“How can there be no hallway? Why have doors if there’s nowhere to escape to?” I groan.
“The door is to give you false hope,” Kai says with a shrug. “You manage to somehow turn into something strong enough to break down that door, iron forged in hellfire, then you find there’s nowhere for you to go. It’s the moment you’re defeated, and they can sink their claws in and own you.”
“And you want to work for such a lovely establishment,” I state dryly.
Ezekiel shrugs. “We had no say in the matter. Regardless, our special skills require such a thing. They’d be useless elsewhere.”
“But I’m not allowed to know what these skills are?”
“Besides being awesome at killing things?” Jude asks, getting comfortable on the ground and putting his hands behind his head as his eyes shut.
I glare at him for a second, though he’s oblivious since he’s already trying to fall asleep. Instead, I look over at Ezekiel as he rips his shirt off—since he can’t just take it off with the cuffs in the way—and rolls it up like it’s a pillow as he lies down as well.
With his cuffs still binding his wrists, Kai starts doing awkward pushups in the corner, as though he’s trying to tire himself out. No one is going to answer me.
“Don’t feel bad, spirit girl,” Ezekiel says as his eyes close as well, our special connection severed since that one moment. “They don’t know either.”
“We don’t fully know ourselves,” Kai adds, grunting as he starts adding a hop in on every other push up. “Hence the reason we want the power boost. We figure it’ll open us up more.”
“How do the monsters get out if there’s no way to them?” I ask.
“The same way we got in, Einstein,” Jude retorts. “Escorts. They have the ability to send you anywhere once you’re restrained.”
He lazily lifts his cuffed hands as though I need a reminder, then drops them back down, never opening his eyes. “And they can send you anywhere if you were originally a soul here.”
Gage is studying me, his hand rubbing his jaw as though he’s thinking of something. “You aren’t even reacting to being in hell,” he finally says.
“Five years of talking to yourself when you don’t even know yourself, what you are, or even how you came to be will make you quite impervious to essentially everything. Even the four-dick monster twenty-two cells over if you start that way,” I tell him, gesturing the way I started.
His lips curve into a slow grin.
“Four dicks and only one monster to deal with. Sounds like you’ve found your perfect beast,” Kai says through short breaths.
“Keep being an ass to me. I’m this close to saying fuck you all and hanging out with another fellow I found interesting.” I pinch my fingers really close together for demonstration. “Maybe I’ll help him instead, and leave the four of you in here to turn into something hideous.”
Jude just grins, eyes still closed.
Ezekiel snorts while smirking.
“What?” I prompt.
“We’re not souls in need of a form. We’re not going to turn into anything,” he answers flippantly.
“And we don’t need your help,” Gage adds. “Because you won’t be able to get us out of this one.”
“So why are you so calm?” I ask as I take a seat in the open corner where none of them are.
“Because we’ve gotten ourselves out of some really shitty predicaments in the past,” Ezekiel tells me with a shrug. “It’s amazing what you can do when your survival instincts kick in.”
The way he says it makes it sound like it’s pointed at me. His eyes hold mine for a moment, and it feels like he’s trying to tell me something he’s not supposed to tell me.
When Gage darts a look his way, Ezekiel breaks eye contact with me and closes his eyes. I’m now tempted to go lie down beside him, but the other three would flip out.
Just as Kai starts speaking, I shush him, straining to hear something.
“What?” one of them asks me, but I’m too distracted to know which.
Without thinking too much about it, I take off sprinting through the cells all the way back down to the mystery man that I feel an odd sort of sympathy for.
“I told you it wasn’t me!” he shouts.
“You’re getting a moment with your prince. Be thankful for that,” a guard with a solid black leather mask over his face says. How can he even see?
Whatever is about to happen, I hurry myself over to Mr. Mysterious, hoping it works the same way, and really hoping I don’t get too far out of range from the boys.
A feeling of something powerful flashes through my core the second I touch him, and in less than a blink, we’re standing in what looks like a marble hall.
Glass chandeliers hang above me, and I spin in a circle, taking in all the gold and lavish surroundings.
Mr. Mystery drops to his knees, bowing his head as soon as a familiar face comes around the corner. My breath catches in my throat when I see who is stalking toward us.
My eyes move between them a few times before a sick feeling sinks inside me. This mystery guy is Lamar…
“My prince,” Lamar says, choking back emotion as tears start sliding down his face, but he keeps his head bowed.
Manella turns and looks at the numerous guards behind him. “Privacy. Now.”
They all exchange a look.
“When a dark prince tells you to get the hell out, you turn and walk away. You don’t look around for someone with more authority, because it will cost you a trip to hellfire,” he growls.
They all disappear without missing a beat. Manella’s harsh expression crumples, and he turns, grabbing Lamar by the shoulders and lifting him until he can hug him.
“I didn’t do it, my prince,” Lamar says on a choked sob. “I have no reason to.”
“I know,” Manella says, soothing him as he strokes his hair.
I stare, unable to look away, at the clear devotion and genuine concern etched in Manella’s tired and exhausted face, as though he’s lived days in a tortured nightmare.
He kisses the top of Lamar’s head, and pulls back before saying, “Un Bracco.”
The cuffs fall away, and suddenly Lamar is shoving his hands into Manella’s hair, dragging him down to kiss him the most passionately I’ve ever seen anyone kissed.
I turn away to give them privacy, since this feels far more intimate than anything I’ve ever witnessed the guys do. And I’ve seen them do far more scandalous things than simply kiss.
Since I can still feel the comforting presence of the guys, I’m assuming we’re still in hell, even if this side of hell is a lot more glamorous.
When I hear the kiss break, both of them panting for air, I turn around to see their foreheads pressed together, each clinging to the other.
“You have to run,” Manella says, looking over his shoulder before his eyes meet Lamar’s again.
My heart stutters.
“I can’t,” Lamar says with a sad smile. “They’ll believe I’m guilty then.”
Manella shakes his head. “You don’t understand; someone is in my father’s ear right now. Whatever is going on with the three remaining quads in the group has him on high alert. He’s brought all three sets here to stay hidden in the throat, convinced they’ll all be safe. Someone put that idea into his ever maddening head.”
I take a seat, because this just got good.
I can’t wait until the day I can have popcorn for moments like these.
“Which means someone is setting the quads up to die in here. The guards can’t be trusted, if that’s the case, because they’ll be the only ones able to get in there besides the escorts,” Manella goes on, staring Lamar in the eye. “They’ll come for you too. This is an attack on the family.”
Lamar shakes his head, clasping Manella’s hand. “If I run right now, they’ll know you set me free. Lucifer will believe you’re the one behind all this.”
“He already suspects as much. I have no envy and no greed—he knows this when he’s rational. I pointed out it made no sense for you to stab an elder and not ensure his death while wearing your true form. Why wouldn’t you conceal your identity? I’ve asked all the obvious questions to my father, and still he insists it was you, and no doubt he believes you were acting on my behalf. I’d rather him banish me than allow you to be killed,” Manella continues.
Those are actually good questions. If he could change into anyone, then why wouldn’t he just look like someone else in front of Harold, in the event the elder survived? Especially since he didn’t stick around to see if Harold died.
Another shape shifter would have a lot more to gain by framing Manella, who was already a suspect.
“I have no clue who is doing this, or they’d already be dead,” Manella continues, a growl to his words.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lamar says, his jaw tightening as determination steals his features. “I’ll continue to proclaim my innocence until they silence me. I’ll never let them take you down with me. I’ve already proven I never confessed as they tried to claim I did.”
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