Sam watched as Dev was pulled out of Thorn’s domain and returned to Peltier House so that he could prepare for his journey. A sob lodged in her throat. She couldn’t believe what he was willing to do for her. The risk he was taking.
Just don’t die. Please.
Not because of her. Especially not when she couldn’t help him. What kind of torture was this?
Damn you, Thorn.
She jerked around at the soft sound of Amaranda’s voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Risking a lot more than we should. But we know the terror you feel and we can’t let you suffer.”
“Me, Cael, and Fang.” She gestured toward the bed. “If you lie down, Fang and I can pull your essence out and you’ll be able to go with Dev.”
“You can do that?”
“We think so.”
“Think” was not a power word, especially the hesitant way Amaranda had said it. A chill washed over her. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“There’s a chance that you might not be able to come back…intact.”
Oh yeah, that was bad. “Care to elaborate?”
Amaranda’s eyes echoed her uncertainty. “I’m going to have to take you into a deep unconscious state—not something I’ve ever tried to do before. I might screw this up and it could leave you outside your body forever. Or you could be left in a perpetual coma.”
Sam glanced back to the wall where Dev was writing down Thorn’s riddle so that he could decipher it. He was risking his own freedom and his life for her.
Could she do anything less for him?
“I’ll do it.”
Amaranda bit her lip. “Do you understand the risks?”
Sam nodded. “Thank you for at least trying. I really appreciate what you’re doing, and if you screw this up, I promise I won’t hold much of a grudge.”
She made a sound that basically said she thought Sam was an idiot for agreeing to do this. “I hope you still feel that way in the event I can’t put you back together again.”
“Believe me, I will.”
Amaranda gestured toward the bed. “All right, then, lie down and let’s attempt the impossible.”
Sam obeyed her. Flat on her back, she met Amaranda’s nervous gaze and smiled before she repeated the Amazon battle motto. “Who wants to live forever?”
Especially if she couldn’t live it with Dev.
Dev sat at his desk with his head in his hands. He let out a long frustrated breath as he studied words that made no sense to him whatsoever. “In plain sight on the banks of the Champs-Élysées, the girdle lies hidden away. At the brink of the darkest night, the location fills your sight. To see what can never be found, look for the circle round. To reclaim that which the gods rescind, you must face mightiest Whirlwind.”
The Champs-Élysées was a road in Paris and there was a circle at the end of it. While it was near the water, it wasn’t on the water. So how could it have a bank?
And never mind that whole whirlwind nonsense. He’d never known something like that to strike Paris.
“This is hopeless,” he muttered as he reached for his iPhone to Google info on Paris. Even with all of this being a long, long shot, he wasn’t going to give up.
Not on Sam.
A knock sounded on his door. “I’m busy,” he called, assuming it was Aimee wanting to annoy him with something petty like he forgot to put the seat down on the toilet or left a sock in the bathroom. She was forever yelling at him over bullshit.
He paused at Fang’s muffled voice. “Yeah?”
Fang pushed the door open. “We know where you need to go.”
“The mental ward?”
Fang laughed. “Yeah, but I was talking about your current matter, not your long-standing reservation.” He slid a meaningful glare at the paper Dev was studying.
A whisper of hope ignited inside him. “You know where the girdle is?”
“I don’t. But I think I know someone who does.” Fang opened the door wider to show him a flickering image of Sam.
A dagger of relief plunged so deep into him that it actually made his eyes water. Before he could think better of it, he was on his feet and across the room. His heart hammering, he went to pull Sam into his arms only to learn that his hands passed right through her body.
What the hell?
She smiled at him. “I’m not exactly corporeal.”
Fear exploded inside him. “Are you dead?”
“No,” she and Fang said simultaneously.
Sam indicated Fang with her thumb. “Amaranda and Fang combined their powers so that I could help you do this.”
Dev scowled. “Help how?”
“You’re French. You know nothing about Greece. Meanwhile, I’m a walking encyclopedia on the subject.”
