Was she another demon?
She angled Sam’s head until their gazes locked. Something inside Sam snapped like a pane of glass. One moment she was basically paralyzed. The next, she was free of what ever the demon had done to her.
Her blood rushing through her, Sam flipped up onto her feet and started for the demon only to have the woman grab her by the waist and stop her. "Cael has him."
Yeah, right. Like she was going to let this go after what he’d done to her? "Oh, like hell. This is a grudge match."
"More than you know, Sam. Stay back."
How did she know her name? That shock kept her still as Amaranda’s past went through her. She saw Amaranda as a little girl in Seattle growing up in her family’s business, playing with her sister. But what floored Sam wasn’t Amaranda’s family.
It was the fact that the woman was a Daimon….
And something more.
Sam tried to delve deeper into that, but Amaranda released her before she could get any more details from her. Lazaros turned toward them and realized she was on her feet. He ran for her then, but Cael grabbed him from behind and tackled him straight to the ground.
Lazaros tried to bite Cael, who quickly dodged him. "Don’t need a DNA sample. Thanks for the offer though." He punched Lazaros hard in the side.
Howling, Lazaros hissed at Cael, then vanished into a foul-smelling cloud of sulphur.
"Gah! What did you eat?" Cael snarled. He fanned the cloud as he jumped back trying to escape it. "Coward! Get your ass back here and fight like a demon, you sniveling waste of a scary monster. C’mon, who trained you? Casper?"
The woman next to Sam laughed. "Quit taunting the weak, love. It’s pointless."
Cael flashed a grin at her. "Yeah, but did I impress you with my fighting prowess?"
"You always impress me with your fighting prowess, baby. Ain’t nobody better." Those words were said in an almost mocking tone.
Cael walked toward them with the deadly lope of a predator. His hair was a riot of loose black curls that framed a face chiseled out of stone. He was stunningly handsome. And one arm was covered with an intricate tribal tattoo.
Ignoring Sam, he slid up to the woman and pulled her into his arms to give her a kiss that was so hot, Sam felt awkward watching it. The two of them kissed like they hadn’t seen each other for years and one of them had a terminal disease that would claim them in less than a minute. Any second she expected clothes to go flying.
Sam stepped away from them. "Tell you what. You two get a room. I’m going back to–"
"No!" Cael pulled back from his kiss and grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving. "You can’t go back there."
She shrugged his touch away but not before she saw a glimpse of him with Acheron…. a glimpse that told her he was a Dark-Hunter.
With those demonic eyes?
Something was wrong. None of this made sense. None of it.
And she wasn’t going to stick around to sort it out. "Stop me, ass**le."
That cockiness died as she took a step away from them and something hit her hard in the chest.
With a gasp, she crumpled to the street.
Sam woke up with her head splitting sideways. Front ways. All ways. Never in her life had she hurt so badly. She actually felt nauseated from the pain.
What had caused…
Suddenly, she remembered the demon taking her and then the weird couple who had "rescued" her. Anger and panic mixed as she opened her eyes to find herself alone in a small room. It strangely reminded her of something out of the Victorian era. What? Did all demons like that time period? The beige walls were stenciled with a dark brown scroll print and the bed she lay upon was Gothic black wrought iron. The headboard and footboard reminded her of spiraled cathedral windows.
Ah gah, I’m trapped in the Victorian Trading Company catalog. Not that their stuff wasn’t beautiful, it just wasn’t her cup of tea. And right now, she really wanted to know what was going on.
Danger didn’t seem imminent, but then she’d been kidnapped, which tended to make her think she wasn’t as safe as she appeared. She moved from the bed and realized someone had put her in a short pink gown.
Yeah, this was getting creepy and it was made creepier by the fact that she wasn’t getting any vibes from the clothes or anything else. For that matter, she hadn’t dreamed of other people.
It was like being with Dev, only without the warm comfort of his touch.
She went to the door and quickly learned it didn’t have a doorknob. There was no way to open it.
