“First morning wood of my entire life,” he says, his eyes moving back to mine as frustration creases his brow.
“What’s going on?” I ask, imagining a pair of leggings and a long T-shirt that appears on my body, reeling back their distraction as I jump to my feet, still a little high on the rush of feeling so much at once.
“We can’t have a woman unless we share her,” Kai says, his jaw grinding as he looks at me then to Ezekiel. “We were impotent before—”
“Clearly not the thing to tell a woman,” Gage drawls.
“—but after we met,” Kai goes on, not acting like he was interrupted, “we felt the bond form. We’ve learned it’s a quad thing. There are several groups of four throughout the trials every year, and they experience the same little issue. They also always have the worst obstacles thrown at them before they can make it into the trials. We want to know why.”
“Sidetracked,” Jude butts in. “The point is, we can’t enjoy a woman, unless we enjoy her together. It’s part of the bond. None of us have ever had a woman on our own.”
“So if you were a boy band, you’d be One Erection,” I state, rambling because they have me nervous.
They don’t even acknowledge that. Kai eyes Ezekiel, who is straining to refrain from touching me, while the other two just glare at me.
“You’re sure?” Kai asks him, not sounding convinced or concerned.
“Fucking positive. Turn whole again,” Ezekiel spits out, turning that last part on me like an order.
“Gee, with that attitude, I’ll hop right on it,” I grumble, moving over to a couch. “You’re really ruining the first time I’ve felt touch like that by freaking out so much. All of you.”
“Touching him all night might have had something to do with it,” Kai suggests, his eyes raking over me differently for once.
“If we get her whole, I’m going first. You have no idea how worked up I am right now,” Ezekiel says, running a hand over the back of his neck as he starts pacing. “It’s never been this bad before.”
Well, that makes me a hint smug. Especially since he prefers redheads. But he’s also a little too scary now.
“Or you could fuck your hand,” I point out, frowning as I take a seat on the ground again. “I’m not sure I want you unleashed on me with all your strength while I’m whole. What if you break me?”
Ezekiel stops pacing to turn and arch an eyebrow at me.
“Touch us. Just try it,” Gage says as he kneels between my legs and looms over me.
“We’ll give you everything you’ve been fantasizing about if you get whole,” Jude says next to my ear.
When did he get behind me? And why does it sound like he is most certainly using his liar-voice?
Hands move over me, through me, stirring all those tingles to life. Nothing happens though. I feel like these savage beasts are trying to lure me out so they can kill me, which has my self-preservation skills likely hosing up my new level-up.
“Shit,” Gage groans when nothing happens for a while.
“I’m worked up and I didn’t even get to have my damn hands on her,” Jude says with a huff as he walks off.
“No erections without each other? So how do you get worked up?” I ask, trying to distract them.
“Usually, we want sex but can’t get aroused on our own. A date with the hand only works in the presence of each other, and it’s not as much fun without a—”
The doorbell rings, which is a first for me. No one ever rings the doorbell.
I didn’t know we had one.
Gage jogs out of the room, and Ezekiel stalks out behind him. Jude takes a seat beside me, his arm going behind my head. I lean back on it like he’s doing it to offer me comfort, though I highly doubt it.
When they return, Ezekiel walks over, holding two envelopes. Gage has two as well, handing one off to Kai.
Ezekiel hands over the other one, and he sits down really close to me, our sides touching and creating that tingle.
Jude and Kai exchange a look before casting a glance at our connection. Slowly, Jude withdraws his arm from around me, eyes still suspicious as he opens the envelope.
“So it’s official,” Jude says, closing the envelope as a calculated grin plays on his lips.
“What’s official?” I ask, confused.
Frankly, I need a distraction so I don’t sink into a depression about finally being able to feel something and having it ripped away. It’s much better to not know what you’re missing than to be tortured with just a teasing touch.
“We’ve been invited to the royal palace of the underworld. We’ll be collected in one month,” Kai answers, putting the invitation to the side.
