I’d never seen a clusterfuck unfold as quickly as the one that grabbed us by the balls the moment we walked into Lord Falnar’s damned garage.
The second the garage door opened, it seemed the fucking Maker had seen fit to throw everything at us he could. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been trapped in a room with more than a dozen of Matais Abernel’s guards, with the pompous little chickenshit holding us hostage. And he wouldn’t have had one of his guards aiming a bolt right at Lord Falnar’s head.
Nor would T-Man’s bike have broken down before we could leave, and he and Crash, unaware of the shitstorm happening in here, wouldn’t have come out of the adjacent garage, right into the hands of those guards. We wouldn’t have had to watch while one of the guards shot Lord Falnar dead.
And we wouldn’t have been sitting there, disarmed and frozen like statues, while one of the guards put a sword to our woman’s throat.
With Setora behind me, I couldn’t see what the guard had done, not when I didn’t dare move to look. But by the way he’d held the sword out as he approached her, and by the way she’d tensed, I knew he had the weapon on her.
I’d heard him take off his helmet, then I’d heard him speak.
Those two words hit me like a shock to the system, dripping with knowing and smugness and a poisonous possession that made my teeth clench.
I’d heard that voice only once, the day Steel and I had stolen Setora from that auction months ago, but a hundred years could have passed since then and I’d still have recognized that voice.
Damien. Damien fucking Vale.
The pieces fit together swiftly in my head. Lord Falnar had been set up. We all had.
Matais, the little fuck, stood behind Lord Falnar’s corpse, looking at his uncle with a chilling casualness.
The guard who’d shot Falnar reloaded his crossbow and held it up, at the ready.
When Matais turned his attention to us, that aristocratic face of his wore a twist of a smile, sly as a fox.
It was almost hard to believe this was the same squirrelly fuck we’d met at a summit a while back.
Straddling my bike, palms raised, my hands twitched, itching to grab the sword on my back, but I didn’t dare.
“Wise move, young man, keeping still,” Damien said from behind me. “You and that mountain over there are the ones who stole her from me, aren’t you?”
I knew he was talking about Steel. I said nothing.
“My guards told me about you two.”
“Damien Vale, you—” Sheriff started.
“What? By all means, continue,” Damien said.
Sheriff didn’t finish.
“That’s what I thought. You’re the one they call Sheriff, aren’t you? The General of the Dark Legion?” He said the name in the same cool, unruffled voice. “One move from any of you and she’ll bleed.”
Setora’s breath hitched. I had the feeling he’d pressed his blade harder to her throat in warning.
The silence in the room was like a fucking death knell.
“Get off the bike, Setora.” Boots shuffled as Damien moved away to give her room to dismount.
My woman’s harsh breathing filled my ears. The bike shifted as she swung slowly off.
The need to protect her roared in my blood like fire. Damn it, I’d never felt as helpless as I did right now. I’d have given my right nut to have the Brothers of Brimstone somewhere in the castle. I’d have found some way to alert them. But they were gone, likely having arrived in Devil’s Breath hours ago.
Setora suddenly cried out; Damien had grabbed her, because the next moment he backed away from the bike and into my line of vision with her pinned against him, his sword under her chin. Her beautiful face was ghost-white. The drops that had turned her eyes black didn’t hide the fear in their depths.
She was terrified.
Crash swore somewhere behind me, near the back of the room.
Damien continued to back away with Setora, toward the front of the room where Matais stood. Setora’s eyes flicked around the room, her gaze begging us all not to move.
No one did.
We were screwed; there was no way to get to her now without endangering her.
Son of a fucking bitch!
Damien slipped the scrap of curtain we’d used as a scarf from her head, revealing her pale, purple hair. “There’s my Little Dove. Why these savages would want to conceal your perfection is beyond me.” He tossed the cloth aside with a look of disgust.
“Damien, I won’t fight you.” Setora’s voice trembled. “Please just let them go.”
“Not a chance,” Matais grunted. “You’ll return to your master’s roost, but the Legion is Captain Vale’s now. Except Sheriff. He’s coming with me.”
“So he can be framed for the murder of a fucking lord?” Steel growled. “I don’t think so.”
“But he is.” Matais’ eyes danced with glee, focused on Sheriff. “Before this night is through, the whole world will know the General of the Dark Legion is a murderer. And the rest of you will rot in Captain Vale’s cells.”
