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Authors: Laura Thalassa,Dan Rix

Blood and Sin (The Infernari Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: Blood and Sin (The Infernari Book 1)
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“You know what, I don’t need this crap right now.” Brad stood and ambled toward the door. “Call me when you’re ready to be an adult.”

“Sit down,” I barked. “You leave, and you’re a dead man. They’ll be coming after you, too.”

He shook his head at me. “Man, how do you sleep at night?”

“I don’t.” I raised my palms. “Truce, alright? No more name-calling. What else did she say?”

He peered longingly at the door, then exhaled loudly and paced back across the room. “She talked about a connection to other demons,” he said. “Might have been figurative, I don’t know. She’s healing a lot of demons with that blood.”

“Yeah . . . fuck.” I squeezed my jaw. “She has to die. She’s too dangerous. With that kind of healing ability, every demon could be as strong as an army. A thousand of them . . . they could overrun Earth. They’d be invincible.”

“Primus Dominus pretty much
is
.”

I drew my hunting knife. “You want to do it? Or should I?”

He flinched. “Jesus, Asher. Just . . . just chill out for ten seconds, alright? Do that human thing.
Think.
Bargaining chip, dude. You’re in a tight spot, you got Dominus coming at you hard, he’s about to rip your head off—but wait, wait, you have his daughter . . . do I smell a trade?”

I conceded his point with a grim nod. “No, that’s smart. I agree. But I don’t trust her.”


Her?
She’s a kid. Look at her, man. She’s a lamb among wolves.”

“I trust the ugly ones.” I thrust a finger in the vague direction of her cell. “Not
that
 . . . whatever that is.”

“What’s she going to do to you? You’re Jame Asher.”

“She’s
distracting
.”

“Ah, not so easy to villainize anymore.”

“Shut up. A demon’s a demon.” I slipped the knife back into its sheath and tossed it onto my desk. “I’ll sleep on it.”

“Thought you said you didn’t sleep.”

“Central America,” I announced, ignoring his quip. “That’s where the next portal is.”

Brad drew back. “She . . . she told you that?”

“No, but she’s about to . . . .” I strode to my map, squeezing my jaw again. “If I can shut down their access to this continent, I can buy us some time. Somewhere near ruins, I’m guessing. A Mayan temple or something like that. See if I can get her to narrow it down.”

“Bro, you can’t do this. Those portals have been there for thousands of years, longer . . . freaking geological timescales. They’re part of their mythology. They’re
sacred
to them.”

I kicked the desk leg and faced him. “My wife and my baby girl were sacred to me . . . and those creatures slaughtered them, used them up like tanks of gas . . . and for what? Some parlor tricks? Every human life is sacred, and they burn through us like kindling to fuel their magic . . .  one cursed family member at a time. So don’t you talk to me about sacred.”

He held my gaze. “This is wrong, Asher.”

A faint scratching reached my ears. I tensed, scanning the room for its source, and my gaze slid to the air vent behind the desk, which pinged and began to hiss air. My hand inched toward my gun.

“It’s your AC, dude. You’re a fucking spaz.”

“I heard something else.”

He rubbed his shoulders. “Why do you keep it so cold, anyway? I feel like I’m in a meat locker.”

Though my heart continued to pound, my muscles began to relax. “The cold throws them off.”

“You’re sick.”

I planted my palms on the desk and took a slow, agonized breath. “You’re sleeping in the armory,” I said. “I’ll get you an air mattress.”

“Nah, I’ll just take a guest room upstairs. You’ve got like a billion—”

“Lock the door. If anything comes at you, shoot it. Then burn it. We check on the creature every hour. I take first rounds at midnight, you take one. Do not interact with it, do not listen to it, do not give it anything it wants . . . or she’ll fucking bewitch you.”

“Oh, this is just giving me warm fuzzies.”

I straightened up. “Did you forget what these animals are? Two years is a long time to be out of the business.”

“No, actually, I was hoping for a lifetime, you douchebag—”

A chittering sound cut him off.

We shared an
uh-oh
look, and then our gazes swiveled as one to the air vent, where it had come from.

“Knife,” I said, holding out my hand. Brad whacked the hilt into my palm.

Ducking under the desk, I tossed the weapon and caught it with a better grip, then stabbed it behind the air vent, prying it loose.

Inside, something skittered away.

I plunged my arm in, caught a fistful of claws and leathery wings before it could get away, and yanked the creature out.

It was the size of a rat, its mottled skin the exact gray of my concrete floors, blending in perfectly. As it writhed in my hand, squealing and sinking its claws into my wrist, I made out a hideous, horned face, a sinewy humanoid torso, a scaly serpentine tail.