“Why a month?” Still needing that distraction.
“Because it takes time to set up the next obstacle, and they make it as hard as possible for the twenty competitors based on how well they did in the first two rounds,” Ezekiel answers, not budging an inch from my side.
Gage studies Ezekiel, the way he’s unconsciously drawing so close that I’m passing through his body.
“Two other quad sets made it through to the next round as well,” Gage says as he closes his invitation and puts it aside.
“So twelve out of twenty are part of a quad group? Why is this done by teams? Someone needs to start at the beginning and explain all this to me,” I grumble.
“It’s done by teams because you’re going to be a part of a larger team,” Ezekiel says immediately. “You’ll become one of the elite who has access to Lucifer on occasion, and—”
“And there are some things that don’t need to be told,” Jude interrupts, arching an eyebrow at Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s jaw tightens, but he doesn’t say anything else. I roll my eyes, because that means I’m still not trusted. I half suspect they find my vagina to also be evil now.
“Okay, so what can you tell me? Since my level-up, I can see and hear things in Purgatory, unlike before when I didn’t even know where we were going because focusing was so hard. And you guys never really talk about any of this here,” I go on.
“We used to. There’s no reason to discuss things unless we have new developments now,” Kai says with a shrug.
“We’ve been working toward this goal for a couple of centuries now,” Ezekiel goes on.
“Centuries?” I ask, my eyes widening.
“Really? Little much information,” Gage tells him, narrowing his eyes.
Ezekiel flips him off. “We told her the highlights in Purgatory.”
“Highlights and details are two very different things,” Kai points out.
Ezekiel looks at me. “A few centuries ago, we were all four born to different mortal families involved with the underworld in some way—imps, lawyers, and some media—”
“For fuck’s sake, E, not that much information,” Jude says incredulously, looking at Ezekiel like he’s lost his mind.
Ezekiel ignores him, and my gaze returns to him as he continues.
“By twenty-six, we were all going a little crazy. Actually crazy. Hearing things, seeing things, always paranoid we were being targeted or watched. I was ahead of them by several decades, and though I’d stopped aging, I wasn’t really immortal.”
“Ezekiel!” Kai snaps.
Ezekiel doesn’t even glance in his direction. His eyes stay fixed on mine.
“That’s the reason my dreams are the worst. The madness tries to return when I let my guard down. When we sleep, the bond is the weakest for some reason. It’s why Kai struggles to sleep. It’s why Jude is so pissed most of the time. Gage may seem to sleep soundly, but he’s frozen in the places his mind visits, and he becomes a prisoner until his eyes—”
Gage is suddenly grabbing Ezekiel by the shirt and ripping him up from the couch. “That’s enough!” Gage barks in his face.
Ezekiel shoves him off, and then suddenly they’re tackling each other, fists flying.
“Stop!” I snap, jumping up from the couch.
An ache lances through me when Ezekiel takes a hit to his face. And sickening dread surges when Ezekiel hits Gage so hard that blood flies.
Kai and Jude take their sweet fucking time coming to break them up, both of them glaring at me as they struggle to pull them apart.
“You don’t get to fucking tell her our secrets. That’s a group decision!” Gage snaps at him.
Ezekiel shrugs Jude off him, and without another word, he turns and stalks out of the room.
Three pairs of accusatory eyes turn and narrow on me.
Ah, great. Well, having them be semi-nice was fun while it lasted.
“What’d you do to him?” Gage growls.
“I told you she was singling him out because he didn’t find her to be a threat. Now she’s tearing us down by using our connection against us,” Kai states.
“How’s your leg, Kai?” I ask with a tight smile, my eyes dipping to the fully healed leg that I helped heal. Somehow. “Was I a threat when I was scrambling to save your life so you all wouldn’t die? I certainly wasn’t trying to separate the four of you then or pit you against each other. Wouldn’t it have made sense to do it then?”
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