But the Solarc was not kind. He was not forgiving. He’d decreed the gate between their worlds closed, and now, millennia later, all the Sanguinar suffered for a mistake their fathers made before they were even born.
There was no sense in dwelling on that which could not be altered. The best he could hope for now was to help his people survive long enough to see Project Lullaby to its completion. Once the strongest of the human bloodlines was restored, there would be enough power to feed the Sanguinar. They’d never be the powerful creatures they’d been created to be, but at least they’d live without constant hunger.
At least then there’d be enough food to go around for some of them to have children of their own.
After so many centuries of experiencing nearly everything life had to offer, the only thing Tynan truly wanted was a child of his own. Until he could be sure that child would not suffer from starvation, he’d vowed not to bring a life into this world.
The temporary high of consuming Madoc’s blood made breaking his vow tempting, but he’d fought temptation often enough that he did so now with hardly a conscious thought. It was better to focus on the immediate things surrounding him and leave his dreams for the times when he needed something to distract him from the hunger.
As a matter of habit, Tynan used a small amount of the power flowing into him to read Madoc’s mind. What he found left him deeply concerned.
Madoc was going to kill himself. Tonight.
Tynan couldn’t let that happen. Madoc’s blood was too rich, its power too recently tapped to let him waste it in death. He knew the leaves on the Theronai’s lifemark were fake—painted there by someone Tynan could not quite see—but there was something else about him that Tynan had sensed last year, when Madoc had shared his blood for the first time in order to save Nika’s life.
There was a dark energy hovering about Madoc, close to his skin. He couldn’t tell exactly what it was or where it came from, but he knew what it did. It kept Madoc’s last leaf suspended on his skin, unable to completely fall.
If any of the other Theronai found out about this, they’d have Madoc killed.
Tynan wasn’t going to let that happen, either.
The only solution was to save the man’s life, and the only way to do that was to find his female counterpart.
Nika, perhaps? Tynan wasn’t sure. The two hadn’t spent much time together, from what he could tell, and even if they had, the manifestation of signs of compatibility could very well be obscured, not only by the fact that his lifemark was bare, but also by whatever energy it was that kept that last leaf frozen in stasis.
Without experimentation, Tynan couldn’t be sure what to think. The only thing he knew for sure was that Madoc needed to live. If he had to experiment to make that happen, then he would, even if it meant suffering through the horror of drinking Nika’s blood.
The single drop he’d consumed last year had nearly driven him mad in the space of a few brief seconds.
Just the thought of having his mind shattered like that again was enough to make Tynan shake. If it hadn’t been for years of mental control, he would still be screaming from that one drop, locked inside that nightmare she endured. Unless, of course, it had simply killed him.
He’d warned all his brethren that her blood was tainted and that they should avoid taking it unless the circumstances were dire.
Madoc’s death qualified as dire. His blood could feed Tynan’s kind for years. That alone was worth Tynan’s risking his life.
He dialed Logan. It was still daylight outside, so he had to let the phone ring, then dial again before Logan was able to rouse himself from the grip of sleep.
“I need you to come home,” he told Logan.
“Why? I thought you wanted me to follow Iain to see if I could retrieve one of the Synestryn offspring.”
“Something more important has come up. I’ll send someone to take your place. How far away are you?”
“Three hours.” Logan’s voice was thick with sleep.
Tynan looked at Madoc sprawled on his couch. “Try to hurry.”
“What’s going on, Tynan?”
He didn’t want to say too much over the phone. He didn’t trust that Nicholas or one of the other Theronai wouldn’t be listening in on his call. They had all kinds of technological gadgets Tynan didn’t understand. “I need you here in case things go wrong. In case I need my second-in-command to perform his duties.”
When Logan spoke again, all signs of sleepiness were gone from his voice. “What are you planning?”
“I’m leaving now,” said Logan.
“It’s still light out.”
It had been several years since sunlight had touched a Sanguinar’s skin, causing one of the Solarc’s Wardens to come hunting for blood and retribution. Everyone wanted to keep it that way.
“I’ll be careful. Wait for me, okay?”
Tynan hung up the phone without answering him. He’d wait as long as he could without risking Madoc.
In the meantime, he had plenty of uses for Madoc’s power. First, he was going to tweak the cure he’d been working on to reverse the Theronai’s infertility so the next batch of serum was ready to test on Angus. Next, he was going to muck around inside Madoc’s thick skull and do his best to remove the Theronai’s plan to kill himself. Then he was going to figure out whether the femur Nika had brought him could have belonged to her sister. He hoped not, because it could mean another female Theronai was out there somewhere.
If he could get the Theronai breeding again and help pair up another two couples, that would go a long way toward saving his people from starvation. Of course, he had about three hours to do whatever he was going to do before risking his life by taking Nika’s blood.
