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CHAPTER 16. "No!" Delphine screamed aas she saw Zelos stab his brother quicker than she could react
"No!" Delphine screamed aas she saw Zelos stab his brother quicker than she could react. Her heart wrenched at the sight of Jericho falling as Nike seized him and attacked him from behind. An unimaginable fury took hold of her. One she could neither explain nor temper.
All she could taste was the need for blood.
Before she even realized she'd moved, she had him on the ground, pounding his head against the floor as her fury rode her hard.
"Delphine, stop! You're going to kill him."
Somewhere through the haze of her anger, she recognized Madoc's voice as he tried to pull her away from Zelos. She wrenched her hand from Zelos's black hair. Rising, she kicked him hard in the ribs. "Hold him. Because if Jericho dies, I'm going to tear his heart out of his chest and feed it to him."
Zeth's eyes were wide. "Given the ass-whipping you just gave him, I'm sure you will." He looked at Madoc. "Remind me to never upset that woman."
Delphine barely heard him as she ran to Jericho. Deimos had pulled him away from Nike, but not before she'd bitten him.
He was panting and shaking as he lay on the floor.
Kneeling beside him, she choked from the wave of agony tearing through her. Her gaze swam with tears. "Baby?" Her voice broke as pain overwhelmed her.
He took her hand in his and held it while Deimos pressed a cloth to the wound in his chest. "What do we do?" Deimos asked. "I've never seen a god bleed like this."
"He has a human heart. . . but he can be resuscitated. The Oneroi and Dolophoni killed him every night for centuries, and every morning he was brought back to life."
"By Zeus," Deimos reminded her. "And no offense, but I don't think he's going to be overly accommodating given what we just did to him."
Tears flowed down her cheeks as she watched Jericho's face grow paler. His breathing more shallow.
"Don't leave me, Jericho," she whispered, cupping his scarred cheek in her hand. "Please. I can't cope with these emotions you gave me. I can't. And I don't want to be here without you. I need you with me."
He lifted her hand to his lips for a gentle kiss. "In all this time, whenever I died, I never wanted to wake up again. I prayed every night for it to be the last death. And now. . ." He choked and sputtered a mouthful of blood.
Delphine sobbed aloud as she tried to help him not choke on his own blood. She was covered in it, and it rammed home the fact that he was dying. Her entire body shaking, she knew she was losing him, and she couldn't bear the thought of it. She would not lose him.
"He needs an immortal heart!" she shouted to Madoc, looking at him over her shoulder. Her gaze went from him to his prisoner.
She froze as the solution hit her like a fist in the stomach. It was harsh, but. . .
Who better to give up his life to save Jericho than the traitor among them? The brother who'd betrayed him. The brother who had always betrayed him and everyone the selfish god came into contact with.
She met Deimos's gaze over Jericho's body and knew that he had the same exact thought she did.
"Stay with him." Deimos got up and crossed the room.
Delphine brushed the hair back from Jericho's face. "Breathe, baby, breathe. Hold on. We're not going to let you go."
Jericho's grip weakened on her hand. "At least I had you for a time."
"No!" she snapped at him. "You've been stubborn since the moment I met you. Don't you dare get complacent now. You fight this for me. You hear me?"
He nodded as he sputtered through more blood.
Delphine heard a struggle behind her, but she didn't turn to look. Honestly, she didn't care. Anyone who could do this to their own brother deserved no mercy.
Let him die.
Deimos returned with Zelos's heart in his hand. Repulsed by the sight, Delphine cringed. Madoc appeared by her side. He turned her in his arms to shield her face while Deimos exchanged their hearts. Madoc's steady, deep, rhythmic heartbeat helped to focus her while she kept her hand wrapped around Jericho's. There was no way she was going to let him go. Not ever.
After what seemed like an eternity, she heard Jericho gasp. His grip on her hand strengthened.
Her heart hammering, she pulled back from Madoc to see him staring at them.
He coughed and narrowed an angry grimace at Madoc. "If you're going to snake on my girl, Madoc, you could at least wait until I'm cold."
Holding his hands up in surrender, Madoc laughed. "I would never snake your woman. You're the only man I know who would come back from Tartarus just to slaughter me for it."
Deimos met her gaze. "Delphine, you might want to turn your head again. I've got to cauterize that bite wound before it infects him."
Delphine did, but she still heard Jericho's curse as Deimos burned the gallu bite. And even though Jericho must have been in excruciating pain, his grip on her hand never turned painful.
As soon as Deimos was finished, she scooted closer to Jericho. "My poor baby," she breathed, kissing his cheek. "Don't you ever scare me like that again. I swear if you do I will beat you senseless."
