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“I’ve been busy,” Troy said.

Marcus flicked a look between them. “I see that. Should I assume the state of undress you two are in means that you have kissed and made up?”

“No,” Cassie said. “We have not. I’m concerned about the growing tensions between our people and yours that’s emerged since Reno. And since Troy believes I am the one who attacked him, which, I assume because getting him to talk is near impossible, means that a bigger plot by The Society against the vampires is suspected. I’d like to go to Vampire Nation, have my blood tested and answer any questions I can to tear down such false assumptions. If my blood work is clear of the changes Troy’s has, then tha

t should quickly resolve most concerns.” She shifted her gaze between both vampires. “If any of you would have told me what was going on during my many attempts to reach Troy, I would have volunteered to test before.”

“There’s a reason why I didn’t take you to the council to start,” Troy said. “If you test positive Cassie the council will throw you in a jail cell and Nico will come for you. And being that Nico is the highest ranking member of the Royal Guard, the chances of war becomes almost certain.” He eyed Marcus. “I gave her some of my blood. I could have infected her.”

“It requires a near death experience for a typical Red Virus to convert someone. Drinking the blood alone won’t do the job.”

“It’s not a typical Red Virus or I would have been immune. In theory, she should be too.” Which was why he didn’t dare drink from a human, for fear of infecting them, why he’d worried about feeding Cassie his blood to save her life. He shook his head. “She can’t test or we might well have full out war.”

“I’ll call Nico,” Cassie said quickly. “I’ll make sure he knows this is my choice.”

“If you test positive,” Troy said. “It might not be Nico’s choice. The Vampire Council feels they negotiated and operated with honor. They are not convinced The Society did the same.”

“Nico refused to allow either of you to be tested right after Troy was attacked,” Marcus said, walking to the bed and dropped down onto the mattress on his side, crossing his booted feet and resting his weight on one arm.

“What?” Cassie asked, sounding stunned. “Nico knew you requested a blood test and he refused?”

“This is news to me,” Troy said, and not good news. It supported his concerns about Nico.

“It seemed the easiest way to put everyone’s fears to rest,” Marcus replied, his attention on Troy. “Especially with your belief that the wolf who attacked you was female.”

“Female,” Cassie repeated, turning to Troy. “You think the wolf was female?”

“I know it was.”

She made a sound and looked at the ceiling a moment, before fixing him in a steady stare. “And I was the only female there but Sarah. I guess I’m lucky you didn’t try to kill me while I was busy trusting you. The wolf that attacked you was male. I know. I attacked him, I bit him, I smelled him. That’s why I was so shocked when he ran. Male wolves do not run from battle. They kill or get killed.”

“Then why shift to fight him instead of using a weapon?” Marcus asked.

“I had one star left and it hit the wolf’s shoulder,” Cassie said, giving Troy her profile. “I either had to shift or watch Troy die.”

“And yet you were certain to die yourself,” Marcus pushed.

“Troy had seconds to live,” Cassie said and she didn’t turn, didn’t look at Troy. “I, at least, had a chance to survive. When I rounded the corner, Sarah was straddling him and trying to stab him. He turned the knife on her, and she collapsed on top of him. The next thing I knew a wolf was charging towards him. He never saw the wolf attack coming, it happened so fast, and from behind him. But nothing I say is going to change the suspicion placed on me. Just test my damn blood and get it over with.”

“That’s what I suggested,” Marcus reminded her. “Nico-”

“Isn’t here to stop me,” Cassie said. “Did you tell him Troy thought his attacker was female?”

“Yes,” Marcus said. “And in Nico’s defense, his concern was that you had bitten the infected wolf. He was afraid of how both his people, and your own, would react if your blood was altered. I suspect he wouldn’t test himself because it would potentially lead to more pressure to test you.”

“Then he’s just trying to protect me.” She made a sound deep in her throat and looked at the ceiling, as if she was choked up over the protectiveness, as if she believed Nico was all she had in the world. Troy didn’t want her to feel that way. He also didn’t want her hurt, and he feared that was exactly where this was headed.

Troy’s eyes met Marcus’s and there was a silent understanding between them. Marcus believed her. Troy believed her too, and that scared him like nothing had scared him since he’d become a vampire. Not since he was human and been fighting to save his parents and sister as a rogue vampire slaughtered them with no chance of success. And not because he was afraid of being hurt. Because he had information that could well mean a war was brewing between their races. If he stepped wrong, if he let what he felt for Cassie cloud his judgment, lives could be lost.

Cassie turned to him, her eyes glossy. He’d never seen her eyes glossy. He wasn’t being fair to her, if she was innocent, and he didn’t know how to fix that. Only that he wanted to. “I’m trying to understand how you feel,” she said. “I know Sarah betrayed you. I even understand why you would distrust after everything that has happened to you, but that distrust is like a bleeding wound destroying both of us, and even the truce between our people. We have to solve this. We have to get closure. And you can’t do this alone anymore. That isn’t working for you or for any of us.”

“I agree,” he said softly. “Completely.”

“I’m at 1010 Piece of Shit Avenue with Troy,” Marcus said into his phone, drawing their attention. “I need you here with lab supplies. ”Delwood Apartments. The dumps a block from the blood bank.” His gaze lifted to Troy’s, telling him he knew why, too before he added, “And Cassie is here. She needs clothes and shoes. Actually it’ll be faster if I pick you up. I’m headed your way in a few minutes.” He snapped his phone shut. “Okay, here is where we are at. No Council. No Society. The three of us and an expert with some special abilities that I’m bringing in to help us.”

“What kind of expert?” Troy asked suspiciously. “And how does this expert know Cassie by name?”

“The kind of expert I trust, and I don’t trust any easier than you do,” Marcus said and stood up. “I’ll be back soon. You two love birds try and keep your clothes on while I’m gone. I don’t want to pop back in to see something that might damage me for life.” He bent down and snatched the handcuffs, dangling them from a finger. “I prefer the wool lined ones myself in case things get rowdy. Less painful.” He glanced at the bed. “And you might want to clean up before our guest arrives. White sheets are not a vampire’s best friend.” He disappeared.