Something else washed over her, too. Gratitude. Eidolon couldn’t hurt her inside the hospital; she knew that. But he also didn’t have to relieve her pain. If he wanted her to suffer, she’d suffer. She couldn’t help but wonder, if the situation were reversed, would she have done the same?
“No,” she whispered, and Eidolon frowned.
“Are you still in pain?” One hand flew to her other wrist to check her pulse. “What is it?”
“Sorry,” she choked out. “Talking to myself.”
He looked at her as if she was daft, and Shade shook his head, but then they went back to what they’d been doing, and she went back to wondering when she’d started feeling something other than blind hatred for the demon.
What terrific timing, given that she was supposed to help destroy the hospital, and him with it.
While Hellboy stitched her up, she got intimate with the lay of the land. Not that she could see much except crimson-splashed gray walls and a ceiling from which huge pulleys and chains hung, but hey, no creepy detail would go wasted. She’d always hated hospitals, but the smell of disinfectant and the sound of equipment beeping actually comforted her now, bits of normalcy in what could otherwise be a terrifying place.
The gentle tugging on her skin stopped. Eidolon snipped the thread he’d been working with.
“Done?” she asked.
Shade yanked his hand away. “Good. I’m going to go help a patient who actually deserves it.” He stalked out. Pain immediately began to throb in her abdomen.
“Damn him,” Eidolon muttered, so softly she barely heard.
“It’s okay. I don’t blame him. Not after what happened to Nancy.”
Eidolon’s startled gaze flickered to hers. “I can give you painkillers,” he offered roughly, ignoring what she’d said.
She shook her head. “I need to stay alert.” Going fuzzy in enemy territory could be disastrous. Besides, after her mom died, she’d sworn never to touch drugs again. Her mother’s battle with addiction had caused too much misery, had led her down a dark road where demons were real and not a metaphor.
Drawing the tray closer with his foot, he selected a syringe from the lineup of instruments. “I’ll give you a local to keep the discomfort at a minimum.”
He injected the medicine, and after the initial burn wore off, the wound went numb.
Once again he glanced at her in surprise, but didn’t comment, because suddenly the room swarmed with tiny, round little demon . . . things. A dozen of them, furry and about the size of rabbits, scurried beneath the curtains, rolling and pouncing on each other. One paused to look up, its big eyes blinking at her. It was sort of cute. For a demon. Then again, Eidolon was burning hot for a demon. Or a human, for that matter.
They climbed up her IV pole, onto tables and stools, and she smiled as one dived down the sleeve of her jacket that Shade had draped over a chair. They chattered and squeaked and then one dipped into her pocket—and came out with her cell phone. The creature flipped the phone open. Tayla tore out her IV
line and leaped off the table.
“Gimme that,” she said sweetly. The critter scampered away, but Eidolon managed to snare the phone.
The curtain whipped open. What must have been the little ones’ mother stepped inside, her clawed feet scraping the floor.
“Apologies, doctor,” she growled through fangs the length of Tayla’s index finger. Her gaze shifted sharply to Tayla. “Is that . . . human?” Her large, catlike eyes went even wider, revealing a silver rim that glowed. “Slayer. I heard the whispers.”
Still holding Tayla’s phone, Eidolon addressed the demon, a subterranean species that came aboveground around Halloween. “Gather your young, flitta. This is not your concern.”
The flitta, whatever that meant, didn’t seem to hear, instead took a step toward Tayla. Drool dripped from her fangs. “You,” she hissed. “You should die.”
Shade moved up behind her, watched with ill-concealed amusement.
“You killed my hatchlings.”
Tayla frowned at the little demons hopping around beneath her, and the mother roared. “Not them! My nest before this. All of them. In pieces, smashed as they came out of their shells. You slaughtered my babies.”
“It wasn’t me,” Tay said lamely, because it could have been. How many demon nests had she destroyed?
Too many to count—or even remember.
