Night Embrace (Page 48)

Night Embrace (Dark-Hunter #3)(48)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Eros shrugged. "If you can’t beat them, join them. They expect Cupid in a diaper, so here I am. Cute Cupid in a diaper." He threw an arm over Talon’s shoulders. The god was so drunk he could barely stand on his own. "Hey, I found out something interesting. Dion has teamed up with another god for tonight’s festivities. And would you believe, it’s the same guy you were asking me about? What’s his face, Camululu?"

Talon went cold at the name. "Camulus?"

"Yeah, him. I heard Dion saying they were going to party with your woman and that the psycho Hunter from Alaska was going to hand her over to them."

His blood boiling, Talon pushed Eros away and started back toward his car.

Acheron grabbed him. By the look on Ash’s face, he could tell this was nothing Ash didn’t already know. "Talon…"

"You knew!" Talon snarled at the betrayal. "How could you?"

Ash gave him a hard stare. "It’s all right, Talon."

"Like hell it is." Rage gripped him hard. How could Acheron have betrayed him like this? How could he have turned Sunshine over into the hands of a man he knew was going to give her to the one god who wanted him punished?

"Damn you, damn you straight to hell!"

He punched Acheron in the jaw.

Ash took the hit without flinching, but when Talon moved to strike him again, he caught his hand. "This isn’t accomplishing anything."

"It’s making me feel better."

Ash grabbed him by the shoulder of his leather jacket and held him immobile. "Listen to me, Talon. The only way to save the two of you is to maintain your grip. Trust me."

"I’m tired of trusting you, Ash. Especially when you won’t return it. Tell me what’s going on here and why you sent Zarek to her knowing he was going to turn on her."

"It’s the way things are meant to be."

Rage rolled over him. He wasn’t some child to be lectured to about fate.

"Who the hell are you to say that? You’re not a god, even though you pretend to be one with your vague-ass comments and spooky powers. You don’t know the future any more than I do." Talon snarled at him. "If she dies, so help me, I’ll kill you."

"Listen to me, Celt," he said sharply. "If you want to break Camulus’s curse, the two of you have to confront him together tonight. This is the only shot you’ll ever get to break free of him."

Talon didn’t like any of this. Damn Ash for his secrecy. "Where are they?"

"They’re in a warehouse. If you’ll calm down, I’ll take you to it.

"The night is far from over, Talon. Look inside you and find the peace you used to have. If you don’t find it, you’ve lost even before you start to fight."

Talon did it, but it was hard. Nearly impossible. But he had no choice. He had to rein himself in or he would be useless to Sunshine.

When his head was clear, Acheron let him go.

"Maintain." The voice seemed to come from inside Talon’s head.

Ash placed a hand on his shoulder.

One instant they were on Bourbon Street, the next they were outside a warehouse.

"What did you do?" Talon asked, wondering how many people had seen them vanish.

"I’m doing what I have to. Don’t worry, no one saw us leave or arrive. I don’t make those kinds of mistakes."

Talon hoped so.

Ash held the door open for him and Talon led the way into the building.

They were halfway through the main room when something akin to lightning flashed from upstairs. Screams rent the air.

Talon lost his calm as he sprinted for the stairs with Ash hot on his heels.

They rushed through a door and were almost run over by Zarek who was covered in blood and carrying Sunshine in his arms.

"What the hell?" Talon asked, terrified by the sight. "What happened to her?"

Before Zarek could answer, the door was blown from its frame.

"Run!" Zarek shouted.

No one had a chance. A swarm of hideous winged demons flew into the room. Talon cursed. He’d never seen anything like them. They were the color of rust and screeched like banshees as they flew at them.

They had three barbed tails that they wielded like whips.

Acheron held his hands up and blasted them with electrical energy. They recoiled, but kept coming.

"Get Sunshine out of here," Acheron ordered.

They headed back to the stairs only to find Daimons coming up from below.

Talon tossed two srads, taking out four of the creatures, but it didn’t even slow them down. "We’re surrounded."

Acheron spoke in a language Talon couldn’t understand. The demons paused and flew around as if dazed by his order.

"It won’t hold the demons for long," Ash shouted, his voice barely discernible over the ethereal flapping of wings and claps of thunder.

Ash threw his hands up and the Daimons ran into what appeared to be an invisible barrier between them.

Talon led Zarek down the hallway, hoping to find another way out of the building.

He shoved open a door to a smaller room.

"I think she’s dying." Zarek’s voice sent an electric chill through him.

"She’s not dying."

"Talon, I think she’s dying," he repeated.

The demons forgotten, Talon took her from Zarek’s arms and laid her carefully on the floor.

Her face was so pale that it shook him.

"Sunshine?" he breathed, his heart pounding. "Baby, can you look at me?"

She did, but instead of the vibrancy he was used to seeing, he saw pain and deep regret.

"You’re free, Talon," she whispered. "I made him break the curse."

"What?"

"She traded her soul to Camulus so that he would set you free." Zarek curled his lip at him. "I told her not to do it, that it was a trick. She didn’t listen and as soon as she agreed, the bastard blasted her."

Talon choked. "No!" he roared at both of them. "Sunshine, why?"

"He said he would kill you. I thought he would just take my soul, Talon. I didn’t know he would do this. I didn’t know he couldn’t take possession of my soul without killing me first."

Talon tore the medallion from Sunshine’s neck. "Damn you, Morrigan," he shouted, throwing it against the wall. "How could you forsake her too?"

She pressed her cold hand to his lips, "Shh, baby. Don’t say that. It’s my fault."

"I told her there’s always a catch. But she didn’t ask the right questions."

Tears flowed down Talon’s cheeks as he watched her struggle to breathe. Over and over in his mind he remembered every moment of their time together, both in this life and her previous one.

