Home > Midnight Unleashed (Midnight Breed #14.7)(2)

Midnight Unleashed (Midnight Breed #14.7)(2)
Author: Lara Adrian

Sia caught herself staring at her friend’s wrist, a pang of longing in her breast. Even if her own crystal hadn’t been taken away by her fellow council members at the colony, there was likely nothing she could do to redeem herself and persuade them to allow her to return.

Phaedra smiled gently, a wordless acknowledgment of Sia’s loss. Then she folded her hands in her lap as if to remove the visual reminder. “It’s been a long day. I was thinking I’d cap it off with a cup of hot cocoa and some of the cinnamon biscotti Louisa baked this morning. Would you like to join me after you put those things in the wash?”

Sia nodded. “I’d love to.”

“Great. I’ll put the kettle on.”

Things had been hectic at the shelter, but it had been a good day, even a great one. They'd welcomed three new families into the sanctuary, put a roof over seven heads, and hot food into hungry mouths. The fact that every one of the transitions had gone smoothly and there hadn't been some violent cretin banging on the door demanding to see "his woman" as the new arrivals got settled had to be some kind of record.

Now, at just after midnight, the house was blessedly quiet. No infants squalling or sounds of muffled weeping from the newcomers. Sia let the silence wrap around her like a blanket as she finished in the laundry room and returned to the kitchen.

A plate of crunchy biscotti waited in the center of the kitchen table while Phaedra carried two mugs of steaming hot chocolate over from the stove. “I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to come and help out here at the shelter, Tamisia. I don’t know how I would’ve managed without you these past weeks.”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you.” Sia took one of the mugs from her friend and gently blew at some of the steam. “I’d have gone mad already without something to keep me busy and a comfortable place to stay.”

“Comfortable?” She laughed softly. “Now you’re only being polite. The house hardly ever quiets down and that tiny attic bedroom you’re in upstairs is hardly what you’re used to.” Her gaze turned wry as she passed the plate of biscotti across the table. “Or was your brief stay with the Breed warriors of the Order so bad it makes this seem like an improvement?”

Sia scoffed at the reminder of how she’d first arrived in Rome. The terms of her exile had placed her in the care of the Breed, a blood-drinking race of beings who had long been her people’s primary, most dangerous enemy. Now the Order and the colony were dancing around a tenuous truce in order to unite against a greater enemy.

Sia wasn’t sure the partnership could ever work, let alone last. Her kind and theirs were too different, polar opposites, in fact. Atlanteans thrived on light and cherished peace. The Breed ruled the darkness and fed off bloodshed, violence in their very nature.

“Two weeks among those heathens was more than enough.” Sia dipped the edge of her biscotti into her cocoa. “Anything would be an improvement over that.”

Although to be fair, not all of the Breed were heathens. In the Order’s Rome command center, she had been treated kindly enough. In particular, by the group’s leader, Lazaro Archer, and his Breedmate, Melena. Most of the other warriors and their mates had been welcoming, too, if not a little curious about the disgraced Atlantean suddenly thrust upon them as an uninvited guest.

Only one warrior, a surly, menacing behemoth of a male named Trygg, looked at her as if she were the enemy in their midst. He’d barely uttered a word around her the entire time she was there. Not that she had wanted him to. Some of the other warriors’ mates had disclosed to her that Trygg had been an assassin for many years before he came to the Order. Not by his own will, but as part of an infamous training program created by a madman named Dragos.

Trygg certainly looked the part of a killer. Sia had been away from the command center for a month, yet the memory of his rugged, scarred face, shaved head, and cold, disapproving dark eyes still sent a wave of unease all the way into her bones.

Yes, anything was an improvement over spending another minute under the same roof with him.

Phaedra took a sip from her mug, smiling as she set it down. “Well, I’m grateful that you’re here, Tamisia. You were wonderful with the children today, especially Angelina. I think her mama likes you too.”

“Really?” Sia couldn’t hide her surprise. “How can you tell? Rosa is so meek and quiet.”

Secretive, she wanted to say, but held her observation back.

“Rosa is a shy one,” Phaedra agreed, “but that could change in time. We have no idea what she’s been through.”

“She hasn’t opened up to you either?”

Phaedra shook her head. “Not yet. But I did see her talking with one of the other mothers today, so I’m hopeful that she’ll eventually come out of her shell a bit.”

A small thump sounded above their heads. It wasn’t entirely out of place to hear movement in the house, but something about it—something about the abrupt way it went silent immediately afterward—made Sia’s veins go cold.

“Probably just someone getting up to find the bathroom,” Phaedra whispered.

“Probably,” Sia replied. She had no reason to think otherwise, but every preternatural instinct she had was screaming in alarm. When she glanced at Phaedra, she saw a flicker of the same stark awareness in her golden eyes too. “I’ll go take a look.”

“Tamisia, the house is completely locked down and secure. All of the alarms are engaged. No one can get in without the whole perimeter lighting up and tripping a dozen sirens.”

And yet someone had.

Sia was all but certain of it.

And then, upstairs, a sharp female shriek confirmed her fears. The scream sounded worse than pained. The quiet that followed lasted not even a moment, then a baby started wailing.

“Oh, no.” Phaedra went chalk white. “That’s coming from Rosa and Angelina’s room.”

Sia nodded, grim. No wonder the young mother had seemed so afraid when she arrived a couple of days ago. Her nightmare was far from over. By the awful sounds of it, the man Rosa was running from had decided she wasn’t getting away so easily.

Cold dread swept her, seeping into her marrow.

The whole house was coming awake now, vibrating with confusion and terror.

All Sia heard was the piercing wails of the innocent little baby she’d left sleeping so peacefully just a short while ago.

Dammit, no.

Hot rage replaced the chill and her vision blurred into a red haze.

“Stay here, Phaedra. Call for help.”

“Tamisia, what will you do?”

She didn’t know exactly. There was no time for a plan. She only knew she had to act.

Without answering, she raced for the stairs, pausing only long enough to issue a sharp command to her friend. “The police, Phaedra. Do it now.”

Sia was immortal, inhumanly powerful, but she wasn’t a fighter. Never had been. She was a politician, shielded by a contingent of Atlantean guards who would fight at her bidding. But none of that mattered as she flew up the steps and past the open doors and terrified faces of the shelter’s other residents.

“Back inside, all of you. Don’t come out until I tell you to.”

No one balked at her hushed orders. One by one, the frightened women and handful of small children retreated, shutting their doors.

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