Zarek stood outside on the upper crosswalk of Jackson Brewery, looking down Wilkinson Street. He had his hands braced on the iron banister as he stared at the people below who were walking along Decatur Street, drifting in and out of shops, restaurants, and clubs.

Word had come down from Acheron that he was supposed to stay inside his townhouse until Mardi Gras. He probably should have listened, but taking orders wasn't exactly something he excelled at anymore.

Besides, the harsh February climate in Alaska kept him housebound entirely too much. He hated feeling trapped.

When he'd left Fairbanks, it had been fourteen below zero. It was currently fifty-seven degrees in New Orleans and even with the chill wind coming off the river, it was nothing like what he was used to.

This was a balmy summer night in comparison.

Though late June and July days in Fairbanks could get as high as the low nineties, by the time the sun set and he could go outside into the eerie twilight that never turned completely dark, he'd be damned lucky to feel a night as warm as this one.

And of course, in the dead of summer in Fairbanks, he'd be really fortunate if he could go outside for more than a few minutes before the sun rose again and forced him back indoors.

For nine hundred years, he'd been banished to that harsh, extreme terrain.

Now at long last, he had a reprieve.

Closing his eyes, Zarek inhaled the air, which was thick with life. He smelled the mixture of foods and river. Heard the sound of laughter and revelry.

He really liked this city. No wonder Talon and Kyrian had claimed it.

He only wished that he could stay here for a little while longer. Stay where there were others of his kind. Where there were people who would talk to him.

But he was used to wanting things he couldn't have.

The door on his right opened and a small boy stepped out. The runt was cute enough for an ankle-biter. He had short brown hair and was sobbing. The kid pulled up sharply at the sight of Zarek standing there.

Zarek ignored him.

"Hey, mister?" the boy said, his voice trembling. "Can you help me? I'm lost."

Zarek took a deep breath and pushed himself away from the railing.

He tucked his clawed hand into his pants pocket and turned around. "Believe me, kid. I know the feeling."

He offered the child his bare hand and was stunned at how small and trusting the boy was. He couldn't remember a time in his life he would have ever reached out to someone and trusted them not to hurt him. "So, who are we looking for? Your mom or your dad?"

"My mommy. She's really pretty and big."

Zarek nodded. "What's her name?"

"Mommy."

Now that was really helpful... not. "How old are you, kid?"

"I'm this many." He sniffed back his tears and held up four little fingers. "How old are you?"

"A lot more than four fingers."

The boy held up all ten. "This many?"

Zarek smiled in spite of himself. "C'mon," he said, opening the door. "I'm sure there's someone inside who can help you find your mommy."

The boy wiped his face with his sleeve as Zarek led him into the Brewery. They hadn't gone far when he heard a woman gasp.

"What are you doing with my son?"

"Mommy!" The boy bolted toward the woman.

She grabbed the child up and the feral, suspicious look she cast Zarek let him know a hasty exit would be wise.

Some nights it didn't pay to appear dark and sinister.

"Security!" she shrieked.

Zarek cursed and ran back out the door. He leapt over the banister, to the stairs a story below, and quickly lost himself in the crowd.

Or so he thought.

As soon as he was halfway down Wilkinson, he saw Acheron waiting in the shadows.

This was just what he friggin' needed-Acheron to chew him out for locking Nick in the closet and leaving the house while he was under orders to stay put.

Zarek snarled. "Don't start on me, Ash."

Acheron cocked a brow at that. "Start on you for what?"

The hair on the back of his neck rose. Acheron was too relaxed and there was no tensing of his shoulders like Acheron always got when they came into contact with each other.

They had declared their mutual dislike for each other over two thousand years ago.

The man in front of him was acting as if Zarek were one of the Dark-Hunters Acheron was friendly with.

It sent a chill up his spine.

Hatred and anger he could take, a friendly Acheron made him nervous.

"Aren't you here to chew me out?" Zarek asked.

"Now, why would I do that?" He clapped him on the shoulder.

