Kinked (Elder Races, #6)(3)

Because he had the legal rights of a full Wyr, and he hadn’t been convicted of any crime, he had been eligible to enter the recent Sentinel Games. He had fought his way through to become one of Dragos’s seven sentinels, who were the core of Dragos’s governing power in the Wyr demesne.

And he had accomplished that, because in spite of almost two years of investigation, and several months of concentrated digging before the Games began, Aryal couldn’t pin a single goddamn thing on him.

She knew he was dirty. She knew it.

Her leads turned into dead ends and sources dried up. She would track down somebody only to find out that they had moved out of the Wyr demesne, or maybe they had died accidentally (and didn’t that get investigated thoroughly too). Or they weren’t directly involved in any illegal activity connected to Caeravorn, they had only heard of things—hearsay and rumors that dissipated into thin air when she tried to nail them down into concrete evidence.

Caeravorn was a magician, surrounded by a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors while he stood at the center of it all, untouched.


He had gained access to the very heart of the Wyr demesne, and all because Aryal couldn’t get him.

Her mood blackened. While she thought back to the events that had happened in January, two months ago, she flew higher and dove just to hear the wind scream in her ears. The sound matched the scream of outrage in her head.

At the Games she watched every one of Caeravorn’s fights, absorbing every detail. He was killer fast and elegant, and highly, superbly trained. Normal civilians didn’t train to fight to that extent. Why the f*ck didn’t anybody else have a problem with that?

He chose a few times to fight in his Wyr form, a huge black panther with electric blue eyes that gleamed under the white-hot lights. In his human form, he kicked ass. As a panther, he was sinuous, muscular and moved like lightning. He owned every inch of that fight arena and captured the imagination of almost twenty thousand spectators.

After the Games were over and Dragos had presented his new sentinels to the Wyr demesne, Caeravorn strolled like a conquering hero into the great hall at Cuelebre Tower along with the other seven sentinels. Aside from Quentin, there were the five who had re-won their places—the harpy Aryal, the gryphons Bayne, Constantine, and Graydon, and the gargoyle Grym—along with the other new sentinel, the pegasus Alexander Elysias.

Dragos knew how to throw a hell of a party. It was like a hundred years of New Year’s Eves all rolled into a single night. There was endless liquor, and loud music from famous bands, and gourmet food and confetti, and a general stampede at all of them, but especially at the men who were all buff and reeking of testosterone and victorious swagger.

The night was a triumph for every sentinel—for Aryal as well, and she had her fair share of propositions too—but she couldn’t let go and enjoy any of them, since the night had also been her failure.

She held herself aloof, bitterness a hard, heavy knot in the pit of her stomach while she watched Caeravorn laugh as someone upended a bottle of champagne over his head. He was six foot two, with a long, lean body and a cat’s quick grace, spare graceful features, and dark blond hair he had once worn longer. He had cut it very short for the Games, and the severe style lay close to the strong, clean lines of his head.

As she stood with her arms crossed, Grym came up to her side. In his human form, Grym was dark haired with even features. In his Wyr form, he was nightmarish, with huge batlike wings, a demonic face and gray skin as hard as stone.

He had his own small share of groupies, as did all of the sentinels, but Grym actually didn’t like to talk much and that fact tended to put females off, at least after the first night or two. He was one of the few entities whose companionship Aryal found peaceful, and he had used that fact more than once to defuse her volatile temper.

She had wished more than once that there was a sexual spark between them. Unfortunately there wasn’t. Years ago, they’d even experimented, but neither of them had any interest in taking things past first base. They had long since settled into an unconventional yet entirely comfortable friendship.

Grym stood close enough that their shoulders brushed. “You didn’t get him,” he said. “Sometimes it happens. You gotta let it go.”

“No, I don’t,” she said. She scowled at him.

Grym rubbed the back of his neck. “Aryal, with the kind of hours you’ve put into digging into Quentin’s life, if you haven’t found any hard evidence by now, it’s very likely you’re not going to.”

She shook her head. “Doesn’t mean I’ve got to let it go. Just means I haven’t found it yet.”

He turned to face her, his mouth pursed. “Have you ever considered that he might be innocent?”

She angled out her jaw. “He’s not.”

“Well, if he isn’t, sooner or later he’s going to trip up. In the meantime, you earned this night too,” Grym told her. “Don’t let him ruin it for you.”

She made a face as Grym clapped her on the back and disappeared into the crowd, headed for the nearest bar. Caeravorn was ruining the night for her. Just the very fact of his presence at the celebration made her stomach tighten. Watching him enjoy himself was about as pleasurable as taking a bath in acid.

He exuded testosterone along with all the rest, an alpha male supremely confident in his own abilities, and why wouldn’t he be? He had just clawed his way to the top of the Wyr demesne and earned his place with the best of the best.

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