"Dang," Dev breathed. "Artemis got her jollies with you, didn’t she?"
"Yeah. I definitely didn’t get one of the better powers. Now could you please get my shoes for me?"
Carson stepped back to give them room. "I have a thought. If you’re immune to Dev…would his room work for you?"
Dev looked down at her. "Want to try?"
She wasn’t so sure about that. The last thing she needed as bad as she currently felt was another assault on her senses. But she couldn’t stay in his arms all day either and if she couldn’t go home…
"Let’s try it."
Dev heard the reluctance in her voice. "Just because I’m a bear doesn’t mean I live in a cave, you know?"
She frowned up at him. "Pardon?"
"My room’s not gross. You don’t have to have that I-am-so-disgusted-by-the-mere-thought tone."
"That wasn’t what I meant. And do we have to argue this while I’m in pain and bleeding?"
Dev flashed her into his room, then cringed as he realized he was a bear in a cave. Why didn’t I make up my bed before I left? And for that matter, pick up a few of the dozen car and motorcycle magazines on the floor. The bag of potato chips…and the three pairs of dirty socks. Good thing he didn’t wear underwear or there would probably be a pair or two on the floor to mortify him even more.
His mom had been right. He’d finally lived long enough to be embarrassed by his messy ways.
When he started to put her on the bed, she clamped around his neck so tight, it strangled him.
"Um, Sam…you’re killing me. I’m not immortal. I really do need to breathe."
She loosened her hold. But only by a little bit. "Sorry. Reflexive habit." She swallowed. "Let me try this before you set me down completely."
She reached out with one hand and gingerly touched his pillow.
Sam held her breath as she waited for the pain to start and his memories to surge through her.
But just like touching him, they didn’t. There was nothing in her head but her own thoughts.
She wanted to shout in relief. "Set me down."
He hesitated. "You sure?"
"I think so."
"All right." Dev very carefully lowered her to the bed, then stepped back. He didn’t go far though. He hovered near, just in case.
Sam didn’t move for several minutes as she waited for the images to come. Not until she was sure she was safe. At least in a manner of speaking. The warm masculine scent of Dev was all around her. That conjured images, but they were fantasies of what she wanted to do to him and had nothing to do with his memories or thoughts.
She leaned back on the bed, still free of his emotions. It was so amazing. "I think I’m good."
Dev gave her a cocky grin. "Cool. Let me go get something to clean you up and–"
"No!" She rudely barked the word, then regretted the sharpness of her tone. "I mean…if anyone other than you has touched what ever you bring…"
He rubbed his jaw as he considered that. "Maybe it’s not just me. I’m an identical quad. You think what ever immunity I have spreads to my brothers too?"
Oh, now that would be nice. But it was too much to hope for. Still, it was worth a shot. "We could test it."
Dev searched the room with his gaze until he spied Remi’s book he’d borrowed a week ago. By now the stench of his brother should be off it. He picked it up from his nightstand and handed it to her.
She barely touched it before she withdrew her hand and hissed as if it’d burned her. "Did you know Remi listens to the Indigo Girls when he’s alone in his room and that his favorite movie is Just Like Heaven?"
He burst out laughing at the idea of his surly brother watching such a chick flick. Gah, he’d rather have both eyes gouged out and force fed to him than watch that. "Really?"
She nodded. "Yeah. He’d die if you knew that. And whatever weirdness you have seems to be yours alone."
Good, ’cause he definitely didn’t want her picking up on his embarrassing habits. Though to be honest, they weren’t nearly as bad as Remi’s. And he liked the idea that what he had with her was special and wasn’t shared with other people. "We still need to tend that wound. If nothing else, it needs to be bandaged so that you’re not leaking blood all over my sheets."
"No offense, I’d rather keep bleeding."
He gave her a sharp look before he headed to his chest of drawers and pulled out a T-shirt. "No lip from you, Amazon. We’re going to stop that bleeding. I know it won’t kill you, but it does weaken you."
Sam watched as he tore up his shirt to make a bandage for her. She didn’t know why, but it touched her that he’d do such a thing. It’d been a long time since anyone was so kind to her. He returned to the bed and carefully tended her wound. "You’re not bad for a nurse, Bear."
Dev smiled. "I have my moments…few and far between, I will grant you, but on rare occasions I can almost pass for a human." He paused as he had another thought. "If you’re this sensitive to everything, how do you wear clothes? I mean they’d have the same property as a bandage, right?"
"Acheron conjures them for me."
"Well, why didn’t you say that before I tore up my favorite shirt?"
Before she could ask him what he meant, he’d conjured a bowl of water and a washcloth.
Sam backed away as he reached for her with that cloth. "Test. Test!" she shouted when he didn’t get the hint. "Don’t stick that on me until we know for a fact that you have the same power Acheron does to keep cooties off that stuff."
"Cooties? You did not go there. Now who’s being the big baby, huh?" He put one corner of the cloth on her arm. "There. You hallucinating yet?"
She took a minute to make sure before she answered. "No and you’re lucky I’m not or I’d skin you and turn you into a rug."
Smirking at her, he wrung out the excess water and gently cleaned her injury while she lay on his bed.
Sam didn’t speak as she let the heat of his skin soothe her. His hands were large and calloused, his knuckles scarred from centuries of fighting, yet at the same time his touch was gentle, soothing as he pushed up her shirt, baring her completely to his gaze. She didn’t know why it made her feel vulnerable, but it did. He traced the cloth over her br**sts, removing the blood before he bandaged her.
It seemed incongruous that a man so tough could be like this. That he’d been so tender earlier when he made love to her.
