I don’t think it matters, Bjorn said. No matter where we go, we’ll be destroying part of a demon army.
True. But the six leaders will be concentrating their efforts on gaining control of the humans. The more humans they recruit, the less we can do to fight back.
So again, where do you want to start? Xerxes asked.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that it’s rude to mind-talk in front of a girl?” Maleah muttered.
Thane ignored her. He thought for a moment. We’ll split up, each take an area. If one of the six is discovered, the finder will alert the others and we’ll go in together.
Since their rescue from that demon dungeon, they had spent no more than a single night apart. They had always had each other’s backs. But to stay together now was to slow their search, and they owed the former king more than that.
I’ll take New York, Bjorn said.
I’ll take the Highlands, Xerxes said.
Las Vegas was the second-biggest red dot, but...
I’ll take Auckland. I have a house there. Thane protected what was his.
He clasped Bjorn’s hand and pulled him in for something the humans called a chest bump. Then, Bjorn flared his wings and was off. He did the same with Xerxes, and he, too, darted away.
“Thank you so much, Maleah,” the girl muttered with a shake of her head. “You helped us tremendously, Maleah, and we couldn’t have done this without you.”
“That has yet to be proven,” Thane told her.
She tossed him a scowl. “You better learn some manners before you approach me again. Otherwise, I won’t give you any new information.”
He fought a grin. He had yet to meet a female who could resist him for long. And that wasn’t pride talking, but truth. Too many ladies had a weakness for a pretty face, and he had a face prettier than most. He would have been saddened by the fact that so few cared to look beyond the surface at the man inside if he’d ever actually wanted a female to see the man inside.
“Why do you do this, anyway?” he asked Maleah. “You cannot buy your way back.” No one could. Some Sent Ones had returned to the heavens after falling, but actions had had nothing to do with it. They’d had to approach the Most High and ask.
“I know I can’t,” she said softly.
“Then why do you do this?” he asked again.
She didn’t face him, but he could see that her smile was sad. “You’re probably intimately acquainted with my answer.”
NICOLA WANTED TO BE anywhere other than a fancy steak house with two men she barely knew. But she was determined to have a good time for her sister’s sake. And so far, everyone at the table believed she was.
“—and so, about two years in, I realized she’d been cheating on me with my brother for most of our relationship. And you know what? That wasn’t even the worst thing she did!” Blaine, Laila’s date, told another story about the woman who’d broken his heart, ruined his life and left him tangled in all kinds of emotional wreckage, only stopping long enough to gulp the rest of his fifth beer.
Laila placed her hand over her heart, her eyes watery as she listened raptly and tried to offer comfort.
Dex rubbed the back of his neck.
Nicola forced a smile and shifted in her seat. She’d ditched the comfortable, pretty clothes Koldo had given her in favor of the black dress she’d worn to the triple funeral for her mom, her dad and her brother. It had seemed like a good idea when she’d pulled it out of the closet. After all, it was probably better to look outdated than to wear what one man had bought her while spending the evening with another. But she’d put on a little weight, and the material was constricting, making it difficult to breathe.
Koldo had taken one look at her and scowled. “That’s how you want the human to see you?”
How could she have responded to that?
After that, he’d lectured her about safety, ending with, “Do you have your phone? You had better have your phone. Call me if he does anything you don’t like. Or if he doesn’t like something you do. And don’t forget you have the tattoos on your arm. And don’t forget you can call upon the Most High.”
His scowl had darkened before he’d flashed her and Laila to her house. Then, he’d commanded her to stand still while he ran his burning-hot hands all over her face, her arms, even her legs—smearing every inch of exposed skin with some kind of glittery lotion. Then, without an explanation, he’d vanished. She hadn’t seen him since. But at least he hadn’t taken his warmth with him. For the first time in her life, she wasn’t wearing a sweater, wasn’t pressed up against the living furnace known as Koldo, yet her body temperature was properly regulated. She wasn’t shivering.
