Xypher went running toward Kerryna's condo. From the outside, it was identical to Simone's, except it had a small mirror that dangled from the knocker-a mirror that was designed to keep the gallu out.
If only it'd worked.
He ran to the door and died the knob.
Opening the door, ready for battle, he was surprised to find the place completely empty. He entered the house slowly, expecting an ambush. With nothing but silence humming in his ears, he went room to room looking for the Dimme.
Or her body.
There were no heartbeats in the place. But everywhere he looked were the remnants of battle. Furniture was busted, shelves were on the floor. It was obvious Kerryna and Kyle had put up a tremendous fight.
But the question was, why had she been here without Xedrix?
"Damn it," he breathed. They must have taken her with them when they left.
Xypher went rushing back to find Simone struggling to get an unconscious Kyle into her car. He took the whelp from her and swung himup in his aims before he flashed them to Sanctuary.
Carson came to his feet with a stem scowl as he saw Kyle's bleeding body. "What happened?"
"He was attacked." Xypher took Kyle into the room where Carson had tended him when he'd been wounded.
"Thanks for getting him here."
"Anytime. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some bad news to deliver."
Xypher turned to Simone. "What bad news?" she asked. "I think they took Kerryna."
Her face pale, Simone staggered back from the shock. "The gallu? Why?"
"To use her, I'm sure."
"Does Xedrix know?"
Xypher glanced back to Kyle's bleeding body. "I'm going to take a wild guess that he doesn't. I think Kyle must have been on watch duty. We need to get to their bar again and tell Xedrix what's happened."
She couldn't agree more. "All right. Flashy thing coming up ... no nausea this time. We hope."
"Hang on." He looked at Jesse. "You, too. Gloria, hold on to him so we don't get separated."
The next thing Simone knew, they were at the club, winch was hopping with college students and locals. They were all standing behind the stage where Xedrix had brought them in originally.
A band was playing loud, dark wave music.
Xypher took her hand and led her toward the dance floor. In the crowd, it was impossible to distinguish the Charonte from the humans. The only way she could tell the difference was her demon sense that picked up on them whenever they drew near one.
"Where's Xedrix?" Xypher asked a tall, dark-haired demon who was serving drinks.
"He's at the bar."
Xypher made his way over to the area that was marked with neon tubing and a hand-painted sign on the mirror with the club's logo of vampire teeth with three drops of blood falling from the lips.
Xedrix sat on one of the stools, watching the crowd and drinking absinthe. He tensed the moment he saw them approaching. "What's up?"
Simone decided she'd take the heat for being the harbinger as Xypher had noted earlier, since she was female Xedrix was less likely to hurt her. "It's Kerryna. We found Kyle Peltier wounded. He said the gallu had taken her."
The glass in Xedrix's hand shattered as his eyes glowed a terrifying red. "What do you mean she was taken?" He grabbed one of the demons who was walking past and threw him onto the bar.
The humans around them quickly took their drinks and moved away. "Where is Kerryna?" Xedrix demanded.
The Charonte paled. "Last I saw she said she wasn't feeling well. She was headed upstairs to the office to lie down. She said not to tell you. She didn't want you to worry. Said she'd be back before you missed her."
Actual smoke came out of Xedrix's nostrils in a frightening display of anger. "Why did you leave her alone?"
"She was sick so she went with the bear upstairs. I only did what your Katika told me to do."
Xypher frowned. "How can she get sick?"
Xedrix turned on him with a ferocious growl. "She's not sick. She's pregnant with my simi."
Simone gaped. This was bad.
Xedrix shot off the stool, but before he could do anything, Xypher grabbed his arm.
"Take me with you to Kalosis."
Xedrix scowled at him. "Are you insane? Have you any idea what Stryker would do to you if you showed up there?"
"I don't care."
Xedrix cocked his head in a questioning manner. "Your vengeance means that much to you?"
Xypher locked gazes with Simone before he answered. "My vengeance means nothing to me anymore. Send me in there and I'll get Kerryna out for you."
Xedrix stepped back. "What are you saying?"
Xypher paused as he thought carefully about how much he wanted to tell them. This wasn't only about getting Kerryna back-this was about protecting Simone. She meant more to him than anything.
Even his vengeance.
