Spinning, he pinned her to the wall. He pumped into her, lost to the sensation of the intimate slide of slick flesh on slick flesh. Pleasure whipped at him, and still, it wasn’t enough. He needed to possess her, to have her in every way he could.
The thump of their bodies against the wall reverberated in the room, all the way to his balls. Words came out of his mouth, words he’d never heard and didn’t even know the meaning of, but he no longer operated on a logical level. Something primal and raw demanded he do nothing but follow a natural course.
Reaching down, he opened his bedside drawer and fumbled for what he was looking for.
Tayla was whimpering and writhing and clenching him to her so hard that he had to wrench his spine to get the space between them he needed. The air around them pulsed with powerful mating magic, cocooning them in their own world as he drew the scalpel across his chest. He felt no pain and was powerless to stop himself. Dropping the blade, he cupped her head and brought her lips to where his blood welled at the thin seam.
She hesitated, looking up at him with passion-darkened eyes.
“Do it,” he whispered. “Taste me. Take me inside you.”
Holding his gaze, which was erotic as hell, she touched her tongue to a single pearl of blood.
Oh, sweet hell. Electric whips lashed at him, spreading from her tongue through his entire nervous system. He was short-circuiting with ecstasy, humming with the energy and hunger. A moan dredged up from the depths of his chest, and as she latched on and began a gentle sucking action, he threw back his head and roared.
His cl**ax hit him with the force of a fire tornado, burning, twisting, turning him upside down and inside out. Tayla joined him, screaming with the force of her release. She bucked against him, her female muscles clasping tight and drawing on his shaft for every last drop of seed.
For a moment, they shuddered together, panting, and he had to lock his knees to keep from sliding to the floor with her. His muscles quivered, and his insides gelled. Hazy reality filled his mind like smoke, and just as he realized what he’d done, Tayla cried out.
A violent spasm hit her with such force that they were propelled away from the wall. “Hurts,” she gasped.
“Lirsha, oh, gods, what have I done?” Fear froze his marrow as he laid her on the bed and sank down beside her, one hand on her hip, the other threaded in her hair. She writhed, alternately clutching her gut and clawing at her skin. “Shade!” Shit. He pulled her robe closed and tightened the sash. “For fuck’s sake, Shade! Get in here!”
The door crashed open, wood splintering. Shade hadn’t bothered with the door handle. Wraith was right behind him, both taking in the scene in an instant.
“Is her DNA—” Shade sniffed the air. “Ah, man, you didn’t.”
Tears streamed down Tayla’s face, dampening the pillow. Her eyes were closed tight against the pain as she huddled in fetal position on the silk comforter.
Wraith peeked around Shade. “Did what?”
“He began the bonding process,” Shade said.
Wraith let out a low whistle. “I knew you were desperate to get around the s’genesis, but I didn’t think you were that desperate. Have you lost your f**king mind?”
Shade reached for Tayla, jerking back when Eidolon growled before he could catch himself. “I need to get inside her, E.”
“I know,” he snapped, not wanting anyone, including—or especially—his brothers, to touch the female he wanted as his lifemate.
Warily, Shade wrapped his hand around her ankle. “Our blood is toxic to humans, you knew that.”
Yeah, he knew that, but he hadn’t been thinking, had been too deep in the rut, too driven by pure instinct. The argument that she was only half-human was too lame to bring up, so he stroked her cheek and talked to her as she’d done for him the night he’d taken the vampire punishment.
“You’ll be fine,” he murmured, sending a healing wave into her, figuring it couldn’t hurt, but she still made little sobbing noises, punctuated by high-pitched cries. Her legs scissored back and forth until Shade gripped both ankles and held them still.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” he said. “I think it’s a combination of the poison she ingested and her body’s reaction to the chemical changes the bonding put into motion.”
Damn, he felt so helpless. “Hang on, Tayla.” He wrapped his arm around her slim waist and dragged her against him, as if, if he held on tight enough, she couldn’t die. “Damn you, hang on. Don’t let a demon be the death of you. You’ve fought too hard for too long.”
Wraith uttered some smartass remark from behind him, but Eidolon wasn’t going to leave Tayla for even the five seconds it would take to ram his brother’s head through the wall. He’d deal with him later. Right now . . .
“Hellboy?” The sound of her rasping voice was music. “What’s happening?”
“Shh . . . we’ll get you through this.” He slid a pleading glance at Shade. Sedate her.
“I can’t. Not until she—” he broke off, nodding at her left hand. “There. It’s happening.”
Eidolon bunched the sleeve of her robe up to her biceps and nearly swayed with relief at the beautiful miracle taking place. A shadowy replica of his tattoo was etching itself onto her arm, temporarily marking her as his. Gradually, she calmed, the tension draining out of her so she melted against him.
Where she belonged.
“Someone get her some water,” he said, not looking away from her. Her strength amazed him, humbled him. She was the fire he’d never had, the spark that had lit his calm, measured existence. He brushed her hair out of her eyes, an excuse to touch her. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” she croaked, as she pushed up on one elbow. “Is this a DNA thing? Is it happening? Am I dying?”
“No, nothing like that.” He handed her the glass Shade brought. “You guys go make the preparations for tomorrow night. I’ll call you in the morning.” After his brothers left, he grasped her empty hand. Gently, he raised her arm so she could see the markings.
Her hand shook as she set the water on the bedside table and pulled the robe open to get a look at the tattoo that ran from fingertip to shoulder. “This is yours. What did you do?”
“I initiated a bonding sequence. It’s not complete yet,” he finished quickly. Gods, she made him feel like a youth just entering his first transition. “Be mine.” Yeah, that was smooth.
“Eidolon . . .”
