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|Shadowed(Dark Protectors #6) by Rebecca Zanetti|
Grabbing the zip tie from his pocket, he fastened Chalton’s hands behind his back, then secured him to a post in the corner. Even if the vampire woke up, he wasn’t going anywhere.
Jase hit a button to unlock the door and jogged down the steps to reach the cell.
The demon lay on a cot, staring at the ceiling. He turned and stood, black eyes filling with purple.
Jase slipped his gun from his waist. “Where’s Suri?”
“Fuck you.” The garbled tone proved the soldier was purebred demon. The silver hair was a good clue and matched the row of many medals across his uniform.
“Not interested.” Jase shot him in the gut.
The soldier doubled over with a muffled oof. Straightening up, he grimaced. With a grunt, the bullet dropped out of his flesh to ping on the cement floor.
Images of death and destruction ripped into Jase’s brain, followed by slice after slice of pain. He smiled.
The demon’s eyes widened. “What the hell?”
“Your attacks don’t affect me.” Not true, they still hurt like hell. But he could deal and still function. “Years of countering them, I’m afraid.”
The soldier lifted his chin. “You’re the youngest Kayrs brother.”
“Sure am.” Jase pointed the gun at the soldier’s head. “We haven’t met, have we?” Many of his torturers blended together until they all looked like Malco.
“No. Not my thing.” The demon brushed dirt off his medals. “Though I could definitely have broken you.”
“You’re still welcome to try.” Jase shot him in the cheek.
The demon’s head twisted, and blood sprayed. He growled and turned back to face Jase. The bullet dropped out of his flesh, and the hole slowly closed. “That all you got?”
“No.” Jase unlocked the cell door and stepped inside, drawing his knife. The idea of torture turned his gut, but he needed answers to stop the people who’d kill his family. There wasn’t a question in his mind that the demons would come after Brenna just to hurt him. They’d tortured him for fun, but he’d torture for necessity. Unlike the demons, he’d get no pleasure from the act. “That was just foreplay. Now we get to the good stuff.”
It took nearly three hours to break the demon. Finally, Jase wiped the blood off his blade and returned to the control room. Chalton sat in the corner, fury in his eyes.
Jase paused. “I said I was sorry.”
“Unbind me, asshole.”
Jase grimaced. “Not quite yet. You’ll call Dage, and I need a head start.”
Chalton eyed him from head to toe, eyes widening.
Jase groaned and glanced down at the massive amount of blood covering his clothing. Some was his from the demon’s mental attacks—his nose had bled for hours. But most belonged to the demon.
Chalton growled. “Is he dead?”
“Unfortunately.” Jase hadn’t intended to kill him, but the guy was stubborn.
“Did he give you the information you wanted?”
“Yes.” The prisoner had finally given up the demon stronghold in Nevada, but he hadn’t been able to confirm how long the leaders would be on site. Most would be leaving within the day, apparently. Time was too short. “I’ll send word back in a couple of hours for somebody to release you.”
“I’m going to kick your ass, Kayrs,” Chalton growled.
“You’re probably gonna have to stand in line.” Jase exited the room, shutting the door tight. Chances weren’t great he’d return from the demon stronghold, but at least he’d take out the leaders there. The demon he’d tortured had confirmed that the demons had plans to attack the vampires on the solstice.
So was the dream a coincidence or some odd vision? Chances were a coincidence. Visions had never plagued Jase, unlike nightmares. Those would always find him.
The moon was dropping low in the sky, and soon dawn would arrive. He’d be on his way before then but first needed supplies and fresh clothes.
Opening his front door, he stopped short at the sight of Brenna sitting in the moonlight with a sketchbook in her hands. Several drawings surrounded the spot where she sat on the floor near the open wall.
She looked up, shock filling her face as she scrambled toward him. “Is that your blood?”
“No.” Heat filled his lungs—an odd sort of panic. “I’m fine.”
She frowned and fingered his wet sleeve. “I don’t understand.”
