He looks up from the scale, his brow furrowed.
“Why would you say that exactly?” he asks, clearly intrigued.
“When something starves, it starts eating itself from the inside. The beetle was clearly doing that, hence the shriveling. I would think that was obvious.”
He starts to speak, but I continue on.
“And Ezekiel is War, surprisingly enough. He doesn’t create chaos. Chaos would have them running in a frenzy and spurred by random events. War is a simple-minded thought to kill the opposition at any cost. Ezekiel just confused their minds with who the opposition was and created a civil war from thin air.”
He steps closer, tilting his head.
“As I said, you’re clearly death. Death can come in any form. You didn’t need a spear to kill them, because you were Death itself.”
He blinks and slowly shakes his head. “Famine. No one has ever suggested Gage’s power being famine. He drains things.”
“He starves them and dehydrates them,” I correct.
“Famine’s power was to kill the land with pests and such,” he tells me dismissively.
“Because he drained the land of nutrients and starved it until it killed everything to keep itself alive and not share resources,” I go on. “The land is just as alive as you or I. It only makes sense he could do it to a living being as much as a living entity.”
He points a finger at me. “Your ability to rationalize your point by twisting theories and half-cocked hypothesizes makes you impossible to reason with. You make me think things I know can’t be possible. The Four Horsemen are dead. That is something agreed on by everyone.”
“Then why give the quads so much extra attention?” I ask him, arching an eyebrow. “Why not just leave you forever locked in hell’s belly if Lucifer truly wants you dead? Why the theatrics for a man so powerful?”
His hands fist, but before he can answer, I hear the door opening. Instantly, I go phantom, just as a very familiar brunette walks into the room, her smile spreading when she sees Jude.
Envy like I’ve never felt before slices through me so powerfully that bile almost rises to my phantom throat when he grins genuinely back at her.
It isn’t because he’s smiling at her.
It’s because I know this girl.
“Two years ago, the four of you shared her,” I say on a shaky breath as Jude goes to hug her right in front of me like she’s nothing more than an old friend.
He ignores me, the girl who doesn’t really exist, as the one they’ve touched between them before laughs and pulls back, greeting him.
I remember the way she kissed all of them, savored them with a familiarity I couldn’t understand. Most of the other girls always seemed like strangers to them, but she seemed as comfortable with them as they were with her.
It’s now I realize why.
They shared her more than once.
I just got to view a reunion.
Staggering back, I watch as her hand slides down his arm with ease and comfort.
Jude clears his throat, and withdraws from her touch as I stare numbly at the scene at hand.
“I really don’t trust her now,” I tell him, trying to mask the fact my feelings actually can still be hurt.
Admired not pitied—my new goal, remember? I get nowhere with them when I wear my heart on my sleeve.
She moves to the scale, grinning over at him. “Playing with lead balls, Jude? I hardly pictured you as the idle-hands type after knowing you for so long.”
“It took you longer than usual to show up,” he tells her casually, moving to sit on the end of the bed near me.
Me? I’m trying not to visibly sulk. Jealousy is a powerful emotion. I literally want to kill this girl. I had no issue with her back then. I mean, of course I was jealous, even tried to possess her—like I did many of them—especially her.
She was the one they seemed to really enjoy, and she was flirty and fun, not at all timid or apprehensive of the debauchery they showered her with.
And the most beautiful.
Now she walks in here and makes Death himself smile as though it’s a simple task.
She looks around, as though she’s searching for something. Everything she does is suspicious now, because I’m just looking for a reason to kill her.
“Now I know why you made me promise to behave,” I state dryly.
Jude’s lips twitch as she faces him again.
“I was waiting for your brothers. I may not can sneak you all in, but I assumed there’d be a little trade for this very deadly risk I’m taking for the four of you,” she says, smirking before she winks.
“I’m going to have to kill her,” I say on a sigh, then stiffen, realizing I said it aloud.
Jude clears his throat, his humor gone.
“Fine. I won’t kill her.” In front of you, I add silently, deciding I’m really good at negotiating. Seems like a fair deal to me. No need in getting his vote on the matter.
“My brothers stayed home. The soul breaks are getting worse, and we’re stationed in the highest concentration of the breaks right now.”
He tells her this easily, even though this is the first I’ve heard that tidbit of information. One more reason to kill her. She makes my place feel threatened, and I don’t particularly care for that feeling.
“Would they have paid her the way she clearly wants to be paid if they’d been able to come here?” I ask, deciding that is very important information I need to know before I decide if I’m an idiot or not for thinking I was special.
I really will leave and find a way to extract myself from them completely if he answers yes. Even if it’s just to be a snarky dick to me. I will so be gone, just as soon as I return him safely home.
Those three were beginning to make me feel like I was as important to them as they are me, yet they didn’t mention any of this.
Jude, of course, doesn’t answer me, since he can’t talk to a phantom his guest can’t see, without being terribly suspicious. Since she seems to be as paranoid as he is with trust, that would be bad.
I decide to make him talk so she doesn’t trust him. I’ll find a way into hell to gather their information. They don’t need her.
“Would they?” I ask him again.
He signs the letters n and o behind his back. Hmm… I can read sign language? Oh, he’s telling me no! They wouldn’t have. I hope he’s not lying.
As she comes to stand closer to him, her eyes raking over him, I move to his side.
“You’re turned on without them,” she says, glancing at his lap.
That has me scooting away, since that’s my effect.
Jude clears his throat as he leans forward, hiding the noticeable erection he certainly shouldn’t be having with another woman in the room.
“If I’m a conduit for your attraction to her, I’ll be forced to make her ugly very soon,” I tell him seriously.
He gives a subtle shake of his head. I’m not sure what he’s telling me, but I think he’s asking me not to kill her or telling me it’s not her effect.
“I mean it. I will not be the little magic gem that offers you an independent boner so you can screw another girl in my presence.”
“I’d never betray my brothers by taking someone without them,” he tells her.
I really hate the way he calls them his brothers. It’s confusing. Which in a sense, they are. But not in the blood-relation sense.
“The Kincaid brothers only share,” she says on a sigh, as though she’s repeating something she’s heard too much. “I remember well.”
“All quads share,” he says dismissively.
We’ll have to circle back to the Kincaid brothers thing. That’s the first I’ve heard of that, and again, they’re not really brothers.
Her eyes close, like she’s relishing a memory. My phantom fists clench.
“You being turned on by her definitely makes you my least favorite,” I mutter under my breath.
Pettiness is my new shade of personality lately.
His eyes dart to me as his jaw tics, but he immediately looks away, unable to say whatever it is he wants to say, since she’s here.
I like that I’m making him want to talk. I need this siren gone before she sings her song and I lose him completely.
“You four don’t have the same last names if you were born to different families. I’ve not even been able to uncover your last names. So why does she refer to you as the Kincaid brothers?” I muse aloud.
“Are we going to hell or not, Lake? Time is very precious right now, and I’ve been separated from my brothers too long. You know how quad bonds work,” he reminds her.
I’m not sure why my stomach unsettles, but it’s not envy this time.
I look back at her as her eyes open, and she gives him a small, sympathetic smile.
“You’re hurting for their presence. Sorry. I really did expect them to be here with you, or I wouldn’t have made you wait for so long. The truth is that I was trying to get out of my latest assignment, which is the main reason I’m so late.”
He cocks his head.
“What do you mean?” he asks as he stands.
She takes a step back, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“This culling is terrifying everyone. Lucifer hasn’t stopped it yet. Forty more escorts were killed this morning. He wants nothing but devout loyalty, and you know where I stand on that fence if I’m willing to break the rules to take you under,” she says, smiling sadly up at him.
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