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Dark Liaison: An Ema Marx Novel, #2

Dark Liaison: An Ema Marx Novel, #2

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Dark Liaison: An Ema Marx Novel, #2

ratings:
5/5 (1 rating)
Length:
388 pages
6 hours
Released:
Jul 16, 2018
ISBN:
9781386104575
Format:
Book

Description

Vampires. Shifters. Zombies.

Ema Marx has her work cut out for her after accidentally unleashing the evilest creature in history. Their imminent battle has been foretold, but Ema must hone her powers if she's going to have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

Luckily, Ema meets an elite trainer named Bridget, but in the vampire world people are rarely who they seem. To save her new friends, Ema dives head-first into an alliance with the Alpan King, but she may be giving up more than she bargained for.

Feisty heroines, sensual romances, and butt-kicking action abound in this second installment of the 5x award-winning Ema Marx series by J.D. Brown.

"Even better than the first book!" One-click this page-turner today.

NOW A COMPLETE SERIES:
DARK HEIRLOOM (Book One)
DARK LIAISON (Book Two)
DARK BECOMING (Book Three)
DARK ASCENSION (Book Four)
DARK HEIRESS (Book Five)

NOVELLAS:
ATHENA'S ORACLE
THE WARRIORESS
A VAMPYRE CHRISTMAS CAROL

Released:
Jul 16, 2018
ISBN:
9781386104575
Format:
Book

About the author

Find Dark Heirloom on Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/160667 Author Bio: J.D. Brown graduated from the International Academy of Design and Technology with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her two Pomeranians. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, her writing is influenced by the multicultural urban society of her youth which she continues to visit each summer. J.D. loves paranormal characters; from vampires and werewolves, demons and angels, to witches and ghost. Her writings are often a combination of suspense and romance. J.D.’s books are available in e-book formats from Muse It Up Publishing Inc. and major e-book retailers. She loves to hear from readers. You can reach her via email to DarkHeirloom@gmail.com or visit her website at http://authorjdbrown.com


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Dark Liaison - J. D. Brown

Chapter 1

I crossed my right leg over the left. My bottom slid toward the edge of the glossy, black leather seat, causing me to slouch. I straightened and tugged on the cream button-down blouse. The shirttail drooped past my hips, and the coffee-colored cotton skirt reached my toes. The borrowed clothes belonged to Maria. I looked like a little girl playing dress-up in them.

I uncrossed my legs then swung the left over the right. My butt slid across the limousine and hit the passenger door like butter gliding across a hot pan. With a single finger, I pushed my sunglasses further up the bridge of my nose. All of the tinted windows were shut, including the little panel separating the limousine’s driver from the passengers, and the string of tiny lights lining the roof remained unused. My brain registered the thick darkness inside the cabin. A normal person couldn’t see two inches past their nose in here.

That wasn’t why I was uncomfortable.

My vision was fine and dandy in the dark. In fact, I could see every detail of the limo’s interior with perfect clarity.

I should have done the opposite. I should have taken the sunglasses off and asked the driver to turn on the lights, open all the windows, and let the brightness burn my retinas. Maybe then it would’ve been easier to resist the scene buzzing past us.

Berlin.

I couldn’t believe I was in Germany, and I couldn’t believe I was missing it. The historian in me—heck, the girl in me—wanted to explore Europe so badly. To experience it like a normal tourist on a normal vacation. Instead, I was being transported like some sort of criminal through the city. Well, there was a warrant for my arrest floating around.

Yet it wasn’t the warrant that kept me from stealing a peek out the tinted window. I groaned as I forcefully uncrossed and re-crossed my legs. My left heel accidently slammed against the duffle bag on the floor and I jumped.

Jesu’s masculine, pale-blue hand slid over the center space and wrapped around mine. His brow furrowed, dipping behind black sunglasses that cloaked his emerald-green gaze. The thin line of his lips hinted at his concern.

Ema, you are fidgeting more than usual, he said.

I rolled my eyes and pulled my hand out from under his as I bent to untangle the bag strap from my ankle.

He chewed his lip. Along with the glasses, his curtain of velvet hair hid most of his face. He was dressed head-to-toe in black. I knew what lay under his clothes, though; more ice-blue skin stretched over toned muscle as cool and blue as the lips he held between his pointed teeth. It was a shame he was a distant relative, and it was embarrassing that I tried getting to first base with him before I knew we were related.

