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Body count—low

Fear factor—deadly hysteria

Historical presence—notorious impact

Considering I’d rather not add more reasons to make a run for it before I meet the maker of those psychotic people, I decide not to read anymore plaques.

I also quit looking at the pictures so that I don’t get curious.

Out of place in the otherwise white décor, two massive, coal-black doors that tower over me slowly start to open. Sure. Not ominous at all.

Lamar takes a shaky breath, and then he steps inside.

I try not to piss my pants, because I’m about to be in front of the motherfucking devil.

Chapter 19

We move through a short hallway, and Lamar navigates the bit of a maze we’re in like he’s done this countless times. With one quick inhale, he steps into another room, and I follow him.

My eyes take in the red and black décor, almost feeling cheated with how cliché and obvious it all is. It looks like an office, and the walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books. The room stretches up at least fifty feet, and I spin around, a little overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of knowledge concealed at the fingertips of the devil himself.

Sensing a presence, I look over just as another set of doors open, and in walks Manella, his bright smile still fixed to his relaxed face. Lamar is so rigid he looks ready to break.

Manella doesn’t say anything, but he reaches over and grabs Lamar’s hand, his excitement spilling over noticeably.

My eyes come up just as a debonair, regal man emerges from the same room Manella just exited. Dressed in black slacks and a white silk shirt, he moves toward us, his hands in his pockets as he gracefully glides across the floor, his steps fluid and effortless.

It’s almost captivating how commanding his presence is.

I quickly move in front of Lamar on reflex when he steps toward him. A harsh burn spikes through my arms and chest, and I suck in a breath, caught off guard, when he passes through me.

He stills, and I jerk away from the painful heat he radiates even in my form. Hellfire was doable. Devil fire? Apparently fucking not.

Whirling around, I see him completely stiffened, unmoving as Manella stares at him with a curious expression.

Oh no. Oh no no no.

The devil knows I’m here. Why did I think he wouldn’t be able to at least sense me if I touched him, since Lamar can apparently sense me now?

Lucifer’s head subtly tilts to the side. His eyes aren’t on Lamar, just staring at nothing in particular, when he asks, “What have you brought to our meeting?”

Lamar clears his throat. “I believe it to be some protective gift, though I’m not sure who pressed it upon me,” he says, bowing his head before adding, “my king. I can only assume it to be a gift from Lilith.”

Slowly, Lamar lowers to his knees, and he presses his hands to the floor in a complete bow.

“You can stand, Lamar. This is a rather informal meeting,” Lucifer states absently, almost as though he remains distracted. By me. The fact I’m in here and the devil knows it.

I’m going to die the second I get whole, because I’m a freaking idiot.

Lucifer rubs his chin pensively as he turns to face my direction. I freeze like a deer caught in headlights, but his eyes pass right over me.

To the untrained eye, he’d look like a refined man in his early forties, with the shine of an old, insightful soul in his eyes. It’s not the feral, evil black eyes you expect to find when you meet the devil. It’s very misleading.

“Very interesting. I caught wind of some of my guards attacking you in my custody.” He says the words like they’re of no real importance, and that knot of dread increasingly grows in my stomach.

Lamar frowns, but nods, even though he still hasn’t gotten up from the floor. “Yes, my king,” he states affirmatively.

“I’ve told you once to stand. I’d rather not repeat myself,” Lucifer drawls.

Lamar slowly rises to his feet, keeping his eyes lowered as his body visibly vibrates with tension.

“I don’t particularly enjoy my custody being violated,” Lucifer goes on. “If any custody is protected, it most certainly should be mine. Wouldn’t you think?”

I can’t tell by his tone if he’s being rhetorical, underhandedly vapid, or just curious.

Lamar just remains a block of stone, unmoving and silent.

“Well?” he prompts, casting a sideways glance to Lamar.

“Father, what are you—”

“Silence, Manella. I told you not to speak, or I’d ask you to leave,” Lucifer interrupts with an eerily calm tone.

