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Authors: Larissa Ione

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BOOK: Eternal Rider
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He was about to let down the
khote
when Cara grabbed the phone, dialed, and said in a droning voice, “Larena, it’s Cara. I need to know what dreaming about a black dog
means. It was howling, in a cage. And if the name Sestiel means anything to you, that would help, too. Thanks.”

Caged? That meant that Sestiel was in possession of the beast and not the other way around. Was he hoping to bond with it? Even though fallen angels belonged to a small handful of beings who could tame hellhounds, now that the beast was bonded to Cara, no one else could control it, tame it, or bond with it. Sestiel must not be aware that his hopes for a hellhound protector, at least from this specific hound, were dashed.

But Ares’s hopes were still alive. The hound could be the one he wanted, and Ares’s blood sang with anticipation that he might finally have his revenge. That Cara would become collateral damage didn’t matter, and Ares had a feeling that even when he took off the armor, the hatred for the beast would far outweigh any prick of conscience he’d have for the consequences to the human.

Cara hung up and ambled into the bedroom, clearly on autopilot. Curious, he followed, and when she began to strip, he decided that popping into the open now might not be a good idea.

He’d been raised during a time in which nudity wasn’t given a second thought, and he rarely batted an eyelash at an unclothed body. Sure, like any red-blooded male, in the heat of the moment he appreciated a naked woman, but it took a hell of a lot more than simple nudity to stir his loins even a little bit.

And yet, as Cara peeled off her pajama top, he definitely found himself stirred.

As if she felt she was being watched, she angled away from him, but too late. Her high, full breasts and dusky rose nipples were already seared into his memory. And
he had to admit that the view from behind was just as tantalizing.

Cara’s skin was pale, as though she didn’t spend much time outside, but aside from a few freckles, it was flawless, milky and smooth, and he had an intense urge to touch it, see if it was as supple and warm as it looked. Her toned muscles flexed with every movement—she was stronger than she looked, as his still-tender balls could attest.

Bending over, she shoved down her pajama bottoms and underwear, and Ares, who had always preferred battle over sex, who had grown bored of sex because it offered no challenges, nothing new… nearly swallowed his tongue. He was a breast man, but Cara had one
fine
ass.

And wasn’t ogling a woman who was still suffering from shock real fucking noble. Not that he’d ever claimed to be noble.

She padded to the bathroom, and again, as if she could sense his presence, she closed the door. And locked it.

Through the flimsy plywood, he heard the shower start, and though he could cast a Harrowgate to get into the bathroom, he had a better idea.

He summoned a gate to take him to his Greek stronghold, changed into khaki cargo pants and a white linen button-down that he left untucked. He wanted to appear casual and nonthreatening, and for half a second he even considered throwing on his leather flip-flops. No male looked like a badass in flip-flops.

But they also weren’t made for saddle stirrups, and he wanted to be prepared to ride, so in the end he shoved his feet into a pair of combat boots, grabbed a wad of American money, and called it good. He figured he had a few minutes to spare before Cara finished showering,
so he checked his email, hoping for intel or gossip from his spies and underworld sources. Any information about Pestilence’s location, his activities, movements…
anything
… could be a major breaththrough.

“There’s a new meningitis outbreak in Uganda and a bubonic plague flare-up in the Philippines.”

Ares rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger before shooting an annoyed glance at Reaver. The blond angel loved popping into rooms unannounced. He stood in the doorway to Ares’s office, his arms folded over his broad chest, his sapphire blue eyes glowing with intensity.

Ares scanned CNN’s website. “It hasn’t made the news yet.”

Reaver waggled his brows. “The DBS always scoops everyone else.”

Ares was tempted to argue that the underworld often had its finger on the pulse of bad news before Reaver’s so-called
Divine Broadcasting System
did, but it wasn’t worth his time. Angels didn’t like to admit that demons ever got one up on them. Then again, Reaver wasn’t your usual halo. The guy had spent some time as a fallen angel, and he’d worked at the demon hospital, Underworld General, for years before he’d earned his wings back. Because of that, he had a unique perspective on demons, and he even remained friendly with some of them.

Weird.

“I’m sure Thanatos is assessing the outbreaks for signs of Reseph’s hand.” Thanatos, as the Horseman who would become Death should his Seal break, was naturally drawn to scenes of mass casualties, just as Ares was drawn to large-scale battles. They often haunted the same scenes.

“And what are you doing?”

Ares leaned back in his chair, stretching his long legs out and crossing them at the ankles. “You know, you would be a lot more helpful if you maybe—here’s a novel idea—helped.”

“You know the rules.”

Yeah, yeah. “The rules are fucked.”

“That’s what I love about you warrior types,” Reaver drawled. “You’re so articulate.”

“We don’t need to be. Our swords speak louder than words.”

The angel just shook his head. “Have you found the bearer of your
agimortus
yet?”

“I keep getting brief buzzes through my Seal, but by the time I follow the lead, he’s disappeared again. Do you know where he is?”

“He’s hidden even from me.”

“You wouldn’t tell me if you knew,” Ares growled. “But I have his name. Does Sestiel ring a bell?”

“Sestiel?” Reaver rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “He fell a few hundred years ago. He succumbed to human temptations and neglected his duties one too many times. Last I heard, he was trying to earn his way back into Heaven.”

“Who does he hang with?”

Reaver made a golden ball of light appear in his palm, bouncing it lightly. Ares hated when he did that—one slip of the Heavenly Illum, and the entire island would be engulfed in bright daylight twenty-four-seven.