We will arrive soon, he offered. Once we are settled in, you can drink—

Don’t say it. As if my Nephilim genes had ears of their own, my throat suddenly went parched. My stomach groaned as the thirst rammed its demanding horns into my gut. The craving was always present, but the four-hour flight in a cramped, single engine Skyhawk, coupled with the two-hour non-stop drive through the German countryside to Berlin, had turned the thirst into a hornet’s nest. Every accidental glimpse at a pedestrian walking too close to my side of the limousine felt like a kid hitting the nest with a big stick. The metaphorical hornets were pissed and aching to sting something. My hands shook.

I sucked in a deep breath and then smoothed my palms over my lap. I’m two minutes away from phasing out the door and attacking the first thing with a pulse.

Jesu nodded and then leaned against the backrest on his side of the leather bench seat, his legs stretched out in front of him. He looked relaxed, but his gaze lingered thoughtfully.

Well, I had threatened to attack someone. He was just being wary.

And silent.

Maybe he thought the quiet helped. Unfortunately, ever since I became a vampyre, true silence no longer existed. The hum of the vehicle’s engine hammered three-fold against my eardrums, pushing my frayed nerves closer to the edge. I wracked my brain for something to say; something to keep my focus off the scenery, my ears off the limousine’s mechanics, and my sanity from combusting.

So, I said, waving my hand as I fished for words. Is the R.E.D. like ... well, what is the R.E.D. anyway?

The Reclusive Eternal Dragons are ... He glanced at the roof of the limo for a moment. They are a lot of things.

I arched my brow, waiting for him to elaborate. Mr. Vague.

He inhaled and then sighed. They are a secret society of humans that help us.

My eyes popped wide open. I thought humans didn’t know vampyres existed?

The vast majority does not, but there are a select very wealthy and specially trained few who do. They are the R.E.D.

And we’re going to meet them now?

Jesu scoffed. Of course not.

But I thought Naamah said we were supposed to go to the R.E.D.?

He shook his head. The R.E.D. is huge, Ema. We are just going to a hotel the R.E.D. owns. It is a hotel that is exclusive to our kind.

My gaze narrowed. How could the R.E.D. be huge, yet only made up of a small group of humans? I was about to ask when the limousine slowed to a crawl and pulled over. My stomach did a flip-flop.

Are we here? Already?

Jesu tensed as he looked past me, out the window. The vehicle rocked a bit as the driver got out and came around to my side to open the door. White light filled the limo’s interior. My eyes squinted behind the sunglasses, the only barrier that kept me from going temporarily blind. The driver offered his hand. I knew he was a vampyre—or maybe a vampire; it was impossible to discern the difference from physical appearance alone—by his scent. He smelled like a predator. In the daylight, the man looked washed-out. His skin was bleach-white, his clothes some sort of pale yellow. Even his eyes looked golden, and he was surrounded by a fuzzy neon halo.

I held my breath, took his hand, and slid out of the limousine. Even without breathing, even without seeing them, I sensed people—everywhere. I could hear them walking, chatting, driving, eating. A knot formed in my gut and my fists clenched.

Jesu climbed out of the limo and wrapped an arm tightly around my waist. I bit back the urge to scoff.

I can phase out of his grip. It would be as easy as blinking.

But his hold did help keep my mind in the present. I ground the heels of my shoes against the yellow sidewalk and forced my gaze to focus on the building in front of us. It stood tall and surrounded by other buildings, like any city. There was some sort of decoration on the side edge, but I couldn’t see much more than the hard outlines of an archway in the center. Not with the florescent sheen beating off every surface, thanks to the sun. Jesu led me to the arch.

There’s a step, he whispered.

I glanced down and noticed the hard edge of a stair. How did he know that was there?

Once I stepped up, the archway cloaked us in blissful shade. Paired with the sunglasses, I was able to see an increment better. The archway was shallow, leading up just a few steps to a narrow iron door held open by our driver. His skin had stopped glowing and I realized now he wore a gray suit, but his eyes were still golden. Jesu slipped him an orange euro bill and then gently guided me past the threshold, into the building.

As soon as the door closed behind us, my mind registered the total darkness. I removed the sunglasses and sighed in relief. My vampyre vision returned to its full acuteness. Vivid color and minuscule detail rushed forth. Not that there was much to see as I followed Jesu down the sleek, white hallway. There were no windows, and the air smelled of antiseptic, which lowered my cravings a notch.

