Oh, yeah, that made me want to put my hand through his face. I stared at him, barely able to rein in the dark rage that made me want to obliterate everything in the room.
“Get on your knees or she dies right now,” the senator repeated.
I took a deep breath. I wasn’t stupid.
If the senator did what he thought he could do to me, it was doubtful he’d let Serena go. And even if he ran, Serena wasn’t safe.
She’d never be safe with him alive.
That left me only one choice.
“No, Hunter, don’t,” she begged, and those pretty eyes filled with tears.
Her words were cut off by the senator’s grip. The sound that came out of me would send demons scurrying.
Senator Vanderson’s eyes widened a fraction, but he kept ahold of Serena.
“Do you want to see what her insides look like lit up?”
“I’m running out of patience.”
It went against everything in my nature not to rip into him right then, but he’d snap Serena’s neck before I’d take a step. She was worth more to me than my pride.
That was the truth.
I went down on my knees. “What?”
The senator took a step to the side, keeping Serena directly in front of him. I knew any movement I made at this point would mean her death. He was caged with all the dead bodies lying around him and he knew it. “How’s it feel to be where you should be? On your knees before your superior?”
I arched a brow. “Feels the same way it will when I’m standing over your dead body.”
My response seemed to unnerve him.
“Your arrogance is rooted in stupidity.”
“And your lifespan is getting shorter by the second,” I promised, my eyes meeting Serena’s.
The look in that stare let me know she was ready for anything.
“You’re wasting air and space.”
The senator sneered.
“You’ll see. You and the humans will soon see.”
In a second, Senator Vanderson slipped into his true form. The sudden light was blinding for a moment.
I rose, losing sight of Serena in the glow. Her scream echoed through my soul, and at that moment, I knew I had one.
Human or not, it rocked me to my very core.
The senator shoved Serena to the side with such force her feet came off the ground. She was a distraction for him to escape, because the senator thought I’d go after her.
He was right.
I caught her around the waist before she hit the ground. She twisted in my embrace, gripping my arms as she lifted her head. “Hunter…”
I pressed a quick kiss to the bruise on her cheek and then I sat her down.
She called my name again as I turned, spying the senator almost to the door.
He wasn’t going to make it.
Launching into the air, I shifted into my true form. I landed on the senator, flipping him onto his back.
His hand rose and something black and shiny glinted.
I caught his arm, twisting until he dropped the piece of obsidian he held. Yeah, THAT’SSS NOT GOING TO happen.
Senator Vanderson struggled, but I pinned him down. I could kill him cleanly and be done with it, but for what he’d stolen from Serena, he was going to suffer.
“We will rise,”
the senator gasped out.
I slammed my hand deep into his chest. His back bowed off the floor as I leaned in. I DON’T GIVE A SSSHIT WHAT YOU WILL DO.
THISSS ISSSN’T ABOUT OUR war. I inhaled, drawing the Source out of the senator and into myself. Thisss isss about her.
The flame of his essence invaded my body, pouring warmth into me. I took him in as his body flickered wildly under mine, and I drew it out so that every scream, every spasm of his body was an apology to Serena.
Dropping the senator to the floor, I rose and stepped around his lifeless form as I turned. Serena was on her feet, her face pale, the bruises standing out in stark contrast, but she was alive.
And I loved her.
We stared at each other for several moments, neither of us speaking or moving, and then I was in front of her, pulling her to my chest, breathing in her scent as I went down on my knees, bringing her with me. Her arms went around me and she held on just as tightly as I held her. It was then when I realized I was still in my true form. She was light against my darkness.
Serena hadn’t backed away or hesitated. She accepted me, all of me.
She always had.
I slipped into my human form, cradling her against me. The words, they came out easier than I ever thought they would. “I love you.”
I slept most of the twenty- hour drive to Atlanta and when I woke, we were just outside of Marietta. I still felt like I hadn’t gotten any rest in days. My body and face ached relentlessly, but it was a small penance to pay compared to the fact I honestly shouldn’t be alive.
The senator was dead— the creature ultimately responsible for Mel’s death. It might make me a terrible person, but I was glad. The law hadn’t laid down the punishment, but he wouldn’t be ordering anyone’s death again. He got what was due to him in the end.
A cool touch brushed over my hand, and I turned to Hunter.
Concern pinched his face. “You hanging in there?”
I nodded and all I heard in my head was those three words: I LOVE YOU. A tired smile pulled at my lips. “What about you? We haven’t even stopped, have we?”
He shook his head. “I’m fine.”
I didn’t see how that was possible with all that he’d done. It had been awe- inspiring to watch him battle it out, but he’d taken blows that would’ve killed a human. He had to be tired and in pain, but I knew he wouldn’t admit to it.
