- The Darkest Whisper
“Well, well, well. Look who we have here,” Lucien growled.
“Not so tough without a child around to shield you, Hope?” Anya laughed.
“Tonight I’ll dine on your black heart,” Reyes snarled.
Sabin studied the grim set of his friends’ faces. These warriors had been tortured, and they weren’t done exacting their revenge. Much as he sympathized, though, he couldn’t let them have it yet.
“Galen is ours,” Sabin told them. “Stay back. Gwen?”
GWEN KNEW what Sabin was asking. Allow him to imprison her father, or let her father go. That he was leaving the choice up to her proved his love as nothing else could have. If only she could give him what he wanted.
“I—I don’t know,” she said, voice cracking. Peering into those sky-eyes, eyes she’d once only dreamed about, she was struck anew with the knowledge that her father was here, in front of her, that he represented everything she’d ever wanted as a little girl and then as an adult, while she’d been trapped in that cell in Egypt. How often had she yearned to be held and protected by him?He hadn’t known about her. Now that he did, would he love her? Would he want her with him, as she’d craved all those years?
Galen eyed the warriors glaring at him menacingly. “Perhaps I spoke too soon. We will talk, you and I. Privately.” He stepped forward and reached out to her.
Sabin snarled, and it was the type of sound a beast made just before it flew into attack. “You can leave, if she allows it, but you don’t touch her. Ever.”
For several seconds, it looked as if Galen would argue. The Lords certainly were. They wanted this man in chains and didn’t like that Sabin had offered him freedom.
“No child of mine would choose to be with the Lords of the Underworld.” Galen held out his hand and waved his fingers at her. “Come with me. We will leave, get to know each other.”
Did he truly wish to learn about her or did he simply hope to use her as another weapon against his hated enemies? The suspicion hurt, and Gwen found herself grabbing Sabin’s gun, barrel aimed at Galen’s head. “No matter what happens, I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Sabin hated him. This man had done cruel things. Would continue to do cruel things.
“You would kill your own father?” Galen asked, clutching his heart as if she’d truly injured his feelings.
In her mind, he was suddenly wrapping his arms around her, holding her close, telling her how much he loved her. Hope. It was there, in her chest, blooming through her entire body. Did it stem from him? Or from herself?
“You were so quick to dismiss me,” she gritted out. “You said you had no children.”
“I was merely in shock,” he explained patiently. “Absorbing the news. After all, it’s not every day a man is given the priceless gift of fatherhood.”
Her hand trembled.
“Your mother…Tabitha. I remember. She was the most beautiful sight I’d ever beheld, or have since. I wanted her instantly and meant to keep her, but she left me. I was never able to find her. Had I known about you, I would have desired a place in your life.”
Truth or lie? She lifted her chin even as her arm fell. Maybe there was good in him. Maybe he could be saved. Maybe not. But…“Go.”
He reached for her.
“Go,” she repeated, a hot tear streaming down her cheek.
“I said go!”
Suddenly his wings jerked into motion, spreading, fast, too fast, flapping, wind gusting around them. Before anyone could blink, he burst up, through the ceiling and out of the building.
Unable to hold back any longer, the other warriors fired at him, even tossed their blades. Someone must have nailed him, because there was a howl. It wasn’t too bad an injury, though, because Galen didn’t fall back inside. Gwen hated herself for the relief she felt.
The sound of heavy breathing filled the room, blending with muttered curses, stomping footsteps.
“Not again,” Strider groaned, finally placing Gideon on the floor. “Why would you do that, Sabin? Why would you let her do that?” A second later, the hulking warrior was beside his friend, writhing in agony.
Sabin’s hesitation had given Galen the chance to escape, and Galen’s escape had meant defeat for the Lords. Defeat for Strider. My fault, she thought. She’d just proven Sabin right. She couldn’t be trusted with his greatest enemy. She’d hesitated to do what was needed.
“I’m sorry,” Sabin said to his friend.
I’ll make it up to him. Somehow, some way. She spun, meaning to grab on to him and make him listen to her apology. Instead, she gasped. “You’re bleeding.”
“I’m fine. I’ll heal. How are you?” His gaze raked her, taking in every bruise and cut. A muscle ticked below his eye. “I should have taken him down when I had the chance. He hurt you.”
