The Darkness CHAPTER TWENTY


CHAPTER TWENTY

EPILOGUE

Next day: Back at the team compound inSan Diego

Carlos lay back on the sofa in their suite propped up by a mound of pillows, watching TV. Damali was curled up next to him, providing calming warmth as they watched the news.

The Dow Jones is still plummeting, and analysts say that the housing market is expected to remain soft as banks begin to tighten regulations on mortgage lending and credit becomes-

’’Good,’’ Damali said. ’’I'm glad you cut that mess off.’’

’’Yeah, ain'tnothing we can do about it but ride it out anyway,’’ he said, releasing a long sigh. ’’I'm just thinking about all the people who ain't got it like we got it.’’

’’I know,’’ she said softly. ’’We've gotta help where we can, pray where we can't. You saw the power of that.’’

’’No lie . . .’’ Carlos shook his head, wincing from his still-sore muscles from the body blows he'd allowed to try to get to Yonnie and Val.

’’Why don't you let me heal that?’’ Damali said, leaning up to kiss him.

’’ 'Causethis ain't nothing,’’ Carlos said, tracing her cheek with his finger. ’’I don't want you exerting yourself any more than necessary . . . not after that crazy bullshit we just went through-you sure theQueens said everything is all right in there?’’

’’Yes, for the hundred-and-fiftieth time,’’ she said with a smile. ’’Then let Berkfield work on you-your ribs, baby . . .’’

’’Naw, that man needs to rest, too.’’ Carlos kissed her nose. ’’You know how lucky we all were to make it outta that one?’’ He closed his eyes and let his head drop back. ’’What was I thinking, tying a white-light line to one of Lu's monsters . . . that wasinsane. ’’

Damali laughed. ’’Yeah, it was, but at least this time we weren't the ones to break the seal.’’

’’You know, I was just thinking that.’’ He opened his eyes and peered at his wife. ’’I'm not even sure why we were trying to hold back the inevitable . . . it says in the Good Book, man, this thing is gonna blow-so all anybody can do is hold on and get ready.’’

’’Then, uhmmm . . . I guess it doesn't make sense to walk around worried about the sky falling, huh?’’

He kissed her nose again, avoiding her mouth, making her pout.’’Nope. Gotta live life to the fullest, do as much as you can to help people, and pray for the best.’’

’’Uh-huh,’’ she said, sliding up his body.

He chuckled, shifting, so that she wasn't rubbing directly against him. ’’But even so, there is the old thing of Heaven helping those who help themselves-so I'm not trying to press our luck. Better wait a little bit, make sure things are solid, before, you know . . .’’

’’Inez is going to go pick up the baby next week with her momma . . . you sure you don't want to make use of this tranquil privacy?’’ She wiggled her eyebrows and he laughed,then kissed her quickly.

’’You know, I can't get used to Yonnie just being able to live here,’’ he said, completely ignoring her offer. ’’That just shows you, you never know what can happen, boo. I'm focusing on being thankful for a few days,nothing else.’’ He closed his eyes but continued to smile at her.

Damali propped herself up on an elbow to stare down at him.

’’I'm meditating-leave me alone,’’ he said, laughing.

’’I'm not bothering you,’’ she replied, laughing as well. ’’I was just thinking about things we have to be thankful for . . . like Yonnie got a really sweet deal, even if he's still dead . . . blood hunger, but controllable . . . no pulse, but can do daylight and blueberry pancakes or whatever. I think he kept most of his vamp powers, but has to rest a lot more, if he doesn't have blood in his system-but at least he can't turn people into the walking dead.’’

’’The brother eats more than Mike, girl. The band is gonna have to go back on the road just to feed Yonnie!’’

’’You know you gotta talk to your boy, right?’’

Carlos opened his eyes. ’’Aw, c'mon, D . . . I was just playing-he don't eat that much.’’

She playfully swatted his chest. ’’You know I'm the last one to begrudge anybody food, and Inez would have a coronary if somebody around here went hungry. Be serious, you know what about.’’

Carlos sighed. ’’Yeah, I know . . . he can't be messing with a half-angel after getting saved by the Light without marrying the girl.’’ He slung his forearm over his eyes. ’’See, D, this is why I was just meditating and sometimes don't wanna talk . . . just need a day or two for my mind to get still and empty out, you know?’’

’’You think Father Pat is up to it, or maybe Yonnie would want the imam . . . ya know, I don't know what Val's affiliation is-nondenominational?’’