Fang shook his head in denial. “My last name’s Greek, but I was born in medieval England. Believe me, I know very little about Greece.”
“As I said,” Sam’s tone was firm, “I can help you both.”
Yeah, if he was willing to risk it. But he wasn’t. “I have to do this alone.”
Fang stepped forward. “No, you don’t.”
Dev cut him off. “Look, dude, the only thing that scares me more than Thorn is my sister. Trust me, anything happens to you and she’s going to sugarcoat my boys and eat them for breakfast.” He locked gazes with Sam. “And I can’t risk you.”
“Because you’re not the only one who has issues with people dying around them.”
She let out an aggravated sigh. “Well, it’s kind of hard to die when things go right through me. Unlike you.”
She had a point. But he still wasn’t ready to give in. “Thorn’s clue wasn’t about Greece. It was about Paris. That’s where I was born and it’s my territory.”
She scoffed. “Don’t be silly, Dev. There’s more to the clue than what Thorn said. Nothing is ever that overt. Not when dealing with beings like him.”
“How about this? I refuse to let you go.”
She gave him no quarter. “What you say against this doesn’t matter. The die is cast. I’m here and as Thorn said, the clock’s ticking. So you either deal with me or you’re going to waste so much time that we’re both sunk.”
Fang scratched the back of his neck as if their argument made him uneasy. “Damn, Dev, don’t you know anything about women? You leave her behind and she’ll only find another way to follow you and probably get hurt doing it. She goes with us, at least you have a chance to protect her and you can definitely watch over her.”
He clenched his teeth, wanting to choke both of them, but Fang was correct. Sam’s obstinacy knew no boundaries. “All right. You said you know where we’re supposed to go?”
Dev lifted one brow. “The Greek god of the Underworld?”
She nodded. “In plain sight on the banks of the Champs-Élysées—that’s French for the Elysian Fields”—Duh, he knew that. He’d just temporarily forgotten it.—“which is in the Underworld, also known as Hades. The Underworld has five rivers running through it. I assume one of them has the banks where the girdle is kept.”
That did make more sense than what he’d been thinking and if it was in the Underworld, there would most likely be a freak whirlwind and other hazards. “What about the rest of the riddle?”
“They must be clues we’ll find once we’re there. But you’ll need me to translate them.”
Dev snorted. Yeah, ’cause he was too illiterate to figure it out.
And he still wasn’t sold on taking her with him. Her safety would be a big distraction for him…as would the fact that right now all he could really think about was kissing her—once he choked her.
Hard to think straight when her mere presence, even non-corporeal, gave him a flaming hard-on.
“Couldn’t we have taken Ethon and used him to decipher it?” he mumbled under his breath.
Sam grinned. “Ethon’s not as cute.”
Yeah, but if Ethon died, Dev really wouldn’t care. Hell, he might even offer him up as a sacrifice if they needed one.
Which begged the next question he asked her and Fang. “So how do we get to Hades, anyway?”
They exchanged a confused stare.
Dev cursed as a wave of nausea went through him over that look. So much for all their bravado. “You don’t know. Miss I’m-Greek-and-know-my-legends, you don’t have a clue, do you?”
She made a face at him. “I have a clue. The Underworld is located beyond the western horizon. Odysseus reached it by sailing from Circe’s Island.”
Dev was impressed. Maybe they stood a chance after all. “Which is where?”
She bit her lip before she answered in a low tone. “It kind of sank and was lost. No one’s sure where it was anymore.”
So much for being useful. Dev let out a short “heh” sound. “That’s what I thought. We’re in the deep end with cinder-block shoes chained on our feet and no bolt cutter.” He went to the desk and picked up his phone.
Sam moved to stand right behind him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m using my help line to call in the one real expert on this subject.”
Sam widened her eyes. “Artemis?”
