High Voltage

Page 28

I dragged my gaze from the stairs and continued scanning the club. Hundreds of laborers mulled about the interior, dismantling bars and snugs, prepping for renovations. I was pleased to see the kiddie subclub was already demolished. I couldn’t look at it without thinking of Jo. Apparently Ryodan couldn’t either. Nor, I’d bet, did Lor much like it anymore. Besides, it reminded me, too, of that day Ryodan had saved my life by shoving me on an elevator, sacrificing himself to fling my cabled car up to safety. I’d thanked him by slaughtering everyone in the kiddie subclub while he was out of commission. Done it to deliberately wreck his good name with the patrons he’d guaranteed safety within his walls.

I’d endangered his chessboard. No wonder he’d been so angry with me. I’d nearly cost him the information that gave him the ability to control the Nine’s world, affect the world beyond it.

God, it seemed so long ago! It was a vastly different time.

A vastly different me.

I’d believed myself large and in charge in my teens, and I’d been out of control, indulging my desires without once considering their potential consequences. Here, in Chester’s, I’d had a brutal epiphany at fourteen, come to understand my actions had ramifications. I’d glimpsed, for the first time, the boats I’d left capsized in my wake, occupants flailing in the water as I blasted across the whitecaps of Dublin’s stormy sea.

I stood a moment, letting memories wash over me, then shook them briskly off.

I was glad to see the club reopening. I was not, however, glad to see its erstwhile owner.

I narrowed my eyes as I realized I didn’t see its erstwhile owner.


Where was he? I had a bone the size of a Patagotitan’s femur to pick with him.

My hands were so tightly fisted, the nails of my right hand had drawn blood. My gloved left was cold as ice and itching ferociously.

As I pushed forward through the open doors, I felt them fall in behind me, one on each side. I didn’t even need to turn around.

Two of the Nine had been standing behind the doors on either side, and I’d not sensed them through the foot-thick steel that, I was willing to bet, was coated with the mysterious alloy Ryodan likes to use.

I certainly felt them now, an exhilarating electrical charge sizzling on every inch of my skin. But there was something more, something disturbing. That thrilling current was laced with a thing I’d not noticed when I was younger: a slow, dark, blatantly sexual burn.

They radiated masculinity, saturated the air with a palpable, primal earthiness, a promise of inexhaustible carnality. Unlike the Fae’s brutal assault on the senses, there was no compulsion here. They simply exuded erotic invitation and promise, awakening in a woman’s body a profound, inescapable awareness that an eminently fuckable man was near that could deliver the kind of sex women dream of, mind-blowing, earth-shattering, all-consuming, go-down-in-history as the best ever. And all I could think was, Holy distorting diode, please tell me Ryodan doesn’t throw this charge off now, too.

Had something about them changed? Or was something about me different? Was this what Jo had always felt around Ryodan? What other women had incessantly experienced around the Nine? Had I just been too young, too sexually inexperienced, too full of myself to feel it back then?


I turned to see who flanked me.

On my left was the one I call Shadow, as I’ve never learned his name. Scarred and massive, towering over me by a foot, whiskey eyes burning, he watched me in silence. To my right was, holy hell—

“Lor!” The rubber bands stringing my muscles too tight vanished and my face exploded in a hundred-Mega-watt smile.

I flung myself into the tall blond man’s arms and was rewarded with an enormous, crushing bear hug as the ever-up-for-a-party Viking swept me off my feet and spun me around.

When he finally put me back down, I was still grinning like an idiot until he flashed me a wolfish smile and said, “Honey, you been running my ass ragged for two goddamn eternal years. I’m so fucking glad the boss is back. Might have time to get laid again.”

My smile vanished. “Wait, what?”

“Laid. I might get laid.”

“I heard that part. That’s a given with you. I don’t need to hear it. Two years? Running your ass ragged?”

“Watching you. Making sure you stayed out of trouble.”

I strained every tendon in my right hand by fisting it too tightly. “You’ve. Been. Here. In Dublin. For two years? Right here?”

He nodded happily. “Thought I was gonna have to save you from those slimy bastards the other night but you took care of ’em just fine, honey.”

