The stifling heat smothered my skin as fire licked at the earth around me. I padded across the endless wasteland, my arms stretched wide before me. The beast smiled down at the world on fire as blue flames spread across the land.
She enjoyed watching the humans run. The way they panted, hard and heavy, as they attempted to flee. How they would pause and look back, their faces blanching the moment they realized their feet couldn’t carry them fast enough. That her rage—my rage—would consume them before they could take another step.
“Ruby!” The scream ripped me from sleep.
My eyes flew open and Moira was the first thing I saw, the glow of flickering blue flames dancing on her face as it burned all around us. Claws pricked at my upper chest as Bandit scrambled in a wild panic to climb on top of me. “Ruby!”
She straddled me, shaking me with a fervor as she let loose a scream that could wake the dead. Our front window shattered instantly.
Shit. This wasn’t the wastelands. It was my home, and Moira and Bandit had braved the flames to save it. I inhaled sharply, terror seizing my heart for them—what I could do to them—as I tried to calm the inferno. I focused on the connection and tried to force them to die out. But they only fanned higher as I panicked about my apparent lack of control.
Inside me, the beast frowned at the scene before us and snarled at Moira and Bandit for stupidly putting themselves at risk. It only took a single look from her and the fire dissipated immediately.
“Moira,” I croaked. Her scream cut off the moment the flames dispersed, leaving a thin glittering black residue that I could only assume was ash. A cold wind blew through the window, stirring up the blinds enough to let a crack of sunlight slip through and illuminate more of the scene before me.
My naked body shivered against the barren concrete where a couch and carpet used to be. My living room wasn’t much more than charred remains with four walls. Piles of black dust littered the cement foundation, drifting across the room as a harsh gust of wind whipped through it. Bandit wrapped his arms around me tightly and Moira’s naked body clung to mine as she gripped me in a desperate embrace. Where she had been clothed was now nothing more than a fine film of black against her pale green skin. Where everything else had been consumed, my best friend and raccoon had been spared.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—” My shaky apology was interrupted by a pounding on our front door.
“One second!” Moira yelled. The loud whapping on the door ceased.
“Ruby?” Laran called. His voice drifted through the broken window with ease.
“I’m here. Just give us a second,” I replied. He let out an impatient harrumph, but didn’t push it. Moira jumped to her feet, pulling me up with her. The fine powdery ash covered us both, shining like granules of onyx in the low light coming from the kitchen. The large sectional couch I had been sleeping on was completely gone, as was most of the room. The fire seemed to have spread all the way to the edge of the kitchen and hallway before the beast had finally put it out.
“You really are Lucifer’s kid,” Moira murmured. Her seafoam green eyes had flicked to the brand in the center of my sternum.
“So it appears,” I muttered back. The upside-down pentagram sat snuggly between my breasts, a thick ring of black circling it. She reached out with light green fingers to brush the brand just as another fist pounded on the door.
I felt like I jumped two feet in the air and Moira threw a harsh glare over her shoulder towards the pounding. It wouldn’t hold up against Laran’s fists forever.
“Come on, let’s put on some clothes and greet your males before they have a conniption.” She wasn’t wrong, but it felt weird hearing it out loud. My males. Like I owned them or something. The beast perked her head up and agreed with great vigor. They were ours.
I turned and walked down the hallway and into my bedroom with Bandit hot on my heels. The sweet scent of Amaryllis filled the air, but it couldn’t mask the stench of charred fibers and musky raccoon. I reached over blindly to flip on the light as a massive thud sounded in my living room. I popped my head outside the bedroom.
A plume of soot and debris swirled, thick enough I couldn’t make out anything but a wall of what looked like black glitter. The particles danced for a moment before descending slowly.
Laran took a sweeping glance of the room, his brow furrowing more as his gaze swept up the hallway and stopped on me.
“What happened here?” he roared. I swallowed hard, but I, nor the beast inside, was going to answer to someone who had the audacity to break the door down like an uncivilized animal after I had just told him to wait. I closed my bedroom door sharply and threw my black bathrobe on in record time. I was just tying the knot around my waist when my door creaked open.
“I would have let you in had you waited another minute for me to dress,” I said sharply. My words fell on deaf ears.
