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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
He reached the head helicopter and jumped in the back next to Conn. Dage piloted while Talen sat in the front. “Go,” he said, shutting the door.
The bird lifted into the air. Talen nodded for him to slip on earphones and waited until he complied. “Three copters, attack formation. You’re shield, Jase.”
“Kane and Amber are in helicopter two for shields.” Kane’s mate, Amber, had a natural ability to shield from demon attacks, and Kane had slowly learned the skill from her. “The last helicopter will come in from the sea, blasting as we land.”
Jase took a deep breath. As a plan, it was risky. But it was all they had. “Do we know Garrett is on location?”
“No.” Talen turned back toward the front windshield. “I also don’t like how we traced the message. Kane said the message was well secured, and he had to go through several servers, but still. Might be a trap.”
Jase leaned forward. If it was a trap, they were prepared. “The key to countering a demon attack is to let it in.” Which explained why he’d gone so nuts.
Talen turned his head. “Let it in?”
“Yes. Let the images in, let the pain in, and make it yours. If it’s yours, no matter how devastating, it can’t kill you. It can’t decapitate you. Enjoy the pain.” He’d give anything not to have to admit that.
Serious eyes filled with sorrow as Talen studied him before turning back to the night. He exhaled. “Fair enough.”
They flew low, hugging the treetops, the ocean glinting to the left. Jase closed his eyes, resting his head against the wall. What was up with Brenna? He was losing her, and part of him wondered if he’d ever had her. Their mating was unconventional, but he’d come to rely on her in the short time they’d been together.
Could she rely on him?
Her plan to head back to Ireland for the solstice didn’t sit well. He needed her close and safe on his continent. The witches couldn’t protect her like he could.
Within an hour, his head started to ache. His eyes slowly opened. “The pressure in the air has changed.”
“No shit,” Talen muttered.
“Don’t forget to let the pain in and ride it.” Jase leaned to look at the trees spinning by. How many demons were down there? Enough to affect the atmosphere just by existing. Anticipation slithered down his spine.
The helicopter set down in a darkened alley. Jase jumped out, sprinting into a fast jog behind Talen. They maneuvered through alleys, keeping to the shadows, until they reached a chain-link fence. He scaled it easily, landing quietly on the other side.
The industrial park was silent, but the thrum of power rode the wind.
“Heat signatures in Building 4A near the wharf,” Kane said through the earpieces.
Talen gave the go-ahead, and Jase sprang into action.
The demons hadn’t realized they’d been compromised, or the pain would have started.
He peered around an outbuilding at the innocuous warehouse and lifted his assault rifle. His finger itched with the need to fire. So he took several deep breaths, filling his lungs with the scent of salt and ocean.
Talen cut him a glance. “You okay?” he mouthed.
Jase nodded. His knees vibrated, wanting to run and attack.
“Everyone is in position. Fire in the hole,” Dage ordered from the other side of the building.
The night lit up with fire.
All four walls of the building exploded outward. They couldn’t risk harming Garrett, so the charges had been placed to open and not destroy.
A slam of energy hit Jase from the south. He grabbed Talen’s arm and pointed to a gray outbuilding that was big enough for one room. “In there,” he mouthed. Then he ducked low and ran toward the back.
Talen followed, guns in hand. The sounds of battle echoed behind them with shrieks of pain and gunfire. Smoke filled the air.
Reaching the back door, Jase nodded.
Talen yanked it open, and Jase darted inside.
Three men in full soldier uniforms stood in attack formation, guns out. Maps lined the walls, and a table in the center was full of battle plans. Debris, containers, and bricks were scattered throughout the space.
Jase dove to the side and rolled, coming up firing.
Talen did the same.
Jase hit one demon, while the other two ducked behind metal containers.
The breath in Jase’s lungs heated. He recognized one of the soldiers. A high-up officer in Suri’s army, the guy had helped torture Jase more than once. He growled low, rage sharpening his vision.
Talen scrambled to the north and jumped the other guy, hitting him in the head three times. The demon hit the floor, unconscious.
