Retribution (Page 10)

Retribution (Dark-Hunter #20)(10)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

He was still trapped.

Leave him. He didn’t deserve anything better than to be stung until his head exploded. Every part of her wanted to hear him screaming in pain.

He saved your life just now.

So what? That didn’t undo her parents’ deaths.

But what if he wasn’t lying? What if someone else had really killed them? If he died, she might not ever find out the truth.

The thought made her pause. If Sundown hadn’t killed them, who did?

And why?

There’s more to all of this. She could feel it with every heightened instinct she possessed.

I’ve never been an unreasonable person. She prided herself on that fact. When others panicked and freaked, she was always calm and rational. Methodical.

More gunshots sounded.

Unable to leave him to the scorpions until she knew more, she reversed course toward the hole in the floor. She knelt down so that she could see him below. Sure enough, the area around the bed was crawling with the arthropods. "Give me your hand."

Sundown looked up at her with a shocked expression that would have been comical if they weren’t in such a bad situation.

She leaned down and held her hand out to him.

"Get back," he snapped.

"I can help you."

He grinned at her, flashing his fangs. "I’m a little wider than you are, sweetheart. I won’t fit through that."

She started tearing at the floor to widen it.

Jess arched a brow as he realized what she was doing. Damned if she wasn’t trying to help him. Who’d have thought? Amazed, he turned the gun around and started pounding at the ceiling on the other side with the stock again.

Within a few minutes, they had the hole bigger.

And the scorpions were already on the bed.

Jess kicked at them before he handed her the shotgun. "Back up and I’ll jump."

She took the gun and vanished.

Cursing as a couple of the scorpions stung his leg, he launched himself at the ceiling. He caught it barely and hung above the bed that was now completely swimming in those nasty little buggers. He kicked his legs until he was sure they were free of scorpions. His arms bulged as he pulled himself up, through the hole and onto the wooden floor. He made it, but his skin was stinging from the scrapes of wedging himself through. Not to mention his leg that was on fire from the scorpions.

Abigail was crouched by a wall, aiming the gun at him.

Jess ignored her as he moved to the bookshelf against the wall and slammed it down to cover the hole. Hopefully, that would delay them a bit longer.

Abigail cocked the gun.

Now, that amused him. "You can’t kill me with a bullet, darling. You’ll just piss me off."

"Maybe, but shooting you might be fun." She lowered the barrel to his groin. "And while I might not be able to kill you, I sure could ruin your social life."

He laughed at her conviction. "There’s only one problem with that."

"Yeah?"

He indicated the shotgun with a jerk of his chin. "The gun’s not loaded. I used the last of the ammo downstairs."

She opened the gun and cursed as she realized he wasn’t lying. "Figures."

Yes, it did. He wouldn’t have handed it to her otherwise. He hadn’t been that stupid in a very long time. Still, he admired her gumption.

Jess took the gun back and made a mental note of where the sun was shining in his house and where it wasn’t. Man, I hope Andy remembered to lock the house down. If not, she’d stand a good chance of escaping, and there would be nothing he could do until dark.

Unless he wanted to shoot her. He did still have a couple of shells in his pocket …

Another quake shook the house.

She gasped in alarm. "You think that’s more of them?"

"Our luck? Probably."

"How do we stop them?"

He had no idea. Not this many of them. If he were Talon, he might could drop the temperature here to freeze them to death. But unlike the Celt’s, his Dark-Hunter powers didn’t include weather control.

No sooner had that thought gone through his mind, than the house went completely dark. As dark as a midnight sky from the days when he’d been human and out on the range. He hadn’t seen anything like this in decades. Not since modern lights had dimmed the night skies.

"What’s going on?"

He ignored her question as he peeked around the wall, toward a window. Thunder rolled like an angry growl. A moment later, snow started falling.

Jess gaped at the last thing he’d expected to see. Now, that was more startling than the scorpion invasion.

"It’s snowing." In April. In Las Vegas …

Yeah, the world was definitely coming to an end.

Abigail didn’t believe his words until she stepped past him to look outside. Sure enough, large clumps of snow fell from the sky. The contrast of the white against the black was absolutely beautiful.

And yet …

"I really did start the apocalypse," she breathed. There was no other explanation. Things like this didn’t happen except in movies and end-of-the-world prophecies. "What have I done?"

Sundown rested the gun on his shoulder in a manner that smacked of his past. He looked like a rogue cowboy, locked and loaded and ready for the next round. All he needed was a hat, and he’d be the perfect cliche. But what really bothered her about it was how sexy that pose made him even in Psycho Bunny pajama bottoms.

I have lost my mind.

Surely the stress of the last few minutes had driven her insane. It had to. There was no other way she could see him as anything but a monster.

She swallowed. Her adoptive father had always told her that evil was beautiful and seductive. Otherwise, no one would ever fall for it. That was why Artemis had made the Dark-Hunters so sexy. It was how they lured their victims in before they slaughtered them.

Whatever she did, she couldn’t let herself forget that.

Sundown shrugged. "Well, it appears to me that you have opened a big old can of worms. And according to what Z said, you’re the only one who can close it."

She pressed her fingers against her temple to help relieve the ache that was starting right behind her left eye. "All I was trying to do was protect my people and family from you."

"I was never your threat."

Abigail started to argue, but she’d barely parted her lips before the floor beneath her feet literally opened up and sucked her down.

Oh, dear Lord, she was going to die!

Chapter 7

Jess dropped his gun and launched himself at Abigail as she slid through the floor. At first, he was sure she’d fallen to her death right before his eyes. That thought hit him a lot harder than it should have. The pain was indescribable.

But somehow, against all odds, he felt warmth in his palm and a weight on his arm that made his spirits soar with relief.

