The wolf rose up within him, tightening his muscles, sharpening his teeth. Silver grabbed the incubus by the scruff of his neck and pulled him off of Lilith, out of the shower, spraying water across the floor.
The incubus twisted in his grasp but could not escape. Silver slammed him face-first into the wall, squeezed tendons and veins and arteries until the incubus went limp. When Silver let go, the incubus slid down the wall, his gasps barely audible over the hiss of the shower. He remained on the floor, dazed, his eyes an all-encompassing black.
Silver risked a glance at Lilith. She had wrapped herself in the shower curtain, the material clinging to her every curve, her pupils dilated, breaths shallow. The urge to take her was there, growing stronger with every breath. The rush of the shower was loud in the silence between them.
The incubus sat up. “Didn’t take you for one to make dramatic entrances,” he rasped.
Lust channelled into anger. Silver grabbed him by the arm, hauled him to his feet. “She is mine,” he growled. “I saved her life.”
“That makes her your responsibility,” the incubus replied, calm and cold as a cat, “but not yours.” His eyes slid over Silver’s shoulder and darkened. “Is the moth to blame for flying towards the light?”
“Don’t touch her,” Silver warned.
“If I don’t, someone else will,” the incubus said, but he stood unresisting in Silver’s grasp, shuffled along compliantly as he was pushed out of the bathroom .
Lilith followed them out, wrapped in a bathrobe. The dark tangles of her hair lay heavily against her shoulders. Droplets of water gathered on her collarbones.
“What do you mean, Sam?” she said to the incubus. Her voice only had the barest hint of a tremble, and for a moment Silver felt proud. The emotion was scornfully quashed. “Why would someone else . . . .”
The incubus stopped by the doorway and looked at them, truly looked at them. “You don’t know?” he said, slow, disbelieving. The words turned Silver’s insides to ice.
“There is a bond between you,” he continued. “Clumsily made and incomplete, but there nonetheless. Even now it tries to pull you together, to finish what you started.” His smile was quick, sharp and humourless. “The longer you leave the claim unfinished, the more people will be pulled into the current.”
“How do we get rid of it?” Silver asked.
The incubus slid open the door. “By breaking it,” he said. Then he slipped out the doorway and was gone.
Silver crossed the bedroom to close the door, cursing the incubus, the theatre, the helpless girl standing behind him.
“What . . . ” Lilith crossed her arms, pulled the bathrobe tighter. She had slim legs, delicate ankles. “What did Sam want?”
He sneered. “What do you think?”
“Besides sex,” she snapped. Then: “Don’t look so surprised; I’m old enough to say the word. Sex, sex, sex.”
“A two-year-old can say the word.” Silver counted three breaths: one, two, three. Like stone, he thought. He had to stop her from affecting him. “Sam wanted his dinner,” he said. “Maybe I should have let him have it.”
“No,” Lilith replied, her voice gone soft. “I’m glad you stopped him. I . . . I should have thanked you.” She sank onto the edge of the bed, her bathrobe riding up, forehead creased into a frown. “Maybe Sam’s right. Ignoring each other and arguing will only make it worse. The bond affects us both; we should work together.”
It was the last thing Silver wanted to hear. Work together? Pretend she was one of the pack? That she could not see the folly in her suggestion angered him. There was a thin line between pretence and reality, and they was too far in to do anything but fight.
“I don’t work with worms.”
A beat of silence, then two. He kept his face blank, stared, watched the anger flush through her cheeks.
“Right,” she said darkly, rising to her feet. “You think humans are prejudiced but you animals are just as bad. You’ve treated me like a piece of meat all for some stupid drug.”
“And?” He said the word spitefully, to get under her skin.
It worked: her shoulders pushed back, arcing her lean spine. “You promised me,” she said. “Back in Tulkan. You said you’d smuggle me underground.”
The calmer he remained, the more it seemed to anger her. “I don’t recall promising.”
“As good as,” she retorted.
“You weren’t a prisoner then. You are now.”
“Oh, really? Is that all I am?” When he didn’t reply, her face hardened. “So what about this?”
She strode towards him, wrapped her slim fingers around his wrist. The shock of heat was immediate, flaring within him. She was his mate, and he was hers. Their bodies knew it, leaning towards each other, pulled together by an irresistible force. The attraction was stronger now, so much stronger than he remembered. He could already imagine his lips against hers, the taste of her skin.
