"The blood was sweet." God, no. He was losing his mind. Falling again.
Yes, son. It sustains us, the juices of our prey. Every night we will feast, not on those mangy Sluagh, but on young and succulent meat. Would you like that?
No, no. "Yes, Father."
"Kalen?" a sweet voice called from far away. "Don't listen to him! He's poisoning your mind!" But her pleas faded.
I'll bring the most beautiful specimens for us both, each night. They'll be trembling with desire, eager to sacrifice themselves to the world's most powerful creatures. They will be helpless against our seduction, spread their legs for us so we can feast on their essence before we slide our cocks deep.
Kalen panted, his cock lengthening in his jeans. Fought against the image, but hunger won. His cock throbbed as Malik continued.
You're sinking your cock deep into your willing prey now. The tight clasp of heat writhes against you, and you own this body. You are lord and master and this is your due. More?
"Yes, please. Tell me how it will be." He ground his hard cock underneath himself. Beyond saving.
You own your prey then, for that is what this body is-not woman or man. Simply a sacrifice to satisfy a superior beast. Your rod joins you both as you stroke inside, fanning your flame. Seeking the ultimate high. Just before the peak, you sink your fangs into the delicate throat. Do you taste the sweet, warm blood?
"So good," he moaned.
It fills your mouth as your prey screams out a release of joy at having experienced this joining. Of being your Chosen One for the evening, your body to enjoy. The prey dances on your cock as you fill it with your seed, until at last the life force begins to leave it. You take the soul into yourself, this precious gift.
His cock erupted, spasming on and on as the decadent scene ended. So wicked.
The sacrifice your prey has given to you is an honor and shall not be wasted. You tear into the throat and feast, and soon move on to the heart, for that is the best meat and will sustain you until the next night. This I promise you.
"You promise," he whispered.
Yes. You are my son. You are the prince of the Unseelie, and this is your destiny.
"Father, I've waited for you for so long. No one else ever wanted me."
I know, my son. We'll be together. In mere hours, it will all be over. You know what to do.
He did, and though the light fought to defeat the darkness, it dimmed to almost nothing. "I'll lower the shields."
Good. And then?
"I'll kill them for you. Kill them all!"
Except the woman. She carries our future.
"Of course." He frowned, but the wisp of light faded away again.
My Sluagh are coming, by the hundreds. You will fight at my side. And when it's all over you'll be rewarded with your first prey. Save your appetite.
He laughed. "Can't wait."
* * *
"Oh my fucking God," A.J. croaked, stunned. He stared at Kalen curled on the floor of his cell, consumed by Malik's poison. They'd heard enough of the Sorcerer's side of the conversation to glean what was about to go down. "That's not Kalen anymore. I'm calling Nick."
Sobbing, Mac fled Block R. She didn't know where she was going at first, only that she had to get out of there, now.
Help. She had to get help. She'd get Melina and they'd give him the sedative after all. At least he'd be unable to carry out his father's orders.
"Oh, no. No!"
She'd lost the man she loved to the evil that had stalked him all his life.
And had finally won.
* * *
Nick and Jarrod sat in Nick's office at half past two in the morning. Unable to sleep, they'd talked for hours. Something was going to happen, and soon.
The storm was on the way.
As if to punctuate this knowledge, lightning flashed and actual thunder rolled in the distance. Miles away yet but speeding toward them. He should've known the end would come with a real storm to add to the mess, not simply a figurative one.
"I can't get a reading, no inkling at all of a vision beyond what I've told you," Nick said in frustration.
"And that doesn't help much. We know there's a great war and Kalen is there. He's the impetus of the catastrophic event."
"Yeah. And we don't know which side of the fence he comes down on."
The cell phone on Nick's desk buzzed and he glanced at it in surprise. Then the chill of foreboding gripped him even before he saw the name on the screen. "It's A.J.," he told Jarrod. Then he answered. "What's up?"
"Boss, it's Kalen," the younger man said breathlessly. Nick was out of his chair and moving before the guy spoke again. Jarrod ran after him. "That Unseelie creep got into his head again, and-and you shoulda seen it. I think he's gone, boss. Like 'the Kalen we know doesn't live here anymore' gone. He's raving about killing all of us!"
"Grant and I are on the way."
"God, it's going to devastate Mac if . . ." The man couldn't finish.
"I know. But I'm not sure I'll have a choice."
But he knew. As soon as they entered the corridor and Nick heard the maniacal laughter, the awful sound of a body crashing into the cell's bars again and again, he understood what he had to do.
And it devastated him every bit as much as it would Kalen's mate.
He was going to have to put down a poor kid who'd never had a chance.
What was with all the attention?
Kalen strained to bring the pieces of his fractured mind back together. To make sense of why he was laughing like a loon, throwing himself at the bars of his prison. Scaring the shit out of A.J. Then the sniper was talking on his cell phone. Nick, he heard the man say.
And soon enough, Nick was standing outside, staring in at Kalen with an expression of sorrow Kalen had never seen before. It gave him pause. What did the man have to be sorry about? He was the one in here, suffering for something that wasn't his fault.
