Kinked (Elder Races, #6)(5)

It was glorious.

Then a freight train slammed into Aryal, knocking her several feet from Caeravorn, who flipped, still snarling, onto his hands and knees. With his head lowered and teeth bared, his gaze fixed on her and he prepared to spring.

Wow, he had really lost it. She must have said something. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bayne, Constantine and Alexander pile on top of him, their combined weight knocking him flat again.

Her freight train resolved into Dragos’s new First Sentinel, Graydon. Graydon was the largest of all the current sentinels. In his human form he stood almost six foot five, and he carried a good thirty pounds more than the other gryphons.

All of that weight was hard, packed muscle, which currently took up residence on her chest. He pinned her arms to the floor by the wrists. Normally his roughhewn features were set in a mild, good-natured expression, but not at the moment.

Not even bothering to struggle, she looked up at Graydon with her eyebrows raised. “What?”

His dark slate gray eyes were furious. “People have been through hell this month. We’ve all gone to war, and then we beat the shit out of each other in the Games. Everybody needs a little goddamn R and R, and you can’t leave well enough alone for a few f*cking hours at a party.”

Angling her jaw out, she savored her next words for the rare treasures they were, as she said in perfect, pious honesty, “He started it.”


Now in March, two months after the party, her own words mocked her. Her triumph at the party had been all-too short lived.

The bitter winds matched her mood. The slicing chill of the wintry air cooled her overheated blood as frustration clawed at her. She let the tumultuous currents buffet and toss her about.

She might have all the time in the world with which to hunt Caeravorn. She just didn’t have all the patience in the world. Not when he was a daily fact of her existence. It was one thing to have him constantly in the forefront of her mind as a subject of investigation. Now she never knew when she might run into him at the Tower.

She knew she would run into him whenever Dragos called for a sentinel conference. She started to avoid those whenever she could get away with it, until Dragos stomped on that little maneuver by ordering her to attend every meeting.

Caeravorn was a smooth operator. Everywhere he went, women trotted after him like hypnotized puppies. He was even tempered and charming with everybody—everybody, that is, except Aryal.

They were not just driving each other insane. Collectively they were driving everyone else insane too. Echoes of their feud began to ripple through the other sentinels. Tempers flared until one day even Alexander, who was easily the most mild natured of them all, snapped at both of them. Then Grym and Constantine went at it, verbally ripping into each other like a pair of fighting dogs.

It was certainly no secret that Aryal loved a good fight. Conflict was like mother’s milk to her, but this went deeper—it had all the makings of a true schism, and that had to stop.

As she realized that, she thought of something else. Now there was the baby to consider too, because Pia cared for and trusted her friend Caeravorn. She might have had a problem with letting Aryal around her son, but she would have no problem letting him have free access … and that, to Aryal’s eyes, made him even more dangerous than ever.

So as soon as she figured out how to do it, she would kill him.

The decision was a relief. It gave her frustration a viable outlet, and the results would be better for everybody, instead of taking the long course as Dragos had decided on doing. Taking the long course meant giving Caeravorn access to sensitive knowledge and allowing him the chance to do major damage before he could be brought down.

The long flight had finally cleared her mind. She angled her wings to take her out of the wind current and spiraled down to the sprawling city below. A cloudy night covered the city’s vast array of lights in a moody cloak. The temperature was barely any warmer closer to the ground. The air felt wet and cold, and icy sleet coated the trees, roads and rooftops.

She had no intention of changing until she could get inside quickly, since she would feel the cold more in her human form. Instead, she cloaked her presence and flew along the corridors created by the streets and tall buildings, until she came to Elfie’s, Caeravorn’s bar. At almost four A.M., the bar was closed and the entire ground floor dark.

A sliver of light shone from a window on the top floor, which was the third story in the brick building. She drifted closer, her outspread wings holding her course steady. Caeravorn owned the building and lived in an apartment over the bar. As a sentinel, he now had an apartment at the Tower but he rarely stayed there.

All of the windows on the building were covered with slender, black metal security bars, even the windows on the upper floors. She grinned. Caeravorn didn’t trust his safety to the open sky. What a shame.

She flew to the lighted window, grabbed hold of the bars and flapped her wings until she had the tips of the deadly talons on her feet hooked into the side of the building. Her talons were sharp enough to slice through steel. Digging them into the mortar between the bricks was relatively easy.

She tugged experimentally at the bars as she checked out the bolts that fastened them to the wall, but they were anchored solidly in place. All of her weight rested on a half an inch at the tip of her talons, and the bars at the window were coated in a sheet of ice. The perch was uncomfortable and precarious, but she could hold it for now.

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