Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 19

Lucan stepped forward and withdrew a terrible, serrated knife dangling from a strap around his hips that she hadn’t previously noticed. “Why don’t we grab his sewer-shit blood now and leave the carcass?”

Bram stood between him and Mathias with a raised brow. “The blood has to be from a living descendent of Nimue. Back off.”

Anka stared. Lucan had never been one for aggression or violence. He’d also never been anything less than solicitous and tender with her. But this other side of him… She watched him with open confusion. Sabelle had told her that mate mourning had changed him. Had the sudden severing of a century old bond been somewhat like losing a limb? Or more like losing a heart?

Shock lifted his head to glare at her in a stern warning. Yes, she supposed there would be punishment in her future, but if this day kept getting harder to bear, she’d need it.

Mathias merely smiled at Lucan. “So you need the blood of a living relative of Nimue and of Merlin. Sounds simple enough.”

“Not quite. Unfortunately, we also need a banshee. Know one?”

Those pale blue orbs fell on her, aglow with malicious glee, and Anka’s heart froze. “Most think they’ve been exterminated, but there must be one nearby. I’m sure of it.”

It was all Anka could do to remain still, not fidget, not leave. Not give herself away. She swallowed and stared at a bare spot on the wall across the room, willing her churning stomach to settle, her pounding heart to slow.

Bram looked to Felicia for confirmation, who nodded. Frustration crawled across the Doomsday Brethren leader’s face. “Do you know one or not?”

Anka resisted the urge to wring her hands. Mathias couldn’t lie with Felicia in the room. Would he give her away? Would Lucan look at her in horror?

Shock stood and shot her a furious stare before getting in Bram’s face. “We’ve already covered this. Banshees are in hiding, aren’t they? We could all know one and have no fucking idea.”

Bram’s expression said that he didn’t believe either one of them, and with good cause. Again, she wondered if she should confess. She tapped her toe nervously and reviewed all the reasons she’d already considered, then came to the same conclusion. She could be risking everything when she couldn’t make a difference. Unless she became a mother, her bloodline was useless to this cause.

“If you run across a banshee on the next street corner, send her this way, yes?” Bram smiled tightly, then turned back to Mathias. “No ideas where Morganna’s fatal potion might be hidden?”

Mathias shook his head. “Unlike Merlin, Nimue didn’t like to hear herself pontificate. She left almost nothing behind in the way of writings. I’ll check what I have, but I expect there’s nothing.”

Another dead end. How long would she have to endure Mathias’s presence at Brethren gatherings under this pretext of killing Morganna when no one had all the right tools? Bloody farce. And for what? So he could taunt them all? Get closer? Earn the trust of someone foolish and maybe break them apart from the inside? Was anyone in this room that gullible?

“You look at your records. I’ll keep searching through what I’ve got. You let me know if you find anything of use. I’ve shown you mine, as the saying goes, so you can show me yours. If I discover that you’ve left me with my pants down and my cock twisting in the wind, there will be hell to pay.”

Mathias laughed, so damn smug. He was using the Doomsday Brethren to help him do his dirty work while getting an up close and personal view of everyone involved. They all knew it. That they had to let the terrible scum employ them to help with a joint cause that benefited them all only made Anka angrier.

“Of course. I’ll keep tabs on Morganna so the slippery witch doesn’t get too far from us while looking for the potion’s hiding place. In the meantime, keep seeking out that banshee. She can’t be too far.” Mathias stood, his grin a bit too chipper and amused to be anything but grating. “This has been fascinating. Stay in touch.”

Bram gave him a sharp nod, then dismissed him without a word. No love lost there. Everyone else watched him leave with rage in their eyes. Shock followed, and Anka mentally screamed at him: If you care for me at all, how can you pal around with the wizard who nearly killed me? Shock turned his head sharply in her direction. Behind those shades she knew so well, she sensed him narrow his eyes. But he said nothing as he followed Mathias out the door. Once outside the manor, they teleported away. The place felt instantly lighter once they were gone, and everyone breathed an audible sigh of relief.

Except Anka.

She stormed out of the office and ran into the training room. She didn’t bother to grab boxing gloves, and it didn’t matter that she didn’t know precisely how to use the punching bag, she simply hauled back and made to punch it with all her might.

A strong hand clamped around her bicep, holding her back. Heat slithered through her body, mingling with the anger pumping through her blood and jacking up her heartbeat. Anka wanted to scream.

She turned to glare at Lucan over her shoulder. “Don’t try to stop me.”

“You could hurt yourself if you do that without gloves.”

“I don’t bloody care! I can’t hurt myself any more than he hurt me. Sitting in that room with him today, being forced to look at his smarmy face and remember everything…” She choked back a sob, then caught herself. No weakness now. When she was here, she was a warrior and she had to act like one.

She tried to punch the bag again, but Lucan threw himself in front of it.

“Hit me instead,” he demanded.

Anka reared back, staring like he’d lost his mind. “What? No!”

“You’re angry, and you have every right to be.”

Pressing trembling lips together, she tried to contain her roiling emotions. She could not fall apart, could not cry, could not scream. Drawing in a shuddering breath, she fought to bring herself under control again.

“Hit. Me.”

The snap in his voice whipped her with demand. She would never want to hurt him, but he stood there and offered his body so that she would have the means to release her anger.

“Anka, now.”

An absolute command, and she unconsciously heeded it. He might not find her ladylike and genteel anymore, but wasn’t she done lying about that? She was a witch from a shady family, a secret banshee, a victim of Mathias’s evil thirst to destroy magickind as they knew it. Damn right she was furious and bitter and terrified out of her mind. And if Lucan wanted to be her punching bag, she would accept it.

