Ebony Fight (The Guard Duet Book 2) (2 page)

BOOK: Ebony Fight (The Guard Duet Book 2)
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“Beer, if it’s all the same.”

“No problem.” Andras smiled, honestly this time, and opened a wall cabinet.

Stone strolled over and accepted a Corona. Screwing the cap off and taking a swig while the marquis poured amber liquid into his own glass, he admitted there were worse ways of waiting for his answers.

“Your Lord, Verin...she recommended you to me.”

Stone had suspected as much. Now he wondered whether the bitch had done so to get him into her pants or as a punishment for not having gone there yet.

“You are her favorite assassin,” Andras went on. “And from what she told me, I have to say I like the way you work. Alone and discreet, which can’t be said about a lot of Ebonys. Most tend to brag. But let’s get back to the matter at hand.” The marquis walked towards one of the sofas, sat, and calmly savored a sip of his drink before looking directly at Stone again. “I need your services.”

“You have them.”

“I need you to find a witch for me. The do-gooder kind,” he added on an exasperated sigh.

The marquis wanted him to go after a witch gone good?

For a second Stone wondered whether he had heard right. Why would the marquis be interested in the witch? She wouldn’t be the first to get off the right path, nor the last. After the initial surprise wore off, more and more questions that demanded answers swirled in his head. Stone thought it best to keep them to himself for now.

“She’s been causing a bit of trouble. A nuisance, really.” The golden liquid in the glass swirled. “She has managed to get a few other demons on her side and is making people question the system. Rumors are spreading.”

“Rumors?”

“Yes. Rumors. I need you to find out what the hell that witch is up to.”  His brow rose subtly when he added, “Do you think you can do that for me?”

Usually Stone went after Ivorys, not rebels who thought they’d found God or simply developed a conscience, but he knew he would be in a world of questions and basically trouble if he declined this offer.

“Sure I can.”

“Good. Her name is Becca.” Andras rose. “I trust your abilities and that you will keep up the good work.” Again eyes that were too old stared at him, bored into him about as gentle and subtle as a glaring sun. “Alone and discreet.”

“Of course.”

“Good.” An easy smile curved his mouth. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

Stone recognized a dismissal when he heard one, and so he nodded before heading out the way he had come in, back towards the elevator doors. In the quiet of the lift he let the conversation play over in his head.

Becca. He didn’t understand people like her. On one hand he almost felt something close to pity for the witch who wanted to be good, but on the other he could only shake his head at her stupidity. Instead of being quiet about it, she was foolish enough to flaunt it and make the marquis take notice. Whatever the witch was doing, he hoped it was worth it – because she was as good as dead.

Outside, he turned right and into the fray of Shop Street again, not once glancing back at the tower. His thoughts were focused on the job ahead.

He had a mission to plan.

Infiltration and information.

And most likely elimination, the part of his mind that was hard as stone added.

TWO

Ten days later…

Becca walked out the door of the gas station with a bottle of water tucked under her arm. Looking up while trying to slip her wallet back into the pocket of her jeans, she almost dropped both.

Quinn was leaning against Betty, her old but reliable sky-blue VW Splitty bus. Not all that unusual, except for the fact that her little brother was supposed to be at home – about a two hour drive from here.

His dark blond hair was naturally tousled in a way that took human boys hours to style, and yet he had a rather rumpled look about him. Her gaze went to Betty’s big tummy and realization dawned.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” That little shit had hidden there. Her blood starting to simmer, she pinned him with her stare while her hands did a mad tango in the air.
What the hell do you think you are doing?

He pushed away from the van, straightening all lanky five feet nine of him as if ready for a fight. However, his hands moved elegantly and way calmer than her own when he signed,
Right back at you.
Just because I’m deaf, doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

This isn’t a lazy afternoon drive.

He folded his arms over his chest, one eyebrow lifting up in a way that made her realize that her words might not have worked in her favor.
Then what exactly have you been up to the last two weeks?

Becca opened her door and threw the bottle of water on her seat, sighing inwardly. She couldn’t believe it, but the crazy days had flown by so fast and indeed turned into weeks. Quinn snapped his fingers at her, catching her attention, before he went on.
You’ve been away most of the time, which in itself isn’t that weird, but not telling me where to, definitely is.

He was right, Becca thought. It wasn’t the way they operated. It had been the two of them for so long. There were unwritten rules. It had been foolish of her to hope that he would be relieved to have her out of his hair for a change like any other teenage boy. But then again, Quinn wasn’t an ordinary boy. Far from it.

