My eyes slowly slid from the storm brewing above us back to the charred remains of the club. Club Chaos was nothing more than a gutted-out shell of the once glorious nightclub. I’d watched Lucian set fire to it, his midnight eyes reflecting the flames that burned within his soul before he’d turned, walking away from it. They’d loaded the covens into waiting buses, moving them to Spokane, into the newly remodeled Guild.
It hurt, watching them mourn me as they assumed I was still buried in that nameless grave next to Joshua’s. Lucian hadn’t burned the club down because he’d had to; no, he’d burned it to the ground because he’d wanted to. They mourned who I had been, and I mourned her as well.
It didn’t matter, though, because I wasn’t that girl anymore. I mourned what I had once been, but I wasn’t upset to let that girl go. She’d been weak, selfless, and unable to take the reins on her own life—but I could now. I wasn’t held back anymore; my emotions didn’t hold sway over the choices I made anymore. It was freeing to not care, not having to consider others when I made a choice. But it didn’t change the sadness I knew I should feel at watching them mourn me.
Mourning her. Not me.
“Do you feel that?” Joshua asked, interrupting my internally fucked-up thoughts. His eyes slowly settled on the rubble of the club and a slow whistle escaped his full lips. “That’s eventful.”
“I feel it, whatever it is, it’s heading right towards us,” I announced, turning away from the pile of bricks and debris that had once been the only thing standing between us and certain doom.
“Not towards us, Lenny. It’s following the sweet scent of witchlings, right to the Guild,” he corrected as he pushed a strand of hair that had fallen into my face away, tucking it behind my ear. My eyes darted behind him to where the others like us stood, silently awaiting orders. “This isn’t our fight anymore.”
“It may not be our fight, but it is our bloodline they seek to destroy. I’m not going to watch them feed on our coven, brother. You don’t have to come,” I said when a muffled sound of agreement erupted behind us. “I can handle it on my own.”
“Of course I do,” he shot back, irritable that I’d even consider leaving him out of the fight. His dead eyes held mine in silent rebuke as he shuffled his feet and slipped his hands into the pockets of the jeans he wore. “You and I, Lenny, we’re in this shit together now, sis. Me and you against the world, right?”
“Yes, but it isn’t their fight. They’re not blood, and I’m pretty sure that whatever he is, he can kill pretty much anything. Maybe even us, which makes this high-risk and not their fight. I’m going with or without you, now. They’re moving faster as if they scent blood in the air. The choice is theirs to make, but I’m leaving,” I said, vanishing into thin air after one last look at the burnt-out remnants of Club Chaos.
I materialized on the side of an abandoned building in downtown Spokane. I slowly scanned the Guild, noting that even in the blackout of the entire Pacific Northwest, lights burned brightly from within. It was a beacon in the endless darkness that had consumed our area, a hope for those who weren’t strong enough to stand against what was left of this world.
We remained far enough away to be undetected by the creatures that helped the covens depart the buses and navigate the street to the tall steps of the Guild. I waited in silence as I let my body become one with the shadows, allowing them to absorb a part of me as I watched the deadly beings that had now become a part of this world.
“You’re not alone anymore,” Joshua said, pulling me back from the edge of a building to where he and the others stood, awaiting orders. “Get your hood up. He won’t let you go if he sees you, and no matter what you think, you’re not ready for them to see you yet. You’re not mentally ready to face him or our mother. Unless you’re ready for them to know you’re back from the grave. You died, remember?” he scoffed.
“I didn’t really die,” I shrugged as I watched Lucian’s tall frame emerge from one of the buses. I swallowed hard, taking in his hard, muscled form with an ache that shouldn’t even be there lodged in my throat. “I just ceased to be human.”
“To them, Lenny, you did. Lucian raged for weeks, and now you’re about to pop up on his radar again. He’s going to demand answers you cannot explain yet. He’s going to expect you to be the same girl you were, and that version of you is dead. It’s going to be like you felt when I told you who I was inside the cabin. He still sits beside your grave and silently stares at it, which means he’s still grieving you. You wanted to know what he is; this is going to destroy you figuring it out without interfering in that.”
“It isn’t me he sits beside that grave visiting, it’s her. It’s always been her he wanted. I just happened to be her fucking shell. I’m pretty sure he may be shocked at my sudden return from the grave, but I also think it’s what I house inside of me that he will crave. Not so much my flesh or that I am still here. And we have a plan, Joshua, stick to it. I want answers; they have them inside the Guild. Can you do that?”
“You know I can, Lenny. Do you think the runes will hold them long enough for us to save them?” he asked, changing the subject to the matter at hand.
“I think they will, but not for too long. You’ll need to be gone when they fail because I doubt they’ll fuck around long enough to see whose side of this war we are on. We need a distraction to be able to get close enough to them, but also to disturb the air enough to see the creatures when they get here. I can feel them, they’re close.”
“Music works, yeah?” Brandon drawled, his Southern accent thicker than normal. It tended to rise when fear etched into his youthful face. “I can find enough stereos to cause static and disrupt the air enough to see them fuckers. You reckon they’ll give pause with the music long enough to let us get close enough to lay down the rune stones?” he asked.
“I think if they come at us, a certain little sister of mine can give them pause. I don’t fancy dancing with the devil that can end whatever we’ve become.” Joshua watched me, testing my readiness to do what was needed if the situation called for it. The others didn’t know I’d planned to get captured to ferret out answers, nor did they need to know.
“Whatever it takes,” I uttered beneath my breath as I stared at the man who had once been my lover. Anger rushed through me as the carnal memories replayed in my mind. Joshua’s words registered in my mind amongst the chaos, and I snorted. Whatever we’d become? No one really knew what or why we’d survived our deaths. Only that we no longer held mortal souls. We were soulless, and yet we had somehow clung to life without them. Joshua had recanted his own end, and I’d listened, more confused than I’d been, which had sent us searching for answers that weren’t forthcoming. It had been why I’d known taking my life wouldn’t be my ending.
Joshua had told me his own tale inside that cabin, and I’d left knowing that no matter what happened, I’d come back. That I would always come back. The issue was, I wasn’t the same, and I felt it all the way to my bones.
“We’re out of time,” I announced as the air shifted and the creatures on the stairs leading into the Guild paused, sensing trouble brewing. Brandon vanished to start his tasks, and I waited, watching Synthia and Ryder as they directed the witches into the building that was heavily warded. Those wards pulsed and glowed against the sunset that rose and bathed the world in a pink and purple shade of beauty.
Lucian stepped away from the others. His expensive suit had been exchanged for jeans and a tight-fitting shirt that hugged his body like a lover’s caress. Muscles bunched against it with every subtle move of his powerful frame. His black hair was tied behind his neck, and a touch of stubble covered his strong jawline. Black, unfathomable depths of midnight scanned the parking lot where the last of the buses had just pulled in to drop off the last of the witches. I swallowed hard as those midnight eyes moved in my direction, scanning the darkened shadows where we hid, and tugged at something I’d thought I’d managed to kill when I’d taken my life.
I pulled the cloak up tightly around my face, pulling the faceguard up as I did. My weapons lined my back, weapons I’d trained with until exhaustion claimed me night after night. From morning until night, I trained to learn what I had become, to test the limits of this new, improved body. And every night when the sun set behind the mountains, I lay in bed, dreaming of those midnight eyes and the secrets they held.
Betrayal stung, the memories of my death were foggy at best, but then I’d been leaking brain fluid as well as spinal fluid as I’d done what I had to do. Pieces of it were fragmented, lost to me. It didn’t matter how many times I replayed it, or searched my mind for those memories, I couldn’t grasp onto them. The only thing that stood out was him; speaking to the whore he’d loved. The woman who’d ruined my life and countless others in her never-ending need for revenge.
“Are you sure you’re ready to do this? You can sit out; no one will blame you for doing so,” Joshua assured me. I turned my gaze to the creatures who now pawed the earth, disturbing the ground they stood upon. “We’re out of time.” Red eyes stared at the helpless witches who slowly made the tireless trek from the buses to the stairs leading up to the Guild. They eyed their prey. “They can’t sense them.” His words hung in the air between us as I watched the hellish creatures inching closer as their prey lies in wait, unaware of the horror stalking them. Joshua spat on the ground in annoyance, and I patted my multitude of weapons one last time.
“Let’s do this then, shall we?” I popped out of existence, landing atop the Guild as I stared down at the creatures who continually worked to get the witches inside. I tensed, waiting as the others formed a line around the staircase once the last witch had passed the bottom step. Once she had, I materialized beside Joshua, displacing time and air as noise erupted around us.
Imagine Dragons’s Whatever It Takes exploded around us as Josh blinked away the distortion from moving with inhuman speed while I focused on the hellhound-looking creatures and their misshaped handlers. Yellow skin stretched over faces as if the skin they used had once belonged to someone or something else. Yellow eyes that resembled cats stared from within the borrowed skin as they slowly, clumsily proceeded to close the distance between us. All hell was about to break loose, and I smiled coldly, needing the pain that came with fighting.
The air around us exploded with power; sizzling against my flesh as I turned, peering over my shoulder as Lucian and the others processed the scene unfolding before their eyes. The Fae moved in behind him and his men, moving dangerously close to us. They assessed the situation with cold, calculated gazes that sent a wave of worry washing through me. Idiots, all of them. They failed to see the real threat just beyond the veil that hunted them like moths to a flame. My eyes moved between the huge, looming beast that foamed at the mouth past giant, razor-sharp teeth and the creatures who I knew were just as deadly.
We slowly turned as one, our minds linked as we tossed the smooth, black stones towards the stairs. The wards ignited, runes melting into useless heaps of black fluid as it buzzed and locked them into its protective barrier. I watched Lucian closely, his luscious mouth curved into a deep frown as he stopped inches from the melted runes.
“You will die if you don’t remove them this instant,” he warned calmly, as if he didn’t care one way or another. It sent a warning through me, knowing if anyone could get out of that barrier, it was him and his men. His tone was seductive, alluring, and the exact thing I’d spent the last few months craving and longing for. “I won’t ask you again. Remove them or die.”
I opened my eyes against that voice, turning away from him to calm the fluttering in my chest. My family was in there, inside that Guild and helpless against these monsters that hungered to consume them. I listened as he and his men, along with the others, started working to undo the wards and runes we’d placed.
“Let’s do this,” I said begrudgingly. My arms itched as the runes I’d painted on them ignited, sending more power into my body. I soothed my useless organs, maintaining the death that kept them unbreathing, the blood refusing to course through them as power erupted instead. My heart threatened to thunder against my chest as it tried to awaken. A swelling of pain crushed against it in a viselike grip as I ignored my past, and embraced my future. Monsters at my back and monsters in front of me swam in my vision as I gripped the dual swords behind my back and brought them forth, crouching in fight against the ones who wished to feed off the blood of the witches.
The monsters at my back could wait. I lifted my swords, pushing the faceguard down to be able to see the monsters in front of me. Chaos was about to break loose, and I didn’t need my vision or orders disturbed. “They’re coming!” It came out as a hiss of warning as the others moved closer, forming a line with us and the Guild at our backs. We waited as they slowly moved forward, their masters centered in their midst, issuing silent commands. They stood well over seven feet tall, giants with wolf-type creatures that easily reached their waists.
“There,” Joshua called out and swung his blade as the first wolf lunged. He severed the head, sending it back towards its master, who screamed his displeasure. The body thundered to the ground, releasing black ooze that pooled around it onto the pavement. I heard the others behind us growl and hiss as what we were really doing registered. They were under attack by creatures who wanted what they were currently herding into the Guild: Witches. Our fucking witches.
My blades came up, lashing out as the air crackled with a beast that exploded forward. They moved as if they sifted, displacing air as they blinked in and out of existence, or more to the point, back into this plane. As if they could now cross the barrier between their world and ours with a mere order from their master. With every portal opening without warning, more and more creatures passed into our world effortlessly.
We’d searched for a way to close the portals but even standing guard to kill any creature brazen enough to cross over as we stood guard, it was an endless fight. There was also the issue that a lot of creatures had already crossed, and were here now. These ones, however, were mindless killing machines that tended to feed off the blood of witches. We’d hunted them for weeks, learning their strengths and weaknesses as they slaughtered coven after coven gluttonously.
It wasn’t until we learned that they were being controlled that we started making headway. But as we did, they changed tactics. Their scent had changed as well, and with it, we’d lost them until now.
One of the masters closed the distance between us, his sluggish movements turning sharp and calculated as he moved to fight me. I smiled coldly at him, lifting my blades as I pulled more power to me.
I stepped closer, intending to remove its head from its shoulders when it toppled over without me making a move. I glared at the gushing black blood that pulsed from the severed neck. “That was my kill,” I muttered at Joshua, who glared at me.
“Then focus,” he snapped harshly as his head shook. “Get out of your fucking head and get into the fight.”
“I’m here,” I argued, already running at one of the creatures. I flipped mid-run, launching myself into the air as I landed smoothly on its shoulders on my knees, bending forward, shoving my blade through its chest as I finished flipping back onto my feet. I wiggled my brow at Joshua, who stared back at me with wide, horrified eyes.
I slipped one sword back into its sheath and touched my naked face, my own eyes rounded, and I turned to find midnight ones staring right back at me. Lucian’s eyes narrowed as it registered who was standing in the middle of the chaos unfolding in the parking lot before him. Chaos raged around us as the world stopped as we stared at each other.
“Lenny, go now. It’s too fucking soon,” Joshua demanded, aborting the mission we’d agreed on. I didn’t move, remaining rooted to the spot with my eyes locked into the endless zeniths of midnight. “Lenny!” he shouted over the raging battle, as swords clanked and met around us. His hands shook me, and I dispelled the panic that threatened to choke me.
We stood in the middle of the battle as blades sliced around us, sending black blood oozing and splattering over us as I decided my next step.
“The wards and runes are down!” someone shouted, and I swallowed hard as I turned and stared at the spot Lucian had just been at. We moved, pushing through enemies and fighting our way to the back of the line, or so I thought we had.
“Go, get out of here,” Joshua screamed, but it was guttural, wrong. I turned, staring at my brother and the monster that held him. I unleashed power, sensing the storm clouds that clapped thunderously above the battle that continued to unfold. Lucian held Joshua; I withdrew my blades, inching forward to save him.
