Shivers trailed down Ree’s back the closer they came to the building, and she knew the Dark Ones were out in force. There was also something heavier and darker in the club, which pushed at Ree as she probed the area with her power.
“Ree?” The older woman’s voice was quiet, but Ree knew what she was asking.
“There is something very dark in that club, Sophie.” Glad that she didn’t stutter, Ree tried to grab her resolve. When Sophie didn’t say anything for a little while, the others started to shift uncomfortably. Ree could sense Sophie wavering about going into the club, and that made her even more frightened.
“Why do we need to go in there?” Tucking some of her hair behind an ear, Ree looked into Sophie’s large brown eyes. “We already know what’s in there. Why go in?”
“We need to know how they are targeting people and why there seem to be so many people with gifts attending the club.” Sophie closed her eyes for a moment as she thought. Someone moved from behind Ree and Roland stepped into view. He laid a hand on the Guardian’s shoulder, nodding his head as if to answer an unspoken question.
Nodding in response, Sophie opened her eyes and looked at the others. “This isn’t a practice run. This is the real deal. What we are about to encounter is nothing but pure evil. There are Dark Ones inside that you might know, including Tristan. There will be darklings, and you cannot treat them as if they are human. They may not be full-fledged Dark Ones, but they will have enhanced abilities. Especially if they have drunk any tainted blood tonight. Della is in there as well. If you find yourself face-to-face with her, then you get the hell out of there.”
Mumbling their assurances, they made their way across the street toward the club. Roland took the lead with Paden as the others fell into a formation around Ree. She gritted her teeth and tried not to remember how everything had gone the last time they had encountered Tristan. Sophie slid an arm around Ree’s shoulders and leaned down so she could speak quietly.
“Stay close to me. If something happens, stay with Roland or Paden. Paden may not have as much experience as Roland, but he’s a natural and has a great deal invested in your safety.”
“What do you mean?” Cutting her eyes at Sophie, Ree tried to understand what the woman wasn’t verbalizing.
“Now isn’t the time. Just know that they will be able to protect you the best.” Sophie’s worried expression begged Ree to agree.
“Okay. But we’re going to talk about this later.” Ree held Sophie’s gaze until the other woman nodded. They didn’t have much longer to talk, because they had reached the line. With a confidence Ree would never have, Roland walked past the waiting people and went straight to the roped-off door. Someone hollered and made nasty gesture. Juliette turned toward the man, who was wearing pants that were entirely too small, and blew him a kiss.
“What do you want?” The bouncer’s deep voice brokered no games. Boredom and irritation crossed his features as he looked over their group. “Did you get lost on your way to the library?” People in the line snickered, but Roland wasn’t fazed.
“We’re here to meet some of our friends.”
“So are they.” Gesturing with his clipboard, the bouncer motioned to the rest of the waiting people. His words were coated in sarcasm, but there was something eager in his eyes.
“Maybe you could come in and join us on your break.” Something in Ree’s gut tightened as Roland spoke. The slight accent drew her attention until she found herself scrubbing her hands on her jeans. Her heartbeat had accelerated, and she wanted to move closer to the Dark One—wanted to touch him, to have his eyes on her. She took a small step forward and warm fingers closed around hers. Annoyed at the interruption, Ree looked up into Paden’s warm eyes and felt the odd pull from Roland diminish. Paden didn’t look angry or even jealous. Instead, relief flooded his eyes as she came back to herself. A small smile of assurance eased the guilt she felt for reacting to Roland’s pheromones.
A commotion drew her attention back to the door, where several women were leaning over the rope, talking to Roland. A blonde, wearing a shirt that was so low-cut you could tell she’d had enhancement work done, was trailing her hand down her collar in an attempt to draw Roland’s attention. Several of the men were grumbling to themselves as their dates threw themselves at someone much younger-looking.
“What’s going on? Is he famous?” One of the men put a hand on the blond woman’s shoulder, but she shrugged him off.
Ree turned to look at Melanie and Juliette to see if they were affected as well and caught them both wearing uncomfortable expressions. Sophie’s face was blank, but Ree could feel her quiet disgust. Even knowing that Ree was her reincarnated sister had not changed her feelings about Roland’s gift. Melanie looked the most uncomfortable, though. She was biting her lip, her hands clenched at her sides, and her eyes on anything but Roland.
