The world came back but it wasn’t the alley where the man had grabbed Megan. It was the balcony of an apartment. Had they somehow teleported? The Frenchman had disappeared in the blink of an eye too. It was incredible.
And a little terrifying.
Cold wind gusted against her back and light rain splattered on the shoulders of her black jumper, soaking into the already heavy wet wool. She looked over her shoulder at the dark city. New York. They hadn’t gone far then. The city swirled, shifting and distorting as her head spun, and she pressed her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes, waiting for the dizziness to pass. The man named Esher released her arm.
She cracked her eyes open, her heart thumping painfully against her breastbone as everything began to sink in. Her coat, bag and the gun had all been left behind. She was alone with three men, and the only one who had shown her an ounce of compassion was unconscious again.
What the heck had she gotten herself into?
Esher slung her protector’s free arm around his shoulders and helped the white-haired one move him past her. Her handsome warrior’s head hung forwards and his heavy black leather boots dragged on the tiled floor of the balcony.
She went to follow and then stopped when she noticed the black curling ribbons that trailed behind them, clinging to them in places. Her gaze dropped to her arms. Similar threads of darkness wrapped around the sleeves of her thick black jumper. They drifted downwards towards her hands and she hastily attacked them, sweeping them away, and kept brushing her arms long after the black smoke had gone. Her head twirled again and she froze, scared to move in case she passed out too. She couldn’t let that happen. God only knew what these men might do to her.
One of the men slid the glass door open and they disappeared into the apartment.
Megan inched forwards and peered through the glass. A bedroom. The two men set her protector down on a crimson covered double bed and Esher removed his tattered coat and then his black t-shirt.
She told her eyes not to drift away from her gorgeous saviour’s face but the sight of him topless was too tempting to resist. Every inch of him was honed, sinewy muscle, the sort that spoke of a physically intensive job rather than hours at the gym. Considering the way he had fought, she wasn’t shocked to find he had the body of a warrior to match his skills.
The white-haired man appeared in the doorway and she jumped and stumbled backwards into the balcony railing.
“Come with me.”
Megan didn’t like his commanding tone but she was several storeys above what looked to be Central Park, and there was no way of reaching the apartment door without passing through it, so she gathered every ounce of her courage and followed him inside.
Her gaze shifted to her protector and her steps slowed. Would he be alright? Esher laid him down on the bed. She stopped walking before she reached the next room, concern for her protector turning her around and drawing her towards him. He needed to heal and she could help him do just that.
Esher’s dark gaze slid to her and narrowed. His black eyebrows pinched tightly together and his fingers paused at his work. Something in his eyes warned not to come any closer to him or the man she wanted to heal.
“You would be wise to leave him.” The white-haired one’s voice came from behind her and she forced herself to face him, aware that he was right and she was in no position to do anything other than as he bid.
Both of these men were obviously powerful like her protector, and clearly just as dangerous, and she didn’t want to give them a reason to hurt her.
He leaned on the back of a deep crimson couch in a light coffee-coloured living room, his arms folded across his chest and pale eyes locked on her. His long black coat grazed the floor, buttoned over his chest but open further down. It split at his waist to reveal long legs clad in black jeans and polished leather shoes. A thick navy roll-neck jumper covered him up to his jaw, so the only skin visible was his face. The only other colour he had about him was the light blue lining of his coat.
It matched his eyes.
Megan’s gaze darted to the door directly opposite her, at the end of the channel between the wall on her right and the couch to her left. An exit. He stood and blocked her path to it. Her heart accelerated again and she slowly drew in a deep breath, hoping to calm it. She wasn’t sure what this man wanted with her, but he had eyes as cold as Antarctica and radiated the same dangerous vibe as the man who had protected her and the one called Esher.
Were they in some sort of gang?
A gang with super powers.
She glanced back at the one who had protected her. Esher had moved him onto his front on the bed and was covering him from the waist down with the wine red bedclothes. Was he going to be okay? Esher moved around the bed and stood between her and the man. Protecting him? She looked up into his blue eyes. They held hers, dark and challenging, daring her to attempt to pass him to reach the other man.
She only wanted to heal him, but both men seemed reluctant to let her near him right now, especially this one. She knew without a doubt that if she tried to go to him, he would stop her and he would use force to do it.
She looked back at the white-haired one.
They had appeared out of nowhere and looked as comfortable with that power as the man had with his incredible ability to make fire out of thin air. All her life, she had searched for people like her, always believing that she was alone in the world. Now, there were four others like her. It was both exciting and frightening, and she had a thousand questions she wanted to ask them, but right now there was something more important than getting answers.
And he was lying unconscious in the other room.
Megan dragged together what fragments remained of her courage, stepped further into the living room and came to stand against the dark cream wall opposite the white-haired man.
“What do you want with me?” she said, surprised by how calm she sounded.
The desire to heal the man shortened her temper and boosted her bravery too. The white-haired one clearly wanted to question her and the quicker he did so, the quicker she could set to work on the one they were now protecting.
He raked pale icy eyes over her.
