Chapter 24

A little bit of rosemary oil and a couple of frog legs should do the trick. Marsey dropped a handful of frog legs into the giant black pot that set over a roasting fireplace in the warehouse's cold kitchen.

She wiped her hands off on her short, violet nighty. Mm, this was going to be perfect—she could already taste it. She picked up the wooden ladle and started stirring the goop inside the pot.

"What spell are you cookin' now?" Lucifer's voice boomed behind her.

Turning halfway around, she arched a brow at the man who stood in the middle of the room, wearing a pair of brand-named jeans and a white t-shirt. "What are you talking about? This is my soup."

Frog legs were the best thing ever invented before fried chicken came along. Add a little bit of rosemary into the pot with some fungi and she had herself a meal.

Lucy gave her a disgusted look as he hopped onto the granite kitchen counter. "Well, that's unpleasant."

"It's been a few days. I was beginning to wonder if you backed out on me," Marsey said, giving her full attention back to her slimy puke-green soup.

He put a hand to where his heart should've been. "Never."

She lifted the ladle out of the pot and let the clumpy pieces fall off the giant spoon and back into the mess of what she called soup.

Clearing his throat, Lucy sounded as if he was trying not to gag. "I've been holding back a secret from you."

"Hmm, really?" She stayed focused on stirring her soup.

"The problem is I don't know if you can keep your mouth shut about it."

"Is it that big of a deal?"

His smile dropped and she noticed the atmosphere in the room change. "Yes, it is. And if you don't keep your goddamn mouth shut, all my plans go down the shitter."

"Cross my heart—hope to die, blah, blah, blah, needle in my eye," she said, waving her hand at him.

As if someone would potentially hear, Lucifer looked around before hopping off the counter and walking over to her. He bent down on one knee and had the audacity to cup a hand to her ear and whisper the biggest scandal she'd ever heard. Her eyes instantly widened, and her lips curled like a Cheshire cat's.

"Well, well, well . . ." She eyed him as he stood. "What's that little secret have to do with your plan?"

He backed away with a smirk. "Now that—I'm not telling you." Leaning lazily against the counter, he played with a jar of pig eyes. "I've grown impatient though. I told him five days—it's been two. If he hasn't done it yet, he's not going to." He tapped the thick glass. "He's gonna be in for a surprise today."

"Doubt it." Marsey snorted. "When have you ever been a man of your word?"


Damian's whole body braced for rejection, for Jade to bolt right back up the trail, and he wasn't going to stop her. He would gladly let his little sheep go, no matter how much it'd hurt.

The inside of his mouth bled as he chewed his cheek. He'd been doing that a lot now. So much that he had a permanent scar from it. Jade scowled and scanned the river. Any second now, she would make a run for it, leaving him to hate himself and the monster that lived inside him. His eyes hardened as she finally faced him. His hand convulsed, craving to reach out and grab her before she could take off.

"That's it?" she asked, tilting her head. "That's what you've been worried about telling me?"

His muscles loosened up just a bit. "It's not something most women wanna hear."

"Yeah, well, I'm not most women."

He'd nearly had a heart attack over this nonchalant reaction? He wanted to kick someone in the face out of frustration. And at the same time, he . . . well he wanted to kick someone in the face just for the relief he felt.

But as the relief swept over him, something else did as well. A burning sensation spread from his chest to his ribs, one that he was used to by now. Why it was happening in the middle of the day? It wasn't a full moon yet—and it wouldn't be for another two weeks. His breathing became ragged as he pushed off the tree and took a few steps forward as his ribs spasmed.

Jade stood by his side, her muffled voice saying things he couldn't comprehend. The contours of his face morphed and he tried to hide it, shielding himself with his hand.

And then just as fast as the pain came, it was gone.

"Dom? You okay?" Jade tugged at his forearm.

Clearing his throat, he wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Yeah. Go back to the car. I'll be there in a second."

"No, now what the hell is wrong with you?"

He spun toward her. "I said go back to the car," he said harshly, his demon coming out ten-fold.

She backed up a step, the caution she exuded catching him off guard. "Your eyes are red."

"You afraid yet?" He stepped toward her. He grinned wolfishly when she took another step back. "For someone who just acted like my demon didn't bother them, you look pretty damn scared."

"I'm not. I've seen that look before. I'm just making sure you don't bite me again."

Again? He hadn't bitten her. From what he recalled, his brothers got to him before he could place his mark.

"I didn't bit you."

"Yeah, you did," She held up her thumb. A small white scar lined the tip, "while I was feeding you."

An ice cold bucket of dread drenched him. His face was the first to go numb, then his arms and fingers. His feet locked in place, and he stared at the scar. That tiny evidence of his tooth was a giant earthquake in the middle of a brewing hurricane, and she didn't even know it.

Her lips pursed as she touched the scar. "It tingles every now and then."

The veins underneath his skin thickened as the demon inside wanted out. Fuck, he needed to calm down or else he'd be taking her on the hood of his car. Probably wouldn't even make it that far.

