Shameless Desire (The Outlawed Realm) (19 page)

BOOK: Shameless Desire (The Outlawed Realm)
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Regina frowned, “What?”

Taking the grocery bag from Gwen, Nikoli handed it to Regina. “Here you go. Everything you need for the mixture.”

In the kitchen, Gwen hovered near Regina, finally taking over once the mixture was complete. “I work with drugs all the time. You don’t, all right? I just want to make certain this is done correctly since I’ll be injecting myself with it.”

“No,” Kuma said, moving closer. “Test it on me.”

Gwen filled another syringe. “Maybe later.”

“Now,” he insisted.

She shook her head.

“Then I’ll do it myself.”

She blocked him with her arm, keeping him from taking one of the syringes. “I don’t want you hurt.”

“And you think I want that for you?”

“I know what I’m doing. Stay back.” She pushed his arm away.

He grabbed her wrist.

“Hey, you’re hurting me.”

“No, I’m not,” he growled.

Gwen twisted her arm, trying to get free. “Dammit, let go.”

Kuma’s face darkened. “No.”

She tried her earlier maneuver, pushing all of her weight into him. This time, it didn’t move the werewolf at all. Gwen growled, “I swear, I’m going to kick you in the balls.”

“Stop it, both of you,” Regina snapped.

They didn’t. Gwen continued to struggle as Kuma refused to release her.

To move this along, Nikoli grabbed a syringe, drove the needle into his arm and depressed the plunger.

“Oh my God,” Regina shouted. “What are you doing?”

He opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t gather enough strength to say the words. Around him, the room blurred. Regina and the others became smudges of color, without definition.

Nikoli’s legs were no longer able to hold his weight. He felt his body sinking to the floor, then stopping before he hit the linoleum, a strong arm suddenly around his torso. Was Kuma holding him? Probably. From what seemed a great distance, Nikoli heard Regina begging him to be all right, not to leave her.

As though he ever could. Hadn’t he proven his devotion repeatedly? Hadn’t he given up his people, his world for her? Didn’t she know…?

His thoughts paused at Regina shouting something Nikoli couldn’t understand. Her words were too fast, his thoughts too sluggish. As though in answer, Gwen said something. Kuma spoke next, far calmer than either woman.

Nikoli tried to vocalize, but moving his mouth wasn’t something he could do. He frowned—or at least he thought he did—at a small pricking sensation on his arm, another injection, similar to that of a bee sting. During the summer, he’d experienced that for the first time and marveled at the pain such a tiny creature could bring. On E2, there were no insects or other pests. Scientists had eliminated them millennia before to make the dimension as perfect as possible. Odd that it also made his realm too sterile, without vibrancy or passion.

“Nikoli,” Regina said, patting his cheeks. “Can you hear me?”

He could, when seconds before he hadn’t been able to distinguish her words. Not only that, he now saw her clearly, his fogginess and lethargy gone. Heat and energy pulsed through him. He knew without question he could run for hours. Pushing to his feet, he shoved Kuma’s arm away. “I’m fine. Better than I’ve ever been.”

“Your face is red,” Regina cried, then shouted at Gwen, “What’s that mean?”

“I’m not sure. Let me check him out.” She placed her fingers on the inside of his wrist where Sazaar had once bit him, wanting to turn Nikoli as the vampire Andris had turned her.

Nikoli pulled his hand away. She grabbed his wrist again. “Don’t move,” she ordered.

“Why? What are you doing?”

She continued to look at the clock on the wall. “Taking your pulse. Be quiet, please.”

Regina edged closer but didn’t say anything. Neither did Kuma.

“Your heart rate’s a bit fast,” Gwen finally said, releasing him, “but that could be your different physiology. You really feel all right?”

Nearly as good as he did after having made love with Regina. “That antidote’s amazing. I want to try it again.”

“Not for the hell of it,” Regina said, putting herself between him and the counter. “We don’t know what the long-term effects will be.” She spoke to Gwen. “What are they?”

“Nothing that I know of.”

“And what you don’t know of?” Regina prodded.

“Even meth takes more than one hit to damage a person’s system. Just keep him away from this unless there’s no other choice except to use it.”

“Is that really necessary?” Nikoli mumbled, surprised he was even asking, amazed he wanted the antidote so badly.

“Yep, it is.” Gwen patted his arm as though she understood what he was going through. “Be grateful it works on your people, with that including Kuma. Now, we’ll see if it works on me.”

