Xedrix was the one who answered. "Kill him."
"Xedrix!" Aimee snapped.
"What?" He gave her a look of innocence that would have been comical had it not been Fang’s life they were discussing. "Wolves make good eats. Not as tasty as other things, but they’re not bad. And add on hot sauce. I could make do."
Wanting to serve him up at Sanctuary, she looked at Kerryna. "I can track him and find him." Aimee closed her eyes and thought of Fang.
But for once, nothing was there.
How could this be? Her powers were godlike. She could always track. Yet there was no sign of him anywhere. It was almost like he was dead.
That mere thought was enough to make her want to collapse. You’re stronger than that. . . .
Aimee faced them with a steadiness she didn’t feel. "I can’t find him."
Kerryna looked back to the floor. "He’s a powerful demon. I’m sure he can mask his essence from anyone except a god."
"Then what do we do?"
Xedrix shrugged. His ambivalence was getting on her last nerve.
Narrowing her eyes, Kerryna tapped her chin. "Menyara, I think."
Aimee frowned at a term she’d never heard before. "Is that some kind of funky ceremony?"
Kerryna laughed. "No, it’s a person. She lives here in New Orleans and is the one who helped me when I first arrived. I think if anyone can help you, she’s the one." She turned a pointed stare at Xedrix. "Since you can’t stand her, surely you’ll let me go there alone?"
He brought his left fist to his right shoulder and bowed mockingly. "Yes, akra. Your pleasure is ever my misery."
Kerryna snorted. "I’ll remember that tonight when you want to come to bed."
He looked horrified by her threat. "It was a joke, baby. I didn’t mean a word of it."
She patted him adoringly on the cheek. "We’ll see."
Aimee barely had time to focus before Kerryna took her out of Fang’s room to a small shack of a bright blue house. Even in the darkness, the blue stood out. Colorful, but ubiquitous in design, it looked like any of a hundred row houses in New Orleans’ French Quarter. White lace curtains peeked out from under thick white shutters. It hardly looked like the abode of someone who could defeat a powerful demon.
But if Hello Kitty attacked-watch out!
Kerryna knocked on the door.
After a brief pause, a beautiful African American woman opened it to smile at them. Her long curly hair framed a face that was elegant and exotic. Dressed in a bright yellow sweater that matched the headband she used to hold her hair off her forehead, and jeans, she possessed an aura of fierce power that rippled on the air around them.
There was no doubt that this woman could take on a demon and win.
"Kerry-bell? Who you bring to Menyara’s door, child?" She held her hand out to Aimee. "Come in, ma petite bearswan, and make yourself at home."
Eyes wide, Aimee passed a trepidatious glance at Kerryna. "How do you know who I am?" she asked Menyara.
A slow smile curved her lips and wrinkled her nose. "I know much about this world, child. Both seen and unseen. Now come, there’s a warm pot of Egyptian chamomile tea waiting with lots of honey."
Aimee followed her into the small house that was decorated like the inside of an Egyptian pyramid. Statues of the gods lined the mantel that reminded her more of an altar. Papyrus paintings lined the walls. Decorated with black, golds, and browns, the house had a homey feel to it. Like walking into a beloved grandmother’s house.
Aimee took a seat on the small armchair as Kerryna sat down on the couch while Menyara poured their tea.
Kerryna took a cup from her hand. "I’m sure you know why we’re here."
Menyara held the teapot lid as she poured a cup for Aimee. "I do indeed. But there is much in flux right now. Powers aligning and repelling." She handed the cup to Aimee. "You have made a most powerful enemy, chere. One who will stop at nothing to see you dead."
"I don’t care about that. It’s Fang I’m worried about."
She inclined her head before she poured her own cup. "He walks a shadowy line of deceit. But it is not my place to tell you what he has done. Only he can do that."
"What do you mean?"
Menyara spread her hand out and a perfect ball of fire appeared in the air in front of her face. "We all create things by our wills." She waved her hand over the fireball to make it grow larger. "Every action we take shapes our creations." She cut the ball in half with her bare hand and it dissolved into embers that extinguished on the carpet. "And it can destroy them."
Maybe she was dense, but Aimee didn’t see a connection with that fireball and what was happening with Fang. "That’s all fine and good, but-"
"There is no but, child. Fang is on his course. He must see it through."
Well, bully for her, but from what she’d seen he was having a really hard time of it. "Can’t I help?"
"No. There is nothing to be done. Only he can defeat the demon within."
"There’s no exorcism?"
Menyara knelt on the floor in front of Aimee and took her hands into hers and held them. "Inside us all are pieces of that which makes the negative." She glanced at Kerryna over her shoulder. "Demons are neither good nor bad. Like you, they have many facets. It is that inner essence or drive, if you will, that we all have that guides us through our lives. Sometimes those voices that drive us are whispered memories that live deep inside and cause us such pain that we have no choice except to let it out and to hurt those around us. But at other times, the voice is love and compassion, and it guides us to a gentler place. In the end, we, alone, must choose what path to walk. No one can help us with it."
Aimee shook her head. "I don’t believe that. Our paths collided with each other for a reason. Like you with the ball. One move and we can take that hate and pain away."
Menyara patted her hand. "Now you’re thinking, child. But remember, it is a powerful demon inside him. One who is hungry for blood fire and he will not easily be appeased. Look in your heart and you will see truth."
Kerryna clanged her cup on the saucer at those words. "You told me the heart blinds us."
Menyara laughed at Kerryna. "It does indeed." She pulled a ring from her finger and held it out to Aimee. "Wear this, child. It will protect you."
