It broke my heart to hear her being so matter-of-fact about it, like she had already resigned herself to her fate. I wanted her to fight. But I suppose she was in her own way.

“But I can be with you, all the time. I can focus on you, just on you, and not the band, not the shows, not my music.”

She pressed her hand into my leg harder. “But you have to. This is your life, Sage.”

“You’re my life,” I blurted out. I hoped to God she couldn’t see me blushing like a fucking girl because what I’d just said was borderline hokey. But it was the truth. “You are, and I will put the rest of my life on hold if it means keeping you safe.”

She reached up for my face, her soft fingertips tracing along the rough stubble on my jaw. “You are an amazing man. An amazing musician. You are my golden god and every day you surprise me. We, what we have, surprises me. As long as you keep…being there for me, I’ll be as safe as I can be. You’ve done so much for me, more than you’ll ever even know. But canceling your tour isn’t the answer here. I already have guilt. I don’t want any more. If anything, watching you play live, being with you in all these foreign places, no matter what is going on at the time, keeps me sane. It keeps me going. And it tells those fuckers that we aren’t giving up. They can throw whatever they want at me, but I’m not breaking.”

I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it. I wanted to do so much more than that for her. We waited until Tricky and a queasy Garth came back, then I took her back to the hotel. Kicked Max out of the room. And gave her three orgasms hot on the heels of each other. It was the least I could do.

The three of us woke up in the middle of the night to the phone ringing. I heard Max roll over in his bed and pick it up. “Hello?”

There was a pause then he said, voice tired and groggy, “Okay, I’ll be right there.”

He leaned over and flicked on the light, blinding me. Dawn raised her head off my chest and blinked at us wearily. “What’s going on?”

Max got out of bed, pulling on his jeans and a flannel shirt before I had to see anything I didn’t want to. “It was Jacob. Said it was really important.”

I looked at the clock. “It’s three-thirty in the morning.”

Max shrugged and let out a sigh. “Yeah. Well, it sounded…urgent. I’ll be right back. You two stay put.” He quickly grabbed his room key and shut the door behind him.

I looked down at Dawn in my arms—she was already sleeping again. I gently placed her on the bed and got up to use the washroom. I was a little on edge as I did so, flashes of the monster in Dawn’s bathroom flashing in the darkened spaces of my brain.

Once I was done, I went over to the window to open it, since the room was getting stuffy with heat of three people sharing the same air. Our window faced a narrow street on the quieter side of the building. A lone cat was walking along it, rubbing up against the opposite building. And beneath the lone streetlight stood a woman. Tall, thin, slender—a complete silhouette. But she was watching me. I could tell she was watching me.

Angeline. It had to be her.

I looked behind me at Dawn, breathing heavily in her deep sleep. I didn’t want to leave her alone here without Max, but I knew he couldn’t be gone for too long. I looked back out the window again, and Angeline was slowly walking away. I needed answers. More than anything, I needed to know what was going on.

I grabbed my keys from the nightstand, slipped on my pants, and ran out into the hall, gently closing the door behind me and locking it. The hotel was quiet this time of night, guests in their rooms trapped in deep slumber, the front desk empty. I walked out into the street, nearly stepping on a rat that was scuttling past, and hurried up the street, turning the corner and going down the next one.

Angeline was walking away from me, her form disappearing in the empty spaces between the streetlamps. I ran soundlessly in my bare feet, the cobblestones cold under them, and caught up to her as she neared the next lamp.

I grabbed her harshly by her shoulder and spun her around so she was facing me and I could make out her features in the light.

“You,” I hissed.

It was her. But she sure as hell didn’t look very good. Her hair was straggly up close, tangled, and there were gaunt spaces underneath her cheekbones. Thin lines of tears marked her cheeks, and her nose was bleeding.

“Bonne soirée, Sage,” she said, trying to sound sly and sophisticated, but her words came out choked.

I didn’t know what to say now that I had her. This wasn’t what I was expecting.

“Who are you?” I whispered harshly. She didn’t say anything, so I shook her harder, my fingers digging into her arm. A drop of blood splattered onto the ground between us.

She eyed it absently then looked at me with watery eyes. “I’m almost done. And when I am done, I will be free.” She then went off into a tangent in French, just words that she spit out that didn’t seem to go together. The only word I recognize was mort. Death.

“Free from what? What do you want with Dawn?”

She gave me a lazy smile and another drop of blood fell from her upper lip. “I don’t care for Dawn. I did care for you, just un peu. But Dawn, she is their business. And I am almost free of their business, too.”

I took in a deep breath, trying to keep myself from flipping out in frustration. “Who are they?”

“You know who they are. Everyone knows who they are.” The blood began to pour more freely from her nose, streaks of red on white, and her eyes went up to the hotel windows. “You can go and ask one of them yourself. It’s with Dawn right now.”