He’d caught her….

Looking over the side of the hole, he saw her panicked face staring up at him, and that was the most beautiful thing he’d seen in over a century.

She was alive.

Abigail’s heart thumped wildly as she swung in a precarious arc. The only thing that kept her from crashing onto the marble floor ten feet below was one hand.

And it belonged to her enemy.

"I gotcha." Sundown’s grip tightened on her hand in a silent promise that he wouldn’t let go.

She locked both her hands around his and hoped he wasn’t holding a grudge against her for anything. "Please don’t drop me."

He actually winked at her. "Not on your life." He pulled her up slowly, taking care not to scrape her against the jagged edges of the floor where pieces of wood waited to impale her.

In that moment, she could kiss him for his fast reflexes that had saved her life, and for the care he was taking to pull her up and not hurt her.

But her relief didn’t last long. As soon as her head popped through the hole, something grabbed her leg from below and yanked her hard enough to take her back through it.

Sundown’s eyes widened.

I’m going to die. She was sure of it as the pressure on her legs increased with a determination that said it wouldn’t relent until she was a stain on the floor below.

Yet somehow Sundown maintained his firm grip on her hands. He pulled her up again.

Again, something jerked her down. She kicked her legs and struck nothing. Yet there was no denying that some invisible force had her by her ankles.

If only she could look down to see what it was. "What’s going on?"

"I don’t know. I don’t see anything. I just wish whatever it is that it’d let go." His face turned bright red as he held on to her with a determination that said he really did care whether she lived or died.

Abigail blinked back tears from the pain of being the rope in a tug-of-war that would mean her life if Sundown lost.

He growled as the muscles in his arms bulged from the strain. She stared into his eyes, which were dark with conviction, and used those as her lifeline.

"Thank you," she whispered to him.

Inclining his head to her, Jess felt his grip slipping. Whatever had her was increasing its pressure to the point he knew it was only a matter of time before she fell from his hands.

He’d failed to keep his promise to her mother. The last thing he wanted was to see her die, too. I can’t let go….

What choice did he have?

The answer came from somewhere deep inside him. A forgotten prayer his mother had taught him from the cradle to use whenever things were too hard and he wanted to give up.

Aike aniya trumuli gerou sunari…. Those words whispered through his mind. I am White Buffalo and I will not be stopped. Yeah, okay, so it sounded better in her language than in English. Still, it echoed and he felt an inner strength rising with every syllable as he continued silently chanting it. Our people never met an enemy they couldn’t defeat. Their blood flows inside of you, penyo. You are my pride and my gift to the Elders who watch over us. Listen to them when you’re weak and they will help you. Always. He heard his mother’s voice as clearly as if she sat beside him.

He saw the fear in Abigail’s eyes as she realized her hands were slipping.

"Aike aniya trumuli gerou sunari!"

Abigail gasped at his angry words and the bright flash of red that shone through his pupils an instant before he jerked her up through the floor so fast, she barely realized she’d moved. He gathered her in his arms and hugged her close, as if he was as thankful she was alive as she was.

Even though she hated him, she was too grateful to shove him away. Instead, she reveled in the sensation of his hard body pressing against hers. She clung to him while she shook from relief and tried to squelch the fear that the invisible force would grab her again and take her back into the hole. Her blood rushed thick through her veins as she buried her face in his neck and inhaled the warm scent of his skin.

He’d saved her. She was alive.

In that moment, with all the endorphins coursing through her, she felt as if she could fly.

Jess couldn’t move with her cradled against him as she breathed raggedly in his ear, sending chills down his arm. Every inch of her body was pressed against his. And deep inside, he felt something in him stir. Something he hadn’t felt in a long time. Before he could rethink his intentions, he nuzzled her neck. A low moan escaped her lips. He started to pull away, but she cupped his head, stopping him.

Then she did the most unexpected thing of all.

She kissed him.

For a full minute, he couldn’t breathe as he tasted her. Her lips were incredibly soft as she swept her tongue against his, teasing and warming him. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman had kissed him with this much passion.

Abigail knew she shouldn’t be doing this. In the back of her mind was the voice that tried to remind her that she hated him. And yet he’d saved her life. More than that, he felt like heaven. Never had she experienced anything like this.

Like she belonged.

There was no explaining it. It was something deep within that welcomed him even while her mind called her all kinds of stupid.

But before she could examine that thought further, the floor started rumbling again.

They pushed themselves to their feet and then away from the hole as some unseen beast from below began a fierce howl. It sounded like a pack of hungry coyotes….

Backing them up, Sundown put himself between her and the hole. He retrieved his gun from the floor.

An instant later, six men and one woman shot up from the opening. With dark hair and eyes, they curled their lips in a purely canine fashion as they stalked toward the two of them.

Jess braced himself for the attack he knew was coming. He’d never much cared for shape-shifters, and these were going to be brutal. "C’mon, punks," he goaded. "You want to fight or sniff each other’s crotches?"

The leader ran at him. With a bright flash of yellow, he turned from a man into a coyote. Jess reversed his shotgun so that he was holding it by the barrel. Using the stock like a bat, he knocked the coyote into the wall, where it hit with a heavy thud.

The others changed form and came at him full force.

"Run!" he said over his shoulder to Abigail.

She didn’t listen. Rather, she ripped the tacky antlers off the wall that Andy had put there as a sick joke-that boy had never been right in the head-and held them to defend against their attackers.

It was a bold move, and he seriously hoped those antlers broke during the fight so he’d never have to look at them again.

Even though Jess had a feeling he was wasting his time, he went ahead and loaded his gun with the shells in his pocket, then opened fire on the coyotes. The first one he shot yelped, skidded sideways, rebounded off the wall, then kept coming.