She headed straight toward the condemned area of the Bottoms that both demon and Adrastos warriors guarded. Warriors from the High Prince of Demons directly. That demon prince was Haleos’s brother-in-law Ren. No one should be foolish enough to defy Ren.
Haleos’s female would not be the first.
He quickened his pace.
Haleos caught up with her at the end of the alley. He wrapped one hand around his female’s arm and stopped her before she could slip out into the worst street in the entire city. “What foolishness are you about now, female?”
“Whatever foolishness I wish.” She tilted her chin up at him. She was the stubbornest female he had ever seen. “What are you doing skulking behind me today?”
“It is not skulking to watch over my mate.” He wanted to press on her how serious her infraction was but the instant he got her beneath his hands those thoughts dissipated. He tangled his fingers in the hair hanging over her shoulder. It was just the color of honeyed sunshine. And the softest silk he had ever touched. “It is my right. My duty. Tell me, where do we go today? We will finish this errand of yours, then we can eat at the Great Hall. I will introduce you to the rest of your sisters-in-law. The ones you have not met. Besides Cayri, Iahanna, Miranda and Meghan. You will have friends among them. And we can speak of our future.”
“You mean me giving up everything I do and moving in with you to keep your sheets nice and…toasty?”
Snarky. His female was far too snarky for her own good.
But there was worry in her big amber eyes. Worry that he did not like to see. “If that is what you wish.”
He leaned down and brushed a kiss across those sweet, sassy lips of hers. “Tell me, what are you doing out here today? It is far too dangerous for females here. Nalik has ordered that no unescorted female be allowed to pass upon this street.”
Which meant that she would have stood out far more than she wanted. Kea shivered. “Then it’s a good thing you’re stalking me today, isn’t it? Now I’m escorted.”
He shot her a look that told her he knew exactly what she was implying. “You should be spanked for your impertinence. I will happily take on that task.”
She doubted it would be for punishment. Bed play, no doubt. She shivered. Not that she was in to spanking or anything, but the way Haleos was looking at her…
If he was just from any other House than the Adrastos…
She’d jump into his arms and love him for eternity. The way a Rajni was meant to. “No doubt you would be in to something so archaic as spanking a woman. I’m not a child, Haleos. I go where I wish. And I didn’t know this area was now off limits.” A lie, but..this was where she was supposed to be. “I need to…see. Where the rising happened.”
When his face tightened, she knew she’d said the exact wrong thing. “Why?”
“Haleos?” Her hands went on his chest and she spread her fingers. She could feel his heart beating beneath her palm. Her male’s.
Her own heart echoed the beat.
“Tell me what you are doing and I will help you. Do you not know that I breathe to help you now?”
She softened. Like a big idiot with no willpower, she softened.
How could she be afraid of this male, knowing the goddess had chosen him for her?
It wasn’t fear of him she felt, though. It was of being tied to his family House forever.
“Kea?” His hand was still in her hair. He pulled her closer. He had a foot of height on her and his shoulders were broad and strong. Adrastos warriors were legendary. The biggest, the strongest, the fiercest. They were the first into battles and the last ones standing.
But since the relocation from Colorado to this demon world, the Adrastos had been the greatest cause of her nightmares. Hers, and so many others. The goddess had picked an Adrastos for her. And Kea…Kea wanted her male. Even with the fear that brought. She wanted her male.
“I am a Woald.”
His surprise was in his dark gold eyes. “I did not know that.”
“My mother is a first cousin to Iahanna and Cayri. And the head of the Sebastos. I am a Woald, and I am proud of it.”
“As you should. It is an old and noble House, regardless of Uruses’s actions.”
“There is something, some demonic force, or something that threatens all Woald females. Even the cousins. I know this.”
He stiffened beneath her hands. “How so?”
“I am also of the Sebastos line. I see. Sometimes strongly. There is something coming for the Woald, Haleos. You have to believe me.”
“I do.” He kissed her forehead again. She shivered. He smelled wonderful. Her fangs lengthened in her mouth, momentarily surprising her. “Go on with your story. What have you seen today?”
“My cousin Cerian. We are not close. She lived with Petr and Sharisha Black until the relocation. Now…I think she lives on this street.”
“She is in trouble. And I am the only one who knows about her. I need to find her. Somehow.”
“But you do not know where she lives?”
“No. But I have a small painting of her. I did it with pastels early this morning. After the vision struck. I was planning to ask some of the guards if they had seen her.” Adrastos guards. The idea had terrified her, but she had worn her green hasha to denote that she was a Jareth and not a Woald today. If that hadn’t worked, she’d taken the hasha that Haleos had wrapped her injured ankle in that day they had first met.
Now she didn’t have to do that. Unless she wanted to.
And she was not ready to return it to its rightful owner. Not yet. It still smelled like him, though she’d kept it under her pillow so her mother wouldn’t find it and question.
Her father knew of Haleos, but she did not think he had told her mother or her cousin Reanna.
“Then we shall find her. Let us go.”
He held out his hand to her. Tempting.
She had two choices—she could trust him, or she could not.
The goddess would not have given him to her if he could not be trusted.
To hurt her would hurt him. That was the way Rajni bonds worked.
It was just her foolish fears keeping her from taking the destiny her goddess wanted for her. She put her hand in his. Her mate’s.
Tears sprang to her eyes and spilled over. He pulled her close and wiped her cheeks. “Tell me.”
“I am afraid.”
“Of what will happen between us?”
She shook her head. Then nodded. “Yes, I don’t know. You are an Adrastos. Before…I knew some Adrastos in school. And they were horrible. Of your brother Aodhan’s House. Rude and arrogant and even cruel at times. The ones in this neighborhood are no better. I’m sorry. I know you are not them, but…”
“You are frightened. It is ok. Iahanna and Cayri were, too. But they are happy with Havrich and Dalric now. And my brothers love them greatly. Just as I will love you.” He pulled her closer, there in that dark alley that smelled like heat, and demons, and whatever had happened just days ago.
Kea couldn’t help it. She nuzzled him, just breathing him in. His scent was as familiar as her own. She’d slept with his hasha every night since she’d met him, but this was better.
“Taste me, female. Take what you are due.”
It was the first time she’d fed from a living host. Always before it had been a glass at dinner with her family. Blood was supplied from actual blood banks that rivaled the Red Cross. Her father had sold it from a special room in the market that her family had lived above her entire life. A four-bedroom apartment that had been perfect for her, her father, and her cousin.
She had been so happy in Colorado. Everything had been normal.
Here, it was like stepping back into the Dark Ages sometimes. Her father’s market had been replaced by open-aired stalls and vegetables that she only recognized half of. But her father was half a millennia old. He had adapted far faster than she had. She’d been so confused and frightened and overwhelmed since the moment they’d been told they were to evacuate. Warriors had been there to pack up her father’s market, so that the people would have supplies in the demon world.
Half of Kea’s belongings had had to be left behind then.
And the town had been destroyed since.
Everything was just too much sometimes.
But being in Haleos’s arms erased all that.
Made her feel so not alone anymore.