Bittersweet seraphim, p.16
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       Bittersweet Seraphim, p.16

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  She was hooked around the middle at the same moment her beast man was. They were pulled apart as the water pouring over them turned painfully cold.

  Like mating dogs.

  He began growling at the sight of the stick poked into the cage. Seriana put it together too slowly, not that she could’ve done anything but watch.

  Her “mate” was hit in the back and stunned silent, the electric current turning him colors, stiffening him rigid. Seriana screamed, begging her grandfather to stop. He gave her a half smile and touched the stick to the water she stood in. She felt lightning throughout her body, turning her senses white, just before she passed out.

  Dean pushed Violent forward and ran past her when he heard his sister scream. His mother ran after him, but Violent eventually caught up so she could be in front. The screaming was unreal and distractingly horrifying. Dean couldn’t even get his bearings before he was restrained by a group of half-breeds.

  Their scuffle was stupid and brief. Soon enough, he was locked in a cage with his sister, a naked man, his mother, and Violent. Seriana and the man both lay unconscious.

  Dean and his mother arrived at Seri’s side at the same time. Violent attacked the cage bars with a primitive anger. Seriana began to stir, and Dean pulled his shirt off and covered his sister. He hated to think the man might have already raped her.

  “They’ve not mated,” Violent said, transfixed by Dean’s bare chest. “I would smell it.”

  Seriana’s eyes fluttered open. “Mom? Dean?”

  Vittorio informed the crowd and the prisoners of his plans at the same time. “Tonight is a victory! Look, friends, we have a full-blooded minion and another one of my grandchildren for the mating!” He spun to look at the cages, tapping a finger on his wrinkled forehead. “Yes. This couldn’t be more perfect. The beast mates with the girl, and the boy can mate with the minion.”

  A heckler shouted from one of the seats in the back. “And your daughter?”

  A slow smile leaked onto Vittorio’s face. “We’ll kill her if her children don’t play nice.”

  Dean swallowed and looked into Violent’s hungry eyes. She was doing her best to roust the naked man. When she was successful, he immediately planted the same famished gaze on Seriana—as if she were food on a plate, water in a desert.

  Chapter 26

  There were other pressing things to handle. The world was coming apart around them. Promises had been made, people needed protecting—but damn it if Jack could stop feeling her, being with her. Her smile, her skin.

  He’d wrapped her in his arms, and she buffered them from Hell’s evil with her angel wings. He wanted to dominate her, submit to her, everything. He had two handfuls of her hair, and she purred his name over and over between kisses and groping. She’d figured out the code. The hardest thing in Hell—well, besides his dick—was to believe in anything. “You would believe,” he breathed. “Of all the damn things. You would.”

  She put a finger on his lips. “I believe in love, which means I believe in you. I’ve missed you so much. I just knew we’d never be together—”

  He stopped her with a hug, burying her beautiful face in his chest, kissing her sweet-scented hair. “I was never gonna stop. Until someone killed me. I was never gonna stop.”

  They embraced for too long. Far too long. He knew better than to stay still. But it was her. She was an angel again. She could fly free—and in a second he would demand it—but right now her arms wrapped around his middle, and that made his whole body happy. They kept kissing, almost as often as they took a breath, tracing each other’s faces. Just tender, just together.

  She began to trace his chest, and he stopped staring at her long enough to watch her repaint his tattoos. Emma took her time recreating the clean lines on his forearm. The cross, music clef, and knife were perfect when she was done.

  He rumbled with a laugh. “Angels give tattoos now? What’s next? Are we doing shots?”

  “This one does. You need to look like you again.” She traced her name back onto his chest. “I’m sorry you had so much pain. I’m sorry I didn’t think of the wings sooner.”

  She was tearing herself up about the torture. He’d never tell her it had been agonizing in the kind of way that made pain a god. He was just glad he’d had enough Lucifer in him to withstand it and not reveal the code. Because if Everett had done that to her…He kissed her again, pulling her into his lap. Her lips tasted like angel cake. He breathed deep, stopped, and touched his forehead to hers. “You’ve got to leave. Please.”

