Aumae insisted she would be a part of the conversation. She wanted to hear what Damien was there to say so all of us congregated in a room on the basement level. One wall was made of glass with the water on the other side. The bottom of the pond was real, but the house had built around it so we were able to see the rocks, fish, and even the seaweed beside us.
"It's beautiful." Aumae rested a hand on the glass as she had been positioned in the corner of a couch by Kellan. She wanted to sit up and no one argued even though we all felt she should've been resting.
"Yes, it is." I squeezed her other hand as I sat on her other side.
Kellan stood in a corner. He didn't make eye contact with anyone, nor did he speak. He merely stood there, turned halfways to the corner so we couldn't judge his face, and waited until Damien stood in the center of the room.
"Your father's in town."
It took a split second before I realized that Damien had spoken and he'd spoken to me. With a quick jerk, I pulled my gaze from Kellan to the other messenger and watched how his eyes looked clouded over. They weren't as bright as normal and his voice was sad, resigned, but there was another touch of something else in his voice. I narrowed my eyes, concentrating, when I realized what it was.
"What have you done?" I asked.
Damien reared back a step, surprised, but then another look of resignation flared over his features. "I feel that I should've done something and kept your father from arriving. I could've sent him somewhere else."
Kellan turned and faced the group. "That would've been useless. Her father went there with the excuse of looking for Vespar and Gus. He stays with the real reason of searching for his daughter. She's been kept from him since she was given life in her mother's womb. He wants Shay and he won't leave without her."
Aumae sat up slowly, still weak. "Then he has a different sort of fight on his hands, doesn't he?"
Damien looked between the two and then cleared his throat, stuffing his hands in his sweater's front pocket. "It doesn't matter. He's in town and he's watching your half siblings."
"It's a trap." When everyone looked at me, I nodded. "It's a trap. He thinks we'll swoop in to get Vespar and Gus out of there, but we won't. We'll leave them. I mean, Vespar was going to kill me. I don't want to go anywhere near him after that. My dad will never know. He'll watch them and we can get away."
"Uh…." Damien sent me an apologetic smile. "That would be all good and everything, but you don't know where your half sibs are…they're being held captive by two humans you went to school with."
Kellan groaned. "Dylan."
"Exactly." Damien snapped his fingers at him.
"Gus said that he was into dark magic. He could've used something to keep me from wiping his memory and then decided to go after Vespar and Gus when we were gone." Kellan shrugged. "It's what I'd do if I were him and I knew dark magic."
"What?" I snapped, throwing my arms in the air. They were both acting too casual about this. "Dylan and someone else captured Vespar and Gus? What are they doing—torturing them?"
Aumae shuddered behind me.
"Probably," Damien answered with a blank face.
"Are you okay with that? They might be getting tortured and you act like you don't care?"
"Why do you?" he shot back at me.
"Because torture is torture. It's wrong. It doesn't matter what the person or thing did—it's always wrong. I shouldn't have to tell you that." My eyes were cold. He was a messenger, at least half of one. Didn't we stand for the good?
Flinching, I turned away, but I was aware of Kellan's sudden intent gaze on me. He was studying me, watching for some reaction, but it didn't matter. Torture was wrong. I wouldn't want anyone to go through that. As my eyes shifted over Aumae, I shivered at the memory of seeing her tied down by a violated virgin's blood. Her skin had crawled over her, boiling from the inside up. Vespar wanted to kill me, but I still couldn't handle thinking of him going through that same torture.
I lifted my chin and squared my shoulders, turning towards Damien and Kellan. "We're going back. We have to." My eyes went to Kellan. "What do you think?"
"We could use their help against your father."
"Then it's decided. We go back."
"But—what?" Damien shook his head. "I can't believe this. You're going back to save two demons? Two demons that tried to kill you?"
"What do you mean 'you're'? You're not coming?"
He snorted in disbelief. "Messengers don't save demons. And I think you're crazy for even thinking about it."
"Well, then I'm not the typical messenger, am I?" I was a little hurt by his decision, but it didn't matter. Kellan and I would handle it. We'd be fine. Then a different thought came to me. "Why did you even come here? You told us about Gus and Vespar. Did you think we wouldn't go and save them?"
