Zsadist spent the day in the training facility. He worked the punching bag bare-knuckled. Lifted. Ran. Lifted some more. Practiced with his daggers. When he got back to the main house it was almost four, and he was ready to go out hunting.
The moment he set foot into the foyer, he stopped. Something was off.
He looked around the lobby. Glanced up to the second floor. Listened for weird sounds. When he sniffed the air, all he could smell was the breakfast that was being served in the dining room, and he went there, convinced something was wrong, but unable to tie down what it was. He found the Brothers seated and oddly quiet, though Mary and Beth were eating and talking with ease. Bella was nowhere to be seen.
He had little interest in food, but he headed for the empty seat next to Vishous anyway. As he sat down his body felt tight, and he knew it was from the heavy exercise he'd pulled during the day.
"Has that Explorer moved?" he asked his brother.
"Not up until I came here to eat. I'll check it as soon as I get back, but don't worry. The computer will track whatever route it takes even if I'm not there. We'll be able to see the path."
Vishous sent him a dry look. "Yeah. I am. Designed the program myself."
Z nodded, then put a hand under his chin and cracked his neck. Man, he was stiff.
A second later, Fritz came by with two shiny apples and a knife. After thanking the butler, Z went to work on one of the Granny Smiths. While peeling the thing, he rearranged his body in the chair. Shit… his legs felt funny, and so did his lower back. Maybe he'd pushed it too hard? He shifted in his seat again, then refocused on the apple, turning it around and around in his hand, keeping the blade tight to the white flesh. He was almost through when he realized he was crossing and uncrossing his legs under the table like a fricking Rockette.
He glanced at the other males. V was flipping the top of his lighter open and closed and tapping his foot. Rhage was massaging his shoulder. Now his upper arm. Now his right pectoral. Phury was pushing his coffee cup around in circles and chewing his lower lip and drumming his fingers. Wrath was rolling his head on his neck, left, right, back, forth, tense as a high-voltage line. Butch seemed twitchy, too.
None of them, not even Rhage, had eaten a thing.
But Mary and Beth were normal enough as they stood up to clear their plates. They started laughing and arguing with Fritz that they should help him bring out more coffee and fruit.
The females had just left the room when the first wave of energy pushed through the house. The invisible surge went straight to the thing between Zsadist's legs, hardening it instantly. He stiffened and saw that the Brothers and Butch had all frozen, too, as if each one were wondering whether what he'd felt was right.
A moment later a second wave hit. The it in Z's pants thickened up even more, quick as the curse that left his mouth.
"Holy shit," someone said with a groan.
"This can't be happening," another growled.
The butler's door swung open and Beth came in, a tray of cut fruit in her hands. "Mary's bringing in more coffee—"
Wrath stood up so fast, his chair fell back and landed on the floor. He stalked over to Beth, whipped the tray out of her hands, and tossed it carelessly on the table. As cut strawberries and pieces of cantaloupe bounced off the silver and landed on the mahogany, Beth shot him a glare.
"Wrath, what the—"
He pulled her against his body, kissing her deep and hard, bending her back as if he were going to crawl up inside of her right in front of the Brotherhood. Without breaking their mouths apart, he picked her up by her waist and held her by the ass. Beth laughed softly and locked her legs around his hips. The king's face was buried in his leelan's neck as he strode out of the room.
Another surge reverberated through the house, rocking the male bodies in the room. Zsadist gripped the edge of the table, and he wasn't the only one. Vishous's knuckles were white with how hard he was holding on to the thing.
Bella… it must be Bella. Had to be. Bella had gone into her needing.
Havers had warned him, Z thought. When the doctor had done the internal exam on her, he'd said she'd seemed close to her fertile time.
Holy hell. A female in her need. In a house with six males.
It was only a matter of time before the Brothers got raw from their sexual instincts. And the danger to everyone became very real.
