Two Kingdoms (Page 34)

I have no idea why everyone insists on glaring at me. It’s not just my quad anymore.

“It’s neutral territory. I don’t know enough about balance to go killing off any of the good guys, even if they’ve been bad guys to me. Word on the street is that I’m pretty reasonable,” I say in my defense to his hesitation.

He snorts a sound of laughter. “You admitting to me you don’t understand balance is proof enough you genuinely have no idea what’s going on.”

“I don’t know why I have to prove myself at all. I’m not the one who killed someone,” I tell him.

Again, I get glared at.

“Let me rephrase: I’m not the one who killed someone very important,” I amend. “Now you’re forcing me to sound tacky by tooting my apocalyptic horn.”

My headache starts to ebb, so I grin at him like I’ve done something right.

“I’m forcing you to sound tacky?” he asks incredulously as he snatches the Nintendo off the counter like he doesn’t even have any questions about my request. “You’re the tackiest person I know.”

“You’re the judgiest person I know,” I volley. “Judged me to death already, haven’t you?” I carry on.

I grin when he just shakes his head and kneels, plugging everything up, while acting like he’d rather be absolutely anywhere else. He’d hate me if angels were allowed to have hate in their hearts.

“We beat this game before we talk. Your nose bleeding so much means you’re thinking too hard about all this, and that’s actually really alarming with you topside,” he says as he glances over at me.

“Where would it be safest for me to have an emotional meltdown? Because no one wants me to have an episode in hell either,” I state idly as I take a seat in front of the smallish TV.

“Purgatory. But there’s no electricity there,” he deadpans as he tosses the controller to my lap.

He does something with some wires and extra pieces to make it all fit.

Seems complicated.

He takes the other controller at last and lowers himself to a chair that is no less than seven feet away and at an odd angle.

The second I start playing, there’s an instant pressure lifted from my skull. The plumber thing is sort of doing it for me in a weird way.

“I get the appeal of a hero, but they’re all just as selfish as I am because they don’t really want to die either,” I point out as I help my plumber battle his way to the flag pole. “They’re never expected to sacrifice the ones they love to win a war that’s not even theirs to fight,” I add very reasonably. “They can’t use the excuse that they’re evil.”

Harold’s jaw tics.

“I’m not following your askew version of reasoning. Let’s discuss important matters. Without question, the quad’s memories of you have been wiped out. Memories of all of it. Their nightmares of Hell’s Black Heart gave me so much pause every time I guided them or helped them stay safe. I’m neutral here—not righteous,” he says quietly and calmly.

“I don’t find you all that righteous even as Heratio, based on what I’ve seen so far,” I dutifully inform him.

He exhales harshly.

“You know it’s true, Paca. Regardless of why you were made, you don’t get around becoming a weapon. I believe you likely found a way to retrieve your pieces and make yourself, and them, strong enough to kill Jahl without having to detonate.”

His eyes meet mine.

“Why else do all this, right?” I ask like it’s rhetorical as I curse the little gap that fucks up my virtual plumber’s life so close to the pole dance ending.

“You’re frivolous, selfish, spoiled, vapid, reasonably insane, and while you may keep a neutral stance on most things, you are still undeniably evil with the blood of Lucifer coursing through your veins.”

I pause the game and blink at him a few times.

“This is where you say, ‘but at least you’re pretty,’ like most judgmental men do after trying to make the woman sound like a horrible person,” I’m quick to say.

“Don’t make this a gender thing, you lunatic. I’m saying I don’t expect you to be a hero. You’ve created another way somehow, Paca. Must have. Now that you’ve accomplished the impossible, you need to follow through with whatever ludicrous plan you put into play five centuries ago when you set me up for my fall to catapult this into action—”

His words freeze, and his eyes widen marginally over my shoulder as his mouth falls open.

I glance back, expecting Lamar, and also do a wide-eyed, parted-lips stance when I see a very feral Gage hovering in the back corner with a subtle, eerie glow to his eyes.

