Amaranda responded in kind. Like Cael, she also flashed a bit of fang as she spoke.
Ravyn curled his lip as Amaranda withdrew from them. "You even speak their language?"
Tilting his head down, Cael rubbed at his eyebrow with his middle finger.
"Fine," Ravyn snarled. "But let me tell you what’s been going on while you were making nice with your little girlfriend."
Cael gave him a peeved glare.
"At dawn, I was picked up by the Apollites and taken to an animal shelter where they came dangerously close to killing me. After I got out of that by the skin of my teeth, they sent a group of humans and a half-Apollite out to kill me during the daylight hours. They’ve already killed one as yet unidentified Dark-Hunter and then tonight they attacked the Addamses at their base. Patricia might not even survive the night."
With every word Ravyn spoke, Cael’s face turned more deadly serious. "What?"
"It’s true," Susan said in Ravyn’s defense. "The police and Apollites are working with the Daimons and they’re out to hunt all of you down." Even as those words left her lips, they sounded ludicrous. How she wished they really were.
"Yeah," Otto added. "We sent a Squire over here three hours ago, before the attack on the Addamses, to warn you."
Cael scowled at that. "No Squire came over here. Kerri would have told me."
"Kerri?" Ravyn asked.
Cael hesitated as he cast his dark gaze toward the stairway that led to the club upstairs. By his face she could tell he was debating something extremely important. He looked highly uncomfortable before he finally answered. "My sister-in-law."
Ravyn couldn’t breathe as those words went through him like a hot knife. What the hell was he thinking? "Your what?"
His features tightened. "Amaranda’s my wife."
Rage and disbelief made for a hostile mixture inside Ravyn. "Have you lost your friggin’ mind?"
Cael started to shove him, then thought better of it. After all, whatever one Dark-Hunter did to another, the antagonist felt ten times worse. A simple shove to Ravyn would rebound to Cael as a staggering blow. "I know exactly what I’m doing."
Yeah, right. Tangling like this with an Apollite was like milking snake venom for a living. Sooner or later, one of them was bound to turn around and bite him-it was just the nature of the beast. "You f**king idiot! Have you any idea-"
"Of course I do, Rave," he said between clenched teeth. "Don’t you dare think for one minute that this has ever been easy for either one of us. It hasn’t. We’re well aware of the downside and drawbacks of this relationship." The pain in his eyes was raw and powerful.
Part of Ravyn felt sorry for him. The other part just wanted to beat the shit out of him until he saw reason. This wasn’t a game they were playing. It was a war they were fighting. And how could a man fight while his loyalties at home were with the very enemy they were sworn to kill?
"How old is she?" Susan asked quietly.
The pain flared even brighter in Cael’s eyes. "She turns twenty-six in a couple of weeks."
"Damn, Cael," Ravyn said under his breath. He wanted to argue with him, but to what purpose? They were already married. Even though this had to be the dumbest move Ravyn had ever heard of, Cael wasn’t a child. He knew the score and he was the one who would have to live with the consequences of it. Having screwed up his own life over a woman, Ravyn wasn’t about to lecture anyone else about their love life. But it never ceased to amaze him how stupid a man could be over a woman. "Well, at least now I understand why the Apollites tolerate you living here. How long have you been married?"
Ravyn let out a disgusted breath as he exchanged a look of disbelief with Otto. It amazed him that Cael had managed to keep it quiet for so long. But then Dark-Hunters didn’t usually visit one another’s homes and Cael had never asked for a Squire. Even before he’d moved into the Apollite-owned building ten years ago, Cael had been alone, so it would have been relatively easy to keep his marriage hidden from them.
Since Dark-Hunters were forbidden to date or have any kind of long-lasting romantic entanglement it wasn’t something that would have come up or been asked.
But then that begged one particular question. "Does Ash know?"
Cael shrugged. "If he does, he hasn’t said anything."