"You need to go to the car. Now."

She lifted her gaze from her thumb and looked him over, most likely seeing his taut stance and the predatory gleam in his eye. When she didn't move, he grew aggravated.

"Will you just do what I tell you for once and go back to the damn car?"

After a second of hesitance, she turned and trudged back up the trail. When she was out of hearing range, Damian pulled out his phone and dialed the witch's number. It rang a few times before she picked up.

"How nice of you to call, Dom," Len said, sounding irritated.

"I have a problem."


Throwing a look at the clock on his nightstand, Damian blew out a breath. Waiting wasn't his thing. And it seemed like the old hag was taking all the time in the world.

He let out a sigh. It was safe to say he wanted his old life back: not protecting anyone and killing parasites on a daily basis. Now, he barely killed one a week. His thoughts were too distracted by a certain someone.

His shoulders slumped, exhaustion finally taking its toll on him. His puffy eyes held black shadows beneath them, and his worn out body could only go so much longer without collapsing. The spasms were hitting every hour, and his demon was all but clawing his way out.

On his bed, he gripped the fabric of the bed sheet, twisting it. He was sure the edge in his face did not go unnoticed. Every now and then, Jade peered at him from the corner of her eye, as she pretended to read her book. Lying down on his sheets, he rubbed his tired eyes. Tension hovered over the room like a purple donkey. If he didn't acknowledge it, it would go away.

"Something wrong?" she asked, her full attention cornering him.

"Yeah, you won't have sex with me."

"Let's do it. Right here, right now—let's go."

His eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"No."

A frown touched his lips, his perky gaze burning out fast. Sometimes her humor could be downright mean.

"Perv," he heard her mutter.

A twitch—a strong, caustic one—seized the muscles of his chest. He sat up, his lungs clawing for air. Jade's scent overflowed his intake of breath and a sudden craving engulfed him. His dark gaze settled on her, every inch of her skin enticing him. A switch went off and a pipe bomb exploded, rousing his body like the fourth of July.

With the force of a panther, he tackled her to the bed, attacking her mouth with his own. His tongue wrestled with hers as he cupped her ass and ventured for more contact.

A knock rattled the door.

Jade pulled back, panting. "Down, boy, down." Damian's lids fell to half-mist, his heated gaze smoldering her. She pushed on his chest, "Answer the door, caveman."

The fire inside him died. "Huh?"

"Somebody's at the door."

"Oh." He angrily crawled off her and jerked open the door. "What?"

Leaning against the door frame, Aidyn stood with a smile. "Len's downstairs."

Damian growled with frustration. "She would show up right when I'm in the middle of something." Jade let a chuckle slip and he whipped his menacing stare toward her. "Shut up."

Her chuckling only grew louder.

Aidyn shifted legs. "You called her."

Snarling and grumbling under his breath, Damian wheeled around and neared the bed. He hesitated, looking down at the cuff restraining Jade's ankle. She didn't deserve to be uncuffed. She deserved to be tied down as he licked her from head to toe. He pried the metal apart and released her foot. As she got up, he snaked his arm around her waist. He didn't trust her to walk too freely.

In the archway of the lounge, he held Jade by his side as Len sat on the sofa.

"She can't hear what I'm about to say." Len puffed on her cigarette.

"She stays," he said.

"I need her out of hearing range, for her sake."

His brows drew together. "Jade, go shoot pool."


Do this. Do that. Jade glowered, bending over and shooting the white ball, knocking only the red solid one in a pocket.

Sit. Stand. Eat. Piss. Her new life as a robot. She obviously had no mind of her own. Thank God she had Damian to tell her what to do.

"He means well." Aidyn gave a weak smile.

"I'm just a lap dog."

"No, you're not. You mean a . . . a lot to him."

She snorted and took another shot, her curls falling over her shoulder. She missed every ball.

"Believe me," he said with a sympathetic look. "You've gotten under his skin."

Jade nodded, but in the back of her mind, doubt lingered. She didn't trust Dom. He was more of a hazard to her than anybody else. Damage would be done if he took that for granted and stepped out of place. Deep damage. God forbid if she got washed up in the cross-hairs of his personal turmoil.

His bi-polar issues had yet to be resolved. One wrong thought and he could change within a matter of seconds.

"Put the stick up," Dom ordered, coming to her side. Len, with her cane in hand, limped from the white sofa toward the barroom.

"Your ass is the only place I'll be putting it," she grounded out, spinning around and facing him. He pinned her with a hard stare that told her to back down. "I've been stuck in your room two days. I'll be damned if I go back just to be bored and alone with you."

He flinched and the lines in his face softened as he blinked rapidly. ". . . Okay."

Damian hesitated for a moment, giving her one last fleeting glance, and then stalked off in the direction of the bar. She wasn't going to back down because of that depressing look on his face. His shoulders hunched forward with his head bowed as he walked, but she bit her tongue. Tightening her grip on the pool stick, she turned back to the game.

