June 17, 2024

Vampires 3 -2

Apollo’s brows knitted together. He wasn’t going to run away from this place with his tail between his legs while his sister and his mate were still being held captive. No doubt, they’d be made to pay for his crimes. 

He looked around the room once more, searching for something he hadn’t wanted to see before. All the mortals were kept in horrible conditions. He’d only let his gaze trail over them so far, but… 

“The old lady over there.” He nodded to one of the cages across from him. “Is she still breathing?” 

Selene walked over to the cage Apollo had pointed out. After a moment, she shook her head sadly. “I’ll have her taken away.” 

“Not yet.” Apollo motioned for her to come back to him, chest and throat tight. “You have to get me a weapon, any weapon, and I want it to be coated in that lady’s blood.” 

Dead man’s blood, or in this case, dead woman’s blood, was a powerful toxin against vampires. It disabled their abilities, made them slow and sluggish. Not even the mightiest vampire could withstand it. 

“What are you planing?” Selene asked skeptically. 

“Minea will summon me at one point,” Apollo said grimly. “And when she least expects it, I’ll make her hurt for everything she’s done.” 

One truth was rapidly becoming clear to him: killing Minea was the only way to end all of this. 

“It’s too dangerous,” Selene cautioned. “You’ll never manage to surprise her, and even if you do manage to hurt her, you won’t be alone with her.” 

“Just get me the weapon.” Apollo gave his sister a pointed look, trying to convey that he knew what he was doing, that this was his job, that he’d fought plenty of vampires and he wasn’t going to let this one turn him into a helpless victim. 

“What you’re planing is a suicide mission.” Selene crossed her arms in front of her chest. “What would your mate say?” 

Apollo scoffed, pretending her words didn’t hit him. “He knows what I’m like. Besides, she won’t kill me if she wants to use me.” He shook his head. “Trust me, Selene. I came here on a mission, and I’m going to see it through.” He gestured at the cages again. “This cannot go on. You know that.”

He saw Selene falter in her convictions. She did know that something needed to change. 

Good, so her vampire mate hadn’t completely brainwashed her. 

“Get me a weapon,” he repeated. 

She blew out a breath. “I’ll see what I can do. Not every vampire here is on Minea’s side. They’re not all bad, you know.”

“Sure,” he said, without any conviction.

Selene had definitely spent too much time among vampires, but Apollo knew better.

Didn’t he?


New Chapter

Mordyn lay on the cold stone floor of his cell, every inch of his body aching. The bastards had drained him of his blood again, leaving him too weak to even stand. A growl rumbled in his throat as he cursed Minea and her entire coven of filthy bloodsuckers.

How dare they take Apollo from him? 

He was going to kill them all, especially Minea. Rip her cursed head from her shoulders with his bare hands. But in his drained state, he could barely muster the energy to keep his eyes open, let alone slaughter an entire coven.

A commotion outside his cell door caught Mordyn’s attention. Voices, shouting, the distinct sounds of a scuffle. His brow furrowed as he struggled to make out the words.

The heavy door swung open with a groan and several familiar faces appeared – Keegan, Altair, Iskander.

He’d never been so fucking happy to see his coven mates. 

“What took you so damn long?” he rasped when Keegan dropped to his knees next to him.

“Can you get up?” 

With Keegan’s assistance, Mordyn managed to stand, but he wasn’t going to get anywhere fast. 

“Get some blood into him,” Altair ordered, looking back the way they’d come. There was still fighting going on there, and he seemed eager to get into it again. 

“Here,” Keegan pulled a small pouch of blood from one of his pockets and offered it to Mordyn. 

Mordyn shook his head. “Can’t.”

The only blood he could drink now was Apollo’s. 

Keegan gave him a knowing look. He understood. Of course. “I thought that might be the case,” he said. “We have a tiny bit of your mate’s blood.” 

“How?” 

“We talked to his task force when one of Altair’s crows reported you’d vanished into the roadhouse together.” 

Mordyn glanced at his lord. Why was he surprised that he’d been under surveillance? Altair was no fool.

Keegan went on talking. “Anyway, they drew blood from Apollo after he got wounded at the mines. The sample hadn’t been destroyed yet.” 

Mordyn waved him off. “Did that crow see where they took Apollo?”

“No,” Altair supplied regretfully. “They went somewhere beyond my reach.”

Damn it all. “Don’t give Apollo’s blood to me then.” He looked at Altair intently. “Let Sven drink it.”

Altair inclined his head. “Very well. Let me remind you, though, that we don’t know the full extent of Sven’s powers. If Apollo is too far away, Sven might not be able to track him.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just try.” 

“Don’t get mad at Sven after,” Altair said, and Mordyn understood his warning. It was unheard of for a vampire to offer his mate’s blood to another, and Altair was concerned that Mordyn might regret his choice if it didn’t prove fruitful, but Mordyn wasn’t going to tear into a fledgling. Especially not his lord’s mate. 

He only wanted to find Apollo before someone hurt him. 

Before Apollo had a chance to do something stupid. 

God, please don’t let him do something stupid. 

***

Mordyn stepped out into the cool night air, his body aching with every movement. The night air was a relief after the stale, musty cell he’d been confined in. He could almost taste the freedom, the open air.

But then he saw Balea, standing by one of their cars, pretending like she was still part of their coven.

The absolute bitch.

A searing rage ignited within him. Instead of blood, white-hot fury coursed through his veins.

Not only had Balea sold them out, she had killed Jory.

Mordyn was going to end her.

He didn’t care that he had barely any strength left, or that he’d had to lean on Keegan to get out of the roadhouse. He tore himself away from his friend and flew at Balea with renewed vigor, catching her, and everyone else, off guard.

His fingers curled like claws, aiming straight for her throat as he slammed into her with the full force of his body weight.

Balea grunted in surprise, staggering back a step before regaining her balance. Though she could have easily overpowered him, she made no offensive move, merely blocking and deflecting his frenzied blows.

“You fucking traitor!” he called.

“Mordyn, stop!” she parried another vicious swipe. “I’m not your enemy!”

But her words fell on deaf ears. Mordyn was beyond reason, driven by a primal thirst for retribution that drowned out all else. Each strike, each missed opportunity to tear into her flesh, only fueled his fury further.

He lashed out again, aiming for her face this time, but Balea deftly caught his wrist mid-swing. “Listen to me!” she urged, her grip like iron.

Snarling, Mordyn wrenched his arm free and launched a brutal kick at her midsection. Balea twisted away, evading the blow.

“Fight back, you coward!” Mordyn roared, fangs bared.

Balea caught him by the shoulders, overpowering him only because she wasn’t drained of all blood. “I won’t fight you,” she said. “Not after what I did to Jory.”

The mention of his mate’s name was like a physical blow, stealing Mordyn’s breath and sending his heart plummeting. “You fucking bitch. Don’t you dare speak his name.”

Iskander’s hand was on his shoulder, dragging him away from Balea. “You can’t fight her like this.”

Mordyn was half-aware of everyone’s eyes on him as they talked to one another, but their words were little more than a dull roar in his ears. His eyes locked onto Balea’s. “Why?” he demanded. “Why did you have to do it? I’d already broken up with him. I did what you asked!” 

Balea returned his stare evenly, a haunted look in her eyes. “I followed my lady’s orders.”

“And she ordered you to infiltrate my coven too, didn’t she?” Mordyn was shaking, every nerve on fire with a murderous rage. “You won’t get away with it, not this time.”

