She wrinkled her nose as she flashed back to her conversation with the Gautier lookalike. "I don’t know. The Nick we saw was pretty convincing."
"True, but Ash wouldn’t lie to us. He might withhold things, but he wouldn’t lie, especially about something like this."
That much was true. And as she sat there, she remembered the twinge she had that something about Nick hadn’t been right. Had she picked up on the imposter? "So if it wasn’t Nick, who was it?"
"That’s the question no one has an answer to."
Sam leaned back against the brass headboard as she tumbled the thought around her head. "Why come to us as Nick? Were they trying to turn us against him?"
"It would make sense. Drive a wedge between him and the people who are on his protection detail."
"But why?" No matter how she sliced it, she couldn’t come up with a reason for framing Gautier.
"Maybe it’s as simple as they wanted to get close to you and Gautier was the only one they could impersonate."
That might work, and Dev was right. As suspicious as they were right now, it would be hard to get close to them. "But why not just attack?"
"It could be that they didn’t want to take on my family. As Nick, our guy was able to get right into the room with you and open the portal. Less bloodshed than coming in the front door and battling their way to you."
Another valid point.
A knock sounded on the door.
Dev used his powers to manifest clothes on his body at the same time he tossed a thicker cover over her. "Come in."
Sam was impressed with his reaction time. The man was definitely skilled in many ways.
The door opened to show them a Charonte carrying a large tray of food. "Xedrix thought you might be hungry."
Sam smiled up at Dev. "I don’t know about you, but I worked up quite an appetite."
Grinning, Dev got out of bed to take the tray. Just as he reached it, the Charonte flung the tray at him and used it to drive him back into the wall. Dev head-butted him, but it didn’t faze the demon. He grabbed Dev by the hair and took a bite out of his neck so deep, it literally ripped him open.
Dev staggered back as blood poured down his shirt so fast, he knew he wouldn’t have long before he bled out. Stumbling away, he manifested a towel and tried to seal the wound.
Even though she was still nak*d, Sam came off the bed and scissor-kicked the demon while Dev struggled to stay conscious. She wasn’t about to let him get hurt any worse. Not if she could help it.
Dev used his powers to quickly dress her in a pair of jeans, boots, and a T-shirt. While he appreciated her being nak*d, he knew she wouldn’t prefer it. Though he definitely appreciated her putting his life before her modesty.
Why the hell can’t I get this wound to stop bleeding? It was like there was a spell on it to guarantee he wasn’t going to survive it.
The Charonte lunged for her.
Sam caught it by the chin and drove her fist into its wind-pipe three times in fast succession. Coughing, the demon staggered away. Sam pursued it, punching and avoiding its bites with everything she had as she whaled on it like a pro.
Dev was impressed by her abilities, but it was time to stop this while he could. He went to rejoin the fight and tear the head off its shoulders.
No damn demon kills me and lives. If he was going to go down, he was taking the Charonte to hell with him.
Laughing, the Charonte lifted Dev up with one hand and flung him into the wall, five feet off the floor, then it turned on Sam and wrapped itself around her body. One moment she was fighting. The next, she and the demon were gone.
Dev lay in a bloody heap on the floor, horrified and stunned by what had happened.
The demon had ripped her right out of their existence.
At Dev’s call, Ethon came running into the room with Chi and two more Dogs one step behind him. Dev was still trying to stave off his bleeding and failing miserably at it. Unlike the Dark-Hunters, he wasn’t immortal, and if he didn’t get control of this soon, he would die.
The first one to reach him was El Escorpion, so named for the black daggers he’d been using since the Middle Ages when he’d become a Dark-Hunter that had scorpions engraved down the blades and on the hilts. No one knew what his real name was and most referred to him simply as Scorpio. The only thing about his past that he’d cop to was that he’d been a knight in medieval Spain–he wouldn’t even verify what century. That was if and when you could get him to speak–something that happened about as often as a Mac product going on sale.
