“You were lied to.”
Ky stared down at her, the calculation in his denim eyes something that had always fascinated her. He could take in information and process it faster than anyone she’d ever known. To her relief, his angular, hard features softened—minutely—and he stepped back in a minor concession.
“Tell me everything.”
She did, leaving out her parentage and her sexual relationship with Eidolon. Kynan listened, his expression impassive, but his golden-tan skin went the color of pale butter when she told him Jagger had given her the phone that had contained the explosive device but no tracking spell, and that the two Guardians sent to her apartment had claimed that Ky knew about the order to kill her.
“Who killed Cole?” he asked, his voice so devoid of emotion and inflection that she couldn’t get a good read.
“He tried to kill me, Ky.” She refused to elaborate. Cole’s death had nothing to do with what was going on inside the cell.
Ky leveled a probing stare at her. “Fair enough. And you say Lori was in the interrogation room when Jagger gave you the phone?”
Tayla nodded. “I don’t know if she knew—”
“She didn’t,” he snapped. “Fuck.” He rubbed his eyes. Sank into a chair and put his head in his hands.
“I’m sorry, Tayla. This is just all so unbelievable.”
“Are you saying you don’t believe me?”
“Not at all. “ He cleared his throat and brought his head up. “But something has gone wrong somewhere. This doesn’t add up. I don’t get why Jagger would want you dead.”
This was it. Positioning herself near the door in case he went crazy was a plan that might have worked had he not noticed exactly what she was doing.
“No matter what you say,” he said softly, “I’ll stay level.”
She wanted to believe him, but two attempts on her life by people she’d considered friends had killed her ability to trust. Not that she’d ever fully trusted anyone, but The Aegis had been good to her, and after years of fighting alongside friends, she’d started to let down her guard.
“Someone is capturing demons and chopping them up to sell their parts on the underworld black market. The demons think The Aegis is doing it.”
“That would be a natural assumption, given that we’re the enemy.”
Why did he have to be so logical about it? She’d railed about how The Aegis couldn’t possibly be involved, and shame on Eidolon for thinking so. “Yeah, well, I thought the demons were full of shit. But I’m not so sure anymore. And I think our cell is involved.”
“You might not be, but what if others were?” She shook her head, because suddenly things were becoming clearer. “See, up until right now, I thought The Aegis wanted me dead for another reason, but even then, it didn’t make sense, because I think you wouldn’t have been so hasty.”
Ky leaned forward on the chair and braced his forearms on his spread thighs. “You’re talking in circles. Spit it out.”
She eyed the door, her heart pounding. “I’m a demon,” she blurted.
Silence stretched, growing more pronounced as tension rose like an ocean swell in the space between them. Kynan’s gaze grew sharper, more focused, as though his thoughts had been distilled into a single plan, and his broad shoulders began to rise and fall more rapidly. She recognized the battle mode and braced herself.
“Is this a joke?” he asked in a low, controlled drawl that was more terrifying than if he’d yelled. She hadn’t realized until this very moment how intimidating he could be.
Because until this moment, she hadn’t been on the receiving end of his dangerous side.
“I wish it were.”
His right hand clenched and unclenched, drifted toward his abdomen, where, no doubt, his weapons were stashed beneath his jacket.
“I didn’t know until a few days ago,” she said, eyeing his face and his hand alternately. He was one of the few Guardians who carried a gun, and if he decided to pull it, she had no defense. “But Jagger knew. The demon doctor he tortured told him. I thought that was why The Aegis wanted me dead.”
“We wouldn’t have taken the word of the demon.” He made a sound of disgust, as if the very idea made him ill. “There would have been an investigation.”
“I know. That’s why the attempts on my life didn’t make sense. Why would Jagger have trusted Cole and Bleak with the information, but not you? Why them, specifically? It’s got to be because they’re already involved in something.”
“The demon-snatching thing.”
