"The very one," Gideon confirmed. "And Dragos has been using its coordinates as the password to his entire operation." He barked out an incredulous chuckle. "That's the megalomaniac villain version of using your favorite pet's name, for crissake. Maybe there's hope of beating this asshole yet."
Gideon began clacking away at three keyboards, sliding from monitor to monitor, cracking open data files and laboratory intel on multiple computers like a maestro conducting an opus. Chase and Tavia were all but forgotten in the midst of his geeked excitement.
"I'm impressed," Chase told her, proud and more than a little turned on.
She gave him a smile that went straight to his cock. "We all have our talents."
He was about to ask her if she wanted to see one of his favorites when the thud of approaching boots sounded in the corridor outside. Lucan came in dressed for combat in fatigues and heavy arms, the rest of the warriors garbed likewise, trailing close behind him. They all wore grim expressions, steely-eyed looks that Chase recognized well.
The Order was preparing to head into battle.
"I'm in," Gideon said, wheeling around in his chair to meet them. "Tavia just got us past the security on the lab intel. I'm in it with both hands now."
Lucan's gray eyes swung to her in approval. "Good work."
She gave him a faint nod. "Whatever I can do to help."
"Appreciated," he said, then glanced to Chase and offered a neutral nod of greeting. "I've just spoken with Mathias Rowan to let him know our plans," he told Gideon. "We roll out at sundown tonight to sweep every Enforcement Agency hangout in Boston."
"You mean raid them?" Chase asked.
"Raid them. Raze them. Mow the motherfuckers to the ground, if that's what it takes," Lucan replied, his deep voice vibrating with violent intent.
Chase swore under his breath. "You can't be serious. The truce between the Agency and us is tentative at best. It always has been. If the Order goes into their turf with guns blazing, you'll be doing battle not only with Dragos but with the entire vampire nation."
"We didn't start this war," Lucan snarled. "But we're damned well going to finish it. Even if I have to hack through the ranks of the entire Enforcement Agency to finally get my hands around Dragos's throat. As far as I'm concerned, he and the Agency are two heads on the same snake. I'll gladly sever either one. Let Mathias Rowan sort the bodies after the dust settles."
Chase had never seen Lucan so virulent. Menace rolled off the Order's leader like a dark current, the cold of his rage a palpable force in the room.
"We have patrol tactics to discuss."
We, he said, but Chase could read Lucan's meaning in the level command of his gaze alone. We meant the Order, which didn't include him.
"Sure," he said, no animosity in his voice or his veins. He was a liability to the Order now, at a time when they could least afford them. He got that. And he couldn't blame Lucan for shutting him out from this mission.
As much as he might have wanted to think he hadn't lost his brethren completely, Chase understood that he still had a long road ahead of him if he wanted to prove himself worthy of their trust. He only hoped they'd one day give him that chance.
Tavia walked with him out to the corridor, saying nothing as she slipped her hand into his. She didn't need to say anything. She understood. She cared, and he wondered for the hundredth time how he could ever think he deserved her.
The low male voice drew him up short in the hallway. Dante stood there, the dark-haired warrior's arms crossed over his chest. His curved titanium daggers - weapons that had taken out countless Rogues and had even found their way under Chase's chin not so long ago - were sheathed like huge claws on his weapons belt. His whiskey-colored eyes narrowed beneath the harsh slash of his dark brows. He gestured over his shoulder with a tilt of his chin. "About what just happened in there ..."
"Forget it," Chase said. "I want what's good for the Order too. Right now, that's not me." He started to walk away, but Dante met up with him. Stilled him with a brotherly hand coming to rest on his shoulder. "I just wanted to tell you that it's good to have you back in the compound again. I'm glad you're here."
Chase felt Tavia's eyes on him as he absorbed the offer of truce from the warrior who had once been his tightest ally in the Order. His closest friend. A brother, in every sense of the word. "Thanks." Feeble reply, but all he could muster on his suddenly dry throat.
