Forged by Desire Page 43

Byrnes skidded to a halt with his preferred weapon of choice, a pair of sai, in his hands.

“What took you so long?” Garrett snapped, twisting free.

“One way in, one way out—they’re both the same,” Byrnes snarled. “Had to double back around and follow you in.”

Not quick enough to dodge the next blow. Blood splashed the glass behind him, the sting igniting his upper arm. Careless. “Work with me,” he snapped at Byrnes.

They fell in together, both of them circling Hague. Every movement sent a shudder of pain up Garrett’s healing back. Catching a glimpse of Byrnes’s cold blue eyes, he feinted forward and Byrnes mirrored him. Hague darted to keep them both in sight, but it was clear he was uneasy. The knife spun but Garrett blocked it, punching hard beneath the man’s arm. Once, twice…three times.

A hiss of breath hit him in the face and he sliced open Hague’s ribs. Letting the blood hunger rise was so easy here. To feel it swamping him, drowning him in the vicious need. He lost track of movement, became nothing more than reaction. This man had hurt Perry. A snarl curled his lip. His forearm came up to block another blow, the knife an extension of his arm as Byrnes darted in on the other side.

Blood welled. Kill him. Garrett swept his knife across the back of Hague’s knee, and the bastard screamed as he went down. Another blow had the knife sinking up to the hilt in the man’s chest, leaving his heels kicking as he gasped and choked on the floor. Finish it. Garrett twisted the blade in Hague’s chest and stopped that awful gurgle.

Slowly he looked up, silence ringing in his ears. Byrnes stared at him, mouth slightly agape. “Could have let me know you had that in you.”

“I don’t like to kill,” Garrett said, his voice strangely metallic. “Doesn’t mean I can’t.”

The coldness leached out of him, the hunger receding like a purring, contented cat, its furious need glutted on blood and death. The next step he took, his leg went out from underneath him. Garrett staggered forward into Byrnes’s arms, looking down in surprise. Blood gushed from a stab wound in his thigh. He hadn’t even felt it, lost in the fury of his primal self.

Strong hands held him upright, pushing him back against the wall. “Easy, easy. Here, drink the blood.” A flask pressed against his lips. “You’ll heal.”

He already was. He could feel it burning through him as the craving virus healed the knife wounds in his back and thigh. And just that easily, the hunger washed out of him, leaving him cold and shivering, his vision a riot of color. Of red. A thousand shades, painted across the glass. Across his hands. He looked down at the faint tremble in them. I did that. Or the part of me that could be a monster did.

Byrnes arched an incredulous brow toward the dead man at his feet. “You moved like—”

“It’s because my CV levels are higher than normal.” Made him stronger, faster than he had been.

“So I’d noticed.” Their eyes met. Byrnes shrugged. “It’s easy to reprint the percentages on your spectrometer if one knows what to do. Fitz wanted me to keep an eye on you.”

All along he’d known the truth. And he’d kept Garrett’s secret?

“Why?” he asked, draining Byrnes’s flask.

Byrnes gave a soundless laugh. “You were always Lynch’s favorite. I shouldn’t…” He lowered his head. “I wasn’t angry with you when I was overlooked.”

“You gave me hell.”

“Likewise.” Byrnes returned his stare with an equally cold one. Then sighed. “He made the right decision.”

“Did he? I’ve made a right muck of this.” Garrett sighed. “Perry told me I had too much pride.”

“Maybe in that, we’re truly brothers.” Byrnes held out a hand and helped Garrett to his feet. It was as much an apology as either of them could give. “You should go. They’re still fighting.”

“And the body?”

“I’ll deal with it.”

“Try and find his key—we’ll need it to use the device.” Garrett paused. “I’ll need it.”

“Good luck,” Byrnes muttered, riffling through Hague’s clothes.


The newly knit muscle in Garrett’s thigh tore apart as he half ran, half hobbled toward the stairs and the gallery. Dozens of blue bloods had flocked from all corners of the exhibition, drawn like vultures as the clash of steel on steel rang.

