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“Fine. I’m being too nosy. I get it. Just promise me you’re not doing anything that will hurt the kids.”
“I swear it,” said Logan.
“So do I,” added Hope.
The weight of both vows settled over Lyka, reassuring her. They were bound to their word now. That alone was enough to put her mind at ease.
“Okay. Let’s go back to the problem at hand. Clearly you two know Joseph better than I do. What do I do to sway his decision without resorting to naked time?”
Logan smiled, and it made him almost too beautiful to look at. “That, my dear, is simple. If you do what we say, he’ll be putty in your hands by midnight.”
The idea of getting Joseph in her hands was far more appealing than she dared admit, which was all the warning she needed to tread carefully.
One misstep and she could singlehandedly send their races back to war against each other. And she would be trapped behind enemy lines.
* * *
At sundown, Tynan eased from his bed in his suite beneath Dabyr.
He was ravenous. His bones felt ancient and brittle. His vision was clouded over with a hazy red film that nearly blinded him. His skin was fever hot, burning with fatigue that no amount of sleep could remedy.
He needed blood. Gallons of it. Oceans of it. He needed to gulp it down and let it ease the grinding hunger that prowled through his limbs, weakening him.
He swayed on his feet, flailing to find something to grasp.
“Easy, brother,” said Logan, grabbing his arm.
Tynan hadn’t even known his Sanguinar brother was here. His senses had dulled to the point that he couldn’t even detect the presence of one of his own kind a few inches away.
Logan eased him back to sit on the bed. He pressed his wrist against Tynan’s mouth and willed his skin to open.
Sweet, hot blood flowed over his tongue, rousing the hungry beast within him. He grabbed Logan’s wrist, holding it tight enough to break bone if the man tried to pull away. Power surged through him, relieving the parched cells rattling around in his veins.
“That’s enough,” came a soft, feminine voice.
Hope. Logan’s mate.
His skin closed, blocking the flow of blood. Tynan tore at the man’s skin with his teeth, but he wasn’t fast enough. Wasn’t strong enough.
Logan ripped his arm away, flinging Tynan down onto the bed.
Both men were panting. Tynan’s vision had cleared enough for him to see his brother slumped on the floor. Hope was over him, her delicate throat pressed to his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” said Tynan, once again himself.
Sadness shone in her clear eyes. “We understand. You’re doing all you can.”
And he was.
Joseph had ordered him to scour the mind of every Sanguinar housed under Dabyr’s roof, searching for signs of treachery. Most of his kind abhorred the violation of their privacy, resisting his efforts. Some intentionally. Others without even realizing just how thick and wide their mental barriers were. In both cases, the sheer power it took to overcome those defenses left Tynan weak. Utterly depleted.
If not for Logan’s daily dose of blood, Tynan would have already failed in his task. And if he did that, his people could be banished from this place of refuge with nowhere to hide from the sun.
He feared that if that happened, the weaker members of his race would succumb to the lure of the Synestryn and the power their tainted blood could provide.
Logan stood, positioning himself between Tynan and his mate. “Is it enough?”
He nodded, giving no voice to his lie. “Thank you.”
“Two more of our kind returned home after you retired. They’re waiting for you in their quarters.”
Tynan had no choice but to do his duty, but he couldn’t face it yet. “Any other news?”
“I checked on the Theronai pregnancies. All is well there.”
“That is a relief.”
“Madoc isn’t pleased. He thinks we’re meddling.”
“Madoc is never pleased. As long as he doesn’t break your neck, assume he still likes you. What else?”
“Ronan still seeks the woman who saved his life. He regrets his inability to return.”
“Did you tell him it wasn’t a request?”
“I did. He didn’t seem concerned.”
“Do we know anything about this woman he’s seeking?”
“She apparently enjoys fast cars. Ronan is unable to catch up with her.”
“But he can still sense where she’s gone?”
“We need to find her. If she’s anything like Hope . . .”
Logan tightened his hold on his mate. “Ronan is aware of the stakes.”
“Anything else? Any sign of Torr?”
“No. He is still missing. Many of the Theronai have been searching for him ever since his disappearance.”
Tynan ran his fingers through his hair. “Have you heard anything from those working on Project Lullaby?”
“No. Everyone is being particularly cautious since Connal’s betrayal.”
With good reason. If the Theronai found out that the Sanguinar had been matchmaking blooded humans and encouraging them to produce offspring, they wouldn’t be pleased. With as little Athanasian blood as there was left on the planet, the Sanguinar had no choice but to resort to some unorthodox methods to strengthen the remaining bloodlines. They saw it as necessary coercion, ensuring that the humans they convinced to help them lived long and happy lives filled with many children.
The Theronai would doubtlessly see it as interfering with the free will of humans and react accordingly. In their centuries-long history together, more than one Sanguinar head had rolled for lesser infractions.
“We can’t slow down our efforts,” said Tynan. “There is no time to waste.”
“We’re all aware of the giant ticking clock, brother. I’m sure that the men are doing everything they can to further our efforts. That may be why some of them have refused to communicate with us. Once they do, they know you’ll be forced to order them home for interrogation. That will waste valuable time and energy that none of you have.”
Tynan nodded, praying Logan was right. “I’m scheduled to meet with Joseph tonight to report on my progress.”