Sam couldn’t agree more. Like Fang, she wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Thorn stopped them.
Or sent another round of flying monkeys after them–just for shits and giggles.
Dev took a minute to secure her grandmother’s girdle around her waist. Sam looked down at it. Originally designed to hold a sword, it looked like any thick belt with heavy embossing. She had a sword at home that was kept in the matching scabbard that would hook onto the girdle. Without that piece, no one would ever guess it to be of any real significance–that it was the prized belt of the Amazon nation that Hercules had crossed a sea to claim for a foreign princess. Never mind know that it was something people would kill to possess.
Including her own sister.
"You ready?" Dev asked.
She nodded even though it wasn’t entirely true. Her earlier encounter with Thorn had been brief, but traumatizing. He was one scary SOB. And his warning about Dev stood loud and clear in her mind. If she stayed with him, he would die.
And she couldn’t be responsible for his death. Not after she’d killed Ioel.
Dev held her hand as Fang took them not to Sanctuary or the Charonte Club as she expected, but to a room she’d never seen before. All the windows were shuttered closed and there was a massive plantation style bed in the room with an antique styled blue silk comforter over it.
She looked at Fang with a frown. "Where are we?"
Before he could answer, Nick Gautier materialized in front of them. The dim light cast an evil shadow over his face. His whiskers were thickening–like he’d gone several days without shaving and his eyes held a wicked gleam to them. "Welcome to my nightmare, Princess."
By the look on Dev’s face she could tell he wasn’t expecting to be here anymore than she was.
She scowled at Fang "Why did you bring us here?"
Fang shrugged. "It’s what Ash told me to do when I talked to him before we went questing for you. I figured Mr. Omniscient knows best about keeping his people safe–" those words were interrupted by Nick giving a rude scoff that Fang didn’t even pause for–"so I didn’t argue." He inclined his head to her and Dev. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Lady Bear I haven’t seen in a day and I don’t want her to kick my ass for leaving her high and dry."
He left before anyone could say another word.
In the silence that followed, Sam felt suddenly awkward. True it hadn’t been the real Nick who’d tried to kidnap her out of Sanctuary, but still.
There was an aura of pure evil around this man and it set her hackles on edge. Whenever Nick looked at her, she had the feeling he was sizing her up for a body bag and it made her blood run cold.
"Relax," Nick said in a soothing tone as if he felt her unease toward him. "I don’t want your blood. Since it’s a rogue demon after you, Ash and I decided this would be the best place to hide you where the fewest lives would be threatened by your enemy." He gestured to the room. "Make yourself at home. Everything’s been sanitized so it shouldn’t give you nightmares or images to touch it." Something Nick knew about since she’d told him that when she’d started guarding him. How ironic for the tables to now be turned. "If you need anything, there’s an intercom on the wall." He gestured to the unit that was just inside the door. "Call and I’ll answer. And…" he pointed to the nightstand. "Ash sent over your cell phone so that you wouldn’t be without it. There’s a message from Chi who’s been worried about you and pissed off that the guys didn’t invite her to rescue you. I don’t envy them. Ethon in particular was promised a major ass-whipping."
Sam frowned. Nick didn’t look well. When she’d first met him on this assignment months ago, he’d been well coifed and gorgeous–except for the bow and arrow mark on his face. Now he looked pale and exhausted. Shaken. Like something had him in a vise grip and he couldn’t breathe for the pain of it.
If not for the fact that Dark-Hunters couldn’t get sick, she’d think he was about to hurl.
"Are you okay?"
"I’m always okay." His bitter tone denied those words.
Sam wanted to touch him and see what the truth was, but her inner alarm told her that she didn’t want to see what ever demon had its claws into him. When you stare into the darkness, sometimes it stares back….
And those mirrored images were often the most terrifying and threatening.
Nick paused in the doorway to look back at them. "By the way, I should warn you. It’s almost noon here and Stryker’s mounting his attack to take you into Kalosis. I don’t know when he’s planning to strike, but I’m sure it’ll be before dark since you’ll be at a disadvantage in the light. My house is technically shielded, however Stryker’s powers are such that I don’t know if it’ll hold against him."
Sam narrowed her gaze dangerously as her suspicions about him mounted. "How do you know what Stryker has planned?"
When Nick answered, it wasn’t with his mouth. She heard his voice loud and clear in her head. The same way I know you love Dev, little girl. And if you do, send him home before nightfall. He won’t survive otherwise.
And with that he walked out of the room and closed the door without touching it.
Sam watched as Dev went over the room making sure nothing would harm her even though Nick had assured them it was safe–neither of them trusted him.
The care Dev took as he reviewed it all was adorable and it reminded her so much of the image she’d seen of him protecting his sister when they were young. He was so protective and sweet….
Worst of all was the compunction she had to brush his hair back from the nape of his neck and nibble his skin until he made that little growl in the back of his throat that sent shivers over her. She wanted to walk into his arms and just have him hold her until everything else vanished.
Love them. Leave them. That was the Code she’d lived by. As an Amazon and a Dark-Hunter. In her ancient world, men had often been seen as an impediment to the Amazon social structure. Amazons would go, have sex, and then never tell the men they’d fathered children unless they had to. They raised the daughters independently and brought them into the Amazon nation. Sons would be given to their father or his family.
It was rare for an Amazon to marry. Her sister had tried to use that to undermine her authority, but the Amazon code was actually more versatile than that. The point of their nation was for women to have the power to make their own choices about their lives and their happiness.
In an ancient world were women had less autonomy than male slaves, it was up to the woman to determine if she wanted domesticity or not and the rest of them had vowed to support their sister in what ever decision she made. Yes, most chose to live without a man. But not all. Sam wasn’t the first to marry and she hadn’t been the last.
