Fear the Darkness
Page 3

 Sherrilyn Kenyon

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Instead there were orange barrels and construction sites all around. The sound of jackhammers had replaced that of morning jazz and beeping horns. Pain inltrated every particle of his body...
Until he crossed over to Acme Oyster House on Iberville. God, how many times had he eaten here? How many laughs and beers had he shared with his mother and friends?
It looked the same, only fresher from reconstruction. He stood beside the window, watching the waiters take orders and people chat, until his gaze fell to the table near the back.
His heart stopped beating. It was Kyrian Hunter and his wife with their daughter Marissa and a baby boy Nick had never seen before. They were laughing and chatting with other people Nick had called friends, Vane and Bride, Julian and Grace. But what absolutely oored him was the fact they were at a table with Valerius and Tabitha. Since Tabitha was the twin sister of Amanda, that wasn’t the shocker.
Valerius was what stunned him.
A mortal enemy of Julian and Kyrian, Valerius’s family had tricked and killed Kyrian—then destroyed the people and country the two of them had fought and died to protect. For centuries, they had nursed bitter hatred toward each other.
And now Kyrian was handing his son over to a man he’d once sworn to decapitate...
How had this happened?
He jerked at the quiet whisper from behind him. It was Stryker’s half-sister, Satara. Tall and dazzling, she was the epitome of feminine beauty and grace.
He stepped back so that the others couldn’t see him on the street. “What are you doing here?”
“I felt a strange sensation coming from you and I wanted to see what caused it.”
He hated that sharing blood with her allowed her to feel his emotions. It was irritating to have someone read him. “Nothing. Go home, Satara.”
She tilted her head as if looking to see Kyrian and the others inside. “It’s interesting, isn’t it? Why Acheron brought them back to life after they’d died, but refused to do the same for your beloved mother. I wonder why he chose them over her.”
“I don’t need you to poke that scab.”
“True. I’m sure it’s still raw.”
She had no idea.
“But,” she said, stepping close enough to whisper in his ear. “Why should they be here, living happily while your mother is dead?”
“Don’t start with me, Satara. That man and his family are all I have left.”
She cocked her head. “Are they? What do you think they’ll say when they nd out you’re a Daimon Dark-Hunter? That through you Stryker can see and hear all they do?”
He started away from her, but she pulled him to a stop. Her long nails bit into his forearm.
“The old Voodoo bitch told you that Acheron helped here in New Orleans after the hurricane, but did she tell you who his mother is?”
Nick froze at her words. “Ash has a mother? Alive?”
She smiled. “Ooo, another secret he kept from you, huh? So much for being best friends. Makes you wonder what other things you don’t know, doesn’t it?”
Yes, it did. He snatched his arm from her grasp. “Who is his mother?”
“The Atlantean goddess, Apollymi. But she’s better known to the immortal world as the Great Destroyer.”
“Yes. For no other reason than she was having a bad hair day, she has unleashed unrelenting storms against civilizations for centuries, and she was highly upset that night when Desiderius played havoc here in New Orleans.”
Nick couldn’t breathe as he recalled that night. Desiderius had been Stryker’s agent, and he had been the one who had killed his mother.
She leaned in to him to whisper again, “She’s also the mother of my brother Stryker. You know him. Leader of the Spathi Daimons. Who do you think pulls my brother’s leash? Who do you think controls Stryker’s army?”
Nick felt rage swell up inside him at all the truths Ash had kept from him and the others. “Ash’s mother is the leader of the Daimons?”
“Yes, she is. Now you know why Ash keeps so many secrets. How would it look to all of you to know his beloved mother is the one who controls your enemies? That’s why he hasn’t told any of you about the Spathi Daimons such as Desiderius. Why Ash will always stay out of such conicts. He’s not the big bad. His mother is. Face it. Ash has been lying to all of you from the very beginning. Artemis doesn’t control him. He controls her. She lives in complete fear of him.”
