No Mercy (Page 23)

No Mercy (Dark-Hunter #19)(23)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Oh…now he felt stupid. Cael was right. No one could fault him for that meal.

"So they’re Hellchasers like me?" Fang asked Thorn.

Thorn saluted him with his goblet before he handed it over to Shara to dispose of.

Fang exchanged a puzzled frown with Dev. "But why are they here?"

Thorn tsked. "You’re asking things that are above your pay grade, Wolf. Stand down and don’t worry about it. All you need to know is that they’re your playmates. Share the sandbox or get spanked for it."

Yeah, there was an image Dev could have done without. Where was a gallon of eye bleach when you needed it?

But that still left Dev completely confused. "How can Cael serve both Artemis and you?"

Thorn scoffed. "Artemis doesn’t care one way or another, especially now."

Dev was surprised by his cavalier attitude. The goddess could be extremely ruthless when crossed. "What do you mean?"

Thorn patted him on the shoulder. "Do you want to continue discussing them or would you rather talk about your girlfriend and her future well-being?"

"Sam’s not my girlfriend."

"My mistake then." Thorn stepped back. "I will release her into your custody since it’s what the two of you want. I think you’re effing idiots. But it’s your choice. God forbid I ever interfere with your free will."

Instead of relief, a tremor of apprehension went through Dev. "It’s that easy?"

Thorn laughed. "Nothing is ever that easy, Bear. Stryker wants your honey so he can destroy the world as we know it. You arrogantly claim that you can protect her better than I can even though I command an army and live in a place they can’t reach. I say we should put it to the test. Best beast wins and all that."

Dev’s hackles raised as his suspicions mounted. This had to be a trick. He didn’t trust Thorn enough to even blink with him in the same room–the weasel was that crafty.

Wait for it…. There was definitely a trick coming.

"What do you have in mind?" Dev asked.

Thorn snapped his fingers and a portal opened in the wall. "I have a task for you, Bear. Have you ever heard of Hippolyte’s Girdle?"

"The one Hercules had to fight the Amazons to get?"

Thorn inclined his head to him almost respectfully. "An expected oversimplification, but yes. It’s the one Hercules had to fight to claim. And I don’t know if you realize this or not, but Samia just so happens to be Stryker’s cousin."

Now there was an intriguing off-topic tidbit Dev really wasn’t expecting to hear, and it was one he wasn’t sure he hadn’t misunderstood. "What’s that?"

Thorn spoke more slowly, again in that patronizing tone that made Dev want to bury his fist straight in the man’s jaw. "Hippolyte–Samia’s grandmother–the fabled Amazon queen? Her father was the god of war, Ares. Since Ares is Samia’s great-grandfather, it makes her and Stryker cousins, as it were."

That explained a whole lot about Sam’s fighting skills. "Does Sam know this?"

"I should hope she knows who her great-grandfather is. Not like that was ever a secret. Hippolyte was quite proud of the fact she was a demigod."

Dev couldn’t blame her for that. He’d spread it around too if he could claim such, but none of that was pertinent to what was going on right now. "What has this to do with me?"

"Nothing really, except that after Hercules stole the girdle, it fell into human hands for a time because they believed it would imbue the wearer with certain powers."

"Does it?"

Thorn’s eyes turned a deep red. "Yes and no. It seems a vital piece of the tale was never recounted."

"And that would be?"

"That the wearer must be a descendant of Hippolyte for it to work." Thorn’s tone changed from the refined gentleman to a deep demon baritone. "You want Sam back…get her that girdle so that it can protect her and I’ll let her go with you."

Oh yeah, this mission was going to be a doozie to rival the one his sister had asked him for when she’d wanted to pull Fang out of demon hell. "And where is this girdle?" No doubt someplace that stank, was hot, and more lethal than a cobra venom farm.