Turning my hand over, I threaded my fingers through his and squeezed.
He glanced at me again, his expression strangely vulnerable.
“Does your brother know we’re coming?”
He smiled slightly. “No.
Didn’t want to risk using a cell linked to either of us.”
“Do you think he’s going to be okay with us coming there?”
Hunter nodded again.
“He will. You don’t need to worry.” He brought our hands to his mouth and placed a kiss there.
There was a lot to worry about, but with Hunter’s hand wrapped securely in mine, I felt grounded. I closed my eyes and when they reopened Hunter was coasting the Porsche up a long, narrow driveway crowded with thick, leafy maples. The same strange designs I’d seen in the gazebo were etched into many of the sturdy trunks, a seamless, twisting loop with four dots in the middle.
“Those designs,” I said, pointing toward a tree.
“They’re a symbol of your kind, aren’t they?”
“Yes. The four dots represent the family and the knots are endless.” He followed the bend in the road. “It means that family is endless no matter what.”
Surprise bubbled up through me. “That’s so…”
“Human?” He laughed.
“Yeah, it is. Never really thought of it that way, but it is.”
He didn’t seemed bothered by it, not like he would’ve been when I first met him. My gaze traveled over the firm line of his jaw and I knew I couldn’t even begin to count how many things had changed in such a short amount of time.
Hunter coasted to a stop in front of a large three- floor stucco home. My mouth dropped open. “He lives here by himself?” I asked. The place could fit a family of eight easily.
“As far as I know.” He pulled the keys out as he looked at me. “He already knows I’m here, so there’s no point in delaying this.”
Nervous energy built in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.
Turning to the passenger window, I stared up at the large house. This would probably be my new home for the foreseeable future.
If I survived all that I had, I could survive meeting Hunter’s other brother. Taking a deep breath, I opened the car door and stepped out into the sweltering heat of the late Georgia afternoon sun.
Hunter appeared at my side, and I didn’t even jump. If anything, that proved how accustomed I was getting to all the weird alien stuff. He slid the wraparound sunglasses down, shielding his eyes.
He extended his hand.
I smiled tiredly as I wrapped my fingers around his. He led me up the cobblestone sidewalk, around the neatly manicured bushes and creamy flowers that carried a faint sweet scent.
My heart kicked up as we reached the sprawling portion that was rather… quaint with its wooden swing and overstuffed wicker chairs. There was a straw wreath on the door.
Never would I have guessed that an Arum lived here.
Hunter raised his hand to knock but the door opened first, revealing a mirror image of Hunter.
I knew that he and his brothers were identical. I had seen Sin, but it was still a shock to be staring at a replica of Hunter. But like with Sin, there were minute differences that set each brother apart from one another. While an icy haughtiness surrounded Sin, there was a warmth to Lore that even Hunter didn’t have.
Lore’s pale eyes moved from Hunter to me and then down to where our hands were joined. “A human?” he asked in a voice huskier than Hunter’s.
Hunter responded with a twist of his lips. “Yeah, so what?”
His brother leaned against the door jamb, folding his arms. “Just don’t know what to be more surprised about. That you’re here or that you’re here with a human female.”
“I’m sure more surprising things have happened.”
Lore murmured, and then those shockingly pale eyes settled on me.
He extended a hand. “And you would be?”
“Serena Cross.” I took his hand, ignoring the possessive, deep rumble that emanated from Hunter. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Well, darling, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He sent his brother a half grin that was wicked enough that I felt my cheeks brighten. “How in the world did you end up with my brother?”
“Um, that’s a long story.”
Lore’s grin spread. “I’m all ears.”
Reaching out, Hunter separated our hands with a dark look. “Why don’t you stop touching my female, invite us in, and then I’ll tell you all about it.”
His brother chuckled deeply as he stepped aside. “My life would not be complete if I didn’t hear this story.”
I headed through the doorway, feeling the tips of my ears burn. Hunter slid his sunglasses up and both the brothers’ eyes were on me. I had the strong urge to run and hide behind something.
Hunter wiggled his fingers free from my death grip and put his hand on the small of my back as Lore moved in front of us.
The foyer was virtually empty with the exception of a few leafy, potted plants. We passed an archway leading to a spacious kitchen and then a spiraling staircase. Lore led us into a large living room with a massive sectional couch wide enough to fit three people lying down side by side. I sat in the middle and it sucked me in the way all comfy couches do.
“So,” Lore said, standing in front of a large picture window overlooking the driveway. “I’m assuming you’re no longer with the DOD?”