St. Martin's Press
"Is it just me or has the entire world gone stump stupid?"
Dev Peltier laughed as he heard his brother Remi's voice in his ear while he stood outside the front door of the Sanctuary club his family owned. He and Remi were half of a set of identical quads...and that comment was so out of character for his surly brother that Dev had to shake his head. "Since when you channel Simi?" he asked into the headset he wore so much that it felt weird whenever he didn't have it in his ear.
Remi snorted. "Yeah...like I'm a friggin' Goth demon chick dressed in a corset, frilly skirt, and tights trying to eat my way through the menu...and staff."
That was definitely Simi to a T.
But Dev couldn't resist ribbing him. "I always knew you were a freak, mon frère. This just proves it. Maybe we should rename you Frank-N-Furter and throw little wienies at you whenever you walk past."
"Shut up, Dev, before I come out there and make myself a triplet."
As if. Remi had obviously forgotten who'd taught him how to fight. "Bring it, punk. I got a new pair of boots itching to head up someone's--"
"Would you two stop fighting over the open channel?...And grow up while you're at it. I swear I'm going to make bear stew out of both of you tonight if you don't stop." Aimee broke off into a round of French, their native language, so that she could continue insulting and emasculating them.
Dev bit back a smart-ass response to his sister's hostile tone that was punctuated by several cheers of approval from the rest of the crew, whose headsets allowed them to overhear every word.
To be honest, he and his family didn't need the headsets to communicate. Part of being shapeshifting bears was that they could project their thoughts so long as they were within a reasonable distance from each other--though some of them were better at that than others. But that tended to raise suspicion among the mundane humans who worked for them and especially the ones who patronized their business. So they wore the sets in an attempt to at least appear normal.
Yeah, right. Normality had waved bye-bye to his family and his species a long time ago. But what the hell?
He rocked the headset look.
Even so, Dev pulled it off his head as his sister's ranting in French reminded him of his mother's and an unexpected surge of grief tore through him. How he missed the sound of his mother bitching at him in French....
Who would have ever thought? Of all the things to miss.
I must be sick in the head. And yet his mother's sharp voice haunted him from the past.
You need to grow up, Devereaux.... You're not a cub anymore. Haven't been one in over two hundred years. Why you bait your brothers so and make me lose my mind? Mon Dieu! You are ever my bane when you misbehave. Just once, can't you counsel your tongue and do as I ask? How can we rely on you if you insist on acting like a boy child? Did you learn nothing? Dev flinched as he saw her face in his mind while she read him his daily riot act.
It was a face he'd never see again and a voice that would one day all too soon fade completely from his memory.
How he hated change.
For over a hundred years, he'd taken his post at Sanctuary's door, watching as all manner of beings came and went. A sentinel in more ways than one, he'd let the humans pass without stopping them. But to the preternatural patrons who came here, he always explained the rules of Sanctuary and interrogated them to determine how much of a threat they'd be if they attacked--as well as determine who their allies were.
Just in case.
Now he stood post to make sure their enemies didn't finish destroying the club they'd only just put back together from the fight that had scarred them all.
I miss you, Maman. He missed his father just as much.
Stuff they could replace. Boards could be nailed back in place and counters remade. Smoke damage repaired.
But his parents...
They were gone forever.
And that made him furious as more grief racked him. It'd taken all of his strength not to go after the lycanthrope pack that had attacked them. If not for the knowledge of it causing the Omegrion--the ruling council for the werebeasts--to hunt down his remaining family and kill them in retaliation, he wouldn't have hesitated. But that he could never chance. He would not be responsible for the death of a single family member.
Not even his brother Remi.
He'd seen too many of his family killed in front of him....
I really want to leave.
It was a thought that was becoming more and more appealing. Ever since they'd reopened Sanctuary after the battle and fire, he'd been struck hard with wanderlust. The only reason he'd stayed here as long as he had was that his mother had asked him to remain with the family and help protect his younger sister.
Now that his mother was dead and Aimee was mated...
Staying wasn't as necessary as it'd been before. Every day he felt the pull to leave and make his own way in the world. He was a bear and it was the nature for most males to find a mate and start their own pack.
What am I doing here?
They didn't really need him. When the battle had come to their door, they'd learned fast just how many allies they had. And that number had been impressive. Sanctuary would stand forever. He didn't have to stay here to protect the door.
