But what he felt for Aimee . . .
It’s wrong, wolf. You shouldn’t even think about her.
Where I am always thou art. Thy image lives within my heart.
That was exactly how he felt about her.
Closing the locket, he kissed it lightly and returned it to his neck. Yeah, it was girly enough to make him want to puke. Still it was Aimee’s and it was obvious she treasured it.
And so would he until he was able to give it back to her in their realm.
Now he couldn’t sleep at all. Flippin’ figured. It was the first time in months that he’d actually felt safe enough to do more than combat nap as he waited to be attacked. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also had the erection from hell. One that was painful and demanding.
Banging his head against the bed, he growled. Yeah, I am in hell. But at least he wasn’t starving or having to fight the demons off. Plus he was stronger now.
Soon he’d be back to himself and back in the world where he belonged and all of this would be behind him.
You’re not serious about recruiting that wolf, are you?"
Thorn didn’t bother to move as he heard Misery’s voice coming out of the shadows behind him. He swilled his wine in the large goblet as he continued to stare into the fire before him-a fire that reminded him of a home he never wanted to claim. "Is there a real reason for this annoyance?"
She came to stand just beside his chair. Draping one arm over the back, she cocked her hip, and looked down lazily at him. "I want to know why you sent your goons after us."
"You broke the law."
She made a sound of disgust before she draped herself in his lap. It was all he could do not to shove her to the floor.
Tracing a fingernail over his cheek, she smiled flirtatiously. "You’re not really going to go there, are you? Come to the dark side with me, love. You know you want to."
Yes, he did. The seductive lure was always there and his father continually sent demons like Misery out to help sway him.
But he refused.
He’d made a vow and by the tiny part of him that was decent, he would not be tempted. Using his powers, he flashed himself out of the chair, causing Misery to spill to the floor, so that he could stand by the fire. "Get thee behind me, Misery. I’m in no mood to deal with you."
She pushed herself to her feet. "Fine. But think about this . . . we gutted your last soldier on the ground in New Orleans. Just wait until you see what we have planned for your wolf."
Every day seemed like forever as Fang trained to fight demons in human form and cursed the Daimons who continued to live. At least Aimee was able to bring him up to speed on what was happening out in the real world, but he was tired of being trapped here. He was tired of demon stench.
Most of all, he was tired of being alone. Aimee was the sole contact he had for the world he’d left behind. That was the hardest part of it. Why wouldn’t Vane talk to him? Was Fury that much better a brother to him that Vane didn’t even remember him anymore?
It was a stupid thought. He knew that and yet it persisted. Probably because he felt betrayed and abandoned by his brother. How could Vane simply dismiss him as a dream and not listen?
How could he not help him when he needed him most?
"Hey, wolf . . . here’s something I think you need to see."
Fang paused as Thorn came into the room where he’d been training. He took the staff from Fang’s hand as images began to flicker on the walls around them.
Uncertain over what to expect, Fang watched as the images became clear and he saw Aimee Peltier in a club that was under construction. There were ladders and paint buckets everywhere, as well as saws and equipment. But the peculiar part was the fact she was surrounded by Charonte demons while her younger brother, Kyle, was standing with her.
A tall, dark-haired Charonte with mottled blue skin shook his head as sound came in. "There’s not a one of us dumb enough to do that."
Aimee flashed him a sweet smile. "C’mon, Xedrix . . . surely one of you is homesick?"
He snorted. "Have you ever actually met the Destroyer?" His tone was acerbic and cold. "You know, there was a time, granted it was before recorded history, but there was a time when she was like a second mother to me. Then the humans had to slaughter her only son and since the day he was resurrected and she was sent back into her hole, she’s been just a little cranky and I had to suffer with perpetual PMS from her for eleven thousand years. No offense, but there’s not enough beer, meat, or beignets in the world to make me go back there."
The demons around him sent up a cheer of agreement.
Aimee sighed. "I have to get into Kalosis."
Xedrix gave her an unsympathetic sneer. "Go eat a Daimon."
Kyle laughed. "That won’t get her in since they tend to turn into dust when they die and torture doesn’t work either. We tried that last night. Little boogers are highly uncooperative."
"And so are we." Xedrix reached for a hammer so that he could return to work.
Aimee turned a pouty look to Kyle that made Fang want to hold her.
Kyle winced, then put himself in front of the demon to cut off his path. "Xed, c’mon. I’ve done a lot for you guys. Can’t you help a brother out? One demon to get us in and out of there. No one has to know."
Xedrix tossed the hammer back into its toolbox. He looked at Aimee. "Why is this so important to you?"
"Fang saved my life. I want to return the favor."
Xedrix scoffed. "Bullshit. People and especially Were-Hunters aren’t that altruistic. Trust me. I’ve been around them since the dawn of time. You little bastards are self-serving to the end. Give me a reason to be suicidal."
Aimee cast a sheepish glance to Kyle before she answered. "He’s important to me."
"And my body parts are extremely important to me."
Thorn turned to look at Fang while the images flickered around him. "Your little bear thinks an awful lot of you, doesn’t she?"
Fang didn’t answer. He was too floored by what she was trying to do on his behalf.
"Please, Xedrix," Aimee begged. "I’ve lost enough people I cared about in my life. I don’t want to lose another. Fang is a good wolf and I can’t leave him like he is. We only have one more Daimon to kill to free him. For once I can save someone I care about. I can’t live with myself knowing that I failed this close to my goal."
A female demon stepped forward and gave Xedrix a chiding stare. "Look at the poor bear. She loves him . . . how could you say no to that?" The demon shook her head, then looked at Aimee. "I’ll take you."