“You don’t have to decide now. You have five days, and then the markings will fade.” Once they disappeared, the window of opportunity would close, but by then, he might have completed the s’genesis and wouldn’t care, anyway.
“But you said your species doesn’t mate with humans because the offspring are half-breeds.”
“We can mate with half-breeds. The young will be full-blooded Seminus demons.”
Tayla was silent for a long moment. “Is that what the blood was about?” She shot upright and her face, already pale, grew even whiter. “Oh, gag. I drank your blood. Why did I do that? And why do you keep a scalpel in your drawer?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Most guys keep condoms there.”
He bit back a smile. “I don’t need condoms, since I can’t impregnate anyone yet.” Though he vaguely remembered wanting to plant his seed in Tayla when he’d shapeshifted, so maybe he could now. The idea that she could right now be swelling with his offspring filled him with a sense of wholeness he’d been missing all his life. He could ask Shade to feel for a pregnancy—
“So what’s up with the scalpel?”
Heat flooded his face, probably making him as red as she was white. “I—” he felt so stupid admitting this
“—I’ve always wanted to be prepared in the event that I found a mate.”
“Are all Seminus demons so sappy?”
This time, he couldn’t contain the smile. “I doubt it.”
“I really, really do not understand demons.” She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. “I heard Wraith say something. Something Gem said, too. About being desperate to stop the s’genesis by taking a mate.”
“We’ll talk about it later. You need your rest.” He pulled the sheets up over her, but she stopped him with a firm grasp on his wrist.
“Tell me about it.”
Oh, hell. He swore and looked up at the ceiling. “Taking a lifemate is the only way to stop the worst of the s’genesis changes. We still become fertile and gain the ability to shapeshift, but the insane need to impregnate everything in sight will disappear.”
“And you’ve been looking? Your brother said ‘desperate.’ ”
“So am I like, your last resort?”
“No, Tayla.” He climbed into bed beside her and tucked her into his body, her back to his chest. “It’s nothing like that.”
There was a long pause, and then she said in a small voice, “How close are you to no-return?”
Reaching around her, he tipped her face up to his and sealed his mouth over hers. Her lips were warm, firm, tasted mildly of the salt from her tears. For a moment, she melted, opening to him, shifting toward him.
But she wouldn’t be deterred, and she murmured against his lips, “How close?”
“Close,” he admitted, running his palm down her hard belly, spanning the narrow distance between her hipbones where her womb might be quickening. “The next time I shapeshift, I might not come back as myself. I’ll look the same, but I won’t be running the show.”
She pulled away from him. “And you say that bonding with me now has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you’re on the verge of no-return?”
As much as he wanted to answer that, he couldn’t. Had he met her a year ago, he didn’t know if she’d have set fever to his blood the way she did now.
“That’s answer enough,” she said, lurching to the other side of the bed. “And my answer is no. I won’t be anyone’s last resort.”
Shit. This could’ve gone better.
“Just listen for a minute, okay?”
“I said, no.”
He sat up and stretched across the bed for her hand, which she yanked away. “Dammit, Tayla, I don’t care if my instincts are responsible or not. I want you.”
“Oh, that’s one hell of a proposal,” she snapped, tugging her robe tight around her. “Excuse me if I don’t run out and reserve a caterer and a church. Oh, wait. You probably can’t set foot in a church.”
“So I need to work on my delivery . . .”
“You need to work on finding someone who doesn’t mind being the 3:00 a.m. wallflower. I might not have anything to my name or any place to go, but that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me just so you can hold on to your precious medical degree.” She glared at him, daggers of fury that pinned him in place when he would have grabbed her and held her to him. “How dare you lie to get me to fall for your shit? You don’t want me. You can’t. You don’t even know me.”
“I’m not lying. I do want you, and I know all I need to.”
“You know nothing. Nothing. How am I supposed to believe what I am isn’t a problem for you, when it was before? I’m an Aegi butcher. A lemming, remember?”
“I was wrong, Tayla. My brothers are wrong.”
She shook her head. “See, that’s where you are wrong. I am a butcher. Want proof? Proof that you know nothing about me?” When a tremor entered her voice, she cleared it ruthlessly. “Let’s talk about your brother Roag—”
“Don’t say it.” He searched her eyes, seeing an ugly truth in their murky depths. “Don’t. Even. Say. It.”
But she pressed on, leaning forward on fists pressed into the mattress. “I was there. At Brimstone. I was there and I killed anything that moved. When Jagger set the place on fire, the sound of demons screaming didn’t bother me at all.”
Oh, shit. Roag. “It might not have been you . . .” The desperation in his voice was pathetic, and he hated himself for it.
“Or it might have been. I don’t remember seeing a demon like you, but—”
“He could have shapeshifted.”
Eidolon felt his world collapse in on him, felt his chest crack wide open. It hurt. Gods, his heart hurt.
The female he wanted as a mate had killed his brother. Had been involved, at the very least.
“Do you see, Hellboy? Do you see why we can’t be together? Can you really see beyond what I was? Can I ever see beyond what you are?”
But he was no longer listening. “You killed my brother.”
He pushed backward, off the bed, feeling the anger rise in him, feeling something even more horrible churning inside. He could feel The Change pulsing, clawing to the surface.
With a roar, he tore out of the bedroom, out of the apartment, away from Tayla before he did something he’d regret. Because he was pissed, hurt, and he was also out of time.
A combination of sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows and the sound of the television woke Tayla. A glance at the bedside clock told her she’d slept later than she’d wanted to. Eleven a.m. She’d wasted so much time sleeping. And crying.
She hadn’t bothered chasing after Eidolon last night. He’d clearly been devastated, and besides that, his eyes had gone red, just as they had before he’d turned into the Soulshredder, and she was so not prepared to deal with a repeat of that.