"When the time comes, you will know."
Aimee looked down at the garnet that was so dark it appeared black. Set in an antique setting of gold latticework, it was beautiful. "Your vagueness reminds me of a man named Acheron Parthenopaeus. You two wouldn’t happen to be related, would you?"
She laughed. "We are old friends and like me Acheron knows when the truth will only hurt. You must find your own way in this. By the very laws of the universe, I’m forbidden to intervene."
"Oh, goody. Thanks." Aimee slid the ring on, then paused. "I’m sorry, Manyara. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful."
"I know, child. Have no fear. Now it is getting late and you should return home. Your wolf will come to you when the time is right for it to be so."
Aimee nodded, then said good night to the two of them. And here she’d been thinking to spend a quiet early-morning cuddle session with Fang. Instead, she was terrified for him.
Flashing back to her own room, she heard a lot of animated talking downstairs in the foyer. What on earth? It was late and most of the staff should be done for the night.
Curious, she opened the door and went to the stairs. There below was her entire family, along with Jasyn, Max, Colt, Carson, and Justin. As she descended the stairs, she heard their discussion.
"So what did the police say?"
"He was one of three killed tonight. They’re thinking it’s gang-related, but since Stu is a Dark-Hunter Squire, he knows better. He said it looked more like a demon attack."
Aimee stumbled on the last stair.
"You a’right?" Dev asked.
"Just testing gravity."
Laughing, he shook his head.
Aimee straightened up, then joined them. "What are you guys talking about?"
"Greg, the Arcadian panther who’d come in two days ago, was found dead in an alley over on Royal Street. There were two more bodies found in Exchange Place. Those human."
Kyle gave her an evil smirk. "They were all drained completely of blood so the cops are thinking vampires."
She scowled. "Daimon kills?"
"No," her father said in a grave tone. "They still had their souls. This was a demon only wanting blood."
And Aimee could only think of one demon new to the city who had been dying for blood.
The one inside Fang. . . .
Fang woke up in a back alley of the French Quarter, his head throbbing as the midmorning sun peeked in through the surrounding buildings to the shadows where he must have collapsed. Every part of his wolf’s body ached.
How had he gotten here?
Shifting his weight, he saw the blood coating his fur, but it wasn’t his blood. Though he was sore, he wasn’t wounded. Yet his body was completely saturated with it as if he’d rolled in it. He could even taste it in his mouth.
He turned human so that he could manifest a bottle of water and at least rinse the warm metallic taste out. It was thick on his taste buds and made him completely nauseated.
After sluicing the taste out, he leaned back against the warm brick wall to look up at the latticework of the metal balcony above his head.
What had happened? Fragmented images of the night before went through his mind like he’d been on some kind of drunken bender. He saw Aimee in his room again. But he hadn’t hurt her. The other images weren’t so clear. They were him with other people . . . one with a Were-Hunter.
A panther . . .
He was fighting the people, two of them . . . or was it three? But he didn’t know why. Closing his eyes, he tried to sort through those images. Still, they were cloudy and confusing. There were growls and insults. Fists and swords. Metal flashing as blood poured.
"Did I kill someone?" He remembered a . . . was it a man fighting with him? Maybe it was a demon. The images weren’t clear enough to really remember. All they did was confuse him. His head pounded.
Needing something to center him, he manifested a cell phone and called Aimee.
He let out a relieved breath the moment he heard her soft voice. He didn’t know what it was about her, but she soothed him all the way to the core of his being. "Hey, baby, I-"
"Where are you?"
He arched a brow at the sharpness of her tone. She sounded panicked and strange. "I don’t know. An alley somewhere."
"What happened to you last night?" Now her words were accusatory. "I tried to find you and couldn’t."
"The police are looking for you."
That slammed into him like a fist. Raking his hand over his head, he tried to make sense of everything. "What?"
"They want to bring you in for questioning. Two humans and a Were-Hunter were killed last night. Greg, who only came here a few days ago, went out to hook up with a woman and never came back. They found him late last night with bite wounds . . . someone had ripped out his jugular." She paused before she whispered, "Everyone thinks it was you, Fang."
Of course they did. ‘Cause let’s face it, in a town riddled with demons, Daimons, and Weres, who else would have done it? Anger sliced through him that he of all people or animals would be the suspect. "What makes them think that?"
"A torn T-shirt was found in the alley with his body. It had your scent all over it."
Oh. Well, that was a little more damning than he wanted. Her words also brought back a flash of someone going for him out of the shadows. Of his shirt being ripped off while he fought them, but he couldn’t remember anything more than that.
Why had they been fighting?
Swallowing hard, Fang clutched the phone in his hand. "What do you think?"
"I . . . I don’t know. You were really out of control when I was with you last night."
Killer. She didn’t say the actual word, but then she didn’t have to. Her tone more than implied it and it cut through him that she could doubt him even a little after all they’d gone through together. Why couldn’t one person, just once, have faith in him?
But no. They always thought the worst where he was concerned.
That was okay, he was used to animals and people not having faith in him. Why should she? His own brother had thought him weak and selfish. Why should Aimee be any different? "Where were they murdered?"
"The humans on Exchange Place and Greg in an alley on Royal."
Fang looked up at the sign he could see from his own alley.
"Shit," he breathed.
Fang hung his head as fear went through him. Maybe he’d done it after all. He couldn’t remember not doing it and obviously he’d fought with someone over something potent. And someone other than him had been hemorrhaging badly. Bad enough, blood had been in his mouth and all over his fur.
Just like he’d bitten into someone’s jugular. . . .