“I don’t intend to.” Balea stood tall and unflinching as she met his glare. “This mission is an opportunity to me. Minea has my mate. If you can bring her down, I’ll help you.”

Altair spoke up then. “We’re not your pawns to manipulate into carrying out your personal vendetta,” he said coolly. “I don’t forgive treason, and I cannot trust you.” He displayed a calm demeanor, but Mordyn saw the crows gathering overhead and knew that his boss was ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

“You need my help,” Balea insisted. “You know nothing about where they’re keeping the mortals.” 

“We can find Apollo without you,” Mordyn spat. 

“Yes.” Balea turned to him again. “And Minea will have a knife at your mate’s throat the moment you show up.”

Mordyn’s throat constricted, a mixture of terror and helpless rage swelling up inside him. “How would you change that?” 

“I can get you in unnoticed. I’m an illusionist. The strongest around.”

Altair’s gaze narrowed. “That is how you fooled me.”

Balea inclined her head. “It’s how Minea gets away with all her crimes. Why she’ll never let me go.”

“Why you need her dead,” Altair concluded.

Mordyn hated this, all of this, but he also knew he would never forgive himself if Apollo got hurt because Mordyn refused to cooperate with this hateful creature.  “Make one wrong move,” he threatened her, “and I’ll destroy you *and* your mate.”


New Chapter 

Apollo hid the knife Selene had procured for him in the waistband of his pants, the cool metal pressing reassuringly against his hip as he waited in his cage. Selene had warned him again not to be reckless on her last visit, but he couldn’t just sit here and let Minea use him the way she used Selene. He had to act.

The door to the chamber creaked open, and a burly vampire strode in, his gaze sweeping over the cages of imprisoned mortals with callous indifference. When his eyes landed on Apollo, he sneered.

“Our lady wants to see you,” he growled, unlocking Apollo’s cage with a flick of his wrist.

Apollo remained still, studying the vampire’s movements carefully as the cell door swung open with a rusty groan. He had to time this perfectly.

The vampire reached in and grabbed Apollo’s arm in a vice-like grip, hauling him out of the cage with enough force to nearly dislocate his shoulder. Apollo grunted, stumbling forward until he was pressed against the vampire’s solid frame.

Apollo wished he could stab him, but made himself wait.

He wanted to be taken to Minea, after all.

He kept his expression carefully neutral as the burly vampire dragged him down the corridor towards Minea’s chambers. The air down here carried the coppery scent of old blood, and Apollo fought to keep his breathing even despite the growing knot of dread in his gut.

He was ushered through a heavy wooden door into a lavishly appointed room. Minea lounged on a plush chaise, her ruby red lips curving into a predatory smile as Apollo entered. Two other vampires flanked her sides, their stances alert.

“Welcome, Apollo,” Minea purred. “I trust my servants haven’t been too rough with you?”

Apollo said nothing, his gaze scanning the room for possible escape routes and finding none.

Minea’s smile widened at his silence. “No need to look so tense. I merely wished to share some…news with you.” She rose and approached him, her tone too sweet for her words. “It seems your mate has managed to escape my hospitality.”

Apollo’s heart stuttered, but he refused to allow his emotions to show on his face. Mordyn was free?

Thank fuck.

“Of course, I can’t let such insolence go unpunished,” Minea went on, idly examining her sharpened nails.

“What are you going to do?” Apollo asked, struggling to keep his voice measured.

Minea turned her cold eyes on him, amusement glinting in their crimson depths. “I’m considering sending him a little…reminder of the consequences of defying me.”

She held up her hand, one razor-sharp nail extended in a wordless threat. Apollo forced himself not to flinch as she dragged the tip along his jawline with deceptive gentleness.

“Perhaps I’ll start by removing one of your pretty fingers to mail to him?” She smiled wolfishly. “Would you like that?”

Apollo clenched his jaw. “You’ll only make him mad.”

Minea’s brow arched delicately, but her smile didn’t falter. “We’ll see about that.”

Apollo tensed as Minea reached out and took his hand in hers, her grip deceptively gentle despite the threat behind her words.

The weight of the knife concealed at Apollo’s waistband seemed to grow heavier with each passing second. His fingers itched to draw it, to plunge the blade deep into Minea’s chest before she could make good on her promise to hurt him. One well-aimed strike and she would be the one hurting.

But Apollo’s gaze flickered to the two vampires flanking her, their stances coiled and ready to strike at the first sign of trouble. Even if he managed to take Minea by surprise, they would be on him in an instant, tearing into him before he could so much as blink.

The urge to fight, regardless of the consequences, burned fierce within him. Anything was better than being used as a bargaining chip against Mordyn. If he was killed here, at least he would go down swinging.

His free hand balled into a fist.

He had to act.

Except that Mordyn was free now.

Mordyn would come for him.

Apollo knew this like he knew the sky was blue. Mordyn would come for him, and if he found Apollo dead, he would fly into an uncontrolled rage and get himself killed and that was a thought Apollo couldn’t bear.

His death would hurt Mordyn more than anything else Minea could do to him.

The realization made him falter, his fist slowly unclenching as the fight drained out of him. As much as he longed to strike back at Minea, to refuse to be her pawn, he needed to stay alive and trust that Mordyn would make this right.

A muscle ticked in Apollo’s jaw as he forced himself to remain still, his gaze locking with Minea’s as she continued to examine his hand with false gentleness.

“Such pretty fingers,” she murmured, trailing the tip of her nail along the length of one. “Shame I’ll have to send it away.”

Apollo sucked in a sharp breath as Minea produced a wickedly sharp blade, the metal glinting cruelly in the light. His heart stuttered in his chest, an icy trickle of dread snaking down his spine.

His muscles tensed, his instincts screaming at him to fight, to wrench himself free and put that blade through her throat before she had a chance to follow through on her threat. But the two vampire guards were watching him with hawkish intensity, and he knew there was nothing he could do except to stare right back at Minea.

If she wanted to maim him, so be it, but he wouldn’t let the bitch see him break.

Minea trailed the flat of the blade along his palm, the metal cool against his clammy skin. “Let’s start with the pinky, shall we? It’s the least useful of the fingers.”

Apollo’s pulse thundered in his ears, nearly drowning out the sound of her soft laughter.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be over in a flash.”

There was no more banter, no more drawn-out theatrics. With a smooth, practiced flick of her wrist, Minea sliced clean through skin, tendon and bone.

Agony lanced through Apollo’s hand, the shock of it momentarily overwhelming his senses until he was gasping, his vision whiting out at the edges. He could feel the sticky warmth of his blood spilling over his fingers, the metallic scent of it thick in the air.

When he finally managed to drag his gaze back to Minea, she was holding up his severed pinky with a look of dark delight. A tremor of revulsion rocked through Apollo as he took in the sight of his own mangled flesh.

“I do believe this will make for a nice message,” Minea said.

Apollo gritted his teeth against the pain radiating up his arm, his ruined hand throbbing in time with his racing pulse. Sweat beaded on his brow as he fought not to throw up.

“Go to hell,” he spat through bloodless lips.

Minea’s grin widened as she pocketed his severed finger. “Tsk tsk. Such language.” She produced a small vial from the folds of her dress and poured the blue liquid inside over Apollo’s wound. Instantly, it stopped bleeding. While Apollo stared, Minea motioned for her minions. “Take him back to his cage. And have one of our healers patch him up.”

Apollo’s jaw clenched as one of the vampire guards seized his arm in a bruising grip and began dragging him from the chamber. The pain in his mangled hand was a throbbing ache that radiated up his arm with every jarring step.