Suddenly his face turned into a grimace, as if he’d bitten into a lemon.
Oh God, please tell me this weird secrecy isn’t because of some guy!

And just like that, he made her laugh out loud and relax, realizing that it was her own fault for not being open with him that had brought on this situation. Besides, she never could stay mad at him for long. With a wide smile curving her mouth, she signed,
Get in the van, I’ll explain on the way.

He bit his lip.
So…just to be clear, this is not about a guy?

Get in the car!

Shaking her head at him, Becca climbed behind the steering wheel. She turned the ignition and drove back onto the highway, using the time to gather her thoughts.  She hoped to keep Quinn out of the mission she had embarked on, out of that old part of their lives they both had risked everything to get away from. He deserved peace, deserved to live a normal life, especially since Quinn had experienced Hell’s brutality first hand just like her. So was it strange she wanted to protect him from it? And yet… she had to admit that no matter how much she wanted it at times, she couldn’t wrap Quinn up in cotton wool for the rest of his life.

With a sigh she told him about her meeting with Lillian and Raz, most of the time relying on his ability to read lips and not her hands while she drove. Becca told him that she had been out trying to find other demons like them, demons who had escaped Hell to live a human life, and that she helped Lillian and her Ivory Guard at hellholes whenever she could. Fighting wasn’t their first course of action anymore – spreading the word that things could change, was.

Quinn absorbed her words, a slight frown marring his brow, before his hands finally started to talk.
But isn’t that dangerous? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good what you are doing. I understand it. But…why are you doing this? When we came here, you said we had to stay low. What you are doing…that’s not exactly keeping a low profile, now is it?

Becca looked over at him and stuck her tongue out. Reaching out to ruffle his hair since she knew he hated it, she muttered under her breath, “Smart ass.”

I saw that, just so you know. And FYI, one of us has to be.
He looked at the endless patch of road ahead of them.
So, where are we going anyway?

“We?” Becca sighed. “Yeah, I guess I can’t just put you on a bus and trust you will go home and stay out of trouble there, hey?”

Quinn’s grin was so wide and inviting it made her smile back.
Nope. Besides, better trust the evil you know. And you don’t know anything about the safety of human public transportation.

Point for him.

“Matt and Joshua want me to come and help them out with a hellhole near Magnolia. It’s better if we show a closed front. We need to show it’s possible that Ivorys and demons can stand side by side.”

This time his fifteen years showed in the eager sparkle in his eyes.
Will we get to fight?

“If there’s a fight, there is no ‘we’, buddy. You’ll stay in the car. If you move even an inch, I will turn you into a toad.”

“Where is she?” Stone asked, emphasizing his words by running the cool edge of his knife lightly across exposed skin, from the navel up to the tip of the sternum.

The guy swinging head-first from the ceiling whimpered. “I don’t know, man. I don’t know. Please don’t hurt me.”

Stone inspected the blade, tested it with his thumb. “I think this one’s blunt.” Once again he teased, this time pushing harder into the flesh but not enough for blood to well.

He turned the only light directly at the man, the rest of the room swallowed by pitch-black darkness. It heightened the senses - at least the ones of Becca’s good old friend, Greg.

“Shit! I have no freaking clue where she is. I swear! Just get me off here, please.”

Stone had waited patiently in the apartment and pounced on Greg the minute he’d opened the door. It was ridiculously easy.

Stone stayed calm, his voice casual and yet detached. “I told you, I’ll let you down when I believe your answer.”

Once he contacted informants regarding Becca, the do-gooder witch, the rumors Andras had mentioned had reached him as well. And now he knew what exactly it was that had made the witch pop up on the marquis’ radar.

Rumors of change, especially of hope, could have that kind of effect.

Rumors of a witch who not only stood together, side by side, with Ivorys but who was also promising demons they’d be spared if they went back to Hell and spread the word that the rules were about to change. That their souls could be saved…yeah, those kinds of rumors could have that effect.

To be honest, Stone didn’t quite know what to make of that. Wouldn’t have listened to a word of it if it weren’t for the marquis getting his panties in a bunch. The girl was making waves for sure, and had better be careful not to drown in them.

“Come on, Greg. I know she is in the human realm.” The rumors told him she was hiding - well, rebelling was more like it – in the south of the US. He just wanted a confirmation from Greg, or better yet, an exact location. “Tell me what I want to know and you are free. Or would you rather hang around all day?”

Stone deliberately made noise as he moved to where he had put his tools on a countertop. The sound of metal clinking together pierced the black silence of the room and was enough to make Greg whimper. He wouldn’t need to do much more than that. The mind and its imaginative ability was the best instrument of torture. The promise of pain alone had always been enough to provide the information he needed. He was certain that this time wouldn’t prove any differently.

