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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
It took a little more convincing, but Raim was reasonable. He’d help as long as they provided an ironclad contract, which Kristof already had prepared. A few quick amendments, a blood oath, and they were off, with Lucifer’s whereabouts in hand.
They left Trsiel behind. That wasn’t the plan—at least, not the part he knew about. He’d be furious, but it was the right thing to do. Eve had asked him to do enough already. If there was fallout from this, it would land squarely on her shoulders.
Getting to Lucifer was easier than Eve expected. He wasn’t surrounded by his legions. He wasn’t even surrounded by his inner court. That made sense, she supposed—it was hard to hide an army, and even the inner court would expect all their attendants to come along. There was none of that. Just Lucifer, alone in the mountains.
“Mount Nebo,” Kristof said as they finished climbing from their teleport drop-off. “Fitting, I suppose.”
“From the stories of Moses. The Israelites were still wandering and ran out of water. God told Moses to speak to a rock. In frustration, Moses struck it instead and was, as punishment, forbidden to enter the Promised Land. He could only glimpse it from the top of Mount Nebo.”
“A little harsh, don’t you think?”
“Lucifer would doubtless agree. The fallen angel. Cast out when he challenged God’s will.”
“Do you believe that?” Eve asked.
Kristof shrugged and wiped dirt from his hands. “I believe most legends have some basis in fact.”
At the top of the mountain, they found an excavated church. If she crossed over to the other side of the veil, she was sure it would be filled with tourists. But on their side it was still and empty, the wind whispering past, bringing a sprinkle of sand with each gust.
They walked inside and found a lone figure hunkered down, staring into a mosaic-lined pool of water.
“Huh,” Eve said as they approached. “You know what’s a really good way to fight the apocalypse? Meditate.”
The figure rose and turned, and Eve’s breath caught. From the back, she’d thought it was a demon taking human form, as they often did. But then she saw his face, the faint glow of his skin and his eyes.
An angel, she thought. He really is an angel.
An angel with a ruined face. That’s what made her breath catch. Lucifer’s skin was pitted and scarred, some of them white with age, others angry red. Only the skin around his eyes was untouched.
“Lucifer,” she murmured.
He smiled and it was a strange smile, not what she’d expect from either angel or demon. There was no anger in it. No outrage. No arrogance. And that’s what really threw her off balance. All lord demons were arrogant, and the same could be said for most angels.
She stood there, gripping her sword, her rehearsed speech flying from her mind.
“She needs you,” Eve blurted at last.
“Hope, I mean. Your daughter. She—”
He glanced back toward the pool. Kristof took a step closer and nodded. Eve followed and saw what he did—that it was a scrying pool, and in its depths was Hope, in a wheelchair, bound and pregnant.
Eve spun on Lucifer. “And you’re just watching? Your daughter—and your granddaughter—are being threatened. Threatened with death if you don’t come, and you sit on your mountain and watch?”
“What else would you have me do, Eve?” Lucifer said. “Go down there and give Gilles de Rais what he wants? Do you even know what he wants from me?”
A faint smile. “Then that makes two of us. I suspect, like your father and Asmondai, he only wants me to side with him as a figurehead. A mascot, even. De Rais’s people know my name, as they do not know the names of a legion of other demons. If the mighty Lucifer bows to him, it will prove he is all powerful. His followers will fall in line. They’ll help him release that virus. Is that what you want?”
“No. I want you to stop him.”
She stepped toward him, sword glowing as she clenched it.
“Yes, how. You know my daughter. What are her powers?”
“Visions. She’s a chaos bloodhound.”
The barest hint of a smile. “An apt description. Yes, that’s her power. That’s mine, too, on a much greater scale, and without the side effects she suffers. When I was cast out, they stripped me of my angel powers and gave me that. So tell me, now that Hope is in serious danger, how can her powers help her?”
When Eve didn’t answer, he said, “They can warn her, but it’s too late for that, just as it was too late for me to warn her. As for offensive powers, she has none. I have none.”
He looked into the pool. “I could go down there and possess Jasper Haig, but he’s trying his best, and I couldn’t do better. I would possess Gilles de Rais if I could, but it turns out his experimentation with immortality has made him impervious to that. I could possess my daughter, but that would do little good, except to save her from her fear. I would do that—I would gladly do that—but she stands more chance of surviving without me in her head. She’s bright and resourceful, as is everyone else trying to help her.” He glanced at her. “As is your daughter. Which is your primary concern.”
Eve didn’t argue. She wanted nothing to happen to Hope—or anyone else—but she wouldn’t lie. Savannah was her priority.
“Nothing I can do will help my daughter or yours,” he said. “I can only watch and have faith in my child.” He met her gaze. “Do you have faith in yours?”
“Then do not waste time haranguing me. Your place is down there, with your child. Mine is here, watching mine.”
He turned back to the pool and crouched again, staring into its depths. Eve turned to Kristof. He dipped his chin. Telling her Lucifer was right. There was no divine intervention here. It was up to them—to Hope, to Savannah, to all of them.
As Adam and I finished securing Severin and Sierra, Elena and Clay burst into the room. They were still dressed in the guard uniforms, but their glamours were gone, snapped by Lucas so they wouldn’t be shot by the Cabals.
“There’s a door to the auditorium right there,” I said, pointing. “But it’s sealed. It’s made of the same stuff as the doors at the lab. Adam couldn’t incinerate it and Jeremy couldn’t bust it down.”
“But I can burn the walls,” Adam said.
“Find a good spot,” Elena said, kicking Sierra aside as she crossed the room. “We need to come out in the wings, where Giles won’t see us. Or he’ll use that.”
I followed her finger to the screen. Giles stood beside Hope. His right hand gripped a knife, hidden, out of sight of the audience.