He could barely see her. Just a darting form dancing out of the way as the heavier-set duke advanced on her. It felt like years since he’d gone after Hague, but the face of the central clock showed only ten minutes had elapsed. And Perry was still fighting.

A gasp went up from the crowd. Garrett shoved through the gathering, his gaze locked on her, so fierce and defiant. Fighting for her self, as well as her life. She had nowhere to go, her back foot feeling for purchase on the lip of the stairs and a swift glance over her shoulder showing that she knew it. Coldness gripped him with harsh claws. He barely felt the muscle tear in his thigh as he started running.

The duke stepped back a little to give himself space for the final blow. “Good-bye, my sweet Octavia.”

Garrett’s hand dipped into his coat, locking around his pistol. He wasn’t close enough. The bloody thing only had an accurate range of forty feet, but he had to do something.

The duke’s arm drew back.

Garrett shoved through the crowd, forcing his way past foreign dignitaries and princesses alike, cocking the hammer back on the pistol as he ran.

The blade began to fall.

“No!” He lifted the pistol.

And Perry lunged into the thrust, her own blade sinking home. Her body jerked as the duke’s blow struck, the razor tip of his rapier sliding through her back as if through a bag of sand.

“No!” Garrett screamed.

He ran up countless stairs, his thighs burning, his leg threatening to give out beneath him. She was falling, the point of the duke’s blade piercing through the back of her blue dress. A dark shadow bloomed against the silk in a spreading blot and Perry began to topple backward…

Garrett caught her, hands snatching at her tenderly as he tried to lower her to the floor. Blood stained his hands, the front of her dress, everywhere he looked… He could hardly see for the overwhelming rise of the hunger, but her shocked eyes locked on his and became the center of his world. Beside him the Earl of Langford reached for her, both of them helping to lower her onto Garrett’s lap.

“I’ve got you,” he blurted, patting her cheek. His fingers left blood there and he wrenched his hand away, wiping it on his coat.

“Hague?” she whispered.

Garrett swallowed hard as blood broke on her lips. “Dead.” He couldn’t stand to see the rapier sticking out of her chest. “Dammit, Perry. Don’t you dare leave me.” His voice broke.

She gave a weak smile. “Not this time.”


“Promise.” The word was a whisper. Then her head lolled to the side as she tried to see what was going on.

The duke was on his knees, the hilt of Perry’s rapier sitting dead center in his chest. He looked shocked, his fingers touching the hilt as if to wonder how it had gotten there. Slowly he crumpled forward, his forehead bouncing on the timber floor as his body slumped. Blood pooled around him.

“Got him,” Perry whispered. “I knew I could do it.”

Lynch knelt down beside them grimly, his fingers wrapping around the blade in her chest. “Give her blood,” he said. “We have to get this out. It’s close to the heart.”

“What if it cuts her inside again?” her father demanded, stilling Lynch’s hand.

“If it begins to heal around the steel, she’ll only lose more blood later,” Lynch replied grimly. “And if she moves, we don’t know what it will do to her heart.”

The earl looked devastated. “Oh, Octavia… What were you thinking?” He swallowed hard and reached for her hand. “You should have let me do it.”

“I killed him,” she whispered, triumph gleaming in her eyes. “I finally ended this.”

But at what cost? Both Garrett and Lynch exchanged a sharp glance, then Lynch nodded. Time to do this.

Garrett slashed his wrist against the rapier and pressed it to her lips. Perry’s eyes flickered, the focus draining out of them, but some hint of the hunger swirled to the surface, her pupils becoming little black pinpricks at the scent of his blood.

“Drink,” he urged her brokenly. Thank God his craving levels were so high. The virus would help to heal her, if he could get enough blood into her…if the blade came out cleanly…if it hadn’t hit an artery or the heart…

“One, two…” Lynch yanked the blade clear on “three,” pressing his palm down on her chest to put pressure on her wound.

Perry’s teeth sank into Garrett’s wrist and she screamed. The pain of it barely touched him. Garrett felt as though he existed outside of his body at the moment, watching as she panted. Words tumbled from his lips, urging her to drink, telling her he wouldn’t let her go. Ever.

