That was a name he’d heard bandied about by other Dark-Hunters over the centuries. She was one of their fiercest–hence the surname the other Dark-Hunters had given her several hundred years ago as an homage to her brutality in a fight. As immortal slayers who protected humans, all Dark-Hunters came from horrific backgrounds. Each one different, they all had one thing in common: Someone had betrayed and killed them in a manner so foul that they sold their souls to the Greek goddess Artemis for a single act of vengeance against their betrayer. Not something someone undertook lightly and he couldn’t help wondering what had happened to Sam to make her sell her soul.
Who had killed her and why had that event turned her into something so brutal even the stoutest male Hunters tended to cut her a wide berth? All the stories he’d heard about her had never answered that. They only said that this woman lived for the thrill of the fight.
The bloodier the better.
"You were an Amazon general at the end of the Trojan War." The granddaughter of their greatest queen, Hippolyta, Sam was said to have been the one to escort Helen home after the war. Something that had been extremely difficult given how many Greeks had wanted to kill Helen for causing the war that had kept them away from home for over a decade.
One corner of her mouth quirked up. "You say Amazon like it’s a bad thing."
Dev laughed. "I’ve met a few of you over the centuries. Not bad, just…interesting."
The Amazons were the goddess Artemis’s chosen people. It was why there were so many who were Dark-Hunters. When Artemis had set up her army to fight for humanity against their preternatural predators, the Amazons had always been her first choice and were rumored to be paid ten times more than the rest of the Dark-Hunters. A little favoritism that led to hard feelings from some of the other Hunters toward any Amazon in their bunch.
For Dev, it just meant he had to watch her since the Amazons tended to be ferocious partiers who liked to brawl.
"So what brings you here tonight?" he asked her, changing the topic to a pertinent subject.
Sam paused before she answered. "Don’t know really. I had a feeling that something wicked this way headed. So I thought I’d beat it here in order to grab it by the throat and hurt it before it did any damage."
He tsked at her. "Ah baby, don’t you know I’m the only thing wicked here?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "Are you flirting with me?"
"Depends. Is there an ass-whipping in it and will you be nak*d when you do it?"
She gave him an arch stare. "So you like to have your ass whipped?"
"Not really, but so long as you’re nak*d when you do it I could take it quite happily…."
She laughed. "Kinky. I like that."
He had no idea why he was flirting with her. While he was as much of a manwhore as any of his unmated brothers, he didn’t normally waste time on women he knew were off his menu. And sleeping with Dark-Hunters was a key no-no in their world…for many, many reasons.
But he couldn’t seem to help himself. There was something about her that invited him straight to suicide. "More horny actually. It’s been a while."
She sucked her breath in sharply. "Brutal honesty. Nice change of pace. Most men would try flattery first."
He shrugged. "I would say life’s too short to beat around the bush, but I’ll live for centuries and you for eternity so for us, not a concern. So I’ll just say that I don’t like to play games or sugarcoat things and leave it at that."
"A bear after my own heart, but don’t you know we’re not supposed to fraternize?"
He shrugged. "I don’t like following rules."
She dipped her gaze down his body with a heated look that set his hormones on fire. "Me neither."
"Yeah, I can tell by the way you drive."
Sam really didn’t want to be charmed by the werebeast in front of her, but honestly she couldn’t seem to help it. There was something about him that made her smile. And it wasn’t just that he was hotter than hell. Or that he had a smile that should be illegal.
He just seemed to be the kind of person who was fun to hang out with and in her world such people were few and far between. His long, curly blond hair was pulled back from a face that appeared to be chiseled from steel. Blue eyes teased her with their intelligence and humor.
And his body…
She could lick on that all night long. Even more disturbing, there was something about him that reminded her of Ioel and the way he’d always been able to make her smile no matter how bad her day had sucked. Even after thousands of years, she still missed him.
Trying not to think about that, she dropped her gaze to Dev’s arm, which bulged with well-defined muscles, then frowned as she saw the tattoo peeking out from under the short sleeve.
No. Surely not.
Before she could stop herself, she pulled his sleeve up with her gloved hand to find a double bow-and-arrow mark just like the one Artemis had given her on the night she’d been converted into a Dark-Hunter and brought back to life to fight against the vampiric Daimons. The only difference was that Sam’s was a brand and his was definitely ink.
She arched a brow at him. "Should I ask?"
He grinned roguishly. "I like yanking the chains of the gods."
"You must. From what I hear Artemis doesn’t have much of a sense of humor."
"She hasn’t killed me for it yet."
He definitely had guts. "Are you that brave or that stupid?"
"My mother used to say the two walk hand in hand."
That amused her. Her mother had once said something very similar to her as well.
Shaking her head, she sought to change the subject to the real reason she was here and to remind herself why she shouldn’t find this man interesting in the least. "Have any Daimons shown up tonight?"
"You know I’m not supposed to tell you if they do." That code of honor between the Daimons and the Were-Hunters had always annoyed her. The Were-Hunters had been created out of the same race as the Daimons and so they tended to share a bond with their "cousins."
"You guys are as much human as you are Daimon."
"And we don’t feed the humans to you either." He winked at her. "But to answer your question, no. No Daimons have been near the club in weeks."
That was hard to believe. Touristy places such as this were known Daimon hunting grounds and hangouts. "Really?"
"Yeah, it’s weird, I know. It’s like they’re on hiatus or something. We’ve never been this long without at least a group or two visiting. The last one we saw was before we reopened…. And that bastard showed up here in broad daylight."