He fought back a wave of dizziness, refusing to let Minea see him falter as he was hauled towards the door. He wouldn’t give the sadistic bitch the satisfaction.

The heavy wooden door creaked open before they reached it. Apollo tensed, preparing himself for whatever fresh torment awaited him now.

But it wasn’t another guard who entered.

It was a vampire Apollo didn’t recognize, his features twisted with panic as he staggered into the room.

“My lady!” he gasped out. “The Rubyville cov–“

His words abruptly cut off with a sickening crunch as a bullet exploded through the back of his skull, splattering gore across the stone floor. The vampire crumpled like a stringless puppet, his body twitching grotesquely.

Apollo’s heart lurched, a spark of desperate hope flaring to life in his chest as the door burst open fully and a murder of crows came screaming into the chamber in a swirling vortex of flapping wings and black feathers.

This had to be Altair’s.

The Rubyville coven had come for him.

Mordyn had come for him. The way Apollo had known he would.

Within seconds, the room was filled with vampires, and in the general chaos, Apollo managed to wrench himself free of his captor’s grasp and dive into the crowd of vampires fighting each other.

Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize enough of the Rubyville vampires to be able to accurately tell who was friend or foe.

His instincts drew him toward the back of the room, though, and there he found his mate.

Apollo’s heart hammered in his chest as his gaze finally landed on Mordyn. His mate was struggling to hold his own against one of the enemy vampires, his movements uncoordinated and way slower than they should have been.

Apollo had seen Mordyn fight before. He was way more capable than this.

A cold knot of dread formed in the pit of Apollo’s stomach.

The Nightfall vampires must have made Mordyn bleed again.

And still, Mordyn had come here, fighting for Apollo.

Apollo was so done letting these fucking vampires hurt him or his mate. Without hesitation, he drew the knife Selene had given him earlier.

Gripping the hilt tightly, Apollo closed in on the vampire currently overpowering Mordyn. The creature had his mate pinned to the ground, its fangs bared as it prepared to rip out Mordyn’s throat.

Without hesitation, Apollo lunged forward and drove the knife deep into the vampire’s back with strength fueled by fury.

A guttural scream tore from the vampire’s throat as the dead man’s blood coating the blade took effect. His entire body seized, his muscles locking up as the toxin raced through his veins.

Apollo twisted the blade viciously, earning another agonized howl from the vampire. Blood spilled from the wound, thick and sluggish as it coated Apollo’s hand.

The vampire whirled on him, his face twisted into a mask of rage and pain. His lips peeled back from his fangs as he made a wild grab for Apollo’s throat.

But before he could get his hands on Apollo, Mordyn was there. Moving with a speed that belied his weakened state, he grabbed the vampire and yanked him back, ripping him off Apollo before driving a stake through his chest.

The vampire shuddered once, a look of abject horror twisting his features as the life drained from his eyes.

“Don’t fucking touch him,” Mordyn growled at the dead vampire, then finally, his gaze met Apollo’s, and it felt like the world narrowed to just the two of them, in spite of all the fighting going on around them.

For this tiny moment in time, Apollo felt nothing but the sheer relief of seeing Mordyn again. He didn’t have the brain space to analyze that emotion, nor the will to fight to it.

He simply allowed it to take over him.

Mordyn closed the distance between them without another word, his hand coming up to cup Apollo’s face with a tenderness that contrasted the violence raging in the room. “Are you all right?”

Apollo shook his head dismissively. “Don’t worry about me. You’re the one who looks like hell.”

“Charming as always.”

“It’s only the truth.” Only too aware that they did not have the time for a long heartfelt reunion, Apollo raised his wrist to Mordyn’s lips. “Drink. Take what you need from me. You can’t fight like this,” he added when he sensed that Mordyn was about to protest.

Finally, Mordyn nodded once and sank his fangs into Apollo’s wrist.

Apollo kept himself from wincing at the sting of the bite. It wasn’t so bad, really. Not painful, in any case, and if this made Mordyn feel better…

After only a short moment, Mordyn pulled back, lips stained red as he licked traces of Apollo’s blood from them. His eyes were brighter already, his movements steadier as straightened. “That’s better,” he murmured.

But then his gaze dropped lower, brows furrowing as he caught sight of the mangled mess of Apollo’s hand.

Well, fuck.

There was no hiding that now.

Apollo watched the confusion on Mordyn’s face give way to dawning horror, his eyes blazing crimson as he registered the missing finger. A low, feral growl rumbled up from his chest, the sound raising the fine hairs on the back of Apollo’s neck.

“Who did this?” Mordyn demanded.

Before Apollo could respond, Mordyn’s head whipped around, his nostrils flaring as if he could catch the scent of Apollo’s blood on the air, and it led him to Minea.

Another growl, and then Mordyn was stalking toward her, moving through the fray with single-minded purpose, batting aside anyone foolish enough to get in his way. His eyes were trained on Minea, burning with an intensity Apollo had never seen before.

A fresh wave of vampires tried to intercept Mordyn, only to be met with an onslaught of mental attacks that sent them crumpling to the ground, sobbing like toddlers.

Nothing was going to stop Mordyn from reaching his target.

Apollo could only watch, his heart in his throat, as Mordyn closed the distance to where Minea stood observing the chaos with a look of cold calculation.

Through the bond that connected them, Apollo could almost see the invisible tendrils of Mordyn’s powers reaching to, seeking to overwhelm Minea’s mind and crush her under the weight of Mordyn’s rage.

Minea didn’t even flinch, though. She simply cocked her head, regarding Mordyn with a look of mild bemusement as his attack washed over her without any visible effect.

“Was that supposed to do something?” she asked.

Mordyn glared, his jaw clenching as he poured every ounce of his power into breaking through Minea’s defenses. But still, she remained infuriatingly untouched, a wide smile on her face.

A trickle of unease snaked its way down Apollo’s spine as he watched the exchange. If Mordyn’s power truly didn’t work on Minea…

He was in deep shit.

Minea flicked her wrist in a lazy, almost casual gesture, and suddenly Mordyn went flying backwards as if struck by an invisible force. He slammed into the wall with a sickening crunch, crumpling to the ground in a motionless heap.

Apollo’s breath left his lungs in a harsh exhale. “Mordyn!”

His shout was drowned out by the sounds of renewed fighting as more vampires surged forward to engage Minea. A blur of motion caught Apollo’s eye, and he whirled just in time to parry a blow from one of the Nightfall vampires trying to take advantage of his shock.

Metal screeched against metal as their blades clashed, the force of impact jarring Apollo’s injured hand. He grunted, gritting his teeth against a fresh wave of pain lancing up his arm.

His opponent laughed and pressed the attack, raining down a flurry of blows that had Apollo staggering backwards. He blocked and dodged as best he could, knowing that this vampire was toying with him, but there was no room for him to go on the offensive, not with his hand a mangled mess of pain.

Just when Apollo thought he was going to be overwhelmed, a female vampire slipped in beside him, effortlessly inserting herself into the fight. Balea moved with lethal grace, her knives little more than blurs of silver as they clashed with the other vampire’s.

Their blades locked together with a screech of tortured metal, and then Balea was snarling something in a language Apollo didn’t recognize. The air around them seemed to shimmer and warp, and the enemy’s eyes went wide with terror.

He flinched away from Balea, stumbling backwards with his hands clapped over his ears as if to block out some unspeakable horror only he could perceive. Balea didn’t let up, stalking forward with cold determination as the vampire fled, sobbing brokenly.

Once the immediate threat was neutralized, Balea turned to face Apollo. “Doing okay? I’d hate having to tell Selene about your death.”

