Authors: Colleen Vanderlinden
Tags: #paranormal romance
Building Block Studios, LLC
Detroit, Michigan, 2013
© 2013 Colleen Vanderlinden
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, email the author at
Partner in crime, love of my life, my rock.
I could not do what I do without my amazing family. You guys are my everything. Emily, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Alex – you guys are the best kids ever, and I am stunned every single day that I'm lucky enough to be your mom.
To my husband. You are wonderful in every possible way. You made me believe that there are such things as soul mates, and you are most definitely mine. Thank you for alway having my back, for making sure things get done to make these books happen. I love you.
To my readers. You make this whole writing gig fun. Thank you for reading, reviewing, encouraging me. Thank you for loving Molly and company. It really means the world to me. Thank you!
My name is Molly Brooks.
I killed the man I love. Ended the lives of every enemy he’d had, in one fiery, bloody night.
It did not bring him back to me.
My friends, the team of supernaturals who followed the demon they knew as the Nain Rouge, tiptoe around me. They want me to eat. They want me to tell them what to do, where to go, the way he used to. They want me to feed.
I will never feed from another.
I will keep this city safe, in his honor.
I will die trying.
I can only hope that it happens sooner, rather than later.
My wrath is absolute, my lust for death, pain, fear, unending.
I have lost myself.
I have been lied to, used, left behind, by the being I loved most in this world.
And this thing I have become…this is exactly what Nain always knew I would be.
Damn him for making me do this without him.
♦ ♦ ♦
Six months, exactly, since the day I lost Nain. The day I destroyed him. The day I realized how far he would go to get what he wanted. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hate him. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t love him, didn’t miss him so much it hurt.
I’d spent the first two months like a zombie. I stayed in his room, surrounded by his scent. I didn’t speak. I didn’t eat. I didn’t feed.
And, yet, here I am.
Death would not come for me, the way I hoped it would. So I did the one thing that would make me feel better: I hunted. My imps found demons, warlocks, vampires for me, and I destroyed them. Each kill momentarily made me feel better.
But they didn’t ease the pain I felt when I laid in bed at night, alone.
The gaping wound in my soul, the one left when our marriage bond had been severed at his death…well. It never stops hurting. It is eternal pain. This is the cost of the marriage bond between demons.
I am living a half-life.
That night, I fed, took powers by force. I truly became a mindflayer, a nightmare among nightmares. Power flows through my body, and I can kill in dozens of ways with little more than a thought. But it wasn’t just my mind, my powers, that changed under the stress of losing Nain.
I am afraid of myself. I will not use my powers anymore. The temptation to do more of what I did that night is overwhelming.
But I still hunt. I go back to the way I used to do things: blades and fists. The only difference now is that I have no qualms about killing my prey. I destroy those who would cause harm to the people of his city.
Tonight, six months after Nain’s death, I hunt werewolves. I revel in their pain and fear, and their deaths fill me, for a time. Their blood stains the ground around me, bodies litter the street. The Guardians arrive and claim their souls, even before I’ve left the scene.
And then I go home, and I am alone, hungry, and afraid again.
Sleep is not the friend it once was.
It won’t come easily. And when it does, I am not granted the deep, dreamless sleep of the peaceful.
There are the nightmares. Nain dying, over and over again in slow motion as I realize what I’ve done. Brennan rips my limbs from my body. My friends stare, mutter “murderer” over and over again.
But I’ll take these nightmares over the sweet dreams.
The dreams in which I am wrapped in his arms, my legs tangled with his, and it feels so real I swear I can smell him. And then I wake up. For just a moment, I am happy. And then reality sets in, and I’ve lost him all over again.
I finished hunting werewolves, and retreated to the roof of the loft. Ready to spend quality time with my punching bag. Another thing that always made me feel better.
I don’t know how many hours I spent whaling away at the punching bag Stone installed for me after Nain’s death. When I wasn’t beating up on bad guys, this was my place.
My knuckles bled, healed, cracked, and bled again. My arms were tired, but not tired enough to make me stop. Constant motion, hitting, was the only thing keeping me sane. I stopped punching, looked up at the sky. It was probably a little after three A.M. I’d been at it since I got home from taking out the werewolves a little after midnight.
I punched the bag again. Harder. I would not cry.
Before Nain, I’d been so good at avoiding feeling things. I had managed to keep emotions, mine and others, in their own compartment. I recognized them, but they didn’t affect me.
He changed everything.
I stopped punching for a minute, rested my forehead against the punching bag. The air around me was frigid. It didn’t matter. My breath formed clouds in the dark night.
I tried to remember to breathe. I wished I could stop. Stop breathing, stop feeling, stop living. Just, stop.
I felt Brennan’s presence nearby. Shook my head, tried to pull myself together, and started punching again. Sure enough, within seconds, the roof door was opening, and he strolled out, dressed, as usual, in jeans and a flannel shirt. I glanced at him, continued whaling on the bag.
“Are you going to sleep at some point tonight, or spend all night up here, hitting things?” he asked, leaning against the wall.
“Am I keeping you up, Bren?” I asked, well aware of the snarl in my voice.
He shook his head, watched me for a while in silence. I kept punching, hoping he’d go away.
“You’ve been up here every night for weeks. You’re busy the rest of the time with meetings and keeping this place running and fighting big bads. Everyone has to sleep sometimes.”
“I sleep when I need to.” This, along with everything else in my life, had changed with Nain’s death and its aftermath. Meeting Nain had helped me tap into my powers, and losing and avenging him had taken them a step further. Or, a few hundred steps further.
I barely felt human at all any more.
“You’re going to eventually lose your temper and incinerate that one,” he said, gesturing at the bag I was hitting. “And then Stone will put another one up for you, and he’ll be happy because it gives him something to do for a while and he can feel useful again.”
“He’s busy enough. He’s still out there kicking ass.”
“But you’re keeping him away from the really bad stuff. That’s the stuff he lives for, and you know that. You take all the bad shit, and you leave him and the rest of us with the supernatural equivalent of traffic stops.”
I stopped punching and looked at him, finally. “I’m not in any hurry to lose anyone else right now. I’m sorry if that offends you, Brennan. And if you’re here to lecture me again, you need to leave. Because I’ll be honest,” I said, hitting the bag so hard it swung, creaking on its chains. “I’m really not in the mood tonight.”
“Six months,” he said quietly. “You’re not the only one who’s been keeping track.” We stood in silence for a few minutes. “Sometimes it feels like we lost both of you that night. Those first weeks afterward, you were a zombie. Now, you’re like a machine. We all understand. We’re mourning him, too.”
“Did you strike the blow that killed him?”
Brennan just looked at me.
“Then you have no goddamned idea how I feel.”
“You know as well as I do that he knew it would happen that way,” he said quietly. I sensed nervousness in him. “He knew it would kill him, and he told you to do it anyway.”
I turned away. “How did you know that?”
“He left me a letter. Father Balester delivered it, after. He knew.”
“I know he did. I got to hear his thoughts as he died.”
“So maybe you should stop blaming yourself. Maybe you should blame him for putting you into that situation. Or maybe you should blame whoever was ordering Astaroth to capture you. But you can’t keep blaming yourself for something you had no control over.” He paused. “And that last part is something I do have experience with, and you know I do.”