Davv’id has finally begun to redeem himself in the eyes of his brothers after killing Amariska and ending her evil reign, and he’s prepared for his life to return to something approaching normal again. He wants his brother Alek to finally forgive him, and he needs to take his rightful place in the family hierarchy beside Kaden. He’s ready to do all these things when he learns of a young human, once enslaved and enthralled by Amariska, who prefers to commit suicide rather than be rehabilitated. Davv’id goes to see him and is amazed when the beautiful young man drops to his knees in front of him and calls him his Master. If that weren’t bad enough, Davv’id realizes once he touches the boy that he is somehow his one, true mate. He has to save him, but what Davv’id doesn’t know is that Theo is actually a missing rock star with an even deeper secret, one that will turn rock the vampires’ world to its foundations and make Davv’id question everything he thought he knew about himself. As secrets are revealed, Davv’id has to overcome Theo’s feelings of mistrust, and just when happiness is in his grasp, Theo is taken again by an old enemy who wants to destroy everything that Davv’id holds dear. Davv’id’s only choice is to turn his back on his brothers and betray them in the worst possible way in order to save the man he loves.
Davv’id tried not to sigh audibly. He had hoped to make it through at least fifteen minutes of paperwork without someone bringing him another issue to resolve. He had stopped in at the new center that Max, his brother Alek’s mate, had recently started to help LGBT youth. The monies from Kaden’s companies had opened the first safe-house for a new foundation for any young person in need. Priority was being given to homeless youths, most often on the LGBT spectrum because of their family’s rejection or whatever reason. It was a cause very close to Max’s heart, because during his time as a cop, he’d seen what happened to these youths on the streets way too many times.
Matty, Kaden’s mate, was also heavily involved, although their baby son Carter was taking up a lot of Matty’s time. The center was thriving, and due to the many companies his family owned, there were job opportunities as well, so everything was going great. Except for the accounts. Max and Matty were both awesome with the kids at the center, but they were both terrible at keeping the accounts straight. Finally, in desperation, they had admitted to their spouses that they needed help. Alek was the natural choice, but he was far too busy, as was Kaden. So Davv’id had been roped in to help them.
Reluctantly, he’d agreed, and he had stopped by only an hour before this latest interruption to get some work done. He’d planned to spend the entire morning catching up on the Receivables, but since he was the only member of the family present this morning, it looked like he’d been nominated to handle any other problem that might arise.
“You don’t have to call me Sire, you know,” Davv’id said, standing up with a sigh. Kristoph just looked confused. Kristoph had joined his and Amariska’s coven near the end, tempted by the illusion of freedom it offered from the stifling rules that governed their race, but he hadn’t been a member so long that he’d been sucked in by Amariska’s methods. Kristoph had been one of the salvageable ones. Sire was a title the vampire Amariska had insisted on, and Davv’id had gone along with it, too, while he and Amariska had been together. That had been a dark time in his personal history that he was still trying to live down. Tom Petty said redemption eventually came to those who wait and Davv’id had been waiting a long time.
He’d been so wrong back then. He had let his pride and impatience over waiting for the elders to do something, not to mention his jealousy over his twin brother Kaden, make him not only reckless but downright dangerous. Amariska was unhinged and in his own overweening ambition and pride, he had decided that since the elders were wrong, he would simply ignore them. People had suffered because of it. Hundreds of people. Once he’d finally sickened of what he’d become, he’d realized he had a lot of making up to do to get his family and his people to accept him again. He was even finding it hard to accept himself. It wasn’t that he had to drink blood to survive, it was the amount of blood he’d never be able to wash off his hands that was the problem. Maybe forgiveness really was the key.
Davv’id sighed as he waited for Kristoph to figure out what to call him. “Oh, never mind. What is it, Kristoph?”
“It’s the human boy. That Théo,” Kristoph said. “He’s causing problems again.”
Davv’id had decided he was going to be responsible for dismantling Amariska’s army. It was only fitting because it was mostly his doing that allowed it to happen in the first place. He hadn’t been responsible for the abuse she had suffered as a child at the hand of her father or her sister’s murder at the same hands, but he should have stopped Amariska’s plans before they had gotten so out of control. He was a strong vampire from their equivalent of a royal line. His twin brother Kaden was now the ruling vampire—Guardian of the Five Rubies. He had let petty jealousy over being born second split them apart, and he should have known better. The wrongs were his responsibility to put right.
It had been a little over two months since Amariska had been killed. The blood thralls in her coven who had been addicted the longest, the ones who had lost their free will and had been driven mad by their addictions, had to be caught and put out of their misery. Worse than coke or heroin, and just as destructive, the addiction to vampire blood eventually took a terrible toll on the hearts and minds of humans. Eventually, they became beyond any help he or any other could provide, so the awful, sickening task of destroying them had been left to Davv’id. As they had been found, he had been the one to separate their heads from their bodies, unwilling to make any other vampire do it.