“You are familiar with Tristelle?”

Ares nodded. The female Unfallen had been around for as long as Ares could remember, seemingly content to walk the line between good and evil.

“Sestiel has been trying to redeem her for decades.” Reaver winked. “And no, this information isn’t
helping
you, since it’s common knowledge.”

Excellent. Tristelle might be able to provide some clue to Sestiel’s whereabouts.

His scalp prickled, and Harvester took form next to Reaver, who let the light go out as he looked her up and down. “What happened to you?”

“None of your business,” she snapped, and…
okaaay
. The evil Watcher had always been testy, but her bitchiness was usually couched in sarcasm. But then, in the two thousand years she’d been a Watcher, he’d never seen her so… beat up.

Strike that. Not just beat up, but
beaten
. Her black wings, too wrecked to fold against their anchors, drooped so low that they dragged on the floor, her head hung as though her neck pained her, and Ares swore that for just a second, her eyes looked haunted. Thing was, angels healed quickly, so whatever she’d tangled with had to have been of equal or greater power—and there were very few beings in either category.

Reaver shot a tight smile at her. “Humiliated that someone finally gave you what you deserve?”

Oddly, Harvester didn’t fire back. Instead, she moved toward the computer screen, still showing CNN’s website. “Human governments are keeping the majority of Pestilence’s handiwork quiet. Have you noticed?”

Ares had noticed. He also noticed how she was favoring her left leg. “Why are you here, anyway?” He glanced at Reaver. “That goes for you, too.”

“Because I can tell you what Pestilence has been up to,” Reaver said. “He’s been sparking miniepidemics all
over the world and killing every Unfallen he can find. I think he’s frustrated that he can’t locate Sestiel.”

Maybe, but Reseph had never been a hothead. When Ares, Thanatos, and Limos had been rampage-furious about something, Reseph had always been the one to step in and calm them all down. Maybe turning into Pestilence had changed that, but Ares didn’t think so. No, he was smarter than that. If Ares were in Reseph’s place, he’d cut off Sestiel’s escape routes, not waste time on petty vengeance…

“I know what he’s doing. He’s taking out anyone who could potentially become the
agimortus
.” Ares cursed. “And he’s using the pockets of epidemics to trap them.”

Harvester’s wings twitched. “How so?”

“The Unfallen are attracted to the suffering,” Reaver mused. “Angels always are, and Unfallen are no exception. They may hope that by comforting the dying, they can earn their way back into Heaven.”

Ares studied the giant world map on the wall. Push-pins marked Pestilence’s known handiwork. The sucker was running out of room. “Pestilence is setting traps. It’s what I’d do.”

The door to the office opened, and Vulgrim, one of Ares’s Ramreel demon servants, entered with a tray of iced tea, which he placed on the desk. After Vulgrim left, Reaver pinned another location on the map. “Let’s just hope that Sestiel doesn’t panic and do something stupid if he runs out of options to transfer.”

“Stupid?”

Harvester snatched a glass off the tray the way she always did; as if she was afraid someone would take it before she got it. “The only other species that can be an
agimortus
is human.”

Son of a—
Ares shoved back from the desk. “Maybe you could have mentioned that earlier? You know, like about two thousand years earlier?” He cursed, not waiting for her or Reaver to say something idiotic like,
you know the rules
. “Humans are fragile. Easy to kill. If one of them takes on the
agimortus—”

“That’s not the main problem,” Reaver said.

“Being easy to kill sounds like a big fucking problem to me. So what else is there?”

“Humans aren’t meant to host it. It’ll kill them. A human would, at most, have forty-eight hours to live.” Harvester smiled, and it was almost a relief to see her back to her sinister self. “And FYI? Pestilence knows. Expect him to step up the killing of Unfallens so Sestiel is forced to use a human. And then watch your world crumble, Horseman.”

Four
 

 

Reaver stood alone outside Ares’s house staring blindly at the distant olive grove, his helplessness eating at him. There were so many freaking rules when you were an angel, and Reaver was more aware of that fact than most.

He’d broken a strict Heavenly rule once, and he’d paid the price, had spent a couple of decades as a fallen angel. Then, during a near-Apocalyptic battle a couple of years ago, he’d sacrificed himself to save humanity, and he’d earned his wings back.

For a while, being fully winged and no longer scorned by his Heavenly brethren had been awesome. He was a battle angel, one of God’s warriors, and he’d spent his days slaughtering demons. He’d also been assigned as the Horsemen’s
good
Watcher. That had been cool, too, even if he was forced to deal with Harvester on a regular basis. Watcher was a prestigious position, and Gethel, the angel
who had previously been assigned, hadn’t seemed to mind being rotated out of the duty.

Reaver hadn’t known why he’d been given the task, but now, with a new Apocalypse on the horizon, he was beginning to suspect that this was a test. A test to make sure he could be trusted not to break any rules no matter how dire things got for the human world.

Leaving behind the tang of the warm salt breeze, Reaver flashed to Reseph’s lair in the Himalayas. It was difficult thinking of the easygoing Horseman as Pestilence now, especially when Reaver strolled through the cave and the remnants of Reseph’s life: bean-bag chairs, a margarita blender, open bags of chips, and clothes strewn about the place.

Reaver wandered through the cave, seeking any evidence that Pestilence had been here recently. Hellrats the size of woodchucks scurried under his feet, their gaping mouths lined with multiple rows of needlelike teeth, their forked, black tongues flicking in the air. These were Pestilence’s little spies, and they would report back to him that Reaver had been here.

BOOK: Eternal Rider
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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