Skip to main content
Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

At Death's Door

A Deadman's Cross Novel

Deadman's Cross (Volume 3)

Sherrilyn Kenyon; read by Holter Graham

Macmillan Audio

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

1


1717 Port Royal

Nibo stared down at the scars on his finger where his old silver mourning ring used to rest. A ring he’d placed on his hand as a memorial for his beautiful Aclima and had once vowed to never remove. He still had no idea what had possessed him to hand it off so recklessly to Valynda the night they’d met. Not after he’d spent centuries guarding it so.

He hadn’t even thought twice about letting her have the one thing he treasured most.…

Strange how he could still feel it there even though he’d given it over so long ago to a mere slip of a woman to hold for safekeeping.

Along with a part of his anatomy he’d deny having if anyone was stupid enough to ask. ’Course it wouldn’t be a lie to deny its existence now, given that Val had possession of that damnable organ he’d never had any use for as it had never done anything other than lead him into the fiery pits of damnation.

Still …

He missed that ring.

Sadly, he missed Valynda more.

Valynda Moore …

The mere thought of her name made him smile.

And that instantly made him sneer in disgust, as he realized what the hell his body had done without consulting him.

Again.

“Ye gods,” he muttered to himself, “I’ve gone mad.”

Perhaps he’d handed over his brains as well as his heart. What would he lose next? His bullocks?

His dignity?

Shite! To this day, he still didn’t know how it was that he’d managed to let himself be dragged into the mess that was his wretched existence. Or come to care for a human the way he did his Val.

And was it any wonder given what his love had done to her?

He’d ruined her life.

Nay, he’d ended it.

Just as he’d done Aclima. He winced at a memory he could never bear to think about for long. If he did, it would drive him mad.

Furious at himself and the very gods who conspired against them, he downed his rum and fought against the raging anger that had become his constant companion, instead of the one person he’d wanted most by his side.

“What’s this? You’re looking a bit gloomy, aren’t you?”

Nibo glanced up from the spiced rum he was drinking to see the tall, dark menace who’d decided to join him in the crowded tavern where he sat alone at this midnight hour. Alone by choice, not because he was a mutant like the beast before him that everyone avoided because he was an ass. Which was why Nibo had deliberately chosen his solitary table that was tucked back into a shadowy alcove, thinking it would provide him with some degree of privacy and anonymity.

Bugger that. He should have known better. The damned, along with everyone else, were forever seeking him out. For all manner of reasons. Most of which normally pissed him off, and none as much as whatever stupidity would soon be spilling from this creature’s lips.

With an annoyed sigh over this unwanted interruption, Nibo raked a bored glare from the top of the dark hair, past his mismatched eyes, to the tips of his scuffed black boots. “Stating the obvious now, are you, mate?” After all, Nibo was the loa of the dead. Gloomy rather came with the territory.

As did a raunchy temper. And derelict disposition.

Though, given enough rum, he could be persuaded into bouts of cheeriness and debauchery. In fact, he could be downright giddy if the occasion called for it.

This, however, wasn’t such an occasion.

Though a good and thorough gutting and denutting of the beast before him might serve to cheer his spirits. At least for a moment or two.

“Come now, is that any way to greet an old enemy?”

Nibo smirked as he modified his welcome to a feigned mixture of jolly alacrity. “Jaden … as I live and breathe. To what do I owe this particular hell?”

A slow, beguiling smile curved his lips as Jaden stepped forward into the dim, buttery light cast by stinking tallow candles that made his one green eye glow with mischievous intent. That eye was a stark contrast to its deep, dark disconcerting brown mate.

They were the only imperfections in an otherwise well-proportioned face, framed by a mass of black wavy hair that fell loose about his wide shoulders in defiance of the modern fashion of powdered wigs or queues. But then Jaden had never cared what others did. Or what they thought of him, or of anything else for that matter.

Indeed, like Nibo, he’d left his black shirt untucked and open at the neck. There was no lace or trim of any kind. Or hat, either, as practical fashion could sod off for the night. Jaden’s heavy wool coat was plain except for the brass buttons that bore skulls on them. His black breeches were tucked into a pair of scuffed and worn boots. Plain and simple.

But there was nothing else plain nor simple about this warrior god. The worn ancient sword at his hip said as much, as did the threadbare leather hilt which testified to the number of lives lost to this god’s nefarious short temper.

More than that, ’twas oft speculated that a million virgins had lost their maidenheads to this scoundrel. As well as another million demons, who had vied for a place in his bed to curry a favor from him.