It wasn’t penetrating for some reason, probably because the thought was so odious I was barring it entrance to my mind. “Let me get this straight: for the past two years you’ve been here in Dublin. Like, within feet of me. Tailing me. Hiding from me.” I knew he could. The Nine can outsuper me anytime. It infuriates me.

His grin widened. “Uh-huh. Damn good, wasn’t I? You never caught on.”

My nostrils flared. “And why would you do such an offensive thing?”

His grin faded and he cut me a dark look. “Christ. Women. I don’t get you. I protect you, you get pissy. I don’t protect you, you get pissy. I open doors, I’m patronizing. I don’t open doors, I’m a caveman, which by the way, I am. What the bipolar fuck? Beginning to think you babes don’t have any clue what you want, or change your mind constantly just to dick with us.”

“I’m not getting pissy because you were protecting me—although I fail to see how you were, given you never once appeared or did anything to help me. I handled everything by myself and, while I’ll never argue with backup, the precise term for what you were doing is ‘snooping,’ equivalent to spying on me, against my will, undoubtedly on the orders of that interfering, domineering, dickhead. I needed a friend, Lor. Not a bloody invisible shield.”

“Boss don’t listen to nobody, honey. I told him it’d piss you off.”

I said icily, “But he didn’t care.” Don’t worry, he’d told me in the cemetery that night, I’ve taken precautions, you’ll be protected. He’d also never answered my question about whether all the Nine were leaving. He hadn’t lied. But lack of disclosure can be equally offensive.

“Oh, he cared, honey. He always cares about you. Just makes up his own mind and acts on it. Kinda like somebody else I know. You two deserve each other, two of a bloody I-know-better-than-everyone-else kind.”

“He and I are not, and will never, be peas in the Mega-pod. In his bloody dreams does he aspire so high. Where is he?” I demanded.

Deep, rich, baritone laughter rolled up from the dance floor behind me, down two levels. “Ah, Dani.”

And there it was, the voice I hadn’t heard in two long years, except in unsolicited, unwanted dreams. I shivered as it rolled through me. Same bloody charge, same instant, intense awareness of Ryodan as a shatteringly sexual man that I was getting off Lor and Shadow. Shit. I preferred that inexplicable shakiness I used to feel in my stomach as a teen to this painfully heightened awareness of the state of my own hormones and I. Was. Not. Shorting. Out. This. Time. I inhaled deep and full, slapped a hasty but formidable mental barrier around everything that had anything to do with sex. Boxed it, coated it with pure titanium. I was no longer a child, and wouldn’t act like one.

“I’m right here. Kid.”

Kid. My vision hazed crimson with bloodlust and my mind sharpened to a painful degree of acuity.

Lor groaned, “Aw, hell, honey, don’t do it.”

I blinked into the slipstream, graceful as a gazelle, hungry as a lion. I know every inch of this club like the back of my hand.

My percentages had shifted. I was one measly percent glad he was back. Ninety-nine percent committed to kicking his insufferable ass.

How could you leave me when I needed to possess you, I hated you

I SLAMMED INTO RYODAN AT top speed, a grenade with the pin out, fists flying. I hit him so hard we hurtled into a marble column that shuddered satisfyingly from the impact. Then I grabbed him, hurling him away from it, and heaved him into a wall.

He wasn’t hitting me back, he wasn’t even resisting, and that pissed me off even more.

I launched myself at him again, peeled him off the wall and flung him across the room. He blasted into a pallet of lumber with such force wood exploded and went flying in all directions.

Dimly, I registered the stunned faces of the workers. Dimly, I registered that I was behaving alarmingly like I had in my youth.

I didn’t care.

“Kick up into the slipstream,” I snarled at him. He wasn’t even joining me. Just hanging down there in slow-mo Joe world where everyone could see him, letting me beat on him. It must have looked to them as if he was being hurled about the room by an irascible Tasmanian devil.

He stood, dusting off his crisp, well-tailored clothing, crossed his arms over his chest and cut me a hard, warning look. Good to see you, too, Dani.

He wasn’t even bleeding anywhere. What was I—innocuous?

I thudded down from the slipstream with thunder in my boots and snarled, “I didn’t say it was good to see you, and I don’t think it. You bastard. Kick. Up. Fight with me.”

Why would I do that?

“And don’t talk to me without talking to me. You don’t have the right. Stay out of my head.”

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