Moving closer to Greg’s head for maximum effect, Stone slowly, methodically honed his knife, the sound reverberating in his bones like nails on a chalkboard.

Sobbing, Greg finally broke, “Shit, man. She’s in Louisiana. Maybe New Orleans. I don’t know. I swear that’s all I’ve heard. Only rumors. I’ve only heard rumors. God, please. Don’t hurt me.”

Louisiana. Hmm… interesting.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Stone cut the rope in one swift move and was gone before Greg hit the floor.

THREE

Abby reached up with a clammy hand and knocked on the door, her heart a drum in her chest. Sam always made her feel like that, so alive and yet so nervous.

For the thousandth time the part of her that was scared wondered why she had volunteered for coming here when Lillian mentioned that they needed more Ivorys on their side. Why the hell had she agreed to talking to Sam and therefore to feeling like she was stuck on a rollercoaster all the freaking time? The brave part of her, the smaller part when it came to Sam, chirped up and reminded her that she wanted to know whether they could have more.

The door opened, pulling her out of her thoughts and back to reality.

There he was. In casual jeans and a hoodie he didn’t look like being anything other than an ordinary young man in his twenties. However, his eyes, the windows to his beautiful yet scarred soul, revealed the truth. He had seen too much in his short life, and the guilt from losing one of his own during a fight early on in their first year was a constant shadow that dwelled within.

Her heart squeezed and longed for him, and for what felt like minutes she didn’t know what to think or say. She only wanted to take him into her arms, and yet she couldn’t find the strength in her to make that step, scared he wouldn’t welcome it.

Sam and Abby had met over a year ago, and the connection between them had stolen her breath. She had thought it would disappear after a night together, especially since she hadn’t been looking for anything or anyone. Definitely not love. Was that what she was feeling now? Was that love? She sighed inwardly. When her grandmother used to tell her stories of love, she thought it would be pretty simple: find a man and
know
and that was it. Life never was that simple - that she’d learned by now.

“Abby? What you doing here?” Looking out over her shoulder and realizing that she was alone, worry marred his brow. “Is everything okay?”

She hadn’t seen him since their Guards had joined forces in New Orleans when two hellholes had merged. There wasn’t a day that went by that she didn’t think of that night. Or of him. Nothing had happened between them – for a change – and Abby saw it as a good sign. They had danced and kissed and enjoyed each other, yes, but in the end he had understood when she wanted to stay and comfort Lillian instead of spending the night with him.

Somehow her mouth finally managed to form words. “Lillian asked me to come here. We need to talk. In private.”

“Okay.” His frown deepened, but without any further questions he stepped aside to let her in. “Wes and Dave aren’t here, we’re alone. Wanna go sit out back on the porch?”

“If it’s safe to walk, not to mention sit on, then yes,” Abby replied with a smile, before stepping inside and following him through the creaky house.

His Guard’s current safe house was an abandoned and forgotten Kansas ranch in the middle of nowhere. The black and white world of purgatory didn’t help the image one bit. The wallpaper was dark with age and rolling off the walls, the furniture very Spartan and, as in any other safe house provided for Ivory Guards, the boys could count themselves lucky if they had warm water and electricity. Apparently fighting the war of good against evil wasn’t a very lucrative business. But then again the line between good and evil wasn’t quite as clear as Abby had always believed it to be; only recently realizing that it was as blurry as the world seen through a bottle of tequila.

When they reached the kitchen, Sam offered her coffee which she gladly accepted. They grabbed their mugs and stepped outside. The old but once beautiful screen door wailed and then fell shut with a tired huff behind them. Like the door, the back porch was in definite need of some love and attention, but other than that the wood seemed to have withstood the neglect and decline. Apparently this was one of the better safe houses. Sam invited her to take a seat in an old wooden deck chair, and then sat down beside her.

The sun was high up in the sky. A light breeze chased a couple of puffy clouds and allowed Abby to be comfortable in her light leather jacket. A lovely day actually, and yet she couldn’t find the energy to enjoy it.

The patch of land stretching out in front of her was wild and overgrown after having been left to its own sort for too long. It was like watching one of those old silent movies. Crumbling posts and rusty wire had nothing to fence in other than the dry, high grass. It scented the air and, after the rain of the last couple of weeks, it looked as if someone had grabbed a brush and added hints of a darker shade here and there, which would be touches of green in the human world. More than one tree leaned precariously towards the ground, defying gravity, and would probably not live through the next storm. The ranch appeared forsaken enough as it was, however, from time to time the old windmill would squeak in the distance as if lamenting its fate, and add an eerie feeling to it all.

