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Gage starts climbing the side of the mountain with Ezekiel right behind him.

Jude and Kai move as well, and I grin when I hear Ezekiel yell down at Jude. “Really glad I got that good night of sleep now.”

Jude mutters something as he climbs a little more angrily now. I just hang out, watching them near the ledge, making sure nothing comes at them while they’re distracted. As soon as they reach the ledge, I zap up there, and start looking around, inspecting it for dangers that might catch them off guard.

“I wonder if I can create weapons the same way I create clothes,” I say to them, moving from spot to spot on the barren mountainside ledge in front of them as they start hiking up behind me.

“Don’t risk it,” Kai says to me absently. “Lucifer is likely watching our every move. Besides, we need certain weapons to actually be able to do any damage in hell. I don’t think you’ll be able to materialize those.”

“Can the Devil hear you?” I ask him.

“No,” Jude answers. “Not unless he comes down here.”

I look around, but don’t see an obvious hole in the air where the doorway once was.

As we continue to hike up, avoiding the side with the lava spilling upward, I conversationally say, “So they focus on quads, and they’re desperate to know of your powers. Even accuse you of being too strong to be topside. Yet he seemed surprise you had a balance.”

“I noticed that too,” Ezekiel tells me.

“Just curious, but do you think they’re searching for the Four Horsemen?” I ask.

Jude snorts.

“We thought of that first. The Four Horsemen were killed centuries ago during a collision of the two kingdoms, before we were even born,” Kai answers me. “We thought we’d access more information on it, but even if that’s what we were, they’d be trying to get us in hell; not keep us out.”

Huffing out a breath of frustration, I start to say something else, when a huge half-bird, half-snake creature, breaks through the mountain side, passing right through me with its wide, fanged mouth open for food.

A shudder ripples through me as the scaly tail finishes passing through me, and power pulses from me without me even summoning it, sending the bird-snake squawking in pain as its wings stumble their flight and it starts spiraling downward. It catches itself right before the bottom and shoots off in the opposite direction of us.

“That was so not cool,” I grumble, shuddering again, feeling like I need a shower. “Did you see its tail?”

Gage chuckles, but we all start warily listening to the mountainside now that we know there are beasts that can shoot out of it.

“I don’t know if that thing could see me, but I am curious why the hell some monsters have seen me, even though people—not even the Devil—can do so,” I state idly, glancing around.

No one volunteers any possible answers, so I prattle on, adding, “Maybe because they’re deader? Mushed up in that soul chamber called hell’s throat until they’re the abominations they are now?”

“Maybe because the monsters see differently than our kind. The monsters don’t see things three-dimensionally. It’s another level of vision that has evolved in their state,” Kai says through strain as he starts shoving at a boulder.

Gage helps, and they topple two boulders into the lava, using all their strength to interrupt its path. It’s safe to assume it’s hellfire lava. Quickly, they all jump over those boulders before they sink.

“I wonder if they see me like an ink blob. Psychology would make so much more sense to me if so,” I observe thoughtfully, changing my entire attitude about ink blobs prints on movies now.

“Or maybe they see things in ones and zeroes. Could be the origin of code if one of these was humanoid and got loose topside.”

Apparently they think I’m ridiculous since no one is dignifying my very creative musings as conversation starters.

I keep talking, mostly to myself since they’ve stopped responding. Talking seems to calm me down, and I’m still a little nuclear-level furious from the Devil’s betrayal that we really should have seen coming.

There’s a reason people tell you to never make a deal with the Devil.

“Why not just get one girl and keep her for those fun times? Is it really because you’re too selfish to spend any amount of time on a woman? Do you not find her worth your time between bouts of dirty four-way sex?” I ask, not expecting an answer as I try to distract my mind.

As I open my mouth to keep talking, Kai answers. “Relationships are different than a one-night experience. Attention gets divided when emotions get involved. We’ve tried. There are always favorites, and none of us enjoy it when there are favorites, not even the favorites.”

