The Unseelie raised his head, wiped the blood from his lips, and smiled.
"I told you that I do understand, my pet." Releasing his dead prey, he beckoned Kalen to him. "Come here."
Kalen obeyed, stepping so close he had to look up into that stunning, sharp face. "Yes?"
The other male lifted an arm and, with one claw from the opposite hand, sliced a cut in his wrist. Dark blood the color of merlot welled instantly. "Drink," he commanded.
Kalen hesitated, then took the wrist uncertainly, his heart pounding hard in his chest. A distant voice begged him not to do this, warned that this step would be irrevocable. Would bind him to the Unseelie until one or both of them died.
"Drink, and never be alone again," Malik said softly.
Kalen's tongue flicked out, tested the thick stream. The taste exploded on his tongue, sweet and rich as the finest red wine. A bolt of pleasure seared to his gut, his limbs, his cock, and he groaned, latching on more firmly.
God, it was so good. So fucking fine. He wanted more, would do anything to get it as often as his companion would allow him.
"Stop." The order barely filtered through to his consciousness.
Kalen blinked up at Malik and released his arm. Reluctantly. He licked his lips. "Please . . ."
Malik stroked his hair, studied him almost lovingly. "There will be plenty more. Do not worry. We are bonded now, and my blood will be your reward when I'm pleased."
"And when you're not pleased?"
"You do not want to know. Just make certain that doesn't happen."
He nodded, fear winding through his soul. What had he done? There was a lingering fog of lust that had banished all the caution he knew he should have. The guilt for having joined the enemy.
"I'm not the enemy, my boy. Does anyone blame a lion for killing and feeding upon a gazelle?"
"No, of course not. But-"
"I want to rid the earth of scum like Billy," he said, waving a claw at the corpse. "And I must eat, same as you or anyone. As a purebred Unseelie, I must have animal flesh and blood to survive, and if that means occasionally removing a violent, dangerous man such as this from the earth in the process, why is that wrong?"
He couldn't argue that point. Billy had been a motherfucker. And now he was food. Probably the only thing he'd ever been useful for.
"What now?" he asked. "Will I live here with you?" The idea suddenly made him anxious. The Pack guys were his friends, too-well, except Aric. Most of them had made him welcome. Right?
"Not yet. You must go back to your compound. For now, it is where you can help me the most. You're going to practice the arts among them, beginning tomorrow."
"I won't hurt them," he said, body tensing. "Any of them."
Malik sighed. "Don't fight the darkness, pet. You can't win, now that you've accepted my bond. And why would you want to? Can't you feel the power flooding you, stroking your cock like a woman's lips? The ecstasy will only get better once you embrace our bond and let go of your previous inhibitions."
He swallowed a moan. "What do I do?"
"Good boy," he praised. "First, tell no one of our association. Practice on one of your teammates. Start small. Find a weakness and exploit it, discreetly. They mustn't suspect you're behind the incident. You'll be surprised by how wonderful it feels to wield such a weapon."
"Do as I say and you'll come to me again soon. I will tell you what to do next, after you've begun to enjoy exercising your superior gifts over the others."
"For now. Eager already?"
He looked away, unable to answer. Too late, he was afraid of what he'd allowed to be set in motion. But the lure was so great, he didn't know how to break free. Wasn't sure he wanted to. But there was one certainty he had to make clear.
"I won't hurt Mackenzie. Ever," he said in a low, dangerous tone. "She's mine, and I'll kill you and me both before that happens."
The Unseelie smiled, showing off his fangs. "Have the woman. What do I care? She's merely a human and is nothing to my plans any longer, one way or the other."
With that settled, Malik shifted back into the form of an urbane, handsome man. He was once again fully clothed and one would never know he was anything but what he appeared to be. Unless they saw his half-eaten dinner hanging sightless in the middle of the room.
Together they went back upstairs, where they quietly shared one more glass of Cognac before Kalen took his leave in the wee hours of the morning.
Shifting into his panther, he ran back toward the compound. One thing Malik was correct about-the darkness sang in his veins. Demanded completion. Finding a nice grassy spot under the moonlight, he skidded to a stop and shifted back to a man. On his knees, he fisted his erect, aching cock and gave it a pump.
And another. Arching his back, he spread his knees and gave himself over to the night. To the heady pleasure that had needed release for the past couple of hours. His palm slid over smooth skin, electrifying his nerve endings. Up to the spongy head, weeping at the slit. Down to the base of his cock.
The other hand massaged his balls, playing with them. They tightened, drew upward. He had to come. Needed something more.
The second he imagined Mackenzie's mouth sliding along his shaft, sucking and licking, he was lost. With a shout he came, spurting ropy white streams onto the cool ground until he was spent and exhausted.
Finally, he'd be able to sleep. And he'd need plenty.
You're going to be the greatest Sorcerer the world has ever known, your power beyond comprehension.
Tomorrow he'd work on making his grandmother's prediction come true.
