Bad Moon Rising (Page 20)

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Bad Moon Rising (Dark-Hunter #18)(20)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

She shrugged. "We could always invite them to Sanctuary and kill them out back."

He rolled his eyes at her. "You’ve gone mental, haven’t you?"

"Well, I’m out here with you. It kind of says it all."

He let out a long-suffering sigh as if she were torturing him. "And to think I could be at the door right now, checking out long legs and short skirts."

She gestured toward the street. "Don’t let me keep you."

Dev’s face went pale as he looked past her.

Aimee turned her head to see what he was looking at, then froze as she saw the shadows stepping out of the walls. These weren’t Daimons.

They were demons.

And they were coming for them.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

"No!" Fang shouted as he saw images on the cave’s wall of Misery and company surrounding Aimee and Dev.

He slammed his fist against the rock, ignoring the pain, as he realized he was about to be the death of another woman. It was just like Stephanie all over again. His enemies had found her because of him.

When will I learn? Women were to be protected and he was cursed where they were concerned. It was why he’d tried so hard not to get close to another one.

Aimee shouldn’t mean anything to him, but she did, and the thought of her dying tore him apart.

Growling in frustration, he threw his back against the wall so that he wouldn’t have to watch her die. But it didn’t work. In his mind, he saw what was about to happen and it sickened him.

What could he do? He was trapped here with hardly any powers or much strength. There was nothing here but soul-sucking demons.

Demons . . .

In that instant he knew what he could do to save her. There was one thing a demon and a Daimon had in common. One thing they both needed to thrive and survive.

A soul.

And while he may not have all of his, he had enough of one to entice them.

Fang threw his sword down into the black water. "Demons!" he shouted. "I have a soul for you! Come get some."

No sooner had the words left his lips than the sound of a thousand wings filled his ears. The stench of sulphur and demon body odor invaded his nostrils. He hated this. But he had no choice.

It was him or her and he wasn’t about to let it be her.

"Are you out of your ever-loving mind?"

He scowled as a tall, lean man appeared beside him. Dressed in a bloodred cloak that covered black spiked armor, he had eyes so light a blue they were piercing. His brown hair was shoulder length with the front of it falling into those eyes that seemed to hold the wisdom of eternity.

And a cruelty that was unrivaled.

Completely calm against the invading horde, he cocked one finely arched brow. "What are you trying to do?"

Fang refused to answer. "Who are you?"

One side of his mouth quirked up into a hint of a taunting grin. "At the moment, the only friend you have."

"Yeah, right."

The demons came rushing in.

Fang braced himself for their attack. "My soul is-" A muzzle appeared over his face.

The man winced. "Don’t even say it, kid. You have no idea what it means to have your soul sold. Trust me. It ain’t pleasant and you really don’t want to offer it up to this bunch. Not when you can do so much better with it."

Fang glared at him as he blasted him.

He absorbed the blast without flinching or moving. "Don’t waste the energy. It takes something a lot stronger than you to budge me." Turning around, he shot a bolt of fire at the demons.

Screeching, they retreated.

His face a mask of utter irritation, he pulled a small cell phone from his right greave and held it like a walkie-talkie. "Break them down and send them back."

"Do we have to be nice?" a thickly accented male voice asked.

"Hell, no. Make them suffer."

"Thanks, boss."

The man returned the phone to his armor and met Fang’s baffled expression. "Oh. Sorry about the muzzle. But it was necessary to protect you from your own stupidity."

It vanished from Fang’s face. He rubbed his jaw where it had been while he glared at the stranger who was too at ease with banishing demons. "Who the hell are you?"

The man laughed. "That’s a little more astute than you realize. The name’s Thorn and as I said, I’m the only friend you have right now."

"No offense, Misery told me that too and you can see how well that’s turned out." He gestured toward the wounds that marred him from head to toe.

Thorn took the sarcasm in stride and returned it with some of his own. "Yeah, well in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not Misery. At least not unless you get on my bad side. Then . . . well, let’s just say those who go there don’t enjoy the experience."

Fang ignored his warning though he could tell by his demeanor that being on Thorn’s bad side could be dire indeed. "Then what are you?"

He lowered his cowl. There was an incongruous air around him. One of power and complete cruelty. Yet at the same time, it was as if he kept that under a tight leash. As if he were at war with himself.

How strange.

"Think of me like a governor or a wrangler. It’s my job to make sure that the inmates here obey the laws, especially when they go out on parole."

"What laws?"

He smiled evilly and ignored Fang’s question entirely. "You’ve surprised me, wolf, and not many people do that . . . at least not in a good way."

"How do you mean?"

Thorn clapped him on the back. One second they were in the cave and in the next inside a grand obsidian hall. Light glowed from iridescent sconces that were shaped into the twisted faces of gargoyles and skeletal hands. The ceiling arched up a good thirty feet with buttresses that had been carved into the shape of human spines. Opulent, huge, and creepy as hell, it was cold and completely uninviting.

The only thing even remotely appealing here was the giant hearth where a massive fire blazed. A hearth that was flanked on each side by the winged skeletons of two Reapers. Both of which still had a dagger wedged in their rib cages.

Fang grimaced at the sight, wondering if they were real or nothing more than morbid decoration.

Or maybe both. . . .

"What is this place?"

Thorn whipped his cloak off with a flourish. The black armor gleamed in the low light that highlighted the deadly spikes on it. "Stygian Hall. Stupid name, I know, but to my credit, I didn’t come up with it. I’m merely the current fool watching over it." A goblet of wine appeared in his hand. He held it out to Fang.

Fang declined to take it.

