Book 4: Unleashed
© 2012 Kate Douglas
Addie awoke amid tangled arms and legs, tousled hair and sweaty male bodies. It was still dark in the room, but when one lived in a cave in a world between what was and what wasn’t, it was generally dark if the walls weren’t glowing—and the stones only glowed when needed.
Life was certainly a series of changes. Glowing walls being one of them.
And if she actually thought about all the changes she’d been through over the past few months, it made her head ache. Not nearly as pleasurable as the sweet ache between her thighs, or her right nipple, where Jett had attached himself like a starving baby and then fallen asleep, still sucking her breast.
Locan’s thigh was trapped beneath her legs and his head rested on Jett’s flat belly. Both her men slept as if they’d had a really rough night.
She almost giggled, remembering what they’d been up to, but the last thing she wanted to do was wake them. They both appeared so sweet like this, strong bodies relaxed in sleep, their beautiful faces—one dark as night, the other pale ivory—calm, everything about them all sweet and warm and sated.
Proof that appearances could be deceptive. Who would guess these two had once been demons—the very creatures they now hunted. Locan of the fair skin and long silvery hair, and Jett, his polar opposite with ebony skin and long hair so black it glistened blue beneath bright lights. Opposites and yet so much alike in so many ways.
It was hard to believe she’d not even known Jett and Locan existed a mere six months ago.
No, then her reality had been her job as a very junior accountant in a very large firm.
Now? Now she was a demon hunter, the fulcrum whose job it was to keep Jett and Locan, two transformed demons turned demon hunters, from killing each other. Keeping everything in balance had been dicey at first, but then she’d realized a secret none of their prior fulcrums had taken the time to figure out—all that anger and tension between the guys was nothing more than unrequited lust.
Jett wanted Locan, Locan wanted Jett, and yet neither man had recognized their desire for what it was. Addie had. In fact, it had seemed so obvious to her she wondered what kind of idiots had cared for her boys before she came along. Now the only tension was over who was going to fix dinner—not easy when they were all lousy cooks—and which of them might be responsible for cleaning up the kitchen. Those issues she could handle. Almost as well as she handled her men.
Closing her eyes, she lay there enjoying the sense of family she got with her guys—not only were they the only family she had in this world or any other, they were the very best of the best. It was so rare to have a quiet moment like this. A moment without a call to action, without orders to deal with a demon attack in . . .
Jett’s eyes going wide as his head popped up from where he’d slept against Addie’s breast, and Locan’s soft “Oh, shit” as he rolled away from Jett, were the first warnings Addie had that this quiet moment had just ended. That and the clear instructions suddenly filling her mind.
Well, crap. At least it had been nice while it lasted, but their orders came from somewhere, and they were never ignored. She hadn’t quite figured out how she knew where they were headed next, but it was usually quite clear. Like now.
“Kilauea? Where the hell’s Kilauea? Sounds Hawaiian.” Jett had practically flown out of bed and was quickly pulling on his pants, stretching the black leather up over his muscular thighs and covering that delicious butt. Addie sighed as she struggled into her own pants, smoothing her hands over the supple dark gray demonhide pair Locan had given her in honor of her first six months as a demon hunter and fulcrum.
His were white and every bit as snug as Jett’s, thick enough to provide some protection against claws and fangs but fitting so closely there was never a risk of snagging them or catching on anything. They didn’t hide much, either, for which Addie figured she’d be eternally grateful.
“It is,” Locan said. He glanced at Addie. “That’s the name of the big volcano on the island of Hawaii, the big island in the chain. It’s the goddess Pele’s territory. Hawaii’s gods and goddesses are pretty strong because the islanders still believe in and honor them. It’s belief and human faith that give the old gods power. I’m surprised they need our help.”
“Well, someone must. The location was pretty clear.” Addie made sure her weapons were strapped on, that she had both swords properly positioned. She’d discovered she preferred a short one on her left hip and a longer blade across her back. The guys still teased her about carrying two, but sometimes you needed the shorter blade, sometimes the longer. Hell, she’d been an accountant before she got tagged—quite literally—as a demon hunter team’s fulcrum. She’d learned that numbers counted and size really did matter.
Smiling at her own play on words, Addie raised her head and checked to make sure the guys were ready to go. Jett was tightening the buckles on his scabbard, but Locan stood there, staring at nothing. “Locan? What’s wrong? Are you ready?”
He sighed with a totally disinterested shrug, but he didn’t meet her eyes, which wasn’t like him at all. “As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
“Okay.” Whatever was bugging him, he’d better get over it. And fast. They needed to get their butts in gear. Addie checked the short sword belted at her hip one more time. It didn’t really matter to the demon which one you used to behead him, but sometimes it made a girl feel better to have a choice. She almost laughed. Sort of the way she had a choice with her guys—except she usually wanted both of them. Smiling at her own joke, she grabbed Jett’s hand with her left, Locan’s with her right, filled her mind with the coordinates she’d been given, and thought them all to Hawaii.
* * *
It was still night in Hawaii. They’d landed somewhere on the rim, way too close to the seething cauldron of the huge volcano. The darkness felt alive with living streams of lava flowing all about them, some spilling from the lower edge of the huge bowl, more seeping from vents farther down the slope. Nothing could live this close to the molten center. An eerie red glow danced in the night sky behind them and the air pulsed with the thick stench of sulfur and smoking, roiling heat. Oddly, as hot as the air about them was, Addie shivered. This was flat-out spooky, as if they’d landed on a primordial earth, long before humankind had walked.
