Chapter 1 - Skirmish
Aziel ignores me as I step into his office, his focus on the generals who stand in front of his desk. The three large men stand with their hands folded neatly behind their backs and turn to give me a curt nod before returning to Aziel.
Aziel spins a map toward them and points to a few spots.
“This is where I want you stationed,” he says, standing from his chair.
They have to bend their necks to get a better look, the men tall even for Wraths. I suppose it makes sense that Aziel would have large men as his generals, the Wraths placing significant importance on physical strength.
My nose crinkles as I take another step inside. Being bonded to Aziel means his essence no longer affects me, but the thick power in this room is still suffocating. They are all exerting more than necessary, even Aziel, which I assume is a response to the stress.
It would’ve brought me to my knees before, and I’m glad for the immunity Aziel’s bond provides.
The generals scan the map with quiet hums, and one clears his throat before pointing out a weak point Aziel’s plan provides. I hold my breath as I wait for Aziel’s inevitable anger but am pleasantly surprised when instead he listens and adjusts his plan.
His stress is showing in the way he runs his hands through his hair, and after a minute he gestures for Rock to come over and point out the specific areas he overheard Valentine discussing. I lean forward to get a peek, wanting to know what’s going on, but I stop when Aziel turns in my direction with a frown.
“Charlie, why don’t you see if Silas needs any help?” he suggests.
I hesitate, hearing the hidden meaning behind his words. He doesn’t want me in here. A small part of me wants to argue and insist I be allowed to listen, but instead, I give a slight nod and leave.
Now’s not the time to start an argument.
Silas’s door is already open, and I peek into the doorway before stepping inside. He, like Aziel, doesn’t so much as look up as I enter, too busy typing something out on his computer.
I don’t exactly know where things stand between us, but I push those fears aside as I approach and tap on his desk. He takes a moment to finish typing out his sentence, his lips pursing as he reads it over one last time, before turning to me.
“Yes?” he asks.
I suck in a deep breath and square my shoulders in an attempt to look larger. Confidence is key. That’s what Echo and Chev always say.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
Silas’s lips flatten into a straight line, the man thinking hard on how best to shut me down. After a moment of tense silence, he shakes his head. His computer pings, and immediately he’s looking back at his screen
“One second,” he says, reading.
I know they’re frantic to prepare before Greed strikes, the unknown putting them on high alert, and I don’t take offense when he turns away from me entirely and begins to type out a response.
“Fuck,” he mumbles, pinching the bridge of his nose when another message comes through.
He looks borderline panicked, and I peer around the computer to try and get a peek at who he’s messaging. They typically prefer to conduct business in person, finding it easiest to shift to whoever they need to speak to and get the conversation over quickly.
“What’s going on?” Gray asks, stepping into the room.
He walks in with a phone wedged between his ear and shoulder. I try not to look too surprised when he ducks and presses a kiss to my temple, his lips grazing my skin before he pulls back and walks around Silas’s desk to peer at the screen alongside him.
Why didn’t I do that? Silas leans to the side so Gray can better see. Sucking in a deep breath, I hope I look like I know what I’m doing as I follow Gray’s actions and walk around Silas’s desk.
The Incubus moves to the side as I come up behind him, and lifts his arm so I can squeeze underneath and fit between him and the back of Silas’s chair. My pulse races and a sense of accomplishment flows through me until I look at the screen and realize the text is all in the Demonic language and I can’t understand a thing.
Gray’s jaw clenches as his eyes dart over the words. He’s visibly pissed, and he pulls his phone away from his ear with a huff and hangs up on whoever’s on the other end of the line.
“She’s seriously refusing to meet with us? Let’s just go there in person,” Gray mutters, wrapping his arm around my waist and resting his hand on my belly.
Silas shakes his head, rejecting the idea without consideration.
“Valentine wouldn’t take sides in a war without protection. I’m sure Greed’s got Ogres stationed everywhere in the castle. We’re not getting in without a fight, and we don’t have the Wraths to spare right now,” Silas says, cursing and slamming his computer shut when it pings again.
“Why is Valentine’s involvement such a problem? Aren’t the sex Demons notoriously weak?” I ask before glancing up at Gray. “No offense.”
He shrugs, his lips twitching before he bends and presses another kiss to my cheek. The constant kisses are making me flush, unused to them after so long of him ignoring and avoiding me.
I’m not sure where his sudden change is coming from. Maybe he just really wanted Aziel to fuck him. Either way, I hope it’s here to stay.
“Weak, yes, but also filthy rich. Lust was notoriously neutral, avoiding conflict at all costs, but it looks like Valentine doesn’t have the same concerns. Greed doesn’t need Wrath to support her plan if she has Lust on her side, and this provides her the perfect opportunity to take ownership of the females and bring down Wrath at the same time,” Silas explains, opening his computer to check it before slamming it shut again.
He’s going to break it if he keeps doing that.
“Why does she hate Aziel so much?” I ask, struggling to wrap my brain around this. “And why does it matter who’s leading the female project?”
I’m glad there are so many people that want to help, but her desire to start a war over it seems extreme. Especially when Aziel’s fighting for the same thing. All they’re doing is prolonging help getting to the females, which directly contradicts her claims to want to do something as quickly as possible.
“Fuck,” Silas groans, the word a favorite of his today. “Whoever takes control of the Seekers and runs the facilities will have eyes in every realm, and with the blessed breeds backing it, there’s not much anybody can do. It’s an advantage, and Greed would rather risk everything than let Aziel have it. He killed her oldest son a while back, and she’s been harboring a grudge ever since.”
Gray steps back and starts to pace, his long strides carrying him smoothly from the door to the desk before spinning and repeating the action. I shove my hair behind my ears and glance between the two men, unsure where I fit.
