- The Darkest Secret
That could only mean… Her eyes widened in astonishment.
He was speaking inside her mind. Had been speaking inside her mind the entire time. That was new for them, too, and far more disconcerting than the heat.
How was he doing it? How could the Lords have caused this?
Reason it out later. “I’m going to look for weapons, okay?
Something, anything.” Could she even stand? Her muscles were vibrating, her veins fil ing with sludge.
“And then I’m going to find a way—”
No! Don’t leave. There was a panicked pause. Need you.
“I won’t leave the room, I swear, not without you, but I have to—”
No! No, no, no! Babbling now, his body tensing. You have to stay.
“Okay, baby, okay. I’m here. I’l stay.” Soft, gentle, the promise left her before she could consider the consequences. Not that they would matter. She would rather hand herself over to Defeat, gift wrapped on a silver platter, than cause this man any more grief. “I won’t budge from this spot. Promise.”
Need you, he said again, barely audible this time.
“You’ve got me. You’ve always got me.” She stretched out, mindful of his injuries, and curled herself around his fragile frame, offering what comfort she could. She knew what it was like to suffer alone. She didn’t want that for him. Ever.
Perhaps this was even a blessing in disguise. Micah probably wouldn’t survive his wounds if he left the bed anytime soon. And this way, when the demons returned—
and they would return, they wouldn’t leave her for long—she would be here to fight them, to keep them from hurting him even more.
Yeah, they’d strike back and probably kil her. And yeah, she gagged, thinking of what would happen to her after that death, a fate so much worse than being stabbed, shot, or even burned alive. Al of which she’d endured before.
She’d told herself she wouldn’t consider what happened after she died, but she didn’t stop herself this time. Not even when fear swept through her, consuming her, chil ing her.
If she managed to kil any of the Lords, they would be eternal y lost, but she would be reformed, returned to the age she was now, minus any good memories she’d built of this lifetime, consumed only with the bad, with the hate. It was an agonizing process that made her scream and beg and pray for an eternal death of her own.
A process that had taught her to avoid death at al costs.
But this time…she would die wil ingly, eagerly, taking as many Lords as she could with her. And then, then she could return for the rest of them.
Then she could avenge Micah.
AMUN BLINKED OPEN HIS EYES. Or tried to. The action proved difficult, since his lashes felt as if they’d been glued together. And maybe they had been. If one of his friends had punked him, he was going to retaliate. With scissors.
He kept tugging and final y managed to separate top from bottom. Immediately his eyebal s burned and watered, every thing around him seemingly smeared with Vaseline.
Worse, the light seeping in from the only window stil managed to lance his retinas like blade-tipped lasers. He turned his head away from the reflective glass and studied his surroundings as best he could.
He frowned—and damn, that hurt, tugging and splitting multiple cuts on his lips. He was in his own bedroom, but…
there was a hole in the wal . A hole that led into the chamber next door. A hole he hadn’t made, and to his knowledge, his friends hadn’t, either. He liked to think they would have asked his permission before redesigning his room like that.
How was he here, anyway?
Last thing he remembered, he’d been deep inside hel , fire crackling al around him as he fought evil spirits and basical y got the shit kicked out of both his body and his mind. Demon thoughts and human memories had bombarded him, like bombs going off inside his head, and they—
Were stil there, he realized, frown deepening. The dark thoughts and memories were stil there, but though they were churning, agitated, they remained at a distance, as if afraid to gain his attention. Why?
A feminine moan stroked his ears, shocking him into concentrating.
Amun stiffened, his attention shifting again, this time landing on his mattress. Or what should have been mattress. Beside him was a woman. A very beautiful woman who was curled on her side, facing him, her warm breath caressing him. One of her arms was bent over his stomach, as if she couldn’t bear to let him go, with her hand resting over his heart. Monitoring the beat?
That arm was tattooed from wrist to shoulder, completely sleeving her. He saw faces—human—each one glowing with life and love. Numbers, too. And dates, maybe?
Though, if so, some of those dates were from way back.
There were also names: Micah, Viola, Skye. And phrases: Darkness always loses to light and You have loved and been loved.
He knew her. Somehow he knew her. How—
The answer slid into place. Haidee, the one from his visions, or whatever they’d been. The little girl he’d yearned to comfort, and the woman he’d longed to touch. She was here.
How was she here?
He lifted his hand to smooth the pale hair plastered on her cheeks, and his muscle went death match on his bone, both aching in protest. Damn. What the hel was wrong with him?
