As I promised you last week, here is Chapter Two from WICKED ALL NIGHT. If you missed my post with Chapter One, it’s HERE, so be sure to read the first chapter before you read this one! As a 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. Also, yes, Chapter Two ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, too, which is why I’m posting Chapter Three next Friday. So, you won’t have to wait long to get a taste of what’s next for Ian and Veritas. Disclaimers aside, happy reading!
I looked down at Phanes. Black hair fell over his gold-colored eyes, his skin looked like gold-dusted bronze, and his features were so ridiculously beautiful, most people who saw him would be tempted to stop, drop, and worship.
That’s what the ancient Greeks had done, presumably. Phanes didn’t just mean “to shine.” It was also the name of a primordial Greek god, according to the Orphic cosmogony.
A smug half smile curled Phanes’s mouth as I continued to stare at him. Big ego, I added to the list of things I knew about him, such as his ability to teleport and how when we’d first met, he had plucked a restraint spell off me as if it were mere lint. But Phanes was wrong if he thought I was admiring him. I was assessing his dangerousness.
Eight out of ten, I decided. Jaw-dropping looks aside, Phanes’s wings were a dead giveaway that he wasn’t human, yet he did nothing to hide them. Instead, he flaunted them.
If there was one thing my four-thousand-years-plus had taught me, it was that when a creature was this at ease while unarmed and alone in a foreign environment, then that creature was powerful. Worse, my magic bounced right off Phanes, as did my blood-ripping abilities. Whatever ran through his veins—assuming he had veins—wasn’t blood or any other liquid I could manipulate.
“Put me down,” I finally said.
To his credit, he did. Gently, too.
Potentially not a sadist, I added to my list.
As soon as I touched the sand, it swirled into golden flowers of every variety, until the beach looked like a magical garden. The air was also now so thick with that non-corporeal form of gold dust that I could no longer see the cottage.
Good gods, if any neighbors happened to be up at this hour and looked outside, they’d call the police! Or assume someone had slipped them LSD. Or both.
“Could you please stop making everything look like gold?”
Phanes waved, and the beach, sand, and air returned to normal. “Why did you flee from me before, my bride?”
He crossed his arms over his bare chest as he waited for my reply. He’d been bare chested the first time I’d seen him, too, though thankfully, his aversion to clothes didn’t extend to pants. I would have bet they’d be gold, too, but his pants were as black as his hair and made of a material I didn’t recognize.
I ignored his question because I had one of my own. “How did you find me?”
Ten days ago, he’d tracked me down because he felt it when I’d used my darkest power to kill Dagon. But I hadn’t used that power since I’d killed Dagon, and it’s not as if I’d left Phanes a forwarding address.
“Indus told me where you were,” he replied.
Indus? Who . . . ? Oh, right, Indus was the ruler of Leviathan—scary, psychic creatures that formed from seawater and could drown anyone they touched. But how did the Leviathan ruler know where I was?
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, putting it together. “Indus tracked me just from my splashing around in the surf these past few nights?”
A sly smile curved Phanes’s mouth.
“If you had only splashed? No, Indus could not have felt that. But you used your power on the water. That, he felt.”
Great. Now, every time I used my power over water, it sent a metaphysical GPS notification to the Leviathan’s ruler? That was a complication I didn’t need.
“How impressive,” I said in a cold voice. “Especially since the last time I saw Indus, he was halfway around the world. Or is he closer now?”
Phanes cocked his head. “I answered two of your questions, yet you haven’t answered mine. Why did you flee from me before?”
It took all my willpower not to glance at the cottage behind us. According to my brother, if Phanes found out that his “fiancée” was married, he’d kill Ian. I’d seen Ian defeat powerful enemies before, but never while unconscious.
I couldn’t let him know about Ian. Fortunately, I had another aspect of the truth to answer with.
“I don’t know how things work in your world, but here? People don’t get to show up and tell someone they’ve never met before that they’re engaged. That’s why I left. I’m not property to be promised to another without my consent.”
