He gritted his teeth as the truth was wrenched from him. “Yes.”
“Are they at my family’s restaurant now?”
I dropped my sister’s amulet as if burned. I recalled the way Envy had forced me to take Wrath’s dagger to my heart, ready to gouge it out. Then I imagined him doing the same thing to my family and friends. In fact, he might have already started his games. Our kitchen had cleavers and knives and all sorts of tools that could be used as weapons, or torture devices hanging on the wall. I imagined that was why he’d chosen it as our meeting place.
Without wasting another moment, I ran.
I tripped over my skirts, and the taunting sound of the vampire’s laughter followed me down darkened roads. I ignored him. He no longer mattered. Getting to Sea & Vine was my only focus. I charged down narrow alleys and uneven streets, jumped over buckets of waste and shoved through lovers holding hands and strolling under the light of the moon.
I covered the mile in what felt like moments, and burst through the front doors, panting. I quickly scanned the room, searching for blood and gore and signs of a struggle.
My focus landed on the demon prince.
“I do love punctuality.” Envy shut a pocket watch with an audible snap. “You’re right on schedule, pet. The show is about to begin.”
“It’s truly a shame about your grandma.” The Prince of Envy sat at a corner table, his back to the wall, surveying the bounty of food set before him. The room was empty except for the two of us. I couldn’t decide if that was comforting, or more terrifying. “All that power, gone.”
Maybe I was too late, and my parents and Nonna and Claudia and Antonio were all lying dead in the kitchen. As quickly as the thought appeared, I banished it. He’d said the show was about to begin. I clutched onto the hope I could do something to stop whatever sinister thing he’d planned.
“Where are my family and friends?”
He acted as if I hadn’t spoken at all. Envy picked up his wineglass and swirled the liquid, breathing in the scent before taking a careful sip. His suit tonight was a deep forest green. Ferns lined the lapels and cuffs. The hilt of his emerald-studded dagger glinted from a strap he wore over his jacket. “I hear your grandmother might not be able to speak again. Tough fate for a witch. I imagine it’s hard to cast spells without a voice. Herbs and gemstones are fine, but those powerful incantations are nothing without words to set them ablaze. Isn’t that right?”
So he’d been behind the attack on Nonna, not Greed. I thought about the human messenger and the mysterious hooded figure he’d sold secrets to. Envy was the traitor we’d been looking for. I’d wager all of my magic on it. Wrath had been so convinced Envy would never rise up against them, that he didn’t even look into the threat. Which opened up an opportunity for the jealous demon. One Envy couldn’t resist taking.
I wanted to scream and scream and scream. I considered it a gift from the goddess that I was able to maintain some semblance of dignity. I lifted my chin. “I said, where are my parents?”
“Locked in the kitchen.”
“I left her at your home. She’s no use to me in her current state.”
“And my friends?”
“Safe, for now.”
“What do you want?”
“Sit.” He motioned to the seat across from him. “Dine with me.” When I didn’t jump to obey his command, he leaned forward, his voice edged with menace. “I vow to personally torture your family, your friends, and anyone who ventures into this fine establishment if you reject my civilized offer, pet. Then I’ll have Alexei hunt down those you love and drain them dry. Now be a good girl and take a seat.”
“Or don’t.” Alexei appeared behind me, grinning as I flinched away from him. I hadn’t heard his approach. “I’d like to feast before sunrise.”
I glanced between the demon prince and vampire. I wasn’t sure which of them was the bigger threat. The prince poured a second glass of wine. He’d slicked his chin-length hair back tonight, placing attention on the unusual jewel tone of his eyes, the sharpness of his jaw. “Don’t tell me you’re choosing a bloodbath over a glass of wine and pleasant conversation.”
I glared at him. I might be helpless, but I didn’t have to appear so. “I’ll sit as long as you promise to spare my friends and family, and leave here once we’re finished. And by ‘here’ I mean this city.”
“You’re not in a position to be making demands. But I respect your effort. Now sit. Drink.”
With little choice, I joined Envy at the table. He nodded toward the goblet of wine. I picked it up, and pretended to take a sip. I didn’t trust him to not have tampered with it before I arrived. If he was planning to sneak me back to Hell, he’d have to take me by force.
