Time Untime (Page 11)

Time Untime (Dark-Hunter #22)(11)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Ren shook his head. "It’s not a dream."

She snorted. "Then how did we get here?"

"I have the ability to teleport."

Sure he did. She laughed nervously. "Yeah. Beam me up, Scotty, right? Did you guys slip me something? Is Rain in on this?"

"You don’t really believe that."

Kateri ran her hand along the dark blue curtain beside her. A curtain that didn’t vaporize and turn all of this into some psychotic dream. "No, but I want to." She wanted to believe anything other than what this appeared to be.

I’m insane. I have to be-that at least makes sense.

Otherwise …

She flinched at a reality she wanted no part of. Personally, she liked having an address in the state of Denial. "This is real, isn’t it?"

"As real as it gets."

Covering her face with her hands, she tried everything she could to come up with some other plausible explanation.

There wasn’t one. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…. Damn you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Damn you!

And in that moment, everything overwhelmed her. The death of Fernando, her recent spree of brushes with death, her crazy, weird dreams … Everything.

Oh God, it’s true.

All of it.

No, he can’t be the same man in the past. He couldn’t be. He couldn’t …

Ren recognized the shock she was falling into. Knowing he had to ground her, he closed the distance between them and cupped her face again in his palms. The softness of her skin caressed his and made him yearn for things he knew he could never have. Things he knew he shouldn’t even want.

"What’s your name?" She’d called herself "Teri" earlier, but it didn’t seem to fit what he knew of her.

Kateri blinked at his unexpected question. "Huh? What?"

"I don’t know your name, little one. What do they call you?"

That made her laugh. "Of course you don’t. Why should you? You’ve only saved my life twice now. Pulled me out of…" Her brain went from her situation to another one that scared her even move. Is Rain okay?"

"They won’t hurt him. They’re after you."

Of course they were….

"What are they?"

Ren hesitated. Being told that basically everything wanted a piece of you wasn’t conducive to calming someone down. While he didn’t have a lot of people skills, he knew that one bit of knowledge was best kept to himself. "Enemies."

She screwed her face up at him. "Really?" she asked, her voice dripping in sarcasm. "Enemies? That’s the best you can do?"

"You still haven’t told me your name," he reminded her.

"Kateri Avani, though most people call me Teri."

Ren repeated it in his head. It was a beautiful name, like the woman who bore it. "I’m Ren."

"I know."

"But I didn’t tell it to you."

She frowned at him. "Does that make a difference?"

"Where I come from, it does."

Kateri bit back another retort as she stared into eyes so black, she couldn’t even make out his pupil.

From the deepest part of her brain, she remembered something her grandmother had once told her about the way her people viewed names. Why "Waleli" was only known to the two of them and no one else. "It’s a sign of trust."

He nodded. "When someone knows your name, you give them a small piece of yourself. It’s the first step toward friendship."

And in that moment, she had another insight into why he so seldom spoke. That, too, was giving her a part of himself. If he really was the man in the past, then he was trusting her not to mock him should he stutter. "So we’re past that whole two-syllable thing, then?"

One corner of his mouth quirked up into the most devastating smile she’d ever seen on a man. "We are…" and then as if realizing he was about to give her only two syllables as an answer, he tacked on, "Kateri."

Dang … the way he said that with his accent … It sent shivers over her. She’d never particularly liked her name. While it was uncommon, it came with the annoying drawback that no one ever could spell or pronounce it.

But her name rolled off his tongue like a caress.

Against her will, she felt a part of her melt toward him. He really was sweet when he wasn’t being a total ass.

And that made her wonder if his lips would taste as good as they looked….

Teri! She never had thoughts like that. She was too focused on her career to bother with something so trivial. But for once, she couldn’t seem to quell her desire.

She really, really wanted to bury her face into the crook of his neck and inhale his warm, masculine scent.

Licking her lips, she leaned in to him. She was almost home free when they heard a sound at the door. At first, she thought it was a mistake.

Until the lock turned.

A moment later, the door was blasted open, spraying debris all over them. Ren shielded her body with his. Violent winds tore through the room. They were so strong that it stole her breath and whipped her hair around her body. If not for Ren holding her, she’d have been sucked out of the room. How he continued to stand strong against the ferocity of a hurricane, she had no idea.

And as the winds picked up speed, she met Ren’s gaze. Her heart stopped.

His black eyes had turned blood-red.

Chapter 7

Ren braced himself as he felt the steel claws of Kyatel rip across his body. As the wind-demon had intended, it stung his flesh like a thousand scorpions. Tears of vicious pain welled in his eyes while he struggled to remain on his feet. If he went down, the demon would have the woman and the fight would end here and now. She would die and all the gates would open.

I will not be defeated….

Never again.

Angry for getting them into this situation and for failing to teleport her to his intended haven, he forced himself to stand strong in spite of the physical agony as he mentally reached deep inside and summoned every piece of power he could. This was so not where he wanted to be. Why … why had his powers screwed them over like this? For once, couldn’t something work the way it was supposed to? His fury rising, he bared his fangs and threw his arm outward. As hard as he could, he drove a fireball straight into the demon’s chest.

Screaming, Kyatel fell back, through the doorway. The winds stopped howling long enough for Ren to grab Kateri’s hand and pull her forward. They needed to get deeper into the first realm if they were to survive. He would try to teleport them again, but after this misstep, he didn’t dare. His powers were waning and with two of them …

Better to be locked here than to fall into the second realm.