Interest sparked in his gaze. Not the reaction I wanted, but it could have been worse.
“You wish to be won over by me first, then?”
Not in the slightest. But if pretending that bought me time and got Phanes away from Ian . . .
“Yes. You must prove you are worthy of my consideration. I propose a quest. Find and bring me”—Gods, what? What?—“the thirteen crystal skulls from ancient Mesoamerica, famed for their mystic qualities,” I finished, then fought a groan.
That’s the best I could come up with? Served me right, for falling asleep to that Ancient Aliens episode the other morning!
Phanes’s brows rose.
I hid my inner cringe behind a straight face. “You don’t find this quest too far beyond your abilities, do you?”
He flashed me a brilliant smile. “If the crystal skulls were genuine, it wouldn’t be. But since they’re a fable, what you’re actually doing is trying to get rid of me.”
Dammit! Either Phanes was very clever, or he had access to human television.
“I wonder if the reason has to do with all the energy you’re sending toward the house behind me?” he went on.
Ice exploded through my veins. I don’t remember summoning my darkest power, but all of a sudden it was there, turning the air around me to shadows of obsidian, while my gaze lit the night with a new silver glow.
“Don’t,” I said in a voice that now echoed in an eerie way.
A slow smile lifted Phanes’s mouth. Then, he spread out his hands while his wings dipped as if they were bowing.
“Daughter of the Eternal River,” he said in a newly formal tone, “I mean you no harm.”
I wasn’t worried about me. I was worried about the vampire who was still near death from what it had cost him to save me. The darkness around me grew with the thought, until I felt its edges touch the very netherworld itself.
“Daughter of—” Phanes began again.
My voice was sharp, but it was my voice again. What I felt for Ian was so strong, it broke through even this.
“Veritas.” Phanes held my gaze. “I’ve lived too long to fail to recognize love when I see it, and I see it every time you send your energy toward that house. Stop,” he snapped, flying back when my darkness surged toward him. “I mean its occupant no harm! I do not want our engagement either!”
I reined in my power until it no longer sought out Phanes. Instead, it swirled around my feet like inky clouds.
Phanes folded his wings inward the way a bird did when it landed on the ground. Unlike a bird, however, Phanes’s wings looked like they disappeared entirely into his back.
“If you didn’t want this engagement, why did you come looking for me?”
His approach was wary, but he still didn’t look afraid. “When I felt your power, I was honor bound to seek you out.”
Bullshit. Just like an annoying text, Phanes could’ve ignored that.
“So noble,” I mocked. “Now, what’s the real reason?”
That earned me a reluctant smile. “I wasn’t the only one who felt it when you used your power to punch a hole through the veil separating this world from the netherworld. So, if I had failed to respond, others would know, and breaking my pledge to the Eternal River would have consequences.”
That, I believed, especially if this match had been my father’s idea. You didn’t piss off the Warden of the Gateway to the Netherworld without having it come back to bite you.
The darkness around me disappeared as I powered all the way down. “Well, then, good news, Phanes. You can go back home and tell everyone that I released you from our betrothal. If my dad doesn’t like that, he can take it up with me.”
“I wish it were that simple.” Phanes sounded like he was gritting his teeth. “But only your father has the authority to release me from my oath.”
Not me, the intended bride? Of all the sexist bullshit–
“And I can’t get to him where he is,” Phanes went on.
Hope surged in me. “You know where my father is?”
Phanes gave me a surprised look. “You do not?”
If I did, would I be asking? “No, so where is he?”
For a second, all expression cleared from Phanes’s face. He may as well have been one of the many statues the Greeks carved in honor of their gods. Then, that blankness disappeared, and the smile he gave me was as beautiful as the rising sun.
“He’s an inmate in the bastion of the netherworld.”
Hope you enjoyed Chapter Two! Once again, Chapter Three will post next Friday, and you can also pre-order WICKED ALL NIGHT 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.