Jase ducked under a volley of bullets and reached the one he’d shot. Removing the long blade, he decapitated the bastard with one hard slice. Turning, he slid between two containers.
Images of death filtered through his head along with a piercing pain. He smiled, his fangs dropping. Opening his mind, he allowed the terror to take hold. Bile rose from his gut. He sucked in all the demon energy he could reach. The pain slowly dissipated, digging somewhere deeper than his physical being. Something to worry about later.
He lifted up, facing the remaining soldier. “I remember you.”
The demon smiled, his black eyes morphing to purple. “I remember you, too.”
Talen staggered into view, his knife at the throat of the demon slowly regaining consciousness. “Stop the attack, or he loses his head.”
The mind attack ebbed.
Blood dripped off the knife in Jase’s hand. “Where’s my nephew?”
The demon frowned. “Not here. Why would you think he’s here?”
Fucking demons always lied. Fury ripped down Jase’s torso, and he stalked closer. “Last chance. Tell me where he is.”
The demon’s silver medals matched his hair. Had he earned some of those by torturing Jase? By breaking him? The bastard shook his head. “I don’t know where he is.”
Jase darted forward.
“Cineri gloria sera venit,” the demon chanted.
Jase stopped cold. Confusion hazed his vision. His gun lowered.
“Jase?” Talen growled, angling to the side.
No sound would come out of his mouth, no matter how hard Jase tried to speak. His legs weakened.
The demon chuckled. “You didn’t think we let you live for the hell of it, did you?”
Dread weighed down Jase’s limbs. He coughed, fighting to speak. “Can’t move.”
Talen sliced off the head of the soldier he was holding, throwing him to the ground and reaching for Jase.
“Cineri gloria sera venit.” The remaining demon hissed. “Now, you kill. Nunc.”
Jase pivoted, his gun rising to point at Talen. Oh God. He fought his own hold, but it was absolute. What in the hell? He tried to growl, but nothing came out. His legs trembled with the need to turn away, but they remained in place.
His brain wasn’t controlling his body.
Talen’s eyes widened. “Jase. You can beat this. Dig deep.” Even so, Talen slowly drew a knife from his pocket.
Jase slid the safety into place.
“Nunc,” the demon said.
The safety clicked off with a flick of Jase’s finger. His shoulders shook as he tried to fight the command to kill.
Talen dropped to the ground and threw the knife. The long blade embedded itself in the demon’s eye. The soldier grabbed the handle, screaming.
The mental hold on Jase disappeared. Roaring, he turned and tackled the demon.
“Wait, Jase,” Talen yelled. “We need him for information.”
A roaring filled Jase’s head. Blood covered his vision. Rage heated him until he couldn’t breathe. Yanking out his knife, he slammed it into the demon’s neck, piercing all the way to the floor. Spitting venom, he twisted right and then left.
The demon’s head rolled away.
Jase lifted up, bellowing. He’d kill them all. Pivoting, he ran toward the door.
Talen stopped him, both hands against his chest.
Jase threw his brother to the side, yanking open the door.
Talen’s tackle came from behind and thunked Jase’s face against the asphalt. A firm hand grabbed his hair, lifted, and slammed his forehead back down.
Stars exploded behind his eyes.
Then, he slid into the safe blackness of unconsciousness.
Even though the demon was holding back his power, Garrett’s brain hurt like it was swelling against his skull. He swallowed blood from biting his tongue. The steps to the top wavered, and he had to concentrate not to trip.
Gunfire echoed through the night.
He reached the top of the boat, and fresh air slapped him in the face. Cold and pure, it tempted him to breathe deep. Two men grappled near the bow.
The demon shoved him in the ribs. “The raft is over there.”
A second demon shot a Kurjan and knocked him into the water. The demon jogged over. “The boat will detonate in three minutes.”
“Good,” the first demon said. “Let’s get out of here.”
A small splash sounded, and a large hand gripped the railing before a man vaulted over. Water sprayed. He swung at the other demon, knocking the guy to the ground.