“Creature,” Lucian hissed from where he stood a few feet away. Joshua dangled helplessly in his grasp, hanging in his deadly grip. Anger laced with ice-cold fear as the knowledge of what he may or may not be able to do to him registered in my brain.
I pulled my mask up and over my head, dropping it onto the blood-covered street as I revealed the ugly scar that adorned my neck like a fine string of diamonds. His eyes flinched as if he’d been physically slapped in the face as he took in the damage. His body tensed as blue flames danced upon his fingertips.
“Port,” I begged, but Joshua shook his head as a strangled noise escaped past his lips. I could see the fear dancing in his eyes as I tried to instruct him to leave, but he couldn’t.
“He can’t.” Lucian’s tone was lethal, malice dancing upon his face and features as he stared at me. I watched helplessly as Lucian tossed Joshua towards Spyder. Spyder watched me silently, his eyes taking in the scar with an emotion I couldn’t place. His fingers erupted with flames, and Joshua cried out as it burned against his flesh. “Him for you,” he said, his eyes slowly dropping to land on my midsection which was bared to his gaze. Slowly, ever so slowly his throat bobbed as his eyes lifted to hold mine once more. They locked with mine in silent battle.
“Sorry about your girlfriend, Lucian.” I smiled, locking onto the tick that now moved in his jaw as he flinched and bared his flat, white teeth in warning.
“Lena wasn’t my fucking girlfriend,” he seethed coldly as those eerie blue flames grew brighter.
“Oh, ouch,” I chuckled. “I wasn’t talking about me. That would just be awkward, now wouldn’t it? I meant Katarina. You know, the whole gone soul thing,” I continued, buying time to figure out how to get Joshua out of this alive. I stepped backwards, watching as his massive frame mirrored my action, hunting his prey. I had a motive; if I could reach the others, maybe they’d trade Lucian for Joshua, and we could be on our way.
“Drop the fucking act, I know what you are, creature,” he demanded.
“Do you?” I asked, stopping to tap my finger on my chin. “What am I?”
Hands grasped me from behind, and I dropped, rolling as my body vanished, only to reappear on top of the Guild. I stared down at them, watching as the Fae and others began moving closer towards the group of soulless beings. People blinked in and out as they sifted and materialized until the air became unbearable as power from both factions exploded around us. Raw electrical current sang in the evening air and floated on the breeze.
Lucian observed me, and I sensed him before he stood inches away from me, perched on the edge beside me. He was close enough that I could inhale his addictive scent. “Let him go, tell Spyder to release my brother, and I will tell them to leave and you, you can have me, Lucian.”
“And you’d come with me, just like that, when you know I mean to destroy you?” he laughed wickedly, the sound sliding down my body like a caress against my flesh.
“You’ve made me come a lot easier than that, Lucian,” I smiled coyly as I closed my eyes against his intoxicating presence. I lifted my face to the heavy air, enjoying the thick scent of the impending storm as it lingered thickly around us.
“Stop pretending to be her, it’s fucking pathetic,” he snarled, the warning hanging heavy between us.
“Ouch,” I laughed huskily, letting him hear what his proximity did to me. “That’s harsh, even for you,” I pointed out. “He either lets go of my brother, or we fight. Can you kill me, Lucian? Do you have it in you to take my head from my shoulders?” I asked, and disappeared.
I appeared next to Spyder, kicking him in the side as I pushed Joshua free. He staggered, righting himself as he spun to peer at me. Spyder’s hands wrapped around my throat, yanking my body against his as I freed Joshua. The flame-covered digits singed my flesh as I groaned as pain erupted. I moaned, stifling the urge to scream as the wicked smile dropped from my lips. My eyes pleaded with Joshua as I struggled to smirk.
It was as we’d planned it. I was the only one caught, their only prisoner.
“Go.” The word sprang from my lips as I urged him to see it through. The air thickened as Lucian appeared right beside Joshua, just as he disappeared. I stared at the space he’d once occupied and hoped to the Gods I wasn’t wrong. I hoped I survived this. Midnight eyes held mine with a coldness that sent a shiver racing down my spine as his lips curved into a deadly smile.
“Now you die,” he uttered as he stepped closer.
I was thrown into a transparent dome that looked as if it was crafted of glass, but the moment my feet touched inside, colorful wards ignited and lit the glass up like a Christmas tree in the dark. Glyphs swarmed the wards as runes outside ignited, sealing me inside. The fuck? I turned, slowly eyeing Spyder who paced beside me as I inspected the dome and its weaknesses. He mirrored my movements, the predator in him showing to hunt its prey. I stopped, pausing to smirk at him.
“Missed you too, big boy,” I said softly, not hiding the edge to my need that flowed through my tone. I stopped moving, letting him take an eyeful of me in. They’d stripped me out of my clothing, removed every weapon into an impressive pile that had Synthia nodding with appreciation.
I’d been redressed into a sundress that was white; boring, but at least it was clean. Spaghetti straps adorned the shoulders while a soft length of lace covered the bodice. The skirt barely covered my backside, which I didn’t even bother trying to hide as I started pacing again.
“Cut this shit, if you were my kitty, I’d feel you. I don’t feel shit. Nothing other than the need to wrap my hands around that pretty neck and drain the life out of you,” he sneered, and I frowned deeper as I stalled a moment to look into his endless depths of loathing.
“You’re a big boy, Spyder. Let’s see you fucking do it. And that bond you speak of? I have no beating heart. Not at the moment anyway, and the whole slit my throat to save people ended my life. You remember that, don’t you? I’m pretty sure you were there to play witness to my dramatic downfall. I’m not one hundred percent sure, though; you see I was sort of leaking brain fluid everywhere and it all got hazy and started blending together. I know,” I said clapping my hands as I smiled at him with bright eyes. “Why don’t you tell me what happened before I woke up!”
“And how did you do that?” he purred thickly as icy blue eyes dipped to the cleavage which the dress barely managed to contain. Slowly, they traced up my body until they paused on the pesky scar that stood red against my flesh.
“Wouldn’t you like to know? Why don’t you come in here and I’ll tell you,” I laughed huskily, toying with him.
“In fact, I would like to fucking know,” he countered as his head dipped and his eyes glowed brighter, deadlier.
“I’d like to know that one as well,” Lucian butted in, his tone sliding through me as if it could cut me in half. I tore my gaze from Spyder’s and watched as he moved from the shadows and stared at me coldly.
“Mm, you look good enough to fuck, Lucian,” I purred thickly as I swallowed the heat that rose with his darkening stare. “Almost, but not quite…” I uttered hoarsely. My vision swam as heat made my lids grow heavy with need as they trailed down his powerful body. I missed that body slamming against mine, the sheer power of it as it dominated me until I submitted.
“Shut your fucking mouth,” he ordered, his stare never leaving the ugly scar on my neck. “And the fucking question?”
“Make me, Blackstone,” I challenged as I crossed my arms and stared at him, fully aware that he couldn’t, not without opening the prison he’d tossed me into. That hadn’t been in the plans. Chains I could get out of; rooms easy; but a dome warded, surrounded by runes with pulsing glyphs? Not something I’d imagined they would have here. My eyes moved to the people who crowded into the room behind him, and I frowned, creasing my brow as they swung back to him coldly. “An audience again, Lucian? So soon after the last time?” I swallowed hard as I refused to show an ounce of fear in his presence.
“They’re here to help me take you down, to extract what is keeping you alive. Tell me what I want to know, and I’ll finally end your pathetic life painlessly. There’s no one left to feel that pain for you this time, creature,” he continued, and I shook my head, smirking at him.
“Kinky, did you let it slip out that I like it rough?” I asked huskily, my voice escaping the thickness of my throat as I stared into his inky eyes. Black silk beckoned me forward, the silent promise of endless pleasure dangling just beyond my grasp.
Again, the tick hammered wildly against his jaw, indicating he wasn’t as unaffected as he pretended to be by my sudden appearance. “I know, would you like to play a game with me?” I asked, clapping my hands together and sending a loud noise around the dome, which seemed to absorb it. “You can slit my fucking throat and rip out my heart… Oh, wait; we already played that game, didn’t we? Yeah, my bad. I slit my throat to save your heart. Stop me if you remember this one, Lucian. Damn, it almost sounded fun,” I shrugged as his nostrils flared in anger. I brought my finger up to drag it over the scar as my mind raced to find a way out of the room.
He flinched, but those midnight orbs that held the countless galaxies in their depths lifted and I momentarily forgot we were done and I didn’t belong lost in their inky depths any longer. My teeth scraped across my bottom lip as I basked in their heated depths, momentarily adrift in them.
“Do it, let’s see what you guys got,” I snickered once I’d recaptured my composure. I forced myself to end the staring match, yanking my gaze away from his. “Got some tunes to go with the show? I think I missed my last chance to pick a theme song on my way out, but then there’s always next time, right? Come on, you sexy bitch, get in here and cut me the fuck up. I know you want to, I won’t even fight you.”
“Magdalena?” My grandmother’s voice floated to me, and I stiffened against it. I turned slowly, seeing her through my peripheral vision. I turned away from it, and her, unwilling to look at her yet.
“That’s fucking low, even for you, and we all know how low you can go, don’t we? How dirty you play and like to be played with?” I turned as more entered, and anger pushed to the fore as I watched the coven marching in right behind Kendra. My eyes lingered on her swollen belly and then dropped as her hands came up to cradle it. No matter how much I fought it, a pain snaked up through me and tears swam in my vision. My hand lifted to mine, feathering it where my child should have remained growing and then dropped to form a fist at my side. I spun away from her, staring at anything but her. I studied the glyphs as if they held interest, ignored her pleas to turn around and look at her. Anything to not look at her pregnant, swollen belly.
“Lena?” my mother screamed, her tears forming in her throat making it hard to understand her, and yet I had.
“Get them out of here,” I demanded softly, hating the weakness that flowed from my eyes as I ignored their pleas.
“Why? Afraid those closest to the girl you’re pretending to be will be able to spot the real you?” he asked.
“They didn’t know me, Lucian. You did, though, didn’t you? You knew all my dark and dirty needs and desires. You, above of all else, knew me inside and out. You knew my hopes because you crushed them. You knew my desires because you played me with them. You knew my wants, my needs as no other could or would ever know. You saw through my skin and exposed the flaws in my soul. You saw through the walls I’d erected and known I was as broken and shattered as the world around me, and somehow you glued me back together. And when I had finally risen, when I had finally found my feet and rose to stand on them, well, then you kicked them out from beneath me and sent my world crashing down around me. Who knew that the man who had built me up would be the one to tear me down?”
“Is that what you think, creature?” he asked sadly.
“I died because of you, because I had loved you. I killed our baby because it couldn’t live with what your girlfriend had placed inside of me. Your fucking game destroyed my world, and now you want to call me a creature? I belonged to this world, you don’t. He deserved more. I deserved more from you.”
“You play her so beautifully, don’t you, creature?” he mused.
“Unfortunately, it’s not a part I’m playing. It’s what you left of me. I’m stuck playing it because it’s the only thing I know how to do. Survive. You did this to me,” I chuckled indifferently with a shrug. “I am what I am, and if you’re strong enough to kill me, I guess it won’t matter either way, now will it?”
My fingers trailed softly over the glass barrier, dragging along the smooth surface as power rippled in warning. Spelled glass covered in ancient wards meant to keep monsters like me locked within sent electricity rushing through me in warning. I paused, finding a vulnerable point and digging into it with my magic. I pushed harder, sensing the one who’d placed them was close. A woman stepped from the group, putting her hands against the glass as she stared back into my soulless pits. She had a crown of red, unruly curls that framed her petite face and war glyphs tattooed into her flesh. She was beautiful in her own right, a warrior to the marrow in her very bones. I felt it as I peered deeper into her soul, yet the moment she touched the glass, I felt her. As if a part of her had become the wards that locked me into this cage and held me prisoner.
I filed the information into my mind for later and pushed more power against hers.
“Bloody hell,” she groaned as she shucked her robes and pushed both palms flat against the glass. I watched her wards rise, stacking over one another as she struggled to redo what I undid easily. One weak point and I’d unraveled everything she could throw at it. She was efficient, quick, and layering powerful wards one after another. Wards so strong a normal creature wouldn’t be able to untangle—but I saw them, through them, ready to capture the beginning before it was placed. I pulled my hand away, surveying the perspiration that beaded her flesh, slowly dripping from her hair as she sagged against the glass.
“You think they could hold me if I hadn’t wanted to be here?” I asked, needing to see how she responded.
“Think I fucking care?” she snapped, and I laughed, slapping my palm against the glass and watching as her back bowed. I pushed more and more magic into bringing them down, so much that my power formed and shot through me. Darkness slithered over my flesh, caressing my arms until it filled the whites of my eyes, turning them pitch black, as if I’d been plucked from the TV screen of American Horror Story and placed into their endless, secure prison. I nibbled my lip, sucking it between my teeth as I toyed with her until she screamed and blood dripped from her nose.
“Keep going, you can do it,” I encouraged with an evil laugh that even scared me a little. My magic slithered around hers, pulling her flush against the glass as I watched her struggle to get away from it. She screamed as Synthia stepped forward, pulling her as she struggled to undo my hold on the female.
I felt the rush to continue, to end her until she was nothing but a lifeless corpse, but I pulled back and watched as she sagged in relief as Synthia’s electric blue eyes lifted to hold mine. She knew I’d released her, which I hadn’t needed to, but that I had.
“You’re pure fucking evil,” the female uttered as she lifted her eyes to hold my lifeless ones. “I can feel it in your magic, your touch. You’re evil incarnate. You don’t belong here.”
“Is that what they told you?” I laughed soundlessly. “I assure you this, druid: If I were evil, you’d be nothing more than a corpse right now. You laid those wards assuming I had no knowledge of them or their origin, but I did. I could have added mine into yours so that it drove back through you, ending your life. Rather fucking sloppy of you, really. Disappointing for someone with so much power running through her veins. You should be glad that I am not what they say I am, or you’d be very much dead right now. But then I guess the only thing I am good at killing is myself, isn’t that so, guys?” I asked, tossing my hand around in a useless gesture. “Tough crowd,” I smiled coldly, letting my magic fill the dome until it pulsed and strained with it.
