She indicated Simone with a tilt of her head. "We are cousins. Her father was the brother to mine. It is my nature to need my family with me, but once I met her, I knew she wasn’t ready to accept herself or me. Her powers had been bound. Her scent hidden. She believed herself human and I thought it best to leave her with that delusion."
"You know," Simone said, stepping around Xypher, "for an indiscriminate killer, she’s remarkably lucid and thoughtful."
Kerryna smiled. "Out of fear, my sisters and I were locked away so fast that no one bothered to learn anything about us. While we are born of the gallu, we are not gallu. The goddess Ishtar gave us the gift of compassion and understanding. I think she knew what was to happen and wanted to make sure that we didn’t destroy the world as our creator intended. That being said, should all of us be freed, I don’t know what will happen. Two of my sisters are not so kind or caring. They do crave blood above all things."
Xedrix stood up and draped a protective arm around her shoulders. She lifted her hand to stroke his forearm affectionately. He held her back to his front while he glared his mistrust at them. "The gallu want to take her and use her. That I won’t allow."
Kerryna leaned back against him. "They kill to draw me out."
Simone sighed. "You know, the more I learn about the gallu, the less I like them and the more I really hate sharing a genetic link with them."
Keriyna nodded her agreement. "The males are hard to take at times. Unlike the Charonte, they’re domineering and cruel. To them women are only breeders or food."
Simone cast a meaningful look at Xypher over her shoulder.
He was completely unrepentant. "I can’t help it if I resemble them. We’re all creatures of our birth. But at least I listen from time to time."
It was true. He did, and that made him semitolerable. She smiled up at him. "Well, what can I say? You are, after all, a god."
The only clue she had that he was amused was a very subtle softening around His eyes. Not that she blamed him. When surrounded by a warrior class of demons, it was probably good not to show any land of humor.
Which reminded her of how important this was. "All right, we still have the gallu out there killing innocent people . . . and demons. How do we stop it?"
Xedrix rubbed his cheek against Kerryna’s hair. "We’ve been trying to find a way, but as of yet there’s nothing we’ve thought of. So long as we have Kerryna, they won’t even discuss a truce."
"I won’t go back to them. All of the gallu are disgusting." She looked at Xypher and blushed beautifully. "No offense."
"It’s all right. I’m used to insults." Xypher cast a glance at Simone, who sputtered.
"I don’t insult you . . . much,"
Xypher didn’t respond. Instead he narrowed his eyes at Xedrix. "You know, I just thought of something . . . you can open a bolt-hole down to Kalosis."
Xedrix shook his head. "We’ve tried. For some reason, we’re not able to do it."
Xypher tsked at the demon. "You’re lying, Xedrix. I smell it."
"We refuse to go back," Tyris said angrily as he stepped forward. "We were slaves there. Xedrix served as the Destroyer’s pet. She treated him like a simpleton, I won’t be at her mercy for another day. It was a godsend that we escaped when we did. Better to die here as free agents than to return to what we were."
Simone scowled at Xypher, "The Destroyer?"
"An ancient Atlantean goddess named Apollymi. She was imprisoned in Kalosis by her husband eleven thousand years ago."
Simone wondered what the goddess had done to merit that sentence. "Nice, and you want to go visit her, huh?"
"No, I don’t. I want to kill Satara."
At the mention of Satara’s name, more than half of the demons made disgusted noises.
"Kill that bitch!"
"Feed her to the Destroyer."
"Rip out both their throats."
Simone was impressed by the venom. It appeared Satara and the Destroyer could both benefit from a seminar on how to make friends and influence people, or in this case, demons. "Wow, this Kalosis sounds like a rival for Disney World. Sign me up for the next trip."
"I would, but apparently a ride down there’s a lot harder to come by than a spare Hannah Montana ticket in a middle school."
Simone laughed. "Nice, timely reference."
"You can thank Jesse for it. He has a crush on Hannah." Xypher met Xedrix’s gaze. "What will it take for me to talk one of you into opening that portal?"
Xypher looked at Kerryna, and Simone knew exactly what he was thinking. Xedrix pulled her behind him and stiffened.
"Don’t worry," Xypher said. "I wasn’t thinking that. I would never threaten your woman. I was only considering how wrong I was about her."
Simone arched a brow. "Were you really?"
The offense on his face was deep. "Not you, too?"
"I’m sorry. You’re right, I know better. But the way you looked at her … in my defense, it was spooky."
Grimacing at her, Xypher turned his attention back to the Charonte. "I know there has to be some way we can help each other. Think about it. I need to get inside Kalosis."
Xypher duplicated his earlier gesture of clasping his hands together and holding them up. "Pieryot akati."
Xedrix inclined his head to him before he repeated the words.
Xypher pulled her toward the door, but before they went far, Kerryna stopped them.
"We are family," she said softly to Simone. She took the small red stone necklace from around her neck and placed it in Simone’s palm. "If you need me, take the crystal in your hand and call my name. I will come immediately."
Kerryna hugged her close. "There is strength inside you, Simone. Our bloodline was one of the strongest of the gallu. Never forget that."
Kerryna patted her hand. "I will work on Xedrix for you," she said softly to Xypher. "If revenge is truly what you want, I’ll find some way for you to have it."
With that, she left them and rejoined Xedrix.
Simone turned to Xypher. "Not even dinnertime and it’s been an interesting day. I’m kind of afraid to see what the next hour will bring. How about you?"
"Any minute I’m not being beaten with a barbed whip is a great one in my opinion."
Her stomach shrank at his dry tone and the reminder of the world he’d left behind. If Xedrix thought his was bad, he should try Xypher’s. "Do you really have to go back to that?"