Apollo’s gaze narrowed on Balea. She might have helped him for her own reasons, but there was nothing he could do about the wave of dread and hate that spread through him at the sight of her.

She’d killed him in a previous life, and he wasn’t ever going to forget that.

Every cell in his body longed for sweet, sweet vengeance.

So what if she was his sister’s mate?

Surely Selene hadn’t been thinking clearly when she’d agreed to that bond.

No doubt, she’d been brainwashed.

Manipulated by powers beyond her control. This thing called fate. Apollo felt the influence of it too. The universe wanted him to be with Mordyn and he was helpless in his struggle against those cosmic powers.

But Balea was a bad vampire, and Selene would get over the loss of her because there was no way she’d actually changed. Vampires didn’t change and become redeemable. They were all monsters.

Apollo’s vision narrowed, the rest of the chaotic battle fading into the background as his focus zeroed in on Balea. His grip tightened on the hilt of his blade, the weight of it reassuring in his hand as he stared at the vampire who had killed him lifetimes ago.

It was serendipity that another vampire tried to attack Balea. One of the Nightfall vampires, identifying her as a traitor.

She whirled to face the new threat, her knives flashing as she parried the vampire’s attacks with almost contemptuous ease.

This vampire would not get her.

She dealt with him swiftly, but at the same time, she left herself wide open to Apollo, and Apollo only saw his chance to stab the monster who had robbed him of his future with Mordyn a century ago.

He lunged forward, seizing the opportunity while Balea’s guard was down. She turned just as his blade sank into her side, her eyes widening in shock and pain.

“This is for what you did to me,” Apollo hissed, the words laced with venom as the dead man’s blood took effect, rendering Balea immobile.

He could feel the truth of his words, the weight of his past life’s suffering, as he stared into Balea’s agonized eyes.

The chaos around them faded into the background as Apollo held Balea’s gaze, his jaw clenched with determination. He was Jory in that moment, reclaiming the life that had been stolen from him.

“Apollo.” Balea stared at him, calling him by this life’s name. “I can help your mate.”

Apollo’s grip tightened on the hilt of his blade, Balea’s plea ringing hollow in his ears. He didn’t want her help. Didn’t need it. All he needed was for this monster to pay for what she’d done to him.

Balea’s eyes bored into his, wide and pained, but there was no fear there. Only a strange sort of resignation, as if she’d already accepted whatever fate Apollo intended to deal her.

His grip shifted on the blade, readying himself to strike the final blow, when a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention. Mordyn was stirring, struggling to push himself up from where Minea had thrown him against the wall.

“I can help him,” Balea repeated. “We can all get out of here.”

Apollo glared at her. “Why would you help us?”

“Because I want Minea dead as much as you do.”

Apollo’s gaze flickered to his mate again as he struggled with himself. What if he let Balea go and she turned on him?

She was a vampire, and he wasn’t going to trust her.

They are capable of change, a voice inside of him said, so softly it almost got lost among the rest of his thoughts. It felt foreign somehow, like it didn’t belong to him, and yet Apollo knew that it did.

This wasn’t his belief.

But it was Jory’s.

He scoffed at himself, keeping his gaze fixed on Balea. She killed you and you want me to forgive her?

No, not forgiveness. That wasn’t what Jory asked of him.

He only wanted to see Mordyn saved, and in this instance, that meant working together with this vampire.

Stop being so goddamn stubborn and get over yourself before you lose him.

Apollo risked a glance over at Mordyn, who was struggling to his feet, battered but still alive. Apollo’s heart clenched at the sight of him.

He didn’t stand a chance against Minea, and all the other Rubyville vampires seemed engaged in their own battles.

With a frustrated growl, Apollo wrenched his blade free from Balea’s body. She gasped, her knees buckling as fresh blood spilled from the wound, but she didn’t fall. Instead, she met Apollo’s glare with a steady, unflinching gaze.

“You’re making the right choice,” she said, her voice strained but carrying a note of grim satisfaction.

She turned to face Minea, her knives gripped tightly, but Apollo reached out and caught her arm before she could charge into the fray.

“Wait.” His voice was low, urgent. Balea’s gaze snapped back to him, a question in her eyes.

Apollo held her stare for a beat, then thrust his knife toward her, hilt first. “Take it.”

Balea’s brows knit together as she stared at the offered blade. “What…?”

“If you can wound Minea with this, it should weaken her enough for Mordyn’s abilities to work.”

Realization dawned in Balea’s eyes and she gave a curt nod, sheathing one of her knives to accept Apollo’s blade. “I’ll make sure to stab her with the pointy end.” The ghost of a smirk tugged at the corner of Balea’s mouth and then she was off, launching herself into battle. 

Apollo watched her go, a knot of tension coiling in his gut. If this didn’t work…

He turned to look at Mordyn. His mate was back on his feet, but hunched over and clutching at his ribs from the force of Minea’s earlier attack.

Still, he did not seem close to giving up, and he drew Minea’s attention while Balea approached from the other side.

“I’ll make you pay for hurting my mate,” he promised. “You’re going to regret what you did.”

“And how are you going to do that?” Minea’s smile was sickeningly sweet as she looked at Mordyn. “You can’t touch me.”

Balea chose this moment to strike. 

Minea wasn’t a coven leader for nothing, and evaded the attack as if she had seen it coming. “Traitor,” she hissed at Balea, her face showing true anger for the first time—and Apollo saw that she hadn’t evaded the attack completely. 

The knife had nicked her arm, enough to cause a think line of blood to trickle from the wound. 

Minea whirled with a shriek of rage, her telekinetic power slamming into Balea and sending her crashing into the far wall. But it was too late – the damage was done.

Apollo’s blade had found its mark.

“Now, Mordyn,” Apollo urged. 

Mordyn’s gaze snapped to him with a question in his eyes. 

“Attack!” Apollo called. 

Mordyn didn’t hesitate. 

He gathered his power, the air around him seeming to shimmer and distort with the intensity of his focus. His lips peeled back in a snarl of pure effort as he unleashed the full force of his mental assault.

This time, Minea was not spared.

A high, keening wail tore from her throat as Mordyn’s power crashed over her in an unstoppable wave. She staggered backwards, clutching at her head as if trying to physically beat back the onslaught of psychic agony. 

But there was no escape. 

Mordyn was relentless, pouring every ounce of his rage and power into shattering Minea’s defenses. Her cries grew more frantic, more desperate, until finally her knees buckled and she collapsed to the ground, shuddering and twitching uncontrollably.

A hush fell over the room as the other Nightfall vampires registered the fall of their leader. For a breathless moment, no one moved, as if the combatants on both sides were frozen in shock.

Then one of the Nightfall vampires let out an enraged roar and hurled himself at Mordyn with reckless fury, only to be stopped halfway by one of their allies. 

Quickly, chaos descended over the room once more, but this time, Apollo didn’t feel the same sense of dread and hopelessness that had plagued him earlier. With Minea defeated, he knew they had a fighting chance.

He met Mordyn’s gaze, his lips curling into a feral grin as he picked up a blade from a fallen vampire. “Shall we clean up here?”

Mordyn returned the grin, bloodlust glinting in his crimson eyes. “After you, sunshine.”


As soon as the fighting died down and Apollo got a chance, he slipped away from the crowd of vampires and rushed down to the prison he’d been kept in. 

After all, there were a bunch of mortals there who needed to be freed from their cages.

This was what he’d come here to do. 

Entering the room, he saw Selene, already busy unlocking cages. “You’ll be okay,” she told the little girl, Ella, as she helped her out.