When Mary walked through the butler's door, Rhage went after her like a tank, tearing the coffeepot out of her hand and pitching it on the sideboard so it skidded and sloshed. He pushed her up against the wall and covered her with his body, his head dropping down, his erotic purring so loud it made the crystal on the chandelier tinkle. Mary's shocked gasp was followed by a very feminine sigh.
Rhage had her up in his arms and out of the room in a flash.
Butch looked down at his lap and then up at the rest of them. "Listen, I don't mean to get nasty, but is everyone else… ah…"
"Yes," V said through tight lips.
"You want to tell me what the hell is happening here?"
"Bella's gone into her needing," V said, throwing down his napkin. "Christ. How long before nightfall?"
Phury checked his watch. "Almost two hours."
"We'll be a mess by then. Tell me you have some red smoke."
"Butch, do yourself a favor and get off the property fast. The Pit is not going to be far enough away from her. I didn't think humans would respond, but since you are, you'd better go before you get sucked in."
Another assault hit them, and Z collapsed back against the chair, his hips surging involuntarily. He heard the groans of the others and realized they were in deep shit. No matter how civilized they pretended to be, males couldn't help but respond to a female in her fertile time, and their sexual urges would increase as the needing progressed and strengthened.
If it weren't daylight they could have saved themselves by getting away. But they were trapped in the compound, and by the time it was dark enough for them to get out, it would be too late. After prolonged exposure, males would instinctually resist leaving the female's vicinity. No matter what their brains told them, their bodies would fight the call to get away, and if they did depart from her, they would suffer withdrawal pangs that were worse than their cravings. Wrath and Rhage had outlets for their response, but the rest of the Brothers were in trouble. Their only hope was to numb themselves out.
And Bella… Oh, God… She was going to hurt more than all of them combined.
V rose from the table, steadying himself on the back of his chair. "Come on, Phury. We need to start smoking up. Now. Z, you're going to her, right?"
Zsadist shut his eyes.
"Z? Z, you're going to serve her—right?"
John looked up from the kitchen table as the phone rang. Sal and Regin, the family's doggen, were out getting groceries. He picked up the call.
"John, that you?" It was Tohr on the downstairs line.
John whistled and took another bite of his white rice and ginger sauce.
"Listen, school's canceled for today. I'm calling all the families now."
John lowered his fork and whistled an ascending note.
"There's a… complication at the compound. But we should be back on tomorrow or the night after. We'll see how things go. In light of this, we've moved up your appointment at Havers's. Butch is going to come get you right now, okay?"
John whistled twice, in little short puffs.
"Good… he's a human, but he's cool. I trust him." The doorbell rang. "That's probably him—yeah, that's Butch. I can see him on the video monitor. Listen, John… about this therapist business. If it creeps you out, you don't have to go back, okay? I won't let anyone make you."
John sighed into the phone and thought. Thank you.
Tohr laughed softly. "Yeah, I'm not much for the emotive crap either—Ouch! Wellsie, what the hell?"
There was a rapid conversation in the Old Language.
"Anyway," Tohr said into the phone. "You text-message me when it's done, okay?"
John whistled twice, hung up, and put his dish and fork into the washer.
Therapist… training… Neither one was something to look forward to, but all things being equal, he'd take whatever shrink he was going to see over Lash any day. Hell, at least the appointment with the doc wouldn't last more than sixty minutes. Lash he had to deal with for hours.
On the way out he picked up his jacket and his notebook. As he opened the door the big human on the front stoop smiled down at him.
"Hey, J-man. I'm Butch. Butch O'Neal. Your taxi."
Whoa. This Butch O'Neal was… well, the man was dressed like a GQ model, for one thing. Under a black cashmere coat he had on a fancy pin-striped suit, an awesome red tie, a bright white shirt. His dark hair was pushed off his forehead in a casual, finger-brushed way that totally rocked out.
And his shoes… wow. Gucci, really Gucci… black leather, red-and-green band, shiny gold stuff.