“Maybe I could have a drink with just you.” The bouncer leaned toward Roland, a playful smile on his face.
“Maybe.” Roland raised an eyebrow and flashed a sexy smile.
“Sweetheart, you don’t want a drink with him. I can help you find something better to do with your time.” The blonde yanked at Roland’s jacket. With a smile, he gently pulled her hand off his clothes and took a step back. Lunging over the rope, she grabbed his arm and plastered herself to him. One of her hands slid around his waist and under his jacket, while the other squirmed between their bodies as she tried to reach into his pocket.
“Get off him.” Melanie yanked the woman away from Roland before he could react. Twisting the blonde’s arm behind her back, she pushed the woman toward her startled date. “You need a cold shower.”
“What the hell?” The blonde turned around in her date’s arms and looked at Melanie in anger. “Who are you? His mommy?”
“Must be his bodyguard,” someone muttered.
“She could guard my body.” A man leered at Melanie.
“Alright, best if you guys go on in.” The bouncer opened the door and ushered their group into the club. “Try to not start any trouble. And I’ll find you on my break for that drink.” He winked at Roland, and Ree couldn’t help but smile when she saw a blush creep up Roland’s face.
A loud, buoyant song provided the beat for the gyrating bodies on the dance floor. Colored lights swirled through the fog creeping along the ground, casting an eerie glow over everything. Ree had never been in a club before and quickly realized that she never wanted to be again. Pulling the power back so that she wouldn’t be bombarded by the crass emotions wasn’t an option. Instead, she would have to focus past the hunger, desperation, and dark needs. Some of the people were only there for fun and dancing, but the darker aspects were harder to handle. Unfortunately, layered over everything else was the unmistakable presence of Dark Ones, which meant Ree couldn’t let her guard down.
The crowd moved in a rhythm that made it hard for the group to keep their formation. One man bounced into Paden, causing the guy to slow down. When Paden didn’t move out of the way, the tall man turned to give him a nasty look but quickly backed down. They weaved through the mass, and Ree did her best avoid touching anyone. The emotions of the dancers pulled at her, catching her as she slid across the dance floor.
As their group neared a corner with a deserted table, Ree noticed they had attracted the attention of some of the patrons. Looking at Roland, she didn’t feel the strong pull that suggested he was still using his pheromones and wondered why they had drawn the stares of so many.
“Does anyone else feel like fresh meat at a zombie rave?” Weylin was looking around the room with a wry expression.
“We’ll never get the information we need like this,” Sophie said. “We’re going to have to mingle.” An expression akin to biting a lemon crossed her face. “I’ll go get a drink. Weylin, you’re with me. Jules, Bryce, keep our table. Ree, try to look like you’re having fun.”
Ree looked around the room skeptically. This wasn’t a place she would ever feel comfortable, especially with the evil radiating from upstairs as a constant reminder of their task. How am I supposed to look like I’m having fun here?
“Ree, stop thinking so hard. If you want to blend in, you have to do what they’re doing.” Paden grabbed her hand and dragged her toward the dancers.
“Oh, no. No, no, no. Paden, I don’t dance. This is definitely not going to help us fit in or make it look like I’m having fun.” She tried to pull her hand back out of his, but she couldn’t break his grasp.
Turning to face her, his smile made her heart skip. Slowly, he pulled her to him until she was barely inches away. Being this close to him narrowed the rest of the world, even blocking some of the negative energy around them.
“Don’t worry about looking like you’re having fun. Forget about everyone else. Just focus on me.” Taking her hands in his own, he wrapped her arms around his neck. When his hands slid down around her waist, she couldn’t help the shudder of pleasure that traveled up her spine. When he started to move, she found it was easy to focus on just him. His hips moved slowly, brushing against hers at times, sending sparks shooting through her system.
Ree wasn’t sure how long they moved like that, their bodies finding a natural rhythm as they danced to the beat. Unable to look anywhere but in his green eyes, the rest of the world seemed to fade away. Unfortunately, the moment someone accidently bumped into her, she was ripped from the quiet world she and Paden had created. The negative energy and desperation that accompanied the man’s touch set her teeth on edge.
