He was trying to lighten the mood, but he wasn’t shielding, and his concern was a palpable force. Azazel, on the other hand, was a closed book.
“She would have bled out.”
“Yes, I know. A Dread’s kiss nulls the scythe’s healing power,” Mal said. “I get it. I’m just playing with you.”
“You won’t take her anywhere without my permission,” Azazel said. “From now on, Seraphina is my problem.”
“Whoa, wait a fucking second. She’s not a thing you can claim.”
“You want to fight me?” Azazel said calmly. “She stays with me. No discussion.”
What? A flame of indignation lit up my chest, and I finally surfaced into the room, into the conversation.
“No.” I yanked my arm from his grasp. “Fuck you. You don’t get to tell me what to do. No one does.”
Azazel stared at me impassively. His eyes, which had been milky at the Academy, were sharp and silver once more, boring into me. “As much as I would love to, I can’t let you die.”
“Az, what the hell is going on?” Mal said.
“Where’s Conah?” Azazel asked.
“Still unconscious,” Mal said.
Azazel nodded. “Why did you bring her to the Academy, knowing the threat we faced? Did you want her dead?”
“Fuck you, silver boy.” Mal looked genuinely offended. “I had her back. Consider it on-the-job training.”
“So, you would protect her?”
Mal tensed, immediately on alert. His eyes narrowed. “Look, I’m not fucking enamored or anything, but she’s one of us. If she dies, we could end up with a dud in her place.”
“Would you protect her with your life?” Azazel pressed.
What the hell was going on?
“Hang on a second.” Mal held up his hands. “Az, you know me. I don’t go down for anyone unless it’s in the bedroom, and they’re willing to return the favor.”
Azazel closed his eyes for a second as if reining in his temper. “Would you allow intentional harm to come to her?”
Mal fixed his emerald eyes on me, and for the first time since we’d met, there was no humor in them. “No. She’s too much fun to tease.”
Azazel’s shoulders relaxed. “In that case, it’s time to share my burden. The only logical course of action is to tell you the truth.” He glanced at me as if I was a problem he’d rather not have.
I suppressed a shudder.
“Which is?” Mal prompted.
“Sit, both of you.”
Mal shot me a look and then jerked his head toward the sofa. I joined him, sitting side by side as Azazel paced.
“A long time ago, Mother sent me on a quest.”
“That’s Lilith,” Mal said from the corner of his mouth.
Azazel glared at him.
“What? She needs to know.”
Azazel sighed. “I suppose she does. It was after Samael got sick. Lilith was distraught. Nothing worked to cure him.”
“Sick?” I looked from Mal to Azazel. “What was wrong with him?”
“Memory issues,” Mal said. “Azazel, go on.”
“Lilith asked me to kill all demons born of Samael and Eve’s union.”
“Cain and Abel’s progeny?” Mal let out a low whistle. “Fuck. Why?”
“She didn’t say.”
“And you did it?” Mal asked.
Azazel’s gaze fell on me. “I did, all except one bloodline. Descendants of Cain.”
Why was he looking at me?
“Eve stopped me before I could finish,” Azazel said. “She cursed me to protect the bloodline.”
Mal pointed a finger at me. “Fee is a descendant of Cain?”
“Yes,” Azazel said. “She lives because I failed Lilith.” His eyes bore into me. “She lives because I have protected her bloodline for centuries.”
“I don’t understand …” But I was getting there. “If you were watching over my bloodline, you would know what happened to my parents?”
“Dead,” he said. “A fire. I was unable to save them, but I saved you.”
“You put me in the system?” I stared at him in horror. “What about aunts or uncles, I must have had them?”
“No. Your mother was the only one.”
“How is that possible?”
His lip curled in a sneer. “I was cursed to ensure the bloodline didn’t die. Not to protect all of you.”
“Fuck, Az,” Mal said. “You killed the rest, leaving only one?”
“Mother gave me a quest,” he replied.
“And she doesn’t know you never completed it, does she?” Mal stood. “Az … what the fuck?”
I was absorbing this. Working it through my mind and putting the pieces together. “What happens if you fail? What’s the cost? Because you could have orchestrated a failure a long time ago if you wanted. So, why haven’t you found a loophole?”
