Would the demon even take him back? A degenerate princeling . . . ?

Deciding to beseech Caspion’s forgiveness and help, Mirceo traced to the bungalow. Please. I will try harder. I will do better. Don’t give up on me.

Caspion wasn’t there. So Mirceo waited.

And waited. In those maddening hours, he haunted his mate’s home like a ghost.

Inhaling the demon’s scent on a pillow.

Staring at the blankets Caspion had strung up over the windows.

Gazing out at the shore where the demon had risen like a god.

Mirceo brushed his fingertips over the holes in the wall, murmuring, “I’ve caused him so much pain.”

Caspion’s words kept ringing in his ears: You are your own worst enemy. . . .

_______

Two days had passed, but Caspion never returned.

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Unable to remain still any longer, Mirceo traced to the Red Flag, heading to the bar.

“Have you seen Caspion?” he asked Leyak.

The demon frowned. “You look terrible, vampire. Bad breakup, huh?”

The barkeep hadn’t been referencing a hunting partnership. “How could you tell we were together?”

“Looked like an invisible leash tied you two.”

And then Mirceo had severed it. “Has he been in here?”

“Oh, aye. Looked worse than you do. Took a job in another dimension. A real dangerous one.”

Nausea roiled. “I should be with him! Tell me where he is.”

“Sorry, son. I can’t do that. Caspion said you . . . played with him.”

“Not intentionally! I didn’t set out to hurt him. I acted like an idiot.” He swiped his hand over his clammy face. “Please tell me where he is, Leyak. I can keep him safe. No one can protect him like I will. I need to be with my mate.”

The demon shook his head. “I don’t want you running after him, distracting him and getting him killed.”

Maybe Mirceo should kidnap the barkeep and torture him for Caspion’s location. Of course! But then he recalled his mate’s memories of this demon. Leyak had always been kind and encouraging to Caspion, the first ever to take an interest in his wellbeing. You stalked that trail like a Caspion tiger, son!

Damn it! No torture, then.

Mirceo’s gaze snapped to the wall. He remembered many of the posted jobs. Maybe he could determine which ones were missing.

The next-most-lucrative bounty was still in play. Below the painted image of a pretty, pointed-eared female were the details:

REWARD:

Wanted alive!

Name: Unknown

Species: Fey

Hair: Long, light brown

Eyes: One amber, one violet

Height: 5'4"

Reward: A queen’s ransom in gold

Offered by King Abyssian Infernas, ruler of Pandemonia and All Hells

A few posters were conspicuously missing, and Mirceo recalled the details of them as best he could. He’d go to the location of each one. I will hunt the hunter. . . .

_______

A week had passed, and Mirceo was no closer to finding Caspion.

There were only so many more places he could be. Mirceo returned to the tavern, hoping the barkeep would take pity on him and reveal Caspion’s whereabouts.

Leyak should pity him. Mirceo’s clothes hung off his gaunt frame. His skin was deathly pale. Earlier, he’d forced himself to drink, but the blood hadn’t made a dent in his deficit.

As he headed to the bar, Mirceo passed the bounty wall. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied a poster that made his head jerk around.

Cold fear snatched his heart. His never-ending panic morphed into a deafening roar that burst from his lungs. His invisible arm injury flared, his legs buckling. On his knees, he vomited blood all over the floor.

This. I sensed THIS.

Unable to process what was happening, he somehow managed to trace to Castle Dacia. Caspion, I need you! Gods, I need my mate. Inside the black-stone throne room, diamond-filtered sunlight beamed in through stained-glass windows. Upon a raised dais, Lothaire sat in his throne, Elizabeth close beside him in her own.

Everyone was here. Mirceo’s uncles Viktor, Stelian, and Trehan. Even Balery. Was Elizabeth’s expression pensive? Lothaire’s red gaze seemed even eerier than usual.

Mirceo yelled at Lothaire, “What the fuck have you done?”

Lothaire laughed, a full-throated sound that carried through the court, wrapping around each of them like chains. “Whatever I please, boy. One of the perks of being a king.”

And all the world went red. . . .

THIRTY-TWO

Take a job or go crazy. Take a job or go crazy.

For a male who despised being hemmed in, Cas’s entire life had come down to two options. So he’d taken a job.

After ten days of work and a successful bounty, he returned to the Red Flag to select his next mission. Inside, the usual crowd drank. Leyak hummed while he wiped down the bar.

Cas crossed to the completed board to pin up his cashed-in bounty, unable to stop himself from glancing around the tavern with a tiny spark of hope.

No Mirceo. The vampire was doubtless back to form, enjoying the shadow life, nailing everything that moved.

He’d expected this separation to send his demonic instincts raging out of control, but far more than instinct was at work here. It seemed Cas’s tenderness toward Mirceo influenced everything. Rage and aggression had morphed into raw grief.

Cas could try to move on. Find a demoness and start siring pups. But he only wanted the vampire. When Mirceo had fled that morning, he’d taken Cas’s heart with him.