I really hate change.
You're just restless. You'll get over it. You'll see. Besides, he didn't want a mate. Ever. Life was difficult enough trying to please himself. Gods help him if he ever had to try and please someone else.
It was just so much had happened over the last few months that it'd shaken his foundation. He felt lost...like his moorings had been sliced and he was left adrift without an engine or paddle. He'd never dealt well with change and so many changes had been thrust on him that he just wanted to leave it all behind and start fresh somewhere else.
Find someplace where he felt like he belonged again--even if he had to go to the past to do it. Someplace where he wasn't looking for his parents to come around the corner or be sitting in their favorite seats. Where memories didn't haunt him.
Or more to the point, hurt him.
The roaring sound of a racing bike broke through his melancholy thoughts as it approached from down the street. It was a Busa. He could tell by the throaty groan of the engine--they had a unique sound that was unmistakable to anyone who knew their bikes. Many of his Were-Hunter brethren used motorcycles as a means of transportation, including him and his brothers. Unlike a car, it was easier to teleport with their powers, and on the street, there was nothing faster that could maneuver out of the way of their enemies.
Or after them.
But this one growled with a specific tone that said she'd been modified for maximum speed and performance.
Expecting to see the Dark-Hunter leader Acheron on his black Hyabusa heading in, Dev frowned as a red one came up the street so fast, he was surprised it wasn't leading a few squad cars. The driver went past the entrance, then slammed on the brakes, sliding the bike sideways and leaving a cloud of burned rubber in its wake. The front wheel popped up before it headed toward him. Just as it reached the curb, the front tire slammed down and the rider parked it right in front of him with a jerking bounce that caused the rear wheel to lift up.
Even though the rider was tall and stoutly built, Dev could tell by her shapely curves that were covered in protective leather she was a woman.
Most likely a hot one too, and that definitely got his attention.
Unwilling to show her he was impressed with her biker skills, Dev crossed his arms over his chest as she pulled her helmet off and set loose a cascade of unruly honey blond curls that fell just past her shoulders. Curls that framed an adorable face. Not stunning or perfect, but exotic. Different. Most of all, her features were beguiling and he couldn't help wondering what she'd look like first thing in the morning with that riot of curls spilling all around her naked body.
She held an air of fierce joie de vivre and it was infectious--as if she savored every heartbeat she was lucky enough to have. However, she rode the bike like a person with a death wish. "You keep driving like that, you're going to kill someone."
She slung one long leg around the seat before she sauntered up to him with a hot, seductive stride he was sure had sent a few men to their graves from heart attacks. She wore a pair of flat New Rock biker boots with flames coming up the sides. Her dark brown, almond-shaped eyes glowed with mischief as she unzipped her jacket and gave him a heated once-over. "I only kill the ones who deserve it, and those I gut with relish."
Damn, she was about as sexy as any woman he'd ever seen. His body reacted to her instantly. And it made him wonder if she'd be so open in the bedroom.
She shrugged her jacket off and slung it over her shoulder to hold it there with one gloved hand, showing him a tight black knit shirt before she leaned in closer to him. The warm scent of woman and leather made the bear inside him sit up and purr and it was all he could do not to nuzzle that soft neck that seemed to invite him in for a taste.
"To answer your question, Bear...I am as fierce in the sack as I am on the street. Just so you know." She winked at him.
Those words caused his cock to jerk against his will as he made a mental note that she could read his thoughts. His gaze fell from her eyes to the deep cleavage that was pushed up by her black bra. And at the swell of her right breast was the double bow-and-arrow mark that told him exactly who and what she was--not that he hadn't guessed that from her powers or the small glimpse of her fangs when she spoke. Damn, it looked like not even the goddess Artemis had been able to resist copping a feel of that hot body when she brought her over. "I'm not familiar with you, Dark-Hunter."
She straightened the layered row of black skull necklaces that hung around her neck. "We've met before. Very briefly. Not even enough time to exchange names."
Dev scowled as he tried to recall it.
No, definitely not. He'd have remembered this particular Huntress had he ever laid eyes on her before--even if it'd been centuries ago. Even if he'd been dead. She wasn't the kind of woman a man easily forgot meeting. "You must have met one of my brothers." Most people couldn't tell them apart. It went with the whole being identical thing and both Cherif and Quinn took turns at the door when Dev had time off. No doubt she had him confused with one of them. "We're identical quadruplets and I look a lot like my other brothers too."
