Thane laughed. Jane’s ears were still ringing from the gunshots. The bastard—the sick bastard had just waited up there for Aidan to appear. He’d covered her mouth with his hand until that last moment, stopping her from calling out a warning until it was too late.
Aidan had fallen back down into the tunnel. He could be dead. Right the hell then, he could be dead. Fury pounded through her, surging past her pain. She hit back with her elbow, as hard as she could, and Thane actually let her go. Maybe he’d been caught off-guard by her move or maybe—
She lunged forward and tumbled down into that tunnel. She hit the ground, her knees slamming into the earth, her palms thudding with a bruising impact, but Jane didn’t care. She crawled forward, desperate to reach Aidan.
And then Thane jumped into the tunnel with her.
“He’s not dead yet. His body is fighting the silver. He’ll live a bit longer, I’ll make sure of it.”
Jane’s hands were flying over Aidan’s chest. So much blood. And…she could feel one of his wounds. The spot where one of those silver bullets had driven into his chest.
Get it out.
Aidan could heal, damn fast, but she had to get the silver out of him. Hadn’t he healed up fast enough before when he’d dug that bullet out of his chest? Jane didn’t even give herself time to think. She just shoved her fingers into that gaping hole. Find it. Find it. Maybe the bullet had shattered on impact. What she was doing could be completely useless. She was—
Thane’s fingers locked around the nape of her neck and he yanked her back. But even as he pulled her, Jane’s fingers curled around the bullet she’d ripped from Aidan’s chest.
“He’ll live longer,” Thane said again. “After all, he has to live long enough to be your first victim. I have to provide you with a strong meal, one that will give you plenty of power.”
Thane walked backward with her until she slammed into the dirt wall of the tunnel. His fingers were tight bands around her neck. He leaned in close and she felt the rough lick of his tongue along her neck. “I would love to taste you.”
Bile rose in her throat.
“But that isn’t how it works.” His hand went to her right side, and he yanked up her shirt. His left hand was locked around her neck, but the fingers of his right hand traced her scar. “You are the end. The one we’ve been waiting for. Humans and werewolves—they won’t stand a chance. Not when you rise.”
Jane tried to shake her head.
“I’m going to strangle you,” Thane said, as his fingers tightened on her throat. “I thought about breaking your neck, but well…we want to be sure your death is nice and violent, don’t we? A snap would be entirely too quick.”
He was squeezing her throat, compressing her airway. Her temples were throbbing. And Aidan—
Aidan let out a long groan. Yes. Yes. He was coming back to her. She just needed that wolf to heal one hell of a lot faster.
Her hands pounded into Thane. Asshole Thane. He wasn’t letting her go. I can’t get a breath!
“Did you know you were special before that night? Did you realize it?” Thane asked her.
I’m not special. Some freak vampire just decided to burn me—and that same freak thinks he’s killing me! But she wasn’t ready to die. No way.
“The perfect instrument of death,” he murmured.
The pressure was so intense. Her eyes were aching. She stopped pounding at his chest and desperately clawed at his hand. She could hear the blood pounding in her ears. He was crushing her throat, squeezing tighter and tighter and she couldn’t get free.
“Your mother thought by hiding you from your real father, you’d be safe. She was wrong. You are his blood. The only one who can become more.”
Her real father.
No. Dear God, no!
“He’s dead now, werewolves killed him. Werewolves like that sick freak you took as a lover.”
She couldn’t see Thane any longer. Black dots covered her vision. And she wasn’t clawing at his hands any longer. Her arms had fallen limply to her sides.
“It will only be fitting that you rip out his throat when you wake back up. You are the end. The one who we’ve all been waiting for. Show the world just what hell looks like—”
He was dragged away from her. His bellowing scream echoed in the tunnel.
Jane fell. She didn’t gasp for breath. She just fell. And even though darkness surrounded her, in that one terrible moment, she thought of Aidan.
The one man who’d made her wish…made her want more. Made her want the happiness that other people seemed to have.
As her body hit the ground, she said a silent prayer.
Please, God, please, don’t let me kill him. Not Aidan. If I wake up, don’t let me hurt him.
Such a pity…Jane thought that maybe…maybe she could have loved him.
Or maybe I already do.
“The alpha is a dead man!” Graham snarled.
