“Aw. The ugly Nefas thinks he’s going to win.” Axel placed a hand over his heart. “It’d be cute if it wasn’t so stupid. I bet you’re a crier, aren’t you? Yeah, you’ll cry when you’re spanked. I can tell.”

The new speaker had him turning to the left. He watched as Sirena stepped from a puff of black smoke, dragging Nicola and Laila behind her.

The girls were bound, pale and shaking. Sirena gave a vicious tug of her wrists, yanking at their ties, and they tripped forward, falling to the ground. Nicola had a split lip and a bruised jaw, but Laila was otherwise unharmed. There was a clear strip of tape covering both their mouths, and tears had stained red tracks down Laila’s cheeks. Nicola radiated anger and determination.

She would fight. Till her dying breath, she would fight.

Koldo’s rage returned full force, guilt fast on its heels. He should have protected her. But he hadn’t. He had failed. And he would punish himself for it, he vowed. No one would have to do it for him. He would make sure he suffered for this.

Sirena preened, fluffing her hair. “Like you, I can flash. I’m surprised you didn’t realize. But I do appreciate the suggested stay at Chez Caveman.”

She could flash. She wasn’t bald, but she could produce black smoke when she flashed. She was definitely Nefas, though she must be of mixed race, like him. Her other half wasn’t Sent One, that was for sure. She had no wings, hidden or otherwise. No sword of fire.

“Look at that,” his father said. “My only children are getting along so well. How delightful.”

Axel, who had moved, but had remained at Koldo’s side, stiffened.

But then, so did Koldo. Nox’s only...children? Koldo’s study of Sirena intensified. She was short. He was tall. She was blonde, her eyes blue. He was dark-headed, his eyes amber. But...their features were somewhat similar, he realized. They had the same strong cheekbones, the same proud nose and stubborn chin.

“I’ll give you one chance,” Nox said. As he spoke, five serp demons rose from the dirt and slithered to his sides. “Just one to make things right between us. Bind yourself to Sirena and continue my bloodline, or die here with your woman—after I play with her a little.”

Koldo popped his jaw, not allowing himself to so much as glance at Nicola and catch her reaction to this.

“Sirena’s a tasty little treat,” his father added, reaching out to pat her bottom. “You’ll quite enjoy her. I did.”

Disgusting male. And I sprang from his loins. “Are you agreeable to this?” he barked at Sirena.

“I am,” she said, and bent over Nicola. She placed a kiss against the tape covering her mouth as the girl tried to turn her head away. Sirena’s intentions were clear: she wanted Nicola’s soul. All the while her gaze remained on Koldo. “You’ve been promised to me since my birth, and I will have you. One way or another. What happens to the human depends on you.”

Four other Nefas strolled over to their group, one eating from a bag of popcorn, another biting into a caramel apple and another drinking a cup of coffee. But he could see the guns and knives stashed at their wrists, waist and ankles. They were warriors.

Worse, there were two demons with them. Lefty and Righty. Lefty’s arm had been reattached, though it hung limply at his side, but Righty’s horn was still missing. Both males were grinning.

I’ll flash to the girls and throw them at you, he projected into Axel’s mind. Catch them and fly them to safety. I’ll stay behind to fight.

He expected resistance. After all, a Sent One had just found out that Koldo was half-Nefas, the vilest race to walk the earth.

Instead, Axel said, Dude, you better keep yourself alive. There’s no way I can deal with those two ladies for long...without throwing a shagging party.

The serps slithered to the girls, mouths hovering near their ears, ready to breathe their toxin all over them. The girls would experience intense waves of fear, and that fear would open their minds to harsher attack. Were they strong enough to resist? To overcome?

“I’ll have her,” he said—though he failed to specify which one. And the word have had many different meanings, didn’t it?

Nox nodded with satisfaction, but said, “I don’t actually believe you. But that’s okay. You won’t leave this spot until it’s done. Then, you’ll have to be punished for killing my people.”

“No. That’s not how this will go down.” He flashed to the girls, dislodging Sirena as he covered both humans with his own body. The serps immediately bounded into action, exhaling their toxin before sinking fangs into his arms.

A burning in his veins, a release of the venom.