"Listen, Tess would love it if you and Tavia came around to our quarters sometime. I'd like it too. I'd like to give you a proper introduction to my son."
"Sure." Chase nodded. "Yeah, sure. Of course."
"We'd be honored to meet him," Tavia said, speaking the words that seemed to fail him so spectacularly in that moment.
"Great," Dante said. "That'll be great." He backed away, then abruptly pivoted around again, a wide smirk breaking over his face as his eyes met Chase's across the length of the corridor. "By the way, Merry Christmas, dickhead."
"Same to you." Chase chuckled, falling back into the easy camaraderie they once had. God, he didn't realize how much he'd missed that until just now. "Try not to get your ass handed to you tonight on patrol, yeah?"
Still grinning, Dante gave him a one-fingered salute. His deep laugh rumbled as he headed back to rejoin the other warriors.
IT WAS LONG PAST MIDNIGHT and the Order had been on patrol from the moment they arrived in Boston. In that time, they'd smashed down the doors of a dozen Enforcement Agency sip-and- strips and known hangouts in and around the city.
Lucan had no intention of calling it a night until they'd raided every last one.
Few of the Agents they'd interrogated had confessed to knowing anything about traitors within their ranks. But there was one name that came up on battered and bloodied lips more than once: Arno Pike.
"His Darkhaven is in the North End," Mathias Rowan reported. Lucan had called the Agency director for a quick rundown on the bastard as Kade, Brock, and Hunter cleaned up the carnage they'd left in the most recent raid.
"Any kin at his place?"
"None," Rowan said. "Pike lives alone, no immediate family. He had a mate until about a year ago, but she died. Says here she was mugged in Dorchester, strangled."
Rowan rattled off a swanky street in an area of multimillion-dollar brownstones. Lucan typed it into a text on a second phone he carried and sent it out to the rest of the Order's boots on the ground.
"Lucan, look. You know I'm on board with whatever you deem necessary to stop Dragos. And I mean stop him dead. But my dispatch lines are out of control. You've got civilians calling in, terrified of what they're hearing. The word among the Breed population here in Boston is that you've lost your goddamn mind. They're saying you've finally snapped, that on your command the Order is kicking down Darkhaven doors and hauling unarmed civilians into the streets at gunpoint."
Lucan exhaled a ripe curse. "The same shit they've been saying about the Order for years, decades."
"Except now it's true." Rowan's voice sounded weary. "And it's Christmas, for fuck's sake. How long do you mean for this mission to go on?"
"Until I rout Dragos and all his followers out of hiding, once and for all."
Rowan's answering silence stretched long. In the pall of his heavy contemplation, Lucan's cell phone rang with another incoming call. He told the Agent to hang on and switched over to accept the other line.
"Where are you?"
"Southie, down by the Mystic. Rio and I chased the son of a bitch into a vacant warehouse. Want us to hold him for you, or can we start hurting him for intel now?"
"Hold him," Lucan growled. He was already moving, motioning into the sacked Agency club for Hunter to follow him. "I'm on the way now. Bringing along backup for the interrogation. If hurting Pike doesn't get us anywhere, I'll have Hunter bleed the truth out of him."
He disconnected, then informed Rowan of the situation as he and Hunter jumped into the waiting Rover and sped for Southie like a bat out of hell.
Although Arno Pike hadn't suffered more than a few scrapes and bruises in his detainment, the male looked like shit. Smelled like it too. Piss anyway, and a bitter acridness that went beyond fear. Lucan could hardly stand the rank stench that rolled off the vampire as he and Hunter walked into the warehouse where Nikolai and Rio waited with the Agent.
"You're a popular guy, Pike," Lucan said as he approached the male who slumped on a rusted metal chair. "You'd be shocked to hear how many Agents mentioned your name tonight when we asked them who they'd point to as someone most likely to turn traitor to his own race. You're the undisputed winner. Congratulations."
"I can't wait to see what he's won," Niko said, his teeth and fangs gleaming in the gloom of the abandoned building.
