The Haitian’s body stiffened as a fast rigor set in, the way it usually did when a vampire got staked. But wait, this guy wasn’t a vamp. Dane hadn’t caught the vamp scent on him.
But now the scent of death and decay—several days old—hung in the air.
Marie’s head lifted. “You’ll find them inside. Watch over them until dawn. Be ready for the betrayal and the choice, Dane.”
Piers was staring at the woman with the braided hair. Her body had tensed with rigor as well. The woman who’d been walking around seconds ago now looked like a corpse. “Sonofabitch,” Piers whispered. “What was she? A damn zombie?”
Marie didn’t look at Piers. “Remember what I say,” she told Dane. “Screams and pain or sacrifice.”
Hell of a choice.
“And you’re not the only one who’ll make it.” She turned away. Walked slowly down the porch and across the yard. Her attendants—the ones still alive, anyway—followed close behind her.
Dane didn’t speak until the group had cleared the porch.
“What the fuck?” Piers grabbed his arm. “Is Lucas alive or—” His hand jerked toward the dead bodies. “Or is he like these poor bastards?”
Like puppets on a string—with a string that could be cut any moment. Because he’d heard about cases like this, and Piers had been right . . . zombies. Or, as close as reality could come to the zombie nightmare.
Dane sucked in a breath and tasted death. “He’s alive.” Because he had a sick feeling in his gut. One that told him exactly what Marie had done to Lucas.
He crept toward the Haitian’s body. Other than his skin already taking on a chalky appearance, he looked unharmed. How had he died? How had—
Dane’s eye narrowed on the white scarf around his neck. Both the Haitian and the woman had the scarves. Dane’s fingers lifted and latched onto the soft fabric of the scarf. He tugged lightly . . . shit.
The man’s throat had been ripped open. The scarf had hid the wound, but—ripped open.
“One of ours?” Piers asked from behind him.
Dane’s claws hovered over the wounds. “Shifter . . . can’t say for sure if it was wolf.” But his gut told him it was. He glanced up at Piers. “If a wolf killed her man, why would she—”
“You sure she saved him?” Piers charged for the door. Dane expected him to slam into that invisible wall again, but Piers ran right inside. Dane followed him, rushing forward. His shoes brushed against the loose dirt near the door. The line he’d noticed before. But now, a huge chunk of that dirt had been cleared away. Like a path had been opened.
The hair on his nape rose but Dane kept going. Lucas was in there, and he’d damn well better not be the living dead.
“Here!” Piers’s shout had him turning to the left. The candles were sputtering out, but his shifter vision let him see clearly. He hurried down the hallway, darted into the room, and saw them on the table.
Blood pooled beneath them. Lucas was on the table, Sarah on top of him. Her hair covered his face, and her arms hung limply, her fingertips nearly brushing that pool of blood.
They looked dead but he could hear—
Their hearts. Beating in near perfect time with each other.
He has a weakness.
“Let’s get them out of here,” Piers muttered. “This place, man, it’s creeping me out.”
Dane hurried forward and reached for Sarah. He pulled her up against him, and her head sagged forward. The woman was out. Lucas was in no better shape. His eyes didn’t open when Piers shook him. His slow breathing didn’t change. But the gaping wounds on his stomach appeared smaller.
Piers inhaled. “You smell that?” He looked down at the bloody floor. “Silver.”
No mistaking that metallic scent. “Looks like Marie got it out of him.” The relief was obvious in his voice. He hefted Sarah higher against his chest. They needed to leave. Marie had said Lucas and Sarah would be weak until dawn.
Piers wrapped one of Lucas’s arms around his neck and lifted the alpha.
“I can . . . walk . . .” Lucas’s faint growl, but he didn’t open his eyes.
Piers froze. “Alpha, you back?”
A grim nod. His eyes were still closed.
“Damn man!” Piers burst out. “You scared the hell out of us! We thought you were dead when that silver got—”
“I was.” His eyes opened now, faded blue. For an instant, his eyes looked just like Marie’s. Then he blinked and the color deepened a bit. Became more like Lucas.