The moment the creatures pulled back, intending to make another play, he tossed both females at Axel, as planned. The angel’s wings whipped out, and he darted into the air, leaving Koldo alone with a horde of enraged Nefas.

“YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE done that,” Nox said, reaching up to grab the hilt of a sword he’d strapped to his back. “I was willing to be nice. Now, not so much.”

The four Nefas warriors dropped their food and withdrew guns.

“We should take this somewhere private,” Koldo said.

One word from his father. “No.”

Very well, then. Koldo extended his arm and summoned the sword of fire. The flames burst forth, a mix of yellow and blue, crackling. He would be battling his enemies in both the natural and the spiritual realms. It wasn’t ideal, but it also wasn’t impossible.

Most of the humans in the park gasped at the display of aggression and weaponry. Some ran. Some sat down as if they were about to be entertained with an after-dinner theater performance.

The Nefas flashed to Koldo’s sides as the demons converged. He swung the sword left and right in quick succession, going for his father first, but the male flashed a few feet away to avoid being hit. At the same time, the others lashed out at him. He dodged one, two, three, but not the rest, and took the impact in his arm, side and leg.

A bullet grazed his shoulder. A sharp sting caused him to hiss. Bleeding, he flashed behind Nox, and swung his sword. But his father sensed him and also flashed, leaving three of his men vulnerable. The sword slicked through their bodies. Two of the Nefas went down face-first, dead. The other whipped around as he fell and squeezed off another shot. This time, Koldo flashed before the bullets could nail him.

Lefty realized he was close enough to strike and swung, his wing slicing out, reaching...missing. Koldo flashed to the other side, struck—decapitating a Nefas. But Lefty and Righty were familiar with his brand of fighting and anticipated his landing.

The moment he was busy swinging his sword at someone else, they flew up and over, kicking him in the face. He stumbled backward. A chorus of “ooh” and “aah” erupted from the growing crowd.

Sirena flashed behind him, catching him before he could straighten, but rather than stab him, as he expected, she pressed her body against his, and dug her nails into his neck. Nails that seemed to leak a boiling liquid straight into his veins. Her grip was strong. Impossibly strong.

Hot breath fanned over his skin as she said, “I’m going to relish cutting your female to ribbons and sucking out her soul.” She jumped up to lick his cheek with a long, hot stroke. “You’re mine, and don’t you ever forget it.”

As she spoke, the serps wrapped their tails around his ankles and jerked. He slammed his elbow backward, drilling Sirena in the stomach as he fell. They both went down. As breath exploded from her in a pained rush, he tried to turn, determined to end her. But the demons still locked around his ankles gave a vicious tug, and he skidded away.

Lefty and Righty were there, kicking and punching at him. All the while, the remaining Nefas flashed in and out, punching and vanishing, punching and vanishing. Sharp stings erupted over every inch of him. He rolled over, and the demons clawed at him as he tried to sit up. He let them, wanting them close enough for contact—with his weapon. They scratched and bit at him, lost to their need for revenge, unaware he was raising his sword of fire.

He killed three before Sirena regained her composure and approached him alongside Nox. But when Sirena raised her arm, as if to strike him, putting herself in harm’s way, Nox shoved his daughter out of the way. She slammed into the two demons approaching his other side, the three tumbling to the ground, away from the strike of Koldo’s sword. Still Koldo carved through the demons at his feet. Fetid steam rose, and black blood spilled. The grass sizzled.

He rolled to avoid another kick, and saw a glint of metal in the corner of his eye. One of the Nefas was lifting a sword, preparing to behead him. Again, Koldo rolled, the tip of the weapon slamming into the dirt, dark grains flying in every direction. He flashed to a stand a few feet away, just behind his father. He swung, and the fiery tip slicked just above Nox’s shoulder, headed for his heart, before the male flashed away.

A whoosh of wings penetrated his ears, followed by another. Malcolm and Magnus landed a few feet away from him, Jamila behind them. Grunts began to split the air. Metal slammed against burning metal, clanging. Koldo spun, and saw that the Sent Ones were engaged in a fierce battle. Malcolm and a Nefas. Magnus and a Nefas. Jamila and Sirena. The Nefas could have flashed away for good, but Koldo knew their mind-set. Knew they liked to remain in a battle as long as possible, inflicting as much damage as they could, only leaving at the threat of death.