Damien shuffled his feet, from side to side before he responded, "I wanted to warn you about your dad. I never thought you'd back go. You should be going the other way—not headed into the lions' den."
"She's made up her mind. We're going," Kellan spoke up and left the room. As he walked past, I met Damien's eyes and saw concern for a moment. It shocked me, but then a blank mask fell back in place. It didn't surprise me. I'd always knew the other messenger was guarded, controlled, but the concern did cause me to pause a moment. What would he be concerned about—about me? About Kellan? Did he think the humans were going to actually best us?
Damien left right behind Kellan and Aumae sat up beside me to rest a hand on my arm. She murmured, "He's not used to being worried about anybody."
When she got up and followed behind the other two, I sat back in more dismay. What did that mean? Damien didn't have anybody close?
"Shay!" Kellan yelled out. "Come on!"
"Coming!" I jumped up and hurried back out to the car. We'd just got back from one mission and now we were leaving for another. I had a feeling that downtime would be sparingly from here on out.
On the way back, Damien drove his own car and Aumae sat up front beside him. She let a window down and then rested her head against the corner of her seat and closed her eyes, fast asleep. A soft hum vibrated from inside of her and her skin started to glisten and then roll over her, around her. When I jerked upright, alarmed, Kellan pulled me back and murmured, "She's healing herself. You should rest too."
"Because you're going to need all your strength." He squeezed my hand and then slipped his fingers through mine.
"Why don't we whisk ourselves there? Dylan and Leah are human. They won't know we're coming."
Damien glanced at me through the rearview mirror. "Because your father will know."
"Oh." Point taken. And from then on, I kept my mouth shut. Sometime not long after, I felt myself falling into Kellan's side and then he moved to put his arm around me. After that, it was lights out as soon as I snuggled into him. When I woke later, we'd arrived and I was surprised to see it had taken three hours. I'd been asleep for three hours in the car and after a peek, I saw the alertness in both Kellan and Damien. Aumae was still humming, but Damien touched her leg gently and it went away. The glistening, crawling skin stopped and the soft white color that had surrounded her was gone too. When she sat up, she looked back and gave me a clear smile.
"You look better," I noted, sitting up from Kellan's side.
"I should be fully healed." She looked at beside me. "What's the plan?"
"Shay and I go inside. That's it."
"But—" she argued.
Kellan shot back, "That's the plan. You stay. He stays. We go." He jerked on my arm and I only had a second to glance at Damien, expecting an argument from him. There was none. As he sat back in his seat, I realized that he never had any intentions of going inside with us. He wasn't going to help at all. And for some reason, that pissed me off.
"What—huh? Why isn't he helping?"
Kellan hissed under his breath, "Because this is our fight, not theirs. Come on."
He murmured as we started towards the house, "He needs to be on watch. If your father comes, I want to know."
"Oh." That made a lot more sense and then I looked up. The house looked like a typical two story home, built in the suburbs. There were shrubs neatly trimmed in front of the patio and a two wicker chairs on top. The sidewalk and had been swept clean with a line of flowers beside it, clean from weeds. It might've been a home I could've grown up in as a normal human child.
But when he opened the door, I was assaulted by the evil. It was dark inside and I smelled sex, desire, fear, torture, sweat. So much more. I felt like I was being choked, burdened down by it all before Kellan touched my arm. Then it was all gone, wiped away and looking up, I was able to see inside the room.
'Your messenger side is too much now. It's like a muzzle around you. You won't go berserk.'
Shuddering, I glanced around and then heard moans from a back room. Kellan stepped forward and the same cloak from before came over him. He put it on me too and we were able to walk around without being felt or seen. And as we went into the back room first, I stopped in disgust. Leah and Matt were tangled together, naked, on a bed with no sheets or pillows. He was thrusting into her, hard. As we watched, she tipped her head back and screamed. Matt thrust harder, banging her head into the wall behind them.
I felt like I should've thrown up, but there were no more emotions. The disgust was short lived and now I was unemotional, just there to gather information. Glancing at Kellan, I wondered if he had done that too, taken away my emotions. I wasn't sure if I should've been grateful or angry. It didn't matter, as we were turning and going upstairs. When we approached another room at the top of the stairs, I knew that I was clearheaded this way. Nothing was going to filter my judgment.