Scorpio knelt beside Dev so that he could examine the wound.
Realizing there was no immediate threat, Kalidas retracted the spike on his arm into his black leather armband. At six foot five, Kali was taller than the average Indian male and rumored to have once been an ancient prince during the Classical Period of India. It was something Kali would neither confirm nor deny. But the way the two of them fought, it was hard to believe anyone had been able to kill them.
Ethon turned around in the room, looking for Sam. "What happened?"
Kali’s tone was as dry as his expression. "Obviously, something was hungry and bit the bear."
Ethon flipped him off.
Dev ignored their animosity toward each other. "A demon grabbed Sam and took off with her. They were here one second and gone the next."
Chi joined Scorpio on the floor next to Dev. She cringed as she saw his bite. "Oh, that’s nasty."
Scorpio didn’t comment. Covering the wound with his hand, he locked gazes with Dev. "Take a deep breath, Bear."
The moment he tried, Dev let out a foul curse. Scorpio’s touch singed his skin like nobody’s business. It felt like the Dark-Hunter was shooting electricity through him–something impossible since Dev was still in human form and not out of control changing back and forth between human and bear. But that was the only thing he could liken it to. The good news, though, was that it stopped the bleeding and sealed the wound better than if Scorpio had cauterized it.
Dev created a damp towel to clean up the mess. "Thanks."
Scorpio inclined his head to him.
Ethon was busy looking over the remains of the food and where they’d fought as if trying to re-create the fight in his head. "What kind of demon was it?"
Dev grimaced as he pulled the towel back and saw how much blood he’d lost. "A Charonte. But I’m thinking it must have been the same person who was pretending to be Nick earlier."
That got Kali’s attention. "A shapeshifter?"
"Yeah, but not a Were-Hunter. Maybe a demon of some kind? Demigod? I have no idea. All I know is he knew how to fight and he snatched her out of here with an ease that pisses me off."
Ethon growled. "I’ll notify Acheron."
Scorpio held his hand out to Dev and helped him to his feet, then mumbled in Spanish. He wasn’t sure, but it sounded vaguely like bad mojo.
Dev changed his clothes into something a little less bloody as Chi seemed to fall into some kind of odd trance. He started to ask about it, but the Dogs acted like it was normal for her and since Dev didn’t really know her well enough to judge, he ignored it too.
Kali pulled out his phone and after a few seconds, he cursed. "I can’t track her."
A tic worked in Ethon’s jaw. "What ever has her will be blocking us. Damn shame none of us has a power that can track."
Dev gave him a droll stare. Didn’t the Spartan know anything about Were-Hunters? "I do."
The skepticism on his face was irritating. "How?"
"I’m part animal." Dumbass–For the sake of peace and the fact that getting to Sam was more important than fighting with Ethon, Dev only said that word silently in his head. Though to be fair, Ethon probably hadn’t been around enough Were-Hunters to know what they were capable of. "I can track like a bloodhound."
But as he tried, he realized that his powers didn’t work after all.
How could that be? Were-Hunters could track across five dimensions and there was no way she’d be in the sixth….
And it wasn’t like her scent wasn’t embedded in his senses. Yet there was no trace whatsoever that she was anywhere at all.
"Well?" Ethon asked in a less than impressed tone. "What’s your super smeller telling you, Gus?"
He gave the Dark-Hunter an evil glower. "Stop with the Psych reference, ass**le. Remember, I am one of the few species who can rip you limb from limb."
Ethon scoffed. "Do I look intimidated by you, rug?"
"You two stop!" Chi snapped as she came out of her weirdness. "We have a major problem here. Sam wasn’t taken by a Daimon or a Charonte. It was one of the empusae who took her."
"Ah now, that’s just wrong." Kali shook his head.
Ethon and Dev cursed simultaneously. The empusae were a rare breed of shapeshifting Greek demons capable of all manner of cruelty. But the one they were most known for was draining the blood from their victims, victims they could enslave and control. They were the original Greek demons who’d started the vampire legends.
