Huh? “Just like that?”

“The past is done. Besides, without the scry crystal, we are in sore need of a skilled tracker.”

Bettina ran to her husband’s side. In a breathless voice, she said, “Thank you, Trey!”

The vampire grasped her hands. “I will take Caspion now, but I ask that you remain here. Things are volatile in the Dacian court.”

She hesitated. “Okay. This time.”

“I shall return soon.” He pressed a gentle kiss to her palm that made her face flush. “Await me?” he asked, somehow imbuing those two words with layers of carnality.

She breathlessly nodded.

Releasing her with reluctance, he grasped Cas’s elbow. “I must warn you. Mirceo’s appearance is much changed.” He teleported them into Dacia’s court, off to one side of the immense and echoing room.

Cas caught sight of Mirceo, and his chest constricted. His mate’s skin held a deathly pallor, bruises marked his face, and his clothes billowed on his wasted frame. He looked as if he would crumble under the weight of gravity at any second.

Standing beside a shackled and gagged prisoner, Mirceo gazed up at Lothaire—the red-eyed king—with a defeated expression.

What was happening? The tension between them was so taut it seemed to reverberate. Figure it out later. Cas readied to trace—

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Trehan clamped his shoulder to prevent him. “Lothaire has been in rare form these last few days,” he said in a low tone. “If you’d like to survive this day, I suggest you stay out of his way.”

Cas growled, “Who hurt my mate? Was it Lothaire?”

“If the king thrashes you, how well will you be able to help Kosmina? You choked back your fury earlier with me. You must again. You have a family to think about now.”

Cas sank his claws into his palms, grappling not to attack the king.

Lothaire stalked closer to Mirceo. “Do it. Do it for your sister,” he said. “That is a royal command.”

Do what???

Appearing dazed, Mirceo leaned toward the restrained male—toward his neck.

Cas’s mate was about to bite another! He tensed to fling himself away from Trehan.

Just before Mirceo’s lips made contact, a blood tear tracked down his cheek. He drew back, shaking his head. “I-I can’t.”

Cas knew how much Mirceo loved his sister, could see how starved the vampire was—how could he not bite that male?

Lothaire snapped, “If you don’t drink Kristoff, I will.”

“No way,” the queen—Elizabeth?—said from her throne. “Any more memories’ll send you right over the edge.”

Lothaire gruffly said, “I’ll be fine, Lizvetta. When did everyone get so fucking persnickety over this?”

“Forget it, Leo.”

Lothaire turned to Mirceo, baring his fangs. “Kosmina is in jeopardy.”

Another vampire male said, “Because you sent her out!”

“Do I need to crush your skull again, Viktor?”

A hulking Dacian with a flask in hand—must be Stelian—said, “As if you care about Mina. Let’s not pretend.”

“Kosmina Daciano is my blood relation. Mine. No one takes from me.” To Mirceo, Lothaire said, “Bite Kristoff’s godsdamned neck! Your sister’s life is on the line.”

“I know that!” Mirceo all but sobbed. “This is killing me!”

His pain is my pain.

Trehan increased the pressure on Caspion’s shoulder.

Lothaire thundered, “Do it now! Do you not want your sister saved?” Abruptly changing tack, he softly queried, “Do you think she’s frightened right now? Will little Kosmina cry for you? Don’t you believe she’s already injured?”

Blood tears streaming, Mirceo bashed his fists against his head.

THIRTY-FIVE

Mirceo beat his skull and tore at his hair. Was Mina crying for her big brother? Was she scared? Is she . . . dead?

Though the need to save her clawed at his throat, his fangs were dull and useless. His mind understood why this act was necessary, yet his body remained irrevocably faithful to his mate. Mirceo had even tried to imagine he was about to sink his fangs into one of Caspion’s warm, welcoming veins, but his body hadn’t been fooled.

He’d just thought, I need my demon, when familiar hands seized his wrists. A low voice soothed: “Hey, hey, love. I’ve got you.” Strong arms enfolded him. “Shh, shh. Stop this, vampire. I’ve got you.”

Caspion. Mirceo shuddered from relief. “Am I dreaming you?”

“I’m here.”

Lothaire demanded, “Who the hell is this demon in my court?”

Pride ringing in his tone, Caspion said, “I’m the tracker who’s going to get Mina back.”

How had Caspion found out? How had the demon reached this kingdom?

Anger disappearing as if it had never been, Lothaire returned to his throne. “Continue, demon tracker.”

“If she wasn’t in the Forbearers’ stronghold, then they don’t have her. You waste your time. That’s not the trail.”

“Then who does have her? What is the trail?”

Caspion asked Mirceo, “Does your arm still pain you?”

“Yes. I believe she was injured, and I feel it. Have for days.”

Caspion nodded. “As long as you feel that pain, you know she’s alive.”

“But where?”

“Why would an immortal vampire, a female, not heal from a mere arm injury?”