Todd and Nick Ruger are on the run after narrowly escaping the war in New Colorado, where they were implicated in the assassination of Chancellor Shaffer. Todd is gravely ill and Nick has serious injuries, but that's the least of their problems. They're alone with dwindling supplies and facing the harsh winter bearing down on them far north in Yellowknife Protectorate.
Just when it seems they're trapped between the proverbial rock and hard place, they are offered refuge with a doctor in the isolated town of Elk's Ridge. As they heal, they're offered a fresh start in Elk's Ridge. But just as they begin to rebuild their lives, tragedy strikes.
Victor Raleigh, the new Vice-Chancellor of New Colorado, knows all about Nick's psychic abilities, and he'll settle for nothing less than total control over Nick. He's aligned himself with a vicious creature, a type of psychic vampire capable of wielding control over individuals such as Nick. When Nick is betrayed and captured, Todd sees no alternative but to head back into the war zone to rescue him.
Will Nick be the same man Todd loves after Raleigh's pet psychic vampire is through with him? Can Nick accept the fact Todd can love him after what Raleigh forces him to do, or will his guilt consume and destroy him?
Todd's first inclination was to grab Nick, simply shoot the two other men in the room, and leave. Instead, he yanked his handgun free, grabbed Raleigh by his jacket front and swung him around, holding him tightly against his chest. Todd coughed as his throat suddenly wanted to close up.
Nick's arm shot out and he pointed at the man in white before dropping to the floor himself, gagging. Todd didn't need more than that. Widening his stance, he dug the muzzle of the gun against Raleigh's temple and gasped out, "Whatever you're doing to us, stop it!"
Nick sank to the floor, trembling, running one shaking hand through his hair. He lurched forward, bracing his other hand against the floor. Nick clamped his mouth shut and wiped the back of his free hand over his mouth. Bile was likely blowing its way up from Nick's stomach to burn his throat and mouth.
"Jah'lar, do it!" Raleigh sputtered.
Immediately Todd's airway opened and cleared.
Keeping his grip on Raleigh, Todd shifted the gun to target Jah'lar.
"What did you do to us?" Todd spat the words out, nodding at Nick who'd finally stopped gagging. When Raleigh grunted, Todd jabbed at him with the gun. "Shut it and be still before I give you a bullet." He leveled a glare at Jah'lar. "I know you."
"And I, you, though we had no formal introduction at the time. It was during an encounter a few years ago, in an alley behind the sentry saloon." Jah'lar smiled. "You heal well." Wiping the corner of his mouth with one finger, the man looked from Todd to Nick and back again. "Allow me to introduce myself since Nick is unable right now. I am Jah'lar."
"What the hell are you?" Todd demanded. Shifting his gaze to Nick for a fraction of a second, he saw a shudder work its way down his mate's back. "Nick spotted you inside the first time I took him there. You had a knife. What are you?"
"He's a pyrahni," Nick said and sat back on his heels.
Todd groaned. "I really am tired of your kind. And you, you sick bastard --" he gave Raleigh another jab "-- you employ them."
Without warning Raleigh shoved against Todd. In one quick move, Todd twisted his handgun around and slammed the butt end into Raleigh's temple, dropping the man at his feet. A split second later, the gun was trained back on Jah'lar.
Without taking his eyes from Todd, Jah'lar held one hand low and slightly away from his body. "Stay where you are." He smiled at Todd. "I have control, not you."
"Nick! Now!" Todd barked.
"You knew about this." Jah'lar and hissed as the palest kid Todd had ever seen moved away from a shadowed corner of the room. He was tall, lanky, with nearly translucent eyes and snow-white hair.
The kid flinched away, gaze darting frantically between Jah'lar and Nick, shaking his head. He pointed at Nick. "He, they --"
"Adam, shut up," Nick snapped at the kid. "You'll make it worse."
"Adam," Jah'lar snarled.
The kid, Adam, grabbed at his throat, bent slightly and gasped in short, ragged breaths. "N-Nick ... he w-wan-tted me to h-help him-m get a message to Ch-chancel-l-l-or or that Wit-ze g-guy."
"I trusted you," Nick ground out.
"We're leaving, Nicky. Now."
Jah'lar sighed and moved one hand, sliding it into his side pocket.
"Freeze. Now," Todd snapped.
An oily smile spreading over his face, Jah'lar locked gazes with Todd for a split second before pulling out a small vial. He turned so he was able to see both Nick and Todd, standing between them. He held the vial up and tilted his head to one side. "Choice is yours, Nick. Your master --" He nodded at Todd. "-- or this." He extended his arm, offering Nick the vial.
Nick's eyes followed the movement of the vial. He sucked in quick breaths, reached up with one shaking hand, balled that hand into a fist, and jerked it back to cover his mouth, chest heaving with every inhale and exhale. Jah'lar gave the vial a swirl and clucked his tongue.
"Nick," Todd said softly. Nick wasn't paying attention, and Todd wasn't even sure if he'd been heard. His knees weakened, and his stomach churned and dropped when Nick lurched off the ground, grabbed the vial from Jah'lar and stood holding it.
The small container jittered, its contents bouncing, in Nick's white-knuckle grip. He stood, wide-eyed gaze moving excruciatingly slowly between the vial, Todd, and Jah'lar. Pulling his eyebrows together, he bit his lip.
Todd repeated, "Nick." His voice barely a whisper.
Jah'lar cleared his throat and nodded, turning a smug smile on Todd. "It seems I'm in charge. Ownership transferred."