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Wicked Ruin (Se7en Sinners Book 3) by S.L. Jennings (1)

 

His blood was fire in his veins.

Molten lava that singed his nerve endings and kindled his cells into ash, only for those delicate, microscopic flecks to reform and mend themselves whole again.

No. Not whole. Stronger. Indestructible.

He had been remade into the monster he once was. The monster he had tried to flee for centuries. He had surrendered his power to escape the lost souls that had haunted him for millennia, serving as his own personal horde of poltergeists.

And now…the souls had found him and they were angry. Their voices were a chorus of violent hisses, whispering seductions of malice and carnage. Blood. They begged for blood. And they would not be appeased until it stained every inch of the damp stone walls of this underground tomb.

Dread hangs heavy and thick in the air, an almost palpable plume of darkness swirling around the small, trembling figure swathed in a ratty hooded robe.

“What have you done?” His voice is as ice cold as death.

“It’s…it’s true,” the woman simpers, her words barely audible. “You’re him. The Legion of Lost Souls.”

“What have you done?” Each word is a stab wound to the woman’s flickering courage.

“I-I released you. So you could save my daughter.” The mention of her estranged child releases a snarl from his lips, tight over razor sharp fangs. She shivers at the sight.

“Where is she?” Each word trembles the ground beneath her feet.

The frail woman manages to answer, “He took her. He promised he wouldn’t hurt her, but… The sanctuary. They took her to the sanctuary.” A sense of urgency lights her sullen eyes. “Please, you have to hurry…before he kills her! There isn’t much time.”

Legion looks towards the heavy concrete door, his supernatural hearing picking up footsteps from several yards away. There are many of them—at least a dozen. His gaze goes back to the woman that birthed Eden, only to attempt to murder her time and time again. He steps forward. Killing her would be a kindness compared to the fate she will face for freeing him. But she did so, knowing full well she would be struck down, to save her child. The very same child she had cursed as an abomination, a scourge on her life. Why?

There is no time to ask. Not when the retched stink of death fills his nostrils with every inhale. He can feel her in his blood, a mystical pull that draws on his power, leading him to her. But first, they will fall. All of them. Every fucking creature—human or otherwise—that had a hand in her torment will fall at his feet in immeasurable agony.

Each heavy footfall to the door is a warning—an omen. When he steps into the hall, he simply waits, the sweet taste of rage on his tongue and the exhilarating surge of promised violence tingling his palms. He blinks, thick, black lashes kissing his cheeks, and revels in the feel of his swelling power. For centuries, he had been content with the tiny fraction that had sustained him enough to survive. Just a miniscule drop so he could hunt and kill those that had been touched by the Devil’s influence.

He had missed this terrible power. Missed the way it called to him, taunted him, enticed him. He missed the smell of their putrid fear as his enemies laid their eyes on his hulking frame. He missed the sounds of their racing hearts just before he reached into their chest cavities and turned their most vital organs to pulp.

The closer they got, the more excited—the more utterly alive—he felt. Each step towards him and their impending execution filled him with a dark thrill that sang in his blood and throbbed in his newly made bones. It wouldn’t be long; he’d make it quick. No time to enjoy the sounds of their mangled cries or the feel of their limbs writhing in unspeakable anguish. Their deaths would be merciful, which was much more than they deserved for what they had done. What they had taken from him.

The second the first wave of agents enter the long, stone corridor, they pause at the sight of the massive beast yards away. Their hesitation is their misstep, and Legion merely smiles, sensual lips pulling over sharp fangs, before he catapults them into sheer horror. Just a beat of silence before their screams echo through the hallway along with the sounds of ripping flesh and gurgling blood.

He doesn’t even have to lift a finger. The lost souls know exactly what to do, and they always do their job well. One by one, the agents crumple into mangled heaps onto the cold ground, befallen by their own blades. Just a whisper of possession is all it takes to drive the strongest men mad. And with fury and vengeance pumping in his veins, Legion needed even less than that.

The screams barely last sixty seconds before dead silence greets him, and he is one with those merciless souls once again. They sing him sweet nothings, each dark note laced with promises of death of destruction. This way. Come with us. He coasts across the corridor on a cloud of carnage, led by his insatiable bloodlust, only pausing to note the state of his undress. What’s left of his clothing are mere tattered rags, torn to shreds by an angel venom-tipped whip, courtesy of Alliance thugs. And when they had worn that to frayed, limp threads, they opted for silver-plated brass knuckles.

His wounds had since healed, but he would never forget their faces. The way they laughed and cheered with pride, spitting in his eye when Legion refused to give them the satisfaction of a reaction. And when they had grown desperate after hours of torture, they had whipped out their pathetic little cocks and pissed on him. All in the name of their Lord and Savior.

Bullshit.

They would pay. For taking Eden. For attempting to degrade him. For making a mockery of his Father. They would all pay.

He snatches up a pair of pants, boots, and a jacket off the biggest of the fallen soldiers. He would’ve been considered huge by human standards, but to Legion, he was no more than a pissant.

He didn’t bother with weapons—he didn’t need them. The souls that now inhabited him had been trapped for centuries, and they had plans for any and every one who had ever wronged him. They would not be silenced. And what they wouldn’t do, Legion had particular…gifts…that allowed him to manipulate other creatures into doing his bidding.

