- The Darkest Whisper
“Just go,” Paris said, crawling out of the stall.
“Either walk to the bed or I’ll carry you,” Aeron said.
Paris growled low in his throat, but stood without comment. He stumbled to the bed and flopped onto the mattress, bouncing once. Aeron followed close at his heels, then stared down at him, unsure what to do next. Never had Paris looked more fragile or lost, and the sight brought tears to his eyes. After all, he owed this man his life. Not just for what Paris had given up for him, but for his friendship, for fighting beside him, taking bullets and knife wounds for him, listening to him bitch about life—this and their other, when they’d been warriors for the gods and he’d wanted, well, more.
He couldn’t leave him like this. Which meant he had to go into town on his own and find Paris a woman.
Leaning down, he smoothed a strand of hair from the warrior’s brow. “I’ll make this better. I will.”
“Score me another bag of ambrosia,” was the weak reply. “That’s all I need.”
“Oh, oh,” Legion said happily, suddenly done with her sulking. She raced into the room and hopped onto the bed. “Me know where to get sssome!”
Paris groaned yet again as the mattress shook. “Hurry.”
Aeron frowned at Legion and her smile faded. Head hanging, she climbed back on his shoulders. “What wrong now?”
“Don’t encourage him. We don’t want him sicker, we want him better.”
He scratched her behind the ears. “I’ll return,” he told Paris, and left the room, shutting the door behind him. Thankfully everyone was in the entertainment room, waiting for the meeting to start. If it hadn’t already. He made it to his chamber without bumping into anyone and hugged Legion tight before settling her on the ruffled lounge he’d had Maddox build for her.
“Stay here,” he said, stalking to his closet. In seconds, he was weighed down with knives. He wanted to take a gun, just in case, but didn’t want the human, whoever he chose, having access to it while he was preoccupied with flying.
“But—but—Me just got here. Me misssed you.”
“I know, and I missed you, too. But the townspeople are already afraid of me. I think they’d riot at the sight of both of us.” It was true. They’d never regarded Aeron’s heavily tattooed face with the same reverence they bestowed upon the other warriors. “I need to find a female for Paris and fly her back here.”
“But you can carry two. Me and her.”
“No. I’m sorry.”
“No!” She stomped her foot, red eyes bright. “No fe-malesss alone with you.”
He knew she wasn’t jealous romantically, but jealous like a child was when its parent remarried. “We’ve talked about this, Legion. I don’t like human females.” When he gave himself to a woman, it would be a strong immortal, one who was hard, resilient and not easily destroyed.
How Paris and the others could bed the humans, knowing they were doomed by disease, stupidity, carelessness or cruelty at the hands of another of their kind, he didn’t know. They would die. They always did. Even Ashlyn and Danika, to whom the gods had promised immortality, had weaknesses.
“I won’t be long,” he said. “I plan to grab the first female I find. Someone completely unattractive to me.”
She traced a claw over the emerald velvet. “Prom-issse?”
“Promise,” he assured her.
That mollified her somewhat, and she sighed. “Okay. Me ssstay. Me…” Her thin lips curved into a frown.
An instant later, Aeron felt a pair of invisible eyes boring into him. Hot, curious, insistent.
Legion trembled, scales paling, fear curtaining her features. “No. Nooooo!”
“Go,” he commanded, and she did without hesitation, disappearing with only a thought.
Slowly he spun, searching for any hint of the…angel? There was nothing, no shimmery outline, no heavenly scent. Everything was as it had always been. His jaw clenched. So badly he wanted to curse at the creature, demand it emerge and state its business with him. But he didn’t. There wasn’t time. Later, though…
He pulled off his shirt and tossed it to the floor, looking down at his tattooed chest. Battle scenes, faces. He never wanted to forget the things he’d done. The people he’d seen led to slaughter. Otherwise he feared he would become the very evil he’d always fought against. He would become his demon, Wrath.
No time for these grim thoughts. With only a mental command, his wings exploded from the hidden slits in his back, black, gossamer, deceptively fragile in appearance but incredibly strong. In that moment, he thought he heard a feminine gasp. Then warm hands were stroking those wings, learning every curve and hollow. Just like that, his cock hardened, a traitor to his resolve.
Hell. No. Desire a demon assassin? Not in this lifetime. “Don’t touch,” he snarled.
The phantom hands jerked away.
If only the creature would obey him in all things. “If you hurt my friends or think to steal from me, I will carve you up, piece by piece. It would be better for you to leave and never return.”