Piers’s eyes widened. “You . . . what?”
“Ask me . . . about it . . . another time . . .” His eyelids began to sag. “Now let’s get . . . out . . .”
That sounded like one fine plan to Dane. He tightened his hold on Sarah—her eyes were still closed, her heart still drumming slowly—and hurried out of that dark room. When they hit the porch, the two bodies were gone, as if they’d never been there.
The night was quiet. Too quiet. They climbed into the van. Lucas looked pale, but he was with them, dammit. And as soon as the alpha got settled into the back of the van, Lucas reached for Sarah.
“What are we going to do with her?” Piers wanted to know.
Dane gunned the engine.
“Keep her.” Lucas’s quiet response. Dane glanced in the mirror and saw Lucas gently brushing back Sarah’s hair. The alpha? Gentle? What. The. Hell.
“But we can’t trust her. After tonight, after what happened . . .” Piers heaved out a breath. “Man, I’ve got to tell you what she—”
“Later . . . Everything . . . later.”
Piers’s teeth snapped together but he gave a fast nod. A nod Lucas didn’t see. The alpha’s eyes had closed again.
Dane shoved the gas pedal down to the floor as he raced away from the mambo’s house. He didn’t think they’d be followed by Marie’s men, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
They’d have to watch out for the mambo until she collected her pound of flesh. Spells never came cheap. He knew. He’d sure bled for plenty over the years.
“Caleb.” Lucas’s voice rasped and Dane realized the alpha wasn’t out completely, not yet.
Dane’s gaze met Piers’s in the rearview mirror.
“He’s . . . dead,” Lucas said.
Maybe. “We don’t know for sure what happened to him. Our priority was gettin’ you out, we didn’t—”
“No.” Said with more heat. “To us, dead. If you see him . . . again . . .”
Caleb. A man who’d been like a brother to him for ten years. A wolf who’d attacked their alpha with fangs and claws.
Dane’s fingers squeezed the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles turned white.
“Send someone . . . back for his body . . .” The alpha’s breath heaved out. “If he . . . lives . . . I want him brought to the pack.” A growl built in his throat. “Trial by pack.”
Oh, shit. That meant a fight to the death.
How the hell had this happened? Dane’s jaw locked. All these years, and he’d never known a traitor stood right next to him.
Sarah awoke to the feel of rough fingertips sliding down her arm. She gasped, jerked, and a hand closed over her wrist. A light pain hit her at the touch—the flesh sensitive—and her eyes flew open.
She found herself staring into intense blue eyes. Lucas.
Sarah didn’t realize she’d murmured his name until his lips kicked up in a faint smile. The light of dawn surrounded him. “Not dead yet, babe.”
And she was so very grateful for that fact.
His fingers slid over the inside of her wrist. Her breath hissed out.
His gaze dropped to the jagged wound, a wound that had healed so much. Too much. “What happened?”
She sat up, and when the cold air hit her chest, she realized she was naked. Sarah snatched up the sheet with her right hand, feeling vulnerable. Nervous. Time for him to know everything. “I-I made a trade with a voodoo priestess.”
He didn’t blink. “What did you trade?”
Everything. “I don’t really know . . . Marie will—”
“How’d you know to visit Marie Dusean?” he asked, his thumb still caressing her flesh.
Sarah bit her lip. “I didn’t know—we just needed magic. It was the only thing that would save you. Piers—he knew how to find her.”
“You were dying! There wasn’t a choice.” Her gaze dropped to his stomach. He was fully healed. The only sign of his ordeal was a raised line on his stomach. Shifter healing, got to love it. “The silver was destroying you.”
“No, it was burning me. Fucking burning me alive.” His fingers fell away. “You don’t know what you’ve done, do you?”
Saved your ass.
“If Marie cut you, she used your blood in a spell. She did something to you, Sarah.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what. I can’t remember a damn thing, but she’s got power over you now. Power over you and power over me.” His eyes narrowed. “Marie is a very dangerous woman.”
