Forged by Desire Page 2

“This isn’t… We shouldn’t—”

He could feel her trembling. God, he wanted her. One hand slid around her waist, drawing her back into his arms. Perry’s hand caught his, holding it against her abdomen as if uncertain whether to draw it away or tug it closer, but the softening of her stance betrayed her. She melted back against him with a low moan. “Garrett…”

The thought skittered away, drowning in a flood of darkness as the hunger washed over him. His lips trailed against her nape, the edge of his teeth riding over that flawless white skin. The hunger in him burned hot, until he could barely see or hear anything that didn’t have to do with her.

All he wanted was her. All he needed… And, damn her, he was going to take it.

Hand fisting in the pearls at her throat, Garrett yanked her head to the side. He couldn’t remember triggering the concealed knife in his sleeve, but the hilt of it was warm in his hand. Their eyes met in the mirror, and his irises were black flame. Shouldn’t do this. Control yourself. Then the moment was gone and he slashed the small blade across her throat.

Warm blood splashed against his mouth as Perry gasped. He lapped at it, suckling hard. Not enough. Never enough.

Soft cries cut the air as her body jerked in release. Then she was melting against him, her weight falling into his arms and her blood wetting his lips.

He caught a glimpse of those amazing gray eyes, wide and alarmed, but couldn’t stop himself from drinking more, feeling her weaken, hearing her heart shudder in her chest, her breath catch in her lungs. Blackness swept through his vision, turning the world dark. Prey. His prey. And she was all his. He’d drink her dry, steal the last shuddering breaths of ecstasy from her body as he—

“Garrett, stop!” she whispered, and he realized she’d been saying it for a while now. “Please, stop…”

The dream shattered.


Garrett sucked in a huge breath and bolted upright, breathing hard. His fingers clenched in the blankets as they fell into his na**d lap.

The world was dark and silent, the steel shutters drawn across his window to keep the sunlight out so he could sleep. Yet everything in the room was clearly visible, his blue-blood senses so superior he could make out each piece of furniture and article of clothing. Holding his head in his hands, he rocked back and forth, trying to fight the raging desire that burned through him.

Perry. At the opera.

The dream struck him every time he closed his eyes, though events had not played out that way in life. Perry had stopped him before he took her blood, slamming him back against the wall with her own eyes bleeding to black and their breath mingling. They were so close to kissing that if the screams hadn’t started echoing down the hallways outside, he didn’t know what would have happened.

“Bloody hell.” Swallowing hard, he brought his shaking hands down from his face. The dream always ended that way. The hunger overwhelming him until all he cared for was her blood. Sometimes he woke before the end. Those were the better nightmares.

Sometimes he had to witness the whole damned thing.

A month since that incident at the opera, and he couldn’t forget it. He’d never thought of Perry as a woman, as a beautiful woman, until that night. Now the thought haunted him.

His hands were still shaking. Garrett sucked in a steady breath and lowered them. Movement fractured off the small mirror attached to the vanity. Himself, still in shades of gray instead of color, his eyes as black as the demon inside him. The hunger.

Shoving the blankets aside, Garrett made his way to the vanity and stared at himself in the mirror, taking slow, steady breaths until he could see the blackness washing out of his eyes. Come on. The muscle in his jaw tightened. He could control this. He would.

But it was growing harder and harder each day. No matter how much blood he drank, the hunger kept growing until it was a gnawing pit within him, eating away at bits of his soul until he was afraid one day he wouldn’t wake up from the dream. One day, the dream would be real.

“Damn it,” he muttered, grinding the heels of his palms against his eyes. Anything to force it down.

The intensity was ebbing slowly, his heart returning to its normal rhythm. Garrett slowly lowered his hands, staring at the blue of his eyes in the mirror. Almost normal. Only a shadow existed, a warning that the demon of his hunger haunted him still.

Pouring water into his shaving jug, he splashed it across his face. The heavy brass spectrometer in the corner caught his eye. There was no point avoiding it. Ignoring the truth didn’t make it go away.