Sam turned around slowly, looking for a window or some other means to leave, but there wasn’t one. She was trapped here. Alone. There wasn’t even a cockroach sending thoughts to her.
Big surprise, no one answered. Oh, how she didn’t like this.
Okay, girl. Don’t panic. Not that she was particularly prone to panic, but…She wasn’t used to being locked in rooms that looked like they’d been taken off a Hammer movie set either.
Great. I’ve been captured by Boris Karloff.
A low sinister laugh whispered in her ears. "I’m not exactly Boris and he’s not the actor you’re thinking about anyway. That would be Peter Cushing. Never dawned on me before that they favored, but I’ll give you that. However I do have one thing in common with both–"
"You abduct women?"
"Not as a rule, but I do tend to creep people out. At least those who have common sense."
She turned around trying to locate a source for the voice. It seemed to be all around her and again, she picked up nothing from him. How could this keep happening?
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Because right now, she wanted that power back in the worst sort of way. It was only now that she understood just what a blessing it’d always been. She always knew where she stood with other people. Always knew what they were thinking and what kind of person they were.
Yeah, bring me back my weirdness.
"Who are you?" she tried again.
He tsked at her in that deep, provocative tone that sent a shiver over her. "You don’t really care about my name, sugar. You want to know why you’re here."
"Yes, yes I do." She moved around the room and his voice followed her. Was he a ghost?
Or a figment of her imagination?
"I’m here to keep you safe."
Why didn’t she believe that? Oh wait, because she was a prisoner being held by a man who didn’t even have the guts to show his face. She pulled a finial off the bed–that should serve to put a pack in her punch if she had to fight her way out of here. And yet again, nothing came to her from the cold metal.
"Then let me go."
He laughed. "Are we really going to have this conversation. If I were going to let you go, you wouldn’t be here. That would suck for both of us. So just make yourself comfortable, Dark-Hunter. You’re going to be here for a while."
She felt the presence leave. Oh, this is great. She was trapped in a fluffy, frothy hell and there was no exit in sight. At least you’re not pulling images or emotions from the stuff in here.
Yeah, but for once, she needed to. She had to know what she was dealing with.
Closing her eyes, she summoned her powers from deep within and tried to find out who and what held her hostage.
At first there was nothing. Not even a trace. Then a thick fog swirled until she began to see images through it.
In the back of her mind, she saw a gorgeous man with dark blond hair and perfect features. Dressed in medieval armor, he led an army that appeared to have been forged from hell itself. At full speed, with his bloodred pennant rippling in the wind, he raced down a hill and straight into the heart of his enemy to battle them.
Only his enemy wasn’t human. It was a legion of demons who were bent on his total annihilation. They tore at him and pulled him off his demon horse, which reared, slashing at them with its black hooves that sent their blood spurting like in a Quentin Tarantino film. Still, even wounded and on foot, he fought them with a rage that would have made him a Dog of War had he been a Dark-Hunter.
He let loose a fierce battle cry as he cut his way through their number, slashing and hacking with his sword. He was a warrior without rival….
Sam pulled back. Why was she seeing that demon knight? Was he the voice she’d heard?
If he was her captor, she was thoroughly screwed. Defeating a man like that would not be easy. If even possible.
Then suddenly the image was gone. She tried to call it back to further understand who and what she’d seen, but it didn’t work.
Instead her vision turned to another blond….
Dev. She saw him as a young man with two older men who could have almost passed for his twins. By their clothes, she knew it had to be the late Georgian period. There were the three men and one bear cub hunkered down in the stall of some barn. It was pitch-black and the horses around them were going wild as they tried to escape.
Dev’s long hair had begun to come loose from his queue and hung in unruly curls around his teenaged face. His black vest was missing two buttons and there was red blood smeared on his white shirt. "I can fight the Arcadians."
The older bear shook his head. "You’re too young, Devereaux. We need you to get Aimee to Papa and Maman. She is our only female. You know she has to survive. We can’t let anything happen to her."