“Paden.” Shaking her head, she looked away from him. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“No one will touch you, Ree.” His fingers tightened on her hip bones, pulling her forward until there was no space between their bodies. “Except for me.” His lips grazed her cheek, and she tilted her head toward his in response. Briefly his lips touched hers before he pulled back and laughed ruefully. “Not a good idea right now. I can’t concentrate when I kiss you.”
Blushing, Ree buried her face against his chest to hide her smile. How long had she wanted him to hold her this way? Too bad it only happened when their lives were in danger. She let herself get lost in him for a little while longer, only coming back to reality when she felt the evil upstairs shift. Paden stiffened and Ree looked up at his face.
“What is it?”
“Yes, godling, what is it?” A slow, heavy voice whispered through Ree’s mind, and she looked around worriedly. “Realized you made a mistake, have you?”
On the top landing of the stairs, a woman with large dark eyes and full brown hair stared down at Ree. A perfectly shaped mouth curved into a malicious smile as she raised one eyebrow. Quickly, Ree scanned around the club to find Sophie and the others. The Greek Guardian and Weylin were cornered at the bar, where three Dark Ones stood casually in a semi-circle as if only chatting. Roland was having heated words with a female Dark One at the edge of the dance floor. His eyes were hard, but she could feel his fear radiating over everything else. Juliette and Bryce were still sitting at their table, Dark Ones standing at the edges of the benches so that they couldn’t stand up without going through them.
“What the hell were you thinking, coming here?” A disgusted voice hissed from behind Ree.
Turning in shock, Ree looked at Shannon and tried not to wince. There were still large bruises under her eyes and a nasty gash along one cheek. Her left arm was in a black, sequined sling, tucked against her body. Wearing an expensive-looking cocktail dress, she looked like a zombie on her way to prom.
“You need to get the hell out of here.” Tossing her hair over her shoulder, Shannon stepped closer, her eyes filling with black around the edges. “You’ll make everything I’ve done for nothing, you stupid bitch. Get out before my dad comes.”
Something malicious pushed at her mind, and Ree looked back at the woman on the balcony. Pursing her lips, Della cocked her head to the side. Paden, however, was shaking in rage as his arms wrapped tightly around Ree.
“Too late,” Paden said. He jerked his head at Shannon, and she turned around to look at the older man in a suit.
“Well, it’s awfully nice of you to show up here. Certainly makes things easier for us, doesn’t it, Shannon?”
“Yes, Dad. Very, very stupid of them.” She cut her eyes to the side, as if trying to tell Ree something.
“So, the wait is over. I guess the final battle will be tonight.”
“Dad, it doesn’t work that way.” Shannon turned to look at her father, her voice rising. “You can’t step in the middle, Dad. You’re only going to make her mad again.”
Opening his jacket so they could see the butt of his gun, he tsked. “What does it really matter? If I kill her or Tristan kills her, it’s the same thing in the end. She’s dead. But if I kill her then the dark gods will look on our family favorably.”
“You’re not hurting Ree.” The growl in Paden’s chest vibrated along Ree’s back.
“What are you going to do about it, O’Reilly? You might be a godling, but you aren’t faster than a bullet.” Pulling the gun from his pants, Shannon’s father held the gun down by his leg.
“Bring them to me.” Della’s voice rang through Ree’s head.
“Dad, please. We aren’t going to come out of this alive.”
“Shut up, Shannon. I thought I taught you to keep your damn mouth shut. Next time, I’ll make sure there’s a permanent reminder.” He pointed the gun at Ree, and in a misplaced moment of clarity, she found herself wondering why the people dancing around them hadn’t started to panic. “I can do this now and plant the gun on any of these people. They’re so caught up in Della’s web they wouldn’t know for sure that they hadn’t been the one to shoot you.”
“If you don’t stop pointing that gun at Ree, I’ll make sure you can’t ever point at anything again.” Paden’s muscles were tense, but there was something calm in his voice. He meant exactly what he was saying. Raising the gun quickly, Shannon’s father pulled the trigger. Paden spun so that Ree was facing his chest and his back was to the gun. She felt the bullets impact Paden’s body, causing him to jerk forward with each one. Screaming, the power rushed out of Ree and flung the dancers away from them. Paden stood still for a moment. A deadly gleam filled his eyes and then with a roar he was gone. Hands grabbed her as she stumbled, pulling her toward the corner table. Using the power, she pushed at the person holding her, attempting to get away.READ MORE >>