Paris drove his fist into the guy’s face. “Bastard! We trusted you! You were our friend!” Shit—he’d known Graham for years. Fucking years. And the guy had sold them out to a vampire?
“Our turn for power,” Graham said, licking away the blood from his busted lip. “You and me. We can take over this pack. Let me go…let’s go after him, together. Make sure the job is done. Make sure Aidan is dead. His vampire-to-be piece of ass is going to rip his throat out.”
Paris shook his head. “No, she isn’t.” But he wanted to run after Aidan to make absolutely sure of that fact. Dammit.
Annette staggered closer. Annette Benoit. He knew her. Had always thought she was fucking gorgeous.
And powerful. Everyone knew…you didn’t mess with the Voodoo Queen.
Annette lifted up a small doll. Where the hell did she get that from? Wait…it looked as if it had been made from the dirt of that tunnel. Dirt held together with her own blood. “You betrayed me,” Annette said to Graham.
Her fingers fisted over the doll, and the pieces of dirt crumbled. Before Paris’s eyes, Graham crumpled, too. He let out a long, loud, inhuman scream of pain and he fell to the ground, shuddering.
Annette stared down at him with a pitiless gaze. “That’s what betrayal feels like to me,” she whispered. Then she glanced up at Paris. “You can go now. He won’t hurt anyone else.”
“I-I’ll keep guard,” Garrison offered, though he looked as if he were afraid of Annette, too.
“Go,” Annette said again.
“I sure as hell hope I never piss you off,” Paris muttered to Annette.
Her eyelids flickered.
But Graham was obviously not a threat to anyone right then. Her magic had done something to him, and Paris rushed after Aidan, knowing that if his friend needed him, he had to be there. Aidan had saved his ass before and now—
Now it’s my turn. Because unlike Graham, Paris would never betray his friend. He just wasn’t made that damn way.
Thane was laughing. Laughing so hard even as Aidan drove his fist into the fool’s chest.
That stopped the laughter.
But Thane didn’t go down. “She’s dead,” he whispered. “Dead, dead, dead…”
And Aidan felt as if someone had just tried to cut out his heart. He sliced up with his claws, going for Thane’s neck this time. He would cut the bastard’s head off and be done with him. But at the last moment, Thane managed to stumble back. Aidan cut the bastard—sliced him deep enough to send blood spraying—but he didn’t get Thane’s head.
Dead, dead, dead…
Instead of attacking Thane again, Aidan leapt for Jane because he knew every second counted. Maybe he could bring her back. Do CPR. Give her his blood. Something. If he acted fast enough, he could stop this. He could save her. It didn’t have to end this way.
Please, don’t end this way. He pulled her limp body into his arms. And he felt it right then…his heart stopped. It just stopped because Jane wasn’t moving. The pain ripped straight to his soul. He hadn’t realized what was happening with her. With them. He’d thought he was just reacting to her scent, to what she was but…no.
All along, everything had happened between them because she was, simply…Jane. His Jane. His beautiful, strong Jane.
Jane…who made him ache. Who made him want. Who made him need.
Who made him love.
I fucking love you. Don’t leave me. Don’t.
He hunched over her, grief nearly tearing him apart because this was too soon. He needed an eternity with her. He pushed on her chest, wanting her to breathe. His lips found hers and he gave her his air. “Please,” he begged, but she was so still. “I love—”
She shuddered. Her eyes flew open and she gasped, sucking in a deep breath.
Hope held him still. Fear controlled his body.
“Not…dead…yet…” Her voice was a broken rasp, and it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard.
He squeezed her tight. Jane. Jane. Jane! He hadn’t lost her. She was his. They had a chance. They had—
“Vamp…” Jane whispered. “Behind…”
He leapt up just as Thane came at him. The bastard had ripped one of the wooden support beams right out of the tunnel’s wall. He slammed the board into Aidan’s chest. It splintered.
Aidan didn’t go down.
Jane was alive. He would not let that bastard get to her again. His only job was to keep her safe. Keep her safe. Protect her. Love her for all my days.
So he attacked with claws and fury. Again and again, he hit the vampire. But Thane was strong. And he struck back. They slammed into the walls, they rolled across that damn tunnel. Blood and pain. Aidan called forth his wolf, knowing he had to shift completely so that he could take out this vamp. Thane was powerful, ancient, and he wouldn’t go down without a—
Jane’s voice. She was on her feet. Weaving a bit. Behind her, he saw Paris running down the tunnel.