Then we saw Gus. She was naked, strapped to a bed, and bleeding all over. Her head jerked up, but it fell back down in pain with a rag between her lips.
Dylan stood above her, shirtless, and he turned with one hand on a fire poker. "What? Did you sense something?"
He clambered off the bed and snapped his pants shut in the same motion, going to the opened door. "Leah? Matt? You two still fucking?"
Leah screamed in response. Her voice was thick with desire.
Dylan looked back and perused Gus for a moment. "What's that mean? You haven't done that since…" Then he turned again, slower this time, and searched the room. His eyes passed over us and kept moving without pausing. I felt Kellan's anger beside me and wondered if I could turn his emotions off too.
Gus moaned and turned her head to the side, away from us.
"Out there? Who's out there?" Dylan walked to the window and lifted up a corner of the curtain. When he continued to inspect outside, Kellan touched my wrist again and then he were moving once more.
The remaining three bedrooms were bare upstairs. Only one had furniture with an empty bed mattress thrown in a corner. And all the rooms remained dark from drawn curtains.
'Of course they wouldn't want anyone looking inside. They'd see…' My thought trailed off, not wanting to envision the torture of people I once considered my brother and sister.
'Shay,' Kellan called to me and I hurried, finding him on the main floor again. We moved past as Matt let out a guttural groan, arching above Leah. She moaned, satisfied. Then we were at the stairs to the basement and when we went down, the floors creaked beneath us.
I felt Vespar's alertness like I'd been whipped in the backside. It was quick, alarmed, and vicious.
"Who's there? You want to go again?" he growled from a corner.
As we stepped on the cold pavement and turned towards his corner, all the lights snapped on. He was crouched in the corner, held in place by chains, but still able to stand and move an inch. The links were nailed into the walls and I wondered what magic held them intact. Vespar's fury was Goliath-like strong, but he was still a captive.
"Who are you?" He roared this time, surging forward. The chains snapped in place and he flew backwards, hitting the wall. "Who?"
"What the—" Feet sped across the floor above us and the door was thrown open soon after. Leah and Matt hurried down, pulling on clothes. They braked, seeing no one, and gazed in confusion.
"What?" Leah's hand dropped from her shirt's strap and it fell back down to her elbow. "Are you going crazy now?"
Matt grunted, fastening his pants. "He was saying a bunch of crazy shit last night too."
"What's going on?" Dylan came down the stairs at a slower pace, still shirtless and barefoot.
"Nothing. Demon boy is just trying to make us antsy." Matt shouldered past him, headed upstairs.
"I don't know…" Dylan gazed around, peering into every corner how he had upstairs. "She sensed something too. Then she tried to hide it, like nothing was there."
Leah sucked in her breath. "You think someone's here?"
"Someone or somethings?" Matt stopped on the stairs.
"I dunno." Dylan narrowed his eyes and started to chant under his breath. He kept looking around as the words got louder and clearer. Leah joined in, her voice raised with each passing word until she was shouting, stretched upwards on her toes.
"It's not working. It's not them."
Dylan stopped and then started a different chant.
Leah looked at the stairs. "I don't know that one."
"It's not them!" Matt was disgusted as he walked down again. "And even if it was, they're strong, Dylan. You're not hearing me on this. They're stronger than you think."
"Then what are we going to do when they do come?" Dylan shouted back. "That's all I got."
"I don't know. Doesn't your grandmother have other tricks or something? What you dipped his chains in, what was that?"
"Saint's blood? It doesn't come cheap. What do you think we'd do with it? Throw it at 'em?"
"I don't know. Put it in squirt guns?"
"What?" Leah laughed. "Are you stupid?"
"I'm trying here! All I know is that Kellan and Shay won't be harmed by some stupid words. They're stronger than that, stronger than these two."
I was starting to be amused by their conversation before Kellan touched my wrist and indicated the stairs. Nodding, I moved to follow, but he took hold of my elbow instead and whisked upstairs. We never touched one step and then I opened my eyes and saw we were in Gus' room again. Her face was turned towards us, straining against the rags around her mouth and neck.
