ETERNAL PREY

"Gods of the Night" series, Book 3

December 28, 2010
Avon

ISBN-10: 0062018957
ISBN-13: 978-0062018953

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The souls of ancient predators crouch within the Eleven. Primal instincts and barely contained savagery drive them. But in a modern world threatened with chaos and darkness, they are…
Gods of the Night.

Utah knows all about vengeance. Vampires killed his brother, and that act demands only one response. He frees his beast and destroys every bloodsucker he finds. But he never expected to meet a leader of his immortal enemies who was so beautiful, bewitching…and mortal.

Lia understands her destiny. She has a duty to stop the rogue vampires who are intent on wiping out the human race along with any nonhumans that get in their way. But she needs help dealing with the shadowy power guiding the escalating slaughter. Utah would be her last choice for a partner. Once a deadly foe, he now becomes her ally and protector. Loving him will be more dangerous than anything she’s ever done. Because when Utah releases his soul, the ultimate predator will once again stalk the earth, and death will walk with him.

 



 
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CHAPTER ONE

Trapped. Freaking trapped. In the wrong time, in the wrong place, defending a bunch of dumbass humans. Utah leaned on his horn to signal the crappy driver in front of him that when the light turned green you were supposed to go. Maybe he should free his beast and eat the guy. A protein snack would perk him right up.

And to think he’d really believed he could fit in here. Out of all the Eleven, he’d been the happiest, ready to put the past behind him and embrace 2012. Then the vampires had killed Rap, and he’d realized this time was no different from the last. It was just a different kind of jungle. Killing was still the only answer.
 
So let him kill. He was good at it. But Fin was trying to put him in a box, make him follow his rules. Damn it, Utah was used to leading, to going where he wanted, to slaughtering what he wanted. And what he wanted to slaughter was vampires. To emphasize his independence, he slammed shut the door in his mind that connected him to Fin. Didn’t want to talk to anyone right now.

He whipped around the car in front of him. Too slow. After tonight, someone else would control the speed, but for now, he’d tear up the road if he wanted. And he didn’t care if the immortals they were chasing did find him without his human shield. To hell with them.
 
Everyone was right. He was a maniac behind the wheel. To prove it, he skidded around a corner, straightened out, and gunned it. Did he care? Not much. This would be his last shot at mindless speed for a while. He’d shackled himself to his brother Rap’s soul and a hired human driver who was trying to catch him right now. Too bad Utah had pulled out of the condo’s parking garage just as his driver was pulling in. Utah knew his smile was all kinds of evil. He didn’t know who Fin had hired to shuttle him around Portland, but they weren’t starting their job tonight.
 
He demonstrated how pissed off he was with the situation by jamming his foot down on the accelerator. Immature, but it felt good. He looked in the mirror. Still there. Okay, so the guy could drive. Utah would have to try harder.

Good thing it was so late. There wasn’t much traffic, and he hadn’t seen any cops. Utah glanced at a city park. If he took a detour across the grass and around a few trees, would the human stay with him? Might be worth a try.

While he was busy mulling over ways to escape from the guy riding his back bumper, his cell rang. He punched the button on his steering wheel. “Yeah?”

“Pull over, you prehistoric jerk. I’ve been trying to catch you since you left Fin’s. Let me guess, you had to dump all the Cracker Jacks from the box to find your driver’s license. No wonder Fin wants me to drive you around. You’re a menace.”

Shock made him slow down a little. He didn’t know what surprised him more, that his tail was a woman or that she’d had the guts to call him a prehistoric jerk. Men had died for less.

“Look, lady, I don’t need a babysitter tonight. Go back and tell Fin you lost me.”

“Not going to happen. And you absolutely need me. A human has to stay close—like inside your car—to keep this Seven guy from tracking you. Just an aside, but I feel stupid calling anyone Seven. Give him a human name like Bill or Tom. Anyway, that’s me, your designated human. Now pull over.”

