Deeper Than Midnight (Chapter Thirty-two)

And Hunter would not hesitate to kill him if the threat escalated even so much as a fraction.

Even as Nathan backed her with him toward the open doors of the truck, Corinne's eyes pleaded with Hunter for mercy. "Nathan," she said, trying once more to reach her son's humanity. "You don't have to be afraid. Let us be your friends now. Let us be your family. Just give me a chance to be the mother I should have been for you."

He moved closer to the doors, saying nothing. That damnable bit of sharp material still riding near her vein. "Nathan," Corinne said. "Please, just let me love you – "

He shoved her forward, a violent rejection of all she'd said and all she'd done for him. Then he bolted out of the truck, escaping into the woods as the first light of dawn was already beginning to glow on the horizon.

Chase hadn't actually expected to wake up. His last conscious memory had been running in a blind tear through the city, losing too much blood from the gunshot wound in the artery of his right leg and the lesser hit to his shoulder. He'd taken worse injuries in combat before, but that was then. This was now, when his body was shuddering and weak, his nearly indestructible Breed genetics hobbled by the disease that roused him awake on a pained groan. He tried to sit up but didn't get very far. Metal restraints clamped his wrists and ankles to an infirmary bed. Another wide band of steel and leather lashed him around his middle. He cursed through his gritted teeth and gave the manacles a good hard rattle. As his vision slowly came into better focus, he saw a dark head peering in from the hallway at him through the small window in the door.

It took Dante a minute before he finally strode inside. As the door closed shut behind him, he stared at Chase from across the room and shook his head. "You're a fucking idiot, you know that, Harvard?"

Chase scoffed. "Thanks for the concern. I hope you didn't come all the way down here just to tell me that."

"No, I didn't," Dante replied, not rising to his bait at all. "I've been next door, sitting with Tess while she's recovering."

"Tess is in the infirmary?" Recalling the Breedmate's delicate last few weeks of pregnancy, Chase immediately felt like a first-class asshole. "Ah, Christ, man. I didn't know."

"How could you know? You weren't here."

Chase exhaled a short sigh and nodded in acknowledgment. He couldn't say he didn't deserve this cold reception. After all, he'd done just about everything he could lately to make sure he was persona non grata with the Order. Especially where Dante was concerned. "So, how is she doing? Everything all right with her?"

"Yeah. Tess is fine." Dante gave a faint incline of his head. "So is the baby. He's resting next door with her."

Tess gave birth already? The news flash hit Chase with double barrels. He couldn't hold back his surprise, or the regret that slapped him to realize he'd been absent for the event Dante and Tess had been looking forward to for many long months. Hell, he'd been pretty damned eager about the whole thing himself. He'd even wondered on more than one occasion if Dante had been thinking about asking him to be godfather to his son, an honor Chase was hardly worthy of, but one he would have accepted with humbled pride at one time.

A million years ago.

And now a million miles out of his reach.

That's what it all felt like to him, looking at the other warrior's grave, disappointed expression as he approached the bed where Chase was shackled. "Well, congratulations, Dante. To you and Tess both," he said. "When did the baby come?"

"Yesterday morning, a few minutes before noon."

Chase guessed, "So, what is that, December tenth?"

"Seventeenth," Dante replied, his look going even more grim than before. "Shit, Harvard. How bad is it for you now? I mean seriously. Don't bullshit me."

"Bad," Chase admitted. His throat was parched, voice little better than a rough growl.

"But I can handle it. I'd handle it a lot better if I wasn't strapped down to this damned bed like a criminal." He lifted his fisted hands as far as the steel manacles would allow. Which wasn't much at all.

"Not gonna happen," Dante said soberly.

Chase grunted. "Doctor's orders?"

"Lucan's orders. It took some convincing for him to even let Niko and Renata bring you inside after Mira found you. Didn't help matters that your face has been plastered all over the news as some kind of goddamn nutjob domestic terrorist." Dante exhaled a curse. "What'd you do, pose for pictures before you lost your mind and started shooting up the senator's Christmas party last night?"

"What are you talking about?"

