Seize the Night (Page 33)

Seize the Night (Dark-Hunter #7)(33)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Most of the tombs showed signs of their age by having broken pieces of masonry either missing or askew, along with collapsed roofs, and blackened mold that grew all over them. Many held scrolled wrought-iron gates and fences.

It was beautiful here. Peaceful. Although the strategically placed holes in the exterior walls that allowed muggers to come and go at will were a constant reminder of how some of the occupants had come to reside here.

Ash reached out and touched the grave of Marie Laveaux, the famous voodoo maven of the city. Her grave was marked with Xs from those who would pay tribute to her.

She’d been a remarkable woman and in his long life, she had been the only human to know him for what he really was.

Sirens sounded off in the distance as police headed for a new crime scene.

As he turned away, Ash felt a ripple go through him like a debilitating blow. He hissed in pain as he felt a fragile, forbidden doorway opening and felt the evil pouring out of it.

The Illuminati were leaving Kalosis…

Suddenly, his vision became cloudy.

Ash no longer saw anything around him, overwhelmed with sounds and images of souls screaming in agony as they died. It was a sound unheard by mortals, but one that cut through him like shattering glass.

The order of the universe was being altered.

"Atropos!" he called, summoning the Greek goddess of fate who was responsible for cutting the life strands of mortals.

Tall and blonde with furious eyes, she appeared beside him instantly. "What?" she snapped.

The two of them had never gotten along; in truth, none of the Moirae could stand him. Not that he cared. He had far more reasons to hate them than they had to hate him.

Ash leaned back against one of the old crypts as he tried to staunch some of his pain.

"What are you doing?" he gasped.

"It’s not me," she said indignantly. "It’s something from your side, not ours. We have no control over it. If you want it to stop, stop it."

She vanished.

Wrapping his arms around his stomach, Ash slid to the ground. The pain… it was biting into him even more. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think.

The screams rang throughout his head until it brought tears to his eyes.

Without his bidding, Simi came off his arm. "Akri?" she said, kneeling beside him. "What hurts you, akri?"

"Sim," he panted through the vicious stabs. "I c-can’t…" His words trailed off into a groan.

She doubled in size and transformed from a young woman into her demon form. Her skin and horns were red, and her hair and lips were black, while her eyes glowed a dull yellow in the darkness.

She pulled him away from the crypt long enough to slide herself between him and the stone, then she wrapped her body around his. Her midnight wings folded around both of them as a protective cloak.

Ash’s lips chattered from the agony as tears flowed from his eyes. He felt as if something were rupturing inside him. He had to block the screams or he would be useless.

Simi placed her cheek against his and hummed an ancient lullaby as she rocked him soothingly.

"The Simi has you, akri, and she’ll make all the voices go away."

Ash leaned back in her arms and prayed she was right. Because if she didn’t restore him soon, there would be no one to repair what was being torn apart.

Tabitha was filled with such a sudden sense of pain that it stopped her dead in her tracks.

Gasping, she reached out for Valerius, who was walking beside her.

"Tabitha? Is something wrong?"

"Tia," she gasped, her heart aching in a pain so profound that she wasn’t sure how she maintained her stance. "Something’s happened to her. I know it."

"Tab-"

"I know it!" she shrieked, clutching his shirt. "Oh God, no!" She grabbed her phone and started dialing Tia’s number as she ran toward her sister’s store. They were only six blocks away.

No one answered.

She dialed Amanda, her heart thumping in her chest as she ran. This couldn’t be happening. She had to be wrong.

She had to be!

"Tabitha?" She heard the tears in Amanda’s voice.

"It’s true, isn’t it? You feel it, too?"

"Kyrian won’t let me leave the house. He says it’s too dangerous."

"Don’t worry, I’m on the street and I’ll call you as soon as I know something."

Tabitha clutched the phone in her hand as they neared the dark store.

Everything looked normal…

Valerius slowed down as he sensed death. There was an evil pall that hung over the store. He’d been a Dark-Hunter long enough to know even that much without any psychic abilities.

Tabitha tried the front door, which was locked.

"Tia!" she shouted, knocking on it. "You still here?"

No one answered.

She led him around back, into a small courtyard. The back door to the shop had been left ajar.

Valerius held his breath at the confirmation of his fears. Tabitha slowed down to a careful walk.

"Tia?" she called again.

Valerius pulled her away from the back door. "Stay behind me."

"She’s my sister!"

"And I’m immortal. Stay behind me."

Luckily, she nodded.

Valerius opened the door carefully as he looked for anyone to move on them.

No one did.

The back room appeared completely normal. Nothing was out of place. It looked just as it had a few weeks ago when Tia had tended him here.

His hand on the dagger at his waist, he carefully approached the door to the shop, which was also slightly ajar. He pushed it open, then froze when he saw the pair of shoes sticking out from behind the counter.

His heart stopped.

"Stay here, Tabitha."

"But-"

"Dammit, Tabitha, stay!"

"I am not your bitch, General, and you don’t talk to me that way!"

He knew it was her fear that made her so angry. She never knew how to cope with strong emotions. "Please, Tabitha. Stay here while I look."

She nodded.

Valerius pulled away and walked cautiously across the floor to where he saw the shoes. As he drew nearer, he saw the rest of the body.

Shit.

His chest tight and aching, he turned Tia over to see her glazed eyes staring out at nothing. Her neck was torn open as if a Daimon had attacked her, but her soul was still here. He could feel it.

Why would a Daimon not take her soul?

As he reached to close her eyes, he realized something else. Tabitha wasn’t with him.

Panic threatened to consume him. It wasn’t like her to really listen. Rising quickly, he dashed back to the storeroom, where he found her sitting before a video surveillance console that showed the flickering black-and-white images of Tia’s death.

