Bitten by Ecstasy

By: Naima Simone

Her brows slammed down and Sinéad bared her teeth, releasing a sibilant hiss that had loosened the bladder of more than one inebriated fool.

Then she remembered…

She was human. As human as the two assholes who rolled their hips and rubbed their unimpressive packages as if the sight of their groping would incite her to jump their puny bones.

Helpless fury pulsed through her on a molten tide. The rage swirled and eddied, threatening to snatch her under its dark undertow. Another human side effect she’d had to endure these past five months. Feelings. She curled her upper lip. The seesaw of emotions capable of teetering from delight to despair to rage in a matter of minutes. Holy Nef. She teared up at fucking Hallmark commercials.

Hall. Mark. Commercials.

How far she’d fallen.

Silent as a wraith, she pressed through a crowd of scantily clad women smoking outside one of the pubs along the quay. They didn’t glance her way, but their joy and excitement reached out to her like insidious tentacles probing her brain for entry. She hunched her shoulders until they nearly bracketed her ears.

Every cruxim inherited a paternal strength or “gift” from the males who inseminated the female who’d borne them. The sires were chosen carefully as the only things of worth they provided were their seed and magical DNA. Some cruxim were bequeathed the power to scan minds, some the ability to cloak themselves in invisibility, others could shift objects with a mere thought or move faster than light. But Sinéad—lucky, lucky Sinéad—had received the talent of empathy. An empath in a race that abhorred emotion. She snorted. Her dam had really screwed the pooch with her choice. But then the female had probably assumed fucking a thunderbird would grant her young the gift to wield lightning. Nope. Sinéad couldn’t summon lightning, thunder, or rain. But detect another’s fear, rage or lust?

Aaaaall day.

Screwing a male for no other purpose than a sperm deposit had its own downsides. Including no open disclosure of important details. Like latent empathy genes.

Still, maintaining a solid shield against the persistent, invasive onslaught of others’ emotions had been easier, almost second nature after the three hundred years of her existence. But as a cruxim, she also hadn’t been bogged down with the burden of her own—she shuddered—feelings. It seemed as if her former supernatural strength had fortified the barrier against her gift. Now, as a mortal stripped of power, preserving her sanity had become an exhausting full-time job.

A wave of rage engulfed her and the force of it swamped the other emotions tapping her skull for entrance.

Five months ago, she’d been an immortal warrior, a Dark Angel, a Guardian of the Blood Cross. Cruxim. But one act had stolen her immortality, shoved her into this weak flesh-and-blood body strolling the territory she used to patrol because it was all she’d known for two hundred and fifty years.

One act had turned predator into prey.

Images of that fateful—damned—day crowded into her head.

Pain. The awful, wrenching pain had snatched the breath from her body with the strength of the wild, fierce wind whipping against the rugged coastal cliffs she hunted along. The piercing agony had been so great it’d compelled her to abandon her hunt in order to search out the source.

That’s when she’d found him.

A hippogryph. Broken and bloody on a pile of rocks jutting out of the stormy Atlantic.

Now, months later, faint echoes of the fear and despair resonated inside her. She should have flown away—should have taken off and allowed the Fates to have their will. The sheer enormity of the desperation and terror should have warned her away from the fallen, majestic beast. Contrary to traditional belief, emotion didn’t wane when a being’s essence ebbed away. When Death’s presence loomed, the flame of the soul flared its brightest—one last hurrah to experience…or one last furious, desolate cry for life. But she’d ignored her instincts and dove toward the turbulent waves relentlessly crashing against the creature’s still form.

It’d been unconscious, its breathing so shallow she’d had to scrutinize the down-covered breast to detect the small rise and fall of its chest to ensure he lived. Crimson rivulets poured from gashes across its face and flowed from a huge, gaping hole in its breast. The streaming liquid stained the hippogryph’s chestnut-and-white feathers like an ugly oil spill, contaminating the beast’s natural beauty. As a seasoned cruxim warrior, the sight of blood and battle wounds ceased to disturb her long ago. But the…the vicious ravaging of the regal animal had seemed wrong—almost sacrilegious.

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