Sins of the Night (Page 12)

Sins of the Night (Dark-Hunter #8)(12)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Danger had loved them both so much…

And then in the dreaded heat of summer, the Revolution had swept through France worse than a plague. Thousands had died in a matter of weeks.

Her brother, Edmonde, had only been four, her sister, Jacqueline, less than a year old, and her countrymen had brutally slaughtered them. None of her family had deserved the deaths they had been granted.

None of them.

Except for her husband. He had earned every wound she had given him for his cruel betrayal. And all because he had coveted her father’s home and wanted it for his own. He’d gotten it, all right, and she had seen to it that he hadn’t lived long enough to enjoy it.

Shaking with anger and grief, she pushed back her red and gold covers, then parted her gold curtains so that she could leave her antique tester bed.

Alexion could rot in hell before she ever helped him go after the Dark-Hunters or anyone else. She would never be part of such a witch hunt. If Acheron wanted them dead, then he could do it on his own.

She wasn’t about to help Alexion judge anyone. She’d seen enough of that in her human lifetime.

With her conviction set, she quickly washed her face, dressed, and went to find him to give him a piece of her mind.

But those thoughts fled when, after a brief search of her house, she found him sitting on the couch in her media room. Perfectly coiffed, he seemed strangely at home. There was a stack of DVDs in front of him. He looked just as he had when she’d left him the night before. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear that he hadn’t slept.

She paused in the doorway as he literally used his finger to fast-forward the machine to a new scene selection.

How did he do that?

"Where’s the remote?"

He turned his head toward her. "Remote?"

"Yeah, you know, the thing you turn the television off and on with?"

He looked at his finger.

Bemused, Danger went to the DVD shelf beside her television and picked up the remote. "How do you control the player without this?"

He waved his hand and the TV turned off.

Completely baffled, she returned the remote to the shelf. "You’re a total freak."

He arched a brow at her, but said nothing.

Danger crossed the small space to stand before him. She took his hand into hers, grateful that for once it was warm. It looked like any other hand… well, except it was rather large and well manicured.

It was a man’s hand, callused, strong. She pointed it at the television.

Nothing happened.

"Are you sitting on a universal remote?" she asked suspiciously.

He just stared innocently at her.

"Get up," she said, pulling him to his feet so that she could see the cushions.

No, there was no remote.

Frustrated, she glared at him. "How did you fast-forward and turn it off?"

He shrugged. "I wanted it off and off it went."

"Wow," she said, "that’s amazing. I guess this makes me the luckiest woman in the world."

"How so?"

"I’ve found the only man alive who won’t ever shout out, ‘honey, where’s the remote?’ then tear my house apart in pursuit of it."

He gave her a puzzled look that most likely matched the one she was giving him. "You know, I don’t understand you. You are an immortal creature of the night with fangs and psychic abilities. Why is it that you’re having such a hard time accepting me for what I am and for what I can do?"

"Because it flies in the face of every belief I’ve had up until now. See, we"-she motioned to herself-"Dark-Hunters are supposed to be the baddest things after the sun goes down. Then, in steps you and now I find out that our powers are nothing in comparison to what you can do. It really messes with my head."

She could tell her words baffled him. "Why does that disturb you? You’ve always known that Acheron was the most powerful being in your world."

"Yeah, but he’s one of us."

His face did that blank thing it did every time she said or did something he didn’t agree with.

"What?" she asked. "Are you going to tell me now that Ash isn’t a Dark-Hunter?"

"He is unique in your world."

"Yeah, I noticed. We all have. It’s been the topic of many late-night discussions on the Dark-Hunter bulletin boards."

An evil, mischievous glint darkened his eyes. "I know. I spend many an hour logged on under a pseudonym, leading all of you down murky paths just so that I can watch your minds work out the speculation. I have to say all of you are highly entertaining as you grapple with the puzzle of who and what he is."

The idea of him doing such a thing both amused and irritated her. "You’re a sick man."

He shrugged nonchalantly. "I have to do something to alleviate my boredom."

Maybe that was true and it was a rather harmless way to break monotony. Still, she didn’t like to be toyed with.

But that was neither here nor there. At the moment she had a much more pressing issue to discuss with Monsieur Oddball. "You know, I’ve done some thinking."

"And?"

"And I’ve decided that if you and Ash want to play this… whatever, game-scenario thing that you seem to run every few centuries where you kill some of us off, then you can do it without my help. I don’t want any part of judging someone else. I’ve already seen firsthand where that leads and it’s not pretty. I never want to wash innocent blood off my hands."

He took a deep breath as if he were digesting what she said. His gaze was dark and sincere. "We’re not the Committee."

She was amazed that he understood what had prompted her decision, but it made no difference. "No, you’re judge, jury, and executioner. In my book, that makes you worse. If you want to kill me, then kill me. I’d rather be a Shade than betray one of my friends or even enemies to that end. Believe me, having been betrayed myself, it’s not something I would ever do to anyone else."

His eyes turned their eerie glowing green color. "It’s easy to be brave when you have no real understanding of what being a Shade means."

"Yeah, I do know. You’re hungry and thirsty all the time with no way to sate it. No one can see you, hear you, yada yada yada. It’s a fate worse than death because there is no eternal reward, no reincarnation. It’s true hell. I got it."

"No, Danger," he said his voice filled with pain. "You don’t."

Before she realized what he was doing, he placed his hand on her shoulder. His touch seared her with pain and images. She saw a man she didn’t know. He stood in the middle of a crowded New York street, screaming for someone to see him. To hear him.

