Authors: D. B. Reynolds
Jealousy curled in her belly again, much to her disgust. Was she so insecure that she couldn’t let Raphael love anyone but her? How ridiculous.
“Lucas could have called,” Jared murmured, “but with this war, he needed to see for himself that Raphael was uninjured.”
“What does the war have to do with it?”
Jared lifted one shoulder dismissively. “Lucas is very powerful, but the war has him riding the fine edge of violence right now. And he’s monitoring a thousand things all at once. When whoever it was tried to kill Raphael this morning, Lucas would have felt it like a knife in his heart. And since he was physically so close—his ranch is just over six hundred miles from here, a short flight by private jet—a phone conversation wouldn’t do the trick. He needed to come here and see for himself.”
“I don’t understand. I know Raphael’s linked to his people, but Lucas has his own territory and people. He wouldn’t be linked to Raphael the way the others are.”
“Not the same way, no. And you’re right. Many times the connection between Sire and child weakens once the child goes his own way. There might be a lingering fondness, but nothing more except under extreme circumstances. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and especially not when powerful vampires are involved. Lucas rules his own territory, but his bond with Raphael is as strong as ever. Loyalty to Raphael runs deep, Cyn, and I speak from personal knowledge on that point.”
? Why didn’t he call at least?”
Jared laughed softly. “Duncan and I were on the phone when it happened. He wouldn’t hang up until I personally laid eyes on Lord Raphael and reported he was uninjured. And by the time I got back to the phone, he was already prepping his jet, just in case.”
Cyn studied Jared silently. She’d been so fixated on
being irreplaceable that, perhaps, she hadn’t given Jared a fair chance. Raphael had said he wouldn’t accept Jared as his lieutenant if Cyn objected, but what right did she have to object? So what if he wasn’t
? Nobody was, and Raphael needed a lieutenant he trusted.
“I know teams went out tonight, looking for the sniper, or at least his location. Did they find anything?” she asked.
“Not much. It’s too dark out there to see much, even for vampire sight. Steve
is sending a team over at first light. I expect them to have more to report.”
Cyn nodded. “I’ll go with them. I’ve seen the valley in daytime and have a pretty good idea of where the shooter was set up.”
Jared sighed. “
told me I wouldn’t be able to keep you away from this. He also said you’re good at it, so, we might as well join forces.”
“Works for me.”
She met his dark gaze directly. “I’ll play nice if you will.”
a flash of white teeth against dark skin. “We both want the same thing, Cyn.”
“I want the head of this assassin on a stick, right alongside the guy who hired him.
How about you?”
Jared laughed then. “
also said you were bloodthirsty.
Warned me not to be fooled by your looks.”
a wise vampire. So, do we have a deal?”
Cyn started to say more, but stopped when Raphael turned toward her and held out a hand.
He never moved from across the room, but his voice whispered in her ear as if he were standing right next to her. She smiled at the sensation. He could as easily have called her name out loud, but this was so much more intimate. She took the few stairs quickly and joined the two vampires, taking Raphael’s proffered hand and letting him pull her against his side.
“My mate,” he said to Lucas. “Cynthia Leighton. And this is Lucas, my Cyn. We were discussing him earlier.”
“Lucas,” she said, offering her hand.
Lucas’s eyes widened appreciatively as his gaze traveled the full length of
body and back up again. She would have been insulted, but she saw the twinkle in his eye and knew the gesture was aimed more at tweaking Raphael than at her. He took her hand and would have pulled her in for a hug, but Cyn remembered Jared’s warning and was ready for the move. She moved one foot back slightly and put all of her weight on it. Lucas, surprised by the sudden resistance, caught her hand, but little else. He could have pulled her into his arms anyway; he was a vampire, after all. But that would have crossed a line into force, and while Cyn understood he was playing a game—with Raphael the intended target—she also knew he wouldn’t push it too far. Raphael might have a special relationship with Lucas, but his forbearance was limited, especially when it came to his mate.
So, Lucas only laughed and settled for taking
hand in a caressing grip, bringing it to his lips for a soft kiss.
The gossip doesn’t do you justice, Cynthia,” he purred, the lilt of his Irish roots understated, but definitely there. “But, then, I’ve heard you prefer to be called ‘Cyn.’”
The way he said her name reminded her of Raphael when they’d first met. He pronounced it with exactly the same sensuous shading, as if they spoke of sin rather than simply saying her nickname. And the sin he had in mind wasn’t exactly missing church on Sunday, either.
She met his smoldering gaze and laughed in amusement. Lucas frowned briefly, but gave her a good-natured grin. “I had to try,” he explained, suddenly all good cheer.
“Gotta keep the old man on his toes.”
“Practice your seduction elsewhere, Lucas.” Raphael spoke lightly, but there was a clear undercurrent of threat, and he tightened his hold on Cyn, moving her subtly away from the other vampire lord.
Lucas bowed gracefully. “My
Sire,” he said, his voice still edged with laughter. Then he straightened, and, as if a switch had been thrown, he was once again a deadly serious and powerful vampire lord. “We need to talk, my lord. I haven’t much time.”