’’Damali, please, baby . . .’’

’’Know what else I was thinking of,’’ she said, starting to laugh again as he groaned.

’’No. But I know you're gonna tell me.’’

’’I was thinking of how thankful I am to have all my family safe and alive . . . and most especially that I have you . . . and whoever we just made.’’

Her soft voice had lost its playfulness, and, as he looked at her, her smile was so tender that it begged him to take her mouth.

’’I'm thankful, so grateful for that, my soul feels like it's gonna bust, girl.’’

’’And I'm thankful that you didn't get so busted up this time,’’ she murmured, touching his bruised ribs and shoulders through his T-shirt, beginning to heal them through his clothes.

’’And I'm thankful that you got back up after that blast,’’ he said, touching her face. ’’You're my angel.’’

’’And I'm thankful that even with the Armageddon going on, seals broken, and the chaos of the world swirling allaround, I have an oasis in your eyes.’’ Her breath swept his lips before her kiss.

’’I'm thankful that you were never afraid to love me,’’ he said quietly as they broke their kiss.’’When you really should have been.’’

’’I was,’’ she murmured. ’’But I couldn't help it.’’

’’I was, too,’’ he said, his gaze searching her face. ’’But I damned sure couldn't help it. I was in deep before I could stop myself.’’

’’Then why are you stopping yourself now?’’

He stared at her, his irises slowly turning silver. ’’Because after all the bumps and bruises . . . falls, hitting the water rough-riding, pounding the surf, back-slamming down hard on the beach . . . I ain't trying to tempt fate and be the one to dislodge anything.’’

’’Didn't all the rough-riding, hitting the beach, pounding the surf, blade-pulling, and demon-ass-kicking turn you on?’’ She smiled a sly smile and stared at him, inches from his face.

’’Yeah . . .’’

’’Then be smooth,’’ she said, teasing him, beginning to kiss down his chest until he shivered. ’’Take itslow like a pro,’’ she whispered, chuckling against his belly as she pulled up his shirt. ’’That way you don't have to worry.’’

’’You don't fight fair . . .’’

’’Nope . . . never do.’’ She lifted her head and beamed at him, wiggling her eyebrows at him again. ’’But I bet you'll be real thankful for that, too, brother.’’

There was nothing for him to do but laugh.

Turn the page for a sneak peek at the next Vampire Huntress Legend novel.

THE SHADOWS

COMING IN JULY 2008 FROM ST. MARTIN'SGRIFFIN

Copyright �2008 by Leslie Esdaile Banks.

In Hell . . . Level Seven

Dead Harpies, messenger demons, and human helper bodies lay strewn across the searing granite floor, victims of the beast's wrath and involuntary black blood donations. The smell of burning, sulfur-ridden flesh smothered the air, and the sound of agonized wails was clotted by the sizzling of meat frying against the dank cavern bottom.

Lilith worked feverishly to staunch the dangerous hemorrhage that gushed from the heir's side while her husband continued to work triage with her, summarily calling for more blood and more bodies for his progeny to consume in order to keep their prized patient hydrated.

Another blast rocked the cavern and Lilith looked up from the task, winded as her patient howled in pain.

’’Keep working!’’ her husband commanded and then looked up. His nostrils flared with blue-black fire and the clatter of his hooves echoed in the chamber as he paced, setting her teeth on edge. ’’If you lose him on the slab due to your ineptitude, you die!’’

Lilith immediately continued, cautiously excavating the eerie, glowing white Light out of the heir's side. The brilliance of the whiteLight emanating from the Neteru blade bolt was blinding. There was no way to stare at it directly, and even touching inches near it could injure her limbs permanently. What she could never make her husband understand was that if she placed her mouth over it to tear it out with her fangs, both she and their progeny would die and it would have been all for naught.

This was delicate surgery, but she knew that in his state of mind, the Dark Lord was beyond logic. He couldn't touch the injury;she couldn't touch the injury. Only a black magic blade could be used to make an incision outside the glowing white ember that was spreading on the heir's skin like a rapid cancer. The Light lesion was also imploding, damaging vital organs beneath it, which meant she had to cut wide and deep and quickly. The patient couldn't be anesthetized, for she needed his fury-will to help keep his dark life force going. However, the pain from his injuries, compounded with her ministrations, was sending him into shock.