“You look really evil right now,” I point out, wondering what the hell has happened in the short time since I left him.

His eyes narrow on Harold, and I clear my throat a few times.

“There’s actually a semi-reasonable explanation as to why I haven’t killed him,” I explain. “Apparently this is all my fault and not his. Please don’t kill him or me.”

Now I’m being glared at again, only this time it’s solely Gage who is doing it. The other three aren’t here, and Harold is frozen in place as Gage steps out in his very unusual black clothing.

“What the hell?” I ask worriedly as I dive toward him, trapping his face between my hands when I see the stubble of a beard leading down to a long, black, scary line on his neck.

“He’s been in Hell’s Black heart. That means he’s started a line to connect to its power,” Harold says quietly from behind me.

Gage slides his arm around my waist, roughly yanking me up against his front as he continues to narrow his eyes at Harold.

“He’s your friend, remember? I punished him by making him like you. Apparently it torments his soul. Don’t give him a reason to hate you now. He has my Nintendo,” I tell the very angry Famine Horseman.

Gage cuts his eyes to me again, eyebrow arching, as his jaw subtly grinds.

“Did you learn anything of value?” he asks with a suspiciously calm tone.

I feel like there’s a trap somewhere.

“Actually, yes. I’ll tell you all about if you’ll get us back—”

My breath flogs my throat like a volatile assailant in the next instant. My hair blows in my face, and all the colors swirl around us.

It’s the most abrupt a siphoning has ever felt, and I’m spit out in my hell room with Gage still holding onto me.

He looks down with a cold edge to his unusual, new, cool blue eyes.

“What the hell happened?” I ask more seriously.

He rolls his new eyes. “Fun fact: an hour in Hell’s Black Heart, even as a guest, tricks the mind and body into believing it’s been a week. Or time works differently there—one or the other. But you can’t just get out whenever you want. You have to enter and exit on the f*****g hour, and none of your evil family bothered telling us how to tell what hour it is.”

Keeping his face between my hands, I stare him directly in the eye. “Do you want me to kill my daddy for you? Is that what you’re asking?”

His eyes roll so far back in his head that I almost worry he’s seizing before his eyes flutter shut and he bites down on his fist. A muffled, frustrated sound leaves him.

“Is that a yes?” I ask to be sure.

When his eyes open again, they narrow on me. “Sit down.”

“I’m not sure I like your tone. You’re about to scold me for running off without—”

He palms the top of my head and shoves me to the seat in front of him.

“Fine. I’ll sit down,” I tell him primly as I cross my arms over my chest, leaning back as I sigh.

He squats in front of me so that we’re eye to eye.

“What’d you learn?” he asks without sounding like he wants to throttle me.

My eyes are the ones to narrow this time.

“Why aren’t you doing the thing where you try to wring my neck or sulk?” I ask uncertainly. “Where are the others?”

I look around, wondering if they’re behind me and about to do something horrible. But…it’s just us in here.

His eyes dip to my mouth and come back up to my eyes. “I volunteered to be the one to find you. The others went back to the Black Heart.”

“Too bad you can’t be my favorite, since we’re all alone…but there’s still the matter of the unaddressed other woman.”

I drag my finger up his arm, and his eyes follow the motion as I give him a little grin.

His eyes flick back to mine as he lifts an unimpressed eyebrow.

“Well, since I can’t be your favorite, I guess you’ll just have to start talking about all you just learned,” he drawls as he moves in closer.

My gaze drops to his lips as his tongue wets them.

“Such a waste,” I decide aloud, causing his lips to twitch.

Chapter 15

“So why aren’t you mad that I went to see him by myself?” I muse as Gage strips down to his boxers, preparing to change.

I sit back and admire the view, absently tapping my chin as he whispers something into that compass looking thingy on his arm.

“What is that? The escorts wear it too,” I go on.

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