Tentatively, she curled her hand into a fist and connected with his stomach. It was hard under her knuckles. No give at all. He didn’t grunt. His breath didn’t whoosh out. Instead, Lucan raised a brow at her, silently asking where she was hiding the rest of her anger.

Throwing him a defiant gaze, she hit him harder this time, again in the abdomen. His body swayed a fraction, but he gave no other outward appearance that she’d impacted him at all.

“Hit me like you’d planned to hit that bag. No,” he corrected himself, “hit me like you want to hit Mathias.”

Her gaze zipped up to his, fearing she’d see pity there. Understanding met her at first, then encouragement. He wanted her to do this. Why? She frowned, and he quickly understood her confusion. His face softened for a moment.

“Let it out, love. All that rage has been trapped inside you, right? Give it to me. Let me help you. If you hurt me, I’ll tell you.”


“I wasn’t there for you when you needed me most. I need to be here for you now. Not another word, Anka. Do it.”

She gave him a shaky nod, unable to speak the appreciation she had for him in that moment. This wasn’t for him, and he wasn’t making her beg to release her pent-up emotion, like Shock did. He was giving her the opportunity to let it loose. From the moment they’d met, he had shown her his giving heart. For just a few moments, he was willing to be the rock she leaned on. God, even if that made her weak, she desperately needed it.

Pulling her fist back, she let it fly with a shout. The primal anger screeching for release burst as she connected with his abdomen.


Anka complied, even though her knuckles smarted. Roaring, she reeled back the other fist and connected with his hard middle, almost mindlessly gratified when he grunted. So she switched hands and repeated the process again. Again. Again.

“He hurt you, Anka.”

“Yes.” Whoosh. Punch. Whoosh. Punch. A river of rage fueled each blow.

“He took you from your home.”

“I hate him!” Thud. Crash. Smack. She simply hit now. She no longer cared where or how hard.

“He took your dignity.”

Eyes squeezed shut, she responded with more short, angry jabs as tears streamed down her cheeks. She screamed.

“He took your pride.”

And he relished crushing it! She pummeled Lucan continuously, imagining that she could give Mathias all the pain bottled up inside her. “He took everything. My home, my dignity, my pride, my body, my security. Every fucking thing!” She gasped, panted, punched. “He took you from me!”

In that moment, speaking the words aloud slammed the reality home. Mathias had not only stolen her life and her dignity, but the one person she relied on most. The foundation of her life. The lover who made the beating of her heart worthwhile.

“No. I’m right here, Anka. I’m always here for you.”

How desperately she wanted to believe that. But so much had happened, and if he knew all the secrets she’d kept from him… “No, it’s gone. You’re gone. Everything is just gone!”

He grabbed her shoulders. “That’s not true, love.” Lucan gripped her shoulders tighter. “Feel me here. I haven’t left. What do you need to believe that?”

Anka tore herself away from his grip. Every time he touched her, he was like the sun. Hot, bright, filling her with warmth after three months of arctic ice slogging through her veins. She paced away, rolling her shoulders back, strides eating up the floor. The anger kept unraveling her composure. The need for things she could no longer have frustrated her more than she could contain. And at the top of the list of the things she couldn’t have anymore? Lucan.

She whirled to face him. He stared across the distance between them. Only a few feet apart, really. They might as well be a world away. How could she heal the breach she’d unwittingly created after Mathias’s torment? She didn’t know how.

Reality crammed that fact down her throat until she choked. Yet…Lucan never looked away from her, his eyes heating up as his fists clenched and unclenched. His jaw tightened. His nostrils flared. He wanted her. God, just being in the same room with him got her wet.

“Touch me.” The words were out before she could stop them.

His eyes flared as she stormed toward him. Lucan met her halfway, and suddenly she was wrapped in his arms, pressed tightly to his wide chest where she could feel the mad rush of his heartbeat. His lips crashed down on hers frantically, lacking finesse. But she knew that scent, his flavor, deep down. It swirled around her like a drug, and she lost herself in it, letting it drown her fear and good sense. Passion roared as he pressed her lips open and plunged deep into her mouth. The kiss was urgent, more frantic than they’d ever shared. Her desperation for him reeled through her, and she stood up on her tiptoes, mashing her lips even tighter to his, caressing his tongue with her own as she inhaled him. It wasn’t enough. It never would be.

The voice of reason in the back of her mind protested her surrender with a squeak, then blessedly shut up. Joy and need took over.

Anka clutched Lucan’s shoulders, dragging him even closer for a sweet moment before she pushed him away and tore off his shirt, shoving the tight black tee over his head. Then she sucked in a breath. His body showed the rigors of training and the hardship of war. He’d always been well formed, but now he was sculpted, thick muscles bulging everywhere, prominent veins raised with effort and tension. His wide chest rose and fell with harsh breaths as he watched her. His erection bulged through his jeans, hard and jutting and hungry.

Everything about Lucan called to her senses and her heart. She’d been so damn miserable for weeks and months. He had suffered, too. He had mourned beyond what most could imagine. They couldn’t have forever anymore, but could they have right now?

She pushed aside worries about Shock and training for the war. She refused to think about her scars. And it was far too late to worry over the lies she’d told Lucan for a century, about the river of betrayal between them.

“Whatever you’re thinking, it isn’t more important than right now,” Lucan murmured. “Than this. Than us.”

Her breathing accelerated, and she inhaled his musky, familiar scent, now edged with something different, something more potent. Wild.

“Come here.” The demand in his two words shivered down her spine. She wanted to heed them. So badly. Every muscle in her body tensed with need. Desire flooded between her legs. Her arms itched to wrap around him and accept the pleasure and shelter he offered.

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