His eyes sharpened, so blue, so angry, they cut like crystal blades. “No,” he said in a voice so soft, which was somehow more lethal. “You’re far more dangerous than she ever was.”
The next thing she knew, he was dragging her towards the two-story brick building, lined with sidewalks a
nd shrubs. An elderly man came out of the first doorway they passed and gaped at the handcuffs. Troy glanced at the man, and compelled him to see something that wasn’t there, “I’m just taking my groceries inside,” he said, using his vampire ability to control human minds.
“I’m not your groceries,” she grumbled, thankful werewolves were immune to vampire mind manipulation. She not only wanted to remember what was happening, she wanted Troy to remember the things he’d forgotten, the things that happened before the night he’d almost died. So Cassie followed Troy, even in his clearly rage-driven mood, more than willingly. She wasn’t afraid of him and she didn’t want to fight him. She wanted to fight the past that had made him this way, which had clearly changed him in far more ways than she’d realized.
The minute they were inside the small, bottom floor apartment, four doors down from the old man’s, Troy slammed the door shut and locked it. She turned to inspect the place, only to be dragged past an absolutely bare living room free of furniture, to a tiny rectangular kitchen.
He stopped at the fridge and yanked it open, then snatched a nearly empty bag of blood from inside which he instantly tilted back and began drinking. Shock, and a fizzle of unease, slid through Cassie. In the year that she’d hunted with him she’d never seen him feed or drink blood. As in, ever. Vampires had evolved to eating human food, with blood playing the role of supplement. Or, she thought with concern, a drug to gain added strength and power that, when abused, created bloodlust. That Troy was drinking blood now, in front of her, gulping it like there was no tomorrow, and that there was a primal, out of control, unnatural edge to him, where there had always been lethal calm, had her own blood freezing.
He tossed the bag in the sink, and now his blue eyes were glowing a kind of silvery color that she’d never seen before on anyone. A chill of warning raced down her spine. He was in trouble. Big trouble, that was far worse than she had imagined possible. Or maybe she was in trouble. Maybe, she really was his groceries. Her blood was richer than that of humans, a delicacy to vampires, which had long made them targets for their rogues.
“Ah,” she said finally, when he just kept staring at her. “Can I make you a sandwich for desert? Or maybe a steak served rare?” Still, he just looked at her, yellow bleeding into the silver. She clung to hope with the absence of red. “I take your silence as a ‘no’.” She wet her lips. His gaze followed and she felt the hunger in him, and this time it wasn’t for blood. It was for her, and it wasn’t the first time he’d look at her like this – okay, not exactly like this, not quite so… primitively. Her body heated, awareness rushing through her where perhaps there should have been fear, especially with the threat of bloodlust. But she was a wolf with a primal side of her own, one this man called to more than any other she’d ever known. Still, while she didn’t fear him, she was afraid for him.
“What’s happening to you, Troy?”
“That’s the question of the year,” he said, grabbing her hand beneath the cuff and headed out of the kitchen. “Let’s go talk about that.”
Cassie grimaced at the bite of the silver on her wrist, at him tugging her around like a dog, or in this case, a wolf on a leash. She cared about Troy, but this part of their meeting was wearing on her nerves.
“Is the cuff necessary?” she asked, realizing they were headed down a hallway to what she was pretty sure was the only bedroom in the place. He didn’t answer. Of course he didn’t. Why did she think he would answer when he clearly had grown some aversion to conversation?
A few more steps and they were in a small, dimly lit bedroom with a king sized bed and nothing but plain white sheets. She wasn’t beyond admitting she’d had more than a few fantasies about his bedroom and none of them looked quite like this. The place was a dump and she wondered why. All the Wardens were paid, and paid well.
He stopped by the broken down nightstand and unlocked his cuff, his long blonde hair draping his face. She reached up and gently shoved it away aside, and his gaze slowly lifted to hers, his eyes glowing silver, all remnants of yellow now gone. “What’s happening to you?” she repeated, then rephrased. “What happened to you?”
“A wolf happened to me,” he said, and then moved abruptly.
Suddenly, her hand was over her head, and her wrist was attached to the bedpost. Cassie was no push over. She was a member of the elite Royal Guard, and when she wanted to fight, she could fight.
She wrapped her legs around Troy’s, and grabbed his shoulder with her free hand. “Take the cuff off of me,” she hissed. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll help you.”
He held up the key and she reached for it. He flung it across the room. “Damn it, Troy!”
“Let go of me, Cassie, before I forget why I want you to. Before I’m no longer responsible for my actions. Believe me, you don’t want me this close to you when I’m like this. I don’t… want to hurt you.”
If the words had been a threat, she’d have rejected them instantly. But they weren’t. They were a plea of desperation. She had to let him go. She knew this. She sensed it. But everything inside her screamed to hold on. That if she let go of him, he might run out the door and she’d never find him again. The Troy she knew was still inside this rougher, darker Troy, and she was going to find him, one way or the other.
She was about to tell him as much, to beg him to talk to her, when he suddenly buried his face in her neck, a low growl escaping his lips, before he began to tremble… like a Red wolf about to shift.
“What’s happening?” Cassie asked urgently, sliding her free hand over his hair, and cursing the key he’d thrown away. “Let me help you, Troy. Please. Let me help.”
“I need up,” he hissed into her ear, pain etched in his tone. He tried to roll off of her and she let him this time. It wasn’t as if she could have really stopped him without a struggle that she would have ultimately lost. Something told her a struggle wasn’t a good idea right now.
Troy curled to his side, and gave her his back, which told her he was in serious pain. She’d seen him fight unfazed, with huge, gaping wounds that he didn’t even seem to notice. She tried to reach for him, but the cuff kept her from getting close enough. He moaned again, a wolfish sound that defied reason. Cassie gaped as his jeans ripped down his thighs. Not only was he doing the impossible for a vampire by shifting, the agony he was in told a story. Natural born wolves didn’t feel any form of discomfort with a shift. Red wolves did. Cassie didn’t want to think about what that meant for Troy, but she was pretty sure that allowing him to shift would be a very bad idea. She was also fairly sure that the only way she’d come out of this alive if he did was by shifting herself to hold her own. Troy was right, though. She really didn’t want to lose her hand in the process.
Cassie jerked hard at the cuff, and then did it again, over and over, trying to break it, but it wasn’t normal silver or steel, that was clear. It had to be spellcast by one of the ‘Coven of the Rain’ witches who’d recently aligned themselves with the vampires. Damn her brother Nico for pissing those ladies off. They were clearly better allies than foes.
Just when Cassie was going to give up on freedom and rethink her next move, the headboard creaked under her efforts. The next second, the metal bar her cuff was attached to, broke away from the frame.
Cassie tugged again and the bed piece came completely lose, and shot out towards her, all but smacking her in the face. She recovered, but much to her frustration, the ends of the bars were too wide to shove through the cuff. She was stuck with it. She needed the key.
Cassie kicked off her shoes that she had remarkably kept on up to this point, then lugged the bar with her, scrambling off the bed, half expecting Troy to grab her, but he didn’t. He just kept shaking.
Frantically, she searched for the key, and thankfully found it with surprising speed. Cassie snatched it up, quickly releasing her wrist. She rushed back to the bed, approaching Troy from behind, knowing that male wolves’ didn’t do well with anything they thought to be confrontational. And rational or not, right now, her vampire seemed more wolf than blood sucker.