Susan pushed past Ravyn so that she could peer through the crack to see what was going on. She frowned as she saw the woman in front of Dorian and her heart stopped beating. "She was at the Happy Hunting Ground. "
Ravyn scowled at Susan. "What?"
She lowered her tone so that only Ravyn could hear. "She was with the group of Daimons who tranked you."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." And she was, too. She’d never forget the woman who actually put Cael’s wife to shame in terms of beauty and grace.
But Susan’s gaze was snagged away from the woman to the man who came into the back room with an aura so powerful that it instantly commanded everyone’s rapt attention. Not to mention he had the determined stride of hell wrath and damnation. It was obvious he was here for blood and making no attempt to hide it. Wearing a black and blue scuba suit that showed off a lean, ripped body, and dripping wet, that man had a face that was both beautifully chiseled and rugged. He had at least a week’s growth of whiskers and shoulder-length dark brown hair.
"You," he said to the cop on his left as he stopped beside the woman, "go outside and have a donut with your buddies."
The woman scowled her displeasure at him.
She raked him with a sneer that said she held him in the same estimation as something stuck to the bottom of her shoe. "Who do you think you are?"
His lips twisted into a mocking grin. "Oh, baby, don’t ask me that question. I know exactly who and what I am… and more to the point, what I’m capable of." He wiped at a bead of water on his cheek before he spoke again. This time, his low, feral tone was sinister and cold and filled with his anger. "How dare you bring your prissy little ass into one of my clubs and pull this shit. You’re lucky you’re still breathing."
She was aghast at him. "I will have you arrested."
"And I will have your ass for breakfast, little girl," he sneered. "I’m not Stryker. There’s no fraternal love in my heart for you. In fact, there’s no love in my heart for anyone… much." He brushed his wet bangs back from his dark brown eyes. "Now, I just sent your boys in the alley off to Bainbridge Island. They’re not sure how they got there and lucky for you, they have no memory of ever seeing you. For your sake, and that of your half-ass brother, let’s keep it that way. You pull this shit again, and I don’t care who you serve or who you think you know, you’re dead. Got me?"
The woman appeared a bit subdued. "How do you know about Stryker?"
He gave her a dry stare. "I know everything about everything and before I dry off completely, which is something I truly hate, you better go outside, collect Trates, and have both your asses out of here or I’m going to lose what little patience I have." The air around him seemed to snap with powerful energy that appeared to be emanating from within him. "You will play by the rules I’ve set up for sanctuary, or I’ll use your entrails for armbands. Understand me? Don’t you ever chance exposing the Weres to the humans again."
The anger returned to her as she stiffened her spine. "If you know everything as you claim, then you know you can’t stop me."
He laughed at her. "Yeah, and the next time you’re fetching for Auntie, tell her Savitar said hi and watch her bitch slap you for even bringing her to my attention."
"How do you-"
He cut her words off by moving to stand so close to her that she had to take a step back and crane her neck to look up at him. "I told you, little Satara, I know everything about everything. I even know about the goddess who really does scare the shit out of you. And you should be afraid of her. Trust me. The Destroyer earned her name for a reason, and it wasn’t by posing. You might win this little battle you’re trying to fight, but ask yourself if it’s going to be worth the cost of it."
"I don’t know what you’re talking about."
An evil laugh emanated from deep within his throat. "Yes, you do. And when you find yourself back in Kalosis in a few seconds with a wide-eyed Trates and a pissed-off Stryker, remember that I’m watching you and that the Weres are off-limits in this game. You want to f**k with Artemis, f**k with Artemis. You want to f**k with me… make out your will."
The woman instantly vanished.
Savitar looked past Dorian, Phoenix, and their father, to the door where Susan and Ravyn were. "You two can come out now. They’re gone."
Susan walked out first, but as she approached Savitar, the hair on the back of her neck rose. There was something so powerful and scary about him that it actually made her want to run for the door. The very air around him crackled with some kind of unholy energy. It was like standing next to a thrumming nuclear generator… that could explode and destroy you and the entire city at any second.
"Savitar," Ravyn said in a surprisingly friendly tone, extending his hand out to him. "It’s been a while."
"Yes, it has." He shook Ravyn’s hand, then turned to look at Dorian and his family. "No offense, Dorian. Oh, what the hell, take all the offense you want, it’s not like I give a shit." He looked back at Ravyn. "I miss the days before you crossed over to the dark side. Back when you sat on the Omegrion, Rave. You were actually highly entertaining. Dorian, on the other hand, has a major stick up his ass."
"Glad to know I had some purpose."
A strange light darkened Savitar’s eyes. "You have more than you’ve ever dreamed of. "
Ravyn stiffened. "What do you mean?"
Savitar tilted his head. "Dorian and others, take a break." Before they could speak or move, they vanished.
Susan widened her eyes at the way Savitar seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted with people regardless of their will.
"Don’t worry," Savitar said to her as if he knew her thoughts. "I won’t send you off without warning. Just stand there and be awed by my beauty. It’s the safest mode around me."
Yeah…"Can I ask-"
"You’re not ready for that answer," he said, cutting her off. "The only person who needs to know what I am already knows. That would be me. I like to keep the rest of the world guessing."
All things considered, she strangely liked this enigmatic man, even if he did have a titanic ego and frightening powers.
"But back to Ravyn." He placed a heavily tattooed arm over Ravyn’s shoulders and hugged him like an affectionate brother. "You’re going to do me a favor."
"Yes." Savitar stepped away to clap him on the back. "I have a small matter that I need you to help me with."
"You need my help?"
"Astonishing, isn’t it?"
"You could say that." Ravyn exchanged a puzzled look with her as she wondered what a man like this could possibly want with Ravyn. "So what is this favor?"