"Don't go guilt tripping yourself. Though that was a little harsh, he needs it. You have to make him hear you out, or else he'll pay no attention to what you want." Aidyn bent eye to eye with the table, focusing on the many moves her failed shot gave him. And to think she used to be a pro at pool. Add a man into the equation of her life and out popped a big ball of bullshit.

"Because it's all about what he wants."

"Uh, it's what he thinks you want—well, what he thinks you should want," Aidyn lined up his shot and took it, knocking all four balls into pockets, "plus his wants and needs, of course."

"Pff, his wants and needs come before anything else."

"He'll learn, someday."


Damian's eyes trailed along the feminine curves of Jade's body as she played a game of pool by herself. He swallowed hard, pulse snapping like a twig, thrashing under his skin with every pelt it gave. Sweat lined his upper lip, the salty taste greeting his mouth. He wouldn't do it—definitely wanted to—but wouldn't. Placing her at risk wasn't an option for him to get his rocks off. Len's plan was shit. He didn't care that he was in pain, as horny as a dog in heat, and that his brain kept sending mental images of himself slamming into Jade over and over again. Her body writhing under him, arching perfectly, frenzied with rhythm.

No, he told himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He chugged another shot of rum.

Things like that needed to stay out of his mind. He had to have a clear head to plan his next move. And sadly, fucking her was not his next move.

He shifted his sight toward his cousin who stood behind the bar.

"So, what do you think?" Marcus asked him, wrapping up the scheme of things.

"Uh, yeah . . . good." He hadn't heard a damn word.

Marcus smiled. "See, he wants tacos tonight, too."

"He wasn't listening, idiot." Aidyn scratched his forehead. Marcus frowned, muttered something under his breath and walked off, "Usually I don't repeat myself, but since you're not . . . feeling too well, I'll be nice for a change." With his beer in hand, he leaned on the counter. "Len can try and shield you from dad's power, but it's not a full guarantee it's gonna work. The potion side effects could be double."

Dom's face soured, the expression mirroring what he felt. "Not doin' that."

"Figured."

"My crunching ribs are enough." And the swollen, throbbing dick in his jeans was plenty, too. Doubling both would pan out his self-destruction.

"Then you know what you have to do," Aidyn said, tipping the bottle to his lips.

"No. Won't do that, either."

"You don't even know what you're protecting her from." Oh, yes, he did. That witch and her kill hungry pack. His father.

Myself.

His demon was hell-bent on mating. And that didn't include just fucking either. He grimaced. Bael requested to brand her, and kept requesting. Their relationship dipped deeper than first imagined. He'd gotten close, and now his stupid feelings had awaken and taken their course. His demon begged to keep her, and Damian didn't have the heart to say no. He begged himself to keep her, too. Lowering his head, he cursed.

"I'm going back up to my room. Keep her down here with you. Make sure she doesn't run off," Dom said, holding his ribs as he stood from the stool.

"You're not taking her back with you?"

"Why would she wanna be bored and alone with me?" he repeated her words from earlier and suppressed a wince.

He went back to his room and dropped on his bed, the mattress calming his aching muscles. He let out a soft groan and noticed the silence. The quietness that crackled his ears. It was something he cherished before, but now he absolutely hated it.

Heading to the shower, Damian stripped his jeans and stepped in the stall. He clicked on the cold water and let it rain over him. Relaxing wasn't his main priority. In fact, it was the opposite. The ice cold pricks of water trickled over his shoulders, causing a string of goose bumps to rise along his skin. He wiped a wet hand over his trimmed hair and pressed his forehead against the tile underneath the showerhead.

He closed his eyes and wished he never met Jade. Once upon a time, he could've walked away without a glance back, with no pestering thought questioning his motives. He use to not have emotions, and now he was drowning in them.

Maybe he wouldn't be this wrapped up if he hadn't locked her in his room, chained her to his bed, and ordered they be in a relationship. He added those to the list of things he wished he hadn't done.

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Damian took the bottle of body wash off the metal rack and poured it in his hand. The smell of soapy evergreen and spice wafted to his nose. He soaped his chest and grabbed a clean cloth from the rack.

Then it hit him. A strong wave of pain wracked its way through his body and his bones, sweeping across every bit of flesh that lined his muscles. A pain so havoc that he dropped the bottle and doubled over. He slammed a palm to the shower wall as he spat out a mouth full of blood that swirled into the drain.

It struck him like a train, constricting his lungs. He couldn't breathe. His whole chest surged as it tried to break free of its invisible binds. His ribs cracked and crunched, popping out of place and distorting. The sharp bones poked through his skin like tents as he heaved up more blood.

Just when he thought his torso was about to explode, every rib slid back in place. He managed to straighten up and shut off the water. Supporting himself with the wall, he got out the shower, his legs buckling beneath him as he threw a towel around his waist. He shuffled to his room and plopped on the bed, blowing out a breath.