- The Darkest Whisper
He waved a hand in dismissal. “That’s ridiculous.”
“No, that’s their way of life.”
But that…surely it wasn’t…hell. Who was he to say something was impossible? For years Reyes had had to stab Maddox in the stomach at midnight and Lucien had had to escort the dead warrior’s soul to hell—only to return it the next morning to a healed body and do it all over again the next night.
“Help her steal something, then. Please. Isn’t petty theft your forte?” Later, he’d make sure food was lying around his room and easy to “pilfer.”
Suddenly a high-pitched cry of agony ripped through the walls, a sound that soothed Sabin’s very soul. The Hunter interrogation had just reached a new level. I should be there, helping. Instead, he remained rooted in place, curious, desperate for answers. “What else should I know about her?”
Pensive, Anya stood, walked to the pool table and dug one of the balls out of a pocket. She tossed it into the air, caught it, tossed it again. “Let’s see, let’s see. Harpies can move so quickly the human eye—or immortal eye, as the case may be—can’t register a single motion. They love to torture and punish.”
Both of those he’d already witnessed firsthand. The speed with which she’d killed the Hunter…the brutal way she’d attacked him…that had been all about torture and punishment. Yet every time Sabin mentioned attacking the other Hunters responsible for her treatment, she paled, a trembling mass of fear.
“Like any other race, Harpies can have special gifts. Some can predict when a specific person will die. Some can pull a soul from a body and carry it into the afterlife. Too bad more of ’em can’t do that—it’d make my honey’s job so much easier. Some can time travel.”
Did Gwen possess a special ability?
Every time he learned something about her or her origins, a thousand other questions presented themselves.
“But don’t worry about your woman,” Anya added as if reading his thoughts. “Those types of powers don’t develop until late in life. Unless she’s a few hundred years old—or is it a few thousand? I can’t remember—she probably hasn’t tapped into her ability yet.”
Good to know. “Are they evil? Can they be trusted?”
“Evil? Depends on your definition. Trusted?” Slowly she grinned, as if she relished her next words. “Not even a little.”
Not good for his main objective. But damn, he couldn’t picture sweet, innocent Gwen playing him. “From what Lucien told you, do you think Gwen could be working with the Hunters?” He hadn’t meant to ask that; he truly didn’t believe her capable of it. The only reason the thought was in his mind was Doubt. Doubt, for whom confidence and assurance were vile curses.
“Nah,” Anya said. “I mean, you found her locked up. No Harpy alive would willingly allow herself to be caged. To be captured is to be ridiculed, found unworthy.”
How would her sisters treat her when they arrived, then? He wouldn’t allow them to castigate her. And shit. He’d left her locked in his bedroom. A spacious bedroom, but a prison all the same. Did she now view him as she viewed the Hunters? His stomach churned.
“Will you stay with her? Please.”
“Hate to break it to you, sweet chops, but if she doesn’t want to be here, even I can’t keep her here. No one can.”
Another human cry ripped through the room, followed quickly by immortal laughter. “Please,” he repeated. “She’s frightened and needs a friend.”
“Frightened.” Anya laughed. But his intent expression never wavered, so that laughter began to fade. “You’re kidding me, right? Harpies are never scared.”
“When have I ever demonstrated a sense of humor?”
As disdainful of mysteries as she was, Anya shook her head. “You’ve got me there. Fine. I’ll babysit her, but only because I’m curious. I’m telling you, a frightened Harpy is an oxymoron.”
She would soon learn the error of that. “Thank you. I owe you one.”
“Yes, you do.” Anya smiled sweetly. Too sweetly. “Oh, and if she asks about you, I’m going to tell her everything I know. Every detail. And I do mean every.”
Dread instantly speared him. Already Gwen was wary of him. If she knew half the things he’d done in the past, she would never help him, never trust him, never again look at him with that intoxicating blend of desire and uncertainty.
“Deal,” Sabin said darkly. “But you are in desperate need of a spanking.”
“Another one? Lucien gave me a good one this morning.”
In that moment Sabin admitted to himself that he’d never gain the verbal edge with Anya. He’d never intimidate her, either. No reason to even try. “Just…be gentle with her. And if you have any shred of mercy inside that gorgeous body, don’t tell her I house Doubt. She’s already afraid of me.”