As careful y as he was able, he moved his arm closer to his face, every inch an unsteady milestone, but not stopping until he had a clear look. Seeing the ruined flesh, the knotted muscle, he wanted to curse.
He’d been chained, maybe tortured. By Hunters? Had they tortured the girl, and his friends had rescued her, too?
As rage sparked inside him at the thought of her mistreatment, his gaze returned to her. She hadn’t moved, was stil sleeping so peaceful y. Dark circles marred the delicate tissue under her eyes. There were a few smudges of dirt lining her cheeks and a bruise on the underside of her jaw. Signs of wear and tear, but not torture. The rage muted to a low simmer.
She’s fine. And you’l defend her. Or rather, he would defend her until she healed and he had to send her on her way. He wasn’t safe to be around anymore. Not for long.
For now, though, she’s yours.
Suddenly she jolted upright, her gaze swinging left and right. “Who said that?” Without waiting for a reply, she threw her legs over the side of the bed and stood. She raced to the window.
What was she doing? Haidee, he mental y tsked, you shouldn’t be running around like that. You need time to mend.
As if she’d heard the thought, she spun around and faced him. Eyes of the sweetest pearl-gray widened as they studied him from top to bottom. “Oh, baby. You’re getting better. Thank God!”
Baby. She’d cal ed him baby. The first endearment ever to be directed at him, and his ears soaked it up like nectar from the heavens.
“I didn’t mean to fal asleep. I’m so sorry.” She tripped back to his side. “We have to get out of here.
Can you walk?”
I don’t think so. Both of his femurs were cracked, if not broken entirely. He recognized the heavy ache underneath the muscle. Besides that, he was home. He didn’t want to leave.
“Okay, okay. We’l think of another way, then.” Even as she spoke, she scanned the room a second time. “I thought I’d have to fight them from the bed, but they must not have come back.” She offered him a fleeting smile. Fleeting, but like a ray of sunshine al the same. “Their mistake.”
He blinked. That was the second time she’d—correctly—
responded to something he hadn’t spoken aloud. You…
“Yes. I know, I know. It’s weird.” That gaze never stopped scanning. For weapons? An escape route?
“I was surprised, too. I don’t know how it’s happening, but I’m grateful. If I hadn’t heard you from next door, I would have left without you.”
No one had ever heard him like that. No one. He’d always been the one to know what others were thinking, and he found he was…uncomfortable with this new development.
How was she doing it? Could she hear everything? Al the secrets floating through his head? Could she even hear his whimpering demon? What about the others, the new ones who liked to scream? Or could she only hear what he projected at her?
“Can you stil not speak?” she asked gently.
Test time. He al owed the answer to form in his mind, but he kept a firm mental hold on it.
“Can you?” she insisted. She reached out and traced a fingertip along the seam of his lips, careful, so careful not to hurt him. The you’ve-just-reached-the-freezer-section coolness of her skin delighted him.
She hadn’t heard, he realized, even as he shivered at her silken touch. Such a surreal moment. She acted as if she knew him…liked him. Baby, he thought, dazed al over again.
No. I stil can’t talk. He pushed the words at her, watching for the minutest reaction.
An angry sigh escaped her, and the corner of her lip curled in disgust. “Those bastards. Did they do something to your voice box?” Bastards? No. She’d heard that time. Which meant there were limits.
Thank the gods. No one, especial y such an innocent human, should have to listen to the evil inside his head. No one, especial y such a fragile female, could survive its gloom. Even now, Amun wasn’t sure he could.
“Do you remember what happened?” she asked. “How you got here?”
He shook his head, slow, measured, trying not to open up any more wounds. Problem was, he was utterly covered in abrasions. The smal est action tugged too-tight skin and split scabs.
“Okay, then.” Her next sigh was sorrowful. Her hand remained on him, as if she couldn’t bear to sever contact.
“I’l tel you what I know.”
He nodded to encourage her, winced.
“Be stil , baby,” she said, al concerned mother hen and determined commando. “Just listen, okay, and try not to panic.” She drew in a deep breath, then slowly released it.
“The Lords of the Underworld have us. We’re in a structure on top of a hil . Their fortress in Buda, maybe? I didn’t see any landmarks to verify my suspicions. Though why they’d risk bringing us here, I don’t know. Last I heard, this was where they were keeping two of the artifacts. You think they’d want us as far away from those as possible.”