A gargoyle.

Grimacing, I pinned it under my boot and cut off its head, leaving a smear of black blood.

While I sucked on my own cuts, I motioned for Brad to hand me the acetylene blowtorch at the foot of my bed. The body continued to wiggle under my boot.

I ignited the torch and lit the creature up, sweeping the blue-white flame across its carcass until it bubbled and turned to a puff of white ash.

I cut the flame and sat on my haunches for a moment, breathing heavily. “Trackling,” I muttered. “Let’s pray this was the only one . . . or we’re in for a rough night.”

Brad eyed the pile of ashes. “They knew to look here? I thought this was your safe house?”

“They know. They always know.” With my heel, I ground the ash into the concrete and swept it under the desk. “Don’t tell Lana.”

Chapter 6

Lana

I shivered on
the cot, my body curled into a tight ball.

The thin mattress was devoid of even a blanket, and here the air was bone-chillingly cold.

Made to make an Infernarus suffer.

Heavy footfalls sounded down the hall. I’d listened to them for several hours, pacing as I had paced. It had been a long time since Brad had talked to me. I knew he told Asher everything I said.

I wondered if they got the answers they needed.

Once they did, I was expendable. That’s how these fickle humans worked.

The footsteps stilled, and that was all I heard before my eyes fluttered closed and I drifted off.

The creak of a door woke me.

I sat up, pulling my legs close to my chest.

A light flicked on down the hall that branched off this common area, and the footsteps came closer, thumping against the cement floor, footsteps that could only belong to one human.

“Could you be any louder?” I said.

“Hate to break it to you, demon, but your precious beauty sleep is not my number one concern right now.”

I narrowed my eyes just as Asher stepped out of the hall and into the main room. He flipped on the lights.

I shielded my eyes with my forearm, squinting against the glare to get a good look at my captor.

His gaze fell heavy on me as he grabbed a chair, dragging it forward and stopping only a couple feet short of the bars. Just outside of my reach. He sat backwards in it, resting his forearms on the top of the seatback.

I dropped my arm to wrap it back around my body. I tried to control my shivering, but it was impossible.

“You’re going to kill me?” I said.

He nodded. “Eventually.”

I rested my chin on my legs. “I will fight you,” I said.

“I know. Every demon I’ve killed has.”

And unlike other Infernari, I wasn’t one of the true warriors.

“Get on with it then,” I said.

“Why did you save the portal master? Could have saved a hundred demons back at home with the amount of blood you wasted.”

I rubbed my arms. Asher’s eyes dipped to the action.

“If you saw an Infernarus killing a human, you would do the same,” I said. “It’s instinct.”

His jaw clenched, and the way his body straightened gave off the impression that he was being slowly suffocated from the inside out. Something about what I said . . . like striking a blow.

“You
have
seen it happen,” I said. “And did you save the human?”

“If you want to survive the night,” he said, “drop the subject.”

I cocked my head. “How depraved you must think we are,” I said, studying him through the bars.

“Your kind
are
depraved.” He said it with such conviction. I wasn’t going to change his mind. Not that I was intending to, but it bothered me how very adamantly he believed his own words.

I studied him a little more. His hair was mussed, as though he’d been running his fingers through it over and over again. And I found I enjoyed his eyes on me, regardless of—or maybe because of—how dangerous he was.

An intense shiver racked my body. My arms tightened their hold around my legs. I was bleeding heat.

Asher’s eyes fell on my shaking form. Almost angrily he stood, the chair scraping as he did so. He stalked to the couch, where a blanket lay haphazardly over the back of it.

Snatching it up, he said, “Get to the corner of the cell.”

For once, I decided not to bait him. I was cold, he had a blanket.

I stretched out my stiffened legs and made my way to the back of the cell, near that abominable metal toilet. I wanted to cry out; exposing this much of my flesh to the subterranean air worsened the shakes running through my body.

Asher strode back to the cell. “Stay put, demon—”


Lana
.”

“—You so much as twitch,” he continued, “this thing’s going back on the couch.”

I gave him an aghast look. My entire body was trembling. Even my teeth were clicking. He’d primed me for disappointment.

“I didn’t mean that literally,” he said, and I swear I saw the corner of his mouth twitch. “You’ll know when I’m trying to torment you.”

He lifted his brows in an unspoken warning for me to stay put, and slowly threaded his hand through the bars, stuffing the blanket through. It crossed my mind to grab him and scour his arms with my nails until blood freely flowed. I locked that particular fantasy away and held my ground. Only once Asher had dropped the blanket and sat back down did I come forward and pick it up.