“Magdalena,” my mother’s tone slithered through me like ice water on a hot day. I plastered on a fake smile and lifted my lifeless black eyes to hers. I watched her flinch and recoil from me, but then I didn’t really blame her. I did resemble most horror movies nowadays with their invasion of demons and their wonky-as-fuck eye affliction. I’d recoiled myself as I stared at the monster I’d become in a mirror. Thick black veins ran through my flesh, pulsing with strong dark magic as I let it rush through me. I tilted my head, staring her down as I slowly closed the distance between us, giving her enough time to scamper away from me.
They all took a step away from the glass. Away from me.
I was what I was, and I’d become it to protect them. All of them. I’d saved one child because only one of us could have survived what Katarina had done to us. If I hadn’t, she’d have buried both of her children. It also wasn’t as if I’d wanted to play their game, but then the rest of us had been nothing more than collateral damage.
“Hello, Mommy,” I purred coyly as the memory of her damning me to Hell came back. “Did you miss me?” I asked, hating myself for doing it. “Am I everything you wanted me to be and more?” I laughed coldly in a deadened tone. It filled the dome, but it was empty.
I wandered closer to Kendra and leaned my forehead against the soothing glass. I slowly, carefully tapped my nail on the glass, watching as her mouth formed a perfect O as she listened. She stepped closer, tapping back as she watched me. It was in our language, the one we’d perfected as children when we were in trouble, and only a wall separated us.
“It’s you,” she cried as she shook her head.
“It’s not her.” Lucian’s voice pulled us back, forcing my eyes to swing to his wide frame, lingering on it. “It knows everything about her, all her secrets and everything else. It knows all of us, every single person she’s ever encountered. That isn’t her; it’s the seal wearing her like a fucking suit.”
I stepped back and forced my eyes to return to normal, matching hers identically. She caught it, but even now I could see the distrust forming and growing in her eyes. Good, it was time she started using that brain. “I’m glad you’re doing better, that you’re healthy and your daughter is not dead like my son is.”
She shook her head as horror registered on her delicate features. “Magdalena…”
“I’m fine. I really am. I’m okay with what I have become,” I muttered as I backed away from the glass, turning on my heel to move to where Lucian stood, glaring. “So what’s it to be, then, Lucian? Lock me up, tie me up? Kill me? Dissect me for your perfect fucking seal? Whatever it is, get on with it already. You bore me, Blackstone. I have places to be, creatures to kill, and none of them have to deal with you or yours.”
“I’m about to show you why you’re mine,” he chuckled. “I’m about to shove you back into that box and toss your ass into the first endless void I can find.”
“And if it isn’t inside of me?” I laughed coldly. “What then?”
“It’s there, I can feel you. You forget, you’re a part of me.”
My eyes slowly roamed over the men, who began removing their shirts. Power exuded from them; raw, untapped, uncut electrical current filled the dome before they’d even entered it. Brands slithered over flesh; muscles rippled as weapons were checked and placed into their holsters. The dome trembled, and for a minute, I couldn’t rip my gaze off the male perfection being displayed to see what was happening inside it. I stared up as the dome’s ceiling opened, revealing a glass ceiling above it, and through the glass the large full moon shone down, lighting up the room in its earthly glow.
My stomach rolled, dropping to my feet as I lowered my gaze to Lucian’s. “Get them out of here, now. Please,” I uttered thickly as my mind did the math and rushed with chaos at what was about to unfold. How the fuck had we forgotten that?
“Don’t think you’re in a position to be making requests, creature,” he leered as his body rippled with power. Behind him, Ryder, Zahruk, and Spyder all tossed their shirts aside and stared at me as if I was enemy number one. They shed any resemblance of humanity in the process, and stretched their necks, rolling their shoulders as power moved through the rooms in the same motion.
I took an involuntary step back, putting more distance between us. They were fucking ripped, muscles coiled as brands pulsed with raw, live magic that wasn’t from this realm. Runes danced upon their chests, covering the flesh. I exhaled slowly, letting the air in and out of my lungs as I struggled to calm the tension I felt, which coiled in every nerve ending at what was about to happen. Magic rushed through me as I considered what was happening, and reveled in the thought of a worthwhile fight. It had been a while since I’d had a challenge.
“Synthia,” I said, staring at her until she pulled her eyes away from Ryder and stared back at me. “I didn’t kill your druid, so you owe me. Get my family out of here. They don’t need to watch this happen.” She just glared at me, and I growled. “I’m about to fucking die, get them out of here!” Her eyes narrowed and yet she ignored me, settling her gaze back on Ryder with a frown.
She was afraid I’d hurt them? Her shoulders lowered, and those eyes came back, staring at me as if weighing her options and what she would do. Hope flared through me, only to be dashed as she gave me her back. I groaned and brought my wrist up to my teeth, letting the sharp fangs drop as I ripped through my flesh, biting an entire chunk loose before I stepped up to the glass and dipped my fingers into the blood. I brought them up and began painting.
Blood slid over glass as my fingers smudged over it, twirling as rune after rune was placed. It clashed with the ones they’d placed on the floor, but mine were older, more powerful. I held eyes with Lucian as I continued to paint in my blood, watching as the men sweat while waiting for the druid, who had begun working on the glass to allow them into the dome. It was taking longer than they’d anticipated, which worked out well for me. Everyone held their breath as I continually moved my fingers, painting the dead language over it.
“The fuck is she doing?” Zahruk demanded, his sapphire eyes finding mine as they glared in warning.
I broke eye contact and lifted my eyes to the moon, which hovered just barely out of sight of the hole in the ceiling.
“Healing runes maybe? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, they’re fucking old. I think it’s a dead language, or maybe one not from this world. How would she even know a dead language if she is as young as you said she is?” the druid said as she continued guessing out loud what I’d painted onto the glass.
“It’s primitive,” Lucian said, forcing all eyes onto him, and I grinned.
Primitive meant old as shit, which meant whatever I was, was too. It also said Lucian was old as well.
“Hurry the fuck up and get the wards done. She’s almost done.” The angry clip in Synthia’s tone couldn’t hide the worry and hesitancy from me. Her man was entering this dome with an unknown, and she wasn’t, why? A hiss escaped her cherry-colored lips as I slapped my palm against the glass in a finishing touch and it briefly ignited before fizzling out.
“I don’t think whatever it was worked,” the druid stated absently as she paused and stopped removing the wards as she examined my work. Her eyes continually scanned the trail of blood before she once again began to remove the wards.
“I’m going in to keep her busy,” Lucian announced and I smiled coldly. “Guard the fucking door, Spyder. Don’t let this monster out.” His tone was clipped, and hatred oozed from every word he’d ordered.
I watched him as I slowly backpedaled away from his entrance. I didn’t look away from the deadly eyes that threatened to drown me again. They would be a perfect death, drowning in the obsidian depths that swallowed me whole. He waited, stretching his neck as the druid worked faster. Her fingers danced as the magic clung to them, weaving with her magical touch as she removed and rearranged them.
Once he was inside, he rushed at me, and I remained rooted to the spot, allowing it. My head slammed against the dome, and I laughed huskily against his ear. His hands moved, finding my throat and gripping it tightly as a moan exploded from between my lips. My breathing hitched as my eyelashes fluttered to dance upon my cheeks. My hands lifted, not needing the air he thought to keep from me, gripping his shirt before I ripped it open, sending the buttons sailing through the air to scatter across the floor. My legs wrapped around his waist, pulling his massive body against mine until a guttural growl filled the dome.
His forehead lowered, pressing against mine as he assumed I’d succumbed to his traitorous grasp around my throat. I inhaled, greedily indulging on his scent as my legs dropped to hang in the air. In one motion, I brought my hands up together and shoved him away from me, using magic to garner strength before I lifted my foot, kicking him backwards. It sent him sailing across the dome, crashing against the other side of it. I watched as his eyes widened in surprise, which he concealed almost immediately, but not fast enough.
“I didn’t state how long I would let you abuse me, now did I?” I laughed and brought my hands up to my neck, trailing my fingers over the swollen flesh. “I think I’m wet?” I asked, letting my hand trail down to my body as his eyes changed, burning with blue flames. “Fuck yeah, but then you always had that effect on me, didn’t you?”
“You’re not my Lena,” he snarled.
“No, I’m not. That Lena was weak, I’m not. She was easily broken, and I will never be broken again. So yes, your Lena is dead. I was just a casualty of your fucking game. I guess winning it came with some serious consequences, now didn’t it?” I retorted as he paced on the other side of the room.
“You’re not my Lena,” he repeated.
“The fuck, Lucian,” I said as I threw my hands in the air. “Did you go daft while I was being reborn?” I asked, finally placing my hands on my hips as I listened to the others joining us in the dome.
“I know what you are, creature. What you do when you think you have fooled the world, and what drives you. I know because you’re my creation. My responsibility. You’re not fucking tricking me again, ever. She had no soul, so how the fuck are you controlling her corpse?” he demanded.
“Oomph,” I snorted. “I’m soulless, Lucian. I can’t be controlled by you or anyone else. Or it, because it cannot latch onto anything inside of me,” I explained and watched as his eyes narrowed. “So, gentlemen,” I exclaimed as I turned to face the others, who’d entered silently. “How are we going to play this?”
“To the death,” Lucian answered, but something in his tone had caught and hesitated.
“So be it then,” I smirked.
All hell broke loose.
I paced the dome, watching the men as they mirrored my movements. I sensed them before they lunged, moving together as one powerful assault team. As if they’d done it a few times recently, which they probably had. I materialized on the other side, away from them and watched as they stopped, sensing my new location.
The moment power filled the small room; I disappeared as it groaned from the immense magic filling it. The room erupted into utter chaos as everyone moved at inhuman speeds, sifting and materializing as body collided with body. Growls and groans exploded, filling the place as they struggled to decipher who was who, and where I’d gone. The moment we all became corporeal again, I tensed. I took in the bloodied bodies and shirtless chests that were now covered in a fine sheen of sweat. I, of course, was dripping blood from where they’d caught me but hadn’t been able to maintain it as I’d used my power to dissolve into mist. It wouldn’t be that fucking easy for them to catch me, not anymore.
“She’s not fucking normal,” Zahruk shouted, his nose dripping blood from where I’d connected with it.
“No shit, Sherlock,” he snapped. “She isn’t even a she,” Lucian grunted as he swiped blood from his lip with his thumb.
“Ouch, that hurts. You’ve been in it; shouldn’t you out of everyone here know that I am female?” I laughed as he glared. The sound was as cold and empty as the space where my heart had once beat for him.
“You going to actually fucking hurt her or just keep letting her go?” Ryder seethed as the question uncurled from his tongue. Golden eyes locked with mine and I winked at him, fully aware he wasn’t fucking around.
“If it was Syn?” Spyder injected. “Could you fucking kill it so easily then, fucker?”
“You’re the assholes saying it isn’t her, so what’s the fucking issue?”
“It’s wearing her face and her bloody, sexy scent,” Spyder snapped back, pushing the hair away from his bloodied face.
“Let’s finish this shit,” Lucian snarled, moving faster than I could follow. I didn’t see him until I slammed into motion, only to be knocked back as I collided with his massive chest. His body slammed against mine, knocking me to the ground. I kicked up, landing on my feet before I lifted a leg and kicked him directly in his chest, sending him sailing across the floor. He slammed against Spyder and snarled his irritation as he turned to look at where I’d stood, but I was already in motion again.
Another body slammed against mine, and I bounced off the glass that kept me in. My face bounced, and I cried out, kicking back into the endless speed that sent us all moving around the dome’s small interior.
Someone grabbed me, and I turned, finding Spyder’s icy blue gaze locked with mine. Lucian closed in behind him, and I stood on my tiptoes, nipping Spyder’s plump bottom lip before I vanished once more. Bodies collided with bodies, but at the speed we were moving at, you couldn’t tell who was hitting who, or if they were friend or foe, except me.
Everyone was against me.
I guess it was what I got for saving the world. No good deed goes unpunished. The moon climbed higher, inching towards the center of the dome’s glass ceiling, which meant this little workout was about to be cut short. I was running at a speed faster than they could match until something plucked me from midair, right out of motion and slammed me against the dome’s unforgiving wall.
I stared up into midnight eyes as he slammed me back against the glass repeatedly. I shot forward, slamming against him as I moved us away from it, forcing us to the middle of the room, He grabbed my arms, slamming us against the ground as I wrapped my legs around him, intending to roll us until I was sitting in his lap, but others landed around us. My arms were yanked above my head, Ryder’s liquid amber gaze locked with mine as he secured them. Zahruk and Spyder secured my legs as Lucian lifted, peering down at me. I remained in place, wondering what they thought they could do to me. Once they’d secured my legs, Spyder moved, grasping his hands around my throat as I moaned, catching him off guard with it. Laughter bubbled deep from within and his eyes heated to liquid pools of desire.
“Kinky, gentlemen, but I already played this game too. Turns out, it’s just not my kind of thing after all. Sorry,” I purred thickly before I vanished from their hold.
“How the fuck?” Zahruk demanded, his growl sending the hair on my nape up in awareness as the predator in him unleashed its claws. “How the fuck is she doing that? She isn’t Fae, and she sure as fuck isn’t anything I’ve smelled before. She smells like midnight, mixed with whiskey and magic and something darker, sweeter.”
A dagger sailed in my direction, and I vanished, appearing next to where I had stood as I plucked the weapon from midair. The metal singed my flesh, and my power erupted, leaving nothing more than a melted piece of steel in my hand. I dropped it to the floor and smirked at the handsome male who watched me with a heated gaze, as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to fight or fuck me, or maybe he’d prefer we did both at the same time? Men.
I licked my lips, staring him down as the others panted as they caught their breath, controlling their breathing in the respite before we started up again. I was toying with them, playing with them. I hadn’t even started yet.
“You’re yummy, and apparently rather good with a blade. Tell me, creature, can you pierce flesh as well with your other blade?” My heated stare dropped to the one I questioned, leaving no room for error in my meaning. Once more I lifted them to hold his dark, sapphire stare. “Can you wield it as well as you do your toys?” I chuckled as his eyes widened at my brazen question. His brands started slithering, pulsing as a sexy smirk flirted on his lips. I felt it, the death-by-sex vibes he was aiming directly at me. I frowned, bringing my hand up to cover a yawn as he continued pushing power into his magic. “I have no soul. You cannot feed from me, which means your power has no pull against my mind. Not that you’d need it,” I smirked with a mixture of heat and lust filling my gaze. “I bet you’re a wild fucking ride, aren’t you? I bet you crook your finger and the panties just melt off in their need to let you play. Tell me, Zahruk, do you want to play with me?” I chuckled and vanished as the others collided where I’d stood. I exhaled at the heap of male limbs and naked torsos that untangled. “I’m not going to be that easy to kill, gentlemen.”
