Bittersweet seraphim, p.17
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       Bittersweet Seraphim, p.17

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  It lay down, put its huge head on its paws, and began to mourn her death with loud howls.

  “Crap. Make it stop! Jack, it’s going to tell Everett where we are!”

  She watched as Jack looked over her right wing. “No worries, baby. He’s already here.”

  She turned and found Everett smirking. Behind him was row after row of minions, poised for battle. The corridor was wall to wall with muscle. Emma stepped in front of Jack and spread her wings. She would fight them all.

  Everett had a different plan. He wanted to chat. “So, you two wasted your chance to get out of this place. What were you going for, Jack? Wanted to suck Lucifer’s dick one more time?”

  “I could never after he’d had you. I’m sure your experienced blow jobs are far superior.” Jack pulled Emma’s belt loop until she was next to him, tucking himself in front of her wing. “Let me be a man, Emma.”

  She wanted to suggest that talking about who gives better oral sex might not be the most testosterone-filled conversation, but she let him have his moment.

  The minions behind Everett whispered to each other. Emma tried to hear what they were saying to no avail. The poodle had started growling, and the dragon copied her. Emma crossed her arms and grabbed a handful of feathers. She was armed for at least the first blows.

  “Did you tell the minions you killed Tiffany? How’d they like that?” Jack stepped forward.

  She didn’t like it, but Jack had the demeanor of a general.

  “No one cares about that hot pink piece of trash. She gave me what I needed. And you were too stupid to at least screw Emma while you had a chance. Better for me, though. I hate a messy hole.” Everett leered at her.

  It took tremendous restraint to not fly at him like an angry eagle. Emma tightened her hold on her feathers. She liked the way his eyes twitched when he looked at her hands. She bet the feathers had been painful. Emma glanced at Jack’s angry face. His jaw was tight, but the rest of him showed no fear.

  Jack addressed the minions. “He’s gotten into something that can not only hurt you, but kill you—”

  Everett interrupted. “Oh, sure, listen to him. He left you. And now he stands with the enemy? He came here to get her. Her pussy is like the Holy Grail for him. But with me? We can return to the Earth. How’d you like that?” Everett stopped and smiled like a generous father offering his children an expensive vacation.

  The minions buzzed and began to come out of the tunnel, filling the room. The poodle and dragon’s presence prevented them from completely surrounding Emma and Jack, but it wasn’t looking good. Jack shook his head, not at all alarmed as the room filled with hundreds of Hell’s minions.

  “If he gets us—Emma and me—hear me now: You have to take him down. He’s able to kill you. It shouldn’t be that way. Tiffany’s dead. His promises are false.” Jack pointed at Everett.

  Everett laughed. “If you care so much about them, Jack, challenge me. Challenge me for the Devil’s position. It’s that simple.”

  It was obviously what Everett desperately wanted, though it wasn’t clear why. Emma was about to tell Jack not to do it, but he answered quickly.

  “No, I’m not a match for you. Yet.” Jack seemed to be meeting the eyes of all the minions, one at a time. The conversation with Everett was secondary.

  “Well, how about this? They die one by one until you do try to claim the title again.” Everett grinned and slashed the air with his hand. The nearest minion fell dead, his skin erupting with blood.

  “No!” Jack’s protest was harsh and loud.

  Emma reacted because her wings gave her no choice. She flew to the fallen minion’s side and tried her best to bring him around. She had no healing energy to pull from. Jack and the poodle had drained her. It’d take time she didn’t have for it to replenish.

  Everett’s snickering was close to her ear and sent a shiver through her spine. “On your knees. Just how I like it. Hello, Emma. No bars now.”

  She reacted before she could think of the consequences. She gave him a quick uppercut to the balls. He screamed in pain. She stood quickly and went for a handful of feathers, but Everett grabbed her wrists, stilling her movement. He was still writhing from the waist down, but he forced a smile.

  “You know, touching you is all I want.”

  Emma hissed at him like a cat. The dragon lit them up, and she covered herself quickly with her wings. Everett stumbled back and let go of her hands, singed and burning. Jack caught her as she ran to the ragtag group. He was busy trying to update his minions.

