Excerpt Shadows by Suzanne Wright

Aug 042019
 

Shadows (Dark in You #5) by Suzanne Wright

A match made in hell?
Devon and Tanner fight like… well, cats and dogs. Which makes sense since hellcats and hellhounds aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, their demons’ antipathy towards each other is matched only by the red-hot sexual tension between Tanner and Devon. It’s driving them – and their long-suffering friends Harper and Knox – mad.
When Devon is nearly kidnapped, Tanner’s protective instincts kick into overdrive – he’s sticking by her side, day and night. But staying so close means their hunger can no longer be denied . . . They know their demons won’t accept the match, but after one red-hot night they’ll fight to stay together as long as they can, even though shadows are gathering around them. Devon’s would-be kidnapper is still on the loose, a serial killer carrying rage from a twisted past threatens the lair and, most of all, Tanner and Devon are losing themselves to the heat between them. When this relationship goes up in flames, it could be a blaze that neither of them can walk away from . . .

Excerpt Shadows (Dark in You #5) by Suzanne Wright

CHAPTER ONE

It was the sharp ache in the back of her neck that woke her. Or it could have been the churning in her stomach, or even the awful throbbing in her head.
Too tired to open her eyes, Devon Clarke let out a quiet moan. God, she felt so unbelievably heavy. Her mouth was bone dry and her throat felt raw, but she wasn’t sure she could summon the energy to even reach over to her nightstand and grab her bottle of water.
Sleep threatened to tug her under once more, thick and compressing. Her inner demon nudged her hard, a sense of urgency in its manner that pricked at her hindbrain. The fog started to slowly clear from Devon’s mind, and she became aware of a dull ache in her wrists, shoulders, and ankles.
Brow creasing, she tried opening her eyes. Failed. She was just so incredibly tired and drowsy. Unnaturally tired and drowsy. She might have fallen back asleep, but the pain kept her from drifting and forced the last bit of sleep-fog to dissipate.
Her eyes fluttered open, but her world was a blur. She double-blinked, struggling to bring things into focus, and she realized she was looking at her jean-clad thighs. She also became aware that she was sitting on a chair, her head drooped forward, her long, ultraviolet ringlets hanging around her face like a curtain.
She slowly lifted her head, wincing at the stiffness in her neck. She went to give it a soothing rub, but she couldn’t move her arm. In fact, it was weirdly stretched behind her and—
Reality slammed into Devon, making her mind snap to full alertness. She glanced over her shoulder and, shit, her wrists were bound together behind the chair. Not by simple rope. No, it was a pure white energy rope that buzzed against her skin. She felt that same buzz against her ankles and realized that, yep, both were tied to the legs of the chair.
Her heart stuttered, and then it was racing like crazy. Shit, shit, shit. Devon tugged at the rope binding her wrists, and pain lanced through her stiff shoulders. There was no give in the energy knot whatsoever; it was so damn tight that her fingers were numb from poor circulation.
Fear gripped her tight and squeezed her insides. The dark power inside her stirred and uncoiled, wanting to be free, but it was trapped. And she realized that the energy ropes weren’t only keeping her bound, they were blocking her from using her abilities. Motherfucker. She hadn’t felt this helpless since—
Devon slammed the door on the memories.
Her gaze darted around the small room, and she sucked in a breath. She was in what looked to be a cabin. Slices of sunlight streamed through small holes in the wooden roof planks, casting light on the dust motes that floated in the air. The place stank of mold, pain, fear, and the old blood that stained the floorboards—some were reddish brown dots; others were larger and darker. The only furniture other than her chair were a stool and a work table on which lay safety goggles, gloves, and an array of torturous implements.
What. The. Fuck? Had she been taken by some psychopathic Dexter-wannabe or something?
The last thing she remembered was driving home from the grocery store. As she’d stopped at a red light, the front passenger door had swung open, a stranger had slid onto the seat, and then . . . nothing. Absofuckinglutely nothing.
