She bit the end of his chin. “You’ll never be satisfied with anyone else. They’re too tame.”

His blood heated with anger—and arousal. “Anyone can please me. Anytime. Any way.” And he would prove it.

With intense focus, he set out to do the things normal males did to their women. Kissing tenderly, touching gently. She couldn’t resist and melted into the moment, whispering encouragements, moaning, but...half an hour passed with more of the same, and while her excitement intensified, his dwindled.

Why? Why couldn’t he like this?

“Oh, Thane,” she breathed, wiggling underneath him. “I never knew you could be this way.”

“I...can’t,” he replied through gritted teeth. A thin sheen of sweat covered his skin. The urge to do things to her...horrible things...bombarded him. She would cry and she would beg. But he would show no mercy. Afterward, she would make him cry and beg. But she would show no mercy. He wouldn’t let her. Then...then he would feel.

He should be ashamed. Bjorn and Xerxes were. They hated what they did to themselves. Hated more what they did to their women.

With a shout of frustration, Thane severed contact with Kendra and rose from the bed—before either of them found satisfaction. He was shaking as he jerked his robe over his head and covered his nakedness. The material conformed to the tendons in his wings and fell softly to the floor.

“What’s wrong with you?” she gasped out. “That was good.”

No. No, it wasn’t.

A sharp gleam entered her eyes. “Are you planning to hook up with another woman and try again?” Bitterness blasted from her.

“That’s none of your concern.” She had known what she was getting with him before she’d agreed to stay.

“You should be nicer to me,” she huffed, punching at the comforter. “I might decide to leave you.”

“I might show you to the door.” And he wouldn’t mourn the loss of her. He would miss her utter lack of inhibition, yes. But the woman herself? No. He was attached to Bjorn and Xerxes, and there was no room in his life for another.

He stepped from the bedroom, and as she screeched his name, he shut the door, cutting her off. He entered the parlor he shared with his boys. They were perched in the red velvet recliners he’d found in India, their feet propped on the crystal table one of the club’s patrons had lost in a poker game.

The two had already finished with their women and were drinking. Ambrosia-laced whiskey, in Bjorn’s case, and...he sniffed...vodka in Xerxes’.

Both were trembling and pale. Xerxes’ cheeks had hollowed, and Thane knew the warrior had recently vomited. Bjorn’s eyes had dulled from corrupted memories.

The touch of another always reminded the warriors of the horrifying things done to them down in that hellish dungeon. And yet still they plowed through as many females as Thane. Perhaps trying to prove they were normal, he realized now. He’d always assumed they hoped to punish themselves for what they’d once failed to stop.

He poured himself a shot of vodka and eased into the chair across from his friends.

“Koldo is looking for you,” Bjorn said after draining what remained in his glass.

A man could only deal with so much in one day, and as stubborn and intractable as Koldo was, Thane had to be at his best to emerge from an interaction unscathed. He wasn’t. “Let him look.”

Xerxes rubbed two fingers along the scars in his jaw. “He doesn’t seem like the type to give up.”

“Too bad.” Zacharel suspected Koldo teetered at the brink of falling. He also suspected Thane teetered. So, he’d decided to pair them up, thinking they would look after each other, provide some sort of balance. At least, that’s what Thane had surmised.

It was either the wisest thing Zacharel had ever done, or the stupidest.

Xerxes raised a colorless brow. “If I know Thane, and I do, he did a little digging before he ever approached Koldo.”

Thane shrugged. “I discovered our guest spent a little over a decade in a Nefas camp when he was younger.”

Rainbow eyes glittered dangerously as Bjorn said, “What was done to him?”

“According to one of the Sent Ones who rescued him, nothing Koldo would admit to. He was filthy, feral, and had just slaughtered the inhabitants of a village. All human.”

“Why would he do such a thing?” Xerxes asked.

“My guess? He was without hope.” A man without hope was a dangerous weapon. The three of them knew that very well. “I’ve heard the Nefas lock their young in a prison with innocent humans, only allowing one of them out—whoever kills the others. If no one’s willing to commit murder, they all starve.”