"I understand why you won't stay with Kerryna in Kalosis. You protect Simone and I'll get Kerryna out of there for you. I swear it."
The demon curled his lip. "Stryker will never allow it. He'll kill you the minute you show. The gallu want to use her, they won't give her up without a war."
"Stryker is half human and half god. His powers won't stand against mine."
Xedrix's mocking laughter rang out. "You're half Greek god . . . Have you any idea what Apollymi would do to you the minute that scent crosses her nostrils? You won't make it a foot before she skewers you. I'm the only one who stands a chance there. By the gods, I'm going to take it."
Simone tinned to glance at him and he pointed over Xedrix's shoulder. There in the shadows, leaning against the wall, was Kerryna and she looked terrible.
They rushed to her side.
Xedrix picked her up in his arms and cradled her close. "Are you all right, me arita?"
Kerryna gasped as if she were fighting a wave of severe nausea. She clung to Xedrix while tears brimmed in her eyes. "They've given me Aperia."
Xedrix's face paled.
"What's that?" Simone asked.
Xypher cursed. "It's a slow-acting poison that's deadly to demons."
"I have twelve hours," Kerryna said, her voice breaking. "If I kill Xypher and the Destroyer, Satara will give me the antidote."
Xedrix looked up at Xypher. "You're one dead son of a bitch."
"No!" Kerryna snapped, clipping his face and making him look at her. "We can't do this."
An angry muscle twitched in Xedrix's neck. "I'm not going to let you die. I don't care who I have to kill to save you. I will."
Simone cleared her throat to get their attention. "Can't we get the antidote?"
Kerryna shook her head. "Satara has it all and she's guarded by a thousand Spathi Daimons and gallu demons. It's hopeless. She wants Xypher dead. His life is the only thing she'll trade the antidote for."
Simone refused to believe that. "There has to be another way."
Xypher turned to her as he remembered someone who not only was connected to Apollymi and Satara, but one who also owed him a favor. "I have an idea. Give me your phone."
He opened it and dialed Acheron who answered on the first ring. "I need a favor."
Acheron laughed. "Really?"
"But not from you. I need to talk to Katra."
"Why?" There was no missing the ice in Acheron's tone. Not that Xypher blamed him. Katra was Acheron's daughter and he was sure the Atlantean would do anything to protect her.
But right now, they had a much more pressing problem. "I need someone who can walk into Kalosis, kick Satarars ass, and save the life of an innocent. . . Dimme."
Acheron cursed. "You're not asking much, are you?"
Xypher ground his teeth before he uttered the word that galled him. "Please, Acheron. This isn't about me. It's about saving a mother and her unborn baby." He seriously hoped that would work on Acheron's conscience.
"Where are you?"
"Club Vampyre in the Warehouse District. Do you know the place?"
"No, but I'll be there shortly."
He hung up and looked at Xedrix. "I'll have the cavalry coming. Trust me."
Shifting Kerryna to one side, Xedrix reached over onto the wall and pulled down the lever for a fire alarm. It rang out in a deafening tone that drowned out everything, even the music.
Every human in the club ran for the doors; while the demons gathered around Xedrix.
"We're closed for the night," Xedrix announced to his staff. "Tyris, call the fire department and tell them a drunk customer pulled the switch by mistake. Let's get this place cleared out."
While they waited for Acheron, Xedrix took Kerryna to the bar and set her on a stool.
"What are you planning?" Simone asked Xypher. "And don't say 'nothing' I've learned to know you better than that."
He glanced to Kerryna before he answered. "I'm tired of seeing innocent people get hurt. I'm going to stop this once and for all."
"And if you can't?"
Simone felt a fissure in the air an instant before Acheron appeared with an extremely tall, unbelievably beautiful blond woman who was obviously pregnant. She must be the mysterious Katra.
The Charonte hissed as soon as they saw them, then fell to their knees.
Acheron looked around with one brow arched high. "This was wholly unexpected." He scowled at Xypher. "Where did the Charonte come from?"
Xedrix rose slowly to stand before Acheron, but he made sure to keep his eyes downcast. "Forgive us, akri, for our lack of vigilance. I ask for no mercy for myself, but for my men, spare their lives. They only followed me and did as I told them. I'm the one you should kill, not them."