Ella blinked up at her with large, frightened eyes. “Are you taking us home?”

“We will,” Apollo said, making both of them turn to him. 

 Selene stood completely still for a moment, and then she rushed forward, throwing her arms around Apollo in a fierce embrace.

“You made it! God, I was so worried about you,” she gasped, her voice thick with emotion. “I could hear the fighting. All the guards left so I took my chance.”

Apollo returned the hug tightly, throat clogged with emotion. 

How long had it been since he’d had his sister in his arms?

Too long. 

“We won,” he said. “It’s over.”

“Is it really?” Selene leaned back to regard him with a look of terrified hope, as if this was too much to wish for. 

“Mordyn defeated Minea.” With some help, but Apollo didn’t mention that. He hadn’t forgiven Balea for her crimes. He didn’t think he ever would. 

As if thinking of her summoned her, though, she stepped through the door behind him.

Selene’s gaze instantly snapped to her mate. For a long, suspended heartbeat, the two simply stared at each other through the crowd of liberated mortals. Then Selene was tearing herself from Apollo’s embrace and flinging herself into Balea’s arms with a choked sob of pure, unadulterated joy.

“Balea! Oh god, it’s really you!”

Apollo watched the emotional reunion with a bitter pang twisting in his chest. Balea got to have this moment, this profound happiness at being reunited with her mate after a period of separation, of uncertainty. A joy Mordyn and Jory had been robbed of because of Balea’s own actions.

Gritting his teeth, Apollo forced himself to turn away, busying his mind with the task at hand. There were still mortals who needed his help.

“My team will take care of you once we get you out of here,” he told the crowd of newly-liberated prisoners. “We’ll make sure you’ll all have roofs over your heads and food to eat. No vampire is going to touch you again.”

There were questions of course, and Apollo answered them as best he could, tired and exhausted as he was after the fighting. His mutilated hand throbbed dully, as did his shoulder. 

Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, the pain was coming back. 

It could wait, though. Just a little longer. 

A ping of awareness at the edge of his consciousness made him look toward the door as his mate stepped into the room, probably looking for him. Mordyn smiled when their eyes met, but then his gaze slid from Apollo to Balea, who was still embracing Selene. 

It took Mordyn less than a second to understand who Selene was to Balea.

Jealousy and resentment flooded the bond between him and Apollo, a mirror of Apollo’s own feelings moments ago. But there was something else there too—a searing, razor-edged bitterness that cut far deeper than mere envy. 

An emotion that demanded satisfaction.

Apollo opened his mouth, not sure if he meant to offer words of comfort or warning. But he didn’t get the chance.

Mordyn’s eyes were locked on Balea now. Power crackled around him, the air growing thick and heavy with the force of his psychic rage.

It was far less elegant than his usual modus operandi. 

Clearly, he only wanted to see the other vampire suffer. 

Balea crumpled like a puppet with its strings cut, a strangled cry tearing from her lips as she collapsed to the ground.

“Balea!” Selene’s shriek of horror cut through the cellblock like a knife. She whirled on Mordyn, her face contorted with shock and outrage. “What are you doing to her? Stop it!”

Mordyn didn’t so much as spare Selene a glance. His expression was utterly devoid of mercy as he focused his full attention on Balea, who lay curled in a fetal position, shaking and crying with raw, unfiltered emotion.

Apollo was transfixed, rooted to the spot by a sick sense of satisfaction at seeing the one responsible for his murder suffering like this.

It was only her sister’s cries that tore through his stupor. “What are you doing to her?” she demanded again, and again, Mordyn ignored her. 

But Apollo realized what pain Mordyn was unleashing on Balea. He could feel it himself, in a second-hand kind of way. Observe it without suffering its impact. 

Mordyn channeled his own pain into Balea. Every ounce of grief and emotional agony he’d felt when she’d taken Jory from him.

He wanted her to understand what it was like to feel the mate bond snap and die as they killed him. 

Apollo swallowed hard, watching Balea’s tears stream freely down her cheeks. She curled up tighter, clutching her head as if trying to shield herself from the mental anguish Mordyn was inflicting upon her.

Part of him wanted to put an end to this cruel torment. But not for her sake.

For Mordyn’s.

Even a century after losing his mate, he could make the pain of it feel as if it had happened yesterday. Why? Because his wound had never healed. All the grief he unleashed on Balea was alive in himself, and Apollo *hated* that.

It was too much to bear.

Balea screamed and sobbed and begged, and Selene tried to punch Mordyn, but Mordyn only pushed her aside and continued torturing the other vampire. 

“Apollo, please,” Selene begged him. “Make him stop.”

Apollo nodded stiffly. He wasn’t sure there was anything that *could* make Mordyn stop right now, if anything could get through to him, but if there was, it had to be him.

Apollo crossed the distance to his mate in a few determined steps. His hand found Mordyn’s arm, gripping it firmly. “Let her go.”

“Why the fuck should I?” Mordyn’s voice was a low growl, his eyes fixed on the trembling form of the vampire crumpled on the ground before him.

*Because you’re tormenting yourself by holding on to all this pain.*

Apollo didn’t say that, knowing his words would fall on deaf ears, but it was the truth.

“She deserves this,” Mordyn said. “I lost everything because of her.”

Apollo squeezed Mordyn’s arm, urging him to meet Apollo’s gaze. “You have me now,” he said softly. 

Mordyn’s eyes searched his, crimson-streaked pupils blown wide with emotion. “I loved him. I loved him so fucking much.” His voice broke, a ragged edge of despair coloring his words. 

“I know.” Apollo cupped Mordyn’s cheek, stroking his thumb along the line of his jaw. “I know. He loved you too, always.”

A wounded noise escaped Mordyn’s throat. His hand came up to cover Apollo’s, an iron grip, and Apollo realized he was not making this better, but some wounds had to be reopened before they could heal.

“He loved you until the very end,” Apollo said, seeing the turmoil written across Mordyn’s face. His mate’s emotions roiled within the bond, a tangled knot of hatred and misery and bone-deep grief. “He loved you beyond that too, and he doesn’t want to see you suffer anymore.”

Mordyn’s jaw clenched. “I won’t forgive her.”

“You don’t need to.” Apollo said. “Just focus on me now.” He pressed in closer, molding his body against Mordyn’s, a soft encouragement. “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Mordyn’s gaze snapped back to Balea, his expression taut with rage. “I can’t…” he ground out through clenched teeth.

“Mordyn.” Apollo said his name as sharply as he could. “Let her go.”

Slowly, Mordyn released Balea from his mental hold.

Apollo pulled Mordyn away, ushering him outside. He could feel his mate’s mental exhaustion in the bond. He had over-exerted himself.

“Did you mean it?” Mordyn asked as Apollo led him further away, into a small alcove out of everyone’s view. “That you’re not going to leave?”

Apollo regarded Mordyn quietly. Did he mean it? He’d certainly said it, and in this moment it felt like it was the truth. “Yeah,” he said, feeling his way forward as he spoke. “I’m responsible for you now, aren’t I? You can’t drink anyone else’s blood.”

Mordyn grimaced slightly. “Is that why?”

Apollo took a deep breath, searching his heart for the answer to Mordyn’s question. His own heart, not Jory’s. He was getting good at telling the difference. Jory’s feelings were a lot softer than his, warmer. 

“Jory wanted to spend eternity with you,” he said, recalling a dream he’d had. “That was what he wished for, under the shooting stars.” 

Mordyn swallowed visibly. “I remember that night. But I’m not asking about Jory now.”

