He hesitated, in sudden turmoil.

Remember how rich my blood tastes, how delicious our bond? Just imagine it on your tongue, like chocolate and wine, as you will recall.

Waving a hand, he chanted a few words, and the wards fell. Immediately, a dark figure stepped from the shadows beyond the pool of light from the lamp.

"Come to me, boy."

Standing, he walked to Malik, uncaring that he was still naked. But it hardly mattered. The other male was in his true Unseelie form, in all his brutal, terrible glory. He was so tall, his head almost touched the ceiling, his leathery wings slightly spread, taking up the room. He was all muscle, raw strength, impressive as ever.

When Kalen was in front of him, the Unseelie cupped the back of his head and drew Kalen's face to the crook of his neck. "Take my blood in the way of our kind. I know you want to."

He did. His mouth was watering at the prospect. His fangs lengthened and he struck quickly, sinking them into the male's flesh. The dark nectar hit his tongue and he moaned, swallowing all he could. So good. The savage potency of it arousing him against his will.

The feelings weren't about Malik at all. But the lure of the darkness, the evil, that was another matter. The rush was a million times that of any street drug, and much more addictive. He could no more have stopped the ecstasy flooding his cock and balls than he could've stopped his heart from beating.

"You've had enough." The Unseelie pried him off, setting him back.

"No! Please, I need more." He hated the bastard for making him beg.

Malik grinned, looking a lot like the devil. "And so you will have it, the next time you please me. Report to me tomorrow, after you've completed your first task."

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"Yes, Malik."

The Unseelie reached out and ran a claw down his cheek. Curiously, his expression softened. "You please me, boy."

Such a fatherly gesture, accompanied by words he'd longed to hear from his own dad. "Thank you." God, he was so messed up.

In a wink, the Unseelie was gone.

Falling back onto the bed, Kalen took his cock in hand. The flood of heady arousal had to be relieved or he'd lose his mind. If he hadn't already. The nectar flowed like heroin in his veins, seducing. Just, he suspected, as Malik had intended, but he didn't care.

Fisting his rod, he stroked firmly. Squeezed. His balls drew up and it took just a few more passes before his release blew, spurting come all over his belly. Even some on his chest. There was nothing like the ride the Unseelie's blood took him on. He could easily become addicted.

Like he could have to his mate had she not rejected him.

Obviously that had been a pipe dream. This, however, was real.

Before he dropped off to sleep, he chanted a few words, replacing the magical wards over the compound.

Though in some dark corner of his heart, he had been tempted to leave them down.

* * *

Breakfast was an interesting affair.

Sitting across from Ryon, Kalen studied the blond-haired man and contemplated the best method of getting to him. The man was a Channeler and Telepath. He could talk to spirits, and he hated his so-called gift. Now to find a way to turn that against him.

As a Sorcerer, one of Kalen's abilities was necromancy-he could raise the dead and talk to them. It came in handy at times, like in an investigation. Might be useful now.

Wasn't this going to be fun?

From the corner of his eye he caught Mackenzie's stare from the far side of the dining room, and for a few seconds his resolve faltered. Then the incredible pain of her walking out on him returned, strengthening it again.

Returning his attention to the silver wolf, he mulled over his challenge. Kalen couldn't see ghosts like Ryon could. In order to speak with them, Kalen had to use his sorcery to call the spirit back into its former body at the grave site. He was in short supply of graves and bodies here, so that meant he'd have to improvise. And the best way to do that was with an illusion.

Ryon wouldn't know Kalen was behind what was about to go down. If he suspected, it wasn't like he'd be able to prove anything. Pretending to enjoy his eggs and bacon, Kalen concentrated. Sent out a wave of energy that drew from air and light and a touch of shadow. The composition swirled to form a tall, menacing figure draped in what appeared to be a dark cloak. The white face was blank, and it stood beside the wolf, reached out a skeletal hand and pointed a bony finger at him.

The blond was engrossed in conversation with Zan sitting beside him and at first didn't notice the eerie presence. No one else in the room could see it, except for Ryon and Kalen, who pretended he didn't.

Ryon laughed at something Zan said, and glanced to his left. When he did, he choked on his food at the sight of the cloaked creep. A thrill of satisfaction wormed through Kalen's heart, even as it shamed him. Ryon had always been pretty decent to him and-

Focus, Kalen. Make me proud.

Doubt subsiding, Kalen sent another burst of magic at his creation, animating it briefly.

"You are no good to anyone with your worthless gift," it hissed at Ryon. "Die."

Ryon immediately went white and nearly fell off his seat. "What the fuck?"

Pushing a last surge at the figure, Kalen had it rush straight at Ryon and pass right through him before disappearing. The force of it knocked the wolf to the floor, where he landed on his ass.

"Jesus, man," Zan blurted, startled. He offered his friend a hand. "What the hell was that all about?"

"Didn't you see it?" He let Zan help him up and stood by his chair, clearly rattled. Wild-eyed, he spun in place, searching every inch of the dining room for the specter.

"I didn't see crap except you falling out of your chair looking like you'd seen a ghost. You did, didn't you?"