Plump, red armchairs sat around a black coffee table with a crystal chess set and a Birds of Paradise bouquet in a blue vase. Beyond the seating arrangement, the hall ended in a T-intersection with a large reception desk in the center. The receptionist pushed a few loose strands of coal-black hair behind her ear as she chatted into the microphone of her headset. Clean, pale fingers flew across the computer keyboard. Her gaze swept up at our approach. Golden irises and pearly-white fangs greeted us. I was getting used to the teeth, but I wasn’t expecting her eyes to be gold in color, like our driver’s. She quickly ended her telephone conversation and then stood, broadening her smile.

Prince Jesu. She dipped in a quick curtsy. "Velcome back to Berlin. Miss Marx, it is a pleasure to meet you."

"Guten tag. Jesu nodded. I trust your manager spoke with the Neo-Draugrian Hand?"

"Ja, Your Highness. Everything has been arranged down to dee last detail. I vill show you to your room."

I didn’t know which was more appalling; hearing someone refer to Jesu by his title, or the fact that he’s been to Berlin before. With the elite vampire assassins? I wondered.

As she moved around the desk to join us, I noticed the nametag on the lapel of her red blazer said Kirstin. Next to the tag was a small gold-plated pin in the shape of a scaly serpent with a dragon head and wings. The body of the serpent bent around in the shape of an O with the tip of the tail ending in the serpent’s mouth. She led us down the left side of the corridor to a set of elevators.

"Ve’ve added many new updates in dee past decade. Dee guest rooms are now soundproof and have been completely renovated to include all modern-day fixtures. Ve have an indoor swimming pool that is heated and a veight room on dee third floor. On dee fourth floor is a movie room, a game room, and a bar."

As appreciative as I was that Kirstin spoke English, her accent was going to take some getting used to. I thought about getting a book of German translations and meeting her halfway. The doors slid open and we boarded the elevator. Kirstin pressed button number seven and the doors closed. Once released on the seventh floor, she led the way down another wide hall with walls just as white and sleek as the lobby. Black carpeting lined the floor and a few plush red chairs stood in strategically placed areas near decorative plants. The air smelled of antiseptic and fresh vegetation, the plants doing their job.

All the doors were painted black with brass numbers at the top. Kirstin stopped in front of a door numbered 714 and produced a plastic card from her blazer pocket. She swiped the card through the electronic lock and then turned the handle.

"Here ve are, Your Highness."

I rolled my eyes. Seriously, just call him Jesu.

The ridiculous title was a little easier to swallow with Jesu’s older brother, Jalmari. He at least dressed and carried himself like a pompous heir. But Jesu? I glanced at his Led Zeppelin T-shirt, faded black jeans, and steel toe shit-kicker boots.

Your Highness’ my ass.

Jesu and I followed her inside. I was about to ask if the room had double beds when my jaw dropped. The space opened into an extensive suite lined entirely by dazzling honey and cream-colored marble; the floors, walls, ceiling, even the breakfast bar separating the kitchen from the living room was made of marble. Stainless steel appliances decked the kitchen. Four barstools with cream-colored cushions sat behind the bar. Several feet past the bar, the floor sank three steps into the lowered living room. A wraparound couch made of the same fabric as the bar stools surrounded a sixty-inch flat screen TV.

On the far right and left of the suite were faux walls made of Oriental sliding panels. Red cherry blossoms painted the thin canvas material.

Our bedrooms, I realized. My breath hitched as I wondered what they looked like. Probably like a million bucks, just like the rest of this suite.

"You vill find everything you need here. Kirstin’s beaming smile was evident in her voice. Toiletries and extra towels are under dee sink in dee bathing rooms, extra linens and garments are in your closets. Housekeeping comes every Friday at midnight. Dee refrigerator is restocked at that time. Should you require anything else, please do not hesitate to use dee telephone. There is one in each bedroom."

Jesu thanked her. She handed him two plastic keycards, and he gave her few colorful euros. As soon as the door closed behind her, I let my excitement out.

Oh. My. God. This is amazing! I turned in a slow circle, taking it all in. There were no windows, just a few tiny tea lights behind frosted glass embedded in the marble ceiling. It was perfect.

Jesu chuckled. Wait until you see your bedroom.

I froze and narrowed my gaze. Which one’s mine?

His sideways smile dimpled his left cheek and he gestured by raising his eyebrows. The one on the right.

