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Authors: Laura Thalassa,Dan Rix

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BOOK: Blood and Sin (The Infernari Book 1)
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I slammed my palms into the metal bars, jarring them ever so slightly. “You filthy carcass! Let me out!”

“Do that again, and I’ll snap your wrist.”

“I’d like to see you try,” I said.

Brad sighed in exasperation and faced his friend. “You want to let me work, or you want to fuck it all up? Now, you mentioned earlier there was a gatekeeper . . . Fidel, right? How’d you end up with her?”

“She stumbled across us and healed the bastard while I was trying to kill it . . . from half a mile away.”

Brad stared at him. “She
healed
him?”

Asher grunted in affirmation.

Brad gave a low whistle. “That ain’t good. I thought you were in balls deep before, but shit. This time you might be beyond saving.”

That didn’t seem to scare Asher. Or if it did, he didn’t wear his fear. Not like most natives.

“Why?” The notorious hunter readjusted his stance to grip the cell’s iron crossbeam high above my head. My gaze drifted down his corded arms to where his abs peeked out from beneath the edge of his shirt.

I forced my gaze away from him, but not before I caught a glimpse of his narrowed eyes.

Brad ran a hand over his face. “Last I heard, there were two healers left. One is the primus dominus—he was one of the warring demon lords during their civil war. He now rules over all demonkind.”

My pacing got more agitated.

Asher’s eyes flicked to me before returning to Brad. “The other?” he asks lazily.

“His beloved daughter, the princess of Abyssos. My guess is, we’re looking at her.”

Asher studied me
with more interest.

“He doesn’t have any daughters,” Asher said.

“Infernari—”


Demons
,” Asher corrected.

“—think of family in more ways than we do,” Brad said. “Those that share affinities consider themselves connected through their powers.”

“Is this true?” Asher asked me.

My upper lip curled. “Like I would tell you.”

He and Brad shared a look, one I couldn’t begin to understand.

“Yo, take five,” said Brad, nodding toward the hallway. “Let me talk to her alone.”

Asher hesitated, and for just an instant, I saw more than just a burning soul in those eyes of his. And in that instant he looked at me like Brad had, like I was something beautiful and captivating. Then the look was gone, swallowed up by his hate.

He scowled at me, but gave his friend a jerky nod. “I’ll be in my room.” He backed away from the cage.

“Bye Asher,” I said, lifting my hand and flashing him that finger these humans found so offensive.

“You haven’t seen the last of me, demon,” he said. And then he was gone.

Now it was just me and Brad.

“The bad interrogator left. The good one remains. And I’m still not going to talk.”

“Listen, I get it, you want to help your people out. I know what that’s like,” Brad said.

I actually laughed at that. “I doubt it, Brad.”

His eyes fixated on my lips.

Lustful human.

“You know, you fit in pretty well. How long you been coming here?”

I pressed my lips together and peered at my nails.

“Lana, I’m going to get you out of here, I promise . . . but I need your help, alright?”

For one brief moment, hope bubbled up. If I could get out, I could find another portal . . .

Don’t trust them.

Hadn’t I been told that a thousand times?

“You should let me go because it’s the right thing to do,” I said. “I can’t help Asher. Once my people learn of his existence, and they will, he will die.”

Brad folded his arms and leaned back on his heels, regarding me with raised eyebrows. “I think you can do better than that, Lana. See, that man is the closest thing I have to a brother—”

“I’m sorry for your choice of family,” I said.

The corner of his mouth lifted. “Is that a joke?”

“No.”

Brad ruffled his hair. “My point is, him dying . . . not an option. So right now, you and I need to work together to keep him alive. You give me your word you can talk to some people, you can make that happen,
then
you can go free. Simple as that.”

“I will
never
make that oath,” I spat, revolted at the mere idea of arguing for Asher’s mercy.

Brad went back to studying me. “Are things still bad there? In Abyssos?”

I nodded before I realized I was doing so.

“And you still want to help your people?”

I gave him a scathing look. I wouldn’t risk this very situation if I didn’t need to.

“Just asking, just asking,” he said, holding his hands up, his palms flashing at me.

I bristled at the aggressive gesture before I remembered—
human
. He couldn’t attack me with magic. Brad seemed to notice the faux pas then, because he quickly dropped his hands.

Then he went back to staring at me.

“Ask your questions, Brad.”

