Sam frowned. Nick didn’t look well. When she’d first met him on this assignment months ago, he’d been well coifed and gorgeous—except for the bow and arrow mark on his face. Now he looked pale and exhausted. Shaken. Like something had him in a vise grip and he couldn’t breathe for the pain of it.
If not for the fact that Dark-Hunters couldn’t get sick, she’d think he was about to hurl.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m always okay.” His bitter tone denied those words.
Sam wanted to touch him and see what the truth was, but her inner alarm told her that she didn’t want to see what ever demon had its claws into him. When you stare into the darkness, sometimes it stares back….
And those mirrored images were often the most terrifying and threatening.
Nick paused in the doorway to look back at them. “By the way, I should warn you. It’s almost noon here and Stryker’s mounting his attack to take you into Kalosis. I don’t know when he’s planning to strike, but I’m sure it’ll be before dark since you’ll be at a disadvantage in the light. My house is technically shielded, however Stryker’s powers are such that I don’t know if it’ll hold against him.”
Sam narrowed her gaze dangerously as her suspicions about him mounted. “How do you know what Stryker has planned?”
When Nick answered, it wasn’t with his mouth. She heard his voice loud and clear in her head. The same way I know you love Dev, little girl. And if you do, send him home before nightfall. He won’t survive otherwise.
And with that he walked out of the room and closed the door without touching it.
Sam watched as Dev went over the room making sure nothing would harm her even though Nick had assured them it was safe—neither of them trusted him.
The care Dev took as he reviewed it all was adorable and it reminded her so much of the image she’d seen of him protecting his sister when they were young. He was so protective and sweet….
Worst of all was the compunction she had to brush his hair back from the nape of his neck and nibble his skin until he made that little growl in the back of his throat that sent shivers over her. She wanted to walk into his arms and just have him hold her until everything else vanished.
Love them. Leave them. That was the Code she’d lived by. As an Amazon and a Dark-Hunter. In her ancient world, men had often been seen as an impediment to the Amazon social structure. Amazons would go, have sex, and then never tell the men they’d fathered children unless they had to. They raised the daughters independently and brought them into the Amazon nation. Sons would be given to their father or his family.
It was rare for an Amazon to marry. Her sister had tried to use that to undermine her authority, but the Amazon code was actually more versatile than that. The point of their nation was for women to have the power to make their own choices about their lives and their happiness.
In an ancient world were women had less autonomy than male slaves, it was up to the woman to determine if she wanted domesticity or not and the rest of them had vowed to support their sister in what ever decision she made. Yes, most chose to live without a man. But not all. Sam wasn’t the first to marry and she hadn’t been the last.
For that matter, not all Amazons gave up their male children. Their world had been about respect and support. It was why she’d loved her nation so much.
As a Dark-Hunter, she’d had the same freedoms. Much like her people, they supported each other. Very rarely was a male Dark-Hunter chauvinistic—Ash kicked that out of them during training. The most important thing about being a Dark-Hunter was their vow to protect humans.
Be a part of the world, but not in it.
Let no one know who or what you are.
Take care of carnal needs when you have to so that you can stay focused, but never take a lover or a significant other. They will distract you and weaken you. Most of all, they become a target to be used against you.
Ash’s rules. They all knew them and as she looked at Dev, she wished she’d listened.
Because right now, she didn’t want to leave. She wanted to snuggle. Most of all, she wanted to wrap her body around his and make love to him until neither of them could walk straight.
But she had to get him out of harm’s way before it was too late.
“Why don’t you head back to Sanctuary?”
He looked at her with a fierce scowl. “Why?”
Because I don’t want to see you hurt. It would destroy me. “I was just thinking they might need you there. The Daimons might come back for retaliation against your family.”
Grinning, he scoffed at her dire tone. “I think my family can handle it.”
“I don’t know. Aren’t Were-Hunters supposed to be extra special nubby treats for them?”
“When they can get us, yeah. But the problem is we have the same powers they do so getting one of us isn’t easy. We bite back and we have clans who tend to attack en masse whenever they dare attack one of us. As a rule, they leave us alone.” He moved to the window to make sure their was no smidgeon of daylight escaping.
He would have to make this difficult.
