It’s Friday, so you know what that means: time to post the third chapter from WICKED ALL NIGHT! As mentioned before, if you missed my post with Chapter One and Chapter Two, they’re HERE and HERE. So, be sure to read them before you read this new chapter. As a further reminder, in the series timeline, WICKED ALL NIGHT picks up about ten days after the end of WICKED BITE, so warning: if you read these chapters, you will be massively spoiled on major events, including the ending, from WICKED BITE. So, skip these chapters if you haven’t read the other books and you don’t want to be spoilered. Disclaimers aside, happy reading!
Guilt blasted through me. As warden, it was my father’s job to send souls to their final destination in the netherworld, and he only ferried the souls meant for the netherworld’s version of “the bad place.” But when my former enemy, Dagon, had hoarded Ian’s soul inside himself after Ian died protecting me, I begged my father to free Ian instead of sending him on to the afterlife. My father had, but he’d also inferred that he might lose his position as warden for it.
He hadn’t said his punishment would be so much worse.
My father’s part of the netherworld contained the darkest souls that this world—and others?—had to offer. I could only imagine those souls’ sadistic delight at discovering that their former warden was now a prisoner, like they were.
And I could do nothing about it. I could pierce a hole into the netherworld, but only souls could cross over, and here I was, fresh out of the ability to be resurrected after I died. My head sank into my hands.
I couldn’t save my father, and thus far, I’d been unable to save Ian, either. For all my power, I had never felt more helpless.
“I might know a way to get your father out.”
My head snapped up.
Phanes rubbed his knuckles under his chin, as if he hadn’t just dropped a bombshell. Then, for effect, his wings reappeared and extended to their full breadth, until they wreathed him in twin arcs of gold.
“Enough with the theatrics,” I said. “How?”
He smiled. “Come with me, and I’ll show you.”
Not a chance. “Tell me here and now.”
My eyes narrowed in warning.
Phanes only smiled wider. “You wouldn’t believe me without seeing it yourself, so I won’t waste my time telling you. And you can only see it if you come with me, so”—a wing extended toward me as if it were a hand—“again I say, come with me.”
I might want to save my father from the netherworld’s version of jail—and try to get him to heal Ian, plus officially end this betrothal—but I wasn’t about to leave Ian behind.
Unless . . . no. No. It was too risky.
Find a way or make a way, I’d sworn earlier.
Well, this was a way. It was risky, but everything else we’d tried had failed. Ian might not survive much longer. Doing nothing was just as risky, if not more so.
“I’ll go with you,” I told Phanes, a desperate sort of recklessness setting in. “If you do something for me first.”
Phanes gave me a sardonic smile. “Another fake quest?”
“No.” My voice turned hoarse as hope and fear roiled within me. “This quest is very real.”
He crossed his arms. “What is it?”
“Like you said, it’s easier if I show you.”
I led Phanes to the cottage, leaving the door open behind me but not inviting him in. Did he, like demons, need an invitation before he could enter a private residence?
No. Phanes crossed the threshold as if he owned the place. Then, he followed me into the bedroom, taking in the IV pole and the prone vampire on the bed without comment. I said nothing, either, but my pet, Silver, looked at Phanes and let out a soft growl.
I didn’t know if it was a natural reaction from the Simargl at the sight of a far bigger winged creature, but I decided to add my own warning, too. A silver glow shot from my eyes as I looked at Phanes.
Harm him and you die, my look told him.
His lips curled in acknowledgment.
I pulled back the sheets, showing most of Ian’s injuries, though I kept his left hand covered. That ancient horn that adorned it used to belong to Cain, the first of all vampires. More important, it was powerful in a way that defied explanation. It hadn’t escaped my notice that the only part of Ian that had healed was his fingers, where the horn was still wrapped around them like a pair of brass knuckles.
Phanes studied Ian with cool appraisal. No sympathy softened his features, but no hostility marred them, either. So much for Ashael’s warning that Phanes would kill any romantic rival for me. If anything, Phanes looked bored as he stared at Ian.
Good. I didn’t need Phanes to be interested in Ian. I only needed his ability to tear magic off.
I tried not to let any of my desperate hope show. “Can you see the magic that did this to him?”
“Yes.” His eyes lifted to mine. “It’s very old and very powerful.”
Of course it was. Dagon had used his best stuff to take me and Ian down.
“I’m surprised he survived such magic,” Phanes went on. “He is, after all, only a vampire.”
His dismissive tone rankled, but I ignored it. “When we first met, you plucked a spell off me, so I know you can tear magic from people. My quest for you is simple: tear the spell off him that’s wasting him away.”
His brows rose. “That magic was hardly the same as this.”
“I don’t care. If you tear the spell from him, I’ll come with you. If you don’t, then I won’t, and if you do him any harm, I’ll kill you.”
Sometimes, a warning look wasn’t enough. This was one of those times.
Phanes’s arrogant half smile returned. “You must love him very much. How unfortunate. I’m much more powerful, and much handsomer, too.”