Frustrated tears stung her eyes. Part of the chrysalis had been damaged. The heir had been born too soon. He was fully formed on the outside, but his internal demon organs had yet to harden. His exoskeleton had only recently been absorbed and covered with his human masking capacity. Even his fangs were new-hadn't hardened-nor had his wing bones turned to steel hardness yet. His spaded tail wasn't even retractable at this point, and it flailed about piteously, trying to push her away as a source of his agony.

Their poor baby was still night blind-his eyes had yet to adapt to complete darkness-and his lungs were not strong enough for the underground sulfur and heat. His heartbeat had yet to die. There was so much that had to be corrected before it had been time. Damn the Neterus!

Vital blood supply veins in the placenta that had been connected to the roof of the birthing cave, which were needed to wash the heir's system clean of the dreaded silver andLight toxin that contaminated him, had been severed. Their patient's breathing labored in the subterranean air. He needed fresh earth-plane oxygen in his fragile, living-species lungs. The chrysalis would have given him that, too.

Ruefully, Lilith looked at their gasping, struggling patient and the partial chrysalis skin that still covered his face. That was the only thing they could quickly improvise while under siege to give him what little air could be siphoned from topside during the onslaught. Beads of black sweat rolled down her face as she leaned over his body. Another blast rocked the cavern, causing stalactites to come crashing down and stalagmites to uproot from the cavern and begin a dangerous subterranean avalanche.

Lilith's and her husband's eyes met as he shielded her and the heir from falling rocks. She was certain that, for the first time in history, probably since the initial battle he had fought in Heaven and was cast down, a lack of surety burned in his bottomless black eyes. He turned away from her, the vulnerability shaking them both. She could feel his power being torn between guarding his future and protecting his current empire from the onslaught of warrior angels ransacking his realms.

’’Go, fight,’’ she said as calmly as possible. She stared at him and then down at the patient. ’’If there is nothing for him to inherit, then he is as good as dead to us, anyway.’’

’’Your life for his,’’ her husband said between his teeth inDananu, beginning to pull away from the table as he smashed another body into the feeding rocks to be sucked dry by the few remaining placenta-attached veins.

’’It was going to be that in any regard, so why fear leaving me here to do my very best?’’ Her gaze narrowed;for once all fear had fled her.

’’At this point I trust no one,’’ he said, seething.’’As if I ever did. And were it not for your lax security measures, they would have never-’’

’’Hold it,’’ shesaid, her voice strong and not wavering. Rare truth burned in her mouth like acid and she spit on the smoldering floor, unafraid. ’’They followedyour black energy trail, not mine.’’ When her husband turned away, she pressed on, making the most of the extraordinary moment of having bested the Devil in his own game. ’’They were able to do that because you underestimated the old priest's power of love.’’ She clucked her tongue, making a tsking sound that caused her husband to whirl on her. ’’You need me, even if you punish me later for my insolence-so be it. But as the only entity in all of Hell that will tell you the truth, and not just what you want to hear in the midst of a crisis, I implore you to consider me a valuable resource and not waste me in a sudden rage.’’

When he walked away from her, she knew she had him. Satisfaction spread through her body, filling her with renewed power, even if it was potentially short-lived.

’’Can you save him?’’ he finally asked, his shoulders slumping from fatigue and worry.

’’Saving him has always been in my best interest, too, husband, regardless of your opinion of me. However, if you do not prevail then we'reall dead, even you. So go, fight, and leave me to my work. Preserve what little is left and seal the breaches. There will be time enough to settle the score if I fail. . . . Where on earth shall I run from you, anyway?’’

’’There will be no shadow dark enough to hide from me, if you fail.’’

’’Failure wasnever my plan. You should know me well enough by now. Ialways play to win.’’ She lifted her chin and stared at him directly. ’’I told you, Lu, I was in this with you till the very end.’’

The patient stopped breathing. The two powerful entities stared at each other. Her husband's fangs lengthened to battle length.

’’Listen,’’ she hissed.

’’He's gone,’’ the beast growled, beginning to circle her.

Lilith pointed up at the network of veins clinging to stalactites that were still pulsing. ’’Listen,’’ she hissed again. ’’The shelling by the Light has ceased.’’

’’Just as my heir's breaths have ceased!’’ A section of cavern wall flew at her and she ducked. Undaunted, she leapt up in a rare show of insubordination. ’’Stop it! You'll kill him!’’