Slowly her hands clutched at his arm and her lips locked around the healing slash. The wet rasp of her tongue set it to bleeding again and then she was suckling at his skin.

Her eyes locked on his, her mouth greedy. Garrett could feel the pull. A month and a half ago, their positions had been reversed. He suddenly wondered whether she had felt like this, begging him to drink as he choked on his own blood. Wondered if her own chest had felt tight as a drum, hoping to a God he didn’t believe in that it would be enough. Her lips left his skin in one final kiss, and she sucked in air as if she’d been drowning. But she was alive. And her eyes were black with the force of her own hunger.

“I love you,” he whispered. “I don’t know if I’ve told you that today. But you need to heal, so that I can tell you again tomorrow. And the day after that. I made you a promise—”

Her eyes fluttered closed in dreamy surrender, her body slumping into his arms. Unconscious.

Slowly the world began to come back into focus. Lynch was standing, bellowing at the curious crowd to stand clear. The Earl of Langford’s eyes were locked on Garrett, seeing everything that he couldn’t be bothered to hide.

“Jolly good show,” one of the American blue bloods said, clapping an earl on the back. “It shall be the talk of the exhibition.”

The crowd began to clap.

Garrett curled his lip back off his teeth. Getting her out of this vulture’s nest couldn’t come too soon.


A spark crackled in the grate.

Her eyelids weighed down by heaviness, Perry sighed and rolled onto her side. Warmth cocooned her. Blinking against the thick darkness of the room, she pushed some of the blankets off herself and then stilled, her senses finally beginning to make some sense of the situation.

The Moncrieff. His sword sliding through her chest as if through paper. And Garrett begging her to stay with him as he lowered her to the floor and tried to stop her from bleeding.

An ache throbbed in her chest and Perry sat up, glancing down at the frilly spill of lace around her throat. Someone had dressed her in a lawn nightgown, the kind of thing that debutantes wore. Perry rubbed between her br**sts. There was no twinge from a wound, but she could feel it deep inside still, where the craving virus sought to heal her.

“You’re awake,” a hoarse voice whispered.

A large form dissolved out of the shadows, Garrett pushing away from the fire he’d been staring into. Its warm, golden light licked the tired planes of his face as he turned, highlighting the blue of his eyes and the dark circles that shadowed them.

“You look awful,” she rasped.

His mouth tightened, but he said nothing. Merely stared at her with a hungry, yearning look in his eyes.

Perry’s chest tightened again, but not from her wound. She lifted her arm and gestured for him to come to her. As if the action had unlocked some door, he spilled into motion, crossing her bedroom in firm strides and drawing her into his arms.

“Oh, sweet Lord, Perry,” he whispered, crushing her against his chest and burying his face in her hair as he knelt on the bed. “You’re not to do that again.”

“I shall definitely duck next time,” she agreed, sliding her arms up under his shoulders and closing her eyes. For the first time, she could simply enjoy the sensation of being in his arms without guilt or fear forcing her away.

There was a harsh quiver in his body. She froze, one hand caressing the dark hair at his nape. “Garrett?”

He shook his head and clung to her, unable to breathe even a hint of how he felt inside.

“We survived,” Perry whispered. The truth hit her. Both the duke and Hague were gone forever. She would never have to fear them again, never have to keep looking over her shoulder. For the first time in ten years, the future stretched out before her, bright and beckoning and…

And then she realized.

“Garrett?” She pushed him back, trying to capture his face in her hands. “You killed Hague. You weren’t meant to kill him. He knows how to work the device, how to—”

Thick dark lashes flickered up over bright blue eyes. “It’s all right. Byrnes found the key on Hague, and Lynch took the device into custody in all the confusion. Honoria Rachinger helped me use it. Not long enough to drop my levels beyond sixty percent, but it will put off the inevitable for a while longer. The prince consort has the device now.”

“He won’t allow you access to it.”

“I know.” Garrett shrugged. “But we have time. Lynch has heard several rumors of a cure—out of the East End, actually. He’s been discussing it with Barrons, who seems to have more information.”

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