Danger frowned. "What’s she doing?"
"Resting. They sleep like that."
He nodded. "Simi props her feet up on the wall most nights. I have no idea why."
"It’s comfortable," Xirena said. "You should try it."
And two seconds later, the demon was asleep.
Danger cringed at the horrendous sound of her snoring. "Don’t tell me Simi does that as well?"
"No, she’s louder."
"And you tolerate her?"
"Considering she is the one thing Acheron loves most in this world, yes. I honestly think he would literally die if anything happened to her."
"What about you?"
"I would kill or die to keep her safe."
Danger smiled at that. "There aren’t many men in the world who would die for a demon."
"That’s only because they don’t have one to love."
Maybe, but it would take a special kind of man to look past the scaly weirdness of such a creature and be able to love it. "You must have been a good father."
Sadness creased his brow an instant before he turned away from her to look out the window.
Danger mentally kicked herself for saying that out loud. "I’m sorry, Alexion, I didn’t mean to-"
"It’s okay," he said gently. "Simi tells me that all the time-whenever she’s not pissed at me for trying to teach her manners." He gave a light laugh. "She says I’m the best ‘other’ daddy a demon ever had."
Even so, she could tell that it bothered him. But then it bothered her too. She’d wanted children so much as a human that it still ached whenever she thought about it.
That was one of the nice things about being nocturnal-she didn’t come across children except in movies and on television. And even that hurt.
But not as much as seeing kids playing in real life, hearing their laugher.
What she wouldn’t give to hold her own child in her arms, just once. To be in a delivery room with her husband holding her hand as she cursed him for the pain of the life that was struggling to be born.
It really was all she had ever wanted.
She swallowed against the painful lump in her throat. Some things weren’t meant to be.
They were gone from her future. But at least she had some semblance of life. Alexion didn’t even have that much. He was denied even more than she was and that made her hurt for him deep down inside her heart.
Danger turned onto her street. She didn’t speak as they neared her house, which looked just as it had when they’d fled. She pulled into the garage, but left the door open in case they had to make another hasty exit.
Alexion got out first, then paused. "Xirena?"
The demon snorted, then rolled to her side.
She exchanged an amused look with Alexion before he leaned into the car and gently shook her shoulder. "Xirena?"
"What?" the demon snapped.
"We’re here, and if you wish to meet Simi, I need you to come inside to make sure the other demon isn’t still here."
She opened her eyes, which were no longer human in appearance. They were again that eerie yellow. "What demon?"
"The one that tried to kill me before you."
She made a strange snorting noise. "He’s not here. Why do you think Strykerius sent me? Caradoc is a wuss."
"You know," she said in that singsongy accent. "Big, ugly Charonte who smells bad. He was afraid to kill you because you spoke to him in Charonte. Like Xirena said… wuss demon."
He finally understood her. "Ah, okay. Well, at any rate, we need to get you inside for the time being so that we can hide you."
Huffing in aggravation, she got out of the car and followed him inside.
"So what’s our game plan?" Danger asked, as Xirena wandered through her living room.
"I want to find Kyros and talk to him."
That didn’t make sense to her. Kyros had made his position more than clear. She shook her head at his suggestion.
Alexion was a serious glutton for punishment.
"I want to know why he called to warn me about Xirena. If he’d really wanted me dead, he wouldn’t have bothered."
She saw the hopeful look in his face that said he believed Kyros had somehow been won over. She wasn’t so sure about that. "We could just call him back."
"No. I want to see his face. I think he’s still salvageable."
For his sake, she hoped so. "All right. What do we do with Xirena in the meantime?"
"Leave her here."
She didn’t like the idea of that at all. "But what if another demon comes after you while we’re gone? She can’t help if she’s here."
He took a deep breath as if he were considering it. "I don’t think they’d bother. Two have already failed. Why send another?"
He laughed at that.
Danger jumped as one of her expensive vases fell to the floor and shattered.
"Uh-oh," Xirena said in a tone that reminded her of a child. "That was breakable too."
"We can’t leave her here unattended," she said to Alexion. "She’ll destroy my whole house."
Suddenly, her vase reassembled itself and returned to her mantel.
Danger frowned at him.
He offered her a lopsided grin. "Xirena," he said to the demon. "Do you know how to write?"
"Of course I do. I’m not one of them illiterate demons. What kind of Charonte do you think I am?"
"Good." He said, ignoring her tirade. He looked back at Danger. "Could you get me a pad and pen or pencil?"
"Why?" Danger asked.
Not sure if she should, she went to comply while Alexion turned on her television without touching it.
She came back into the room to find the TV on QVC. The demon was parked in front of the set as if she’d found the Holy Grail. Her beautiful face reflected pure joy. Danger had never seen anything like it.
"What is Diamonique?" Xirena asked Alexion in an awed tone.
"Something I am sure you will love. And according to Simi, it’s really good and crunchy, and it’ll sharpen your fangs." He took the pad from Danger and handed it to the demon. "Here. Write down anything you see that you want and-"
He broke off as a caller spoke on the television show.
"Hello!" the chipper singsongy voice said.
"Hi, Miss Simi," the announcer said to the caller. "We’re so glad to have you back."
"Oh, thank you," Simi said. "I just love them sparklies. I gots to get me lots of them. How many you got this time? Tell them other people they can go buy something else, ’cause the Simi wants all the Diamonique you got. I gots a whole new plastic card just waiting to be used."
