Triggers didn't have to be on guns to be trouble, Phury thought as he stared at ZeroSum's glass-and-steel facade.

Shit, detox was about the body banging through a shift in chemistry. It didn't do jack dick for the cravings that were in your head. And, sure the wizard was smaller than him, but the bastard still hadn't left. And Phury had the sense it was going to be a long while before the voice did.


With a kick to his own ass, he walked up to the bouncer, who gave him an odd look, but let him in. Inside, he didn't pay any attention to the crowd, which as usual parted to make way for him. He didn't nod at the bouncer standing at the velvet rope in front of the VIP section. He didn't say anything to iAm, who let him into Rehv's office.

"To what do I owe this pleasure," Rehvenge said from behind his desk.

Phury stared at his dealer.

Rehv was wearing a standard-issue black suit about which there was nothing standard. The fit was gorgeous, even though the male was sitting down, and the fabric gleamed under the low lights, a clear indication that there was a bit of silk in the weave. The lapels lay perfectly flat on a powerful chest, and the sleeves showed precisely the right amount of shirt cuff.

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Rehv frowned. "I can feel your emotions from here. You've done something."

Phury had to laugh. "Yeah, you might say that. And I'm on the way to Wrath's now, because I have some serious 'splainin' to do. I came here first, though, because my shellan and I need a place to stay."

Rehvenge's brows shot up over his amethyst eyes. "Shellan ? Wow. Not Chosen anymore?"

"No." Phury cleared his throat. "Look, I know you have houses. Like, multiples. I want to know if I can rent one for a couple of months. I need a lot of rooms. A lot."

"Brotherhood mansion too full?"


"Mmm." Rehv tilted his head to the side, the shaved parts of his mohawk smooth. "Wrath has other places, doesn't he? And I know your brother V does. I've heard he's got a BDSM pad somewhere. Hafta admit I'm surprised you came to me."

"Just figured I'd start with you."

"Mmm." Rehv stood up and relied on his cane as he went over and opened a sliding panel behind his desk. "Nice out fit, by the way. You get it at Victoria's Secret? 'Scuse me for one sec."

As the male went into the bedroom that was revealed, Phury glanced down at himself. No wonder those people had been giving him strange looks. He was wearing his white satin robing from the other side.

Rehv came out a moment later. In his hands, he had a pair of black alligator-skin loafers with telltale bridle bit links.

He dropped the Guccis at Phury's feet. "You might want to slip your bare soles into these. And I'm sorry, I don't have anything you can rent."

Phury took a deep breath. "Okay. Thanks¡ª"

"But you can live in my great camp in the Adirondacks for free. For as long as you want."

Phury blinked. "I can p¡ª"

"If you're about to say you can pay me, fuck you. Like I said, I don't have anything you can rent. Trez can meet you up there, give you the codes. You'll see me right before dawn after the first Tuesday of every month, but other than that you'll have the place to yourselves."

"I don't know what to say."

"Maybe someday you'll return a favor. And we'll just leave it at that."

"My honor is yours."

"And my shoes are yours. Even after you get your own back."

Phury arranged the pair, then slid into them. They fit perfectly. "I'll bring them¡ª"

"Nope. Consider it a mating gift."

"Well... thank you."

"You're welcome. I know you like Gucci¡ª"

"Not for the loafers, actually, although they are fabulous. I meant... for putting me on the no-buy list. I know Z talked to you."

Rehv smiled. "So you're getting clean, huh."

"I'm going to do my best to stop."

"Mmm." That amethyst stare narrowed. "I think you're going to make it, too. You've got that kind of resolve I've seen in the eyes of people who come into my office a lot, and then one night, for whatever reason, they decide never to come again. And that is that. It's good to see."

"Yeah. You're not going to catch me around here anymore."

Rehv's phone went off, and as he checked the caller, he frowned. "Hold up. You might be interested in this. It's the de facto head of the Princeps Council." As he picked up, the male's voice was part impatience, part boredom. "I'm doing all right. You? Yeah. Yeah. Terrible, yeah. No, I'm still in town, call me a stalwart."

