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Love’s Delusion Preview

1

I remember the outing. I didn’t normally go on supply runs but Rune had asked me to go to check out some Ultrabooks and tablets he was thinking of getting to fill the requisitions people had given him for new equipment instead of waiting for the Surface 3s to come out at the end of the year.

So I went. I remember the outing. I didn’t like them, thought we should wait, was excited to have some real fast food instead of the same cafeteria stuff over and over again.

But then it started to get dark and I wanted to get back to base, our camp, our safe home. Don’t worry, Gilroy, they told me. I remember that too.

And then I remember the crash on the way home. Something big came out of nowhere. It flipped the truck. I’d been in the back of the cab, looking down, so I couldn’t even say if there had been lights or what. I didn’t think so. But I remember the crash. The horrid sounds of the impact and then the truck rolling, metal crunching, glass breaking, my heart racing, wondering if we were going to die.

Then the truck stopping, rocking a bit as if not sure it was going to roll one more time.

We were upside down. I remember that too. My ears were ringing too loud to hear much and I felt wet on my neck and shoulders. Blood. I smelled a lot of blood.

Some was mine.

I remember seeing Kevin’s lifeless eyes staring at nothing, something sharp from the truck piercing through his neck. Glass? No, maybe? I couldn’t tell with pounding in my head. Everything was fuzzy. I tried to undo my seatbelt, but my hands weren’t listening to me.

But then they were. I fell to the floor—which was really the roof—of the truck and crawled out the broken window. I saw the driver’s side door open, realizing someone else was out and alive. I looked around and my eyes met red, blood-shot ones.

Zakasacs.

That was it. I must have gone down from the blood loss or someone hit me to knock me out because that was all. The next thing I remembered was inexplicable pain, my mouth, throat, and stomach on fire and I wanted to die. It was as if someone had stuck a burning poker down into me but so much worse.

I don’t know how long it went on for or I was out, but then I was awake, fine even. I slowly came back around and realized I was on… A bed?

“Go slow,” a soft, musical voice warned me. I opened my eyes and met his beautiful maroon ones, captivated by them. “Go slow, my brave warrior. You have been through much.”

“Thirsty,” I croaked. He handed me a bag of blood which I greedily drank down and then another. As I drank I couldn’t take my eyes off the gorgeous man sitting next to me. I reached out and touched his arm, just to make sure he was real and not an angel.

“Glad you’re feeling better,” he chuckled. “I’m Winston.”

“Gilroy. Gilroy Selden,” I muttered as I set down the empty blood bag.

“I know. I peeked at your wallet.” He smiled as he reached out and cupped my cheek. I turned my face into his palm, relishing his touch. “You should rest.”

“I don’t want to.”

He shot me a sly look. “Oh? What do you want?” I shrugged and he frowned. “Tell me.”

“I want you,” I blurted, surprised at my audacity and crudeness. I’d never felt like this before. I was never that forward, and I didn’t even know the man, but he’d wanted to know and I had to tell him then. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I had to.

“Good, you have to obey,” he muttered as he let his hand trail from my cheek down to my chest. “You will be my favorite of all I am to make, Gilroy, as my first. I promise you that. You will be special to me.”

“I want to be special to you.” My heart raced as my chest heaved, watching his hand trail down further.

“What am I, Gilroy?” My eyes snapped to his at the question. I scrunched my eyebrows together, confused by what he was asking me. He must have understood. “How do I look to you? Am I a vampire?”

I studied him a moment and shook my head. No, he didn’t look like my friends or the vampires I knew. “No, you’re an angel.”

My answer pleased him from the bright smile he shot me, his maroon eyes lighting up with mirth. “An angel, huh?”

“Yes, a beautiful angel I want to touch and be near always,” I admitted, no longer embarrassed at my answers if they made him happy.

“And so you shall.” He pulled off his shirt and moved over me before kissing me. Then Winston, my angel, made love to me all night long, drinking from me as he took me. I barely felt the pain, so happy he was getting his sustenance from me.

“Thank you,” I whispered when we were done and I snuggled around his smaller frame. “Thank you, my angel Winston. You have no idea how long I have waited to feel what we just shared.”

“What did we just share, my warrior?” he murmured, playing with my hair as his voice turned thick with coming sleep.

“Love.” I kissed his chest and held him tighter. “I love you so much, Winston.”

“How much? Would you kill for me?”

“Of course,” I chuckled, thinking that was a silly question. Didn’t he understand how much I loved him?

“Would you die for me?”

“Yes.”

“Betray your friends?”

I tilted my head and blinked at him then. “What friends? There is only you, Winston. Nothing before you matters and nothing else ever will. I would do anything for you.”

“Yes, you will always be my favorite, Gilroy,” he purred as he kissed my forehead. I wasn’t sure what that meant other than I’d made him happy which was what I wanted. That was enough.

I was happy with the man I loved and he’d mated me. Who could ask for more?

 

* * * *

 

It thrilled me to no end to do nothing but stay in Winston’s bed the next few days… Except he left it too often to handle things. I wasn’t sure what these mysterious things were, but I didn’t like how much it kept me from him. I didn’t even think to ask what they were though and maybe some people would have been leery of the secrets, distrusting even, but I wasn’t. I loved Winston and he would never lie to me or hurt me.