She couldn’t smell drugs on her, so she was guessing she’d either been dealt a psychic blow to the head or she’d been spelled to sleep just as she’d been spelled to the chair. That meant her captor was either an incantor—no other demonic breed possessed and wielded magick—or a practitioner.
Her inner demon wasn’t afraid. The emotion was something it rarely felt, and it didn’t find fear unpleasant anyway. But the feline was baring its fangs, filled with an ice-cold anger that wouldn’t be sated by vengeance. Yeah, well, hellcats were a terribly vindictive bunch.
Her demon, like every one of its kind, was a cunning, conscienceless predator that possessed an addictive personality and felt no remorse, empathy, or love. It especially liked power and control, so to have another person subdue it and Devon this way? Yeah, the feline was beyond infuriated.
What was this all about? How did she get here? Who took her? Where was the bastard?
Where was the exit?
She couldn’t see shit out of the windows, thanks to the dirt smudging the view, so she had no clue where she was or if Psycho Stanley was close. The room only had one door, and that door was currently closed. She doubted she’d be alone for long. Someone would come—the same someone who’d brought her here.
As the feeling of being confined once more seized her insides, awful memories of that day long ago insidiously snuck back up on Devon. Again, she shoved them away. This wasn’t the time to reminisce. It was time to get her shit together and think. Plan. She needed to get out of this shithole.
She rocked and squirmed, but the chair didn’t even so much as creak. Sturdy fucker. Standing as much as the chair would allow, she slammed it back down. She did it again. And again. And again. And again. And—
The sound of hinges squeaking came from somewhere in the cabin.
Devon stiffened, her heart pounding as heavy footsteps came her way, scraping at the creaky floorboards. Moments later, the door was pushed open. A tall, lean male with shoulder-length black hair filled the doorway. This had to be Psycho Stanley.
He was still. Watchful. And as she found herself the focus of those soulless gray eyes, Devon swallowed hard. She didn’t let her dread show, though. No. Good at hiding her emotions, she kept her face blank as she resumed slamming the chair to the floor over and over, holding his gaze the entire time. If he expected her to shake with fear and plead for mercy, he was out of his mind.
The wooden planks groaned beneath his feet as he walked further into the room. “The chair isn’t going to break,” he said in a voice so devoid of emotion that it gave her the chills. An incantor, she sensed—and a very powerful one. “Far stronger people than you have tried it,” he added.
So, what, he made a habit of kidnapping people and bringing them here to be tortured with those implements on the table? Twisted.
“Bet you’re wondering why you’re a guest of my fine accommodations.”
She stilled, wanting an explanation.
“It’s nothing personal on my end—I’m just a bounty hunter. Someone will be here to collect you very soon. Someone who’ll deliver you to a person who must want you very badly, because they paid me a huge chunk of money to acquire you.” He grabbed the old stool from the corner and slid onto it. “But then, this isn’t a job anyone would do without the promise of a hefty reward, is it, considering you’re a good friend and employee of Harper Thorne?”
Yeah, no one in their right mind would want to upset Harper. The co-Prime of a large demon lair that spanned most of Vegas and even some of California was powerful in her own right. Her mate, Knox, was rumored to be the most powerful demon in all existence, and he really hated it whenever anyone upset Harper.
Devon’s own lair was small and mostly made up of imps. And since imps lived for pissing people off, her Prime—who was also Harper’s grandmother—had a whole host of enemies. It wouldn’t surprise Devon if someone was planning to hold her hostage in order to manipulate Jolene. That would be a dumb move. There was no way to manipulate Jolene Wallis.
“There’d be no sense in screaming for help,” the incantor went on. “This plot of land goes on for miles and miles. There’s no one around who’d hear you. For now, little hellcat, your ass is mine.”
It was almost cute that he truly believed that. But why warn him that he was wrong? It would be better to allow him to think that he was on top of the situation.