He pulled his arm away, not wanting demon blood to touch her. “Why are you up?”
She stepped back. “I woke up and you weren’t there. Where were you?”
He shrugged and avoided her gaze. “I have work to do, but I’ll be home later.” Turning, he headed for the armory off the kitchen to change.
She followed him. “Jase, what’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Why did she have to be awake, damn it? “Everything is fine. Go back to sleep, and we’ll celebrate your birthday later.”
She ignored his offering and grabbed his arm. “Did you torture that demon?”
He shook her off and yanked the bloody clothes off his body. “I did my job. You knew it wasn’t pretty.” Grabbing combat gear, he quickly suited up.
Brenna lifted her chin. “You’re going after the demons.”
“By yourself?” she asked, edging toward the door.
He grabbed her shoulder. “Yes.” Lowering his head toward hers, he gave her his fiercest expression. “You’re not to call anybody. Understand?”
Fire flashed into her eyes. “Aye, I understand. I’m to let you go off on your suicide mission without lifting a finger.”
“Yes.” He tugged a bulletproof vest over his head.
She wrapped her arms around her waist, hugging herself. “What about the solstice tonight?”
He paused. “I’ll be back.”
“If you’re not?”
“Then Moira and Conn will help you.” The disappointment in her eyes cut through his heart like a sharpened blade.
“I need you.”
The words slashed deeper than her expression.
“I’m sorry, Bren.” And he was—with everything in him. But this was his last chance to get Suri and Malco before they disappeared again. “Please understand.”
“I do. I fully understand.” She turned and headed into the kitchen. “I’m going home. Don’t try to contact me again.”
He stood in the armory, indecision halting his movements. For years he’d dreamed of this moment, he’d planned for it. Not even for Brenna could he give up his need for revenge. “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too,” she whispered, slowly moving out of sight. Out of his life.
He turned and grabbed another knife, shoving all emotion away. If he survived, he’d bring her back.
Doubt filtered through him, and he shook it off. One battle at a time. For now, he needed to grab the Degoller Stars from his gym. It was way too late to fight fair. Slipping out the door, he ran under the cover of darkness to his gym.
Stepping inside, he stopped short at the sight of Dage leaning against a far wall. Rage had lit the king’s eyes a vibrant blue, cutting hard lines in the sides of his mouth.
Jase swallowed, his anger rising. “Chalton freed himself.”
“Yes.” Dage twirled a star in his hand. “You killed the demon.”
“I plan to kill several more.” Jase eyed the two remaining stars on the top shelf.
His older brother waved a hand, and locks engaged on the large door. “I don’t think so.”
Temper heated Jase’s lungs, even as he measured the holes in the metal from Brenna’s fireballs. Not one was big enough for him to jump through. “Unlock the doors.”
“Fuck you, Jase.” Dage threw the star, and the weapon stuck in the far wall.
A roaring filled Jase’s ears. “Fuck you, King.”
“Ah, there’s the anger I’ve been looking for.” Dage angled closer, his voice softening to a deadly tone. “No more brave stoicism, huh?”
Jase’s fingers clenched his hands into fists. “You don’t want to do this.”
“Oh, but I do.” The king stepped close enough to hit. “Let’s talk about that anger, shall we?”
“I’m angry at the demons, which is why I have to go. Now.” Panic had Jase stepping back.
“No, you’re mad at me. It’s time for you to stop being such a chicken-shit and deal with it.” Dage angled to the side, effectively blocking Jase’s way to the exit.
“I’m not mad at you.”
“Well, I’m pissed as hell at you.” The smile the king flashed lacked humor.
“I know. I’ve been a pain since I got back, and as soon as I take care of the demons, I’ll work on the attitude.” Jase tried to shove down the anger, but fury rose up like furious insects finding a hole in the surface.
“No. I’m pissed because I spent half my life training you, and you failed. You allowed the fucking demons to capture you, and then you let them almost break you.” Fire crackled along the king’s arms.