“This isn’t working.” Ryder’s growl pulled my eyes to where he stood, glaring at me.
“You thinking lethal?” Zahruk asked, and Lucian nodded.
I watched Zahruk as he pulled out a wicked-looking blade. My gaze zeroed in on it, narrowing as I took in the craftsmanship of it. The blade buzzed with power, and when he threw it tip over end, sailing through the air directly at me, I smirked. I let it sink into my chest before I pulled it out, gazing down at the exquisite blade. Power exploded in the dome, and I peered up, staring at Ryder as his form exploded and his beast stood before me. I vanished, popping up behind them as they paused, turning slowly in my direction with their lethal stares trained onto the blade.
It was something strong. Something they feared.
Ryder’s eyes shifted from gold to black, and his wings expanded. I tossed the dagger onto the ground at his feet, sensing it was what had forced the beast to join the fray. I moved again, but this time Lucian’s fist collided with my face and sent me flying backwards. I bounced off the wall, crashing against something solid, something hard. Fire burned in my chest as I gasped, expelling air from my lungs as I peered down at the blade, which had pierced my chest. I slowly lifted my vision as it swam to the sapphire eyes that smoldered as he watched me react to the damage he’d just managed to do.
I blinked past the fire in my chest and smiled as blood dripped from my lips. I pushed my body further onto the blade as I touched his lips with mine. “Come on, baby, I want more. Give it to me, all of it. This bitch is starving, so feed me more of those long, sexy inches,” I purred thickly as blood splattered his face as air bubbles exploded from my damaged lungs. My foot lifted, sending him and his blade sailing across the floor to land at Ryder’s feet.
I ejected forward as my claws extended but stopped, mid-lunge as the moon bathed me in its eerie light. I stared up into the light and groaned.
I was winning…
My eyes glazed over and I watched the men slowly approach, surrounding me,
“The fuck is she doing?” Spyder asked.
“Take her head!” Ryder snapped, but it was too late.
My body slammed to the floor and flipped. I stared sightlessly at the moon as my head lifted, only to slam back against the floor. Thunder erupted in my ears, covering their noises, their voices.
I was fucking dying in the middle of the best workout I’d had in a very long time.
One…Pain erupted. It exploded as it ripped through me as blood shot from my lips, covering my mouth.
Two… Pain met and warred with confusion. My ears rang with it, drowning out the screams and gasps from those around me who watched it unfold, silencing them.
Brain and spinal fluid leaked, spilling onto the floor from the crushed skull. I’d fought, I’d fought him, my hands grasped, never touching him. I screamed, everything hazy as I struggled to live, to continue breathing long enough to finish my task. I fought to live, almost able to hear their screams again, but not quite louder than a whispered breath in my ears. I rolled to my side and then she was there, and my body jerked as pain erupted. Horrifying pain burned through me as I shielded my head from the force of her anger. My midsection became her target, and I gave up guarding my damaged head to protect my child. My innocent unborn child. Another kick forced me to move, to turn my back on her assault as blood pooled from my face and head. It was everywhere, leaking from my nose, my mouth, ears, and the pressure became unbearable as I forced myself to rise, to get up and finish what I’d gone there to do. To save them.
My eyes locked with Lucian’s, and I saw his panic, the knowledge of what was unfolding before his panic-stricken gaze. I swayed on my feet, unable to catch myself as I fell down, only to get back up, slowly as I stood before him, locking my eyes to his and the pain that continued to slice and tear me apart.
Screaming erupted from outside the dome, but I couldn’t look away from him. I tried but failed. I could only wait for what had yet to come. The worst part still had to play out before life returned to ebbing and flowing, returning my body to what it had become.
White-hot pain ripped me apart, severing tissue and tendons against the flesh of my throat. It was bone-deep and visceral pain. I screamed, but no noise escaped the damage done to my throat. I dropped to the floor, hard, landing on my knees so hard that the bones snapped, shattering. My hands lifted to my throat as they had that day, trying to stop the blood that flowed from me, leaking into the ground. My body tumbled to the floor even though I still continued to tell him what I needed to.
Death was the price we paid for our sacrifice.
No good deed goes unpunished, ever…
I watched lifelessly as Lucian’s feet, along with the others’, left the room. They were at a loss for what had happened, or why he’d been forced to watch it happen again. After some time passed, someone else entered, and the wheels of a bed were moved past me, through my blood that was thickening in the pool around my head, my body. I’m picked up; the lifeless corpse I left behind is moved, gently placed onto the bed they’d wheeled in.
I screamed, but they don’t hear me. They never did as I remained stuck in the vessel that death claimed. It’s a silent echo, a scream that never escaped past my lips as Lucian waited for any sign that I’d come back to him. I’d been there, aware, and yet unable to make him see I was alive.
My arms are strapped into restraints, and I want to laugh at the uselessness of it. They exited the room, and I waited, I waited for them to come. The ones who always returned when the moon reached its zenith, full and reoccurring. The souls of the damned and lost who come to take mine from me. To take my world away from me, one I didn’t know I could want as much as I did.
The dome was closed, sealed, and yet I could still feel his presence close to me, as I had when he’d remained beside my rotting corpse. We’d played out this scene before, him sitting beside it unable to know the horrors that played out beside him, inside my head. The runes ignited, locking us inside the dome.
I’m coming back.
Flames licked the glass, eating through the wards as if they’re nothing more than a nuisance. They vanished as if they’d been placed by a child instead of a talented druid. Music exploded into the room, and I listened as Lucian growled, searching for the source. Breaking Benjamin’s The Dark of You filled the room, and I wanted to laugh and tell him I am the source of that song; my heart played it over and over until it had become a piece of me.
“What the bloody fuck is happening?” Ryder’s tone was sharp, worried. “What is she doing now?”
“Gods,” Lucian gasped, the sound raw and haunted as if he had plucked it from the haunting melody that filled me where my soul should be. It would have hurt my heart if I’d had one still.
The leather restraints were undone, slowly releasing my wrist. My body floated from the bed, levitating in the air, and they appeared. My hair hung limp, floating below me as the grisly damage was exposed. Ghostly images of female perfection mixed with their grey images, their white, crisp gowns so contrasting different from my blood-soaked one. They moved me away from the bed, away from him. Caught in the powerful web of their unimaginable power, I floated weightlessly as they controlled me. Power rushed over my flesh, and I continually floated until I was between them, marched to a spot where they have enough room to take the world from me.
Once there, I’m stood upright, rooted in place, continually ensnared in their magical hold. My arms lifted, my fingers posed as if I was the world’s most graceful dancer. They spun me around, slowly assessing the damage I’d done to save them, to save him from what they’d planned to force him to become. The music grew louder; matching the turmoil that plagued my mind at what was unfolding around me. At what they were about to take from me.
And then they began, undoing the damage to my body with their powerful magic. The pain eased, becoming comfortably numb as they continue to fix the wounds I’d endured.
My eyes were sightless up until they were healed, the subtle sheen of white removed and the film that covered them in death healed. Everything went dark, and I waited, I waited for them to do as they always did. I knew it was coming, it always occurred after the damage was healed, and my mind could focus on what they stole from me. My body floated to my knees, landing gently against the cold marble floor. They gathered around me, pushing me down until I’m flush against the strongest of them, her hands stroking my hair in a motion meant to comfort me. She touched me as if I am a promised gift, the world’s most valued treasure.
The music thundered around us, growing ever louder to mirror my emotions. I looked around, taking in their ghastly images, their rune-covered arms and pristine dresses of purity. Everything I no longer held or would ever be again. They began securing me, holding my arms and legs down as one settled between my thighs. Gentle green eyes watched me knowingly. I started to fight, to struggle against what I knew they planned to do. My screams were silent but filled with enough pain that they knew I was in it, they knew the pain my silent horror held. I didn’t stop screaming, I never did. I bucked against their hold, fighting to keep what they intended to steal.
Her hand touched my flat belly, and my fight intensified, the struggles became a fight to the death against them. My voice exploded, filling the dome as her hand pushed through my stomach, digging into my womb. It was anguish mixed with the throes of pain and loss. The sound was deafening to my own ears, the loss so searing that if I’d had a soul, they’d have shattered it.
“No!” It ripped from my lungs, exploding into the room as it bounced off the walls around us, echoing through my ears. “No, he’s mine! Don’t do this!” Tears streamed down my face, hot and wet against the cold flesh I lived inside. My black tears fell, as black as the empty void of my soulless corpse. Devoid of life, filled with darkness and as my sightless eyes formed, becoming endless voids, they hissed. I screamed at them with sunken-in pits that had once held eyes that viewed the world differently. Now, now I had become a monster who wanted to destroy it.
Her hand pushed into my womb, and my spine arched, hating the searing red-hot pain that enveloped my mind. Pain exploded, enveloping everything as she dug around in my womb. A sob exploded from my lips as blood splattered against her ghostly flesh. Just as fast as it started, it ended. I struggled against the hold they had on me, on my corpse. I needed him. I screamed, allowing all the anguish and pain to bubble from my lungs and explode into the dome. It was pure anguish, mixed and filled with pain so raw and deep that even those who stood outside the dome cried with me.
Then they vanished, only to reappear in front of the one who now held my son. I pushed up from the floor, able- and full-bodied but empty. As cold as death itself. I rushed towards them, only for them to lift their hands and send me back, sailing against the dome’s wall. Bones shattered only to re-fuse, stronger than before.
“No! Don’t take him from me, he’s mine! I love him. I can’t do this, give him back, please!” My voice cracked and broke apart, echoing through the room. I moved forward, igniting my magic and everything I held inside of me as I prepared to fight them. The entire dome rattled with the intensity of the magic I wielded. “Let me see him, now!” I demanded. My screams turned into pain; they echoed through me. I rushed at them, and fire burned my flesh to the bone. The barrier they’d placed preventing me from reaching my son. They kept me from my world.
They’d all perish for their trespass against me.
I screamed as I hit the floor, my hands barren of flesh from pushing through the barrier to reach them. To reach him. Black curls atop a tiny head were all that was visible. I pulled myself back up, forcing myself to get back onto my feet. I had to see him, to know him. He was why I’d done this, why I’d let my death happen. I at least needed to see what he’d looked like!
I was thrown back again as the flesh began to melt from my body and they came towards me, slowly, cautiously. They were right to fear me. Once they reached me, I was again caught in their powerful magical web as they healed me anew, again.
I’d yet to stop screaming as I turned my dead, inhuman, sightless eyes at the one who cooed and calmed my son. Flesh healed, regrown as it melded against my bones. Black tears fell uselessly down my cheeks as I watched her cuddling my world. The world she’d just ripped from my womb.
“You’re unclean now,” she uttered over the top of his naked body, her chin brushing against the thick black curls, so akin to his fathers.
“He is not like you, you agreed to give him to us,” they uttered together, their voices uniting as if they were one being. “Name him, and he will know it.”
I stopped screaming my voice raw and inhuman as I leveled her with a deadly stare. “Harbinger,” I laughed coldly. “Harbinger of Doom, the one who will kill this selfish world. He will rip it apart and swim in the blood of those who trespass upon us. He will find me, I am his mother!” A light flashed behind her, and they passed through where I could never go. My son’s glowing soul grew brighter, bathing my face in blue light as he passed into heaven, which would never accept me.
I dropped to the floor, wailing until nothing more escaped from my lips. I rolled into the fetal position, lifeless as sobs exploded, silent and yet containing pain that never eased or lessened. I remained there until it happened…
And just like that, my body was reborn again.
Slowly, I sat up and turned to stare into horrified midnight eyes, the shock on his face overriding the emotion that continued to ebb and flow through me. It took effort to rise to my feet, to rise from the pain that ached from the rawness of the loss all over again.
“Lena,” he uttered thickly, aware of the truth they’d laid bare to him. His eyes lowered, taking in the glyphs and runes that had given them the right to do as they’d done. To take my world and protect him from what I had become.
He moved faster than my eyes could track and held my body against his. I pushed away from him, but his hold was too much. Anger ripped me apart, and I screamed through my aching lungs as I finally managed to push him away from me. I surveyed the others, hating the wet eyes and tears that rolled down their faces from witnessing my fall.
“Did you enjoy the fucking show?” I asked, hating them for seeing my pain lay bare to their eyes. A sob bubbled up from my lungs, and I forced it back down. Synthia stared at me, her eyes wet with tears. “Open this fucking dome and let me out!” I demanded forcefully.
“Lena,” Lucian said my name like a fucking prayer as it rolled off his tongue.
“Lena is no more! She died for you, for him! You did this to me. You and your whore gave me no choice!” I seethed as my hair floated as my power rose, raw and unchecked as hatred burned through me. I was a powder keg set to detonate.
“You’re alive,” Spyder said as he held his hand against his own heart.
“Let me go!” I snarled, uncaring that everyone was now calling their own power to them as mine rose dangerously high. Lucian stepped into my path, and I slapped him, hard. I continued even though he did nothing to prevent it. He could have easily blocked it, but yet he let me inflict the pain I’d felt and continued to feel on his face. I didn’t want to harm him, but I needed him to feel the pain I felt, to know that I suffered.
“Open the fucking door,” he urged, and I paused, setting my forehead against his chest, inhaling his scent deep into my lungs before I found the strength to push away from it. “Let her go,” he mumbled as he stepped back, staring at me through eyes that swam with unshed tears.
I didn’t stick around to see if they fell, or if he’d actually shed a tear for the child we’d lost. I vanished the moment the door was open and the wards were lowered.
The death echo ate at my soul, my core. It thrummed through me until it touched the empty womb that would never hold life again. I’d made the ultimate sacrifice to save them, to save him. Oh, I’d known I would be back. Heaven wouldn’t take me, and Hell couldn’t contain me, which left me adrift in my own hellish prison.
Just soulless beings that couldn’t die.
Empty. Devoid of what we’d once been. Craving to be what we had been, but unable to ever feel or know life again.