* * *
Mac knew there was something different about Kalen the second she spotted him leaning against the wall of the rec room. She just couldn't put her finger on what.
His animal form, a black panther, was typically secondary to his being a Sorcerer, but today he seemed even more catlike than usual. He rested his shoulder against the wall, arms crossed, watching some of the others. Aric and Zander were off to the side, playing a noisy game of foosball. Jax and Hammer were playing a war game on the Wii, and Sariel, Kira, Rowan, and Micah were watching a ghost-hunting reality television show they couldn't seem to get enough of.
And Kalen observed them all, the expression on his face almost . . . sly. Maybe even insolent. The sight chilled her, though it could be her imagination. She hoped it was. It could be that he was still smarting from the incident in the dining room last evening. He'd never seemed like the type to carry a grudge, but how well did she really know him, beyond a shared adventure and a hot night at the Wall-Banger Motel?
Yeah, she so wasn't going to think about that. Not when she had much bigger worries. Or little worries, like the one currently giving her awful morning sickness.
Lingering in the doorway, she figured she should just leave and find somewhere else to relax on her break. But that plan went out the window when Kalen's eyes met hers and he grinned, beckoning her to him with one finger.
Taken aback, she paused. Communication between them had been strained at best since he'd given her the brush-off. And now he seemed relaxed, the glitter in his jade green eyes almost playful. Composing her expression into what she hoped was cool indifference, she walked over to him.
"How's Sariel?" he asked, eyeing her.
Inside, she deflated some. A part of her had hoped he wanted to talk about mending their fences, stupid as that seemed. She took a breath, shoving down the disappointment. "His recovery is progressing slowly. He's still not eating very well, but other than that, he should be up and around in a few days."
"Do you think he would see me? I have some apologizing to do." He sounded sincere.
"I don't know, but I could ask him for you if you would like."
"I would, thank you."
"Just don't get your hopes up. He's been withdrawn since Beryl attacked him, and I doubt you're his favorite person at the moment."
He winced. "Ouch. I deserved that, I guess."
"You guess?" She frowned at Kalen and peered into his eyes. "Are you all right?"
"Sure, honey. Why do you ask?"
Gritting her teeth, she resisted the urge to shout not to call her pet names after what had transpired between them. After he'd walked away and broken her heart. Instead, she forced herself to think like a doctor and studied his eyes. They weren't right. "Your pupils are dilated."
"Blown pupils are typically a sign of illness, concussion, or drug use. Have you hit your head? Are you sick?"
"Nah. Been smoking weed in my room." He winked. "Ya caught me."
She smacked his arm as he laughed. "That's not funny, Kalen. I want you to come with me to the infirmary and let me give you a checkup."
"I have a better idea-have lunch with me instead."
"What?" Her traitorous heart skipped a beat. "You've barely acknowledged my presence lately, and now you want to hang out in the cafeteria?"
"No. I want to take you to lunch. You know, in a real restaurant in town, where we can sit and talk without two dozen of our well-meaning friends listening to every word."
Glancing around the room, she spotted several of those well-meaning friends quickly go back to pretending not to eavesdrop. "I don't know if that's a great idea."
"Please?" He affected a sexy pout.
Damn him for being so irresistible. "Checkup, then lunch. It's that or no deal."
"You drive a hard bargain, lady." He gave her a mock glare. "Fine. Poke at me or whatever. Then we'll go eat."
"I'm still not sure that's a good idea. The going out part."
"But you're going to do it anyway." Now he looked smug.
She wanted to smack him again. "Don't push your luck. Come on."
On the way to the infirmary, she did her best not to overtly ogle him. She had a weakness for guys that looked like rock stars, and even though he'd probably never touched an electric guitar in his life, the man totally did it for her.
On impulse, she asked, "Did you ever play in a rock band?"
He cut her a piercing look. "I've told you about my parents. They treated me like shit and threw me out on my ass. You think they forked over the cash for a guitar and lessons?"
She flushed in embarrassment. "No, but a lot of guys who are now well-known started with nothing. I just wondered, that's all."
They walked for a few moments before he responded. "Like a lot of kids, I had big dreams like that. Maybe if I'd pursued music and given it everything I had, I would've succeeded. Or maybe not. Some things aren't meant to be."
"And some things are, like you ending up here, being a part of the team."
He rolled his shoulders in what might've been a shrug. "Sure. Lucky me, huh?"
"Most of the Pack count themselves lucky to be here, yes," she said pointedly.
"You positive about that?"
"I know these men, so yes, I'm positive. Where is this coming from? You're in a weird mood today."
He flashed her a disarming smile. "Ignore me. Must be lack of sleep from last night."
"How often is that happening?"
"A night here and there. No big deal."
"I'll be the judge of that."
"Where the hell is the sarcasm in your tone coming from? If I didn't know better, I'd swear you and Aric switched bodies."
"Do me a favor and don't compare me to him," he said curtly. "We're nothing alike."
"Then drop the crap and be yourself."