- The Darkest Whisper
Drove him freaking insane. Which was why he’d allowed Doubt to swoop into those human minds and fill them with insecurities about their appearance, their prowess in bed—and why he’d been tempted to erupt into one of Maddox’s famous violent fits. He’d managed to control himself, keeping his eye on the prize: the safe return of his friends. But only because Gwen hadn’t seemed to notice the gaping, the drooling mouths, and the stopping dead in their tracks.
They’d immediately driven to the house the warriors had been staying at, a house miles from anything and everything. They’d watched it for a bit, ascertaining two things: one, the warriors weren’t there and two, Hunters hadn’t been there and planted little presents. Too bad about the lack of Hunters, if you asked Sabin. He was ready for action.
He and Gwen had loaded themselves with weapons, each grabbed a ball cap to hide their hair and shield their faces, and headed to the only other place he knew his friends would have gone. Now they walked the street in front of a row of buildings, and he knew he was close to the training facility, but…he couldn’t find it. Each building blended into the next. And each time he counted off, he lost track of their numbers.
Gwen paused and rubbed the back of her neck, staring up into the sky. “This is hopeless. We’re in the right place. Why can’t we find it?”
He sighed. Maybe it was time to bring out the big guns. If the god king would respond to him for once. “Cronus,” he muttered, “a little help would be nice. You want us to succeed, right?”
A moment passed, then another. Nothing happened.
He was just about to give up when suddenly Gwen gasped. “Look.”
Sabin followed her gaze, experienced a jolt of shock. There, on the roof of the building to their right, a building Sabin had somehow overlooked time and time again, stood the god king. The building seemed to shake beneath him. His white robe whipped around his ankles. After being ignored for so long, Sabin was being aided? And so easily?
“Now you owe me, Doubt, and I always collect.” Cronus disappeared a second later.
It would benefit Cronus for Sabin to win this day. The god should have been happy to aid the cause, not demanding favors in return.
“Who was that?” Gwen asked. “How did he do that? And do you think my…Galen is in there?”
Sabin explained about Cronus. “Galen…I don’t know. What if he is? Do you still want to do this?”
“Yes.” No hesitation this time, though there’d been an edge to her tone.
Was he asking too much of her? Sabin didn’t have parents. The Greeks had created him already fully formed. As there was no love lost between him and the former gods, he couldn’t even fathom a guess as to how Gwen was feeling.
“I’ll be fine,” she added, as if she read his thoughts. “After everything he’s done, he needs to be taken down.”
There at the end, her voice had trembled. Sabin decided then and there to intervene if Galen opted to join the fray—which wasn’t likely to happen as the bastard always cut and run, leaving his lackeys to do his dirty work. Hope placed himself before others, and always had. But Sabin didn’t want Gwen regretting anything; he didn’t want her to later blame him for her actions—or his own, he thought with a sinking stomach. He’d wondered before but couldn’t help doing so again: Would she hate him if he was the one to defeat and restrain her father?
Only two things mattered to Sabin right now: Gwen and his friends’ safety. In that order. She came first, now and always. Nothing would change that.
“Let’s do this,” she said softly, and trekked forward.
“Before we go in there,” he said, keeping pace beside her, “I want to tell you again that I love you. I love you so much I ache with it. I just…I wanted you to know in case anything happens.”
“Nothing’s going to happen.” She stumbled, caught herself. “But I love you, too. I do. There’s no denying that anymore. I’m still not sure about you, though. I, just, I don’t know. Doubt is like my pet now, and I like that. Really. I just—”
“It’s okay.” She loved him. Thank the gods, she loved him. He drew her to a halt and pulled her into his embrace, hating her words, but understanding nonetheless. He should have trusted her. From the beginning, he should have placed her first. “We’ll figure all of that out later. I promise. I don’t want any worries on your mind right now. Distractions can get you—”
“Killed,” she finished for him, smiling. “I paid attention to your lessons.” She tentatively wrapped her arms around his waist, resting her head in the hollow of his neck. Her hair was soft against his skin. “You be careful in there.”
Gods, he adored this woman. Her strength, her courage, her wit. “You, too. Whatever you do, save yourself. Understand me?” he said fiercely. “I’d be lost without you.”
“I will.” She gave a half-amused, half-strained smile. “That’s Harpy code, after all.”