“Immortals don’t have names like Bill or Tom.” She intrigued him. She knew more about him than the ordinary humans Fin hired to drive them around. But that didn’t matter. No one, not even a female with a sexy voice and a bossy attitude would interfere with his last wild ride.

“Sure, pulling over now.” Utah flipped on his blinker and coasted to the curb. He kept the engine running. Then he waited until she parked her car and climbed out.

He had a brief glimpse of long jeans-clad legs before he jammed his foot down on the accelerator and took off. Utah laughed as he glanced in the mirror and saw her flinging herself back into her car. Too late.

Utah was so busy wondering what went with those legs that he almost didn’t see the man standing in the middle of the dark street. Only the lightning-fast reflexes of a born hunter kept him from hitting the guy. The street was too narrow for this kind of crap, and Utah almost plowed into a light pole as he jerked the wheel to the left. The man didn’t even flinch as he came this close to getting his dumb butt flattened.

Utah slid on the wet street—didn’t it ever stop raining in Oregon?—as he corrected for his sudden turn. Once the car was pointed in the right direction again, Utah paused. What he wanted to do was get out of his car and knock the idiot onto his ass. Jeez, he was still standing in the same spot.
 
But Utah had to get back to Fin’s in an hour. The Eleven were meeting to talk strategy. And Since Utah had decided to rejoin the team, for now, he wanted to be on time. Reluctantly, he pressed down on the gas...and listened as the motor cut off. Wonderful.

The human mind is slow. His hadn’t even begun to make sense of the situation. Good thing he had a soul with a primitive instinct that simply knew. Danger. Don’t get trapped in the car.

Utah listened to his instinct. Shoving the door open, he launched himself from the car...a second before it burst into flames.

He automatically scanned the area. No other people on the street, no one sticking his head from a window. There was a car on fire, for God’s sake. Where were the rubberneckers? But everything remained silent except for the crackling of the fire. He backed away from the burning car as he flung his hand in front of his face to block the heat. Then without warning, the fire died, leaving nothing but a blackened frame. What the...?
 
Utah shifted his gaze to the man still standing in the street. Night shadows cast darkness across his face. All Utah could see was a tall man dressed in black. Except for his hair. Even without light, Utah could see the dark red sheen of it. Long, the guy’s hair seemed to have the same glitter going as Fin’s hair. His imagination? Could be. Utah narrowed his eyes in an attempt to see the man’s face. He had a predator’s vision. Even with no light, he should have no trouble seeing. But he still couldn’t make out the guy’s features.
 
Wait, where were the streetlights? And there should’ve been lights coming from some of the buildings on either side of the street. There weren’t. Shit.

It didn’t take many brain cells to put things together. Utah didn’t have a human with him, so Seven could track him. Seven and Team Evil had all kinds of crazy power. Was this Seven?

Thought became action in his mind. He crouched, ready to spring. But in the second before his beast would have exploded from its cave buried deep in his soul, he staggered and almost fell.

It felt as though someone had put hands of steel on both sides of his head and squeezed. Utah swore he could feel his brain turning to mush. He expected it to shoot out of his ears at any minute. Then there was the voice in his head.

“You’ll be so easy to kill, Utah. The fire didn’t get you, but all I’d have to do is to keep squeezing that hard head of yours until your brain really did squirt out your ears. Love the mental picture. Should’ve listened to Fin and hung around a few humans.”

Utah froze, unable to move forward no matter how hard he tried. He fought to fling the intruder from his mind.

“Now, now. Trying to kick your guest out so soon? And I have so much to say to you.” His mental laughter echoed eerily. “Hate to tell you, but if I want to stay, I’ll stay. Right now, I’m trying to decide the most entertaining way to kill you.”

Utah gave up on the mental eviction attempt, and focused on releasing his animal. But his beast, always eager to taste freedom, crept further back into its cave. No. This couldn’t be happening. Utah concentrated harder.

