“You were supposed to think about things before we did this. What’s done is done, vampire. And—as I warned you repeatedly—it can’t be undone.” His gaze rose to Mirceo’s neck.

“Your mark.” Mirceo’s skin had healed, but demons would still be able to see it.

“You’ll wear it forever. Does that panic you?”

“No, but something does.” He felt as if he was about to vomit all the blood he’d taken last night.

_______

“An endless supply of new partners will grow stale in time,” Cas said. In a few centuries, once Mirceo figured out how meaningless his existence was, the vampire would attempt to find his mate. But I’ll be done. He could never get over Mirceo’s infidelity. The jealousy would eat him alive. “You will wish for a life with me, and I won’t take you back.”

When Mirceo rubbed his chest, comprehension dawned for Cas. “There’s nothing I can say to calm your thundering heart right now, is there?”

The vampire remained silent. His color was pasty, his face waxen.

Cas felt like he could hold Mirceo here, guilting him into staying. But if he doesn’t want me . . . if he needs to flee so badly he looks sick . . . “So now you’re done with me? On to the next conquest? I’ll be the latest in a long line, one among all the ruined souls you left in your wake.” Grief seeped into him. “Do you even care that the people you bed begin to dream?” Damn it, I began to dream of our future! “Just as I predicted, you’ve lost interest.”

Mirceo paced, sweating even more. “I-I haven’t lost interest in you.”

Ah, so the greedy prince wanted Caspion—and others. Perhaps he’d always planned for that, carrying on the lifestyle they’d had before, but sharing a bed as well. “You mentioned secrets, leech. You might as well clear the air completely.”

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He shook his head hard. “Don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Now Cas definitely had to hear whatever Mirceo concealed. He traced in front of him, prodding the vampire’s chest. “Tell me.”

Mirceo stumbled backward until he met the wall. “M-my thoughts aren’t right.” Agitation and confusion warred in his expression. He swallowed loudly. “We should talk later—”

“NOW.”

Gaze darting, Mirceo blurted, “I paid those three nymphs to manipulate us into kissing.”

“What???” That night had rerouted the course of Cas’s entire life!

Mirceo’s eyes widened, as if he’d never intended to say those words. He muttered a vile curse in Dacian.

“You set me up?” Cas’s hand had been forced yet again by this devious vampire. Taking away my choice! His fists clenched. “You fucking child. You played with my life. With my mind.”

“I-I did. I regret my actions, but I admit them.”

“You’re telling me this to force me to leave. Because you’re too big of a coward to walk away! Guess what? It’s working—”

“No!” Mirceo traced to the room’s wastebasket. Dropping to his knees, he vomited blood.

Cas’s first impulse was to care for his mate—which infuriated him even more. “Look at you! Your body’s told us all we need to know.”

Mirceo swiped his arm over his mouth, then rose unsteadily to his feet.

Resentment seethed inside Cas. He burned to share his new pain, to make the vampire feel a fraction of this agony. “Before I go, there’s something you should know. I lied too, leech. You did have much to do with my stay on Poly. I suspected we had some tie, but I didn’t want it. I didn’t want you. I preferred to remain in that godsforsaken wasteland than be with you. Makes sense—my instincts were trying to protect me from a spoiled, degenerate princeling with no purpose, no resolve, and no fortitude.”

Mirceo’s expression grew stricken. Pressing his arm over his mouth, he fled, tracing away.

Cas gazed around the room, disbelieving he was alone. Then he threw back his head and roared.

THIRTY-ONE

As Mirceo paced the rooms in his clifftop villa, time seemed to move in fast-forward.

The sun set. Night fell. Dawn appeared, only to intensify into noon. Dusk tiptoed in with the nearly full moon.

All the while he questioned his actions, his sanity. The panic only grew, as did that sense that he was missing some huge detail that should be foremost in his mind. Yet now these feelings competed with anguish over the estrangement from his mate.

He kept gazing around, as if Caspion would trace into this room, a hero to be worshipped, to save Mirceo from his own wretchedness. From his stupidity. His weakness.

Within minutes of their fight, Mirceo had been tempted to trace to the bungalow, but he’d feared he would just prove the demon’s points. You said I have no fortitude—behold! Resolve? Not here, lover.

He scowled at his arm when that pain flared again. Maybe Mirceo was just losing his mind. He raised his flask, attempting to sip a concoction that was more mead than blood.

Damn it, he didn’t want others, didn’t want to move on to the next conquest. He wanted to tease and conquer Caspion every day and night for the rest of their lives.

So why hadn’t Mirceo told him that? Because I’m my own worst enemy. Caspion had known that about Mirceo. Why didn’t I know it?

Hours had passed into days, but Mirceo had gotten no closer to deciphering his feelings. He needed Caspion to help him. The demon was a brilliant male. If they worked together, they could come up with a solution. Mirceo believed in Caspion—even if the reverse wasn’t true.