She shook her head in denial. "I know. I met all of you. I was here the night the wolves attacked." Her gaze went up to where the roof still bore a small trace of fire damage from their fight and her eyes darkened with sympathy. "I'm really sorry about your parents...and that we didn't do a better job of protecting them."
He didn't know why, but that touched him. "Thanks for the assist. I know all of you did your best." They all had. But the number of their enemies had been overwhelming. In all honesty, it was a miracle any of them had survived.
But for the Dark-Hunters and their allies, they wouldn't have.
A shadow of pain masked her expression as if she had her own demons buried in those words. "Yeah, but sometimes it's just not good enough and no amount of sincere apologies ever makes it okay. That being said, I really am sorry. For everything." She glanced inside the bar before she recovered her earlier zest. "Name's Sam Savage."
That was a name he'd heard bandied about by other Dark-Hunters over the centuries. She was one of their fiercest--hence the surname the other Dark-Hunters had given her several hundred years ago as an homage to her brutality in a fight. As immortal slayers who protected humans, all Dark-Hunters came from horrific backgrounds. Each one different, they all had one thing in common: Someone had betrayed and killed them in a manner so foul that they sold their souls to the Greek goddess Artemis for a single act of vengeance against their betrayer. Not something someone undertook lightly and he couldn't help wondering what had happened to Sam to make her sell her soul.
Who had killed her and why had that event turned her into something so brutal even the stoutest male Hunters tended to cut her a wide berth? All the stories he'd heard about her had never answered that. They only said that this woman lived for the thrill of the fight.
The bloodier the better.
"You were an Amazon general at the end of the Trojan War." The granddaughter of their greatest queen, Hippolyta, Sam was said to have been the one to escort Helen home after the war. Something that had been extremely difficult given how many Greeks had wanted to kill Helen for causing the war that had kept them away from home for over a decade.
One corner of her mouth quirked up. "You say Amazon like it's a bad thing."
Dev laughed. "I've met a few of you over the centuries. Not bad, just...interesting."
The Amazons were the goddess Artemis's chosen people. It was why there were so many who were Dark-Hunters. When Artemis had set up her army to fight for humanity against their preternatural predators, the Amazons had always been her first choice and were rumored to be paid ten times more than the rest of the Dark-Hunters. A little favoritism that led to hard feelings from some of the other Hunters toward any Amazon in their bunch.
For Dev, it just meant he had to watch her since the Amazons tended to be ferocious partiers who liked to brawl.
"So what brings you here tonight?" he asked her, changing the topic to a pertinent subject.
Sam paused before she answered. "Don't know really. I had a feeling that something wicked this way headed. So I thought I'd beat it here in order to grab it by the throat and hurt it before it did any damage."
He tsked at her. "Ah baby, don't you know I'm the only thing wicked here?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "Are you flirting with me?"
"Depends. Is there an ass-whipping in it and will you be naked when you do it?"
She gave him an arch stare. "So you like to have your ass whipped?"
"Not really, but so long as you're naked when you do it I could take it quite happily...."
She laughed. "Kinky. I like that."
He had no idea why he was flirting with her. While he was as much of a manwhore as any of his unmated brothers, he didn't normally waste time on women he knew were off his menu. And sleeping with Dark-Hunters was a key no-no in their world...for many, many reasons.
But he couldn't seem to help himself. There was something about her that invited him straight to suicide. "More horny actually. It's been a while."
She sucked her breath in sharply. "Brutal honesty. Nice change of pace. Most men would try flattery first."
He shrugged. "I would say life's too short to beat around the bush, but I'll live for centuries and you for eternity so for us, not a concern. So I'll just say that I don't like to play games or sugarcoat things and leave it at that."
"A bear after my own heart, but don't you know we're not supposed to fraternize?"
He shrugged. "I don't like following rules."
She dipped her gaze down his body with a heated look that set his hormones on fire. "Me neither."
"Yeah, I can tell by the way you drive."
Sam really didn't want to be charmed by the werebeast in front of her, but honestly she couldn't seem to help it. There was something about him that made her smile. And it wasn't just that he was hotter than hell. Or that he had a smile that should be illegal.
