Cas had traced from the palace directly to the beach bungalow, then remained there for almost two days, praying to all the gods that the vampire would realize his mistake.
Over that time, he’d imagined Mirceo begging for forgiveness and vowing that he could handle an eternal commitment—oh, and that he wouldn’t vomit at the thought of fucking only Cas for the rest of his life.
Then he’d realized Mirceo wasn’t coming for him. And luckily he couldn’t find the vampire; else Cas would’ve stalked after him like a lovelorn fool.
He exhaled a defeated breath. Take a job or go crazy.
Leyak called, “Caspion, a word.”
“Yeah.” He traced to the bar, hoping the old hunter wouldn’t grill him again about Mirceo. The last time, Cas had said only, “The vampire played with my head.” But his anger over Mirceo’s machinations and scheming had swiftly faded. If the two of them hadn’t been mates, maybe his resentment would’ve lasted. Yet they were mates. Everything had led them together. . . .
Leyak poured him a mug of brew. “How’re you hanging in there?”
“Been better.” Cas would own his part in his and Mirceo’s rift. If he had derived any wisdom—or discipline—from all the years he’d lived, he would’ve disappeared from the vampire’s life for ten decades.
But Cas had been too weak to leave. Instead, he’d laid all of the choice, all of the burden, on such a young male. Then Cas had been shocked when Mirceo bolted in a panic?
That morning, the vampire’s claw marks had studded his own chest. To judge by its beat, Mirceo’s heart must’ve been on the verge of exploding. Cas understood that panic—he’d experienced the same when he’d rashly fled Dacia all those years ago, risking his own execution. But at that age, rash had felt right.
So it would with Mirceo.
Trying not to sound desperate, Cas asked, “I don’t suppose he stopped by?”
“As a matter of fact, he came in a few times asking after you, wanting your location. Searched for you too.”
Damn this surge of hope! “And?”
“He was here a couple of days ago, looking haunted-eyed and miserable.”
Cas had pictured Mirceo, smirk in place, fucking and biting partners with abandon. Instead, the prince had been miserable? That shouldn’t make Cas happy. But it did. A smile crossed his face. “Did he say if he was coming back?”
“Dunno. He saw something on the bounty wall and he . . . reacted.”
“What do you mean?”
Leyak scratched one of his scuffed horns. “I mean, he dropped to his knees, roared in pain, and vomited blood. Which I will never get out of the floor.”
Cas’s claws dug into the bar. “What did he see?”
“I didn’t catch the specific poster, but he didn’t take it down or anything. Just teleported from here like a bat out of hell.”
Cas traced to the board, scanning the bounties. His breath left him when a familiar portrait snared his attention. He’d once viewed that same likeness while sitting atop the tower of a mortal bridge.
Mina. My sister-by-fate . . .
Name: Princess Kosmina
Last seen: New Orleans riverfront, setting of the hunter’s moon
Hair: Long, light blond
Offered by King Lothaire, the Enemy of Old
My sister! Cas yanked the poster down, rereading the details. The hunter’s moonset? That’d been right when—
Dear gods, Mirceo had sensed his beloved sister was in danger!
Cas traced back to the bar. Holding up the poster, he demanded, “How did this get here?”
Leyak shook his head. “Came in through the usual channels.”
I’ve got to get to Dacia. To Mirceo. His eyes narrowed. For a male who revered choice, Cas had only one option.
The Dacianos—Viktor, Stelian, Trehan, and Mirceo—were back in the court, awaiting the king and queen, and a lead that might help them find Mina. Days had passed without a sign of her. Even Balery couldn’t get a read on her.
“You need to drink, nephew.” Viktor sat on the edge of the throne dais, using a blade to clean his claws. “Or you’ll never heal.”
Mirceo limped as he paced back and forth across the court. He hadn’t had a drop of blood since learning of Mina’s disappearance. No intake meant Mirceo was slow to regenerate from Lothaire’s beating the other day.
After Mirceo had demanded to know what the king had done, Lothaire had steepled his fingers, his black claws glinting. His deep voice had resonated as he’d said, “I sent Kosmina out into the world.” He’d shrugged. “And damn if I haven’t misplaced her.”
Consumed with wrath, Mirceo had attacked the ancient vampire. Half-feral Lothaire had relished the opportunity to thrash someone, laughing as he’d broken Mirceo’s bones.
It’d taken all of the Dacianos to pry Lothaire off of him. Mirceo’s jaw had been so mangled he hadn’t been able to tell anyone about his skirmish with the Forbearers, instead having to write out his suspicion: Forbearers took her. Exchange for Kristoff.
Lothaire had led the Dacianos in an incursion on that order’s castle. Yet there’d been no sign of Mina. Fortunately Lothaire had an asset, a prisoner they could torture for information. Today they were supposed to learn the findings. . . .