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One Silent Night (Page 23)

One Silent Night (Dark-Hunter #16)(23)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Ker bit Stryker. He reached for her throat, but before he could choke her, Ash had her subdued.

War was another matter. He wouldn’t go down. Not for any of them.

Ash shook his head at Savitar. "Three months to subdue him, you said."

Savitar nodded.

Stryker cursed. "I don’t have three months."

"Me neither." Stryker frowned at the childish demon’s voice as Acheron’s demon Simi appeared. She slammed something against War, who snarled at her.

Stryker pulled the demon back before War could hurt her. War reached for him, but the moment he did, his hand turned to stone. Frowning, Stryker watched as it crawled up the god’s arm all the way to his body until he was nothing more than a frozen statue whose face was a mask of fury.

"What is that you hit him with?" Zephyra asked Simi.

"Aima," Acheron answered. It was the same substance Stryker had once used to freeze him. Hopefully, War didn’t have any friends who’d be willing to bring him the antidote after this.

Wiping her hands together, Simi grinned. "Your mama-akra sent that to you, akri to hurt the heathen-god. Now it’s Dimonique time. The Simi can’t be bothered with no Greek god messing with the one who pays the plastic bills." She held her hand out to Ash. "Can the Simi have that black metal card she loves so much?"

Ash pulled his wallet out with a short laugh. "Sure, baby." He handed over the black American Express card.

"But where’s Medea?" Zephyra asked.

They all looked to Jared who held Ker on the ground.

"I’ll never tell you," she snarled.

Zephyra’s heart stilled at those words and the thought of never seeing her child again. "Jared? Do something."

She saw the re sis tance in his eyes before he let out a long, tired breath. "Nim? Human form."

His demon pulled out from under his collar to take the form of a small adult male. The instant he saw Simi, he ran and tripped.

"Nim!" Jared snapped. "She won’t harm you."

Nim looked less than convinced as he crawled on the ground to the other side of Jared. He crouched beside him. "What does Jared need?"

He met Zephyra’s gaze. "Find Medea."

"Why can’t you just pull the information out of her?" Zephyra asked Jared.

"There are too many voices in her head speaking too many languages for me to differentiate any real words. She’s blocking me on purpose." He looked at Nim. "Find Medea for me."

"Nim’s eyes glowed red as he touched Ker and she shrieked in anger. "Medea in the hole with that god who died."

"What hole, Nim?"

"Deep one in the ground."

Sucking her breath in sharply, Zephyra started for the demon. "This is worthless."

Stryker pulled her to a stop. "I think I know where they are." He glanced past her to where Hades stood. "Tartarus."

Her throat tightened as she realized the significance of that. Once taken there, no one could leave without Hades’s permission.

Zephyra turned to look at the god of the Underworld.

"I owe you nothing," Hades spat at Stryker.

"But that’s not true of me," Acheron said as he stepped forward. "Let them go, Hades."

A tic worked in Hades’s jaw. "Ma’at I can’t keep anyway. Her soul doesn’t belong to me."

Ash narrowed his gaze. "What about Medea?"

Hades growled. "Take her. But this clears our slate. Understood?"

Somehow that seemed too easy to Zephyra. "What about Mache?"

Hades laughed evilly. "If your demon is right and he’s in my domain . . . he will regret it."

Jared rose with Ker. "What of her?"

Hades glared at the spirit of violent death. "Bring her down. I have plans for her." And by the tone of his voice, those plans weren’t pleasant ones. "Bring her down."

Stryker took Zephyra’s hand as they followed the Greek god out of the human world and into Tartarus. Ash brought the statue of War down and returned him to the place where he’d rested for centuries. Ker was taken to a small cell and locked inside.

"I’ll deal with you later," Hades promised.

Ker spat at him and slammed her hand against the door. "This isn’t over. I’ll be free again and we’ll celebrate your funeral march."

Stryker ignored her threats as he looked at Nim who was clutching a small stuffed pink bunny. "Where’s my daughter?"

Nim pointed to a small door.

Unsure, Stryker started toward it, then paused as he heard an explosion so loud it temporarily deafened him.

The door slammed into the far wall where it fell back and pounded a man into the ground.

"Stop!" Hades shouted.

The door slammed into the man three more times before it obeyed him.

As the smoke cleared, Stryker saw Menyara. With her arms folded, she left the room and cast a menacing glare at Mache who was bleeding profusely while the door held him in place. "That’ll learn him to keep his hands to himself." She turned back to her cell. "Medea, love, your parents are here."

Acheron shook his head as he took Tory’s hand into his. "Feeling rather stupid for having worried now."

"Don’t," Menyara said. "Until you negated War’s powers, we were stuck here. That poor fool didn’t realize until it was too late and I had a chance to hurt him back."

Zephyra ran to her daughter and grabbed her into a tight hug before she pulled back to make sure nothing had happened to her.

Nick stepped forward, his face troubled. "What about my mother? What did War do to her?"

Hades put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. "There’s nothing he could do. Ker could show you the souls to weaken you, but they have no power over them. Your mother is back where she belongs, as are the others."

Ash cast his glance in the direction of the Elysian fields.

"Ryssa thinks of you," Hades said quietly. "And she’s happy, Acheron. She doesn’t blame you at all. That was Ker playing with your emotions."

"Thank you."

Hades inclined his head before he looked at Stryker. When he opened his mouth to speak, Stryker held his hand up.

"I only want to know if she’s with her husband and children."

"She is."

"Then I’m at peace."

Zephyra frowned at the catch in his voice that belied those words. But perhaps he was right. He couldn’t change anything, so why torture himself?

