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“So is a vampire turning into whatever the hell I’ve become. It has to be a mutation of the Red Virus and it can’t be as contagious as the original strain or we’d see more like Andres and myself.”

“Maybe they exist but we don’t know?” Cassie asked.

“We both know that’s a stretch. Reds are nothing if not bold and in your face.”

“A new breed that is cunning,” she quickly countered. “Isn’t that the point?”

“It’s possible,” he said, “But I have my doubts. Andres attacked Evan’s wife while she was human and almost killed her,” he said. “When Evan converted her, she didn’t become what I am. If anything, this new mutation, if that’s what it is, is less contagious rather than more so.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And the medical team at Vampire Nation has come up with nothing?”

“When I was first attacked, I didn’t immediately wake up,” he said. “They ran tests and there were slight variations in my blood work they couldn’t explain. I seemed fine and they sent me on my way. The changes to my hair and eyes, as well as the characteristics of a wolf, came on the first full moon after the attack.”

“Like a human changing to wolf.”

He nodded. “Yes. And I never went back to the medical team once I realized the changes. At first it was denial. This couldn’t be happening to me if I didn’t accept it fully. Then came the reasons to believe Andres was targeting vampire nation. There was a woman on the council we discovered to be aiding Andres. Then, we discovered a street drug made of Andre’s blood and vampire blood. It was being used as a sex drug on human women by vampires who were panting after Andres like dogs in heat for more. The chances that Sarah was also working with Andres and perhaps someone inside Vampire Nation, wasn’t something I could dismiss. That meant staying away from the council and finding answers on my own.”

She studied him a long moment. “Why would a vampire aid a Rebel? What did she have to gain?”

Here was the part he wasn’t looking forward to. “Why would Nico? What does he have to gain?”

Her expression darkened. “Nico isn’t dirty, Troy. I know him. You know him.” She inhaled and exhaled on, “But then you believe I attacked you, now didn’t you? Why should you trust him?” She started to move away.

“Wait.” He set the computer aside and gently shackled her arm. “I’m not accusing you.”

“Just Nico.”

“Cass--” He was cut off when Marcus and a woman with long honey colored hair appeared in the room.

“They’re hereeeeee,” Marcus said, in a bad imitation of the little girl from the cult classic movie Poltergeist.

And Troy officially wanted to zap Marcus and his ‘expert’ right back into the fuzzy television set in the movie, or wherever they had come from.

Chapter Nine

Love sucks. That was what Cassie was thinking when she stood up to greet Marcus and the gorgeous twenty-something female with him. She loved Troy. She’d known that for a long time. She’d also known he was destined to break her heart and damn it, this was one time she really hated being right.

“Now, this place needs a magic wand,” the woman said, with an amused twinkle in her strikingly green eyes. “Too bad I don’t have one.”

It was an odd comment, and Cassie assessed this new visitor. As a wolf, and a female, Cassie was pretty confident, but this woman looked like a runway model in black jeans, knee high black boots, an oversized brand name purse, and a red shirt. And Cassie was, well, a mess, both inside and out.

“Meet Aylia,” Marcus said, motioning to the woman who stood, by Cassie’s estimates, a good two inches above Cassie’s five feet six inches.

“You’re from the Coven of Rain,” Cassie said, the magic wand joke now making sense as the name rang an instant bell.

“I am,” she said. “And you’re Nico’s sister, and a member of The Royal Guard.”

“Yes,” Cassie agreed, a little nervous over this new guest in light of the allegations Troy had made against Nico. “I know he isn’t on wonderful terms with your coven. Or I guess I should say, the Coven and the Society are not on the best of terms.” Troy stepped to Cassie’s side, radiating protectiveness, and it confused her. One minute he was accusing her of trying to kill him or accusing Nico of conspiring with the rebels, the next he was playing Watch Wolf instead of Watch Dog. She wanted him by her side too, when she should be facing the reality that their dysfunctional relationship could go nowhere it hadn’t already been and been badly.

“I don’t think Nico cares much about earning brownie points with The Coven or anyone else for that matter,“ Aylia said. Her red lips curved upward. “But the idea of making him try does sound rather… interesting.”

There was something in her tone that said she wasn’t anti-Nico as Cassie had assumed. In fact, quite the opposite, and Cassie was curious about it. “So you know Nico fairly well then?”

“Yes,” she said without hesitation but without any elaboration offered either. “Is there someplace we can all sit down?”

“Furniture hasn’t been on the top of my list these days,” Troy admitted, but he didn’t sound apologetic either.

“I would imagine not,” Aylia said, her tone solemn for the first time since she arrived. “No problem. The floor it is then.” She sat down and pulled her bag from her shoulder. “I need everyone to form a circle.”