- The Darkest Secret
I wish I were. Through death or some other means, the scrol said they were our only way out of here.
She gulped a mouthful of what felt like sand. “And what do you mean by ‘some other means’? We’re supposed to ride them to safety?”
To her surprise, Amun chuckled softly. I have no idea. The scrol told me nothing else. But I do know the Horsemen are in some way related to Wil iam, and—
You haven’t met him. He’s immortal, a god of some sort, I think, and on our side.
“Our” side. As if they were partners rather than enemies. As if he trusted her completely. As if he no longer saw her as a Hunter responsible for his friend’s murder, but as a woman worthy of him. Inside she glowed, tendrils of his warmth traipsing through her.
“So, if the Horsemen are related to this Wil iam person, who’s on our side—” she stressed the word
“—the Horsemen should be on our side, as wel ?”
We can hope.
For some reason, that wasn’t promising.
A shriek sounded at her left, and she stopped to wheel in that direction.
Easy, Amun instructed, stil ing beside her. Someone’s playing a game, that’s al .
That was al ? The beings here weren’t playing with darts, bal oons or plastic bal s—and the prizes weren’t stuffed animals. Severed heads were being tossed at boiling tubs of oil, and though the heads were bodiless, their mouths stil managed to scream in pain when splashed with the oil, skin melting away.
The little boy who’d just won jumped up and down, clapping, his hoofed feet clomping hard into the ground and spraying dirt in every direction. The proprietor handed him a beautiful golden bird trying desperately to escape the string around its neck, wings flapping erratical y, glitter raining from them like fairy dust.
The loveliness of the bird was surprising, considering the ugliness of everything else down here.
The little boy gently held the bird in both hands, muttering soothing words. Those golden wings gradual y stopped flapping. Of course, that’s when the boy shoved the tiny creature into his mouth and bit off the head.
Haidee gagged and quickly looked away—right at a group of men who’d locked their sights on her and Amun. Those men were striding toward them, closing the distance. Damn it. She never should have paused to watch the games.
“Amun,” she whispered fiercely.
I see them. He released her, gearing for a fight they both knew would happen. If I tel you to run, you run and hide and don’t return. Understand?
As if. But rather than tel him she planned to stay and help, possibly distracting him, she remained silent and palmed two blades in each hand. The men were almost upon them…they were big, bigger than Amun, with paper-thin skin that draped loosely over pitted bone, their eyes merely sunken holes of black…and stil they drew ever closer…
Just as he’d done with the ticket handler, Amun stiffened.
And not in preparation for battle.
“Can you read their minds?” she asked.
He said no more, but then, he didn’t have to. The men intended to do something vile. To her, she was sure.
“Six against two. Let’s see if we can even out those odds.”
Haidee threw two of her weapons. The first hit the biggest of the men in the jugular, and he instantly toppled. The second hit the man next to him right in the eye socket. He screamed as he fel .
The other four paid their fal en comrades no heed, continuing forward.
Run, Amun commanded her.
Okay. She had to tel him. “I’m not letting you fly solo on this.
I’m here. I’l help.”
The men reached them and formed a circle around them, effectively surrounding them with a wal of muscle and menace. Wouldn’t have been so bad, except the two men she’d fel ed suddenly rose, jerked the weapons from their bodies and took their places in the circle, far angrier than they’d been before.
Oh…shit. They couldn’t be kil ed. Dread slithered through her, choking her.
“We want the girl,” one of them said, and al of them gave her a once-over, lingering on her breasts, between her legs, mental y stripping her and making her shudder in revulsion.
“Wel , news flash. You can’t have me,” she snapped. She would rather die. Again.
“Wasn’t talking to you, bitch.” The shithead’s gaze never left Amun. “Give her to us, and you can go on your way. Alive.”
He’l pay for disrespecting you, I swear it, Amun told her, and he sounded so calm he could have been discussing his favorite type of doughnut. But first, since you refused to obey me, and yes, we wil be discussing that, ask him if he’s seen the Horsemen.
That, she obeyed. And as her words echoed between them, an almost visible wave of fear swept over the men.
They began to tremble, their skin taking on a grayish cast.
The Horsemen were so depraved they frightened even psychos, huh? Awesome. Then the fear turned to anger, and the men scowled at Amun with more fury than before, as if they blamed him for what they’d felt.