Raphael tipped his head in assent and turned to Cyn. “
he began, but Cyn interrupted him.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.
Super-secret vampire business.
I have business of my own.”
“Cyn,” Raphael said, his forbidding tone making her name a warning.
“Raphael,” she replied, matching his tone mockingly. “Don’t worry so much. I’m in the house, surrounded by security. I’m just going to make a few calls, do some research. Relax.”
Cyn glanced over and noticed Lucas watching their interplay with avid attention, his expression positively gleeful. Cyn scowled at him and reached up to caress Raphael’s face, smoothing away the frown lines on his forehead, then cupping his cheek. “I’ll be good. I promise.”
Raphael caught her hand and rubbed his thumb over the spot Lucas had kissed, as if to rub away the other vampire. But that apparently wasn’t enough, because he also brought her hand to his mouth and left his own lingering kiss in the exact same spot. “I won’t be long,” he murmured, then signaled
All at once the vampires were moving, like a mini-tornado of security, sweeping up the stairs and into the depths of the big house, with Raphael and Lucas at the center of the storm. Cyn watched them go and shook her head. It was ridiculous to have that much security to walk down the corridor, especially inside the house. But vampires had an instinctive need to protect their master, and even though Lucas was a friend, he’d brought his own bodyguards with him, and they were decidedly outsiders.
Which meant Raphael’s team had to respond in kind, and thus, the security overkill.
Fortunately, the vamps didn’t feel that kind of loyalty to her. She made her way down the hall alone, going in the opposite direction the mob had gone. Her mind was on whom she could call, and more importantly, how she could get a few hours on her own tomorrow to do some investigating . . . when she ran flat into a mountain of flesh.
Robbie was grinning down at her, completely relaxed, hands on his hips.
Cyn scowled up at him, wondering where he’d come from.
“I hear we’re going on an adventure tomorrow,” Robbie said, giving her a knowing wink.
“Where’d you hear that?” she asked grudgingly.
and he heard from Jared. You didn’t think you could keep that from Raphael, did you? He knows you better than that. Hell, we
Cyn didn’t like being the topic of conversation in the barracks.
Even though they didn’t actually
But she especially didn’t like it that they were right. Damn them.
“I’m just going to make a few phone calls,” she said grumpily, pushing past Robbie.
“Great! I haven’t had my coffee yet.”
“What makes you think you’re invited?”
Robbie reached around and scooped her up like she weighed nothing, crushing her against him in a hug. He was the only one, other than Raphael, who showed her such easy affection. The only one who
“Because you love me, baby. Admit it.”
Cyn grinned at last.
I’ll give you coffee.” She eyed the former Army Ranger speculatively. “And, come to think of it, you might be able to help me. I need to know about snipers.”
“Yeah,” Robbie said glumly. “I kind of figured that.”
* * * *
Lucas strolled into the conference room ahead of Raphael, yanking his tie open before he’d gotten two feet inside the door.
“I hate these things,” he said, stripping off the tie and shoving it into his pocket. “Don’t know how you manage to wear them all the time.”
“It’s a matter of discipline,” Raphael responded, letting his tone say what his words didn’t. That Lucas was sorely lacking in that department.
Lucas grinned unrepentantly as he dropped into one of the leather chairs. “I’m disciplined when it counts, my lord.”
“A bit more discipline was perhaps called for this evening, Lucas. This visit was indiscreet. When he hears of it,
will have no doubt left as to our association.”
“With respect, my
lord . . . fuck
. The coward doesn’t even have the balls to take you on himself. He hires a damn human to do it, and from a distance at that.”
will now view us as a united front.”
“Good. I hope he chokes on it. Let him think he drove us together with this murderous little stunt of his.”
Raphael leaned back in his chair with a small smile. He didn’t approve of Lucas’s spontaneous visit tonight, but it hadn’t surprised him. Raphael had many vampire children. More than he could easily count, although he could recall each of their names when he needed to, and he never forgot a face. But of all his children, he was particularly fond of Lucas. He always had been. Some might argue it was a weakness, but he would have disagreed. His love for Lucas was no more a weakness than his love for Cyn, and he loved no one on earth as much as his Cyn.
to Lucas, a joy in living, that made him shine just a bit more brightly than those around him. It was what had drawn Raphael to him all those years ago, when Lucas had been nothing more than a mercenary street thief who’d dared to pick the pocket of a master vampire. Raphael had seen something in that filthy young thug. He’d seen a future vampire lord.
And he’d been correct. Lucas was a natural leader. Humans would call it charisma. Raphael called it confidence and courage. Once Lucas made a decision, he acted on it, not caring what others thought. Being forced to wait and do nothing while
marauded along their shared border had stretched Lucas’s patience to the breaking point. And tonight’s assassination attempt had tipped him over that point and beyond. There would be no holding him back. Not after this.
Lucas straightened from his slouch to lean earnestly across the table. “I heard
was injured, and he looked a little stiff out there. He’s okay?”
“His left arm was shattered by the bullet,” Raphael confirmed. “It passed right through him and into the house. Fortunately, no one else was standing in its path, and it lodged in the stone fireplace.”