Fang ignored that last bit. "So how do I get it off?"
Zeke scratched his chin. "Well, my bosses aren’t much more forthcoming with information than yours is. We can try to resurrect Phrixis out of you, which could really suck and not work. It could also kill you. Or we could find the one who summoned him and break the chain she used. That should eradicate the little bugger."
"Why didn’t Thorn tell me that?"
"I told you, we don’t really know what side he’s on. You’ve got to figure either he wants a demon to eat you and get more powerful to fight us. Or he wants you to be more powerful to fight them. Since we don’t know if Good Fang or Bad Fang will win, it’s a dangerous game he’s playing."
"Personally, I want the demon out. How do we find his summoner?"
Ravenna arched a brow at him. "We’re in N’Awlins, boy. Any idea how many people here that could be?"
"Well," Zeke said, "there is a third way."
"And that is?"
"An act so purely good and selfless it drives out the demon."
Fang liked the sound of that one. At least it had the most likely prospect of working and not getting him killed . . . maybe. "What is that? Saving an infant?"
Zeke shrugged. "Don’t know. The PTB aren’t big on specifics."
Ravenna answered for him. "Powers That Be."
"Great. So what do I do? Just hang out and hope the demon leaves or that his summoner just happens to fling himself under my bike?"
Ravenna let out a sinister laugh. "Fasten your seat belts, buddy. It’s going to be a bumpy ride."
"Thanks, Bette. I personally would like something a little more concrete."
Zeke picked his helmet up from the ground. "Well, that’s the best we can do for now. Sorry."
Sorry? That was a word Fang would love to make that man eat. "You mentioned a Malachai. What is that?"
Zeke kicked to scatter the dust of the Reapers who’d finally stopped burning. "Easiest explanation is to think of them like an army of fallen angels. Demonic, cold-blooded, and capable of tearing apart anything that got in their path."
"But you said there was only one left."
Zeke nodded. "At one time, there were two armies. The Sephirii who fought for good and the Malachai who were pure evil. Now we’re down to one of each. The last Sephiroth is enslaved and the last Malachai vanished. We assumed him dead until a few months back when there was a rupture in the ether."
Zeke nodded. "Adarian, the last Malachai, had a son we didn’t know about. Somehow the little bastard was born off our radar. When he came into his powers, it made an unmistakable clamor."
"Where is this last Malachai?"
"That’s the kicker. We don’t know. We’re trying to find him, but whoever is hiding him is determined to keep him under wraps and we don’t know why."
"I’m sure it can’t be good."
"Yeah . . . at any rate, you’ve consigned yourself to a tenuous post. Watch your back, wolf." Zeke tossed his sword into the air. It transformed back into his motorcycle.
Ravenna returned to her raven form and flew off while Zeke started the bike.
"I will try to keep an eye on you, wolf. Just be wary of shadows and keep your eyes open for Phrixis to control you."
Disgusted over this new turn of events, Fang waited until they were gone. He still had no clarity about last night or his future, but one thing was sure, he had no intention of allowing the police to question him until he knew more about what had happened.
And most of all, not until he knew more about what was going on.
Over the next few months as he avoided the cops and his family, Fang learned exactly what Zeke had meant about having a target on his back. He felt like he was back in the Nether Realm as demon after demon pursued him.
But the worst part were the blackouts he kept having where he couldn’t remember what he’d done.
Where he’d been.
He was still alive, but that was the only thing he knew for certain. And as the blackouts became more frequent, he was afraid to go near Aimee. He would wake up with all manner of injuries that he couldn’t explain. Bite marks, wounds, bruises.
If only he knew what they were from.
More people and Were-Hunters were dying and he was beginning to think he was to blame. Every morning, he woke up covered in blood with no explanation for what had caused it.
Fang moved deeper into the swamp, hoping that if he stayed away from everyone he wouldn’t hurt them. Thoughts of harming Vane or Bride, or most important, Aimee, tortured him.
Why couldn’t he remember what he did at night? He wanted desperately to go to Aimee and tell her what was going on, but he didn’t dare. For one, he was evading custody. And two, he was afraid he might inadvertently hurt her during one of his blackouts.
He’d come so close that last time he’d seen her. Had she not kneed him . . .
Fang didn’t want to think about it. He wouldn’t be able to live, knowing he’d hurt her.
What is going on?
"I want you out of me!" he snarled at Phrixis, who was back in his head, telling him to kill.
Why couldn’t he have peace?
Worst of all, he wanted to see his nephew and Aimee. He wanted to have a moment of being held by someone who wasn’t as suspicious of him as he was of himself. But he wouldn’t endanger them.
Not until he knew the truth.
Aimee hung up the phone in frustration as she sat alone in her mother’s office. She wanted to crush the worthless device into a billion pieces.
"You still can’t get him?"
She glanced up to find Dev standing in the doorway, watching her with a concerned frown on his face. "What are you talking about?"
"I know you’re calling Fang."
She started to lie, but why bother? He’d just be able to smell it on her. "I’m worried about him."
"I don’t blame you. Body count is mounting and Stu called to say they’ve set up a special task force to bring him in."
Stu had been keeping them all posted about the killings. Each one had looked like an animal had done it. Like a wolf or a dog.
But the bloodiest kills had been the Were-Hunters, all Arcadians, who’d died. No regular animal would have the abilities to do that. There was another Were-Hunter out there preying on them.
Aimee swallowed the cold lump in her throat as she considered a possibility she really didn’t want to think about. "Do you think he’s guilty of killing them?"
Dev sighed. "Eight of the dead are Were-Hunters. It doesn’t look good for him."