He just seemed to be the kind of person who was fun to hang out with and in her world such people were few and far between. His long, curly blond hair was pulled back from a face that appeared to be chiseled from steel. Blue eyes teased her with their intelligence and humor.
And his body...
She could lick on that all night long. Even more disturbing, there was something about him that reminded her of Ioel and the way he'd always been able to make her smile no matter how bad her day had sucked. Even after thousands of years, she still missed him.
Trying not to think about that, she dropped her gaze to Dev's arm, which bulged with well-defined muscles, then frowned as she saw the tattoo peeking out from under the short sleeve.
No. Surely not.
Before she could stop herself, she pulled his sleeve up with her gloved hand to find a double bow-and-arrow mark just like the one Artemis had given her on the night she'd been converted into a Dark-Hunter and brought back to life to fight against the vampiric Daimons. The only difference was that Sam's was a brand and his was definitely ink.
She arched a brow at him. "Should I ask?"
He grinned roguishly. "I like yanking the chains of the gods."
"You must. From what I hear Artemis doesn't have much of a sense of humor."
"She hasn't killed me for it yet."
He definitely had guts. "Are you that brave or that stupid?"
"My mother used to say the two walk hand in hand."
That amused her. Her mother had once said something very similar to her as well.
Shaking her head, she sought to change the subject to the real reason she was here and to remind herself why she shouldn't find this man interesting in the least. "Have any Daimons shown up tonight?"
"You know I'm not supposed to tell you if they do." That code of honor between the Daimons and the Were-Hunters had always annoyed her. The Were-Hunters had been created out of the same race as the Daimons and so they tended to share a bond with their "cousins."
"You guys are as much human as you are Daimon."
"And we don't feed the humans to you either." He winked at her. "But to answer your question, no. No Daimons have been near the club in weeks."
That was hard to believe. Touristy places such as this were known Daimon hunting grounds and hangouts. "Really?"
"Yeah, it's weird, I know. It's like they're on hiatus or something. We've never been this long without at least a group or two visiting. The last one we saw was before we reopened.... And that bastard showed up here in broad daylight."
She scoffed at his words. "You're so full of it." What he was saying was absolutely ludicrous. "Daimons can't walk in daylight, everyone knows that."
"I hear ya, but I'm telling you he was here in the flesh and the sun was bright and shining. He walked right out into it like he didn't have a care in the world."
She still wasn't sold on what he was saying. It didn't make sense. "And none of you thought to tell us?"
"We filed a report with the Squires"--they were the human employees who helped the Dark-Hunters and who protected them during the daylight hours when the Dark-Hunters couldn't be out in sunlight without bursting into flames--"and we've been telling every Dark-Hunter we see. But since no one else has seen a Daimon in daylight, they think we're on meth and dismiss the warning as some kind of mass hallucination brought on by too much honey-drinking."
His words amused her. "Are you on meth?"
"You know that stuff won't work on me any more than it'd work on you." Dark-Hunters and Were-Hunters were all immune to most drugs.
Sam still couldn't buy it. "Did you tell Acheron?"
"Again, he said there was only one Daimon who could walk in daylight and that he'd personally destroyed that one. There was no chance in hell we have another Daywalker."
And yet Dev believed unequivocally that they'd seen a Daimon in daylight. She could sense it with every power she possessed. "Maybe it was some Goth kid with fangs screwing with you."
"Yeah 'cause I can't tell the difference between a human and a Daimon. I really suck at this job."
She laughed at his dry sarcasm. How could he be so cute and annoying all at once? "All right. I believe you. But--"
He held his hands up in surrender. "I hear you and I agree it's whacked. I know it makes no sense. I'm just telling you what we saw so that you know. You draw your own conclusions from there."
"Well, if you're right, let's hope this is just an anomaly and that he burned up three seconds after he left here."
"Here's hoping for miracles." He picked the headset up from his shoulders and placed it back over his ears. It was peculiar to her how any man could look so sexy with that contraption on his head, yet he somehow managed.
Dev gestured to the door. "You're safe to go in. There aren't any other Dark-Hunters inside."
