The Guardian (Page 31)

The Guardian (Dark-Hunter #21)(31)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Oh the nightmares he’d given some of those pricks. No one had ever messed with his girl that he didn’t make them pay.

Until now.

And what hurt the most was that he’d never see her again. Never watch as she sang to him with her hands.

Because I failed her. It was all his fault. Had he been stronger … faster …

Why couldn’t the Guardian have killed him instead?

Delphine reached to comfort him.

"Don’t touch me!" he growled.

There was no comfort to be had. Not now. Not ever again.

Did Delphine really think that some stupid, paltry touch would soothe him when his heart had been ripped out?

Jericho, Delphine’s husband, moved forward as if he was going to attack him over hurting her feelings, but Zarek stopped him. The two of them had been the ones who’d finally heard Delphine’s call and had released them so that they could chase down the Phonoi to stop them from hurting Lydia.

But not in time. If only they’d found the phonoi sooner. Maybe then they could have saved his baby.

I wish the Guardian had killed me the first day he captured me.

Anything would have been better than the agony of living without his daughter.

Maahes moved forward. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Fuck off and die."

Instead of getting angry, Maahes walked away and left him to his pain. As did the others.

Except Zarek.

He waited until they were alone before he approached Solin. "I’m not going to insult either of us with some mambi-pambi bullshit. Life sucks. No one knows that better than I do. But if you want to go break ass over this, I’ll be there for you. Just shout. The bloodier, the better."

Strangely, that did make him feel better. And he knew Zarek meant it.

"Thank you." But he’d never take Zarek up on that offer. He’d never put the demigod in harm’s way. Unlike him, Zarek had a family. The one thing Solin had always wanted.

The one thing he’d always been denied.

He’d never even heard his own daughter call him father.

Not once.

Zarek inclined his head to him respectfully, then vanished.

Alone now, Solin looked down at Lydia’s pale face that had never failed to make his heart swell with pride.

Until today. Today there was nothing but blinding misery that cut so deep, his soul bled from it.

He brushed at her skin, trying to clean her. There was so much blood. How could anyone have done this to such a kind, sweet being?

How?

I’ll kill him, he swore to himself. He didn’t know how, but he was going to get that bastard and rip him to pieces.

It’s what you get for trusting someone. If anyone knew better, it was he. They had a traitor in their midst, and that betrayal had cost Lydia her life.

He would find the turncoat Dream-Hunter, too, and bathe in their blood.

But first he had a daughter to bury.

* * *

Lydia groaned as she blinked open her eyes. She felt so incredibly sick. What had she eaten?

Where am I?

She looked around the lush bed with linen curtains surrounding it. The sound of the sea and smell of saltwater was thick in the air. Over the top of the bed was a gold medallion and a crystal chandelier that, when lit, would cast dancing deer on the ceiling.

She frowned as she realized where she was. Solin’s house.

But why was she here?

Why was she dressed in this garish white gown?

Oh good grief! She was in lace and ruffles. Ick! It was something her father would put her in, and something she’d only agree to wear if she had a severe head injury … or was dead.

"Damn it, George, I wanted the white ones for today! White! Do you hear me?"

She jumped at Solin’s angry shout. How strange. She’d never heard him fuss at poor George before. He normally had infinite patience with his valet, who was more family than employee.

Yawning, she stretched and sat up at the same time Solin came into her room.

He froze to gape at her, then a heartbeat later he flashed himself across the room to grab her into a hug so tight, she couldn’t breathe.

"You’re crushing me." Lydia didn’t know who was most stunned when those words came out.

Her or her father.

Shocked to the core of her being, she stared up at him as he looked down at her, gaping. "Was that you?"

She touched her throat, almost too afraid to try again. "I think so."

Dear gods, she could speak …

But how?

And still, why was she at Solin’s? She kept coming back to that because she had no explanation whatsoever. "What am I doing here?"

Solin scowled as he tried to grasp what was happening. Lydia was alive.

Alive!

He’d planned to entomb her body in only a few hours. But here she stood, whole and hale, and …

Alive.

He kept repeating that one word because he couldn’t believe it. The Guardian hadn’t killed her?

It was inconceivable. She’d been here for two days while he made preparations. No pulse. No heartbeat. And now she was just as she’d always been.

"Don’t you remember the last week?"

Lydia shook her head. "I was at home. I remember that I was angry about something, but I don’t remember what. Then I woke up here. Did you teleport me?"

"No, baby, I didn’t. You really have no memory of…" he didn’t want to mention Azmodea if she didn’t remember it, "coming after me?"

She shook her head. "Why did I come after you?"

Solin’s eyes misted as he realized what the Guardian had done for her.

He’d freed Lydia forever so that she could finally live her life without either of them having to fear that the other Greeks would find her. Everyone thought she was dead now.

For the first time in her life, she was completely safe.

But why would he have done such a thing?

Why do you think?

The Guardian loved her. There was no other reason for it. None. He’d given his own freedom, his life, for Lydia.

Solin stood there, amazed and grateful. Never in his life had anyone done anything like this for him. "Do you remember anyone from the last couple of days?"

She arched her brow. "Like?"

"A man with red hair?"

"Haven’t been to McDonald’s in a long time. Are you okay? You’re looking at me really strangely."

"Never better." He smiled at her. "I’m just grateful you’re awake. You’ve been extremely sick the last few days…" He’d have to explain eventually why she was missing several days out of her life. What better way than illness? "We were worried about you, that’s all."

But inside, he felt like shit as he debated what to do. He hated to keep a secret from her, especially one that involved someone who obviously loved her as much as the Guardian did.

