Read the first chapter
“Oh, Damon. Your face…your poor face.” The breathy, little girl voice, sweeter than sugar, really didn’t fit the insane woman who’d just spoken to me.
I’ve have long since grown used to that voice—and her violent tendencies—and didn’t bat an eyelash as she bent over me and stroked a hand down my cheek. Annette, local ruler of the cat clan, ruler of all she surveyed — except me — and batshit crazy psychopath, caught my chin and lifted my face upright.
For a moment, her face faded in and out of focus. The touch of her hand under my chin had bones grinding together. I didn’t make a sound.
Blinking my one good eye, I focused on her face until it stopped swimming in and out. The other eye was still swollen shut, although it was healing bit by bit.
I was the perfect punching bag for a lunatic.
I was big and strong and I healed fast.
In another few minutes, the bruises and bloody wounds would be gone and once I showered, nobody would be the wiser.
Save for me.
Even Annette would forget.
“Does it hurt?” She stared at me solemnly, her lips puckered, touched with a soft, pale pink that matched the negligee she’d pulled on earlier. Even the splattering of blood on her lower lip was echoed in the blood spray on the pink silk.
“Damon, does it hurt?” She stroked a hand down my cheek.
Yes, bitch. It hurts. Mentally, I told her exactly what she wanted to hear—I told her the truth. Out loud, I said, “I’m fine, Lady.”
After all, she’d done the beating, but she hadn’t been trying to punish me.
I had just been handy.
If she’d wanted to hurt me, either I’d be unconscious—or she’d be dead. Because one of these days, I would get fed up and just kill her.
So I just went with the neutral response.
I was fine.
She hadn’t done any lasting damage and I could already feel a dozen, stinging aches where the bones were knitting together, that odd itch was skin was closing itself up.
An odd, avid light gleamed in her eyes as she stroked a hand back across my scalp. “Are you sure?”
It was almost like she wanted me to say something—wanted me to tell her yeah, I was hurting. Or yeah, I was pissed.
But that would defeat the purpose.
I have taken this beating for a reason and that reason was currently standing on the far side of the room, his head hanging low.
The kid’s luck was running out and I didn’t know how much longer I’d be able to delay things.
But I’d managed to do it one more time.
Of course, I’d done it at the expense of somebody else’s neck.
I wasn’t sorry, though.
“I’m fine, Lady.”
“Wonderful.” She beamed at me, but the smile was lost to ice a moment later. “Where is Leon?” She strode over to the makeup table that took up the southeastern corner of her quarters. Since she was no longer leaning over me, I pushed up onto my elbow. It sent a lance of pain through me but I shoved it aside, fully aware that she was still watching me.
Those curious eyes, bright as a child’s, but oddly lifeless, like a doll’s, studied me as I leaned against the soft, pale pink wall at my back. Her rooms looked like they’d been designed to resemble a five-year-old girl’s birthday cake. Pink. Pink. Pink.
It was the color of my nightmares anymore. Not because I was afraid of her, but because sooner or later, I was afraid of what I’d find in here with her. Like today.
My shoulder screamed at me and I moved over to the center column in the middle of the room, bracing the injured part against it. A few seconds later, with lights pinwheeling across my vision, I had my shoulder set back into place.
She had dislocated it, but now that I had it back in place, it would heal up fast enough.
“Leon?” Annette asked again.
Turning, I met her eyes in the mirror just in time to see her lick my blood from her lips. “He’s gone, Lady. Doing his damnedest to stay that way, too.”
“But you will find him, won’t you, Damon?” She reached for a brush, stroking the silken blonde curls back from her face as she stared at me in the mirror.
Annette seem to have forgotten the kid. Doyle lingered near the fireplace, arms wrapped around himself, head hanging low—and his eyes pools of seething hate that locked on her head.
Just stay quiet, I willed him. Stay quiet.
“I can find him,” I assured her, moving closer so I’d fill her field of vision.
Doyle Hansen, her brother’s kid—her brother’s orphan—should have been living under her roof and if she was any kind of decent, she would have been taking care of him. But her idea of taking care was teaching a child the right way to break a bone. You want a clean break, so it will heal again. Then you can break it again. Our soldiers don’t serve us well if they can’t fight.
I’d taken the kid off her hands one night years ago. It hadn’t been long after his dad had died and what he’d needed was somebody to pay him some attention. That had happened, but the somebody had been Annette and the attention had been a fist to his mouth when he’d had a tantrum. He’d been just a runt of a thing, only days after losing his only parent and she belted him. If he’d been human, it would have killed him. Instead, she laid him up in the medical ward for days.
Shifter kids aren’t all that strong anyway and he’d ended up sick on top of things, alone there in the medical ward.
So I’d taken him. I’d been there for him for ten years.
I’d hope she’d forget about him.
But somebody had pointed him out to her a couple of months ago, mentioned that he looked nothing like his father and he was looking more and more like her side of the family with his blond hair and blue eyes.
She’d been dismayed, then delighted.
When will he change, do you think?
We could look amazing together, that boy and I…ruling this city.
Yes. It was always about her.
Her eyes took on a far-off look and I took advantage of it to give Doyle a dark look. He read it well, very well and in seconds, he was gone.
As the door whispered shut, I eased away from her. It was never a good idea to stay too close. Her appetites were too voracious, be they for blood or sex. She’d had blood from me. I wasn’t inclined to fuck her, too.
“Lady, should I deal with this issue?”
She blinked, lashes falling down to shield her blue eyes.
When she looked back at me, her fractured sanity had returned and she gave me a brilliant smile.
“Together, Damon. We’ll deal with it together. I love to watch you work.”