Tabitha sat there with tears pouring out of her eyes as she held her hands crossed over her lips. Her sobs were silent, yet they shook her entire body.

"I’m so sorry, Tabitha," he whispered before he shut off the monitor and pulled her into his arms.

"She can’t be dead!" she wailed as she clutched him to her. "This isn’t true. Not my sister. She’s not dead. She’s not!"

He didn’t speak as he rocked her gently in his arms.

She screamed out in pain before she shoved him away from her and ran for the storefront.

"Tabitha, no!" he snapped, pulling her back before she saw Tia’s body. "You don’t need to see her like that."

She turned on him with a shriek and shoved him back. "Damn you! Damn all of you for this. Why didn’t you just kill me? Why kill my sister? Why…?"

Her eyes widened in horror. "Oh, God, they’re going for my family." She pulled her phone out, no doubt to call Amanda again.

While she called her family, he pulled his Nextel out to notify the others what had happened. "Code Red to everyone," he said, his voice tight. "Tia Devereaux has been slain inside her store. Everyone needs to pull back and secure their families."

One by one, the Dark-Hunters and Squires checked in: Otto, Nick, Kyr, Rogue, Zoe, Jean-Luc, Ulric, Janice, Kassim-even Talon, Kyrian, and Julian. But there was no sign of Acheron.

Valerius tried to buzz him, then call him.

There was no answer.

His blood ran cold. Had the Daimons gotten to Acheron already and hurt him again?

"I love you, Mandy," Tabitha said as her lips quivered from her grief. "You be careful, okay? I’m going to find this bastard and I’m going to kill him tonight."

Valerius glanced to the now blank monitor screen. "Do you know who killed her?" he asked.

Tabitha nodded. "It was Ulric and now I’m going to kill him."

Nick was walking down Ursulines, headed for the house on Bourbon Street that he shared with his mother. After hearing Valerius’s call about Tia, he’d gone immediately to check on his mother, who was working late at Sanctuary.

Since he’d planned on hanging around the outside of the bar to watch out for her until it was time for her to leave, he’d practically been there already when the call went out.

As soon as he’d reached the saloon-style doors that were monitored by Dev Peltier, one of the bears who owned Sanctuary, he’d been told that his mother had left work early because she wasn’t feeling well. Nick had been absolutely furious with the bear until Dev had told him that Ulric had agreed to escort her home.

Given Nick’s busted ribs, his mom was a lot safer with a Dark-Hunter than she would have been with him anyway. Still, he had a need inside him to check on her to make sure she was all right.

It’d been just the two of them his whole life. Impregnated by a career felon when she was only fifteen, his mother had been cast out the door to fend for herself. He wouldn’t have blamed her had she given him up, but she hadn’t.

"You’re the only thing in my life I ever did right, Nicky, and I thank God every night for giving me you."

It was why he loved her so much.

Nick had never met his grandparents on either side. Hell, he’d only met his father a handful of times and only once that he really remembered. It’d been when Nick was ten and his father had needed a place to crash for the longest stretch of freedom the man had known as an adult-three whole months.

In a bad cliche, his father moved in, drank beer constantly, and knocked the two of them around before one of his felon friends had convinced him to take a stab at bank robbery, where his father had shot four people dead just for the hell of it. His father had been quickly convicted, then died a year later when some inmate had cut his throat during a prison riot.

Cherise Gautier left much to be desired when it came to her taste in men, but as a mother…

She was perfect.

And Nick would do anything in the world for her.

He heard static from his Nextel, which he expected to be Otto screwing with him again.

It wasn’t.

Valerius’s accented voice broke the stillness. "Nick, are you there?"

Just what he needed tonight. Grimacing, he jerked the phone off his belt. "What?" he snapped.

"I wanted to let you know that Ulric is Desiderius. He’s already killed Tia. I don’t know who’s next, but I think you might want to check on your mother." Suddenly, Valerius’s voice changed to one that made his blood run cold.

"Oh, wait…" Desiderius said tauntingly, "she’s dead now." He made a sound of smacking his lips. "Hmmm, type O negative. My favorite. Of course, you’ll be glad to know her last thoughts were of you."

Nick stopped moving for an instant before he dropped the phone and started running as fast as he could toward his house.

Over and over, he saw images of his mother in his mind. Of her gently teasing him while he grew up. The pride on her face the day he’d told her he was going to college.

His battered ribs ached and throbbed, but he didn’t care if he ruptured both lungs.

He had to get to her.

By the time he reached the gate to his driveway, he was shaking so badly that he could barely punch in the code.

"Goddammit, open!" he snarled as the first code was rejected.

He reentered it.

The gates swung open slowly. Ominously.

Panting from fear and exertion, he raced up the drive to the back door.

It was unlocked. Nick entered, ready to do battle. He stopped in the kitchen to pull his Glock.31 out of the drawer by the stove. He checked the mag clip to make sure it was fully loaded with all seventeen rounds.

"Mom?" he called as he slid the mag in. "Mom, it’s Nick, are you home?"

Only silence answered him.

His heart hammering, Nick crept through the house, room by room, expecting to be attacked.

He found absolutely nothing, until he reached the upstairs sitting room. At first, it looked like his mother was sitting in her chair like she’d done a million times before when he’d come home to catch her waiting for him.

He’d bought this house just for this room alone. His mother loved to read romance novels. All her life, she’d dreamed of owning a home where she could have a perfect, five-sided room to read her books in peace. The sitting room was lined with custom-made bookshelves.

Every inch of every shelf in here held a paperback that she had lovingly chosen and cherished.

"Mom?" he said, his voice breaking off into a sob. His hand shook as he held the gun out and stared through misty eyes at the blond hair he could see over the top of the leather recliner. "Please talk to me, Mom, please." She didn’t move.