He truly hoped Madoc stayed asleep long enough for him to finish his work. He’d seen the way the man looked at Nika, and he did not want to be on the receiving end of Madoc’s fury.
Nika stayed in Madoc’s suite after he left. She liked it here. Even if he couldn’t stand to be near her, she liked being surrounded by his things. His presence filled the space, cradling her body while she went seeking her sister with her mind.
If Tori was out there, she was unreachable. Nika didn’t know if her sister had completely pulled away, or if the magic that had been embedded into the very walls of Dabyr somehow prevented her from making contact.
Nika could still feel that Tori was alive, but that faint pulse of life was so weak that unless she was touching it, it was easy to think she’d imagined it was still there.
If Nika didn’t get to her soon, she was afraid her sister truly would be dead. It was time to make Tynan give her that proof one way or another.
Nika made a quick stop by her suite to put on clothes before she went to see the Sanguinar. The sun had just begun to set when she knocked on his door. It took him too long to answer, so she knocked again.
The door cracked open a couple of inches. Tynan’s icy blue eye peered out at her. “I’m not ready for you yet. Come back in an hour.”
“I don’t have that kind of time. I need to know now.”
A low, familiar groan sounded from inside Tynan’s suite. A flare of panic brightened his eyes for a moment before he covered the slip.
He was hiding something.
“Who is that?” she asked.
“An hour, Nika. Leave me to my work.”
Nika thrust her hand into the doorway, knowing Tynan would not dare risk hurting her. Every Theronai in the compound would come swooping down upon him if he did.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“Finding out what you’re hiding.”
“This is none of your affair. Leave.”
Another deep groan filtered through the opening, and this time, Nika recognized Madoc’s voice.
Anger flared inside her, giving her a moment of strength. She shoved the door open, making Tynan stumble back, and raced into the room.
Madoc lay sprawled on the couch, looking limp and boneless, like he’d passed out. She knelt on the couch by his side and touched him, letting him know she was here.
Her head whipped around so she could glare at Tynan. “What did you do to him?”
“You really shouldn’t be here yet. We have to wait for Logan.”
Nika had no idea what he meant, but all she cared about was Madoc. “Answer me, or I swear to God I’ll find a way to force-feed you a gallon of my blood.”
Tynan’s pale skin went papery white at her threat. “He’s fine. I put him to sleep for his own good.”
“I doubt he’ll see it that way.” Nika slid her fingers over his forehead, smoothing his hair back, and noticed that some of the blisters on her arm were mostly gone. There was a patch of skin that had healed in the shape of a man’s hand. That was what had happened when Madoc grabbed her and she felt that odd tingling. He’d healed her and probably hadn’t even known he’d done it.
“He gave me the power I needed to study the bone. I have your answer.”
She immediately forgot about her arm. “And?”
“I compared the bone’s marrow to Andra’s blood and they don’t match. The child was blooded, but only mildly so. She had only a trace of Athanasian blood—perhaps not even enough for her to qualify as a Gerai.”
Relief welled up inside Nika, spilling out in tears. She squeezed Madoc’s hand. “I need to call Andra. Wake Madoc up. We have to go find her.”
Tynan moved closer, gliding across the floor. The lights in the room seemed to dim as his eyes flared with a bright, eerie light. “We’ll call her in a minute. First, I need to know something.”
Nika felt heavy, unable to move. A skittering panic crawled up her spine as Tynan neared. She hadn’t feared him for a long time, but now all the reasons she had were coming back to her.
He was a predator. He wanted her blood.
No, her blood hurt him. Didn’t it?
Nika wanted to scream, but her throat seemed to shrink until there was no room for sound. All she managed to get out was one pathetic squeak of fear, and even that was cut short.
“Hold still, little one,” he crooned as he neared. “This won’t hurt a bit.”
Nika wanted to close her eyes, but they were locked on Tynan’s, and she was unable to move. She felt trapped by his gaze, held prisoner.
Tynan leaned down, tipping her head back. He bared his fangs and a moment later, Nika was falling.
Madoc felt Nika’s hand tighten around his. He knew it was hers even though his eyes were closed. No other woman had skin as soft and bones as delicate as his Nika.
No. Not his. He had to remember that, though right now, he couldn’t seem to figure out why. His head was foggy, his body heavy, like he’d been drugged.
He heard her voice twisting with a soft cry of terror before it was cut short.
He opened his eyes to see what was wrong and saw a man’s dark head bowed over her, kissing her neck.
Rage slammed into Madoc, burning off the haze that filled him. He shot to his feet, reaching for his sword, only to find that it wasn’t there. That confused him, but not enough to stop him from killing this man.