Jericho pulled her into his arms and held her tight. Honestly, he never wanted to come that close to leaving her again, either. He kissed the top of her head, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw his brother's body. He probably should have felt bad or guilty, but he didn't. Zelos had always been a jealous bastard, and he'd made their childhoods unbearable. "Who took his powers?"
Madoc indicated himself and Zeth. "We split them."
Zeth came forward. "You want us to dump him?"
"No. In spite of everything, he is my brother. Take his body to my mother and let her do with it as she will."
Deimos scoffed at his concern. "Do you think he'd be that kind to you?"
Jericho pushed himself up. "No. But someone," he gave a meaningful look to Delphine, "taught me to be a better person than that."
"All right," Zeth said with a sigh. "Time for more clean-up." He sighed. "I'm thinking maybe we should hire a full-time crew for this."
Madoc shoved him playfully. "Since most of it was caused by your team, I don't want to hear you bitching."
Jared hissed as he started toward them.
Jericho stiffened, afraid of what was attacking them now. Damn, couldn't they have one minute of peace? "What's wrong?"
Jared looked ill and pale. "I'm being summoned home. I have to go. Zephyra doesn't like for me to resist her."
Jericho tucked his wings in and cleaned his clothes. "You want me to talk to her?"
"It won't do any good. She's out of patience with my absence, and unless you have what she wants . . ."
He looked around with an agonized expression that said he was going to miss their company. No doubt he'd miss not being tortured most of all. "Good luck to you." Bowing his head, Jared vanished.
Delphine scowled as he left. "I feel so bad for him."
"So do I. I wish there was some way to get him free."
She sighed heavily. "I'm sure no one wishes that more than he does." She glanced back at Nike. "Do you think we should be worried about Asmodeus?"
"Yeah," Deimos said sarcastically. "Given the luck we've had, he's probably being disemboweled even as we speak."
Asmodeus crept through the back hall where only rodents normally scurried. He was doing his best to stay out of sight, sound and smell range. Noir and Azura were raw with their fury right now, beating everything that came near them.
No wonder he'd left here. But that wouldn't save him if they happened upon him now. They would gut him and make him pay for leaving them.
"What are you doing?"
He jumped and almost screamed at the deep voice coming out of the darkness. "Dammit, Jaden," he whispered angrily, "who unchained you?"
"Noir. He was afraid someone might free me while they were rescuing and fighting the Skoti. So I'm banished to the hallway where outsiders can't walk."
Asmodeus screwed his face up as he saw the damage they'd done to Jaden. How could he even speak with the way his lips were swollen? But the most amazing part was how Jaden could use his powers to camouflage those wounds when demons summoned him to the outside world.
No one on the outside knew what horrors lived here in this hell realm.
Jaden leaned forward to gaze into the room where Asmodeus had been looking for a possible lead. "The gallu you seek is the one in the back of the room."
"I hate it when you read my thoughts."
"I know. Trust me, it's no privilege for me, either. I don't need to know how screwed up you are. I have my own issues."
"Yeah . . . so any bright ideas on how I'm going to get to that gallu, kill it without getting bitten, and not get caught?"
"You won't have to."
Asmodeus cocked his head as a wave of fear went through him. Was Jaden planning to kill him? "What do you mean?"
Jaden pulled a sparkling green amulet out of his pocket. "Take that to Jericho and tell him to free my. . . to free Jared from his master, and I'll take care of your gallu for you."
Stunned, Asmodeus couldn't move. Dare he even hope for it? "Are you sure? Can you do that?"
Nodding, Jaden put the amulet in his hand. "Swear to me you won't keep it for yourself. 'Cause if you do, so help me—"
"I know, I know. You'll gut me. Don't worry, I won't betray you."
"Thank you." Jaden started away from him.
He paused and turned back to face him. "Why is it so important to you that Jared goes free?"
"Because . . ." When he finished the sentence, his tone was so low that Asmodeus wasn't even sure he'd heard it correctiy. "I'm the reason he was damned. Now go before the others find you."
Asmodeus inclined his head to him before he used his powers to teleport out of the dismal hole back into the light hall where his friends were waiting for him.
Who would have ever dreamed a demon like him could have something like that?
Delphine stood up from her chair as soon as she saw Asmodeus return. She looked to Nike, but the goddess was unchanged from her gallu form. "What happened?"
Asmodeus closed the distance between them. "Jaden said he'd take care of the gallu for us." He handed the necklace over to Jericho. "And he told me to give you this so that you could buy Jared's freedom."
Jericho gaped in disbelief as he held the expensive antique. "Are you serious?"
And before Jericho could speak again, he heard Nike scream out in pain. She fell to her knees on the floor, where she rocked back and forth as if she were on fire. The other Skoti reacted the same way.
By the time Jericho reached the cage, Nike looked up at him, her eyes normal again. She was bewildered and scared. "Cratus?"
