- The Darkest Whisper
He followed the trail of adult bodies through the winding hallways. Some of the rooms were bedrooms with multiple bunk beds, some were classrooms. There were tiny desks and artwork on the walls; every single piece showed a demon being tortured. There were even signs. A perfect world is a world without demons. When the demons are gone, there will be no sickness, no death. No evil. Lost someone you love? You know who to blame.
Oh, yes. The children were being trained to hate the Lords from birth. Fabulous. Sabin had done some bad shit in his life, but never had he taught hatred to an innocent.
“Bastard!” he heard Gwen shout, followed by a howl of pain.
Increasing his speed, Sabin followed the sound, saw a man hunched over and grabbing his crotch. He didn’t know what had happened and he didn’t care to stop and ask. He simply aimed his Sig and fired three rounds. No one hurt Gwen.
Gwen whirled around, claws bared. Those tiny wings fluttered madly under her shirt. The death-glaze faded when she realized who stood before her. “Thanks.”
“I found your friends. They’re hurt, but alive. I released them, but two are missing. Gideon and Anya.”
First—she’d already found and released them? Holy hell. She was faster and better than even he had known. Second—where the hell were the others? Locked up? “Anya?” he shouted. “Gideon?”
“Sabin? Sabin, is that you?” a woman called from down the hall. Anya. “It’s about damn time. I’m back here. With a guard.”
Sabin looked at Gwen just as three males flew into the room, their expressions wild. “Got ’em?” he asked.
“Go on.” She faced the newest challenge. “Get Anya.”
He took off in a run. He would have left any of his men, and Gwen was a better fighter than all of them put together, so he had no doubt of her success. No doubt. The thought made him smile.
As he moved, he exchanged a gun for a blade. He was almost out of bullets. Thankfully, a knife never needed refilling. Where are you, Anya? He burst through one door—empty. He shouldered his way through another, hinges splintering. Nothing. Three more rooms, and there she was, eyeing a little boy, both her shoulders stained crimson.
That boy turned to him, expression determined. There was something…off about him, as though he wasn’t three-dimensional.
“Sabin!” When Anya darted to one side, the boy quickly followed, swiping out an arm.
“I have to keep her here,” he said, but he didn’t sound happy about it.
Slowly Sabin sheathed his blade and reached behind him, curling his fingers around the handle of the tranq gun.
“Don’t touch him,” Anya rushed out, “and don’t let him touch you. You’ll go down without warning.”
Sabin recognized the voice as Death’s, so he didn’t turn as footsteps approached. He kept his gaze on the boy, ready to jump at him despite Anya’s warning if he went after the goddess again.
“Lucien! Stay back, baby, but tell me you’re okay?” Anya’s face lit with a mixture of pleasure and worry. “I have to know you’re okay.”
“I’m fine. You? Oh, gods.” Lucien came up behind him and sucked in a breath. Sabin could feel waves of fury pulsing off him. “Your shoulders.”
“Just a little scratch.” There was fire in the words, a promise of retribution.
Keeping his hand behind his back, Sabin held the tranq out to Lucien. “Not sure it’ll do any good, but I’m going to leave you to it. Gideon’s still missing.” The warrior took the weapon without a word, and Sabin spun on his heel.
He continued bursting into rooms. Several were padded. One was filled with computers and other technology. One was stuffed with enough canned food to last a lifetime. Down another hall he turned, shouting Gideon’s name. These rooms had thicker locks and fingerprint IDs. Heart pounding, Sabin pressed his ear to each door until he finally, blessedly heard a whimper.
Urgency flooding him, he pried at the slit in the center. His muscles strained, his bones nearly popped out of joint, his wound reopened, but he worked the edge until the metal opened enough to squeeze through. First thing he noticed was the broken and bleeding form strapped to a gurney. A sickening sense of déjà vu hit him.
He crossed the distance, bile rising in his throat. Gideon’s eyelids were so swollen it looked as if rocks were buried underneath them. Bruises colored every inch of his naked body. Many of his bones were broken and protruding through skin.
Both of his hands had been chopped off.
“They’ll grow back, I swear to the gods they’ll grow back,” Sabin whispered as he pulled at the bonds. They were strong. Too strong, comprised of some sort of—godly?—metal. He couldn’t even hack through them with a blade.
“Key. Not there.” Gideon’s voice was so weak, Sabin barely heard it. But the warrior motioned to a cabinet with a tilt of his chin. Sure enough, a key dangled there. “Didn’t taunt me…with it.”
