I blew out a long breath, hoping it was a sound decision.
Goddess curse me, now I had to find out where I’d sent the Prince of Wrath.
I grabbed his shirt, and stole into the city to track down my missing prince of Hell.
“If you want me to speak with you now, ask nicely.”
I wouldn’t call it relief, but a knot in my chest loosened when I found Wrath stuck in the summoning circle again. He wasn’t angry like I’d expected, only a touch bemused. I supposed he didn’t expect to be banished right after saving my life. Which was fair. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to repay him that way, either. “Are all demons mad, or is it just you?”
He blew out a breath. “You’re not the most pleasant viper in the pit, are you? Thanking someone who saved your life by imprisoning them isn’t how things are done in my realm. There’s no denying you could stand to work on your manners.”
All thoughts of striking a tentative alliance left me. A demon lecturing about manners was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. The very nerve of him. I fired off a dozen different suggestions—that included farm animals—for what he could do with his remaining time on earth.
“Charming. I wonder where your creativity comes from, perhaps personal experience?” Bickering wasn’t getting us anywhere, and I had more important things to do. Apparently, Wrath felt the same way. He narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing me. “What’s got your skirts all twisted, witch?”
“If it’s about the spell I used, or the dress . . .”
“It’s not.” For some reason, now that I was near him again, I wasn’t quite ready to ask for his help solving my sister’s murder. I needed some other assurance that this was the best course of action. And there was one thing he might be able to answer that would help me make up my mind. If he didn’t laugh himself to death first. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. “An invisible demon attacked my grandmother yesterday. And before that, I think . . . I think it was stalking me.”
I expected him to mock me, or ask if I’d recently indulged in too many spirits. Instead he studied me very carefully. “Did it speak to you?”
I nodded. “It said, ‘he’s coming.’ ”
Wrath paced around the bone circle. “Sounds like an Umbra demon. But for it to be here and speak to you . . . did it say anything else?”
“I—I don’t remember exactly. The first time it said something about memories and hearts being stolen.”
“The first time?” He swung around to stare at me. Wrath wasn’t very good at showing a wide range of emotions, probably because he was an immortal being spawned in Hell and not a human, but was clearly surprised at this news. “Exactly how many times have you encountered it?”
“Maybe three? I thought I was being followed in the monastery . . . that night . . . then I found my sister and didn’t think about it again.” I started walking around the outer edge of the circle. “What’s an Umbra demon?”
“Mercenary spies, mostly. They sell their services to any royal House that has use for them. There are a few who are only loyal to Pride. They’re mostly incorporeal and are very hard to kill. Magic doesn’t always work on them the way you’d imagine it to.”
Very hard to kill wasn’t impossible to kill. A silver lining if ever there was one. “If it’s supposed to be spying, why reveal itself?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it, witch? They typically don’t speak at all.”
“Do you think Greed hired it?”
“Why would I think that?”
I looked him over for signs of deception. Surely he knew his brother was here. “Because I spoke with him in his gambling den right before my grandmother was attacked. And I may have tricked him into giving me more information than he’d originally agreed to. It’s not his sin, but I’m sure his royal pride was injured.”
“Funny.” Wrath gave me a dry look. “It is nearly impossible to fool a prince of Hell.”
“Well, unless he was lying about who he was, tricking him wasn’t that hard.” I couldn’t tell if Wrath believed me, and I didn’t care. “You said that some Umbra demons are loyal to Pride . . . do you think he sent them?”
Given the fact that it stole one of his horns, it seemed likely. But Wrath didn’t know that’s what I’d been after when I’d invaded the Viperidae nest. I was interested in his response.
“It’s possible, but not probable. Not when I’m here. An Umbra demon can’t transvenio to the underworld. They can only slip between realms if a prince sends them, or if they’re summoned. And even then that sort of power can only be used during specific periods.”
“How does traveling between realms work?”
“It’s like plucking threads of time, and weaving them in different places.”
Vague. “If someone was trying to summon the devil . . . would you be able to tell?”
Wrath cut a sharp glance my way. “He can’t be summoned.”
“What if someone had the Horn of Hades? Could Pride be summoned then?”