Thorn let out a sound of profound aggravation. "What? You want me to draw a map for you? Take you there and point it out like a bird dog?" He snapped his fingers. The wall to his left shimmered before a giant black resin clock appeared. Its face was that of a dragon with vibrant red eyes that oddly matched Thorn’s. Its hands were the dragon’s wings.

Dev’s prickly host pointed to it. "You have one day, Bear. Twenty-four hours from this very second. Return with the girdle or Sam stays here…and so do you." He paused before he added the last condition. "Forever."

That was a long time to stay anywhere and Dev had a feeling that Thorn was not going to make his stay here a day at Disney World–unless one counted the torture part of the Pirates of the Ca rib be an. "If I refuse to play this game?"

His expression was stone-cold evil. "You’re already playing it. You stop now and I throw you out and Sam stays here until hell freezes over. Maybe even a day or two after that."

Dev didn’t like the proposed terms and he wanted to take Thorn down a notch. He knew he didn’t scare the demon lord, but he knew one person who might. "Acheron will most likely have something to say about that."

Thorn arched one regal brow. "Are you going to cry to him like a baby with a broken toy and ask him to fix it?"

Dev took a step forward and would have attacked him for that comment had Fang not caught him and stopped his suicidal charge.

"Don’t," Fang whispered.

Don’t, my ass….

But it did click his common sense back into play. Dead, he couldn’t help her at all. Couldn’t do much for himself either.

And that common sense begged him to tell Thorn to shove it up a part of his body he was sure Thorn kept clenched tight enough to form a diamond.

His mind flashed on an image of Sam’s beautiful face. She didn’t like being around unfamiliar things. Most of all, she wouldn’t want to be locked in a cage no matter how gilded the bars were, any more than he would.

"So what’s it to be, Bear?"

Dev lifted his leg and gave a sarcastic slap to his thigh. "By golly, I’ll take Door Number Two, Bob. You know the one that calls for straight suicide with a side of mutilation and pain? Sign my hairy ass up for that and don’t be late."

Fang cursed while Cael laughed.

Cael attempted to sober, but couldn’t. "Damn shame you’re going to die, Bear. I really think we could have been friends."

There was amusement in Thorn’s eyes, but the rest of him didn’t so much as quirk a muscle. "You have four clues to find the location and–" He glanced to the clock. "–the hands are ticking."

"You going to give the clues, hoss? Or do I have to guess?"

Thorn patted him on the cheek like a teacher with an errant child. "In plain sight on the banks of the Champs-Elysees, the girdle lies hidden away. At the brink of the darkest night, the location fills your sight. To see what can never be found, look for the circle round. To reclaim that which the gods rescind, you must face mightiest Whirlwind."

Dev had a sudden urge to punch that smugness right out of him. "You know, the migraine from all of that really isn’t going to help me locate it."

"You have your clues, Bear. Good luck."

Chapter 14

Sam watched as Dev was pulled out of Thorn’s domain and returned to Peltier House so that he could prepare for his journey. A sob lodged in her throat. She couldn’t believe what he was willing to do for her. The risk he was taking.

Just don’t die. Please.

Not because of her. Especially not when she couldn’t help him. What kind of torture was this?

Damn you, Thorn.

"Sam?"

She jerked around at the soft sound of Amaranda’s voice. "What are you doing here?"

"Risking a lot more than we should. But we know the terror you feel and we can’t let you suffer."

"We?"

"Me, Cael, and Fang." She gestured toward the bed. "If you lie down, Fang and I can pull your essence out and you’ll be able to go with Dev."

"You can do that?"

"We think so."

"Think" was not a power word, especially the hesitant way Amaranda had said it. A chill washed over her. "What aren’t you telling me?"

"There’s a chance that you might not be able to come back…intact."

Oh yeah, that was bad. "Care to elaborate?"

Amaranda’s eyes echoed her uncertainty. "I’m going to have to take you into a deep unconscious state–not something I’ve ever tried to do before. I might screw this up and it could leave you outside your body forever. Or you could be left in a perpetual coma."

