Every Last Breath (The Dark Elements 3) - Page 43

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“Damn skippy we don’t,” Bambi agreed.

“You and I need to talk,” the man told me, raising his hand. He snapped his fingers, and I felt more than saw that the familiars were gone. “Don’t worry. They’re fine. Well, they will be provided they stay away from the pits and any demon who may be a bit angry with the Prince, but I’m sure those two will cause more trouble than any trouble that can find them. Rest assured they will be returned to you once you leave.”

My eyes widened as my heart rate kicked up. I saw no aura around the man, but if I had, I imagined it would be dark and vast. Power radiated out from him, the supreme kind. He hadn’t made one move toward me, but I knew within a second, he could end me.

He could end us all.

“I knew you would come,” he continued, his lips curving up slightly behind the beard. “I even hastened my arrival from the pearly gates in anticipation of this moment. But have you nothing to say, child? After all, you wanted to see me. And here I am.”

This was Grim—the Grim Reaper.


HOLY CANOLA OIL in my face, I was doing my best not to spaz out, but this was the Grim Reaper, and he had been expecting me. Of course he had been, because he was who he was, and he probably saw everything.

Which was awkward to think about.

A tremor of unease coursed through me as a million questions sprang forth, ones I knew better than to ask him. But I wanted to. I wanted to know if he really was the angel of death. If he could take me to Sam now? If he knew Lilith? If he saw where Elijah had gone, after the Lilin had killed him? And what about all those other poor people? The questions kept bursting free, and it took everything in me to remain silent.

Grim smiled behind the trimmed beard. “The Prince is going to be very upset with you when you return.”

“Yeah.” There was no denying that. I just hoped I would return.

His smile spread but did not reach his eyes or soften his face. Frankly, it made him more creepy. “Especially considering I’ve blocked any entrance into Hell. He cannot come for you. I did not want to be interrupted—we need our time together, and yes, I have that kind of power and then some.”

My heart turned over heavily as my mouth dried. Our time together gave me the heebie-jeebies. I couldn’t go back, though. “I had to come. I had to—”

“I know why you’re here, but I don’t want to talk about that.” He started to walk past me, toward the fortress. “Not yet.”

I turned to follow him. “But—”

“If you were wise, you would not question me. Please tell me you are wise.”

Chagrined, I held back what I really wanted to say. “I like to think I am.”

“Then you will walk with me,” he replied with mock courtesy, tossing the words over his shoulder. “And you will talk with me about what I want to talk about.”

I had no idea what Grim could want to talk about with me that didn’t have to do with Sam, but I hurried to catch up with him.

“That’s a smart girl,” he murmured as he walked down the center of the empty road, his hands shoved into the pockets of his trousers. The buildings surrounding us were quiet. “Pity, though, that you’re not very observant.”

Pressing my lips together to keep myself from saying something I was sure to regret, I focused on the stones in the road. They too had a reddish tone to them.

“For example, what do you think you know about your mother?” Grim asked, startling me. “Yes, Lilith. That’s what I want to talk about. Did you know, child, that Lilith is not a demon? Well, not exactly?”

For a moment, I couldn’t speak. “She is a demon. Everyone says—”

“Everyone can say whatever they’d like to say, but that does not mean they are correct, and the truth is sometimes lost in translation when the facts are not understood,” he replied, the corners of his lips tipping up. “And the truth is, the facts are, that Lilith is not merely a demon.”

We passed a hut-type building, smushed between the taller, fiercer skyscrapers. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw movement in the hovel’s window, but when I looked, I saw nothing. “I... I don’t understand.”

“I have a feeling you understand very little.” He delivered the insult quite smoothly. “You know Lilith’s background, correct? She was kicked out of Eden because she was, well, demanding. From there, she coupled with demons, and out of that she created a whole new breed of them—but none of that happened immediately. Oh no. You see, Lilith’s plight had gained her the sympathy of a very powerful being. She became...friends with the unlikely ally, and when Eden fell apart and all its former inhabitants were stripped of their immortality due to sin, so was Lilith. And her new friend, well, that being did not feel it was right that Lilith would be...punished yet again.”

“I think I can guess who that being was,” I said, hoping he didn’t knock me into the next century for taking a stab at it. “The Boss?”

“Correct. At the time, they were two peas in a rather disturbed pod. The Boss hadn’t created any demons before meeting Lilith and had no idea how it was done, but the Boss refused to allow Lilith to die a mortal death. Who knows if the Boss had a real fondness for Lilith or simply did this as a way of...of giving the big guy in the sky the middle finger once more. The why of it all doesn’t really matter in the end.

“The Boss discovered that the blood of an original angel that had fallen, if ingested, granted immortality among other things. That blood was given to Lilith and her immortality was restored.” He paused while I processed that new knowledge. “I’m sure the Boss regrets that gift now, but hindsight is useless.”

He smiled broadly as we approached a narrow bridge built with the same stone we walked upon. The scent of sulfur and metal grew stronger.

“So Lilith...she really isn’t a demon then. She was, well, whatever the first people were, then made mortal, and then given the blood of a fallen angel.” My frown grew. “Yeah, that... What in the world is she then?”

One shoulder rose as he glanced down at me. “What in the world are you?”

A cold chill snaked down my spine despite the stifling, acidic air. “I guess I don’t really know.”

“It’s interesting how nature always takes care of its own, developing a checks and balance system, its own Law of Balance. Despite having her immortality restored to her, Lilith had one weakness, basically an off switch. If she were to deliver a child naturally, if anything happened to that child, it would end her. By giving life to you, she ultimately set into motion the only true weapon that could kill her. Nature. That’s the true bitch.”

My eyes widened. Then that meant...when I died, so would Lilith? I was her off switch. Wow.

“To be honest, I never understood why she decided to take the risk of creating you. No offense.”

“None taken,” I muttered. “Maybe she didn’t know about the...off switch?”

“Oh, I’m sure she knew. Her arrogance rivals that of the Boss,” he replied, and I stiffened, half expecting the Boss to appear in front of us to make us pay for his insult. “She thought that her child would be just like her—traitorous, obsessed with power and control. And it was a devious plan. Fornicating with a Warden, leaving the child to be raised among the enemy in order to ultimately usurp the Wardens and possibly even the Boss. Lilith wanted the world since she felt it all had been taken from her when she was exiled from Eden. It did not matter that she had been granted immortality anew and could have found some sense of peace. She wanted revenge against all of mankind—always did and always will. Birthing you was a devious plan, but ultimately a failed endeavor—for you are not like her. Not in that way.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout The Dark Elements Fantasy
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