Falling Blind (Sentinel Wars #7)

Chapter 14

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“Uh.”

“I’ve done it before with others,” he hurried to say. “We frequently have to remove the memories of humans who are attacked by Synestryn so that they can continue to live normal lives.”

“You want to remove my memories?”

“No. But I could show you mine—let you see what I’ve seen. Then you’ll know the kind of power you’ll possess.”

“Will it hurt?”

“No. I’ll be gentle. Go slowly so that there is no pain.”

Once again, her mind went off the rails into the gutter. Maybe it was these warm tremors of magic soaking into her that were filling her mind with inappropriateness. Maybe it was simply the man himself, big and strong, saving her life and turning her into a wilting, vapid mess. But whatever it was, Cain was potent, going to her head, weaving through her thoughts and sending her off on naughty little tangents that had her thighs clenching.

She hadn’t been with a man in a long time. Matt hadn’t done more than kiss her, a gift for which she was thankful every day. Letting him trade her for drugs was bad enough without having slept with him.

And she’d never been with someone like Cain, all lethal grace, dripping with testosterone. She shouldn’t have even been thinking about him like that. She knew better. Her taste in men was about as good as a ten-year-old boy’s fashion sense. She would only end up naked, embarrassed and wondering what the hell had happened.

“Is this really necessary?” she asked.

“It depends on whether or not you want to be informed or ignorant before you’re asked to make what could possibly be the biggest decision of your life.”

“Gee. No pressure.”

“This isn’t a game, Rory. I’m trying to help you.”

She could tell that. His earnestness was obvious in his tone, and she really did want to be rid of these visions permanently. If this was a way to make that happen, she had to at least do everything in her power to learn more.

“Okay,” she told him. “I’ve had a long and intimate relationship with bad decisions. I think it’s time we broke up.”

“A wise choice.”

“Assuming it’s not a bad decision to let you do this thing in the first place.”

“It’s perfectly safe. I’d never do anything to harm you.”

She believed him. That made her a fool, but at least she was staying true to form.

Maura hurried down the street, her head tucked low to ward off the cold wind. The suitcase in her hand was too light, reminding her of just how little she had. A few items of clothing, a few toiletries donated by humans. Those things wouldn’t sustain her for long.

Maybe it was time to go home. Take her punishment. Let the Sentinels exact their revenge.

It was no less than she deserved.

Then again, neither was the cold chill in her bones, the empty churning in her stomach and the fear that constantly walked at her side.

If the Synestryn found her, she knew she wouldn’t survive. Her value to them as an ally was gone. The only thing they’d want from her now was the blood and meat her body offered. Or worse yet, a vessel for their spawn.

Maura refused to end her life that way. Even she, with all her vast sins, deserved more than that.

She rounded a corner, walking in no specific direction. All she knew was that if Cain saw her, he would be honor-bound to take her into custody. With her powers gone, she had no way to defend herself.

Her focus was so tightly turned inward, she didn’t notice the trio of men ahead of her until she was upon them.

The street here was dark. The nearby buildings were run-down, their windows more often boarded over with wood than filled with glass. Neglect and decay lingered here, and if she were seeking out Synestryn nesting grounds, this would be the kind of place she would look.

But as she lifted her head, she realized that the danger to her here now was not of the demon kind, but human.

The men barred her path, their faces shadowed by hoods and hats.

“Where you goin’, pretty lady?” asked the tall one in the center.

Maura straightened her spine and used the same voice she’d used to command armies of demons. “Step aside and let me pass.”

Two of them broke into laughter. The third stared at her, leering. “He asked you a question.”

Fear clamored in her stomach, so familiar and yet so unwelcome. She tried to hide the quake in her voice. “And I issued you an order.”

He reached out and slapped her. It happened so fast, she barely had time to register what had taken place. By the time her head swung back to center, the violent ache radiated through her jaw.

No one had ever struck her before. She was so stunned by the mere thought that someone would dare touch her that she simply stood there, holding her slack jaw.

“Answer the question,” said the tall one.

Maura had killed better men than these. She’d watched their struggles weaken as the blood was drained from their bodies, as the meat was stripped from their bones. She’d never once felt fear standing over them, and refused to show any now.

She lowered her hand and straightened her shoulders, staring the man right in the eyes. “Where I go is no concern of yours.”

The tall man spoke again, still grinning. “Listen to miss fancy pants. Maybe you wouldn’t be so uppity with those pants around your ankles and my cock in your cunt.”

Revulsion swarmed over her, choking the air from her lungs. She’d seen violence. Rape. But never had she feared it would happen to her. None of the demons dared touch her. Everyone who touched her died screaming in pain.