He cast a quick glance at his collection of knives. “It’s a real shame that I can’t use them on you. My client paid me extra to ensure you were delivered in one piece. They wouldn’t grant me so much as a pinkie finger, which is disappointing. Powdered hellcat bone sells for good money on the black market. I can personally attest to the fact that it does indeed power spells.”
Well, she’d already known that. Her deceased godmother was an incantor, and she’d told Devon plenty about magick.
Stretching his legs out in front of him, he cocked his head. “You’re a cool one, sitting there calmly, looking me right in the eye . . . as if you’re not tied to a chair and completely at my mercy.”
At his mercy? Oh, good Lord, he was just adorable.
“Before you try telling me you’ll escape and kill me—they all vow that—let me just say that I’ve done my research on you. Even if my spell wasn’t preventing you from accessing your abilities, you wouldn’t have been able to call out to your lair members or friends for help—your telepathic range is short.”
True, sadly. Devon didn’t doubt that her godmother could have untangled the spell effortlessly, since she’d possessed more magick than any incantor Devon had ever met. Millicent was so strong, in fact, she’d imprinted protective wards on Devon’s very bones. The wards didn’t make her immune to magick, but they did ensure that any spells placed on Devon would wear off fast. Which was undoubtedly why the energy ropes had begun to weaken—the buzz of power was no longer so strong against her skin.
Luckily, Psycho Stanley didn’t seem to be aware of that. And she’d need to keep him distracted so that he was less likely to notice. “Well, are you going to tell me what delightful person hired you?” she asked, her voice croaky with thirst.
“I’ve no idea who it was.” And he didn’t sound as though he cared. “The deal was done through a broker.”
“Surely you at least know what they want with me.”
“Something about offering your father an exchange—if he freed their friend, Asa, they’d free you.” He shrugged, uninterested. “I suppose this is where you get to find out just how much Daddy loves you.”
Well, considering she’d never heard of an Asa and that the guy she thought of as her dad wouldn’t have the authority to free anybody, this mess had to be related to her biological father, Finn. He was the Prime of a lair in Salt Lake City, and she didn’t have regular contact with him. As such, the person who’d arranged all this would have had better luck if they’d kidnapped one of Finn’s other offspring. It honestly wouldn’t surprise her if Finn refused to make the trade. Which meant she was fucked if she didn’t get out of this cabin fast.
The incantor’s eyes narrowed. “Harper Thorne used to belong to your lair. You’ve been close friends with her since you were kids, from what I uncovered. Girls share just about everything with their BFFs, don’t they? I’ll just bet she told you what breed of demon her mate is.”
Well, he’d lose that bet. Devon had once asked Harper what Knox was, and the female sphinx had responded, “You’re better off not knowing, Dev, and it’s not something I can share anyway.”
By her own admission, Devon was annoyingly curious—it was a hellcat thing—and would badger people for answers. But she also knew when it was best not to push, so she’d let it go.
“What is he?”
Devon arched an imperious brow. “And what incentive do I have to tell you that? You’ve got nothing to offer me except for my freedom, which we both know you won’t give me. You can’t even tell me who hired you.”
His eyes bored into her, empty and cold. “Why would I offer you an incentive when I could torture the information out of you?”
“You’ve been instructed to keep me alive and unharmed, remember.”
“I can put you through a world of hurt without leaving a single mark on you.”
Hmm, was that so? Well, she could return the favor if these damn binds would just fuck right off. He might have done his research on Devon but, like many demons, she deliberately kept some of her abilities quiet. He had no way of knowing that he had, to put it simply, completely fucked up. All she needed was—
She shot forward in her chair as white-hot agony crashed into her gut, twisting it so painfully that stars burst behind her eyes. Holy fuck it felt like someone was taking a blowtorch to her stomach. The scorching heat sizzled its way up her chest, settled in her breastbone and, honest to God, she thought it would melt from the heat or at least crack from the pressure.
