Authors: Jenny Allen
“You’re right, I
.” That definitely wasn’t what either of them expected him to say, but he’d thrown so many curve balls tonight that Lilith couldn’t keep up. “Lucky for me you have no other options.” His smile was slight. He wasn’t gloating. He just said it like it was an uninteresting fact.
Lilith finally slipped out of the handcuffs and rubbed at her sore, red wrists. “We need real answers here, Andrew, not more damn power plays.” She motioned to Chance and reluctantly he took his eyes off the Detective and held his wrists out to Lilith so she could unlock them.
“My family knows about Ashcroft. They know who and what he was and, unfortunately, they know everything Gregor did to him. So yes, I do need your help.”
Lilith’s mouth dropped and her hands froze. “How is that even possible? You said yourself that there were no records of his family name. You were researching my family and didn’t have a clue who or what Ashcroft was. How in the hell would they know?”
Cohen shrugged in one elegant motion. “They could have had bugs at Duncan’s place or any of his family members. They did send me there specifically to vet Duncan about the book they want. It wouldn’t be the first time they took extra precautions on a case I was assigned." There was more than a hint of bitterness in his tone. Apparently that was a very sore subject. “Maybe Spencer said something to the wrong person. Maybe my family had a spy in the lab, who knows.”
“Or maybe you ran your mouth to the wrong person.” Chance snapped at him as Lilith unhooked one of the cuffs and got to work on the other one.
“That is purely ridiculous. Besides, it’s a pointless line of questioning.” Cohen waved a dismissive hand at both of them and turned to his own thoughts.
Lilith pulled the cuffs off Chance’s wrists and slammed them down on the table with a surge of anger. “Pointless? How they know about Gregor and Ashcroft could help us determine what exactly they know. It isn’t pointless, Cohen. Perhaps you just don’t want to admit that you may have confided in the wrong person.”
The Detective dropped his calm expression and leaned over the table. “We don’t have any idea how they got their information. Prattling on with theories about it is pointless. I am not your issue here. We don’t have much time until they drag us into the ‘courtroom’. Can we please cover something that’s useful? I’m more concerned about them discovering precisely how I saved your life…” His cold eyes drifted over to Chance and the look definitely wasn’t friendly. “And apparently his as well. Which, of course, Lilith is solely responsible for, as was so clearly explained to me.”
Lilith was completely done with his attitude. She just wanted to run across the table and slap him in his sophisticated, weak-chinned face. “So in other words you want to figure out just how much trouble
Cohen at least had the good sense to appear offended for a moment. He settled back into his seat, his eyes watching Lilith with that same calculated look he’d given Chance earlier. “Point made.” It was odd how he didn’t seem anything like the man she’d first met in Tennessee or the man she’d seen in the town car. This was the real Cohen, cold and weighing every option, playing to his advantages. Or was it? Maybe he was just as terrified as them and decided to hide it under layers of condescending sarcasm.
“I’ve gone about this all wrong.” There was something sincere and apologetic in his face but Lilith still didn’t trust it. He was a chameleon and she could never really understand his motivations. “You have questions. Ask away. I’ll answer whatever I can.”
Before Lilith could say anything, Chance barreled ahead. “Tell us about the woman from the plane.” Chance swung his gaze directly at Lilith as he spoke. He was still angry at her for keeping the truth from him and he seemed bound and determined to get his answers. As much as Lilith needed to know about the banshee, she still cringed at his question. This conversation was not going to be fun.
“Could you be a little more specific? I wasn’t on the plane myself.” Lilith quirked an eyebrow and turned to face Cohen. There was the barest hint of a smug smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Ordinarily it might have been humorous but right now it was downright irritating.
“Bubbly blonde bombshell that thinks she’s the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. The one that makes my ears bleed with her dying cat screeches. I believe I mentioned her in the car.”
An amused smile stretched Andrew’s lips and he settled back in his chair. His lean body looked relaxed but she could see the tension in his muscles. Fear was coursing through his veins. It was subtle, buried, old, but it was there. Whatever the banshee really was, Cohen was afraid of her. “Peisinoe.”
“What the hell is that?” Chance growled the words impatiently.
“Peisinoe is her name.” Cohen waited, his eyes flicking from Chance to Lilith and back again expectantly as if they were supposed to recognize the name. When Lilith and Chance both returned only blank stares, Cohen sighed dramatically. “No one appreciates the classics. Peisinoe, as in one of the sirens of Greek mythology.”