“Thank you,” I said softly. The words tasted bitter. Thanking this man who so gleefully killed my comrades.

His mouth thinned and one of his legs began to bounce. He wasn’t dealing with it any better. I bet he already regretted the small kindness.

I wrapped the small blanket around my body.

It carried a distinctive scent, something foreign yet familiar. It smelled like Asher, I realized.

It didn’t stop me from pulling it close. I untucked my hair, letting it drift around me.

Asher’s eyes moved to it.

I touched it self-consciously, a tendril of smoke sliding through my fingers.

He blinked a few times, then I saw him grimace.

The expression had my hands tightening on the blanket. It was one thing to hate the heart, and I hated his heart, but it was another to hate the shell. That was always uncalled for.

I sat down on the cot and crossed my legs. “You still haven’t killed me, and now you’ve given me a blanket.” Back to taunting.

“Don’t let it get to your head,” he said.

I was getting impatient to fight him—impatient and cold.

I dropped my blanket and stood in one smooth motion. “Why don’t you come inside and we end this now, little man?”

“Little?” He raised an eyebrow. “Does
anything
about me strike you as particularly little?”

My eyes dropped his midsection. “Nothing that I can
see
.”

Now both eyebrows go up. “You’ve been topside more often than you let on.”

It was frightening that a native could tell that easily.

Without the blanket, I began shivering again.

“Why does the primus dominus like you so much?” he asked.

“Why does your mother like you so much?” I replied.

He narrowed his eyes.

I narrowed mine.

“Come kill me, little man,” I said. I was tired of cells and questions and staring and that gods-awful smell of car fumes that lingered in this place.

He leaned forward in his seat, a lock of his hair falling into his eye. “I bet you’d like that wouldn’t you? Dying honorably while trying to kill Asher, the last great threat to your people? It’s not going to go down like that, demon.” He rose from his chair and swiveled to go. But then he paused. “Enjoy the room,” he said over his shoulder. “We’ll see tomorrow if the chill has killed you.”

I glared at Asher’s back, fresh out of curses.

Halfway across the room Asher added, “Oh, and you remember how I said you’d know if I was tormenting you?

“Now you know.”

Brad was back.

I heard him long before I saw him, his bare feet padding against the cement floor. Not loud like Asher’s footfalls, which were sure and determined.

These were quiet. Sneaky.

I stiffened on the cot, where I lay with my back to him, still languishing. Infernari were hardy creatures, but we weren’t meant to be caged.

“Lana,” Brad whispered, “you awake?”

I didn’t answer him.

He flipped on the light.

Great Mother, that burned my eyes. I blinked several times, allowing my gaze to get used to it.

Moving slowly, I flipped over to face him. Even with the blanket Asher gave me, my joints hurt from the chill.

Brad stood on the other side of the bars, clad in nothing except a flimsy pair of boxers. I shivered on his behalf. My eyes trailed over his exposed skin.

A very human plan was forming.

I took my time perusing him over before my eyes found his. “Did you come to keep me company?” I asked, my voice lower, huskier this time around.

He swallowed. Brad was looking at me that way again. Like he wanted to be my lover.

How very foreign these natives’ customs were when it came to mates. How very dissimilar they were to ours.

“Why are you here?” I asked. “Did Asher send you to kill me?” The coward.

Brad rubbed his palms against his eyes and nodded, then shook his head. “No—no. I just . . . I don’t know. Fuck.”

He began to leave.

“Wait.”

He paused.

I sat up and wrapped the blanket around me. “Don’t go.”

He swallowed.

I leaned my head back against the wall, eyeing Brad. I let my gaze drift over him once more. “Not all humans look like you,” I said. “You look like a warrior.”

Male egos seem to be the same both in my world and in this one because Brad rubbed the back of his neck and said with false modesty, “Yeah, well, it used to be my job to stay in shape . . .” He flexed as he spoke.

“I’ve always wanted to touch a human male,” I mused. “I’ve wondered just how similar our two species really are . . .” I let my gaze drift where it may.

Too overdone.

I knew it immediately when Brad’s hands came up.

“Whoa,” he said while I stifled a flinch at the sight of his raised palms. “Look, you’re really pretty, and I’m sure you’re a nice girl and all, and it’s nothing personal, but you hit the sack with an Infernarus chick once and the next thing you know, she wants to be mates, wants you to move worlds when it was just supposed to be a good lay, and when you politely decline, she sics her hundred brothers on you—”

Halfway through his words I began to frown, and when he kept speaking, my annoyance only deepened.