"You've overstepped your bounds this time," Pike charged, his voice thin but nonetheless malicious. Sweat beaded on his pale face and throat. His cheeks were sallow and drawn, his lips white, bloodless, as he spoke. "The Order has made many enemies tonight. The Enforcement Agency will not let these unwarranted raids and harassment go uncontested."
"The Agency can contest all they want," Lucan replied. "Meanwhile the Order intends to turn the fucking organization inside out to shake loose the traitors."
Pike started to laugh, wheezing a bit. "You're too late, warrior. You'll never stop him now." Lucan's mind went dark with the vision Mira had shown him. So much blood in the streets. Countless lives lost, Breed and human alike. The screams of terror and mourning, the wails of the dying, filling the night.
Before he knew he'd taken the first step, Lucan was bearing down on Pike where he sat. "What do you mean, I'm too late?" he snarled, fury seething through his veins. "Tell me what you know about Dragos's plans!"
Pike's jaw clamped tight. His bleary eyes were mutinous, stubbornly resistant. "I'll never tell you. You'll have to kill me."
"Not a problem," Lucan growled. "But first, you will talk. Or I promise you, you'll be begging for death."
Pike tittered, maniacal now. "You'll never get anything out of me. Not from any of us who are loyal to him."
God help him, Lucan wanted nothing more than to rip out the male's throat. But he held his rage in check, if only by a fraction. "There are other ways to get what we need from you, asshole."
He nodded to Hunter. The Gen One assassin could read a Breed male's memories through blood. One bite and all of Pike's secrets would be known. Hunter strode forward, baring his fangs as he neared. "Hit him," Lucan commanded blandly.
Hunter took hold of Pike's wrist and struck it hard. He recoiled an instant later, spitting out the blood on a curse. He looked at Lucan, his golden eyes furious as he wiped away the red stains on his mouth. "He's taken poison."
They all stared at Pike, who was laughing now, even as he dropped to the floor and began to convulse. Foam curdled around his mouth as the poison tightened its hold on him. "You're too late, Lucan. Just like I told you." His giggle cut short on a pained groan. He started gasping for air, already in the throes of death.
"Come on," Lucan said, motioning for the others to follow him. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
As they left Arno Pike writhing and dying in the middle of the vacant warehouse, the vampire's taunts echoed behind them.
"You're too late ... Dragos has already won."
TAVIA CRIED OUT in pleasure as she arched beneath Chase, swept into the thrall of her third orgasm in as many hours. Her bliss was sharp-edged and raw, untempered. She rode it with abandon, curling her fingers into the hard muscles of his shoulders as he rocked into her body at a fevered, animal pace.
She loved the way he fucked her. Loved how strong and powerful he was, something unearthly and dark. She loved that he coaxed the same from her. Loved how he welcomed the savage, needful part of her that was anything but human. Demanded it from her. And she loved how every touch and kiss and fevered thrust claimed her as his.
She was his; her heart knew it as surely as did her molten blood and body.
A hiss escaped her as he plunged deep into her core, filling her, touching a place that belonged only to him. She threw her head back on the pillows, lips peeled back from her teeth and fangs as she gave a ragged shout of release. "Yes. Oh, fuck, Chase ... harder. Don't stop." With a roar boiling from between his gritted teeth, he grabbed her ass in his hands and hauled her to him, lifting her hips up to meet the crashing intensity of his thrusts. He pounded her with unbridled fury. His cock stretched her tight around him, as hard as steel inside her, relentless, dominating.
A snarl tore loose from him as he pumped harder, deeper, their amber gazes locked. His glyphs were wild and alive with dark colors, all the shades of desire and need. Hues that rode her own bare skin as he pushed her toward the crest of another orgasm. He bore down on her with tight, fevered strokes, his fangs huge and gleaming under the harsh twist of his beautiful mouth.
"Tavia," he rasped, shuddering against her with the force of his release. The hot rush of his seed flooded her, and she came with him, panting and mewling as her body detonated around him, her senses shattering into a million glittering pieces.