She appreciated his warning. Not that she needed it. While being around another Dark-Hunter would drain her powers, hers were so great that the depletion was basically a joke. Not to mention she had serious battle skills that few could touch with or without her Dark-Hunter powers to back them. That was what made her one of the machiskyli...the Dogs of War. The Daimons had their elite fighters and the Dark-Hunters had the Dogs. Men and women who lived for battle and who took their only joy in cutting the hearts out of their enemies.
It was a badge she wore with honor. And tonight she felt the Daimon presence deep in her bones. She just had to pinpoint it, grab it by the throat, and strangle it until she felt better. Which meant leaving the enticing bear at the door and heading in to do her job.
"I'll catch you later, Bear."
He inclined his head to her as she walked through the doors into the dark interior. Since it was only seven in the evening, there weren't many people in the club. A few humans eating at the front tables. Two more sitting at the bar that was being tended by a wolfwere (so called because he was a wolf in human form) and another bearwere who bore a striking resemblance to Dev. It must be one of his identical brothers.
She sauntered over to the wolf and ordered a longneck.
"You want any food to go with that?" he asked as he popped the top on one and handed it to her.
Sam shook her head and ignored the curious stare he directed at her gloved hands. Food wasn't really her thing and she hoped that she could sip this beer in peace. She started to pull out her wallet, but the wolf stopped her.
"I remember you from the fight. Your money's no good here."
His pain reached out to her as she had a flash in her mind of his past. A past that left him with a profound sense of guilt. He was the one Nicolette Peltier had died protecting and he felt like he'd taken the mother from the woman he loved--it was a bitter ache that stayed buried deep inside him and burned like a coal. He was a good man to care so much about his wife. "Thanks...Fang." His name popped into her head as clearly as the images from his past. Images that would be heightened to a brutal level if she touched his body in any way.
He inclined his head to her. "Anytime."
Sam moved away before she took in any more residual emotions and images from him. She hated that power so much. It might not be so bad if she had some kind of control over it, but she didn't. Instead, other people's emotions often tangled with hers until she had a hard time deciphering her feelings from theirs. It was why she tended to avoid people as much as possible. And why she couldn't touch anyone with her bare hands or flesh.
If she did...
It was horrifying.
Why couldn't I have the ability to fly? Or something really useful like pyrokinesis?
But no. She had the wienie powers of empathy and psychometry....
For that "gift," she'd like to choke slam Artemis. But she also had telekinesis, which definitely came in handy, especially in a fight. So it wasn't a complete knicker twist since she'd had remote control long before Eugene McDonald at Zenith had ever conceived the first clicker.
Sipping her beer, Sam wandered through the club that was nice and dark--easy on her light-sensitive eyes. And as she passed through, she caught glimpses of a thousand different events that had taken place here over the last century and a half.
While there were unhappy moments, the overwhelming base emotion for Sanctuary was warmth and homecoming. No wonder it was so popular among the preternatural community. While most wouldn't have her powers to see what she did, they would still pick up on the sensation of love and safety that emanated from every object here. This entire place was filled with the care and devotion of the bear who'd built it.
"May the gods bless and keep you, Nicolette," she whispered. As a mother herself, she knew the absolute agony of losing her children. The pain that no amount of time ever healed. It was something no one should ever experience.
She flinched as an image of Agaria's face flashed through her mind. Even now the thought of her daughter could bring her to her knees and it brought a tidal swell of potent rage that still wanted to be appeased. That fury was what made her such a great fighter. The Daimons had taken everything from her and no matter how many of them she killed it just wasn't enough to make up for what they'd done.
To make up for the life that had been brutally cut short.
"You look pissed off tonight."
She cocked her head as she recognized the softly accented voice behind her.
Sam turned around slowly to face the delicate Chinese woman whose long black hair was secured into a tight braid down her back. But that fragility was extremely misleading. While Chi barely broke five feet in height and was as thin as a pencil, she was a skilled warrior who could take down anyone dumb enough to mistake her for an easy mark. Dressed in a tight pair of jeans and a black shirt and vest, Chi was exquisitely beautiful. The kind of perfect beauty Sam had ached for when she was human. But over the centuries she'd learned that that kind of beauty was as much a curse as a blessing.
Hence why Chi was now a Dark-Hunter.
Sam smiled. A fellow Dog of War, Chi was the only friend she'd allowed herself to have in the last five thousand years. She still wasn't sure how it'd happened, but Chi was a hard person not to love--once you broke through her icy defenses. "What are you doing here?"