“She’s also the woman who saved your life.” The sheet seemed cool against her flesh. Lucas’s touch had been red-hot. “When she calls me, I’ll pay my debt.”
“No matter what? Marie’s a woman used to the shadows. Life and death . . .” A rough laugh broke from him. “They don’t always have meaning for her.”
She stared at him. Bright eyes. Strong body. Alive. “They do for me.”
The mattress dipped beneath his weight as he closed in on her. His hands came down on either side of Sarah, caging her. “You’ve been keeping secrets, sweet Sarah.”
Oh, crap, this was it. “Lucas . . .”
His lips brushed hers, stealing her breath. She wanted to press into him. To take his mouth, to take the pleasure.
But he’d already pulled away. “How many lies have you told me?”
The warmth chased from her skin. “I’ve told you the truth about myself. I’m a charmer, just like I said, I’m—”
“Fuck.” Bit off. His eyes glittered at her. “Right now I don’t give a shit what you are or who you work for.” His hands caught her shoulders. “I should . . . but now, I just want you.” Then his mouth took hers, hard and deep, the way she’d wanted.
Sarah gasped into his mouth, her heart thundering. Her tongue met his and the need, that reckless want built in her. A fierce desire to match his.
They were both already naked. The sheet was a thin barrier, one that he yanked out of the way, then his hot flesh was on hers. Strong, muscled. She wanted to touch him, wanted to make certain he was alive and safe—
But he pushed her back, easing her down onto the mattress. His mouth tore from hers and he licked his way down her throat.
He’d almost died.
He bit her collarbone. A light nip. “That bastard was gunning for us both.” His tongue caressed her wound. His hands traced down her body. Lucas’s fingers cupped her breasts, made the nipples ache for his touch. His tongue.
“The last thing I saw . . .” Now his mouth was near her breast, and his breath feathered over the sensitive flesh. “Was you.”
Her hands caught his shoulders. Her nails dug into the skin. “You were leaving me.” The accusation slipped from her.
He pushed her legs apart. Settled his hips against her. “No damn chance.”
He took her breast into his mouth. Sucked and licked and the need heated her blood.
“You . . . ah, Lucas!” She was wet for him, already. And he was hard for her. The length of his cock pushed against her sex, not entering her, not yet. “You . . . scared me.” An admission that cost her, but the words were true. When he’d been slipping away, she’d been terrified. Not because her protector was gone. Not because she’d have to face Rafe alone. But because I was losing Lucas.
He pressed a hot kiss to the curve of her belly. “I heard you.” He glanced up at her, his dark hair tousled, lines of lust etched on his face. Lust and . . . fury? “I heard you calling me in hell.”
His fingers curled over her thighs. “Don’t worry. I’m not leaving you.”
Then he put his mouth on her sex. His tongue brushed over her folds, tasted her, then drove deep. Sarah’s body jolted as pleasure flooded through her. His thumb pressed on her clit, thrumming the nub, and she buried her fingers in his thick hair. “Lucas!”
He didn’t ease up. Just kept taking and stroking and—oh, damn his tongue—she came against his mouth.
He licked her while she came. Then he rose above her. His eyes watched her every move.
One thrust sent him balls-deep into her. The ripples from her climax still shivered through her and her sex squeezed him.
Then he withdrew. Drove deep. She wrapped her legs around him and let her nails sink into his skin.
Her hips arched toward him. Faster, faster. Harder. His gaze burned into hers. Strength and fury. Life. Not the cold whisper of death she’d felt in the dark hours of night.
The climax hit her, stealing her breath, and Sarah opened her mouth to scream. Lucas kissed her, thrusting his tongue into her mouth just as he plunged into her body. He erupted inside of her, his body shuddering against hers. She held him as tight as she could with arms, hands, and legs, not wanting to let him go. Not wanting the pleasure to end.
The rasps of their breath filled the air. His heartbeat drummed against her, and the beat as fast and wild as her own. After a moment, his head lifted slowly, and he stared down at her with a gaze she couldn’t read.