logan cleared the emergency room doors and spotted the nurse behind the desk. She was young and plump, with a harried expression on her face and a name tag that read barb. In one single instant, Barb’s gaze moved over Logan’s rescuer and dismissed her as unimportant. Beneath her notice.
“What drugs is she on?” asked the nurse as Logan approached.
Annoyance rose to the surface, tightening Logan’s mouth. He refused to waste time arguing with Barb. Instead, he stared into her eyes and grabbed a hold of her mind.
Her face went slack and she swayed on her feet for a moment. Logan stilled her thoughts of disdain for Hope and replaced them with something else. He wove within her mind a series of emotional responses to events that never happened, implanting fleeting memories of Barb and Hope laughing and crying together. He borrowed from thoughts of Barb’s sister, and connected them to Hope, creating a temporary, artificial connection.
“You love this woman like a sister, don’t you?” asked Logan.
Pain creased Barb’s face and tears filled her eyes as Logan let go of her mind. “Oh God. What happened to her?”
Logan filled his voice with compulsion, refusing to leave Hope’s care to chance. “She needs a blood transfusion. Fluids. Immediately. Move!”
“Get a gurney!” shouted Barb.
Behind the desk, people scurried to obey.
Logan laid the woman on the clean white sheets. In the bright fluorescent lighting, he could see how beautiful she was. Her features were elegant, with high arching eyebrows and smooth, flawless skin. Her bone structure was model perfect, exquisite in its symmetry. Even now, with death hovering nearby, she had a regal beauty few humans possessed.
It was going to be a long time before he stopped seeing her face every time he closed his eyes. Even longer before he stopped seeing that look of betrayal shining in her gaze.
Logan turned and left her in the capable hands of her own people.
He’d done what he could. It was time to go and plan her place within Project Lullaby. His brother Tynan would help him decide where she would best belong — where she’d be happiest. They’d decide which man would be strong enough to ensure the continuation of her amazing bloodline.
The thought of putting her into the hands of another man gave him pause, but he assured himself it was only an aftereffect of taking so much of her blood. He felt connected. As if she were now part of him.
And he liked it.
That alone was warning enough for Logan to back away. He couldn’t become personally entangled in the life of a human woman. Their roles were set. Immovable.
She would be paired with a human male who would make her happy — one who would complement the power flowing in her veins, rather than dilute it. They’d bring children into the world who could save Logan’s race from starvation. She was a source of power. Food. It was as simple as that.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
Logan fought the urge to slip back into the emergency room to check on her. The less time he spent with her, the better. He couldn’t grow any more attached than he already was. It was time to hand her off to Tynan and get back to the mystery that had brought him here.
He still had yet to find the address that had been written in blood on his bathroom mirror a few days ago, along with the message You have not been forgotten. You are not alone.
Between the women and children who’d been rescued from the Synestryn, and the deaths of Angus and Gilda, Dabyr had been in an uproar. His presence there had been necessary to help people stay calm and positive. Grief and fear were enemies Project Lullaby could scarcely afford.
Tonight had been his first chance to seek out the address. He’d gotten close, but the frantic call for help from Steve had distracted him. And then the woman had distracted him even more.
It was time for Logan to get back to the job at hand. He needed to find the reason for the mysterious message on his mirror and make sure it posed no threat to his race.
With any luck at all, he’d find a man with the same vibrant power in his blood that Logan’s lovely rescuer possessed. Tynan would pair her up and in a few years, her children would help save his people.
A pang of longing stabbed at him as he left the hospital and went back out into the cold. There were so many things he wanted that could never be. The woman who’d saved him tonight had served only to remind him of the things he could never have.
As he dialed Tynan’s cell phone, he realized that he didn’t even know her name.
And it was best that way.
The flare of power that Krag had felt for a brief instant was gone now. All that was left was a faint ghost of energy fading as the seconds passed. Usually when he felt the presence of a blooded human, it was a gradual thing that grew as they came closer to him.