Silence settled between them. Poised for a final black-energy extinction strike, her husband watched as she went to the marble slab and checked vital signs.

’’They were linked tohis dark-energy life pulse.’’ She smiled slowly and closed her eyes, beginning to chuckle. ’’He's self-aware and finally helping to heal.’’ She glanced up at her husband, who was now towering over her, trying to get a closer look at their patient. ’’Don't you see . . . he's flatlined to deceivethem. ’’

With a wave of the beast's hand, four more bodies were impaled on the stalactites.

’’Be proud, Lu . . . he has your cunning and endurance for pain. I must finish my work of excising the wound. You must finish your work of sealing the realms and reinforcing all the gray-zone shadows. Let us not be at odds, but be in collusion toward the same goal.’’ She touched his stonelike chest, glad that he simply closed his eyes for a moment and steadied his breathing rather than ripping the limbs from her body. ’’I will not fail you.’’

Slowly he reached out and a length of barbed-wire chain filled his hand. He closed his fist around it as the chain yanked away in a scorching whir through his palm. Attached to the end of the twisted metal was a huge manacle that cuffed three baying hound heads connected to the same dog's body.

The vicious creature's jowls were filled with mangled, acid-dripping fangs, and it scrabbled against the smoldering floor, trying to pull toward the breach in the realms. Thick cords of muscle striated the animal's back legs and barrel chest, its barking now near deafening. It was on the scent of angels. Frustrated at being held back by its master, the creature finally gave in to a mournful howl, red eyes glowing with pure outrage at the assault against the nether region.

Lilith studied her husband's renewed composure as his gaze scanned the vaulted ceiling, deciding where to strike. She watched him slowly wind the chain in his fist, holding the guardian of his primary gate to Hell back, a strategy developing in his mind. That he'd called his favorite pet, Cerberus, to his side meant that he'd refocused himself for war.

’’I will not fail you,’’ Lilith repeated.

Her husband simply nodded and looked up again, and then was gone.

Turn the page for a sneak peek at the first book in L. A. Banks's brandnew Crimson Moon series.

BAD BLOOD

A Crimson Moon Novel

COMING IN APRIL 2008 FROM ST. MARTIN'S PAPERBACKS

Copyright �2008 by Leslie Esdaile Banks.

Familiar scents, hard-driving music, and a blast of heat washed over Sasha as she opened the door to Ronnie's Road Hog Tavern, which everyone also affectionately called the Hawg. It was hard to stay in a bad mood in a joint like this. There was just too much revelry all around.

Ronnie was a local legend in his own right, claiming to have seen Sasquatch up close and personal, and he maintained a neutral position about all things supernatural. In a way, his bar was the preternatural's equivalent ofSwitzerland , and a comfortable place for her and the guys to hang out. It was haunted, too, they said. Something about a shoot-out and gold miners, but that was ancient history. However, not everything supernatural passed through Ronnie's doors. Vampires seemed to shun the lowbrow life of beef and beer, snobs that they were-and her pack would have to do them, anyway, if they witnessed a civvy being bitten. Regardless, it meant Ronnie's joint was always the place to be, sawdust on the floors notwithstanding.

Werewolves . . . other than the few attempts at black-market experiments, they didn't see much of them anywhere lately, and definitely not here. Besides, the Hawg served the best steak and fries in portions that were ridiculous. The burgers were awesome, too.

As she waded through the crowd toward the bar, an ice-cold beer on her mind, Sasha nodded at the regulars and unzipped her bomber jacket, prepared to stay awhile. The bartender spotted her and held up aCorona , and she smiled, giving him the thumbs-up.

He slid the beer across the wood with deft accuracy and she caught the frosty bottle with a lime wedged in the top with a quick hand and blew him a kiss as a joke. In their ongoing ritual he jerked his head back as though the air-kiss had knocked him out, and then laughed.

’’I'll run you a tab, babe.’’

’’Cool, Bruno,’’ she shouted over the din. ’’Thanks.’’

Now to find someplace to sit down and eat alone.Everything in the primary bar area was already taken. In the billiards area, tables were temporarily abandoned by players but were already claimed with pitchers of beer andbuffalo wings marking territory.Fine. Takeout could work.

She let out a defeated breath but took one last survey of the joint. A couple of guys gave her a bold once-over, but she ignored their silent offers.Bikers and truckers. She wasn't in the mood. If she was going home with anyone tonight, for once she just wished it could be with a guy whom she didn't have to explain things to-things like medications, having to be sure not to get too rough and break his skin, or to worry about a virus ruining his life.