Funny, he wasn't handsome, not in a Mr. Perfect kind of way, at least. The guy had a nose that had clearly been busted once or three times, and his hazel eyes were too shrewd and too exhausted to be classified as attractive. But he was like a cocked gun: He had a steely intelligence and a dangerous power about him that you respected. Because the combination was a flat-out killer, literally.
"John? We cool here?"
John whistled and stuck out his hand. They shook and Butch smiled again.
"So you good to go?" the man asked a little more gently. Like he'd been told John had to go back to Havers's to "talk to someone."
God… Was everyone going to know?
While John shut the door, he imagined the guys in his training class finding out, and wanted to throw up.
He and Butch walked over to a black Escalade with darkened windows and some serious chrome on the wheels. Inside, the car was warm and smelled like leather and the awesome aftershave Butch was wearing.
They took off and Butch hit the stereo, Mystikal pumping through the car. As John looked out the window at the flurries and the peach light that was bleeding from the sky, he really wished he were going anywhere else. Well, except to class.
"So, John," Butch said, "I'm not going to front. I know why you're heading to the clinic, and I wanna tell you, I've had to go to the shrink, too."
When John looked over with surprise, the man nodded. "Yeah, when I was on the police force. I was a homicide detective for ten years, and in homicide you see some pretty f'ed up stuff. There was always some deeply sincere guy with granny glasses and a steno pad bugging me to talk. I hated it."
John took a deep breath, oddly reassured that the guy hadn't liked the experience any more than he was going to.
"But the funny thing was…" Butch came to a stop sign and hit a directional signal. A second later he shot out into traffic. "The funny thing was… I think it helped. Not when I was sitting across from Dr. Earnest, the share-your-feelings superhero. Frankly, I wanted to bolt the entire time, my skin crawled so bad. It was just… afterward, I'd think about what we'd talked about. And, you know, he had some valid points. It kind of cooled me out, even though I'd thought I was fine. So it was all good."
John cocked his head to one side.
"What did I see?" Butch murmured. The man was silent for a long time. It wasn't until they pulled into another very ritzy neighborhood that he answered. "Nothing special, son. Nothing special."
Butch turned into a driveway, stopped at a pair of gates, and put down the window. After he hit an intercom button and said his name, they were allowed to pass.
When the Escalade was parked behind a stuccoed mansion the size of a high school, John opened his door. As he met Butch on the other side of the SUV, he realized the guy had taken out a handgun: The thing was in his grip and hanging by his thigh, barely noticeable.
John had seen this trick before. Phury had armed himself in a similar way when the two of them had gone to the clinic a couple of nights ago. Weren't the Brothers safe here?
John looked around. Everything seemed really normal, for a big-money estate.
Maybe the Brothers weren't safe anywhere.
Butch took John's arm and walked quickly to a solid-steel door, all the while scanning the ten-car garage behind the house, the oak trees on the periphery, the two other cars parked by what looked like a kitchen entrance. John jogged to keep up.
When they were at the back door Butch showed his face to a camera, and the steel panels in front of them made a clicking noise, then slid back. They went into a vestibule, the doors closed behind them, and then a freight elevator opened up. They took it down one level and stepped out.
Standing in front of them was a nurse John recognized from before. As she smiled and welcomed them, Butch put the handgun away in a holster under his left arm.
The nurse swept her hand toward a hallway. "Petrilla is waiting."
Squeezing his notebook, John took a deep breath and followed the woman, feeling as if he were going to the gallows.
Z stopped in front of his bedroom door. He was just going to check on Bella and then he was going to make a beeline for Phury's room and get himself good and stoned. He hated any kind of drugged-out feeling, but anything was better than this raging urge to have sex.
He cracked the door and sagged against the jamb. The fragrance in the room was like a garden in full bloom, the loveliest thing that had ever shot up the inside of his nose.
The front of his pants pounded, the it screaming to get out.
"Bella?" he said into the darkness.
When he heard a moan, he went inside, closing the door behind him.