But not tonight. That flash of power had roared into his senses as if it had been plunked down out of nowhere. And it had vanished just as quickly.
The flash had come from downtown, several miles away. Perhaps a plane had landed and taken off with a blooded passenger aboard. If so, the human was already gone and out of his reach. Time to move on. Unless it happened again.
Krag settled back in his throne, surveying his worshippers. Both human and Synestryn alike, they gathered around him, eager to do his bidding.
Except for one.
“Bring her out,” he ordered, his voice booming off the cement walls of his home.
This defunct manufacturing facility had been easy to convert into a fortress. What few windows there were high in the walls had been blacked out with paint, keeping out the deadly light of the sun. The main space was large, with several smaller rooms that had once been offices. Krag had those converted into his sleeping quarters, leaving room for his women on the floor surrounding his bed.
It was truly too bad that one of those women had defied him so openly. She was pretty. Young. Full of life, her blood more powerful than most.
But like a cancer, she had to be cut out before she could spread her rebellion to the others.
Two burly human men dragged her before him. Her clothing was torn and dirty. Her dyed hair hung in wild tangles around her face. The glaring pink of her shoes seemed to mock him, declaring to all that she held no respect for his position.
Her hands were bound in front of her. No doubt a consequence of the angry red claw marks she’d left on one of the men’s cheeks. She was gagged, but there were no tears in her eyes as he would have hoped. No remorse. Only the glowing anger of her rebellious nature and promised retribution.
He was going to enjoy breaking her.
“Remove the gag,” he ordered.
The men hastened to obey. As soon as the dirty fabric cleared her mouth, she spat on the ground at Krag’s feet.
Her guards shoved her down so hard he could hear her bones hit the concrete.
Krag smiled. “Have you considered my offer?”
“I’d rather fuck a rotting pig corpse than let you touch me.”
Anger flared for an instant before he controlled it. He smoothed his features to regal stillness. “Throw her down below. I’m certain there is at least one rotting pig down there for her amusement.”
She screamed, but it wasn’t a cry of fear. Not this woman. Her scream was of feral outrage. Of angry defiance.
The men picked her up by her arms and hauled her out of his sight. The flooded section below housed some of the less advanced members of his race. They would make quick work of her. And when they were done, he’d mount her skull on the wall as a reminder to the others not to question his authority.
Before her screams faded, Krag beckoned one of the obedient women forward. She shivered in ecstasy at being chosen, as was proper, before crawling to his feet.
He patted his lap, inviting her to jump up like a pampered pet. As soon as he had her settled there, her naked body trembling, he jerked her head to the side and bit deep.
Her blood was weak, but once he’d taken it all, he felt better. Stronger.
Krag shoved her corpse to the floor, then motioned for her to be taken away. Let the lesser Synestryn feast on her flesh and bones. He had no more use for her.
Hope opened her eyes, already knowing that Logan was gone. She couldn’t feel his presence or that consuming pleasure he’d given her.
Fear wove through her for a moment, but she wasn’t sure if it was fear of the man, or fear caused by the fact she knew he was gone.
A plump, dark-haired nurse hovered over Hope. She couldn’t remember the woman, but the way she was looking at Hope with tears in her eyes made her wonder if she shouldn’t.
“You’re awake. How are you feeling?”
Hope blinked a few times to make sure that blurry vision wasn’t making her see concern that wasn’t real. “Do I know you?”
“I’m Barb,” she said, her tone of expectation telling Hope she should know the woman.
Was her memory getting worse? Was she losing more chunks of time? Hope pushed herself up in a panic and looked around, hoping it would clear her head.
She was surrounded by a striped curtain. Beyond that curtain, she could hear voices and the low moans of a man in pain. Disinfectant laced the stale air. A machine beeped insistently in the background. An IV bag hung above her, feeding fluids into the back of her hand.
A hospital. That’s where she was.
Hope didn’t know how she got here. The last thing she remembered was Logan. He’d grabbed her and…bitten her neck.
Her hand flew to the spot, feeling only smooth, whole skin.