  “Just leave us here,” Jack urged them. “You guys have to go. Go to the pond and see if you can get Lucifer out of his Hellhole. Everett’s going to kill you, and I can’t stop him.” He pointed toward the exit. His minions looked perplexed.

  Everett coughed and brushed off charred skin like it was dirt, revealing unmarred flesh beneath. “No one moves. Forget not who rules you. Jack’s nothing now. Nothing. Of course I know Hell is dying. That’s why we’re going up.” He pointed at the ceiling, which started to rumble.

  Emma wasn’t sure if Everett had caused it or if the place was really compromised. An air of confusion filled the room as the minions wrestled with the awkward task of trying to make a decision. Jack put his arm around her shoulder.

  “They can’t think for themselves. Most of them are used to being ordered around.” He shook his head.

  Emma turned with everyone else as Jason, a woman, and two minions appeared on the scene as if they’d been called. Emma immediately shushed the dragon, who looked ready to fire up again, and the poodle, which growled menacingly.

  Jason froze when he saw Emma. She shrugged and smiled, thrilled to see him despite the ridiculous circumstances. She left the comfort of Jack’s arm and flew straight at him, giving him a huge hug. He dropped the woman’s glowing hand to embrace her, looking bewildered at the sudden affection.

  “Emma?” It was more a question than a greeting.

  She landed and touched his face. “Jason. Thank God you’re okay.” She hugged him again, and he came away slowly, shaking his head. He truly didn’t remember. “You can leave my wings on this time,” Emma continued, needing to speak, even if he didn’t understand. “I never said thank you when you stood up for me in Heaven.” She touched his lips. “Thank you so much. It meant everything.”

  Everett’s furious voice bellowed throughout Hell. “Hey, Slutacular! Can you put away your wanton ways for a fucking second?”

  Emma turned to see where Everett was, but her gaze got stuck on a desperately angry Jack.

  Chapter 28

  Jack watched as Emma pulled away from Jason, suddenly seeming to remember the rest of them were here. He wanted to be understanding, but he was so goddamn furious. The last thing he ever wanted to see again was Emma entwined with Jason. He had fucking Everett, his minions not knowing what to do, and now his angel was flying the coop. Figures.

  He tried to command the dragon to eat his frigging enemy, but the giant lizard just squirmed and watched over Emma like she was the dragon whisperer. Great thing to see before he died.

  Emma turned to look at him. “He’s safe!” She seemed surprised he hadn’t cut up a wad of confetti to throw.

  Everett grew tired of waiting. He commanded his army stupidly but efficiently. “Go get ’em.”

  Jack turned and made sure his body was between the minions and Emma. His former employees walked slowly and shrugged. They didn’t seem to know how much was required of them.

  Nero spoke up from behind him.

  “Fellow minions, this day we make a choice. Follow Everett or Jack. I choose Jack, and you know what my sentence has been.”

  Nero’s deep voice stilled the minions. He spoke clearly, and he looked better than he had in years, to say the least. Jack nodded at Kate. At least she’d freed her father.

  Wait. She released her father? It was impossible. Unless…Jack looked at her hands. She glowed around the edges, and a quick scan told him Jason was glowin
g as well. He looked at his own hands. Lucifer’s power. It was the only way Nero could ever be released of his compulsion.

  Jack used the stillness to his advantage. He approached the little group, pushed past Emma’s wing, and drew her close to him.

  She touched his lips. Her hands were so soft. His whole body instantly wanted to lie on top of hers and feel the satin she was.

  “Don’t be mad,” she said. “You know I love you.” Her eyes were limitless. He wished they were anywhere but here, about to be crushed.

  “Back at you, pretty child.” Jack held out a hand to Kate and grudgingly let go of Emma to hold a hand out to Jason. Jason sucker punched him instead of grabbing hold. The half-breed was still a fighting dick shaft, apparently. “You stupid bastard. You think I want to play ring around the rosy with you in Hell? I’m going to tear you apart.” Jack cursed under his breath and composed himself. “Fuck nugget, seriously. I’m trying to meld our Lucifer powers to make a goddamn wall.”

  Emma begged Jason. “Please, we need help.” She touched his forearm.

  Jack missed nothing and saw Kate’s eyes fill with tears, yet she grabbed Jason and Jack’s hands. Jason growled the whole time, but he took Jack’s hand and squeezed it almost to the point of breaking. Connected with the two, Jack let the power course a bit and infuse his heart and mind before he spoke. “Simple wall.”