His head hung low, Nick turned to leave. Menyara went with him while Jared hung back, glaring after them.

"If he kills Nick, Jared will die, too," Menyara’s voice echoed around them.

"What?" Zephyra said.

Menyara paused. "It’s true. So think before you send him after my Nick again."

Zephyra narrowed her gaze on Jared. "Why didn’t you tell me that?"

His features were blank and hollow. "You know why."

Because he wanted to die, too, and that was one thing she could never allow him to do. "For that you won’t have a moment’s freedom for your ser vice." Zephyra squeezed Medea’s hand. "Take him to Kalosis. I’m sure your father has a hole adequate for his punishment."

Nim took a step toward Jared, but Simi stopped him. "Wait."

He stepped back, his face a mask of fear, unsure of her intent.

Smiling gently, she pulled a small bear out of her coffin-shaped purse and held it out to him. "It’s a Teddy Scare," she said. "Much more fierce than your bunny." She placed it in his hand before she flounced toward Acheron. "QVC time, akri." She disappeared.

Jared stared after her as if amazed by her act of kindness. "You should go with Acheron, Nim."

Nim shook his head defiantly, then returned to Jared’s body. Jared cursed. "I really hate demons."

Medea’s gaze held a trace of sympathy before she placed her hand on his arm and took him back to his captivity.

Tory peered into the room where the statue of War was now encased. "Do you think he’ll go free again?"

Hades cut a chiding glare to Stryker. "I’m sure there’s another ass**le out there who’ll free him."

"But not this one," Stryker said. He looked at Ash. "Thank you for your help."

"I would say anytime, but . . ."

Stryker held his hand out to him. "Enemies forever."

"Or at least until you learn to leave the humans and Dark-Hunters alone."

"When you leave my Daimons alone, I’ll stop, too."

"I can’t let the Daimons kill the humans."

"And I can’t stand by and watch my people die over a curse my father gave them. So long as the curse stands, we hunt."

"Then our war is far from ended." Ash shook his hand, then took his leave with Tory.

Stryker draped his arm over Zephyra’s shoulders. "You ready to go home?"

She nodded.

Without another word, he took her back to his palace in Kalosis. As soon as they were alone, he glared at her. "You were supposed to stay out of the fight."

"And let you get my daughter killed? Never."

"Your daughter?"

She folded her arms over her chest. "My daughter."

"So we’re back to that, are we?"

"Absolutely. Besides, I had no intention of watching you die."

Stryker arched a brow at that. "No?"

"No. I would much rather kill you myself."

MENYARA PAUSED AT THE PICTURE OF CHERISE holding Nick on his first day of school. The frame was set on his nightstand next to his bed. "Your mother was so proud of you."

Nick didn’t speak.

Turning, she watched as he grabbed a bottle of Scotch and opened it. "Did you learn anything tonight?" she asked.

"Such as?"

"How much you need to know your powers."

He took a deep swig before he answered. "I knew that before the fight, Mennie."

"Yes, but are you willing to learn now?"

He paused. "What do you mean?"

Her resolve shone in her eyes as she cornered him. "You are part demon and part human. In order to function in this world, you will have to be taught by someone who has powers similar to yours."

"And that is?"

"Acheron."

Nick scoffed. "Ash is a god."

"Yes, but before he was a god, he was half human and half Charonte. Only he has the powers to help you."

Stunned, Nick dropped the bottle straight to the floor where it shattered.

EPILOGUE

Two Weeks Later

ZEPHYRA SAT IN STRYKER’S CHAIR AS SHE LIStened to the sound of faint music playing. For the last fortnight, she and Stryker had been after the gallu to use them to convert more Daimons, but they were proving difficult.

In the meantime, there were only a few dozen gallu Daimons while the rest of their army needed to continue to feed on the humans.

"We will get you," she whispered. Like Stryker, she had no intention of watching their people die while Apollo lived so blithely on. Especially given the fact that if Medea were to ever marry again, her children would be born Apollite.

And they, too, would be cursed . . .

The door opened.

She glanced up to find Stryker there with a sword in his hand. Scowling, she watched him as he crossed the floor and placed it on the desk in front of her. Without a word, he knelt by her side.

"What are you doing?"

"I promised that at the end of two weeks I’d allow you to kill me." He looked pointedly at the sword. "I’m keeping my word."

She arched one brow at that. "Really?"

He inclined his head to her. "You own my life, Phyra. I lay it in your hands."

She pulled the sword from the desk, then rose with it in her hand. She angled the perfectly balanced sword and admired the gleaming edge. "You would allow me to kill you?" She placed the point directly over his heart.

His gaze locked with hers. "On my honor."

She pressed the tip into his shirt, but not deep enough to pierce his skin. "Would you die for me, Stryker?"

"Is that not what I’m doing?"

"No. You’re upholding your honor and that’s not what I want."

"Then what do you want?"

"I want you to stand by my side and never, ever fail me again."

Sincerity burned bright in that swirling silver gaze of his. "I would never fail you."

"Swear it on your life."

His gaze hardened. "That I can never do."

She pressed the point in until it drew a bead of blood. "Why can’t you?"

"Because you are my life," he said, his voice cracking. "And I can’t live another day without you."

She dropped the sword to the floor. "I despise you for what you make me feel."

He pulled her into his arms until she was kneeling on the floor in front of him. "And what is that?"

"Weak and vulnerable. You are my soul, and I will never forgive you if you take that from me again."

He smiled at her. "Have no fear, love. I will always be right here with you."

As he dipped his head to kiss her, the door behind him crashed open. Angry at the interruption, he turned to growl at Davyn.

However, the words died on his tongue as he saw the man’s face. "What’s happened?"

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