Apollo’s chest tightened. He wasn’t ready to have this conversation. Wasn’t ready to admit to all the complicated, conflicting feelings that raged inside of him. But would he ever be? “I don’t feel the way Jory felt,” he said softly. “But, I want to be with you in my own way, and that scares me a little,” he admitted. 

His fear had made him reckless, urging him to undertake this rescue mission in order to prove to himself that he was still a fighter rather than a fool in love. 

Mordyn studied him intently. “Because I’m a vampire?” 

“I fight vampires.”

Mordyn reached out, smoothing a stray lock of hair from Apollo’s brow. “I won’t claim to be innocent, but I promise never to do anything that would make you want to fight me.”

“Never?” Apollo scoffed, dispersing some of the tension that had taken hold of him. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

Mordyn arched an eyebrow, amusement flickering across his features. “I’ll be the best-behaved vampire you ever did see. You don’t believe me?”

Apollo shook his head. “Not in a million years.”

Mordyn thought about this. “All right, let me amend my promise. I’ll never hurt any mortal who doesn’t deserve it. I will never interfere with your work unless you’re trying to get yourself killed again. I’ll only annoy you in benign ways, like being way too good at sex for you to handle.”

Apollo snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Mordyn’s lips curved into a smile. “I’m not being ridiculous at all, sunshine. Do we have a deal?”

Apollo sighed dramatically. “I guess it’ll do.”

“Excellent.” Mordyn’s smile widened as he wrapped his arm around Apollo’s waist, drawing him close. “In that case, it’s high time I show you exactly how well-behaved I can be.”

Apollo laughed. “Later. We need to get out of here, and then we need to sleep for roughly ten years.”

“Only if you sleep next to me.”

Apollo rested his head against his mate’s chest. “I wouldn’t want to sleep anywhere else,” surprising himself with the words as he said them, but meaning every syllable.

Mordyn pulled him even closer, pressing a kiss against his brow. 

For a moment, Apollo let himself relax.

They’d be all right. 


New Chapter

Three weeks later 

Apollo strode into the Rubyville nightclub, the bass of the music thrumming through his body. He scanned the crowd of vampires mingling and dancing,  unease flickering within him despite the warm welcomes from Altair’s crew beckoning him over.

A month ago, the idea of willingly entering a den of vampires without his weapons drawn would have been unthinkable. Yet here he was, greeted by Sven’s cheerful wave and Keegan’s roguish grin as he approached their table. The strange familiarity of it all still caught him off guard at times.

He hadn’t exactly become friends with these vampires, but they’d certainly become friendly. 

This was his mate’s family, after all.  

“Apollo, glad you could make it,” Altair said, rising to clasp his hand. The coven leader’s grip was firm, his manner composed as always.

“Wouldn’t miss Mordyn’s auction.” Apollo forced a smile, pushing aside the lingering wariness stirred by the vampire lord’s presence. “He’d never let me hear the end of it if I missed this.”

“He was worried you wouldn’t show.” Sven laughed. “That siren over there in the corner has been talking about bidding on him.”

Apollo glanced at the siren. She had long blue hair that cascaded down her shoulders like a waterfall. Pretty. 

“Maybe I should let her bid,” Apollo mused. “Teach Mordyn a thing or two about putting himself up for auction.”

As if summoned, Mordyn appeared, slipping an arm around Apollo’s waist. The usual flare of desire mingled with exasperated fondness as Mordyn pressed a kiss to his cheek without so much as a greeting.

“And here I thought you’d support me in this venture to raise funds for your precious mortals,” Mordyn said.

Apollo suppressed a sigh. They’d rescued a *lot* of mortals from the clutches of the Nightfall coven and related criminal covens, which was great, but it also meant they needed to feed and clothe and shelter these people. 

The auction tonight had originally been meant only to enrich the Rubyville coven, but Altair had generously agreed to share the profits. Probably to make up for the fact that he’d taken in Tarek and Balea. 

Tarek had fled the coven before Mordyn could get his hands on him, sadly, and if he was wise, he’d fled not just the area but the city. Mordyn had sworn he’d kill the other vampire if he ever saw him again. 

Apollo, for his part, wanted to look ahead rather than focus on hunting the bastard down. 

He turned his full attention on Mordyn now. “I’m not sure how you’re supporting me by selling yourself. Especially when I’ve got to be the one to buy you.”

Mordyn smirked. “Think of it this way, after you’ve paid for me, you’ll own me. Don’t you want that?” 

Apollo snorted. “I already own you, vampire.” 

“And yet, it was me who owned your ass last night.” Mordyn’s voice dropped lower, his gaze burning into Apollo.

A flash of heat twisted low in his belly. Apollo felt his body flush, but he refused to let it affect him. They were in public, for God’s sake.

Next to them, Altair cleared his throat. “I believe you should start the auction.”

“Right. Of course.” Mordyn drew back, a devious grin on his face. “Bid on me and I’ll make sure you get your money’s worth, sunshine.”

Apollo shook his head as he watched Mordyn climb the stage. 

“You should let the siren win,” Sven said. “After that speech.”

Apollo chuckled. “I should, shouldn’t I?”

But as Mordyn’s eyes met his across the crowded room, he knew that he wasn’t going to let the siren or anyone else get their hands on his mate.

Not a chance in hell.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to make Mordyn squirm a bit before he placed his bid.

He deserved it.

Apollo leaned back in his chair, sipping on a glass of wine as the bidding began. A few lower-ranking vampires were auctioned off first. Apollo watched with amusement as they strutted on stage, flashing winks and sultry looks to entice higher bids.

“Fifty credits for this stud?” Mordyn gestured to a pale blond on stage.

“Fifty bucks? You’re killing me here.” The blond pouted, earning a few titters from the crowd.

When the bids reached a reasonable price, the winner—a female ice dragon—sauntered up to claim her prize. The blond grinned at her before following her off stage.

A few more vampires were auctioned off in similar fashion. Some brought in higher bids than others based on how pretty or muscular they were. Apollo simply observed, waiting for the main event.

Finally, Mordyn gestured at himself, that cocky grin of his firmly in place. He spread his arms wide. “Who wants a piece of this?”

Catcalls and whistles erupted through the club. Apollo huffed, half-annoyed, half-amused. His mate certainly knew how to play to a crowd.

The bidding started strong, various customers calling out increasingly higher numbers. Apollo made a show of looking entirely uninterested as the bids climbed.

“A thousand credits!” The siren in the corner straightened, her blue curls tumbling over one shoulder as she raised a delicate hand.

Silence fell, broken only by a low whistle from Sven at their table. “She really wants your mate.”

Mordyn shot Apollo a pointed look from the stage. Apollo kept his expression impassive, pretending to study the contents of his glass.

“Thousand credits going once…” Mordyn paused. “Going twice…”

Mordyn’s eyes narrowed, and Apollo was sure, if his mate was mortal, he’d be sweating by now.

Apollo allowed himself a small smile before finally raising his hand. “Two thousand.”

The club erupted in cheers and hoots. Mordyn’s stormy expression melted into one of pure relief. “Two thousand to the gorgeous ginger!” He called out. “Any other takers?”

The siren glared at Apollo, but remained silent, and Mordyn hurried to close out the bidding.

“Sold to the stunning mortal for two thousand credits!”

Mordyn blew a kiss at Apollo before continuing with the rest of the event.

***

“You know, for two thousand credits, I expect a hell of a date,” Apollo told his mate later, when they were in the privacy of Mordyn’s own room. It was a curious room, littered with strange objects that didn’t seem to fulfill any purpose other than being weird. 