“I’ve got something for you,” Jane whispered.
Thane lunged for her.
Before Thane could grab her, Aidan grabbed him. Aidan caught Thane’s arms, yanking them back.
And Jane lifted the broken chunk of wood she’d hidden behind her body. She slammed it into Thane’s chest, sending it straight through his body. Right through his heart.
“One of us…is dying tonight…” Jane said, her voice hoarse and broken. “But it’s…n-not…me…”
Thane sagged to the ground, his knees hitting hard.
“Look away,” Aidan ordered Jane.
“Paris…” Aidan snapped.
Paris grabbed Jane and pulled her behind him just as Aidan let his claws fly one more time. This time, it was Thane’s head that hit the ground. No coming back from that, you sonofabitch.
His breath heaved out. His shoulders shook. Blood was all around him, but that last vicious swipe from his claws—that blood spray hadn’t hit his Jane. Paris had protected her.
Paris had stopped her from seeing Aidan enjoy the kill.
Because he knew he’d been smiling when he took Thane’s head.
Silence beat in that tunnel. Heavy and thick. He stepped over the body. Paris looked up at him. “Guessing you want her now?”
I want her always.
Aidan took Jane into his arms. He lifted her up, a tremor going through him because he was so grateful and happy that she was alive. Her sweet scent filled his lungs and the fear finally faded enough that he could draw a full breath.
He carried her up the ladder and out into the night. Stars glittered overhead.
She was so still in his arms. “Is it…the end?” Jane asked him, her broken voice making him ache.
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “No, sweetheart, it’s the beginning.” For them, this night was a turning point. He knew exactly how much Jane meant to him.
And he knew that he would face any battle, kill any foe…for her.
“The beginning,” he said again and tightened his hold on his Jane.
She looked like hell.
Jane glared at her reflection. She’d slept for ten hours. Okay, maybe twelve hours. She shouldn’t have woken up with circles under her eyes and too pale skin, but she had.
And she’d also woken up with some wicked blue and black bruises all around her neck, courtesy of a now rotting vampire.
“You are so beautiful.”
At that low rumble, Jane turned around. Aidan stood in the bathroom doorway. His gaze drank her in and Jane forgot about bruises and stupid bags under her eyes.
He stepped toward her. Kissed her so carefully. He’d been careful with her all night. Taking care of her. Coddling her.
She wondered if he was going to make that a habit.
If so, she’d have to stop that shit. Care was all well and good, but she liked her rough wolf, too. Especially…at certain times.
“I have an in with your boss,” Aidan rasped against her lips. “So I’ve been told that you get the next few days off. Nothing but time to rest and relax.”
She sincerely hoped that resting wasn’t the only thing on the agenda.
Aidan pulled back and stared down at her. “I am so sorry.”
“Graham was my pack. My responsibility. And I didn’t see the threat that he was. I brought that danger to you.”
Jane shook her head even as her fingers tightened on the fluffy white robe that she wore—a robe of Aidan’s that totally swallowed her. “Not your fault. You can’t control other people’s crazy.”
His lips tightened. “My pack.”
And he thought he had to shoulder the burden of their sins? Not the way the world worked. “What’s going to happen to him?”
Jane blinked. “What?”
“Not by my hand,” he said, shaking his head. “Seems that he…he grabbed a silver gun while he was in Paris’s custody. He shot himself, screaming that he had to stop the pain that was ripping him apart.”
Jane rocked back on her heels.
“Paris said that he thinks Annette worked a spell on Graham when they were in the tunnels.”
“A spell to make him take his own life?” That was…terrifying. As terrifying as everything else that was going on.
“I don’t know. I’ll find out.”
“Is she okay?” Because Annette had tried to help her. Was Annette bad? Good? Maybe both?
Maybe we’re all both. A little bad. A little good.
Except for Thane. She figured he’d just been one Straight A Devil to his core.
And he knew my real father. But she didn’t mention that tidbit to Aidan. Perhaps he hadn’t heard those words of Thane’s. And she didn’t want to tell him. Because if she told him about her father, there would be so much more that she had to reveal.
And she couldn’t, not just yet.
It wasn’t just her life that she was protecting, after all.
“Annette is recovering. She’s weak, but Dr. Bob said she’ll be just fine.”