Nick remembered the night he’d killed himself in front of Artemis. Satara was right. The goddess had been terried of Acheron and his reaction to Nick’s death. That alone had caused her to reanimate him. Even against the rules.
Still, he couldn’t get Menyara’s words out of his mind. “Menyara has never been wrong about anyone.”
“Menyara has never met a god who can alter someone’s thoughts and perceptions. Think about it, Nick. How many times have the Were-Hunters tampered with someone’s mind to make them forget they saw something preternatural?”
More times than he could count. “But Ash has always refrained from doing that.”
“That’s what he says. Yet how often do people preach one thing, then do another?”
Again, she was right.
She leaned against him and rubbed his biceps. “You are blessed with the truth. Nothing in the Dark-Hunter world is what it seems. Acheron has duped everyone... but you. The question is, are you going to let him continue to get away with hurting people for his mother or are you going to stop him? How many more people must die because Acheron is a cruel sadistic bastard? It’s him or us, Nick. Whose side are you on?”
His own. To hell with the rest of them. But he didn’t want her to know that. Not yet anyway.
She toyed with his hair. “Stryker has given you the means for vengeance. The only question is, are you man enough to take it?”
He curled his lip at her. “I’m not a man, Satara. I’m an immortal with god powers.”
She inclined her head to him. “And as long as you don’t forget that, Acheron is yours.”
Nick glanced back at the restaurant and the truth pierced him hard. He would have gladly sacriced Kyrian and his family to have his mother back. Friendship was one thing. Family was another. Though Kyrian had been like a brother to him, he wasn’t blood. Nick had been willing to sell his soul for vengeance and he still was.
“Be true to us, Nick, and we can give you what you want most.”
Nick sneered at her. “You don’t know what I want.”
“Yes, I do. You want revenge and you want your mother back.”
“I can get my own revenge.”
“True, and we can give you your mom.”
What the hell was she talking about now? The bitch was crazy. “Don’t be stupid. My mother’s dead. There’s no way back from that.”
“Isn’t there? You’re here and yet you were once dead.” She snapped her ngers. An instant later, a tall dark-haired man appeared beside them. At six foot four, Nick wasn’t used to many men who made him crane his neck, but this one did. And by the luminescent blue eyes, Nick knew exactly who and what this man was.
A Dream-Hunter.
Gods of sleep, they were sent from Olympus to help and protect dreamers. And through a pact with Acheron, many of them were sent to aid Dark-Hunters. To help them heal, especially when they were asleep, so that they could continue to protect mankind from the evil that preyed on them.
This wasn’t the rst Dream-Hunter to approach him. He’d sent M’Adoc away as soon as the god had offered to help Nick forget the pain of his mother’s death. He didn’t want to forget his mother or what had happened.
Nick jerked his chin toward the newcomer. “I don’t need his help.”
“Of course you don’t, Nicky. But Kratos can do the one thing even Acheron can’t do.”
“And that is?”
“Bring a soul out of its eternal rest and return it to the land of the living.”
Nick wasn’t stupid enough to buy what she was selling. “At what price?”
“An act of loyalty to us. You bring Kyrian’s child Marissa down to Kalosis, and we will return your mother to this world.”
Still he was skeptical. “You can’t do that.”
Satara gave him a smug smile. “Kratos. A demonstration, please.”
Before Nick could move, the Dream-Hunter touched him. His grip seared Nick’s skin, making it burn and crawl as images tore through him. He saw his mother in a garden surrounded by roses. Her shoulder-length blond hair was glistening in the light while she laughed at a group of children who were playing around her.
A tear slid down his cheek as he saw her kind face again. “Mom,” he whispered.
She cocked her head as if she could hear him. “My Nicky,” she breathed. “I miss you.”
“I can take you into the Underworld,” the Dream-Hunter said. “But it won’t be easy.” He released Nick and the image of his mother instantly vanished.