Dev would have laughed, but he knew better. It would only offend her and if she ever made it back into her body, she’d exact revenge on him for it—and she wouldn’t be naked when she did it. “I don’t think she’d take my call.” He paused as his expert picked up. “Hey Ash…I have a situation here.”
After Dev had explained what was going on, Ash manifested into the room between him and Fang. He leveled a killing glare at Sam before he swept them with the same chilling look. “Are you people out of your ever-lovin’ minds?”
Dev gave the collective answer. “Yes.” He glanced over to Sam. “But at least me and Fang are still in our bodies.” He jerked his head toward Sam. “Unlike some people I can name.”
Ash growled deep in his throat as he held his finger up and kept a silent beat with it that made Dev think he was counting to ten before he spoke again. The look on his face said he was trying not to break Atlantean all over them. “At least the Daimons won’t get you there. Other demons and gods might eat all your entrails, but your souls are safe.” His attention went to Sam. “You I expected better of.” He turned his swirling silver gaze to Dev and Fang. “You two not so much.”
Dev shrugged his anger aside. Not like Ash hadn’t ever done something stupid. Hell, he’d even witnessed a few of Ash’s more award-winning moments of dumb. “You want to play tour guide with us?”
Ash sighed. “Not that easy. I can’t enter there without negotiating with Hades, who isn’t exactly keen on letting me into his space.”
“Politics, and right now with Persephone not around, only an idiot would try to negotiate anything with him. He’s not in the best of moods.” His gaze went back to Sam. “And as a Dark-Hunter you’re not supposed to be around any god, you know that. They will destroy you on sight and that includes your semi-real state that you’re currently in.”
Before she could respond, Dev broke in. “Can’t we avoid them? How many gods are there in the Underworld anyway?”
“Oh…tons.” Ash’s tone was as dry as his stare. “Hades isn’t the only one with a grim Goth fixation. He has an entire court of gods and demigods who hang out with him. Many for the sole reason they get to torture the damned, which means they possess a total lack of empathy or regard for anyone else and they’re constantly on the move in the Underworld. Chances of running into one are pretty stellar and that’s without Murphy’s Law coming into play.”
Dev scratched the back of his neck as that unwanted news put a crimp in their plans. “That settles it then. Sam stays behind.”
Heat suffused her cheeks. “Like hell.”
But he was in no mood to back down. “Like nothing.”
Her eyes blazing with fury, she stood toe to toe with him. “You’re not going without me. I won’t allow it.”
Dev growled, knowing she wouldn’t give even an inch. So he turned to a reinforcement she had to listen to. “Ash, tell her to stay put.”
“Can’t.” Ash had drifted to the desk to look over the riddle Dev had written down.
“What do you mean?” Dev asked.
Ignoring the question, Ash picked up the paper. “Are these your clues?”
Ash rolled his eyes and let out a short, bitter laugh. “Of course they are…” He locked stares with Dev. “Thorn set your ass up, Bear. You guys don’t have to search Hades for the girdle. I can tell you right now exactly where it is.”
“And that would be?”
“Down the street.”
That news hit Dev like a punch. “Excuse me?”
Ash read the clues out loud. “In plain sight on the banks of the Champs-Élysées, the girdle lies hidden away. At the brink of the darkest night, the location fills your sight. To see what can never be found, look for the circle round. To reclaim that which the gods rescind, you must face mightiest Whirlwind.” He turned his gaze to Sam. “You should know who the mightiest Whirlwind is. At one time, she was the guardian of the girdle.”
He inclined his head to her.
Dev was more confused than ever. “Who’s Aello?”
“My grandmother’s right hand and bodyguard. She was the first one to fight Herakles when he came for the girdle and she was the first one he killed.”
Dev gestured for her to elaborate. “And that’s important to this how?”
Ash returned the paper to the table. “She’s basically invincible.”
“Apparently not if Hercules handed her her lunch.”
Ash followed the line of his eyebrow with his middle finger. “That’s because he was wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion at the time. Anyone care to venture where they think that trophy currently is?”
