As the old saying went, it wasn’t about the size of the dog in the fight. It was the fight in the dog.
And even in the body of a Chihuahua, an Amazon was a Rottweiler.
She reached out to brush a strand of his hair away from his eyes, only to feel nothing. Her fingers affected nothing. She felt the absence of his warmth all the way to her missing soul.
I wish I could touch you, Dev.
Not wanting him to know how much that thought made her ache, she offered him a smile. "Well, the good news is in this incarnation, I don’t have anyone’s emotions haunting me."
"See, there’s always a bright side."
And he always saw it, but not her. While she lived life to the fullest and grabbed it with both hands, she’d never really seen the beauty of it. She’d lost that ability.
Until she’d seen Dev standing outside of Sanctuary.
Dev reminded her of the things she’d learned to ignore. With him she actually felt the happiness–the exuberance–that life had to offer.
"I wish I could make love to you."
He sucked his breath in sharply. "You talk like that, you’re going to kill me." He moved to stand just before her. "I wish I could smell you."
She pulled back sharply. "Smell me?" What a repugnant thought.
He nodded. "Your scent makes me drunk. I love having it on my sheets and on my body."
Yeah okay, not gross. That was actually a thought that made her hot and needy. "I really hate Thorn right now."
"Me too. You think we should kill the prick?"
She laughed. How was it that he always made her laugh no matter how dire the event or circumstance?
Dev dropped his hungry gaze down to her lips. An action that made her stomach contract with wanton heat. "We can look on the bright side though."
"I don’t have to look for parking spaces in New Orleans?"
His laugh was deep and rich, and it sent a shiver over her. "There’s a perk I didn’t think about. But I was referring to the lack of Daimon attention. It’s actually quiet for once."
Sam wasn’t willing to concede that to him. "Yeah, that would be a big bonus if I could have sex with you."
His brows shot up in surprise. "Now who’s being the horn dog?"
She wrinkled her nose playfully as her hand ached to feel his hair in her palm. "Definitely me, and only because I know how torturous it is for you."
"Well, I could surf online and you could read a novel on the bed while we ignore each other, then we could pretend we’re a happily married couple."
She laughed again. "Is that really what you’d do with your wife?"
"Absolutely never. I’ve lived hundreds of years alone. If I were ever lucky enough to find my mate, I’d spend the rest of my life letting her know how grateful I am to have her."
"How totally un horn dog of you."
"I know," he whispered. "So don’t tell anyone. You’d ruin my rep." He reached for her, then dropped his hand as he remembered he couldn’t touch her. "What about you? Did you ever ignore your husband?"
A knot choked her as she remembered Ioel and his charming smile. She could count on one hand the number of years she’d been lucky enough to know him. "I didn’t have him long enough to grow bored. Maybe it would have happened eventually, but I doubt it. It’s ironic really. We both knew when we agreed to it that we’d have a short marriage. With both of us being warriors, the odds were never in our favor. It was just a matter of the wrong blow during the right battle. So from the moment we came together, we knew to value every heartbeat because it could be our last."
Dev ached for the pain he heard in her words and the torment he saw in her eyes. "I’m so sorry for what happened."
"What? That my sister was a selfish bitch? That definitely wasn’t your fault."
"No, but families are supposed to hang together in every adversity. It sickens me when they don’t. I wish I could kill your sister for you."
Sam had to catch herself before she told him how she felt about him. No good could come of that. They could never be together and she knew it. No matter how much she wanted it to be….
Some wishes just weren’t meant to happen and all the desire in the world couldn’t change that.
I love you, Dev.
Unfortunately, her love wasn’t selfish. She only wanted the best for him and the best wasn’t her. It was a woman who could have his children and stand by his side here at Sanctuary. Not one who’d sold her soul to a goddess.
The song "You" by Fisher played through her head. Those words had always choked her up but never more than right now when she understood them in a way she never had before.
"You don’t know it yet, but you’re everything…."
Why did her life have to be a study in losing the things she cared about? It was so unfair and yet how could she complain? She’d chosen this life. She was a defender to the world. There was no higher calling than that. No job more honorable or noble.
Trying to reinforce her resolve to let him go, she cleared her throat. "You ever think about having kids?"
"All the time. I’d love to have a houseful. Then one of my nieces or nephews turns Exorcist on me and spews the most disgusting things imaginable out both ends–things that make the demon snot feel like a bubble bath. That usually cures me of that stupidity for at least a day or two."
She laughed so hard her eyes teared. She’d never quite thought of it that way, but he was right. Kids had a tendency to explode. A lot. "You’re so bad."
He shrugged with an innocence he definitely didn’t possess. "You asked. I answered."
She shook her head. "Seriously though, don’t you want Dev cubs?"
"Honestly? I don’t know. It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s scary and unpredictable. I think about it sometimes. Not that it matters. I’m not a single cell organism capable of mitosis so without a mate it’s a moot topic and I don’t believe in torturing myself over things I don’t have. I’d much rather focus on and be grateful for what I do have."
Gah, he made it so hard to hate him. So hard to push him away even when she knew it was the only practical thing to do.
Most of all, he made her want to reach out and touch him. Just to hold him for one moment.
Dev felt the sudden awkward silence between them like an iron cloak. "Did I do something wrong?"
How did women do that? Say a word that was the exact polar opposite of what they meant. Obviously he’d said or done something to destroy her playful mood.
If only he knew what it was.
What ever. He couldn’t make it better unless she told him what he’d done to offend her. But that was the one thing about the female gender that made him insane. For a group who prided themselves on communication skills, they could be remarkably silent when it came to things that really mattered to them.