Don’t make me hurt you, Dev. The last thing she wanted was to stomp on the one person who had finally made her feel alive again. It took every part of her sanity not to walk into his arms and hold him.
Her mind flashed to the sight of Ioel going down. The sound of him calling out to her to run.
I can’t let you die, Dev.
But she didn’t want to live without him.
“I really wish you’d go home.”
He turned sharply and the look of hurt on his face cut her soul deep. Maybe that was her punishment for having made her bargain with Artemis. Hate had brought her back, and now she found something more sustaining than that, and couldn’t have it because she’d been reborn from that hatred.
The gods were twisted that way.
Let him go.
“What are you saying, Sam?”
“I’m saying what I’m saying. I want you to go home now.” When he started to argue, she knew she had to come up with something stronger to get him out of the line of fire. Something that would offend him and make him go even though neither of them wanted that.
Gods help me….
She choked on the words that stung her throat and her heart, but forced herself to say it. For his sake. “Look, I’m not used to having people hang all over me and it’s starting to get on my nerves. I need my space.”
The look on his face shredded her and it almost succeeded in making her cry, but she was stronger than that. She was an Amazon and they didn’t weep, no matter the pain.
Dev clenched his teeth over her unexpected verbal bitch-slap. It left him reeling. What the hell was her problem? What had he done other than risk his life to take care of her?
He cramped her space? Oh yeah, that pissed him off to a level he hadn’t hit in awhile.
“I didn’t realize I was getting on your nerves. Forgive me for trying to help.” He walked over to her and had to bite back a resounding set down. But he wouldn’t be that way.
Not with her. He refused to kick her with the same gut punch she’d just delivered to him.
“Fine.” He took a step away from her. “I’m not one to stay where I’m not wanted. Have a nice life. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”
Sam didn’t move until he’d vanished. Then the sudden absence of his presence tore through her. It was like someone had ripped out her heart and left her vacant. The room seemed to shrink down to nothing and yet at the same time it left a hole in her life so large, it swallowed her whole.
Her eyes watered as tears gathered in her throat to choke her. “I’m so sorry, Dev.” But he’d never hear that apology. Not now. Not after she’d effectively cut him off at his kneecaps and left his ego throbbing.
She tried to tell herself that it was for the best. That she was doing this to save him.
None of that mattered to her heart. It ached and it begged her to call him back. “I can’t.” He was gone and she had to leave it that way.
Even if it killed her.
Thorn didn’t move as he felt a powerful presence behind him. Normally he’d be blasting anyone who dared to intrude on his sanctum.
But to do that to Savitar would be tantamount to suicide.
Well, not really.
It would, however, result in one seriously bloody battle that, while it would alleviate his boredom for a bit, would ruin his favorite suit.
“What could have possibly gotten you off the beach and brought you to my dark domain?” He turned his head to see Savitar standing behind him.
Dressed in white cargo pants and an open Hawaiian shirt, Savitar looked like any surfer right off the beach. Right down to his Birkenstock sandals, dark wind tossed hair, and opaque sunglasses.
Thorn arched a brow as he saw Shara frozen mid movement behind Savitar.
“You’re tampering with my Were-Hunters again. You know how I feel about that.”
Thorn scoffed at the ire in his tone. “Didn’t realize you owned them. Not sure they’ve realized it either.”
Savitar gave him a droll stare as he moved forward to stand in front of him. “You’re lucky I didn’t fight you when you grabbed Fang without my permission, but Dev…I want you to stay away from him.”
“Why? This town not big enough for the two of us?”
A muscle ticced in Savitar’s jaw. “Don’t push me, Thorn. Don’t forget that I know why you did what you did for Dev and Sam. Unlike them, I know you’re not the asshole you pretend to be.”
“There you’d be wrong, beach bum. I assure you. Every day I live is a study in how not to give in to the powers that beckon me…like you. We’re creatures of destruction.”
“Then you should remember that. Leave Dev alone.”
“And I repeat…why?”
Savitar gave an evil laugh.
“What are you doing here?”
Dev paused as he met Remi in the living room of Peltier House. In deference to the Dark-Hunters and other nocturnal creatures who visited them from time to time, this was the one room in the house where sunshine was allowed to flood in.
