Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan (4 page)

BOOK: Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan
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The demon’s features softened. He pulled her into a big hug, growled, touched the tip of her nose, kissed her on the cheek and gave her the sort of breathtaking smile that the Creators had reserved for incubi alone. Then he was gone.

The staff started an intravenous feed to get Brave rehydrated as quickly as possible. When Lana refused to go further away from Brave than the hallway outside his room, Litha brought the mountain, or rather the Director, to her.

After Lana told Simon Tvelgar the entire story leaning against the wall where she could see the door to Brave’s hospital room, he pursed his lips and scowled. As the story progressed and it became clear to Litha that Atalanta Ravin had not exactly been forthcoming with their employer, she said nothing but gave Lana sideways looks that were increasingly curious, if not reproachful.

“Is that all?” Simon crossed his arms in front of him. He may have been retired from active knighthood for a couple of decades, but he was still an imposing figure, capable of being intimidating even when he didn’t mean to be.

Lana glanced at Litha. Perhaps subconsciously she was trying to discern whether or not she could expect support. Litha’s features were completely unreadable.

Simon looked at Litha. “You didn’t ask for clearance to become involved in this situation, Mrs. Storm.”

Litha’s gaze slid to Simon smoothly and she replied in an even tone. “I’m not on a leash, Simon. On my own time I do what I want.”

“Poppycock!” The word was sharp, but his tone wasn’t. “You do what you want when you
are
‘on the clock’.” He turned to Lana. “Young lady…”

“Oh this can’t be good,” she looked at the floor and muttered.

“What’s that?”

When Lana looked up to see that Simon had narrowed his eyes, she remembered what she had told some of her peers at a bachelorette weekend a few years earlier. Seven of Lana’s college friends had rented a large beach house at Galveston for a “hen party” to celebrate the last time they would
all
be single. They were sitting around a fire pit snuggled in hoodies, mittens and blankets. The sound of the ocean was too loud for whispers. So they had to say what they meant, mean what they said, and do it loud enough to make it seem true.

The question had been about do-overs. What would she do differently if she could go back to, say, age fifteen?

Lana had said that she’d break out of the mold of expectations that had been constructed for her. She’d surprise authority figures by being considerably less predictable, less domesticated.

Encouraged by Litha’s reply to their superior, she looked Simon in the face and said, “I told your representatives everything I thought they had a right to know. The rest was personal. Not The Order’s business then or now. I only agreed to amend my earlier statement because Brave’s health is at risk.”

Simon wasn’t the sort given to puffery, but when he crossed his arms he did appear to swell a little. “Now look here…”

The Director’s sentence was cut short when Lana simply vanished.

He took in a quick breath that he would deny to the death was a gasp and looked at Litha as if she might be guilty.

Litha simply shrugged and gave him a Mona Lisa smile.

“Simon. I’m going to suggest that you go back to your office, perhaps have a tea, and let these events settle on your brain. Meanwhile, I will look into what doings are afoot.”

After staring for a few seconds, Simon said, “It always surprises me when you, being such a young modern, let poetic and anachronistic oddities creep into your speech.”

Litha grinned. “I admit to out-of-the-ordinary home schooling, courtesy of the Cairdeas Deo monks. Sometimes when I’m distracted, I say what comes to mind unmonitored.”

Simon nodded thoughtfully. He leaned in slightly and lowered his voice. “We cannot have people simply disappearing from Order Headquarters without explanation.”

“I understand.” She nodded her head once in a gesture that was a relative of a bow.

“I will have tea. I will calm my thoughts. And I will expect to see you in my office in half an hour.”

“I shall be there, Director.”

Simon walked away, managing to have the last word without actually speaking. He simply shook his head.

When Simon disappeared around the corner, Litha was left alone in the corridor with no one to see her vanish.

 

 

Lana had been preparing to be dressed down and reprimanded by Director Tvelgar when she’d felt the firm grasp of a large warm hand on her arm. Before her mind could register a drastic change of scenery, she was inside Brave’s room at the foot of his bed instead of outside in the hallway. She was also looking up at a handsome demon named Dart.

Her gaze jerked to Brave, who, to her relief, was looking more like himself. He was sitting up, or at least the bed had been raised to a more upright position, and smiling.

“Lana! Hey!”

“Hey,” said Lana. “You look good.”

“Finally. Took you long enough to see it.”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean you look healthier than you did when we brought you in here.”

“Oh. Well, good is good. I’ll take it.”

She looked up at Dart. “What the hell, Dart? Why did you grab me and bring me in here?”

“You’re Brave’s woman. I’m his friend. He’s indisposed and someone had to protect you from that human. I didn’t like his look or the way he spoke to you.”

Lana was having a hard time processing anything that was said after, “You’re Brave’s woman,” because she liked the sound of being called “Brave’s woman” a lot.

“Well here’s the thing. He has a right to yell at me because he’s my boss. You, on the other hand, have
no
rights where I’m concerned.”

“I think I do.”

“Well, you don’t.”

“Hey kids…” Brave began.