Sam glanced back to the wall where Dev was writing down Thorn’s riddle so that he could decipher it. He was risking his own freedom and his life for her.

Could she do anything less for him?

"I’ll do it."

Amaranda bit her lip. "Do you understand the risks?"

Sam nodded. "Thank you for at least trying. I really appreciate what you’re doing, and if you screw this up, I promise I won’t hold much of a grudge."

She made a sound that basically said she thought Sam was an idiot for agreeing to do this. "I hope you still feel that way in the event I can’t put you back together again."

"Believe me, I will."

Amaranda gestured toward the bed. "All right, then, lie down and let’s attempt the impossible."

Sam obeyed her. Flat on her back, she met Amaranda’s nervous gaze and smiled before she repeated the Amazon battle motto. "Who wants to live forever?"

Especially if she couldn’t live it with Dev.

Dev sat at his desk with his head in his hands. He let out a long frustrated breath as he studied words that made no sense to him whatsoever. "In plain sight on the banks of the Champs-Elysees, the girdle lies hidden away. At the brink of the darkest night, the location fills your sight. To see what can never be found, look for the circle round. To reclaim that which the gods rescind, you must face mightiest Whirlwind."

The Champs-Elysees was a road in Paris and there was a circle at the end of it. While it was near the water, it wasn’t on the water. So how could it have a bank?

And never mind that whole whirlwind nonsense. He’d never known something like that to strike Paris.

"This is hopeless," he muttered as he reached for his iPhone to Google info on Paris. Even with all of this being a long, long shot, he wasn’t going to give up.

Not on Sam.

A knock sounded on his door. "I’m busy," he called, assuming it was Aimee wanting to annoy him with something petty like he forgot to put the seat down on the toilet or left a sock in the bathroom. She was forever yelling at him over bullshit.

"Dev?"

He paused at Fang’s muffled voice. "Yeah?"

Fang pushed the door open. "We know where you need to go."

"The mental ward?"

Fang laughed. "Yeah, but I was talking about your current matter, not your long-standing reservation." He slid a meaningful glare at the paper Dev was studying.

A whisper of hope ignited inside him. "You know where the girdle is?"

"I don’t. But I think I know someone who does." Fang opened the door wider to show him a flickering image of Sam.

A dagger of relief plunged so deep into him that it actually made his eyes water. Before he could think better of it, he was on his feet and across the room. His heart hammering, he went to pull Sam into his arms only to learn that his hands passed right through her body.

What the hell?

She smiled at him. "I’m not exactly corporeal."

Fear exploded inside him. "Are you dead?"

"No," she and Fang said simultaneously.

Sam indicated Fang with her thumb. "Amaranda and Fang combined their powers so that I could help you do this."

Dev scowled. "Help how?"

"You’re French. You know nothing about Greece. Meanwhile, I’m a walking encyclopedia on the subject."

"Fang’s Greek."

Fang shook his head in denial. "My last name’s Greek, but I was born in medieval England. Believe me, I know very little about Greece."

"As I said," Sam’s tone was firm, "I can help you both."

Yeah, if he was willing to risk it. But he wasn’t. "I have to do this alone."

Fang stepped forward. "No, you don’t."

Dev cut him off. "Look, dude, the only thing that scares me more than Thorn is my sister. Trust me, anything happens to you and she’s going to sugarcoat my boys and eat them for breakfast." He locked gazes with Sam. "And I can’t risk you."

"Why?"

"Because you’re not the only one who has issues with people dying around them."

She let out an aggravated sigh. "Well, it’s kind of hard to die when things go right through me. Unlike you."

She had a point. But he still wasn’t ready to give in. "Thorn’s clue wasn’t about Greece. It was about Paris. That’s where I was born and it’s my territory."

She scoffed. "Don’t be silly, Dev. There’s more to the clue than what Thorn said. Nothing is ever that overt. Not when dealing with beings like him."