Excerpt

Fatal Call Chapter One

Xavier secured his nine in its holster and closed the door to his weapons cabinet. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t meet the enemy where he was headed, but you could never be too careful. None of the members of the Order left the mansion unarmed, as a rule. He pulled on his leather coat and newsboy cap. Then he took the red long stemmed rose from his desk with care and dematerialized. Seconds later he was out in the cold night air. He paused behind a mausoleum and cast out his senses. Satisfied no one unexpected was in the cemetery, X started the short trek up the hillside. Snow began to fall lightly as he walked past one headstone after another.

Now that he was in the Order, it was too dangerous to make the pilgrimage to his mother’s grave more than once a year. All past connections were severed when a brother took the oath. They couldn’t risk giving Toltec any clue as to their identities. But the tenth of May was his mother’s birthday. It was sacred. Not even Troy knew about his annual visit and he was his partner. No big thing. If anyone found out and took issue with it, he’d be more than happy to explain it all gentlemanlike and shit.

The wind picked up and he quickened his pace. He’d never liked cemeteries.

Something about them always seemed kind of wack. Shifters cremated their dead. They had learned long before Toltec that human science couldn’t be trusted. The whole ashes to ashes deal was fine by him. There was dignity to the body rejoining the earth, just as the spirit returned to the web of *k’ul *that was in all living things. He hadn’t been much of a believer before joining the Order, but seeing as their Goddess was back at the mansion this very minute helping everyone prepare for James’s Initiation, there wasn’t much left to argue about.

X came to the top of the incline and stopped in front of the upright granite headstone marking his mother’s grave. Originally, all he could afford was a small, flat marker that cost a grand total of ninety-five bucks. Shit, he could barely afford that at the time. He was just fresh out of MIT. He’d paid for the gravestone currently in front of him in cash, thanks to the money he earned from the Order. Of course, he hadn’t been able to give her a funeral. Not that it mattered much. By then there weren’t many left from the hood to pay their respects after prison, drugs, and drive-by. All they’d ever had was each other.

And then the unthinkable.

In his junior year, his mother was diagnosed with leukemia.

When the cancer began to spread his mother told her doctors all she wanted was one thing—enough time to see her son graduate from MIT. It was only right. She was the only reason he’d been able to attend at all. She worked three jobs for years so he didn’t have to grow up twenty-five stories from the ground. They lived together in a tiny bungalow. It even had a yard. He shook his head and smiled. Maybe that wasn’t exactly the right word for the ten blades of grass which grew out back, but she was so damn proud of that.

Two weeks after the ceremony, her body gave in.

He carefully brushed the snow off the granite gravestone and laid the rose down gently along the top. Then he bent down and cleared the snow from her name. *Gloria.* It suited her so well. She was a force of nature. He’d thought about putting his underneath, but in the end decided against it. He was a New Breed warrior. Who the fuck knew if there’d be anything to left bury?

Viktor watched as his younger brother slept soundly in the surgical ward.

He hadn’t awakened since the nightmare and that was good. He needed the rest to recover. Viktor rubbed his eyes. This was all his fault. Man, he’d really reached a new level of douchebaggery. Dimitri wouldn’t have been anywhere near that car downtown if he hadn’t taken off like he did. He’d figured Dimka would be too pissed to bother going after him and everything would go back to the way it was. He hadn’t counted on the Seer.

He shook his head. It didn’t matter. This wasn’t the Order’s fight and he knew it was wrong to stay. The members had a whole war on their hands. As soon as Dimka had all the facts, he needed to go. Viktor laid his head down on the edge of his brother’s hospital bed and closed his eyes. Jesus, he was tired.

He felt a hand touch his shoulder and looked up into his brother’s wide open, ice blue eyes. “You’re awake.”

Dimitri sat up and stretched. “How long have I been out?”

“Twelve hours, give or take. How do you feel?”

“I’ve been worse. Just a little sore. Headache’s gone.”

“You should take it easy, Dimka. There’s no rush.”