I didn’t love anything anymore. I didn’t hate anything anymore. I didn’t feel much of anything anymore either, other than an endless need to kill, slaughter and destroy anything that threatened the creatures who’d just held me prisoner. Ironic, since loving them was what had gotten me to this point in the first place. The only time I did feel anything was during the death echo as I relived my loss, over and over on an endless loop I couldn’t escape.
“It happened again, didn’t it?” Joshua asked as I materialized beside him. I nodded, and his arm looped through mine in comfort. “We were drawn to it, to you. Something is pulling us here as well, do you feel it?” he asked.
“I do, I can,” I nodded. “We need to figure out what it is and eradicate it.”
“And if it is our blood?”
“Then we kill them all.”
I stared at her, the minutes turning into hours as I waited for her to vanish, for it to have been nothing more than a dream. I’d felt her heart as it had begun beating, linking the bond that connected us as if she’d never ceased to exist, and yet she’d fucking died in my arms.
The darkness inside of her was seductive, unreal, and yet she’s something stronger than I could sense, feel. How she came back was a mystery, one I planned to unravel, and yet I didn’t fucking care. She’s here, and it was all that mattered.
Watching her death echo had almost brought me to my knees. The loss she felt as the reapers had taken the child from her womb had felt real, even to me, one who doesn’t feel. Lena had suffered long after the air had left her lungs and her body had grown cold. Had I still been holding her as she’d been going through hell?
The runes she’d painted on her skin had burned into her flesh, trapping the seal into her corpse. She’d sacrificed herself and our child to save the world, a fucking martyr in her own right, and yet she’d known, she’d known death was only her beginning.
Her prick of a brother hadn’t died either, and my mind raced to replay her actions after he’d taken her to the cabin in the woods. How had he known, and were they the same? She was stronger, faster, and more powerful than any of the others she seemed to run with now.
Untapped magic oozed from her pores, a reminder of how immortal she’d become. I wanted to grab her, tie her up, and force her to tell me what had happened, or how she’d known she would come back.
I’d felt her soul escaping her body—or Katarina’s portion of it. The reminder that she was created by magic shivered through my mind as I watched her. Her body was new, beautiful, and the darkness inside her only made my dick hard to experience this new and more durable version of her.
There were differences in her, the black that filled her eyes until it swallowed up the whites of her retinas. The lines that pulsed with magic as her anger grew unchecked, and the way she fought. She fought like she fucked: fast, hard, and with no fucking mercy. My mother fucking match in every way and yet she didn’t want me.
She’d taken us on, and she’d laughed at our efforts as if we were an inconvenience she didn’t mind playing with. So what was she doing here? Protecting her family, or was there something more pulling her to this place?
Her back stiffened and she turned, throwing me a look that dared me to come play with her again. I wanted to play with her; I wanted to slam my mouth against that full, sexy fucking mouth that did such naughty things when it pleased. I wanted to feel her tremble around my cock as she demanded and took everything I gave her, and yet for the first time ever in my existence, I wanted to hold her against my body, listening to that heartbeat that mirrored the drums of war. To feel the warmth of her that screamed with life.
She’d come back to me, and I didn’t care how or why she had, as long as she stayed. Spyder settled beside me, emerging from the shadows as he slinked into the spot next to me.
“How? How is this even fucking possible? I felt her die, and then I felt the emptiness she left when she killed herself,” he snapped, his hair a mussed fucking mess of strands from running his fingers through it or ripping it out.
“Something brought her back,” I uttered thickly, hating the weakness I felt but uncaring if he felt it. “Something powerful enough to take her from death without a mortal soul,” I pondered. “She’s…more. She smells like hellfire, mixed with enough power to light up the entire world.”
“I don’t care who brought my kitty back, only that she’s back, Lucian. I felt like my world had been torn apart without her.”
“You know she’s mine, right? I don’t envy fighting you for her, brother,” I hissed.
“We’ll see who she chooses, if she even wants anything to do with either of us. She deserves the fucking moon for what she endured alone. You created life with her, something neither of us had thought possible, and then she lost it. She loved him, your son. She sacrificed him and her life to protect you. Who the fuck does that? You’re a fucking prick for not seeing her intentions.”
“You think I don’t know that? If I’d known she was going to play the fucking martyr, I’d have strapped her into chains and kept her in my room until the end of days. Neither of us deserves her, neither of us are worthy of that woman,” I mused, watching as her spine straightened and then arched, seductive and intoxicating. That’s what she was. She was all woman, all black lace and fire that I burned to touch and yet knew I couldn’t, not yet.
The moment I’d seen her fighting my world tilted, the thought of the seal using her flesh to dole out its evil had burned through me as if my world was on fire. I’d been sure it was the seal, using her as a meat suit to create havoc, and yet she had laughed at us as if she’d found us lacking.
The moment her heart had begun to beat, I felt her. I felt all of her, the emotions that churned through her, the wrongness of what she had become, but most of all, I felt my Lena trapped in a cage that couldn’t hold her.
She’d told me to let her go, but that was beyond what I could do. I didn’t love anything, but Lena, Lena made me feel more than anything else in my world had ever come close to making me feel. Emotions were beyond me, beyond what I was.
I’d thought I’d loved Katarina in the early days, but it was lust I’d felt for her. The creaminess of her flesh as it had touched mine. Her body was addictive, and yet I’d thought it more. I’d thought it love, but her death…it only left me empty.
Lena’s death had brought fucking tears to eyes that had never experienced them before. She’d taken my seed and created life with it, and just like that, it had been taken away from us. Her death had brought the creature that I am to its knees roaring in denial, and then I’d sat beside her lifeless body, scouring my mind, my world, for a way to bring a soulless body back from the grave, only to find nothing.
I’d buried her in a nameless grave, one I watched endlessly as pain had forced me to remain there. I’d thought I had loved Katarina, but Lena, Lena made me want to destroy the entire world I’d fought to protect. I’d wanted to bring down the stars and snuff every fucking one out of existence for shining without her.
Lena was the stars, and I her darkness. She shone brighter than anything this world had to offer me before her, and she exposed parts of my darkness that I’d never thought could be brought to light, but she was light to my darkness. She had been vibrant, full of life—and now, now where she’d been beautiful before, she was ethereal in immortality.
It made the lines of her face more defined, exposed the subtle curves of her flesh until even those who hadn’t noticed them before itched to trace them intimately. Her hair was fuller, more vibrant in color, and her eyes, those beautiful blue eyes were lit from within with a fire that refused to be snuffed out.
“And if she is here to kill us?” he asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“Then I’ll have fun playing with her,” I announced. “I doubt she was brought back to kill me. If she was, and her purpose was such, she’d have done it already. No, someone brought her back for another reason, and we need to figure it out soon. I refuse to let her go a second time.”
“You don’t have her,” he laughed soundlessly.
“I have her; I’ve always had her, Spyder. She just doesn’t know it yet. Obviously, you don’t realize it either. I’ll get her back because she’s my moon and the stars that burn in my skies. She’s mine, and nothing short of me dying will change that.”
“You cannot be killed,” he scoffed.
“Exactly, and even if I have to force her to remain hidden from the world to continue to exist in mine, I will do whatever it takes to keep her. Even exposing what we are,” I warned and he tilted his head as he considered it.
“Katarina wasn’t worth this mess, but Lena is worth the world. I’d help you destroy it to protect her, you know that. Our bond, it went deeper than it should have, so be warned, I want her too. I want to feel her shatter around me once before you claim her, Lucian. I’m owed that.”
“If she wants you, she’d have had you. Her sexuality isn’t something she hides or sheds for one man. Lena is everything sexual and sensual in this world. Her body was made to be fucked, but her mind, her mind is much more than just sex and chaos; it’s a storm that burns with the fires of life and love. She’s my fucking match, Spyder. My world,” I growled. “If she wants you, you can join us. If not, it will be your loss.”
“We’ll see,” he mused, turning his eyes to watch her as she stood guard over the Guild like a silent sentinel. The others followed her lead; whether they realized it or not, she was born to lead. They’d follow her wherever she took them, which was another indication that whoever had brought my Lena back, had known who and what she could become. “Deviant, Bane, and Devlin are currently closing down the other clubs; see that they do so without drawing unwanted attention to themselves.”
“And Club Chaos? Will we fix it up again, so we have a fallback shelter? I don’t imagine this Guild will withstand Lucifer when he finally emerges. I’m positive he isn’t finished coming at us yet. He’s somewhere licking the wounds of his loss, but he’ll resurface when he is ready.”
“Club Chaos already stands once more. Now that her ghost isn’t haunting the halls, or everywhere I look, I rebuilt it. It’s now able to withstand whatever comes at us. I’ll protect her coven for as long as I can, but eventually, they will need more than we can give them. They feed off the mortals, unknowingly. But still, without the walls remaining up between worlds, their magic will falter. It’s the curse I placed, the failsafe that ensures they don’t win the game. It cannot be undone.”
“And what of the others who have been surfacing in the chaos? What do we do about them?” he queried.
“They’re here because Lucifer has been freed. If they intervene before we are ready, we’ll end them without warning. That’s another reason why we need to close the clubs and get them back to us. Our numbers are small now, even with the shadows we have trailing them, the hellhounds scenting out their trail, we need everyone back here for when shit hits the fan because this isn’t over.”
I felt his stare the entire night, eating away at the defenses I’d erected once the slithering, slimy fingers of the death echo released me. When day broke across the sky as the sun rose to replace the night with the first rays of the sun, the others vanished from the line. I didn’t move, unable to leave this place as if held here by invisible hands. A cold hand gripped my heart as I considered what would be keeping me here. As if I’d been brought back to be his fucking lap dog and guard him.
“It’s him,” I muttered as anger pulsed through me. “I think we can’t leave because of him.”
“It may not be him,” he offered as his blue eyes slowly took in my ash-colored face. “It may be the bloodline, our blood. They’re inside that place too.”
“I guess it could be,” I agreed, even though I didn’t think it was. I didn’t want to have to end our own bloodline to escape the pull to this place. “It’s worse today,” I admitted. “Like I can’t leave,” I shivered as the words escaped. “Like I can’t leave here even if I wanted to,” I muttered breathlessly as panic filled my chest.
“We will figure it out,” Joshua said as his eyes looked over my shoulder. “We will figure out why we slink back to this place, hiding in the shadows like fucking puppets. Lucian is coming, Lenny. You should try to leave before he captures you again.”
“You should go, I can’t,” I growled. “Leave before he ends up catching us both.”
I turned, not waiting to see if Joshua did as I bid him to. Lucian’s approach was slow, calculated. His strides exuded power as he stopped right in front of me, peering down into my gaze. Had he waited for the others to leave before he’d approached me? Biding his time until we appeared weak and outnumbered? Maybe, but I got this feeling it was something else.
Not that it mattered, if I wanted to hurt him, I would.
I’d come back colder, emptier, and stronger than I’d ever been in my other form. I was no longer mortal, bound by their laws or rules. Not having a soul had benefits; for instance, when someone died right before me, I didn’t care. I didn’t flinch or bat an eyelash at the loss of the human, or whoever it was who perished. I envied them their death. I had felt nothing until he’d touched me, fighting him had made me feel. Before last night, the only thing I’d felt was the echo of my death as it played out every full moon. It was freeing, refreshing not to care what happened to people.
Before, I’d felt everything.
“We need to talk,” he growled as he stared down into my empty eyes.
“I don’t think we do,” I returned aloofly. I shoved my hair over my shoulder as I stared up into his obsidian depths, reveling at the galaxies that shone back at me. My heart raced, and I hated it. It was why I’d ripped it out of my chest last time I’d hidden in the shadows, watching him. He’d once been the hunter and I his prey, but no more.
“You’re alive and I watched you fucking die,” he snarled. “I held your fucking corpse in my arms for hours. Days, Lena,” he muttered as he scrubbed his hand down his face with irritation.
“I wouldn’t have become a corpse if you’d left me out of your fucked-up games. Maybe if you and your girlfriend had left me and mine alone, we wouldn’t be at this point, now would we?” I asked.
He recoiled, his eyes burning with an intensity that left me trembling.
Lucian: 0. Lena: 1.
“You weren’t supposed to be a part of it.”
“I know, but I never even existed until she split an egg and filled it with poison. I was in it before I was even real, Lucian. But then you never cared before when innocent lives suffered for you and your game, so why would that change now? You destroy lives and leave chaos in your wake and yet still, you’d play it with her, wouldn’t you?”
“You can either come with me, or Spyder and my men will destroy your friends,” Lucian murmured, his tone cold and unforgiving. I looked past him to where his men stood, weapons at the ready to hunt down the others at his request. “Choose.”
“Fine, you can have a few minutes of my eternity but no more. I’m not your plaything anymore, Blackstone. If that is even your real name,” I seethed. “I can smell you, you know. That thick, earthy scent of burning brimstone and ashes; the death and despair that oozes from within you. What are you?” I asked breathlessly, stepping closer to him. “Let’s talk about that, shall we?”
“You don’t need to know what I am to fuck me,” he replied smoothly.
“Oh, I think you have the wrong idea,” I chuckled. “I’m not fucking you. Last time it ended rather badly for me, wouldn’t you agree?” I asked pointedly, lifting a blonde brow at the question.
The tick in his jaw twitched, the only indication I’d struck a nerve. The sky opened up, sending a light drizzle of rain down through the ozone, dusting his thick black lashes with droplets. His hand lifted up, shoving a strand of hair away from his face before he lunged, catching my arm and bringing my body close against his.
“I never wanted that for you,” he uttered as his tone hitched as if it hurt him to admit it. “It also wasn’t just about fucking you, Lena. It was always about more, and the more of you I got, the harder it was to let you go.”
“But that’s what I got, wasn’t it? One day to know I held your son in my womb, and then he was gone. My only choice as his mother was to let him go. To let him be free of the monster I now hold within me. Your monster,” I whispered thickly for his ears alone. I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the rain, letting it wash away the pain I felt. I used it to hide the tears that streaked down my face, only it couldn’t hide them. I knew what he would see, as if I’d painted my lashes thick with mascara; black streaks rushed from my eyes to race down my cheeks.
“Don’t fight me, or they will hunt them down and destroy them all.”
“Are you sure they’d win?” I asked as I stepped closer, placing my hands flat against his warm body. “Are you afraid of me, Lucian?” I asked as he swallowed hard.