Dex and Blaine had arrived soon after that, and here they were, at Kodiak. They sat at a small table illuminated by candlelight, the thrum of a harp playing softly in the background.
Laila looked gorgeous in a red satin sheath dress Koldo had purchased, with her pale hair tumbling down her shoulders. Blaine wore a dark suit and tie, both of which were askew. Dex also wore a dark suit and tie, the perfect complement to his lean build. He’d been nothing but solicitous, eager to please, and had hung on her every word. Every woman needed to date a man like him at least once. But, despite all that...she still wanted Koldo. Only Koldo.
“So,” Dex said, tracing her knuckles to pull her into a private conversation probably meant to tune out Blaine.
There was no heat in their touch, no tingles. “So,” she said.
He frowned, even paled, and drew back his hand. He looked down, studying his fingers in the light.
“No. No. I just... I thought I felt a terrible... Uh, never mind.” He forced a laugh. “So you got tattoos, huh?”
“I never would have guessed.”
“Why not?” she said, because she had no other believable response.
He shrugged, saying, “Fair enough. So did I tell you that I haven’t been on a date in months?”
“But why?” The moment the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake and blushed. “I’m so sorry. That was such a rude question. And I have no room to judge. I haven’t been on a date in years.”
He sipped at his wine, studying her over the rim of the glass. “That’s impossible. Every man at the office is halfway in love with you. And if you had ever shown the slightest bit of interest, they would have been fully in love with you.”
In love with her? There was just no way. “Why would they want...” Another rude question, and one she wouldn’t finish.
“Why would they want you?” Dex asked, completing the sentence for her. He gave another laugh, this one relaxed. “You’re so composed, so quiet, and you’ve been so sad lately. It’s become a compulsion to make you smile. You’re more beautiful every time I look at you, yet you have no idea. And I could go on and on.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly. If she didn’t change the subject she would burst into flames. “So...have you spent any time with Jamila and Sirena?”
He’d been in the process of swallowing another sip of wine and choked. He coughed, beat at his chest.
“Fine, fine,” he wheezed. “Uh, what makes you ask about those two?”
“I was just wondering how they seem to be doing to the rest of the office.”
“Oh, uh, great I think. I...haven’t really cared to find out about them.”
The waiter arrived with the food, set the plates on the table, and Dex released a relieved breath. The sharp scent of the spices hit her, and her stomach twisted with hunger, a voracious appetite demanding attention. Just then, she wished she’d ordered a juicy rib eye rather than a bowl of fettuccine.
“Tell me more about your recovery process,” Laila said—and Blaine did just that.
“They’re sure getting along,” Dex said, again reaching out to pat Nicola’s hand.
The table never shook, and yet his wineglass suddenly tipped over, the dark red liquid quickly spilling over his jacket and pants. Yelping, he jumped up.
“Excuse me,” he gritted out before hurrying to the men’s room.
“He’s lucky to still be alive. I could have thrown daggers.”
“Wait. Did you think I was complaining? I was actually cheering.”
They’d stood beside the foursome’s table for the past twenty minutes, watching the couples interact.
Koldo had arrived in a bad mood, and that mood had only grown worse. He’d tracked his father, and it’d been easy to do. Every flash left an imprint in the air that was vacated, and Nox had done a lot of flashing. But the trail had led to Nicola’s house and grown cold, a fact that had enraged Koldo. A rage he wouldn’t allow himself to express. He had a woman under his care now. No longer could he give his temper free rein. What if he scared Nicola? Or inadvertently hurt her?
Axel, who could find anyone, anywhere, had had no luck with the Nefas. So, they’d given up for the time being and come here.
Koldo had nearly dialed her number a thousand times. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked—so beautiful he hadn’t wanted the other male to see her. He wanted to tell her that he was sorry for snapping at her.
He wanted to tell her that her date was a liar and a sex fiend.
Dex was the one Koldo had seen having sex with Sirena right on top of Nicola’s desk, that time he’d visited her office. And now the male was pretending not to know the girl.