“Your predator is sleeping in tonight. Sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry. “Fin isn’t the only one who can control your beast. Let’s see now, will it be spontaneous combustion or an exploding head? Both are lots of fun to watch. Oh, and if you want to give Fin a mental shout-out, feel free. I’ll even get out of your mind so it won’t be too crowded in there. After all, it doesn’t seem fair for you to die when Fin was the one who brought you here.”

This was about Fin then. If Utah called for help, Fin would come. Utah wasn’t going to be the bait used to draw his leader into an ambush. So he kept the link between them closed.

Utah struggled against the invisible whatever keeping him from the bastard. All his effort got him was a cold sweat and shaky legs.

The guy had to be Seven. Only Seven would know this much about the Eleven. But if this was Seven, then they were all in lots of trouble. Utah had fought Eight, but Eight’s power hadn’t felt like this—a heavy pulsing in his veins that threatened to burst them, a drumbeat of energy that kept getting stronger and stronger and stronger.

Utah knew when to retreat. He couldn’t touch whoever or whatever this was, so he needed to escape. Fast. He had to lose himself in the dark, maybe run down one of the side alleys where he might be able to slip away or free his beast. Not that he had much of a chance. If this was Seven, he could follow Utah anywhere. Utah had to try, though. Because once his opponent realized he hadn’t sent Fin a distress signal, he’d have no reason to keep Utah alive.

But his feet wouldn’t listen to his brain. He was stuck to the street, held there by something that pressed in on him from all directions. This was bad.

Utah didn’t find out exactly how bad because at that moment a car came roaring around the corner. The driver sped up instead of slowing down and laid on the horn. Then he swerved around Utah and hit the red-haired bastard, bouncing him off the car’s right fender. The man lay there for a moment, and then began to rise.

Utah felt whatever force had been holding him snap.

He stayed in human form and ran like hell. His beast might move faster, but it made a larger target. He didn’t sense anyone in his mind, so he opened his connection to Fin. No one else could get in now.

“You cut me off.” Fin, sounding annoyed. “Now you’re back. Explain.”

“Missed you.”

“Smartass.”

“I have a situation. Talk later.”

He sprinted toward the car that had finally stopped. The driver switched off the headlights and jumped out. Even in the darkness he recognized those long legs. She’d found him.

She held a gun and looked as though she expected him to leap into the car so they could escape. A mistake. Even rattled by the impact, Seven or whoever that was could incinerate it before they drove out of sight. And if she managed to shoot the guy, he’d be extra pissed. Because Utah figured it would take more than a few bullets to put him down. They had to hide.
 
The street had lots of narrow alleys. He chose one at random and led her into darkness so complete that only his predator’s eyes could see objects. He grabbed her hand and guided her around boxes and trash bins. When they emerged from the other end of that alley, he led her down another and another. Seven couldn’t track him while he was with her, so as long as Utah could keep him from getting a visual, they might have a chance. Finally, he crouched with her in the shadow of a truck and waited. Nothing.

She’d remained silent the whole time. No screaming, no demanding explanations. Smart lady.

He answered her unspoken question. “We couldn’t take your car. You saw what he did to mine. He would’ve gotten us before we reached the corner.” Utah stood, looked around, and then leaned against the truck.

She nodded. “Who was that?” She rose in one lithe motion and moved away from him.

“Seven, maybe.” Since awakening to this time a few months ago, Utah had fought his share of nonhumans and had loved every minute of every battle. Except for the one where Rap... He shoved that thought aside. None of them had felt like this man, though.

“I can’t take the chance of going back for my car tonight even if he left it in one piece. And by the time I show up for it in the morning, the cops will have had it towed.” She snatched the cap from her head, freeing a riot of short blond curls. She narrowed her eyes and tightened full lips that he decided would never be described as thin no matter how ticked off she was. Her expression said this was all his fault.