Zarek hissed as he moved away from him. "Who the hell are you?"

"What's wrong, Zarek?"

There was no way this was Acheron.

Zarek used his telekinesis to pull the sunglasses off the man's face. Instead of swirling mercury eyes, this man had blue ones.

The stranger narrowed his human eyes on him. "That was unwise."

The next thing Zarek knew, he was hit with a god-bolt.

Talon was strapped to his exercise bar, doing inverted sit-ups when Sunshine finally came awake.

Hissing, she sat up in bed, slowly. Languidly. "It's so hot in here," she said, her voice low and throaty.

Talon relaxed his body as he watched her, letting himself hang upside down while his fingertips brushed the floor. "How are you feeling?"

She pulled her shirt off, over her head, and he instantly tensed at the sight of the black lace bra cupping her breasts.

"Hungry," she breathed, releasing the front catch on her bra. "And not for food."

He arched a brow at that, and at the way she trailed her hands over her breasts, down to her pants.

Oh, this was cruel.

She pulled her pants off slowly, sensually. "I need you, Talon."

"I think you need a cold shower."

She moved toward him like a stalking lioness.

Mesmerized, Talon didn't move until she reached him and ran her hand down his thighs. She bent her head to nuzzle and lick the back of his knees.

Talon moaned at how good she felt. His body hardened and throbbed as he pulled himself up, intending to unhook his boots from the bar. But he never got the chance. Sunshine waylaid his lips and kissed him passionately.

Sunshine couldn't think straight as she pulled back and stared into his midnight-black eyes. Her body was alive. On fire. All she could focus on was her throbbing need to have him inside her. A burning itch to have his hands on her body.

She'd never felt such potent lust. Such a hunger to taste and feel every tiny morsel of a man's body.

Oh, how she wanted him.

She took his hands and led them to her breasts. "Make love to me, Talon. Please."

Talon hesitated. "I don't know if we should do this while you're under the infl-" He stopped mid-sentence as she pushed his shorts up to his knees.

Possessed with a powerful lust she'd never known, Sunshine gently nibbled his sensitive hipbone. He moaned deep in his throat, spurring her on while she raked her hand through his short curls, letting them wrap around her fingers until she cupped him in her hand.

Talon couldn't move as wave after wave of pleasure racked him.

She ran her hand down his shaft, making him harden even more. "Hmm," she breathed. "What have we here?"

She took the tip of his shaft into her mouth, circling him with her tongue, drawing him deep into her moist heat. Reaching for her bare legs, he growled in pleasure and pulled her closer to him.

She sucked more of him into her mouth while her fingers stroked his sac, sending spikes of pleasure through his entire body.

It was a damned good thing he was hanging here. As good as she felt, had he been standing he would no doubt have been on the floor right now.

Closing his eyes, Talon savored the feel of her tongue and mouth caressing him, licking him, sucking him, of her hand spurring his ecstasy on to a dangerous level.

Talon encircled her waist with his arm and nibbled the tender spot of her hipbone. She moaned deep in her throat. The vibration of it reverberated through his entire body.

Sunshine shivered as Talon nudged her legs apart. She wrapped her arms around his waist, feasting on him while he stroked her tenderly with his fingers. She could feel his stomach muscles flex with his every move. The steeliness of them made her delirious, and when he took her into his mouth, she moaned aloud.

Her head reeling, she continued to tease him with her tongue and lips while he worked magic on her body with his mouth. She'd never felt anything like this mutual giving. The mutual need to touch each other and give each other pleasure.

His tongue slid over her core, caressing her, stoking her to such a height that her knees felt weak. She ran her hands down his back, to his shoulders, pressing him closer to her.

She rocked herself shamelessly against him, all the while licking and teasing him in return, tasting the saltiness of his body.

Her body quivered in bliss an instant before waves of pleasure tore through her. Crying out, she let her release wash over her.

Still he nibbled and teased until he had wrung the very last tremor from her body.

Only then did Sunshine pull back. He looked up at her and smiled. "I love the way you taste," he said, his voice hoarse.