Rage nearly had me lunging off my bike at him. “You son of a bitch!”
“Matais, you pathetic little fuck,” Sheriff bit out. “When I get my hands on you, I’ll rip out your fucking spine and feed it to my gappas.”
“You won’t get the chance.” Damien jerked his chin at the guards surrounding my Brothers. “Round them all up and put them in the carriages.”
He put his mouth to Setora’s ear as the guards swarmed in.
“These pirates took you from me, Little Dove. I will have you at my feet and calling me Master while my men draw and quarter them in my square for the crows to pick at, and that includes their general.”
Setora’s eyes closed in horror. Her body shuddered against him. A single tear rolled down her cheek. A piece of my heart died for her as she went slack against him.
“That wasn’t the deal, Damien,” Matais snarled.
“It is now.” Damien watched with satisfaction while the guards ordered Steel and me off our bikes, kicked mine and Hawk’s swords away, and patted us all down.
It hit me then. The guards wore Matais’ crest, but they weren’t his men. Or most of them weren’t. They were J’nai. Otherwise, there was no way they would have been acting like Damien’s puppets instead of Matais’.
“You didn’t think I was going to let a little pissant like you walk away with these thieves, did you?” Damien cast a glance back at Matais. “No, I have plans for them. And for her. Plans your little peon minds can’t imagine.” He glanced around, letting us know his words included all of us.
As the guards checked us over for weapons and cuffed us all with metal shackles, I took the few seconds to glance around, to really look around me for the first time since this whole mess started.
The guards on Steel had taken his helmet off and shackled his hands behind his back. Another two had secured Sheriff the same way.
Doc was being led toward the front of the room, hands cuffed at his back, his helmet discarded. More guards had Diamond and Emmy, separating them from Doc. One of the J’nai said something about the women being whores. Doc said nothing, but I saw the pure rage in his eyes.
“Club doctor, right?” the same guard growled at him.
“That’s right. Why, you have an erectile issue you need fixed?”
Diamond and Emmy both held back snickers.
The guard on the other side of Doc smacked him in the head.
“If you’re a doctor, then when we damage your women, you can patch them up so we can fuck them again.”
“How did you know she was here, Matais?” Sheriff glared at Damien while the guards led him toward the garage door. “How did you know to bring him here?”
Good question. No one but attendees at the summit and the Legion members in the Grotto knew we were here, much less that Setora was with us. How had Damien known?
Matias shrugged. “When my uncle contacted me about the glass, he mentioned the Dark Legion was here. I put the pieces together. The rumors about her.” He inclined his head at Setora in Damien’s grip. “It just so happens that Damien was visiting me at the time. I knew you had her with you. I figured there was far less chance of you and your pirates getting away if I had a handful of J’nai here.”
Shit, this dickless jackass was making me sick.
Sheriff said nothing, but by the anger simmering in him, I knew all he needed was one moment of distraction, and blood would flow.
“Come on, Blondie,” a guard said, yanking my hands behind my back and shackling my wrists. “Let’s go.”
I glanced at Damien as he dragged Setora out into the lot and forced my arms to relax. This inaction was killing me, but one wrong move could cost my Princess her life.
When the guards brought Sheriff to the garage door beside me, he stopped and leaned toward Matais and Damien. “How far do you think you two fucks are going to get? The moment you set foot on that lot with us, Lord Falnar’s guards will see you. They’ll be on you before you can reach those carriages out there.”
“No, they won’t,” Matais said. “They’ve been told to hold off until I’ve dealt with you. And as soon as Captain Vale is gone, they’ll be told what happened here. That you killed my uncle. They’ll happily let you die.”
“You motherfucker!” I spat.
Matais only gave a smarmy smile and followed Damien out of the garage.
The little shit-faced weasel had thought of everything, hadn’t he?
As the guards began marching us across the lot, I glanced at the back of the room. Crash and T-Man were being led out last.
“As soon as we’re gone, dismantle the bikes,” Damien ordered two of the guards when we were all clear of the garage. “These pirates won’t be needing them anymore.”
Far across the lot, four of those flying carriages, big ones with solar panels covering the wide, bulky back compartments, stood waiting.
They were prisoner transports, the kind the captains of zones like Damien used to cart criminals to the gallows. Each one had two more J’nai standing guard in front of them.
Shit, we needed an advantage, and we needed it now.
This whole trip had been one giant shitstorm after another. The fucking Maker had one sick sense of humor.