There was no response. That white-hot gaze remained.
Teeth grinding together, he strode to the double doors overlooking his balcony.
Outside, warm air enveloped him, fragrant with the scents of nature. Trees towered around the fortress, stretching to the sky. In the distance, he could see the red rooftops of the town shops and cathedrals. Those soft, hot hands never returned to him, and he was grateful. He was not disappointed, he assured himself.
Determined, he leapt from the balcony. Down, down he fell. He flapped his wings once, and rose. Again, and soared higher. He angled toward the left, turning to the north. That’s when the front of the fortress came into view and he saw Sabin, jumping out of the SUV with a bleeding, unconscious Gwendolyn in his arms.
Aeron wanted to stop, to help, but instead flapped his wings faster, harder. Paris came first. Now and always, Paris would come first.
SABIN HAD MEANT to keep at least one Hunter alive for questioning, perhaps a little torturing. Then they’d shot at Gwen, and that desire had vanished. The second bullet had been an accident, but rage had consumed him, more rage than he’d ever experienced before. He’d slaughtered them like cattle, one by one, their throats opening under the slick pressure of his blade. Hadn’t seemed like enough, then or now.
On the way to the fortress he’d phoned Lucien, who had flashed Maddox and Strider to the scene for cleanup, then had gone back to the fortress to gather Gideon and Cameo to search for any other Hunters that might be lurking about. Sadly, there’d been no sign of more. That didn’t mean they weren’t there, only that they were well-hidden.He wanted to slaughter another dozen or so.
Only a handful of times in the past two days had Gwen regained consciousness. Fuzzy as she’d been, he’d vacillated over and over again: take her to the hospital in town or keep her here? In the end, he always chose to keep her in his bedroom. She wasn’t human. Doctors could do her more harm than good.
But why wasn’t she recovering faster? She was immortal, a Harpy. Anya knew the race and swore they healed as swiftly as the Lords. But even though he’d removed the bullets, the holes in Gwen were still gaping, still raw.
After fussing over her this morning, Danika and Ashlyn had suggested he place Gwen in the Cage of Compulsion and command her to heal. Finally hopeful, he’d done it. But she’d only gotten worse. That was not how the cage was supposed to work, and he’d realized that though they thought they’d known the artifact’s abilities, they actually had much to learn.
Sabin had tried summoning Cronus, but evidently the god king was ignoring him. Damn gods. Only showing up when they wanted something. He now found himself praying for the arrival of her sisters. They would know what to do—if they didn’t butcher everyone inside the fortress first. The number Gwen had dialed the other day was stored in his phone, so he’d called it, too, intending to solicit advice, tell the girls to hurry. But the woman who answered had nearly gone up in flames when she discovered it was not Gwen on the line. And when he was unable to produce Gwen, the threats to his manhood had started.
Not a good omen of things to come.
“Can I get you anything?”
The question came from the door and Sabin jerked in surprise. Normally, a spider couldn’t sneak up on him. Lately, anyone and anything could. Damn Hunters. They’d been lurking in town, watching him, waiting for him to mess up so they could snatch Gwen. And he hadn’t fucking known.
“Yes.” He lay on the bed, Gwen tucked into his side. She’d stopped moaning in pain, at least. My charge, and I failed her. Worse, he’d promised her that the Hunters would never hurt her again. Hadn’t he? If he hadn’t, he should have. Guilt ate at him.
Did you expect anything less?
Doubt had long since turned its evil on Sabin, not giving him a moment’s rest.
Hands fisting, he regarded Kane, who stood in the entryway. Dark hair, hazel eyes. There was a smear of white on his left cheek. Probably from plaster. Ceilings loved to cave in on the keeper of Disaster.
“No.” He should be planning his next move against his enemy. He should be with his men, gearing up for battle. He should be on the streets, hunting. Instead, he could barely force himself to leave his bedroom. If his eyes weren’t on Gwen, if he wasn’t watching her chest rise and fall, his mind simply fried, unable to fend off Doubt with logic.
What the hell was wrong with him? She was just a girl. A girl he wanted to use. A girl who would probably die fighting his enemy—a girl he’d asked to fight his enemy. A girl he couldn’t have. A girl he’d only known a short while.
Being with her now, guarding her, wasn’t putting her above his mission, he assured himself. After he trained her, she’d be a killing machine. There’d be no stopping her. That’s why he was here, unable to leave, desperate for her recovery.