I want to help, but I’m so out of the loop.
“What about the Shifters?” I chime in. “They might help.”
Gray pauses his pacing just long enough to turn to me and shake his head, shutting down the idea just as quickly as Silas shut down his.
“They’ve made it clear our alliance is for females only,” Silas says. “Shifters aren’t ones for politics. They have a goal and will support whoever is going to get it done with the least number of hiccups.”
I nod, still a bit confused but not wanting to bother them with too many questions.
“It doesn’t hurt to try and talk to Cato,” I say. “I can see if he’d be willing to lend some of his men to help take over Lust.”
Gray leaves the question for Silas as he picks up his phone and starts to furiously tap at it. Silas reads something on his computer before turning to me and shaking his head.
The rejection has me clenching my fists, struggling to remain calm.
It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I think Cato values loyalty more than they give him credit for. Obviously he’s going to put the Shifters and females first, but I think he knows we’re in it for the right reasons.
Or I am, at least.
I’m sure Aziel’s excited at the prospect of getting eyes in the other realms, the man always a good three steps ahead of me, but at least he’s giving the Shifters control over the project and ensuring things are getting done the right way.
He’s not doing the bare minimum like Greed was. The Wraths spending their own money and resources, and that’s got to count for something in the eyes of the Shifters.
The door slams against the wall as Aziel comes storming in with his generals. Gray once again hangs up the phone as he waits to see what Aziel has to say.
The Wrath turns to me, his eyes cold as he approaches. I know it’s not me he’s angry at, and I wipe my sweaty palms against my bottoms as I walk around Silas’s desk and meet him halfway. He grabs my cheeks with a quiet sigh, holding them gently in his large palms before bending and planting a kiss on my lips.
It’s full of urgency and is over with sooner than I’d like.
“We need to leave, but Rock is staying behind to look after you. Do not leave this house,” Aziel says, giving me another kiss before turning to Silas and Gray.
Both men scramble to collect their things, not wasting a moment.
“What do you mean you’re leaving?” I ask, my eyes darting between all three Demons.
Why can’t they work from here? They’ve never had to leave all at once like this before, and the urgency has a sense of panic rising within me. I reach out and grab Aziel’s hand before he can shift away, wanting more of an explanation.
How long are they going to be gone? Are they leaving Wrath? Silas said they don’t have enough Wraths to go to Lust, and I don’t want them risking things by going just the three of them. What if the Ogres get them?
My breaths turn shallow, and I squeeze Aziel’s hand in an attempt to keep him here. I just got all three of them back. What if they get killed? Questions continue to swirl in my mind as I stare wide-eyed between my three males.
The generals stand along the far wall and watch, but I don’t care. I know they already think lowly of me, and I’m sure holding Aziel back isn’t helping any.
Aziel crouches to my level. Our bond squeezes, our heightened emotions making it feel like a stress ball. I wonder if Gray feels the same thing on his end.
“We won’t be gone long, a few hours at most. We don’t know where Greed’s planning to strike and we need to be alert. My generals and their troops are splitting up to protect some of our weaker points, and Gray, Silas, and I need to ensure everything’s secure,” he explains, softly grabbing my hand and removing it from his wrist.
His breath tickles my ear as he leans in closer.
“You feel that tightness in your chest? Our bond?” he asks, waiting for me to give a jerky nod before continuing. “As long as that’s there, I’m alive and healthy. And if I’m okay, so are Gray and Silas.” He pushes my hair out of my face with a gentle smile.
Gray and Silas come up alongside me, caging me between their three bodies. I can practically see the hesitation in the two as they shift their weight between their feet, both exchanging looks over my head before Gray ducks and joins Aziel at my level.
“I love you, Charlie, and I’ll be back soon,” he promises, grinning when I audibly gasp.
Silas doesn’t say anything, but his hand trailing down my spine tells me he feels something similar even if he’s not ready to say the words. I suck in a shaky breath before nodding.
Aziel steps back and grabs hold of both Gray and Silas. He waits for both of them to release me before shifting away, and the generals disappear the moment my males are gone.
“They’ll be fine. They’ve prepared for this,” Rock says, stepping into the room.
He’s still covered in blood, the red splattered all over his robes. I eye him as he approaches, trying and failing to see through the haze that covers his body. I hope it’s not his blood I’m looking at.
There’s a lot of it.
I still haven’t determined if it’s his or not when arms pull me into a hug, the Shadow yanking me into a surprisingly hard chest. I don’t hesitate to return it, letting my face be swallowed by his haze as I give him a tight squeeze.
I missed him.
“I’m sorry you’re stuck being my babysitter again,” I huff.
Rock shrugs and releases me with a quiet sigh before spinning and heading into the hallway.
“Come on,” he urges, waving for me to follow. “We’re going to get Lust’s body back from the Shifters.”
I rush after him, my footsteps quickening as his words settle in my brain. I should’ve known better than to think Rock would follow Aziel’s orders. He’s proven time and time again that he’s willing to ignore the wishes of my males.
My lips pull into a wide grin as Rock turns the portal on, the man able to do it surprisingly fast. This must be a standard mode of transportation for the Shadows.
Rock has it ready to go in seconds but turns to me before stepping through. He eyes me head to toe, his lips curled down at the corners
“You know you’re pregnant, right?” he asks.
I sigh, running a hand through my hair. I figured, all three of my Demons constantly sniffing and grabbing at my belly. Not to mention Gray’s weird need to continually tell me about all the baby things he’s good at doing.
“They haven’t told me yet,” I admit.
Rock shrugs, unapologetic.
“Oh, sorry,” he hums, gesturing for me to step through the portal. “Don’t tell them I told you, then.”
I snort and step into the blue haze. We’ve got a body to find.
& it begins!!!!
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