Silver pulled out of her grasp, stepped back. She looked . . . young. Hair a mess, cheeks and nose lightly sunburnt, bathrobe slipping off one shoulder. He was at least five years older, maybe six, the age gap exacerbated by her emotional immaturity. But could he blame her for her innocence? For the lack of blood and death on her hands? She would never do what was necessary; she didn’t have it in her.
But he did, and it was up to him to fix things.
Silver turned away from Lilith, walked to the bedroom door.
“That’s right,” she called after him. “Just walk away. Pretend like this isn’t happening.”
He took two steps towards her, satisfied when she flinched. “This isn’t happening,” he said.
It was a lie neither believed.
Silver was towelling off his hair when Amber knocked on the door. She strode in, lips pulled down into a frown. Her red hair was frizzier than usual, and she smelled of sweat and annoyance.
“I’m showering here,” she announced, dumping the bundle in her arms onto the floor. “Got us all some clothes. No one’s accepting coin right now, though after what Mel told me, I’m not surprised.” There was two new needle marks on her arm, right beside the first. Amber noticed his stare. “Stupid woman couldn’t find the vein.”
Silver picked through the clothing, began getting dressed as Amber stripped.
“I had to guess Lilith’s size.” She kicked off her shoes, rolled down her trousers. “I guessed she was one smaller than me.”
More likely two, but that was best left unsaid. “What did Mel say?” Silver asked.
Her movements slowed. “The WPL are recruiting,” she said, watching for a reaction.
Silver only shrugged. “When are they not recruiting?”
“Not like this. Forced inductions, sweeping the villages for any sign of talent. They’re planning something, Mel’s sure of it. And there’s rumours, too.” Now she looked away. “If Vera’s child isn’t a wolf . . . .”
“Don’t tell me you believe that nonsense.”
Amber stiffened. “I’m only telling you what Mel said.”
“Right.” Silver pulled the top over his head as Amber darted into the bathroom.
He stood near the doorway as Amber showered, one ear focused on the hallway in case Lilith tried to escape. The girl, he told himself. Using her name would only make it harder when the inevitable happened.
If Vera’s child wasn’t a wolf . . . .
It was only superstition. According to legend, a werewolf and a werefox had mated, and their half-breed children had been unable to change. Eventually, the children had discovered how to tap into their unused power and channel it for other means, and that was how the first witches were born.
Of course, that was the legend according to the werekin. The witches had an entirely different version were they were the original race, and werekin their loyal creations. Despite their differences, both stories agreed that if witch and werekin were to mate again, the child would have untold powers.
Wars had been fought over for less.
The cleanest solution would be to kill the baby. For that, at least, he’d have Rae’s support. Fang’s too, and maybe even Al’s, if he could convince the alpha of the danger. But Jake would be against it, and Amber—however superstitious—was too hungry for a child of her own to let anyone else’s come to harm.
She emerged from the bathroom then, her red curls flattened by the weight of water. She was shorter than Lilith, and curvier too, her silhouette more feminine. Yet her arms were strong and her temper dangerous; it was better to tread carefully.
“We need to talk to Al,” he said as Amber dressed. “About the child. If it’s a wolf, it’ll have the protection of the pack. If it’s not . . . .”
Her nostrils flared, a sign of anger. “You wouldn’t,” she said. “The child’s innocent.”
“It would have no place with us,” he snapped. “And then where would it go? Grow up an orphan in the villages?”
“You turned out fine.”
“I had a pack.”
“Of monks!” Amber picked up her discarded towel, patted her hair dry. She was breathing heavily, reigning in the anger. “Vera could escape,” she began slowly. “Head east, away from the WPL.”
“Vera won’t leave the pack.”
“I could go,” she said.
He should have expected the offer. Silver crossed the room, sat on the bed. Amber sank down beside him. The silence between them was heavy.
“I’ll talk to Vera,” Amber finally said. “It’s up to her.”
Silver nodded. The baby wasn’t due for another week at least. Lilith, on the other hand. . . . He only had hours to make a plan.
“What are you going to do?” Amber asked. She gestured at the door. “About her.”
Silver closed his eyes. “I was going to smuggle her back underground.” Get her somewhere safe, out of his hair.
“But . . . ?”
“The incubus said something,” he admitted. “Said the bond will only get worse until we break it.”
The room was quiet. From outside came the whistling of birds, the rattling of hooves and wheels on the street.
“Then you have no choice,” Amber said.
Silver could only nod.