He knew that Mordyn had started collecting these as a way to distract himself after Jory’s passing, but still… Apollo could never quite get himself to ignore the bizarre collection of sheer randomness assorted here. There were books that didn’t open unless you sang to them, rubber ducks that could fly around the room by themselves, and a skull that whispered things in different made-up languages depending on the hour of the day.

Mordyn shrugged as one of the rubber ducks, a pink one, landed on his shoulder. “I know exactly where I’m going to take you.”

“Oh?” Apollo leaned forward with interest. “Where?”

Mordyn smirked at him. “If I told you that, it wouldn’t be a surprise. But you’ve been there before.”

“In this life?”

“Yes. It was only a brief visit, though.”

“But you think I want to go back?”

“You’ll enjoy it.” Mordyn leaned in close, his lips brushing Apollo’s ear. “Trust me.”

A shiver ran through Apollo at the light caress. “Do you need to feed?”

Mordyn smiled. “I don’t *need* to, but I won’t say no if you’re offering.”

Apollo considered his mate. The downside of their mate bond was that Mordyn was completely reliant on Apollo’s blood, but the upside was that he needed to feed a lot less than mate-less vampires. He could easily go ten days without feeling any ill effects. 

“Tomorrow,” Apollo decided. “If I enjoy our date.”

Mordyn laughed softly. “Deal.”

***

Mordyn grinned at the look of surprise on Apollo’s face as he parked his bike in front of the lake house where they’d first met, very briefly, so many months ago.

“Bet you weren’t expecting this,” he said, climbing off the bike.

“Not at all,” Apollo admitted. “This is where Iskander and Rhyme stayed.”

“It’s where I first saw you.”

Apollo didn’t say anything for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. “I had a bad feeling about you then. Maybe not a bad feeling,” he amended, “but I knew you were different from the other vampires somehow, and it made me uneasy.”

Mordyn nodded, and then he led Apollo inside. Ceska had helped him set this place up for their date during the daytime. Candles flickered on the dining room table, bathing the room in a warm, inviting glow while delicate floral arrangements adorned the table, making the air smell sweet.

Apollo took this in with raised eyebrows. “You did this?”

“I had some help. Don’t worry, I did not cook the dinner you’re about to eat.”

Apollo laughed. “Thank fuck for that. Your soup was awful, did I ever tell you that?”

“You might have mentioned it.”

“You might have mentioned it.” Mordyn pulled out a chair for Apollo to sit before moving to retrieve the plates of food from the kitchen. He served the food on the table with a flourish, eliciting a chuckle from Apollo.

“Looks good,” Apollo said, eyeing his meal with an amused smile on his face. Chicken, rice and asparagus, paired with a merlot. “Not sure it’s worth 2000 credits, though.”

“My presence is worth at least that much,” Mordyn protested with a mock-offended scoff.

Apollo speared a forkful of chicken. “Well, we’ll see how the rest of this night goes, then.”

He ate, and Mordyn sat opposite him, watching him savor his meal with a contented sort of appreciation. His mate was with him, happy and healthy. 

Mordyn was never going to take that sort of simple happiness for granted. “I knew who you were the first time I laid eyes on you,” he said, making Apollo look up from his plate.

“You left me alone for a long time then.” Apollo didn’t make it sound like a complaint. More like he was curious.

Mordyn nodded, recalling the fear that had paralyzed him, stopped him from pursuing Apollo in any way other than recording videos of his interviews and playing them back endlessly to torment himself. “You hated vampires, and I didn’t think I deserved to change your opinion.”

“Is that all?” Apollo asked, fixing him with a gaze that seemed to pierce right through him.

Mordyn met his gaze steadily, feeling that connection between them pulse and glow with warmth. “I didn’t think I deserved you after how I failed Jory,” he admitted. “I was convinced he hated me, when he died, and that you would hate me too. That you *should* hate me.”

Apollo was silent for a beat. “You know now that’s not true. Jory never hated you, and if I did, it wasn’t anything personal.”

“I know. You hate vampires in general.”

“True.” Apollo stabbed a spear of asparagus. “With some small exceptions.” He licked his lips. “For the longest time, I didn’t understand why fate brought us back together again when we were so clearly incompatible.” He looked up, meeting Mordyn’s gaze. “I don’t think that way anymore. When I look at you now, I see *you* rather than a vampire, and…” He paused. His lips curled. “I like what I see.”

Mordyn’s chest tightened at the words, at the truth in them. It wasn’t a grand romantic declaration, but he knew exactly how much it had cost Apollo to open up to him like this. To give voice to a feeling that didn’t come naturally to him.

He was still struggling with it, trying to reconcile his past prejudices with what he now felt for Mordyn. But he was making progress.

“I like what I see too,” Mordyn said. “Very much.”

Apollo’s lips parted as if he was going to speak, but then he shook his head instead, leaning forward to wipe the corners of his mouth with his napkin. “This was a good meal. What’s next on the agenda?”

“How about some dessert?” Mordyn rose, returning to the kitchen to fetch a basket filled with a variety of pastries. He’d had them picked up at a fancy bakery on the other side of the city. “It’s a warm night. Let’s head outside.”

He led Apollo out into the yard and onto the pier extending over the lake. They settled down, gazing at the water shimmering silver under the moonlight.

“Do you miss the sun?” Apollo asked as he accepted the chocolate croissant Mordyn offered him.

Mordyn considered the question. “No.”

Apollo cocked a brow. “Really?”

Mordyn smiled. “Really.” He leaned back to look up at the stars. “I prefer the night sky, I think.” Out here, away from the city, millions of glittering lights speckled the firmament.

“Then why do you insist on calling me sunshine?” Apollo asked.

Mordyn couldn’t help but grin at that. “If you think about it, the sun is also a star. It just burns hotter than the others. Like you.”

Apollo shook his head. “That’s terrible.”

“What did you want me to say?” Mordyn asked. “That you’re the center of my universe? That you light up my life? That I’ll never miss the actual sun as long as I’ve got you? I’ll say that if you want to hear it, because it’s all true.”

“It’s also incredibly corny,” Apollo pointed out, but Mordyn didn’t miss the flush in his cheeks. Apollo was damn near *squirming.*

Mordyn grinned, and sidled a bit closer and slung an arm around Apollo, unable to resist teasing his mate further. “You’re the brightest, most beautiful star in my sky.”

Apollo groaned. “Stop.”

“You’re so hot you put the sun to shame,” Mordyn continued relentlessly. “You shine so radiantly you–“

Apollo reached out and shoved him into the lake.

Mordyn went with a loud splash and a burst of laughter, still laughing even as he spluttered and resurfaced. He pulled his wet shirt off over his head, shaking out his hair before grinning up at his mate.

“Thanks. I was getting a little hot sitting so close to you.”

Apollo stared at him. “You’re fucking impossible.”

Mordyn’s grin didn’t falter. “You’re right. I am impossible. Impossibly lucky.”

***

Apollo didn’t know what to do with his mate. He wanted to be mad, or at least, pretend to be, but the way Mordyn looked, his hair clinging to his face and rivulets of water running down his broad, toned chest… it was a sight to behold.

“Come on,” Mordyn beckoned. “Join me.”

Apollo sighed. “Fine.”

He stripped out of his own shirt, toeing off his shoes as he headed towards the edge of the dock.

Mordyn waited for him with a wicked smile and sparkling eyes. When Apollo was busy unbuckling his pants, he reached out, grabbing him around the waist and pulling him into the water with another resounding splash.