  The minions were almost within arm’s reach when they were repelled by a clear divider. Jack had used the same power to block intruders from Emma’s Hell hallway. It was harder to form it now. Kate and Jason had to maintain the circle to keep the protection stable.

  “Hey, ass pillow, could you stop squeezing my hand like it’s your dick? I’m working here.”

  Jason leaned forward and head butted Jack. He saw stars for a moment but was able to keep his grasp.

  “If you two don’t knock it off, I’m going to spend all my time left alive kicking you both in the balls,” Kate hissed. “I just found my father, and we’re getting him out of here. No matter what.”

  Jack shook his head, sure he’d be unconscious if he hadn’t been chock full of Lucy’s power.

  Emma came close to Kate and touched her, beckoning the half-breed to look at her. Kate resisted, and Jack knew she was pissed. He looked over his shoulder and saw Everett pacing the perimeter, seething. This protection wasn’t permanent.

  “Your name is Kate.” Emma either missed the fury in the woman’s eyes or ignored it. “And you’re good. So good. You are a being created from singular, pristine love. Such a beautiful creation, a testament to God.”

  Kate’s mouth dropped open, and she inhaled. Emma’s words had been such a surprise.

  “You have doubt, but that’s part of everyone’s burden. With my wings I can feel your past and your future, and you’re here for a reason, sweet girl.”

  Emma pulled Kate’s hair off her shoulders and kissed her cheek. The angel then walked close to Nero, whose nose flared at her wings. He flinched a few times when she reached for his hands.

  “Hmm. An old one. You’ve seen so much time. May I, please?”

  It was like she was anesthetizing them with kindness. Nero lifted one hand. She placed it between two of hers and hummed. “I hope I have enough energy for this,” Emma murmured as she began to work. From their contact point, she healed his wounds, cleansing him. His skin glowed, his bloody hands became unmarred, and his dark hair took on a glossy sheen. It was mesmerizing. Jack shook his head and looked at Kate. She smiled, and Jason pulled her closer to kiss her lips gently.

  Oh! So it was like that? No wonder Ms. Kate was so distressed by Emma. The angel’s head whipped around like the kiss was an alarm.

  “Love?” Emma fluttered just above the surface, bypassing Ransom, who reached for her wings. She moved before he could clasp a fist on her feathers. Jack caught his eye and shook his head. It was getting tiring holding the wall, and the minions were starting to attack it.

  Emma flew to the center of their circle, tucking her wings close to fit in the small space. She touched Jason and Kate’s joined hands. “How perfect. You’re worthy of him and he of you.” Emma lifted their hands to her lips and kissed them. Jason and Kate looked like newlyweds.

  She stepped back into Jack’s chest. He couldn’t embrace her because his hands were busy, but she leaned against him like he was a wall. Jack kissed her shoulder and nosed her hair out of the way so he could kiss her neck as well. Emma turned and hugged him around the neck.

  “They’re going to break down that wall. How long?” She smiled, despite her question.

  “Soon. I can’t hurt my minions. They’ll have us cornered.” He exhaled. “One of us has to challenge him for the Devil’s position.”

  The dragon showed its teeth and the poodle growled. Jack turned to see Nero had stepped closer to the circle.

  “It will be me,” he said, coming farther forward. “My daughter receives safe passage—”

  Emma moved so quickly, it was as if she were made of mercury. She obviously stole Nero’s voice, as his lips continued moving with no sound. Her hand had clasped in a fist. Jack knew Nero was pissed. Jack had hated it when Emma did that to him in Heaven. He shook his head and went to make the proclamation himself, but speaking of pissed, he found his voice captured as well. A quick glance told him Jason had the same affliction.

  Emma put a single finger on Jack’s lips. “If Everett wasn’t here, would the minions listen to you?”

  Jack tried a million curses, but none came. He didn’t like the look on her face. He’d seen it before. He just shrugged and mouthed, “Maybe.”

  “Try hard. I love you.”

  She kissed him so thoroughly—he was lucky Jason and Kate had such firm grips on him or he would have forgotten himself and pulled her to him. She flew out of the circle and approached the divider. Everett approached as well, the minions’ attacks now dwindling. The whole room seemed to center their attention on Emma and Everett.