The human Kristoph was talking about had, so far, been completely resistant to their efforts to help him, even though he’d only recently been taken by Amariska, as far as they could find out. The others, had been taken on the night of a rave Amariska had conducted to lure in unsuspecting humans, and they had first thought Théo had been as well. But all the others from that night were mostly recovered. These humans had all been successfully weaned off bit by bit, their memories wiped, and a place given to them in the new project that Alek’s mate, Max, had started.
The elders of Davv’id’s people had always treated Earth as a temporary refuge and had kept the children, even the ones born on this planet, apart from humans as much as they could. Kaden and Davv’id themselves had been the first of their generation to insist on living out from under their family’s thumb, and for a long time they had been closer than any brothers could ever be. Until it had all gone horribly wrong.
“Théo has had night terrors again, sir.” Kristoph said. “We are on a constant loop with him. Every time we try and reduce his sedation, he suffers so much. He has no quality of life.”
Davv’id glanced up sharply. “Are you suggesting what I think you are?”
Kristoph looked distressed. “It would be much easier if he had a heroin addiction. There is nothing like methadone we can give to relieve the withdrawal from vampire blood. I have no idea why all our attempts are failing. The doctors are at a complete loss.”
Kristoph meant the very few human doctors who had been entrusted with their secret. Kaden had originally thought to provide Matty and Carter with medical personnel and then simply wipe their memories, but they hadn’t allowed for the paranoia of a new father. Every time his new baby had so much as sneezed Matty insisted on him being checked out. And invariably, Matty let it slip that Carter was his biological child. It was impossible to wipe memories with the regularity Kaden would need to, without the risk of brain damage to the humans.
So, they had taken into their trust two of the doctors seeing patients in the safe-house. It was working out rather well, and Matty, now that he knew he would have access to the doctors, had relaxed completely and didn’t even seem to need them much anymore. Max would have said it was all part of Matty’s perverse nature.
Kristoph was right, though. They were running out of options with Théo, but the thought of killing the human boy to put him out of his misery made Davv’id sick to his stomach.
They both heard the shouts outside and the footsteps running down the hall. Davv’id stood quickly and opened the door to see one of the guards rushing towards the medical wing, and Davv’id’s heart sank. The only patient still in there was Théo. He had avoided him for the past two months, only reading reports about him and letting the doctors do their jobs, hoping they would be able to finally see some progress made with him and dreading the day they had to admit defeat. Now it seemed he had no choice. He had to go see what was causing the disturbance.
“What the hell are you doing?” Davv’id caught the arm of another guard about to run past. In his hands were one of the powerful I.M. injection rifles they had used while searching for the thralls.
“The boy has a knife.”
“And he is still human,” Davv’id spat. “And you’re a vampire, damn it—you should be several times as strong.”
“Davv’id?” He turned to see Gemma come around the corner. Gemma was human and a teen counselor. She was the latest specialist called in to help the boy. Her normally unflappable demeanor was gone. “Théo isn’t threatening anyone else. He’s holding the knife to his own throat. He says if we don’t let him go he’ll slit his own throat. Fast as they are, none of the vampires dare move against him in case they cause him to injure himself.”
Davv’id walked into the first room swearing softly and promising to fire the one who was responsible for Théo getting access to a knife in the first place. It was an observation room. He turned his nose up a little. They had done the remodeling while he was tracking thralls, but this room meant anyone could see into the individual living areas of the humans without their knowledge. It reminded him of a zoo.
His gaze immediately narrowed on the human boy holding a small knife. Nothing much shocked him these days, but fuck…what a complete waste. He had seen the boy briefly once with Amariska at the club on the night of Alek’s rescue, and he remembered how beautiful he was then.
Davv’id gazed in horror. His long wavy hair had been so luxurious, but the greasy, limp dark strands hung in knots to his shoulders now. His gorgeous tanned skin was now pale and mottled. His arms were covered in tattoos, and now open scabs covered them, along with his bare chest, from where his nails had raked them. And he was thin. Malnourished beyond gauntness. Nothing the doctors gave him, even intravenously while sedated, put any fat on his bones. Davv’id heaved another sigh. The worst thing was his eyes. He remembered a deep gorgeous blue. Amariska only kept her boys around if they were pretty, and Théo had been stunning. Now, even his eyes had lost their luster, and the wild look he turned on the guards reflected only torment. If he were an animal, no one in their right mind would be keeping him alive to suffer like this.
But he wasn’t.
Davv’id put a hand on the door. “Everyone out,” he ordered. If he had to kill the boy, he couldn’t stand the thought of anyone witnessing his failure. No one dared raise an objection and Davv’id let himself into the room. He nodded to the guard to leave and the guard immediately complied.
“Don’t come any nearer.” Théo pressed the point of the knife into his throat, and a thin line of red bloomed under the blade. Davv’id opened his mouth to try to get Théo to relax. Compel him if he could, although he knew all other attempts to do so had failed. But a strange scent seemed to waft across the room. Fear, desperation, sadness. They were bitter smells that Davv’id was all too familiar with, yet underneath all that there was something else. Something fresh—sweet almost. As if a single flower had bloomed in the middle of the stench of a giant landfill. Davv’id frowned. It was coming from Théo and he wondered if one of the attendants who had touched him was wearing cologne.