“See anything?” She watched as Jett, with his greater height, peered across the crater, but it was Locan who caught her attention. Even though he still grasped Addie’s hand, he ignored her entirely, as if she and even Jett weren’t beside him. His head whipped back and forth as he frantically searched the horizon. Tension rolled off of him in waves. She tried slipping into his thoughts, but his mind was locked down tight. What the hell was going on?
Well, there was only one way to find out. “Locan? What are you looking for? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
His clipped answer told her nothing and certainly didn’t help her growing unease. Neither did the fact she didn’t have a clue what they were doing here.
“Look!” She whipped around at Jett’s excited shout. “What the hell is that thing doing up here?” Shaking his head, he frowned, staring through the smoke. Addie squinted through the sulfuric haze. Something small and white bounced along the rock-strewn rim of the crater. “It looks like . . . no. It can’t be.”
Sounding resigned, Locan said, “It is. It’s a dog. Pele’s dog Poki, to be exact.”
“The goddess Pele?” Jett’s teeth flashed against his dark skin. “You’re shittin’ me. She’s real? And she’s got a dog?”
Locan nodded. “She’s real, she’s got a dog, and . . .” He shook his head and stared at his feet.
“And what, Locan?” Addie impatiently tapped her foot.
“We’ve got history.”
She gaped at him. “History? You and the dog, or you and Pele? What kind of history?”
“Du’oh.” Locan’s snort sounded like a halfhearted attempt at laughter.
Jett threw an arm across her shoulders and glared at Locan. “Yeah, Locan. What kind of history? And when? You’ve been with me for centuries. Before that you were a demon. Don’t tell me you got it on with the goddess when you were a demon?”
Locan merely nodded.
This was not looking good. Not if they had to deal with a goddess who had less than fond memories of one of their team, but at least it explained Locan’s weird behavior. Addie grabbed his hand and squeezed. “Tell us. We need to know so we’re prepared before we meet her.”
His sigh was audible even over the rumble of churning molten rock. “I screwed up, okay? When I was a demon, I could hold human form for a very short time. The world above fascinated me, so I’d take human form . . .” He glanced down at himself. “This human form, and walk among humans. I guess I still gave off an otherworldly vibe, though, because I attracted Pele’s attention. We spent a night together, and I got so caught up in the sex that I lost track of time. I reverted.”
“Oh, crap.” Jett was obviously trying hard not to laugh, and failing miserably. “Don’t tell me it happened in the middle of . . .”
Locan nodded. “Yep. Right in the middle of a down stroke. I went from hot and sexy and irresistible to scaled, ugly and downright terrifying. And big. Way too big.” He lifted his head, and at least he looked like he was fighting a grin. “I guess, in retrospect, it was sort of funny. I didn’t hurt her. She’s a goddess, after all, but she was so startled that she screamed and I was outta there. Flashed myself back to the demonrealm and haven’t seen her since.”
Addie nodded. “So you blew the morning-after conversation and you’re afraid she’s holding a grudge? That she’s got it in for you?”
He shrugged again. “Wouldn’t you?”
“I see what you’re getting at.” She jabbed Jett in the side with her elbow. “Jett, shut up. Laughing isn’t appropriate right now. We have no idea what Pele wants with us, or how she’s going to feel about Locan showing up, but we have a job to do. Just act professional, pretend it never happened, and let’s finish and get out of here.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.”
Addie spun around so fast she almost tripped over Locan. A woman stood—hovered, actually—about ten feet from the volcano’s rim, floating in the air just above the boiling molten lava in the crater beneath her. Power rolled off of her in tangible waves, and her long black hair whirled around her head like writhing snakes. “Pele?” Whispering the name, Addie fell to her knees, as did the two demon hunters beside her. She sucked in a deep breath, then almost gagged on the sulfuric stench. “Goddess, we’ve come in answer to your call.”
Suddenly the goddess was standing in front of them, hands planted on full hips, long black hair calm now, and flowing all the way to her knees. Energy shimmered in the air about her. Addie was afraid to raise her head, afraid to look the goddess in the eye.
Pele’s voice reverberated like thunder—soft, deadly thunder. “If I’d known it was this easy to get you back, Locan of the demonrealm, I might have called sooner.”
Addie shot a quick glance at Locan. He hadn’t said a word, but she felt his tension. At least he kept his mouth shut. “We’ve come in answer to your call, my lady,” she said. “What do you need of us?” Mesmerized by the steady, irritated tap of the goddess’s right foot, Addie almost forgot to breathe. Fighting demons was one thing. Dealing with a real, honest-to-goodness goddess was something else altogether.
“I’ll get back to you later, demon.” Pele’s voice gentled a bit as she added, “Stand, please. I dislike talking to the top of anyone’s head.”
The three of them stood, though Locan’s body language said he wasn’t happy right now, as Pele continued. “I have a problem. It appears my sweet Poki has conjured an unworldly lover. Unfortunately, knowing how I long pined for my demon”—she glanced at Locan, who seemed to shrink even smaller beside Addie—“he went in search of a mate for me in the demonrealm.”
Uh-oh, Addie thought, as Pele added, “Unfortunately, he found one.”
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