Escorting Gable toward the trails, I kept an eye out for any strange behaviors. People were watching us, mainly because I was super-close to Gable. No one saw the gun, and we needed it to stay that way.
The walk up the trail wasn’t as fast as I’d hoped. Gable stared at Josie as she continued to talk softly with him, explaining what was happening. I don’t think anything was getting through to the guy. Every so often, his arm trembled.
At the top of the hill, the SUV came into view, and still no sign of a shade. Josie placed her hand on Gable’s other arm. “Everything is going to be okay. We’re going to take you to meet our friends. They’re . . . um, excited to meet—”
Gable suddenly spun on me, twisting so that he could work his arm out of my grasp as he dipped low, muscles tensing. He shot back up, aiming his elbow for my nose.
Awesome defensive move. Boy took some classes. That move would’ve taken me down.
If I weren’t the fucking Apollyon . . .
My movements were too fast for him to track. Blocking his arm before it could connect with my face, I knocked his elbow away and then slammed my hand into his shoulder. He fell back into the side of the SUV. His eyes flew wide, and before he could recoup, I was in his face, gun shoved into his side.
“That’s not possible,” he said, chest rising and falling rapidly. “No one can move that fast. No one—”
“No one who is mortal,” I said, getting my face all up in his. “I’m going to be a nice guy for once and pretend you didn’t just try to break my nose, but you get one free pass from me. That’s it. After that, I don’t give a fuck who you are or how important you are. I will lay you out and it won’t be pretty.”
Gable’s chest stopped moving. On the other side of the SUV, Alex opened the door. Hercules was at the rear, eyeing the vehicle and the surfboard he carried.
“Seth.” Josie leaned into me, and I inhaled deeply, catching the scent of the shampoo she’d used this morning. Shea butter. There was something calming about that. “He’s scared. He has every right to be.”
I met Gable’s stare. Very little of the bluish-green eyes was visible. “He should be scared.”
“That’s not helping,” she replied, and then she faked a smile like only she could. “Gable, I really need you to calm down and work with us here. We’re not going to hurt you. If we were, he would’ve already done it.”
Gable’s frantic gaze swung to Josie. “Are you holding me for ransom? Because if you need money, I can get it. You don’t have to do this.”
“Gods,” I grunted, shaking my head. “We’re not holding you hostage.”
“Hey!” Gable jerked as his focus shot over my shoulder.
I glanced over, just in time to see Hercules step to the edge of the overlook and toss the surfboard over the cliff like he was throwing a football. I almost laughed. Almost.
Hercules turned around, seeing all of us staring at him. “What? It wasn’t going to fit without doing . . . stuff to the seat.”
Gable snapped out of it, and a different kind of horrified expression flooded his face. “My board! What the fuck, man? You just threw my board over a cliff!”
“We’ll get you a new one that Hercules won’t smash,” Josie promised, and I snickered at that. “But we need—”
Wind picked up, and there it was again. Musky. Dank. The smell of death. Shit. Josie sensed it too.
“We need to go.” Alex jogged around the front of the SUV. I pulled Gable away from the back door. She threw it open.
Gable twisted in my grip, but I got him turned around, prepared to throw him head-first into the car if necessary. I started to lift him up when a dark, oily heaviness permeated the air around us. I looked over my shoulder.
An older man came up the trail, looking like any guy who would be out on the beach for a stroll. Loose khaki pants, white T-shirt, and sandals. A silver watch glinted off his wrist. The stench of death was strong, but he was still too far away to tell if he was a shade or some guy out for a walk.
“Everything okay up here?” he said.
“Don’t,” I heard Alex warn Gable in a hushed whisper.
Josie spoke up. “Everything is fine. Thanks.”
“I don’t know about that,” the man replied. “Doesn’t seem like it’s okay.” He started toward us, steps purposeful and precise. “Seems like something is going on here.”
My eyes narrowed as Josie tensed beside me. The moment he got close enough to see his eyes, I cursed. They were watery, washed out, and devoid of most color.
The man was possessed by a shade.
“Hercules,” I snapped.
Thank the gods, he got the message. Head bowing, the massive lump of flesh and muscles charged forward with a smirk.
Knowing what was up, the shade stepped back. “You stupid cattle,” it spit. “Give it up now. My liege will make it painless—”
Hercules slammed his fist into the man’s jaw. Bone cracked. The impact spun the man around in a full, perfect circle. He started to go down, but the man jerked once and then twice. Mid-fall, his back arched and his mouth dropped open.
He let out a horrible screeching sound, like metal grinding on metal, and the black smoke poured out of its mouth, flooding the sky.
“Holy shit.” Gable fell back against the side of the SUV. “Holy. Shit.”
The black smoke spiraled like a mini-tornado before arching down sharply. Hercules grabbed at it, his fingers going through the smoke. It shot across the side of the road, zig-zagging like a damn snake. Then it was out in the road, dodging traffic until it was no longer seen.