It was the old if-you-knew-me-like-you-should-then-you’d-know-why-I’m-mad game. Well, how was he supposed to learn her if she didn’t tell him?
Vicious cycle and it was one he didn’t have time for. Not when they were about to launch themselves into something that could get all of them killed. An image of her lying dead seared him. Her current state was a lethal reminder of what could happen if he failed.
Aimee would never forgive him. But there was no way to leave him at home. Fang wasn’t that kind of wolf. Bastard.
He had a sick feeling in his stomach that things weren’t what they should be. There was something in the ether around him that wanted to warn him.
If only he knew what…
The seen and the unseen. Things were about to get hairy as hell for them all.
Ethon cocked his head as he heard the spirits of the fallen whispering to him. It was a talent that had served him well for the last five thousand years. It enabled him to see his enemies coming and to hear the souls that had been lured by the Daimons.
But what they told him right now left him cold.
Dev and Sam were about to kill themselves.
Two against Aello was a fool’s errand. While Ethon had never faced her himself, his grandfather had been with Herakles when Herakles had defeated her. When Ethon had been a small boy, his grandfather had spent hours detailing the vicious attacks of the Amazons as a tribe and Aello in particular.
No one escaped them unscathed without divine intervention. Which both Sam and Dev lacked.
This was going to get bloody and if no one helped them, they wouldn’t live through the stupidity.
Reaching for his phone, he made a quick call.
If they were going to battle, they weren’t going alone. I won’t let you die again, Samia. This time he wouldn’t fail her. And if he had to lay down his own life for hers, so be it.
Dev met Fang in the hallway. By Fang’s grim visage, he knew the wolf would much rather be tending the bar tonight than joining him on a suicide run. Not that he blamed him in the least. He’d rather be downstairs himself.
But not at the cost of Sam’s freedom.
"You know you can stay here," he said to his brother-in-law. "I’d actually prefer it."
Fang shook his head. "I would never leave you do to this alone. You didn’t shirk at going into hell to help me, Dev. I’ve not forgotten it."
Which was why Dev had grown to appreciate his unique family member. Fang had proven himself worth the risk Dev had taken to save him and he was glad to call him brother.
Sam cleared her throat. "We better hurry. We don’t have much time until dark."
Dev inclined his head. Just as he was about to teleport himself and Sam to the circle, he saw two people coming up the stairs.
Ethon and Scorpio.
And they were dressed for battle. Both in solid black, Ethon was dressed in a pair of slacks and a button-down shirt. His long coat hid a full weapons arsenal. Knives, at least one gun, and most likely a sword. Scorpio on the other hand was much more overt. He wore a short-sleeved shirt with leather vambraces Dev knew concealed steel spikes he could shoot out and use to punch through just about anything.
Dev scowled at them. "What are you doing here?"
Ethon gave him a shit-eating grin. "Covering your back, Cochise."
Interesting comparison. Cochise had been resourceful and clever, escaping death time and again. Dev only hoped that when this war was over, he was as lucky as the Apache chief to die at peace.
Sam drew up short as she saw the Spartan there. "Ethon–"
He held his hand up to stop her protest. "It’s all right, Samia. Scorpio and I have run it past Ash. The Dogs stand together. You know this. Warriors to the end."
"Fools to the end," she snapped.
Ethon’s grin widened. "Always."
Sam wanted to argue with him, but she knew it would only waste time they didn’t have. Ethon was every bit as impossible and stubborn as Dev. "Fine. Make sure you keep up."
Fang stepped toward Ethon. "I’ll take this one."
"I got the other." Dev met her gaze. "I’ll see you in a minute."
Sam watched as they teleported from the hallway to the park. She took a moment to glance around the old house as she felt a strange tremor of foreboding go down her spine. Evil was at play here.
She only hoped she was the sole target of it.
Closing her eyes, she teleported to where Fang and Dev were standing in the fading sunlight. There was no sign of the Dark-Hunters.
Her heart stopped beating. Had they burst into flames?
"Did you get hungry and eat my colleagues?"
Dev pointed down to the dark green wool blanket at his feet that she’d somehow missed seeing. "There’s still enough daylight to blister you guys so we hid them fast."
But oddly the sunlight wasn’t hurting her at all–most likely because of her ghostlike form. Amazed, she watched the first sunset she’d seen in over five thousand years. The sky was absolutely breathtaking with ribbons of pink and orange twisting through the darkening blue.
If only she could feel the rays on her skin.
But seeing it was enough. She wanted to cry over the sight she’d missed all this time. "It’s beautiful." But that tender swell in her breast died as she glanced down to the blanket and realized what it looked like spread out over the grass.
Two dead bodies.
And it was painfully obvious there were bodies under that blanket.
A car slowed down as it drove past them, raising the hair on the back of her neck. The driver stared at them until Fang looked over at her. Then the driver gunned the engine and sped away as fast as she could.
Sam let out an elongated breath. "Sheez, guys, I think we better hurry before someone calls the cops and tells them you’re trying to hide bodies in the Pontchartrain."
Ethon’s laugh rang out from under the blanket.
Dev kicked him. "Sorry. Accident."
Ethon growled low in his throat. "You better be glad I’m pinned, Bear."
Dev flashed her a grin before he turned his attention back to their task. "Sun’s setting. Anyone see anything?"
Just the research building and Lake Oaks Park across the street. The parking lot on her left for the university and fitness center and the houses behind them. It all looked completely normal and the traffic was getting heavier.
We are so going to jail….
Would Ash bail them out?
Fang turned around slowly.
And true to her prediction, she heard police sirens in the distance, drawing closer.