It was, but he damn well wasn’t... Wait. Utah did some eye narrowing of his own. Now that he’d gotten a good look at her, he recognized the curls and those blue eyes drilling a hole through his forehead. They’d never met, but he’d seen her twice back in Philly when they’d been hunting Eight. She’d worn the same glare back then. He wondered what would make her smile and then discarded the thought as unimportant. Because no matter how tempting she was, she had one fatal flaw.

“You’re Lia, Katherine’s daughter.” Katherine, the regional leader of the Northeast vampires—cruel, power-hungry, and thankfully, dead. Lia had taken over that leadership. “Still human, huh?” She wouldn’t stay leader long if she didn’t become vampire soon. Right now her mother’s reputation along with a rigged fight Lia had won over a powerful vampire kept her afloat. She’d sink the first time another vampire challenged her.

“Still filled with primal rage, huh?” What an understatement. Lia was glad she’d put some space between them.

His rain-darkened blond hair framed a face that shouted dangerous predator. He was gorgeous, with the kind of savage beauty you would only feel safe admiring from behind the bars of a very strong cage. If she could see his eyes through the dark and rain, she was sure they’d gleam with hate for all things vampire. He pushed away from the truck and walked toward her.

Utah was over six feet of toned muscle, and he moved with the fluid grace of a hunter. “I lost my brother about a month ago, so yeah, I’m still a little resentful.” He stopped about a foot from her and then leaned in.

Startled, she lifted her gaze to his eyes. He’d stepped into her personal space. Close enough to see his eyes clearly. Blue. And so cold they made an Arctic ice floe seem cozy.

“I know vampires murdered your brother. But all of them are gone now. So why the killing frenzy?”

“I enjoy it. And how did you know about my ‘killing frenzy’?”

“News travels.” Her mother would’ve loved this guy, but he gave Lia chills. Lia did what she needed to do, and if killing was involved, so be it. But she never enjoyed it.

Utah was one with his soul, and his soul was nothing more than a killing machine. No softer human emotions would ever clutter up his psyche. His human form was only a convenient cover for what he really was.

She didn’t have a clue how to forge a connection with him. Speechless for a moment, she found herself staring at the hard planes of his broad chest clearly delineated by the wet T-shirt clinging to every powerful muscle beneath his open jacket.

“What’re you doing here, Lia? Portland is a long way from Philly.”

Lia refused to back up an inch. “I came here to kill you.”

He tensed and glanced at the gun she still held.
 
She’d surprised him. Good. “And I still carry a sword.” She pushed her long coat aside to reveal her weapon. “The gun might not kill you, but it’ll put you down long enough for me to take your head.” Left unsaid was that Superman wasn’t the only one faster than a speeding bullet.

“An armed and dangerous woman. Always a challenge.” His eyes remained cold and wary, no hint of playfulness in their depths. “You can explain this sudden urge to fly across the country to kill me after I’ve called for a ride back to Fin’s.” He started to reach for his cell phone and then cursed. “Can I borrow your phone? Mine went up with the car?”

After handing him her phone, Lia left him to it as she tried to organize her thoughts. Things were happening too fast, and Utah was a lot more everything than she’d expected. She’d gotten a glimpse of him twice in Philly, but he’d been in his animal form both times. It looked like she’d have to improvise on the fly, because they’d be spending some quality time together in the next few weeks, or at least until they got rid of Seven.

He returned her phone. “Tor will be here in a while. While we’re waiting, you can fill me in.” He walked to the mouth of the alley and looked up and down the street.

He didn’t fool her by turning his back to her. She’d seen the Eleven in action. In the time it took her to bring her gun up and shoot him, he could rip her head off. She slipped the gun into her coat pocket. “All the regional leaders got a call from Adam.”

“And Adam is?”

“Our boss, leader, biggest toad in the puddle, whatever.” She didn’t like Adam. “He told us to get our butts to Portland because someone was slaughtering vampires. The local clan wasn’t having much luck hunting you, so Adam decided to bring in mid-management.”

