He’d tried to lose himself in reading, but he couldn’t concentrate. He kept expecting Mirceo to show up here, though that was impossible now. No one knew about Cas’s remote bungalow in the Hidden Seas, and Mirceo had no crystal.
Why had Cas destroyed it instead of stealing the thing? How idiotic and out of control!
Perhaps his demonic aggression was already cranked up—because he’d refused to claim his fated one.
No, fight this. Mirceo might have found his mate in Cas, yet that didn’t mean the opposite was true.
So why did Cas feel like his guts were in knots?
He reached for a bottle of brew on the nightstand. Pulling the cork out with his teeth, he guzzled the liquid, but nothing could erase the memory of Mirceo’s luscious seed on his lips.
The taste had seared Cas’s mind and fueled unwanted thoughts ever since. That seed is for me alone. Even now, his claws sharpened, his horns straightening. He’d blooded Mirceo, bringing him back to life. The vampire’s body belongs to me.
Fight this. Cas had considered availing himself of a courtesan—or five—but Mirceo’s words continued to echo in his head: Every time you’re inside a female, I vow to the Lore I will be too. . . . I will let males take me.
What if the leech was actually keeping his dick in his pants? If he heard about Cas’s escapades, Mirceo would be compelled to comply with the terms of that ridiculous vow.
How could Cas enjoy fucking anyone when it could result in some other male fucking Mirceo?
Jealousy scored him. He shot to his feet and rammed his aching horns into the wall, adding new holes to go with the other ones peppering the room. “Should kill him for this!” That vampire had him so twisted up inside.
Sensual, laughing Mirceo. With his mocking gray eyes and devil-may-care attitude.
Cas rubbed the heel of his palm down his hard shaft. His skin felt tight all over, his limbs heavy. Realization hit him: Mirceo’s two feedings had set off changes in Cas’s body, prompting it to produce more blood—to adapt to a vampire’s hungers. Cas’s veins were brimming. Such an excess meant his cock remained stiff as a titanium rod.
I’m a fucking host. Another outcome he’d had no control over! With a yell, he punched the wall, adding yet another hole.
Claustrophobia surged, his throat tightening. Need a job. Anything to distract me. Cas snatched on a coat and his sword belt, then traced to the Red Flag, a tavern in New Orleans that catered to bounty hunters. He recognized several of those inside.
A group of lion shifters and a berserker played dice in the back. A few smoke demons relaxed in front of the fire.
On the way to the bar, Cas passed an extended wall covered with bounty postings. Whenever someone offered a reward anywhere in the Lore, a copy would mystically appear here and at other similar establishments. If a hunter took down a poster, it disappeared from all locations, and he was bound to complete the task, upon penalty of death.
Varying in terms of payout and difficulty, the jobs ranged from something as simple as finding an inanimate object to the most extreme—apprehending a sorcerer from his impenetrable fortress on Poly.
Before Cas left here tonight, he would select a challenging hunt—but not too challenging, not until he got his mind in order.
Taking a seat at the bar, he recalled his start in this business, the fateful MISSING poster he’d come across when he was twelve. He hadn’t been able to make out the words, but he’d overheard some other kids reading it aloud. A nobledemon had lost his miniature hellhound, a stray Cas had noticed sniffing around the slums.
Easy enough. Cas had delivered the hellhound to its owner, collecting more money than he’d ever seen. He’d discovered he had a talent for finding lost mementos and pets. In two years, he’d grown such a reputation—his name of Beggar replaced by Tracker—that other hunters had traced him to this tavern, to the “big leagues.” Bounty hunting. . . .
Now the tavern’s grizzled demon barkeep shuffled over. “Been wondering when you’d show.” Leyak, a retired hunter and Cas’s de facto mentor, was as much a fixture in this place as the wall of postings. “Brew, son?” Unlike most immortals, the gray-haired Leyak continued to slowly age past his prime, his face weathered and horns scuffed. He must have a human ancestor somewhere in his line.
“Always.” When Leyak poured an expensive vintage, Cas said, “Are we celebrating something?”
The demon rolled his eyes. “I figure you got gold aplenty now.”
“Almost every bounty posting connected to Poly disappeared from that wall in seconds. I suspected you were raking it in.”
True. Lorean dregs often hid out in that dimension. A squalid hunter’s bar there had provided Cas with new notices. Like a spider on a web, he’d collected them one by one.
“Nothing gets past you.” All those years ago, the eagle-eyed hunter had realized Cas couldn’t read the posters. Instead of ridiculing him, Leyak had read several aloud, as if commenting on them, never letting the other hunters know.
Leyak had been the only one who’d believed a fourteen-year-old like Cas could collect on the first live bounty he’d chosen. Afterward, the old demon had said, “You stalked that trail like a Caspion tiger, son!”
Cas had liked the name, and so he’d claimed it. . . .
“Surely you’re not looking for a job,” Leyak said now. “See, son, when folks make a heap of money, they do this thing called retiring.”