“I’ll heal,” she said, parroting him as she threw herself into his arms. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me?”
He grunted, even as he kissed the top of her head. “I love you. There’s nothing to forgive, darling.”
“I wimped out. I let your greatest enemy go. I—”
“No, no, no. I’m not letting you blame yourself for this. I let him go.” He cupped her jaw. “Now tell me what I want to hear. What I need to hear.”
“I love you, too.”
He closed his eyes for a moment, his relief palpable. “We’re staying together.”
“Yes. If you’ll have me.”
“What do you mean, if I’ll have you? I told you, you’re first in my life.”
“I know.” Slowly her lashes lifted and then she was peering up at him, tears now streaming freely down her cheeks. “You gave up a victory for me. I can’t believe you did that.”
“I would give up anything, everything for you.”
“You really do love me. You mean it. Won’t grow to hate me, won’t let war come between us.”
“Is that what’s been worrying you?” He snorted. “Darling, I could have told you those things.”
“But I wouldn’t have believed you. I thought winning was the most important thing in your life.”
“No. That’s you.”
She smiled radiantly up at him. But that smile faded as the murmurs of the other Lords filled her ears, reminding her of what she’d done. Or hadn’t done. “I should have told you to lock him away forever. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. He needs to be stopped, I know that, but there at the end, I just couldn’t bring myself…couldn’t let you…I’m so sorry. Now he’s going to cause even more trouble.”
“It’s all right. It’s all right. We’ll deal with it. We’ve severely handicapped their army.”
“Not sure how much good that will do us. Galen found Distrust,” Anya said. “He’s trying to place the demon inside someone else’s body, hoping to create an immortal soldier he can control. He was pretty confident about his success.”
Distrust, once Sabin’s best friend, Gwen remembered. If Distrust were on her father’s side, would Sabin be able to hurt whichever body it resided in? No matter what kind of destruction that person inflicted. She didn’t want her man faced with the same type of decision she’d just had to make.
Sabin smoothed a hand through her damp hair. “I don’t know what I’d do,” he said as if he’d read her thoughts. “But I do now understand how difficult your decision must have been. If you need that bastard free to make you happy, then free he’ll stay.”
“Hey,” several of the warriors muttered behind him.
“We get a say in that,” Reyes growled, rifling through the pockets of the fallen Hunters.
Gwen sighed. “I’ll come to terms with his capture, I know I will. Seeing him for the first time was just too shocking to process. Don’t worry, though. Next time I’ll do better.”
“Yeah, but worrying is what I do best.”
“Not anymore. Loving me is what you do best.”
“That’s the truth.”
“Let’s go home,” she said, squeezing him tight. “We’ve got some kids to soothe, artifacts to find, Hunters to kill and a box to destroy. After you love the breath out of me, of course.”
ONCE THEY WERE HOME, their injuries healed, they were able to make love like wild animals. Afterward, Gwen had too much energy to sleep. She popped up and started jumping on the bed, daring Sabin to do something about it. He propped himself against the headboard, watching her through bright, amused eyes.
She tsked under her tongue. “Look at you. Just sitting there, unable to keep up with a little girl who—ahhhhhh.”He’d kicked her legs out from under her, sending her tumbling to her back. Grinning, he dove on top of her. “Who’s the tired one now, huh?”
She was laughing as she rolled him over, her hair falling around them like a curtain. “Not me, that’s for sure.”
“Let me see what I can do about that.”
And he did.
A long while later, she found herself snuggled back into his side, having trouble catching her breath. “So what’s next, hmm?” she asked, happier than she’d ever been. Who would have thought Gwendolyn the Timid would hook up with the fiercest Lord of the Underworld, throw herself into the midst of a war, and like it? Not her, that was for sure.
For the moment, though, things were calm. All the couples were safe, secure and reunited. The women (and Legion) were finding new homes for the children, both the ones Gwen had captured during their Budapest battle and the ones they’d rescued from Hunter High. Anya even had a favorite, the one she called “Ghost Boy,” and Gwen suspected the goddess would place him with a loving family here in Buda, where she could keep an eye on him.
Torin was searching for the people on Cronus’s list, and the other warriors were plotting ways to find Galen—and Distrust. Gideon was still healing; that would take a while. Legion disappeared periodically, and both Paris and Aeron were acting strangely.