She’d been sure she was dead when the Daimon had picked her up to carry her through his portal. But for Dev, she’d be in Kalosis right now at their mercy. No doubt being tortured and killed. She owed him.
"Thank you, Devon, for rescuing me."
He paused to look at her. "Dev is short for Devereaux, not Devon."
Wow, she’d never been wrong before. It was a weird sensation after all these centuries to not be able to pull out information like that when she needed it. "Devereaux Peltier." She savored the syllables of his name that flowed and rolled from her tongue. "It’s very soft sounding."
He made a sound of disgust in the back of his throat. "Oh thank you so much. That’s what every man wants to hear about his name. You might as well call me ‘Little Pecker’ while you’re at it and tell me you’d love to have me go shopping with you for feminine hygiene products. Oh and by all means, carry a big, sparkling pink bag with flowers on it and make me hold it."
She laughed at the images he described, then winced as it sent a wave of pain through her chest. "I didn’t mean it that way. It’s a beautiful name and I doubt even an oversized pink purse could erode your tough machismo."
"Mmm-hmm. Too late. You’ve emasculated me. There’s no coming back from it now."
"None at all?"
"No. I’ve been relegated to g*y friend status. It’s all right though. They have a cool bar down on Canal and I have a lot of friends there. I’m sure they’d let me watch the door for them. Probably pay me more than my family does, too, so you’ve actually done me a favor. Thanks."
Dev got up and went back to his chest of drawers. He pulled out another T-shirt and brought it to her. "I’ll leave you alone to change ’cause you might share your cooties with me and I haven’t had a recent vaccine against them." He vanished before she could say a single word.
"You are so weird, Dev Peltier." He was an absolute nut and yet she found him strangely entertaining.
What is wrong with me? She was never really attracted to a man, not even when she’d been human. Ioel had been the lone exception. As a Dark-Hunter, she’d taught herself that the only male companionship she needed came with batteries.
But Dev made her rethink that lifestyle. He made her remember what it was like to laugh with someone she cared about.
Don’t go there. She didn’t really care about Dev. She barely knew him.
Herding her wayward thoughts, Sam changed her torn, blood-soaked gown for the shirt he’d given her, then leaned back wishing she’d thought to grab her cell phone on her way out. It actually angered her that she hadn’t thought about it at the time.
You are insane. Getting out alive definitely trumped getting more injured trying to grab her iPhone.
True, but she needed to warn the others and to do that, she needed her phone.
Dev came back a few minutes later with a laptop. "Out of curiosity. How do you eat?"
She paused as she remembered that she’d been able to eat the food he’d given her…strange. But why didn’t that extend to the other things?
With no answer, she moved to his question with what the truth had been prior to this morning. "There’s a reason I’m thin. I live on a lot of salads that I grow in a garden behind my house. You ever try gardening at night? Really sucks."
She appreciated his sympathy, but there was no need for it. It was what it was. "You get used to it."
"I don’t know, Sam. I can’t imagine life without steak. I think I’d rather be dead. Why didn’t you tell me this at your house?"
"Because it was my stuff in my house and I don’t have anything there that will cause me pain. Here, I’m not so lucky."
He pulled his phone from his pocket and held it out to her. "No one’s touched it but me so it should be safe for you."
If only it were that simple. "Thanks, but someone put it together. It too is kryptonite."
"All right then. I’ll get started notifying Acheron and crew." He called Ash while she leaned back to listen and mull over everything that’d happened since last night. It was almost more than she could even follow. How could so many things be crammed into so little time?
But what amazed her most was that she couldn’t even overhear Dev’s phone conversation as he talked to Acheron. For the first time in five thousand years, she felt normal. It was so peculiar.
At least that was her thought until she saw the look on Dev’s face.
"You sure?" he asked Acheron.
She frowned at his tone. There was a hint of anger in it. What had happened to trigger it? Had a Dark-Hunter already been killed by the Daimons?
Or something worse?
She bit her lip in trepidation as she listened.
After a few minutes he spoke again. "I’ll tell her…. Yeah, you too." He hung up the phone and stared at the wall for several heartbeats as if trying to come up with the right words.
A sick, cold knot formed in her stomach. "What?"
"Two demons were found drained this morning and left out on the Moonwalk for the humans to see. Apparently there’s been a rash on demon slayings lately and Ash thinks it’s a harbinger for us, saying we’re screwed."
Sam grimaced at Dev. "What do you mean two demons were found drained?"
He slid his phone into his pocket. "The police found their remains this morning right out in the open for the world to see. Luckily, the demons were in a human form so we don’t have to do cleanup with the mundanes. But that makes Ash think it was done as a warning to us and not to scare the humans. Why else leave them exposed for the police when they’d assume the killings were just a bunch of unlucky humans who were mugged?"
That made sense to her, but she did have one question. "If they’re in human form, how does Acheron know they’re demons?"
"Their remains were sent to the deputy medical examiner for Orleans parish. Simone’s a half demon married to a half demon demigod and they live with two ghosts. If that’s not enough, her boss is a Squire with a long history of covering up preternatural blips on the human radar. Believe me, she knows demons when she sees them–both before and after she autopsies them."
Sam gave a short, dark laugh. "This is an interesting town."
"Ain’t it though? And you have to figure Acheron can tell the difference between a demon and a human too. Not like he’d mistake one for another."
That was a very valid point. But it still concerned her. "Any idea who killed them and why?"
"Not a bit. You got any ideas? Ash said they’d been completely drained of blood. Other than that, they looked normal. Simone thinks it’s some kind of demon ritual where another group must have needed their blood for something. Why else would they drain it out of them? Not the usual modus operandi for demon deaths."