“It was an Aegi butcher, same as you.”
One of the babies leaped toward Tay’s arms, but Eidolon caught it in midair, tickled it behind its pointy ear, and handed it to the angry mother.
“Flitta, it wasn’t this Aegi. Gather your brood and go. Bring the flossa back next week and I’ll remove her cast.”
That was when Tay noticed a quiet baby in the corner, one leg wrapped and dragging behind it. Gently, Shade picked it up and tucked it against his chest. Tayla nearly fell over as he began to make soft cooing noises that had all of the youngsters following him out of the room. The mother speared Tayla with a glare of pure murder before sauntering off after Shade and the babies.
“Wow, she was a little worked up.”
Eidolon swept the curtain closed again. “An Aegi murdered her young.”
“Because that species comes out at Halloween and eats—”
“Her particular breed. They’re vegetarians. They mainly raid farmers’ fields in the fall because they like gourds.” Still holding her phone in one hand, he dumped his tray of bloodied tools into a nearby container with the other. “Your Aegis buddies slaughtered innocent younglings that would have grown up to do nothing worse than suck the guts out of a few pumpkins.”
Nausea swirled in her stomach. “How did the little one get hurt?”
“Stepped on by an adult. If it weren’t for the hospital, she would have died. Fractured bones are a death sentence for that species.”
Tay seriously wanted to throw up. Things had gone wrong, so wrong. In a matter of days, her world had been flipped upside down. Everything she thought she’d known about demons was wrong. Vegetarian demons? Demons who cured instead of killed? Her simple black-and-white world had gone about a million shades of gray.
“Tayla? Are you okay?”
She blinked out of her gray world and back to the strange, dark one that was Underworld General. A hospital whose very existence should be impossible. A hospital The Aegis wanted to bring down. She couldn’t do it. Right now she was too vulnerable, too unsure of her feelings to commit to the destruction of UG.
“Can I have my phone, please?”
“If you’re thinking of calling for help, you might as well know that you can’t get a signal here.”
“No extended network, huh?” She stood there as he closed the distance between them, his tall, solid body drawing her as if it had its own gravitational pull, and without thinking, she took a step to meet him. He held out the phone, but when she reached for it, his hand captured her wrist.
“Why do you want the phone?”
She swallowed dryly, unsure what to say, not because she couldn’t lie, but because suddenly, she didn’t want to. Not when the gold flecks in his eyes had begun to glitter again. She licked her lips, and his gaze dropped to her mouth.
He pulled her close, suspicion and something darker swirling in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“You keep licking your lips. Are you nervous?”
“They’re just dry.”
The darkness in his gaze intensified as he watched her, and then he dipped his head until their lips nearly touched and she could feel the softest draft of air in the span of distance between them. “I can help with that.”
She moaned and wished he’d just kiss her already. He seemed to be waiting for permission, which was ridiculous. Before, he’d taken what he wanted. Why did he want her assent now?
“Do you want me to help?”
“No,” she said, but she tipped her face up so their lips touched.
His tongue flicked over her lips in a kiss that wasn’t quite a kiss, but was enough to heat her blood. “Are you sure?”
“No.” She opened her lips, nearly panting.
“I don’t know how you do this to me, Tayla,” he whispered. “But I can’t help myself.” His hand grasped the back of her head and held her for his possession.
Instantly, fire zipped through her veins, lit her up from the inside. She opened to the penetration of his tongue, to the sweep against her teeth, the roof of her mouth. Closing her eyes, she let her body react, to coil tight with desire that was growing addictive. She’d felt nothing for so long, had been in an emotional void, a cold, deep sleep, but with every touch Eidolon changed that. It was as though she were waking up for the first time in a place where everything was new.
Stepping into him, she gripped his shoulders and pulled him closer. A groan rattled his chest, the sound of a male in need making her pulse spike. Shifting, she rocked her aching mound against his thigh, and he hissed, backed up.