She had a right to know what he’d done for her. But if she had no memory of the Guardian, why disturb her with the truth?

Obviously, her safety had meant more to the Guardian than anything else. Who was he to interfere?

So long as she didn’t remember, he would never speak of it.

"Are you hungry?" he asked, touching her warm cheek-something he would never again take for granted. "I can have George make you anything you want."

Lydia smiled at his offer. "Banana pancakes would be wonderful." She didn’t know why, but she had a strange banana craving.

"Get dressed and I’ll have them waiting in the atrium." Solin kissed her hand as if it were a holy relic and hesitated before he finally let go and left her.

Yeah, okay, her father was in a very, very strange mood.

As she went to the armoire and opened the door to get something a little less hideous to wear, there was a shadow in the back of her mind.

A world beyond a world.

Why did that seem important?

She opened and closed the armoire door. The way the blue wallpaper flashed on the ceiling reminded her of something. But what?

It was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t quite grasp it.

Blue on the ceiling?

What did I get into? She felt woozy and had a voice. But what really confused her was when she pulled her gown off and saw …

Was that a swallow?

What on earth?

Frowning, she fingered the weird tattoo on her shoulder just below her collar bone that hadn’t been there before. It was incredibly colorful and beautiful, but she had no memory of having it done. And if that wasn’t strange enough, she had some weird Egyptian cartouche around her neck.

Okay, remind me to never, ever drink again.

* * *

"You’re so pathetic."

Seth didn’t bother to look up at Noir as the bastard came to drain his powers again. He was so weak he could barely breathe. Since his return, as part of his punishment, he hadn’t been allowed to charge them at all.

And for that small mercy he was actually grateful.

Without his powers, he had no way whatsoever to see Lydia. There was no temptation to even try …

Which kept her safe.

Still, he would give anything to have one more second with her. To see those beautiful topaz eyes …

Noir laid his chest open, bringing him out of his numbed state as pain seared him. His overlord had become even more sadistic in his attempts to make sure Seth suffered as much as possible. And in guaranteeing that Seth would never escape again.

Not that he would.

He had no reason to go anywhere and every reason to stay. So long as he was here, Lydia was safe.

That was all that mattered to him. At least that was what he kept telling himself. But over the weeks, it’d gotten harder to remember the sound of her voice. The softness of her touch.

It terrified him that the day might come when he’d have no memory of her whatsoever.

And that was a far worse torture than anything Noir and his demons could dish out.

But his initial torture on his return here had at least clarified one thing in his memory. He knew why Lydia’s jackal form had seemed so familiar.

Her mother had been one of the jackals in his adoptive family.

Her grandfather was the one who’d sold him to Noir.

The irony of that stayed with him. But it didn’t stop the part of him that loved her anyway.

Noir raked his claws down the side of Seth’s face as he finally pulled back. "You are too repulsive to look at."

Seth had no response as he closed his eyes and tried to escape in his mind.

But he’d given Lydia his swallow and cartouche to keep her safe whenever she awoke, and without those he had no choice except to stay here and feel everything.

* * *

Lydia floated in the dream realm on her white gossamer wings. She didn’t know why, but her swallow tattoo kept pulling her here at night. It was almost as if it were trying to tell her something.

But whatever it sought, they never found it.

Arching up toward the dark sky, she saw a shadow moving far below. One that was terrifying and …

She saw eyes of steel set in a face that reminded her of warmth.

But as soon as she saw them, they were gone.

Yeah, I’ve lost my mind now.

And she had.

Time to wake up and see about moving the rest of her things from her home in England to her father’s estate. She was still sick from the week she’d been in a coma. And he was too worried about her to leave her alone. Which was fine with her.

Lydia had a feeling that in the coming days, she was going to need someone with her.

She just didn’t know why.

* * *

Seth felt a presence near him, but he couldn’t open his eyes to see if it was Noir or Azura. Not that it mattered. Pain was pain no matter whose hand dealt it.

Was it time to be drained again?

Hadn’t they already been here?

He couldn’t remember. Each feeding now seemed to hurt more than the one before and they blended together into a never-ending cycle of cruelty.

A hand brushed the hair back from his face. Sick from the agony they caused him, he tried to move away and fight, even though he knew it was futile.

Until he managed to open his eyes enough to see the face of his tormentor.

For a full minute, he couldn’t breathe as he saw the last person he’d ever expected to see again …

Lydia felt the tears stinging her eyes as she saw what Noir had done to him.

And all because of her.

The bolt was back in place and he’d been beaten so badly that she barely recognized a single feature on his face. He’d been hit so many times that his eyes were swollen out of shape and colored various shades of purple. He could barely open them even a slit.

She bit back a sob before she spoke. "I told you that I would always come for you," she whispered before she placed a gentle kiss on his bleeding cheek. She stepped back so that he could see she wasn’t alone.

Ma’at, Maahes, Thorn, and Solin were with her.

Maahes unchained him while Ma’at healed him, and Solin kept an eye out for any of the demons or Noir.

Seth fought against his release, but couldn’t speak until Maahes removed the bolt. He choked on his own blood, then refused to leave with them. "I can’t go. You won’t be safe."

"I’m not leaving you here," Lydia insisted.

Furious at her, he glared at Solin. "Get her out of here before they find her."

Solin snorted. "Believe me, I’ve tried to talk sense into her. She won’t listen."

Seth turned his glare to Thorn. "Why would you bring them here?"

Thorn grinned. "Solin made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Believe me, violating my truce with Noir isn’t something I do lightly."

He wanted to kill the bastard for that. But Thorn was every bit the immortal. Plus he had powers even Seth couldn’t fathom.