“She’s a… siren?” Lilith stumbled over the incredulous words.
“Well, no. Not
Peisinoe of ancient mythology. It’s just the name she chose for herself. She’s a
“What? That doesn’t make any sense?” Lilith glanced at Chance who looked completely confused. Of course he would understand the literal words even if he didn’t comprehend the real meaning. French was a second language in Cajun country after all. “A soul singer?”
“What like Aretha Franklin? Cause if that’s the case, she needs to seriously work on her voice. It is downright painful. Plus, I wouldn’t exactly call Monroe a soul singer.” A nervous sound that was intended to be a chuckle escaped her lips. Even reverting to smartass humor as a defense wasn’t helping. The woman, or whatever she was, scared the hell out of her.
Cohen leaned his elbows against the table with a serious look on his face. “This isn’t a joke, Lilith. I didn’t misspeak. The simple fact that she was allowed to leave here to retrieve you should impress how seriously they are taking this. She’s dangerous, even by my standards, perhaps even more dangerous than Ashcroft if you get on her bad side. Trust me on that.”
“Too late.” Lilith muttered the words miserably, the siren’s threat still replaying in her head.
What do you mean by ‘allowed to leave’? What is she, exactly?” Chance was trying very hard to ignore Lilith’s muttered comment, at least for now.
“She’s one of my kind, in a way. It’s a genetically rare anomaly and once the ability manifests itself, they are immediately executed, no exceptions. The family has always viewed them as far too dangerous, and rightfully so. Their voice can be a weapon, as you’ve already seen. It must be focused and usually they prefer to share the more “pleasant” aspects of it on the object of their sexual preference. Others hear something akin to a banshee screech. Her intended victims fall under her will. It isn’t far from the myths of the sirens and my kind is not immune. That’s why they are executed.”
“Wait, wait. Obviously, this woman is not only alive but employed by your family. Why wasn’t she executed?”
Chance finally took the opportunity to ease himself into a chair across the table from Lilith. His eyes swung to hers briefly. He was starting to stitch together the pieces of what happened in his loft. That included the conflicted emotions he sensed from her every time he brought up the subject. She only held his gaze long enough to see all the questions in his face before turning her attention to Cohen. It was too much, especially with Peisionoe’s threat still fresh in her mind.
“That’s a lengthy story that we do not have time for. It may make for interesting background information, but none of it will help our current situation.”
“How does it work exactly?” Chance finally looked over at Cohen. “Her mind control stuff.”
“Peisinoe targets males almost exclusively. They hear the sweetest song they’ve ever heard. It swims in their veins like sweet honey. She could tell them to kneel, kill someone, jump off a cliff, whatever she chooses and they will do it. It’s like blind worship.” Andrew physically shivered. He obviously wasn’t happy about her being involved and Lilith didn’t blame him.
“That’s what happened in the apartment, isn’t it?” Chance was staring directly at her and all Lilith wanted to do was crawl under the table. She nodded softly because she didn’t trust her voice to say anything else. “What happened? What did she do?”
“Chance, all she did was pacify you. It wasn’t your fault.” This wasn’t the time or the place to have this talk. “We just have to be more prepared next time. Maybe get you some ear plugs.” Lilith managed to flash him a weak smile, but just barely.
“So…” Andrew’s voice intruded on the moment and she could hear the slight awkwardness in his voice. “Moving on. I assume that’s not your only question?”
“How did they get my father? You were supposed to put him on that plane.”
“Ah.” Cohen nodded as if that was the question he’d expected to hear first. “I dropped Gregor at his gate and was heading back through security when I got a warning call from my friend on the inside. I assume they already had Gregor at that point. They probably had someone stationed inside the airport. I made a run for it. It took me quite a while to lose the tail. I called every contact I had but they all shut me down. When they started closing in on me, I called you.” He released a tiny sigh as if he suddenly realized he forgot to pick up milk. “I should have called you sooner.”
“Why didn’t you?”
Cohen casually shrugged his shoulders. “The information I was given didn’t point to you and Chance specifically. I thought they might just be after Gregor and, of course, me. I obviously failed my mission in Tennessee. I didn’t realize how big it all was until it was too late.”
Chance was silently still mulling over the events in his loft, so that left Lilith to deal with Cohen on her own. “So what do we do now?”
