He started to fade.
He solidified in front of her.
Simone tried to speak, but words wouldn’t come. She wanted to ask about Xypher and yet she couldn’t.
"He gave himself up for you," Jaden said in a stoic tone. "What?"
"It’s what you wanted to know, is it not? Xypher allowed Satara to kill him in exchange for her word that she would leave you alone. He gave up his vengeance to keep you safe."
"No, he took his vengeance."
Jaden placed a hand on her shoulder, and there in her mind, she saw Xypher in Kalosis. She heard the words spoken clearly and she watched as he died in Katra’s arms.
"No!" she cried, unable to bear it. "You have to help him."
"There’s nothing I can do."
"You make deals. Xypher said you have the power to do anything. Anything."
"What are you suggesting?"
"If you free Xypher from Tartarus, you can have my soul."
"Do you understand the bargain you’re making? Once I take your soul from you, you are the property of whoever I give that soul to. You will be a bound demon, subject to the whims of your master. No will of your own. No future. Nothing."
"I don’t care. Xypher died for me. I can’t have him punished for that."
"He died to keep you safe."
"I’ll be safe while I’m bound. He’ll have what he wanted. Please, Jaden. I can’t live knowing he’s being tortured."
"Very well." He handed her a dagger. "Open a vein, sister."
Xypher flashed himself into Simone’s bedroom, expecting to find her there.
It was empty.
Closing his eyes, he sensed for presences in the condo. There was no Simone, but Jesse and Gloria were in Jesse’s room.
Without flunking, he flashed in there to find the two ghosts completely nak*d on the bed. "Oh, gods, I’m blind." He spun around to give them his back.
"Don’t you knock?" Jesse said, until it must have dawned on him that Xypher was back. "Oh, my God, you’re dead."
"Not as dead as you are, ghost-boy. Where’s Simone?"
"She went out on a call."
"Didn’t say. Call Tate and ask. His number’s on the fridge."
Xypher left them to go to the kitchen where he quickly located Tate’s busuress card. Picking up her cordless phone, he dialed the number.
He answered on the second ring.
"Tate? It’s Xypher. Where’s Simone?"
"She said you were gone."
"I was, but I’m back and I’m trying to find her,"
"Well, she was here a second a so. I see her car across the street so she must-"
Using his powers; to trace Tate’s location, Xypher manifested in front of him before he could speak another word.
Tate looked around. "Damn, you’re lucky no one saw you. Incognito, boy, in-cog-nito."
"I don’t have time for that. I need to find Simone." "Hey, Doc? Can you come here for a second."
"I’ll help you look in a sec," he said to Xypher before he went over to the officer.
Xypher growled before he felt that rift in the air. Jaden.
A bad feeling went through him as he honed in on it and went to search for him.
He rounded a comer and froze. No! That single word was branded into his mind as he saw Simone on the ground.
Terrified, he ran to her and gathered her up in his arms. But the moment he touched her, he knew.
She was dead.
He glared up at Jaden. "What have you done?"
"I didn’t do anything. She did."
"Don’t you dare play that bullshit game with me. What bargain was struck between you?"
"She wanted you out of Tartarus."
"You f**king bastard. I was already out of Tartarus."
"You knew and still you made the deal!"
He shrugged. "I wanted to know how far she’d go."
Impotent fury roiled through him. Unable to think, he lowered Simone to the ground and charged at Jaden.
Jaden caught him and swung him back, pinning him to the side of a house. "You better think twice, demon, before you come at me." The fury of hell burned deep in those dual-colored eyes. Jaden’s fangs flashed as he spoke in sharp, clipped words. "Had Simone stayed alive, you would have watched her die of old age, while you continued to live eternally in your current form. Is that what you wanted?"
Xypher blinked in disbelief. "What?"
Jaden shoved him back, then released him. He pulled a small vial of a white substance from the inside pocket of his jacket. "She’s free of her human life span now. She won’t age and she won’t die."
"But she’s bound."
Jaden inclined his head. "So she is." He stared at her soul for a full minute before he held it out to Xypher.
"What’s the price?"
"You two owe me a favor. One day, I’ll be back to collect." He closed Xypher’s hand over the vial, then vanished.
Xypher couldn’t breathe as he stared at her soul in his hand. He couldn’t believe what Jaden had done for them.
It was so against everything he knew about the demon broker.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He knew what Jaden had known, there was nothing in this world or any other that he wouldn’t have done to free Simone.
His heart pounding in joy, he took the vial to her body and released her soul.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "Xypher?"
"Your worst nightmare has returned."
Jaden took a moment to glance back at Xypher and Simone, who held on to each other with everything they had.
He remembered a time when he’d done the same. "Whatever you do, don’t betray each other."
The band on his neck heated and pierced him. Wincing, he left them and returned to his master. The blistering winds cut through his body as he stood, waiting.
"What did you do?"
A disembodied slash opened his left cheek to the bone. Jaden cursed at the pain of the wound.
"Worthless dog. You let the daughter of Palackas go?"
"I fulfilled a bargain that was struck in good faith."
Another slash cut across his torso so deep it forced him to his knees.
"Your compassion disgusts me."
"Yeah, well, you don’t exactly thrill me, either." Jaden realized he should have kept his opinion to himself as he was thrown against the wall.
"One day, dog, you’ll learn obedience."
Jaden swallowed as his clothes were stripped from him. He knew what punishment was to come and it was going to hurt like hell.
Yeah, Xypher and Simone owed him more than they could ever dream.
Xypher sighed as he collapsed against Simone who was still purring in satisfaction.
"I like demon sex," she said, rolling aver to pin him to the bed.
"I told you, you would."
She laughed, then kissed him senseless. "Thank you, Xypher."
"For trying to protect me."
"I’m not the one who bartered my soul for your freedom from hell."
"No, but you gave up your life to keep me safe. I think that makes us even."
He cupped her face in his hands. "I love you, Simone. And I swear with every part of me that you’ll never doubt that."
She took his right hand into hers and kissed his knuckles. "Don’t worry, I won’t."
Simone smiled before she lay down over him and held him close. Closing her eyes, she realized that Xypher had given her much more than just his love. He’d given her a family and taught her things about herself she’d never known.
For the first time in her life, she had a real future to look forward to. And a family that would be with her no matter what.