“Not of you, sweet girl. I’m afraid I’ll wake and you’ll still be buried in that cold fucking earth where I watched them place your rotting corpse.”
Ouch. Point for Lucian. “You should be afraid of me,” I shrugged. “You’d deserve it if I disappeared. You deserved the pain you felt because it’s nothing compared to what I endured as they took my son and left me alive.”
“You think I wanted you to die?”
“I think it doesn’t matter what either of us wanted, it’s what happened. You can stronghold me into coming along with you, but you fail to see that no matter what you do, you’ll never find that whimpering girl you lost. Your Lena is dead, she’s in that dark fucking hole you so gently placed her into. Don’t expect me to play her, not even for you. I won’t, I am not weak and I will not fucking bow to you.”
“You are her; I can feel the bond, Lena. Can’t you? Spyder felt it as well the moment your heart started beating. I take it your brother assisted in hiding you from us again? Preventing me from feeling you when you returned to this world?” he demanded.
“I didn’t do dick,” Joshua snorted, his eyes wild with the need to defend me. I took in his flexed hands, aching to fight Lucian, itching for the fight he’d so relished at my death. Not for me, but because his anger demanded he avenge what I’d lost: his nephew. My head tilted, and I slowly brought my eyes to Lucian’s dark gaze, and pushed Lucian away from my brother, hard.
Joshua’s eyes snapped towards mine; the others let out low, rumbling growls of warning, and I smirked. Fucking hell, they wanted to compare dicks, and I was the only one lacking one to join in their little competition.
“Let’s go, asshole,” I snapped in frustration as I ground my teeth together. “We all know you have dicks, and some are bigger than others, but this isn’t a dick situation other than you all acting like one.”
I met midnight eyes that sparkled at me with the silent promise of retribution for my comment with bored contempt. I hadn’t lied, I wasn’t afraid of him. I was, however, afraid of what he could do to my brother. I followed him when he turned on his heels, heading towards the Guild silently. His massive strength and power oozed from his pores to sizzle across my flesh. It was something I’d once craved as a heroin junkie desired the prick of a needle against its flesh. My feet sloshed through the growing puddles mindlessly as I stared at his broad shoulders. I didn’t even care that I was still dressed in the tiny sundress, which was now sheer and doing very little to hide my body through its flimsy material. My body reacted to the cold, and that gave me pause as I continued to follow Lucian past the stairs that led into the Guild.
My nipples hardened as I followed him and I frowned, wondering how it responded to it if I hadn’t been bothered by it. I wasn’t human anymore, which meant I wasn’t bothered by shit like the cold or being uncomfortable. It ran like a well-oiled machine, working well to hide what we’d become, and yet it mimicked a human and the reactions they experienced well. Like it knew we had to pretend to be human or perish against the sea of monsters oozing into this realm daily.
Once inside, I paused, taking in the array of creatures that stood between us and the empty hall on the other side of them. Arms folded across chests, weapons sat at the ready for any sign of violence from me. Magic hummed around me, sensing me as if they could feel out whatever I’d become. I laughed coldly as Lucian turned to stare at me.
“Did you bring me in here to kill me?” I asked softly, my eyes aglow with the irony I currently felt.
“I want to know what the fuck you are and how you’re still alive, Lena. People without souls don’t come back, they cease to exist. They sure as fuck don’t experience death echoes. Ghost relive their death, no other creature has ever had to relive it. It’s a punishment for not crossing into the next realm.”
“But I am here, and I do experience it, and that bothers you, doesn’t it?” I exhaled. “You don’t like not knowing what I am, and yet you expect me to be fine with the fact that you are an unknown as well. Sucks, doesn’t it?”
“Answer the fucking question.” His tone was harsh, angry as his eyes searched mine as if he would see the truth in them.
“I don’t know what I am, only that I am here. I also don’t fucking care how it happened or why. We just came back, and when we did, we were alone or with those who knew we would rise. There was no one around to explain it or tell us what we’d become. Can I go now?” I asked, crossing my arms to mirror his angry stance. “I need to go find something to change into, something more…less sheer and flimsy as fuck.”
“I have a room upstairs, you’re joining me in it for a while,” he said in a rough, grated tone that made my spine both straighten and curve with need at the same time.
“If there’s a bed in it, I’d rather a torture device in a cell. I believe there’s a rack down in the catacombs I passed before I took the grimoires from this place.”
“That you somehow managed to retain even after you died.” It was a statement, not a question. Lucian watched me as a smile lifted to play across my lips. “Dead things cannot play with magic, nor retain what they held in life. They don’t retain grimoires, which are living things.”
“And?” I asked crossly. “I don’t owe you an explanation for anything. I gave you everything I had to give, which in case you forgot, included my life. I owe you nothing, Lucian. Yet here I am, so tick-tock, asshole. I have other shit to do.”
“I need to know how you are reanimating the body, how you’re able to control it,” he snapped.
“It’s my body, my mind, but I seem to have lost that pesky soul that made me give a fuck. Which means I literally have no fucks to give you. Not a damn one, big boy. You want to fuck? I can do that, but it may be a dead fuck, get it?” I wiggled my brows as his frown deepened. “You want to…” I blinked as something wet and icy splashed me in the face. “Did you fucking throw holy water in my face?” I asked as I sputtered and wiped my face off.
“She’s not a demon,” Ristan said, his silver eyes narrowing at me as if I’d grown a second head. “Her heart is, in fact, beating. Strangely, though… It’s in tune to yours, Lucian. When it beats, it holds your rhythm. I don’t feel anything but darkness and rage coming from her though, a lot of fucking rage.” His eyes saddened, and he frowned as he stared at me. “There’s an endless pain consuming her from within, pain she cannot control.”
“Back the fuck up before I end you, demon,” I growled low, meaning it.
“You’re mortal-ish. I’ve never smelled or seen, let alone felt anything like her before. That black shit, though, that’s worrisome. It smells of midnight, and yet only cursed things bleed black or owned things. Curious thing you’ve become, little one.”
“That you know of; you see, there are not just a few worlds with gaping fucking holes in them, the doors are all open. The creatures we fought last night are not new to us, but they were to you. You didn’t see them, which is why I’m standing here right now. Had you been able to sense or see them, I wouldn’t have had to make my presence known yet. You are not aware of the monsters that hunt in this world now. I’ve fought shit that raised my hair, and I’m not easily scared lately. Those hounds we killed? They feed off the blood of witches, almost like a vampire but not quite. Before the hounds, it was demons, not from Hell, not from Faery. They didn’t need a soul to enter this world, they only need the gate opened, and in they walked. Some vampires consume souls, not blood. Creatures I’ve never even heard about are now here, feeding off the humans and no one seems to care. Those vampires? They bled black, as I do. So as far as I am concerned, what I am is the least of our fucking worries right now. Make no mistake; even if we are no longer human, we are no longer at the top of the food chain. We are the food, ladies and gentlemen.”
“How can you say that if you don’t even know what the hell you are?” Synthia asked pointedly.
“Because there are creatures that I fought and I had to run from, Synthia. Creatures that easily took some of the others out,” I countered. “We don’t die, but we can be killed; which means we cannot stop them from doing what they came here to do. That is what we’ve been doing while you all hold up in your safe little haven pretending the world hasn’t gone to shit.”
“You’ve been alive for months, and yet you couldn’t be bothered to end our pain?” Kendra’s voice cut through the room, and I tensed. It hit me harder than a brick wall at a full run, knocking the air from my lungs as I turned to stare at her across the room.
“Your sister, the one you loved so much?” I asked, staring at her across the distance that kept her safe from the monster I’d become. “She isn’t in here anymore. That light I once had burned out. That fight I had to live? Died with me. I don’t eat, I don’t sleep, and I love nothing. I am not her, I am a shell of what I was, and I do not want you to expect anything of me. I will let you down, and I will fucking enjoy it.”
“You’re my sister!” she snapped. “No matter what the fuck you are, bitch. We mourned you. I mourned you. You’re my other half. We buried you in a nameless grave with only fucking initials that let the world know you ever existed. It damn near broke me! So who cares if you eat or sleep, and I don’t need you to love me, Lena. I want my sister back. You’re my sister. So whatever the fuck your issue is, get over it. Your heart beats. That means you live.”
I smiled sadly at her as her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “I don’t need my heart.”
“Bullshit,” she snapped angrily, her turquoise eyes alight with tears that flowed from them. “You’re alive, I know you are. I can feel you, here,” she cried as she touched her chest.
As she watched I let my claws extend. The serrated nails pushed into my chest, the sickening sound filling the room as I withdrew my still-beating heart. It beat, dripping black blood down my chest and onto the floor below as I pulled the useless organ out. I dropped it onto the ground and looked up, peering into her eyes.
“It beats when they decide to bring me back. I don’t need it to beat. I don’t need you or him, or anyone. I don’t miss you. I don’t feel anything, Kendra. I only know hate and pain, two things I refused to feel in life, and now it’s the only thing I can feel. The two emotions I refused to feel in life are now the only thing I know. You did bury me. I was in that coffin until I was removed from it, but I wasn’t alive, and I’m still not. I didn’t need air or food. I didn’t waste away waiting for Joshua to come unbury me. I just existed in that cold box, unfeeling. He didn’t have to rush because I’m not alive. Those days I spent in that cabin with him, he knew I would meet my death, and he would be the one to bring me back from it. He explained sacrifice and what I would be rewarded with if I had the strength to make it. I wasn’t a saint as you’re trying to make me out to be. I chose death to save you and my son, but I also knew I wouldn’t die. I killed my child; I did it to protect him and you. But I also did it because I couldn’t stand the thought of losing to those assholes. I won the fucking game, hands down. I ended it, and I’d do it again just to say I did.”
“You did it to protect us,” she argued.
“I did it because I didn’t have a choice. It was you or me; one of us wasn’t walking away, and you were too fucking weak to see it. I was already dead; the seal was inside of me. The only way to null it was to remove the souls and find something strong enough to hold it. I am, and I did. But now that it is over, so is she. Your sister is dead, deal with it. Push it to the back of your fucking mind, throw a fucking fit, do whatever the hell you need to do to accept it, I did.” I knew it was a slap in the face, but she had to face it. Pain ached, burning my insides until I wanted to lean over and retch with it.
Pushing them away was the only way to protect them from the monster I was becoming. I could feel myself evolving, growing as the others continually did. Some went missing and never returned, while others returned changed or worse than they’d been. Efficient killing machines couldn’t be loved, nor should they be, and that was what I was becoming. I didn’t want to watch them break apart again; they deserved better. I’d watched it, cold and detachedly as they’d fallen to pieces in the wake of my death. But I was changing into something cold who watched with a detachment of emotions, as if it was how I protected myself. My feelings were ice-cold, and anything else seemed foreign, wrong somehow.
“Lucian, tick-tock, you’re wasting my time,” I said, turning to him and flipping him off as his eyes took in the empty hole in my chest where my heart had been. “Eyes up here, big boy. You might make my panties wet if you keep eyeing my hole like that.”
“You just ripped out your fucking heart,” Ristan said, his eyes wide as shock shone from them. It marred his pretty face and made me want to mess his perfect hair up.
“It’s an over-exaggerated organ,” I shrugged. “It’s not even close to the shape they said it was, and it only reminds me that I have to continue when my son is dead and gone. You want to know how I kept my presence from you. I ripped my fucking heart out the moment it began to stir after I was reborn.” My flesh was already healing, the immortality speeding the process as I stood there, bickering for no other reason to give Joshua and the others time to flee. “I left it in that coffin for you, though. After all, that useless thing was what drew me to you in the first place, Lucian.”
“Follow me,” he snapped, his eyes still locked on the heart that beat upon the floor. “Spyder, collect her heart.”
“Can I keep it?” Spyder asked as he mean-mugged Ristan, who licked his lips as he stared down at it. He bent down and retrieved it before he slipped it into a sack Ryder handed him.
“Oh, Spyder, you’ve always had a piece of my heart,” I chuckled. I blew him a raspberry before I wiped the black blood from my hand onto the dress as my claws retracted. “Be careful, though, the last person who picked it up ended up buried in my coffin when I crawled out.”
“Who is in your casket?” he asked.
“Someone who meddled where they shouldn’t have,” I shrugged indifferently.
My gaze roamed over Lucian’s wide shoulders, following him up the staircase and then down winding hallways until we lingered before a door. My mouth watered as my nose greedily sucked in his earthy, woodsy scent. Something about this creature made my emotions stir, ones I’d thought had been snuffed out with my life. My teeth ground, hands fisted at my sides as I waited for him to open the door he’d paused in front of.
Of all the shit to deal with, couldn’t I get a break? Why did everything inside of me scream to push this man against the wall and devour him until I’d taken my fill? I wanted to rip him bare and ride him like a beast in heat that wouldn’t stop until she’d soothed the ache he’d created.
He turned slowly, those sinful bedroom eyes slowly lowering to my clenched jaw and then my balled fists as if he sensed exactly what was running wild through my mind. I lifted a dainty brow as he mirrored it, so I flipped him off and then slowly crossed my arms.
“Is that an invitation, Lena?” he asked huskily.
“You wish,” I grumbled. His eyes darkened as they slowly dropped to my mouth and then lower, flinching as they landed on the ugly scar on my throat. I’d somehow managed to sound uncaring, cold even. I didn’t care what he thought, or if it turned him off. Caring took effort, and I didn’t plan to waste my energy on him.
I hated that my body wanted him, and it had since the moment I saw him standing on the steps of this Guild. It had heated, which was new since I didn’t radiate body heat unless I put effort into it, and yet it had. It was unnerving. The fact that I’d wanted to taste his lips, to feel the heat from his body as my fingers wrapped around his massive cock bothered me. His mouth was a drug, one that I wanted to taste. Worse than that, I wanted him to look me in the eye and tell me that I wasn’t this emotionless animal I’d become.
But I was. I felt hate, despair, and emptiness as deep and wide as the darkest abyss of Hell that grew inside of me. No amount of touching or feeling him would erase that. His close proximity did, however, soothe the coldness I felt to my bones.
He paused as his hand touched the door, pushing it open as he stepped back, allowing me room to enter it. I strolled by him as though I wasn’t affected by him at all. I surveyed the dark room, which was done in hues of black and red silk, with a large bed set in the center of it. Just fucking great. Two things I didn’t need in my life at the moment: Lucian and a bed. The door closed behind me, and I turned to face him with my mask securely in place.