Xirena’s head came up as pure happiness lightened her face. "My simi? Is that my simi?"
Alexion looked absolutely ill. "Akri," he said under his breath. "I hope you’re there to get her off that phone."
But apparently he wasn’t.
"I’ll take me seven dozen of them rings," Simi said. "Oh, and them necklaces, too, that you had up a little while ago. I needs to have lots of sparklies in my room. They are really nice whenever them dragons come in to play. But that little one, he keeps eating my Diamonique. I tell him no. It’s for me to eat. But does he listen? No. That’s the problem with dragons, they-"
"Well, Miss Simi," the operator said, cutting her off, "thank you for calling. We’ll transfer you over to an operator and let you place your order."
Xirena was in front of the television now, with her cheek pressed up against the screen and her hand spread out beside her face. She looked as if she were trying to peer into the set. "Where is my simi?" The sadness and pain in her voice brought an ache to Danger’s chest.
"She’s in Katoteros," Alexion told her.
"The gods are all dead there," Xirena said in a ragged tone. "She’d be alone in Katoteros."
"Not all of them are dead."
Danger cringed at the cry, which was so shrill and loud she was amazed it didn’t shatter her windows or her eardrums. It was a cry of pain and of happiness.
Alexion moved forward to take Xirena into his arms as she sobbed and continued to scream out for her sister’s return. Her longing was so sad that it brought tears to Danger’s eyes.
"Shhh," he said, rocking her in his arms. "It’s okay, Xirena. Simi is well and happy and shopping like a demon. Literally. She has never known a moment of pain in her life."
Xirena pulled back. "Never?"
"Almost never and I assure you that the ones who hurt her paid dearly for it."
"How do I know you’re not lying to me?"
Alexion took her hand into his.
Danger frowned as she watched him close his eyes and rock the demon. They stayed there on the floor for several minutes before the demon opened her eyes and looked up at Alexion. There was admiration and love in that odd yellow gaze.
"You are good people," the demon announced. "I won’t doubt you anymore."
Alexion inclined his head to her before he released her and rose.
The demon sniffed loudly, then brushed her tears away.
Danger cocked her head as he neared her. "What did you just do?"
"I showed her part of my memories with Simi so that she would understand the way her sister is treated."
"Could you share memories with me?"
He didn’t answer as he started back toward her garage door. "We need to find Kyros."
"Answer me, Alexion."
He paused in her hallway. "Yes," he said, without looking back.
A shiver went through her at his power. "You are spooky."
He turned to face her. One corner of his mouth was lifted into an almost taunting smile. "You have no idea."
Maybe, but she had a bad feeling that before all this was over, Kyros would get a taste of those powers firsthand. She only hoped she didn’t end up on the receiving end of them too.
Danger paused as she left her car. They were at Kyros’s house and they weren’t alone. There was a red Ferrari parked on the street, along with a motorcycle. She knew that flashy Italian car well.
"What’s Rafael doing here?" she asked.
Alexion shut his door. "Kyros is most likely trying to sway him to his cause, just as he attempted to do with you."
Surely her friend wasn’t that foolish. She liked Rafael a great deal and the last thing she wanted was to see him hurt by this. "It’ll never work, will it?"
Almost as if in answer to her question, the front door opened.
A tall, good-looking African-American male came out of the house. His hair was shaved, leaving his head bald so as to show off the intricate scrollwork that was tattooed up the back of his neck to the crown of his head. Rafael Santiago wore his signature long black leather coat, black pleated pants, and a skin-tight black knit shirt that showed off every tiny detail of his ripped eight-pack.
Gorgeous and deadly, the man was the epitome of the word "tough." As a human, he’d been known to cut the throat of anyone dumb enough to look at him too long. He let no one get away with anything. His only motto in life was, Do unto others before they do it to you.
But for all his bluster and razor-quick quips, she knew him for a sweetheart. Those he considered his friends, he would kill to protect, and he was loyal to a fault.
He wore a pair of dark sunglasses that completely obscured most of his face, but Danger knew the former pirate captain well. He’d been living happily over in Columbus for the last sixty-six years.
"Rafael," she said in greeting as he drew near them.
He inclined his head to her as he stopped by her side. He turned to look at Alexion. Even with the sunglasses on, she could feel the intense curiosity of his stare. "Who’s your friend?"
"His name is Al," she said, not wanting to say "Alexion" in the event Kyros had already dropped that bombshell. She would have used Ias, but there was only one Ias, and the last thing she wanted was for Rafael to question him about that. "He’s an ancient Greek."
Rafael offered his hand to Alexion. "New Hunters are always welcome."
"Thanks," Alexion said as he shook his proffered hand.
"What are you doing here?" Danger asked.
Rafael took his sunglasses off and rolled his eyes. "There were five of us here originally, but the others left a little while ago. Kyros kept me and Ephani longer because, unlike the other jack-offs, we don’t believe his bullshit."
"What bullshit?" Alexion asked.
Rafael let out a tired sigh as he rubbed his hand over his muscled jaw. "He has some demented notion that Acheron is a Daimon. I’m sure that’s why he called you two. He wants to try and convince you too. The man’s an idiot. I’m going to patrol before I hit the ass**le and do myself some damage."
Danger laughed. "Are the others buying it?"
"Like it’s a cheap whore on the dock after a long trip at sea."
"What makes you so sure he’s not right?" Alexion asked.
"You ever met Acheron?"