Authors: T. A. Grey
The letter was worn from being gripped too many times, too tightly. Telal finished reading it with a grimace that had everything to do with one man who'd changed his life for the worse. Francis Bellum. Carefully, he folded the letter back up and put it in the thick envelope it came in.
Two knocks sounded at the door, and then his person guardsman came in. “It's time, Sir.” Decked out in full SWAT gear including a Kevlar vest, pistols, and something not typical—a silver blade, Kearnyn was anything but a normal officer. Formerly he worked as an Atal Warrior under Tyrian en Kulev, but when Telal met him he'd liked his intelligence and persuaded him to come work for him. It'd been one of his better investments.
Telal stood from his desk and met Kearnyn in the center of the room. He laid his hand on his shoulder and let his powers take them. The room around them dissolved like grains of fine sand sliding down through an hourglass. It took only a second, maybe two, and a new room materialized, each of the grains falling into place, forming Tyrian en Kulev's study.
The vampire commander stood at a tall arched window staring out into the evening sky. He turned as he materialized, one side of his mouth curled up.
“On time. I'm surprised.”
As Kearnyn went to stand against the wall, arms crossed, eyes forward, Telal took a seat in a high-backed chair by the massive stone fireplace. “I can manage to be on time if I wish.”
Tyrian took the seat next to him. Telal smirked at the green smudge on his pale cheek.
Tyrian's brow lifted in surprise, then he chuckled and wiped his thumb along the smudge. “We were at Lily's tonight.”
In an instant, his body tightened. Tyrian watched him with a hawk's eye as if he were trying to note his reaction to the succubus. It was of no matter to him, she meant nothing. Instead of replying, he simply made a grunting sound in his throat. Tyrian's lips pulled into a wider grin now.
“Since you're curious, I'll tell you about it.”
“I'm not—” he interjected.
“We went to Lily's home today to celebrate her twenty-ninth birthday.”
Well if that didn't just cut him off. He had to be wrong; that made no sense. He opened his mouth to ask, and then shut it. What did he care about her business?
Fuck it, if he wanted to know he'd ask.
“Her birthday isn't for another month.” And he damned well knew, had been practically counting the days to that fool's birthday since her father sent him that will. His eyes flicked to the moon just starting to show outside. Its silver shade against the blue sky could almost he beautiful, if it didn't remind him of the new moon.
“Yes, well, apparently she wanted to celebrate it early.”
“Why?” Bloody hell, he shouldn't ask any more questions. He already knew that this woman would only hinder him; after all, that he'd worked towards, all the progress he'd made, now she would come into his life at the worst possible time. Soon he'd secure the rift and let his people, once again, travel above.
Tyrian shrugged a strong shoulder. “You'd have to ask Chloe, I'm sure she knows. I'm surprised she didn't invite you.” Tyrian peered at him with those questioning eyes, trying to find an answer that he'd never get.
An invitation. Telal almost cursed or laughed. The damned
had been sending him letter after letter for nearly eight months now. He could still remember the words as clearly as if he'd just read them.
You looked down at me with that frustrated scowl you always wear when you look at me, but then leaned down and kissed me.
It was impossible after reading that
to think about doing just that. Her lips were well made. Damn, even he knew that was a lie. They were much better than that. Shit, before he started idolizing her lips he shut the train of thought down like a bad leak.
“She's up to something,” he said.
Tyrian sighed. “The Bellums always are, I'm afraid.”
“Let's get onto business.” He didn't come here to talk about Lily or any of the foolish Bellum sisters. He had better things to do—like learn to knit.
Tyrian retrieved a piece of paper from his desk. He handed it to Telal. “This is what I need. Ten thousand of them.”
Telal raised an eyebrow. “You want them enspelled? That's new.” It also wasn't really something he specialized in. Manufacturing an array of weapons—yes. Enspelling them? Not so much.
“I know you can do it or at least know someone who can. I want them enspelled with electricity. One of my warriors had a run-in the other day with a few escaped
demons. They managed to completely disarm him, but something strange happened. It was storming and my warrior eventually managed to retrieve his sword and stab the demon. Lighting struck the demon and literally killed him in an instant.”
“Electrocution killed him?”
A nod. “If we can enspell these weapons to produce electricity then it could make for better weapons. What do you think?”
Telal's mouth flattened into a grimace as he thought it over. Was it possible?
“Cost doesn't matter. I want it done. How long do you think it will take?”
Telal thought it over. “Two months tops.”
“Fantastic.” They shook hands on it.
As he was walking back to Kearnyn to transport them back to the office, Tyrian said something that brought his feet to a halt.
“You will take care of her during her new moon.” It wasn't a question.