Katra gaped at the sight of the demons. "So this is what happened to all of you. I'd wondered. Nice to see you guys again. I'm glad you survived. Have no idea why you're in a club, but still glad you're all here." She looked at Acheron and indicated Xedrix with a tilt of her chin. "Xedrix is of particular interest to you."
"Well, one, he's your mother's favorite of all her demons, and two, he's the older brother of your Simi."
Acheron frowned at her disclosure. "Really?"
Xedrix looked every bit as puzzled as Acheron. "Simi?"
"Xiamara," Katra said quietly.
Xedrix's jaw went slack. "My sister lives?"
Katra smiled affectionately at the demon and nodded. "And is spoiled absolutely rotten."
Xedrix's eyes softened. "Bless you, akri, for your kindness and mercy. I have grieved for centuries over the fate of my simi sister."
"Brace yourself," Acheron said in a deadpan tone. "Xirena lives with us, too."
Kerryna put her hand in Xedrix's.
The demon seemed pleased by the news. "Then I can die happily, akri, knowing they are alive. Thank you."
Acheron rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to kill you, Xedrix. Simi would torture me for eternity if I even considered it. By the way, how did you guys end up in a bar in New Orleans of all places?"
Kerryna laughed, then grimaced as if a wave of pain hit her. "The bear, Kyle Peltier, found them after they'd escaped from Kalosis. They were trying to eat a tourist, but Kyle stopped them before they'd killed him and explained that if they wanted to live here and not die, they'd have to follow rules and make a home. He took his own money and invested it in the bar and showed Xedrix how to run it all. The two of them are still partners."
Katra narrowed her gaze on Kerryna. "I remember you from Vegas. You're the gallu Dimme who escaped."
"And I you, goddess. I well remember you trying to kill me."
"She's not evil, Kat," Xypher said quickly, stepping between them. "She's been hiding out, trying to fit into the world, too."
Simone moved forward. "And she's the one Satara poisoned. The only antidote for it is in Kalosis with Satara. As an expectant mother yourself, you can see why we can't let her die."
Xypher nodded. "I was hoping you could help us."
Acheron met Katra's gaze. "You know I can't go in there without ending the world. You're on your own."
Katra smiled. "I know. I'll be right back," She patted Xedrix affectionately on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Xed. Kalosis is the one place Satara and Stryker can't touch me. You know what my grandma would do to them if they tried."
As she started to fade, Xypher stopped her.
"Wait, Kat. I want to go with you." Katra frowned at him. "You sure?"
Xypher nodded, then looked at Simone. "I have to do this."
"I know," Simone said quietly. "I just wanted to tell you something before you left."
"I love you."
Xypher couldn't breathe as those words hit him like a physical blow. He cupped her cheek in his hand. "It's not possible."
"Trust me, it is, and you better come back here or I'm going to be really upset at you."
He pressed his cheek to hers and inhaled her precious scent. "Have no fear," he whispered in her ear. "I will be back to pester you."
Xypher did the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life. He moved away from Simone and joined Kat. "Let's go."
Katra reached out and touched his arm before she opened the portal to Kalosis.
Xypher watched Simone's beautiful face until it dissolved into blackness.
Heartbroken, he blinked as they materialized in what appeared to be a giant hall of some sort. There were Daimons gathered all around as if waiting for something.
Kat turned to her left and it was there he saw a large throne. And in it sat Stryker with Satara standing off to the side.
"You're not dead," Satara said as she saw Xypher. "Pity."
Katra laughed at Satara's comment. "He's not going to die, cousin. Give me the antidote."
"Oh, I can't do that," Satara said in a simpering tone.
"Yes," Kat said, mocking her, "you can,"
"Nope, afraid not." Satara pouted prettily. "I had an accident. It's all gone."
Kat lifted one finely arched brow. "Have you lost your mind? Do you know what Xedrix will do to you once I tell him it's gone?"
"Xedrix? The demon? He's dead."
"No he's not." Kat crossed her arms over her chest. This game aggravated her since she could tell Satara was lying. She'd known good and well that Xedrix was alive. "He's the father to Kerryna's baby. You couldn't have picked a worse enemy. Unlike Xypher, he can get in here alone anytime he wants to and he will have the backing of the Destroyer when he tears your heart out. Guess I better go tell him to sharpen his claws."