She looked down, half-expecting to see her skin blistering and peeling away from her body. There was absolutely no outward sign of the fire that blazed in her—
It stopped.
She sagged in her chair, panting and shaking.
“I think I’ve made my point,” he said. “Now, tell me what I want to know.”
She blinked, licking her dry lips. “What was the question again?”
Devon hissed as the pain returned. Not like a blowtorch this time. No, now it felt more like a jagged, red-hot knife was carving its way up the column of her throat, and she was genuinely surprised she didn’t smell blood. It felt as if the blade sliced through her skin as it traveled over her chin, along her face, and toward her eye.
Nostrils flaring, she jerked her head back, but there was no way of avoiding the—
It stopped again.
Devon shuddered out a breath. God, it was going to be so satisfying to watch this bastard die. So very, very satisfying. The fuck of it was that although the buzzing against her wrists and ankles had faded a little more, it wasn’t enough for her to break free. It was, however, enough for her to release a little of her own power.
Slowly and cautiously, she sent out a vine-like tendril of dark power. He couldn’t see it, of course. But, as its wielder, she could. The hazy vapor slinked its way across the ground like a snake, heading right for him.
At her command, the vapor came to a stop near his foot. It coiled, tensed, ready and raring to pounce. She might have released her hold on it right then if he wasn’t a strong incantor. He could easily combat a tendril of such power—sadly. She just had to hope that whoever was coming to collect her didn’t arrive before the energy rope faded and she could release the rest of the dark force that writhed in her belly.
For the first time, she wished her anchor bond was emotionally invasive. To have her mind so strongly linked to someone else’s yet be unable to reach out to them . . . Fuck if that wasn’t shitter than shit at the moment.
All demons had a predestined psychic mate who anchored them, preventing them from turning rogue—something they were all at risk of doing, considering how much of a struggle it could be to maintain dominance over the cruel entity that lived within them. There was nothing sexual or emotional about the bond. It was only a psychic construct, but demons still struggled to be apart from their anchors for long periods of time.
Devon was incredibly close to her anchor—so close, in fact, that Adam and his partner, Hunter, had switched to her lair six years ago. Both guys were uber protective of her, and they’d lose their shit if they could see her right now.
“Had enough pain?” Psycho Stanley asked.
Sensing he thought he’d scared her, Devon couldn’t help it—she laughed. It was a slow, raspy sound that built until her shoulders shook.
His gaze flared. “Something funny?”
“I was just thinking how much of a mistake you made taking this job. It won’t matter how strong you are or how carefully you covered your tracks. My disappearance will be traced back to you, and then you’ll pay for this.”
“No one can trace me.”
“Not even a hellhound?” she challenged. “One of Knox’s sentinels is a hellhound. He’ll find you.”
“I assume you’re referring to Tanner Cole. Are you forgetting he’s also Harper’s bodyguard? Knox is hardly going to send him on a mission to find a she-demon who isn’t even from his lair. His mate’s safety is far too important to him.”
“Yeah, but Tanner considers me under his protection.” Which annoyed her, in all honesty, but that wasn’t something she needed to share with this asshole.
“If that were true, you’d carry his mark. I bound your hands earlier. If you bore his mark, I’d have seen it.”
Because hellhounds left their brand in the center of a person’s palm. They could only mark someone if both halves of their soul wanted to protect that person. Tanner might be protective of her, but his inner demon wasn’t—hellcats and hellhounds had a natural aversion to one another.
That was okay, though; she didn’t need or want Tanner’s protection. Didn’t want his attention either. But the devastatingly hot hellhound seemed intent on driving her insane. Each time his mind touched hers, he whispered teasing comments to her . . .
How’s my little kitty cat?
Missing me?
Need any cat litter while I’m at the store?
I picked you up some balls of yarn—you owe me, kitten.