He almost didn't answer. The whole situation was so ridiculous he could barely wrap his mind around it. What the hell had Frank Bellum been thinking? Leaving his youngest daughter to him as her Protector? It was madness.
He turned back to Tyrian, letting him see the anger in his eyes. “I will not be her Protector, and I will not sleep with her.”
For a moment, he thought Tyrian was going to laugh as his lips twitched, but then he flattened them and gave him a hard, deadpan stare. “You'll change your mind.”
This time Telal didn't deign to answer. Reaching out he grabbed Kearnyn's shoulder without so much as a goodbye and transported them back to his office. When they appeared, Kearnyn gave him a watchful stare.
“A succubi's new moon is a fantastic thing. My friend mated with one before her twenty-ninth year too. He said it was the wildest sex he'd ever had. She craved it.”
Telal marched to his desk and slammed the weapon's contract Tyrian had given him onto it, knocking over his pen holder. “Good for him.”
“You've never said. Why do you despise the woman? You always have a reason.”
Telal poured himself two fingers of aged Scotch and chugged it before answering. “She and her sisters summoned Karr, an ancient demon. Her foolish activities could have had dire consequences. Even Lyonis was killed by the beast.”
Kearnyn stood silent for several moments. “But they still managed to kill the demon, both of them, once and for all. And you saved the Alpha shapeshifter.”
A pounding formed in his temples, beating a hard staccato beat like it was trying drill a hole out of his head. “If I hadn't been there, he'd be dead. If they hadn't heeded my advice, Karr and the demon he'd summoned could easily be killing thousands at this very minute.”
Kearnyn made a thoughtful noise then strode forward pulling a piece of paper out of his back pocket. “I wasn't going to bother giving it to you since you hate getting them. But she wrote you again. It arrived this morning.” He tossed the small envelope on his desk then left the room.
Telal glared at the envelope. The paper she used looked fine but felt thick like parchment and the ink heavy. He knew it well.
“Damn,” he cursed. He went to his desk and dropped into his chair making it groan in protest.
He ignored the letter.
Opening up the paperwork he'd been working on earlier, he set to work on it. Several times his eyes darted back to the menacing four-by-five envelope, but he caught himself each time and went back to work. Hours later, he rolled his stiff neck and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. The clock on his desk showed it to be the early morning hours. He flexed his hand to work out the cramp that had knotted in his palm.
His eyes strayed to the letter again. “I'm not a bloody coward.” He snatched the letter up and viciously tore open the top. He flattened the small letter out on his desk and read.
Dearest Telal Demuzi; Demon Warlord,
I cordially invite you to my birthday party this Saturday at my home in Louisiana. Presents are not mandatory, but acceptable. Address information is below.
Hope to see you there!
The letter crumpled in his fist. He strode to the door that led to his bedroom and went inside, flicking on the lights as he went. As he hit the switch, his fireplace flared to life with crackling flames.
He stood before the fire and stared into the burning embers. And then he tossed the letter into it.
Lily revved the engine of her Ninja 250R motorcycle and raced past the slow beat-up truck in front of her. The truck honked in outrage but she merely gave a dainty wave as she passed it.
Leaning down to get better speed, she pulled back on the handle of the accelerator. Cars littered the highway with families and couples going out to spend the Saturday. The bright clear sky made perfect weather for riding, too. She spotted a small green sign on the side of the road and slowed to read it.
Now entering Atlanta, Georgia.
She smiled so wide her cheeks hurt.
Telal Demuzi, here I come.
She threw her head back and screamed, “Woohoo!”
Whether it was from the dead-like sleep she’d had the night before or the fact that she was finally going to do this, she didn't know, but for the first time in the year since her papa died, she felt free, her heart light as air. She brought her eyes back to the round, and then screamed for real.
She saw a flash of yellow paint and part of a license plate number before she slammed into the yellow car in front of her. The crunch of metal and bone sounded horrifically loud to her ears, vibrating her tender eardrums like an explosion. The driver slammed on the brakes and her head rocketed forward, helmet meeting the metal trunk like it was trying to see what was inside.
It seemed like the squealing tires went on forever before it finally stopped. Her body hurt everywhere in an instant as her body curled around the bike and into the car which had become sandwiched together. Her lungs felt compressed like an anvil sat on her chest, and her limbs screamed at her in fiery agony.
Lily swore her eyes were open yet everything was turning a hazy gray, darkening. Was she still on the car? Was she on the ground? She had no clue. She tried to take note of the damage to her body but couldn't particularly feel anything except the screaming pain engulfing her. Hot burning sensations filled her lungs and stomach while sharp stabbing pain like little needles pricked her skull, arms, and legs. She heard a voice, young, male, and frantic.