Davv’id banked down his irrational irritation that someone had been that close to the boy, and he took a step nearer. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, surprised to register that he meant it.
“No?” Théo scoffed. “You’re just going to keep me a prisoner and pump me full of shit instead.”
“We’re trying to wean you off the drugs.” He stopped when the fear in Théo’s eyes was replaced by despair.
“It’s not drugs that’s the problem. I know it, and you know it.”
Davv’id’s head jerked up in surprise. Théo knew? “What do you mean?” He tried to bluff.
“I know it’s vampire blood. Same as I know you’re one of them. She told me you know. I was hooked before I even knew what had happened, and she promised me if I did one last thing for her she would give me the antidote.” Davv’id nearly closed his eyes in despair, but Théo’s hand holding the knife shook, and he was too scared to look away. “I know there’s no antidote, because they would have already given me it,” he whispered brokenly.
“To be honest, you shouldn’t need one. You are the only human who hasn’t been successfully treated. They’ve all returned to their lives, or been helped to start new ones.”
Theo’s eyes filled. “Then what’s wrong with me?” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” Davv’id replied honestly, his stomach twisting in knots as the urge to comfort the boy became overwhelming, but he still didn’t dare move. “But we’re trying to find out.”
Davv’id made a noise in his throat as he watched a tear spill from Théo’s eyes. Théo didn’t attempt to wipe it away, and Davv’id’s fingers itched to do so. “Let me help.” Davv’id pleaded softly even as he tried to blank the memory of saying that once before.
It had been nearly ten years. Sophie had been gorgeous, or to him she had been, anyway. Everyone else could see the wasted body and cold eyes that accompanied the track lines in her arms. She had long since gotten past the point of trying to hide her addiction. She sold herself for her fix every night. Davv’id and Kaden had been meeting a builder to do a site survey for their new luxury apartment building. He had been late, and it was already dark when Sophie had approached them and offered to blow them both for fifty bucks.
Davv’id had known instantly she was his ruask’aa. They had whisked her away and healed her, and in their ignorance, neither of them had understood that healing her body hadn’t healed her mind of the addiction. As soon as he had left her, thinking she was safe, she had gone back to the alley and had shot up too pure a dose for her newly healed body to cope with. When he had found her lying amongst the trash, she still had the needle sticking out of her arm.
Everything had gone wrong from that point. Davv’id had never felt such rage and despair and he had blamed his father for the summons to the meeting with the elders that had caused him to leave Sophie alone. In the end, though, he had inflicted far more suffering on others than had ever been done to himself. He had become what he had despised, and he should have put a stop to Amariska long before he did.
“Let me help you,” Davv’id pleaded.
“How?” Théo’s blue eyes searched his own gray ones.
“Put that down for starters.” He nodded to the knife.
“You just want to lock me in here.”
“No,” Davv’id promised. “Come with me. You can stay in my apartment until you get well.” Théo’s eyes were clouding over a little, and his grip on the knife was slackening. Davv’id knew the adrenaline was leaving his body, and thin as it was he would have no reserve energy left to fight. “Please,” he repeated watching the questions flicker in Théo’s eyes. He knew Théo wanted so desperately to trust someone—anyone. Davv’id had no idea why he wanted it so badly to be him. No, he knew. Guilt. There had been so many lives he couldn’t save; he desperately wanted to make a difference in this one.
Théo blinked slowly, and Davv’id knew he was struggling to focus. “Give me the knife, baby.” The endearment left Davv’id’s lips before he could question it.
Confusion crossed Théo’s face, then sadness. “I’m no one’s baby,” he said.
Davv’id swallowed. He was tired. That must be it. “I know,” he started. “I mean…” What did he mean? Davv’id took a step closer, seeing Théo’s hand droop. The knife was no longer flush with his neck. Davv’id closed the gap and took the knife from Théo’s slack fingers, and the boy made no attempt to stop him.
“I’m tired,” Théo whispered, his tone desperate and pleading. He swayed and Davv’id caught him without thinking as his knees buckled. Davv’id took a slow breath as his arms tightened around him, and the scent he had caught earlier seemed to wrap itself all around him with invisible ties. He looked down at Théo in confusion. What was it about Théo? He could feel the connection growing stronger. The disgust over his treatment, the guilt over his hand in it, and the desperate need never, ever, to have anyone hurt Théo again grew with every passing moment. Davv’id growled softly in his chest, and he felt the prick in his gums as his fangs wanted to descend. He tilted the boy nearer protectively.
He had never felt this strongly, even with Sophie. He had raged against the animals who had given her the drugs, but as he stood frozen holding Théo he knew he would rip anyone limb from limb if they ever dared to lay a finger on him.
He heard a tiny sigh and watched as Théo gave up the fight to keep his eyes open. “It was nice, though,” he whispered.
“What?” Davv’id choked out. And Théo smiled even as his eyes slid shut, and he went boneless in Davv’id’s arms.
“Calling me baby.”