“And now you’re my driver?” His tone suggested she’d better make this good.

“Adam changed his mind after meeting with Fin. He wants to be on the winning side in this battle between you and the number guys. Fin asked for a little time to talk to you. In the meantime, Fin mentioned that you’d need a human driver. Adam volunteered me.”

“Why?”

Because if you won’t listen to reason, I can still kill you. “Because I straddle two worlds. I’m human, but I understand the supernatural. I can fight, and I can help you track down Seven.”

Utah nodded, but Lia couldn’t tell if she’d convinced him.

He looked over his shoulder at her. “How did you know I was in trouble tonight?”

She grinned. “I didn’t. When I came around that corner, I was just trying to catch your ass. As soon as I saw your car, though, I knew something was up.” Lia shrugged. “You know the rest.”

“You made a helluva distraction.” He smiled.

For a moment, she was mesmerized by the raw masculine beauty of that smile. The moment allowed him to close the distance between them.

He grabbed her arm and pulled her close even as she used the hand that wasn’t fumbling for her sword to try to push him away. So close that she was pressed against his chest and stomach. Heat spread from every contact point. She was surprised steam didn’t start rising from their damp clothes.

Her gun hand was firmly trapped between their bodies, and she couldn’t free her sword with her left hand. Great. Just freaking great. She brought up her knee.

He deftly stepped aside and bent his head to whisper in her ear. “Don’t ever try to kill me, sweetheart. It wouldn’t end well for you.” Then he released her.

Lia shoved him away from her. She was furious with him but just as mad at herself. She’d allowed his closeness, his warm breath feathering her skin, her total awareness of him to slow her reaction. A fatal mistake when dealing with the Eleven. Lia was so angry she wanted to draw her sword and skewer him in his oversized ego. “I wouldn’t be too sure about that. And never grab me again without my permission.”

His smile widened, fueling her temper. Control it. She hadn’t survived growing up around her mother by giving in to her emotions. Taking a deep, calming breath, she changed the subject. “So is all this 2012 stuff I’m hearing about true?”

He shrugged. “Depends on what you’ve heard. Cliff’s Notes version. Time is cyclic. This particular cycle began millions of years ago. At the end of every cycle, ten immortals are given access to Earth. They destroy the dominant species using the excuse that out of death comes life. Dumbass excuse if you ask me.”

“So they’ve done this before?”

“Yeah. The last time they came was sixty-five million years ago. The dinosaurs went extinct then. Now it’s humanity’s turn.”

“Who gives them access?” She’d cooled her temper with a cold splash of reality. Humans were in big trouble.

Utah shrugged. “There’s always a higher power.”

Translation: he didn’t know. Or maybe he was just avoiding answering the question. Lia figured with Utah you could never tell.

“And all this will go down on December 21?” Guess the Mayans really did know their stuff.

“Exactly at 11:11, winter solstice. Unless we can get rid of all the immortals. Nine and Eight are gone. We still have to deal with Zero and the other seven.”

The sound of a car slowing down ended her questioning. Utah went to look and then beckoned to her.

She made sure she got the passenger seat. Lia didn’t want to chance Utah sitting beside her. He bothered her in ways she didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand. Utah slid into the backseat.

“Lia, this is Tor. He’s my brother.”

Tor looked exactly like Utah, except that Tor had short spiky hair and a better attitude. He grinned at Lia. “I remember you from Philly. Eight kidnapped you and Jenna. Took you to the Museum of Art. We saved your butts.”

“My butt thanks you.” Lia figured she sounded as grumpy as she looked because Tor left her alone. Instead, he pried the night’s story out of Utah.

While Utah and Tor discussed things, Lia worried about her car. If she found a burned-out hulk tomorrow, she’d use the insurance money to buy a car with a big engine. For a human, survival in this shadow battle going on right under the world’s nose depended on speed and smarts. And the smart needed speed to escape.

She came out of her funk in time to notice that Utah and Tor had changed the subject.