"I'll do it," A.J. said grimly, gripping his rifle. "It's my job."
"No. As I said before, he's Pack. As commander, he's my responsibility, and so is his end."
Nick took the rifle from A.J., who handed it over reluctantly. Then the commander faced Kalen again, the weapon in his big hands. "What's your name, son?" he asked, his voice calm.
"Is that a trick question?" he asked snidely. "You can call me Prince of the Unseelie." Yeah, he liked that.
"Who do you answer to?" the commander persisted.
"Malik. My father." But that wasn't right. The man in front of him was his boss. A father figure, too. He was good and kind. But where had those two pipe dreams of goodness and kindness from anyone ever gotten him?
"Jesus Christ," Aric said, walking up to Nick's side. "What the fuck is going on? Kalen?"
"Aric," Nick said quietly. "You might not want to watch this."
"What?" The redhead's mouth dropped open. "No! He goes batty and that's it? You just finish him? I thought we were gonna give him time?"
Aric. A friend, arguing for his life. That sliver of light became a thread in an ocean of black. It grew, slim but there. No! He had no friends. He had only his father. And his father had promised him power; he would never again be at anyone's mercy.
"I can't save him, Aric. He's given himself to the Unseelie, and he won't help himself. He doesn't want us or the good we've brought to his life. He wants blood and death."
Yes, that's what he wanted . . . No, it wasn't! He loved and respected Nick, all of these men. God, his head hurt.
His mate. He needed Mackenzie.
"Where's my mate? Where's Mackenzie?" he asked. God, he was so confused. And now he was getting scared, because Nick had raised the rifle to his shoulder. Kalen was looking down the scope.
Aric stared at his boss in horror. "Nick, you can't. Don't you hear him? If he's asking for his mate, he's still in there somewhere."
From somewhere out of Kalen's line of sight, footsteps sounded, coming fast up the hallway. "No!" Mac screamed. Running up to Nick, she hung on to his arm. "You said forty-eight hours! You can't do this! Melina can give him the sedative!"
And then it happened. Nick whirled and grabbed her arm, and Kalen's vision went crimson.
Mate. The man was touching his mate. Grabbing her and pushing her back as she cried. The cries went straight to his soul, and the light surged. Twined with the dark and exploded outward in a hurricane of power that he gathered and used to snap the silver chains binding his wrists.
Flinging them aside, he gripped the bars and gave a mighty pull, every muscle in his body straining. The entire structure ripped from the stone walls and he tossed it aside just as Nick stumbled backward and opened fire.
The bullet punched his shoulder and he roared in agony. His mate screamed again as Kalen fell back against the ruined wall, clutching the wound. In that moment, their gazes met and he saw her terror, felt it through their bond . . . and the truth nearly sent him to his knees. She was afraid for him. And of him. Her pain was all his fault. He had to leave.
"I'm sorry," he rasped. Regret almost felled him.
Summoning his magic, he countered the cell's damaged fortifications and vanished. Transported himself far into the Shoshone and reappeared in a place he recognized. It was the spot where he and Mackenzie had made love, so long ago it seemed. He tried to draw comfort from their place, but there was mostly debilitating grief. He'd lost her.
Lost himself, too.
His wound throbbed and he staggered, weakened by blood loss. Perhaps there was a way to heal. He shifted into his panther and collapsed under a tree, panting. He listened to the sounds of the night returning. Crickets and strange bird calls. Somewhere, the lone howl of a wolf that was a permanent resident of the forest, not Pack.
Maybe he should've let Nick eliminate him, but the last shred of humanity in him insisted that he would never have hurt anyone on his own, especially Mackenzie. There was still good inside him.
Which would be damned near impossible to prove now that he was a fugitive Sorcerer with a kill order on his head and rage burning in his almost-black heart.
* * *
Mac stood shaking, staring at the spot where Kalen had been seconds before. There was blood on the wall where he'd rested his back against it, the shot having gone through his shoulder.
"You shot my mate," she hissed, rounding on Nick.
The rest of the Pack, along with Sariel, surrounded them now, kicking through the rubble and taking in the nasty scene before them.
"You shot my brother?" the Fae asked in disbelief, appalled. One by one, every man in the Pack turned to the prince and someone whistled. Apparently not everyone had gotten that memo.
"He was about to fucking murder us all!" the commander shouted.
"He didn't go nuts and bust out until you grabbed my arm, Nick! Come on. You know it's not smart to touch a man's mate when he's in his right mind, much less when he's struggling like Kalen is!"
"You're so certain he's actually fighting to regain himself? Are you willing to bet all our lives on that?"
Nick heaved several breaths, making a visible effort to calm down. "We'll find him, or more likely he'll find us. You are not to go looking for him. Is that clear?"
"Nick, that's not-"
"Is that fucking clear, Doctor?"
"Yes, sir," she seethed. Turning on her heel, she ignored her dad and everyone else and marched toward her quarters. Once there, she paced and swore until she thought she'd go as crazy as Kalen had. What the hell was she supposed to do now? Just sit here like a good little mate and wait for the big, bad wolves to make it all better?