I bolted toward the cherry-blossomed panel, slid the door to the left, and stepped inside. The space was very zen with red and black crêpe paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, stained wood floors, and bamboo furniture. The bed sheets were a crisp white and everything gleamed softly, including the adjoined matching bathroom. My chest heaved in a slight sigh. The theme décor was a bit much, but the room was just vacant enough that I could cling to the fact that living here was temporary.

It’s a hotel, not an apartment.

My fingertips traced the pale bamboo knobs of the wardrobe as I wondered what kind of garments hid inside. I pulled the drawers open. An array of dresses lined the rack, arranged by color, length, and material; short cotton summer dresses on the left to floor-length ball gowns on the right. I scrunched my nose.

Who in their right mind would need so many dresses?

Below them were six smaller drawers. I opened the top one and found several new packages of panties with the tags still on them, an oversized nightgown in lima-bean-green with tiny puke-green bows, and something made of red lace.

I pinched the red lace between my thumb and middle finger and pulled it out for further examination. It was a teddy—and not an I-want-to-feel-feminine-while-I-sleep­ teddy, but a fuck-me-immediately teddy. The entire thing was see-through, the cups cinched into an empire waist, and the hem ended in a tiny ruffle that wouldn’t cover more than a third of my butt.

You like it?

I jumped, did a one-eighty-degree turn, and threw the teddy across the room like it was a hand grenade. It floated behind the bed like a burning red feather. My lungs released a painful breath.

Of course not, I’m not a slut.

Jesu was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed, the duffle bag hanging from his shoulder. He chuckled as his gaze fell to the floor and then swept back up to face me, the dimple in his left cheek more prominent than ever.

I meant the room. Not the—

The room’s great, thanks! Heat rose to my cheeks as I slammed the drawer shut.

He snickered and I glared at him. Jesu cleared his throat and stood straight, but his smile didn’t wane and the laughing sparkle in his eyes still twinkled.

Here, he said. He reached into the duffle bag and pulled out a rolled-up scroll.

My breath caught. You brought it with? I didn’t think we could.

Technically it belongs to the Neo-Draugrian library, but we can always return it later. I think you should have it. He extended his arm, pushing the frail paper into my hands.

I looked at the ancient document that detailed the knowledge of the Jumlin clan; my father’s clan. The foreign script might have been impossible for me to decipher, but the weight it carried in sentiment was something only I could understand. A knot twisted in my stomach, the same kind I used to get whenever Mom and I fought. I tried to swallow, but my throat had thickened. I managed to mumble a thank you.

His expression was suddenly serious. I can read it to you ... if you want.

I shook my head. Thanks, but it’s still a sore spot.

He nodded his understanding. Then his eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. I almost forgot. He reached into his jeans pocket. I found this in the trash in Naamah’s bathroom, along with your clothes. I thought maybe you forgot about it.

He pulled out a small, crinkled square of paper folded in half and splotched with red stains. I recognized it immediately as the Jack the Ripper newspaper clipping I took from Jalmari’s library.

"You want me to keep that too?"

Jesu shrugged. I do not know what this is. I just thought it might be important, since it was in your pocket. He turned the paper over in his hand and slowly ran his thumb under the edge as if to open it.

I snatched it away. Thanks.

He shrugged. I am sorry there was not time to get the rest of your things.

I’m pretty sure I won’t miss them too much, I said, looking at the wardrobe again. I placed the article and scroll in one of the small drawers. They’ve thought of everything here. You’d think we were moving in permanently. I winced in hindsight. "We’re not staying here permanently, right?"

Vampyres tend not to have permanent homes, but the length of our stay does not make a difference to Naamah. He would have only the highest quality, no expense too great. It is part of his job.

"It was part of his job. I sighed. Now his job is ... whatever Apollyon wants him to do."

Just thinking about Naamah—and Maria—sent reality crashing down around me. This isn’t fair. We’re expected to live like kings while Naamah and Maria suffer at the hands of that psychotic Apollyon. Who knows what horrible things he’s doing to them?

After witnessing Leena’s murder, I really did not want to imagine what Apollyon might have in store for Maria or Naamah. I hugged myself.

I should phone the Council but ... Jesu’s words trailed off as he wet his lips in thought.

My brow quirked. But?

It may be too risky. They will figure out where we are.

I sagged against the edge of the bed. They’ll arrest me and hand me over to Jalmari. We shouldn’t have come here. We ran, and they’ll think it’s because I’m guilty.