“What is it, honey?” asked Barb.
“Do you see anything? Any marks on my neck?”
Barb leaned forward and brushed Hope’s hair away. “It’s a little red. Does it hurt?”
“No.” Her skin tingled, and there was a throbbing warmth, but that was all. “Who brought me in?”
Barb frowned as if trying to remember. “A man. Tall. Dark hair. Do you know him?”
That description could be almost anyone. Or it could have been Logan. Either way the answer was the same. “No.”
“The doctor will be in to see you soon. We couldn’t find any injuries. Do you know what happened?”
Hope shook her head. What she thought had happened couldn’t have. It wasn’t possible. Either the stranger had bitten her and left marks, or he hadn’t bitten her at all. Those were the only options.
A wave of dizziness slid over her, and she shut her eyes to let it pass.
The smells of the hospital assaulted her nose, dragging from her memories of the last time she’d been here — the night Sister Olive had found her in the empty Tyler building and brought her here, insisting she get checked out. Hope had no injuries then, either. Nothing that explained her amnesia. She hadn’t known her name or how old she was. Hope still didn’t know. No one had claimed her. The only thing that had been in her possession was a wooden amulet clutched in her fist. The name Hope Serrien was burned into it.
She didn’t even know if that was her real name.
That had been a decade ago and Hope still had no answers. All she had was a nagging sense of duty — that there was some vital task only she could complete. Every day that went by that didn’t reveal her task left her feeling more restless and defeated.
There was something inside her — some forgotten knowledge she could almost put her finger on. It was there, evading her grasp, but she knew it was there. When Logan had been holding her, she’d almost been able to remember why she was here.
“I need to go,” said Hope.
Barb shook her head. “Not until we know what happened. It’s not safe.”
Hope had to find him. She had to find Logan and figure out what he knew. Maybe he knew who she was. What she was.
“I’m leaving. Bring me whatever paperwork you need me to sign, but do it fast. I won’t wait.”
Whoever Logan was, Hope didn’t want him to get far. She was going to find him. And then she was going to force him to give her the answers she needed. One way or another.
Logan met Steve and Pam in their apartment. They were fine. All three of them. Logan called Joseph — the leader of the Theronai — and asked him to send someone to guard them so they could rest. He then did what he could to remove the memory of tonight from their minds. He didn’t want them to worry — didn’t want the memory to draw more demons to them.
Tomorrow the couple would go to Dabyr, where they’d be safe. After tonight’s attack, living in the city was no longer an option for them. If Logan hadn’t been so close, if the GPS gadget on his cell phone hadn’t made it possible for Steve’s call to go to the closest Sentinel — namely Logan — things would have turned out very different tonight. It served only to display just how fragile their progress truly was.
As Logan got back in his van, the blond woman’s face danced in his head. It was strange to no longer feel weak and hungry. Even walking inside Steve’s formidable mind had been easy. There was no effort. No strain.
The power in that woman’s blood was amazing. Too bad Logan knew he had to share.
Out of habit, he turned on the engine to get some heat before he realized he wasn’t cold. Still.
Normally, the flush of feeding would have faded by now, leaving him chilled to the bone. For some reason, this time was different.
Logan dialed Tynan’s cell phone. “We need to meet.”
“I have blood to share.”
“A new source?” The weariness in Tynan’s voice worried Logan.
“Yes. A young woman. Her blood is strong. It’s possible she may even be a Theronai.”
“Are you sure?”
“No. Her blood is different from theirs — unlike any I’ve had before.”
“We’ll need to find her a suitable mate as soon as possible. Is she currently attached to a male?”
Logan hadn’t even considered that possibility, but as soon as he did, anger stirred inside him. “I don’t know.”
“Find out. If she is, find out if her mate is suitably blooded.”
“And if not?” asked Logan.
“Remove him from her life.”
Her face appeared in Logan’s mind, as vivid and clear as if she were sitting next to him. She had a sweet face. Kind, amber eyes the color of autumn sunset. Not only was she lovely, she was obviously caring as well. Why else would she have stayed to help him at great risk to her own life?
