“You may return to your chambers with full pardon,” Lucifer says to Lamar. “I’m sure Manella will join you shortly.”
Lamar moves to his feet slowly, staying bowed at the waist. “Thank you, my king,” he says as he darts a look full of relief and pure joy to Manella.
Manella nods subtly, his face remaining a stoic mask in front of the devil, though I know he wants to run out with Lamar.
“You’re dismissed,” Lucifer says to Lamar.
Lamar bows again, turning to walk out, giving the devil the last word. I quickly follow him out, and watch with a curse as he disappears from sight, likely going to Manella’s chambers.
Not this again.
Frustrated, I poke my head back through the door just as Lucifer holds a hand up. All four remaining men burst into flames, and their screams have me jerking my head back, unable to watch.
Why did he do that?
I wait until the screams go instantly silent before I peek back in, seeing nothing but ash before it disappears. Lucifer goes to a throne-like chair and takes a seat, getting comfortable as a dark smirk emerges to his lips.
“You knew nothing of the protective gift your lover had. I could see it in your reaction to that conversation,” Lucifer tells Manella.
“No, sir,” Manella answers absently. “Are you certain it’s not something else? Is it still with us?”
Reeling back, I groan. I forgot the devil knew I was there.
Unable to help myself, I poke my head back in, but find the devil studying the spot where I was earlier.
“I’m not concerned with it, so speak freely,” Lucifer finally says with a shrug, returning his attention to his son. “Though, if it is a gift from Lilith, you might want to visit with her and have her revoke it before the curse takes effect. If it hasn’t already.”
He, for some reason, stares absently at my spot again. I swallow audibly.
“You weren’t able to read their lies, were you?” Manella asks him candidly.
Lucifer gives him the creepiest smile I’ve ever seen. “I’m afraid that gift has not returned. Though I did wake up a few months ago without the breaches of darkness clouding my mind. I’ve been trying to ascertain who has been taking advantage of my weakened state. Certainly none of your lovers. Lamar clearly believed I could read the truth, and was eager to spill it to me. Let’s let him continue believing in such, along with all the others. As far as anyone is concerned, these four died for their own failure to see the traitor in their midst.”
He claps his hands together as Manella smirks, looking more like the devil’s son than I’ve ever seen him.
“You’re finally back,” Manella says like he’s pleased.
“I certainly am,” Lucifer says darkly. “And the devil isn’t too happy with the traitors among us. Your siblings should not be suspect, though I’m sure you already suspect them.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve taken something precious from me,” Manella growls.
“None so precious as your Lamar. None so powerful either,” Lucifer states absently. “And they’d never create a mess such as this for me, especially not in the state I’ve been reduced to these past few centuries.”
He does realize they’re devil-spawn, right?
Manella bristles. “Tensions are high between the six of us right now. I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed when you see us together now.”
He nods, but a grin still stays fixed to his lips. “That’s all going to change, my son. Everything is about to change.”
The certainty and malice rolling off him sets my stomach into waves. I don’t like how sure he sounds of himself. It can’t be good when the devil is excited.
“Tell your siblings to look forward to a reunion.” Lucifer shifts his gaze toward Manella again, the corners of his mouth turning out like the Grinch’s as he adds, “Daddy’s home.”
A chill shoots through my spine, and I move back. Focusing hard, I find the boys presence, and I start to zap myself there, when they’re suddenly standing right behind me.
I squeal a little, and Jude’s wide eyes meet mine. Ezekiel looks half dazed, but his eyes clear when he spots me. Gage blows out a shaky breath, shaking his head as he runs a hand through his hair.
Kai opens his mouth like he’s about to speak to me, when the two large doors open on their own.
“What are you doing here?” I hiss, freaking out. “The devil is in there.”
The suicidal idiots just smirk at me. Jude even winks at me.
“Come on in, boys,” I hear Lucifer drawl, and my entire body goes awash with cold.