His ego wouldn’t quit, would it? “Ian endured every one of the injuries you see to save me. He even died for me once. Can you do better than that?”
“No,” he said, and then paused as if surprised by his admission.
Interesting. “You don’t care for anyone enough to die for them, do you?”
His arrogant smile remained, but for the briefest moment, something flashed in his gaze. It vanished before I could decipher it, but its presence was telling. That question had made him feel something he hadn’t wanted me to see. Under other circumstances, I’d wonder what. Now, I didn’t care. I only wanted him to heal Ian, or get out.
Phanes gave Ian’s injuries another calculating glance. Then, he moved closer.
I tensed but forced myself not to stop him. Still, it took all my effort to let a dangerous creature?—lesser deity?—something else?—near the man I loved. By the time Phanes ran a hand over Ian’s vastly shrunken torso, my cartilage was cracking from how tightly my muscles were clenched.
What if I’d made a terrible mistake? What if Phanes’s apathy over our engagement was a ruse, and he was about to murder Ian—?
Phanes suddenly grabbed Ian so hard, I heard countless bones break. I lunged at Phanes, but he swatted me away with both powerful wings. I smacked against the bedroom wall, then immediately lunged at Phanes again. I could barely see him because my otherworldly power had darkened my vision, but I could feel him, and only Ian’s nearness kept me from opening a chute to the netherworld right beneath Phanes’s feet.
“Get away from him,” I snarled.
Phanes let go of Ian to grab me in mid-lunge. It took both his arms and all the strength from his wings to hold me.
“Veritas, stop. Look! The spell is now gone!”
Ian groaned. The sound stopped me in mid-grapple. I hadn’t heard any part of Ian’s voice for over a week.
I let go of Phanes to stare at Ian.
Muscles and sinews formed on him, filling out his skeletal arms, the awful caverns in his sides, and his formerly shrunken torso before racing to his legs and swelling them with healthy flesh, too. In the time it took me to suck in a choked breath, Ian’s body had returned to its normal, well-muscled state, complete with his pearlescent skin and his sunset-hued hair.
I tensed, waiting for it to backfire, and his body to return to that awful, partially skeletized state. Several seconds ticked by. Ian still looked whole and healthy. Silver began zooming around the room while letting out excited yips.
Then, Ian groaned, and sat up.
I fought a sob as I flung myself next to him on the bed.
“Ian? Ian! Can you hear me?”
His eyes cracked open, their vivid turquoise shade even brighter than I remembered. Or maybe it only seemed that way because it felt like an eternity since I’d seen his eyes.
“’Course I can hear you,” he murmured. “You’re shouting.”
I tried to say something else, but it came out as half laugh, half sob. He was healed, gods, fully healed and awake! If I died now, I’d die happy.
His eyes opened all the way, though he still looked a little drowsy, as if his comalike state had left him sluggish. Then his fingers brushed my cheek, and his brows drew together.
“Why are you crying? And who’s the wanker with the wings?”
Phanes muttered something in a language I didn’t recognize. Then he returned to speaking in an ancient dialect of Greek.
“I’ve held up my end of our agreement, Veritas.”
Yes, he had. Ian was healed, awake, and the air around him was starting to crackle with energy as his power regenerated, too. I was so relieved, I started to tremble.
I allowed myself another moment to stare at Ian while feeling his hand on my cheek. Such a little thing, yet the emotions it generated couldn’t be measured.
I couldn’t leave him now! Not yet!
But a promise was a promise. Besides, I couldn’t risk Phanes taking back this incredible healing if I reneged on my part of our agreement. Nothing was worth that, not even the pain it caused me to pull away.
Ian sat up straighter. “You smell upset. What’s wrong?”
“Veritas,” Phanes said again.
“Sod off, or I’ll rip you in half,” Ian snapped.
Any moment, the last bit of mental sluggishness from Ian’s coma would lift, and he’d realize who Phanes was. We had to be gone by then.
“I’ve got to go do something,” I said in a voice husky from regret. “But I love you, and I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
I held out my hand to Phanes right as recognition darkened Ian’s features. The look he shot Phanes then was pure murder.
“Wait. I know who you are—”
He never finished the sentence. Phanes took my hand, and at his touch, Ian and the rest of our surroundings disappeared.
Hope you enjoyed getting a taste of what’s next for Ian and Veritas! Remember, WICKED ALL NIGHT releases on February 23rd, and you can preorder yours from (#Ad) Amazon, B&N, Apple Books, Kobo, BooksAMillion, IndieBound, or your favorite retailer.
Haven’t tried the new Night Rebel series yet? If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you now can read book one, SHADES OF WICKED, for FREE on Prime for a limited time here #Ad Amazon
Important note: you MUST be logged into your Prime account to read it for free. If you’re not logged in, you won’t see “Prime: free,” you’ll only see the $5.99 price point. Also, this seems to be for US Prime members only, so my apologies to international readers.