“I won’t do that,” said Logan. “I won’t hurt her.”
“We both know she’ll be happier paired with a mate of our choosing.”
“Who’s to say that’s true? It’s not something we can prove, simply something we tell ourselves to relieve the guilt of what we must do.”
Tynan’s voice hardened. “All of our matches are happy ones. We make sure of that.”
“What if we’re wrong, just this one time? I can’t let that happen.”
“Then I’ll send someone who can. Where are you?”
Logan debated not telling him. Only the knowledge that their race couldn’t afford any animosity held his rebellion. “Promise me you’ll be the one to come and see to her. I don’t want to entrust her to anyone else.”
“Why?” asked Tynan, his skepticism clear.
“Her blood is too pure to risk.”
“Are you certain there’s not more to it than that?”
“Like what?” asked Logan.
“Do you have feelings for the woman?”
“Of course not. No more than is reasonable.”
“You can’t become involved with her,” said Tynan. “None of us can. If she’s human, we need her to breed. If she’s Theronai, she’s off limits.”
“I do not need you to tell me the facts.”
“You’re not detached enough. Without detachment our goals will become confused.”
Anger made Logan’s voice sharp. “I’m perfectly clear about our goals.”
“And what might those be, Logan?”
“The same as yours. Survival of our race. We’ll pair her with an acceptable mate and all will be well.”
“If she’s human, do you want to bed her first? Get her out of your system? That can be arranged.”
Said in such a cold, clinical tone, the idea made Logan sneer. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I don’t.”
“As you wish. I’ll come, sample her blood myself as soon as I can get away, and we’ll see her happily settled.”
Do you want to bed her first?
The question haunted Logan, putting into his head a possibility that should not exist. He hadn’t wanted a woman in centuries. He’d been too hungry, too weak for his body to respond in any sexual way. Until tonight.
He wasn’t weak now. Thanks to her blood, there was a stirring of something he’d thought long dead — an interest that went beyond survival. Holding her, feeding from her, had aroused him. Made him hard.
He wanted her. There was no denying it, but that didn’t mean he’d act on that desire.
“Come soon,” said Logan. “I don’t know how long they’ll keep her at the hospital. She was too weak for me to remove her memories, so that must still be done.”
“You won’t lose her. Her blood is yours now.”
Which meant he’d be able to find her if he chose to do so. Always.
Already the temptation to do just that was something he had to actively resist. “I have one quick errand to run, and then I’ll be off. I can’t stay and help you.”
“You mean you won’t stay,” said Tynan.
“As you say.”
Logan hung up the phone and drove toward the address that had been written in blood on his bathroom mirror. As he passed through the frozen streets, his mind filled with thoughts of what might await him. Would it be a home filled with people who could feed his race? The location of a gateway into Athanasia they could access? Even a group of humans willing to help them without all the coercion and lies would have been a welcome sight.
When he pulled up in front of the run-down building where he’d fought earlier tonight, and read the address, his excitement died.
This place, this Tyler building, did not house the savior of his race. It was simply an empty structure, void of hope. Worse yet, it was entirely possible that it had been a trap — that the creature he’d fought tonight had been sent here to wait for his arrival and had caught Steve’s and Pam’s scent as they’d passed by earlier.
Logan’s throat burned with anger as he stared at the run-down building. Power raged inside him, tempting him to raze the thing to the ground.
He could do it. He had enough strength now.
But if he did, he’d waste all the power she’d given him. He couldn’t do that, no matter how angry he became. Self-control was as vital to his people’s survival as blood. All the Sanguinar knew that, and those that didn’t had died. Or been killed.
Logan wasn’t always proud of the choices he’d had to make over the years, but he was still standing, as were many of his kind. Without those unpleasant choices, the Sanguinar would have been long extinct. And if that happened, it would be only a matter of time before the Theronai and Slayers fell as well, and the human race was left with no protectors.
The ends justified the means. It had to. After all the things Logan had done, it simply had to.