Alexion nodded at the name. He knew much about the Highlander Dark-Hunter who had been recently relocated from London to Glasgow. "How does your father like it over there?"
"It’s all right, but he misses home. They talk funny over there and not many can understand his accent. He’s real Southern sounding."
Now there was the pot describing the kettle.
Keller continued to ramble on as he led the way into a medium-sized bedroom that had an adjoining bathroom. Alexion cocked his head as he felt something strange go through him. It was cold, almost sinister, and he couldn’t place it.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think it was…
"Acheron?" He sent the mental call out through the dimensions.
His boss didn’t answer him.
Then as soon as the sensation had come, it was gone.
Danger didn’t know what to believe as she headed home from Aberdeen to Tupelo. She’d stayed too long with Kyros and her powers had waned a lot more than she should have allowed. She felt weak and sick, and in truth, she wanted nothing more than to lie down for a while and give herself time to recover.
Most of all, she needed time to think through everything they had told her tonight. To be honest, Stryker had made some rather convincing arguments.
"You have been trained that all Daimons are evil and out to prey on humans. Well, newsflash, we’re not the ones who are in the wrong. Acheron is. He was cast out of our home realm, Kalosis, because even our mother could no longer abide his rampant killing. It’s why he uses you to kill us now. He wants revenge on us.
"Your powers wane when you’re together because Acheron took your souls and has devoured them. That’s why the first Dark-Hunters were allowed to stay together. In the beginning, their souls weren’t dead. He actually did have them. But after Acheron ate the souls of Kyros and Callabrax… then they were like the rest of you and could no longer be together without it draining their powers."
Still, that hadn’t made sense to her.
"Whether you like it or not, little girl, your souls are dead. That’s why you can’t be in a room with another soulless being. The energy that sustains you, that keeps you animated, begins to clash with the energy of the other soulless being. Why do you think you don’t lose your powers around a Daimon? We have a soul inside us, and it allows us to be together without harm. That’s why you can be with Acheron and not feel the drain and why Acheron can go into a cemetery and not be possessed. He, unlike you, has a stolen soul inside him."
Danger had still been skeptical. "That doesn’t make sense. What about Kyrian and the other Dark-Hunters who have gotten their souls back?"
Stryker’s answer had been automatic. "They didn’t get their souls back, they got someone else’s."
That had been the most ludicrous thought of all. "Yeah, right. We all know that anytime a soul enters a body that it’s not meant for, the soul withers and dies in a matter of weeks. Kyrian has had his soul back for years now."
Stryker had laughed evilly at that. "That’s not true if the soul comes from an unborn baby. That’s why Daimons covet pregnant women so much. If you take the soul of the unborn, it can sustain you until the body dies."
Those words had left her cold. To do such a thing was an abomination.
She still wasn’t sure if it was possible.
"How could Acheron get such a soul?" she’d asked.
"Where do you think the medallions come from that he uses to restore a Dark-Hunter to his or her previous human state? Our mother is the keeper of souls." He had looked at Kyros. "The Greek word for ‘Destroyer’ is the Atlantean word for ‘soul’. Your people made the assumption that Apollymi was a god of destruction, but in truth, she is a guardian of souls. My brother uses a demon to steal those souls from her whenever he needs one. He then returns the souls to a handful of you every so often so that the rest of you will continue to obey him. He knows you have to have hope in order to not turn on him and become disgusted with your existence and duties. It’s why you must go to him whenever you want to be free. He does this whole ‘I have to petition Artemis’ bullshit when in truth what he has to do is break into our mother’s temple and steal a new soul. Trust me, there is no Artemis to petition."
It all sounded so preposterous.
Truth is stranger than fiction…
That was true enough, and she couldn’t get past the eyes. No one had those mystical, swirling silver eyes except for Acheron… and Stryker. They both had black hair, which Stryker had turned blond before her eyes.
"Why do you think you never see Acheron with blond hair? He’s afraid that you’ll see it and then you’ll know him for the Daimon that he is."
Danger turned her car down the street to head home. Everything she had ever believed about the Dark-Hunter world and her place in it was now uncertain. She hated Kyros for that. As a human, she’d allowed one man to lie to her and destroy everything she held dear.
Had she allowed another man to do the same thing?
Just who could she trust? Who wasn’t lying to her?
"Why didn’t you have Stryker try to kill me for betraying you?" she’d asked Kyros after he told her that they knew she had called Acheron to report his questionable activities with the Daimons.
He’d laughed at her. "I wanted you to tell him. That’s why I had my Squire tell your Squire about my going Rogue. Trust me, Danger," Kyros had said. "Acheron won’t come here and face us himself. He’ll be too afraid to."
Stryker had agreed. "He’s right. You called Acheron because you were concerned about the fact that you’d heard Kyros was working with Daimons and not killing them. Now Acheron will send in his pawn to supposedly ‘investigate.’ The blond man will be someone claiming to be Acheron’s Squire, even though everyone knows Acheron doesn’t have one. Instead of a Squire, he’s Acheron’s assassin. You’ll know him instantly. He’ll show up wearing a white coat."