Jesu shook his head. No, they will not come here for you. Germany belongs to the Alpan clan. No Neo-Draugrian vampyre or vampire can arrest you here. You are safe as long as you do not set foot in Neo-Draugrian territory again.

Then why do you think contacting the Council will be dangerous?

Jesu raked his fingers through his long tresses. I know my father. He will take back the throne as soon as he is able. Once he declares himself the Neo-Draugrian king again, we will have no allies there, only enemies.

But I thought Apollyon was an enemy of the clan. Can’t they arrest him?

Jesu shook his head. My father will not let it be that easy. He will find a place to hide, build an army, and lay in wait until the right moment. Or perhaps he will pick the Council members off one by one. Besides, he married into the Neo-Draugrian clan. He is the rightful, legal king. Not even Jalmari can do anything about that.

Nausea twisted my stomach as a mortifying realization took hold. Apollyon won’t care about the rules. If the Council doesn’t arrest me, he’ll find other ways. I know he will.

That is why I cannot risk calling. You are safe as long as no one knows where we are. He closed the distance between us and then touched the tip of his forefinger under my chin, lifting my jaw until our gazes locked. His eyes were a deep stormy emerald. I promise you are safe.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and nodded.

His hand fell away from my chin. I believe there is a reason why Naamah specifically chose Berlin for us. The Alpan king and queen live nearby. King Nikolas despises my father.

Do you think he will help us?

Jesu scrubbed the base of his palm against his forehead. I am hoping we never have to ask, but I am positive Naamah placed us here just in case.

I don’t understand. Why don’t you want to tell Nikolas? Why risk waiting for Apollyon to find us?

Jesu glanced at the floor. Ema, you are a bit of a commodity; a vampyre born to two humans. My father already wants to use you; I do not know how the rest of our kind will react. If we tell Nikolas, he will ask questions.

I scoffed. So tell him about your premonition. I’m sure he won’t hurt me if he wants Apollyon out of his hair.

What if that makes things worse? If word gets out about you, people might try to force you to fight him.

"But I want to fight Apollyon. I want to send him back to hell."

His wide eyes gazed into mine, a plea sparkled across them. You will get your chance, Ema. I know that better than anyone else. But you need time and training. If you go after my father now, you will lose. Please, wait and learn how to fight before you do this. Give yourself a fair shot at winning.

A sigh pushed past my lips. Jesu was right; I didn’t stand a chance against Apollyon. I had only been a vampyre for a few months, and I sucked at using my powers.

Of course I’ll wait.

His shoulders relaxed and he nodded his appreciation. I wet my lips and then moved my arm around so that my hand was hidden behind my back, where I crossed my fingers.

I will wait, but I might not wait as long as he wants.

Maria

Black eyes gleamed behind heavy lids. They were once so dark, no one could discern where the irises ended and the pupils began, but now a cloudy gray fogged over the centers and crow’s feet creased the corners. Full lips frowned, their edges also wrinkled by time’s journey. A silent sigh ensued.

I am getting old.

Glass clicked against the mahogany wood, distracting me from my internal fuss over the reflection in the crystal decanter. The Master had set his chalice on the desktop. It was but a quarter empty, yet I re-filled the glass to the brim. The blood had returned tight coils of muscle to his bones and a clean pallor to his skin. His frame filled his son’s favorite armchair and the leather creaked as he leaned against the backrest. He was every bit as terrifying and handsome as I remembered him.

A single wound the size of a silver dollar coin remained above his right breast. He kept it covered with gauze and medical tape under a floor-length mink fur coat from his son’s wardrobe. No amount of blood seemed to fill the wound.

He pushed back a strand of wavy black hair with a single fingernail, then lowered his hand to touch my wrist. My husband’s breath hitched from across the desk. Apollyon smirked.

Calm yourself, Naamah. I was only going to ask your lovely mate to remember to serve our guest.

I glanced at Victor who sat on my husband’s left. My lips twitched as I forced a polite smile onto them and filled his glass. Victor’s back straightened as though he wanted to decline the offer, but he knew as well as any that if the Master said to drink, you drink. He cleared his throat and hastily nodded his thanks. Ignoring him, I walked around to the other side and poured a glass for Naamah. As the red liquid flowed, I squeezed Naamah’s elbow with my free hand and narrowed my gaze at him.

Relax, you big oaf.