Xerxes scraped his nails against one of the scars on his arm. “He couldn’t have been raised that way. I’ve never heard him curse. I’ve never seen him drink. And we all saw how he treats females.”

But they hadn’t seen what Koldo did behind the scenes. They hadn’t seen the holes in his walls. Holes the size of his fists. He was as screwed up as they were.

A beep sounded from his intercom, saving him from having to try to form a reply. “Sir, Cario tried to sneak in again,” a male voice said.

Cario. The foolish girl. This was her third attempt to reach Xerxes in the past three weeks. For some reason, she was obsessed with the male. The warrior, however, had no idea who she was or why she wanted anything to do with him. Her origins were unclear, but one thing they did know. She could read their minds and knew about their pasts.

A past they were determined to keep secret.

“Tell me you caught her this time,” Xerxes demanded.

A crackle of air over the speaker. “Uh, well...”

The warrior pounded his fist into the arm of his chair. “That woman needs to be put down.”

“Double the number of guards at each of the doors,” Thane said. Then, to Xerxes, he added, “We’ll get her. Don’t worry.”

“What does she want with you, anyway?” Bjorn padded to the bar and poured another drink. A drink he quickly downed and chased with another.

“I haven’t a clue.” Falling against the back of his chair, Xerxes scrubbed a hand down his face. “The first time I met her was when she came to the club and Thane offered her my sexual services.”

“I thought I was doing you a favor.”

“You thought wrong, my friend. And now, I have to go.” Xerxes pushed to his feet, clearly uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. “McCadden has yet to be fed.”

McCadden was a fallen Sent One who had attempted to murder one of Zacharel’s charges—and still planned to murder the man. Xerxes should have ended the male and saved himself the trouble of babysitting, but killing their former comrade wasn’t an option. So, they kept him locked away.

Xerxes strode from the room without another word.

Bjorn peered into the bottom of his empty glass, his shoulders slightly hunched. “I should be going, too.”

No, Thane wanted to say. Stay with me. But he wasn’t needy. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow.” His friend’s reply was empty, his back ramrod straight as he strode from the room.

Silence. How he despised it. It left him alone with his thoughts, his memories. Scowling, he stood and stepped toward his bedroom, only to stop. The Phoenix was still in his bed. He could go to her, could have her and finally finish them both...but no. He was going to end their association. He wouldn’t welcome her into his arms again.

He strode from his private wing in the spacious building, down the elevator and into the bar. He would find another lover here, and he would forget his concern for his friends and keep his mind off his past.

The moment the doors opened, revealing the darkened cavern with velvet-lined walls, black couches and glass tables, noise assaulted him and he was able to relax.

He prowled through the darkness, patrons in every direction. Some sat at the tables, drinking, snorting ambrosia, while some lounged on the couches in back, leaning as closely as possible into their desired playmate for the evening. Some danced in the center of the room, their hands wandering. He listened to whispered conversations.

“—you’ll like it, I promise. Just try.”

“—relationship material. Seriously. All of the gorgeously hot ones are scum.”

“—really think I’d go for someone like you?”

His gaze scanned...scanned...until finally homing in on the little blonde Harpy Koldo had rejected.

She would do, he decided.

Thane sauntered closer to her. As pink-and-blue light spilled from the strobe and onto her, he could see that she had opted not to cover her luminous skin with makeup. Jewel tones radiated from her, a feast for his eyes.

A feast for all the other males, as well. They gathered around her table, peering at her with abject fascination as she told a story about...the hazards of car exhaust?

He stepped up behind her. “Go,” he told the men with a curt tone that promised severe consequences if he was disobeyed.

Most scrambled away. A few lingered, glaring at him—until he turned the full force of his gaze their way. They hopped up and ran.

The girl rounded on him, frowning. “What’d you do that for? Now my experiment is ruined. Ruined, I tell you!”

“To see just how boring I could be and still rock the house.”

She was an amusing little thing, wasn’t she? He leaned down and whispered into her ear, “How about you rock me instead, hmm?”

“Uh, that would be a no.”

“Why?” She’d been willing to give Koldo a lap dance because he had the face of a killer. Thane had the actual instincts.

“You’re just not what I’m looking for.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but no. No, you can’t.”