Taking up his razor, he slashed a small cut across his finger and squeezed it to make blood well. It oozed slowly through the cut, the dark bluish-red that gave blue bloods their name. Slowly the drop quivered on the tip of his finger, then fell into the glass vial at the end of the spectrometer. Garrett squeezed another two drops out, but the cut was almost healed. With a grimace, he turned the dials on the spectrometer to start the acidic reaction.

The device spat out a small roll of paper with several numbers printed on it. He ignored the first three and went straight to the craving virus percentage.


Garrett stared at the piece of paper for a long time, then scrunched it up in his fist. The numbers were still burned across his retinas. They’d increased since his last reading, which had been yesterday morning.

Suddenly it wasn’t enough to clench the paper in his fist. He tore it into fine shreds, discarding them among the ashes in his cold hearth. He had a duty to report this. Any blue blood that reached CV levels of nearly seventy percent was staring the Fade in the eye. It was something every blue blood feared, the final, unstoppable progression of the disease.

Soon his skin would start paling, the color bleaching out of his hair and eyes as he evolved—or devolved—into something inhuman, something utterly vampiric. A blood-thirsty monster incapable of rational thought, driven only by its hungers. The albinism probably would have started already if his levels had climbed slowly, but the swiftness of his increase had saved him from that at least. He had time to hide this.

A rash of vampires a century ago had made it compulsory to deliver reports of high craving levels to the authorities. Nearing seventy percent was cause for increased surveillance. Any higher and they’d consider executing him.

Panic burned through his chest. He couldn’t let anyone know. He had to find a way to deal with this. He wasn’t ready, hadn’t done everything he wanted to… Garrett turned and scraped the spectrometer off the bench as incoherent fear roared through him. Kept going. Smashed the mirror, the shaving bowl, ripped the linens from the bed.

None of it made him feel better. None of it made the truth go away. He froze in the middle of the room, quivering as the rage left him. The carnage was catastrophic. The type of thing the authorities would expect to find if they discovered how high his CV levels were.

Water spilled across the floor, mingling with the small patch of blood from the spectrometer. Instantly the puddle diluted, but all he could see was blood. Could smell it, feel the need for it bubbling up within him.

And suddenly Perry flashed into his mind, an image from his dream, smiling up at him from behind her fan as she flirted with him. Blood welled from her throat and the smile died as she clapped a hand to her throat, blood pouring through her white satin gloves and running down her arm and décolletage.

Garrett collapsed to his knees on the floor, sinking his head into his hands again.

If he didn’t report this, then the consequences could be catastrophic.

For he knew who his first victim would be.


“New duke for the Council! Exiled lord returns from Scotland! The Moncrieff is back!”

The woman who called herself Perry jerked to a halt in the middle of the footpath as the young paperboy’s voice carried over the crowd. A feeling of old terror momentarily froze her in place. The Moncrieff. Her breath caught, a familiar sensation of light-headedness assailing her, bringing with it a surge of panic she hadn’t felt in years.

No. She’d buried those feelings years ago. Fought to find a measure of control over the hysteria. She wasn’t the same girl who’d run in fright then. She was ten years older. Stronger. No longer powerless.

“Perry?” Her companion realized she’d stopped and turned to glance at her with his entirely too perceptive blue eyes. Dressed in the crisp black leathers that heralded a Nighthawk, Caleb Byrnes was seemingly unaware of the eyes that followed him. Women were watching him and wondering if he’d look that good without his body armor. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.” Perry forced herself to start moving again, almost mechanically.

If the story was true and the Moncrieff had been named one of the dukes who ruled the Council, then their paths would likely never cross. He would be part of the aristocratic Echelon, with its own glittering, blood-driven world, well out of her spheres.

They wouldn’t meet. They wouldn’t. And if they did, would he even recognize a girl the world thought dead?

She shivered. She wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all herself. The Moncrieff wouldn’t have forgotten her. Could you forget a woman whose disappearance named you a suspect in her murder and earned you exile for ten years?

Perry had to know more. “Stay there.”