"They've ID'd you, man. There was an eyewitness who provided your description to law enforcement and the freaking Secret Service. Whoever saw you nailed your face down to the last pore and whisker. They've been running the artist's sketch on every network and cable channel ever since."

"Shit," Chase muttered, remembering the laser-intense stare of the senator's attractive assistant when she'd spotted him up in the gallery of the ballroom. "It couldn't be helped, Dante. And it doesn't matter that I've been made. Dragos was there. He was trying to get close to the senator and the vice president. He's targeted both of them."

Dante went quiet, studying him as if he wasn't sure Chase could be believed. "You saw Dragos at the senator's party? You're sure of this?"

"Goddamn right, I'm sure. I watched the senator introduce him to the vice president in the middle of a ballroom full of humans. When I saw them walking off to a private meeting, I saw my shot and I took it."

Dante raked his hand through his dark hair. "You saw Dragos, and you didn't call it in to us? The Order should have been the ones to handle the situation. What the hell were you thinking?"

"One thing I wasn't thinking about was stopping to make a phone call," Chase argued. "I didn't know Dragos was going to be there. I didn't know I was going to be just a few yards away from him – close enough to put a bullet in the son of a bitch and take him down. All I had was a hunch, and I acted on it."

"Jesus, Harvard. This is not good news."

"Are you listening to me?" Chase shouted, anger spiking, adding fuel to the flame of his already tightening blood hunger. "I'm telling you I shot Dragos last night. I saw a bullet hit him dead-on and take him to the floor. For fuck's sake, maybe you should be thanking me instead of crucifying me for not following protocol. I'm telling you there's a damn good chance I killed the bastard."

"Dragos isn't dead," Dante replied soberly. "No one was killed last night. There were reports of a few injuries, but none of them was deemed life-threatening. If Dragos was there, if you shot him like you say you did, then he was able to get up and walk away."

Chase listened, his temples banging with rising fury. "I need to get out of here. I found him once, I can find him again. I can fix this – "

"No, Harvard, you can't. And you're not going anywhere. There's too much at stake for us right now. Lucan wants your ass planted right where it is until he says otherwise."

Chase couldn't bite back his snarl. He was pissed that Dragos had escaped and pissed that Lucan, Dante, or anyone else thought they could hold him against his will. He was getting the message loud and clear that he was no longer part of the Order, and he'd be damned if that meant they could keep him from going after Dragos on his own. He wanted Dragos taken out as much as any of the warriors.

And he had another, equally pressing reason to want to be let loose from his captivity in the compound.

"I need to feed," he murmured low under his breath. "The gunshot wound in my thigh isn't going to heal very fast if I don't get some fresh red cells in my body. I need to be free to hunt, Dante."

The warrior's gaze bore into his own like a probing searchlight, leaving no shadows for Chase's deception to hide in. "You said it yourself; your leg is in bad shape. You're in no condition to hunt, even if Lucan didn't feel it would be a mistake to turn you loose topside right now."

The thirst that had been clawing at him began to rake its talons even deeper, shredding him from the inside out. He was sweating, an icy sheen that made him shudder as his stomach twisted into a tighter knot. "Can you risk leaving me in here?" he said, his voice rough as gravel, almost unearthly. "I might end up hunting inside the compound, seeing how there's a human living here now."

Dante's face blanched a bit before his eyes fired up with sparks of bright amber. "Because you're hurting, I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that. And I'm going to do you the one-time favor of not telling Brock either, because I promise you, that male would kill you with his bare hands if you so much as breathed on Jenna, human or not. Hell, keep pushing and I might save him the effort."

The coil of agony in his gut made Chase sneer up at Dante in response. "If I wanted to break out of these restraints, I could. You know that."

"Yeah, I know." Dante edged in closer, moving so quickly Chase's sluggish senses couldn't track him. He was startled to feel the cold kiss of sharp metal pressed up hard against his throat. Dante's curved twin blades bit into his flesh, one on each side of his neck, a hairbreadth from breaking the skin. "You could try to break out of the restraints, Harvard, but now you've got two good reasons why you won't."