She returned his smile. "You know, your face is very red."

He laughed as he pulled himself up and unhooked his feet from the bar. "And I have a headache from it, but I don't really care if my head explodes. You are more than worth it."

He started to pull his shorts up, but she stopped him.

Trailing her hands and lips down his steely abs, to his legs, she removed the shoes and shorts. "I'm going to lick you from head to toe."

He arched a brow.

She ran her fingers between his toes, sending chills all over him. "I am going to make you scream for mercy before I'm through with you."

Now there was a promise he wanted fulfilled. Talon closed his eyes and groaned as she licked his toes, one by one. Her tongue slid sensually between them, electrifying him and making his body even harder. Stiffer.

Then, she moved up his body, her nails scraping against his flesh. "You are mine to toy with," she said in a bad Slavic-style accent.

Talon hissed as she nibbled her way back up his legs. Her tongue and teeth teased the flesh of his legs, his inner thighs.

With a throaty laugh, she pulled back and smiled up at him.

Talon watched her heatedly as she cupped her breasts in her hands and wrapped them around his shaft. He fisted his hands while she rubbed herself up and down him.

"You like that?" she asked in an evil tone.

"Yes," he said, his voice deep and ragged.

"Then let's see what else I can find that you like."

Sunshine moved him to the futon and pushed him back into a reclining position, then she crawled slowly up his body, and straddled his hips.

She gasped as he slid his fingers inside her. She was so wet for him, so hot. She needed his touch.

He laid her back against the mattress, then knelt between her legs.

Her heart pounding, she stared up at him.

"Put your feet on the wall behind me."

She did as he asked.

He lifted her hips, then drove himself inside.

Sunshine cried out as he filled her with pleasure. He was so thick and full, his strokes masterful, as he rocked himself between her legs. From this position, he was able to penetrate her completely while she was able to lift her hips more and meet him stroke for stroke, driving him in ever deeper and harder.

Talon growled at how good she felt. He placed his hands on her hips, moving faster.

He braced himself over her with one arm on the mattress, and kissed her lips while he trailed his free hand down so that he could slide his fingers through the moist triangle of dark hair and stroke her cleft.

Her entire body quivered as he used his fingers to stroke her in time to his thrusts. He drove himself deep into her and then paused, savoring the feel of her moist heat. Oh, how he needed this woman. Needed this connection to her.

This wasn't just physical between them. It was so much more.

She moaned, then slowly started rocking herself against him.

"That's it, baby," he whispered in her ear. "Ride me all you want to."

And she did.

Closing his eyes, he ground his teeth to stave off his orgasm so that he could just feel her taking pleasure from him. He loved her like this. Wild and demanding. She was completely shameless in his arms.

How he had missed her and how damned grateful he was to have her again.

He wanted to possess her. To chain her to him for the rest of eternity.

If only he knew how.

Desperate with need, he sat back on his knees and took control again.

Sunshine growled with ecstasy as Talon slammed himself into her, even deeper than before. She met his strokes with a frenzied need.

And when she came again, she moaned his name.

She heard him laugh deep in her ear before he joined her.

She smiled as he pulled away from her and then lay down on the futon. Kissing him, she placed herself over him like a blanket.

"Mmm," she breathed. "This is what I wanted to do to you the first night we met."

"What? Screw my brains out?"

She punched playfully at his stomach. "That too, but no, I wanted to be your blanket."

He ran his hands through her hair, cupping her head. "Baby, you can be my blanket any time you feel the urge."

She definitely felt the urge. Smiling wickedly, she rubbed herself against him, then gave him a deep, passionate kiss.

"You do know I'm not through with you?" she said, using his words.

"No?"

She shook her head. "I'm just getting started."

By dawn, Talon was sweaty and exhausted. And he was sore in places he hadn't known a man could get sore.

He wasn't sure if he ever wanted to have sex again...

Talon laughed at the thought. Yeah, right. But he at least wanted a few hours of rest before they had another marathon.