He saw Sunshine’s bright, tender face the first time they had made love. Saw her wrestling for her easel with Beth.

Heard her singing "Puff the Magic Dragon" as she doodled.

He took her hands into his and kissed them, with their smell of paint, turpentine, and patchouli. Hands that created breathtaking works of art.

Hands that could tear him apart with a simple touch…

"I’m not going to lose you again," he breathed. "Not like this."

Zarek came forward. "What are you doing, Celt?"

"Get away from me."

Talon placed his hands over her chest wound and closed his eyes. He forced himself to calm down, forced his emotions to leave him, and then he summoned his Dark-Hunter powers, and let them wash through him. His immortal strength flowed, surged. It swelled up and moved from his hands into her body.

His arms burned as he, in turn, absorbed her injury into his own chest.

Normally, it would hurt when he did this. Tonight, the pain was crippling because this wound wasn’t a small injury.

It was mortal.

Gasping from the wrenching agony of his heart being pierced, Talon fell back, away from her.

Sunshine lay still, waiting for the pain to return.

It didn’t.

Afraid she was already dead, she reached up to touch her chest where Camulus’s blast had struck her. There was no longer a wound there.

"Talon?" She sat up to see Zarek staring at him.

"Oh God, no!" she shrieked as she saw Talon lying on the floor, bleeding. She scrambled to his side and pulled him into her arms. "What have you done?"

"He took your injuries into his own body," Zarek explained. "Now, instead of you dying, he will."

"No, Talon, no! Please don’t die," she begged.

"Shh," Talon said quietly. "It’s okay."

Ash came running through the door, took one look at them and cursed. "What happened?"

"The Celt absorbed her injuries." Zarek’s voice was scarcely more than a whisper and filled with disbelief.

Something struck the door. Hard.

"Don’t worry," Ash said. "I have a shield on the room. The gods can’t pop in here until they breach it."

"Yeah, but at the rate they’re going, they’ll have the door knocked down any second," Zarek said. He pushed Ash toward Talon. "Go, get him out of here. I’ve got your backs."

"You sure?" Ash asked.

Zarek nodded.

"So help me, Slave," Dionysus snarled from the other side of the door. "I’ll see you obliterated for this."

Zarek laughed coldly. "Come get some."

Ash opened the door on the opposite side of the room.

Sunshine was terrified. She didn’t know what was happening. She still couldn’t believe Zarek had turned around and helped them. Nor could she think past the sight of Talon covered in blood.

Everything was happening so fast that she wanted to run away and hide. But she couldn’t.

Talon needed her to be strong for him and she refused to fail him.

As she started away from Zarek, he called out to her. "Hey, Sunshine?"

She looked back at him.

"Thanks for the bowl." Then he turned around to wait for the gods to break through Ash’s barrier and the door.

Amazed by his actions, Sunshine ran to help Ash carry Talon down the hallway and into the last room on the left.

Ash laid him carefully on the floor, then used his powers to seal the room.

Sunshine’s hand shook as she knelt beside Talon. He was pale and trembling. His entire body was coated with sweat and blood. "Hold on, baby," she whispered, not sure if he could even hear her now.

"He’s immortal, right?" she asked Ash. "He’ll be fine."

Ash shook his head. "His heart is pierced. When it stops beating, he’ll die. Again."

His face grim, Ash looked up at the ceiling. "Artemis!" he shouted. "Get your ass here, right now."

A flash of light almost blinded Sunshine as the goddess appeared beside her.

Artemis gave Acheron a furious glare. "What is your problem?"

"I need Talon’s soul. Now."

She laughed incredulously at him. "Excuse me, Acheron, but you haven’t paid the price for it"

"Dammit, Artie, he’s dying. I don’t have time to negotiate."

She shrugged. "Then heal him."

"I can’t and you know it. It’s a mortal god-bolt wound. I’m not allowed to interfere with that."

Sunshine felt an electric ripple flow through the room.

Rage darkened her sight as she stared at the selfish goddess. Sunshine started to lunge at her, but Ash caught her and pulled her back.

Sunshine trembled in fear and anger.

"Give it to me, now." Acheron’s deep voice sounded like thunder. "Do it and I’ll give you a week of total submission."

A calculating gleam darkened Artemis’s eyes. "Give me two."

Sunshine saw the fury and resignation on Ash’s face. "Done."

Artemis held her hand out and a large maroon stone appeared in her palm.

When Ash went to take it, Artemis pulled it out of his reach. "You will come to me at dawn."

"I will, I swear it."

Artemis smiled in satisfaction, then handed the stone to Ash. Ash returned to Talon. Then, he met Sunshine’s gaze. "Sunshine, you’re going to have to take this into your hand and hold it over the brand mark until his soul is released back into his body."

She reached for it, but Talon caught her wrist. She hadn’t even known he was still conscious until she felt his weakened grip on her arm.

"She can’t, Ash."

"Talon!" she said, angered that he was stopping her. "What are you doing?"

"No, Sunshine," Talon whispered, his voice strained. "If you take that, it will scar your hand. It could leave you unable to draw or paint ever again."

Her greatest fear.

She looked into Talon’s pain-filled eyes.

Her greatest love.

There was no contest.

She grabbed the stone from Ash’s hand, then cried out as it seared her flesh.

"Watch Talon’s eyes." She heard Ash’s voice inside her head. "And for Zeus’s sake, please don’t let go of his soul. Focus…" She did and the pain lessened, but still she could feel the fire of the stone searing her hand.

Time stood still as she stared into Talon’s jet-black eyes. Memories of this life and of their former one merged in her mind. She flashed back to her own death, to Talon holding her close.

She leaned down and kissed him. "I’m with you, love."

Talon took his last breath and relaxed. Her own heart stopped beating as raw terror consumed her.