No, it didn’t. And the fact he wouldn’t talk to her just made it worse. Not to mention, he was no longer staying with Vane. No one knew where he was.
And that made her want to weep.
She looked past Dev’s shoulder at Maman’s call in the hallway. She stood up and moved toward him to make room at the desk for her mother. "Yes?"
Dev stepped aside so that Maman could enter. "A special session of the Omegrion has been called. I think you should attend."
Aimee frowned at the unusual request. "Why?"
"Because it’s about Fang."
Her heart sank so fast that she was dizzy. Dev caught her against him. "I’ll go with you."
She nodded, grateful for his support. "Thank you, Maman, for telling me."
Her mother inclined her head.
Patting Dev on his arm, Aimee left him and went upstairs to dress herself in a conservative gray suit. She’d never been to the council before and had no idea what to expect.
Dev met her downstairs, dressed in jeans and a dark blue button-down shirt. He stood next to Maman. Aimee paused as she saw them there together. Her mother was so statuesque and exquisitely beautiful. Regal to the marrow of her bones. Her mother possessed such a feminine elegance that Aimee had always felt like an ugly duckling in comparison.
Though they didn’t always agree, she loved that woman with all of her heart. And she wished she could be more like her and make her proud.
Dev was his usual kicked-back, charming self. Though he lacked Maman’s refinement that had been passed to Zar and Alain, there was something absolutely compelling about his down-to-earth charisma.
"Are we ready, mes enfants?"
Aimee took Dev’s hand. "We’re ready."
Maman flashed them to Neratiti, the mysterious island home of Savitar. It was an island that moved constantly throughout the world as Savitar, a devout surfer, sought the perfect wave. He was a being of a thousand contradictions and mysteries.
And one Aimee had only met a few times in her life. To be honest, he scared the bejesus out of her.
But he wasn’t in the room when they arrived. Breathing deeply in relief of that, Aimee took a moment to look around the large circular room. Decorated in burgundy and gold, the room had large open windows that spanned from the top of the gilded ceiling to the black marble floor under her feet. Lushly decorated, it should have been tacky, and yet somehow the elaborate colors and designs worked together to create a beautiful canvas.
A large round table was set in the middle of the room with an impressive throne resting off to the side. She would take a guess that was Savitar’s seat.
Most of the Katagaria were already there and seated at the table. Aimee stepped back, somewhat intimidated by them. Dev stayed by her side with a stoic look that made her wonder what he was thinking.
Maman smirked at the vacant seats as she stepped near a tall, dark-haired panther. "Looks like the Arcadians are holding true to form, eh, Dante?"
"Always chickenshits, Lo. They won’t face us alone even here." He looked past Maman to meet Aimee’s gaze.
Maman smiled warmly as she introduced them. "My daughter. Aimee, meet Dante Pontis."
Aimee extended her hand to him. "You own the Inferno in Minnesota." Though not an official sanctuary itself, it was still a well-known club.
"You know it." He shook her hand, then held it out to Dev. "Good to see you again."
Aimee frowned at the brotherly familiarity between them. "How do you two know each other?"
Dante winked. "Scouting bands . . . and other things."
Aimee held her hand up in protest of what he was about to say.
"That was before Dante mated."
Dante tapped his heart. The love in his eyes said it all. "And I wouldn’t have it any other way, Dev. One day, I hope you know the joy Pandora brings to me."
"Yeah, that’s not what you said when she was pregnant."
Fury and Vane entered the room, their faces grim.
Aimee went over to them immediately. "Have you heard from Fang?"
"No." Vane’s voice was filled with emotion. "I was hoping you had."
She shook her head as the rest of the members flashed in and took seats at the huge round table.
She and Dev stepped back as two large doors were flung open with primal powers that shook the room. Savitar, dressed in a long flowing robe that reminded her of an Egyptian design, strode in with an aura of power so potent, it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
His long dark hair flowed over his shoulders. Dark-complected, he wore a well-trimmed goatee, and when he scanned the room, his deep lavender eyes seemed to glow.
Every member stood as he walked over to his throne. He appeared to be furious and there was a noticeable panic emanating from every creature present.
Savitar glowered at them. "Cop a squat, animals and folks. I don’t want to be here any more than the rest of you so make it fast and get out of my hair. Let’s quickly run down the bullshit pedagogy. Hear ye . . ." He paused as if holding back a desire to hit something. "Who the hell wrote this crap? Welcome to the Omegrion Chamber. Here we gather, one rep from each branch of the two patrias. We come in peace"-he paused to snort derisively-"to make peace. I’m your mediator, Savitar, and if you don’t know that by now, you need to be hit in the head with a jackhammer and replaced because you’re too stupid to represent your patria. But in case you’re dense and forgot, I am the summation of all that was and what will one day be again. I make order from chaos and chaos from order, which is how I got drafted into this shit. Now let’s get on with this before I start splitting your hairs."
His gaze went straight to Maman. "Nicolette, there have been a number of complaints against Sanctuary lately."
Aimee’s panic swelled.
Maman, on the other hand, kept her composure. "Complaints? From whom?"
Savitar leaned to the side as he narrowed his gaze on her. "A group of jackals who say you not only refused to help them apprehend a wanted criminal but that you also gave him their location and set him loose on them."
She opened her mouth to speak, but Savitar held his hand up to silence her. "A pack of wolves has said that when one of your Sanctuary staff attacked them unprovoked in an alley outside of Sanctuary, you not only condoned his actions, but refused to hand him over. Likewise, you knowingly allowed Wren to be falsely accused and pursued by this council. And that you personally attacked a tiger in your own home. There have been others who say that you pick and choose who you help and when, rather than welcome everyone in as you’ve sworn to. What have you to say?"