Susan opened her mouth to respond, then snapped it shut. "Very valid points." Then she literally hopped behind him.
Ravyn reached around his back to assure himself that she was as far from harm’s way as she could be for the moment.
Dragon whipped out his nunchakus while Menkaura wrapped a strange golden chain around one fist.
The Daimons didn’t attack right away. Rather, they crept toward them as if savoring the picture of them crowded together.
"What are they waiting for?" Belle asked.
Ravyn ground his teeth as he realized the answer. "For us to grow even weaker. "
"Screw that," Cael snarled before he let out a war cry. He ran at the Daimon closest to him.
Without thinking, Ravyn broke formation to help Cael as two Daimons ran at Cael’s back. Suddenly all hell broke loose as the Daimons swarmed over them.
Susan couldn’t breathe as she watched the Daimons go after the Dark-Hunters. There were so many of them, she wasn’t even sure if the Dark-Hunters were still standing.
She staggered back as a Daimon came at her, then paused a few feet from her. He sniffed the air in a way that reminded her of a dog who’d caught wind of something it found appealing. "You’re not one of them," he said with a gleeful smile. "You’re human."
"And you’re not."
He came at her.
Susan grabbed his shirt and fell to the ground with him in tow. Rolling onto her back, she raised her legs up and kicked him over her head, away from her, then continued the roll until she was back on her feet. He landed in a heap by the Dumpster as the next Daimon came at her. She elbowed the woman in the face, then twisted around, trying to stake her.
The woman sank her fangs into Susan’s arm.
Susan hissed as the pain spread through her. "I hate to girl fight, but…" She grabbed her by the hair and yanked as hard as she could.
The Daimon cried out before Susan head-butted her.
Ravyn turned to see Susan fighting off her attackers. Stunned by her skill, he missed the Daimon coming for his back. Something hot ripped into his shoulder. He turned with a curse to punch the Daimon in the face. He staggered back but left the knife embedded deep in Ravyn’s shoulder. Pulling it out with a curse and a fierce grimace, he tossed it straight into the Daimon’s chest. He exploded into a golden shower that rained down on Ravyn.
Ravyn caught the knife before it fell to the ground and headed for Susan. She executed a mawasbi-geri or roundhouse kick so perfectly that even Bruce Lee would have been impressed. Gods love her, she did know how to handle herself. Dragon really had taught her well.
And before Ravyn could reach her, she turned on the Daimon nearest her and stabbed him with the stake.
Ravyn skidded to a stop as she killed the Daimon like a pro. She started for Ravyn, then caught herself as she realized he had black hair.
He gave her a crooked grin. "Remind me to never piss you off again."
"You got it."
He started for the Daimon who was coming at her back, but before Ravyn could take more than one step, she’d elbowed the Daimon in the face and flipped him to the ground, where she pinned him with his arm twisted behind his back and with her right foot on the small of his spine.
Realizing she was fine to fight on her own, Ravyn turned to see Belle surrounded by a group of Daimons. She was wounded and bleeding profusely as an extremely large Daimon swung an ax around.
Belle caught the Daimon against his cheek with her whip. The Daimon recoiled, then snarled before he swung the ax. He narrowly missed her as she lunged to the right.
Ravyn rushed at the Daimon’s back to kick him away from Belle.
The Daimon spun on him as two more joined them. He could hear Belle cracking her whip and Dragon fighting with his nunchakus while he kept his eyes trained on the Daimon’s ax so that he could dodge the deadly swings. Ravyn dropped to the ground and rolled, then kicked the Daimon’s feet out from under him. Grabbing the ax as it fell toward the street, Ravyn arced it toward the Daimon’s chest and killed him.
And still the Daimons kept coming.
One dove at Ravyn’s back, knocking him forward. The ax flew out of his hand as he hit the ground and landed at the feet of another Daimon. Laughing, the Daimon picked up the ax and came after him.