He was still breathing heavily as Sunshine finally drifted off to sleep, lying by his side with her hand tangled in his hair and her leg draped over his bare thighs.

Jeez, Ash hadn't been kidding about her appetite. She had contorted his body into positions he hadn't known he was capable of. Right now, he had no energy whatsoever. In fact, he never wanted to leave this bed again, and if she had rolled over one more time and grabbed him, he might even have whimpered.

Groaning at the thought, he reached over to his night-stand, grabbed his phone, and called Acheron to check in. He only hoped that this time the phone actually worked.

It did.

As always, Acheron answered on the first ring.

"Hey, is it the good Ash or the bad Ash?"

"Good, bad, I'm the one with the gun."

Talon snorted at the answer. It was a quote from the campy movie Army of Darkness that Acheron adored. "Only the real Ash would be weird enough to pull that quote."

"Gee, thanks, Celt. So what's up? Has Sunshine come awake yet?"

"Yes, she did."

"And you're still able to walk and move?"

"Let's not go there."

Ash gave a short half-laugh. "Yeah, okay. So what do you need?"

"I got a call from the imposter not long after I got back here with Sunshine."

Total silence answered him. He couldn't even hear static on the cell line.

"Hey, T-Rex, you there?"

"I'm here. What did he say?"

"Mostly that he hates you. At first I thought it was you, but he said a couple of things I knew didn't sound right."

"Such as?"

"He said he-meaning you-had been addicted to this drug he fed Sunshine. Getting anything that personal out of you is like removing a tooth from a lion without a tranquilizer."

Again Acheron was totally silent.

"Hey, bud, you still with me?" Talon asked.

"Did he say anything else?"

"Yeah, he said you had a sister you let die. I called him a liar and we passed a few insults, then he hung up on me."

Talon heard Nick in the background calling for Ash while Zarek growled for Nick to let go of him. "Something wrong?"

"Nick just brought Zarek in. He's hurt. Let me let you go."

"Okay, but call back and let me know what's going on."

"Will do." The phone went dead.

Now that was weird too. Frowning, Talon set his phone down and returned to Sunshine.

Sunshine came awake screaming.

Talon grabbed her as she thrashed about on the futon.

"Shh," he breathed against her hair. "It's me, Talon. You're safe."

She was trembling against him. "I thought I was still..." She tightened her arms around him. "Oh God, Talon, I was so scared."

Anger pierced his heart. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you. Did they hurt you?"

She shook her head. "They just scared me. Especially the one they called Styxx."

"Styxx? Like the Greek river?"

She nodded. "He had this crazy look to him. Spooky. His eyes were so full of hatred and he had a constant snarl. Camulus had to keep calming him down."

Talon ground his teeth. He fully intended to find both assholes and put a major hurt on them. "I'm sorry, baby. I promise you, they'll never get their hands on you again."

Sunshine tightened her arms around him. "I'm so glad you found me, but how did you know where I was?"

"Camulus called me."

The news stunned her. "Why?"

"I don't know. I think he just wants to play with my head. He's twisted that way."

She sat there, feeling sick to her stomach. "What did they give me?"

"Some kind of drug. An aphrodisiac. Did they use it with you?"

"No," she said. "They forced me to drink it, then left me alone. It was really nasty stuff. I still feel so lightheaded and strange." She looked at him and smiled. "But I remember what I did with you."

"Yeah, so do I."

She laughed and her body protested the movement. "Are you as sore as I am?"

"Let's just say I'm in no hurry to get out of bed."

Sunshine traced his tattoo as she took comfort in being safe with him. It was so good to just feel him by her side again. To hear the sound of his voice. She remembered the gunshots they had fired into him and how terrified she had been that he would somehow die from the wounds.

Now there was no sign at all that he had ever been shot.

"I'm so glad they didn't kill you," she breathed.

"Believe me, I feel the same way about you."

She ran her hand over his nipple and then froze as she felt suddenly sick.

"Sunshine?"

She left the bed and rushed for the bathroom.

Talon followed after her and then held her while she unloaded the rest of the drug from her system.