She tried to let the poor boy know that she had insurance but her heart beat too fast and then her vision faded to black.
* * *
Lily came awake like she'd just been injected with pure adrenaline. She sat up in a flash, breathing hard, heart racing, her hands twisting in the sheets. Her eyes darted around the room trying to take in everything at once. White walls, white sheets, heavy brown curtain over the small window, a tiny TV mounted on the wall, electrical equipment made beeping sounds from the side of the bed.
“Damn it all to hell.”
Moving like an old woman, she carefully tossed her legs over the side of the bed and stood, keeping her hand on the bed in case her legs gave out. Her feet held steady and she stood up with only a little wobble in her knees. She took stock of her body with a rueful grimace. She wore a hideous blue hospital gown. Clear tubes came from her arm and white flat circular things were pressed against her chest. She gave a tug and tore the probes and IV out her arm and off her body.
A small dresser with three drawers sat across the room. She shuffled towards it and found her driving outfit folded inside. At least no one had stolen her clothes.
Clinching the paper-like robe in her fist, she lifted it off her body. She cursed again when she saw her body. Bright purple and blue bruises covered her from neck to hips with more violent contusions covering the span of her thighs and knees. She poked at the bruises and winced. Good thing it took more than a bad car crash to kill her. As long as she didn't do anything even more stupid she may even live to be as old as her papa did.
She pulled on her black leather pants, white tank top, and sexy leather driving jacket complete with zippers sewn in places that weren't necessary. It fit her like a second skin and made her feel like the world's biggest bad ass. She chuckled as she pulled on the clothes.
Looking down, she spied her bare feet. For a moment, she almost saw red. If someone dared to steal her shoes, they'd pay. Those black shit-kickers were her fave right next to her pink flip-flops. She threw open the rest of the drawers but found only empty space.
As she walked to the door, her steps grew steadier, the feeling in her legs becoming solid as if blood has finally reached all the cells in her legs. She reached for the handle of the door but it swung open hard before she could open it. The door slammed against her face, crushing her nose.
“Are you kidding me!”
“Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I didn’t know you were right there!” a nurse said, squeezing through the door. She ushered Lily back on the bed and called for the doctor. She pressed a thick white towel gently against her nose to catch the blood. But all that did was push on her tender tissue. Lily yelped and slapped the nurse's hand away hard.
The woman looked surprised but backed up. A tall doctor with a good-sized bald spot on top of his head and thin wire-framed glasses came running into the room. He came and took the towel away, lifting her chin this way and that to examine the damage.
He lifted his hand toward her nose as if to touch it, and she actually snarled. “I wouldn't if I were you.” It felt like a grenade had exploded in the middle of her face.
His hands stopped in mid-motion, his jaw dropping. “Miss Bellum, I need to check to see if your nose is broken, if so then I'll have to straighten it.”
She shook her head hard then let out a cry as that only made her throbbing, bleeding nose hurt more. “No way. It hurts.”
“If it is broken and you leave it that way it can become infected and will not set straight. You will end up having a different looking nose for the rest of your life,” he warned in a firm voice.
Lily made a whining noise, then took a deep breath and slammed her eyes shut, hands fisting the sheets in a white-knuckled grip. “Do it, Doc.”
His touch was gentle but it still felt like he was viciously squeezing her nose in his hand like he wanted to strangle it. She gasped and couldn't stop the tears from spilling out her eyes.
“I'm not crying.”
“I know,” he said in a soft voice. “It's just a reaction to the pain. Okay, good news. It's not broken. But it’ll need a few stitches along the brim, and we can give you some pain medication.”
She grunted. “No, no pain meds. I don't do well with it.” She'd make her own pain remedy once she got out of here.
He fidgeted, his eyes blinking fast, and rocked on his feet. He cleared his throat. “Uh, yes, according to our records you are a succubus.”
Lily narrowed her eyes on him. Most humans were cool with meeting others like her, though they still preferred to pretend that beings like her didn't exist. And for the most part, they all obeyed and stayed low. But some humans bordered on hostile and others were straight psychotic about killing anything stronger than them.
“Is that gonna be a problem?” she said using her best “Willow's voice.” The voice Willow used when she wanted someone to back the fuck up.
The doctor literally did take a step back, shaking his head. “No, no. We accept all ill or injured in this hospital. Equal opportunity and all that.” He picked up the clipboard sitting in a compartment at the end of the bed and pretended to read something on it. “Okay, I'll go get the nurse to stitch you up and then you'll be all set, Ms. Bellum.”
“Thank you,” she said to his retreating back.
Another nurse came and stitched her up. She offered her pain meds again.
“No I don't want that crap. But you can tell me where my boots are.”