She’d been dealing with that shit for years. In the beginning, her inner demon had hissed and spat, outraged by his psychic touch merely because he was a hellhound, its natural enemy. Nowadays, the feline merely curled its upper lip in a lazy snarl. The demon no longer felt compelled to rip out his lungs, since it was relatively certain that he meant Devon no harm.
“You still haven’t answered my question, hellcat. What. Is. Knox?”
“Well . . .” The ropes winked out, freeing her. The blood rushed back to her fingers and toes, and it hurt like a motherfucker. Ignoring the pain, Devon acted fast. She released her hold on the dark power that waited to attack. As smooth, fluid, and fierce as a wildcat, it lunged at him, encased his entire body, and seized him in a crushing vice-like grip.
Eyes wide, jaw tense, he drew in a shocked breath. Before he could even think of retaliating, the power squeezed and contracted around him like a snake, exerting more and more pressure on his body and insides. He yelled in agony as bones cracked, veins popped, and skin split.
Her demon’s grin was somewhat feral as it observed the nauseating sight he made. The whites of his eyes had reddened, blood was leaking from his ears and mouth, and broken bones were protruding through his skin. Merciless, the power kept on squeezing and crushing him until, finally, his brain exploded inside his skull and he toppled off the stool. Like that, the vapor dissipated.
Devon pushed off the chair and strode toward him, rolling her stiff shoulders and examining the chafed skin of her wrists. Bastard. She looked down at where he lay, his bloodshot eyes open and vacant, his body an unholy mess. He’d suffered excruciating pain—there was no doubt about it. And she couldn’t find it in herself to give a rat’s ass.
“Told you that you made a mistake when you took this job. People never listen to me. Why is that?” She tossed a high-voltage ball of hellfire at the little bastard and didn’t move from the spot until he was nothing more than mere ashes. Satisfied, she nodded. Now where the fuck was the phone?

Standing in the watch room of the old lighthouse, Tanner scraped his hand over his jaw. He wasn’t by any means squeamish, and he’d seen worse sights than this. But there was nonetheless something very disturbing about seeing a dead body propped up against a wall, his legs crossed, drenched in blood, holding his eyes, tongue, and ears in his hands.
Outside, sea birds squawked, the wind bounced off the walls, and the rotating light at the top of the lighthouse flashed continuously. Inside, there was only silence as he and the two other demons in the room circled and studied the body.
“Fuck,” Tanner finally said.
“Yeah, fuck,” said Knox.
“How long has he been dead?” Tanner asked Levi since, as a reaper, the sentinel had a certain affinity for the deceased.
Crouched beside the corpse, Levi replied, “Just over an hour. It wasn’t the wounds or blood loss that killed him. He died of a heart attack—one that was brought on by preternatural causes.” The reaper looked from Knox to Tanner. “Know anyone who has that ability?”
“No,” said Knox.
Tanner shook his head, staring once more at the body. Harry Tomlinson had been a member of their lair whose specialty lay in espionage, which was why he’d acted as a spy for Knox. He’d telepathically contacted the Prime a few hours ago, asking Knox to meet him at the lighthouse—it was the same location they always met at when Harry had important information to share.
After his business meeting was over, Knox had pyroported himself, Tanner, and Levi to the lighthouse . . . only to discover Harry dead. Knox’s ability to travel by fire was a secret that only a select few people knew of. Although Tanner acknowledged that it was smart to keep people guessing just how powerful you were, he knew it would drive him crazy to mostly use normal means of transport if he could just pyroport wherever he wanted.
His inner demon, by nature, was no more patient than Tanner. Right then, it didn’t want to hang around the lighthouse. It itched to track down whoever had ravaged Harry this way—hunting was what the hound did best.
“This was done to Harry before his death,” said Tanner. “The scent of his blood is strongly tainted by pain, fear, fury, and helplessness.”
“How many other people were here?” asked Knox.
“Just one. A demon. Their scent . . . it’s earthy but wrong.”
“What does that mean?”