“—and then people die, and the whole thing’s messy—”

I stood, which seemed to cut off his words, and I let the blanket fall from me. Ignoring the cold, I paced to the bars. “I’m going to die, then Asher’s going to die and you’re going to die,” I said. “We’re all going to die, and until then we’re just killing time.”

I let him consider that.

“So you can come in here and keep me warm for a few hours, or you can enjoy your cold, lonely bed. Alone.”

“Jesus, woman,” he said, backing away.

I’d overdone it again. Not surprising; I knew nothing of human flirtation and their casual sexual encounters.

But Brad hadn’t left.

I sighed like he was a great fool and returned to the cot, laying down and turning my back to him. “If you change your mind,” I said, “the offer will still be there.”

My words and my actions seemed to deflate whatever fear he had. He had stopped backing away. I could hear him breathing, fighting with himself I’m sure.

Finally, I heard him mutter, “Fuck it.”

I smiled to the wall as I heard the jingle of keys and then the bars slide open.

I sat up. “I’m glad you changed your mind.” I didn’t have to pretend to look eager as I pushed off the cot and approached him.

“Lana,” Brad said, “Asher can’t know about this. Please don’t make me regret—”

My hand snapped out, my palm shoving up against his nose with all the force I could manage. He cursed and stumbled back as something crunched. I almost sighed as his blood began to flow. I converted it while it was still on his face. Wispy, iridescent flames burned it up. I took my first deep breath in a long time when I felt the magic hit my bloodstream. I made use of it immediately.

My body thickened and lengthened, my clothes stretching with it, until I was the largest, scariest Infernarus I’d ever come across.

Brad took one look at me, and, “Aw, fu—”

My fist slammed into his temple before he could finish. Brad’s eyes rolled up into his head and then his body collapsed on itself. Blood still poured from his nose, enough that I didn’t have to give him a fresh wound to cull the amount I needed.

Quickly I shrugged out of my clothes. Great Mother above and sprites below, it was
fucking
cold.

I turned to Brad.

He wouldn’t like it when he woke.

I stripped him of his boxers, studying his naked body. It
was
lovely, but that’s not why I was looking. I needed to make sure I got every detail right.

I stepped into his boxers as my magic pulsed through me, shortening my hair and contorting my body until I was a mirror image of the man sprawled at my feet. It took only several more seconds to pull the magic from what was left of his blood.

Then I was ready.

I muttered a quick prayer to the Great Mother on Brad’s behalf, then spared him one last glance. His nose was horribly crooked. As a parting gift, I knelt near his face and reset it.

Then I left the cell and headed to the other side of the building. Right where I knew Asher would be.

Asher

My eyelids sprang
open. A hulking figure loomed over me, silhouetted against the near pitch black of the underground bedroom, lit only by the glowing LEDs on my laptop.

Wide awake, I lunged for the cord dangling from my desk lamp and flicked it on, kicking up a flurry of blankets.

My eyes adjusted to the glare, and I almost laughed out loud.

Wearing only boxers, Brad shielded his eyes from the light, one leg raised like he’d been about to climb onto my bed . . . onto
me
. He froze like a deer caught in headlights.

“Uh . . . what the hell, dude?” I raised an eyebrow.

“I, mmh . . . hello, Asher.” His voice sounded strained.

With both of us in only boxers, he had some explaining to do. “Leg
off
my bed, please.”

He seemed to finally realize, and he lowered his leg to the floor, shuffling awkwardly.
Yeah, you better feel awkward.

My eyes narrowed. “You sleepwalking? What? What is this? What do you want?”

He stared down at his empty palms. “I, well . . . I wanted to . . . check on you and see how you were doing?” His gaze lifted to my torso, and then—very conspicuously—traveled down my abs and paused on my tight boxer briefs. He bit his lower lip.

Okay, I did
not
just see that.

His eyes snapped back to mine, and I could have sworn I saw him blush. “You seem to be doing just fine,” he said, his voice oddly stilted. “I’ll just go . . . you go back to sleep . . . please.”

“What do you want, Brad? You coming out of the closet? What is this?”

“I didn’t come out of the closet,” he said, putting his hands on his hips. “I came in through the door . . .
obviously
.”

I sat up and woke my smartphone, rubbing my eyes to focus. “The hell’s wrong with you? Are you high?”

1:09 a.m.

In my periphery, he edged closer. Ah, he was up making his rounds. “So you checked on the demon?”

BOOK: Blood and Sin (The Infernari Book 1)
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