At least they had until the night she’d shed her child’s body and become a woman. Since then her powers had failed her, leaving her weak and defenseless.

That had never been more evident to her than it was now, and that weakness disgusted her.

Even as a grown woman she was no match for the strength of three men—human or otherwise. Her only choice was to run.

Maura swung her suitcase up, slamming the one on the right in the face. Blood sprayed from his nose, and she darted around him, taking off as fast as she could.

She made it three steps before a weight hit her back and shoved her to the ground. Her chin hit the concrete, stunning her for a moment. Wetness cooled on her skin. By the time she recovered her wits, she was on her back, with the man’s hands ripping her jeans open.

Fear trembled through her, taking hold of her body. She kicked and clawed and screamed, struggling to push the man aside.

His friends came to his aid, taking control of her arms. There was nothing she could do. She was trapped. Helpless.

Anger exploded in her chest, shoving a scream from her lungs. That furious cry echoed off the surrounding walls, mocking her as it came back to her ears, weaker and weaker each time. She tried to fight, but nothing she did freed her body from these men. They were going to do what they were going to do, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.

But when they were done, she would seek them out. She would find human weapons and make sure that each of them paid for what they did to her now. Revenge would be her domain, just as fear had always been. She would not allow that part of her to die along with everything else.

The man on her left pulled away from his death grip on her arms, staring at his hands in horror. A scream ripped from his lips and blood poured from his fingers.

The man on her right stumbled back, blood raining from his eyes.

The man on top of her leaned back, his screams adding to the discordant chorus of his friends’. His blood splashed across her face and ran into her hair.

Maura shoved him aside and pushed to her feet, wiping her eyes. The trio of men clutched their heads, their screams quieting only as they died.

She stared at her hands. They were bright red with blood. It was such an odd sight, she stood there in shock. Usually the blood was black. She hadn’t killed a human or Sentinel in a long time.

She hadn’t meant to kill these men now, but she was glad they were dead. She rejoiced in their suffering.

Didn’t she?

Maura was shaking too hard to know what she felt. Relief, rage, fear—it all bundled together too tight for her to make sense of it. But there was one thing she did know for sure: Her powers were back. She could kill with a mere touch. That kind of power didn’t belong among the Sentinels. Hers was the power of evil and pain. The power of a soulless being with no hope for redemption.

She wiped her hands on the jacket of the man who’d intended to rape her. Then she emptied their wallets, picked up her suitcase and walked away. She didn’t know where she was going, but she knew where she wasn’t going, and for now, that was enough.

Chapter 8

Raygh locked his latest acquisition back in her cell. She wouldn’t regain consciousness for hours, if she did at all. He should have been more careful with her, but his hunger had been too great, overshadowed only by his anger.

The Sentinels had taken what was his, killed his sons, and those crimes had to be punished.

This system of caves that had previously belonged to his son was damp and cramped—not at all like those at the center of his own holdings—but he had to be here, close to where the crimes had been committed so that he could find those to blame.

Water trickled down the walls, and the smell of human filth burned his nostrils. At least he wouldn’t have to be here long. Already his minions were roaming the nearby city, scouring it for traces of those he sought.

One of those minions nudged his foot to gain his attention, and he allowed it to crawl up his leg. A barb on the curved tail of the thing was caked with dried blood—blood that smelled of power. The bulbous sac below the trio of barbs was bulging with that blood.

This creature’s hunt had been successful.

Raygh twisted the tail from the demon, ignoring its scream of pain, and punctured the engorged sac with his teeth. Blood, sweet and powerful flowed over his tongue—a rare treat he hadn’t tasted in far too long—the blood of a Sanguinar.

“Did you find one?” asked Canaranth, the stringy, weak-willed servant that had previously belonged to another Synestryn lord.

Like Raygh’s beloved son Murak, Canaranth had been gifted with a deceptively human appearance. His pale skin had a pinkish tint, rather than the gray cast so many of their kind had. And his eyes—nearly black, with perfectly round pupils—showed small slivers of human coloring. He could mingle with the cattle, pretending to be one of them, coaxing them ever closer so that Raygh could pick off the ones of his choosing.

Like the girl lying in the locked cell.

“There are still more samples to collect,” said Raygh. “I want to find every Sentinel and human who helped kill my sons. I won’t rest until they’ve all paid for what they took from me.”

“Another swarm of scouts has returned. None of them were successful.”

“Send them out again.”

“It’s nearly dawn.”

“I don’t care. They can find shelter from the sun or burn to ash for their incompetence. I want them out there, searching.”

“Yes, my lord,” said Canaranth, bowing low, his human eyes downcast.

“Have you been able to locate any of the women that were taken from us?”

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