"I have a friend who has a friend who needs to be trained."
"Trained for what?"
"To be a Dark-Hunter."
Ravyn was stunned by his words. For the first time in centuries, he was beginning to wonder about Savitar’s mental capacity. "I can’t train another Dark-Hunter. We weaken each other’s powers."
"Normally, this would be true, but this particular Dark-Hunter is a little different from the others."
Now that made him nervous. Different wasn’t necessarily a good thing, especially in this work. "Different how?"
"In many ways. He was entrusted to me, but I’ve found that training someone to fight just isn’t my forte." Savitar screwed up his face. "It actually dawned on me that I don’t fight. I just kill whatever annoys me, and it’s over. Not to mention the kid is seriously cramping my style… which seriously annoys the hell out of me, and if I kill him, it’ll just open a whole can of worms I don’t want to deal with. Oh, and he’s taken to complaining daily about how he wants to start training, wah, wah, wah." He sighed. "I just can’t be bothered with it. Too many waves to surf… know what I mean?"
Not really. "Uh-huh, and who is this kid?"
Savitar snapped his fingers.
Susan gaped as a good-looking man in his mid-to late twenties appeared next to her. Standing a good six foot four, he had dark brown hair and black eyes, but what held her attention most was the double bow and arrow Dark-Hunter mark that covered his neck and part of his extremely unhappy face.
"What the hell is this, Savitar?" the man demanded.
"You wanted to be trained, Nick. Meet your new trainer. Ravyn Kontis, this is Nick Gautier."
Ravyn gaped at the name that was meaningless to Susan.
"Nick Gautier? The New Orleans Squire who went missing?"
Savitar gave him a droll look. "He’s obviously not missing. Open your eyes, man. He’s standing right in front of you."
Ravyn scowled. "No offense, Savitar, but this is a really bad time. I’m kind of in the middle of a situation here."
"Yeah, I know. You’re basically screwed. But Nick can actually help you with this matter. Not to mention the fact that you’re missing a Dark-Hunter. He can be the replacement. "
"Can I ask one question?"
Savitar gave a heavy sigh. "I know you, Ravyn. I’ve known you for centuries, and Nick is a special member of this world. There’s no one else I would trust to train him."
Ravyn wanted to protest, but one thing he knew about Savitar was that he didn’t like to be questioned. As he said, he tended to kill things that annoyed him, and questions definitely annoyed him.
Savitar moved to stand beside Nick. "You’ve been entertaining, Gautier. At least most of the time. And you play a mean-ass game of pool. Before I leave you, I have two quick things I want you to keep in mind. One, stay away from the Charonte demons. They’re really bad for you."
Nick didn’t appear amused by his words of advice. "And the second?"
A wave of energy peaked in the room as Savitar’s face lost all humor. "Is the life you seek to take worth the one you could one day create?"
Nick scowled. "What’s that supposed to mean?"
"You’ll learn." There was something in Savitar’s eyes that looked like regret as he clapped Nick on the back. "Remember, Nick, there are only two people in the universe I care for… and you’re not one of them."
"Damn," Ravyn said, with a hint of humor. "Savitar, that’s cold."
Savitar took that in stride. "No one has ever accused me of being anything else. For good reason, I might add."
Ravyn nodded. That was certainly true. He glanced to Susan, who seemed to be completely subdued by Savitar’s presence. "Before you go, can I ask one last question?"
"You can ask."
"Do you know where Acheron is?"
Savitar answered without hesitation. "Yes."
He waited for Savitar to continue. When he didn’t, Ravyn prompted him, "And where would that be?"
"He’s tied up at the moment."
"Tied up how?"
"Double-knotted to a bedpost, not that it’s any of your business. That boy was always too trusting for his own good. You’d think by now he’d know better. But no. He’s got to be stupid. Personally, I’d tie the bitch up, muzzle her, and ride her around the room with spurs on, but no one ever asks my opinion, do they? No. What do I know? I’m only omniscient."
Was any of that supposed to make sense? Before Ravyn could ask anything more, Savitar vanished.
He stood there with Nick standing between him and Susan. The air around Nick was rife with anger and agitation. It was obvious the man wanted to be anywhere but here.
Ravyn released a perturbed breath. "This is awkward."
"Yeah," Nick agreed. "I’m really getting sick of being dumped on strangers."
He could just imagine. "So why isn’t Acheron training you?"
Hatred flared deep in the Cajun’s eyes as he curled his lip. "You’ll have to ask the bastard that for yourself. Seems he’s not man enough to face me after he screwed me over."
Ravyn sucked his breath in between his teeth. He only knew Nick vicariously through the Dark-Hunter bulletin boards that Nick had run as a Squire. In those days, Nick had been friendly enough, if not a bit acidic at times. Then one night, about two years ago, Nick had gone missing. No one had known what had happened to him.
Susan gave him a sympathetic smile. "I take it you and Acheron aren’t on the best of terms."
"You think?" Nick looked around the room as if trying to place it. "Where am I?"
Ravyn exchanged an awkward glance with Susan before he answered. "Seattle."
Nick frowned in her direction. "And who’s she?"
Something about that look and his tone greatly perturbed her. "You know, I am right here in the room, not outside looking in, and to answer your question, I’m a Squire."
"Bully for you," he said coldly. Nick curled his lip. "What’s the date?"
Ravyn felt a stab of reluctance go through him. From his past when he was a member of the Omegrion, he knew that Savitar’s home, which was a floating island, existed outside of traditional time. Nick most likely had no idea how long he’d been gone or, more to the point, what had been happening in New Orleans over the last few months. "June 3, 2006."