She had rolled her eyes at them. "White coat? Yeah, right. That’s not only tacky, that’s stupid."
"No," Kyros had said. "White is the Greek and Atlantean color for mourning."
Stryker nodded. "This so-called Squire is essentially Acheron’s angel of death and he will kill all of you who know the truth about Acheron unless we kill both of them first."
That had made her gut tighten to the point of pain.
Acheron had never been anything but friendly to her. He’d been the one who had come to her after she’d sold her soul to Artemis for vengeance against her husband. He had taught her how to fight and how to survive. Acheron had introduced her into this world with a great deal of care.
Or so it seemed.
"How do you know it was Artemis you sold your soul to?" Stryker had asked. "Acheron could pass off any redheaded bitch as the goddess and who would know? It’s not like any of you have met her before or since the moment you sold your soul. Trust me. Artemis is long dead and the woman who comes to the Dark-Hunters is whatever whore Acheron is currently doing at the time."
But if Stryker was right, Acheron was behind it all. Acheron had designed them so that he would have his own army to fight the Daimons who were out to kill him for declaring war on them.
That just didn’t seem like the Acheron she knew.
But then the Acheron she knew was extremely secretive to the point of being paranoid. No one knew anything at all about him. No one.
He wouldn’t even give his true age when she asked it.
Then Kyros had disclosed the one bit that couldn’t be argued with.
The piece of evidence that was the most damning…
"In all the centuries I have lived I’ve only known Acheron to have one friend-that New Orleans Squire Nick Gautier who used to serve Kyrian of Thrace before Kyrian became human again. Everyone, assumed that because of his friendship with Acheron, Nick was completely untouchable. Then a few months ago, out of the blue, some Daimon brutally kills Nick’s mother and Nick vanishes without a trace never to be seen or heard from again. I know it was Acheron who did it, Danger. Nick must have found out about him and Ash killed them both to cover his tracks."
It was hard to refute that. Nick’s disappearance had gone through their community like a death knell. He’d been well known and well liked for the most part.
And the way his mother had died…
It had been brutal and harsh, as if someone were trying to get back at someone.
Danger shook her head, trying to make sense of everything. "What do I believe?" she asked herself.
The problem was, she didn’t know. And it wasn’t exactly something she could call Acheron up and ask. "Hi, Ash, this is Danger. I was wondering if you had sucked the soul out of Cherise Gautier and then murdered Nick out of spite? You don’t mind answering me, eh?"
Yeah, even if Acheron was innocent, he might get just a tad upset over that one.
Kyros was already sending out calls to Dark-Hunters he thought were trustworthy. He and Stryker planned on gathering them here in Mississippi to train them to take souls of evil humans, which according to Stryker was what the true Daimon mandate was.
"We never killed innocent humans until Acheron forced us to it. In the beginning, we preyed solely on the dregs of society. Men and women who destroyed or plagued their own kind and who deserved to die. Now there are many times when we have no choice except to kill whoever we can get to, regardless of who or what they are.
"As soon as we show ourselves, one of Acheron’s people comes in and tries to shove a knife in our hearts. We have to move fast to feed before one of you kills us. We don’t want to hurt anyone, especially not the innocent Dark-Hunters. Why do you think we run most of the time when we see you, instead of fighting you? We know that the Dark-Hunters are innocent in this and none of us want to kill you for being blind and foolish. It’s Acheron we’re after, not his hapless minions.
"All of you have been programmed by him to ask no questions about us. You blindly kill on the assumption that we deserve it, and yet here I stand before you, not a monster trying to kill you. I’m only a person, same as you. I love and I need. All I want is to live in peace and to not be forced to kill the innocent.
"And why has Acheron lied to you? He’s afraid one day that you’ll all figure out the truth about him. The truth about being a Dark-Hunter. If you kill humans and ingest their souls, you can have the same powers that Acheron does. You can have the powers of a god."
Surely he was lying. It just couldn’t be that easy.
Sighing, Danger pulled into her driveway and did her best to clear her thoughts. There wouldn’t be a clear cut answer tonight. Most likely there wouldn’t be one tomorrow either.
She saw Keller’s green SUV in the garage. Damn. She really wasn’t in the mood for his five thousand questions tonight. Not while she was trying to sort through this.
After getting out of the car, she made her way into her house and dropped her keys on the counter. It was eerily quiet. How unlike Keller not to have a radio blasting or be in the middle of a boisterous phone conversation with a friend.
"Keller?" she called, feeling a little nervous as she headed for the living room.
She paused in the doorway to find her Squire sitting in an uneasy slump on the couch across from an unknown man who was seated in her armchair. All she could see was the back of his blond head. Even so, she could tell he was sitting very stiff and formal. It was a pose of command.
"Hey, Danger," Keller said in a nervous greeting as he saw her in the doorway. "We have a guest. He’s, um… he’s Ash’s Squire."
She went cold at his words. Her heart started thumping as adrenaline rushed through her.
The man stood up slowly and turned to face her. Danger’s gaze quickly fell to the white coat he wore over his solid black clothes. To the way he stood there in all his arrogance as if he dar