Sighing, he turned and stomped to the dungeon below.
“WHERE ARE THEY?” Paris demanded.
A moan of pain was his only answer.They’d been at it for what seemed like days, with no real results. Aeron’s demon, Wrath, was flashing all kinds of sick images in his head, wanting to punish this man for his sins. Soon Aeron wouldn’t be able to stop himself. If that happened, he wouldn’t get answers. He was ready to stop, regroup and try again tomorrow, allowing the remaining Hunters—they’d already accidentally killed two—to imagine what would soon be done to them. Sometimes, the unknown proved more intimidating than reality. Sometimes.
Paris, though, didn’t look ready to quit. The man was possessed. By more than his demon. He’d done things to these humans that even Aeron, cold warrior that he was, couldn’t have stomached. But then, Aeron was not the man he used to be.
Months ago the gods had commanded him to slay Danika Ford and her family and he’d fought diligently against the bloodlust that had subsequently consumed him. Fought against the images of those sweet deaths that invaded his head, his hand slicing their throats, his eyes watching their blood pour from them, his ears registering their last, gurgling breath. Gods, he’d craved those things, more than anything else in the world.
When the lust had finally left him—though he still didn’t know why it had—he’d been afraid of taking another life, any life, lest he morph back into the beast he’d been. Then he and the other warriors had traveled to Egypt and a battle had raged. He’d been unable to stay his hand, the lust he’d feared overtaking him yet again, driving him.
Thankfully, he’d calmed down without harming one of his friends. But what if he hadn’t? He would not be able to live with himself. Only Legion was capable of soothing him completely, and he was currently without her company.
His hands fisted. Whoever, whatever, was watching him had to be stopped before Legion could return. Somehow. Sadly, those invisible, penetrating eyes were not on him now. He was covered in blood and had a wadded-up rag in his pocket—a rag that cradled one of the dead Hunters’ fingers. The sight of him might have driven the voyeur away for good.
At first he’d thought it was Anya, playing a prank. She’d done something similar to Lucien. Legion was not afraid of Anya, though. Which made her probably the only fortress resident aside from Lucien who could make that claim.
“One last chance to answer my question,” Paris said calmly, tapping his dagger against the Hunter’s pale cheek. “Where are the children?”
Greg, their current victim, whimpered, a stream of saliva gushing from his lips.
They’d isolated the Hunters, one to a cell. That way, the screams they elicited from one would drive the others mad, making them wonder what exactly had been done to their brethren. The scents of urine, sweat and blood already saturated the air, another added bonus.
“I don’t know,” Greg blubbered. “They didn’t tell me. I swear to God they didn’t tell me.”
Hinges creaked. Footsteps echoed. Then Sabin was strolling into the cell, features tight with determination. Now things would get really bloody. No one was more determined than Sabin. With a demon like Doubt, that determination was probably the only thing that kept him sane.
“What have you learned?” the warrior asked. He pulled a velvet pouch from the back of his waist and gently placed it on the table, slowly unraveling the material to reveal the sharp gleam of different metals.
“The only new information is that our old friend Galen—” Aeron said the name with a sneer “—is aided by someone he calls…you aren’t going to believe this. Distrust.”
Sabin froze in place, the words obviously playing through his mind. “Impossible. We found Baden’s head, minus his body.”
“Yes.” No immortal could have survived that. A head was not something that could be regenerated. Other body parts, yes, but not that. “We also know his demon is now wandering the earth, crazed from the loss of its host. There’s no way it could have been found without Pandora’s box.”
“It offends me that such words were even spoken. You punished the Hunter for lying, of course.”
“Of course,” Paris said with a satisfied grin. “He’s the one who had to eat his own tongue.”
“We should put this one in the cage,” Aeron suggested. The Cage of Compulsion. An ancient, powerful artifact—and one that would supposedly aid them in their quest to find the box. Anyone they placed inside it had to do whatever the warriors commanded, no exception. Well, almost no exception. When Aeron had been consumed by bloodlust, he’d begged someone in the heavens to place him inside and command him to stay away from the Ford women.
But Cronus had appeared before him and said, “Think you I would create something as powerful as this cage and allow it to be used against me? Anything I set into motion cannot be stopped. Even with the cage. That’s the only reason I agreed to leave it here. Now. Enough of this. Now is the time to act.”