The young nurse’s eyes widened. “What boots?”
Lily looked down at her toes and wiggled them. “The ones I came in with.”
Her head cocked to the side, lips pulling into a frown. “Ma'am, you didn't come in with any. That's not a surprise, really. Many cases we get where a bystander hit by a car, for instance, their shoes fly off from the impact.”
Lily thought about that. “But I was on my bike.”
The woman shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe they're at the scene of the crash,” she said hopefully.
“Yeah, maybe.” Was it a big deal? No, but she’d paid a pretty penny for those boots and had searched long and hard for just the right pair to go along with her sexy bad-ass jacket.
Stitches finished, she left the hospital and stood outside. The sun had set and the skies were clear from clouds. She looked down at herself with a sigh. She'd meant to go to him looking bad-ass and ready to take charge. Now her bruised body could barely handle having the weight of her leather clothes on because even those hurt. Her feet were bare of socks or shoes, but at least her pink polish looked fresh and cute. And to the put the icing on the cake, her busted nose had white crisscross tape covering it. So much for looking cute.
Her bike was toast, her phone that had been in her jacket pocket and was crushed during the accident, smashed to smithereens. She felt her back pocket and pulled out her wallet. Cash and credit cards still intact.
A young man stood by a pillar, sucking on a cigarette and yacking on his phone. Lily smiled and strode towards him. His eyes flicked to her, froze, then drifted down her body in an obvious survey. Lily lifted her chin a little higher.
“Excuse me, could I use your phone? Mine broke. I was just in a car accident.”
He blinked slowly, and then closed his jaw. Without bothering to say goodbye to whomever he spoke to, he hung up and handed it to her.
“You are so sweet. Thank you so much,” she said with a sugary smile.
He cleared his throat and attempted to speak to her several times as she dialed information, got the number for a taxi, and had one sent on its way in under five minutes. With another brilliant smile, she handed the phone back to him. “Thank you, darling.”
His cheeks flushed. “You're welcome. Hey, anytime.”
Lily gave him a little finger wave and took a seat on a bench. The taxi pulled up some thirty minutes later. She got into the back seat and gave him the address.
The driver was young and dark-skinned, and super cute. “You sure you wanna go there? I heard that's the place with that...demon-man from the news.”
Lily nodded, and he shook his head with disappointment. Over the past year, Telal had been on the news' stations more and more with his message about the rift. Both human and supernatural media groups had taken to the story like flies on sugar. Telal made it clear that the rift needed to be open so that his people, the
demons, could be free to roam the earth again. Instead they were trapped below with violent demons like the
Though the debates have been getting hotter and heavier as other supernaturals have come out to speak against it. Many said that the
demons were no less violent and that there's a solid reason why they were forced under the rift in the first place.
They pulled in front of the giant skyscraper a little while later. The building went up at least forty stories, easily towering over the small skyscrapers around it. The sign on the front read:
Demuzi Manufacturing Inc.
Cameras moved and watched every possible angle around the building, and two armed guards stood at the front doors.
Lily paid her fare and got out but was stopped at the doors. “Do you have an appointment?”
“Yes,” she lied and ducked inside. Even more guards waited inside the polished building. Bright fluorescent lights lit the room like a tanning bed. Unlike other office buildings that might have a couple of fake plants and cheesy paintings on the wall, this one had none of that. A wide arched desk sat on the left with computer monitors and two guards behind it; opposite that were elevators and a stairwell.
Lily kept her chin held high and marched towards the elevators. She didn't make it far. Three guards intercepted her. They wore full military-looking clothing with rifles and handcuffs—the only thing they were missing were helmets.
“Do you have an appointment, ma'am?”
“Something like that,” she said, giving the vaguest answer she could think of. She tried to walk past them, but the guards cornered her in, standing shoulder to shoulder. The camera in the corner of the room turned to lock in on her. Her heart started to pound as uneasiness built inside her.
“Unless you have an appointment, we can't let you see Mr. Demuzi.”
“He's expecting me.” Sort of. “Just call and tell him Lily Bellum is here.”
The guard in the middle shook his head. “Can't do that. Appointments are arranged in advanced. Please allow me to escort you back outside. You can make an appointment and come back another time.”
Shit. Lily quickly surveyed the guards in front of her and the distance to the elevator. Nothing was going as she'd planned today, but that wasn't going to stop her. It was as if the gods knew she wanted to see Telal but were doing everything in their power to keep her from doing so. Well, screw all that.
Pulling out her last card she said, “I'm Telal's woman. You might want to think twice about that.”
She'd obviously startled the guards. They each shared a surprised look and then the one on the right with a full head of blonde hair chuckled. He said, “Telal never has a woman.”