Conah studied me for a long beat. “I understand how you might want to cling to your human life, but Fee, you’re not human. Don’t you want to explore that? Don’t you want to understand what you are and explore the world that you belong to?”
“Aside from the fact that there’s a scythe linked to me and I could speak to my pet snake, I don’t feel any different.”
He chuckled. “Let’s get you trained up, and then we can reassess living arrangements. As for Deadside, that was Peiter’s jurisdiction, so now it passes to you.”
He nodded. “I’ll explain everything. We’ll start with the textbook stuff today and hit the physical training tomorrow. Why don’t you get freshened up and meet me in the kitchen in half an hour. We can talk while I make dinner.”
“I do, I just … I didn’t expect you to.”
“Why?” His eyes twinkled. “Because I’m a man or because I’m a reaper?”
I winced. “I guess I’ve had really shitty male role models in my life.”
His eyes darkened, and he took a step closer, reaching up to brush a tendril of hair from my cheek. A fizz of electricity shot through me, and heat bloomed in my belly.
“Well, that’s about to change.” His voice was that low, rumbly vibe again that made my knees weak.
It was only when he’d left the room that I realized he’d completely dodged my bed question when it came to him. Damn, I’d have to be forthright when it came to finding out if he had a lover.
Not that I cared …
Okay, I was lost. How was this possible. I was great with directions, and I’d gone back on myself to where I knew the kitchens were, but instead of being where I should, I was on a different floor. The pinnacle floor if the balcony and extended walkway outside the huge windows were anything to go by. These windows had handles, unlike the ones on the lower floor. So, this was where the reapers launched themselves, wings spread wide as they hurtled down toward the town.
A feeling of longing gripped my throat, and before I could stop myself, my hand was on the window handle, ready to twist and pull it open. Whoa, where had that come from?
I shook off the sudden desire to take a running leap. I needed to find my way back to the lower floors. I backtracked again, but everything looked unfamiliar. The corridor narrowed, and there were no longer any windows to look out of, just the scent of jasmine. A soft moan drifted toward me, followed by another and then a masculine chuckle.
The hairs on my body stood to attention. I should stop, turn away, but my feet seemed to have a mind of their own, carrying me down the corridor to the partially open door beyond. The aroma of sex hit me, running over my body and digging its fingers into the back of my neck to pull me closer.
The sounds were unmistakable now. Sounds of sex, the slap of flesh on flesh, the grunt and moan of pleasure. I should go, but instead, I was leaning into the doorway, peering in like a pervert, lady bits throbbing in anticipation.
Naked bodies writhed on the bed, slender limbs entwined, mouth at the apex of thighs and hands rubbing breasts. Two women made love, rubbing together as they rode each other to climax. My body tightened, the blood rushing to my head, and then the door was flung open, and Mal blocked my view. His chest was bare and glistening with oils, and his emerald eyes were dark with desire.
“Changed your mind?” He looked down at his crotch, and I couldn’t help but follow his gaze to see the huge tent in his pants. “Touch it. You know you want to.”
I was reaching for his cock before my brain came back online. Wait, what the heck was I doing? I pulled my hand back and took a stumbling step away from him.
He smiled, chest heaving as the noises behind him grew louder, the cries approaching climax.
His smirk was mocking. “Another time, maybe?”
The women screamed out their orgasm and, ignoring the wetness between my thighs and the desperate desire to touch myself, to have Mal touch me, I turned and ran.
The kitchen smelled divine. Fragrant and meaty and my stomach sat up and made grabby hands. The décor here was old school—huge double oven, wooden cupboards, and a sturdy dining table. Large windows showcased the night sky, so you could eat while watching the icy world beyond.
“What took you so long?” Conah asked.
I pulled out a chair and sat. “I got lost.”
“You did?” He looked surprised, then shrugged and turned back to the stove and whatever wonderful thing he was cooking. “I guess we’ll have to work on your direction skills.”
He sprinkled some herbs into the pot, stirred, and then covered it.
“What are you making?”
“Lamb stew with potatoes and veggies. It’s quick, easy, and nutritious.” He crouched and opened the oven, and the smell of freshly baked bread sent me into pre-food orgasm state.