Whatever Brave had been planning to say next was interrupted by Litha’s sudden appearance next to Brave’s bedside. Her eyes quickly scanned Brave and Lana before coming to rest on Dart.

The demon was appraising Litha in an openly appreciative way. “I’m getting mixed signals. Witch or succubus?” He sniffed the air and his mouth curved into a smile. “Fire succubus. Nice.” He smiled, nodding his head.

Lana piped up. “The only signal you need to be concerned about is that she’s
taken
, demon. Married to a famous knight. The
most
famous knight.”

Litha preened a little on hearing Storm get the credit he so deserved.

Dart tore his attention away from Litha and looked at Lana long enough to sneer. “Her mate is a human?”

“Hey!” said Lana and Brave at the same time.

Lana held out her fist for a bump from Brave, who simply looked at it and said, “What am I supposed to do with that?”

Lana dropped her hand. “Never mind. Moment’s passed.”

Litha turned to Dart. “You created a situation by interfering in a conversation between humans and now you’ve made them feel unsafe. That’s going to require damage control. Do you understand what I’m saying? You’ve made a mess that I’m going to have to clean up.”

Dart’s brows drew together. “Why would humans feel less safe than before because I took one?”

Litha laughed out loud. Dart wasn’t just ignorant about the human world, he was clueless. Even though his best friend was human.

“Humans, for the most part, are not aware that there are demons who can come and go at will. They have no concept of dimension layering and believe their walls to be effective barriers to intrusion.”

Dart stared at Litha intently and seemed to be processing, until he said, “That’s just silly.”

“What are you even doing here?” Lana challenged. “You left him!”

Dart’s eyes flicked to Brave. “There wasn’t time for an injection. We had to evacuate and get everybody to safety.” Lana looked at the demon with contempt. “We would have come back for him.”

Litha was impressed that Lana had the nerve to cause the Callii to feel defensive and a little worried about it. She wondered if Lana understood what demons were capable of.

The three looked like they had forgotten that Brave was in the room when he said to Dart, “You told me that sex demons were mythic creatures.” He glanced at Litha. “But that’s what a succubus is, right?”

Looking at Brave, Dart cocked his head and spoke in a language Lana didn’t understand.

Brave’s eyebrows drew together. “Speak Lana’s language, Dart.”


Okaaaay. I said, ‘Did I say that?’”

“Yes. You did.”

“When?”

“What does it matter when?”

“Hello.” Lana snapped her fingers at Dart. “Talking about you leaving Brave behind. To die. So when you say get
everybody
to safety, you obviously didn’t include him in that.” She looked at Litha for support, but couldn’t help seeing her in a different light. “Are you really a sex demon?”

Litha opened her mouth to answer that, but stopped as if another thought had caught her attention. “How did you find him here?”

“When I went back for him, he was gone. So I followed the ring.”

Litha looked at Lana’s hand. “The ring?”

“When I brought the human here, I gave her the ring like Brave told me to. I figured I could force her to put it on and call Brave then find him that way.”

Litha was nodding. “Logical.”

Dart smiled a wolfish smile and sidled closer to Litha.

“You’re very cute, you know,” said Litha, “but Lana is right. I
am
taken.” The demon parted his lips and looked thoughtful. “No deals.”

He smiled and held up his hands in surrender then turned his attention to Brave. “It’s over. We can go home now.”

Brave gave the impression that he questioned that.

“When you say it’s over, you mean they’re gone.”

“That’s what I mean.”

“What makes you think they won’t come back?”

“Damage and theft. They did what destroyers do. They destroyed what they don’t know how to build and stole what they don’t know how to create – art, jewelry, you know.”

Lana spoke up. “Even if he wants to go back to… What do you call your world?”

“Renagoth Anh,” Brave supplied.

“Even if he wants to go back to Renagoth Anh, he’s not ready. He needs to rest and heal. Eat and drink. Did you see where the manacles bit into his wrists?”

Dart’s eyes flicked to the gauze bandages around Brave’s wrists. “Tell me how I can best serve then.”

“What do these physicians say about my recovery?” Brave asked Lana.

“I haven’t asked.” She glared at Dart. “I didn’t know we were on a schedule.”

Something about the word ‘schedule’ reminded Litha to look at her watch. “Oops. Overdue for a meeting downstairs. Later.” And she was gone.

“Do you think Litha could give us a ride home when they give me…”

“A clean bill of health?” Brave frowned. “It means clearance to disengage from supervised medical treatment.”

“Yeah, that. Would she? Do you think?”

“I don’t want to speak for her. I know where she is. I’ll go ask.”

 

 

 

After asking the Director’s executive admin to let Litha know Lana was waiting, so that she wouldn’t simply poof away, Lana paced outside the suite of offices for half an hour.

“Brave wants to know if you would give him a ride back to Renagoth Anh when he’s cleared by medical.”

“Just him?”

Lana realized that she hadn’t been included in the discussion. “I, ah, don’t know?”

BOOK: Prince of Demons 3: The Order of the Black Swan
4.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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