"If I thought there was a way to avoid it, believe me, I would. But I’ve already been sentenced. And you can’t run from a god."
"What if I talked to Hades?"
He laughed, "Hades isn’t going to listen to you. All we can do is take the time I have and try to expel the gallu so that you’ll be safe when I’m gone."
When I’m gone . . .
Those words tore through her and brought a wave of pain so severe it actually took her breath. How could he have come to mean so much to her so quickly?
And vet there was no denying what she felt. She didn’t want him to leave. Ever.
Don’t think about it.
She would find a way to settle this. A way for it to end without costing Xypher his freedom. She had to.
The alternative was wholly unacceptable to her.
Simone canceled her afternoon class. Between her powers, which were still making her ill, and all the chaos of attacking demons and her body going out of control without notice, she thought it might be the safest thing for her students. The last thing they needed to see was their professor’s eyes turn bright red.
Or worse, have one of them eaten by a gallu. The administration might take some issue with that.
So would the poor student.
In the meantime, she was learning certain things about herself and her new powers. Xypher had moved the furniture around in her living room so that he could show her specific moves to fight the gallu and make them cry. Her favorite to date was gross, but highly effective.
She scratched the back of her neck as she looked at the metal cup she’d just destroyed. "I feel like the alien in the space movies."
Xypher gave her a hot once-over before he pressed himself against her and breathed in her ear. "Lucky for me, you’re much better looking."
She smiled at the compliment as her entire body heated from his touch.
"Oooo!" Jesse said as he came skating sideways into the room. "Someone moved furniture. This is great!"
Before Simone could speak, the Clash "Should I Stay or Should I Go" started playing. "Jesse . . ."
He started dancing like a chicken. "Oh, c’mon, Sim. It’s the Clash. You gotta dance." He took her hand and spun her about.
Laughing, she shook her head and then joined his famous Chicken Neck Dance thing that they did, usually when no one else was around.
Gloria squealed in delight before she joined them.
Xypher stood back, watching the three of them with a stem frown. Never in all his existence had he seen anything so strange. They went from a chicken line dance to robots to something that looked like the twist-if you had some sort of spinal injury. And then they began do-si-doing. The song didn’t last long before it went into "Boys Don’t Cry, I Wanna Be a Cowboy."
Jesse pointed one finger and then another at him and pretended to shoot him as he sang to the song.
Xypher scratched his cheek, "All of you have lost your mind."
Simone laughed. "C’mon, Ted," she said, using the name of the cowboy in the song. "Dance with us."
"I have never in my entire, long existence danced."
"And I’ve never been able to hear someone else’s heartbeat from three feet away until today, either" She grabbed his arms and tugged him toward the group. "Dance with me, Xypher. No one here will laugh at you for it. Trust me, if we don’t mock Jesse for his lack of grace, we’d never mock you."
He felt completely ridiculous for all of ten seconds. But moving in unison with Simone while her eyes sparkled made him forget about the fact he probably looked like a jackass.
The music segued into Tina Turner, "Better Be Good to Me."
"Monkey dance!" Jesse shouted.
Xypher exchanged a puzzled look with Gloria, who was as lost as he was.
Simone came to rest at his side and showed him how to raise one hand at a time in time to the music. "Now shake your tail like a monkey . . . It’s a monkey dance."
Xypher laughed, and for the first time in his life, it wasn’t bitter or mo clang. It was a real, honest-to -goodness, from-the-depth-of-his-stomach laugh that warmed him from the inside out. Dear gods, he was enjoying himself. Really enjoying himself. He’d never, ever done this before.
So this was what real fun felt like. No wonder people sought it out. Fun was incredible.
Minutes and songs flew by as they just enjoyed being together, acting completely stupid. Simone twilled around, laughing, then collapsed on the couch.
"Oh, I’m getting old. I can’t keep up."
Jesse and Gloria kept dancing while Xypher went to sit next to her on the couch.
She laughed. "Hot and sweat. You?"
"Same. You guys do this a lot?"
She smiled as she watched Jesse and Gloria dancing together. "About once a week. But we don’t usually move the furniture first."
Xypher brushed a stray piece of hair back from her face, but the
Moment he touched her, he realized he’s make a mistake. A wave of heat scorched his groin.
Growling at the ferocity of the sudden desire, he leaned over and captured her lips with his.
Simone moaned softly at the taste of Xypher. Her heart raced even faster as she buried her hand in his thick, black hair and let the strands twine themselves around her fingers. His whiskers grazed her skin, making her burn with need. Closing her eyes, she imagined being in bed with him. . . nak*d.
No sooner had that thought shot through her mind, than she was in her bed with him, completely bare.
"Oh, my God," she breathed, pulling back as a wave of dizziness went through her.
With an evil glint in his eyes, Xypher laughed. "I think I like the fact that you don’t have control over your powers. As long as you don’t flash us into public nak*d, I’m good with it."
Pulling her sheet tight against her bare body, she squeaked in indignation. "I can’t believe I just did this."
"Don’t be embarrassed." He snuggled closer to her before he nibbled the comer of her mouth.
Simone hesitated. Part of her wanted to bolt from the bed, but the other part was absolutely eager for this. They’d been through so much already. More than that, he’d touched her heart and life in ways no man ever had before.
Smiling at him, she placed her hand against his whiskered cheek. His blue eyes were beguiling. She saw the need and the heat of his passion there, but he wasn’t pushing her. He was waiting to make sure it was okay.
That alone broke her last bit of resistance.
She rolled into his arms and kissed him.
Xypher trembled with the relief that tore through him at her actions. She’d come to him.