Knowing better than to touch her, Chi gestured around the club. "Same as you. Scoping Daimons. Looking for a good fight to take the edge off. Did the bear at the door tell you about their great hallucination of a Daywalker?"
"He did indeed."
"What do you think it was?"
Sam shrugged. "Maybe a demon they mistook for a Daimon."
Chi nodded in agreement. "Makes sense. They are sometimes hard for the untrained to differentiate." And Chi would know since she was an expert in demonology. "There are several subspecies of demon that are very Daimon-like. One of those could be mistaken by a Were."
Maybe, but Dev had seemed pretty sharp. Then again, Chi was the expert, which made Sam wonder why Chi was here in New Orleans. "When did they relocate you?"
"Three weeks ago."
Sam cocked her brow at that. "Why didn't you tell me you were being relocated too?"
Chi tsked at her tone. "Ditch the suspicion. I wanted to surprise you, jie jie. Nothing more. Nothing less. Had I not come across you tonight, I would have called. This is my first trip in to look around and I was hoping I'd stumble on you, which I did." She grinned. "I wanted it to be a surprise. That's all."
Sam inwardly cringed as Chi called her "big sister." In her world "sister" was an insult. And she knew Chi was being honest about the moving and not telling her--another blessing of her powers. Sam was a walking lie detector. "It's really good to see you again."
Chi wrinkled her nose. "Let's just hope this time is not as bloody as the last."
Sam laughed. "Like you don't relish the fight as much as I do. Some days I think more so."
Chi joined her laughter. "True, very true."
Sam narrowed her eyes as she noticed the shiny silver sticks at the top of Chi's braid. Reaching out, she touched one with her gloved fingertip. True to her intuition, it was sharp as a talon as it snagged the leather on her glove. "Nice weapon disguise."
Chi took a sip of her own drink. "You have to be creative these days. Humans are more suspicious than ever. If you want, I can give you a set."
"Love to have them. But I should probably pass." Wearing them on her body could be a major hassle since she'd pick up on the emotions of whoever had created them. It was why everything she wore, drove, or used had to be created by Acheron specifically for her--untouched by the hands of another creature. Thank the gods their fearless leader had the powers he did. Otherwise she'd be completely screwed. It was why she didn't like food. Beverages weren't so bad since most of them were done by machines.
Meat for her was out of the question. Gods, how she missed eating steak....
Pushing that thought away, Sam took another swig of beer as she considered what Chi had told her about her latest assignment. "So how many of us have been relocated to New Orleans now?"
"Last I heard, Acheron has eight of the Dogs here."
The number was impressive. "Eight? Isn't that overkill?"
Chi shrugged. "I guess the Atlantean is expecting something big to happen." They'd all been sent here to guard one man in particular. Nick Gautier. That was the extent of what they knew.
Nick had to live even if it meant they had to die.
"But of course Acheron isn't telling anyone what that is." There was more venom in Sam's voice than she'd intended. All things considered, she loved Acheron. She just wished he'd be a little more open with all of them.
Chi held her bottle up in silent salute. "Exactly."
Typical Acheron. He lived for secrets and it made Sam wonder what exactly was up in the preternatural realm that the Atlantean would risk bringing in so many of the Dogs of War at one time. They weren't exactly friendly and most of them were highly territorial. The last time there had been two Dogs in one city, they'd almost destroyed it.
And contrary to the online rumors, it hadn't been her and Ethon going at it.
Chi narrowed a curious stare her way as if she picked up on that thought. "Have you seen Ethon yet?"
Sam grimaced at the reminder of the ancient Spartan general who, after a night of battle, had been forced to take refuge in her house centuries ago. "Not yet, but I did see Roman on the street a few nights back." She spat his name with all the disgust she felt scalding her throat. Roman was a gladiator and while she could appreciate his skills, she despised everything he stood for.
Chi gave her a gimlet stare. "You planning a rematch with Ethon?"
Sam shuddered at the thought. "Do I bring up your old flings?"
"He's really gorgeous."
"And so not what I'm looking for in anything. Even for a single night." Not to mention Dark-Hunters were completely forbidden from sleeping together. She and Ethon had gotten caught up in a moment, spent one night together, and had regretted it ever since. If Acheron ever found out what they'd done, he'd probably kill them.