Once more, the werewolf stopped Gwen from taking a syringe. “Don’t.”

“I have to.” Her expression went from determined to troubled. “There’s no other choice.”

He softened his tone as she had. “You asked me not to leave, and I didn’t. I’m asking you not to do this or come with me when I hunt for guards.”

Gwen ran her fingers over his jaw, sighing as she did. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do it alone. Let go of me so I can test it.”

“I can’t do that. I won’t.”

“I will,” Regina said.

Nikoli shouted, “Wait.”

Too late. She’d already injected herself with the tranquilizer, reacting as he did, her limbs going slack, her body dropping to the floor.

Nikoli caught her. He yelled at Gwen, “Give me the antidote.”

She knocked a mug off the counter in her haste to get to the liquid. The earthenware shattered on the floor.

“Hurry,” Nikoli shouted.

Gwen cried, “I don’t know how much to get.” She dipped a cup into the mixture and shoved it at him, her hands shaking. “Don’t let her take more than a sip of it.”

Nikoli brought the cup to Regina’s lips, praying that the mixture wouldn’t harm her. Why in the hell had she injected herself? What had she been thinking? Didn’t she know if anything happened to her, he’d die? He’d have no reason to continue living?

“Take just a bit,” he ordered and tipped the cup.

The mixture dribbled over the sides of her mouth, slack from the first drug.

Nikoli shook her. “Swallow.”

At last, she did. The change was instantaneous. Color returned to her face, her muscles tensed. As he had, she pushed to a standing position and made a face.

“What is it?” Nikoli asked.

Gwen edged closer and touched Regina’s arm. “What’s wrong?”

She shivered. “That stuff tastes god-awful. Ewwww.”

“But that’s it?” Gwen asked.

“Yeah.” Regina wiped her mouth off with the back of her hand, then grinned. “I feel great.”

“Awesome…but still, let me check, all right?” Gwen took Regina’s pulse as she had Nikoli’s.

“Is it too fast?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Perfect.” She spoke to Regina, “Are you craving it as Nikoli did?”

He answered before Regina could. “I’m not any longer.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Gwen frowned. “Don’t lie to me. This is important.”

“I know, and I’m not lying.” As quickly as the craving had hit, it was now gone. Had Damir realized the power this mixture had over people and included something in it to counteract the lingering effects? “What about you?” Nikoli asked Regina. “Do you still want it?”

She kept running her tongue over her lips, her expression worsening by the minute. “No way. It tastes too crappy.”

“But it works,” Gwen said. “Whoo!” Clapping her hands, she danced in place. “I have what I need to fight and stop those SOB guards.”

Nodding, Regina went to the sink and scooped water into her mouth.

Kuma said nothing. He didn’t have to. His pissed expression told Nikoli the werewolf was not pleased with Gwen’s continued involvement.

Chapter Thirteen

Gwen slid three antidote-filled vials into her hoodie’s right pocket, along with four syringes for Kuma’s use. She patted her left pocket, comforted by her new container of pepper spray and the device Nikoli had calibrated for her. That was several days ago. Seemed like a lifetime.

Unwilling to dwell on what might or might not happen in the next few hours, she made certain her revolver was secure in her jean’s waistband. If a guard gave her shit despite the antidote and her ability to open a portal, all she had to do was reach behind herself, pull out the weapon and blow the SOB’s head off. Then live with herself for having killed someone, no matter how much he may have deserved it.

She sighed, then shrugged. Had to be done. This was war.

Kuma watched her, arms crossed over his muscular chest, his shoulder propped against her kitchen door, blocking it.

He wasn’t going to make this easy. Well, neither would she. Gwen figured she could always go out the front or escape through numerous windows if need be, because she was doing what she had to this evening. She’d hunt the guards, finding one, perhaps several, and would send them all to hell, otherwise known as E3.

Staci handed Teeko two T-bone steaks for him to eat raw or to cook as he liked. To that, she added a container of sour-cream-and-onion Pringles, for the human side of him. Teeko focused on Kuma and Gwen rather than the food, his expression as wary as Staci’s.

“Guys,” Staci said at last, “you have to quit fighting.”

“We’re not,” Gwen assured. “Kuma’s not even speaking to me. He stopped several days ago even before we got back from Nikoli and Regina’s house. Isn’t that right, babe?”

He muttered, “You should be at the hospital working.”

“I’ve got tons of vacation time saved up. I’ve told you repeatedly, I’m using it. No law against that.”

