- The Darkest Whisper
Suddenly a pang of longing swept through him and he blinked in surprise. Longing? For what? The ability? Or the demon itself?
Gideon waved the odd sensation aside. He didn’t know if Nightmare had even been inside the box—there was another pang.
“We’ve been watching the place for over an hour, our guy has already left empty-handed and there’s been no other movement. I think it’s abandoned,” Anya said, and there was a rare trace of confusion in her tone. “But I’m sensing chaos. A freaking lot of chaos.” Chaos was the strongest source of her power, so if anyone would recognize it, it was this beautiful goddess.
“Couldn’t possibly be witches and their spells,” Gideon said.
Anya gasped. “Witches. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve had a run-in or two thousand with them over the years. Talk about abusers of power,” she grumbled. “Wonder how they’ll feel when I abuse mine and use their black hearts as our table’s new centerpiece.”
“Perhaps I should ghost inside,” Lucien said. He would be invisible to those around him and could check things out without fear of being spotted.
“No. We talked about this,” Anya said determinedly. She shook her head. Gideon stood on her right side, and felt the silky swish of her hair. “Something’s wonky with that building, and I don’t even want your spirit in it. And now that witches might be involved…hell, no.”
Gideon adored women, and felt his skin heat at the brush of her hair. Last time he’d been with a woman had been mere hours after he’d returned from Egypt. The women of Buda knew, on some level, that he and the other Lords were different. They were considered “angels.” He hadn’t had to speak, just crook his finger, and this one had come running. But she wasn’t enough to soothe the ache inside him. They were never enough.
“So let’s keep standing here, doing nothing,” he said. Which meant, let’s raid the place, guns blazing, and well his friends knew it. They were well-versed in Gideon Speak. They had to be.
If he even attempted to utter a truth, any kind of truth, sharp pain burned through him. Pain far worse than one person should ever have to endure. Like knives dipped in acid, covered in salt and topped off with venom, then stabbed into his gut and raked all the way from his brain to his feet over and over again.
“We didn’t survive a bomb a while back,” he added, because yeah, they had. Only a few months had passed since the blast in question and he still remembered the shock and pain of it. But he would willingly endure it again. Too long had passed since he’d sunk his blade or fired off a round into his enemy. The dry spell made him twitchy. “So we damn sure can’t survive anything else they throw at us. Even spells.”
Gideon was proof the Lords could not only survive a bunch of shit but also come out grinning. Once, Hunters managed to capture and imprison him. The next three months of his life had been torture. Literally. He would rather have roasted in hell than endure the poking, prodding, testing and beatings that took him to the brink of death, only to be revived so that he could be beaten again.
Sabin had found and saved him, actually carting Gideon over his shoulder because Gideon had been unable to walk. They’d just cut off his feet to watch them regenerate. Perhaps that was why Gideon loved the warrior so much. Would do anything for him. I’ll kill a few Hunters just for him. That Sabin wasn’t here, when the boss man lived for this kind of shit…
It was the Harpy’s fault, he was sure. Never had Sabin been so obsessed with a woman, locking himself away with her, ignoring his duties. Gideon was glad his friend had found someone, but unsure what it meant for their war.
“I have an idea,” Strider said. Strider always had ideas. Since victory was necessary for his continued good health, he often planned and strategized for hours, days, weeks before marching into battle. “Ashlyn found the immortals for the Hunters. Hell, she probably found the witches for them. So we’ll just have her find one for us. Our witch can undo whatever spell their witch cast, if it’s actually a spell we’re dealing with, and boom, victory.”
“Time is not our friend right now. We need these kids out of our enemy’s hands. We need to return to searching for the box,” Lucien said.
“But, baby,” Anya said, worry in her voice.
“I’ll be fine, love. I won your heart, I can do anything.” Lucien kissed her, lingering despite the urgency in his tone, before disappearing completely. The human workers continued to bustle around them, oblivious. If they could see and hear the warriors, they gave no indication.
Anya sighed, dreaming. “Gods, that man revs my engine.”
Strider rolled his eyes.
Amun remained as stoic as ever.
No, not stoic, Gideon thought. But edged with something dark. Lines of tension branched from the man’s dark eyes and set mouth. His shoulders were stiff, as though the muscles were knotted. The last trip inside the mind of that Hunter in the pyramid must have really messed him up.
