If it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t want to bring himself under the fire of the Destroyer, he wouldn’t have even allowed Desiderius this one chance to return to corporeal form. But in exchange for Desiderius wounding Acheron, Stryker was willing to reincarnate the Daimon.
"I thought you were going to-"
"What am I up against?" Desiderius asked as his faceless, formless essence flickered in the dimly lit chamber.
"You know what you’re up against."
"No," Desiderius said. "What was that substance you gave me that took down the Dark-Hunter leader?"
"It’s of no concern to you. Your only concern is to bring me the child."
"I don’t understand why."
Stryker laughed. "And you never will. Bring me the child or I will blast you into oblivion."
If he didn’t know better, he’d swear the ghost actually sneered at him.
"I was blasted out of the bitch’s body by Acheron. They are now guarded. I need another body."
Stryker paused as he heard Daimons shrieking from outside his hall. No doubt Apollymi’s Charontes were still seeking the one who had stolen the Aima from her.
None of them would look to him for it. They wouldn’t dare.
In truth, he was in no mood to play any longer. His mother, the Destroyer, had said to wait.
He was through waiting.
The day he had spilled his own son’s blood to appease the Destroyer was the day he had started to notice some things.
And when his mother had bade him to bring her the little child of a former Dark-Hunter and a human sorceress, he had realized something. That child, known as Marissa Hunter, held in her hands the very balance of the universe.
Whoever possessed her, possessed the key to control the most primal, ancient power of all time.
She was the fate of the entire world.
The Destroyer sought to have the child for her own so that she would be in control.
Stryker bit back his bitter laughter. She would have Marissa over his own dead body. In the end, it would be he who controlled the Final Fate. Not Apollymi.
"Arod, Tiber, Sirus, Allegra!" he called.
The four Spathi commanders appeared before him. Three men and one woman. Stryker took a minute to scan their perfect, beautiful bodies. All four Daimons appeared physically to be no older than twenty-seven… just like him. And just like him, they had been around since time immemorial. Allegra was the youngest of their group, but even she was a staggering nine thousand years old.
Trained to kill and to take and possess human souls to live, his army had no equal.
It was time mankind met them.
"You called us, akri?" Tiber asked.
Stryker nodded. "Desiderius is in need of a body to do my bidding."
The four Daimons looked at each other nervously.
"Relax," Stryker said. "I’m not asking any of you to volunteer yourselves. Oh, no. Far from it. The four of you are to be his bodyguards."
"But, akri," Allegra said quietly, "he has no body to guard."
Stryker laughed maniacally. "Yes, he does." He splayed his hand out and an image appeared in the center of the room. Dressed all in black, the Dark-Hunter was walking alone on the streets of New Orleans.
"There’s your body, Desiderius," he said. "And there’s your ticket into the Hunter household. Now you bring me that baby or all of you will die… permanently."
As they started to shimmer out of the room, Stryker stopped them with one last order. "Acheron took from me the only thing I have ever loved. In memory of my son he stole from me, I command you to make the humans Acheron loves pay. I want to see blood flowing in the streets of New Orleans. Do you understand?"
Desiderius smiled wickedly. "Understood, akri. Definitely understood."
Valerius growled at how good Tabitha felt against him. Completely nak*d in his arms, she kissed him fiercely as her hand gently stroked his hard c**k from tip to hilt.
His black shirt hung open. Unlike her, he was still mostly dressed.
"Otto is on his way," he said raggedly as she dipped her head down to suckle his hard nipple.
It was difficult to think straight while her hand massaged him so expertly.
"Then we better get down to business," she said with a laugh as she climbed up on his bed.
Valerius couldn’t breathe at the sight of her nak*d on his black duvet.
He watched as she spread her legs open in invitation.
She hooked her ankles around his h*ps and pulled him forward.
He hissed as she reached between their bodies and lowered his pants enough so that she could slide herself onto him.
Arching her back, she drew him in deep as she moaned and writhed against him. Valerius leaned forward onto one arm as he stared down at her nak*d body moving underneath him. With both feet still on the floor, he thrust deep inside her warm, wet body.
"That’s it, baby," she panted as she met him equally.
Valerius thrust harder as he let her touch soothe him. He cupped her breast with his hand, delighting in the soft, supple texture of it. His mouth watered for a taste of her.
Tabitha groaned as Valerius dipped his head down and took her breast into his mouth while he continued to thrust against her hips. She loved the way this man felt when he was inside her. The way he looked, primal and savage.
There was something seriously erotic about a man this controlled losing it all whenever he touched her. She liked the fact that he could drop his guard when they were alone.
That he didn’t judge her.
Closing her eyes, she clutched his head to her as he moved even faster against her. There was nothing better than him pounding himself into her over and over again. Than his tongue working its magic on her breast.
Unable to stand it, she pulled his lips away from her breast so that she could kiss him. His eyes were dark with his passion, his face a bit flushed from their exertion.
She ground herself against him as she sank her hands into his long hair and nipped his lips with her teeth.
Valerius growled in his throat as Tabitha licked her way to his ear where her tongue swirled around his lobe and made chills spread all over his body.
It drove him past his control. He wanted to be even deeper inside her.
Pulling out of her, he rolled her over, onto her stomach and positioned her so that she was bent over the bed with her bu**ocks exposed.
He brushed the hair away from her neck as he drove himself back into her body. She cried out in pleasure as he buried himself all the way to the hilt.
Some inner, wild part of him roared to life. He cupped her br**sts in his hands while the scent of their passion filled his head.
Tabitha couldn’t breathe as Valerius took control. He left one hand cupping her breast while the other trailed down her body, past her belly ring to bury it between her legs.
