No Mercy (Page 32)

No Mercy (Dark-Hunter #19)(32)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Feigning disgust, Dev had pulled his money out and handed it over to Nick. "Next time, kid, it’s double or nothing."

"Bull. Next time I’m not taking the chance that I could miss."

Dev jerked his chin toward the money in Nick’s hand. "So what are you going to do with all that?"

Nick folded it up and slid it into his pocket. "I’m going to take my mom to Brennan’s to eat for Mother’s Day. She’s never been there before and she’s always wanted to."

Dev clapped him on the back. "All right, Pool Shark. Have a good time. I better get back to work before you completely clean me out."

Nick had reset the table while Dev went back to his station at the door.

Sam swallowed at his kindness that made her ache deep inside. Dev, unlike Nick, hadn’t changed a bit.

"What are you doing?"

She jumped at the sound of Nick’s deep voice behind her. "I was just looking at your photos."

Nick moved forward to see the one of him and Dev. There was a sadness in his eyes that actually brought a lump to her throat. "We had a lot of good times back then. My mom used to save and frame everything she could."

And she’d put them on the wall and then rotate them out at random times–it’d been a game she’d played with Nick to remind him of the things she thought were important in his life.

Friends. Family. Smiles.

His mom had been a great lady.

Sam cleared her throat. "You and Dev look pretty tight."

"He was always a good friend to me which is why I’m glad you sent him home."

His words didn’t match the feelings she got from him whenever he was near Dev. Nor did they match the emotions she was picking up from him right now. "Then why do you hate him?"

Nick stiffened. "I don’t hate him. I’m just mad–basically at the entire world. Dev let my mom leave Sanctuary with a Daimon disguised as a Dark-Hunter."

"Dev would never–"

"I know, Sam." She felt his pain as he said those words in a trembling voice. "He had no idea he’d put her in harm’s way and I know he’d have never done it intentionally. But I can’t get over that night and I can’t forgive anyone who had a hand in her death. I just can’t."

She could understand that. "It’s hard to live with that kind of guilt all the time."

"You’ve no idea."

"You’re wrong, Nick. I know exactly what it’s like to watch the people I love more than anything be slaughtered while I was powerless to save them. I, who trained my entire life to fight, couldn’t save the very people I’d vowed to love and protect. How could I not be there to save them?"

A tic started in his cheek. "How do you live with it?"

She answered honestly. "Angrily. Every single day. Every single night. I want blood and all the killing in the world never changes it. Never eases it."

He let out a tired sigh. "So this is how I’ll feel forever?"

"Unless you can find another reason to live. Find something that gives you peace."

He looked down at her. "Have you found that peace?"

Yes, she had. But it was so corny and cliched that she couldn’t bring herself to admit it.

"A wise man once told me that peace has to come from within. We have to learn to like ourselves before we can find our place in the world."

Nick curled his lip. "Acheron."

She smiled. "He’s said it to you, too?"

"No. We don’t talk much these days, but it sounds like something he’d say." His gaze turned dark. "Don’t trust Acheron, Sam. He’s not what he seems."

She sensed….

Sam concentrated, but she couldn’t get a handle on it exactly. There was something Nick knew that none of the rest of them did. It was like he was hating Acheron for the same thing he protected about him.

It made no sense, but there was no denying what she felt. Nick did know a major secret about Ash.

And he knew one about himself that he would die before he gave up.

"How do you mean?" she asked, trying to get him to verbalize what she was sensing.

He refused to elaborate. "Believe me, there’s a lot more to him and he’s not really on our side." With that, he walked off to leave her alone.

Sam scowled at his hostility. Part of her knew there was a lot more to Ash than he let others see, but she didn’t believe for one instant that he could ever hurt any of them.

Nick on the other hand…

She didn’t trust him at all. He was infected by evil. She was sure of it.

Her heart heavy, she started back to her room, wishing Dev were with her.

I did the right thing.

He was safe and that was all that mattered.

Sam had just reached her room when she felt her hand beginning to burn. Hissing, she blew air across her palm, trying to soothe it.

Just when she was ready to scream from the pain, it stopped burning.

To her instant horror, she watched as a design drew itself across her flesh. There in her palm was a mark that looked like a tribal bear claw.

Oh shit.

She was mated….

Chapter 19

Dev came awake to a scorching hot pain. At first he thought he was under attack, until he realized it was only his palm that hurt. Scowling, he shook his hand, then looked at it to see what he’d done to it.

His stomach drew tight. No…

It wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t possible.

Yet he couldn’t deny what he saw. There in his palm was the one thing he’d waited a lifetime to see.

His mating mark.

And there was no doubt who his mate had to be. He hadn’t been with anyone else in months. How could this be? Sam was a Dark-Hunter. How could he be mated to one? No Were-Hunter ever in their entire history had been mated to a Dark-Hunter.

"You bitches are crazy." The Fates had to be. Why else mate him to Sam?

Artemis would have a fit when she found out.

Incredulous, he wanted to go to Sam, but he knew better. She’d tossed him out and she wasn’t the kind of woman a man went to. At least not without a Kevlar cup.

His phone rang.

He reached for it and flipped it open without checking the ID.

"Dev?"

He went hard at the sound of Sam’s voice. "Hey."

She hesitated before she spoke again. "I…There’s…um…"

He understood the panic he heard in her voice. He felt it too. Closing his palm so that he’d feel closer to her, he licked his lips. "You have a mark on your palm that looks like a bear claw."

"Yes. Does this mean what I think it does?"

He took a long, deep breath before he answered and tensed in trepidation of how she’d react. "Yeah."

She sucked her breath in sharply. "We can’t do this, Dev. You know we can’t."