Nibo didn’t doubt that last bit at all. There was something about the demon broker that made him appealing to everyone. Even creatures like him who found the bastard repellent and intolerable. Yet, like a massive catastrophe, it was impossible to look away no matter how horrified one was of the blood and gore of the situation.

Jaden compelled. It was his sick gift.

Oblivious to the growing danger, Jaden stepped forward with his unique predator’s lope and sat down at the table across from him. Then, with a reckless disregard for his life, he reached for Nibo’s rum and took a leisurely swig.

“We have a problem.”

Nibo arched his brow. “Aye, we do. An asshole just stole me rum, and I want it back.”

With a laugh, Jaden downed the last of it and poured himself more. “The Malachai has escaped Azmodea.”

Nibo scoffed about that.

As the old saying went, kirast kiroza kirent. Conceived in violence to do violence and to die violently. That was the Malachai curse, and the code they all lived and perished by. Born of the purest, darkest evil—a trio of gods, Kadar, Azura, and Apollymi, who had brought them forth into existence to fight against all that was good—the Malachai fed the three primal dark gods and lived for nothing except to cause as much suffering in the universe as they could. Because of that, the last one in existence had long ago been trapped and imprisoned.

“I should think that a good thing.” After all, if Adarian was missing from Kadar’s hell realm, then he’d be unable to feed the powers of all evil. Thus it would weaken the old bastard who plotted the death and dismemberment of all living creatures, and his return to supreme power. Rather a win-win for the world, if you asked him.

Not that anyone ever did.

“Perhaps, but in the process of escaping it seems he took a bit of fluff with him.”

“Azura?” The queen of all evil and shadows. Given that she was Kadar’s sister and lover—sick as that was—it made sense that the Malachai would kidnap her on his way through the gates of hell and into the human world.

A special little trophy, as it were, to get back at the two of them for keeping him prisoner all these centuries so that Adarian could maintain their powers while they tortured him.

But Jaden shook his head. “Think closer to home … mate.”

He could have done without the bastard’s mocking. “I’d say your mother, but you didn’t have one.” Least none what would claim him.

Father neither, for that matter.

Jaden passed him an unamused glare. Then slid his gaze down Nibo’s chest to where a small treasured trinket lay exposed on a chain, resting near his heart. Just as the woman herself did. Always.

Instinctively, Nibo covered Valynda’s cross with his hand.

Strange how no one had ever noticed his odd feminine fashion choice that matched nothing else he wore.

A horrendous sense of dread turned his stomach as he caught Jaden’s meaning. Nay, surely not even Adarian would be so stupid as to dare that affront. “What are you saying, demon?”

“I’m saying what I’m saying. You just don’t want to hear it. Adarian has your Valynda … and Marcelina.”

An indescribable rage took hold of him. One that burned so deep and dark that it actually caused Jaden to flinch. No easy feat that, given his own dark and lethal nature. Indeed, Nibo hadn’t even known Jaden had it in him to back down.

Until now.

That would be scary if he were able to feel fear. But he and fear had parted company a long time ago. The only emotions he had these days were more potent.

And destructive.

“I see.”

With the bitter taste of unspent rage scalding his tongue and a deep need to rip something down to its basest atoms stirring in his belly, Nibo rose. He reached for his rum and downed it, daring Jaden with his eyes to speak another word. His breath came in a ragged cadence. That sound alone betrayed his fury that urged him to go on a rampage. Unable to speak, he headed toward the door while the sound of rushing blood filled his ears.

“Where are you going?”

To make sure that he didn’t lose another woman he cared about.

Nibo froze before glancing back at the demon broker who watched him with those peculiar mismatched eyes. “To kick the shit out of the idiot who dared to try and take what is mine. No one makes me out a liar. I won’t rest until I’m baptized in their blood and bile and am tying me shoes with their guts.”

No one threatened him. Ever.

If anyone knew anything about him at all, it was that they should never come after what he loved. Not if they had any kind of self-preservation or even a shred of common sense.

There would be a reckoning for this that would make Lucifer himself flinch and cower. One to make the demons from the lowest pits of hell hide in fear.

Good-bye. Good luck.

For the one truth to Nibo was that he had no ability to forgive any slight, and he wouldn’t rest in a world where the one who’d wronged him lived.

His own twin would testify to that. Which had always made Nibo wonder how it was that everyone feared Qeenan so, simply because he’d been designated as the hitman to the loa. How could they forget the fact that he and his brother were identical twins? Cut from the same set of cells.

He harbored every bit of the ferocity, venom, and bloodlust of Qeenan. The only difference? Unlike his brother, he didn’t whine about life’s inequities. Nor did he flaunt his skills, which was what made him the deadlier of the two of them.


Copyright © 2019 by Sherrilyn McQueen