Dev didn’t need to guess. He already knew. “Somewhere not good or handy and I’m sure retrieving it would be a death-defying act of courage.”
Ash sarcastically rang an invisible bell with his hand. “Ding, ding, ding. Give that boy a trophy.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “And without it, you won’t be wearing a cloak of invincibility when you face her like old Herc was, and I should probably add that you won’t be fighting her while she’s human…. She’s now a man-hating, angry spirit who craves blood and can’t be killed.”
Dev rolled his eyes. “Well, thank you Mr. Cranky Pants, but right now, I think a more optimistic outlook would be more productive. Unless you know some way to schmooze Thorn into freeing Sam and letting me off the hook, we have to try something and as bad as this is, it’s all we got.”
Ash rubbed his head like he was contracting Dev’s earlier migraine. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Thorn’s not real fond of me…. Fine. There’s nothing to be done until sunset.”
Dev didn’t understand that. “You said it’s just down the street. Why do we have to wait?”
“In another dimension, Sparky. One you can’t access until sunset, hence the darkness line on your page.”
Oh, that made sense…now. Funny how riddles seemed easy when you knew the answers. And since Ash was being so chatty…“Anything else we need to know?”
“Yeah. The circle round part?”
“What about it?”
“It refers both to the location you’ll need to travel to and to the shifting cycle.”
Dev’s gut clenched at something he was sure wasn’t going to be pleasant for them. “Shifting wha—?”
Ash glanced at each one of them before he came back to Dev. “You guys are going to head into a trap maze that will constantly shift and you’ll have to navigate it to the center where Aello will be waiting to battle. Think of it like a bad video game. Just when you think you’re all right, the floor will drop out from under you and the walls will shift and leave you dizzy…or dead…and all without the extra life points.”
Fang rubbed his hands together. “And will you be joining us on this fun suicide run?”
“Love to, but can’t.”
“Why not?” Sam asked.
“If I go, Thorn will cry foul and refuse to honor his part of the bargain by saying you cheated with me.”
Dev frowned. “Won’t he do that with Fang?”
“No. Fang’s not omnipotent. There’s a good chance Fang could get killed. With me, not so much.”
Sam screwed her face up. “That’s just sick.”
Ash shrugged. “No one’s going to argue anything else. Thorn doesn’t exactly have many friends.”
“I’ve noticed,” Fang said under his breath.
Ash inclined his head to Dev. “Remember, you have to get to the center and defeat the guardian.”
“How do we get back?”
“No idea. I’ve never been inside the maze.”
Dev sighed. “This would be funny if it wasn’t pathetic.”
Ash cut a wide grin. “Welcome to my existence. Now if you’ll excuse me?”
“Wait!” Sam stopped him from leaving. “We still don’t know what to do to get there. You said it’s another dimension?”
Ash nodded. “Drive to the end of Elysian Fields where it connects to UNO. There’s a circle there. Stand at the outer edge, facing Pontchartrain and—”
“Won’t the Research and Tech Park interfere with the view?” Fang asked, interrupting him.
“Not for long.”
Dev was still baffled. “But there’s nothing in the circle. It’s empty.”
Ash held his hands up in surrender. “I didn’t create the hole. I’m just telling you how to access it. Face the park and the moment the sun sets below the horizon, the way will be shown. It’ll only last for sixty seconds. Move fast. Once the door closes, it won’t be open until the next sunset.”
“Which is out of time for us,” Sam said under her breath.
Ash nodded. “Good luck, guys.” This time he vanished before they could ask him anything else.
Fang blew out an elongated breath before he looked over at Dev. “Since there’s nothing we can do for the next few hours, I’m cutting out of here to spend time with my wife…just in case I don’t make it back.”
Sounded like a good plan to him. Fang left the room through the door. A weird move for a Were-Hunter but sometimes in their chaotic paranormal existence you just needed to be normal.