He tried to reach out to people, but they all walked straight through his body. As they did so, the sensation of their souls brushing through him pierced his phantom body like shards of poisoned glass. It stung and burned so raw that it was an indescribable pain.

She could feel the rancid hunger that gnawed so deep inside of him that it, too, defied description. The thirst that burned his parched mouth and lips like some unquenchable fire that refused to be sated. He was overwhelmed by the unrelenting physical agony, by the mental loneliness that ached for one second of conversation.

Some inner, silent part of him was screaming out, begging for death.

Begging for forgiveness.

Alexion released her. He dipped his head down to speak angrily in her ear. "That is what being a Shade feels like, Danger. Is that really what you want?"

She struggled to breathe through the emotions that choked her. It was beyond even her worst nightmare. She’d never imagined such a hell could exist. Even now the image of that man was still branded in her mind. It hurt her in a way that surprised her. "Who is he?" she asked, her voice trembling.

"His name is Erius and for more than two thousand years he has lived that horrific existence."

Alexion’s tone was deep and resonant. He stood so close to her that as he spoke, his hot breath tickled her skin. "At one time, he thought he could be a god. He thought all he had to do was kill humans and suck out their souls like a Daimon. Just like Kyros is trying to do, he gathered together a group of Dark-Hunters to revolt against Acheron and Artemis. He told them that he could lead them to freedom. That all of them had the ability to be gods too. All they had to do was listen to him and follow his example."

Swallowing against the sudden lump in her throat, she looked up at him, searching for the truth that was finally coming to light. "Are you the one who killed him?"

"No," he said, his tone and gaze gentling. "Acheron did. He went to him and tried to explain everything, but Erius refused to listen. He had it in his mind that Acheron had discovered the secret of the Daimons’ powers and that Acheron was hoarding the secret from the rest of them. All Acheron’s presence did was anger him more, and in the end that was what caused Erius to damn himself. It was the last time Acheron went to a Dark-Hunter to try and save him."

His gaze turned dull, haunted. "After that I took over. I go to them and pretend to be a Dark-Hunter too. I try to explain to them that Acheron hoards nothing and that they are all wrong with their assumptions about the origins of his powers. Usually a majority of them listen to me and go home."

It made sense for Alexion to go in. No doubt if Acheron showed up around Kyros, Kyros would attack him and fight. Ancient men weren’t usually known for reasoning their way out of conflict. "They’re much more likely to listen to one of their own."

He nodded. "By their very natures, Dark-Hunters are vengeful people. They were wronged in life and to many of them it’s easy to believe they were wronged in death. They look for someone to hate."

"Acheron is an easy target."

"Yes. He’s more powerful, and all of you know that he hides things from you. So once the kernel of the lie is planted, it takes root and grows into hatred and revolution."

She took a step away from him so that she could think clearly without his presence distracting her, then turned so that she could watch his face. "Then why doesn’t Acheron tell the truth? Why does he hide his past from us?"

He shrugged. "When I asked you to have sex with me last night, you rejected me by saying you didn’t want to sleep with a stranger. Yet for the first fifty years of your life as a Dark-Huntress, you burned through lovers like-"

She covered his mouth with her hand to silence that sentence. "How do you know that?"

He nipped at her hand with his teeth, causing her to jerk it away. His smile was wicked and warm. "I know many things about all of you. Just as Acheron does."

She didn’t like the thought of that. "Did you spy on me?"

"No, but I know you. I have many of the same powers that Acheron has. Just as he can see into your heart and past, I can as well."

Danger tilted her head as she considered that. She wasn’t sure she liked being transparent to anyone. Everyone needed to be able to hide parts of themselves. "Then do you know about Acheron’s past?"

She saw the shame in his gaze before he moved away from her. "Answer me, Alexion."

He let out a long, tired breath as he returned the DVD boxes to her shelf. "Yes. I discovered his past by accident."

The haunted look on his face told her that he wished he’d never learned it. "It was in the early days when I was first learning to use my powers." He paused shelving the boxes to face her. "I didn’t know how to control looking into the past and I stumbled upon his. When he came home, he found the sfora-the scrying orb-in my room. He looked at me and I knew he knew I had seen it."

She’d never known Acheron to be angry, but given the steadfast way he guarded his past, he must have been furious. "What did he do?"

Alexion’s gaze dropped to the floor as if he could see that day clearly in his mind. "He came forward and picked the sfora up, then said, ‘I guess I should show you how to use this correctly.’"

She blinked in disbelief. "That’s it?"

He nodded before returning to put her DVDs up. "I’ve never spoken of it and neither has he."

"Then what did you’s-"

"Ask me nothing about his past," he said, interrupting her before she could ask him that very thing. "Believe me, it’s not something you want to know. There are some things that are best left alone."

"But-"

"No buts, Danger. He has good reason for not speaking of his human life. There’s no information there that could benefit anyone. But it would hurt him a great deal personally. It’s why he doesn’t speak of it. He’s not hiding some great secret of the Dark-Hunter world. Except for the fact that Artemis doesn’t care about any of you. But what good would that do any of you? You’re better off with the lie than the truth."

Perhaps that was true. Personally, she could have lived quite happily not knowing Artemis could care less what happened to them. "Then why were we created?"

"Honestly?"

"Please."

He sighed as he put away the last movie. "I already told you. Artemis wanted a hold over Acheron. The only way to get it was to play on his guilt. So she used his own powers against him to create the first Dark-Hunters. She knew Acheron would never turn his back on the innocents who wouldn’t have been offered Artemis’s bargain had it not been for him."