Thorn laughed evilly. "Afraid I’ve poisoned or drugged it? Trust me, wolf. I don’t need a liquid to do either. If I wanted you dead, I’d be feasting on your meat right now." He took a deep swig of the wine.

Fang was losing patience with all the cryptic bullshit. He’d never had patience for such. "Look, I’m not really chatty and your dramatics are boring the crap out of me. Who are you and why am I here?"

Thorn tossed the cup into the hearth, causing the flames to explode. As those flames curled toward him, his clothes changed from armor into a modern beige suit with a light blue shirt. Instead of an ancient warrior, he looked like a billionaire CEO. Except for his left hand, which was still covered with the metallic claws that had been part of his armor.

"I’m the leader of an elite group of warriors known as Hellchasers."

Fang arched a brow at the name. "Hellchasers?"

Thorn inclined his head. "When demons violate the laws that govern them or decide to skip out on their parole, we’re the ones who deal with them."

"Deal with them how?"

Thorn spread his hand and an image flashed up on the dark wall to Fang’s left. Misery and her crew were being hauled back into their realm in chains. Bloody and bruised, they looked like someone had used their bodies as a target practice. It was obvious the two men bringing them back had been anything but gentle. "In short, we’re bounty hunters without a bounty."

"Then why do it?"

Thorn clenched his fist closed and the image faded. "Mostly for shits and giggles. But if we didn’t do it, the demons would overrun the human realm and it would quickly look like this one."

"Scary thought."

Thorn inclined his head. "Luckily, we think so too, which is why we do what we do."

"So how do I play into this?"

Thorn approached him slowly as he raked a speculative glance over his body as if judging every molecule of his being, inside and out. "You’ve got certain talents that appeal to me. A wolf who’s survived with demons on his own and without his powers . . . impressive."

That did nothing except ignite Fang’s anger. "Yeah, and why didn’t you step in before now?"

"Because I thought you belonged here. That you’d been consigned to this realm for past deeds. It wasn’t until you started to offer your soul up to protect Aimee that I realized you’re here by mistake."

"You’re not very intuitive, are you?"

Instead of being pissed, Thorn took the insult in stride. "Let’s just say I seldom see the good in others. It’s such a rare commodity in the world that I don’t even bother to look for it." Thorn spread his arm out and a banquet of food appeared on the table. "You must be hungry."

"Yeah, and I don’t eat at anyone’s table I don’t know."

One corner of his mouth lifted in bitter amusement. "You’re wise to think that."

"I also know nothing comes without strings." Fang jerked his chin toward the table. "What’s the price of that food?"

"I would say it’s a gift to ease my conscience for leaving you here so long when you didn’t belong, but I have no conscience and honestly don’t give a shit how much you’ve suffered."

"Then why do you corral the demons to protect the human world?"

Thorn let out a long-suffering sigh as if irritated that Fang had brought the subject up. "So apparently I do have a conscience after all. Damned thing that. I keep denying it, but it won’t go away. However, that’s not the point. On Mardi Gras night, a few hundred demons were let loose from Kalosis. Ever heard of it?"

"No."

Thorn shrugged. "In short it’s the Atlantean hell realm. The demons ate a couple of my men and I now find myself rather shorthanded in New Orleans." He opened his mouth as if he were shocked. "Oh, wait! That’s where you’re from . . . now do you see?"

"You want me to help gather them."

"Not exactly. More you’re to help keep tabs on them and if they step over the line, you bring them back over it . . . or kill them."

"And if I refuse?"

Thorn gestured toward the door where the outside winds howled. "You’re free to leave my hall and fend for yourself anytime you want to."

The idea of leaving was less than appealing, but Thorn knew that as much as Fang did. "If I stay?"

"We’ll help your girlfriend and her brother hunt down those Daimons and set you free from here."

Fang wasn’t quite sold on this. There had to be more than what he was relaying. There had to be. "With all your powers, it seems to me you could recruit hundreds of people to do this. Why do you want me?"

Thorn laughed. "There is a certain breed, a certain tiny handful of people who can do what we do and not get slaughtered three seconds out the gate. It’s not about fighting skills or even survival. It’s about character."

Fang scoffed at the mere idea. "I have no character."

Thorn sobered as he closed the distance between them. Those ice blue eyes cut through him as if Thorn was looking deep into his soul and psyche. "There you’re wrong, wolf. You have loyalty and courage. Unrivaled. Two things that are damn near impossible to find. Have you any idea how many people would have allowed Aimee to die rather than offer up their soul to save her? That, my friend, is the rare, rare quality that I can’t teach anyone. You either have it or you don’t. And you happen to have it in spades. That ability to sacrifice yourself for someone else. Priceless."

It didn’t feel priceless. At times it felt more like a curse.

Thorn held his hand out to him. "So will you join me?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Of course you do. I would never impose on your free will."

Funny, it didn’t feel that way. There didn’t seem to be much choice in this at all. He took Thorn’s hand into his. "You keep Aimee safe and I’ll give you my soul."

Thorn’s pupils flashed red so fast that for a moment, Fang thought he might have imagined it. His features stone, he released Fang’s hand. "Boy, I need to teach you to take those words out of your vocabulary. Believe me, they’re not child’s play and neither is what you’re about to join."

 

Dev?"

He pulled Aimee behind him as he faced the demons coming out of the shadows. "We need to get out of here." He shoved her toward the street.

Aimee started to run, but didn’t make it far before another demon cut her off. She tried to flash and couldn’t. "Dev? Can you get us out of here?"

"That power appears broken."

She put her back against Dev’s as the demons drew so close, she could smell the sulphur on them. "What’s going on here?"