Oh, God. The perfume of her… He started to growl deep in the back of his throat, and his fingers cranked into claws. His feet took over, marching him to the bed, his instincts leaving his mind behind.
Bella was writhing on top of the mattress, tangled in the sheets. When she saw him she cried out, but then she settled down, as if she'd willed herself calm.
"I'm okay." She rolled over onto her stomach, her thighs rubbing together as she pulled the duvet over her body. "I'm… really… It's going to be—"
Another shock wave came out of her, so strong it pushed him back as she jackknifed into a ball.
"Go," she groaned. "Worse… when you're here. Oh… God…"
As she let out a ragged curse, Z stumbled back to the door even though his body roared for him to stay.
Getting himself out into the corridor was like hauling a mastiff off a target, and once he shut the door he raced for Phury's.
From all the way down the hall of statues he could smell what his twin and V were lighting up. And when he burst inside the bedroom, the blanket of smoke was already thick as fog.
Vishous and Phury were on the bed, thick blunts between their fingers, mouths tight, bodies straining.
"What the hell are you doing here?" V demanded.
"Give me some," he said, nodding at the mahogany box between them.
"Why have you left her?" V sucked in hard, the handrolled's orange tip glowing bright. "The needing hasn't passed."
"She said it was worse when I was there." Z leaned over his twin and grabbed a blunt. He had trouble lighting the thing because his hands were shaking so badly.
"How's that possible?"
"Do I look like I have any experience with this shit?"
"But it's supposed to get better if a male's with her." V scrubbed his face, then looked over in disbelief. "Wait a minute—you didn't lay with her, did you? Z…? Z, answer the fucking question."
"No, I didn't," he snapped, aware that Phury was very, very quiet.
"How could you leave that poor female unserved in her condition?"
"She said she was okay."
"Yeah, well, it's just getting started. She's not going to be okay. The only way to relieve the pain is if a male finishes inside of her, you feel me? You can't leave her like that. It's cruel."
Z paced over to one of the windows. The shutters were still down for the day, and he thought of the sun, that great, bright jailer. God, he wished he could get out of the house. He felt like a trap was closing in on him, and the urge to run was almost as bad as the lust he was crippled with.
He thought of Phury, who was keeping his eyes down and not saying a word.
Now's your chance, Z thought. Just send your twin down the hall to her. Send him in to service her in her need.
Go on. Tell him to leave this room and go to yours and take off his clothes and cover her with his body.
Vishous's voice cut through his self-torture, the tone gratingly reasonable. "Zsadist, it's wrong and you know it, true? You can't do this to her, she's—"
"How 'bout you back the fuck off, my brother."
There was a short silence. "Okay, I'll take care of her."
Z's head whipped around just as Vishous stabbed out his hand-rolled and got to his feet. As he hiked up his leathers, his arousal was obvious.
Zsadist launched himself across the room so fast, he didn't even feel his feet. He tackled Vishous down to the floor and clamped his hands around his brother's thick throat. As his fangs shot out of his upper jaw like knives, he bared them with a hiss.
"You go near her and I'll kill you."
There was a mad scramble behind him, no doubt Phury rushing to separate them, but V put the kibosh on any rescue attempt.
"Phury! No!" V dragged some air in. "Between me… and him."
Vishous's diamond eyes were sharp as he looked up, and though he was struggling for breath, his voice was as forceful as always.
"Relax, Zsadist… you dumb fuck…" Deep breath. "I'm going nowhere… Just needed to get your attention. Now loosen… your grip."
Z eased his hold, but didn't get off the brother.
Vishous inhaled with a big suck. A couple of times. "You feel your flow right now, Z? You feel that territorial urge? You've bonded with her."
Z wanted to deny it, but that was tough to do, considering the linebacker routine he'd just pulled. And the fact that he still had his hands around the male's throat.
V's voice dropped to a whisper. "Your path out of hell is waiting for you. She's down that hall, man. Don't be a fool. Go to her. It'll take care of both of you."