With long strides, he clears the hallway, only to find himself faced with another. He follows without hesitance, the ghosts that had internally haunted him leading the way. To human eyes, they were invisible and silent unless they intended otherwise. But to his kind—to the demons who prowled in the shadows and the angels that hid behind their self-righteous rules and traditions—they appeared as wisps of black smoke with eyes of raging fire. They wrap themselves around their master in protection and possession, awaiting his command. He could dampen their appearance, veil them within himself, but right now he wanted them out in full force. Let them see. Let them all see what he had become. Let them gaze upon him in terror before he ripped their throats out.

Legion finds himself at the foot of a narrow, winding staircase. He can smell candles burning on the floor above. Patchouli, clove, lavender, and something else. Conjuring scents. He takes the stairs three at a time, only to come face to face with half a dozen armed guards, all wearing various shades of shock.

Legion flings his power out, not even bothering with possession. The men crumble to the floor, their bodies seizing in horrifying pain as their blood turns to boiling acid in their veins. They don’t even have the chance to scream in agony before their vocal cords are liquefied, which is exactly what Legion was aiming for. He still has the element of surprise on his side, and if the voices echoing in his skull speak the truth, he’ll need it.

He steps around the bodies of his victims at the top of the stairs, their faces mutilated with oozing blisters that stink of pus and rotting flesh. Moments ago, he may have felt remorse. He wouldn’t have reveled in their suffering, even if it were deserved. But that was when there was a shred of humanity left in him. When he was actively seeking salvation for all the pain and destruction he had caused so many centuries ago. When he was wracked with guilt and shame that ate him alive every time he took a life in order to serve what he thought was the greater good.

That seems so long ago. As he harnesses his simmering temper, the smell of death at his back, the greater good is a distant memory. There is only one thing he lives for, only one thing that fuels his ire: Vengeance.

That internal tug that seems to grip his joints and muscles pulls harder, the feeling urgent, desperate. It’s her. She needs him. And as much as he’d like to storm into the sanctuary and unleash his rage on every foe that stands between him and Eden, the cloying scent of angel venom hangs heavy and thick in the air, as if it’s been manipulated into a mist that sizzles the surface of his skin. He doesn’t even feel the burn. No doubt, it’s a diversion tactic, meaning that whatever is on the other side of those wooden double doors is the very thing he so desperately seeks.

There is one of him, and at least three angels on the other side of those doors. Even at full strength, he would fall, but not without taking one or two with him. They knew this, which is why the sanctuary doors were so sparsely guarded. They’d let the humans die for their noble cause, so arrogant to believe that he could be subdued enough to give up on her.

Or maybe this was their plan all along. Remake him into the beast he once was, surrendering all hopes of redemption. Scatter a few meaningless human lives in his path just to prove he’s nothing more than an inherent monster. And lead him right to his execution, using Eden as bait.

No matter. He wouldn’t turn his back on the one person who kept him tethered to this mortal realm. The single, solitary ray of light in a dark, cold void that was now his soul.

It would surely be a fight to the death, but he would die for something he believed in—for someone he believed in. He would give up eternity so she could live a long, human life, free of the influence his ilk had bestowed upon her. She deserved that much, even if his existence was scrubbed from her mind. Even if he never felt the brush of her silver hair against his chest as she molded her body to his under the veil of midnight. Or watched the way her big brown eyes grew wide when Jinn prepared all her favorite foods. Or spied those secret moments when she was sprawled out on his bed, headphones on her ears, and her nose in a book.

He would die with discontentment and longing in his heart, but it was worth it if it meant she had a shot at a real, meaningful life.

Legion takes a deep breath, the angel venom in the air singeing his lungs. He fell from Heaven for the one he thought he loved, only to find he was manipulated by Lucifer and his unquenchable thirst for power. He rose from Hell to rid the world of his brother’s treachery, turning his back on his true nature in a quest for salvation. And now, he would fall again. He would fall for something much greater than he and the Se7en ever anticipated. He would fall for the silver-haired girl who set his world aflame, the girl he was originally sent to assassinate.

He would fall for love.

He’s on the move, fists tensed at his side, jaw locked in steely concentration. The doors open on their own accord, barely a blink of his power. The overwhelming stench of those conjuring candles assault him, and the mist of angel venom that coats his skin burns a little more with each step forward.

And he stops.

The sanctuary is empty, filled only with the sickly sweet honeysuckle scent of his former brethren. Tendrils of black smoke dance atop dozens of pillar candles as they’ve just been snuffed out seconds before.

He’s too late. Those guards weren’t put in his path to stop him, or even lead him into a trap. They were sent to distract him, as if his captors knew his bloodlust would be too all-consuming to ignore. As if they knew the beast in him would take pleasure in their gruesome deaths.

Still…that pull, that yank on his insides has him striding towards the ornate altar, towards the white marble basin that’s situated before a ten-foot tall wooden cross.

It’s not until he clears several rows of pews before he realizes he was wrong about one thing, and just for a moment, just for a shuddering breath, he pauses, frozen in place between the echo of two faint heartbeats.

The sanctuary isn’t empty.

For in that space where he currently existed, where he was bound between heaven and hell, two bodies lay at the base of the marble basin.

Eden.

And Adriel.