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The heat from the walls of her prison receded turning the air around her ice cold. Denysé scrambled to her feet. A dark figure appeared, bathed in a mandorla of pale, silvery light, not at all the beast she had envisioned. In fact, the man before her was quite beautiful. Black hair arched away from high cheekbones, eyes the color of espresso seemed to hone in on her very soul. Milky white skin, almost opalescent in hue, drawn taut over a gracile frame. He wore black jeans, a black t-shirt and a long black duster coat. Whoever this was, he was stunning to behold.
Clearing her throat, Denysé squared her shoulders to greet the demon in human form.
“Whom do I have the displeasure of addressing?” she asked.
Faint grin tugging at his full, ripe berry lips, he executed a curt bow. “Azazel, at your service.”
The name sent shivers down her spine and despite the chill of the cell, beads of perspiration prickled her forehead. Azazel, a terrifying enemy indeed. Vasya had told her all about The Evil One’s attacks on the wolf princes of old. But Denysé would not allow her fear to show. Not if she could help it.
“My name is―”
“Denysé. Yes, I know. I know more than you can imagine.”
“I find that hard to believe.” She held her chin high. “I can imagine quite a lot.”
At this, he tilted his head back and laughed. Not a mocking gesture; one of pure amusement. She gave in to the urge to smile.
“You have a rare wit, my pretty.” He ran a finger beneath her jaw and she shied away from his icy touch. “It will be a shame to slaughter you in front of your dogs.”
“They aren’t dogs,” she snapped. Though she was terrified, no one, but no one referred to Rémy and Vasya as common canines. They were wolves of noble heritage and even a demon spawn of hell should show them some respect.
“Fiesty. And brave too. I can see why he loves you so much.” Azazel tucked his hands behind his back.
Denysé knew about whom Azazel spoke―Rémy. He did love her with a passion to bridge all worlds.
“He is merely a pawn in all this and he would be wise to stay away. He and his brothers. This dispute is between me and the viscount.” Azazel’s lip curled as he spoke Vasya’s title.
She had figured as much, especially now that she knew the name of her captor. She also knew Rémy would never stay away, not if she were in peril. Fighting the tears pressing at the back of her eyelids, she took a slow, deep breath.
“Tell me what you want from me, demon.” She held her head high, meeting Azazel’s empty gaze.
With inhuman strength and speed, the demon slammed her against the frigid, stony wall, paralyzing her, fingers wrapped around her throat. Her skin burned where it came in contact with his, his expression glowed with a terrible, unholy light. She tried to close her eyes, but he forced them open with one flick of his free hand.
“I want you to die,” he rasped. Claws sprouted from his fingertips and he raked one beneath her bottom lip. A warm trickle of blood dripped down her chin. Moving in as if to kiss her, he laved at the droplet before it fell to the floor. Revulsion twisted in her gut and she whimpered, unable to contain her reaction.
Azazel released her, closing his eyes and drawing in a hissing breath as he clearly savored her blood and fear. Smoothing the arms of his jacket, he grinned, though it seemed more a baring of teeth than an actual smile. Her blood stained his lips a deep, ruby red.
“You will be the blood sacrifice I need to claim my earthly form.”
“Why not kill me now, then?” she snapped, rubbing at her neck where it still burned with the freezing imprint of his fingertips.
“Because Viscount Petrova hasn’t strolled into my trap yet. But don’t worry, he will. He’s retrieving the final piece of the puzzle as we speak.”
With that, Azazel vanished, the dim light in her cell cutting out as well.
Trapped in bone-chilling darkness and trembling, Denysé sank to the floor of the prison. Sobs she could no longer contain racked her body, her lip throbbing from its wound. The demon’s earlier taunting had proven true―she was very much afraid, but fear could not stop her from trying to warn Vasya and Rémy.
She crossed her legs, folding them into a lotus position. Eyes closed, hands resting on her knees, she closed her eyes and focused her every thought on her dearest wolves, begging them not to come to her rescue. If Azazel could read her mind in this hellhole, perhaps they could too.
* * * * *
Aimé des Quatre-Frères startled at the bang of the guest cottage door. His brother’s lifemate, Reese, holding out her cellphone, a grave look upon her face.
“It’s for you.”
Furrowing his brow, he took the weird little communication device and held it to his ear. Who in the world could be calling him on one of these things?
“Are you guys still visiting Reese’s family?” Rémy asked without the usual pleasantries. Not that Rémy was ever very pleasant.
“Well, you’re going to have to cut the visit short. I need the that crappy old relic Papa used to keep in his study.”