“Why is there glass outside your house? What happened to the window? Why does—”
The slamming of a door cut him off abruptly. He turned to face the she-demon behind him. Moira slipped around his hulking frame and came to stand beside me. Her own bathrobe was white and sheer, definitely sexier than anything I owned. Demons in general were very lax about clothes. I doubt she even noticed how great it made her legs look, even as black dust smudged the robe.
“Do you just storm into other people’s houses without invitation all the time? Or is this bad behavior just you attempting to prove your dominance?” Moira snapped at him. His face darkened as he took a step forward, towering over us.
“That’s not the question at hand, banshee,” he rumbled. I wanted to facepalm myself for the pissing contest going on between the two of them.
“She could have burned down all but a single cupboard and that would still be the question. You Horsemen need to learn to respect—” He silenced her with a wave of his hand. Her jaw snapped shut as if by force.
“Hey!” I protested, whacking him in the arm with my hand. Laran raised an eyebrow at me. I didn’t know whether it was surprise that I hit him, or a dare to make him stop. Either way, I didn’t have to think on it long before Moira’s mouth was magically unsealed.
“No talking, or I’ll do it again,” he said to her. If he had been talking to any other demon, they might have heeded his warning. Moira was anything but. Really, she was just bat-shit crazy.
“I’d be careful who you piss off, Laran. There’s an awful lot of ghosts that like to hang around you. It would be a shame if I let slip what some of them tell me…” Her voice was sweet as sugar, but her words were nothing but a bluff. Moira never gained the ability to see the dead. As a half-banshee, she was left with very few talents outside her sonic scream. Not that Laran knew that. He gave her a leery glare that hardened the longer she smiled.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Try me,” she goaded. It’s a good thing I only needed a day to mope and recover. Their bickering was already driving me nuts. It was like Moira was constitutionally incapable of not picking a fight with the Horsemen about anything that involved me. If it wasn’t respect, then it was stalking, or possessiveness, and she even went so far as tell them they couldn’t be allowed inside because of their gender. I can’t remember what day she told them that we were lesbians having hot lesbian sex and no dicks were invited. Seeing as Rysten and Allistair both knew that wasn’t true…I just chose not to get into it.
“Someone want to explain to me why the living room was burned down?”
The question came from down the hall. My beast started licking her lips the moment Julian came around the corner. He looked the same as he did the night the demons came for us. His blonde hair so light it could be white, laid perfectly to one side. His skin was unmarked. Pale and without blemish. Everything about him was radiant, but his glow wasn’t warm or kind. It was like an endless winter: ethereal in its beauty, but unforgiving if lost in its depths.
This was the first time I’d seen him since my drug-induced coma two nights ago. It was the first time I’d seen any of them, but for some reason, it was Julian that made me think of that night. How the lights reflected off his hair making it look violet and eerie as he carried me out. A heat crept across my skin as a faint blush stained my cheeks. After everything that happened, that was not what I should be feeling when I looked back at how that night played out.
“You okay?” Moira asked, returning to my side in an instant. She sent both of them a withering glare as she snaked an arm around my waist. Behind them, boots crunched on glass as someone let out a low whistle. I could only assume the other Horsemen had shown up, thankfully before I made myself look like an idiot. I was a half-succubus, not some blushing school girl that fawned over a pretty face. Julian saved me because it was his job. I would do well not to confuse the facts.
I nodded my head to silence the blood pounding in my ears and muttered, “I’m fine.”
Moira didn’t argue, but her arm tightened imperceptibly.
For devil’s sake.
I wasn’t a helpless child. I mean, I did just start a fire in my sleep. The overprotectiveness on everyone’s account was more than a bit annoying, given that almost everyone who tried or had hurt me was dead. The thought was both depressing and comforting at the same time.
I shrugged off Moira’s arm and pulled at the sleeves of my bathrobe. Yesterday, I was Ruby. I ate an entire tub of ice cream and drank a pound of tea. I laid on my couch curled up in a snuggie, binge watching Netflix like I hadn’t just killed someone.
Today, I woke up to my best friend screaming because I almost burned our house down.
As much as I hated to admit it, I needed to find a way to bridge that gap in my mind, because the pentagram on my chest wasn’t going anywhere.
And neither were the Horsemen.