"Yeah. Shit." He tugged at his hair in distress. "But I've never had one attack me before. I felt the damned thing go right through me."

"No way," Jax said from nearby, frowning. "You all right?"

"Yeah. Or I will be, soon as I get the image out of my head of the Grim Reaper telling me I'm worthless and to die."

This caused no little alarm among his friends, who peppered him with questions. Kalen made sure to interject a couple as well, just to throw off any suspicion. When all was said and done, the group chalked it up as a random occurrence, not that Ryon was all that convinced. Appetite gone, the man excused himself and left.

Another twinge of guilt speared Kalen's chest. He'd upset a good man for nothing other than the sheer pleasure of watching another suffer. Worse, not everyone was fooled into thinking the incident was totally "random."

Mackenzie was glaring daggers at him. His chest tightened as she stood and stalked to his table. "I want to talk to you. Alone."

Out of self-preservation, he went on the offense. "You didn't take a big enough chunk out of my hide last night? Want a knife so you can finish the job, baby?"

Leaning over, she whispered ominously in his ear, "I know what you just did. So unless you want everyone here to listen to our conversation, I suggest you come with me. Baby."

Straightening, she marched out. Fuck me.

Ignoring the curious glances directed his way, he wiped his mouth, tossed his napkin onto his plate, and followed along. She led him down the corridor, not speaking again until she pulled him into the team's empty conference room. Perching one hip on the table, she crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a look of pure disgust.

"Want to tell me what the hell that was about back there?"

Damn, she looked sexy when she got all butch like that. It was a side of his doc that didn't come out often, and it turned him on. Probably not a smart idea to point that out right now.

Giving his full attention to her, he realized she wasn't just angry-she was disappointed. She couldn't hide the emotion in her blue eyes, or the exhaustion. He wondered if she'd slept any after she'd left last night.

He cared. Even though she'd rejected him, he cared far too much about her feelings. Her well-being. The thought of Mackenzie hurting, hurt him in turn.

"How did you guess it was me?" he asked hoarsely, slumping into a chair.

"I didn't have to guess. We're mates now, remember?" she spat. "I can't read your thoughts, but every emotion in you is coming through loud and clear to me. Including your rage and your guilt."

He tensed. "Since when?"

"This morning when you came to breakfast. I started to feel all of it, right after you walked in, and I know it's coming from you. If you focus, you can probably read mine, too."

"I don't need to feel them to get that you're upset," he muttered.

"Upset?" She stared at him, incredulous. "Kalen, what you did to Ryon may seem harmless, but the intent behind the act is very serious. Why would you do something like that?"

His gaze dropped to his boots.

"My God, that Unseelie creep has an even bigger hold on you than I thought. What does he have that lures you in?" Her anger dissipated, replaced by fear, and she gasped. "You haven't become . . . intimate with him, have you?"

His mouth fell open. "No!" He shook his head, stomach lurching at the mere thought-and that she would even suspect him of having sex with the Unseelie. His panther snarled in displeasure at the image of bedding anyone but his mate. "No way. Not like you mean. I'd never lie to you about that."

She blew out a breath and nodded. Some of her color returned. "Okay. Then how is it that he gets to you?"

"You know part of it. He plays to my insecurities and sympathizes with all of the shit I've been through," he admitted with difficulty. "He tells me everything I've always longed to hear from my father. He tells me how proud he is of me, and when I please him . . . he gives me a blood reward."

She stilled. "His, or someone else's?"

"His. It's like a designer drug my system already craves, and now I don't know how I'll stop."

She lowered her head and fell silent. When a tear slid down her cheek, Kalen pushed to his feet, intending to gather her in his arms, but she put out a hand to stop him. "This is so messed up. I don't know how to deal with any of this, or with you."

Agony speared his heart. "If I'm just another problem you have to deal with, then maybe I'm not worth the fight. At least Malik thinks I am."

That was a low blow, and it produced instant results. Pushing from the edge of the table, she took a couple of quick steps forward and swung her hand. Her palm struck his cheek with a resounding crack that echoed throughout the room. He didn't move. Didn't breathe.

"Don't ever compare me to that murdering piece of scum, not ever again!" she shouted. "There isn't a single person in this building whose life he hasn't almost destroyed! Is that really what you want? To help that bastard kill your friends? Maybe even kill you?"

"No. It's not what I want at all." Any second, he was going to implode. How much more could he take?

"Then fight him! Otherwise, you're not the man I thought you were."

"But I can't-"

She wasn't listening anymore. Turning, she stalked from the room, flinging open the door so hard it bounced against the wall and chipped the paint.

"I can't fight without you," he whispered to the empty air. His mate was the only good and pure thing keeping his head above water.

Without Mackenzie, he would sink into the depths of hell and never emerge.

Chapter Eight

Mac swept past the front desk, ignoring Noah's tentative question.

"Doc? You okay?"

She kept going. When she reached the sanctity of her office, she slammed the door shut and stood there, chest heaving. A wave of dizziness swamped her and the room began to spin. She wavered, put out a hand, realizing she was about to go down-