Every human in the club ran for the doors; while the demons gathered around Xedrix.
"We’re closed for the night," Xedrix announced to his staff. "Tyris, call the fire department and tell them a drunk customer pulled the switch by mistake. Let’s get this place cleared out."
While they waited for Acheron, Xedrix took Kerryna to the bar and set her on a stool.
"What are you planning?" Simone asked Xypher. "And don’t say ‘nothing’ I’ve learned to know you better than that."
He glanced to Kerryna before he answered. "I’m tired of seeing innocent people get hurt. I’m going to stop this once and for all."
"And if you can’t?"
Simone felt a fissure in the air an instant before Acheron appeared with an extremely tall, unbelievably beautiful blond woman who was obviously pregnant. She must be the mysterious Katra.
The Charonte hissed as soon as they saw them, then fell to their knees.
Acheron looked around with one brow arched high. "This was wholly unexpected." He scowled at Xypher. "Where did the Charonte come from?"
Xedrix rose slowly to stand before Acheron, but he made sure to keep his eyes downcast. "Forgive us, akri, for our lack of vigilance. I ask for no mercy for myself, but for my men, spare their lives. They only followed me and did as I told them. I’m the one you should kill, not them."
Katra gaped at the sight of the demons. "So this is what happened to all of you. I’d wondered. Nice to see you guys again. I’m glad you survived. Have no idea why you’re in a club, but still glad you’re all here." She looked at Acheron and indicated Xedrix with a tilt of her chin. "Xedrix is of particular interest to you."
"Well, one, he’s your mother’s favorite of all her demons, and two, he’s the older brother of your Simi."
Acheron frowned at her disclosure. "Really?"
Xedrix looked every bit as puzzled as Acheron. "Simi?"
"Xiamara," Katra said quietly.
Xedrix’s jaw went slack. "My sister lives?"
Katra smiled affectionately at the demon and nodded. "And is spoiled absolutely rotten."
Xedrix’s eyes softened. "Bless you, akri, for your kindness and mercy. I have grieved for centuries over the fate of my simi sister."
"Brace yourself," Acheron said in a deadpan tone. "Xirena lives with us, too."
Kerryna put her hand in Xedrix’s.
The demon seemed pleased by the news. "Then I can die happily, akri, knowing they are alive. Thank you."
Acheron rolled his eyes. "I’m not going to kill you, Xedrix. Simi would torture me for eternity if I even considered it. By the way, how did you guys end up in a bar in New Orleans of all places?"
Kerryna laughed, then grimaced as if a wave of pain hit her. "The bear, Kyle Peltier, found them after they’d escaped from Kalosis. They were trying to eat a tourist, but Kyle stopped them before they’d killed him and explained that if they wanted to live here and not die, they’d have to follow rules and make a home. He took his own money and invested it in the bar and showed Xedrix how to run it all. The two of them are still partners."
Katra narrowed her gaze on Kerryna. "I remember you from Vegas. You’re the gallu Dimme who escaped."
"And I you, goddess. I well remember you trying to kill me."
"She’s not evil, Kat," Xypher said quickly, stepping between them. "She’s been hiding out, trying to fit into the world, too."
Simone moved forward. "And she’s the one Satara poisoned. The only antidote for it is in Kalosis with Satara. As an expectant mother yourself, you can see why we can’t let her die."
Xypher nodded. "I was hoping you could help us."
Acheron met Katra’s gaze. "You know I can’t go in there without ending the world. You’re on your own."
Katra smiled. "I know. I’ll be right back," She patted Xedrix affectionately on the shoulder. "Don’t worry, Xed. Kalosis is the one place Satara and Stryker can’t touch me. You know what my grandma would do to them if they tried."
As she started to fade, Xypher stopped her.
"Wait, Kat. I want to go with you." Katra frowned at him. "You sure?"
Xypher nodded, then looked at Simone. "I have to do this."
"I know," Simone said quietly. "I just wanted to tell you something before you left."
"I love you."
Xypher couldn’t breathe as those words hit him like a physical blow. He cupped her cheek in his hand. "It’s not possible."
"Trust me, it is, and you better come back here or I’m going to be really upset at you."
He pressed his cheek to hers and inhaled her precious scent. "Have no fear," he whispered in her ear. "I will be back to pester you."
Xypher did the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life. He moved away from Simone and joined Kat. "Let’s go."
Katra reached out and touched his arm before she opened the portal to Kalosis.
Xypher watched Simone’s beautiful face until it dissolved into blackness.
Heartbroken, he blinked as they materialized in what appeared to be a giant hall of some sort. There were Daimons gathered all around as if waiting for something.
Kat turned to her left and it was there he saw a large throne. And in it sat Stryker with Satara standing off to the side.
"You’re not dead," Satara said as she saw Xypher. "Pity."
Katra laughed at Satara’s comment. "He’s not going to die, cousin. Give me the antidote."
"Oh, I can’t do that," Satara said in a simpering tone.
"Yes," Kat said, mocking her, "you can,"
"Nope, afraid not." Satara pouted prettily. "I had an accident. It’s all gone."
Kat lifted one finely arched brow. "Have you lost your mind? Do you know what Xedrix will do to you once I tell him it’s gone?"
"Xedrix? The demon? He’s dead."
"No he’s not." Kat crossed her arms over her chest. This game aggravated her since she could tell Satara was lying. She’d known good and well that Xedrix was alive. "He’s the father to Kerryna’s baby. You couldn’t have picked a worse enemy. Unlike Xypher, he can get in here alone anytime he wants to and he will have the backing of the Destroyer when he tears your heart out. Guess I better go tell him to sharpen his claws."