Manella swallows his words, casting a less certain look toward Lamar.

“Yes, my king, I would assume your custody would receive the highest protection.”

Lucifer nods, clapping his hands together once. “I agree.”

With a wave of his hand, ten men appear in shackles, all of them unmasked to show the horrifying faces. They look to have been burned off and scarred over. I have to look away from the hideously disfigured bodies as well, because those burns scrape every bit of flesh.

“These ten prison guards had access to your cell. I granted none of them access,” Lucifer says with a bored tone and a lazy shrug.

Five more men appear in shackles, all of them looking just as gnarled and disfigured as the others. Humans wouldn’t be able to survive such damage. Did this happen recently? Or is this their form after transition?

I totally get the masks now.

“These five are the ones I gave access to. One of my most trusted escorts, and four of my most trusted throat guards,” Lucifer goes on.

He moves closer to the line of ten men. With a dark smirk, he winks, and the men drop to the ground, screams of agony ripping from their throats as they start convulsing. Black liquid oozes from their mouths, eyes and ears as they start gurgling, their screams being silenced as they drown internally.

Lucifer wipes a bit of black liquid away as though it’s a cumbersome piece of dirt. The droplet falls from his sleeve and splatters to the ground before it’s absorbed and lost from sight.

The ten dead men disappear from the room, an ominous silence falling over us in their tortured wake.

Swallowing thickly, I take a step away from the devil. Then another. And another. Until I’m against the wall.

Lucifer grins wickedly at Lamar. “Now to find out who exactly gave them access. It’s been a long while since I had the ability to hear the lies so easily,” he goes on, turning his attention to the five men.

The men have no expression as they remain shackled, since their faces are too distorted to relay any sort of emotion.

“What about you?” he asks the first one.

“No, my king,” the man immediately says, bowing his head and exposing his throat.

Lucifer smiles broadly. “Truth,” he says, moving down to the next one.

The same question and answer are repeated, and this one bows and exposes his throat as well.

When he moves to the third one, I notice a subtle tension spread through the guard.

“And you?”

The guard doesn’t answer as quickly. “No, my king. Never,” he says, bowing his head and exposing his throat.

“Lie,” the devil says seconds before the man’s head goes rolling.

Silence again.

There’s no spraying of blood. No scream of warning. Once second there’s a head, and the next second it’s bouncing around on the ground and rolling to a stop at Lamar’s feet.

The body falls, jerking the line of shackled men around him closer together, since they’re all chained to each other.

I follow Lucifer’s gaze to Lamar, and the relief on the prince’s lover’s face is almost instant. The devil can hear a lie, which means he’ll know it was never him.

The chains disappear, and the men step away from the fallen body before it also vanishes from sight.

Lucifer shifts his gaze and studies them briefly, before turning his attention to Lamar.

The four remaining men stand at a militant position, likely waiting to be dismissed.

“What were your whereabouts on the night the elder was attacked in neutral sanctuary territory?” Lucifer asks him.

Tears of pure relief cloud Lamar’s vision as a smile spreads across his lips. “With my prince, my king. I spent the night in his chambers, and woke with him that next morning,” he says, then swiftly bows, his entire body relaxed as he exposes his throat.

Lucifer glances to Manella. “He is cleared of the charges against him and remains under royal protection. An attack on him is an attack on us all,” Lucifer adds.

Lamar barely manages to keep from sobbing, remaining in his bowed state. Manella’s eyes glisten as he bows at the waist to his father. “Thank you, Father. Thank you.”

Lucifer snaps his fingers, and five men walk in. All their gazes search the room, seeing the four men instead of the fifteen originally sent in here. They stiffen and go to attention.

“Make sure it’s recorded that my son’s lover is exonerated of all charges. And place a royal inquiry into the true killer of the elder. Lamar is being framed, and I’ll not tolerate these games,” Lucifer drawls in a bored tone.

They all bow, then turn and swiftly walk out the way they came in. The four remaining fellows stay at attention, still waiting to be dismissed.

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