A Touch of Crimson - Sylvia Day

CHAPTER 1

“Phineas is dead.”

The pronouncement hit Adrian Mitchell like a physical blow. Gripping the handrail to counterbalance his shaken composure, he rounded a bend in the stairwell and looked at the seraph who ascended abreast of him. With the relaying of the news, Jason Taylor advanced into Phineas’s former rank as Adrian’s second-in-command. “When? How?”

Jason easily kept up with Adrian’s inhuman pace as they approached the roof. “About an hour ago. It was called in as a vamp attack.”

“No one noticed a vampire within striking distance? How the fuck is that possible?”

“That was my question. I sent Damien to investigate.”

They reached the last landing. The lycan guard in front of them pushed open the heavy metal door, and Adrian slipped sunglasses over his eyes before stepping into the Arizona sunshine. He watched the guard recoil from the ovenlike heat, then heard a complaining growl from the second lycan, who brought up the rear. As base creatures of instinct, they were susceptible to physical stimuli in ways the seraphim and vampires were not. Adrian didn’t feel the temperature at all; the loss of Phineas had chilled his blood.

A helicopter waited on the pad in front of them, its whirring blades churning the oppressively dry and gritty air. Its rounded side was emblazoned with both MITCHELL AERONAUTICS and Adrian’s winged logo.

“You have doubts.” He focused on the details because he couldn’t afford to vent his fury now. Inside, he was shattered by grief over the loss of his best friend and trusted lieutenant. But as leader of the Sentinels, he couldn’t appear diminished in any way. Phineas’s death would send ripples through the ranks of his elite unit of seraphim. The Sentinels would be looking to him for strength and guidance.

“One of his lycans survived the attack.” Despite the roar of the aircraft’s engine, Jason didn’t need to raise his voice to be heard. He also didn’t cover his seraph blue eyes, despite the pair of designer shades perched atop his golden head. “I find it a bit . . . odd that Phineas was investigating the size of the Navajo Lake pack; then he gets ambushed on the way home and killed. Yet one of his dogs survives to call it in as a vamp assault?”

Adrian had been utilizing the lycans for centuries as both guards for the Sentinels and heeler dogs to herd the vampires into designated areas. But recent signs of restlessness among the lycans signaled a need for him to reevaluate. They’d been created for the express purpose of serving his unit. If necessary, Adrian would remind them of the pact made by their ancestors. They could have all been turned into soulless, bloodsucking vampires as punishment for their crimes, but he’d spared them in return for their indenture. Although some of the lycans believed their debt had been paid by their predecessors, they failed to recognize that this world was made for mortals. They could never live among and alongside humans. Their only place was the one Adrian had made for them.

One of his guards ducked low and pushed through the air turbulence created by the helicopter blades. Reaching the aircraft, the lycan held the door open.

Adrian’s power buffered him from the tempest, allowing him to proceed without effort. He looked at Jason. “I’ll need to question the lycan who survived the attack.”

“I’ll tell Damien.” The wind whipped through the lieutenant’s blond locks and sent his sunglasses flying.

Adrian snatched them out of the air with a lightning-quick grasp. Vaulting into the cabin, he settled into one of the two rear-facing bucket seats.

Jason occupied the other one. “But I