“Fuck,” he muttered. “I can smell you. My brothers will, too.” He shoved the phone into her hand and turned away. “You are dangerous, slayer.”
She gaped, because she wasn’t the dangerous one in this situation. He could seduce her with a look, a touch, and she was growing weaker by the minute.
She started to close the phone, but a flashing number caught her eye. Looking more closely at the screen, she saw numbers filtering down. Thirty . . . twenty-nine . . . twenty-eight . . .
“Tayla? What is it?”
-Twenty-two . . .
Jagger had mentioned a countdown, but there was no way she was activating the spell. She closed the phone. Opened it again. The screen continued to flash numbers.
I’m testing a new explosive that’s odorless, invisible, and can be hidden inside electronic devices like MP3 players.
Cole’s words careened through her brain, and her heart skidded to a halt. “The exit,” she gasped. “Exit. Now!”
She shoved past Eidolon, bile rising in her throat as she frantically searched for the doors Shade had brought her in through.
There. She darted toward them, and when a nurse shifted into a panther and pounced, she swung, sent the panther skidding across the floor. Pain exploded in her head, but it didn’t matter. The door. She had to get to the door.
“Tayla!” Eidolon’s shout chased her.
“Stay back!” She burst through the doors the second they slid open. Outside, she recognized the parking lot, and Eidolon’s BMW.
Searing heat burned her fingers. The phone glowed orange, pulsing like a stove element with its own heartbeat. As hard as she could, she threw it toward the far wall.
A hand closed on her shoulder. Wheeling around, she tackled Eidolon and took him to the ground, her body covering his as the explosion rocked the underground facility and jarred her teeth.
A tire flew past them, blasted through the space where Eidolon had been standing. Fire, stone, and metal rained down, pelting her as she lay on top of him. He hooked his leg over her back and flipped her, shielding her instead. Then, as the storm of debris eased up and the rumble died away, a louder noise rattled her from above, and she looked up into extremely pissed-off golden eyes.
Eidolon paced outside his office, and if Shade said one more time, I told you we should have wasted her, he was going to rip his brother’s head off.
Problem was, Shade was right. If they’d given Tayla to Yuri, the parking lot wouldn’t be demolished. But Tayla would be dead.
Clenching his fists so hard his knuckles cracked, he wondered why that thought bothered him so much. He’d been ready to kill her himself after the explosion. He and Shade had dragged her to Eidolon’s office, shoved her inside, and then left her there while they cooled off.
“You ready to deal with her?” Shade asked. “Can you deal with her?”
“Don’t start.” Eidolon threw open the office door, more to get away from Shade’s accusations than to finally deal with Tayla.
She looked up from where she sat on his desk, shoulders hunched, feet swinging like a punished child. Her eyes were reddened as though she’d been crying, but he knew she hadn’t. The effort she’d expended to not cry, however, was obvious in the tight set of her mouth and the way she swallowed repeatedly.
He halted just out of arm’s reach and held his fists at his sides to keep from touching her out of anger—
or something worse, like comfort. When he spoke, he dug deep to find the impartial, cold Justice Dealer voice he’d used for decades.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you for what you’ve done.”
She looked him straight in the eye, every ounce the warrior he knew she was. “I can’t.”
“That was easy,” Shade said, as he moved to the opposite end of the desk, caging her in. “Let’s take her outside—”
“No.” She pushed her tangled mop of hair back from her face. “Not yet. There’s something you need to know. One of your staff, I think . . . Yuri?”
Eidolon’s heart missed a beat. “What about Yuri?”
“He’s dead.” Tayla closed her eyes and took a deep, rattling breath. “I tagged your pager with sort of a psychic GPS.” She looked at him, the dark circles under her eyes blending with the soot smears on her cheeks. “You must have given the pager to Yuri—”
“Hell’s blades,” Shade breathed. “The Aegis got him. What did they do to him?”