Kynan spoke through gritted teeth. “I’m not sure what I think about all this, but I need you to tell me about you. Everything. Now.”
The military-crisp command tone ruffled every one of her feathers, but now wasn’t the time to rebel. She needed Kynan to believe her. He listened, his hand still too close to his weapons harness for comfort, as she shared all she’d learned about herself, from conception to Gem to her most recent breath. By the time she’d finished, the Aegis Regent looked worn out. Before he could speak, there was a knock at the door, and Gem entered.
“Your boys are done with their patch jobs.”
Kynan shifted his gaze to Gem, his eyes devoid of the friendly, warm light that had been there before.
“You’re sisters,” he muttered, as though he couldn’t believe it. “Jesus Christ. You’re one of them. All this time, you’ve been treating me and my people. And you knew.”
Gem’s expression fell, and in that moment, Tayla realized that her sister was in love with him.
And now he hated them both. Didn’t matter to him that she’d rather die than become a vicious beast. She carried the blood of one in her veins.
“I think I’m done here.” He came to his feet in a graceful, fluid move that reminded her of how he fought, and how the more relaxed he seemed to be, the more dangerous he was.
“What are you going to do?” Tayla moved aside as he strode toward the door.
Pausing at the threshold, he nailed her with a look as savage as she’d ever seen from him. “I don’t know, Tayla. You’ve got my cell number, so call and leave a message with a way I can contact you. But stay away from headquarters, you got it? You are no longer welcome there.”
That hurt, more than she thought it would. “I’m the same person I was before, Ky.”
“Yeah?” Ky eyed her arm, where Eidolon’s markings throbbed beneath the surface. “That’s new. Demon?”
“It’s not permanent. None of it is.”
“You can’t change your DNA.”
God, she was sick of hearing about D-N-fucking-A. Then again, she was just plain sick. She’d been tired for days, lightheaded all morning. On the way to the hospital, she’d lost the use of her right arm, but hadn’t told Gem. Her demon side was kicking her human side’s butt.
She crossed her arms over her chest and hugged herself. “I’m still human,” she said, probably more to herself than to Ky, but he shook his head.
“You can’t be. Not if you have an ounce of demon blood in you.” Ky clenched his fists again, his body so tense he looked as if he could crack right down the middle. “Stay away from HQ. I mean it. Come near, and there will be a price on your head.” Slowly, he swung around to Gem, his expression a mix of sorrow and disgust. “And you. Stay away from me and my crew. If I catch you so much as breathing on them . .
Shaking his head as if he couldn’t bear one more second in the same airspace with them, he swept out of the room, taking the crushing tension with him.
Remorse darkened Gem’s eyes. “That really didn’t go well, did it?”
“It could have gone worse.”
Gem absently rubbed her sternum, as though her heart hurt. Tayla knew the feeling. “How hard did you press him?”
Tayla flexed and rolled her shoulders, but nothing eased the stiffness in them. “I didn’t. I’m 99 percent sure he doesn’t know anything.”
“And if he does?” Gem demanded. “What about my parents?”
“We’ll get them back.”
Gem tapped her tongue piercing against her teeth for a moment. “Did you tell him about the zoo?”
“Hell, no. If he’s working with the Ghouls, I didn’t want to tip him off that we know about the meeting place. And if he isn’t, I didn’t want to tell him too soon. As freaked as he is, I can see him rushing over there and ruining everything. I figure I’ll call him just before we go, give him a chance to show up and see for himself what’s going on.”
Gem swore. “I hate this. I hate sitting around and doing nothing while my parents could be suffering.”
“I know,” Tayla said, reaching for Gem’s hand. “But it’ll be over soon. Just a few more hours. We have to see what Kynan does now. He’ll either uncover a lot of deception within the cell, or, if he’s in on everything that’s happened, he’ll send out a squad to kill me. Either way, the shit is about to hit the fan.”
Eidolon felt like shit. Utter, stinking, shit. The kind produced by bone devils after gorging on a live meal.