He winced at the determination he heard in her voice. "You know I can’t force you." Mating was always up to the female. "But if you reject me, you might as well kill me."

"Dev!"

He clenched his teeth. "I’m not a eunuch, Sam. I don’t want to live in celibacy for the rest of my life. I’d rather be dead."

"Don’t be so fatalistic. It’s just sex. You can live without it. Trust me."

She didn’t understand what he was trying to say. It wasn’t just the sex. It was knowing that she was his mate and that he was forbidden to be with her that would ruin him. Were-Hunters were always insanely protective over their mates. They never liked to be apart.

Knowing she was out there alone…

It would kill him.

Sam let out a tiny breath. "How long do we have to decide this?"

"Three weeks." After that, he’d be impotent. Gah…

"Okay. I need to think about this."

Take your time, by all means. Not like you’re the one who’s going to be impotent. What ever you do, think about yourself first. He had to bite his tongue to keep from saying that out loud. But if he did, then he’d be as selfish as he was accusing her and that he’d never do.

"You know where I am, Sam."

"Okay. I’ll talk to you later."

He turned his phone off and hung his head in his hands as his emotions overwhelmed him. The bear inside him wanted to go over to Nick’s and take her whether she wanted it or not. The man knew he couldn’t. The Fates didn’t work that way. This was completely in her hands and there was nothing he could do except wait.

I hate you three bitches. May you rot in Tartarus.

The Greek goddess Atropos pulled back from the loom where she and her two sisters wove the lives of those they were responsible for. As the three Fates, each of them had a job to perform. Her sister Lachesis was responsible for assigning the length of a person’s life. Clotho spun the events that shaped and broke those lives.

And Atropos was the one who ended them. She had the final say….

At least so long as their brother didn’t interfere. Bastard.

Not wanting to think about that, she looked up at Lazaros who watched her in silence. "It’s done. They’re mated."

Lazaros smiled in satisfaction. "I can’t thank you enough, little cousin. You are truly a lifesaver."

What an ironic thing to say to the one whose prime responsibility was death. "I don’t see how. But if Artemis has anything to say–"

"She won’t. I promise. And if she should, I will take care of it." He kissed her hand. "Now I have one last favor to ask."

"And that is?"

He plucked at the strand on the loom that represented the Dark-Huntress Samia’s life. "Don’t cut this thread until I tell you to." Because Sam wouldn’t be able to die until Atropos cut it. So long as it was unsevered, he could torture Sam to his heart’s content.

She inclined her head to him. "As you wish, coz. I’ll leave it until you’ve had your fun."

He squeezed her hand before he released it. There were times when being related to the Fates was a good thing.

Today it was more than good.

Dev couldn’t stop staring at his hand. It was so strange to see it there after all these centuries of wondering if and when it would happen. Even though it was a girly thought, he’d always expected his mating to be really special. Like there would be the sound of trumpets or fireworks or something. People cheering. His family fainting in disbelief. Remi’s head exploding.

The reality…

It was remarkably anticlimactic.

Just another day.

Nothing had changed and yet everything was different. Closing his eyes, he summoned an image of Sam’s face. Please don’t leave me hanging, babe. She had to accept him.

What was there not to love?

He really didn’t like the voice in his head that began cataloging the answer to that. Yeah, I’m a pig-bear. I leave my wet socks on the floor. I like to fight and I don’t listen as much as I should…

I’m such a schmuck.

"Hey Dev?"

He sighed as he heard his brother Kyle’s voice in the hallway. Rolling over on the bed, he landed his feet on the floor and went to see what Kyle wanted.

He opened the door.

It wasn’t Kyle.

Stryker was on the other side, smiling snidely. "If Mohammad won’t come to the mountain…"

He shot Dev in the chest.

Sam had her phone clutched in her palm. She was trying to tell herself why calling Dev would be a bad idea. Why she didn’t want to be his mate.

But everything kept coming back to one thing.

How Dev made her feel. How much she loved to see that cocky grin of his even when it annoyed her.

I am so messed up.

She traced the image on her palm that marked her as a bear’s mate. She should be horrified by what had happened, yet it somehow seemed right. In a weird way she felt like Ioel was happy about it too.

But if she went ahead with this, there would be a major problem. She didn’t want to be human again. Ever. There was no need. To be human wouldn’t get rid of her powers. They would remain, but she would be mortal.

She would die.

Yes, she could have children, but that was the only benefit. And having died while pregnant…

She never wanted to be that vulnerable again. And if she didn’t have children, she’d be robbing Dev of that pleasure.

You could always adopt.

Could she? She would still be a Dark-Hunter who owed her service to Artemis. Would the goddess understand or would she demand Sam’s head for this?

The entire thing was giving her a migraine as she tried to unscramble the mess.

She jumped in startled alarm as her phone started ringing. It was from Dev. Smiling, she opened the phone and answered it. "Yes?"

"In the heart and in the soul,

"Evil takes it’s wicked toll.

"When moonlight shines like flowing blood,

"Over the earth the demons will flood."

Her blood ran cold as someone in a demonic voice whispered over her phone. "Who is this?" she demanded.

"Someone who misses you. Isn’t that right, Bear?"

"Don’t come near me, Sam. Don’t–" Dev’s words broke off into a sharp growl that sounded like he wanted to go for someone’s throat.

"If you want to see your mate again, leave the house right now, tell no one, and go down the street to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar and I’ll be waiting for you outside."

"How will I know it’s you?"

"You’ll know, Dark-Hunter. And you better come alone. Dev’s life depends on it." The demon hung up.

Fury and fear mixed inside Sam and it made her want to kill something. But worse, it brought out her nightmares and shredded her confidence.