“What kind of name is Malesuis?”

I walked up to the bars and pressed my body against them, wrapping my hands around the poles.

His eyes flitted up and down my torso, and I saw his subtle swallow.

“It means
badlands
. I am Lana of the Badlands.” The red, craggy earth, the dozens of sand-worn castles long since abandoned. These were the first sights I took in when I entered the world.

“Aren’t the Badlands abandoned?”

He shouldn’t know all this. The primus dominus had made sure to exterminate the humans that knew too much.

It would be a shame to end one war only to begin another,
he’d said.

“My parents were on military tour at the time.”

“And you’re named for the land you were born in,” he finished, a smile blooming along his face as he put it together.

“I have many names. Malesuis is just one.”

I was also Lana Skinwalker and Lana Lifebreather.

Brad’s grin still hadn’t disappeared, and it reminded me of slippery things.

I needed to stop talking. I also needed to release this hope I was clinging desperately to. I wouldn’t be making it out of here alive; it was foolish to believe otherwise.

“Where’s your family now?” he asked.

“Some are in the ground, and some still breathe,” I said, shifting my weight. “But all of them are on the other side of the portal your friend destroyed.”

I could tell that wasn’t the answer he wanted.

I was getting better at reading the natives.

“How many blood bags did you take?”

“Ask Asher,” I said.

“Dozens?” he guessed.

I didn’t bother answering. Wisps of smoke curled off my hair as I paced.

“That’s a lot of blood magic,” he said. “That, and the fact that you’re fairly well adapted to human culture . . . You’re not just saving a few people, are you?”

I didn’t respond.

“Could you save a human?”

I huffed out a laugh. “As if I would save a human.”

“But if you wanted to?”

My gaze pulled to Brad. “No.”

“Can you heal multiple Infernari at the same time?”

Despair was beginning to set in. It didn’t matter whether I could or couldn’t, so long as I was stuck in this cage. I turned my back to the human and lowered myself to the floor.

Wrapping my arms around my legs, I leaned my head against the wall. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

I wouldn’t escape this place.

Asher

While Brad interrogated
her, I sank onto the squeaky mattress in the bedroom up the corridor, furnished not much better than Lana’s cell—moldy concrete walls, dim light bulb in a wire cage, horrible stench of gasoline.

The house had plenty of bedrooms, but none of the rooms upstairs were safe.

If demons came—and they
would
come—they would burn it to the ground.

Hopefully, they would presume it empty. Even if they did learn of the bomb shelter, it would take them days to dig us out. For now, we were safe.

Hopefully.

Brad’s and Lana’s relaxed voices drifted up the hall, too muted to hear, and it ticked me off. The jerk was shooting the shit with her, not interrogating her.

Making small talk. With a
demon
.

He was more of a carrot guy. I liked the stick.

This bedroom also served as my war room. Pinned to the wall over a stainless steel desk, a map of the world bore dozens of crisscrossing lines and arrows—my notes on where the portals were located.

I had shit.

They hid their gateways well, and no demon knew the location of more than two portals at a time. So assholes like me couldn’t get gullible demons like Lana to squeal and blow their whole operation—and I
would
get her to squeal.

If, for whatever reason, they needed access to another portal, they would use magic to erase their memory of the first two, thus covering their tracks.

Clever bastards.

But so far, their strategy had worked against them. Without complete knowledge of the portals, they hadn’t caught wind I was destroying them.

I’d picked off three so far, in addition to the one I’d busted up yesterday—mostly out-of-the-way back entrances into our world, the ones they rarely used and wouldn’t miss. But now I was getting to the more heavily trafficked portals, the demon thoroughfares, the ones they would be guarding. Especially now that I’d blown my cover.

Nine left.

Two more, I believed, in the Americas. Four in Europe, two in Asia, and one in Africa.

Apparently, they didn’t give a fuck about Australia.

But with demonkind weakened by civil war, no new portals had been built in a thousand years.

Portals took time and many generations to create. A portal master would pass on the task of weaving a new portal to his kin. But to do so, he needed access to both sides. Earth, and that ashy shithole from which they spawned.

It came down to a simple truth, a realization I’d had years ago.

If I killed all the demons on Earth and destroyed all their portals, the connection between Earth and Hell would literally be severed. Cut off from human misfortune, demons would gradually wither away and die.