Z swung his leg up and dismounted, letting himself roll onto the floor. To avoid thinking about paths out and females and sex, he wondered idly what had happened to the blunt he'd been smoking. Glancing over at the window, he found he'd had the decency to balance it on the sill before he'd launched at Vishous like a rocket.
Well, wasn't he a gentleman.
"She can heal you," V said.
"I'm not looking to be healed. Besides, I don't want to get her pregnant, you feel me? What a fucking mess that would be."
"Is it her first time?"
"I don't know."
"If it is, the chances are practically zero."
" 'Practically' isn't good enough. What else can ease her?"
Phury spoke up from the bed. "You've still got the morphine, right? You know, that syringe I prepared from what Havers left? So use it. I've heard that's what unmated females do."
V sat up, balancing his thick arms on his knees. As he pushed his hair back, the sprawling tattoo at his right temple flashed. "It won't completely take care of the problem, but sure as shit it's better than nothing."
Another shock wave of heat rippled through the air. The three of them groaned and were momentarily incapacitated, their bodies whacking out, straining, wanting to go where they were needed, where they could be used to ease a female's pain.
As soon as Z was able to, he got to his feet. As he left, Vishous was climbing back onto Phury's bed and lighting up again.
When Z was back at the other end of the house, he braced himself before he reentered his room. Opening the door he didn't dare look in her direction as he forced his body over to the bureau.
He found the syringes and picked up the one Phury had filled. Taking a deep breath, he turned around, only to discover that the bed was empty.
"Bella?" He walked over. "Bella, where…"
He found her crumpled on the floor, a pillow between her legs, her body trembling.
She started to sob as he knelt beside her. "It hurts…"
"Oh, God… I know, nalla." He brushed her hair out of her eyes. "I'll take care of you."
"Please… it hurts so badly." She rolled over, her breasts tight and bright red at the tips… Beautiful. Irresistible. "It hurts. It hurts so badly. Zsadist, it won't stop. It's getting worse. It h—"
In a massive surge, she undulated wildly, a blast of energy coming out of her body. The strength of the hormones she emitted blinded him, and he got so caught up in his body's beastly response that he didn't feel anything… even as she grabbed his forearm with enough force to bend his bones.
When the peak faded, he wondered if she'd broken his wrist. It wasn't that he cared about the pain; he would take any of that she needed to give him. But if she was hanging onto him that desperately, he could just imagine what she was going through in her insides.
With a wince, he realized she'd bit her lower lip hard enough to make it bleed. He wiped the blood off her mouth with his thumb. Then had to rub the stuff on his pant leg so he didn't lap it up and want more.
"Nalla…" He looked at the syringe in his hand.
Do it, he said to himself. Drug her. Take the hurt away.
"Bella, I need to know something."
"What?" she moaned.
"Is this your first time?"
She nodded her head. "I didn't know it would be this bad—Oh, God…"
Her body spasmed again, her legs crushing the pillow.
He glanced back at the syringe. Better than nothing was not good enough for her, but his releasing into her seemed like a sacrilege. Goddamn it, his ejaculations were the worse of the two piss-poor options she had, but biologically speaking, he could do more for her than the morphine.
Z reached up and put the needle on the bedside table. Then he stood and kicked off his boots while he peeled his shirt over his head. He unzipped his fly, springing that hideous, aching length, and stepped out of his leathers.
He needed pain to orgasm, but he wasn't worried about that. Hell, he could hurt himself enough to trigger a release. That was why he had fangs, right?
Bella was writhing in misery as he picked her up and laid her out on the bed. She was so magnificent against the pillows, her cheeks flushed, her lips parted, her skin glowing from the needing. But she was in such pain.
"Shhh… easy," he whispered as he got on top of the bed. On top of her.
As their naked skin brushed, she moaned and bit into her lip again. This time he bent down and licked the fresh blood off her mouth. The taste of it, the electric tingle on his tongue, thrilled him. Scared him. Reminded him that he'd been living off weak sustenance for over a century.
