Sequel to The Queen's Pain
Dakota must track down his daughter Kenna, who has gone missing during the attack on the U.S. Capitol. But when he finds her, he is left reeling. Kenna has been chosen to save the world from talismans, and she intends to depart on a dangerous journey to accomplish the task. Moreover, she has no plan to include Dakota.
As they go their separate ways, Kenna begins an adventure that will change and damage her. Meanwhile, Dakota and Terrell must rely on each other to continue on without her. Though each group have wildly different missions, they both must learn to survive in new environments and take on challenges that will help define them.
Will Kenna finish her work and stop the talisman war for good? And what will happen to Dakota while she's away?
"Please," Terrell begged.
Perched on a rock next to their motorcycle, he looked so much smaller. The dull light of day did him no justice. Only direct sunlight could properly illuminate his soft skin and his brilliant eyes. Still, Dakota thought that he looked stunning. Even with his face contorted in anguish. Even after days of traveling dusty roads without a real shower. He was beautiful.
"You're fine the way you are," he protested. "You don't need to change anything. Who would it be for, anyhow? Not me. You know I don't fucking care. I really don't. It doesn't bother me." In fact, the new additions were somewhat arousing in their strangeness. The idea that his mate could kill a person with those smooth protrusions? Dakota liked the air of danger in that, even though there truly wasn't any, at least not towards him.
Terrell's expression only darkened further. "For me, then. I don't want them there. I don't -- I feel them every second I'm awake. Grinding against my bottom teeth. Making sores. And I keep biting my lip by accident. Every morning, I wake up tasting blood. I hate it."
His longer canines, part of the multiple mutations inflicted upon his body by his former employer, were a subject of constant irritation for Terrell. Despite some intentional modifications on the part of his former boss, they sat awkwardly in his mouth. Gave him headaches. But for the most part, Dakota believed that Terrell simply didn't want to be seen as a freak. Anything less than human. All of his other changes were easy to hide. But if he smiled -- and he rarely did now -- anyone could see his new fangs. Half-vampire, half-animal in their appearance. He had to practically mumble to keep Cortez and the others from seeing them.
The teeth, though easy to spot, were non-intrusive by Dakota's standards. They never got in the way of the couple's sweet roadside kisses, or even the more intimate fun they'd had shortly after the last sunset. And the idea of inflicting pain on him, just to produce two gaping holes in Terrell's mouth, felt nearly unfathomable. Right now, Terrell was all he had. He didn't want to hurt him, for any reason! He just wanted him to be happy.
And he knew what it felt like to have teeth removed by force with no anesthesia. It wasn't fun.
"Maybe you should give it a little while longer. You might get used to them."
Terrell shook his head. His mouth dropped open just enough so that the tips of his new teeth could be seen. "I don't want to."
Though it caused him distress, Dakota reluctantly gave in. He walked over to the bike, rifled through a bag that contained mechanical supplies, and eventually located the smallest adjustable wrench he could find. A pair of pliers would have been more ideal, but they didn't have any. With a sigh and a lump forming in his throat, Dakota doused the grungy tool with hydrogen peroxide before attempting to get all the grease and dirt off with the front of his white shirt.
It took a few minutes before he deemed the device clean enough for the procedure. "Come here," he beckoned Terrell, who got up quickly.
Once he was within touching distance, Terrell's face formed a mix of guilt and relief. "I'm sorry, Dee. I'd do it myself if I could. Leave you out of it. But, umm, you know, I can't --" Not with just one fully functioning hand.
"We don't do things alone anymore," he returned. He directed Terrell to sit on the ground. When he did so, Dakota climbed into his lap, facing him. He caressed his cheek and kissed him. "Hold onto me, okay? This is gonna hurt a lot. And I'm no dentist. I'll try to make it as quick as possible. But, fuck, I wish we had something for the pain." No pills. No Novocain. Not even booze.
Terrell smiled for the first time in days. "I trust you."
It wasn't a matter of trust, he thought. Of course he'd work as gently as possible. But the procedure would be an agonizing experience. And Dakota feared he might break one of the teeth in the process if he wasn't careful. Or worse, damage one of the normal ones. Feeling queasy, he gripped the back of Terrell's neck as he opened his mouth further. He brought the metal up to the right tooth. "Breathe. Think of something else. Hold onto me as hard as you have to."