She scoffed at his words. "You’re so full of it." What he was saying was absolutely ludicrous. "Daimons can’t walk in daylight, everyone knows that."
"I hear ya, but I’m telling you he was here in the flesh and the sun was bright and shining. He walked right out into it like he didn’t have a care in the world."
She still wasn’t sold on what he was saying. It didn’t make sense. "And none of you thought to tell us?"
"We filed a report with the Squires"–they were the human employees who helped the Dark-Hunters and who protected them during the daylight hours when the Dark-Hunters couldn’t be out in sunlight without bursting into flames–"and we’ve been telling every Dark-Hunter we see. But since no one else has seen a Daimon in daylight, they think we’re on meth and dismiss the warning as some kind of mass hallucination brought on by too much honey-drinking."
His words amused her. "Are you on meth?"
"You know that stuff won’t work on me any more than it’d work on you." Dark-Hunters and Were-Hunters were all immune to most drugs.
Sam still couldn’t buy it. "Did you tell Acheron?"
"Again, he said there was only one Daimon who could walk in daylight and that he’d personally destroyed that one. There was no chance in hell we have another Daywalker."
And yet Dev believed unequivocally that they’d seen a Daimon in daylight. She could sense it with every power she possessed. "Maybe it was some Goth kid with fangs screwing with you."
"Yeah ’cause I can’t tell the difference between a human and a Daimon. I really suck at this job."
She laughed at his dry sarcasm. How could he be so cute and annoying all at once? "All right. I believe you. But–"
He held his hands up in surrender. "I hear you and I agree it’s whacked. I know it makes no sense. I’m just telling you what we saw so that you know. You draw your own conclusions from there."
"Well, if you’re right, let’s hope this is just an anomaly and that he burned up three seconds after he left here."
"Here’s hoping for miracles." He picked the headset up from his shoulders and placed it back over his ears. It was peculiar to her how any man could look so sexy with that contraption on his head, yet he somehow managed.
Dev gestured to the door. "You’re safe to go in. There aren’t any other Dark-Hunters inside."
She appreciated his warning. Not that she needed it. While being around another Dark-Hunter would drain her powers, hers were so great that the depletion was basically a joke. Not to mention she had serious battle skills that few could touch with or without her Dark-Hunter powers to back them. That was what made her one of the machiskyli…the Dogs of War. The Daimons had their elite fighters and the Dark-Hunters had the Dogs. Men and women who lived for battle and who took their only joy in cutting the hearts out of their enemies.
It was a badge she wore with honor. And tonight she felt the Daimon presence deep in her bones. She just had to pinpoint it, grab it by the throat, and strangle it until she felt better. Which meant leaving the enticing bear at the door and heading in to do her job.
"I’ll catch you later, Bear."
He inclined his head to her as she walked through the doors into the dark interior. Since it was only seven in the evening, there weren’t many people in the club. A few humans eating at the front tables. Two more sitting at the bar that was being tended by a wolf were (so called because he was a wolf in human form) and another bearwere who bore a striking resemblance to Dev. It must be one of his identical brothers.
She sauntered over to the wolf and ordered a longneck.
"You want any food to go with that?" he asked as he popped the top on one and handed it to her.
Sam shook her head and ignored the curious stare he directed at her gloved hands. Food wasn’t really her thing and she hoped that she could sip this beer in peace. She started to pull out her wallet, but the wolf stopped her.
"I remember you from the fight. Your money’s no good here."
His pain reached out to her as she had a flash in her mind of his past. A past that left him with a profound sense of guilt. He was the one Nicolette Peltier had died protecting and he felt like he’d taken the mother from the woman he loved–it was a bitter ache that stayed buried deep inside him and burned like a coal. He was a good man to care so much about his wife. "Thanks…Fang." His name popped into her head as clearly as the images from his past. Images that would be heightened to a brutal level if she touched his body in any way.
He inclined his head to her. "Anytime."
Sam moved away before she took in any more residual emotions and images from him. She hated that power so much. It might not be so bad if she had some kind of control over it, but she didn’t. Instead, other people’s emotions often tangled with hers until she had a hard time deciphering her feelings from theirs. It was why she tended to avoid people as much as possible. And why she couldn’t touch anyone with her bare hands or flesh.
If she did…
It was horrifying.
Why couldn’t I have the ability to fly? Or something really useful like pyrokinesis?
But no. She had the wienie powers of empathy and psychometry….
For that "gift," she’d like to choke slam Artemis. But she also had telekinesis, which definitely came in handy, especially in a fight. So it wasn’t a complete knicker twist since she’d had remote control long before Eugene McDonald at Zenith had ever conceived the first clicker.
Sipping her beer, Sam wandered through the club that was nice and dark–easy on her light-sensitive eyes. And as she passed through, she caught glimpses of a thousand different events that had taken place here over the last century and a half.
While there were unhappy moments, the overwhelming base emotion for Sanctuary was warmth and homecoming. No wonder it was so popular among the preternatural community. While most wouldn’t have her powers to see what she did, they would still pick up on the sensation of love and safety that emanated from every object here. This entire place was filled with the care and devotion of the bear who’d built it.
"May the gods bless and keep you, Nicolette," she whispered. As a mother herself, she knew the absolute agony of losing her children. The pain that no amount of time ever healed. It was something no one should ever experience.
She flinched as an image of Agaria’s face flashed through her mind. Even now the thought of her daughter could bring her to her knees and it brought a tidal swell of potent rage that still wanted to be appeased. That fury was what made her such a great fighter. The Daimons had taken everything from her and no matter how many of them she killed it just wasn’t enough to make up for what they’d done.