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“Just get back. I can’t…I just can’t explain right now. Get back.”

Breaking the kiss with Ezekiel is a little hard to do, now that we’re back to that survival and sex thing being linked. I’m so relieved to be alive that I want to feel it, but I first need to set some things straight before they start teasing me again.

Gage comes jogging back in, tugging on a pair of track pants as his no-longer-black eyes rake over me like he can’t look his fill.

“I’m assuming that was Jude?” I ask, and he nods once.

“Good. While we’re waiting on him to come remove the last bit of pain plaguing me, I have something very important to tell you.”

They all step in closer. I found it so sweet when I first found all those beautiful roses with no thorns. I didn’t have all the details then.

“I died saving you assholes, and you repay me by putting me in a hole that far away from you?!” I snap, watching as their eyes widen and their grins curve up. “Seriously? That’s all you could come up with on my headstone? And for a solid month, the only thing you lazy asses brought me was roses?”

They all dart a gaze behind me, just as I hear Jude’s familiar voice wash over me with surprise and awe.

“It’s her.”

Chapter 13

I whirl around, tempted to go to him, but not emotionally capable of dealing with rejection at this very trying moment.

“Yes,” I say with a bitter smile. “Apparently I’m too stubborn for Death to deal with properly.”

I give him a pointed look, hoping he gets the little pun.

I expect a snappy comeback or some hostile suspicion. What I don’t expect is for him to be across the room in a blur of motion.

His lips crash against mine for the first time, and it’s like a storm pulses in my body. All the pain is gone at last, and warmth travels up through me, as though he finally just sealed the last piece of something into place and made me truly whole.

I moan into his mouth as he grips me closer, his hands moving all over me like he doesn’t know what he wants to touch the most.

I’m beyond drugged and unable to pull back, as I clutch him closer, kissing him so hard that my lips start to hurt. I knew it’d be violent with him. Just as it is with all of them.

It makes the times they’re soft so much more special.

When he breaks the kiss, he’s panting, his entire body shaking against me as his breaths rattle in his chest.

“Now that is how you welcome a girl back from the dead,” I say on a shuddering breath. “Congratulations. You’re finally my favorite again.”

They all look torn between laughing and murdering someone.

Jude forces himself to release me and take a few steps back, his body visibly straining with the effort it takes. I’m a little lightheaded, if I’m being honest.

It really does feel like the final piece has clicked into place. I feel so much stronger now.

I go phantom with ease and zap around the house several times before landing back in front of them with a grin on my lips.

“Much better. Apparently the four of you still make me stronger.”

They don’t look quite as amused as I do.

“Great,” I groan. “What now? What have I missed in the month I’ve been dead that has put all of you in such a terrible mood?” I ask on an exasperated sigh.

Given the condition of the house, I’ve missed a lot.

“Not much,” Ezekiel says, clearing his throat. “No one has tried to kill us since Jude killed Lake. Only the Devil’s highest appointed generals should have been able to kill an escort. It seemed to send a message.”

I look around the house, seeing all of it torn to pieces. Hell, even the chandeliers look like they’re warped.

“Then why does it look like a war raged on in here?” I ask, bringing my gaze back down.

“You were fucking dead,” Gage says again, coming closer as though he has to touch me after saying those words. “We broke laws, hijacked royal escorts, and broke into hell numerous times to find out what happened to you. Not recycled. Not in hell’s throat. Simply fucking dead.”

His hand moves to my cheek, cupping it.

Kai moves forward, reaching his hand out for me. I take it and let him pull me away from Gage and into his arms.

“But what happened to the house?” I ask him, since Gage didn’t answer.

“You fucking died,” Kai says, and this time…I get it.

With a more educated eye, I look around again, seeing the distress and anger that went into destroying this room. Beyond us is the kitchen in the same disarray, but I notice the dents in the walls and pans, the fury that went into all that destruction.

This wasn’t a struggle to survive. This was a grieving tantrum.