“What?” Jase stepped back, the sense of betrayal chilling him. “You think this is my fault?”
Jase saw red. He jumped for the king, slamming him to the ground, not even registering the relief sliding across Dage’s face.
He punched with full strength into Dage’s jaw, trying to reach the floor.
Dage’s head slammed against the concrete, and he reared up, throwing Jase into the door.
Pain lanced down his spine. He came out swinging, going for blood.
Dage caught him with an uppercut, not holding back. Jase flew back into the wall, knocking the stars to the ground. His vision wavered. In his entire life, Dage had never tried to hurt him.
“This is your fault, King,” Jase growled, circling his brother, fury burning him from the inside. “You sent me to fight as a kid, and then sent me to the demons. You’re more king than brother.” He swept out a foot and nailed Dage’s knee.
Dage pivoted, swinging wide to break Jase’s ribs. “I thought you could handle it. I was wrong.”
Jase punched Dage’s sternum, satisfaction lifting his chin when bones shattered. “I handled it.”
The king’s fangs dropped low. “Bullshit. I should’ve sent one of the women.” He kicked Jase square in the jaw, sending his head crashing back.
Jase growled and lost all control, arms swinging.
Dage met each hit, each kick, with one of his own.
Heavy fists pounded on the door.
They ignored them, both looking to draw blood.
All of the rage, shame, and fear Jase had been living with rolled through him, strengthening his hits. The agony flowed out of him inch by inch. Blood sprayed, bones shattered, and emotions ruled.
The pounding on the door got louder, and a drill sprang into action.
An hour passed. They both fought as if they had nothing left. Finally, Jase knocked his bloodied brother to his knees. Gravity yanked him right down, and he kept going until he lay prone. Blood poured from his body in several places.
He coughed up blood. The ball of fire that had been living in him disintegrated. Gone for good.
Dage slid onto his back, his broken bones rattling. “Feel better?”
Jase tried to see out of his swollen eyes. “Yeah. You?”
“Much.” Dage wheezed out air.
Jase didn’t know what organ to heal first. “Are we going to be all right?”
“Yes. Of course. We just needed to exorcise the demons. Ha-ha.” Dage coughed, the sound echoing like death. “Are we all right?”
“Yes—we’ve always been all right. I’ve just been angry.” So angry sometimes he couldn’t even think.
“That’s what I figured.” Dage groaned. “You blew up my spleen.”
“Sorry.” Jase’s lung collapsed. “Ow.”
“Tell me now. Everything,” the king wheezed, the drill continuing outside.
So he did. Lying in blood next to his damaged brother, Jase let loose the truth. His fears, his pain, his guilt.
Dage listened quietly until he wound down. “I missed you.”
Jase sighed. “I missed you, too.”
The door flew open. Talen, Kane, and Conn ran inside, panic on their faces.
Dage chuckled and then groaned. “Our rescuers.”
Jase opened one eye. “The see, hear, and speak monkeys.” His laugh made him groan with agony.
Kane dropped between the two, his fangs slashing into his wrist before he stuck it to Jase’s mouth. Talen did the same with Dage.
“I’ll get Max. We need more blood,” Conn said, turning and running from the building.
Kane’s blood exploded down Jase’s throat. “What the hell?”
Jase swallowed. “We had a disagreement.”
Kane lifted one eyebrow. “Is it settled?”
Jase exhaled. “Yeah. It’s settled.” And it was. For the first time since being rescued, he felt whole. He turned his head to view his battered and bruised older brother.
Then he smiled.
Brenna punched in keys on her laptop, muttering to herself. She’d only been gone a few days, and already the Dublin economic plan needed tweaking. The plane banked to the left, and she took a moment to say good-bye to the life she might’ve had.
“See ya, asshole,” she said into the clouds. Within thirty minutes of Jase’s heading off on his suicide mission, she’d packed and secured a plane ride home. Small private plane with six empty rows and a bedroom in the back. Being one of the Coven Nine often had its perks.