Kinked (Elder Races, #6)(7)

His apartment took up the third floor. It was an open-concept design, with a kitchen, dining area and living room all in one huge space, mellow golden oak floors throughout and filled with the clean, spare lines of midcentury modern furniture. Two large, more traditional rooms were set up as bedrooms, each with their own baths.

He had always planned to create a rooftop garden, but an architect had once told him that the entire roof would need to be reinforced first. The project would involve so much upheaval he hadn’t yet found the time. Now that he had become a sentinel, he doubted he ever would.

He walked into his bedroom. The album had finished playing and the room was silent. He sat on the end of the king-sized bed and put his aching head in his hands.

Oh, baby.

Aryal’s soft, in-your-face words from two months ago swam out of the pain.

Nobody’s perfect. That means you have f*cked up somehow, somewhere. That’s what I know. I have all the time in the world to find it, all the time, and do you know what that means? That means I’ve already got you.

Those words had a nasty habit of smacking him around ever since she’d uttered them at the sentinels’ party. He was being haunted by somebody who wasn’t even dead, and he loathed admitting, even in the privacy of his own thoughts, that she was right.

He’d f*cked up, all right. He’d f*cked up so badly last spring, he had hurt someone he cared about very much. He had nearly gotten Pia killed.

Last May, when Pia had stolen from Dragos and gone on the run, Caeravorn had maneuvered and manipulated behind the scenes, comfortably anchored in his own self-righteous dislike of the arrogant, mighty Lord of the Wyr.

Dragos had broken treaties and entered the Elven demesne in his pursuit of Pia, and using the 800 number that Quentin had given her, Pia had called the Elves for help. Led by Ferion, the man who had since then become the new Elven High Lord and who was related to Quentin by marriage, a group of Elves had confronted Dragos just outside of Charleston. They shot him with a poisoned, magical arrow that had melted into his bloodstream, limiting his Power and his ability to shapeshift. Then they gave him twelve hours to leave their demesne.

The encounter had happened at Quentin’s beach house, so Ferion had called him afterward to let him know what had transpired.

To Quentin, it had seemed like such a simple solution to contact one of Dragos’s most Powerful enemies. Perhaps even elegant. He had offered the information to Urien, the Dark Fae King, in return for Urien’s promise to let Pia go. Urien would go after Dragos—and maybe Urien could kill the Wyr lord, and maybe he couldn’t—but the important thing was, it would give Pia the chance to get away.

In the meantime, Pia had been mating with Dragos. She had gotten pregnant. And by Pia’s own account, Urien hadn’t let her go at all. Instead, his agents had beaten her, forcing her to escape with Dragos until they confronted Urien and his army on a plain in an Other land, where Dragos had killed everybody but Urien and a few of his winged riders. It turned out that the only thing elegant about Quentin’s idea had been in his imagination.

So not only had Quentin nearly gotten Pia killed, but in all likelihood he had almost killed her unborn son. Realizing what he had done—what he had almost caused—had been a watershed moment. It had propelled him on a journey from the man he had been to who he was right now.

Or at least to the man he was trying to become, whoever the hell that was, as he constantly wrestled to tame what lived inside him.

His bedroom was far too hot. It smelled like sex and the woman’s perfume, which he hadn’t enjoyed to begin with and now seemed sickeningly cloying. Why did women have to stink themselves up with cosmetics and perfumes? Couldn’t they appreciate their own faces and bodies the way nature had intended them?

He couldn’t stand it a moment longer. He was going to have to air out the place or sleep in the guest room. He strode over to the window, yanked the curtains wide and opened it as far as the pane would go. Then he leaned both hands on the windowsill and stuck his head in the sharp, chill air.

With his first, deep breath, he smelled the harpy’s scent.

What. The.

Astonishment held him frozen. He bared his teeth, sucked in another deep breath and scented Aryal quite unmistakably.


Rage surged in on a tidal wave. Incredulously, he shouldered further out the window and stuck his head between the gap in the security bars. He looked down, even though he knew what he would see. Then he twisted around and looked up.

There was no ledge below. There was nothing above but the gutter at the edge of the roof, which wouldn’t support the weight of anything larger than a squirrel. For Aryal to leave her scent, she had to have touched something. Blood pounded violently through his body as he studied the outside wall more closely.

The city street was well lit at night. Even so, if he hadn’t been scouring the wall so thoroughly with his inhumanly sharp sight for any kind of anomaly, he would have missed the sets of shadowed holes gouged into the mortar roughly a yard below the windowsill.

He turned his attention to the security bars on the window. They were covered with a uniform coating of ice—all except for two areas on the bars where there wasn’t any ice at all. He put his hands over the areas and gripped the bars. His palms were bigger than the melted spaces, but they were just about the right size for Aryal’s hands.

He shoved hard at the bars, and they held, but then he knew they would. When he’d had them installed, he made sure that they were bolted securely. He lifted one damp hand and sniffed it. It smelled, ever so faintly, of Aryal. When the sun rose in a few hours, it would melt the ice completely and wash away every trace of her.

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