“You’re the one who’s been working against Pride,” I said.
He didn’t deny it. He watched me in an unnervingly close way—like he was seeing through layers of skin and bone, and found the heart of who I was and all I aspired to be.
“I understand why Wrath is intrigued by you.”
Intrigue was probably the last thing Wrath felt toward me. “Did you ask your vampire to deliver me here just to discuss your brother?”
“He loves a good challenge. It’s the war in him; makes him want to conquer and win at any cost.” He took another sip of wine, his attention straying to my neck. “It will be hard for him to give you up when the time comes. But he will. Do not delude yourself into thinking you matter to him. We princes of Hell are selfish creatures. We do not suffer the same range of sentiments as mortals, and those born to this peculiar realm. You are standing between him and something he’s sought for a very long time. In the end, he will choose himself. As we all do.”
I set my goblet down, the contents splashing onto the worn wooden table. “If this is what you came all the way from your wicked kingdom to say, that’s unfortunate. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. Nor are you telling me anything I particularly care about.”
I saw the exact moment I walked into the carefully laid trap he’d set for me. He cut into a stuffed sardine with impeccable manners. After he washed down the bite of food with more wine, he gave me a lazy smile, though his gaze was sharp enough to stab.
“If you’ve figured out my brother so well, why don’t you tell me what he’s really after? I’m sure a smart girl like you already knows, and doesn’t need my humble assistance in that matter.”
Envy wanted me to need him. To beg for knowledge out of mortal curiosity. Then he’d exchange it for something he wanted from me. And he must want something very badly if he’d go through this much trouble. I got a sick sense of satisfaction for being a disappointment to the demon. “What do you want, Envy? Why am I really here?”
“The first night we met, I suspected you were in possession of something I need. Do you know what that is?”
I thought back to that first encounter. I’d tucked my amulet inside my bodice right before he’d emerged from the shadows. Back then, I was worried he’d been after my sister’s diary. Knowing what I do now, I bet he could sense the power of the amulet. “You want my cornicello.”
“Close. I want both your amulet and your sister’s. And you’re going to give them to me.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I have in my possession something you want.”
I shivered in place. I knew what he meant; he had my parents. My friends. Nonna might be home now, but that didn’t mean she was safe. I held very still, waiting for him to deliver the blow. He finished the last bite of food and exhaled, sounding immensely pleased. He pushed his plate back then snapped his fingers.
A demon that had the head of a ram—complete with rounded horns above its ears—and the body of a human dragged my parents out by their collars and tossed them down. Their eyes were cloudy, their movements sluggish. They didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on.
I jumped up from my seat, but Envy shook his head.
“Sit, pet. We’re not through. There’s more.”
With no other option available, I dropped back into my seat.
“Good. You’re finally taking this seriously. I’ve waited long enough. Give me the Horn within the next twenty-four hours, and your loved ones will not be maimed. Tell anyone or fail to meet my demands, and they will be coming to stay with me in House Envy with the rest of my curiosities. And things will end much worse for you. This, I can promise, is no idle threat. Have I made myself perfectly clear?”
I glanced at my mother and father again. They hadn’t moved from where the horned-demon unceremoniously dumped them, and stared blankly at nothing. In a way, it was a blessing from the goddess of mercy that they weren’t entirely conscious for this.
My eyes burned with unshed tears. “What did you do to them?”
“You ought to be concerned with what will become of them yet if you don’t give me what I’m asking for.”
“I don’t have the other amulet.” I kept my focus on my parents, trying to think of a way out of this. “My half was stolen the night my grandmother was attacked.”
“Then I suggest you start looking for it. One half won’t do.”
“If you attacked my grandmother, don’t you already have my amulet?”
“Let me provide a bit of advice: accusations without evidence are worthless.” Envy poured another glass of wine. “By this time tomorrow, I expect to be in possession of both amulets. I will move your family and friends to your home tonight. Meet me there once you have the other amulet and we will trade. Your family and friends for the Horn of Hades.”
I went to remove my sister’s cornicello from my neck, but he held up a hand to stall me. “Why not take this half tonight?”