At first, Aimé didn’t know of what Rémy spoke, but then the chipped and tarnished sword with runes along its blade came to mind, a chill passing through his body. L'annonciateur de la mort it was called--the bringer of death--or aducător de moarte in the tongue of the blade's origin.
“Why would you need that?” Aimé asked.
“I don’t know exactly, but Vasya said―”
“Vasya? Viscount Petrova? Where in the name of the Gods are you?”
“I’m in Ohio at a writer’s convention. Listen, I don’t have time to explain everything, just get me that sword and bring it here. Denysé is in danger.” Rémy’s voice cracked as he spoke her name. The rare display of emotion from his older brother pierced Aimé’s heart.
“All right. I know where it is housed. I’ll be there by morning light.”
Summoning his brothers, Matéo and Sébastien, Aimé told them of his mission.
Sébastien grimaced. “What has Rémy gotten himself into?”
“I don’t know.” Aimé shook his head. “But whatever it is, if he has requested this sword, he’s going to need back up.”
Matéo shook his head, clearly considering their situation from all angles. As Lord Alpha des Quatre-Frères, it was his duty to see all possible outcomes and plan accordingly.
“We can’t all go and leave the pack unprotected,” Matéo said. “And if the Aducător de moarte is as archaic and powerful as you say, Aimé, I’m not comfortable handing it over to Vasya, no questions asked, noble bloodline or not.”
“That’s why I intend to oversee its delivery and use,” Aimé replied.
“No offense, mon frère, but your presence may not be enough. I don’t need to tell you the powers an ancient member of our race possesses. Vasya could snap any one of us in half with the flick of his wrist.”
While Aimé didn’t doubt the veracity of Matéo’s words when it came to himself, Sébastien or Rémy, Matéo held the position of Lord Alpha for a reason. His unparalleled mastery of the gifts specific to their kind made him a far more formidable foe than the other three combined. It also meant, however, that Matéo would never put the clan in harm’s way if he could avoid it.
“If Vasya is as strong as you say, does it really matter that we hand over the sword? He could come take it by force. I don’t think starting a blood feud with him is the best course of action. And with Denysé in peril, you know Rémy isn’t going to allow reason to stand in his way. Let me do as they’ve asked,” Aimé said.
Sighing, Matéo set his jaw and nodded.
“I think we all know you must go with Aimé as well. In case things go wrong.” Sébastien indicated Matéo. “I’ll stay behind and watch over the pack.”
Aimé could feel the annoyance and chagrin emanating from Sébastien. It was no easy task for him to accept his place as second best since as the eldest the mantle of Lord Alpha should have passed to him. Sébastien braced himself against a wave of deep-seated resentment―a battle he fought daily.
Grasping Sébastien’s shoulder, Matéo silently thanked his oldest brother.
* * * * *
As soon as Aimé and Matéo arrived with the relic, relief swept through Cindy’s core. Everything would be all right. It just had to be.
“Viscount Vasya Matteo Petrova.” Matéo bent stiffly at the waist.
“Lord Alpha des Quatre-Frères.” Vasya dipped his head, clearly respectful of the leader of the New World clan.
Agog at the sight of Matéo bowing to anyone, Cindy watched the two males size each other up. Of equal height and build, Matéo and Vasya stood eye to eye, one gaze icy blue the other black onyx. Heart beating its way into her throat, Cindy wondered what passed between them, imperceptible to her human senses.
“Your reputation precedes you,” said Matéo.
“As does yours. Have you brought what I asked for?”
“I have.” Matéo indicated the bundle wrapped in decaying muslin and tied with strips of leather. “But I don’t intend to hand it over until I know what you plan to do with it.”
Vasya snarled, baring one fang-like tooth. “You dare question my intentions?”
Holding his ground, Matéo squared his shoulders. “You dare command compliance of me? With all due respect, viscount, you have no authority here.”
Again, the males stared at each other, the tension palpable and smothering. Cindy held her breath, afraid violence might erupt at any second.
Finally, Vasya relaxed his posture. “Forgive me, Lord Alpha. I am unaccustomed to operating within someone else’s purview.”
Matéo took a step back, apology clearly accepted. “What does the sword have to do with the threat we face?”
“We?” Vasya arched an eyebrow.
“Perhaps you don’t understand how my clan works: you endanger one of us, you face the wrath of all of us. We consider Denysé one of our own.”
Vasya nodded his apparent approval.
To be continued tomorrow. Find Part 6 on Denyse Bridger's blog: http://boundpassion.blogspot.com/