If there were anything Gideon could do to help him, he would do it. Gideon loved the silent giant. No one was kinder, no one was more caring. As Gideon had recovered from his footbotomy, Amun had been the one to bring him food, make sure his bandages were clean and even carry him outside for fresh air.
Not knowing what else to do, he switched places with Strider so that he was standing next to Amun, and slapped the big guy on the back. Amun didn’t face him, but his lips did twitch into a small smile.
“Quick, someone distract me,” Anya said. “I’m bored.”
Everyone groaned. A bored Anya was a troublesome Anya. But Gideon knew the truth. He still heard the worry in the goddess’s voice. She didn’t like to be parted from Lucien.
“We totally could not play How Am I Going To Kill The Hunters,” he suggested.
“I’ll stab them,” Reyes said instantly, the gleam in his dark eyes ferocious.
“I’ll shoot them,” Strider replied. “In the groin.”
“I’ll snap their necks,” Anya said, rubbing her palms together, “then make them watch me cut out their intestines.” She’d do it, too. Anyone who threatened Lucien ended up on her Must Torture list. “No need to tell us you’d kiss them, Gideon. We already know.”
A symphony of chuckles abounded.
So much for trying to be kind to Anya. He flipped each one of them off.
“I know what we can do,” Reyes said. Normally he had a dagger in each hand and was cutting himself as he spoke. Not today. Not while parted from Danika. That was a pain all its own, he often said. “Let’s take bets on how Sabin’s doing with the Harpy.”
“Man has balls, that’s for sure,” Strider said. “Gwen’s pretty, but anyone who can rip out your throat…” He shuddered.
“Hey!” Anya leveled them with a scowl. “That wasn’t Gwen’s fault. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with performing a throat extraction on a Hunter. Anyway, the way I hear it, she was scared. You don’t scare a Harpy and live to brag. That’s, like, one of the first things they teach you in deity school. The entire race is just violent by nature. I mean, you’ve met Gwen’s sisters, right?”
This time, everyone shuddered.
“Sabin is a lucky bastard,” Gideon said.
Anya’s gaze locked on him, but her expression was suddenly dazed, as if she saw past him. A hum of power drifted from her, wrapping around him, squeezing. When she focused, a smile bloomed. “Better watch it,” she said. “Or you’re going to be fated to love a female far worse than a Harpy. The gods are fun that way.”
The heat drained from his cheeks, and he clenched his hands into fists. “Do you know something?” She was a goddess and potentially privy to information they weren’t.
“Maybe,” she said with a dainty shrug.
“Don’t you dare tell me!” He loved women, he did. But take one permanently, when a single one had never truly satisfied him? Hell, no. Violent as his life was, he needed something extreme to push him over the edge. When his partners asked how to please him, he had to tell them the opposite. How much worse would it be if he were strapped with a single female? He would never get sex the way he truly craved, not even accidentally.
“I’d absolutely tell you if I knew.”
She was lying. He knew she was. Lying was a passion of hers. How did Lucien stand her? Hey, wait a sec, he thought, disgusted.
Suddenly Lucien materialized, his scarred face confused as everyone crowded around him. “The place is furnished but abandoned. No paperwork, but I did see clothing strewn about. Sizes only children can wear. Must have left in a hurry.”
Frowning, Strider rubbed his temple. “That means we’re too late, that we made the trip for nothing.”
“There are strange markings on the wall, though,” the scarred warrior added. “I could not decipher them. I want to flash you in one at a time so if the outside area is still being monitored, we won’t be spotted. Surely someone among us will have seen the markings before and know what they mean.”
Didn’t take long. Within five minutes they were inside the building. Gideon was swaying from dizziness—flashing sucked—Strider was laughing, Reyes pale and clutching his stomach, Anya dancing around the empty room, and Amun staring into the distance.
“This way,” Lucien said.
They stalked down narrow corridors, their booted footsteps echoing. Gideon traced a finger over the wall; it was painted a sickening gray. That had been the color of his cell while in captivity. The only furniture he’d been given was a bed with wrist and ankle straps.
Bad memories. He didn’t like to venture down that brain path unless he was in the middle of a fight. Helped channel his rage. He looked around. There were multiple bedrooms. Well, they were more like barracks, with fifteen beds to a space. There were also what appeared to be classrooms.
Left, right, right, left and they entered a gymnasium, everyone remaining on guard. One wall was mirrored with a bar in front of it. For…ballet? he wondered. Of course, he thought next. Killers could be more effective when they were flexible.