For that matter, not all Amazons gave up their male children. Their world had been about respect and support. It was why she’d loved her nation so much.
As a Dark-Hunter, she’d had the same freedoms. Much like her people, they supported each other. Very rarely was a male Dark-Hunter chauvinistic–Ash kicked that out of them during training. The most important thing about being a Dark-Hunter was their vow to protect humans.
Be a part of the world, but not in it.
Let no one know who or what you are.
Take care of carnal needs when you have to so that you can stay focused, but never take a lover or a significant other. They will distract you and weaken you. Most of all, they become a target to be used against you.
Ash’s rules. They all knew them and as she looked at Dev, she wished she’d listened.
Because right now, she didn’t want to leave. She wanted to snuggle. Most of all, she wanted to wrap her body around his and make love to him until neither of them could walk straight.
But she had to get him out of harm’s way before it was too late.
"Why don’t you head back to Sanctuary?"
He looked at her with a fierce scowl. "Why?"
Because I don’t want to see you hurt. It would destroy me. "I was just thinking they might need you there. The Daimons might come back for retaliation against your family."
Grinning, he scoffed at her dire tone. "I think my family can handle it."
"I don’t know. Aren’t Were-Hunters supposed to be extra special nubby treats for them?"
"When they can get us, yeah. But the problem is we have the same powers they do so getting one of us isn’t easy. We bite back and we have clans who tend to attack en masse whenever they dare attack one of us. As a rule, they leave us alone." He moved to the window to make sure their was no smidgeon of daylight escaping.
He would have to make this difficult.
Don’t make me hurt you, Dev. The last thing she wanted was to stomp on the one person who had finally made her feel alive again. It took every part of her sanity not to walk into his arms and hold him.
Her mind flashed to the sight of Ioel going down. The sound of him calling out to her to run.
I can’t let you die, Dev.
But she didn’t want to live without him.
"I really wish you’d go home."
He turned sharply and the look of hurt on his face cut her soul deep. Maybe that was her punishment for having made her bargain with Artemis. Hate had brought her back, and now she found something more sustaining than that, and couldn’t have it because she’d been reborn from that hatred.
The gods were twisted that way.
Let him go.
"What are you saying, Sam?"
"I’m saying what I’m saying. I want you to go home now." When he started to argue, she knew she had to come up with something stronger to get him out of the line of fire. Something that would offend him and make him go even though neither of them wanted that.
Gods help me….
She choked on the words that stung her throat and her heart, but forced herself to say it. For his sake. "Look, I’m not used to having people hang all over me and it’s starting to get on my nerves. I need my space."
The look on his face shredded her and it almost succeeded in making her cry, but she was stronger than that. She was an Amazon and they didn’t weep, no matter the pain.
Dev clenched his teeth over her unexpected verbal bitch-slap. It left him reeling. What the hell was her problem? What had he done other than risk his life to take care of her?
He cramped her space? Oh yeah, that pissed him off to a level he hadn’t hit in awhile.
"I didn’t realize I was getting on your nerves. Forgive me for trying to help." He walked over to her and had to bite back a resounding set down. But he wouldn’t be that way.
Not with her. He refused to kick her with the same gut punch she’d just delivered to him.
"Fine." He took a step away from her. "I’m not one to stay where I’m not wanted. Have a nice life. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime."
Sam didn’t move until he’d vanished. Then the sudden absence of his presence tore through her. It was like someone had ripped out her heart and left her vacant. The room seemed to shrink down to nothing and yet at the same time it left a hole in her life so large, it swallowed her whole.
Her eyes watered as tears gathered in her throat to choke her. "I’m so sorry, Dev." But he’d never hear that apology. Not now. Not after she’d effectively cut him off at his kneecaps and left his ego throbbing.
She tried to tell herself that it was for the best. That she was doing this to save him.
None of that mattered to her heart. It ached and it begged her to call him back. "I can’t." He was gone and she had to leave it that way.
Even if it killed her.
Thorn didn’t move as he felt a powerful presence behind him. Normally he’d be blasting anyone who dared to intrude on his sanctum.
But to do that to Savitar would be tantamount to suicide.
Well, not really.
It would, however, result in one seriously bloody battle that, while it would alleviate his boredom for a bit, would ruin his favorite suit.
"What could have possibly gotten you off the beach and brought you to my dark domain?" He turned his head to see Savitar standing behind him.
Dressed in white cargo pants and an open Hawaiian shirt, Savitar looked like any surfer right off the beach. Right down to his Birkenstock sandals, dark wind tossed hair, and opaque sunglasses.
Thorn arched a brow as he saw Shara frozen mid movement behind Savitar.
"You’re tampering with my Were-Hunters again. You know how I feel about that."
Thorn scoffed at the ire in his tone. "Didn’t realize you owned them. Not sure they’ve realized it either."
Savitar gave him a droll stare as he moved forward to stand in front of him. "You’re lucky I didn’t fight you when you grabbed Fang without my permission, but Dev…I want you to stay away from him."
"Why? This town not big enough for the two of us?"
A muscle ticced in Savitar’s jaw. "Don’t push me, Thorn. Don’t forget that I know why you did what you did for Dev and Sam. Unlike them, I know you’re not the ass**le you pretend to be."
"There you’d be wrong, beach bum. I assure you. Every day I live is a study in how not to give in to the powers that beckon me…like you. We’re creatures of destruction."
"Then you should remember that. Leave Dev alone."
"And I repeat…why?"
Savitar gave an evil laugh.
"What are you doing here?"