Abby’s arms broke out with goose bumps and once again she wondered about Heaven’s choices regarding an Ivory’s lodgings. Was their life as empty as these houses? Was their fighting as useless as this old wood trying to brave the elements?

Pulling away from thoughts that were chasing their own tail ever since she had left New Orleans, Abby sipped her coffee. The heat burning her tongue reminded her to stick to the present, to matters at hand.

Fortunately, the ever patient Sam didn’t bombard her with questions, knowing that she would tell him her reasons for being here in her own time. That was one of the things she loved about him. His calm and apparently endless tranquility – in the end the ability to keep a level head no matter what was one of the traits that had made him the leader of his Ivory Guard. And it was what Lillian was counting on, knowing that he would be their best shot at convincing other Ivorys that things could change.

“Did you ever wonder…since the angels showed up in our life and turned it upside down, I mean…Have you ever, just for a second, wondered whether it’s really just as black and white as they would have us believe? Did you ever doubt what we are doing?”

“What happened, Abby?”

After one slow nod of her head, she decided it was probably for the best to start her story at the beginning, and so she did. “Remember when Lillian was supposed to have killed an angel?” He nodded and she went on, “Micah, the angel of the divine plan made it look like it was Lillian after other plans to make her disappear didn’t work out. ‘Cause, apparently, he screwed up by making Lillian an Ivory since her mother had some nephilim blood in her from waaay back. It’s enough to make Lillian a bit different from us.” She paused and then rushed on, “She can fly.”

Comprehension dawned in his eyes. Ivorys were not supposed to fly, since it allowed them access into Heaven, something exclusively reserved for angels. A security measure, so to speak. Ivorys were bred for battle, to fight in the age old fight, and so they were exposed to evil on a daily basis and susceptible to catch it like a disease.

“In the end, it was either Micah or Lillian.” She looked directly at him. “There was no choice for us.”

He understood. “No, there wasn’t.”

Abby took a deep breath. “There was something else. A while back we helped two demons, an Ebony and a witch, to escape Hell and to live here among humans.” She waited for a reaction, but as always he didn’t judge before he heard the whole story. “The Ebony, his name’s Quinn…he is deaf and therefore was never trained. And Becca, his sister, basically only wanted a normal life for them. They’re just like us. Not like…
demons
.” Abby turned her face, watching the grass swaying gently in the breeze. “The whole thing made us wonder…If angels go as far as wanting to kill an Ivory, basically stopping at nothing really to do it, and if demons can be good, even helping us, what exactly have we been fighting for these last years?” She pulled her shoulders up in a helpless gesture. “After the battle with Micah, God showed up.”

Sam’s brow rose but he stayed silent.

A brief smile flashed across her mouth. “Yeah. That was quite a shocker, that one. I mean, we’re Ivorys, and having angel blood in our veins still blew my mind.” She waved a hand, hoping she could dismiss the pain in her heart as easily as that particular part of their conversation. “Anyway, Lillian just went ahead and told him what she thought of all this crap.” Abby shook her head, remembering the scene as clear as day. “That woman…I was close to wetting myself while she just stood there and said that he should rethink this whole system.”

His chuckle was honest and clear. “Sounds exactly like her.”

“Our actions should define us, not birth. That’s what it came down to. There are demons who don’t want to sin and there are angels who won’t think twice about killing their own.”

“Things are not as black and white as we’d thought.”

“Exactly. And we need to get the word out. Surely other Ivorys must have noticed something? Or have doubts even? Maybe others have realized that demons aren’t always what we thought they were and were too afraid to speak up?”

Sam sat back. It was his turn to look out over the field. “To be honest, I had situations like that over the years. Situations in which the demons seemed more interested in fleeing than fighting or even claiming human souls. For some reason, I let them get away. Just the thought of pursuing them…it didn’t sit right with me.”

Abby guessed his next words. “But you never told anyone.”

He faced her, a puzzled expression on his face. “True. There were incidents that not even Dave or Wes knew about.”

Nodding with understanding, Abby said, “From the start we’ve been told to fight demons. That human souls, and as many as possible of them, are all a demon wants. However, it appears that’s not quite true.”

“Why are you telling me this, Abby?” He asked it softly, not to pressure but rather tell her that it was alright to ask.

“There’s a different kind of battle ahead. We need your help, Sam.”

BOOK: Ebony Fight (The Guard Duet Book 2)
5.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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