"You can untie her." Kellan moved to the door, watching out. "I can't."
Gus' eyes popped out, straining even more. I felt her desperation and a flare of hope when she heard his voice. Then, as I knelt and untied all of her restraints, Gus flew upwards and wrapped both her arms around me. She gurgled into my neck, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm so sorry, Shay. I didn't know—" She gasped and fell limp in my arms then.
"Wha—" I looked at Kellan, whose hand was outstretched towards us.
He rolled his eyes. "She would've alerted them if she hadn't shut up. Take her out; get her in the car with Aumae. They'll watch over her."
"And how I'm supposed to do that? They can see me now."
The window flew open behind me and Kellan smirked. "Fly, Shay. Fly."
I rolled my eyes, but bundled Gus in my arms and climbed onto the window's frame. Perched there, I glanced back once and then jumped. I landed, smooth on my feet, and then was across to the car in a hurry. The back door was thrown open and Aumae held open her arms, a cloak over her and I placed Gus in her arms. As soon as she wrapped them around her, both of them were invisible to the human eye. Then I looked at Damien who still sat in the front seat. He stared back, unaffected. It was like we had gone to get groceries and it irked me for some reason. It should've meant something to him.
"He's going to need your help soon," Damian spoke in a flat voice, watching over my shoulder.
I swallowed a harsh retort and hurried back. Instead of the front door, how we'd gone before, I circled back to Gus' bedroom window. No light shone out of it, so I sucked in my breath and jumped back up. When I cleared the frame and landed on my feet beside the bed, I saw that Kellan wasn't there.
In fact, he wasn't anywhere. I left the room and searched the remaining ones on the floor, but nothing. Then, as I stood at the top of the stairs, Dylan, Leah, and Matt all stood at the bottom, conversing with each other.
"I don't care what you guys think, something's going on. Someone's here." Dylan cursed under his breath.
"It can't be Kellan and Shay, can it? We did the chanty thing and nothing happened. How can we not see them?" Leah's voice went from excited to confusion and it ended with disappointment.
Dylan had been watching her as she spoke and then rolled his eyes. "Don't tell you're excited to see the demon? That's pathetic."
"It's not pathetic," she cried out. "I used to have a relationship with him and I can't help that I still…"
Matt shuffled to the side, looking disgusted. "Still? You still have a thing for him?"
"But I want Shay dead. Isn't that enough?"
Both guys snorted and looked away.
"I'm going to check on Gus," Dylan started to say as he turned to the stairs and then he looked up. His hand had been reaching for the stairwell and then he froze. His hand froze in mid-air as his eyes were locked on mine. "Holy—" As he cursed, he went pale.
I'd forgotten they could see me now. "Hi…"
Dylan threw something at me and I sidestepped it as it soared over my shoulder and shattered behind me.
"Get down!" he yelled, turning away and throwing an arm over his eyes.
Matt and Leah did the same, but I stood, confused. And then a light exploded in the house, from behind me, and I turned in curiosity and mysticism. What could produce such blinding light? It didn't bother me, not at all. My eyes were able to see clearer and I bent to scoop up the broken pieces. It looked like a Christmas ornament, one that sparkled and illuminated the area around it. It was beautiful to my eyes.
I turned, holding the ornament in my hands and saw Dylan's mouth fell open. The light had started to lessen and he gazed at me, speechless. "But…you're…"
Matt growled, grabbing Leah's hand, "I told you. Your stupid tricks won't work on them. They're too strong. Come on!"
He dragged Leah behind him to the back of the house. Dylan stayed behind as I soared down the stairs towards him. He couldn't seem to move and he lifted a hand to me, pointing. "What are you? That should've—all demons are affected by that. That was some of the Holy Fire. It's supposed to sear the skin off of any demon, but you…you picked it up like it's a toy."
I balanced the broken ornament in my hand, rolling it around my opened palm. "It's very pretty, made of white mosaic?"
A gurgle left Dylan's mouth as he stood, as white as the ornament in my hand.
Then my eyes snapped to his, cold. "What else does your grandmother have up her sleeve?"