“There’s a lethal dagger out there.”
“And there are lethal Dread out there too, and fuck knows what else. There’s always something, and there always will be.”
I wanted to argue, but my anger was cooling in the face of his arguments. “I wanted to help. You wouldn’t, and I couldn’t just let him do it alone.”
“No, you wanted to impress him. You fancy him, and you wanted to spend time with him.” He sounded tired. He picked up his glass and took another swig of blood. “But hey, not your fault. Golden boy always gets the girls.”
Was he serious right now? “You’re wrong, Mal. I wanted to go home. I offered to help because you wouldn’t. Because I was afraid if he went after those figures alone, then he’d die, just like Peiter. I saw them kill him. I saw them stab him, and I watched him die. I almost died, and like fuck was I going to let Conah suffer the same fate.”
Mal was silent for a long beat. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. “Look. Truth is, this is your home now, whether we like it or not. This is your life. There is no in-between, and Conah should have told you that instead of pandering to your insecurities. You’re a reaper now. End of.”
His words settled on my chest like a boulder. The weight of responsibility I didn’t completely understand yet, but one I wanted to understand. Had Conah held back? Had he been pandering to me? I needed to know for sure what I’d been missing.
“Fine. Then show me. Show me what it means to be a reaper.”
His eyes narrowed. “You want me to train you?”
His eyes narrowed in consideration. “Not for long.”
“I want you.”
He smiled, all cocky once again. “Well, when you put it like that, be ready in two hours. I’m taking you to Deadside. It’s time you connected with your Voralex location.”
Deadside housed my Voralex location. These were places where a conjunction of leylines could be found, and in those specific locations was a Voralex.
Apparently, each Dominus had one. A place they drew power from, a place they were connected to. Conah’s Voralex was on the Academy grounds, Mal’s was in purgatory. Azazel’s was located in central Necro City, Vale’s had been in outer Necro, and Peiter’s had been in Deadside. Now, it was mine.
“He should have taken you there immediately,” Mal had said. “Fuck the entrance order. It’s your Voralex. You could have used that power to fight off the vampires. To connect with your scythe quicker.”
In a couple of hours, we’d be leaving for Deadside. My stomach bubbled with anticipation, or was that hunger. I’d been unconscious for three days, my stomach needed food.
I made my way to the kitchen on the hunt for something, anything to fill the hole in my belly, and caught the scent of something delicious. Someone was cooking. Conah? No. He was still unconscious. Then who? I came to a halt in the kitchen doorway.
A man stood with his back to me at the stove, taller and broader than Conah. His silver-white hair came down to his shoulder blades and was tied back in a half-bun. A black T-shirt stretched across his back, and gray joggers hugged his taut ass, but his feet were bare. He stopped stirring the pot, lifted his head, and sniffed the air.
Could he smell me? “Um, hello?”
He turned his head, offering me his profile, nostrils flaring. “Who are you?”
His voice sent a shiver of pleasure through me—a low baritone that sounded like it wasn’t used often. His profile was powerful, cut from granite. The mark on his neck registered. A mark like Conah’s. He was Lilith’s blood.
“I’m Fee, the new Dominus.”
He dropped the spoon in the pot with a clatter and spun to face me. His silver eyes widened in his tanned face at the sight of me, and his mouth twisted in a snarl.
I took a step back, sure he was about to attack me.
“Azazel. Oh, thank God you’re home.” A figure pushed me aside. Slender, female, dark-haired, and all over the stunned demon standing by the stove.
His gaze remained fixed on me as he returned the woman’s embrace with an awkward pat. She had to push up on tiptoe to hug him, and when she released him, he finally tore his gaze from me and fixed it on her face.
This woman was Kiara. She had to be.
I caught the curve of her cheek and the sweep of dark lashes. “We almost lost him, Azazel. Just like we lost Peiter.” Her tone thickened as if she was about to cry.
“Peiter is dead,” Azazel said.
It should have been a question because I was certain he hadn’t known, but he’d surmised as much now. It was obvious from the sorrow etched across his brow.
He took a deep breath. “How?”
“Peiter was attacked by a mystery sect. Killed with a mystery dagger,” Kiara said.
Something flashed across Azazel’s face, but he masked it quickly.
“Conah?” he asked in his soul-penetrating rumble.
