Ana sensed all eyes on her as she wove her way through the sweaty crowd of half-naked females and hungry thugs at Anarchy. They watched her the way humans always did, with looks of curiosity and lust.
They never saw her for what she was.
A killer trapped in a ceaseless war that slowly strangled her souls. Both of them.
The club throbbed with a mix of house music and hardcore hip-hop. Moving past the bar, she cast out her acute shifter senses, but as she pushed through the noise and swept the place, she found no trace of the enemy. As she inhaled, she could smell the chemicals in the poison the humans shoved up their noses.
Then she felt it.
As she went passed a group of biker jackholes, a hand slid along her black leathers and grabbed her ass. She whipped around with preternatural speed, surprising the human. She reached down, grabbed his balls and held them as she glared into the burnout’s eyes.
Biker boy sucked in his breath.
“Do I have the right to walk by without your hands all over my ass?”
Ana could smell the fear and outrage wafting off Harley-Davidson.
She tightened her hand on his family jewels and gave a slight twist. “Do I?”
“Ah, yeah, yeah…of course—”
“That’s what I thought.”
She turned on her heel, pushed through the crowd on the dance floor, and headed toward the back of the club. No members of the Order, she thought. At least not tonight. Damn it. She pushed the emergency door open and walked out into the alley behind the building. The cold November rain soaked her hair in seconds and stung her scalp. As she made her way toward the street, her senses picked up a shifter close by.
And this was no civilian.
The heavy vibration of k’ul she sensed told her this was the enemy. A New Breed shifter, a member the Order. She opened her leather jacket and unsheathed her twin crescent moon knives. With seven inches of death in one hand and seven of defense in the other, she moved slowly back along the alley. Adrenaline pumped through her body, heightening her already keen senses. Jonesing for a fight after dealing with the douchebag in the club, she practically had to hold herself back.
She peered into the darkest corners of the alley as the rain and wind slapped her face. I know you’re here somewhere. He had to be. Her muscles tensed and she looked up at the two adjacent buildings. Nothing. Without putting her knives away, she turned and walked back toward the street. The sickening sweet smell of garbage hit her nose as she passed the dumpsters that overflowed with refuse. Then something suddenly caught her eye.
Almost completely hidden from view by one of the metal bins, a male wearing nothing but tattered denim shorts lay on his side with his knees pulled up to his chest. Ana approached cautiously. Her senses told her he was a New Breed, yet she had never seen him before. Another surge of adrenaline pushed through her and her eyes widened. There it was on his right shoulder. The Mayan marking. The mark of the Order.
An injured New Breed? Alone?
Ana should’ve taken him out. Chances like this came once in a lifetime, if at all…but something wasn’t right. The male’s hair was twisted into two long braids down his back. What the fuck? She nudged him with her boot and rolled him onto his side.
“Soaring Eagle?” she whispered, as if she might wake him up.
But how could this be? No one had seen him in, what, eight years? What the hell was he doing here?
A war suddenly ignited within her. He was a part of her past, someone she had known as a young girl, but he’d been marked after the Transition. He was the enemy. Ana looked down at his battered body and made the only choice she could. Sliding her blades back into her jacket, she looked up and down the alley.
She was so gonna regret this.
She moved her hands under the male’s broad shoulders, and grabbed him under his arms. Jesus, he was big. Gleaming them both through a portal wouldn’t be easy, but he was clearly in no shape to help her. Finally, sure she had a firm grip, Ana took one last look around before she dematerialized them.
Seated in a chair in the corner of her old bedroom, Ana watched Soaring Eagle as he slept. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but the only other furniture in the room was the bed. And she was so not going there.
She rearranged her long legs. Hours had passed since she’d managed to get the male back to her old apartment and drag him onto the bed. For the most part, he had been totally out of it, which was probably a good thing. Whatever happened to him, it couldn’t have been pleasant. Clearly, something had done a number on him.
She shook her head. Holy shit. What was she thinking, bringing him here? They were at war. The New Breed shifters were bent on killing anyone from Toltec. That mark on his shoulder meant he had taken a sacred oath. An oath to kill her. And there he was lying on her bed. What the fuck was wrong with her? He would probably try to gank her the second he woke up. Ana slid her hands into her jacket and pulled out her crescents, letting the feel of them in her hands ease her anxiety.
As she watched Soaring Eagle, he became increasingly agitated. Her grip on her blades tightened. Then, realizing he was only dreaming, she put them back into her jacket. By the look on his face, it was one whopper of a nightmare. She stood up and tentatively moved closer to the bed.
Out of nowhere, the male sat upright.
Ana jumped back and automatically moved into fighting stance, the warrior in her ready for anything. But there was no menace on his face, only confusion.
“Where am I?” He grunted in pain and lay back against the pillows.
She kept her hand near the opening of her jacket. She’d be damned if she was going to let a New Breed trick her into putting herself at risk.
“You’re at my old apartment.”
Jesus. Soaring Eagle felt like he’d been hit by a bus. Repeatedly. He tried to move into a position that gave him some semblance of relief, but every time he moved, he only found something new that hurt. He gingerly slid a hand across his ribcage. Shit. Two cracked ribs for sure. Maybe more. What the hell happened?
He gave the female shifter the once-over. She was dressed head to toe in some serious black leather. He drew his gaze up to her face. Her wide, haunting green eyes were staring right back at him.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
The female raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know. Do you?”