He said not to concern myself with it so I didn’t.

I had just gotten out of the shower when he came rushing into our room, panic written on his face. “They found us, my warrior.”

“Who?” I dropped my towel, reaching for my pants and yanking them on. “What’s wrong, Winston?”

“I don’t understand how they found us!” he exclaimed, slamming his fists onto the dresser. “We took every precaution. There is no way the warriors should have been able to trace us here.”

“Did you take any electronics from the accident?” I asked, confused as why warriors coming was a bad thing but still needing to help him.

“Of course but we disabled all the bugs and trackers.” I winced, and he narrowed his eyes at me. “What? What did we miss?”

“I’m not supposed to tell anyone,” I muttered, remembering that somehow. Rune had told me once that no matter what, never tell.

“Tell me,” he demanded as he came towards me. I opened my mouth to do so, but then slapped my hand over it. “So you don’t really love me.”

“I do,” I gushed after I lowered my hand. “I just don’t understand this. So what if warriors are here? Why is that bad? Why should I tell you Rune’s secrets or—” There was a loud explosion down the hall from us, and I stuffed my feet into my shoes. “That doesn’t matter. We have to get out of here.”

“It’s too late for that. They’ve blocked all the exits and the sun is up. It’s just a matter of time now.”

“But I’m a warrior,” I argued. I went to say more, ask why the sun mattered, but the door burst open and Xana came through. “Xana?”

“Gilroy?” he rasped, studying me closely. Then tears formed in his eyes. “How could you? How could you choose this?”

“What are you talking about?” I hissed, scared he was off his rocker as I moved slowly in front of Winston. “Look, there has been some kind of misunderstanding, Xana. I don’t know why warriors are here, but—”

“Gilroy, of course you know why!” he bellowed as he moved forward, his sword raised and striking towards me. If I hadn’t been faster than him, knocking Winston back and diving out of the way, he would have gotten me and probably killed me with one blow given how massive and strong Xana was.

“Oh this is priceless,” Winston chortled, clapping his hands in glee. “You think he’s one of us!”

“What?” I glanced at him over my shoulder. “I could never be an angel like you, my love.” Then I focused back at Xana, seeing the fear and confusion in his eyes. “Look, I don’t know—”

“What’s going on in here?” Matteo demanded as he rushed into the room.

“Thank god,” I sighed, relaxing some. “Xana’s gone off the rails. He’s just tried to kill me and he wants to hurt my mate.”

“Mate?” Matteo and Xana bellowed.

“Yes, we’re in love,” Winston chuckled, wrapping his arms around me from behind. “He will protect me with his last breath, won’t you, my warrior?”

“Of course, but Matteo’s my friend. He won’t hurt you,” I muttered, staring at him.

“Gilroy, I don’t know what he’s done to you, but your mate is a Zakasac,” Matteo whispered as he waved Xana back. “Don’t hurt Gilroy. He’s not one.”

“But his eyes,” Xana argued. “And he smells—”

“Like he’s been intimate with one,” Matteo snapped. “His aura’s clean. Go get Alexander or Helios. We have to separate them.”

“Matteo, no, this has to be a mistake,” I whimpered, pushing Winston back against the wall, covering him with my body. “My mate is an angel, not a monster. He loves me. Zakasacs can’t love. They don’t have souls.”

Alexander and Jeston stepped into the room, looking like they meant business. I swallowed loudly but then flinched when Winston shoved his hand down the front of my pants.

“I think the ride is over, my warrior. There’s no talking our way out of this. Too bad because I would have loved to take you for another ride or twenty,” he muttered, kissing up my neck. “You were always going to be my favorite.”

“No, please don’t hurt my mate,” I begged as they moved closer. “We didn’t hurt anyone.”

You didn’t, Gilroy,” Matteo said gently as he sheathed his sword and reached for me. “He did. Don’t you trust me?”

“Not over Winston!” I sobbed, turning to hold on to my mate. “I’m sorry I failed you. I love you. I love you, Winston!”

“I know, pet,” he chuckled as we were dragged apart.

“Don’t make Gilroy see this,” Alexander mumbled.

“No!” I screamed as hands lifted me up. “No! I won’t leave him.”

“It’s not real,” Matteo whispered. “I know it feels real, but he did something to you.”

I argued and fought as they carried me out into the hall. Then I heard the sickening sound of a sword striking flesh, but instead of grief over knowing my mate was gone, I felt something else. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.

Relief?

Freedom?

Myself?

They set me down on the ground, and I turned to throw up what felt like acid, this need to get it out of me.

“What the fuck is going on?” Sam hissed as he raced over to me. “Did he ingest Zakasac blood or something?”

“I don’t know. He said he was mated to one of them,” Matteo muttered. “He was acting all kinds of crazy.”

“He’s got Stockholm or something,” Xana added.

“You don’t get Stockholm Syndrome after four days,” Sam snapped. He shined a light in my eyes when I took a break from vomiting and gasped. “His eyes are all bloodshot.”