“It creates jealousy among us, and we always suffer a power loss,” Jude says, staring a little accusingly at me.

“Well, favorites change. For instance, you were my favorite in the beginning. Now you’re a peg below Mr. Selfish,” I dutifully point out.

“You had us numbered, so I’m assuming four was the best?” Gage muses. “Making me your least favorite, despite your animosity toward Kai and his selfish ways.”

“Actually, you were numbered based on the order I saw you in,” I tell him as I step across a bleeding rock.

Yes. The rock is bleeding. I’m not sure if it’s dangerous, but if it’s bleeding, I’m gonna say it’s not a good rock.

Certainly not sanitary.

Or maybe it’s on its period, so I assume stepping on it would really piss it off more than usual.

“When I first started drifting in and out, fading out of existence then back in again, I saw you,” I tell Gage. “I realized quickly that the longer I could see you, the longer it took for me to fade. I followed you everywhere for a few days, but I could never see anything around you or hear anything at all. It was just silence and one gorgeously tattooed anchor.”

He clears his throat and looks away, and I shrug a shoulder.

“My vision soon started expanding, and I saw Ezekiel next. He was the one with you when it first expanded. Then Kai came into frame moments later. At last, I could see the whole room, and Jude was the final piece. Just one helped my state-of-being grow slowly. All four sped up the progress exponentially.”

They exchange a look, but I pretend not to notice. They’re likely trying to detect a lie or spot the manipulative web the evil vagina is weaving.

“Then I watched you moderately. Every time you’d take a woman back, I’d fade out because I refused to watch that. It got harder and harder to come back, so I finally started watching. Then berated myself for not watching sooner.”

Kai snorts out a laugh.

I continue on with my story, since I never told them the details of my beginning. “Finally, sound came. It was overwhelming at first. Smells were just behind it. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch took the longest to appear. The last was taste that followed quickly,” I say, adding the last part a little quietly.

Ezekiel steps a little closer, then makes a conscious effort to put immediate space between us. He was my first taste.

“You got all pissy about us keeping you around just to boost our powers, yet you admit you stuck around with us to power yourself. Double standard much?” Jude drawls, being his typical asshole self.

My usual response would be witty and catty with equal parts menace and humor. Today, it’s honest. Might as well be brutally honest and rip the veins open. Death could come by nightfall for all of them, then me by proxy.

“You four were there for every step of my growth, even seemed to aide in it. I grew attached to all of you—infallibly loyal, viciously protective, savagely lustful, and tragically devoted. I genuinely believed I’d seamlessly slide into your lives and fulfill your need for a woman to share. Pathetic and short-sighted as it may sound to you, it was that fantasy that kept me coming back. And because the four of you unknowingly saved me for years, I became indebted to you on a scale that I can never repay. That is why I stick around. I could give in and just fade out—could go back when life would have been so much easier and less lonely. I finally get to be the one saving you, giving back to you all you gave to me, despite your rather extreme protests, so I stay.”

No one says anything for a while. It’s not the first time I’ve attempted to bare my heart and soul, then have the pieces of it get thrown in my face directly after by them.

It’s odd that I’m thankful for the next bird-snake that emerges to break up the awkward tension surrounding us. It shoots out, passing through me again, just like the last one.

“Why do they keep shooting out at me?” I snap as that sickly tail slashes through me, the bird-snake soaring out and away from us.

I think that other one must have somehow warned him I’d kick his scaly ass.

“I’m a badass,” I state primly as I walk a little taller in my sexy phantom heels.

“You could at least give us something pretty to look at while we’re off to face death,” Ezekiel states flatly.

“My outfit is badass and hot.”

“It’s…not our thing, really,” Kai drawls.

A sexy little red Devil Halloween costume appears on me, along with red fishnet stockings hooked to the garter belts. The cliché pitchfork, red horns, and little red heels complete the look for hell’s belly’s deadly excursion.

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