“Ruhn, please don’t—”

“So where am I going?”

“You are not lesser than, Ruhn.”

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“Oh, I’m worse. I’m a straight-up killer. None of those males wanted to be there any more than I did. They were all conscripted, too, working off debts. They were not killers, not any more than I was—at least not when I first arrived there. But I am a walking trophy to what I turned into. I have blood on my hands, Saxton. I am a murderer.”

The male walked over to the archway. “So tell me, where am I dropping off the—”

“You’re not a murderer.”

Ruhn’s head lowered in defeat. “That’s an emotional declaration, not a legal one, and you know it.”

“Ruhn, you—”

“Look, I don’t like to talk about all of this.” Ruhn’s eyes skipped around the kitchen. “I sweep it under the rug during the waking hours and I pray during my sleep that I won’t remember my dreams. The only time I ever discussed it before now was when the Brothers looked into my background because of Bitty—and even then, I didn’t…well, it doesn’t matter. I guess I’m telling you all this because I feel like you deserve the honesty. There was something happening between us, and it was on both sides. But see, I know who you are, and you don’t…well, unless you know the truth, you don’t really know me. And that look in your eyes? The wariness, the suspicion, it tells me I did the right thing.”

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“I can trust you.”

“You don’t have to.” Ruhn touched over his heart. “One thing that I have learned after all these years working for the glymera is that the poor have only their dignity and pride to offer the world. My father taught me that. And I cannot have my dignity if I lie to someone I’m falling in love with.”

Saxton’s breath caught in his chest.

But before he could respond, Ruhn shook his head and turned away. “You know, I actually think it’s best that someone else make that trip into town. I’ve got to go.”

“Ruhn—”

The male stopped, and did not look back. “Please, just let me go. Just…let me leave.”

Every instinct in Saxton’s body told him to stop Ruhn from going.

But it wasn’t up to him.

A moment later, the front door of the farmhouse shut quietly, and Saxton fell into the chair Ruhn had been sitting in. The coffee was still warm in his mug.

That did not last, however.

“I know you want to fuck me.”

Peyton looked up as the human woman addressed him, and it took him a couple of seconds to focus on her—then again, Ice Blue, the club he usually hit, was hoppin’, the music was loud, and he’d done half a dozen bong hits before he started drinking.

Oh, and then you had the blue lasers spearing through the smoky air and the fact that he hadn’t slept properly for a day or two.

“Did you hear what I said?” she purred.

She was dressed in a skintight white latex dress that was cut low to show off her spectacular breasts and hemmed high to give plenty of leg. The shoes were strappy and tilted her delicate feet so far forward, it was like she was en pointe, and her hair was dark and flowing in curls around her shoulders and her lower back.

In the VIP section, she was hands down, going away, the trophy of the night, the most erotic, beautiful thing there was, and she wanted him. Why? It was not his scintillating conversation—they hadn’t said anything more than a quick hi-how’re-ya. Hell, he didn’t know his name—

Her name. He didn’t know her name.

No, it was his suit-and-tie. His ostrich shoes. The fact that he and his crew had come in the back where they didn’t have to worry about getting said shoes ruined by the snow or being inconvenienced by the wait line. It was also the bottle service here in this private banquet, and the way security deferred to him, and the hundys he flashed around as drinks were brought over. He was an apex spender and she was prepared to use her physical assets to get on the money train.

And hey, he was wearing white, too, so it was, like, totally, predestined.

“Let’s take a selfie,” she said as she straddled his legs and took her phone out of a bag that was only big enough for an iPhone. The small-sized one, not the big-as-a-Pop-Tart variety.

“No.” He put his palm out. “No pictures.”

She giggled and put the phone away. “You telling me you’re famous? I don’t recognize you.”

With practiced ease, she took his hand and guided it to her hip. “I’m up from Manhattan. I’m doing a photo shoot down by the river tomorrow. I hate the cold. I wish I were in Miami.”

At that, she pushed her hair out of the way in a very calculated, Oh, I’m soooo dissatisfied by my glamorous lot in life—and b.t.dub, my hair is just such a buuuuurden.

It was the mating call of the female club rat.

And usually, he’d start strategizing about dark corners and blow jobs at this point. For some reason, though, all he could think of was…If you’d rather be in Miami, hop a plane, and you paid for those damn extensions. If you don’t want the shit covering your tits, pull it back in a rubber band, for godsakes.

As she started talking at him again, he was very aware that this whole out-to-the-club thing was not following his playbook. Glancing over to his boys, he saw three other vampires dressed out of the same men’s section of Neiman Marcus, the trio like variations on a set of cocktail coasters: The suits might have been different shades of blue or gray, but the cut was the same with skinny legs and thin lapels, and the shirts under those fitted jackets were subtly patterned in similar fashions. The watches were not Rolex, nope, too cheap. They were Audemars Piguet or Hublot. And in their breast pockets, they were packing coke and X. Oh, and there was a driver waiting in the back alley when they were through looking good while they polluted themselves. No Uber. Ever.

And this little hors d’oeuvre in the white shrink-wrap would know all that.

She also came with her own crew, her three friends the saltshakers to his buddies’ pepper mills.

So yes, everyone had gotten the memo.

With no real interest, he squeezed her waist to test whether it was Spanx or dieting that had created that tight curve—and it was both, going by the whalebones of the corset she had on. She was too thin, he decided.

He liked Novo’s build better. It was power. Strength. Solidity.

Man, this was so not happening for him. He was the plug out of the socket, his lounging sprawl for the first time because of boredom rather than entitled languor.

With a lithe shift, the girl stood up off him, extended her arms over her head, and did a slow turn that presented him with her ass. Looking over her shoulder, her plump lips kept moving like she was saying something, but she might as well have been lecturing him on astrophysics.

One of his buddies leaned into him. “You always get the good ones. But I’m coming up high and tight behind you.”

As if to prove the point, the male spun the girl who was coming on to him around as if he were parking an R8 next to a 911 and comparing the rear spoilers of the two sports cars.

Peyton looked away—only to get one of those blue lasers right in his eyeball.

For some reason, probably because the flash of light gave him a headache, he thought of his father. His sire had thrown a spectacular fit the minute Peyton had walked into the mansion, complete with all kinds of you-are-a-disgrace fireworks. And as with this club scene, he had just sat back, removed from the show even as his body was right in it.

He’d thrown the guy a couple of bones to appease him, and then it had been upstairs to shower and dress. Three phone calls later had brought him right here.

He had done this how many nights?

Too many to count—

His lady friend lowered that ass right onto his Gucci belt—wasn’t there a rap about this?—and started working it.

She was very aroused. He could tell by her scent.

Placing his hands on her hips, he closed his eyes and tried to get into it.

Saxton sat in Minnie’s kitchen with that coffee for a while, listening to the porch door’s whistle from its loose weather stripping. What he really wanted to do was talk to someone, but the only person that came to mind was Blay, and that would seem too much like he was trying to prove a point about moving on or something.

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