Ravyn tried to back up, only to stagger against another Daimon who shoved him back toward the ax. Ravyn changed into a leopard at the same time the Daimon swung. He missed Ravyn and decapitated the other Daimon. But before Ravyn could think, another Daimon caught him with another ax against his back leg.
Yelping, his powers snapped from the pain and turned him back into a man against his will. He barely had time to summon clothes onto his body and roll away before they were on him.
To his surprise, Susan was there with an ax she must have taken from another Daimon. "Back off," she snarled, driving them away from Ravyn.
Ravyn tried to stand only to have his savaged leg buckle under his weight. His strength was starting to fail him and he knew the other Dark-Hunters weren’t in any better shape. No matter what he might like, his pain would keep him in human form.
They were going to die.
The Daimons seemed to be growing stronger while the Dark-Hunters were weakening by the heartbeat. But even so, Ravyn wasn’t going to die on the ground like a scared rodent. He forced himself to his feet. A Daimon caught him a punch to the jaw that felt like a sledgehammer striking his bones. He tasted blood as his lip split. Spitting it out onto the asphalt, Ravyn head-butted the Daimon, then kicked him away as a flash caught his attention to the right.
It was two Daimons with axes trapping Belle between them. Frozen by the horror, he watched helplessly, knowing he couldn’t reach her in time.
A frisson of grief spun through all of them as they saw her fall to her knees an instant before the Daimons coldly executed her. Susan stared in horror at the woman’s body as she lay in a pool of blood on the dark asphalt while the Daimons high-fived each other.
Zoe cried out and started for them, only to have her legs swept out from under her by another Daimon. She hit the ground facefirst, then rolled to her back to kick out at the Daimon who was trying to stab her.
Ravyn was kicked so hard, he swore he heard three ribs crack.
Before he could regain his senses, Menkaura was flung down on top of him. The weight from him was enough to finish breaking Ravyn’s ribs. His breathing labored from the pain, he caught the man’s look of panic as Menkaura realized the same thing he had.
They had no way to escape.
Ravyn pushed the larger man off his chest and tried to breathe past the awful pain that seemed to seep into every part of him.
"Summon Stryker," one of the Daimons called out to the others. "He’ll want to be here to see them die."
"Yeah," a deep, angry voice said, echoing off the brick walls around them, "summon the bastard. I’d really love to get my hands on him right now."
Ravyn held his breath as he heard the last voice he’d expected.
Susan hesitated as the Daimons froze in the middle of their attacks. They were all staring at the bottom of the hill.
She turned to see what had them transfixed and felt her own jaw drop.
Yeah, that’d do it.
Highlighted by the bright moonlight, the man there was incredibly tall, with long black hair that had a red stripe in the front. A strange ethereal fog swirled around him as if it were caressing his entire body like a lover. Dressed in black leather pants and a long leather coat that had its sleeves pushed back to expose his forearms and fingerless black leather gloves, he looked like the typical Goth who hung out around Capitol Hill. But as he walked slowly up the hill with a long, predatorial lope there was an aura of power so dangerous that it made every hair on her body stand up on end.
The Daimons summoned their bolt-holes.
"I don’t think so," the newcomer said as each hole fizzled shut before they could use it.
A powerful boom rent the air. It emanated out from the man like a sonic wave. She felt it go through her and chill her very soul.
And as it touched each of the Daimons, they screamed out in pain, then burst into a colorful dust.
Damn, they could have used some of that themselves.
Not completely sure this man was a friend, Susan ran over to Ravyn, who was clutching his ribs and bleeding profusely from his leg, shoulder, brow, and mouth. Menkaura lay beside him, also badly hurt. Menkaura’s brow was laid open and by the way his arm was twisted it was obviously broken. She knelt beside Ravyn and helped him to sit up.
"It’s about time you showed up, ass**le," Zoe snarled as she wiped the blood from her own chin. "Where the hell have you been?"
