Since it had been vacant for a number of years, the building wasn’t the cleanest thing in the world. There were cobwebs and other things she didn’t want to think about littering the floor. The air was stale with a rancid quality to it that left her breathing through her mouth in an effort not to pinch her nose closed.
She found it strange that there were working lights in the building.
But then Stryker was a god…
"Where’s the light coming from upstairs?" she asked Alexion.
"I don’t know. Maybe they have a generator hooked up, or again, Stryker is using his powers to light it."
They found the stairs in the back and started up. As they headed up, they could hear faint voices, but the words were unintelligible.
Danger tried not to breathe deeply as she wondered what lies Kyros and Stryker were telling the others.
How many of them would buy into it?
As they reached the door at the end of the upstairs hall where the others seemed to be gathered, she pulled Alexion to a stop to listen to what was going on inside before they entered. She was only now beginning to feel a pull on her powers, but it was still very mild.
"So how do we defeat Acheron?"
Danger winced as she recognized Squid’s voice. That little rat-bastard. But she’d suspected as much. He’d been vehement in his hatred of Acheron.
She looked up to see a cold, determined look on Alexion’s face.
"He is a Daimon," Stryker said. "You kill him as you would any of our people."
Kyros was the next to speak. His voice rang out. "Are you with us, brothers and sisters?"
She cringed as she heard the sound of unanimous agreement.
Alexion pulled her back. "I’ll take it from here." He kissed her lightly on the lips before he turned, held his hand out, and blasted the steel door into oblivion.
Alexion strode confidently into the room, even though he knew Stryker probably had some means to kill him. Let the bastard try. If he did, then he was in for a fight.
It was time now to do his job.
There were twenty Dark-Hunters in the room-eighteen men and two women, along with several dozen Daimons. It was a good thing Dark-Hunter blood was poisonous to the Daimons, otherwise they would most likely be feasting by now on the fools who had gathered here to die like sheep being led blithely to the butcher.
But it was Kyros who held his attention. He stood before the group, his eyes burning with hatred.
Sighing, Alexion shook his head. "What fools these immortals be," he said. "To listen to a Daimon and fall victim to his lies."
"We fell victim to those centuries ago," Squid snarled. "There’s not a one of us here who hasn’t been used by Acheron."
Alexion pitied him. "I’m not here to argue with any of you anymore. I’m here to give you your last chance to save yourselves. Those of you who want to live to see another night, step to the right. Those of you who wish to believe in Stryker’s bullshit and die tonight stay where you are."
"Don’t be afraid of him," Stryker said. "What can one man do to all of you?"
Alexion gave him a wry grin. "If I’m so little a threat, Stryker, why haven’t you killed me?"
He looked around at the gathered crowd of Dark-Hunters. "Don’t throw your lives away so needlessly. All of you have survived too much to be so damned stupid."
He paused to stare at Kyros. "And you, adelfos, I carried you on my back when you were wounded. I gave you bread when it was the last bite I had to sustain me. Look me in the eyes now and tell me that you are willing to back a Daimon over me."
Kyros looked to Stryker, who began clapping sarcastically. "Great speech. Practice long?"
Alexion raised his hand and threw Stryker back against a wall. "Decide, Hunters. Now!"
The Daimons rushed at him, only to rebound off the wall he raised around himself. Still, they continued to attack as if seeking some way to break through his hold.
He watched as the Dark-Hunters exchanged nervous looks with each other. Then, to his relief, sixteen of them moved to the right.
The instant they did, he saw the confusion on their faces.
"What the hell?" Eleanore, one of the Dark-Huntresses, said. "I feel so weak suddenly."
No doubt the break in Stryker’s hold allowed them to feel the fact that their powers had been significantly drained.
Kyros took one step, then paused as Stryker broke Alexion’s hold and shot a blast at him. It pierced the force field and sent him flying backward.
Alexion hissed as pain cut through him. Stryker blasted him again and again. The pain was searing. He tried to push himself up only to find Danger by his side, helping him.
A bad premonition struck him hard. "Get the Dark-Hunters and get out of here," he said to her.
But before she could move, Stryker attacked her with the bolt as well.
Alexion turned on the demigod with a curse as he returned fire with fire.
"Spathis!" Stryker snapped to his men as he ducked Alexion’s blast. "Kill the Dark-Hunters! All of them."
The Daimons attacked en masse. Danger drew the dagger from her boot as she ran to join the fray.
"Danger, stay back!" Alexion shouted as he blasted the Daimons away.
He tried to shatter them with his powers, but couldn’t.
Stryker laughed at him. "They’re stronger than you are, Alexion. We’re not the wimpy little Daimons you normally fight. We are so much more."
Alexion’s gaze narrowed on him before he called out, "Xirena, take human form."
The demon came off him and transformed.
Danger smiled at their ace in the hole. The Daimons would never be able to stand against Xirena.
"You traitorous bitch," Stryker snarled at the demon as he raked a disgusted sneer over her.
Xirena flew at him only to have Stryker slash at her wings with his dagger. The demon shrieked, then fell to the ground where she lay, unable to get up, as Stryker continued to stab at her. Whimpering, Xirena tried to crawl away from him before he could kill her.
Danger didn’t know what had happened. She ran to the demon to try and help her.
Alexion’s heart stopped as he realized what Stryker had used against the demon… an Atlantean dagger. The only thing that could kill Charontes. But more to the point, it could also kill Danger, even with her Dark-Hunter powers.
Shit! He could flash out of here with one of them, but not both. If he used his powers, he would have to choose between Danger or the demon…
But more than that, he couldn’t leave the Dark-Hunters who were drained. They were having an almost impossible time fighting the Daimons who were attacking them.
"What’s going on here?" Squid asked an instant before a Daimon killed him.