Now her brows rose. “Since when does Dr. Bob work on the living?”
His fingers curled around hers as he led her into his bedroom. They’d made love in that big bed before…before the nightmare that had exploded around them. Now though, he just eased her under the covers. Held her.
Not my style. And it’s not his, either.
“When I have emergencies,” Aidan said quietly, “I call him. I wanted to make sure Annette was all right.” He pressed a kiss to her cheek.
Jane turned to face him. “You have to stop.”
A furrow appeared between his brows.
“I’m okay. Don’t treat me like I’m some kind of—”
She didn’t like that word, mostly because it was so true.
“Your voice is still hoarse,” he said, eyes glinting. “Every time I hear it, I think of how close I came to losing you.”
She caught his hand. Brought it over her heart. Let him feel that strong beat. “You didn’t lose me.” Because she hadn’t been about to give up. She’d fought with all of her strength to live. She had felt him calling to her.
And she’d known that she had to get back to him.
I love him.
It was strange how death could make some things so very crystal clear.
So Jane took a deep breath, she licked her dry lips, and she stopped being afraid. “I love you, Aidan Locke.”
His eyes glowed. A good glow? She hoped so.
“Did you hear me?” Jane continued, though she knew he must have heard her. Werewolf hearing and all of that. And the fact that she was right in front of him. But he hadn’t responded, so she tried again. “I love—”
He kissed her. Not carefully. Not gently. But hot and hard and wild and she adored it.
“Love you,” Aidan bit off against her lips. “Want you. Need you. Love you always.”
And happiness exploded in her chest. She grabbed him and held on tight. It was her turn to be wild as she kissed him. There was no way to hold back because the joy Jane felt was too strong.
He loved her. She loved him. They had challenges coming their way—secrets and no doubt, more vamps—but they had each other.
To Jane, that was all that mattered.
Everything else…they’d deal with it.
She pushed him onto his back. Stripped his clothes away because she needed him naked. When he shoved down her robe, Aidan groaned his pleasure at finding she was nude.
She started to slide right over his cock. That big, thick cock that was fully erect. For her.
And she was already wet for him.
Jane bent and put her lips around the head of his arousal. She licked him, then took him into her mouth deeper, stroking him with her tongue and savoring him. Aidan had said he liked her taste. Well, she loved his taste. Jane was pretty sure she could get drunk off it.
“Jane. Fuck me now.”
Her impatient, perfect, sexy wolf.
Jane rose over him. She straddled his hips, then she surged down, taking that heavy cock into her. Their hands linked together. Their eyes met. Then she started to move. He moved. Thrusting hard and lifting her off the bed. Their breaths heaved out. His gaze began to glow, in that hot way that she loved so very much.
And then the climax hit her. She fell forward and Jane bit him lightly, right on the curve of his shoulder. She marked him, just the way he’d marked her before.
You’re mine, Aidan Locke. And Jane didn’t plan to let him go.
Her sex quivered and contracted as he pounded into her. So good. So incredibly good.
He shouted her name when he came. The pleasure blasted through every cell in her body, and Jane never, ever wanted it to end.
She didn’t want fear. She didn’t want doubt. She didn’t want anything but a life with her werewolf.
A life in which she knew she was loved.
Jane kissed her werewolf once more.
And he held her tight.
The sun was setting. Jane walked out onto the balcony at Hell’s Gate so that she could watch the night come for her.
Three days had passed since the attack at the werewolf mansion. Three days that she’d spent with Aidan, secured away at his home in the swamp.
But a girl couldn’t hide forever and, besides, hiding wasn’t exactly her style.
Her holster was under her arm. There were wooden bullets in that gun. And a silver knife was strapped to her ankle. A cop could never be too careful.
“Are you afraid?” Aidan asked as he came up behind her. His hands covered hers on the railing and he pressed a kiss to her neck.
The bruises were gone.
Afraid. The one word seemed to slice right through her. Was she afraid?
Of dying? Of changing?
Of the monsters that waited out there in the darkness?
She stared out at the city. Aidan felt so solid. So secure.
“I’m not afraid,” Jane said. Truth. She wasn’t. Because whatever else might come her way—whoever else—she’d face the threat. With Aidan at her side, they could do anything.
They would do anything.
She wasn’t afraid of the monsters.
Not even of the monster that might lurk inside of herself.