“Tell me what you feel right now, in this room,” he ordered.
“Nothing,” I muttered harshly as I swallowed hard against the need to have his hands on my flesh. Before last night, I hadn’t felt much of anything, but the moment he’d touched me…that changed. I’d felt him, whereas, before him, I knew I should feel. The others touched me in practice as we’d fought, and yet their touch hadn’t even alerted me to the fact that my skin had been grazed. Lucian’s touch singed my flesh, stirring emotions I’d prayed were unattainable. I’d felt him right down into the empty space that should have housed my soul, and it ached. I fucking ached. I’d felt his warmth and craved more. I’d felt emotions so raw and intense that it had terrified me. Even while I fought him, I craved his kiss, that sexy, sinful mouth that could take away the pain.
We had some major issues that dying hadn’t fixed.
“You don’t hunger, and you don’t sleep,” he pointed out softly, his tone a silk caress over my flesh. “So how do you heal?” he asked, his obsidian gaze slowly moving over the ruined dress I wore. It singed my flesh in its heated wake, sending gooseflesh pebbling across it.
“I just heal,” I admitted as I turned away from the heat banked in his depths. I was terrified he’d see through the cold façade I was showing him. It was how I shielded myself from what I knew could unravel the hard exterior that protected me now. Out of everyone in my life, he’d known me on a visceral level. He’d peeled away the layers, finding the broken girl who lay beneath them. If he tried, he’d start to bring down the walls faster than I could repair them, and I wasn’t ready for that. I may not ever be prepared for what he could do to me again.
“Every creature has a way that they heal which is unique to them and their breed. What’s your body telling you right now? What does it crave to heal the damage you did to your chest, Lena?” he questioned, his tone soothing as he delved into the mystery I’d become.
I turned back to stare at him, finding him closer than I expected. His hand wrapped around my throat and I was pushed against the closest wall. I brought my hands up to his on reflex, staring into the dark, midnight eyes I’d craved as I lay awake inside my coffin. His mouth slammed against mine, and I moaned. His tongue pushed past my lips, devouring my tongue as it dueled against mine for dominance. I moaned, opening to his assault with a naked hunger I couldn’t ignore. Time passed, and yet I didn’t break his kiss, or pull away from him. His hand tightened, and I opened my eyes again, finding him watching me as he pulled away. He’d discovered a few things, like the fact that I didn’t need air anymore, and I wasn’t kissing him back. It wasn’t because I hadn’t wanted to kiss him back, it was because so many fucking emotions had slammed into me that tears had begun sliding from my eyes as the memories of our last kiss came rushing back.
“Don’t touch me!” I screamed as I wrapped my arms around his back and yanked his hair, pulling his head away from mine. I dropped my weight, intending to attack him, but he backed up, his hands raised with their palms up as if he sensed my distress. He took in the black tears that leaked from my eyes, which had gone black as well. Gone was his beautiful Lena, and in her place was the darkness I’d become. The cold dead thing, the sunken eyes, and the monster that haunted my dreams stood before him.
“You feel me, Lena. My touch, my kiss,” he murmured as he watched me for any sign of weakness.
“I don’t want to feel anything!” I screamed, the sound piercing my ears, shattering everything made of glass inside the room. Heavy footfalls raced down the hallway and then the door was ripped open. We ignored them, staring at one another. “I don’t want to feel anything ever again, Blackstone.” It came out on a hiss, a warning of breath as my chest rose and fell.
“Because then you’d have to face it, right? You’d have to feel everything at once, and you’re afraid to do so. You’re not fucking weak. You’re the strongest, most stubborn woman I have met in my entire life—and I am eternal. You don’t want to face your emotions because they’d be too much, wouldn’t they?”
“I’m leaving,” I muttered as I started towards the door, only to find Spyder standing there, blocking my exit as he held my heart in his hands. “Really, Spyder? Throw it away already,” I sputtered.
“Not a chance, Kitty cat,” he drawled thickly. “I feel it, everything you’re trying not to feel. It’s why you rip it out, isn’t it? So much fucking pain,” he said sadly.
“Why don’t you tell me? You assholes seem to have it all figured out already. Why do you even need me here to answer questions?” I asked, and then something inside of me snapped to attention. My eyes moved to the wall as if I could sense trouble approaching. Everything inside of me snapped at once.
I tried to dissipate the wards to vanish, but they refused. Instead, they pulsed, screaming in warning that they’d been altered. I pushed past Spyder, racing down the hallway with urgency. I took the stairs three at a time, rushing past the heads that lifted as I raced towards the front doors of the Guild. I didn’t pause, didn’t wait for permission as I exploded through the doors and screamed.
“Incoming!” The scream turned every soulless pair of eyes in the vicinity towards me as weapons were unsheathed. I skidded to a stop beside Joshua, patting myself for weapons only to find none. “Fuck!” I screamed as I watched the others wincing, worry covering their faces. The issue when we fought was this: We changed. We evolved, and we didn’t know how or why we did, only that we did.
The sky cracked loudly as thunder rumbled, lightning following close behind it, brightening the sky and the precarious clouds that threatened to let loose a heavy rain. It continued, growing stronger and louder as if some invisible being controlled it. Every bolt of lightning that exploded in the sky lit the silhouettes of monstrous beings that hovered just above the thick, darkening clouds. A monstrous horde of slithering, gyrating beings edged out of the shadows, encircling the Guild. We stood shoulder to shoulder, preparing to battle them. The taste and craving for battle ignited a fire inside our beings.
I ignored Lucian and his scent that clung heavily in the air, beckoning me like a lover’s caress with the promise of release. He’d fucking kissed me, and so many emotions had exploded through that it terrified me, leaving me boneless with need. I’d felt more in those seconds as his mouth touched mine than I had since the day I’d slit my throat.
Another bolt of lightning crashed through the sky, lighting it up as winged creatures began their descent towards us. I once again reached for my swords and found only mere wisps of spaghetti straps. Oomph. I stepped backwards, rounding on my heels as I leveled Synthia with a cold, detached look of loathing.
“A little help, you took my clothes and my weapons.”
“So I did,” she shrugged as if it bothered her little, but my body was instantly covered in a tight leather suit that hugged every curve perfectly. I tested it, noting that it allowed me to still easily maneuver. My dual swords were back, or at least the equivalent to what I’d had before they’d taken them. I unsheathed them, palming the weight and testing it. I patted my waist, finding more blades as a smile curved my lips.
“You and I should be friends,” I uttered as I took in the craftsmanship of the new blades. I turned on my heel, taking my place beside my brother as I sensed the immense power she radiated as she stepped next to me, withdrawing her own blades.
“We could be friends, but you need to work through your shit first. I’m a queen; you’re…well, whatever the fuck you are now. When you figure it out, come see me. I can use some badass bitches around here. We can paint our nails and compare weapons.” I eyed her titanium blades as she leveled a chilling gaze on the monsters that approached. “You have issues, Lena, but if you learn to use that anger for good, you’d level the fucking field with it.”
“I didn’t ask to have issues,” I muttered beneath my breath.
“We never ask for issues,” she smiled sadly, her tone gentle. “It’s not about how you fall, Lena. It is how you get back up that defines you. Not that you didn’t fall fucking spectacularly. I mean, that took strength, and I really don’t care what the fuck you are. I’m glad you’re back, however it happened. And it’s not gone; it’s just waiting for you to find it again.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t speak code, Synthia.”
“Your light, asshole,” she snorted. “It is there, inside of you. Nothing can smother your fucking light except for you. Light it up, Lena. Let the world see the fire that burns inside of you. If they try to smother it, smother them. If it’s Lucian, use your tits and smother him. Works on Ryder all the time; you see, he can’t very well argue if his face is in them, now can he?” she chuckled as my mouth dropped open. “You’re pushing them away to protect them, but who is protecting you from being hurt?”
“I don’t need to be protected anymore,” I growled as the monsters moved forward, close enough to attack. They had multiple heads, red eyes, and pasty grey skin that clung to bones as if they’d been starved. It looked like someone had bred Cerberus with a hellhound, who had then mated with a fucking zombie. The stench of them was overpowering, roiling my stomach as I swallowed down the urge to throw up. Black-eyed demons stood behind them, smirking through yellowed teeth as they watched us prepare to battle their horde of monstrous three-headed dogs. I swung at the first dog’s heads, plural, taking all three off in a single, efficient swing.
“Everyone needs someone, even if that someone is a dominating asshole who bosses you around,” Synthia growled as she lunged for a hound that started towards me. She cut it in half, her swing graceful as she ended it in a skillful move that sent all three heads rolling onto the pavement as if she was a dancer who had practiced her craft to outdo any move I could make. I frowned, staring at her.
“The fuck is your issues, ladies?” Erie growled as she jumped on another beast, slamming the outside heads into the middle one as blood exploded from their mouths. She didn’t bother with weapons as her hands glowed, her body a magical display as it slid through them as if she was fire and they were ice. She smiled at me as blood dripped from her clothing.
“Girl talk,” Synthia said as if it explained everything.
“Bitch talk, really? Right now? Are we going to fuck them up or check out each other’s nails? Mine are fucking broken because I’m fighting, as I should be. You?” she snapped, staring at Synthia, who lifted her hand and bared her nails.
“Happy Anniversary,” Synthia said.
“It’s not my anniversary for shit,” Erie snapped and narrowed her eyes on me as if I’d know what the fuck Synthia was speaking of.
“It’s the nail color, and if these fuckers mess them up, this Goddess is going to lose her shit. I’m on the last bottle of this color, and the factories are closed down because supply and demand is shit with the nearing apocalypse.”
I rolled my eyes and exploded into the air, landing in the middle of the fray. I slashed and danced until my arms ached and burned as blood oozed down my face, lathering my hair in it. I was so engrossed in the battle that when I used my blades to scissor a demon’s head from his shoulders, I almost took off Lucian’s too as he watched me.
“I’m not done with you,” he shouted over the sound of swords clanking and meeting in the street.
“Yes, you are,” I shouted back, turning to attack the nearest demon and pausing as the red being stared at me. “What the fuck?”
“Don’t kill the red one!” Ristan growled as he stared me down. “It’s easier to fight in this form. I’m the only red one here,” he shrugged as he pushed his hand through the chest of a pale creature and withdrew the heart, biting into it.
“Fucking demons,” I groaned as I turned around, only to end up nose to chest with Lucian. “Back the fuck off or fight me, asshole!” I demanded.
“I’ve been fighting you. I’ve been fighting you since the moment I fucking met you and kissed you outside of your house!” he shot back angrily, his midnight eyes burning with desire.
The sky erupted into balls of flames and heat enveloped us. I stared up; sensing something big was above us, just out of eyesight. It took effort not to hit the ground as leathery wings came into view, sending my hair rushing into the air as it landed feet away from where I stood, tearing into the demons. Huge teeth severed them in half, tossing body parts in the giant beast’s wake.
“Oh fuck this shit, I’m out,” I groaned as I threw my hands up in the air in frustration. “Who the fuck brings a dragon to a demon fight,” I blanched as it turned to stare in my direction with glowing eyes as blood dripped from its talons.
“He’s on our side,” he explained, grabbing a demon who rushed at him and removing its head quickly with a bored expression on his face. I blinked and frowned as he turned back towards me, his eyes smiling with anticipation.
“You might want to fill the Fae in on that one, they don’t look too pleased about his presence,” I pointed out. The moment Lucian turned away to see what I’d meant, I bolted.
The fight was dying down, but no matter how many we took down, even as the last few fell beneath our blades, I couldn’t shake the foreboding feeling that continually grew inside of me. I stood in the middle of the carnage and stared up at the thick clouds still gathering above us. Demons couldn’t control the weather, or at least not any we’d faced in the last few months. They simply didn’t house enough power to control elements.
“This isn’t over yet,” I shouted over the multitude of people talking as they cleaned their weapons.
I felt him, close enough that whatever was inside me that drew me to this place, to him, alerted as if alarm bells were sounding from within me. I spun around, slashing my weapons out to protect. Lucian spun out of the way at the last second as something with wings landed in front of him, claws aimed to end his life.
My heart boomed, coming back online as red-hot rage surged from within, My nose flared, smelling the putrid scent of burning earth, brimstone, and ashes as the taint of evil slithered over my flesh. Thick black wings with bones that protruded from the edges blocked my way, and I moved without thinking, without waiting to see what it did. I jumped on it, biting its face from behind as it let loose a pain-filled scream that cut through the air. It ripped at my hair, my face as it tried to dislodge me. My teeth extended, ripping and severing flesh as I screamed back, gurgling blood as I tore it apart.
“Run, Lucian!” I shouted, demanding he listen in case I lost the fight, but he didn’t budge. Instead, he just stared at me. Burning blue flames lit him from within as he took me in, fighting to protect him from whatever the fuck this thing was. “Lucian, go!”
The creature dug its nails into my arm, and I screeched as pain burned. Black blood leaked down my severed flesh as I continued to stare at Lucian, fuming that he’d place his life in danger, which pissed me off since I shouldn’t fucking care and yet here I was, fighting tooth and nail to protect him!
I saw red, my nails exploded into serrated claws, and I tore at the creature without thought, without care. I ripped it apart with teeth and nails that were as sharp as the finest blades. Blood exploded from its neck, and my hands ripped into where I’d torn it apart, removing the head from the spine as I flipped over, landing in a bloody heap in front of Lucian. My hands went to my back, digging against the pain that echoed through my body.
I ripped my flesh from my own body, screaming as earth-shattering pain threatened to consume me. I ripped at my spine, tearing through the suit I wore as my hands found the flesh that rippled and obstructed them. I freed them. I exhaled as something broke free, slicing through the air behind me. Black gossamer wings whipped the air behind me as I stood before Lucian in the ruined leather suit. I whimpered as pain mixed with pleasure and my spine arched to relieve the pressure.
“Gods,” Lucian whispered as he stared at me, watching as I fumbled with the weight that now forced me to my knees. I rose to my feet, teetering on them as I tilted my head, staring at Lucian with a hunger that raged within me. I struggled to calm the panic that welled inside of me as the wings stretched.
“I don’t think that is what she is,” Synthia said as she brought her hand up and a short, backless shirt covered my naked breasts. I wanted to thank her, but words were elusive as the pain mingled and lessened as chills rushed down my spine.