“Some people have scents that are floral. Others are fruity. Or sweet. Or spicy. Or earthy. The list goes on. This demon smells of autumn leaves and sandalwood, but there’s a single, small note to their scent that’s off. Like . . . have you ever tasted something you usually enjoy but, for some reason, it just doesn’t taste right? Like someone put a spice in it that didn’t need to be there, or one of the ingredients was stale? This scent isn’t right. Almost seems . . . unauthentic.”
“Like someone concealed their scent—either through an ability or with magick—by covering it with a fake one, only they didn’t cover it well enough?”
“Yes, exactly.”
Knox’s brow furrowed. “You don’t scent Sloan here?”
“No.”
Sloan Monroe was the newly appointed Prime of a Washington lair. He was also a slick motherfucker who’d repeatedly tried to buy the Underground from Knox. The subterranean version of the Las Vegas strip was every demon’s idea of paradise, and it brought in a shitload of money every year.
Sloan hadn’t been the first to try to buy it from Knox, and he wouldn’t be the last. But he was the only demon who’d tried to recreate it. Sloan had built it in Washington, not far from the lighthouse, and he’d named it the Haunt—how original.
Knox didn’t care about the competition, but he did care that Sloan attempted to coax demons to relocate their businesses from the Underground to the Haunt. That was something they’d learned from Harry, who Knox had planted in Sloan’s lair to keep an eye on things.
It was reasonably common practice for Primes to plant spies in other lairs. Knowledge was power, after all—demons were all about power. In fact, Sloan had planted two spies in Knox’s lair. The dumb assholes believed they were flying under Knox’s radar, and they were blissfully unaware that they were only ever fed false info.
Whenever a Prime discovered a plant, they tended to toss them out of the lair and warn their Prime not to try that shit again. Sometimes they also beat the plant for good measure. They didn’t mutilate and kill them.
Tanner slipped his hands in his pockets. “I wonder how Sloan discovered that Harry was a plant.”
“Can we be sure that that’s why Harry was killed?” asked Levi. “I mean, cutting out his tongue, slicing off his ears, and gouging out his eyes seems something of an overreaction.”
“Yeah, but it fits,” said Tanner. “Seems like a punishment to me. He cut out his tongue for blabbing, removed his ears for eavesdropping, and scooped out his eyes for spying.”
“I don’t think this was just a punishment; I think he was being silenced.” Jaw hard, Knox glanced out of the window that overlooked the deserted beach and choppy water. “Fuck, he didn’t deserve this.”
No, he hadn’t. Harry had been a good guy, and they’d all known him a long time. He hadn’t just been a member of their lair, he’d spent years of his childhood in the same home for orphaned demonic children that Knox, Tanner, Levi, and the other two sentinels had. Knox had long ago bought the place, knocked it down, and then built a luxury hotel over its remains.
Whereas the five of them had stuck together on leaving Ramsbrook House, Harry had gone his own way like many of the others. It hadn’t been until eight years ago that Harry reappeared in their lives and joined their lair.
Tanner inhaled deeply again, filtering through the smells of rust, stale air, and must to focus better on that fake scent, trying to find a way past it to get just a brief hint of the real scent beneath it. But he hit a wall each time.
His hound was having the exact same struggle. It no doubt would have cursed a blue streak if it had the ability to speak.
A person’s inner demon could surface just enough to talk and take control. But hellbeasts, no matter the breed, couldn’t use speech to communicate; they used telepathic images or impressions. Though the entities lacked the ability to talk and had all the instincts of a predatory animal, they were more human in their way of thinking. His hound fully understood exactly what had happened to Harry, and it was mightily pissed off that it couldn’t yet do anything about it.
Tanner gave the sparse room another once-over. “There’s no sign of a struggle.” No blood spatter on the walls, no objects flung around or knocked over. “Harry’s killer must have somehow subdued him while they did this sick shit to him, but he doesn’t have any marks to suggest he was tied down.”