Sunshine didn't know how long she was in there. It seemed like she would never stop heaving.

Talon stayed with her the entire time, holding her hair, washing her face with a cold, damp cloth.

"Are you okay?" he asked when she finally stopped.

"I don't know. I feel awful."

He kissed the top of her head. "I'll go get you a Coke and some crackers. It'll help you settle your stomach."

She thanked him, then went to the sink to brush her teeth while he went to get the Coke.

When she left the bathroom, she found Talon waiting in bed for her.

She sat down beside him and pulled the covers over her body. She was still shaky and queasy.

Talon handed her a cracker and a can of Coke.

"Hmm," she said, taking them from him. "You must like me a lot to let me eat crackers in your bed."

He brushed the hair back from her face. His eyes burned her with their intensity. "Yes, I do."

His words sent a chill over her. "Do you, Talon? Or is it Nynia you love? When you look at me, do you see Sunshine or your wife?"

"I see you both."

Sunshine cringed at his answer. That wasn't what she wanted to hear. All her life, she had struggled to be herself. Her parents accepted her, but the guys she'd dated had all wanted to change her.

Even Jerry.

The last guy she dated had only been interested in her because she reminded him of his ex-girlfriend.

Now she reminded Talon of his ex-wife.

She couldn't win for losing.

Why couldn't someone just love her for being Sunshine?

Would Talon be so tender and attentive now if she weren't his wife reincarnated?

"What do you like about me?" she asked, nibbling her cracker.

"I like your fire and I love your body."

"Gee, thanks. Does that mean if I were fat and hideous you'd run for the door?"

"Would you run for the door if I was?"

Touche. The man was quick with a comeback. "Probably so. No doubt, I'd break it down trying to escape you."

He laughed at that. "I'd run after you if you did."

"Would you?"

"Yes, I would."

But would he run after Sunshine or Nynia?

The question haunted her.

Sunshine leaned over and kissed his forehead. "You need to get some sleep. You look really tired." And he did.

It was almost noon and, unlike her, he wasn't used to staying up all day.

"Okay. Remember, Nick is four and a pound sign on the phone if you need anything. And don't go far. Camulus will be coming back, I just don't know when. At least here I know the gators will slow them down. So make sure you stay close enough that I can reach you if something happens."

She nodded. "If I'm not in the cabin, I'll be right outside the door painting. Promise."

"Okay." He nuzzled her cheek tenderly, then kissed her. "I'll see you in a few hours."

Sunshine tucked him into the bed, got dressed, turned out the lights, and quietly went outside to paint.

As the afternoon went by while she sat on the porch, she realized that Talon had lived out here for centuries and in all that time he had never once seen the beauty of the swamp during the light of day.

He'd never seen sunlight dappling the water. Never seen the vibrant green of the moss on the stump by his dock. At night the edge was taken off the colors.

It was such a shame that he had to live like that. Alone in a world without...

She cringed as the word sunshine popped into her head.

"Jeez," she muttered. "How cheesy is that?"

Still, it didn't stop her heart from aching for him.

He was loneliness.

Because of Camulus, Talon didn't dare let anyone close to him. How terrible it must be.

At dusk, she packed up her art supplies and headed inside with Beth eyeballing her from the dock. Sunshine wrinkled her nose at the bossy gator and tossed her the remains of her crackers.

Physically, Sunshine felt a lot better, but mentally she ached.

She watched Talon as he slept. He was a creature of the night. Literally. She couldn't change him. Ever.

He was immortal.

She was human.

There was no hope for them.

The thought made her want to cry.

"They do have an out clause."

But Talon would have to agree to it, and then what? Would she have to be his wife? Would he expect her to be as Nynia was?

She shivered at the thought. No offense, but as Nynia she had been a ninny.

Not that it was wrong to live to please your husband, but as Nynia she'd taken that to a whole new level. Nynia had never questioned him, never said anything back to him.

He said jump, she'd jumped and not even bothered to ask how high. Whatever he'd wanted, she'd done, regardless of her own thoughts or wants.