The man ignored her as he went silently to where Belle had been killed as if he knew exactly what had happened before his arrival. His features tormented, he knelt down on one knee and picked up a small silver necklace that had been around Belle’s neck. He clenched it tight in his fist before he bent his head as if in prayer and held it to his forehead.
Susan was held transfixed by the agony he betrayed. It was obvious he mourned the loss of Belle.
He moved the necklace to his lips to kiss it before he rose slowly to his feet and faced them. He slid the necklace into his pocket.
Susan was going to take a wild guess that this was the mysterious Acheron who led the Dark-Hunters. But dang, who knew the big bad was going to be a child, and not some ancient wise man? Even though he was completely ripped, he couldn’t be any older than his early twenties.
Still, there was something powerful about him. Something compelling and terrifying. Like Savitar, it was obvious he wasn’t human and that he commanded primal powers no one should possess.
And it was then as he looked around that she saw his eyes. Susan actually fell back onto her butt on the street at the sight of them. They were unlike anything she’d ever seen before and they held so much power, so much wisdom and pain, that it sent a jolt through her.
Those weren’t the eyes of a human. They swirled like silver mercury as he took in the scene around him. And as those eyes went to each Dark-Hunter, the Dark-Hunter’s injuries instantly healed.
"Thanks, Acheron," Dragon said irritably as he wiped his bloodied hands off on his coat. "But couldn’t you have gotten here a little sooner?"
Anger bled from every pore of Ash’s body as he held his hand out to help Dragon regain his feet. "Trust me, I got here just as fast as I could."
Ravyn pushed himself up from the street, then turned to help Susan up. "I heard you were tied up. Double-knotted to a bedpost as I recall."
"Excuse me?" Ash asked as if offended. "Who told you that?"
"A big, angry birdie on a surfboard."
Ash gave a painful grimace. "He knows? Great. That’s all I need."
Zoe curled her lip at that. "We’ve been dying because you were making time with your girlfriend?"
Ash cut a nasty glare at Zoe. "Mind your own business, Amazon. I’m really not in the mood for your sniping." He looked around at the others. "How are the rest of you?"
"Other than pissed off, with severely damaged egos, we’re fine," Cael said. "Why haven’t you been answering our calls?"
"I wasn’t able to."
"Uh-huh." Cael looked less than impressed by that answer. "Well, welcome to Seattle. We have a major situation with the Daimons. They’re in league with the police force and are kicking our asses all over the streets. We’ve lost Troy and Aloysius and now Belle."
"Thank you for the recap, Cael. But I already got the picture."
"Good, ’cause I’m heading home. You can get your ass kicked for a while."
Menkaura walked over to Ash. "I’m glad you made it, but I really wish you’d been here sooner."
As Menkaura left, Susan heard Ash whisper, "Not half as much as I do."
He looked around at the others. "Anyone else have a complaint?"
Zoe opened her mouth.
"Don’t start," Ash snapped. "I’m already hearing the entire tirade in your head, Zoe. I did the best I could, okay?"
"Yeah, well, your best sucks." And with that, she turned on her heel and left, muttering about her spilled coffee and worthless men.
Ravyn patted Susan on the arm, before he walked over to Ash. "You okay?"
"No. I have people who are dead and an extremely limited amount of time before I have to leave again. As Zoe says, it sucks."
"You know how Zoe is." As Ravyn clapped Ash on the back, he hissed and stiffened as if he were in an incredible amount of pain.
"Are you all right?" Susan asked.
Ash recovered himself almost instantly. "Fine. We’ve got bigger problems right now. "
She looked over her shoulder to see what he was staring at… It was a police car.
She held her breath until after it’d rolled past and vanished. She looked up at Ravyn. "That was close."
"We need to get the two of you back to the Serengeti."
Susan was baffled by Acheron’s words. "How do you know where we’re staying?"
"I’m omniscient, Susan."
A chill went down her spine because he knew her name. "Uh-huh. There seems to be an abundance of that going around." She glanced to Ravyn. "You ever feel left out?"
"All the time."