- The Darkest Whisper
Taliyah stood, expression as blank as usual. Bristling, Sabin stepped in front of Gwen.
“Fine,” Taliyah said, ignoring him. “You’re not going to say anything about what happened, I’ll get us started.” A pause, then, “I’m proud of you.”
“Wh-what?” Gwen asked, her voice broken. That was so not what she’d expected to hear. She peeked around her warrior’s big bulk, her oldest sister once more coming into view. Taliyah was proud of her? Nothing could have surprised her more.
“You did what you had to do.” Taliyah closed the distance between them and tried to shove Sabin out of the way. “You were a Harpy in every sense of the word.”
Sabin didn’t budge.
The ice in Taliyah’s eyes would have frozen anyone else. “Let me hug my sister.”
Gwen could see the stiff set of his shoulders, feel the tension in his back. “Sabin.”
“No,” he said, knowing what she wanted. “This could be a trick.” Then, to Taliyah, he added, “You’re not going to hurt her.”
Bianka and Kaia joined Taliyah, forming a half circle around the warrior. They could have attacked him, but somewhat to Gwen’s surprise, they didn’t.
“Seriously, let us hug our sister,” Kaia said stiffly. That she didn’t threaten to cause him bodily harm…a miracle. “Please.” The last was offered grudgingly.
“Please, Sabin,” Gwen said, flattening her palms against his shoulder blades.
He drew in a deep, shuddering breath, as if trying to sift through their scents for the truth. “No tricks. Or else.” He pivoted out of the way and they immediately swept past him.
Three sets of arms wound around Gwen.
“Like I said, I’m so unbelievably proud of you.”
“I’ve never seen anyone so fierce.”
“Color me shocked. You totally kicked my ass!”
Gwen was frozen, baffled to her core. “You’re not angry?”
“Hell, no,” Kaia said, then backtracked. “Well, maybe at first. But this morning, when we were plotting ways to kidnap you and have our revenge on Sabin, we saw you feeding from him. Made us realize he is your family now, and we stepped over the line. You don’t threaten a Harpy’s family, ever, and we knew better.”
Okay. Wow. Gwen’s gaze skidded to Sabin, who was watching her with fire in his dark eyes. He wanted to be with her, he’d said. He would give up the war for her. He wanted to put her first, make her the top priority in his life. He trusted her not to betray him. He loved her.
She wanted to believe him, so badly she wanted to believe him, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to. Not just because he’d locked her up, but because, as she’d lain in bed, recovering, she’d realized that she was now a weapon, the weapon he’d always wanted her to be. She’d proven herself in battle. He wouldn’t have to leave her behind anymore, wouldn’t have to worry about her. How better to get what he wanted from her than to seduce her, body and soul?
Did he truly love her? That’s what she wanted to know.
He claimed he wouldn’t care if he caught her embracing her father. Maybe that was the truth. But, if he loved her now, would he one day grow to resent her for who and what she was? Would his hatred of the Hunters and their leader extend to her? Would his friends turn on him for bringing an enemy into their house? Would her every word and action be suspect?
Those doubts weren’t swimming inside her head because of his demon. They were hers. All hers. And she didn’t know how to get rid of them, even though she desperately wanted to be with Sabin.
When she’d seen him in town, bloody and lethal, her heart had truly stopped—absolute proof it belonged to him. What a fierce picture he’d presented. Any woman would be proud to have such a strong, competent man at her side. She’d wanted to be that woman. Then and always. She lacked the confidence to grab on to the dream, though. Which was funny if you thought about it. Physically, she’d never been stronger.
“I’m gonna hate leaving you,” Bianka said, releasing her, and stepped back.
“Well…” Now for the hard part. “Then why try? I need you to stay here, at the fortress, and help Torin guard it and the humans.”
“And where will you be going?” Taliyah released her, too, pale eyes studying Gwen’s face. At least they hadn’t denied her request.
She squared her shoulders, determination rushing through her. “That’s actually why I called this meeting. Could I have everyone’s attention please?” She clapped her hands, waiting for the room’s other occupants to turn their gazes her way. “Sabin and I will be going to Chicago to find his missing friends. They’ve gone silent, and we think something is wrong.”
At that, Sabin blinked. That was his only reaction. She knew he was waiting for information from Torin, but she figured it was better to be en route while they waited than stuck here, ineffective.
“I’m so glad you’re going,” Ashlyn said. “I don’t know if anyone told you, but Aeron, Cameo and, yeah, your sister Kaia, took me into town this morning. I heard some things.”