“So how did Fin draw you back into the fold, bro?” Tor didn’t take his eyes from the road while he talked. And he was driving under the speed limit.

Ah, the careful brother. If she had to hang with one of the Eleven, then Tor should be the one. Instead, all she could remember was her adrenaline rush as she’d chased Utah across town.

“Fin pointed out that we need the vampires. Without them, it’ll take longer and be a lot tougher to get rid of Zero and his bunch. And that means he won’t be able to bring Rap back anytime soon. He’s right.” Utah didn’t sound as though he liked admitting Fin could be right about anything.

Tor nodded. “And with you killing off the vampires, they won’t be signing on to our team.”

Lia turned to look at Utah. “You took out Adam’s top enforcer two nights ago. Don’t expect an invite to any vampire parties.”

“Yeah?” Utah’s lips tipped up in a half smile that made her swallow hard. She stomped on the reaction.

Lia had to know something. “Bring Rap back?”
 
Utah didn’t say anything for a moment, but then he shrugged. “We’d gone to a little restaurant in South Philly for cheese steaks. Vampires ambushed us. Rap didn’t get a chance to free his beast before one of them took his head.”

“And?”

“His body died. His soul didn’t.” Utah met her gaze, his eyes almost black in the darkness. “Fin can remove souls from bodies. That’s how he saved all of the Eleven. He sends the souls to a safe place near a strong natural power source until he can return them to a body. Rap is tucked away underground somewhere near Sedona, Arizona, right now.”

“What’s stopping Fin from bringing Rap back now? Lord knows you need all the help you can get.”
 
Utah looked frustrated. “Fin needs his power to keep Zero off our backs. Hard to believe, but Fin says Zero is stronger than he is. Fin tries to distract the bastard with a constant barrage of psychic attacks. A soul transfer would drain too much from Fin. Besides, Fin needs the right body. So Rap will have to wait.”

What kind of being could manipulate souls? The word “god” popped into her mind, but she shoved it aside. “What if something happens to Fin?”

“Then Rap’s soul sleeps forever.”

Utah might sound casual, but there was nothing casual about his clenched fists.

“I’m sorry.” And she was. She studied his face, for the first time seeing just a man. A man who was hurting for his brother.

“Yeah.” He seemed to give in to weariness as he rested his head against the headrest and closed his eyes.

She took the hint and turned away to stare out the window. It seemed to take way too long before they pulled into the condo’s underground parking garage. No one said anything as they took the elevator up to the top floor.

Stepping from the car, Utah covered the distance to Fin’s door in a few long strides. He pounded on it. Lia would have rung the bell. She wondered if they had even one thing in common.

He’d raised his fist to pound again when the door swung open. A tall, dark-haired man stared at them. As doormen went, he looked a little intense.

“Lia, this is Shen, Fin’s assistant.” Utah stepped past the man into the condo.

Shen smiled and stood aside for Tor and her to enter. His smile didn’t exactly transform him into Mr. Relaxed, but at least he seemed welcoming. “Hi, Lia. Follow me. Everyone’s in the dining room.”
 
As she followed Shen, Lia tried not to let the total awesomeness of the condo impress her. Walls of glass overlooked the city and river. And Fin definitely didn’t shop for furniture in the same places she did. Mega cash outlay. Where had Fin scraped that kind of money together? But she figured if you had your own pack of predators working for you, people gave you what you wanted.

Shen stopped in front of a closed door. Lia could hear men’s voices behind it. She steeled herself as Tor swung the door open.

They were all seated around a long table. Everyone stopped talking. They turned and looked at her. These were the Eleven then. No, ten, since Rap was missing. All big, all lethal, and probably humanity’s best chance to survive the end of this year. She’d seen some of them in Philly, but in very different forms.

Lia straightened her spine, tipped her chin up at a confident angle, and walked with Utah and Tor into the room. She felt their stares follow her as she chose a seat between Utah and Tor. Then she met each of their gazes.