It had been their mother’s favorite room and one Dev had spent many hours in, playing with his nieces and nephews.
Today, however, he didn’t see the beauty of the room or his mother’s impeccable decorating taste. Today, it was gloomy even with the sun shining bright.
And Remi’s tone chafed him like a knife down his spine. “What? I can’t come home?”
“Don’t bark at me, asshole. I just thought you’d become the internal kidney for your new honey and since she’s not here…”
“She’s not my honey.” Dev started for the stairs, but Remi stopped him.
For once there was actual concern in Remi’s eyes. “What’s wrong, mon frère? Really?”
That succeeded in making him feel like a jerk. It was easier to take Remi’s eternal barbs than to deal with his brotherly affection.
That alone weakened him.
“Nothing, Rem. I’m just tired.”
He saw the doubt in Remi’s eyes. “If you say so.”
Dev took a step, then paused as Sam’s words about his surliest brother went through him. It was so incongruous with everything he knew about Remi and yet curiosity sank its evil claws into him so that he had to have an answer. “Do you really listen to the Indigo Girls and watch Just Like Heaven?”
Remi’s face blanched. “What are you talking about?”
Dev would have burst out laughing, but the sheer shock of having Remi confirm Sam’s absurdity kept him from doing it. Dear gods, it was true. His brother had a whole tender side he’d have never guessed at.
Remi probably even cried while watching Bambi….
Damn. What was next? Dobermans nursing kittens? The whole concept messed with his entire view of the natural world order. It was so screwed up….
“Nothing. It was just a little bird I heard in my ear.”
Remi curled his lip and his eyes blazed with murder. “Yeah, well, you know me better than that. I watch gory horror movies and I listen to death metal.”
And he listened to Amy Ray and Emily Sailors. The thought was hilarious because his brother denied it. Honestly, he liked them too. But he’d never admit it either.
Dev bit back a smile as he headed upstairs to his room. But the moment he opened the door and his gaze fell to the rumpled bed, his amusement died under a bitter reminder of Sam making love to him. Every sense he possessed was suddenly filled with memories of her and it slammed into him like fist in his bread box.
How could she have come to be so important to him when they’d only just met?
And yet he couldn’t deny the pain he felt over not being with her.
I loved your father the first moment I laid eyes on him. I couldn’t believe that one so precious was cut from the blood and bone of my enemies and yet…he was the only one I could ever see myself with and I’m grateful that the Fates saw it the same way I did. I would be lost and bereft without him.
That was the only conversation he’d had with his mother about mating. His parents had been one of the rare Were-Hunter couples who’d been mated the first time they’d had sex.
For the rest of them it could take dozens of encounters.
He looked down at his bare palm. When he’d been younger, full of stupid dreams, he’d tried to imagine what his mating symbol would look like. While clan symbols were similar for the species, each one was unique to the couple. And as a kid, he’d actually painted one on just to see.
As a man, he’d been grateful that no one had marked him. While it was a bonding of two people, it also came with a heavy commitment. One they could never back out of.
He closed his fist tight. I don’t need a mate. He was happier alone.
But as he thought of Sam, he knew that for an absolute lie. He would be happiest with her.
And she had no use for him at all.
Urian was supposed to meet his source at Sanctuary so that he could gather more information about Stryker’s plan for Acheron. He and Davyn had always tried to pick spots where there was no chance of any of Stryker’s people seeing them together. If Stryker ever learned that Urian still talked to his old friend, he’d kill Davyn immediately.
And it wouldn’t be quick.
He rubbed his neck where his father had cut his throat in a fit of rage over the fact that Urian had dared try to be happy for five seconds. The bitter memory of that night was never far from the surface and it was carved in blood on his heart. He’d worshiped his father his entire life—had committed all manner of atrocities to please him.
And for what?
So the bastard could kill Urian’s wife and then cut his throat the first time he displeased him?
One day I will have my vengeance.
If it was the last thing he did, he would kill Stryker for what he’d taken from him.
“C’mon, Davyn, have something good for me.” Urian went over to the bar to order a beer while he waited.
Colt handed it off to him. Without a word, Urian drifted around the game area.
He checked his watch. Davyn was late. Something highly unusual for him.
Had Stryker found out? The mere thought made his blood run cold.