Two Kingdoms (Page 11)

“The twins always end up fighting each other. They get a thrill from it, so they purposely set themselves up for it so they can laugh about it later when they return home,” Lucifer explains. “Usually they kill each other while they’re mortal.”

“Lovely children you have,” I state dryly. “You must be so proud.”

“Indeed,” he says seriously, apparently not catching onto the wry sarcasm…or simply overlooking it.

He moves a step closer, and I tense, even though he remains plenty far enough away. He pauses in front of a picture and feigns interest in it. I watch all of it from my peripheral.

“We watch the humans. We see their past, present and their future. We know what happens when we don’t step in. We know what happens if we do alter one moment in history. And we do it with war, with fear, and with bloodshed. It’s our part of the balance needed to keep the human world from imploding,” he goes on. “I certainly want to torture their souls for all eternity, but I don’t want the world to come to an end. There needs to be a balance.”

“How kind and noble of you,” I quip, smiling like the smartass I am.

My eyes flit over a tattered flag on the ground in the painting that is streaked with blood and lives lost for the sake of preserving a balance.

“If people genuinely wanted a utopia, they could create it. They, instead, give way to their baser urges and primal instincts—play too far over on the dark side, disrupting their personal balance and the ability to produce selfless, pure acts. The clothes are more sophisticated, and their words are more refined, but evil still rests at the heart of every man. It’s not our duty to save them. We simply demand a balance so their existence is ensured.”

Now he’s just giving me a sales pitch.

Finally, I turn to face him, and he turns as I do, his lips twitching when he sees the bored expression on my face.

“I get it. We’re evil. Sometimes we do evil things. You don’t have to sell it to me.”

He remains mildly amused, if his expressions indicate his mood. “Either you’ve remembered something, or you foolishly trust me even without your memories,” he says when our eyes lock.

“I guess I’m a fool for being alone in the Devil’s house and leaving my boys to fend for themselves in a roomful of unpredictable siblings, but something about this place draws forth a familiar trust I shouldn’t feel. However…something is wrong. I just don’t know what.”

He nods slowly, like he’s considering that.

“Your siblings are no threat. I’d tell you to trust me, but even I know how ridiculous it sounds to have the Devil ask for one’s trust,” he tells me, wry amusement in his tone.

This moment feels terribly familiar, as though we’ve held this conversation before. And I can see in his eyes that he’s waiting on recognition to spark.

There’s almost a sadness in his gaze when I don’t revisit whatever memory he just tried to provoke.

“Tell me, daughter dearest, why is it you stand before me with very little humor and no amusing commentary this day?” he asks candidly.

I arch an eyebrow at him. “I’ve heard that serious situations call for my own personal seriousness. I’m here for answers, and I’m not leaving without them this time.”

“And what do your boys think of this?” the Devil muses.

“They think you’re responsible, but they’re hiding it from me because they don’t trust me not to act irrationally. I’m a logical person, according to everything I’ve read, so why am I acting rash? My memories are gone, but my mind is trying to tell me something. I just don’t know what, and pardon me if I’m serious for a moment because I’m sick of the games I find myself playing for the sake of your amusement.”

He scrubs his jaw for a moment as though he’s frustrated, as a small throb pulses in my temple.

“You are missing four important pieces of yourself because you chose to save them. They seem to be saved, but you can’t retrieve the pieces without your memory of how to do so. How unfortunate you never shared that information with me.”

“I guess that means I didn’t trust you with that information,” I state with a smirk, as though I’ve forced him to slip.

It’s not the missing pieces that’s causing this sense of unknown trickling of dread. There’s a breath of urgency on my back, as though I feel something coming but don’t know which direction to prepare for it.

“Of course not. I would have retrieved your missing pieces immediately. To hell with them. You have no idea how foolish that was,” he says, his jaw ticking momentarily as he seems to struggle to keep his temper in check.

“It tethers them to me whether they want it to or not, doesn’t it?” I ask so fast that it feels like I’ve simply been awaiting an opening.

It’s a weird thing—surprising the Devil, that is. Every time I or the guys cause surprise to flit across his features, however brief, it’s a little unnerving.

Nothing should surprise a man of evil who has watched the world for so long.

“Oh, my pathetic little youngest, you’d be horrified if you heard yourself right now,” Lucifer says while visibly working to restrain a smile. “Dear daughter, are you struggling with your conscience? You know you don’t have one, right?”

I narrow my eyes at him. Anytime he seems to taunt me, it’s like I turn into a teenage rebel of sorts. I’ll be embarrassed about it later.

“I simply don’t like feeling like the interloper who has to force men to want her. I want to know they’d be mine regardless of those pieces being removed. Because, no, I have no clue how to retrieve those pieces. Even if I knew how, I’m sure I put it into one of those formulas I created with my own language, and that really does me no damn good.”

He wipes away his grin and clears his throat. “The boys would still be in hell’s black heart all these many thousands of years later had you not spared them. If they were here to hear this—as the men with all their memories—”

“Consider them entirely different,” I interrupt, and then I have a subtle moment of panic when I realize I’ve interrupted the f*****g Devil.

Since I’ve already done it, I roll with it, especially since he seems to be taking me a little more seriously.

“I wrote myself notes to tell myself about the guys. As though I foresaw this coming. What if I found out a way to better their existence, and forgot that I may not be quite as important to them like this?” I ask, feeling a little…weird.

But I try not to make it weird.

“But you are still just as important to them, Paca,” he says with a smirk. “It’s been a long time since I had to talk boys with my youngest. I have to say…it’s making me quite nostalgic.”

There he goes…making it weird.

“You realize you just danced around my question,” I say on a sigh.

“They have nightmares, don’t they?” he asks, causing me to stiffen as I look at him.

“If they have no memories, they’d be riddled with nightmares as a balance,” he says as though he’s explaining. “But in order to create theories about what may or may not have happened, you need to know how you died. More importantly, you need to know when you died.”

My eyes find his and hold there expectantly, wondering why he hasn’t already told me if he’s no way involved. Why hold back?

“Well?” I prompt, trying not to sound too desperate for the answer and give the Devil the power of leverage. “Skip to the how, since I know the when. I know it’s been five hundred years.”

“The how part will take some explaining, and trust me, we will be having that conversation very soon. It’s one of the reasons I had you summoned tonight.”

My heart thumps heavily in my chest as he starts nearing me, and I make a conscious effort to remain rooted to my spot. The goal is to appear unafraid, but I feel the menace rolling off him the closer he grows, and my resolve wavers no less than four times in under five seconds.

He’s the only person whose presence I’ve felt, aside from my siblings and Lamar. I wonder if it’s because I’m too powerful to feel the lesser ones such as escorts or Elders—who aren’t very elderly, if you ask me. Five hundred years is not that long, in the grand scheme of things, and he clearly had no idea who I was until I went all psycho devil child on him and told him my badass name.

But if I’m that powerful, why would there be any rebellions at all? They’d never stand a chance. The divide in power is unconquerable.

Lucifer stops just a foot in front of me as my inner ramble comes to an abrupt halt, and I startle when he lifts his hands. He moves so fast that I don’t even gauge his next motion until he’s stepping back with my mask in his hands.

His eyes almost seem to soften as he rakes his gaze over my face.

“The boys have only been dead for three hundred and fifty years,” he says with a slight frown. “Though, technically, they weren’t dead for long at all, since they’ve existed centuries since.”

“Five hundred years. They’ve been missing for as long as I have,” I argue.

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