“All my contact said was that they knew about Ashcroft and Gregor. They didn’t mention anything else. If they find out about the blood exchange…” Cohen looked up and caught Lilith’s eyes. There was real fear there and other things she couldn’t quite place. “It will be a death sentence for us all. Whatever you do, please, you both need to keep everything in check. I know you are still adjusting to these side effects, but if they pick up on it…we will all die. So don’t even think about using your new little gifts against the guards. It’s too risky.”
“Noted.” Lilith looked around the room, her eyes catching on the suitcases again. “Do you know why they’d stop to pack up our things? Seems like an odd thing to do if they intend to kill us. Are any of those yours?”
Cohen simply nodded, deep in thought. He was trying to piece it all together, Lilith could see that much. Whatever was going on, Cohen had a stake in getting them through this alive. She may not trust him, but for now he was still an ally.
“Can you tell me anything about your contact inside? Do you think they will help us somehow?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t tell you anything about that yet. When they come for us, they’ll most likely take us to see Farren. They should take us directly to the full council, but because of me they won’t risk that yet. My contact won’t be there to help us. We’ll be on our own for this. Honestly, the less you know about most things, the better when it comes to Farren.”
His voice faltered whenever he said the name. Whoever this guy was, one thing was certain. He scared the crap out of Cohen and that definitely didn’t bode well. Lilith could feel the cloud of impending doom settling around her. She was really getting tired of that feeling.
She was just about to ask Andrew about this new villain when their armed escort opened the door. The time for answering questions was up. This was it. They had to face the music and hopefully find out where her father was and what these people really wanted from them.
ilith came to a sudden stop in the doorway, her body unwilling to take another step into the nefarious room. It was immediately apparent that the room’s sole purpose was intimidation through showy and extravagant displays of power. Most importantly, it worked. The menacing courtroom setup stole the breath right out of her lungs and immediately made her feel insignificant and powerless. This room was a place for world leaders and shadowy global superpowers to make judgments and forge plans for world domination.
A long table sat length ways just inside the door with three chairs waiting for them. Bright interrogation-style spotlights above the table accentuated each seat making them about as welcoming as a hangman’s noose. Beyond the table there was nothing but a sea of soul-consuming darkness until her eyes moved to the centerpiece of the cavernous room.
A table of dark mahogany sat high on a raised dais at the far end of the courtroom. Its antique spindle legs were carved into dragons with flames bellowing from their mouths to form the feet. The table was huge and imposing, threatening, as it was meant to be. A lone spotlight focused on a tall, leather office chair seated at the center with a backdrop of tall, dark glass windows.
Lilith’s eyes caught on a door on the right wall just before the guard shoved her shoulder hard. She stumbled forward, catching her balance on the chair in front of her. Lilith quickly slid into the center chair on shaky legs, her wide eyes taking everything in as her heart raced. The room was a terrifying reminder of just how powerful these people were. This wasn’t some small time operation in a temporary office. She was convinced now that Cohen’s family owned this place either directly or through a hundred shadow companies.
Lilith watched the guard’s blank faces as they shoved Chance and Cohen into their seats before lining the wall behind them. The anonymous men seemed more like androids than real people and it sent shivers down her spine. There was no flicker of emotion, no excitement for the coming drama. Nothing. They didn’t even care that the prisoners were no longer cuffed. Their clean-shaven faces just stared forward without any spark of human intelligence behind their flat eyes.
“Do they drug the guards or something?” Lilith glanced at Cohen as he straightened his jacket, eyes still firmly fixed on the table.
“Or something.” He looked calm, but she knew it was just a façade, just a part of his act. She fully expected him to resume his role of defeated alcoholic, but it didn’t mean she had to like it.
As she watched his demeanor change, muscle by muscle, Lilith found herself wondering if he really had orchestrated any of the events in Tennessee. The thought had occurred to her before, but Chance seemed resolutely certain of his guilt. Sure Cohen could have just been reacting in ways that earned him the most favor, but after all she had seen, she wondered. Did he expect someone to make a move on her if she was alone? Had he kept Chance in holding to force it to happen?
The feel of Chance’s fingers sliding over the back of her hand pulled her eyes away from Cohen. Chance flashed a soft, but uneasy smile. The tightness around his eyes betrayed not only his nervousness, but his lingering anger. He was still pissed that she was keeping secrets, but not enough to hold a grudge. If things went wrong, they may not live long enough to fight over what she did and didn’t share with him and he knew it.
