“What are you doing?”
Fat crimson droplets pooled in front of the door. But by the time she reached the first window, the wound had sealed and she had to cut again. “I’m blocking the demons from entry.”
“Well, you just stop that right this second. If the enemy isn’t able to get to us here, they’ll just pursue us elsewhere.”
She ignored him, saying, “Evil cannot enter a home marked with the blood of the pure. And as I still have the light of a Curator inside me, I’m still considered pure.” As she raced to the final window, eight minions burst through the glass. Shards sprayed the room, several biting into her flesh.
She drew up short.
The creatures were of the animal variety. Her least favorite. Spiderlike, with ten legs each, crawling along the walls. But the ends of those legs weren’t soft and sticky; they were metal hooks and scrrraped everything they touched.
All of the minions peered at her, their hairy lips lifted in sneering grins, revealing long, sharp fangs.
Something prevented her from flashing each one to another realm...and there was only one viable answer. They were warded. Hades’s doing, surely.
“Our king heard of your escape and would like a word with you, Keeleycael. Don’t expect to enjoy it.”
Hades could flash anyone anywhere—except her. He’d always hated that. “Oh, don’t you worry. I’ll be having a chat with your king soon enough.” Calm on the outside while she trembled on the inside. Not ready to face him. Not yet. But soon.
Before her conversation with Torin, she had forgotten about the Morning Star. If—when—she possessed it, she would be able to kill Hades, free Torin and all of his friends of their demons and bring Mari back to life. All in one swoop.
Then Keeley could create the kingdom of her dreams. Vast, impenetrable and diversified. A home for immortals who’d been rejected by their own people.
She would rethink her decision to marry a kind, sweet male, however. She was beginning to think she would do better with someone...volatile.
“Going to give you boys five seconds to leave.” Torin claimed a position in front of her, his stance one of challenge, aggression and excitement. He’d grabbed another blade and gripped the two in his gloved hands. “Stay, and I will reroute your intestines—through your mouth.”
The threat didn’t sit well with the minions. They hissed at him.
“One.” Torin’s voice rang out, eager. “Five.” He gave no other warning, just launched forward.
The spiders dropped from the ceiling and walls and headed straight for him, Keeley momentarily forgotten. Concern took root...unfamiliar to her. If a single hair on her warrior’s head was—
Needn’t have worried.
Torin dove to his knees and slid the rest of the distance, going under one of the minions and running the tip of his blade through the creature’s torso. Guts splashed onto the floor; organs thudded.
One down. And so spectacularly.
She jumped up and down, clapping—and seven sets of beady eyes suddenly focused on her.
Grinning coldly, she said, “Can’t fault the keeper of Disease for his actions. He did warn you.”
Different degrees of rage met her words. Each of the minions kicked into high gear, closing in on her. Scratch that. Not “each.” Torin had grabbed two by the legs and jerked them behind him. As the creatures flailed, trying to find purchase, he released them—only to stab each one through the skull.
Stop watching adoringly. Engage!
Right. Five minions, almost within reach. Keeley sprang into action, cutting off a claw aimed for her neck as well as a claw aimed for her heart. A third claw slammed into her arm, but she flowed with the momentum, going to her knees and spinning outside the fight circle.
Jab. Jab. She stabbed a minion from behind, shredding both of his kidneys.
This was almost fun.
A claw swiped at her. With one hand, Torin yanked her out of the way. With the other, he slashed at the culprit. Another thud rang out.
Music to my ears.
“Stay,” Torin barked.
Barked...at her? Not music. “I was doing so well.”
“But it’s my turn.” As Torin danced through the minions, his arms moving swiftly, crisscrossing then straightening, always removing a body part belonging to one of the spiders, he flicked her a hard glance. To make sure she watched him?
Trying to impress me?
Warm tingles in her chest. No one had ever done such a thing for her. King Mandriael had been so impressed with himself, he’d just assumed everyone else was, too. Hades simply hadn’t cared enough. His motto: take me or leave me—hell, just go ahead and leave me already.
Wait. Warm tingles...the beginning of a bond? She gulped, shook her head. No! Not here, not now. Not ever. Not with him. But the warmth grew more intense, the tingles stronger.
Have to stop this.
A still-beating heart rolled in her direction.
It was a gift.
The warmth inside her kicked up another notch until perspiration created a sheen on her skin.
If I bond to him, he’ll kick me out of his life.
Another claw joined the ever-growing pile of goodies, then a spinal cord...a pancreas. An-n-nd, here came a sloshing stomach.
Warmer...no, hotter. So hot. Burning her up, the tingles more like slashing daggers. Going to happen any moment...whether I like it or not...
Maybe Torin would change his mind about the bond. He’d carved her chess pieces, after all. He’d held branches out of her way and foraged for treats, never realizing she’d secretly tossed every morsel, unwilling to risk poisoning. Still. He’d done it. For her.
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