Apollo yelped as he tumbled into the lake. He surfaced quickly, gasping for breath and glaring at Mordyn, who was now swimming a short distance away, looking entirely too smug for Apollo’s liking.

“That was uncalled for.”

Mordyn moved closer. “It was entirely called for.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Your idiot.” Mordyn smirked, and then he tackled him.

Apollo’s breath rushed out of his lungs as he was knocked backwards, submerged again. He broke the surface, sputtering, and immediately launched a counterattack against Mordyn, aiming to dunk him underwater.

Mordyn laughed, catching Apollo’s hands and pulling him against his body. Apollo struggled, but Mordyn’s arms were like iron bands, pinning him in place.

“Got you now.” Mordyn’s breath was hot against his ear.

“Not for long,” Apollo muttered, shifting in Mordyn’s hold, attempting to break free.

Mordyn merely tightened his grip. “There’s no escape. Not for you.”

Apollo could feel Mordyn’s erection pressing against him. He shivered. “Didn’t you say I owned your ass tonight?”

“I did,” Mordyn agreed, his lips trailing over Apollo’s neck. “What do you want to do with my ass?”

“You really have to ask?” Apollo murmured, his body heating despite the coolness of the lake water. “I want to fuck it.”

Mordyn’s grip relaxed as he dipped his head to nip at Apollo’s collarbone. “That can be arranged.”

Arousal curled through Apollo. He pressed in closer, molding himself to Mordyn’s frame. His cock grew hard, straining against the fabric of his soaked jeans. He could feel Mordyn’s cock pressing against him as well, mirroring his own arousal.

“Not in the water, ” Apollo said.

Mordyn nodded and they climbed back onto the pier. 

They peeled their wet clothes off their bodies.

Mordyn pulled Apollo close, his hands skimming over his bare skin, caressing his sides, his hips, his ass. He lowered his mouth to Apollo’s in a searing kiss.

Apollo moaned, letting himself get lost in the sensation of his mate’s lips, his tongue, the sharp press of his fangs against his lip.

Mordyn broke the kiss, his lips curved in a mischievous smile. “Do I get to feed tonight?”

“That depends on how good you are,” Apollo said, already pushing Mordyn down on his back.

He straddled him, grinding his hard length against Mordyn’s own. Mordyn’s eyes darkened, pupils blown wide with desire.

“I can be very good.”

Apollo smiled down at him. “Prove it.”

Mordyn returned his smile. “There’s a bottle of lube in the basket.”

Apollo cast a quick look at the discarded picnic basket, then back at his mate. “I didn’t know you were such a good boy’s scout. Always prepared.”

“Always prepared to fuck.” Mordyn waggled his eyebrows. “Does that earn me points?”

Apollo snorted. “Maybe.” He grabbed the lube from the basket, then moved to kneel between Mordyn’s thighs, admiring the sight of his mate laid out before him, naked and ready.

“You want this, don’t you?” He coated his fingers with the lube and reached out to trace a teasing line along Mordyn’s rim.

“You know I do.” Mordyn arched into his touch, a low moan escaping him as Apollo slid one finger inside of him.

“Good,” Apollo said, leaning forward to claim his mouth in a possessive kiss as he began to pump his finger in and out of his mate.

Mordyn opened up for him readily, his body yielding to Apollo’s touch, his lips parting with a muffled sigh.

Apollo worked him open, adding a second and then third finger. He moved slowly, deliberately, wanting to draw this out, make it last.

“Fuck,” Mordyn gasped, his eyes glassy and dark with desire.

Apollo smiled and crooked his fingers, brushing against Mordyn’s prostate. Mordyn hissed, his hips jerking upwards.

“Please, Apollo,” he breathed.

The words sent a bolt of pure need through Apollo’s veins. He withdrew his fingers and slicked up his cock. “Look how docile you can be.” 

“Well behaved,” Mordyn agreed.

“We’ll see about that,” Apollo said, and pushed in.

Mordyn let out a wordless cry as Apollo sank into him, filling him completely. The tight heat of his mate’s body was nearly overwhelming, and Apollo had to take a moment to steady himself, to adjust to the sensation.

Mordyn bucked his hips impatiently, and Apollo chuckled. “Someone’s eager.”

“Eager and hungry,” Mordyn replied, flashing a fang-filled grin. “I can hear your blood rushing through your veins.”

Apollo rolled his hips, eliciting a low moan from his mate. “Yeah?”

Mordyn nodded, his gaze locked on Apollo’s throat. “God yes. Fuck me and feed me.”

The demand ignited something primal and possessive within Apollo. Something that urged him to stake his claim on this man, this vampire. He would feed Mordyn. Once he’d earned it. 

He drew back, almost pulling out completely before slamming back into Mordyn.

“Yes,” Mordyn hissed, his eyes fluttering closed as Apollo fucked him. “Just like that.”

Apollo thrust deep and hard, picking up his pace. He could feel Mordyn’s pleasure pulsing in the bond between them, fueling his own desire.

“Please, Apollo,” Mordyn gasped.

Apollo leaned over him, kissing him roughly. Mordyn responded eagerly, his arms coming up to wrap around Apollo’s shoulders, drawing him close. 

“Beg,” Apollo whispered against Mordyn’s skin. “And I’ll let you bite me.”

Mordyn trembled beneath him, a low whine escaping his lips. “Please. I need you. Need to taste you. Please…”

The desperate, breathless plea was Apollo’s undoing.

He tilted his head to the side, exposing the column of his neck. Mordyn didn’t waste a single moment, sinking his fangs into Apollo’s flesh and sucking deeply, a low, guttural groan spilling from his throat.

Apollo shuddered, the combination of pleasure and pain was something he didn’t think he’d ever get used to.

Mordyn drank deeply, and the bond flared between them, bright and fierce and insistent. Apollo felt his mate’s pleasure echoing his own, the hunger and need mingling with their shared bliss. It was a feedback loop of ecstasy, and Apollo lost himself in it, gladly.

The world narrowed to nothing but the feel of Mordyn beneath him, his mate’s body welcoming him, enveloping him. His own body felt like it was on fire, his nerve endings alive with pleasure.

His hips bucked, fucking Mordyn in shallow thrusts as the urge to move became too much.

Mordyn released Apollo’s neck and growled, a desperate, primal sound that only drove Apollo on. He could feel his orgasm building, white-hot and inevitable.

He gave himself over to it, shuddering as he came hard, his body shaking with the force of it.

Mordyn’s orgasm followed closely after, his body clenching around Apollo as he came apart.

They lay together for a moment, spent and sated.

“Was that worth the money?” Mordyn murmured after a moment.

Apollo huffed even as his heart swelled with adoration for his vampire. “You couldn’t be good for a moment longer?”

Mordyn’s lips quirked. “You didn’t really expect me to.”

Apollo leaned in for a long, lingering kiss, savoring the taste of Mordyn’s mouth. “You’re right, I didn’t. And yes, it was.” He rolled off Mordyn and lay on his back, gazing up at the stars for a moment.

Faintly, he remembered looking at the night sky in a different life. The wish his past self had made and never voiced. To spend eternity with his mate. 

If shooting stars were magic, maybe it was responsible for their second chance. A silly idea, and yet…

He turned on his side. “Mordyn.”

“Hmm?”

“I love you.”

A stunned silence filled the air.

Then, Mordyn smiled. “I love you too, sunshine.” He drew Apollo into his arms, and Apollo settled against his mate’s chest, carrying Jory’s wish in his heart. 

He’d make it come true for himself.