Now alone with Sam, Dev wished he could touch her. She looked so sad that it made him ache for her and all he wanted was to see her smile again. “We’ll get the girdle, babe. Trust me.”
Sam wanted to believe him, but she couldn’t get her premonition out of her mind. Over and over, she saw Dev dead. It was so clear. So torturous. What would she do if he went down?
Would she be able to survive it?
“I wish you hadn’t made this bargain with Thorn.”
Dev offered her the kindest, gentlest smile she’d ever seen. “We’re both fighters. You know what I do. We won’t go out lightly and we’ll find some way to defeat her. Believe in me.”
If only it were that easy, but she knew the ferocity of her people. Yes, the Amazons were women and physically weaker than men. However there had never been a more skilled set of warriors assembled and Aello had been one of their best.
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.
“Gods, I hope that’s not for us,” Fang mumbled.
Dev snorted. “Oh, you know it is. That’s our luck, mon frère.” He glared at the horizon. “C’mon sunset. Don’t fail us.”
Fang scoffed at his words. “Fail us, hell. The police show up and I’m flashing home. I say we leave the Dogs here to get their own butts out of the sling.”
“Screw you, Wolf,” Ethon snapped.
Dev held his hand up to silence them. “Look.”
Sam didn’t see anything until the last ray vanished. Then there was a slight shimmering just a few feet in front of them. The kind that most would dismiss as a summer haze. Heat coming off the pavement.
But it wasn’t that.
“Dev…” Fang’s voice was stern as the sound of speeding cars drew closer.
Sam saw the police lights.
“Hunters, rise!” Dev ordered.
Ethon and Scorpio rolled out from under the blanket at the same time the police shouted at them to freeze. Ignoring them, they ran forward.
Sam heard the sound of guns firing. One second she was shouting at Dev to dodge the bullet headed at his back, the next everything was different.
The terrain remained the same. But the street and buildings were gone. A bright, piercing light bathed everything in an overexposed glow. What ever the source, it obviously wasn’t sunlight since neither Scorpio nor Ethon were blistering from it.
Sam lifted her hand to shield her eyes as she looked over the men to make sure they were all right.
They stood like fighters in front of her. Dev with his hip cocked and the others ready to battle. Only there was nothing to fight.
Dev walked a slow circle, taking in their new landscape. “Anyone want to hazard a guess as to which way we should try?”
Ethon wiped his hand over his chin. “I’d say we try GPS tracking, but I’m going to bet we don’t get any satellite reception here. What do you think?”
Scorpio answered by releasing the spikes in his vambraces so that they stood out like a porcupine’s quills. Without a word to any of them, he headed for the black water that lapped against a light gray beach.
“Guess we’re going north,” Dev said slowly. “Everyone, follow Lassie. Timmy’s in the well.”
Scorpio raised his left arm. Interesting that with the blade extended, it looked like a vicious “FU” to Dev.
Ethon clapped Dev on the back. “Careful, Bear. I think you made Lassie mad. Remember in his case the bite is definitely more fatal than the bark.”
Just as they neared the water, the ground under their feet started shifting. Fang cursed as it split apart and he started to fall into a ravine. Shifting forms from human to wolf, he leapt clear while Dev and the others ran to stable ground.
With her current form, Sam was in no danger. She floated over the shifting ground to hover near the men who were watching their feet suspiciously.
“That was close.”
The men ignored her.
Frowning, Sam waved her hand to get their attention. They all four acted like she was invisible.
What in the world?
Irritated at them and scared that she was becoming even more of a ghost than she’d been before, she opened her mouth to chastise them. But the moment she did, she heard a deep, vicious growl coming toward her.
Turning her head, she gasped. It was a herd of leucrotae. Ferocious wolf-dogs who could feign the voice of people in order to lure their prey into closer range. The Greek historian Photius had once described them as “brave as a lion, swift as a horse, and strong as a bull. They cannot be overcome by any weapon of steel….”
And they were headed straight for them.