“Eve used my blood to cast the curse,” Azazel said.
“Oh, shit.” Mal ran a hand over his face. “If you fail, Lilith gets affected, right?”
Azazel nodded. “Not sure how. But Eve promised pain.”
“I don’t get it, how can this Eve have so much power?”
“Legend says Eve is the first witch,” Mal said. “She spawned what we today call magic. All humans with the ability owe it to her. You won’t find a supernatural able to wield magic. That is a human ability.”
“Eve is powerful,” Azazel said. “Her power is equal to Lilith’s.”
“Then just tell Lilith the truth,” Mal said.
“I can’t,” Az said.
Mal made a sound of exasperation, but I was busy studying Azazel’s face.
“Mal, I think he physically can’t tell her.”
“Then I’ll fucking tell her,” Mal said.
Azazel’s smile was cold. “You won’t be able to.”
“You’ve tried to send people to tell her, haven’t you?” Fucking hell. “What happens to people who try and tell?”
“They die before they can speak the words.”
Okay. Well, that sucked. He had to keep me alive to save his mother from whatever pain Eve had planted.
“What if it’s a lie?” Mal said. “What if there is no consequence to letting the bloodline die?”
“Hey.” I shot him a lethal glare.
Azazel inhaled wearily. “I can’t take the risk.”
He was stuck with me. Forced to keep me alive, and from the look in his eyes, he’d do whatever it took to achieve that goal.
Panic fluttered to life in my stomach. “I won’t be put in a cage.”
Mal and Azazel exchanged looks, and ice filled my veins.
“I hid you,” Azazel said. “I paid for charms and enchantments to hide your signature to ensure you wouldn’t be found, but when you took the scythe, you broke those enchantments.”
“Then we find new charms to hide her,” Mal said.
Azazel snorted. “She has Eve’s face.”
I touched my cheek. “I look like her?”
“Yes.” His lip curled again. “If Lilith or her assassins see you, there will be no doubt that I failed.”
That he lied, and then Lilith would try and kill me. Fuck.
“It wasn’t an issue when you were living a human life,” he continued. “Lilith and the oldest demons rarely, if ever, venture to the human realm, but you’re in our world now.”
“We can’t lock her up. She’s bound to Deadside,” Mal said. “She’s a Dominus, and we need her.”
“Which is why she stays with me,” Azazel said. “Trains with me. Becomes my fucking shadow.”
Mal rubbed his chin and pouted. “As long as we keep her away from Dread and the Dominus-killing dagger, she should be fine. We get her working with her scythe and properly bonded to it so she can heal quicker … we can do this.”
I was touched by Mal’s concern, but when I tried to catch his eye to communicate my gratitude, he studiously avoided mine. I didn’t fail to notice Azazel’s reaction to the mention of the dagger, though. He’d reacted similarly earlier when Kiara had told him about it.
“Azazel? You know about the dagger, don’t you?”
“Maybe,” he said.
Mal threw up his hands. “You either do, or you don’t.”
“There have been many dangerous weapons over the centuries.” He shrugged. “We neutralized them.”
“And you think this dagger is one you missed?” Mal asked.
“It could be.”
“Well, that’s a starting point,” Mal said. “There has to be an archive somewhere.”
“The celestials have it,” Azazel said.
But my mind was wandering. Going over everything I’d just learned. I was a Dominus descended from Samael and Eve. Was that why Peiter’s scythe chose me? My head hurt from all the revelations. I needed a minute, several minutes. Fuck, I needed to sleep on this. I needed to bury my face in my pillow and cry for the little boy who’d lost his life today.
I stood and headed to the exit.
“Where are you going?” Azazel demanded.
“For a bath. And no, you can’t come with me. Shadowing can wait till tomorrow.”
Cora was sitting on my bed with Cyril curled up beside her. “I got back from the market, and you were gone. I was so scared.”
I kicked off my boots. “The Academy was attacked.”
“I know. Iza filled me in. She got the details. You almost died.”
She was scanning my face, concern etched on hers, but I was numb. I was tired, and I was so fucking sad.
“I don’t want to talk about it right now. I just … I want to soak in the bath and not think.”