Never before had the complete annihilation of demons been feasible. Throughout most of human history, they had numbered in the millions. Their magic made them all but invincible. To the Egyptians, they were gods. To medieval Europeans, they were witches and warlocks. They were always our superiors.

Then two things happened.

A brutal, centuries-long civil war had cut their numbers to just over a thousand. That, and the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity—technology.

Technology leveled the playing field, made us equals. Humans and demons.

They had their magic, I had my machines.

Now, for the first time ever, they could be driven from our world.

I was going to go for it. A Hail Mary.

But I couldn’t fight a thousand demons at once. Twenty, yes. A thousand, no.

Which meant I had to close those portals ASAP, before I had every demon and his grandma riding my ass. But first I had to find them.

I paused to listen again, and caught another snippet of Lana’s doll-like voice—
the succubus
—interspersed with Brad’s murmurs of understanding.

Really? How long were they going to chat?

When I wanted info, it took ten seconds.

Ask the question . . . cut off a body part . . . threaten to cut off another . . .

It wasn’t freaking rocket science.

Ten seconds, tops.

Did I have to go back out there?

Focus, Asher.

Brad was a pro at this, he tricked them into trusting him . . . and Lana wasn’t my usual captive. Probably better to get her to talk willingly.

Still bristling, I shut their voices out and turned my attention back to my map.

Two more portals in the Americas. Where would a demon put them?

Well, they hated the cold.
Despised
it.

Leaning over my desk, I crossed off Canada.

That left the United States, Central America, and South America.

Okay, getting warmer . . .

I hesitated at Florida. Nah, not their style.

Louisiana, though . . .

I rubbed my jaw, considering it. Plenty of ghost stories and haunted houses in New Orleans . . . could be attributed to a nearby demon portal.

I drew a question mark over New Orleans and moved on to Mexico and Central and South America.

The Aztecs, the Incans, the Mayans, blood sacrifices, ancient ruins, vast unexplored cave systems . . . it had demon written all over it.

“Bingo,” I whispered, circling the whole region.

I’d bet my left nut there was a portal there.

Brad stepped into the war room. “So . . . we got a problem.”

I checked the time on my phone. “The hell took you so long? You were supposed to be interrogating her . . . not boning her.”

“I’m going to ignore that,” he said, taking a seat on the bed. “You want to know what she said? Or you just going to be a dick?”

“Go. Let’s hear it.” I leaned against the wall and ushered impatiently for him to continue.

“So she is the daughter of Primus Dominus, like I thought.”

“So I’m fucked.”

“Asher, you’re fucked in so many ways I can’t even keep count . . . and now I’m fucked too, because I put my life on the line for you.”

I nodded grimly. “What else?”

“So Dominus is going to be coming after you. Hard. Because you’re hunting his species, you tried to kill his portal master, and now you kidnapped his beloved daughter. Real smart, Asher. Real smart.”

“How was I supposed to know it was his daughter? What’s he doing sending his daughter up here, anyway?”

“They’re desperate, they need blood. Not a lot left who can navigate Earth . . . especially now that there are
rumors
humans have been destroying portals.”

“Nine left,” I said. “I’m close.”

Brad peered at me. “You need to stop.”

“I can’t. You know that.”

“You’re committing a genocide. Let her go, she’s innocent.”


No
demon is innocent,” I said. “What happens when they build back up? Ten thousand demons . . . a million demons . . . a hundred million demons. We’d be right back in the Dark Ages. It’ll be ten thousand years before we get another shot like this, and by then maybe
we’ll
be extinct.”

“It’s supposed to be balanced,” Brad said, “our world and theirs. It’s been that way for centuries . . . for as long as there’s been civilization.”

“She tell you that? Them using us like cattle, you think that’s balanced?”

Brad sighed. “This isn’t about balance. This is about Nicole and Joy.”

My jaw tightened at the mention of my wife and daughter. “They
hunt
us.”

“You hunt them.”

“Forget it. I’m not talking about this with you. What about her healing ability? You get anything on that?”

“She’s a healer.”

“And?”

“Like we thought.”

I stared at him. “The hell is this? Am I interrogating
you?
Fucking give me something, Hawkins. I saw her regenerate the portal master out of a pool of blood from over half a mile away. How’d she do it? What’s her minor affinity? Besides giving you bedroom eyes and making you forget how to move your mouth.”

BOOK: Blood and Sin (The Infernari Book 1)
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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