“What are your reaper senses picking up?” Knox asked Levi.
“Harry’s pain and fear are so prominent they’re almost tangible,” said Levi, who could read any left-over emotional vibes from death scenes. “But I can still feel faint echoes of other emotions—ones that didn’t belong to him, which means they belonged to the killer. Given the severity of the mutilation, I would have expected killing rage, battle adrenaline, or even a mild sense of satisfaction. There’s none of that. Just cold determination and an odd sense of righteousness.”
“Harry didn’t fear much,” said Knox.
“He was afraid of whoever killed him.” Levi’s nostrils flared. “What pisses me off is that we can’t confront Sloan over this without admitting that Harry was a plant.”
“We can, however, make our displeasure clear by treating his own plants to some pain.” Knox’s eyes glittered with what could only be described as bloodthirst. “And I don’t mind admitting that I’ll enjoy that.”
Tanner believed him. Knox had a well-earned reputation for being utterly merciless. But then, his breed of demon was a part of the fabric of hell, so he’d hardly be a fluffy bunny. Not many knew what breed of demon the Prime was, and Knox intended to keep it that way.
Tanner’s phone began to ring. He fished it out of his pocket and saw a familiar number flashing on the screen. He felt his jaw harden. He could admit he was somewhat tenacious and often got tunnel vision when he wanted something, but this female hellhound had him beat by a mile.
“I’m guessing that’s Eleanor,” said Levi. “You grind your teeth whenever she calls.”
“She’s not hearing my ‘no.’” Tanner canceled the call and pocketed his phone. “I honestly don’t know how I can make myself clearer.”
“Female hellhounds are persistent creatures,” said Knox. “You know that.”
Tanner did know that, so it didn’t surprise him that she wasn’t initially put-off by his refusal. But it had been three months, and she was still bugging the shit out of him.
“You’re not even in the least bit tempted by her offer?” asked Knox. “You’ve walked this Earth for a long time, Tanner. Most hellhounds your age have fathered at least four children by now. You don’t even have one.”
“It’s not like Eleanor’s asking you for a relationship—she knows that won’t happen,” said Levi. “She’s more interested in your genes. Female hellbeasts want the biggest, toughest, most badass males to father their offspring. You’re an alpha, so it can’t shock you that she’s not backing down easy.”
Tanner sighed. “Like I’ve already told both of you, I’m not interested in her offer.”
“What about your hound?” asked Knox. “Because if it’s pushing for you to start your own line—”
“It’s not.” Tanner didn’t doubt that the demon would eventually do it, though.
Male hellhounds rarely committed to one female; they tended to have children with several different partners and were content to be a perpetual bachelor—it was just the primitive way they operated. They weren’t family orientated or built for relationships; their inborn purpose was to protect and defend the gates of hell, not families or mates.
Female hellhounds, however, were different. More nurturing and parental. They did the bulk of the childrearing, and they sought a male who met the qualities they were looking for: strength, power, loyalty, etc. Females often had at least two children before they took a permanent mate, since their inner demon could take a long time to settle down.
“Now, back to the matter at hand,” said Tanner before either Knox or Levi could push him any further on the annoying subject. “I guess we’ll need to take care of Harry’s burial.”
Sobering, Knox nodded. “It will need to be a quiet one. Most of our lair had no clue he was one of us. I think it—” He cut off, muscles tensing. He had that faraway look in his eyes that told Tanner the guy was telepathically communicating with someone.
As the air thickened with rage, Levi exchanged a look with Tanner and said, “This is going to be bad.”
Knox bit out a curse and turned back to them. “That was Harper. It seems we have another issue.”
“What kind of issue?” asked Tanner.
Knox studied him for a long moment. “It’s Devon.”
Every cell of Tanner’s body seemed to brace itself for impact. Uneasy, his hound pushed close to the surface. By sheer force of will, Tanner kept his tone even as he asked, “What about Devon?”

© Suzanne Wright

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