Kinked (Elder Races, #6)

Written By: Thea Harrison

Kinked (Elder Races, #6) by Thea Harrison





This one is for Amy





It’s all fun and games when someone loses an eye.

—ARYAL, HARPY



That’s not how the saying goes, dumb ass.

—QUENTIN, IRRITATED





ONE


Aryal floated and spun in the wild dark night.

She didn’t mind living in New York as some other Wyr did. The city was edgy and raw in a way that appealed to her. But this lonesome realm that hung high over the top of the world—this was her true home. This was where she came to think, or brood or fling her fury into space.

She flew so high that the air felt almost too thin for even her powerful lungs. The clouds lay below her, air castles of shadowed ivory, and the stars above her whirled in their dance of constellations, their lights telling ancient tales of places from unimaginable distances. At this altitude, the stars were so brilliant she almost felt as if she could leave the shackles of gravity behind forever and fly into them.

Almost.

There was always that one moment when she reached the peak of her ability to fly, that one instant of perfection as she hung weightless in the air, no longer straining to rise but simply existing in flawless balance.

Then gravity would reign supreme and pull her back down to earth, but she always carried with her the memory of how she could touch that one perfect moment.

Tonight, she didn’t fly for pleasure. She flew to brood in solitude.

She had two hates. One, she held close and nurtured with all of her passion. The other, she had to release.

Her first hate was Quentin Caeravorn.

As soon as she could figure out a way to do it without getting caught, swear to gods, she was going to kill him.

She would prefer to kill him slowly, but bottom line, at this point she would be happy to take any opportunity she could get.

It was bad enough when Quentin’s friend and former employee Pia ended up mating—and marrying—Dragos Cuelebre, Lord of the Wyr. Once, Pia had been a thief who had stolen from the most Powerful Wyr the world has ever seen. Now she was his wife and the mother of his son.

Ever since Pia had moved into Cuelebre Tower, the gryphons had gone batshit gaga over her; they all thought she pooped sparkly rainbows or something. Hell, as far as Aryal knew, she actually did poop sparkly rainbows.

The Wyr in general had a more reserved (sane) response to Pia’s presence, especially since she continued to refuse to reveal her Wyr form, which Aryal thought was not only a shortsighted decision but also a rather wretched one. How could anybody expect the Wyr to accept or follow her when they didn’t even know what the hell she was? The very fact of her existence made Aryal’s teeth ache.

Outside of the Wyr demesne, however, Pia’s popularity had skyrocketed. Her daily mail had gone from a trickle of letters and cards into an avalanche that required a separate office and its own small staff.

Pia even took Dragos’s last name, an old-fashioned move that had Aryal rolling her eyes. Now she was Pia Cuelebre.

Last names … they were like word parasites. They attached to people in strange ways, moved across cultural and political lines, traveled the world and reattached to others, certainly at whim and seemingly at random.

Why didn’t anybody else see how creepy last names were? They labeled a person as coming from a particular class or geographical area or linked their identity to another person, as if someone’s identity had no merit on its own unless it had latched on to another. Aryal refused to pick a last name for herself, as so many of the first immortal Wyr chose to do, nor would she ever take anybody else’s.

Pia was her second hate.

Earlier today, Aryal finally, grudgingly, painfully conceded she was going to have to let go of her snerk over Pia. That was a bitter pill for her to shove down her own throat. It was sugarcoated by the most lethal weapon in Pia’s armory to date: the unbelievable sweetness in her newborn son’s face.

After Pia and Dragos had gotten married, they had gone on their honeymoon, where she had given birth unexpectedly. Yesterday, she and Dragos cut short their trip to upstate New York to return to the city. When they had arrived back at the Tower early last evening, everybody had to see, touch, hold and/or coo over the baby.

The other sentinels acted like Dragos had conquered all of Asia overnight, while Dragos radiated a ferocious pride. Almost seven feet tall in his human form, with a massive, muscular body and a brutally handsome face, he would always carry in his demeanor a sharpness like a blade, but Aryal had to admit, she had never seen him look so … happy.

As for her, she refused to go anywhere near Pia and the rug rat. She didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

Unfortunately, that hadn’t lasted long.

Less than twenty-four hours, to be exact.

Earlier today, when she had charged around the hall corner outside of Dragos’s offices, she nearly mowed down Pia, who pushed some kind of ambulatory, complicated-looking cart with the sleeping baby tucked inside of it.

Pia looked tired. Her pretty, triangular face was paler than usual, and her ever-present blond ponytail was slightly lopsided with wisps of hair trailing at her temples. One of her new full-time bodyguards was with her. The mouthy woman, Eva. Eva thrust between Pia and Aryal, her bold features and black eyes insolent with hostility. She stood as tall as Aryal, a full six feet in flat boots, dark brown skin rippling over toned muscle.