It allowed her to understand him so much better. The power inside her was hungry, but she didn’t know for what. It was like a physical ache.
As if he sensed her thoughts, he turned in her direction. The intensity of his gaze scorched her.
And it was then she smelled the same thing he did . . .
Before she could move, Xypher was there, moving faster than anyone could see. "Your eyes are red," he whispered, putting himself between her and the officers who were still investigating the scene.
She went cold at his words. "What?"
"Your eyes have changed. You need to recognize when it happens so that you can prevent it."
"How bad do they look?"
He looked down at her. Instead of blue, his hides were white, rimmed in red. "They look like this."
She cringed. "What can I do?"
His eyes went back to blue. "Act like you have something in one eye, and I’ll walk you away from the humans."
Bowing her head, she closed her eyes and rubbed the right one. "I don’t like this, Xypher."
"I know. But you’ll get used to the physical cues and then you’ll have more control over the demon part of yourself."
She winced at that. "I don’t want to be a demon."
"Neither did I, but we can’t help who or what our fathers impregnate, can we?"
His words were harsh and they stung her. "My father loved my mother," she said defensively.
He scoffed at her. "You’ve seen what the gallu look like in their demon form. It makes you wonder what land of woman could be attracted to that."
Still Simone wanted to defend her parents. She’d loved them completely. "They met at a bar when my mom was in college."
He frowned. "What?"
"That’s what my mom told me once. She was working as a waitress when my dad came in and they started talking."
Xypher paused as he remembered what Jaden had told him about her parents. "He must have been there scoping out his victim. It’s a wonder he didn’t kill your mother while he was at it."
"My mother said it was love at first sight. As soon as she saw him, she knew he was different from other men … It makes me wonder if she ever knew exactly how different he was. Do you think he told her he was part demon?"
"I don’t know, Simone. You would think, but that was one hell of a secret. I can easily see why he wouldn’t tell her."
So could she. For that matter, how would she ever tell someone what she was? Who, other than Tate and Xypher, would ever believe her?
He stopped her on the sidewalk. "Look at me."
"Are my eyes better?"
He nodded. "Just stay on top of your emotions, and that’ll help."
She swallowed. He made that sound so much easier than it was. Dear Lord, what if she did this during class? They’d never believe it was instantaneous special effects. "I’m scared of this, Xypher. If anyone finds out I’m a demon, I’ll lose everything."
He put his hands on her anus and squeezed them comfortingly. "You’ll be okay. I promise. But can you imagine the fear your father must have had when he decided to be with your mother? He had to abandon everything and everyone he knew. To throw off his shackles like he did . . . That must have been strong love indeed."
"What do you mean?"
"Your father was a bound demon, Simone, with a master he served. When that happens, your master owns you completely until you fulfill whatever indenture contract he holds over you. If you escape that bond before you fulfill that contract, it’s a death sentence. Your father knew that and still he ran."
"To be with my mother."
Xypher nodded. He couldn’t imagine what her father had been thinking or what kind of contract he’d run from. It was . . .
He paused as a scent filled His nostrils. He inhaled deeply before his eyes flashed to red.
"What is it, Xypher?"
Simone and Xypher turned and there on the sheet behind them stood three extremely tall, well-built men. One was lean with jet-black hair that was short in back, but longer in front where it fell over his eyes. The other two were auburn haired and built like weight lifters. But for the orangelike scent of their skin and their strangely do wins eves, they would have appeared human.
The dark-haired one drew closer. "Misafy… "he hissed dangerously as he raked them with a hostile glare. "What brings you here?"
Simone leaned closer to Xypher. "Did he just insult us?"
"Depends on whether or not being called ‘half-blood’ offends you." He locked gazes with the Charonte. "I saw what the gallu did to one of your people. I was looking for you to find out why."
The Charonte moved closer to them with an impressively lethal gait.
"Xedrix," the one on her left said in warning. "We know nothing of them or their powers."
Xedrix ignored him as he drew closer to Simone. Leaning down, he took a deep breath in her hair.
Xypher shoved him back.
Xedrix’s eyes flashed dangerously as he refused to back off. "Katika?" he asked Xypher.
Xedrix went down on one knee before her.
Completely baffled by what had happened, Simone looked to Xypher for an explanation. "Katika? What is that?"
The demon rose up. "You are his owner."
Both of her brows shot up in surprise. She owned Xypher? In what alternate universe would that ever happen? "I am?"
Xypher gave her a look of warning not to say anything else before he turned his attention back to Xedrix. "Pieryol akati. We come without war. Neither of us has an alliance with the gallu."
Xedrix scoffed. "No? You reek of our worst enemies. Greek and gallu. And you expect me to believe that you mean us no harm?"
The demon on Simone’s right stepped forward. "My brother lies dead. I say we kill the male to retaliate."
Xedrix cast a glare that was malevolent enough to be felt over his shoulder at the demon who had spoken. "You know the laws of our people. He’s owned by one who hasn’t declared herself our enemy."
"I will not serve a human-gallu misafy!"
Xedrix threw his hand out and the demon came flying toward him to land in his fist. "You have forgotten yourself, Tyris. The female comes to talk peace, we will listen. We may be brutal but we are not savage." He looked back at Xypher before he released Tyris. "One war like move from you and, Katika or not, we will kill you."
Xypher folded his hands together and held them up to his eyes for the Charoute to see. "No war so long as my Katika isn’t threatened."
"Then we have an accord." Xedrix stepped aside and swung his arm out so that they could pass. "Pieryol akati."