Xedrix held his hand up. "No, you won’t. I won’t risk any of you. You have your freedom, you might as well enjoy it. Apollymi will take mercy on me for the desertion-which only means she’ll kill me quickly as opposed to torturing me first." He sighed heavily. "I’ll take them in."
The demons let out noises of protest.
"You’re our leader," another of the men snapped.
"Yeah, head ass**le, that’s me." Xedrix pulled the towel from his shoulder and handed it to the male who’d spoken. "Enjoy the bar, guys. Remember what Kyle said. Only eat the tourists. No one will miss them." He transformed into his true demon form, complete with black horns and wings. His clothes disintegrated into a loincloth.
He met Aimee’s gaze and his eyes glowed a sinister yellow. "Follow me."
Aimee pulled him to a stop. "Thank you, Xedrix. I really appreciate this."
"Really wish I could say the same. Damn bears, getting demons killed. What did we ever do to you?"
Kyle let out a nervous half-laugh. "Well, you did try to eat me."
Xedrix scoffed. "Man up, Kyle. We only took one small bite."
"And it got infected. That bite hurt for a month."
Aimee laughed. "Be grateful it didn’t turn into rabies or something worse."
Xedrix arched a brow at her comment. "You know, bear, I’d wait on the insults until after I get you inside and return you. It’s not too late yet for my common sense to prevail."
Aimee waved his comments away. "Common sense is seriously overrated. You’re a demon. I thought your motto was ‘spoils to the victor.’"
"No, our motto is ‘everything tastes better with hot sauce.’"
"Then it’s a good thing you guys escaped into Cajun country where we have hot sauce on every corner."
Xedrix flashed her a fanged grin. "Believe me, the beauty of that has not escaped our notice." His features sobering, he took them to the alley behind the club and raised his arm. "I really hope Apollymi’s sleeping right now. . . ." He cut them a menacing stare. "Shield your eyes."
They did and an instant later a brilliant white light flooded the alley.
Aimee grimaced in pain. Even with her eyes shielded, it was excruciating and blinding. Finally, the light faded. She lowered her hand to see a circle of black hovering in the alley.
Xedrix smirked. "Welcome to bolt-hole hell. The only good thing is that we won’t pop into the Daimon central hall at Stryker’s feet. We Charonte have a separate entrance." He gave them a hard stare. "Listen to me and do what I tell you or it will seriously suck to be you. We’re entering the Charonte domain and they are usually hungry."
Aimee nodded. "We’re right behind you."
"Joy of my life," he said, his tone dripping in sarcasm.
Xedrix entered first, slowly. He led them into a dismal black hallway. Raising his arm, he manifested a torch as he continued past doors where they could hear the sound of demons talking. "What does this Daimon look like?"
Kyle answered before she had a chance to speak. "He’s tall and blond."
Xedrix gave him a peeved glare. "Well, that narrows it down to every Daimon here except Stryker. What would that be? Several thousand of them? Could you be a bit more specific and if you tell me he was dressed in black, I’ll kill you myself and spare me the agony of dying."
Aimee shook her head. "You’re a crabby little demon."
"You should meet my master. She’s a true gem." Then without warning, he put his hand on her head and closed his eyes.
Aimee scowled as images poured through her mind like he was scanning her memories by using a fast-forward button. It made her queasy and dizzy.
After a moment, he pulled back. "Cadmon . . . I know where that coward is."
Kyle looked impressed. "So you can like suck out thoughts?"
Xedrix grimaced. "I prefer to suck out guts, but thoughts have their advantages from time to time. Now I suggest you adhere to silence. I’m only one demon among many here and while I . . . well, I really don’t care if you live or die but you do, and since we need Kyle to finish off the club . . . yeah, you have to live, so follow in silence."
Aimee stayed right behind him through the winding hallways and then alleyways of Kalosis. She paused at the sight of the huge palace on the far hill. It glistened like polished jet against the dark background and sky. Sinister and awe-inspiring, she had to admire the beauty of it. "Let me guess," she whispered. "Apollymi’s abode?"
Xedrix nodded. Putting his finger to his lips, he jerked his chin toward a small building across the street from them.
"I can’t be seen here by anyone," he whispered, "or Apollymi will demand my return and death. You two will have to go in and find him."
"How do you know he’s in there?"
He put his hand on her and she saw a perfect image of Cadmon asleep in bed with a woman.
He inclined his head to her. "Good luck."
Aimee hesitated. "Kyle, I want you to stay here with Xedrix."
"No buts. You’re still new to your powers and this is serious. Stay here and don’t get seen."
Aimee slipped through the shadows, making sure to avoid anything that might expose her. Her nerves were completely raw and she did her best not to be afraid. She knew she was powerful and strong, but she’d never had to fight alone before. While she was confident, she wasn’t arrogant. This was a dangerous place and she had no idea of the extent of Cadmon’s powers.
Keep your thoughts on Fang. . . .
That helped. She cracked open the door, grateful it wasn’t locked, and slipped inside the small house. It was so quiet that her mind filled the silence with the thrumming of her heart.
You’re about to slaughter a sleeping man.
She hesitated at the thought. All the other Daimons had attacked her, but this one . . .
He was sleeping at home.
Aimee hesitated as that thought washed over her. How could she possibly do this?
He’s killed hundreds of people to live. He’s not innocent by any means.
He’d attacked Fang when Fang had been tied down and helpless. Powerless. But all of that paled in the face of her conscience. This was murder. Not self-defense. Not justice.
She gripped the stake in her hand. It’s too late to chicken out now. Go and finish it.
How could she?
Stepping back, she bumped into a chair that made the slightest whispered scrape on the floor. Her heart sank.
Still there was no sound.
Thank the gods she hadn’t awakened anyone.