As he tried to lead her, she shook her head in denial and literally dragged her feet, slowing them down. "What are you?"

"The only one in this realm on your side. Come with me or they will kill you."

He saw the hesitation in her eyes an instant before she nodded. His only thought to put as much distance between him and his former ally as he could, he ran toward a door and threw it open.

Kateri slowed again as she saw the burning room they needed to cross. Giving him a look that said she thought he was insane, she refused to go into it.

Ren fought down his irritation. Unlike him, she wasn’t used to demon tricks and traps. "It’s an illusion."

This time her gaze called him a liar.

"Trust me."

"Why should I?"

He deserved her doubt. After his past, he wasn’t entitled to anything except contempt and disdain. Still, it stung on numerous levels. "You want to live?"

Her gaze scorched him with a trust he’d never seen in any woman’s eyes before. "Yes, I do. So please, don’t be lying to me. I don’t have much to live for, but I definitely don’t want to die tonight." Those words were whispered as she stepped forward and retook his hand.

Hoping, praying he was right about it being an illusion, Ren pulled her into the flames. For the merest instant, he thought he’d misjudged the situation. But as they crossed the burning room and he recognized the stench of this hell, he knew what had happened.

Coyote had breached this first gate and sucked them into it. Somehow his brother had opened the doorway to Hi’hinya and released Kyatel. Or worse, Coyote had broken Choo Co La Tah and Choo had done it for him.

Either way, the gate for Hi’hinya was open and it was bad for all of them.

Not wanting to consider what it would take to force Choo’s hand to do this, Ren used his telekinesis to slam the door shut and seal it behind them before Kyatel came through. They wouldn’t have long and he wasn’t exactly the fiend of the month around here. No doubt there were wanted posters for him everywhere. Ones that held a huge bounty. If a demon could capture him and take him to the Grizzly, they would be rewarded beyond measure. There was nothing in the universe the Grizzly Spirit wanted more than to have Ren back in his custody.

For that reason, Ren was as much a threat to her as the demons were.

Maybe he ought to let her go it alone.

But he knew better. She wouldn’t last long in this first realm of the dead. She had no idea how to fight or avoid them. And at least the demons here weren’t that strong as a rule. Many were nothing more than shadow walkers-demons that straddled the two worlds. The biggest problem with them was that they had no loyalty whatsoever. Ambiguous and capricious in the purest sense of those words, they were as likely to kill someone as to help them.

If they were really lucky, the shadow walkers wouldn’t care about their presence at all.

Of course, luck was always one fickle bitch.

And tonight she seemed to have it in for them.

Suddenly, the wall to his left exploded, showering them with sheetrock. However, that wasn’t the bad part. The bad came in the form of a herd of demons who were hell-bent to claim his heart, and her life as a bonus.

Ren let go of the woman so that he could face them.

Kateri fell away with a gasp as Ren manifested the club she’d seen him use a thousand times in her dreams. And he made use of it like a champion. With the flat end, he swatted them back before slicing them open with the obsidian glass.

The twisted demons screamed as they went down. Many retreated, but others persisted, climbing over the bodies of the fallen so that they could pursue him.

Kateri glanced around, seeking some way to help. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure what exactly they were fighting and she didn’t have a super weapon to combat them with. Going up against them with her bare hands didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. Rather, she decided not to be a distraction to the one who knew how to fight them. Better to guard the wall and make sure Ren didn’t accidentally hit her with that club than to run forward and get them both hurt.

It was actually quite impressive to watch Ren wield his club. He treated it like an extension of his arm. He held a fluid grace to his movements that said he’d spent his life training for battle.

And as he fought, more images filled her head.

"Why do you fight me, Makah’Alay? I am not your true enemy. He lives much closer to home. We could be allies, you and I. Fight with me for those who can’t fight for themselves. Let go your anger and, for once, embrace something good." She didn’t know who the old man was who fought against Ren, but something about him seemed so familiar….

Ren didn’t respond as the two of them went at each other like primordial gods fighting for supremacy.

"Is this really what you want?" the old man tried again. "Is it all you want?"

Ren glared at him. "What I want is for you to die already, old man! And shut up while you do it!"

"That’s not you talking. It’s Grizzly. He fears the truth because he knows that will send him back to where he belongs. Let your hatred go and purge him from your body. Whether you believe it or not, you’re better than this, Makah’Alay. You do deserve to be happy and valued."

"Fuck you!" Ren had renewed his fight with greater vigor.

Both of them were sweaty and grimy from their battle. They looked like they’d been fighting for months….

For …

"A year and a day," she breathed.

Ren turned to scowl at her. "What did you say?"

"Duck!" she shouted as one of the demons went for his back.

Turning, he barely caught it with the club. The twisted demon thing let out a piercing shriek before it burst apart. The flames flared brighter until they were blinding. Kateri held her hand up in front of her face to shield her eyes.

Ren turned and grabbed her, then tried to teleport. It didn’t work. Dammit. He had to get her out of here. But he couldn’t take them both out with his powers so depleted.

It’s a good day to die. If he was gone, no one would care.

But unlike him, she mattered.

He cupped her face in his hand, then locked gazes with her. "Think of your grandmother. Call her to you and ask her to guide you home."

Kateri scowled at his order. "I don’t understand."

He put something solid in her hand and held her fist closed over it so that she couldn’t see what it was. "Just do it. Now close your eyes and think of her."

Kateri did. One second, she could feel the room warming up-feel the flames starting to lick her skin to burn it-and in the next …

She was beside Talon in his living room in his New Orleans home.

What the…?