Simone scowled. "What does that mean?"
"Peace is our journey, my lady." Xedrix fell ill behind her. "If you’ll follow Tyris."
Tyris led them toward the building on the left where a small door opened on the other side of a Dumpster.
Simone blinked from the heavy darkness as they entered what appeared to be the backstage area of a club. Everything back here was painted black, including the floor. Gathered black curtains separated the area where they stood from a stage that had the sign CLUB VAMPYRE hanging above it.
The irony wasn’t lost on her. "Nice name."
Xedrix’s eyes flashed red in the dark, "I may not be human, my lady. It doesn’t mean I don’t know sarcasm when I hear it."
As Xedrix led them to the other side of the curtain, Simone gasped. There were at least two dozen more Charonte, and unlike Xedrix and his two companions, these looked like demons. With horns coming out of their heads, their skin was a myriad of colors, usually two per creature, that were marbled in such way as to actually be attractive. Their eyes ran from yellow to white to red or black. Likewise their hair colors ranged from black to brown or auburn. Large, brightly colored wings jutted out of their backs, giving them a strange angelic appearance that was belied by their fangs and battle-honed physiques.
Simone stepped back and bumped into Xypher, who appeared to find what they were walking into totally copasetic. "I think I left my keys outside."
"Relax," Xypher said, wrapping his ami around her waist to keep her from fanning. "You’re not the one in danger."
"How you figure?"
He indicated the group with a tilt of his chin. "By nature the Charonte are an extremely matriarchal race. The males are always subservient to females, which is why I told them you were my owner. That’s the world they understand. And luckily for us, the males usually aren’t as warring in nature as their females are."
He nodded. "Since there’s no female present, I’m thinking we’re relatively safe. Unlike a female Charonte, the males will only attack when ordered to or threatened." One corner of his mouth lifted. "Word to the wise, don’t threaten them. I’m good, but they seriously outnumber me right now."
"Don’t worry. I’m not about to taunt the entire pride in its den." Xypher released her. "Where is your Katika?" he asked Xedris.
Xedrix crossed his arms over his chest. "We are without."
"Did she die?" He shook his head. "We are Dikoniai."
"Male warriors," Xypher whispered in Simone’s ear so that she’d understand.
"A few human years back our Katika was under attack. There was a Greek"-he spat the word out as if it were the most disgusting thing he could imagine-"god who sought to release her from her captivity. She sent us to protect her child and to fight the Greeks who wanted to harm him. We came and we fought. Many of us died and before we few survivors could return home, the portal closed, locking us here in this realm,"
Tyris curled his lip. "And now we’re being assaulted by the gallu. May they all burn and perish in the ashes of a dragon’s scaly ass."
"Oookay," Simone breathed, but she had to give them credit, it was a good curse to give someone you didn’t like. The imagery said it all.
"Why are the gallu attacking you?" Xypher asked. The males refused to answer.
Xypher shook his head at them. So, they knew, they just weren’t willing to share it with him. Perfect. Just perfect. "Let me try this again. What do you have that they want?"
The males moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with their arms crossed. A unified wall of staunch machismo.
Simone shook her head at the sight. "Is it just me or is anyone else getting a case of testosterone poisoning?"
Xypher grimaced "What?"
She held her hand out. "Look at them. Ready to fight to the death rather than answer a simple question . . . you know there’s only one thing I can think of that would make men, especially those who are from a highly matriarchal society, willing to lay down their lives without speaking."
"And that would be?"
Xypher paused as he realized that she was right. It would be the one thing that they’d die to protect. But who was it?
"Where’s the female?" Xypher asked.
Xedrix stepped forward to glare at them. "Get out!"
"It’s all right, Xedrix." The voice was gentle and quiet, and named with the most lilting song-like tone. "I’m not afraid of them."
The male demons began parting as a tiny figure pressed through their center.
When she finally broke through, Simone gasped at the fragile beauty dressed in jeans and a large green sweater-it was the same woman who’d moved into a condo near hers a few weeks back.
Barely five feet tall, she looked like one of the china dolls Liza made. Her skin and lips were so pale as to be luminescent. Long, silvery white hair flowed around her tiny, yet voluptuous body. The only color she had was her silver-gray eyes that glowed against a thick fringe of jet-black lashes.
She couldn’t look more harmless or beautiful.
But the newly awakened demon powers inside Simone sensed the lethal capabilities of the tiny woman. This was the gallu Dimme.
"I’m called Kerryna."
Xypher put himself between Simone and the Dimme. "The gallu and Charonte are vicious enemies. How is it they protect you?"
Kerryna held her hand out to Xedrix who went down on one knee by her side before he clasped it and held it against his heart.
Warmth spread through Simone as she realized that the two of them were in love.
But that didn’t change the fact that Kerryna had killed Gloria and others-
"No, I didn’t."
Simone blinked at Kerryna’s soft words. "What?"
"I didn’t kill Gloria. I’ve only killed two men since I was freed, and I assure you, they both deserved what happened to them. Even you would have ended their lives."
Xypher shook His head in disbelief. "I’m really confused. I was there when you broke out of your cocoon in Nevada."
Kerryna nodded. "I remember you and the god Sin and his woman, Katra. The other god, Zakar, chased me for days on end until I was able to finally escape him and hide. He is a persistent beast. And it was hard. I knew nothing of this world or its people and their languages."
Xypher could understand. Parts of it eluded him even with his god powers and having been here to help Katra and Sin. "Why did you come to New Orleans?"