Jericho nodded as joy coursed though him. It'd worked. He couldn't believe it. Opening the door, he pulled his sister into his arms and held her close. "Are you all right?"
"I'm confused. I was in a hole and Zelos came to me with a demon. He was so angry. He told me to join them, but I refused. I don't trust Noir or Azura, and I will not forsake my people." She shook her head. "Zelos called me a fool and then he made the demon bite me." She wept against his shoulder.
Jericho soothed her. "Don't worry, Nike. Zelos is gone."
"Deimos killed him."
She gasped, then winced. "I wish I could be as sad for him as I was for Bia when she died. But there wasn't much about Zelos worth mourning. I only hope that by dying, he's finally found some peace."
Her features stricken, Nike turned and saw Delphine standing off to the side. Her gaze narrowed thoughtfully as she looked back and forth between them. "I was right about my brother, wasn't I?"
Delphine smiled. "Absolutely, and I can't thank you enough."
Nike cut a devious look to Jericho. "I have a feeling that's mutual."
"It is. But that's all I'm saying on the matter." Jericho stepped back from them. "Now, if you ladies don't mind, I have something I need to take care of."
Jericho jesitated in the glassy dark hallway he'd visited earlier with Tory. Maybe he shouldn't be doing this.
Jared had been emphatic that Zephyra should never have the amulet. But after all Jaden and Jared had done for them, it seemed wrong to leave Jared enslaved. Having served that sentence in hell, he had a hard time delivering it up to anyone else. Especially when he didn't deserve it.
"What are you doing here?"
He paused at Medea's dangerous tone. "Do you always haunt the hallway?"
"No, but I can sense whenever a stranger is here and I don't like uninvited people in my domain."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "You can stand down. I'm not staying long. I'm only here to see your mother."
"Mum?" she called, not bothering to take him to the study this time.
Zephyra came in hot and flustered. "I thought I told you not to—" Her voice broke off as she saw Jericho. "What are you doing here?"
Damn, could she have added any more loathing to that single word? A lesser man would have had to scrape himself up off the floor.
"I've come to get Jared."
She snorted derisively. "Hell, no. He's back where he . . ." Her voice faded off as he pulled the amulet from his pocket and let it dangle from his fingers so that she could see it.
Her eyes eager and hungry, she reached for it.
Jericho pulled it back. "Not until you release Jared to me."
She hissed. "Fine."
"And," he said quickly before she could act, "I want one promise from you."
She looked at him as if he were the most repugnant creature ever made. "Are you insane? You're lucky you're still alive."
"Believe me, I know," he said with a bitter laugh. "But I'm not going to provide you with the means to hurt someone who's helped me. I will give you this on the condition that it's never used against Acheron or his mother. Ever."
She rolled her eyes. "As if I'd be that stupid. With my luck it wouldn't work on them anyway and they'd kill me for the insult. Now give us the medallion."
He pulled it back again. "Jared first."
"Jared!" she snapped.
He appeared instantly by her side, his features drawn and tight. As soon as he saw Jericho, he narrowed his gaze suspiciously. "What have you done, Jericho?"
"A favor for a favor."
Zephyra shoved him at Jericho. "I voluntarily release you from my service into his. Now go."
Jared shook his head and panicked as he saw the medallion. "You can't do this!"
Jericho hesitated. The last thing he wanted to do was make a mistake in this. But surely Jaden wouldn't have sent this to him if it would kill them all. "Why?"
"Because I'd rather Jaden use it to barter his freedom. Please." His voice was filled with agony.
"It's too late." Zephyra snatched it from Jericho's hand. "Now get out before I feed you both to my Daimons."
Jared winced as she and Medea vanished. A muscle worked in his jaw as if he wanted to curse.
Jericho felt bad for him. It had to be awful for Jared to find no joy in being free. "I'm sorry."
"So am I," he said wistfully.
"At least you're free now."
Jared flicked at the thin containment collar around his neck. "Hardly."
"I can remove it."
He gave Jericho a flat, dead stare. "And I'll die when you do. Only the Source can free me from my punishment."
"I don't need a slave, Jared. You'll have all the freedom you want."
Jared nodded glumly.
Strange, Jericho would have thought he'd be happier than this. But then his freedom had been bought at the expense of Jaden's. Since he didn't know what they were to each other, he had no way of knowing how harsh that was.
Jared let out a deep breath. "Do I have to reside on the Isle with the others?"
"No. You can live wherever you want."
Jared appeared relieved by that. "If you need me, call. I'm now yours to command in any way you see fit." There was no missing the underlying venom in his tone. It was obvious others had used him well and left him bitter over it. "Now if I may take my leave . . . Master?"
"I'm not your master, Jared. Your life is yours to do with as you see fit. I have no need of a slave. But I'll always welcome a friend and an ally," He held his hand out to him.