With a curse he shoved all his stupid fucking baggage out of the way and focused on Bella. Her legs were sawing underneath him, and he had to force them wide with his hands, then pin them with his thighs. When he touched her core with his hand, he was shocked. She was on fire, drenched, swollen. She cried out, and the orgasm that followed relieved her struggles a little, her arms and legs going still, her breathing getting less harsh.
Maybe this was going to be easier than he thought. Maybe Vishous was wrong about her needing a male inside. In which case, he could just go down on her over and over again. Man, he would love to do that for a day. The first time he had put his mouth to her hadn't lasted nearly long enough.
He eyed his clothes. Probably should have kept them on—
The force of energy that came out of her then was so great, he was actually pushed upright from her body, as if invisible hands had punched at his torso. She screamed in misery as he hovered in midair above her. When the surge passed he fell back on top of her. The orgasm had obviously made the situation worse, and now she was weeping so hard tears no longer fell from her eyes. All she had was a case of the dry heaves as she twisted and contorted beneath him.
"Lie still, nalla," he said frantically. "Let me put it in you."
But she was too far gone to hear him. He had to muscle her to keep her in place, pushing down on her collarbone with a forearm while he forced one of her legs up and to the side. He tried to position the it for penetration by moving his hips, but couldn't manage to get the angle right. Even trapped under his superior strength and weight, she still managed to flail around.
With a nasty curse Z reached between his legs and grabbed the thing he needed to use on her. He guided the bastard to her threshold and then thrust hard, joining them deep. They both yelled.
And then he dropped his head and held on for dear life, getting lost in the sensation of her tight, slick sex. His body took over, his hips moving like pistons, the punishing, grinding rhythm creating a mighty pressure in his balls and a burning in his lower belly.
Oh, God… A release was coming for him. Just as it had in the bathroom when she'd held on as he pumped. Only hotter. Wilder. Out of control.
"Oh, Jesus!" he hollered.
Their bodies were slapping together and he was mostly blind and he was sweating all over her and the bonding scent was a screaming roar in his nose… And then she called his name and seized up under him. Her core grabbed onto him in spasms that milked him until—Oh, shit, God, no—
On reflex he tried to pull out, but the orgasm tackled him from behind, shooting up his spine and nailing him in the back of the head just as he felt the release bullet out of his body into hers. And the damn thing didn't stop. He came in great waves, pouring into her, filling her up. There was nothing he could do to stop the eruptions even though he knew what he was spilling into her.
When the last shudder left him, he lifted his head. Bella's eyes were closed, her breathing even, the deep grooves in her face gone.
Her hands ran up his ribs and onto his shoulders, and she turned her face into his bicep with a sigh. The quiet in the room, in her body, was jarring. So was the fact that he'd ejaculated only because she'd made him feel… good.
Good? No, that didn't go far enough. She'd made him feel… alive. Awakened.
Z touched her hair, spreading the dark waves across a creamy pillow. There had been no pain for him, for his body. Just pleasure. A miracle…
Except then he became aware of the wetness where they were joined.
The implications of what he'd done in her made him twitchy, and he couldn't fight the compulsion to clean her up. He pulled out and quickly headed for the bathroom, where he grabbed a washcloth. When he returned to the bed, though, she'd started to undulate again, the need in her rising. He looked down at himself and watched the thing that hung from his groin grow hard and long in response.
"Zsadist…" she moaned. "It's… back."
He put the washcloth aside and mounted her again, but before he pushed into her he looked at her glassy eyes and had an attack of conscience. How whacked was it that he was greedy for more when the consequences were so ugly for her? Good God, he'd ejaculated into her, and the shit was all over her beautiful parts and the smooth skin of her thighs and—
"I can drug you," he said. "I can make you feel no pain and you won't have me inside you. I can help you without hurting you."
He stared down at her, waiting for her answer, caught between her biology and his reality.