  Jack felt rising panic, but he held tight and focused his energy on maintaining the wall. He’d be shouting, cursing if he could. Her wings were iridescent, and she didn’t look back. She seemed so slight compared to the army she faced, like a perfect white rose in the center of a garbage dump. Jack screamed anyway, his voice useless.

  “Everett. It’s me. I’m what you want,” she told him. “The minions? Running Hell into the ground? It’s all to get to me.” She sounded so sure, but Jack watched her clenched fist shake behind her, the feathers on her wing quaking.

  Everett smiled a crocodile’s smile.

  “So how about you get what you want?” She scanned the crowd, and Jack saw her in profile. So pretty. He tried to drum up some sort of weapon from Lucifer, tried to call him telepathically. The dragon whined.

  “I’ll hold you down by your wings.” Everett licked his lips.

  “Fine. Bitch, I formally challenge you to a battle to the death. This is a winner’s crusade to become the Devil.” Emma peeked over her shoulder, missing Everett’s victorious dance.

  It was done. She’d uttered the words—the correct ones, goddamn it. He had nothing to offer. He had no way to stop her. She gave him a sad smile. Then she turned away.

  “Come get me,” she called.

  Emma shot straight up, spinning like a drill, and she pierced a hole in the cave ceiling, neat and clean. Jack’s voice was restored the moment she was out of sight. He immediately tried to rescind the challenge.

  “As former Devil and future Devil, with the power of Lucifer coursing through my veins, I challenge your position, right now.”

  Everett just laughed and spread a pair of flame wings. He mimicked Emma’s maneuver and created his own escape hole, debris flying and landing on the minions.

  Jack’s heart crumbled because he realized he couldn’t leave Hell to save her. His soul was trapped in Hell. He fell to his knees as the wall collapsed between his little group and the hundreds of minions on the other side.

  Chapter 29

&n
bsp; Dean wanted to fight someone, something, anything to help his sister and mother, but he was bound by chains and threats. Violent had also been restrained in the same cage. His evil grandfather had Seriana and the naked guy in another cage and his mother in a separate one. The group of surrounding minions was full-on partying, and Vittorio accepted their praise like a preening peacock.

  A persistent grinding noise caught Dean’s attention. The naked man was almost out of his bindings. How the Hell he’d managed to get out of the thick chains was a mystery. But as Dean watched, he used sheer strength to break free from the last bit. Seriana, clad only in her indecently wet sheet—his shirt was gone now—watched with wide eyes as well.

  Obviously, keeping them wet allowed Vittorio to control them. The threat of electricity was a huge motivator, and Vittorio was nothing if not efficient at moving unwilling prisoners. Dean noticed he, Rebecca, and Violent were surrounded by puddles.

  The man prowled toward Seriana with tremendous focus. And Seri didn’t look scared, which made no sense. Had she been drugged? Instead of touching her, the man stopped and stared at Vittorio until he turned around. When the old half-breed did so, the naked man pointed at the floor.

  Vittorio looked at him curiously for a moment, then finally seemed to understand. “Ah! Our specimen would like to mount in private. See how evolved he is? Lower the cover, and bury the cage.”

  Dean watched a half-breed press a few buttons, and the sound of ancient machinery filled the room. Slowly, the cage holding Seriana and her attacker disappeared from view. The man was strung tight, every muscle ready to pounce. Vittorio smiled indulgently when his crowd began to boo. He fumbled with a remote until a large screen on the wall lit up. “That’s a heat-sensor camera!” he announced proudly. “We can still watch. The most important thing is that Seriana gets a seed inside her.” Vittorio motioned to the screen.

  Dean’s hands shook with fury, and he yanked on his chains. If the naked man could get out, he could too. He pulled and pulled, then paused to check on Seriana. The man was removing her chains. He made it look so easy, but Dean was rubbing his skin raw. He tried his feet, kicking and tugging. He realized he was bellowing with the effort now, but as the man lowered his sister to the floor of their cage, his brain saw red. He didn’t even see Vittorio approach, but as the electricity coursed through his system, he knew he was getting a reprimand. The last thing he saw was the man appearing to thrust into his sister.

 
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