She would admit, though, that the more crowded the establishment was, the lonelier it felt. And who the hell was watching her so hard that it was raising the hair on her arms?

Sasha pushed the lime into her beer with her index finger, lifted the slim bottle to her lips, took a few swallows, and then glanced around.

Moving through the crowd as if she had a specific destination in mind, Sasha enjoyed flowing through the tangle of bodies to the beat of the music. Warmth, sweat, scents, the thrum of pulsing melodies . . . blood, heartbeats all merged as her spine became fluid, her footfalls beyond graceful. Her stomach rumbled as her nose picked up the scent of charbroiled beef wafting from the kitchen. She made a game out of separating scents, sounds, and voices, keying in on bits of conversation as she loped through the large dance floor, headed for the second bar where take-out orders could be placed.

Midstep she stopped, tilted her head, and gazed into the darkened corridor beyond the bar. A cool breeze had brought in a scent from somewhere, a scent she'd never picked up in her life.

Sasha turned her beer up and polished it off, then continued to head toward the second bar, her eyes fastened on the dark corridor. She could smell multiple male scents.The men's room?A back room?An exit?A closed section of the bar? Curiosity stole over her as she clutched the empty bottle tighter. She quickly placed her order, trying to forestall the insanity, but her gaze continually wandered past the server toward the back of the bar.

The scent came to her again, raising her hackles. Suddenly she rounded the bar and stepped into the semidarkness. Fortunately, the server's attention was diverted with the next order. That scent . . . that wonderfully unsettling male scent. All others evaporated, but that one lingered.Dominant. Who the hell was it? Moreover,what the hell was it? It wasn't human. At least not wholly so;she could tell. Yet there wasn't the rancid, fecund smell of wet, filthy animal that came with infected werewolves. This was . . .wonderful . And all wolf, but somehow different.

Insides on fire, hair bristling, Sasha slipped deeper into the employees-only area undetected and passed through the long corridor scenting locked doors. . . . Faster, moving like a blur, following the scent that led to a cool breeze. Her hand slammed against an exit panic bar, and suddenly she was outside in the back employee parking area clutching an empty beer bottle. Her gaze quickly took in the huge Ford F-150's and Dodge Rams that haphazardly littered the small back lot amid the over-flowing Dumpsters.

Still now, she listened to her own breathing, her own heartbeat, keening her hearing to the very slightest movement against the icy ground. There was no sound, but the scent was moving, circling her, producing a delirious combination of adrenaline and something she wasn't prepared to admit.

Moving with the scent, she crouched, lowering her body's center of gravity, arms readied, muscles tensing, turning in a slow circle. A back floodlight instantly blew out, leaving her in total darkness, save the blue-white wash of the moon. She smiled. He had no idea. . . .

He smiled and cocked his head to the side, fascinated that she could not readily detect him. This time she was alone. And this time she was no less exquisite than any other time before. Too bad it was impossible to stay downwind from her this go-round.

Her smoky gray eyes had become almost a translucent crystalline, like that of a husky . . . pupils open so wide they nearly eclipsed her irises. Her stare intense, her honey-kissed skin awash with maddening moonlight, waves of velvet barely skimming her shoulders and yet slowly lengthening as her beast flared right before his eyes. Her beautiful jawline was set hard, her voluptuous curves sculpted beneath a wisp of gray mohair sweater partially hidden by her bomber jacket, her throat so gloriously exposed for a submission bite . . . if she would accept. His gaze raked her lean hips, which tapered into seemingly endless legs all the way down to deep brown hand-tooled leather cowboy boots.

He briefly closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, taking in her scent, wanting her more deeply, needing her more intensely than his pride had allowed until now.

But he had an assassination to pull off. On each previous encounter she'd been with an abomination of their breed. He'd been sickened, scenting the predator on her, especially when his mission was to hunt down the demon-infected werewolves. That was her job, too, but she seemed ignorant of the task. Then again, he hadn't seen the predator in approximately a month. Perhaps she'd done her job and killed him already?

Slightly distracted, he moved again but a footfall broke through the shadows. She immediately spun and lunged at the nothingness, no fear in her eyes, but she missed. He stepped out of the shadows. Her response was a hard snarl as she broke the bottle on the edge of a Dumpster, gripping it like a weapon.

