But before she could think anything else about that, Ash was in the doorway again.
"We’re out of time." He held his hand out to her.
"I don’t have any shoes."
"We’ll cope. Come on."
She took his hand.
Without another word, he hauled her into the hallway, toward the elevators. When the doors opened, he pulled her into a room and motioned for her to be quiet. His actions terrified her. Who was out there?
"Wait here," he mouthed to her before he opened the door and vanished into the hallway.
Tory wasn’t sure what was happening. She only hoped Ash knew what he was doing.
A few seconds later he came back and motioned for her to move quickly. He practically shoved her into the open elevator. But as the doors closed, she looked back toward her room where two very tall men were headed. Dressed all in black, they appeared sinister.
"What about Pam?"
Ash pulled her back so that the doors could close. "She’ll be fine. They know who they’re after."
"Who are they?"
Ash cringed at the question he couldn’t really answer. Demons out to torture her just seemed a bit farfetched, especially since he wasn’t sure how Stryker had known to send them here. "I don’t know their names. But I for one don’t want to introduce myself to them right now."
"Are you sure they won’t hurt Pam?"
He handed his phone to her. "When we get in the car, you can call her."
He didn’t answer since he was focusing all of his power on masking their presence from the demons and on locating the rest of their crew. There were at least ten of them crawling through the hospital. He could shield his powers from them and mask Tory’s looks.
At least from everything except an archdemon. Born of a demon’s union with a god, they were a unique and highly unpredictable breed. And one of them was in the hospital leading the others.
Ash led her to the parking lot and over to his silver metallic Porsche 911 GT2. He opened the passenger door while he scanned the lot.
She paused in the opening. "Please tell me we’re not stealing this."
"It’s mine." He dangled the fat Porsche key in front of her.
Tory was still suspicious. Having done the Porsche driving school a few years ago just for fun, she’d learned the various models and their price tags. This was the creme de la creme of Porsche-and it drove like a badass dream. She’d wanted one so badly she could taste it, but the price tag was way out of her reach. "You own a quarter-million-dollar car?"
"Give or take a few ten thousand, yeah. Now get in."
Tory wasn’t completely convinced. How on earth could he afford a car like this? But as she looked over at the driver’s seat and realized that it was definitely designed for a very tall human, she couldn’t deny the obvious. It had to be his. She got in as he slid into the driver’s side.
Yeah, the car fit him like a glove and the fact that he knew the key went in on the left hand side said he’d been in the car enough not to hesitate with it.
As Ash shut his door, she looked up at the shout to see a large brown-haired man running toward them.
"Buckle up." Ash slammed the gearshift into reverse.
The man ran up onto the back of Ash’s car.
"Oh you f**ker," Ash snarled angrily. "Getting paw prints on my car . . . I swear, you scratch it, you die." He slammed on the brakes and sent the man flying onto a parked blue sedan.
Ash turned the steering wheel sharply and headed straight for the man who had rolled to the ground.
Tory cringed as she expected them to plow straight into him. Just as they reached him, he jumped out of the way with an astounding agility.
"You’re crazy, aren’t you?"
Ash didn’t answer her as he took a corner so fast, she swore she felt a 2G pull. There on the street was a white BMW that fell in behind them.
"We’re being followed."
Ash cursed at the sight of them in his mirror. More demons. But he was grateful they were at least attempting to blend in. Stryker must have had a talk with them about keeping anonymity in the human realm. Their inhibition to blast him leveled the playing field since he couldn’t use his powers outright either.
Downshifting, he cut through traffic, heading toward the interstate. He needed to get them out of the populated areas before an innocent was hurt. Something easier said than done as two more cars appeared and then opened fire on them.
Ash threw a shield up to protect the car. He tried to use his powers to flip over the cars chasing them or at the very least stall the engines, but because they were demons inside and not humans, they countered his abilities with their own.
"My God," Tory gasped. "Do they suck at shooting or what?"
He didn’t comment as he caught sight of four sleek black Honda Blackbirds closing in on them. Two of the bikes had double riders and the rider on the back was loaded for bear with KACs 6x35mm PDW that they pulled out from under their jackets.
Ash cursed. "Looks like they’re opening for business."
At least that was what he thought until one of the motorcycles opened fire on the cars after them.
Tory scowled at the sight of the bikers helping them. "Friends of yours?"
"Not that I know of." If not for the fact they were using guns, he’d suspect Were-Hunters since many of them used motorcycles to travel by while in human form. But Were-Hunters would be fighting with magic.
The bikes fell into formation, forcing the BMW to drive into the retaining wall. Then they moved on to the other Beamer before they made short work of it, too.
Ash gunned the engine as they approached. At least until he realized they were definitely on his side. He swerved to the shoulder, then slammed on the brakes.
"Wait here," he said as he got out to confront the riders.
They stopped a few feet behind his car. The two who were armed swung off first and turned their backs to him as they scanned the road for more demons. But what caught his attention most was the gold sun symbol emblazoned on the back of their Brazilian leather Stitch suits.
His mother’s symbol.
The drivers got off the bikes in unison and approached him like a single trained unit. They stopped before him and stood wide legged until they each brought their right fist to their left shoulder and bowed their heads. Then they sank down to one knee right there in the street.
What the hell was this?
The one who was the leader got up and removed her helmet. She was breathtakingly beautiful with long blond hair that fell in waves around her shoulders. In the leathers, her broad shoulders would make her easily mistaken for a man, but there was nothing masculine about her. "Sorry we couldn’t arrange a better introduction. I’m Katherine Zanakis, head priestess of the Apollymachi."