Artemis definitely would.
And that night had taught her to stay away from lovers forever and Ethon in particular. She still couldn't get the images of Ethon's brutal past out of her mind. Never again did she want to be that assaulted by someone else's damage. She had enough of her own.
Guilt tore through her. She winced, shoving it away before it did any more harm to her.
Chi passed an amused glance over to the bar where the Dev lookalike was pouring a drink for another customer. "What about the bears?"
Sam forced herself not to react in the slightest. "What about the bears?"
"Oh c'mon, don't tell me you haven't thought about being a cub sandwich with them. Especially with the quads. Oh my God, the one at the door is absolutely droolicious."
Chi playfully rubbed up against her, making sure not to touch her skin. "Don't play coy. I know you better than that. Dev is definitely worth a brush of emotions."
Sam snorted. "Yes, you do and yes, I thought about it."
"I'm having Ethon flashbacks and throwing up in my mouth as a result. I don't want to relive that damage. Ever." Not even for something as scrumptious as Dev.
Chi snorted. "One night won't kill you."
"Isn't that what Geitara said right before the Battle of Tortulla? As I remember, it didn't go well for her when they slaughtered her and all her troops." Sam jerked her chin toward the bartender. "If you're so hungry, why don't you take one home?"
"One? Honey, I'm waiting for the whole six-pack."
Sam laughed. "You are evil."
Chi sobered instantly as she jerked to her right and scanned the club with her gaze. "Did you feel that?"
Sam turned her head and lowered her chin, listening. There had been a strange sensation that cut through the air around them. Inhuman and feral. It'd gone down her spine like a razor. "I did." It was similar to a Daimon tremor, but different. More powerful. She looked around the club to see if anyone else felt it.
If they did, they didn't react.
She met Chi's narrowed gaze. "I'll take the back."
"I'll head out the front."
Sam used her powers to search the ether around them as she headed for the back door of Sanctuary. The Dark-Hunters also had an electronic tracker for Daimons, but she'd never needed one. Her senses and powers had always allowed her to hone right in on them.
But not tonight.
Tonight she lost the scent almost as soon as she walked outside.
How was that possible? And yet there was no denying what she felt. Or more to the point, didn't feel. The air was crisp with a hint of autumn in it. She smelled the gumbo and steaks that were cooking in the kitchen and the scent of the river that was only a few blocks away. But there was nothing here to do with the Daimons.
With all her senses fully alert, she crept around the outside of the building, trying to locate what had called out to them.
Nothing was here. Everything appeared normal and yet in her gut she knew it wasn't.
Chi doubled back to cut her off. She met Sam's quizzical stare, then jerked her chin up toward the sky.
Sam followed the line of her gaze. The moment she focused on the sky, her stomach headed south. Above their heads hung a moon so red and cloudy, it appeared to be washed in blood.
Hunter's Moon. Scientifically, she knew it meant nothing more than the way the sun's light was bending around the earth to illuminate the lunar surface. But she'd lived long enough to know it wasn't just that simple--that science didn't explain everything. Mostly because science didn't know about everything.
It definitely didn't know about the protective veil that separated the worlds from each other. A veil that thinned during a blood moon. Most of all, it didn't know that sometimes ancient man had feared ill omens with just cause.
In the heart and in the soul,
Evil takes its wicked toll.
When moonlight shines like flowing blood,
Over the earth the demons will flood.
The old Amazon poem went through her head. A moon just like that one had once shone down on her home. She'd dismissed it then as unfounded superstition.
And she'd died regretting that stupidity.
"I'll call Acheron," Chi said, pulling out her cell phone.
Sam nodded as she felt the hand of evil slide over her. Something was coming for them, she could feel it. The only question was, what was it?In the past two years, New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon has claimed the #1 spot twelve times, and since 2004, she has placed more than 50 novels on the New York Times list. This extraordinary bestseller continues to top every genre she writes. With more than 23 million copies of her books in print in over 30 countries, her current series include: The Dark-Hunters, The League, Lords of Avalon, BAD Agency, Chronicles of Nick and Nevermore. A preeminent voice in paranormal fiction, Kenyon helped pioneer and define the current paranormal trend that has captivated the world. She lives with her husband, three sons, a menagerie of animals and a collection of swords.