He kissed the top of her head. She looked up at him then, her lips puffy and red and he couldn’t resist. He meshed their mouths together, his tongue sweeping inside hers with a possessive thrust. Her hands lifted, tangling in his hair, and she moaned.
He swallowed the sound, savoring it, letting it fill him up. Here was his life, in his arms, all he needed. But he forced himself to pull away. “Come on. I want to get this over with so that you and I can talk. Why don’t you go through the front door, and I’ll take the back. We’ll scope out each entrance, meet in the middle.”
With another swift kiss to her mouth, Sabin started forward again. The sun burned bright, glaring down at him. He kept his face down, hoping he wouldn’t be recognized if cameras were scanning the area.
Can you do this?
What if you fail?
What if Gwen is hurt?
She won’t be. He would make sure of it.
“Pick up the pace, slowpoke.” A slight breeze caressed his face as Gwen jumped into hyperdrive and passed him, her wings giving her a speed he could never hope to match. That didn’t stop him from trying, though. He didn’t want her in that building alone. He quickened his steps and raced around back. There he found a fence with spikes that stretched toward the sky and electric wires that circled every slat.
Usually he took his time and disabled such wires. Today, he didn’t have that luxury. He simply climbed. The shocks that worked through him would have killed a human. They were painful, stopped his heart twice, pushed the breath out of him continually, but he still didn’t slow. Up, up, he shimmied, until he was falling to the ground. His boots thumped into concrete, rattling him, and he took off in a run, already going for his guns.
It didn’t take him long to reach his first quarry. There were three Hunters seated at a round table, an umbrella shading them. Had they not felt the building shake? Their bad. Finally. The party could start.
“—pissed his pants,” one laughed.
“Should have seen his face when I shoved those spikes under his nails. And when I cut off his hands…” More laughter. “I hope he continues the silence. I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”
“Demons. They deserve this and more.”
Sabin’s heart sank even as his demon stirred. I want to play, Doubt said gleefully.
Needing no more encouragement, the demon swooped out of his mind and into theirs.
The other Lords are going to be angry. They’ll come for you, make you pay. Everything you’ve done to their brethren will be done to you—magnified by a thousand, I’m sure.
One of the men shuddered. “We know the other demons will come for their friends when they’ve healed from that last battle. Maybe we should, I don’t know, pack up soon.”
“I’m not a coward. I’m staying here and doing whatever’s necessary to pry information from our prisoners.”
Then you’ll be gutted like a fish, I bet.
Now the second speaker shuddered.
“Uh, guys. Save it. My beeper just vibrated. An alarm has been tripped. Either someone’s escaped or we’re under attack.”
They jumped to their feet. None of them had spotted Sabin yet. Silencer on—check. Chamber loaded—check. At one time, he would have drawn their attention, taunted them about their coming death and taken joy as they paled. Now, he simply shot them one after the other in the back of the head. They slumped in their chairs, what was left of their foreheads hitting the glass tabletop with a thump.
He kept moving, rounding the corner. A group of children were splashing around in a pool. One of the boys had a hand extended, water rising and balancing above it.
“Throw it at me,” a little girl implored. “See if it can get through my shielding spell.”
With a laugh, the boy tossed the water at the girl. Not a single drop touched her.
Sabin had suspected they would be here, but was still shocked to see them. Despite their unusual abilities, they were just children. How could the Hunters use them like this? Place them in such danger?
Sabin replaced one of his semiautomatics with a tranq gun. He didn’t want to do this, but it was the best—and safest—solution for everyone involved. What was Gwen doing? Was she inside? Hurt? Without pause, he began nailing the kids with darts. One by one, they sank into unconsciousness. He quickly dragged them out of the water and laid them in the shade, never once releasing his weapons.
Finally, he was ready to enter the house. To help Gwen.
“You filthy animal! What have you done?”
Sabin whipped around. A Hunter had just taken aim at him, fired. A bullet slammed into his right shoulder. Wincing, he hammered out another round from his Sig. One bullet hit the Hunter’s neck, the other his chest. He slumped over, gasping. When his skull cracked against the ground, the gasping stopped.
Bleeding, unconcerned by the pain, Sabin rushed inside the building, sheathing the tranq in favor of the second semiautomatic. Already Hunters littered the floor, motionless. Gwen. Sabin’s heart swelled with pride. Maybe it was wrong of him, but he really loved her dark side. She was magic on a battlefield.