Ravyn had to give Cael credit-he was good at hedging around a question. "Did you tell him?"
"No," Cael admitted, "but I haven’t hid it, either. I am not ashamed of my wife or my marriage. But I figured as long as no one asked, I wouldn’t talk about it. "
"What about her family?" Otto asked. "Since Apollites tend to breed a lot of kids, I’m sure she has more than a sister. What do you do when they turn Daimon?"
Cael’s entire posture turned defensive. "Who says they turn Daimon?"
Both Otto and Ravyn gave him a doubting stare.
"You saying they’ve all died?" Otto asked.
Cael refolded his arms over his chest as his expression turned a bit sheepish. "Not exactly. Some of them have vanished."
"Vanished…" Ravyn mocked. "You mean went Daimon."
Cael’s face was stone. "I mean vanished."
The look of disgust on Otto’s face was tangible. There was so much tension in the air that it made the hair on Susan’s arms stand up. She kept expecting one of them to lunge at the other, but to their credit no one was getting physical.
"Don’t ask, don’t tell, right?" Otto asked.
"They’re my family, Otto," Cael said from between clenched teeth. "I don’t go looking for them when they go walkabout. There’s enough other Dark-Hunters here to take care of them if they go to the dark side."
Otto released a long, tired breath. "Family? Are you sure they feel the same way about you? Tell me what you’re going to do when you wake up with your head detached from your body because your so-called family got nervous… Don’t delude yourself, Cael. You’re enemies. Always. Sooner or later, one of them is going to sell. You. Out."
"I think he has a bigger problem than that," Ravyn said, drawing their heated attention toward him. "What are you going to do when Amaranda turns twenty-seven?"
The agony in those dark eyes wrung Susan’s heart as he looked away. "We don’t talk about that."
"Why?" Otto asked. "You planning to hold her hand while she feeds on humans?"
That succeeded in breaking the hands-off truce. Cael grabbed Otto and shoved him back against the wall with so much force, Susan was amazed it didn’t crack the plaster. His fangs bared, she half-expected Cael to rip out Otto’s throat. "It’s not your problem, human. "
Ravyn separated them and put his body between Cael and Otto. "It’s all our problems, Cael. All of ours."
Cael curled his lip into a feral snarl.
"You know this might not be so bad," Susan said, drawing their attention to her. "Cael can ask them what’s going on, can’t he?"
Cael shook his head as Ravyn gave him a curious stare. "No," he said firmly. "I don’t call in those kind of favors. They don’t ask me about the Dark-Hunters and what we’re up to, and I don’t ask them about other Apollites or Daimons."
Cael sneered at Ravyn. "Don’t cop a superior attitude with me, dickhead. It’s not like you’re not hunting family, too. At least I don’t have any Apollite blood in me. How can you hunt your own kind?"
Susan caught Ravyn as he moved toward Cael. "Enough, boys."
"She’s right," Otto said, backing her up. "Besides, you two should be weakening each other by now. "
"We are," they said in unison.
The door at the end of the hall opened to show Amaranda coming back toward them, carrying a small sack of what smelled like food. As she walked past them, Susan noticed a small Dark-Hunter bow and arrow entwined with a rose tattoo on the small of the woman’s back.
Amaranda looked pointedly at Ravyn, who somehow managed to keep his face completely stoic. "Cael needs his strength. You need to go."
Ravyn’s gaze fell to the teardrops that were tattooed on the hand Amaranda placed on Cael’s arm. "She’s Spathi?"
Cael’s features hardened again. "She’s not a Daimon."
"But she’s trained to fight us."
Amaranda lifted her chin to stand firm against Ravyn and his criticism. "I’m trained to protect myself and those I love."
"From what?" Otto asked in a dry tone.
She gave him a withering stare. "Whatever I have to."
Again the air was rife with unspent anger and hostility. The frisson of it went down Susan’s spine like a phantom touch that set her on edge.