“Forget those that shal not be named and tel us what you want for her,” one of the men said.
Those that shal not be named?
A muscle ticked below Amun’s eye as he took each guy’s measure.
“Can’t you talk, demon?” another growled. “We want the woman. Now.”
So they recognized what he was, but they weren’t scared of him as they evidently were of the Horsemen. If that was the case, though, why didn’t they simply attack him?
“You can have her back when we’re done,” stil another said.
They laughed in eerie unison.
“’Course, she’l be in pieces, and we’l probably keep the good ones, but you can have what’s left.”
Run, Haidee, Amun repeated into her mind. And this time, do it. He didn’t wait to see if she had—she hadn’t—but launched himself at the men. He moved so quickly, she registered only the blur of his slashing hands and glistening blades.
The men converged on him with the same eerie unison in which they’d laughed, kicking at him, swinging their arms like clubs. She couldn’t throw herself into the fray because there was no way to tel which body parts belonged to Amun and which to the shitheads. Their positions changed too swiftly.
Blood sprayed, some red, some black. Grunts and groans resounded. Then Amun landed at her feet, wheezing, his face already sliced to ribbons. The men were on him an instant later, their momentum shoving her backward.
She righted herself, that image of Amun fil ing her with a rage so potent, her blood began to thicken with ice. No one hurt her man. No one. Mist formed a cloud in front of her nose each time she exhaled. She knew anyone who looked at her would see actual crystals glinting in her hair, on her skin. This strong a reaction hadn’t happened in so long, she’d almost forgotten she was capable of it.
Hate fil ed her, joining the ice. So much hate. She hated these men, hated what they’d planned. Hated that they lived.
She couldn’t al ow them to live.
Amun managed to throw the bundle of bodies off him and jump to his feet. His weapons had been ripped from his grip, so he used his fists now, pummeling with al his might.
But every time he cracked one of those fatheads to the side, breaking the spinal cord, the men would shake off the blow and attack with new fervor. Then one of them realized Haidee was alone, seemingly unprotected and disengaged.
His grin was evil.
Hers was worse. “Come here,” she said with such calm even she was surprised.
Those black eyes narrowed, a forked tongue swiping over too-thin lips. Though he was obviously suspicious about her sudden eagerness, the man complied, moving closer.
He pushed her down the moment he reached her, throwing himself on top of her, trying to rip off her jeans. Haidee let him, helped him, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her lips into his.
His tongue thrust out, hard, attempting to pry her teeth apart. He needn’t have bothered. She opened wil ingly, blowing the ice of her breath, the very hate of her soul, straight into his mouth. He convulsed. In shock, perhaps, or maybe in fear. Or even pain. She wanted him to feel pain.
Then he stil ed, unable to move, literal y frozen, but that wasn’t enough. He hadn’t suffered enough.
She shoved him off of her and stood, distantly noting the blue pal or of his skin, the unmoving features, the stiffness of his body. More. She needed more. More ice, more hate, more death. These men deserved to die. Her mind locked on that thought—deserved, deserved, deserved—and glided to the heap of struggling bodies, brushing her fingers over one, then the other. They, too, froze in place, their skin hardening as the ice flowed over them.
More. Deserved. The remaining three offenders noticed the condition of their friends and leapt away from Amun, watching her through horror-fil ed eyes.
“What—what’d you do?”
“What are you?”
“Don’t come any closer!”
Amun pushed to his feet, stepping away from her, as wel .
His expression was unreadable.
More. Deserved. She walked toward the men, and they scampered backward, tripping over their own feet, fal ing.
“Come,” she said. “Taste me.”
Amun’s voice pushed through some of the ice, but not the hate. She hated these men, knew they had to die by her hand. She reached out. One touch, just a single touch, and she would have what she wanted.
Everyone’s destruction. Yes, everyone’s. She had only to finish with these two, and she could move on, destroy everyone.
They crab-crawled backward, desperate to escape her.
One of them wasn’t fast enough, and she managed to latch onto his ankle. She grinned. He seemed to turn into stone right before her eyes. More. Deserved.
Haidee, sweetheart. Look at me.
Sweetheart. She liked when Amun cal ed her sweetheart.