Realization hit: Not only had Trehan avenged Bettina, that Dacian had also avenged Cas’s mate for the deaths of Mirceo’s parents!
Really fucking sick of that vampire.
She laid her hand on his arm. “You’ll have to put aside your anger if you want a future with Mirceo.”
Cas stilled. “Trehan told you.”
“Oh, Cas, is Mirceo truly yours? Could you and I both have found our mates?”
“Yes, he’s mine.”
“I admit I was surprised when I heard this. You were always with females, so I thought you were straight.”
“I am. Or I was. I’ve never desired a male before, but with Mirceo . . .” Cas exhaled. “I am very much not straight. I’ve never desired anyone like I do him.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “It’s like a fever.”
“Have you attempted him?”
“No. I don’t think he can be faithful. He doesn’t understand commitment, is too young to enter into one.” At that age, even Cas would’ve had difficulty, and he’d desired matehood.
“Have you let him drink from you? It can really bond two people.” A secretive smile played about her lips.
Let? Not at first. “He’s fed from me. You allow Trehan to drink from you?”
Her cheeks reddened. “Of course. He didn’t at first because of the bloodtaking taboo, but now . . .”
“You like it?”
Over the rim of her glass, she said, “I think you know the answer to that question.”
Even now Cas was overfull with blood, aching to be pierced. “But I don’t relish the idea of Mirceo having full access to my memories.” Cas longed to be attractive to his fated one, to appear forever strong and brave—the hero of old.
When he thought of the things Mirceo could see, sweat beaded his upper lip. “I couldn’t stand pity from him. Of all the people in the worlds, not him.”
The vampire’s words echoed in his mind: Perhaps you don’t lack faith in me. Perhaps you lack faith in you. Maybe so.
“I felt the same way,” Bettina said. “I was horrified at the idea of a brave warrior like Trehan seeing what a coward I was when the Vrekeners attacked.”
Cas scowled. “You were set upon by a gang of violent swordsmen!”
“I didn’t say I was being rational about it. In any case, Trehan did see, and he did pity me. But it was more than that. He explained something very important to me.”
“Tina, I don’t think I can bear hearing words of wisdom from that leech right now.”
She glared. “Language, demon. That’s my husband you’re talking about. Would you call Mirceo a leech?”
She waved that away. “Trehan explained that when you love someone, you take on their pain as your own. Trehan hurt for me. Mirceo will hurt for you—especially since he’ll relive your pain firsthand.”
Could Mirceo ever love him? Was the vampire even capable of it? “Let’s speak of something else. I have something to show you.” He pulled the coins from his coat. “Mirceo and I collected a bounty.”
Bettina’s gaze grew laser-focused on the pouch. “Gold.”
“Not just any gold.” He handed it to her.
She opened it, gasping at the contents. “Holy shit! This is . . . this is dragon gold!” She gazed up at him. “That must’ve been some bounty.”
“A tough one, yes.” She tried to return the pouch, but he held up his palm. “Mirceo suggested we give it to you, and for once, I agreed with him.”
“Thank you so much! Will you please bring him around, so I can thank him too?”
Cas glanced out over the town again. “I don’t see that happening. He and I will most likely go our separate ways for a time.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“I explained some things to him about demon matehood. Once Mirceo wraps his head around all the implications, that hedonist will cut and run. Trust me.” Didn’t matter how much Cas wanted more with Mirceo, he couldn’t will the vampire to change—any more than he could will time to pass on Poly.
She chewed her lip, her brows drawn. Hurting for me. Is my yearning so obvious?
Cas hated that he’d made her pensive. She’d had far too many worries of her own. “I should be going.”
“Where? How will I get in touch with you?”
He finished his cup. “I’ll stop by again soon.”
She hefted the sack of coins. “I could make a ring out of some of these for you to give Mirceo.”
To signal a commitment? Cas shook his head. “A waste of good gold. . . .”
“Miss me, sweetheart?” Mirceo said from behind Caspion. It was sunset on the fourth day.
The demon’s shoulder muscles bunched. “You. Fucking. Child.”
“I missed you too.” He’d counted down the seconds till he could return, choking down blood mead, dealing with his ever-growing lust, and hardly sleeping. Over those nights, he’d hunted for the males who’d hurt his mate, stalking the plane of Abaddon as a deadly mist. But he’d discovered that Caspion had long since killed those fiends. “Let’s agree never to part again—”
Caspion twisted around, his expression half wrathful, half wrecked. “You didn’t do as you said you would. You didn’t consider things. Or else you would not be here!”