“That’s nothing. They were red like a Zakasac’s moments ago in the room,” Xana said.

“What?” I choked out, glancing at him like he was crazy.

“Gilroy, they were,” Matteo confirmed. “We were trying to tell you something was wrong, but you wouldn’t listen. What happened?”

“This can wait,” Sam argued, trying to help me up.

“I got him,” Xana muttered as he bent to lift me up.

“You tried to kill me,” I snapped, moving away from him.

“I thought you were one of them,” he whispered.

I turned my cheek as if he’d slapped me. “I’d never kill a human. You should know me better than that. Matteo did.”

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, but I held up my hand as my stomach flopped again and I puked some more. What the hell was going on with me?

“It’s like some freaky chain reaction now that his Zakasac mate died,” Matteo muttered.

Oh good, they had an idea. I could just worry about not dying then.

“I got him,” Jeston offered when I was done.

“No, I said I did,” Xana growled.

“No, not you,” I murmured, too tired and freaked out to even fight.

“I’m sorry, Gilroy,” he whispered as he lifted me in his arms. “The idea they got you to turn Zakasac killed me. I figured they must have made you. I was devastated they did so I struck quickly to end your pain of being one.”

“But I wasn’t.”

“I know that now. I’m sorry. I’ll make this up to you somehow.”

“Right, yeah, I don’t think there’s a I’m sorry I tried to kill you fruit basket that makes it all go away,” Jeston drawled as he led the way out of the building.

I tried to glance around and see it, curious now. “I never saw any of this.”

“What?” Xana asked gently, leaning down towards me.

“Nothing.” I turned my head away from him, annoyed of all the people more than able to carry my six-two frame it had to be the seven foot giant who’d tried to take my head. I might have been on the shorter side for a warrior, but we all were strong so someone was enough to drag me to safety.

“I have to hurry back,” Sam called out from behind us. “Bowie just messaged me that Roarke’s stats are getting better. He might be waking from his coma.”

“Is that tied to this guy dying too?” Matteo asked as they started jogging. “What the fuck happened on that outing to get supplies?”

“Winston,” I whispered, folding into myself. “His name was Winston and he was my mate.”

“It wasn’t real,” Xana assured me. “He or they did something to you.”

“It felt real.”

“I get that, but you’d be sobbing, inconsolable if you’d just lost your mate. I mean, how do you feel?”

I thought about that a bit as he carried me out of that place and to the chopper. It wasn’t until I threw up once more, practically feeling on my death bed and the helicopter was firing up that I had an answer for him. I glanced up into Xana’s deep blue eyes and felt my own fill with tears. “Empty.”

I found the energy to push off his lap, Jeston seeing my struggle and trying to help me. I shook my head and glanced between him and Alexander.

“Which of you killed my mate?”

Jeston’s eyes went wide but Alexander was calm, always calm. “He wasn’t really your mate, Gilroy.”

“I might not have chosen him, but we were mated. So which of you did it? Which of you ended his life before really knowing what was going on or the effect it might have on me?” I demanded, holding my stomach.

“I did,” Jeston admitted with a wince.

Great. I was still half on Xana’s lap next to him. Just fucking great.

Sam caught on to what was upsetting me and hurried to move me to sit in between him and Alexander while Matteo took my seat before whoever was flying the chopper—Tadzio and Philo from my guess since they were our pilots—lifted off. I made the mistake of meeting Xana’s sad eyes before trying to look away and catching the same look from Jeston.

Odd.

“You should know that they both flipped out when they heard it was you that was taken,” Sam muttered in my ear, the noise of the helicopter covering his words. “I don’t think either has slept since it happened, trying to figure out the best way to get you back once your locator came online.”

I turned my head enough so I could meet his gaze, knowing my face showed my disbelief. Why would Xana and Jeston care so much because it was me? He simply nodded.

“Whatever. I’ve got enough on my plate with just having lost a mate and all,” I bit out as I curled into as much of a ball as I could on the seat. For one, I was freezing since it wasn’t like we’d stopped to get me a jacket or even a shirt, and while it might be end of April, end of April in Wyoming—as I guessed we still were—was cold at this altitude.

My eyes started to drift shut, but then I heard rustling and they popped back open. I saw Xana and Jeston both taking their jackets off from across the way, Matteo smirking from his seat in between the two giants. Then Xana noticed what Jeston was doing and hurried to unbuckle his seat belt, moving to the floor in front of me and wrapping his jacket around me. Before I could say anything, Jeston was next to him and moving his coat around my legs.

Alexander cleared his throat and I watched as they both looked at him before taking their seats again, studying me carefully. Then our boss glanced at me with mirth in his eyes. “You didn’t really think they both had issues with their computers that often and no one else could help them, did you?”

I felt my face flush and nodded. Apparently I was brain dead on top of all my other issues when it came to men. For whatever reason that made me miss Winston more than anything. I was happy with him even if it had been a lie. I curled up even tighter into myself, and the next thing I knew, I was crying myself to sleep on the flight home.

Everything hurt, including my heart. I’d lost the only man I’d ever loved, ever wanted and it had been fake, but it didn’t feel that way.