Saliva pooled in my mouth, and I swallowed it quickly. “You made bread.”
He carefully put the bread on a cooling rack. “It’s pretty easy.”
“No, it really isn’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. The last time I decided I could make bread, I ended up screaming at Cora and storming out of the house.”
He chuckled, a deep sexy sound that had me crossing my legs to staunch the answering throb.
“I’ll teach you one day.”
Images of me kneading dough with Conah behind me, his hands on mine as he helped me to get the dough right, filled my head. What movie was that from again?
“Did you come across Mal on your travels?” Conah asked. “I don’t think he’s eaten since he found out about Peiter.”
My neck grew warm. Fucking Mal and his sexed-up demon women. “Nope, haven’t seen him. Is it your job to make sure he eats? He’s a grown man, reaper, whatever.”
Conah stopped cutting the bread and turned to face me. “Mal can be a total dick, and he gets on my fucking nerves, but we’re a team. We look out for each other. It’s just the way it is, Fee. Don’t rise to his barbs, and he’ll soon bore of his games.”
There was obviously a dynamic between the Dominus reapers that I needed to learn about, understand, and somehow fit into. But right now, Mal was the last person I wanted to think about after what I’d seen and almost done. What the hell had been wrong with me?
Wait a second … “You mentioned that some reapers have skills?”
“Yes, some of us do. I have the ability to read memories.”
“You read minds?”
“No, just memories.” Conah drained rice in a colander. “Peiter could alter human memory, he was also an excellent tracker. He also had an uncanny nose for avoiding or finding trouble …”
He trailed off, probably thinking what I was, that his abilities hadn’t stopped Peiter from getting killed.
“And Mal?” I asked casually, keeping my tone light.
“Mal creates illusions. He can make people see things that aren’t there and suggest they take various actions.”
Like make them think they were lost and make them touch his cock? Urgh. At least my actions made sense now. “So, he has mind control?”
“Not exactly. Mal can put a suggestion in someone’s mind, but the person will act on the suggestion if they are open to it. For example, he couldn’t make someone kill themselves if they didn’t want to; however, if that person was suicidal already …”
Great, so I was a closet cock grabber, and now Mal knew it. Urgh, I was so going to get him back over this.
I looked up to find Conah watching me.
“Is everything okay? Did something happen with Mal?”
Damn, did he have super intuition too? And why did my lips suddenly want to blab? I pressed them together. Like hell was I about to tell him that I’d watched two women have sex and almost grabbed his brother’s cock.
“I’m fine, just trying to wrap my head around everything.” Like what the hell I’d been thinking. Mal was a dickhead. I mean, I liked sex and men and cock, but I didn’t like him.
I suppressed a shudder.
“Are you cold?” Conah asked.
Aw, shit. I needed to think about something else. “Tell me about the scythes. You said they were celestial, so angels gave them to you?”
“The scythes are the treaty between the beyond and the Underealm. Angels watch over humanity, but they can’t carry souls to the beyond, they need psychopomps for that.”
“I know what that is, a spiritual guide of a person’s soul.”
“Pretty much. A psychopomp can tether to a soul and carry it to another destination. Most demons are psychopomps, but Lilith’s bloodlines are the strongest, probably why we’ve been chosen by the scythes for so long.”
He smiled. “Right.”
“So, what do the scythes do exactly?”
“They act like suitcases. Celestial suitcases that can carry hundreds of souls at one time. Regular reapers collect several souls each a week, and then Dominus reapers head to the collection points in their regions and reap all those souls into the scythe for transport to the beyond. The scythes act like a key to the portal to the beyond, and we let the souls out on the other side where the Grigori take over.”
Grigori? “You mean like Uri?”
“Yes. The Grigori are the watchers of humanity, the intermediaries between the underworld and the celestial realms.”
“So, they protect humans?”
He let out a bark of laughter. “I said they were watchers. They aren’t permitted to intervene in human affairs. They watch, and they record. We’re the ones who protect.”
“And yet,” Mal said from the doorway. “We get the shitty rep.”
He wiggled his eyebrows at me. My chest grew hot, and my cheeks started to burn. Again. Nope. I would not give him the satisfaction. I met his gaze levelly, and after a moment, he narrowed his eyes and smiled at me speculatively.