Jared hesitated as if afraid to take it. He frowned at Jericho before he finally shook his hand. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now you better go before Zephyra makes good on her threat."
Jericho waited until Jared was safely on his way before he returned to Delphine.
Noir slammed into the war room, with fury streaming through his blood. "We've been routed."
Azura looked up, aghast. "By whom?"
"Who do you think?"
"Jaden," she sneered. "I'll have him skinned for this!"
Noir had had the same thought himself. "There's nothing more to be done about it. The Skoti we'd taken have defected back to the Oneroi. Zelos is dead, killed by Madoc. Nike has been freed and Cratus restored."
Azura cursed. With Cratus back at full strength, he could break Jaden free from them . . . or worse, find Cam and Rezar. That would be disastrous for them. "We have got to find Braith." Everything in the universe was balance.
Their sister Braith was theirs. She was a necessary counterbalance, and no matter what, they needed her.
Noir growled low in his throat, "And the Malachai. We have to make sure we either kill him or convert him." Because he alone held the power to overthrow all of the Source gods and wipe them out. If he ever absorbed their powers, not even Jared could stop him.
He would be able to destroy all creation and set the universe back to nil.
Those powers needed to be Noir's. With them, there was no pantheon or power who could stand against him.
Azura narrowed her gaze. "At least we have the gallu. They might be more effective than the Skoti for now anyway."
He nodded. "But this will take much more careful planning on our part. The Greeks are more resourceful than I'd given them credit for."
"No. Cratus was more resourceful. But that's all right. This is only one battle. The war will be ours."
Noir inclined his head to her. "Yes, it will. As for Jaden. .."
Azura laughed. "He's going to be a very sorry intermediary."
"Yes, he will be, and I'm going to have fun with our new friends."
She arched a brow at that. "What new friends?"
"The Greeks. It's time to let them know we will have no mercy on them. Besides, we have an ally they don't even know about. . . yet."
Azura laughed. "True. And it's one they'll never suspect."
Delphine sat in a small room with Madoc, Zarek and Zeth. By their dour expressions, Jericho knew something had happened while he was gone. "What?"
Zeth shoved a brittle piece of parchment at him. As soon as he looked at it, words wrote themselves across it.
"Noir has officially declared war on us and on the Dark-Hunters. If we surrender his Malachai, he'll let us live. If we don't. . ."
Jericho laughed. "He's going to make our lives hell."
"It's not funny," Zeth snapped.
Undaunted, Jericho shrugged. "No, it isn't, but we knew this was coming."
Zarek sat back in his chair and tucked his hands behind his head. "We have to find Cam and Rezar."
Jericho agreed. "And train that damned Malachai."
Zarek snorted. "Good luck on that."
"He's a nasty little bastard. I wanted to kill him years ago, but Ash wouldn't let me. After all is said and done, Ash may be wishing he'd not held me back."
After all was said and done, they might all be wishing that.
Jericho moved to stand beside Delphine's chair. "Well, there's nothing more to be done tonight. I, for one, am exhausted. I've been threatened, beaten, bitten and killed, and that was just in the last hour."
Delphine shook her head at him. "You need someone to tuck you in, sweetie?"
"For that, my goddess, I would worship you forever."
Laughing, she got up and followed him to her room.
He looked around at all the white lace and other frilly things that made this room uniquely hers. "You know this place is really girly."
She hesitated. "You want me to redecorate?"
"No," he said, dissolving his clothes and concealing his wings into his back so that he could slide into bed. "I love the fact that everything in here smells like you."
She picked up a corner of her comforter and sniffed it. "No, it doesn't. I don't smell."
He smiled at her offended tone. "You don't stink, but your scent is all over everything, and that's why I don't want anything changed. I love the way you smell. It comforts me. Now come to bed and let me hold you."
She stiffened and so did he. "Is that an order?"
"No," he said with a tired yawn, "it's the sound of me begging."
"You're really out of practice with that."
He smiled. "True."
Naked, Delphine snuggled up to his back and wrapped her arms around him. In all his life no one had ever held him like this. Even as tired as he was, he reveled in the comfort of her love.
"I'm scared, Jericho," she whispered in his ear, "and I'm not used to coping with fear."
"It's all right. I'm not used to coping with love and trust." He took her hand into his and kissed her pale, unscarred knuckles. "We can be the blind leading the blind."
Delphine squeezed his hand. "But as long as we're together. . ."
"Nothing will ever touch us. You are all that matters to me, my angel, and I would walk through hell just to touch your face."
"And I would walk through hell just to bring you food."
Jericho laughed. "Good, 'cause when I wake up, I'm going to be starving."
"I'll have something waiting for you. What would you like?"
He rolled over and pulled her against him. "You naked in my bed. That's all the sustenance I'll ever need."
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-09-13; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 5; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