  She pulled back. “Yes, we have to leave. Let’s go.” She got to her feet and tried to pull him with her. When he did not stand, her cocoon of Heaven loosened a bit, her face grew wary.

  “No, I have to stay, pretty child. I have a job here now.” He pulled himself up and gathered her to him.

  “Are you kidding me? No. No way. What the Hell is going on? You saved me, now I save you. We’re getting out of here.” She was angry now, and her wings had tinted pink in places. They’d be going red soon enough.

  “I have to help a few more people. Then I’ll follow you out.” He couldn’t meet her eyes.

  “What’s going on here? You’re scaring me. We have forever now, Jack. Forever.” She put her soft hands on his cheeks.

  “Any chance you’ll just go and trust me?” He leaned in for another kiss. She obliged him.

  “No. Because you’re not looking at me, and I feel like I’m missing something. Tell me. Everett might find us soon.” Emma bit her lip, her eyes brimming with gold-tinted tears.

  “You’re so beautiful. Why do you give me the time of day?” He touched her nose.

  “Because you’re great in bed. Tell me.” She was joking, but not smiling.

  “The soul in jeopardy? I only had one to use as bait.” Jack couldn’t look at her as she pieced together this information.

  “No. No, no. Do not tell me I just damned you. Do not tell me that.” She moved his chin up, trying to look in his face so he could deny the terrible truth.

  “Baby, you didn’t damn me. I did that a long time ago. It’s just that I can’t leave now. So if I’m going to be here, I’m going to fight to run the joint.” Jack wanted to run with her, so fast and far—have her angel wings take them to the clouds and just make love until time ground to a halt. But the wings that set her free had chained him to the ground.

  She dropped her hands and unfurled her wings. They were scarlet as she fumed and paced. The loss of her touch was painful.

  “So what happens if I just scoop you up and run?” She headed at him, and he smiled. She was so determined to be with him. God, he loved her so much. It wasn’t a figment of his deranged imagination. Everything he ever was wanted to be near her forever.

  “In the past? Let’s just say the body never gets to leave. And the whole skin thing? That will have been a picnic compared to what I’d go through in your arms.” He held a hand out to her. Even angry he needed this time.

  She stormed over to him and curled into his chest. “No. I love you. I’ll stay.”

  And now it was time to lie. He’d passed time with the best liars who ever existed, but no one had topped him yet. But he still had to prepare his heart when he lied to her.

  “When you get out? You can appeal to God,” he began. “That’s the only thing that can save me.”

  She turned her hopeful gray eyes on him.

  “If He believes I’m worth saving…” It would be enough. He could tell.

  “God loves you,” she answered immediately.

  Her knee-jerk response made him love her more.

  “So there’s no way your soul’s doomed. I say we try it. Let’s go to Him.”

  Jack shook his head. He didn’t want to tell her she’d be as doomed as he was if she tried to take him out of Hell. He’d never let her experience the stripping of her soul. It was easy to lie this time, picturing her in pain made his words flow like silk.

  “No one’s ever been able to vouch for a doo
med soul. There was no love. So the more quickly you get out, the more likely God will save me.” He looked her in the eyes and refused to blink. He would show no tells as a liar.

  “I don’t want to leave you. If Everett finds you? No. I’ll stay here and protect you.” She turned her back on him and spread her wings like a wall, shielding him.

  “Emma, please. You have to go. I was here to see you, but that’s not the only reason.” This lie would be harder.

  She looked over her shoulder but kept her wings out.

  “I made a deal with Lucifer. He’s going to let me run Hell again.”

  She scanned him, confusion cluttering her pretty face.

  “Being a human sucks. I need to be in control. Hell is falling to pieces, and I can save it. You have to leave. No angels allowed.” Jack put on his most vicious façade.

  She whipped her wings out of the way and twirled. He was expecting a fight, but instead she came close and touched his chest, his neck, his lips. She smiled at him, and he smiled back.