She’d lived around vampires her whole life. Lia understood predators. Never look nervous, never look away, and always send a message that you’re the biggest badass in the room. She saved the man at the head of the table for last.

This, then, was Utah’s boss, the leader of the Eleven. And no matter that she’d heard descriptions of him...

There were no words.

He had to be at least six foot seven, but it wasn’t his size that riveted her.

Long silver hair spilled over his shoulders and down his back. Not gray. Silver. The glittery glow of it raised goose bumps along her arms.

“I’ve been waiting to meet you, Lia.”

Fin’s voice, sensual or threatening? Lia came down on the side of threatening. But who would ever care about his voice when he had that face? It was a face carved from shadows and dark places where normal people never dared go. It was primitive force, sexual power, and unearthly beauty all stamped with an aura so ancient it took her breath away.

“We need to have a long talk soon.” Fin smiled.

Lia decided Fin’s smile wouldn’t fool anyone. Transfixing like the rest of him, the smile somehow didn’t ring true. Maybe because she sensed that no emotion lay beneath it. Fin’s smile would be the last thing you’d see as you died, and it wouldn’t make the dying easier.

“Sure.” She tried to sound casual, but she absolutely did not want to be closed into a room alone with this man.

“I don’t think you’ve met most of the Eleven.”

“Not in their human forms.”

Fin introduced all of them, a string of names attached to unfamiliar faces. But it wasn’t their faces she saw in her mind, but their beasts. She didn’t think humanity was ready to accept what walked among them. Lia wasn’t sure she was either.

Fin leaned back in his chair and shifted his attention to Utah. “What happened tonight?”

Utah told his story, straightforward with no apologies.

Lia found herself holding her breath, waiting for Fin’s anger to explode. It didn’t. His expression remained neutral.

“You have to control your anger, Utah.” There was no condemnation in Fin’s voice. He was simply stating a fact.

Lia surprised herself by speaking up. “He lost a brother he loved a month ago. Anyone’s emotions would still be raw.”

Utah’s look said her defense had shocked him. She frowned at him so he’d know that this didn’t make them friends. Lia just thought someone should keep things fair.

Tor leaned close. “Thanks. Not many outsiders would dare disagree with Fin.”

Lia was an outsider here. She had to remember that and maybe keep her mouth shut more.

When he spoke, Utah’s voice sounded calm, but she could almost feel the tension rolling off him.

“You knew what you were getting when you woke me four months ago. My last memory? A kill that Rap, Tor, and I made a lot of years ago. But that kill felt as though it’d happened only minutes before I woke. None of us have had much time to adapt. I’m still what I was back then. One of those online research sites called my beast cunning, savage, and ruthless. That’s me. I’m a killer. Deal.”

“You will overcome your animal nature.” Fin stood and strode to the bank of windows. He stared out at the city lights.

Lia sensed an or-else attached to that order.
           
“You made a big mistake, O Glorious Leader.”

Fin didn’t turn around.

“When you put my soul into a man’s body, you didn’t allow for human emotions. Now you have mindless savagery married to human feelings. I hurt. And my soul is big and bad enough to do something about it.”

Everyone in the room went still, waiting. From the tense glances the rest of the Eleven were sending Fin’s way, she got the feeling most of them trod a little more carefully around their leader.

Fin turned and walked back to the table. He sat and then looked at Utah. When his lips turned up in a rueful smile, Lia could hear the collective sigh of relief.

“I know what you’re feeling. You have no idea how much I know.” He tapped one finger on the table as his expression turned thoughtful. “Did you say the man who attacked you had red hair?”

Utah nodded. “Yeah. I figure it was Seven.”

Fin’s thoughts seemed to turn inward. “I think congratulations are in order for both you and Lia.”

Utah looked puzzled. Lia had a bad feeling about this.

“Because you both met Zero tonight,”

Beside her, Tor sucked in his breath.

“And survived.”

 

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