Apollyon steepled his fingers and his long nails clicked against one another. Now then, let us continue with business. Victor, I know of your Rebel clans and the numbers of men you have turned to our way of thinking. Your loyalty and dedication is the most admirable I have ever seen, and for that I will reward you.

Victor leaned forward and grinned. It is an honor, sir. I told you I would serve you even in death, and I never go back on my word.

Apollyon held up a hand to silence his eager follower. And so you have proven. I want you by my side as my Second-in-Command again.

I bit the inside of my cheek as I returned to the Master’s side. That back-stabbing criminal didn’t deserve to be a vampyre, much less one of status. If Apollyon managed to take the throne, Victor would be the second most powerful vampyre in all of Scandinavia—a position that, up until now, belonged to my husband. Naamah’s vice grip on his chair armrests turned his knuckles a frosty white. If he didn’t check himself, he’d crack the wood soon.

Victor grinned from ear to ear as he nodded. Thank you, sir. It is indeed an honor.

However, Apollyon continued. I agree with Naamah’s argument; now is not the time to call upon the Rebels.

Victor’s eyes widened. But, sir—

A low growl rumbled through Apollyon’s chest. They have followed your word for centuries while I was dead, they can wait a while longer.

Victor’s brow furrowed as he worked his jaw. So you are not going to impose war?

Of course I will, Apollyon scoffed. But these things take time and planning. If word of my existence were to spread among the locals, surely the Council and the R.E.D. would hear and both would have my head on a platter.

The Rebels will fight for you.

They will have their chance, Apollyon hissed. But there are other more pressing matters that must be dealt with first. He brought his chalice to his lips and narrowed his gaze over the rim, daring Victor to argue further. Victor looked to the side and shifted his weight. Apollyon sat the glass on the desk. Are you ready to accept your orders as my Hand, or was I wrong to believe you were capable of such an honorable service?

Victor studied the wide desktop, looking at no one in particular. A restrained growl carried in his lowered tone. I will follow your every word, Your Highness.

Apollyon nodded, keeping his gaze trained on Victor. I require a few personal items lost to me during my death. You will find them all in a chest in Castrum Draconis.

My brow arched at the same time as Victor’s, but I kept quiet.

The castle in Sweden? he inquired.

The chest is hidden inside the eastern wall of my late wife’s burial chamber. I require you to fetch those items for me immediately.

Of course. Victor nodded.

Apollyon arched his brow.

Victor hesitated, his expression tight. He stood, remembered to bow, and then dispersed into a cloud of black smoke. His essence flew quickly out of the room, filling the air with the bittersweet scent of nitrogen. My shoulders relaxed in his absence.

Naamah. Apollyon faced my husband. When Victor returns with my possessions, I will require travel to the land that was once Sumeria.

My dear husband kept his expression guarded and slowly shook his head. Iraq is stricken with human warfare, My Lord. Modern weapons are—

I am familiar with modern weapons, Apollyon said between sips of his drink. That is why I am counting on you for the best possible mode of transportation. Our stay will be brief; only six hours or so.

My hands clenched tight around the crystal pitcher as my husband glanced at his lap in thought. I wished I knew what the Master was thinking. Returning to his homeland, however briefly, after nearly eight thousand years away, could not be a good sign. As always, Apollyon would likely not tell us his agenda, only what he needed us to do to prepare for it.

An airplane would be the most inconspicuous from here to the Iraqi border, said my husband. After that, phasing will be the safest way.

How much time will the journey require?

About eight to ten hours from here to the Middle East.

A sinister grin crept across the Master’s face. Good. When you are done arranging the flight, call the Council members and schedule a mandatory meeting in four days’ time. Speak not of me, nor of Victor, or of anything else you witness in my presence. Continue your ruse as the Hand of my son. Should they become curious, tell them all will be revealed at the meeting.

Naamah briefly chewed the inside of his cheek and then lowered his head in a half-bow. Yes, My Lord.

Apollyon waived his hand dismissively. Naamah stood and went to the office door, but hesitated at the threshold and glanced over his shoulder at me.

I jerked my chin, gesturing for him to go. I have chores in the kitchen.

He hesitated, but left the room. I faced the Master. Apollyon rubbed a palm against the plush mink fur over his chest and hissed through his teeth. Why the wound refused to heal was beyond my medical knowledge. It wasn’t infected, and it was too shallow to require stitches.

He paid me no mind as his hand slid under

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