  “I’m not leaving you. Right here, right now is the happiest I’ve ever been. I love you. That means I don’t leave. Sorry.” She went to her tiptoes and kissed his forehead, her wings humming happily. “Whatever you fight, we do it together.”

  She spun back around as he exhaled a sigh of defeat. She wasn’t going to leave, and his lies wouldn’t scare her away. She spread her wings again: his beautiful barrier against the terrors of Hell.

  He stepped to her and moved her hair out of the way to kiss the nape of her neck. “You’re thick-headed and stubborn.”

  She snaked her hand out from under her wings and grabbed a handful of him. “Lucky you.”

  The whole cave corridor began to shake around them. Emma shifted positions and curled her wings like an umbrella around him. “What do you think that is?”

  “I think that’s the dragon.” The dragon would sniff out angel Emma like a truffle pig.

  “Hmmm…I tamed him last time. What’re the chances I can do it again?” She kissed his lips, in the middle of chaos.

  “You keep kissing me, and I’ll take you right here.” He pulled her to him and traced her lips with his tongue. She made a happy moan that tantalized his dick. But he had to stop because the rumbling became an all-out earthquake. The dragon’s fire flashed before his face. Emma used her wings to shield them both.

  “Ow!” She flinched as the heat made her wings luminescent.

  “You all right, gorgeous?” Jack touched her lower back and imagined her in white leather armor. He smiled when her silk disappeared and his hand touched her bare skin. She rolled her eyes when she noted the change. He gave her low-heeled boots so she could run. They both flinched when they heard the way-too-close sniffing of the dragon.

  “He’s not ripping us up,” she noted in a whisper.

  “Not yet.” He took to his toes to look over her huge wings. The dragon was indeed there, and the last time they’d faced off, he’d tried to kill him a lot of different ways. And failed. Eventually, Emma had loved the dragon to death, or some shit like that.

  “Does he have a name?” She’d joined Jack in peering now.

  “Death Mobile? Fire Burp? No, he doesn’t have a name. He’s a weapon.” Jack tried to remember the special combination of words that might distract the dragon momentarily.

  Emma tilted her head. “I think he’s kind of cute.”

  The spiky, scary dragon was not cute. Emma’s ass in those white leather pants was another story.

  “I’m naming him Smoosh.” She lowered her wing a bit and held her hand out as if the dragon was a friendly dog.

  “Don’t!” Jack whispered harshly.

  She did it anyway. The dragon twisted his head to examine her outstretched hand with one big, green eye. After what felt like forever, the dragon sniffed, his giant nostrils letting out an acrid smoke. Emma and Jack coughed. The dragon tensed.

  Emma recovered quickly. “Shhh, Smoosh. That’s a good dragon. Look how sweet you are. You’re a good dragon.” The beast snarled, and Emma and Jack took a half-step back.

  “You need to say something nice to him.” Emma nodded encouragingly.

  Jack put all his doubt in the one word. “Really?”

  “For me.” She batted her eyelashes.

  Damn it. He’d do a back flip if she asked right now. “There’s a good killer.” He held his hands up in frustration as Emma tsked at his words.

  She took his hand and held it out with hers. The dragon sniffed again. The whole cave rumbled as it thumped its tail.

  “Smoosh likes you.”

  Jack kissed Emma’s cheek. “I’m betting he likes a lady in leather, not me.” The dragon thumped its gigantic tail again. “See?”

  Emma put her finger to her lips. The dragon stilled as if it understood the command, and Jack listened too.

  Voices. Everett was shouting orders, and someone or something responded.

  “Where are we, Jack? What’s next?” Emma turned her back on the deadly beast and looked for answers he didn’t have.

  Chapter 27

  Jack ran a hand through his hair, and Emma blessed it in her head. She was praying all over him. For however long she was granted the gift of being an angel, she would cover him in goodness. It seemed the least she could do since she’d damned his soul by stealing her wings back. But the damned could be changed, she was sure. What Jack hadn’t said, but Emma hadn’t missed, was that God had known Jack’s soul was in the meter. God Himself was willing to let the world die so Jack’s soul could be saved. So she was sure God would see to it that the damnation be reversed.