Ash looked over them as he realized they were all human women in service to his mother. "What are you doing here?"
Katherine moved to the side as the others rose and another one came forward and removed her helmet. Very cute and probably a good ten years older than Katherine, she had short black hair and warm eyes.
He turned at Tory’s confused call to scowl at the imp who was running to join them. "I thought I told you to stay in the car."
"I don’t listen," she said dismissively as she joined him.
Justina came forward and pulled the messenger bag off her shoulder. "I was told to deliver this to you." She handed the bag to Tory.
Tory looked as confused by the gift as he felt. "What is it?"
"It’s what Dimitri died for," Justina explained. "I was there when the Atlantikoinonia stormed in and I managed to escape out the back door with the journal and seal while he held them off." Justina crossed herself three times as her eyes filled with tears over their lost friend.
Ash cursed as he remembered seeing Justina in his vision. Only then he hadn’t realized whose side she’d been on. He’d assumed she’d been working for their enemies.
"The Atlantikoinonia?" Tory asked Justina.
"A group of lunatics," Justina spat. "They’ve chased us all the way from Greece to New Orleans. Every time we turn around, there they are trying to nab the journal."
Katherine nodded. "They’re a group of men who are sworn to protect the secrets of Atlantis and they’re ruthless."
"They destroyed our boat," Justina told Tory. "I killed one of them as he fled and that’s what made me run to Dimitiri to get the journal. I didn’t realize how important our research was until then."
Tory shook her head as if all this was making her dizzy. "I am so confused."
Ash put an arm around her to hold her steady. "She also just had surgery and was almost killed earlier today. Not to mention, our friends might find us again and when they do, I don’t want to be in the open where they can get her or take a clear shot at us. Do you guys know where Sanctuary is on Ursulines?"
"I do," one of the women with the KACs said.
"Then we’ll meet you there." Ash went to open the door for Tory who gave him a hard stare.
"What exactly is going on here, Ash?"
"I’m not sure, but I think we’re about to get a few answers."
"Good. ‘Cause I’m tired of being in the dark." Tory got in and started to open the bag in her lap, but Ash put his hand on hers.
"I’d rather you not do that."
She looked up with a frown. "Why?"
Because you’ll expose me. "Let’s wait until we get to Sanctuary." And I can safely get it away from you.
"All right." Her blind trust sent a wave of guilt through him. She folded her arms around the bag and held it tight, not knowing it was his life and dignity she held so close to her heart. Every secret he’d worked so damn hard to keep was right there . . .
He wanted to curse. His stomach knotted, he went to the other side and slid in before he led the way back to the Quarter.
Tory ran her hand over the sand beige leather interior of his car as if she admired the German styling. "You know what I think is so off about these cars?"
He had no idea. There was nothing he found off about them. He loved his Porsche. "What?"
He laughed. They were tucked into the trim which had to be flipped down so that they could swing out and unfold. "Yeah. Transformers. Cupholders in disguise. But that’s not really what’s on your mind, is it?"
"No. I’m trying to distract myself from the fact that I’m holding something in my lap that someone is ready to kill for. That one of my dearest friends paid for this discovery with his life and that if I’d just left Atlantis alone, Dimitri would be alive now. His wife wouldn’t be a widow and his poor mother wouldn’t be burying her only son." She winced. "I can’t believe my selfish stupidity killed someone. What have I done?"
Ash’s heart lurched as he thought about Nick. "It’s easy to make mistakes. It’s living with the consequences of them that’s the hardest."
"Tell me about it. Do you have any secret spy ring that helps with the pain?"
"I wish, but no. There are some pains that run too deep for anything to absolve them. The best we can do is pick up the pieces and hope for the strength we need to keep going."
"Is that what you do?"
"No, I beat shit up-that helps even more."
She gave a light laugh. "I can’t see you being that harsh."
She had no idea, but he was glad she didn’t know the part of him that was capable of complete destruction.
Tory leaned her head against the glass and stared out the window.
They didn’t say anything more until Ash pulled into the small driveway behind Sanctuary. The priestesses parked on the street while he led Tory toward the front door.
Dev Peltier was guarding it in human form . . . while it was still daylight. There were two kinds of Were-Hunters. Those born as humans who could become animals and those who were animals who could become human. During the daylight hours, Were-Hunters preferred their native form which for Dev would be a bear. The fact he was human made Ash extremely curious since only the most powerful of their breed could do that.
As a man, Dev wasn’t much shorter than Ash. He had long curly blond hair and a dimple that only flashed when he talked since the bear didn’t smile often. Dressed in jeans and a black Sanctuary staff T-shirt, he sat with a deceptive nonchalance. Even in human form, he could launch into action fast enough to give Ash a run for his money. But what amused Ash most was the Dark-Hunter bow and arrow Dev had on his biceps. He wasn’t sure why the bear thought it was funny to wear the mark of Artemis, but Dev wore it proudly.
And as soon as Dev saw him, he reached to the small remote on his belt to cue the song "Sweet Home Alabama" to play inside the bar, alerting the rest of the inhuman inhabitants that Ash was about to enter the building. It was a game they played. Since the Were-Hunters were cousins to the Apollites, they often sheltered Apollites and Daimons. Ash, being a Dark-Hunter, would be obliged to kill any Daimons he found which meant the Daimons would be running for cover right about now.
The Apollites preferred to not see a Dark-Hunter so they made themselves just as scarce whenever he was around.