…” Lilith met his eyes with a deep steadying breath, trying to calm her nerves. “I’m…well, I…” Whatever Chance was trying to say was lost in the sound of a creaking door and confident footsteps echoing ominously through the room. Everyone’s attention immediately shifted to the door on the right as it slowly swung open.
The man who strolled through the doors may have only looked about forty, but something in the way he moved suggested he was definitely a hell of a lot older. Slight specks of gray invaded his ashy brown hair which was cut short and to the point. The navy suit he wore had a tailor’s fit to his tall, thick frame. Obviously, business was doing quite well. He didn’t look like someone that would terrify Cohen or even be capable of earning his resentment. The man looked like just another aged, middle-pencil-pushing suit with far too much money.
It wasn’t until he took his seat and moved his dark eyes over the three of them that Lilith really understood why Cohen was so petrified of the man. His eyes were set deep in his sharply angled face and they were as cold and soulless as the arctic. There was an indescribable weight of centuries in those eyes that would have made her father feel like a petulant child. They also rivaled Ashcroft in cruelty, but it was a distant, intelligent look unlike Ashcroft’s blind psychotic rage. That made this man infinitely more dangerous. He wouldn’t be easy to fool or goad into action. Everything he did had a purpose, a selfish, sadistic purpose.
The terrifying man sat stiffly in his chair with an air of power that rolled off him in nauseating waves. Slowly, purposefully, he turned those calculated eyes on them, inspecting them one at a time. His wide jaw stretching his thin lips into a grimace that resembled a knife slash across his face.
As if the moment couldn’t get any worse, Peisinoe sauntered through the open door. She still looked like Marilyn’s ghost, but the bubbly persona was gone, sloughed off like snake skin. With a toothy grin aimed directly at Lilith, she took her place behind the “old” man, draping a delicate arm over the back of his chair. She was a pet shark swimming through blood-scented waters, just waiting for the signal from her master to take a bite.
“Shouldn’t the entire council be present for this?” Cohen’s voice was shaky but defiant, leaving Lilith wondering just how much of it was real and how much was his little act.
The man’s cruel eyes narrowed in on Cohen as the silence became painfully uncomfortable. When he finally spoke, each precisely enunciated word sounded like a razor-sharp dagger. “Do you really wish to petition for the whole council to be here?” He gestured his hand around the room with a viciously patronizing look. “You want to parade them around in front of strangers?”
His long fingers pressed together in a steeple as he leaned over the table. The stark light hit his face in harsh angles that just made him look even more intimidating. The whole scene made Lilith’s skin crawl as if a thousand centipedes were writhing underneath it.
“You wish all of them to be present just to bear witness to your crippling ineptitude? Your blatant incompetence? Your despicable cowardice?” His thin lip curled in pure contentment and disgust as he spat out the words. Lilith could feel the man’s white hot anger like a blast of scorching air from a furnace. She had to struggle to stay still and not curl into the fetal position. Fortunately, both the man and his pet monster were focused entirely on Cohen at the moment. Peisinoe licked at her full lips as her hungry blue eyes watched Cohen squirm in his seat.
Andrew’s head hung low and his shoulders slumped forward in complete surrender. The words stung him, there was no doubt in her mind. No matter how good an actor Cohen was, Farren was a dominant force of nature that no man could stand against, not without damage. “No, of course not, grandfather.”
Lilith couldn’t keep the shock off her face and she felt Chance’s hand tighten around hers beneath the table. Guess Cohen forgot that little tidbit when he mentioned Farren. He always referred to his “family” but she thought it was just a turn of phrase, a way of summing up his kind or their organization. She hadn’t realized that he literally meant his relatives. Still, it didn’t matter who this man was to Cohen. What mattered was getting her father back.
“I don’t mean to interrupt…” Lilith was both surprised and proud that her voice didn’t shake when she broke the tense silence. The “old” man’s eyes slowly swung to rest on her with an intensity that made her shoulders feel impossibly heavy. She instantly wanted to crawl under the table and hide, but Gregor deserved more than that. “Where is my father?” She threw every bit of strength she had into that question, but their inquisitor simply turned his heavy stare on Andrew. His head shook from side to side as his strong jaw clenched tight. Apparently, she wasn’t supposed to know anything about Gregor’s captivity just yet.
Finally the anger and contentment left his face and when his eyes came to rest on Lilith again, he looked bored and disappointed. It looked like Cohen had spoiled his big surprise. Now he was simply going through the motions apathetically. Whatever the reason, Lilith was grateful for the reprieve from his soul-crushing stare.