  At first, Jack’s soul being the one that must be negotiated for seemed horrible, but now she felt better. She knew what she was dealing with, or rather who, and this man she could love. This man she did love. And love made the impossible a reality. Now she just had to get Jack to safety while she figured out how to save him. Again. And again. Whatever it took. He was willing to be skinned alive to keep her safe. She could only return the favor. He kept touching her. And it was perfection. His eyes were so welcoming, despite his poor attempts to chase her away.

  “Well, we should make our way to the new exit,” he said. “Maybe we can run into Jason that way.”

  “Jason?! What the Hell is he doing here?” She could feel fury blazing through her. Another man she’d tried her damnedest to protect, and he was here too?

  “He’s trying to save you, baby. He doesn’t remember you, but I guess he’s not a complete asshole. And he’s with a girl I made a few promises to.”

  Jealousy made the dragon behind her fire up a bit. She could feel the sparks deflecting off her wings.

  “You made promises to a girl?”

  He bit his lip as he watched her flare. “I’d do anything to get to you…and I did.”

  Their voices combined with running footsteps in the distance.

  As sounds of approaching feet grew closer, and Jack reached out and yanked on her hand. “Fly me to the moon?”

  She snarled at him, the dragon mimicking her.

  “I’ll send you to the moon if you screwed her.” Emma held out her arms for an angry hug. He took advantage of the closeness to nuzzle her neck.

  “There’s only you now. And I already had thousands of women, so you can’t be jealous.”

  She whacked him hard on the butt and motioned for the dragon to follow. It slithered and scrambled behind them, trying to keep up.

  “Did you just pimp slap my ass with your angel hand?” He was flat-out laughing at her.

  She rolled her eyes. “You better beware, hot stuff.”

  He snuggled into her breasts and occasionally shouted directions. When he finally told her to slow down and stop, his playfulness had evaporated. Emma set him down at the shores of a disgusting pond.

  “That stupid fucker.” Jack ran to the side of a woman dressed in red.

  As Emma came closer, she realized the woman wasn’t wearing red, she was covered in it.

 
She rushed to Jack’s side as he pushed yellow fuzzy hair out of the woman’s face. Her eyes were endlessly open and hot pink, her mouth cemented in a horrified circle.

  Emma centered all her energy, but she could feel her reserves were diminished. Jack had required so much healing and this woman was clearly…

  “Dead. He killed her. I didn’t even know it was possible. Holy crap, what has he gotten into? Can you…?” He trailed off as she answered his question with a sad shake of her head. She couldn’t fix this. There was no soul to claim, or so it appeared.

  He stood and went to the nearest huge, furry lump.

  “He killed the dogs? He killed Tiffany? Emma, I don’t know what this means.”

  Emma went to another furry lump. It appeared to be a huge, dead poodle. She went to the last, just to make sure.

  It was panting, gently. The dragon came closer, and Emma watched as it nosed the poodle.

  Jack hollered, “Don’t let it eat the fucking dog!”

  The dragon snarled and resumed nosing the poodle.

  Emma shook her hands and laid them on the dog. It wasn’t dead, though it was close.

  She found her last little pool of healing energy and hoped it was enough. Light flowed through her fingertips. She gently laid her wings on the dog. It was a bit before the dragon’s happy snarfing snapped her out of her reverie. The poodle stirred. Jack clenched and unclenched his fists. Emma patted the dog and left the dragon to its nudging.

  Jack looked ready to do battle. “These are my minions. He’s killing my minions. Sure, they’re in Hell, but they do what they’re told. They deserve at least a chance. I’ve no idea what he’s into, how he killed her and her dogs. I can’t leave them at his deranged mercy. How can I do that to them? They trusted me.”

  Emma admired him, but mostly she wanted to shake him. These things he wanted to keep safe were the worst in the universe.

  The poodle she’d managed to save staggered to its feet, only to ignore everyone except Tiffany.

 
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