“Dread attack.” Kiara finally turned her head to look at me, and the vitriol in her pretty almond eyes cut through me like a hot knife. “He was with her. Peiter’s replacement.”
The way she said it. Her attitude, her fucking disgusted tone flipped me from civil to fuck you, bitch.
“She is called Fee, and if I hadn’t been there, your betrothed would be fucking dead. So, how about a little respect, eh?”
She flinched. “How dare you speak to me like that?”
I pulled myself up to my full five-seven height, allowing myself to tower over her. “How dare you come into my home and speak to me like that. I’m a fucking Dominus reaper, so either get some respect or get out.”
Kiara looked to Azazel.
“Kiara is a princess,” Azazel said.
“And that makes it okay for her to be rude?” I made a sound of disgust. “You don’t know me. You have no idea what happened out there, and you have no right to judge me.”
Fear and doubt hit me hard in the chest, followed closely by a twisted emotion that had teeth and claws.
Oh, crap. She was worried about Conah and jealous. She was jealous. I blew out a breath. Oh, man. I hated this empathy crap. It wouldn’t let me ride the self-righteous train for long.
I pressed my lips together and found the words needed to defuse the situation. “I’m sorry for snapping at you. You must be worried sick about Conah.”
She swallowed hard. “He hasn’t woken up yet.”
“He’s strong. He will wake up. You just need to be by his side when he does. He’d want to see your face.”
She blinked at me in surprise.
I shrugged. “I mean, who doesn’t want to see the person they love when they open their eyes?”
She cleared her throat. “Thank you. I … Maybe we can take tea together later?”
Not an apology but an olive branch. I’d take it. “Sure. I’d like that.”
She offered me a small smile. “I should get back to him.”
Azazel grabbed a bowl, poured some soup into it, and handed it to Kiara. “Eat.”
She took it and, with a final glance my way, headed out of the room.
Azazel and I were alone. So, this was the leviathan’s son. The ancient one. The scary one. Whoa, he looked like he was contemplating clubbing me over the head.
He crossed his arms over his broad chest so that the biceps bunched and locked gazes with me.
“Tell you what?”
Okay, a man of few words, it seemed. I pulled out a chair and sat down. “I’ll trade you information for some soup.” I smiled tentatively up at him. “It smells really good, and I haven’t eaten in three days.”
He stared at me for a long beat, as if trying to figure out what language I was speaking. Just as the silence was about to get awkward, because, yes, there was still room for that, he filled a bowl and placed it in front of me.
Fuck that smelled good. “What’s in it?”
I picked up the spoon and got to work. Five minutes later, the bowl was empty.
Azazel took the chair opposite the table from me. “Talk.”
I sat back in my seat, took a deep breath, and started at the beginning. I told him about the attack on Peiter, about the dagger and the hooded figures. I told him about how Conah and I had tried to find the chestnut-haired guy and finished with the Dread attack on Conah.
He was silent throughout. His face expressionless.
I noted the scar that ran across his face in a diagonal line, starting at his left temple and ending on his right cheek just above his mouth. Did demons scar? I thought we healed completely.
“You won’t leave this compound,” he said finally. “Too dangerous.”
Wait a second. “Excuse me, but you don’t get to tell me what I can and can’t do.”
He made a sound that was part grunt, part growl. “You will stay.”
“Back and barking orders already, eh?” Mal sauntered into the room. “Hello, Az. Have fun with Daddy-O?”
Azazel’s top lip curled, and his gaze flattened. “She stays.”
“No.” Mal gently gripped my upper arm and hauled me out of my seat. “She comes with me. She needs to be trained.”
Azazel slowly looked up at Mal, his mouth stuck in a look of disgust. “You think you can keep her safe?”
“Hell, yes,” Mal said. “And when I’m done with her, she’ll be keeping herself safe. You know, feminism, girl power, and all that.” He made pom-pom motions with his hands. “Chill out. Take a load off, have some soup. We’ll be back soon.”
Azazel’s jaw ticked as if he wanted to argue but was holding back, or maybe he just didn’t have the words. His vocabulary seemed limited.
“Where?” he asked finally.
“Deadside,” Mal answered a little too cheerfully. “I’m about to connect the fuck out of our new recruit.”