Muttering, “Arrogant leech,” Cas traced to him and reached for the material.

Heat emanated from Mirceo, the young vampire as hot-blooded as ever.

Cas had given him some of that warmth. I nourished him. “Here.” He began to wrap the material around Mirceo’s head, forced to smooth a lock of the vampire’s hair from his forehead. I’d rather not know how soft it is.

After lining up the thin part over Mirceo’s heavy-lidded gray eyes, Cas wound the rest of the cloth around Mirceo’s neck, nearly smiling when the vampire’s Adam’s apple bobbed.

Though they’d released some pressure, that chemistry between them had only grown. What if he’s mine? “There,” Cas said in a gruff voice, dropping his hands. He still couldn’t believe he was taking young Mirceo into danger. I’ve got no choice. This was the sole way to prevent a kill order on his friend. “You pay attention and you stay alert, okay?” He exhaled with resignation. “Are you ready?”

A smirk in his voice, Mirceo said, “I was born ready, sweetheart.”

Cas rolled his eyes.

NINETEEN

The demon traced Mirceo to the mouth of a canyon. The sand-laden winds howled, chasing ribbons of clouds. Moonshadows raced over the shifting dunes.

A few leagues in the distance lay Harea’s fortress—a massive pyramid with muted firelight glowing from the few slotted window openings. Smaller structures and a perimeter wall fronted it.

Mirceo gazed at their surroundings in disbelief. His mate had chosen to remain in this wasteland for five centuries. Rather than be with me.

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Doubt crept in about their future, even after what they’d shared in the cave. What if Caspion viewed that pleasure as Mirceo had once viewed sex?

As just a trade of orgasms.

What if he and the demon couldn’t make it work? Caspion might have grown too unreasonable over the centuries to be in any relationship. Forgodsakes, he’d crushed a priceless talisman to rid himself of Mirceo.

Maybe I’m not . . . enough.

Seeming to sense his unease, Caspion glanced back at him. “What?”

“I thought the cave was bad.”

Despite their head wrappings, Mirceo could detect the demon’s frown. “Are you having second thoughts about this op?”

“Not about the op,” he muttered.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that one day you might convince me we have no chance.” They stared at each other. What is he thinking?

“Noted.”

Seriously, demon? “That’s all you’ll say?”

“If we don’t focus for the next couple of hours, someone’s going to get killed. Or worse.”

“Worse?”

“You want to live out eternity as a Wendigo?” A single bite or scratch from those creatures could transform even an immortal. “Now, look sharp.” Caspion began to clap his hands loudly.

“Pardon me, demon, I’m not one to tell you how to do your job—but won’t that attract Wendigos?”

More clapping. “Exactly.”

“Ah. So we’ll be the first in the Lore to voluntarily draw the notice of a legion of these creatures?”

“Yeah.”

Mirceo shrugged. “Very well.” If the demon said this needed to be done, then so be it. He brandished his sword and fell into place beside Caspion. “Onward!”

Red eyes glowed in the distance as a Wendigo loped out of the canyon toward them. Another followed it. And another. . . .

They had long, stretched-out faces, dripping fangs, and daggerlike claws. Patches of greasy hair grew over their gray skin. Remnants of clothing clung to their withered, hunchbacked bodies—because they’d once been sentient beings.

As the Wendigos charged, more joined them from behind dunes, their number growing like an avalanche. Dozens of them. A wall of the creatures approached from about a hundred feet away.

“Onward?” Caspion demanded, snatching free his sword. “You don’t think I’m crazy for drawing that?”

Eighty feet away . . .

“There’s a fine line between crazy and brave. I trust you in all things—except in relationship matters. Then you must bow down to me.”

Fifty feet away . . .

Caspion scanned the wave. “If we live through this, the hunters at the tavern will never believe we took on this many Wendigos. Must be a hundred.” He was in attack position, so comfortable with a sword.

Mirceo’s gaze would’ve lingered on the stalwart demon’s form, but even he had to take the approaching threat seriously. “They will when I recount our tale. Since I can’t lie.”

Thirty feet away . . . As the creatures closed in, the blustery winds couldn’t dispel their putrid stench.

Caspion slid him a look. “Any immortal with sense would cut and run at this point.”

“Leave?” Mirceo scoffed. “You know I’ll always fight by your side, demon. In any case, this is the best date I’ve ever been on.”

“We are not on a date.”

Mirceo laughed.

Ten feet away . . .

Caspion swung for the closest one, beheading it. The creature’s brown blood sprayed on the wind. Mirceo got the next one, slicing the Wendigo so fast that its head remained in place until the body toppled over.

Mirceo shared a look with Caspion. Cool. “We’re tied, old man. But I wager I’ll drop more than you.”

Voice exhilarated, the demon said, “Oh, you’re on, leechling! A fool and his money . . .” He took down one more. And a third. But they kept coming.