On Midnight Wings Online - Adrian Phoenix Page 0,1

of the odd scent on the shell casings he’d found in the blood-spattered hall, wondering again just what they had contained. “I don’t think normal rounds were used.”

“Dunno, padnat. They sure as hell look like normal rounds to me. Course there ain’t no telling what kind of load they-all contained.” Jack uncrossed his arms and held out his hand, revealing two skull-dented and compressed bullets cupped in his callused palm. “They just kinda worked their way outta the wounds. Ain’t never seen nightkind heal from bullets before. Weirdest goddamned sight.”

“Let me have the bullets.”

Jack stepped over to the bed and dumped them into Lucien’s waiting palm. A faint tree-sap, amber-like odor wafted from the small bits of mangled brass. Whatever the substance had been, it seemed to be capable of slowing, perhaps even halting, a vampire’s natural ability to heal. Even a True Blood’s.

Remembering what he’d felt when he’d reached for Dante’s mind back at the club—a psionic flatline that had sheeted Lucien’s soul in black ice until he’d finally detected a low, ebbing life force absent of any healing spark—he once again felt the urgent desire to unsheathe his wings and vault into the sky.

He needed to find Dante before it was too late. Before destiny twisted in on itself and became fate.

“Tee-Tee? Heather?” Jack asked. “You think they were in the back of that van those assholes were trying to put Annie into?”

Tee-Tee. Jack and the other mortal members of Inferno had tagged their nightkind frontman with the affectionate nickname because, at five-nine, Dante was shorter than the rest of the band. Petit. Little one. Tee-Tee. And with Dante also the youngest, at nearly twenty-four, the name pulled double duty.

Young in years, perhaps, but not in hard and brutal experience. Dante was the last surviving member of a secret, decades-long project co-run by the FBI and the Shadow Branch—a government black ops division that answered to no one and didn’t officially exist. Project Bad Seed had been devoted to the development and study of sociopaths. But in truth the goal had been to create, then control them.

And being the only nonhuman subject in the project, Dante had garnered special attention. Had been shoved with cool deliberation beyond boundaries no human subject would’ve survived. Just to see if he could.

Dante had been placed in the worst foster homes available, shuffled around constantly; everything and everyone he’d ever cared about or loved had been systematically stripped from him. Human monsters had fragmented and buried his memories, implanted deadly programming.

The muscle ticked in Lucien’s jaw again. He’d flown away from New Orleans on a sultry July night unaware that he wouldn’t return for eighteen years, unaware that Genevieve, his dark-haired belle femme, was pregnant, unaware that she would soon fall into cold and curious hands, or that their son—born vampire and Fallen—would be birthed into an experiment of unthinkable design.

Dante had escaped, his heart and mind scarred and damaged, haunted by things he couldn’t even remember. Yet he led his household and Inferno with skill and focus, with quiet strength, fierce devotion, and stubborn will.

And I have failed at every turn to keep him safe.

“Lucien?” Jack’s concerned voice scattered Lucien’s dark thoughts, returning him to the bedroom and the unconscious girl he sat beside. “You okay, you?”

Lucien frowned. “Fine. Why do you ask?”

“No reason, really—other than the fact that you’re getting blood all over the floor,” Jack replied, tapping a finger against the back of his own hand, and pointedly arching one dark blond eyebrow.

Lucien’s frown deepened when he looked down and saw drops of blood speckling the oak planks. He became aware of a distant, prickling pain. Exhaling in exasperation, he unclenched his hands, pulling his thick black talons free of his blood-slicked palms.

“Well. Perhaps fine isn’t completely accurate,” Lucien amended.

“King of the understatement. Here, you. Catch.”

Glancing up, Lucien snagged the bloodstained washcloth Jack tossed at him, then busied himself wiping his palms and talons semiclean. The punctures were already healing, the pain nearly gone. His unbound waist-length hair brushed against his back and sides with the movement, soft as silk against his bare skin. He’d left his shirt behind on the club’s roof when he’d taken to the sky—not caring in the slightest that it had still been daylight or that he might be seen.

Tossing the washcloth back to Jack, Lucien curved his lips into what he hoped was a reassuring smile, but when Jack’s dubious expression remained stubbornly in place, he decided to shift the drummer’s attention elsewhere.