Kat began to fade.
"Oh, wait, you mean this antidote?" Satara pulled a small vial out from between her br**sts. "I just remembered I had it."
"Oh, I’m sure."
Satara handed the vial off to a Daimon who brought it forward and gave it to Kat. The vial was of clear glass with a bright red liquid inside.
Kat assured Xypher it was the serum with a nod of her head.
Grateful Kerryna was taken care of, Xypher moved to stand in front of Stryker’s throne. "While I’m here, I want a truce."
Satara blinked at Xypher’s words as if she’d misheard them. "What?"
"You heard me. I’ve come to terms with our past. And I want you out of my life completely. No more demons, no more poisons. No more shit. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone." Satara appeared aghast. "Really?"
Stryker leaned over to speak to her. "I’d take this deal, Satara. I doubt you’ll find a better one elsewhere."
Satara’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why is this so important to you?"
He knew better than to answer that question with the truth. That would only hurt Simone. "It isn’t and neither are you. I only have two more weeks on earth. I’d like to enjoy them."
"So that’s it?" she asked. "That’s it."
Satara laughed bitterly. "And you really expect me to believe that you’ll just let me go about my life while you go back to hell? In peace. No harm, no foul?"
She came off the dais to approach him with a sneer. "Do you think I was born yesterday? I know you better than that. You have no intention of seeing this met."
Xypher shook his head. "You don’t know me at all. You never did. I want peace and I want Simone left alone."
She tapped her fingers against her upper arms before she spoke in a low, lethal tone. "Then kill yourself."
It was Xypher’s turn to blink in disbelief of what he’d heard. "What?"
"You heard me, Xypher. If you want peace and are willing to bury the hatchet, then do it. Kill yourself."
"Satara!" Kat snapped angrily.
"Don’t Satara me, Kat, I know how to play this game. Better yet, I know how to win it." She turned her attention back to Xypher. "So what’s it to be?"
Xypher stood there in silence as he considered her offer. "How do I know you’re not lying?"
"I swear on the river Styx that if you kill yourself, I’ll never go near Simone again. She’ll be completely safe from me or any of the demons and Daimons here in Kalosis. I’ll even send her a birthday card every year for good me a sure."
Xypher looked at Kat, whose face was ashen.
"Don’t," his inner voice ordered. But as he considered it more fully, it made complete sense. He was going to die anyway. What difference would two weeks really make? Other than giving him more memories of Simone to torture himself with.
More time to love her.
More time for her to love him.
No, it would be easiest on both of them to end it all now. Rip the Band-Aid off and let the wound start to heal.
His heart breaking, he nodded. "It’s done, then."
Kat gaped. "You can’t do this, Xypher."
"Yes I can. It’s the only way I can guarantee Simone’s safety."
Satara paused at the side of a Daimon to draw a short sword from his waist. Her walk was seductive as she neared him. She angled the sword at his heart. "We have a bargain?"
Satara stabbed him straight through the heart. "Sorry. I didn’t want you to change your mind about dying."
Xypher staggered back, gasping as the pain swept through him.
He sank to the ground.
Kat knelt by his side. "Xypher?"
"Don’t tell Simone what I did. Let her go in peace . . . please. Tell her it was quick."
Kat held him close, but hers wasn’t the face he wanted. He wanted to see Simone one last time. But in doing this, he was protecting her and that was all that mattered.
He glanced down to his arm where his vow of vengeance was written. The words dissolved while he struggled to breathe.
It was over now . . .
Kat watched as the light went out of Xypher’s eyes and he expelled his last breath.
Kat curled her lip at the smugness on Satara’s face. "You selfish bitch."
"Oh, shut up, Kat. You have what you came for, now go."
Kat stood to her full height, dwarfing Satara. "One day, someone’s going to give you exactly what you deserve. I can’t wait to see it."
And with that, she returned to the club.
Refusing to look at Simone, Kat handed the antidote to Kerryna who smiled her thanks before she drank it.
That question from Simone tore through her. I don’t want to do this . . .
But she had no choice. Turning around, she felt ill. Simone’s face looked so hope fill-it was obvious she was expecting Xypher to appear at any second.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she reached out and took Simone’s hand into hers. "He didn’t make it, sweetie. He went down in the battle."
Simone staggered back. No. It couldn’t be. "That’s not funny, Katra. I don’t like to play those games."
"I wish I were playing, but I’m not."
Simone saw the look of honor and pity mixed on the faces of those around her and it snapped her back to when she was a child.
"The poor thing saw it all. Her mother and her brother died right before her eyes. It’ll haunt her forever. "
It was the same expression they all had now- staling at her like she was a freak. And deep inside they were all grate fill it was her and not them. They wouldn’t say it, they were too polite for that, but she knew the truth.
Jesse held his hand out. "Simone, are you okay?"
How could she be okay? Xypher was dead.
She felt that burning in her eyes that signaled they were changing to red. She wanted the blood of whoever had killed him. "Tell me what happened," she demanded, her voice a demonic growl.
"I promised him that I wouldn’t. He wants you to live in peace and to go on with your life."
Go on with her life . . . She was tired of picking up the pieces and going on.
"Did he set his vengeance against Satara?"
Katra looked away sheepishly and suddenly Simone had total clarity.
"So that’s it, then. He chose vengeance and death over coming back to me. At least he died happy. He got what he wanted."
Kat had to bite her tongue to keep from telling her the truth. But now she understood why Xypher had asked her not to. If Simone knew he’d given up his life to save hers, it’d kill her.
Just like it would kill Katra to lose her husband. To have him sacrifice himself for her would only hurt more and she would never have peace from that guilt and auger.