Ezekiel passes through me, his eyes closing briefly as he breathes in deep, and I whirl around to follow them.
I really will try to kill the devil if he attempts to harm them.
And I’ll find out just how good of a protective spirit I really am.
Or have my heart split four ways and set on fire.
One of the two.
Another, smaller throne has appeared, and Manella is lazily lounging next to Lucifer. The devil is casually sipping from a champagne flute that I don’t recall him having earlier, as we step forward.
The doors slam shut, and I step up behind them, ready for whatever.
“Rather interesting quad you fellas must be to keep getting so much attention,” Lucifer drawls.
The guys all seem a little too freaking relaxed for my taste.
They bow as one, all of them folding at the waist but not dropping to their knees the way Lamar did.
“All the way to the ground,” I hiss, worrying about the respect level.
Lucifer’s lips just twitch when they remain bowed at the waist.
“This is informal. You may stand,” Lucifer says, not seeming disrespected or offended.
They straighten with the same synchronization as they bowed.
They all take a stance with their arms behind their back and their legs spread shoulder-width apart—a militant stance resembling the one the guards used.
“What’s so special about you?” Lucifer asks, his eyes drifting from one to the other.
“We never died,” Ezekiel answers without hesitation.
It’s subtle, but I notice the slight widening of the devil’s eyes, as though that surprises him. He darts a look to Manella, and Manella nods once.
Lucifer’s grin curls like he’s delighted before he returns his gaze to them.
“Yet you’re in the underworld, able to breathe, able to move about like all the others. Very interesting indeed. How did you transition?” he muses.
“We’re not wholly sure about those details,” Jude answers a little too easily. “We were hoping to earn our ticket here and discover those answers from you.”
Lucifer grins, swirling the champagne once before finishing it off. The glass disappears once it’s empty, and he leans up, steepling his hands in front of his face as he studies them with renewed interest.
“And it took you some centuries to earn a spot in the trials, from what I’ve learned. I assumed the documents were just lazily prepared when I didn’t discover a previous stay in hell’s throat,” Lucifer says, almost as though he’s a little excited.
I glance at the four of them, seeing their faces stoic and unnervingly calm. The devil is excited about them? That’s…terrifying. Just what sort of guys did I go and get myself tethered to?
I know they’re lethal, unapologetic, certainly psychotic, and inherently dangerous, but I didn’t know they’d get the devil giddy.
“We had assumptions we were being kept out intentionally, given our consistently high rankings with the surface guardians,” Kai states honestly.
Manella smirks. So does the devil.
I hate this.
I hate this a lot.
The devil cuts his eyes toward Manella, but Manella pointedly ignores him, never losing his secretive smirk.
“I’ve heard you were under the assumptions Manella was the one doing so,” Lucifer tells them.
They say nothing.
Lucifer’s grin grows, and Manella rolls his eyes.
“I can assure you that the royal family has no interest in who makes the trials. Our guards are hand-selected, and the trials are just for the lower levels starting out in the underworld,” Lucifer goes on. “In fact, the four of you are the first-ever trial runners that any of us have taken an interest in.”
That has the four of them stiffening ever so slightly. Me? I’m a fucking mess right now.
If I had tangible fingernails, I’d have chewed them off. I’m pacing back and forth behind them as it is.
“Of course all the quads rouse interest, so I suppose that’s not entirely true,” the devil goes on, contradicting himself with weird double-talk.
I remind myself the devil is tricky.
“My interests lie in the fact that someone certainly did try to keep you four away from hell. In fact, it was so imperative that you transitioned without death. A feat never heard of before.”
He stands, and I go still, my eyes warily on him as he stretches like he’s been sitting for too long. Lazily, he fingers the buttons on his sleeve before rolling it up to his elbow. Then does the same to the other.
The devil likes suspense.
“I’m interested in knowing how you came to believe it was Manella who was against you,” he says, placing his hands on his hips.
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