"Oh, Val," she sobbed, aching from the pleasure of his touch. His fingers delved deep in her cleft as he stroked her in time to his thrusts.
Her head spun.
She’d never felt so strangely desirable. So needed.
"I love the way you smell, Tabitha," Valerius breathed in her ear.
She felt him brush his fangs against her throat. "Are you going to bite me, Val?"
She felt him hesitate as one fang hovered dangerously close to her jugular.
"I’ve never wanted to bite anyone before," he said raggedly.
He moved even faster against her. "I want to devour you."
Tabitha cried out as she came instantly.
Valerius clenched his teeth as he felt her shuddering. The foreign part of him still begged to taste her. It begged to possess her.
It was wild and frightening.
He nipped her throat, but forced himself not to break her skin. But it was hard.
It was damn near impossible.
And when he cli**xed a minute later, he heard that alien part of himself roar in triumph.
He held her close until the last tremor shook him. Completely drained, he turned her around and then sank to his knees in front of her.
Tabitha was awed by the sight of the proud Roman warrior kneeling before her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and laid his head carefully against her stomach.
Gently, she ran her hands through his hair.
He pulled back to look up at her with a searching gaze that seared her. "I don’t know why you’re here, Tabitha, but I’m glad that you are."
She smiled down at him.
His gaze locked on hers, he nibbled the sensitive flesh of her stomach, just below her belly ring. Biting her lip, she moaned as he tongued the moon that dangled from her hoop, Then he licked in and around her navel, making her body burn even more.
And when he sank two fingers inside her, she thought she might actually collapse.
"You are so beautiful, Tabitha," he said, spreading her open so that he could stare at the most intimate part of her body.
She couldn’t breathe as he took her into his mouth and used that incredible tongue to taste her intimately. She spread her legs even wider, to give him more access as he slid his tongue through the tender folds.
Tabitha stared down at him. He seemed to enjoy tasting her as much as she enjoyed being tasted.
And he took his time exploring her.
He jerked away at the sound of Otto in the hallway. Still he left one finger inside her that continued to pleasure and probe her.
Rising slowly to his feet, he slid another finger into her body. "What have you done to me, Tabitha?" he breamed raggedly in her ear. "Otto’s in the hallway and all I can think of is being inside you again. Of licking you until I can taste your cli**x."
His unexpected comment made her moan deep in her throat at the thought of what he described. "Get rid of Otto and I’m yours for the night."
He kissed her passionately, then squeezed her butt in his hands. "Stay nak*d. I want to eat my dinner off you."
Tabitha bit her lip as a shudder went through her. "You got it."
Valerius pulled away and quickly buttoned his shirt and fastened his pants. He cast one hot, promising look at her before he slipped out of the bedroom and left her alone.
Tabitha pulled down his bedcovers and slid herself between the dark silk sheets that held his spicy mascuhne scent.
Wrapping her arms around his pillow, she inhaled deeply.
"What am I doing?" she asked herself. She was literally sleeping with the enemy and she was enjoying it way too much.
Worse, she didn’t want to leave.
"My gift in life," she said under her breath. She seemed to be forever drawn to the men she could never have.
She should leave here and go bunk with Amanda and Kyrian, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave Valerius. What would he do without her?
More importantly, what would she do without him?
Ash drew up short as he saw Kyrian in his upstairs office through the slightly ajar door. It was well after four a.m. and though Kyrian occasionally stayed up late with Amanda, it was unusual to find the former Dark-Hunter up alone.
Cocking his head, he watched through the crack as Kyrian bent over a stack of papers, pulling at his hair. Ash could sense the frustration.
He knocked lightly on the door so as not to startle him.
Kyrian looked up, then pulled the glasses off his face. "Oh, hey," he said in a low tone as Ash pushed the door open a bit. "I thought you might be Amanda, begging me to come to bed."
"Not for all the money in the universe," Ash said as he walked in. He moved to stand in front of the black, kidney-shaped, Chippendale desk where official papers and handwritten notes were scattered. "What are you doing up so late?"
"I couldn’t sleep. I…" Kyrian ground his teeth.
"What?" Ash asked, worried about his long-time friend.
Kyrian let out one long, tired breath. "You have no idea what this is like, Ash. How hard every day is. Do you even remember being human?"
Ash set his backpack down on the floor as he heard Kyrian’s thoughts. They were disoriented and panicky.
Normally, Ash wouldn’t answer any questions about his past, but his friend needed comfort; in all honesty, given the crap that had gone on tonight between Nick, Simi, Zarek, Tabitha, the Destroyer, and Daimons, so did he. "Yeah, I remember being human, but I do my damnedest not to dwell there."
"Yeah, but no offense, you were young when you died. You have no idea of the responsibility I carry."
Ash had to bite back a bitter laugh at that. If Kyrian only knew…
He’d trade fates and responsibilities with the former Greek general in a heartbeat.
"Look at this," Kyrian said, pushing a sheet of paper at him. "Forget the damned Daimons, the scariest thing on this planet are lawyers and insurance brokers. My God, do you know the statistics for traffic accidents? I’m terrified to put my kid or wife in the car at all. My medicine cabinet that used to hold nothing but toothpaste and bandages now has Advil, Sudafed, Bengay, Lipitor, and Benicar. I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol-"
"Well, you did abuse your body for the last forty years with junk food."
"I was immortal!" Kyrian snapped, then his face went ashen. "I’m going to die again, Ash. Only this time, I doubt Artemis will be there to offer me a trade." He raked a hand through his hair. "My wife is going to die one day, and Marissa…"