They grieved me?

“Oh,” I say on a quiet breath. “Didn’t realize you four liked me quite that much,” I add even quieter, rather shocked, really.

Kai’s finger slips under my chin as he glares down at me. Leave it to Kai to act like it’s my fault they buried me so far away.

“I might have healed faster if you’d left me in my damn room instead of tossing me out like yesterday’s virgin girlfriend,” I state primly.

He grips my shoulders as his eyes harden. I don’t tell him it actually kind of hurts. My entire body is actually a little achy, if I’m being honest.

One type of soul-burning pain has been replaced with an achy, uncomfortable, and certainly untimely sort of pain.

“You. Were. Fucking. Dead,” he says, punctuating each word very unnecessarily loud.

I’m not sure why he’s insisting on saying that. I said I get it.

“That doesn’t explain why you buried me instead of leaving me in my room,” I point out, ignoring the growing ache spreading out from my stomach. “It’s not like any of you ever used my room before I took it, so it’s not putting you out.”

Kai gives me the neck-wringing look before his lips are on mine again, almost punishing me for trying to make sense of their rambles.

As much as I want to keep kissing him, I can’t. My head drops to stare at the subtly expanding bruise on my waist, and I slightly curse. I might finally get my virginity taken if I wasn’t in too much physical duress to do it.

“Shit,” Kai says, almost as though he’s just noticing the fact the stab wound isn’t there, but it’s still leaving a mark.

In the next breath, he’s lifting me and cradling me to him, and I give him an incredulous look. “I’m not quite that helpless. I can still stand. Just maybe don’t grip me so hard,” I tell him, expecting a grimace and an apology. Not an exasperated eye roll. Which is what I get.

He sits down, still holding me like I’m glass, and cradles me to him like I’m precious. To be honest, it’s freaking me out.

“Who are you and where is Kai?” I ask him, moving my hand up his chest a little hesitantly.

The really angry glare he gives me can’t be duplicated by anyone other than Jude. So I realize it’s actually him. And he’s being nice. It’s still freaking me out.

“I can’t be satisfied,” I say on a sigh, annoyed with my own self.

Nobody even bothers to ask what that means. It’s as though they know it’s a private conversation with myself. It’s like they get me. Finally.

Sort of.

They’re still completely disregarding my list of expectancies.

Ezekiel crouches in front of me, his finger tracing over the bruise, and I wince while painfully swallowing back the weak little cry I almost give up from such a little touch that shouldn’t hurt so badly.

“Lucifer’s poison did this to you,” Ezekiel says while grinding his jaw. “Lake was armed with it either by him, or by her father. She was part of a group preparing to overthrow hell, though the facts on that are still murky,” he adds.

“But she was also a royal escort—”

“No, royal escorts wear bags over their heads. I’ve seen what they look like without them,” I point out, then smile bitterly. “She definitely didn’t have to wear a bag.”

“In hell, she’s hideous. Topside…you saw. The balance was grotesque in one place, exquisite in another,” Gage goes on, cracking his neck.

“Wait, you mean those scarred, charred, and half human guards…she looked like one of them? They made them bag their heads because the Devil thought they were too stomach-curdling for him to have to see so often.”

Frowning, I try to remember exactly how I know that last part. Did Lucifer say something about it?

“The point is,” Gage goes on, drawing me out of my reverie, “she worked for both. She might have done it for the rebellion because Lucifer needs us. She might have done it for Lucifer to spare herself from the culling going on. So we don’t know which one wants us dead, and which one wants us on their side. But in the past month since Jude killed her, everyone has gone silent. Not even Harold has called me until today. We’ve not even been charged with bringing in souls.”

“But why would—” My words cut off when I feel something coming, and I go phantom in the next instant.

I also put on the first outfit that comes to mind, like I’m shielding my naked form before someone sees me and pisses off the guys. They like me, so that means they’ll be jealous, right?

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