Uh-oh. There was gonna be some trouble in the fortress. “You shouldn’t have gone into town. Your man will be ticked if he finds out.” She’d seen Maddox with the pregnant woman only a few times, but once had been enough to assure her of his fierce need to protect.
Ashlyn waved a hand through the air. “He knew about it. He can’t take me himself because I can’t hear conversations when he’s with me, so the compromise was to let me go with guards. He knew I’d just sneak out later otherwise. Anyway, some of the Hunters were headed to Chicago, as well. They were afraid of you, unsure of what you could do to them.”
Hunters, afraid of her. They’d feared her while she’d been trapped in that pyramid, but there had been nothing she could truly do to them. No longer was she helpless. The thought made her smile. Sabin, too, practically glowed with pride.
Her stomach quivered at the sight, and breath heated in her lungs. When he looked at her like that, she could almost believe he truly loved her and would do anything for her. Mind on the task at hand. “What about the prisoners?”
“Still locked up.” Facing her, Paris rested his cue on the floor and leaned against it. He was paler than usual, lines of stress around his eyes. “Aeron and I, multitaskers that we are, have taken over their…care.”
“Me helping,” Legion the female demon piped up.
Care. Aka torture. Had Sabin interrogated them? She knew he liked to do so, yet he’d barely left her side since that battle. “The children…”
“Like I mentioned earlier, they’ve already been separated and moved to nicer quarters. They’re scared and haven’t used whatever powers they have. Yet. So we’re unsure what we’re dealing with. But we’ll get it out of the adults, don’t worry,” Sabin said.
Paris nodded with grim determination. “I’ll do it when we get back. I’m going with you.”
Sabin and Aeron shared a heavy look.
“You’re staying here,” Sabin corrected. “All of you are. We need as many warriors here as we can get. We don’t know how many Hunters remained behind.”
“More than that, Torin saw Galen in town,” Cameo said. “We haven’t yet caught sight of him, which could mean he’s hiding, planning to strike again.”
Sabin approached Gwen’s side and banded a strong arm around her waist. She didn’t protest. Though her mind was unsure about him, her body knew she belonged with him. His lemon scent wafted to her nose, a drug she’d become addicted to. “But you, Paris…your new favorite thing to do puts everyone at risk. You’ll stay here and get yourself cleaned up.”
Paris opened his mouth to protest.
“Torin can take care of our travel arrangements,” Sabin continued, cutting him off. Up and down, he caressed her arm, perhaps not even aware of what he was doing.
“You’ll have to fly commercial,” Torin said, “since the boys have the jet we always charter in the States with them.”
“What if we’re spotted by Hunters? And how will we get our weapons past security?” If they were caught with even one blade, they’d be questioned—a waste of time—and arrested.
“I have ways.” Sabin kissed her temple. “Trust me. I’ve been doing this for a long time. We won’t be spotted.”
“Bring Reyes and the others home safely.” Danika’s fingers twined, as if she were saying a prayer. “Please.”
“Please,” Ashlyn echoed.
“And don’t forget Anya,” Kaia said. “No telling what kind of trouble she’s stirred up.”
“I’ll do my best,” Gwen told them, and she meant it. But would her best be good enough?
“TELL ME, what’s a goddess doing with a demon?”
Anya eyed her lover’s sworn enemy: Galen, keeper of the demon of Hope. He occupied one side of her new prison, and she the other. His long white wings were tucked into his back, the top arches rising over his shoulders. His eyes were blue like the sky, and the more she looked into them, the more she would swear she saw fluffy white clouds. Those eyes were meant to lull, to relax.They only managed to piss her off.
Ghost Boy had “escorted” her—damned kid had taken control of her body as if it were his own—into this small, sparse hellhole and left her. Where she’d waited. And waited. Alone, enraged. Now she knew the Hunters had left her for their leader—who had remained in Buda until he’d been told of the bounty here.
Meanwhile, though, Gideon’s screams had echoed through the halls—and with his screams, gleeful laughter from his captors. Poor Lies. She felt a little guilty for kicking him earlier. Had he spilled any secrets?
“Have you no answer, beauty?”
“I’m having fun, that’s what.” They’d made the mistake of leaving her unfettered. Although Ghost Boy had accompanied Galen, of course. Apparently, he was their insurance policy. Well, they’d soon learn they should have picked a better policy. Without that strange metal walling her in, her strength was returning. Soon, she would be a living nightmare. And they would suffer.