“Son of a bitch,” I whispered.
“No worries yet,” Elena said. “He’s playing it cool and—” She stopped and sniffed. “What’s that?”
Clay inhaled. “Some kind of chemical.”
A clang in the ventilation system. Then a slow hiss.
“Shit!” I said. “What the hell is Lucas doing?”
“Lucas is doing nothing.” His voice came over my earpiece. “Like the laboratory the auditorium is engineered to release that. Someone activated it trying to open those doors. You need to get in there. Now.”
Adam raced to a spot along the front wall. I kept my gaze fixed on the screen. It didn’t take long for someone in the auditorium to smell the fumes. And it took only about two seconds more before that someone ran for the nearest door … and found it still sealed shut.
People stumbled from their seats, running for the useless exits. Giles shouted at them to remain calm, then turned on Jaz. “Finish it.”
“I’m trying, but it’s a very involved process that cannot be rushed and—”
Giles lifted the knife. “Lucifer! I know you’ve heard us. I know you’re there. Now get your ass out here or I’m going to slice your bitch daughter from throat to belly!”
That’s when the audience screaming started for real. I looked at Adam. He was leaning against the wall, fingers splayed.
“I’m trying,” he said, as if he could feel me watching him.
His power was like mine—if you use a lot, you need to rest and let it recharge. It was low now from the fight with Severin and Sierra.
Clay was trying to bust down the door while Elena rapped along the wall, searching for an another spot to break through.
I turned back to the video screen. Jaz had stepped in front of Hope, blocking her from Giles. Hope was wriggling in her bonds.
“Get out of my way,” Giles said.
“You’re not touching her.”
Giles lunged, knife flashing toward Hope’s leg. Jaz wasn’t fast enough to block the blow. Hope convulsed with pain and shock as Giles backpedaled, the knife blade slick with blood.
“Lucifer!” He flicked the blade, spattering blood. “Will a lord demon let me kill his child so easily? All you need to do is come out and face me.”
I could barely hear him. Pandemonium had erupted in the auditorium—people passing out from the gas and being trampled by others. The fumes stayed at the rear, not affecting the people on stage.
“Lucifer! Do not test me, demon! I have done worse than this to get what I wanted.”
No response except more screams from the audience.
“Lucifer!” Giles shouted, veins popping.
He wheeled on Jaz, who stood between him and Hope.
“Get out of my way, mortal,” he snarled.
“Not a chance.”
Jaz’s face rippled. The wrinkles smoothed out, the angles of his face softened. In less than a minute, he was Jasper Haig.
“Like I said, not a chance.”
Giles lunged again, this time aiming straight for Jaz. He didn’t move. Barely even flinched as the blade slashed open his arm.
“I told you, I’m not moving,” Jaz said.
“Are you crazy?”
“Well, that’s the diagnosis, though I’ve never been happy with it myself.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Getting close to untying that rope, my love?”
“It would go faster if I had the knife,” Hope said.
Jaz laughed and turned back to Giles. “Women. So demanding. I don’t suppose you’d care to indulge her by handing me—”
Giles lunged again, this time slicing Jaz’s leg.
“I think that’s a no,” Jaz said, between clenched teeth. “I’d try to take it from him, Hope, but I’m not good with knives. Apparently, he is.”
“Do you think this is a game?” Giles said.
“I think everything’s a game. If you mean that I’m not taking you seriously, I beg to differ. I’m sure you will kill me. First, though …”
Hope got her hands free and bent to untie her legs.
“Progress,” Jaz said. “Now, if you’ll just give us another minute …”
With a howl of rage, Giles plunged the knife straight at Jaz’s chest. Jaz twisted so it caught him in the side.
“Not quite yet …” he gasped, blood soaking his shirt. Hope got her legs free. She pushed up from the chair just as Elena and Clay smashed through the wall and Adam managed to incinerate a hole. I followed him through it.
Hope stumbled our way, with Giles in pursuit. A bleeding Jaz leaped into his path. Giles’s blade sank into his chest. I grabbed Hope. Adam got between us and Giles as Elena and Clay circled to the other side, blocking Giles’s escape.
“Good timing, huh?” Jaz said. Then his legs gave way and he crumpled to the floor, the knife buried in him.
Giles went for the knife, but Clay had him by the back of the shirt. Chaos raged all around us, but for once, Hope didn’t seem to feel it. She just stared at Jaz, lying on the floor, blood pooling around him. When she tried to go to him, I didn’t stop her, just kept my hand on her arm to support her. She knelt in the blood and gripped his hand.
Jaz’s eyes opened and he managed a lazy grin. “See, you do love me.” His eyelids fluttered, then closed, and he exhaled one last time, then his head lolled back on the floor.
Hope laid his hand on his chest. “No one should die alone,” she whispered. “Not even you.”
“Hope?” A rough voice sounded from the wings.
Karl lurched through, braced on a makeshift crutch, waving aside a guard tripping along after him. Hope looked up and she stared. Just stared. Then she struggled to her feet, sliding in the blood, as I tried to help her.
“They forgot to use silver bullets,” Karl said.
She gasped and ran toward him and—I flew off my feet. I saw Hope fly, too, and grabbed for her, but missed. I hit the floor and for a second, everything went dark. Something echoed in my ears, like a sound I couldn’t quite pick up. Then the shouting started. Lights flickered and came on and when I looked around, the door was open and the audience was streaming out, tactical team members streaming in, the two groups struggling with each other and shouting.
“W-was that a bomb?” I said as I staggered to my feet. I felt Adam’s warm hands on my waist as he helped me steady myself.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But it was something.”
I hurried to Hope. She was still on the ground, clutching her stomach now, her face contorted in pain as she heaved breaths.