Jo looked back at the man. “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing,” he said in a bored tone.

“What did you do to the other one?”


“Bullshit.” She tilted her head to the side. “Tell me.”

His heavy-lidded eyes met hers, and for some reason, the way he stared at her made her acutely aware of his body. His . . . insanely powerful . . . body.

“I’d rather talk about you,” he murmured.

“I don’t have anything to say on that subject.”

“How long have you had the cravings? The hot flashes? The itchy restlessness inside your skin that cannot be explained or avoided.”

Jo did what she could to hide her reaction. “I don’t know what you’re—”

Abruptly, he got to his feet so fast, she jerked back. But for all the speed with which he went to the vertical, he was slow as he came at her, those long, perfectly in-shape legs crossing the distance between them in lazy strides, his boots landing in the trash like the footfalls of a T. rex.

His stare glowed with a light that she refused to understand.

Sex was not going to come into this picture.


Jo cleared her throat. And still sounded choked. “I said I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Dear God, he was enormous as he stopped in front of her, and she had to glance behind herself to make sure she could twist around and bolt—okay, that was a no-go. There was a solid wall behind her. Worse? As her body began to warm in places that she would have much preferred to stay at room temperature, she became concerned that she didn’t actually want to get away from him.

“Liar,” he said. “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

The shudder of relief that went through Butch when the cleansing was done, when he was emptied out of the Omega’s nasty, was similar to when you’d had the stomach flu and your guts finally decided to stop evacuation orders. At first, you didn’t believe the calm, figuring that another wave of vile-bile blow chunks was coming. But when that didn’t happen, and you started to trust the all-clear, you took a long, calm inhale and followed that up with a tentative fantasy of toast and tea.

His eyes refused to focus at first. The no-sight thing didn’t bother him much, though. He knew where he was, and more important, he knew who he was with.

“You okay?” he said with an extra truckload of gravel in his voice.

V lifted his head, and then pushed himself free of the embrace they’d fallen into during the cleansing. As the brother fell back on his ass, he groaned like all of his joints had been beaten with a baseball bat.

“Yeah. I’m good. You okay?”

“Thanks to you.”

As their eyes met, Butch dreaded the question that went unspoken. Closing his lids, he braced himself and reached out a sense he did not want to have. The answer about whether there were more lessers out there was immediate—

“So it wasn’t the last,” V said.

Butch tried to keep the disappointment to himself. “No.”

“Okay. Then we find another and another—however long it takes.”

“I don’t think there are many left. And I’m not just saying that.”

Bullshit. Of course he was just saying it. He didn’t want to do this anymore. He didn’t want to be out here, sucking evil into himself, making his best friend get it out of him, all the while praying for the end to come and being denied that prize. His exhaustion with the whole damn thing took the present and made it go on forever.

“Yup,” he said with forced bravado. “We keep going. Until the last one—”

As V stiffened, Butch turned and looked down the alley. “Yeah, I sense that slayer, too. You got enough juice to fight now?”

“Shh.” Vishous narrowed his eyes.

Butch frowned and shoved his torso off the pavement so he could get at his guns if he needed them. “It’s just one lesser. I can feel him—”

All at once, the alley went foggy. Except it wasn’t fog. Mhis was an optical illusion and sensory scrambler that V used to secure the Brotherhood compound, a force field that anyone could penetrate, but nobody could find their way through.

“I’m not that bad off,” Butch bitched. “I can still fight.”

Vishous got to his feet, but he stayed in a crouch, his attention focused on the enemy that was standing not that far off from them.

“Cop,” he whispered. “I need to move you. Right now.”

Okay, his best friend was acting weird here. “What exactly are you seeing?”

“Evil. And I can’t see it. That’s what bothers me.”

Butch cranked his head so he was staring in the same direction. “Well, I now can’t see shit because of the mhis. V, I love you. But you’re nuts, man—”

“We gotta get you away from here. You’re too valuable to lose.”

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