And they were often mistaken for Daimons by those who didn’t know the difference. The main things that set them apart were that the empusae could walk in daylight and they weren’t cursed to die at twenty-seven. Most of all, Dark-Hunter blood wasn’t poisonous to them.
If one of them had Sam…
It could get ugly fast. The empusae were demigods and far more powerful than either the Dark-Hunters or the Daimons. No wonder Dev hadn’t been able to track it. It would be in the sixth dimension.
Chi jerked her chin toward Dev. "Call Fang and see if he can use his Hellchaser powers to track our demon." She looked at Ethon, Scorpio, and Kali. "You guys, go downstairs and sharpen your knives and look intimidating."
Ethon scowled. "Any particular reason for that?"
"It’ll keep you out of my hair and off my nerves until we can catch her trail. Now go. We have to find Sam before this thing kills her."
Sam wanted to fight the beast that held her as he carried her down a dark alley in the Art District. But she couldn’t. The moment he’d taken her into his arms, he’d locked gazes with her and something inside her had snapped and broken. She’d gone completely numb. Every muscle in her body was limp and worthless. It was a struggle just to breathe. In her mind, she saw the people he’d killed. Heard them screaming and begging for their lives while he’d laughed at their pain.
He was insane. He didn’t care who he hurt or why. All he wanted was to feel the power he had over them as he made them suffer.
The demon laughed. "That’s right, bitch. I own you and I’m going to torture you in so many ways you will know ultimate suffering for the rest of eternity."
The Amazon inside her screamed out, wanting to fight. But her body absolutely refused to cooperate. She was at his mercy and he hated her with an unfathomable depth.
What had she done to make him feel that way? She tried to sort through his memories to find the answer, but if there was one, he had it buried deep. So deep that trying to get to it was giving her a vicious headache.
The demon turned to the right at the call. Deep in the shadows was what appeared to be a man’s outline.
"Let her go." Not a shout, but a quiet, powerful demand that carried an undercurrent that said if Lazaros didn’t obey, he would regret it.
Lazaros sneered at the shadow he deemed nothing more worrisome than a pebble in his shoe. "You don’t give me orders, imisysmorfi."
Sam sucked her breath in at the ancient insult that meant the man was malformed or half-witted. Though the literal translation wasn’t as foul as the meaning behind the word. In her time, men had killed each other over it. For the demon’s sake, she hoped the man wasn’t an ancient Greek. Otherwise there would be bloodletting aplenty.
The shadow vanished, then reappeared right behind them. "Boo."
Lazaros dropped her straight down and turned to fight. Ow! Big ow! She hit the ground so hard, it knocked the breath out of her. She would definitely feel that tomorrow.
If she didn’t die tonight.
And it was yet another reason why she wanted to kill the bastard scum. If only she could move. Meanwhile the shadow and the demon tore into each other with a venom the Furies would envy. But at least they weren’t stepping on her.
Sam was still under his control, and honestly, she was getting tired of it. She wanted to fight, not lie in the street like a worthless lump. With every piece of iron will she had, she tried to inch away from them as they went at each other like Titans after Zeus. It was impressive and made her really want to take them down. The shadow cut and dodged, and hit the demon with enough power that it lifted him almost ten feet off the ground.
Don’t pay attention to them. If she could just crawl into the alley next to her, she might be able to get free while the demon was distracted.
Come on, body, don’t fail me now. You can do it.
But that was easier said than done. What had the demon done to her that she was so helpless? Worse, that feeling of being powerless was eking away at her Dark-Hunter powers as memories of her death surged.
Stay calm, Sam. Focus.
If only she could…
Another shadow fell over her.
Sam cringed as someone rolled her over, onto her back. She looked up and met the face of a perfect blond angel. Skinny as a rail and yet muscular, the woman should have been an Amazon. But the eeriest part was her eyes–dark brown with ribbons of bright yellow twisting through the iris.