Page 27

I swallow thickly.

“You’d just finished a mortal life—the five of you always died together.” He clears his throat, smiling tightly. “I’ll tell her more when she shows herself to me.”

“To go back and live mortal lives, you have to be royalty or blessed by royalty,” Jude argues.

Kai glances down at me, almost as though he’s searching my eyes for something.

“To create an obstacle course in hell’s belly just for her current favorite’s birthday would also imply royalty,” Lamar states, causing me to freeze.

“What did you just say?” Gage asks, looking at Lamar. “Her current favorite?”

“Her favorite constantly changed. It was a game you five played. It kept things from going stale. But you were always her favorite on your respective birthdays. After all, she was reasonable, as I said.”

Kai’s lips tug in a grin.

“This is not a grinning time. You have terrible timing for humor,” I tell him, looking back at Lamar.

“She could send you back for mortal lives because she gave you each a piece of her balance and broke every law when she did it. But as I said, she never cared much for rules. In doing so, she made all of you stronger. And she saved your lives back then. Dragged you all from imbalance’s insanity and did what had never been done before in accomplishing it. She saved your lives the first time she met you, and you all saved each other over and over. But this last time, she truly died. Or so we all thought. I’m wondering if it was just the bond that managed to pull her together and allow her to defy the impossible once again.”

They all just stare at him until they look right at me like they finally understand what’s going on.

“He’s trying to say I’m the Devil’s daughter, isn’t he?” I ask them, shaking my head. “But there are only six,” I remind them. “Only two of them are girls.”

“Yeah, but the twins could count as one,” Kai says, as though he’s considering it.

“I know they can count as one, but they don’t because five would be an imbalance so they have to count as two,” I argue, then frown at knowing that since I don’t know how I know it, and since it sort of confuses me. Shaking my head, I go on. “Four boys and three girls would still be an imbalance, because there would be seven heirs instead of six, and the gender would then have to be the balance.”

“She’s right. That would be four boys and three girls even if the twins did count as one,” Ezekiel agrees.

Good job.

Though now I’m simply more confused.

“He’s my favorite now just because he’s got my back,” I whisper almost silently. “Like baby got back kind of back.”

He just shakes his head, cursing as he leans up.

“Did I use it wrong?”

My question goes unanswered as Jude once again huffs. “No one has ever considered the sexes to be a part of the balance before. It’s been four boys and two girls for a very long time. Pretty sure they’re men and women by now,” Jude says in his overly sarcastic tone.

“The sexes and numbers are even. Three females and three males,” Lamar says conversationally, as though he’s simply reminding us of something. “When all heirs are in hell, the twins count as one person—one male—with their yin and yang balance. They only count as two when influencing, since they have two separate dark influences. All the heirs have their own dark influence—hence the seven deadly sins.”

“What?” Jude asks on a breath.

Lamar’s eyes widen, and he tightens his lips. “Only the royal family and closest lovers are to know some of that. There’s a vow of death. You make a deal with the Devil to be allowed so close to the royals and inner knowledge of their balances.”

It’s like he’s reminding us of an oath we took that still binds today, even though we don’t remember taking it.

“He’s all gibberish and nonsense,” I argue, shaking my head emphatically. “I want to go.”

“We can’t go until we find out if he’s lying or not,” Ezekiel states quietly.

“You’re having to convince her she’s Lucifer’s youngest daughter, aren’t you?” Lamar asks, grinning like he’s amused. “I can’t help but wonder what she was thinking when she did all of this. Clearly she planned for a true death to have made this happen. The bond alone couldn’t have accomplished quite this much. You’re the only ones who can see or hear her.”

“Can’t he see I’m trying to talk myself off a ledge here?” I ask them incredulously. “I can’t be Lucifer’s daughter. That would make me way older than the nineties, first off, and the nineties is the main source of my ingrained information. Not hell politics. You guys are centuries old, which means we would have had to die long before the nineties. He’s wrong.”

“Why would she be rambling about the nineties if what you’re saying is true?” Kai finally asks him.

Lamar’s eyes water as though Kai’s just asked him something very personal that has made him emotional.

“We can see a lot of the future. The human future, that is. We spent centuries perfecting our nineties slang,” the watery-eyed man says very quietly.

“Not quite perfected even after all that,” Jude says as he looks back at me, smirking. Then gives his serious face back to Lamar.

“She and I made a pact that we’d go mortal in the nineties. She wanted to be a dancing pop singer, and knew you four would end up her backup dancers or a boy band.”

I’m so stunned that I can even recycle my One Erection joke.

Lamar continues speaking when no one says anything, and the guys just stare at him like he’s lost his damn mind for suggesting such a horrible thing. They’d be an adorable boy band.

“She wanted to read about the scandal later when she had all her memories and her body back, and like always, you’d all sit around basking in how you fell in love again, even though you had no idea who you were in that time. I was going to become a politician, because we both knew Manella would go if I went, and we’d fall in love there. He’d never gone mortal before, but promised me he would in the nineties. It would have been a helluva scandal for us to enjoy upon our return.”

“Did he go?” I ask, feeling my heart hurt a little for no really good reason.

“Why would she—”

“Did he go?” I ask louder, talking over Jude, who looks at me like I’m going crazy.

“Did you go?” Kai asks him on a sigh.

Lamar’s jaw trembles and he clears his throat while blinking and looking away. “It didn’t seem right to go without her.”

Deflated, I sit back.

“I believe him,” I say quietly. “I’m the Devil’s daughter with a horribly non-badass name like Paca. Who names hell spawn something that bubbly? I’m not bubbly at all.”

“What’s she saying that has all of you looking at me like you want to do harm?” Lamar asks, frowning.

“We’re trying to decide if you’re lying or not. She believes you. It’s not going to be good if you’re fucking with us,” Ezekiel drawls, looking at his nails as though he’s bored.

“Touching her seems to amplify our powers,” Jude goes on, his hand slipping through mine. “Supposedly I’m Death.”

Lamar slides off the desk slowly, so as not to make any sudden movements.

“Paca, I know you’re probably overwhelmed if you prevented yourself from remembering all this for whatever reason. But trust me when I say we’ll figure all this out together. You sought me out in hell’s throat. I spent five years convincing myself it was not you I kept feeling, because it was impossible. Then I felt you. Then they said she, and I finally knew we’d been right. They were yours and you were back.”

Just feeling their tingles start to surround me helps. Kai and Gage are also touching me. It’s Ezekiel I’m worried about. He’s not touching me, and he looks much too calm for the embodiment of war who got used to peaceful sleep, only to have it ripped away from him for over a month.

He’s the one who might actually kill Lamar before I can decide how I feel about him.

“Lucifer knows. He knew even before I did. I told you that. The trials were just him throwing it in your face that he knew so you’d stop pretending you all weren’t back. He figured it out months ago as his madness continued to lift the closer to hell she got. Manella told me this just after the night Lucifer exonerated me—the night his lucidity completely returned. You know the Devil’s games…I would have told you sooner, but I thought I was playing your game, even as it hurt my feelings to be left out.”

Looking betrayed makes a little sense, if we really were besties.

“Is that why he tried killing us?” Jude asks, a lethal, hard edge to his tone as he takes a step away. “Because of him, she was killed a month ago.”

Never mind about Ezekiel. Jude’s the one to worry about now. He’s the one who watched me die, and then kissed me for the first time when I came back because I wasn’t dead.

Very hard man to impress, that one.

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