Rehv leaned back in his chair and played with his envelope opener, the one that was shaped like a dagger. "Yup. Uh-huh. Right. Yeah, I know, the vacuum in leadership is¡ª Excuse me?" Rehv let the opener fall onto the blotter. "What did you say? Oh, really. Well, what about Marissa? Ah. Indeed. And I'm not surprised..."

Phury had to wonder exactly what kind of bomb had just been dropped.

After a while, Rehv cleared his throat. Then a slow smile spread across his face. "Well, then, considering how you feel... I'd love to. Thank you." He hung up and his eyes lifted. "Guess who the new leahdyre of the Council is?"

Phury felt his mouth fall open. "You can't. How the hell can you¡ª"

"Turns out I'm the oldest surviving member of my line, and there is a rule that females may not serve as leahdyre. As I'm the only male of the Council, guess who's coming to dinner." He eased back in his leather chair. "They need me."

"Holy... crap."

"Yeah, if you live long enough, you can get to see just about anything. Tell your boss it's going to be a pleasure doing business with him."

"I will. I absolutely will. And listen, thank you again for this. For everything." He went over to the door. "You need me, ever, just call."

Rehvenge dipped his head once. "I will, vampire. Sin-eaters always collect on favors."

Phury smiled a little. "The politically correct term is symphath."

As he left the office Rehv's low, slightly evil laughter rolled like thunder.

Phury materialized in front of the Brotherhood mansion and straightened his robe. In his desire to make a good impression, he felt like he didn't live under its roof anymore.

Which he supposed made sense: His head had had a change of address.

It felt awkward as hell to walk up to the house, go into the vestibule, and ring the video screen like a stranger would. Fritz seemed likewise surprised as he opened the door.


"Could you let Wrath know I'm here and that I'd like to talk to him?"

"Of course." The doggen bowed and bounced quickly up the grand stairs.

While he waited, Phury looked around the foyer, thinking of how his brother Darius had built the place... how many years ago?

Wrath appeared at the top of the stairwell, and there was wariness on his face. "Hey."

"Hey." Phury lifted his hand. "Mind if I come up for a few?"


Phury ascended slowly. And the closer he got to his room, the more his skin tingled, because he couldn't help thinking of all the red smoke he'd done there. Part of him wanted some so badly he was nearly wheezing for a draw, and his head began to pound.

Wrath's tone was hard. "Listen, if you came here for your drugs¡ª"

Phury held up his hand and in a hoarse voice said, "Nope. Can we do this in private."


When the study door was shut, he did his best to throw off the cravings and start talking. He wasn't completely sure what came out of his mouth. Primale. Cormia. Scribe Virgin. Future. Chosen. Brothers. Change.



When he finally ran out of gas, he realized Wrath hadn't said a thing.

"So that's where I'm at," Phury tacked on. "I've already addressed the Chosen and told them that I'm going to get us a place over here."

"And where's that going to be?"

"Rehv's great camp upstate."


"Yup. It's safe up there. Secure. Not too busy, not a lot of humans. I can protect the ones who come over here more easily. This whole thing, it's going to have to be gradual. A couple of them are already interested in visiting. Exploring. Learning. Cormia and I are going to help them assimilate to the extent they want. But it's all voluntary. They get to choose."

"And the Scribe Virgin was okay with this?"

"Yeah. She was. Of course, the Brotherhood side of things is up to you."

Wrath shook his head and stood up.

Phury nodded, not blaming the guy for doubting the plan. Phury had said a lot of words. Now he could only hope to prove some with action. "Okay, well, like I said, that's up to¡ª"

Wrath came over and put out his palm. "I'm totally on board. And whatever you need for the Chosen on this side you have. Anything."

Phury could only look at what was being offered. When he took hold of his brother's hand, his voice was rough. "Good... deal."

Wrath smiled. "Anything you need, I'll give you."

"I'm fine right..." Phury frowned and glanced at the king's desk. "Um... can I use your computer for a moment?"

"Absolutely. And when you're done, I'm going to share some good news with you. Well, sort of good news."

"What is it?"

Wrath nodded to the door. "Tohr's back."

Phury's throat seized. "He's alive?"

"Sort of... sort of. But he's home. And we're going to try and keep him that way."

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