Esher moved into the room and propped himself up against the narrow wall that divided the bedroom from another smaller room. He brushed his hand over the longer lengths of his dark hair again, preening it back to reveal the shorn sides. The action of raising his arm caused the open sides of his long black coat to fall away from his body and lifted the hem of his blue-grey shirt. He sighed, lowered his hand to his side, and alternated between staring at her with murder in his stormy eyes and looking back into the bedroom with ones awash with concern.
“Tell me what happened,” the white-haired one demanded and she straightened, refusing to let her fear show even as her blood rushed like a torrent through her ears and her heart trembled like a timid thing in her chest.
“I was walking home during the storm and took a shortcut.” She held his gaze, trying to play it cool.
Esher ruined her illusion of confidence by glancing back into the bedroom. Her eyes leaped to him. His held concern that quickly turned into darkness that unsettled her. The muscle in his jaw tensed and his hands curled into fists.
“He will be fine, Esher,” the white-haired one said. Esher’s head whipped around, causing the long top of his hair to fall down the right side of his face, his expression startled at first and then softening. He nodded, preened his hair again and resumed his glaring at her. She swallowed and looked back at the other one. He smiled but it held no warmth. “You were walking home?”
She realised something.
Neither of them sounded local. In fact, they didn’t sound as though they were from anywhere in North America, and neither had her protector. She couldn’t place their accents though. European? Like the other man had been?
She nodded and cleared her throat. “The power was out and there was a man ahead of me, so I took a shortcut down an alley. That’s where I met your friend. I thought he was going to attack me.”
“Why would you think that?” he said, darkness in his tone, as though she had offended him by thinking his friend had been out to hurt her.
“He had a gun and was coming towards me. What else was I meant to think?” she snapped and then reined her temper in when his eyes darkened a full shade and Esher pushed away from the wall.
The white-haired man held his gloved hand up. Esher moved back again and glanced towards the man on the bed and that sense of darkness returned, his eyes deepening in colour until they verged on black.
“Esher.” The other man stood and went to him. He reached a hand out towards his shoulder and then drew it back before touching him.
Esher slowly looked across at him and frowned, a touch of confusion crinkling his brow. His eyes lightened again. “Daimon?”
Was that the other man’s name?
Esher blinked and looked around the apartment, something about him making her feel that he had lost track of his surroundings. He seemed surprised. His deep blue eyes met Daimon’s icy ones and then flitted to the man on the bed.
“You know he is too stubborn to die. He will be okay… will you?” Daimon flexed his fingers in his black leather gloves, his hand hovering centimetres away from Esher’s shoulder, and Esher nodded.
That was a strange question to ask. Nothing had happened to Esher after all. He hadn’t been involved in the fight. She studied him while he was distracted and his gaze snapped to meet hers. Hers instantly hit the wooden floorboards.
“Keep going.” Daimon returned to his position opposite her, at the back of the deep red couch.
“The other man. I didn’t realise he was behind me and your friend ran past me. They fought. It was hard to make out what happened. The lights were out for most of it.” She paced two steps forwards so she could sneak a glance into the bedroom at the man. He lay with his face turned towards her and she stared at him, remembering how he had fought and the power he had used, and what had happened. “I watched them fight and then there were fireballs from both sides.”
“Both sides?” The confusion in Daimon’s voice shone in his pale eyes too.
Megan nodded and pointed to the man on the bed. “He unleashed them first and then the other man… he was French. I think. He touched him on his chest. It hurt him. He was in pain.”
Her hand shook and her eyebrows furrowed. She wanted to go to him and heal him, to take the pain away even though he was unconscious and couldn’t feel it now. He had sounded so pained as he had screamed at the storm and had looked to be in agony when he had collapsed after the man had released him. He had suffered but it hadn’t stopped him from protecting her, shielding her in his arms and bearing the brunt of the fireball the man had launched at her.
“And?” Daimon’s voice snapped her out of her memories and she looked at him. He wobbled in her vision and she blinked to clear away the tears that had risen into her eyes.
“The man let him go and suddenly he could use fireballs too. He was going to kill him.” She looked back at the man on the bed. “I did the only thing I could do to protect him. I shot the man… God, I shot him… I could have killed him. I shouldn’t have done that… I shot a man.”
It sank in cold and fast, stealing her strength and leaving her shaking. She had fired upon a person and she had done it with the intent of murdering him. She buried her fingers into her wet shoulder-length hair and dragged it out of her face, her hands trembling against her head.
“You shot a daemon and you should have killed him. The bastard should be put down for raising a hand against us.”
Megan lifted her chin and caught the look of sheer disgust on Esher’s face before he turned away and went into the bedroom.
She looked at Daimon. His pale gaze followed Esher and then slowly shifted back to her.
“Your friend said he needed to get his power back,” she said and Esher was in front of her before she could blink, black mist clinging to his long coat and curling over his grey scarf.
He grabbed her by the neck of her damp black jumper and shoved her against the wall so hard it shook and pain shot outwards from her shoulder.
“What did you say?” His breath washed over her, his face so close to hers that he was all she could focus on.
His eyes darkened but then brightened, a corona of blue shining around his pupils. His grip on her tightened and she couldn’t contain her gasp as he hauled her closer to him and a terrible darkness crossed his handsome face.