He’d come to Shade’s place, the Jackson Heights apartment where his brother stayed when he was working or when he needed a normal place to bring his human sex partners. To his relief, Shade had been gone all night, which was fine because Eidolon had been too juiced to sleep, and even if he hadn’t been, he was terrified to close his eyes for fear that when he woke up, he’d have completed the s’genesis. Not that it couldn’t happen while he was wide awake, but he’d rather not waste a single moment of being who he was.
The downside was that he’d spent the entire night thinking about Tayla and the part she’d played in Roag’s death.
He looked up at Shade from where he sat on the balcony, looking out at the garden park below. His brother wore his usual black leather pants and jacket, and not surprisingly, he smelled of sex. “Hey.”
“Figured you’d be at the hospital with Tay. Isn’t she supposed to be talking to her Aegis boss?” Shade came outside, closing the sliding door behind him. “Aw, E, you look like hell. What’s up?”
How to answer that. Shade hated Tayla enough without knowing what she’d done.
“E?” Shade hooked a chair with his foot and planted his ass in it across from Eidolon. “You’re making me nervous.”
“Tayla was there,” he finally said. “She was there when Roag died.”
Shade sucked air between clenched teeth and looked at Eidolon for a moment. “I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. We knew The Aegis was responsible.” Shade stood. “So, you gonna sulk all day? Or do you want to catch a movie or something before the field trip to the zoo tonight?”
Eidolon jerked in surprise. “Did you hear what I said?”
“Your slayer might have whacked Roag. Bummer. But I’m seriously craving greasy popcorn.”
Eidolon burst out of his chair and right up into Shade’s face. “What the f**k is your problem?”
“My problem?” Shade jabbed a finger at his own broad chest. “You’re the dumbass who has never seen Roag for what he was. Me and Wraith? We’re going to thank Tayla next time we see her.”
Snarling, Eidolon seized Shade by the throat. “He was our brother.”
“He was a monster.” Shade bared his teeth.
“Shut up!” Eidolon flung Shade against the balcony railing. Shade fumbled for the rail, and for a split second, it looked as if he would go over and plummet the fifteen stories to the ground. Eidolon grabbed his brother’s shirt, yanked him so hard they both stumbled backward. The scare broke his anger, but it sent Shade’s into orbit.
“You blind, self-righteous fuck!” He shoved Eidolon into the glass door. “Do you intentionally block out how he was off screwing some whore in an alley while we were putting Wraith back together that night in Chicago? Do you not remember how he went completely batnuts after The Change, how he was raping and killing?” Shade closed his eyes, clenched his fists, and when he opened his eyes again, his expression was softer, and so was his voice. “You know it was only a matter of time before a demon took him out. The Aegis just got to him first.”
Eidolon swallowed. Looked down at the concrete deck. Rubbed the back of his neck but couldn’t stall any longer. Shade had him by the balls with that truth of his. “Holy hell,” he breathed.
“Man, I know you two were close, maybe because Wraith and I left you out, what with the weird mind connection. I don’t know.” Shade clapped a big hand down on Eidolon’s shoulder and shook his head ruefully. “I’m sorry about Roag. Sorry for you. But I was never able to grieve his loss.”
Eidolon frowned. He and Roag had been close, but not in the way Wraith and Shade were. Even now, as he looked at his brother who, with his long hair, looked more like Wraith than Eidolon, he could feel the wall between them. A wall that had never existed between Wraith and Shade. Those two were open about everything—the phrase “too much information,” wasn’t in their vocabulary. But Eidolon’s more reserved nature had paired well with Roag’s secretive disposition. Secretive and . . . cruel. Eidolon swayed, thankful for Shade’s bracing hold. Gods, but he’d overlooked so much . . .
“Where have you been?” Shade snarled to Roag, as Eidolon lowered Wraith’s shattered body from the ceiling, the chains that held him clanging.