Kat began to fade.
"Oh, wait, you mean this antidote?" Satara pulled a small vial out from between her breasts. "I just remembered I had it."
"Oh, I'm sure."
Satara handed the vial off to a Daimon who brought it forward and gave it to Kat. The vial was of clear glass with a bright red liquid inside.
Kat assured Xypher it was the serum with a nod of her head.
Grateful Kerryna was taken care of, Xypher moved to stand in front of Stryker's throne. "While I'm here, I want a truce."
Satara blinked at Xypher's words as if she'd misheard them. "What?"
"You heard me. I've come to terms with our past. And I want you out of my life completely. No more demons, no more poisons. No more shit. You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone." Satara appeared aghast. "Really?"
Stryker leaned over to speak to her. "I'd take this deal, Satara. I doubt you'll find a better one elsewhere."
Satara's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Why is this so important to you?"
He knew better than to answer that question with the truth. That would only hurt Simone. "It isn't and neither are you. I only have two more weeks on earth. I'd like to enjoy them."
"So that's it?" she asked. "That's it."
Satara laughed bitterly. "And you really expect me to believe that you'll just let me go about my life while you go back to hell? In peace. No harm, no foul?"
She came off the dais to approach him with a sneer. "Do you think I was born yesterday? I know you better than that. You have no intention of seeing this met."
Xypher shook his head. "You don't know me at all. You never did. I want peace and I want Simone left alone."
She tapped her fingers against her upper arms before she spoke in a low, lethal tone. "Then kill yourself."
It was Xypher's turn to blink in disbelief of what he'd heard. "What?"
"You heard me, Xypher. If you want peace and are willing to bury the hatchet, then do it. Kill yourself."
"Satara!" Kat snapped angrily.
"Don't Satara me, Kat, I know how to play this game. Better yet, I know how to win it." She turned her attention back to Xypher. "So what's it to be?"
Xypher stood there in silence as he considered her offer. "How do I know you're not lying?"
"I swear on the river Styx that if you kill yourself, I'll never go near Simone again. She'll be completely safe from me or any of the demons and Daimons here in Kalosis. I'll even send her a birthday card every year for good me a sure."
Xypher looked at Kat, whose face was ashen.
"Don't," his inner voice ordered. But as he considered it more fully, it made complete sense. He was going to die anyway. What difference would two weeks really make? Other than giving him more memories of Simone to torture himself with.
More time to love her.
More time for her to love him.
No, it would be easiest on both of them to end it all now. Rip the Band-Aid off and let the wound start to heal.
His heart breaking, he nodded. "It's done, then."
Kat gaped. "You can't do this, Xypher."
"Yes I can. It's the only way I can guarantee Simone's safety."
Satara paused at the side of a Daimon to draw a short sword from his waist. Her walk was seductive as she neared him. She angled the sword at his heart. "We have a bargain?"
Satara stabbed him straight through the heart. "Sorry. I didn't want you to change your mind about dying."
Xypher staggered back, gasping as the pain swept through him.
He sank to the ground.
Kat knelt by his side. "Xypher?"
"Don't tell Simone what I did. Let her go in peace . . . please. Tell her it was quick."
Kat held him close, but hers wasn't the face he wanted. He wanted to see Simone one last time. But in doing this, he was protecting her and that was all that mattered.
He glanced down to his arm where his vow of vengeance was written. The words dissolved while he struggled to breathe.
It was over now . . .
Kat watched as the light went out of Xypher's eyes and he expelled his last breath.
Kat curled her lip at the smugness on Satara's face. "You selfish bitch."
"Oh, shut up, Kat. You have what you came for, now go."
Kat stood to her full height, dwarfing Satara. "One day, someone's going to give you exactly what you deserve. I can't wait to see it."
And with that, she returned to the club.
Refusing to look at Simone, Kat handed the antidote to Kerryna who smiled her thanks before she drank it.
That question from Simone tore through her. I don't want to do this . . .
But she had no choice. Turning around, she felt ill. Simone's face looked so hope fill-it was obvious she was expecting Xypher to appear at any second.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she reached out and took Simone's hand into hers. "He didn't make it, sweetie. He went down in the battle."