"Run!" Kyros shouted at the others. "They’ve weakened us so that they can kill us."
"Danger," Alexion said as he shielded the demon, "grab Xirena and get out."
As she moved to obey, Stryker pulled out a red medallion. "Touch the demon and I’ll destroy your soul."
Everyone in the room froze at those words. Alexion noted the horror on the faces of the Dark-Hunters who realized just what the Daimon held. If Danger’s soul was destroyed, she would never be able to go free.
More than that, it would turn her into a Shade.
Her expression one of terror, Danger held Xirena close.
Alexion cocked his head at the strangeness of Stryker’s threat. The momentary panic that he held her soul lasted for only a few seconds, before he realized something. "Run with Xirena, Danger. He doesn’t have your soul."
Stryker laughed at him as he passed a pitying look to Danger. "How wonderful. Your lover thinks to call my bluff."
"It’s not a bluff," Alexion said assuredly as he faced the Daimon coldly. "I don’t know what you have, but it’s not her soul."
Stryker’s gaze was cold, sinister, and if he’d actually had Danger’s soul, Alexion might have been scared. "Are you willing to take that chance?"
Alexion didn’t blink. "Yes."
"Alexion!" Danger snapped, her voice filled with fear. "If it is my soul-"
"It’s not," he said, looking at her. "Trust me in this. Artemis holds those souls too closely and there’s only one man alive who can get them from her. You can bet your life, your ousia, and everything else you have that Stryker’s not him."
"Are you so sure?" Stryker asked as he toyed with the medallion in his hand. He tightened his grip around it. "Artemis is my aunt, after all."
Alexion scoffed. "Yeah, and she hates your guts with a blazing passion. The only way for you to get a soul is for Acheron to hand it over to you and we both know the chances of that."
Cursing, Stryker threw the medallion down and crushed it under his heel.
Danger cringed until she realized that nothing had happened to her.
She felt her chest just to make sure…
Nope, she was still intact. Breathing in relief, she returned to Xirena, who was still holding her chest where Stryker had stabbed her.
"I told you to kill them all," Stryker commanded his Daimons.
Danger stood before the demon to protect her. As the Daimons attacked and she fought them, she realized something terrifying. Her powers weren’t there in full strength.
With every strike and blow, she seemed to weaken.
The Daimon she was fighting kicked her backward. Danger hit the ground so hard, it knocked the breath from her. She rolled, trying to get away, only to find herself at the feet of another Daimon. He laughed as he raised a sword to behead her.
Just as she was sure she was dead, the Daimon was thrown back. She looked up expecting to see Alexion.
Instead, it was Kyros who stood over her.
He had killed the Daimon, and was holding his hand out to her. "I’ve been a stupid fool," he breathed as he pulled her to her feet. "I’m sorry."
"I’m not the one you need to apologize to."
He glanced to Alexion who was fighting Stryker. "I know." He pushed her toward the door. "C’mon. We have to get the other Dark-Hunters out of here before it’s too late."
Before she could say anything, he bent over and picked Xirena up to carry her away from the Daimons.
Alexion paused as he saw Kyros and Danger working together to get the others to safety. She’d been right-he had come around in the end. Gods, he owed that woman more than could ever be repaid.
He did a quick head count of the Dark-Hunters who were leaving and realized that only three Dark-Hunters had been killed by the Daimons so far.
They’d been the ones who hadn’t moved to the right.
Kyros and Danger were fighting the Daimons as the rest of them rushed to make it out of the room.
To buy them more time, he lunged at Stryker again.
The Daimon turned with a snarl. "You can’t stop me," Stryker said ominously.
He tossed the dagger at Danger.
Alexion threw his hand out to deflect the dagger’s path. The dagger should have shot to his hand. It didn’t.
Just as it started for him, one of the Daimons hit him in the chest. He staggered forward, then regained his balance. Before he could reclaim the dagger, it returned to Stryker who tossed it faster than he could blink.
It buried itself deep into Danger’s chest.
Alexion couldn’t breathe for a full heartbeat as he saw it hit her so hard it knocked her off her feet before sending her twisting to the floor.
Kyros turned with a curse as he ran for her.
No! Alexion’s mind screamed in denial.
It couldn’t be…
"You should have backed off," Stryker said between clenched teeth as the dagger flew back into his outstretched hand. "But that’s all right. The best way to kill someone is to always aim for their heart. She dies because of you and you die because of Acheron."
The Daimon threw the dagger at him.
Strike at the heart…
Catching the dagger in his fist an instant before it would have embedded itself in his chest, Alexion finally understood what the unknown feminine voice had been trying to tell him. He felt his powers surging at those words.
He turned on Stryker with a snarl. "You want a heart, Stryker? I’ll give you yours…"
He knew his eyes were glowing green as he shouted, "Urian!"
"Don’t you dare defile my son’s name with-" Stryker’s words broke off as the air around them stirred.
Two seconds later, Urian appeared. Tall and blond, the man looked eerily similar to his father except Stryker dyed his hair black while Urian’s was white-blond. As always, he kept it long, and in a ponytail that was secured with a black leather cord.
Urian looked less than pleased to have been summoned. His jaw went slack as he glanced around the room at the Daimons who were staring at him in disbelief.
"Nice way to keep me incognito, Lex," Urian said, until his gaze fell on his father.
His eyes narrowed in hatred.
"Urian?" Stryker breathed the name like a sacred prayer.
"You bastard!" Urian snarled.
"Kill him," one of the Daimons shouted.
"No!" Stryker said. "He’s my son."
Urian shook his head. "No, old man. I’m your enemy." Urian grabbed the dagger from Alexion’s hand and ran at his father with it while Alexion went for Danger.
"Retreat!" Stryker ordered his Daimons an instant before five bolt-holes appeared.