’’That's not necessary,’’ he said in a low rumble.

’’F*k that I-come-in-peace line. You were invisible a second ago.’’

’’Yeah, and?’’

’’I hate you goddamned vampires, ya know.’’ She flung the bottle away. ’’So what do you want?’’

He was so offended that he folded his arms over his chest. ’’I've been called a lot of things in my time, sis, but avampire?Never.’’

She cocked her head to the side and sniffed the air, but the confusion was clear on her face. What the hell was he-a new species?Something that moved between shadows and didn't make a sound.Smelled all wolf, all male. The rumble of his voice bottomed out in the pit of her stomach.Still left a flutter in its wake. Accent was strange, had French Canadian and yet West Indian tones embedded in it. His ethnicity was hard to judge. He was a nightmare and a fantasy all rolled into one, wearing a deerskin suede jacket, a charcoal sweater, ripped rough-rider jeans, and well-worn cowboy boots. She rolled her shoulders and began snapping closed the brass buttons on her jacket. ’’Whatever. You were following me, staring at me while I was trying to get my dinner and mind my business. I didn't appreciate it.’’

Complete disappointment singed her voice as she yanked the bottom of her jacket down hard and warily turned away to round the building to reenter the bar. The sound of her voice reverberated through him and lingered on the night air with her fabulous feminine trail thickening his groin. Yet he sensed no fraud;she really didn't seem to know what to make of him.

Her piercing gray eyes haunted him as she disappeared around the edge of the huge building. He watched her ass move beneath the leather in an almost soundless stride and decided to follow her back inside.

Sasha boxed the cold away from her arms, realizing that the shiver that had overtaken her wasn't from the frigid temperatures outside. She kept walking toward the back bar, unceremoniously parting the crowd now with sheer shoulder-blocking force and without apologies.

The man was an unbelievable specimen. He was massive. Six-foot-four or five and probably could have ripped her throat out, but didn't. That was some se*y shit, even if he was possibly a vampire messing with her mind. But the scent wasn't of the un-dead. His sweat held life, vitality, and ungodly testosterone. It was a scent that combined the earth and deep, sensual musk. Geoff had gotten to her with mind games, Shogun she could appreciate visually, but her reaction to this man was different.More . . . real somehow.

She allowed a shudder to pass through her and hailed the bartender. ’’I'm the monster burger with the works. To go, with a six ofCorona ,’’ she shouted, determined to shake off the experience.

But as she waited and kept her gaze roving the establishment, she remembered feeling him before, although never seeing him and definitely never scenting him like this. Now she knew his signature and she had an incredibly rugged, too ridiculously handsome face to place with the impressions. His heartbeat was a slow, long thud.Hue -unflawed darkness making his actual age impossible to judge.Skin like rich, dark chocolate that made one's hand ache to touch just to feel the texture. Sasha licked her lips, unwilling to admit that she also wanted to taste it.

Features-strong, nose owned a slight bend in the bridge . . . Native American.Mouth-thick, lush, so sensual a feature that she was mesmerized by it.African. Hair-thick tendrils of dark velvet pulled back into a leather strap with Blackfoot tribal markings on it. Glistening white teeth . . . a warning held in check;a square jaw covered by a dark spread of evening shadow. Eyes-an intense midnight engulfed by shimmering amber.So strange, as though backlit from some inner light.

But the way the guy moved . . . like the night itself, like a thief cloaked within the very folds of every shadow. An assassin's stealth, but owning what had to be anywhere between two hundred to two hundred and twenty pounds of pure sinew. Massive shoulder width, arms and legs lean, muscular, moving as though every joint were a well-greased ball bearing.

How did he do it, though? Not even vampires had been able to catch her unaware: their lack of scent, the very stillness of it as they repressed their lack of life, was always, literally, a dead giveaway, as was the oppressive feel of their power touching the edges of her aura.Ghosts, same thing. The temperature dropped and they moved through the atmosphere like an icy wave or like the clear ripple on a lake's surface before they materialized. Demons made her gag with the foul scent of rotting flesh, and their eyes were red orbs of insanity.Nah. If he wasn't any of the above-then what was he?

Curiosity and a looming presence thickened with a now familiar scent made her jerk her attention toward the entrance. He nodded coolly and parted the crowd with a fluid ease that was unnerving. For a moment, all she could do was watch him walk.

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