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He drops to me, kissing me so hard, as though rewarding me for my lazy part.

My fingers tangle in his dark hair as I suck his bottom lip into my mouth and bite it gently.

He groans and shudders again, moving inside me like he’s ready for another round.

“Enough for now,” Jude says, even as Kai’s hips continue to move.

I kiss him harder, not wanting him gone just yet. His hands fly to my hair, gripping it as he starts thrusting like he can’t slow down, desperate to feel another release.

“I said enough,” Jude bites out.

“Let him. She likes it,” Ezekiel says from beside me, moving to watch my eyes as Kai fucks me like he can’t stop.

“She can take as much as we can give,” Gage says, smirking as he steps back, taking in the scene like he wants to watch.

Kai is stilling again, already coming. My orgasm total for the day has been met, so I don’t feel gipped that I don’t get another one at the end.

Kai’s body goes lax on top of mine as he lazily he kisses me with appreciation, his weight crushing down on me.

“If he got two turns, then I vote I get mine later,” Ezekiel points out.

“After mine,” Jude drawls.

“Or mine,” Gage says.

Kai grins against my neck like he’s enjoying this. My legs wrap around his waist, and my arms go around his shoulders like I’m hugging him to me.

“Whoever is my next favorite will get me again. For now, I’m sexually sated but completely physically hungry,” I tell them, running my lips up Kai’s cheek.

If I continue lying here, basking in all this intimacy, I’ll blurt out something stupid. I’ve learned men hate that.

Giving them no warning, I go phantom and zap myself to the kitchen.

From messy to clean within a flip of a switch, I set about my new task.

I grin when I hear them all follow, siphoning in here behind me. And I don’t even care whose arms go around me or who kisses my cheek as I start cooking for five.

It’s the first time since I started my lonely, anonymous existence that I finally feel whole.

Chapter 16

“Well, this says the Devil’s seven children spread their dark influence when needed or when imbalanced. One guess as to which of the seven deadly sins I am,” I state blandly.

“Wrath,” Ezekiel pipes up, staring over at me like he expects a treat.

“You don’t get to be my favorite by answering rhetorical questions,” I immediately fire back.

He rolls his eyes and mutters something petulant, and I grin because I think I just embarrassed Mr. War.

“Found the origins book,” Gage says around a mouthful as he walks into the kitchen with a burrito in one hand and an ancient, possibly priceless book in the other.

The two look very odd paired together.

He tosses it to Jude, who catches it midair and starts reading from beside me.

“Read it aloud, jackass,” I tell him as I eat one of my ten burritos.

Told you I was starving.

Kai snorts. Jude glares at me.

“Please,” I add with faux sweetness as I bat my lashes.

He rolls his eyes, working to hide his smile that he really doesn’t want to give me.

Some things never change.

He gave Lake that smile, but I don’t bring her up. The house is still in disarray because of my death—which is highly empowering—but clearly they’ve only started to heal from her betrayal.

I’m just happy she’s dead and that Jude killed her for me.

That’s better than any smile. I’m the Devil’s daughter, so it’s okay to be insane like that.

It’s the universal excuse to all my issues now. That’s the upside.

Jude blows out a breath. “It says we’re four parts of one balanced compass, and essentially the metaphorical needle shifts toward whoever is needed the most for the compass holder.”

“I’m guessing that’s me,” I say with a frown. “I forced you all to be my balance or whatever after giving you that piece of my balance?”

Suddenly, the seven remaining burritos don’t look as tempting because my stomach starts to sour.

“I don’t think so,” Jude says distractedly as his eyes scan the next page, apparently reading ahead silently.

“Aloud,” the other three all snap at him.

“For fuck’s sake, you read it,” Jude growls, shoving it at me.

Pushing my unwanted plate back, I take the book, go back to the first page and start reading it where he left off.

“Lucifer needed four soldiers to divide four treacherous, dangerous powers between. Power that, if seduced by greed, could lead to the world’s ultimate demise,” I read aloud.

The words on the next page take a moment to rapidly shift through fifty or more languages before finally settling in English.

“Since greed was not one of her impurities and she was bored, Apocalypse decided to remove this burden from him and tasked it to herself. As the world grew, she became in need of more power without disturbing her balance, and four soldiers that strong could provide that balance infinitely through time.”

I look up, confused. “I thought Lamar said I was balanced and you four weren’t.”

“Yeah, all the children are—apparently not as well as you, but still balanced. However, they still have to maintain that balance. Needing more power means needing a counter balance,” Ezekiel tells me. “Hence the reason Lilith offers a gift with a curse. Cain has his methods, along with the rest. This is saying you found a way to grow stronger and balance yourself with little maintenance.”

I push the book away, not wanting to read more, and Gage picks it up to start scanning its contents.

“So I stole you and somehow tethered you to me to help me keep this balance,” I say quietly.

This morning’s incredible rendezvous now seems…cheapened. And wrong. Even with my new universal excuse for the wrong things I usually enjoy.

“No,” Gage says, smirking as he starts reading aloud. “Apocalypse wanted four strong, fiercely loyal men in her harem who couldn’t be recycled during one of her brothers’ tantrums or stolen when one of her sisters decided to take new lovers.”

“Not helping,” I say with a tight smile.

“But she chose four of the most damaged men in the underworld who could no longer exist inside a mind without madness,” he goes on. “To keep balance.”

“That makes no sense,” I point out.

“They were already too imbalanced. In other words, you were able to give a gift with no strings attached, because of that imbalance. You were the only one who had to sacrifice anything, because they’d—we’d—already suffered too much,” Gage patiently tells me.

“I still don’t get it, and it’s starting to make me feel like an idiot,” I say on a sigh while running a hand through my hair.

Kai starts explaining. “When you’re a resident of hell, you can’t repent. You can hold only a certain amount of impurities—usually it’s a very high threshold. But if those impurities tip the scales, you’ll start going mad. Much like humans, only on a much more volatile and dangerous level.”

“Once you start going mad, there is no turning back,” Jude goes on, frowning. “At least not that I’ve heard of. It’s why we try to keep balance. If you preserve balance, you maintain balance within yourself. Affecting the balance of the universe without consideration for the balance will drive you mad.”

“Okay…” I draw the word out, looking around at them.

Gage continues reading. “These four were deranged, scarred from hell’s black heart where they were kept when they couldn’t be recycled.”

Kai groans, pushing his own food away. “We were in hell’s black heart?” he asks incredulously. “No one leaves there.”

“Hell’s black heart?” I ask, lifting a finger as though I’m asking a question in class.

I suppose I’ve never really attended class.

“It’s a place where they send the ones they can’t recycle. Madness keeps that from happening, because there’s no mad monster Lucifer wishes to create. There’s a chance the imbalance would just force them to cease to exist, but they seem leery of that option. So hell’s heart is where you’re left chained, alone, and forgotten for all eternity.”

“That sounds terrible,” I say as a chill slithers up my spine.

“Hell is not supposed to sound like an inviting kingdom,” Jude reminds me. “Unless you’re royalty or upper level, it’s actually quite the fucking opposite. Some spend centuries being brutally ripped apart as their soul takes a new form. That alone can drive one mad in a different way.”

Gage keeps reading, and I try not to interrupt this time.

“The four had been lost to hysteria, left alone, and chained in the dark chambers where the only sounds were their own screams or those of the souls who just wanted to die, but couldn’t. Because they were eternal now.”

He swallows thickly.

“The nightmares,” Ezekiel says quietly.

“We thought they were a vision of the future, when really it was just an echo of the past,” Kai says on a groan. “We’ve been chasing away a fate we’ve already endured. All that paranoia for nothing.”

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