She ignores them and goes on. “I think Bishop is right. You’re in over your head if you’re playing with the Reaper. If anyone here has been dodging death, it’s you.” Dove takes a step forward and Ezra grabs her and pulls her back to him and his brother. “I can tell you this: in most all of the stories people try bribery or tricks to ward him off, but it never works. I think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.”
Everything goes silent as if the world stops moving when Dove finishes speaking. The breeze of night is gone, along with the distant sounds of the crickets. Bishop moves before I know what’s happening and turns to cover my body with his. I feel the ground give a small shake as if something hard lands on it, followed by a loud snap.
“Where’s my mate?” rumbles the deepest voice I’ve ever heard.
There’s a sound like a tree branch breaking in half and I feel Bishop lean back. He lets me go a little to turn to face the voice. When I look up, standing there is the biggest man I’ve ever seen in my life holding Gordon like a rag doll. He drops Gordon’s body to the ground like a limp cloth, and I can see that his neck has been snapped.
“I thought the Grim Reaper had a scythe,” Dove whispers loudly, pushing her glasses up her nose.
My eyes flash to the giant ax he lifts off the ground and sets to rest on his shoulder.
“You really don’t want me to ask again,” he says, and I’m shocked into silence.
I hold Loren behind me as I look into the black eyes of Death. He’s big and he’s scary, but I see something in him that I could feel in myself.
“He was lying to you and you know it. Your mate isn’t here,” I say as I take a step towards him.
“Bishop,” Ravana says in warning from behind me, but I ignore her.
“The pain you feel right now is exactly what was inside me before I met my Loren. I hoped for death every day so that it would either put me out of my misery or bring me closer to her.” He doesn’t move, but I see the line between his eyes relax slightly as I speak from my soul. “I know that right now there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do to find your mate. But you know Gordon deceived you and you know that she isn’t here.”
A beat passes and he lets out a breath before lowering his ax. “He said that you would know and I believed him.” He shakes his head like he knew it wasn’t true but he didn’t want to admit it to himself.
“We owe you a debt of gratitude for killing him for us. And I want to repay that.”
The Grim Reaper looks up at me hesitantly. “How is it you think you can help me if you can’t find my mate?” he says as he looks around the room. “Everyone in this room looks to have formed bonds. What is it you could offer me that I can’t obtain on my own? I’m the Grim Reaper, Bishop. There’s nothing beyond my reach. Even now I know everyone in here and yet you know nothing of me. Only whispers that are shared in the dark by people who are afraid of me.”
I hear the pain in his words and I can’t imagine how he came to be where he is today. “You’re right, I don’t know your story and we assume a lot of things. What I can offer you is a place to rest and to share with us what you know. I search the world for knowledge and you are someone we can learn from. I want to invite you into my home and our family. Help us understand what you do and let us repay you for what you’ve done today.”
I glance down at Gordon’s body and watch as it begins to turn to ash. Soon there will be nothing left of him where he lies and it will be as if he never existed. I can only hope the same for the pain in my mate’s heart when it comes to the man she thought was her father.
“Why would I do that?” he asks, and though his voice is still rough, I can sense something gentler there.
“Because even in my darkest times, my family was there for me and it helped me to push through the pain. Do you have anyone like that?”
“I have no one,” he answers simply as he looks around the room again.
“You can stay with us.” I’m surprised when I turn around to see Kane step forward with Juliet at his side. “You’re welcome to use one of our spare rooms. It would be an honor to have you.”