It was only broken when Cael looked at his wife and his anger seemed to fade immediately into a much softer emotion. "Baby, was there a Squire here earlier asking to talk to me?"
"No." Her features were completely sincere and open.
"You sure?" Otto asked.
She nodded. "Kerri would have told me if there were. She wouldn’t have kept something like that secret."
Otto looked ill. "He didn’t come back and he didn’t make it here. They must have intercepted him. Damn. I wonder when we’ll find the body."
Ravyn released a heavy breath. His exhaustion and sadness reached out to Susan. She wanted to place a comforting hand on him but decided that wouldn’t be prudent. Unlike Cael and Amaranda, they weren’t a couple. And she didn’t know him well enough to gauge if Ravyn would welcome her comfort or resent it.
"At least we know Cael’s safe, so we can relax there." Ravyn narrowed his eyes on the other Dark-Hunter. "Stay in touch and remember what I said. Sooner or later, this battle will come to your door."
Worry darkened Amaranda’s brow as she looked up at her husband. "What battle?"
He took her hand into his. "Nothing, baby. They’re just paranoid."
Otto scoffed at his words. "And cockiness kills."
"C’mon," Ravyn said, pushing Otto toward the stairs. "We have other places to go and other people to annoy."
Otto shrugged his grip off as he headed down the hallway, away from Cael and Amaranda. Ravyn followed after him.
Susan pulled up the rear, but as she reached the stairs, she turned back to see Amaranda drop the sack of food on the floor as Cael pulled her into his arms and cupped her face in his large hands, before he gave her a passionate kiss.
Gone was all of his toughness and in its place was the gentleness of a man who was obviously head over heels in love with his wife.
"You need to eat something," Amaranda said as she pulled back from his lips.
He gave her a teasing smile. "Trust me, I’m going to eat now… the food can wait till later. "
Amaranda laughed as he picked her up and headed back into their bedroom.
A bittersweet pain sliced through Susan at the sight of them. God, what would it feel like to be that in love? She couldn’t even imagine it. The closest she’d ever been to it had been Alex back when she’d been a reporter. He’d worked for a competing paper and they had dated for almost three years-they’d even talked about getting married.
Until she’d been disgraced. Then he’d left her life so fast, she still had a skid mark on her heart.
I can’t stay with you, Sue. Can you imagine the gossip? No one would ever trust me. You ruined your career. I won’t let you ruin mine, too.
The truly sad thing was, she understood it and, honestly, she’d rather have him gone if he didn’t love her enough to stand by her.
But understanding didn’t stop it from hurting, even after all this time. How she envied Cael and Amaranda for being able to love even when everyone else condemned them for it.
But that was tempered by what would happen to Cael next year when his wife was destined to die…
Her heart heavy for them, Susan dashed up the stairs after Ravyn and Otto, who’d already policed up Leo. The club was still thumping as college students and Apollites mixed and danced. She walked past a group of tall blonds whose black eyes watched them with tangible malice. Susan felt like a guppy in a shark tank. There was something extremely disconcerting about the way the blonds watched them, and the reporter in her went on full alert.
"Ravyn?" She pulled him to a stop. "I’ve got a bad feeling."
"I don’t know. Something’s not right. I can’t explain it…"
A teasing light came into his eyes. "Don’t worry, my spidey-sense is going off, too. I think it best we get out of here as quickly as we can."
She nodded as they followed Leo and Otto out of the club, back to the street.
Ravyn couldn’t shake the bad feeling Susan had mentioned. He hadn’t been kidding. There was a scent on the air that he couldn’t place. It wasn’t Daimon or Apollite. Nor was it human. It was something else… something sinister and powerful, and that concerned him. He needed to get the humans back to safety before whatever it was made its presence known to them.
"What now?" Leo asked as soon as they were outside the club.
"Were all the other Dark-Hunters notified about what’s going on?" Ravyn asked.