“Look, big brother, whatever I saw in that dream isn’t going to wait. Who is she? The female in the Catwoman suit?”

“Her name is Ekaterina Spanov.”

“She’s from the Motherland?”

“*Da.*”

Dimitri rubbed his face with his hands. “You’d better find me a decent cup of coffee. Then you’re going to start from the beginning.”

Dimitri’s headache was back and he was pretty sure it wasn’t from being roadkill the night before. “So you’re telling me that Elena’s family was part of a Russian crime syndicate? But then how were they able to socialize in the same circles as we did? They were obviously new money. And dirty money, at that. They never would’ve been accepted.”

Viktor sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “That’s what I wondered, so while I was on the run I checked out their paper trail. Forgeries. All of it. But they were good. The kind of falsified documents only thousands of rubles could buy. They were pretty fucking convincing.”

“They were using us.”

His brother nodded. “We gave them legitimacy. And, although they couldn’t have planned our mating, I have no doubt they were pleased when Elena and I shared the news. At least at first.”

Dimitri groaned. “So, more than likely it was an enemy of their own family who cut the brakes before your accident.”

“Yeah, had to be.”

“Then why the hell did they go after you?”

“The only plausible reason I can come up with is they thought I’d peeped their game. They sent a couple of their low level cronies after me. Cousins of the family. Then, a few months ago, they disappeared and the female took over.”

Dimitri lay back against the pillows. The female from his dream. “Huh.

Maybe they’ve finally figured out that you had no part in it.”

“Somehow I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Ekaterina Spanov is an assassin.”

Evy passed by the early breakfast table, grabbed a bagel, and started to cover it with Nutella.

Ana wrinkled her nose. “Isn’t that stuff made of like mold or something?”

Evy giggled. “That’s Vegemite and it’s yeast. It’s gross. This is chocolate and hazelnut.”

“I’ll pass.”

She smiled and started to pour herself some coffee before deciding to have some juice instead.

Ana went back to her eggs. “You’re awfully chipper this morning.

Evy shoved part of her bagel into her mouth. “I’m on my way down to the shelter.”

“Oh, right. The kids. What are their names again?”

“Christian and Rory.”

Her mate walked in through the side door followed by Pax. They each set down a plate loaded with food.

“Morning.” Pax hung a leather bag on the back of his chair.

Troy sat down next to her and nodded toward the bag. “What the fuck is that?”

“It’s a briefcase, dumbass.”

“You don’t say. Next you’ll be buyin’ a Yorkie or some shit.”

Pax started in on his food. “Bite me.”

“Not even in my second form.”

Ana rolled her eyes. “Are they shifters, Evy?”

“Christian’s eighteen. He phased for the first time just recently. His sister Rory’s only thirteen. So it’s a waiting game. But the odds are in our favor.” She looked up at the clock. It was just before nine. *Shit*. “I gotta go. You can have the rest of my bagel, my male.”

“Thanks, babe. Nutella?”

“Yep.”

“Nice.” He grinned.

She kissed him on the temple and tore out of the room.

Troy was finishing Evy’s bagel when X clambered in. A burst of cold air came off his huge coat as he poured himself some hot coffee.

“Where ya been, hoss?”

X took a long swig. “Out looking for the paint you wanted for the Vette.”

“In the middle of the night?”

“I couldn’t sleep. I finally found it in storage. There’s enough if you decide to use it. Shall we head out and take a look?”

“Hell, yes.” He finished what little was left on his plate and followed his partner to the hidden elevator in the billiards room. “So, what’s the 411?

You been out with Professor Hottie all night or what?”

His boy sighed. “She has a name and no, I haven’t. We haven’t gone out at all.”

“You’re kiddin’ me.”

X shook his head. “Nope.”

“You never even asked her? After I gave you that sweet pickup line?”

“I asked if she was interested in a coffee break, but she had a class back on campus.”