She had been a Stepford wife. Ew!

Sunshine didn't think she could behave that way if she had to. She was outspoken and stubborn. At times, she was even a little selfish.

She wanted a mutual partnership with a man. Someone who could handle her needs as an artist. Someone who could appreciate her while she appreciated him, faults and all.

She liked herself. Liked her life.

With Talon, she would never be quite sure if he loved her for being Sunshine or if he tolerated her because of Nynia.

How would she ever know the truth?

Talon woke up to the softness of a hand brushing through his hair. He didn't have to open his eyes to know who it was who touched him. He could feel her all the way to his heart.

Sunshine.

He blinked open his eyes to see her sitting beside him.

"Good morning," she said.

"Evening."

She handed him a cup of coffee. Talon took a drink, expecting to cringe, but it was actually good. Very good.

At his surprised look, she laughed. "My parents sell coffee at the bar. I may not drink the stuff, but I do know how to make it."

"You do it very well."

She beamed.

Talon sat back in bed to watch her. "What did you do while I slept?"

"Worked. I have to meet a client and show him some pieces he commissioned. If he really likes them, he's going to give me a contract to supply artwork and murals for his restaurant chain."

"Really?" he asked, impressed by the news.

Her eyes glowed with excitement, her cheeks pinkened. He could tell it meant a lot to her. "If I get the contract, no more stand at the square. I'll finally have enough money to open my own studio."

"You know, I could give you the money for that."

A sadness came over her. "So could my parents, but this is something I want to do on my own. I don't want anyone to hand me anything."

He well understood that. He'd spent most of his mortal life proving himself to others. "It never hurts to have help."

"I know. But it wouldn't be the same. Besides, I think it would be really neat to walk into a restaurant and see my stuff hanging there."

"Yeah, it would be. I hope you get the contract."

She smiled again. "What about you? What do you hope for?"

"I hope my cabin never blows apart in a hurricane during the daylight hours."

She laughed. "Seriously."

"I am serious. It could get ugly if it did."

She sat back on her heels. "You really don't have any plans for the future, do you?"

"There's nothing to plan for, Sunshine. I'm a Dark-Hunter."

"Do you ever think about quitting?"

"Never."

"Not even now?"

He fell silent as he thought about that. "If I could get past Camulus maybe. But..."

Sunshine nodded, understanding that stumbling block all too well. Camulus had laughed at her when she'd asked if he would/could ever forgive Talon.

"The earth will perish before I leave him in peace. So long as I live, he will pay for taking my son's life."

But she didn't tell Talon about that. She didn't want to upset him.

Somehow, she would find another way around Camulus.

"All right," she said. "I won't mention it again. Let's just enjoy what time we have."

"Sounds like a plan."

They spent the night quietly, playing games and talking. Sunshine scrounged through his kitchen and even found enough supplies to make edible body paint.

Talon introduced her to chocolate Reddi-Whip shots and delighted in the ecstasy on her face while she ate the decadent whipped cream.

And Talon finally got to douse her in chocolate and to lick it off her.

Who knew having an artist could be so much fun?

Talon had never in his life enjoyed anything more than this night. He'd never laughed so much. Felt so at ease and comfortable. There was no more hiding from her. She knew what he was, both as a Dark-Hunter and as a man.

She fell asleep not long after midnight and left him alone to think about them.

Talon went outside to sit on the porch. It was peaceful and cold outside. The fog on the swamp was thick and he could hear the water ripple all around him.

For centuries this had been his solitary existence.

He couldn't count the times he had sat here alone, just listening to the darkness.

And on the other side of the closed door he had heaven itself waiting for him.

If only he could keep her.

How did a man beat back a god? Was it even possible?

As a mortal man, the thought had never occurred to him, but now...

Now he wondered...

Talon went to bed a few hours after sunup. He'd only been asleep about an hour when he heard Sunshine rummaging around his desk.

"What are you doing?" he asked groggily.

"I'm looking for the keys to the boat."