My eyes flew to the windows. I counted up and saw the window to our hotel room. The light was on in the room, and a large form was moving to the curtains. I caught a glint of yellow eyes before it snapped the curtains shut.

I must have screamed or I don’t know what, but I turned and I ran fast as hell away from Angeline, around the corner, almost falling on my face, and back into the hotel. I took the stairs two at a time, praying I wasn’t too late, hoping it was just Max I saw, cursing myself for leaving her alone.

Once at the floor, I sprinted for the room. I didn’t even bother trying the handle to see if it was locked; there was no time. I threw myself against the door shoulder first and used all my strength and fury to bust it down.

I hadn’t been prepared for the next sight.

The lights were on, mood lighting almost. Dawn was on the bed, completely naked, her head back in ecstasy, eyes closed, mouth open, legs spread. There was a man between her legs, fucking her hard, fast, violently.

The man was me.

He turned his head to me and grinned. It was me. Everything about me, everything that made me me, he had.

Except his eyes. Those looked like bright yellow pinpricks.

And at the base of his ass was a protrusion flickering like a worm, like a hairless tail.

Oh, fuck it, it was a tail.

A demon disguised as me was essentially raping her.

“Dawn!” I screamed, lunging forward, ready to rip the eyes out of the creature. I’d never been so willing to completely kill something before, just tear it apart with my bare hands. I was lucky the fucker was a demon because if he were a man, I’d be charged for murder.

She opened her eyes, seeing me as I ran for the creature. Then she saw the creature, the creature that was transforming in front of our eyes. The tail grew, bones jutted out of its cheekbones, claws came out of its hands, tentacles burst from its stomach, dripping with blood and matter, like a baby being born.

I launched myself into the air, wishing I had some weapon, but all I had was my brawn and the motherfucking rage that was busting out of me.

The creature moved as quick as lightning and jumped straight out through the window, through the glass that shattered in an explosion of fragments. I ran forward and saw it land three stories below before taking off down the now-empty street, disappearing into the shadows. There were a few cries from awakened guests, wondering what the hell had just happened.

But I wasn’t wondering. I knew what had just happened. Angeline had done her duty for whatever payout. She had provided the diversion.

I ran over to Dawn, who was crying, shaking, pulling the covers up around her. I tried to take her into my arms and comfort her, but she screamed and pushed me away.

“What just happened?” Max said, appearing in the doorway with Jacob.

I could barely speak I was so angry. Because I couldn’t hold Dawn, I turned around and went for him. I grabbed his shirt and pushed him up against the wall.

“You left us, that’s what happened. You let them in! You failed!” I knew that was a bit unfair of me to say, but I didn’t care.

Max stared back at me, unflinching, though his eyes wavered at the mention of “failed.”

“I thought Jacob had called me,” he said weakly.

“Sage, let go of him,” Jacob said. “You were both duped.”

I heard some extra voices and was suddenly aware that a few hotel guests were gathering in the hall behind Jacob, peeking in at the broken windows and the redheaded girl, who was crying uncontrollably in her bed.

I let go of Max and went out into the hall, screaming at them until I felt the veins in my head bulge. “Get the fuck back to your rooms!”

They all scampered away like rats.

“Sage,” Jacob said solemnly, putting his hand on my shoulder. I shrugged him off and saw Max go into the room, cautiously approaching Dawn. I couldn’t even be mad about that. Someone had to console her. Oh God, my poor fucking love.

I leaned against the wall, hunched over, trying to keep everything inside.

“Sage,” Jacob said again. “Come on, get inside.”

He led me back into the room. Dawn was sitting up, now wearing a shirt and boxer shorts, the blanket draped around her shoulders. Max was rubbing her back while she stared blankly at a spot on the bed.

For one moment, I had let my guard down. Apparently Max had, too. On the phone, “Jacob” had told him to meet him two blocks away, that something happened to Tricky and he needed his help but not to tell me so I wouldn’t worry. When Max got there, he saw nothing but a bunch of pigeons with their heads ripped off. He came straight back, getting the unsuspecting Jacob on the way, knowing it was a ruse just as I had figured out that Angeline was a ruse.

Both of us were duped. We had both underestimated the lengths that the demons would go to, the ways they would torment Dawn.

And if both of us had failed her…who would protect her in the end?

Chapter Fourteen

Dawn

There are some days when you can’t even get out of bed, let alone open your eyes. I was having far too many of those days lately.

It was the day we were flying to Prague. The day we were leaving Rome. The day that followed the night where I was attacked by a demon disguised as Sage.

Unlike the days before, on this day I realized how futile everything really was. That I was a pawn in a game I didn’t remember signing up for. That the consequences were so much worse than I had imagined.

I didn’t want to think about what had happened. All I knew is that it was Sage—for those moments, it was Sage. I woke up to find him in an amorous mood, and I didn’t even think about how Max should have been in the room with us, or that I was still half asleep. I just went for it. I just gave myself to him because it was Sage and God, I loved that man.

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