London was foggy this time of morning, with most of the crowd of pedestrians comprised of men in suits and top hats as they scurried toward their places of employment. A little boy tugged at the leash of a mechanical dog and it staggered after him, its boiler pack evidently running short of water, judging from its awkward gait. His mother grabbed his hand, her bustle swishing as she led them both toward a steam carriage.

An omnibus blared past, silencing the cry of the paperboy, and Perry stilled, trying to track him. Shutting out every other noise until she could find him.

There. Ducking across the street behind a coal-laden dray, she slid between a pair of hackneys and onto the opposite footpath.

“Sorry, lad,” a man muttered as they brushed shoulders, then he glanced back sharply at her face as if realizing his mistake.

It wouldn’t be the first time she’d been mistaken for a boy. Perry wore her dyed hair clipped short at the nape. The stark black leathers of her uniform clung to her long legs, and she wore her corset tight enough to smother any hint of betraying curves. Not that she’d been blessed with an abundance of them in the first place.

Better if the world saw her as a man. A man had certain freedoms a woman did not, and in this world, where women were denied the blood rites that turned them into blue bloods, it would be safer for others to think her a lad.

Besides, no one would recognize her like this.

The paperboy scanned the street with his cap pulled low over his eyes and fingerless gloves clutching the paper tightly. He saw her and interpreted her intensity for interest immediately. “Here, sir. A shilling to hear the news.”

Perry tossed him the coin, then snatched the paper up. She’d barely finished shaking it out before Byrnes was at her side.

“You do realize it’s almost seven in the morning? And we have a summons to attend to? His high-and-mighty lordship won’t take kindly to either of us being late.”

“Don’t speak of Garrett in such a way.” She scanned the page, ignoring the grainy photograph of the duke until last. The Moncrieff’s exile over… Reinstated by the prince consort as one of the seven dukes that rule London… Replacing the House of Lannister after their treachery… And there. Perry’s breath caught, her heart giving a painful twist in her chest. The Earl of Langdon was unavailable for comment following the news. The disappearance of his daughter has never been explained, and he still resides in seclusion at his estate.

Finally her gaze dropped to the photograph.

There he was. He’d barely changed from the day she’d fled from him, staring imperiously out from the image as if looking straight at her. Moncrieff, with his sandy blond hair swept back from his brow, stylish sideburns, and those piercing blue eyes, gray in print, but she could imagine the sight of them as they swept over her.

The paper crumpled in her fist.

Byrnes’s eyes narrowed as he watched her. “Someone walk over your grave?”

“I was curious to see who they would replace the Duke of Lannister with on the Council.” This appointment would give the Moncrieff a great deal of power.

Byrnes took the paper, shaking out the folds with a soft, ruffling noise. The newsprint stained his bare fingers. “Duke of Moncrieff.” His eyes scanned the lines of text. “I wonder what he was exiled for.”

“He was suspected of murdering his thrall, Miss Octavia Morrow.” Amazing how cool and dry her voice sounded. “They never found the body, however, so he was only exiled.”

“Why accuse him of murder then? The girl might have run.”

“And broken her thrall contract? The punishment for which is sometimes execution?” Perry glanced away. “It would have to be strong inducement indeed for her to consider running away.”

“Hmm.” Byrnes folded the paper under his arm. “I can’t see why you’re so interested. One duke is much the same as another. Murderer or not.”

“I should tell Lynch that you hold such thoughts.” The previous Master of the Nighthawks had recently been elevated to the dukedom of Bleight after challenging his uncle—the previous duke—to a duel.

“Lynch being the only exception.”

Byrnes wouldn’t have been her first choice to work with. But her partner, Garrett, was currently serving as Master of the Nighthawks after Lynch’s promotion, and for some insane notion, he had set Byrnes upon her.

After years of working solely with Garrett, knowing how he moved and thought and anticipating his directions, trying to work with a man who wanted no help from her was a lesson in frustration. She’d long been used to the Nighthawks ignoring her skills because she was a female. Byrnes’s only saving grace was that she didn’t think her gender had anything to do with his perceptions.

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