“Save your strength, my friend.” He spoke gently, but rage was pouring through him, consuming him, becoming the only thing he knew. Those bastards were going to pay for this. Every single one of them and a thousand times over. He needed to be punished as well, he thought. He’d sworn never to let this kind of thing happen to his comrade again, yet here they were, practically reliving the past.
When Gideon was free, Sabin gently gathered him in his arms and carried him into the hall. Strider had been in the process of turning the corner, pale and trembling and stumbling. When the warrior spotted Sabin’s bundle, he released a savage cry.
“He’s alive.” Barely.
“Thank the gods. Lucien’s got Anya. He managed to tranq the kid guarding her. Reyes is somewhere in back. Stefano’s called for retreat, but you’ll never believe who’s stuck around.”
At the moment, Sabin didn’t care. “Have you seen Gwen?”
“Yeah. Down the hall and to the right.” Strider gulped. “I’ve been searching for you. I’ll take Gideon. You go help your woman.”
Dread instantly mixed with his rage as Sabin carefully handed Gideon over. “Did something happen to her?”
He ran, arms pumping, legs shaking, until he reached the chamber where he’d left her. She was still there, but she was no longer fighting human Hunters. She was fighting her father. And she was losing.
Guess who stuck around, Strider had said. Of all the times for the bastard to grow some balls. Gwen was winded, panting, bloody, stumbling every time she lashed out as though her legs could no longer hold her weight. Galen had a long snakelike whip. No, not snakelike. It was a snake. Hissing, teeth gleaming with venom. And every time Gwen managed to cut off the snake’s head, another grew in its place.
“The big, strong Lords of the Underworld, relying on a woman. And they call me the coward,” Galen sneered.
“I’m not just any woman,” Gwen gritted out. “I’m a Harpy.”
“As if that makes a difference.”
“It should. I’m also a half demon. Don’t you recognize me?” She closed in despite the snake chomping on her calf and slashed for the warrior’s heart.
“Should I? All their women look the same to me. Filthy whores.” He expertly dodged, jerking the whip out of her and making her cry out before cracking it again. This time it coiled around her wrist. He gave another tug. Once more she cried out. She fell to her knees, her entire body spasming.
Sabin couldn’t watch this. Couldn’t let the bastard destroy Gwen, no matter how much Gwen might resent him for interfering. “Leave her alone. I’m the one you want.” Teeth gnashing, he withdrew several daggers and tossed all but one at the whip, severing its hold on Gwen. He threw the last at Galen, nailing him in the stomach. The warrior roared, fell, and Gwen lumbered to her feet.
Sabin jumped in front of her, blocking her from the crouching Galen. “Finally ready to do this? To admit defeat?”
Scowling, Galen pulled the knife from his gut. “You really think you’re strong enough to best me?”
“I already have. We’ve plowed through most of your forces.” He was grinning as he palmed and aimed his Sig. “All that remains is your imprisonment. And it looks like that won’t be too difficult to obtain.”
“Stop it. Just stop it.” Gwen staggered to a halt in front of him, shoulders squared. She swayed, but didn’t fall, her gaze locked on Galen. “I don’t want you taken until you hear what I have to say. I’ve waited for this day my entire life, dreamed of telling you that I’m the daughter of Tabitha Skyhawk. That I’m twenty-seven years old, and thought to be sired by an angel.”
Galen laughed as he stood, but that laugh couldn’t hide his wince. He was bleeding profusely now. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“You tell me. About twenty-eight years ago, you slept with a Harpy,” Gwen said. “She had red hair and brown eyes. She was injured. You patched her up. Then you left but said you’d be back.”
His lingering smirk faded as he studied her. “And?” He didn’t sound as if he cared, but he didn’t try to escape when he’d clearly lost the battle, either.
Gwen’s entire body trembled, and Sabin’s rage darkened. “And the past has a way of catching up with people, doesn’t it? So, surprise. Here I am.” She splayed her arms. “Your long-lost daughter.”
“No.” Galen shook his head. At least his amusement didn’t return. “You’re lying. I would have known.”
“Because you would have gotten a birth announcement?” Now Gwen laughed, the sound tinged with darkness.
“No,” he repeated. “It’s impossible. I’m no one’s father.”
Behind them, the battle was winding down. The screams were stopping, the grunts fading. No more gunshots. No more pounding footsteps. Then the rest of the Lords were filling the doorway, each wearing expressions of hate and fury. Each dripping in blood. Strider still carried Gideon, as if afraid to set him down.