Strike one. “My name’s Soaring Eagle. I go by SE.” At least he remembered his name, but everything else seemed to be playing hard to get. Fuck. Boston?
He thought he saw a flicker of recognition in her eyes. A lick of pain shot through his ribs, and he sucked in his breath.
“We should tape those up. I’ll be right back.”
SE tried to take deeper breaths as he watched her walk into the bathroom. When she came back out with a roll of medical tape, he noticed she seemed to have forgotten the scissors. Yeah, she had trust issues. Good to know.
“This is gonna suck,” she said, “but at least you’ll be able to move with less pain. Ah, I’m going to need you to swing around and sit on the edge of the bed. Think you can do that?”
After what seemed like forever, he managed to fight through the pain and get his feet on the floor. The female approached him cautiously. Yeah, she definitely expected him to try something, but she seemed like she could handle herself. Big time.
As she leaned forward with the tape, he reached out and took it from her hand. “I got it.”
He looked into those piercing eyes. “Yeah…I’m sure.” Man, every time he looked at her he was struck by some serious déjà vu. He knew those eyes. And the black hair that hung just above her shoulders. But from where?
SE turned his attention to the job at hand, slowly and carefully. He brought the tape partway around his torso and stopped. Had his muscles always been this defined? His body felt so strange, almost foreign, like he’d gone to the closet and put on a totally different Soaring Eagle suit. He checked to make sure the tape wasn’t too tight. The last thing he needed in this weird body was a collapsed lung. He repeated the process on his other side. When he was finished, he moved his legs back onto the bed and sat back against the pillows, exhausted. He watched as the female put the tape away in the bathroom.
“Why don’t you rest for a while?” she called. “There isn’t much around, food-wise. I might have to run out.”
SE nodded his thanks. “Hey, do you have a name?”
She turned in the doorway. “Ana. My name’s Ana.”
Then she disappeared into what he could only guess was the kitchen. That was when he first felt it—a sudden jolt of panic in his chest. His breathing picked up, his ribs screamed in protest against the pressure. The next thing he knew, he was sitting up straight, in spite of the pain, as if he were going to go after her. What the hell was happening to him?
Ana rummaged through the cupboards, hoping to find something edible. Perfect. All she had was a half-eaten bag of fuzzy Milano cookies. Oh, and an injured New Breed in her bed. Goddamn. She adiosed the cookies into the trash. As she made for the door, she reminded herself that New Breeds healed quickly, though there was no telling how fast. The best she could do was to get him the hell out of there, ASAP. This wasn’t even her crib anymore. Her little Beacon Hill apartment was due to be re-rented any time. No one from Toltec even knew she kept a separate place, and she planned on keeping it that way.
Ana locked the two deadbolts and started to walk down the stairs, then abruptly stopped. As a sudden feeling of emptiness filled her gut, she turned around and looked back at the door. For a brief moment, she felt as though she couldn’t leave, like she was Wile E. Coyoted to the step. She took a deep breath and walked down the three flights out into the little alley that led to the street. Then she headed down Mount Vernon to Charles and made for the closest Starbucks. She lucked out. The place was dead. She quickly ordered two grande dark roasts, two bagels, two cinnamon rolls, and two pieces of coffee cake. Damn. Gleaming burned a fuckload of calories and she was starving. She took one look at the size of her order and decided to find some shadow and gleam back to the apartment anyway.
As she materialized in the kitchen, she felt an odd sense of relief to be back, which was hella strange because she’d never really been all that attached to the place. It was just somewhere to crash when she needed some breathing room. She exhaled and headed into the bedroom. And wouldn’t you know. As soon as she walked in the room, the male sat up and looked at her like he’d just found his long lost friend.
“I got a lot of stuff. I wasn’t sure what you’d like.” She rolled her eyes. Because it’s so freakin’ important to make sure the enemy is well fed.
He reached out. “Awesome. I’ll take whatever.”
She carefully handed him a coffee and one of the bags she’d brought back.
SE barely had the bag open before he was biting into a cinnamon roll. “Sorry. Starving.”
Death by carbohydrate. That had possibilities. Ana sat down in the chair, sipped her coffee and watched Soaring Eagle tear in. Which was probably totally rude, but she just couldn’t seem to stop looking at him. Finally it hit her. He had unbraided his hair. It hung in long, loose, dark waves to the top of his chest. Ana let her gaze move to his face and the high cheekbones that sat just below the most incredible soft brown eyes. And then to his full lips—
“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, starting on his bagel.
Ah, hell. She pulled out a piece of coffee cake and started to pick at it as if she had some interest.
SE took another swig of his coffee, savoring every drop like he was in a fucking Folgers commercial. It felt like years since he had any. Maybe it had been.
“How’s your memory coming?” Ana asked.
He shook his head. “The same. I remember a lot of things, but everything gets all foggy when I try to remember anything recent.”
He knew stressing about it wasn’t going to help, but it was so goddamn frustrating.
SE suddenly jolted out of his thoughts when he realized the female was approaching him.
She was standing by the end of the bed when he started to feel the power coming off of her like little sparks of electricity all over his skin. And the closer she got, the stronger they got.
The female suddenly made like she was going to touch him.
He swallowed hard. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? I’m taking a look at your ribs.”
“Ah, I’m pretty sure the tape is still holding,” he mumbled.
Did she feel it too, or was he losing his ever-loving mind?