Hope filled Garrett. While the guy wore a mask, he obviously wasn’t a demon.
The demon holding him shoved him harder toward the stern. “Move, kid.”
Garrett slid across the wet floor, tightening his knees for balance. “Untie my hands, and I won’t fall.”
“Don’t care if you fall.” The soldier grabbed his arm and yanked.
“Now that’s just not nice.” Garrett pivoted and kneed the guy in the nuts. The demon hissed in pain. Garrett crashed his forehead on the guy’s nose.
Instant pain ripped into Garrett’s brain. He cried out, going blind. A punch to the face sent him ass-over-teakettle back down the stairs. His face landed first, followed by his legs.
The pain in his nose compounded the agony in his brain, and he rolled over.
With a hard thump, the demon landed next to him. The bastard groaned as he hit. Garrett scrambled to the far wall, tugging uselessly with his wrists.
Long legs came into view as the man dressed in black jumped into the room, slamming the door shut. He was dripping wet, and a mask still covered his face.
The demon lifted his head, and the tall guy slammed a flak boot into his jaw. The demon slumped unconscious.
Using the wall for balance, Garrett stood. Who was this guy? Green eyes stared out of the mask, and sharp fangs dropped low. A vampire? “What the hell?”
The guy grabbed Garrett’s elbow and swung him around. A quick snip, and his hands were free.
He pivoted. “You’re a vampire?”
“Partly.” The guy ripped off the mask to reveal a hard face with dark hair. A scar lined the side of his face.
Gunfire pattered through the night.
The guy turned and eyed the exposed wires in the cell. “Hmmm.” Grabbing the demon by the armpits, the guy threw him with a fierce grunt. The demon hit the wires and kept going.
“Duck.” The vampire tackled Garrett to the carpet.
The world detonated.
Heat flashed a second before smoke filled the cell.
Garrett turned his head to view the gaping hole in the wall. Moonlight glinted off the churning waves outside.
The boat pitched.
The vampire hauled Garrett up by the shirt and tugged him to the opening. “Jump and swim north. I have a raft waiting.”
A body hit the water from the above deck. Garrett’s gut clenched. “Thanks, but I’ll just—”
The guy knocked him into the water.
He went under, swallowing salt. Sputtering and swearing, he shoved to the surface and smacked his head on the bottom of the boat. The guy splashed next to him and yanked him free.
“Listen, kid. If you want to live, you’ll follow me to the fucking raft.” Turning, the guy dove under the surface.
Garrett paused and eyed the ocean. He couldn’t see the shore, and the boat would explode soon. Taking a deep breath, he slipped a knife from the throat of a floating body and then dove to follow his dubious rescuer.
He kept pace, keeping track each time the guy readjusted his course.
The night stilled. A second later, the boat exploded with a ball of fire billowing out. Garrett sucked in air and dove several feet down to avoid being hit by raining debris. The ocean surface lit to a bright orange above him.
He swam under the fire until it no longer glowed. Shooting to the surface, he sucked in oxygen and glanced back at the burning embers. No shouts of pain or gunfire remained.
“This way, kid,” the guy whispered.
Garrett searched again for the shore but could only see darkness. He slipped the knife into his jeans and swam toward the voice. A small raft bobbed in the swelling waves, while his new friend hung on the edge.
A man leaned over the side. “It took you long enough, Zane.”
The guy nodded. “Kayrs? Get the hell on the boat.”
Garrett’s mind spun. “Zane? Janie’s Zane?”
“That’s me.” Zane grabbed the back of Garrett’s shirt and yanked up, while the guy in the raft tugged.
Garrett flopped over and scrambled to sit with his back to the other side. The guy helped Zane up, and the two instantly started rowing away from the remnants of the boat.
“What the fuck took you so long?” the other guy asked.
“Shut up, Sam.” Zane shook out his wet hair, keeping his rowing rhythm. “You try to maneuver in between a Kurjan and demon fighting to grab the trophy.”
Garrett growled. “I’m not a trophy.”
“You are tonight, sport.” Sam grinned, his green eyes glowing in the darkness.