The demon prince went very still. His surprise only lasted a second before a slow smile spread across his face. “You’ve been busy.”
I had been, and I’d done a decent job so far of tracing my sister’s steps, but now I needed help. Wrath might be my enemy, but he’d saved my life. I hoped it meant I could trust him.
I thought carefully about what I wanted to do next. His responses about the Umbra demon reminded me of my twin and the way she’d take notes in her diary, and it put me at ease. It was like Vittoria was giving her blessing for this most unusual of unions. I reminded myself that Wrath could have easily tried taking my soul or bargaining for my life as I lay dying. And he didn’t do either of those things. Instead, he sacrificed his own power without expecting payment.
“Will you help me figure out if . . . that happened?”
“If someone summoned Pride?” he asked. I nodded. He looked highly skeptical. “We’d need to know the place where the summoning was attempted. And nothing is guaranteed. Was the Horn of Hades combined, or was just one horn used?”
“Just one.” I inhaled. “And I know where to start. So you’ll help?”
“You need to be more specific when asking to break the containment charm. And don’t forget to use my title. It is polite to do so.” I glanced down at his dagger I’d retrieved from home, then flicked my attention back to his. He grinned again; this time it was filled with genuine amusement. “Not my rules.”
“Will you please leave the bone circle and assist me in finding out if someone summoned Pride, Prince Wrath?”
It was the first time I’d ever broken a containment spell, and it was strange. I didn’t have to whisper an incantation, simply requesting him to leave the summoning circle did the trick.
An electric charge in the atmosphere filled the cave, expanding slowly until it pushed the containment circle’s border away. There was a slight crackle and then the outside world returned in full.
Wrath suddenly towered over me. “If you value our new alliance, do not ever use that containment spell on me again, witch. Trust goes both ways. My patience grows weary.”
“Fine. If you want my trust, stop helping Pride find a wife.”
“Then don’t be surprised when I defend myself using any means necessary.”
He paced away, running a hand through his hair. I watched impassively as he strode back over to me. Determination flashed in his gold eyes. “Hand me my dagger.” I shot him an incredulous look. “I only need it for a moment. And no, I won’t stab you with it.”
Though he probably wanted to. Badly.
I unstrapped the serpent dagger from the holster at my hip, and handed it over.
Wrath dropped to one knee.
“Emilia Maria di Carlo, you have my word that I will not physically harm a witch, nor force her into a marriage with Pride.” He dragged the blade across his palm, and pressed his bleeding hand against his heart. “On honor of my crown and my blood, I vow that my current mission is to save souls, not take them.”
He stood and handed his dagger back to me, hilt first. Another show of trust. I replaced the blade and looked him over. His wound was already sealed. “Aren’t you going to ask me to accept your blood trade from earlier?”
“I would prefer if you accepted it, but I will not force you to. Are you satisfied by my vow?”
“For the time being.”
He brushed past me, stopping near the edge of the cave. Resisting the urge to shove him into the sea below, I silently followed, taking in the silver-backed waves, undulating like a mammoth ebony creature beneath the full moon as he stretched. Blood and bones. Of course. A full moon meant more trouble. And my hands were already full of around six foot two of it.
“Here.” I slapped the shirt I’d bought him against his chest. “I don’t care if you hate it, if it smells, or if you’re too princely for peasant clothes, but you will wear this while we’re walking through the city. The last thing we need is to draw any more attention to you.”
Wrath and I settled against the building adjacent to the monastery, watching lights snuff out one by one. Soon the brotherhood would be asleep in their bedchambers. “What possessed you to swear a blood vow to me?”
“I wanted to offer a twig of trust.”
“You mean an olive branch.”
“Same concept, witch.” He tipped his face up at the moon. “Also, I might have wanted more of those . . . things you brought. If you died then I’d have to hunt them down. It would have been inconvenient.”
“The cannoli?” I asked, feigning incredulity at his attempt at humor. “You saved me in part for some sweetened ricotta?” Thank the goddess he didn’t seem to grasp how popular they were, or how widely they could be found in the city. “Do you think the Umbra demon is watching us?”