He bared his teeth. “You’re not going out there again. I won’t allow it.”

Although Gwen enjoyed his macho shit in bed, submitting as they both liked to his raw masculinity, no way would he win this battle. “You don’t get a vote. It’s my life.”

He looked like he wanted to scream. “I can do this alone.” Uncrossing his arms, he went to her. “I don’t need you out there with me.”

“The hell you don’t. I’m the bait, remember?” She gestured to herself. “Put on my tightest jeans. These suckers are so snug I can barely breathe. I wore make-up too.” She batted her lashes and licked her reddened lips.

“I don’t like it,” Kuma growled. “You don’t need it.”

Aw, such a nice thing to say.

“No matter how you try to change yourself, you’re not the type they want,” he continued. “That’s why none of them have shown up these last few days.”

Oh really. She was back to being dog meat again? Gwen didn’t buy it for a minute. “Tell that to the first guard you ripped apart. I was good enough for him even though I’m not girly like Staci.”

“Do you guys want me to do this?” Staci asked.

“No!”

Gwen, Kuma and Teeko had spoken as one.

Staci’s face pinked up. She regarded Teeko from beneath her lashes, her expression all feminine and soft. It was obvious she liked his determination to protect her and had no trouble bowing to his will.

Gwen fought the urge to roll her eyes or fake a gag. “This is all your fault,” she accused Kuma.

Genuine surprise crossed his face. “Mine?”

“Don’t play dumb with me. We’ve gone out four nights now, and nothing’s happened. You think the guards find me that repulsive?”

“What are you talking about?” he growled. “You are not repulsive.”

“Yeah, I know.” She poked his chest with her forefinger. “You can’t get enough of me, right?” She stopped jabbing him in favor of stroking. The muscles in his pecs jumped.

Kuma cleared his throat and glanced down at her fingers trailing down his chest to his jeans’ waistband.

Gwen stroked his fly and cooed, “If you were any harder, you’d be in tears.”

Snickering, Staci bumped Teeko’s shoulder with hers. Color rose to Kuma’s face. He shot a look at his fellow werewolf as though warning him not to smile, and grabbed Gwen’s hand before she reached his balls. “I know a way to fix that.”

“I bet you do.” She pulled her hand from his. “But I have work to do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Think again. Those pricks not showing up is your fault. You’re deliberately keeping us away from them.”

“I didn’t catch their scent. I told you that.”

“You wouldn’t be lying to me now, would you?”

He leaned down to her and growled, “Have you heard of more young women who’ve gone missing? There haven’t been any these last days.”

“That we know about,” she argued. “If the guards snatched a prostitute, the girl’s pimp isn’t going to report her missing to the police, now is he?”

Kuma regarded her, then exchanged a glance with Teeko. The younger werewolf shrugged, clearly not following what Gwen had said.

She rubbed her temple. “A pimp’s a guy who forces a young woman to have sex with men who pay him, the pimp, for—”

“I don’t care what he is.” Kuma rested his hands on her biceps, his touch firm yet gentle, not wanting to harm her. “I’m telling you the truth about the guards. We’ve been lucky not to have run into any of them. It may not last. I don’t want you to do this. You could be injured so badly even my healing powers wouldn’t be able to save you—that is, if they work at all on your kind. You could be killed outright. I couldn’t survive that.”

His pain was so obvious Gwen sagged into him, wishing she could behave as he wanted, but she couldn’t. They’d never be free if she gave up now. Always, they’d be looking over their shoulders, waiting for some prick from E4 to either kill him and her or to snatch more unsuspecting young women.

What did their families think? How hard did they grieve? To lose a child because of illness or an accident was something most parents could barely survive. Not knowing what had happened to a daughter, not even having the girl’s remains had to be the worst thing possible. A never-ending hell where parents were always hoping the next phone call or knock on the door would be her. That she hadn’t really disappeared. She couldn’t possibly be dead.

And what about the young women? What in the hell were they going through on E4 and E5?

Gwen didn’t want to consider something so horrible as being anyone’s sex slave…she needed to stop this insanity. Snuggling closer to Kuma, she touched the numerous hickeys she’d left on his throat, marking him as a teenage girl might have done. “I’ll be fine,” she whispered, “as long as you’re there with me. You’ll see. We’ll pick off those creeps one by one. We’ll get this to end for good.”

BOOK: Shameless Desire (The Outlawed Realm)
5.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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