“Gregor Adams, as he is currently named, has committed atrocious crimes against us. The punishment for his transgressions is death.” Farren’s voice held a deep undercurrent of old world accents as he rattled off his little prepared speech with all the enthusiasm of a piece of wet cardboard.
“His transgressions? I’m sorry, what are you actually charging him with?” She somehow managed to keep the anger out of her voice. Lilith could feel the tension and concern flooding over her from Chance, but she had to find a way to get the conversation moving in their favor as soon as possible. She wanted out of the creepy, skin-crawling room and as far away from that man and his pet as possible.
Farren raised one thick eyebrow in what Lilith interpreted as surprise. Either he found her question asinine or ballsy. Neither one seemed like a good thing. His voice was stern and iron-clad as he leaned forward again. His dark eyes watched her every move with cold precision as he spoke. It felt like being held under the point of a knife and it took all her strength just to sit still.
“Your father has admitted, in his very own words, to brutally slaughtering an entire family line of our species. He created an abomination in his pursuit of vengeance and exposed us in the process.” There was a heat to his words, a seething anger that wasn’t just for Lilith’s benefit. The way he snarled the word ‘abomination’ definitely clarified it was the worst of the offenses in his eyes.
Farren took a moment to let the accusations sink in and then turned his eyes to each one of them, finally resting on Lilith with malicious glee. “Do you refute any of these claims?” He was daring her to try and deny any of it.
There was no way that her father would have just told them everything, but the glint in Peisinoe’s eye said it all. They had the ultimate truth serum in humanesque form standing right in front of them. All she had to do was sing a pretty song and Gregor would have told her every dirty little secret they ever wanted to know. Gregor didn’t know about Chance’s near death experience, but he did know how Cohen had saved her. She was hoping they hadn’t accidentally stumbled across that little tidbit.
“Now isn’t the time, Lilith. Just comply.” It was Cohen’s smooth voice whispering to her. He was right, but it burned like fire in her gut to lie down like a passive little lamb, no matter how terrified she was.
“No, I do not refute that those are very literal descriptions of my father’s actions.” Lilith couldn’t help the traces of rebellion in her voice. Even if her own feelings about her father were mixed at the moment, she didn’t appreciate the black and white assessment of his moral standing.
Farren seemed amused by her spirit as a faint smile curved his crooked lips. At least she thought it was a smile. With his tight jaw and thin lips, it could have easily been a sneer.
“If this is about Gregor and his crimes, then why are we here? If you actually expect us to…testify against him…”
Both of the “old” man’s thick eyebrows rose as he slowly turned his fierce gaze on Chance. “My apologies, I thought that would be fairly obvious, Mr. Deveraux. You three are not only witnesses, but also accomplices. You helped conceal Mr. Adams’ crimes and participated in a plot to assassinate one of our kind…”
“Ashcroft was a monster! He wasn’t one of you anymore. He tortured and slaughtered most of Gregor’s family. He even tried to turn your own grandson…” Chance was vibrating with a rage so intense that just holding his hand was painful. Lilith slipped her fingers away from his and rubbed at her raw skin.
“Silence!” Farren surged to his feet and slammed his hand down on the table with a thunderous force that echoed through the room. Chance flinched in his seat and swallowed hard on his unspoken words. The “old” man pointed a spindly finger directly at Chance, his dark eyes hardening. “You are here to be judged, not to judge the actions of others. If you interrupt me again, I will ensure Peisinoe persuades you to remove your own tongue.”
Suddenly, Lilith could feel her heart beating in her throat. She couldn’t tell how much of the crippling fear was hers and how much belonged to Chance. The siren’s threat kept buzzing in Lilith’s head as she glanced up at Peisinoe. The siren’s plump lips were curved into an excited smile that wasn’t directed at Chance. Her deep blue eyes were staring right at Lilith, twinkling with malicious glee.
Farren ignored the staring contest between Lilith and his pet, choosing instead to ease back into his seat. His thin hands straightened his dark suit, pulling his civil façade on over his vicious core. He seemed content to let the tension fill the room as if he had all the time in the world.
“As I was saying…” His cold eyes returned their focus on Lilith and Chance as he needlessly straightened his tie. “You are here to be judged according to your crimes and, thanks to my completely incompetent grandson, you know too much about us.”