"Why?"

"I told you, I have to go meet a client."

Talon rubbed his blurry eyes as he tried to focus on what she was saying. "What?"

"I told you about it last night, remember? I'm supposed to meet him at my stand at eleven. I promise I'll meet with him and then be back as soon as I can."

"You can't do that."

She paused and looked at him. "I told you how important this is to me. To my career."

"Sunshine, don't be stupid. This is your life we're talking about."

"Yes, it is." She went back to searching the desk. "And I'm not going to let some sick psycho screw up my one shot at what I want. Believe me, if that weirdo comes near me today, I'll make sure it's the last mistake he ever makes. I didn't know they were after me before. Now I do and I can take care of myself."

Angered that she would dare disregard him, Talon got up. "I'm not about to let you leave here."

"Don't tell me what to do, Talon. My own father doesn't order me around. I'm a grown woman, with my own thoughts, and I will not have anyone dictate my life to me."

"Dammit, Sunshine, be reasonable. I don't want you hurt."

"Why? Because you love me?"

"Yes, I do."

They both froze as he snarled the angry words.

Her heart fluttered. She wanted to believe that. Desperately. But was it true?

"Do you really?" she asked, her voice thick and heavy.

Talon watched as she opened the velvet-lined silver chest on his desk that held the tore that was identical to his, only smaller.

A woman's tore.

Nynia's tore.

She handed him the open box. "Or is it Nynia you love?"

Talon closed his eyes, unable to bear the sight of his wife's tore. He should have destroyed it centuries ago.

But he couldn't.

He'd shut it away and kept it out of sight.

It had never been out of his thoughts.

Sunshine closed the box and returned it to his desk. "I have to do this. For me. I won't live my life afraid. Camulus knows we're together. He can take or kill me here as easily as he can in town. He's a god, Talon. It's not like we can hide from him."

Talon winced as her words tore through him. In his mind, he saw his uncle cut down as he struggled to his side. Saw the killing blow that had sent his uncle to the ground before Talon could reach him.

Pain ripped through his chest. He well understood Sunshine's need to prove herself, to have something of her own. But he couldn't send her out there alone, unprotected.

Besides, he needed his full strength to fight and protect her, which meant he needed more rest. If he went out tonight while he was exhausted, he could get them both killed.

If he returned to bed while she was here, he had little doubt that she would sneak out of the cabin the minute he closed his eyes.

And if she took his boat, he'd be stranded out here until he could get Nick to bring him the other boat in the shed.

Dammit.

"Fine," he said irritably, reaching for his cell phone. There was only one person besides Ash who had the strength and powers to fight a god and possibly escape him. "You can go, but you're taking someone with you."

"Who?"

He held his hand up to silence her as Vane answered.

The Katagari didn't sound particularly happy to hear his voice. "I didn't give you permission to call me, Celt."

"Bite me, Wolf-boy. I need a favor."

"You'll owe me a favor for it."

He looked at Sunshine.

For her, anything.

"And I'm willing to pay it," he said to Vane.

"All right then, what do you need?"

"Can you take human form in daylight?"

Vane scoffed. "Obviously so. Ever tried to answer a phone without opposable thumbs? Not to mention the fact that I am speaking to you in English and not wolf."

Talon growled low at the sarcasm. "Yes, but can you hold and fight in human form during daylight?"

He snorted at that. "Oh yeah. Daylight doesn't bother me."

"Good. Sunshine needs to go to Jackson Square for a little while this morning."

"Did you okay this with Ash?"

"No."

Vane laughed. "Living on the edge. I love it. Okay, so what do you need me to do?"

"I want you to guard her until I can take over after nightfall."

"One guard dog coming up. Give me about half an hour to get there."

"All right, thanks."

"I would say anytime, Celt, but this is a one-shot-only deal."

"Yeah, I know."

Sunshine frowned as he hung up the phone. "Who was that?"

"That was Vane."

"Is he a Dark-Hunter too?"

"No, love. You're about to meet your werewolf."



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