Gilbert grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and shook him hard. "Don’t argue with me. We’re depending on you, mon frere. Don’t let us down."
Dev scooped up the cub, who whined in protest. She was too young to be teleported with their powers. They couldn’t use them on her without the risk of killing her. Solid black, she was huge in Dev’s arms as he cradled her to his chest.
Gilbert buried his face in the cub’s fur. "Stay safe, ma petite." He kissed her on the ear.
Bastien stood up and it was then Sam realized he was the twin brother of Zar…the father to Yessy and Josie. Poor Dev, to have stared into the face of the brother he’d lost….
And poor Nicolette.
"I’ll draw their fire." Bastien glanced down to Aimee and Dev. "Bon chance. Je t’aime." Good luck. I love you.
Then he was gone so fast Dev couldn’t even say good-bye. A heartbeat later, Dev heard the sound of gunfire. He clutched Aimee harder as fear ate at his insides.
Please don’t be dead….
"Go!" Gilbert snapped.
Dev didn’t want to. He knew the human-Arcadian bears would kill both of his brothers. That he’d never see them again. His heart shattered as he was torn between the loyalty he had for his sister and that he had for his brothers.
How could he choose between them?
They’d only come here this afternoon to pick blackberries and let Aimee roam away from humans while his brothers had helped him train and hone his magick. It was supposed to be a perfect, happy afternoon. And it had ended when the Arcadians had come for Gilbert.
Not because he’d done them wrong.
Because he’d been mated by the Fates to the Arcadian bears’ sister. They wanted Gilbert killed before he completed the ceremony so that their sister wouldn’t be forced to lie down with an animal Kattagari.
For that, Bastien and Gilbert would die. And the worst part was that Bastien was an Arcadian too. Those bastards were about to commit murder even in the eyes of the Omegrion.
And they didn’t even care. So long as they took out Gilbert, the rest of them were simply collateral damage. Animals to be slaughtered.
If Dev told them he was an Arcadian, they would spare him because he was one of them. But not his sister. The Arcadians would kill Aimee too and use her fur for boots. Gods, it was so unfair.
He heard Bastien cry out–a cry that was cut short to a silence so foul it tore through him. An instant later, the Arcadians cheered. "Is it the right animal?"
"No. It must still be inside."
Gilbert gripped Dev’s shoulder. "You must go now. Protect Aimee for us."
Dev nodded as his brother stood up and slipped from the stall to turn into a bear–Gilbert’s weakest fighting form, but it would distract the Arcadians and give Dev more time to escape. The Arcadians knew there were four of them. Once they killed Gilbert, they’d seek out him and Aimee.
I have to go.
Tears flowed down his cheeks as he buried his face in Aimee’s fur. Holding her close, he slipped out the back while Gilbert fought their enemies. It was so cold outside.
He heard more gunshots and then a loud shout of jubilation from the Arcadians.
Gilbert was dead….
The Arcadians cursed as they realized Gilbert was human and that they had just committed a murder that would cost them their lives. "Find the other two. We have to kill them before they tell what we’ve done."
Aimee let out a baleful cry.
Dev held her close as he covered her mouth with his hand to muffle her wail. "I’ve got you, Aimee. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. I swear. I’ll never let anyone hurt you." And with that vow, he slipped out the back and into the trees that surrounded the farm where they’d taken temporary refuge.
It took him an entire night to make it back to the small house in London his family called home. He was completely exhausted. Weak. His wounds were bleeding profusely.
But Aimee was unharmed.
The moment he opened the door, his mother was there in her gown and bathrobe. Beautiful and blond, she was a study of grace as she looked past his shoulder, into the dawning sky. "Mon Dieu, Devereaux! Where have you been? Have you any idea of the hour? We’ve been trying to track you and…" She paused as he came in and locked the door. The panic in her eyes tore through him. "Where’s Gilbert and Bastien?"