One of the soulless stepped closer to Lucian, and everything inside of me turned cold. Her hand extended, touching his chest, and I moved, thoughtlessly, uncaring that she wasn’t foe as I reached her, ripping her head from her body and then watching emotionlessly as she dropped to the ground, dead. I stared at Lucian who was splattered in her blood and smiled.
“He’s mine,” I uttered through the heaviness of my tongue.
I turned to Synthia who put her hands up in a motion of surrender and stepped away from Lucian’s side. “Alpha bitch in the house, everyone back up. He’s yours, we won’t touch him, promise. You earned this one, Lucian. She’s becoming your monster, enjoy it.”
Black eyes met and held Lucian’s as I slowly stepped closer. I smirked, feeling the need to mark him, to lay claim to him in the most primitive of ways. One step, then another, and the moment those dark, silky depths filled with heat, I turned, walking away from him. Catalina would regrow her head, but she’d been used to make a pretty important point. He was mine. He wanted to act like a caveman and bang his chest as he announced I was his? Well, I could play that game too.
“Lenny, what the fuck?” Joshua growled, and I turned to give him a pointed look as one delicate brow rose in question.
“What?” I snapped as my body readjusted to the new burden. My vision swam as the ardor of the battle lessened. He pointed at Catalina, and I frowned. I swallowed a grunt as my eyes moved back to his and I smirked.
“She’s on our side.”
“My bad,” I shrugged.
“No more killing our guys. Same side, same fucking team,” he continued, and I smirked, lifting my blue eyes to his as they danced with laughter.
“She touched him,” I pouted, or tried to.
“Oh boy, this should be fun,” Synthia snorted as she clapped a hand against Lucian’s shoulder and my eyes zeroed in on it. “Happily married, he’s all yours.”
I stood in the middle of the conference room, which was a vast antechamber that held runes painted on the walls. It looked as if they’d plucked it from the legends of Faery and dropped it right into our world. Synthia stared at me, her tongue in her cheek as her violet eyes perused what I’d changed into. They changed, turning from electric blue to violet as she continued to stare at me as if she was afraid I’d grow horns next, which honestly scared me too. Ryder stood behind her; his finger traced her bare shoulder blade as she bounced those ever-changing orbs from me to the book in front of her.
“Have you told them she is here and ready?” she asked, and Layton answered. He was leaned against the door with his blond man-bun firmly in place. His back was against the wall, foot flat as he rested there, staring at me.
I felt like I was on display, the ever-changing freak within their midst.
“They’re witches, slower than a hooker strolling down her corner in winter waiting for a John.” His eyes seemed to grow distant as he continued to watch me.
My own eyes lowered to Synthia again, staring at her as her finger pushed yet another page over as she pored through the pages of the book in front of her. It was a book of mythology, and ancient from the looks of it. Yellow pages creaked as she turned them, the scent musky and yet almost alive.
“Harpy?” Her head tilted as she stared up at me. “It fits; well, if you take out the fact they thought Harpies had the head of a woman and the body of a bird.”
“Could be, she’s faster than most creatures and fights like she is possessed by demons.” Ryder’s golden eyes seemed to look through me instead of at me.
“Teeth that grow, nails sharper than any blade, but the way her eyes turn and that black that seems to burn from within, it’s almost like something is haunting her from within. Plus, she has no soul. Harpies have souls.”
I stared at Synthia. “Does it even matter what I am?” I asked, seething that they seemed obsessed with discovering what I was. They’d been poring through books for the last few hours as Alden had gone to fetch my mother with Layton. Layton returned, but they hadn’t. The hours on the clock continually ticked by as I stood in the room, uncomfortable with their scrutiny as they tried to figure out what I had become.
“Of course it does,” she scoffed. “Lena, if you have a weakness, it’s important to know it. If you can be killed, again, you need to know it so that you can protect yourself from it.”
“Anything else we should know about you? Anything that you feel when your face changes,” Zahruk asked, his sapphire eyes peering at me as he pushed the sizeable ancient tome in front of him away from where he sat. He rose, stepping closer towards me.
He was hot, as in I’d ride that fucker for days and still want more hot. But he wasn’t Lucian, and I burned for him. I burned to feel his touch, to taste his anger as he fucked me. I wanted him and yet the emotions that he made me feel terrified me. Not that I’d let him fuck me either.
“I feel hatred, anger, and pain. It’s red-hot, and when it comes, I ache to destroy; to kill things, to maim. I crave it so bad that I taste it.” I examined my nails, dismissing their wide stares as the words tumbled out. Black blood marred the nailbeds; I was filthy and needed to shower, but they’d brought me here instead. They’d had me standing for the last few hours as they examined every change, every minute detail of my new body.
Ryder had touched me, searching my spine for where the wings had disappeared. It had sent a ripple through me as he took in the angry red flesh where my wings now hid in. I had wings. Real, mother fucking wings. It still blew me away as the others had yet to change or return to us with them. I had something no one else did.
It also screamed wrong and deadly to me. Being close to these creatures had once terrified me, and yet it didn’t anymore. I felt like their equal now, as if I belonged among them. Whether it was because we were all mutually fucked-up in our differences or something else, it felt right. But that was a problem on its own; it bothered me to feel right with them.
“Are they coming or not?” I asked, my irritability rising with every drawn-out moment they watched me. “I need to shower and wash off the battle.”
“They may be a while,” Synthia frowned as she spoke softly. “I had clean clothing sent to Lucian’s room for you. He agreed to let you shower there. If you prefer a room of your own, it should be ready by this evening. It’s a work in progress getting this place up and running. I’m still shorthanded. If you prefer, I can find someone else’s room for you to use.”
“His room is fine; he’s out, correct?” I asked, turning to look at Layton who nodded. I nodded thanks before I turned and exited the room. With one last look over my shoulder as they stared back down into the pages of the old books, I left in search of a warm bath and solitude.
Inside Lucian’s room I snooped, exploring the items he’d left out on the dressers. I lay on his bed, holding the blankets to my nose before mentally slapping myself and peeling myself off of it. I felt his presence in the room, his essence. It made my body react; my mind whirled with what had happened when I’d killed myself. How he’d reacted. It made me think of the child I’d sacrificed to save it, and that hurt me more than I wanted to admit. I didn’t want to feel it, to mourn him.
Emptiness was soothing; pain consumed and destroyed.
I stripped naked, tossing the ruined clothing back into the room haphazardly as I eyed the clawfoot tub longingly. I spun around, taking in the huge four-poster bed with black silk wrapped around the banisters, to the thick, soft carpets that my toes dug into. The place was beautiful, opulent, and if every room looked like this one, it was no wonder it took them forever to make one ready. I inched deeper into the bathroom, letting the cool air soothe my flesh as I pulled down a wrapped ball and smirked. I slowly unwrapped it, dropping it into the tub.
The soothing, exotic scent of honeysuckles and spring filled the bathroom. It smelled inviting, and the water steamed from the tub as I waited for it to fill enough to climb in and soothe my aches. Once inside, I pushed the ball around the smooth tub’s bottom, watching the tiny air bubbles as they percolated up, releasing the sweet scent. Once I’d washed away the black blood and grime of the fighting, I stood, bending at the waist until the tub had fully drained. I reached for another bath bomb of the same fragrance and dropped into the empty tub before sitting and replacing the dirty water with fresh, clean water. Leaning against the tub, I closed my eyes.
“Lucian,” I uttered as I sensed him in the room with me. I opened my eyes, peering up into his midnight gaze. My teeth skimmed my bottom lip as heat smoldered in his eyes. He didn’t speak; instead, he just continued to stare at me.
He swallowed hard before he backed up, grabbing the clean clothes that had been placed on the counter before he marched out of the bathroom. I looked around for a towel and noted there wasn’t one. Brilliant. I groaned as I sank beneath the water and remained there until my skin pruned. I finished washing off and then stood from the tub, uncaring as the water cascaded down my body. I stepped out of it, slinking my naked ass into the room.
My eyes took in the vacant room with a glare and then landed on the dark figure who watched me from the corner. My hair dripped endlessly as I swayed my hips, letting him see the damage I’d done to retain his fucking seal in my flesh. Runes danced over my skin, pulsing with a sacred beat only a few could hear. Candles ignited, and I paused, staring at him as he held up a towel.
“You stole my clothes,” I accused. “I need them.” My heart, that traitorous organ that had grown back, began to beat wildly against my chest wall as I stared at him.
“So I did—come and take them back,” he challenged as he stood, as his power rippled in the room, making it feel much smaller than it had without him in it.
I didn’t back down from his challenge. I wasn’t about to let him flaunt his massive amount of power or control to feed that ego of his. But I also didn’t want him to touch me, because the dam would break and with it the emotions I kept at bay would flow over.
Standing firm, I watched him slowly walk to where I stood, towering over me. My teeth scraped over my lip as I peered up into the endless depths that seemed to always see through me. His hand released the towel which fell to the floor as they wrapped around my waist, hoisting me closer to his intense heat. I allowed it, tipping my head back further as his mouth lowered to mine.
Heated breath fanned my mouth, his lips trailing gently over mine as his intoxicating scent assaulted me. The subtle scent of scotch and citrus made my nostrils flare with awareness and memories. It was like coming home as his lips touched against mine, sending fire burning through me. Emotions ebbed and flowed, and I struggled to ignore them, to push them away as he touched me.
His tongue pushed past my lips, finding mine as I continued to stand still, letting him drive us until his hands released me, gripping my hair as he yanked my head back to devour my mouth as if he was starving and I was the most erotic delicacy he’d ever tasted. A moan ripped from my throat as he continued kissing me until he pulled away and I nibbled on his lip, sucking it between my teeth as he growled. I tasted his blood as he struggled to calm his reaction to it, to me. Those large hands hoisted my body, lifting me as he moved us towards the bed.
Tears rushed down my face, leaking out memories, and emotions flowed through them. He set me down, leaning over as his thumbs wiped them away.
“I’m afraid to sleep and awake to find you only a fucking dream,” he admitted, and the thickness in his voice sent more tears flowing as I gazed up into the galaxy that stared from within him. He placed his forehead against mine as he rested his knees on the floor, staring up at me. “I’ve dreamt of this every fucking night since…since you chose to leave me.”
“I didn’t choose, Lucian. It was the only way to save him from what they planned. Our son was to be the Harbinger of Doom, the one created to house a seal that would destroy this world and countless others. I felt it inside of me, and then him. It was evil, pure evil that wanted to rip this world apart. I was his mother; it was my job to protect him even at the cost of his life. I did it for him.”
“We could have found a way around it,” he seethed as he stood up, pacing in front of the bed.
“No, no we couldn’t have. Don’t you think if I thought there was some way to save us all that I wouldn’t have tried? I was going to die no matter what. I had no soul. If they had succeeded and taken back the soul, Kendra would have been eradicated. If I survived and lived to carry our child, his life would have been forfeited by the monster that had attached to his soul. He’d have been hunted to be used against this world. You chose my fate. You and Katarina brought me into your game, and I was nothing more than collateral damage. I chose how I went out and who I took with me. I’m sorry she can’t come back to play with you, ever. But you should have thought about everyone else who you dragged into this game and sacrificed as you played it.”
“You think I care that she’s gone? You died, Lena. You. Died. I watched you slit your fucking throat, and there wasn’t anything I could do to save you. I need to know how you bound the seal to your body without a soul being in it. If it is ever able to be freed…” He let the threat linger between us.
“I am scarred with the runes and wards that hold it inside of me. I will never possess a soul for it to use, nor do I want one. I like this me better. Not needing anything works for me. That list includes you, Lucian. Whatever I had for you died when you and your crazy ex-girlfriend decided to place me into your game. Me, I might have been able to accept, but the price I paid to protect you and this world, it was too much. So as long as the runes cover this shell, it cannot escape nor act.”
“And you can harness its powers,” he replied, turning to stare at me.
“Clothes? I’d rather be dressed for this conversation,” I muttered as I lifted from the bed to a sitting position, not bothering with propriety as my legs spread and I enjoyed the hitch in his breathing as he lowered his gaze to my naked flesh.
“You think I’m going to let you go? Never. You’re mine, no matter how fucking lost you think you are, no matter what you have become, Lena. You are mine, and that didn’t change for a moment. You want to play chase? I hope you like running because I will hunt you down and claim you every fucking time you run from me. I crave you, I crave you more than I crave the cage that holds me. You don’t get to walk away from me, ever. In a million worlds, you would be the one I chased.”
“To the grave?” I chuckled as the tick in his jaw began hammering at the reminder. “I’m not going to be that easy to chase this time, Lucian. I literally died last time. You did try to warn me, though, didn’t you?”
“You were never an easy catch,” he murmured. “Elusive, hard to control, and reckless, but never easy.” He strolled closer, kneeling between my legs as his heated kiss landed on one inner thigh and then the other. I watched his dark head as he lifted his face to gaze into my eyes. “I like the fucking hunt, so if you plan to run, you better run fast because I promise you this. I will be faster. I will catch you. And when I do catch you, I will never let you go. You’re immortal now; whatever you are, I can sense your lifespan is endless like mine, and that pleases me. Yes, you died, and I’m sure it sucked, but all living things die. I’m not sorry that you’re immortal, nor am I sorry that when I fuck you, I’ll not have to hold back. When you’re finished throwing your little tantrum, I’ll show you what it is like to be fucked so hard you feel me for an eternity because, Lena, you will.”
“Give me my clothes,” I uttered thickly.
“You have no idea what I am, but you will soon. I can feel you, which means we are connected now. Whatever you are, you’re strong, but I assure you, little girl; I’m still fucking stronger. And there’s a thread connecting you to me, and them to me. Whatever you are, you’re mine still, not because I demand it, which I assure you, I do, but because whoever brought you and the others back made it so. You feel me, Lena. You stand outside this place protecting something inside. Whether it’s the seal connecting you to me, or the fact that someone high up brought you back is to be determined. It doesn’t change us one fucking bit. I held your lifeless corpse in my arms and had to let them take you from me. I will never let anything or anyone take you from me again.”
“I’m not yours. That weak being who gave you those doe-eyed stares? She’s dead.”
“Good, because you’re unbreakable now,” he chuckled. “You’re sexier, colder, and pissed the fuck off, just the way I like my women.”