Troy shoved his hands in his pockets as he followed X up the ramp to the back of the garage. They rounded the corner and there she was. Man, he loved that car. She just made his little heart go pitter patter. Shit, he should put an adapter on the waffle maker so he and Ev could just live in the Vette full time. “I feel you. You get a rain check? Assumin’ she really had a class.”

X picked up a screwdriver and opened the paint. “Doesn’t matter. I won’t be asking again. Not sure why I wanted to get involved in all that female shit in the first place.”

Troy thought back to all of his partner’s lectures about Evy and chuckled.

He’d heard all that before. Hell, he’d lived it.

X gave a low whistle. “Look at that color.”

He clapped his *camzah* on the back. “Word.”

“Let’s get some more mixed.”

As they walked back through the gym Troy sensed Evy nearby, but she wasn’t down the back hallway settin’ up the shelter. She was with Helen in the surgical ward somewhere. That was weird. He hoped the kids were okay.

Christian seemed to be a strong male, but Rory was young yet. For a moment, he thought about Patrick. If only they hadn’t been placed so far apart.

That was the beginning of the end right there. Whether or not Rory phased, there was no way in hell he’d let anyone split those kids up. Period.

The closer Troy got to the opposite end of the compound’s main corridor, the faster his heart started to beat. His mate was nearby alright. His dick had been worse than a divining rod the last couple of days. Sure, he’d heard all the stories about how intense the call could be just after a mating, but this was hardcore. He’d practically mauled her at breakfast when she kissed him. He just couldn’t seem to leave her alone. It was like he had some kind of rogue boner. Luckily, she didn’t seem to mind. The even stranger thing was that he needed to know where she was like every second.

And how she felt. He knew she could tell when he read her emotions, and *that *she minded. But he couldn’t stop himself. He glanced up at his partner. Not exactly the male you’d ask for mating advice. Suddenly, he realized he had stopped dead in the middle of the corridor.

X turned around. “You okay, bro?”

“Yeah. I’m just gonna have a cig before I head up.” *Or eight.*

Reyn looked across the desk at the youngest brother and sighed. “I think it’s a shitty idea, to be honest. We’ve never let any new brother out of his vow to his *camzah*, and sure as hell not this early on.”

James paced in front of him. Jesus, the male was almost unrecognizable. His wavy auburn hair was dyed jet black and he had enough metal in his face to start his own scrap business. Emphasis on the *crap*. If he was ever going to let a brother out of his*camzah* agreement it sure as hell wasn’t going to be a male who was pulling a total one-eighty. Fuck that.

“Ana doesn’t even have a mentor.”

“Look, Ana is Ana. She’s been a part of this war her whole life. You’ve been here all of a few months. Big difference.”

“Fine. Just pass me on to someone else then. The Induction ceremony is tomorrow night. I can’t—” The brother stopped short and dropped his gaze.

Reyn leaned across the desk. “I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with that, James. I just don’t have anyone who can take you on right now. Dimitri’s got Viktor. X has Troy. Diesel’s working his own way back. I wish I could help you out, but I don’t have the means. Not now, anyway.”

The male started to back his way out the door. “Yeah, okay. Thanks.”

“James?” Reyn stood up and watched him go. *That went well. *He shook his head and opened the door to his room. It was time for a break with his mate. Akina was in the sitting room on the floor in front of the fireplace.

She seemed deep in thought. He was just about to quietly head back out when she spoke.

“Do not be so hard on yourself, Reyn. You cannot give him what he truly wants.”

He looked into her lovely aquamarine eyes. “What he wants?”

She held out her hand and he let her lead him into the room. She smiled.

“James is in love.”

“How…” Hold up. Was he actually going to ask his mate, the Goddess of freaking Love, how she knew that little factoid? *Moron.*“The thought never even crossed my mind. Wait, you mean Pax, don’t you.”

She nodded.

He stretched out in front of the fire and laid his head down in her lap.

This was brilliant. How the hell was he going to keep James from pulling more erratic shit in the field? He’d already taken a bullet for Pax. What next? He took a deep breath. First things first. He had to get everyone through that ceremony tomorrow in one piece.

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