Read Immortal Online

Authors: J.R. Ward

Immortal (7 page)

BOOK: Immortal
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Talk about tap dancing. The two men were spinning around with such force, she had to track them, waiting for the one without the shirt to come into range—and not move out of the way before she could nail him. If she guessed wrong? She was going to knock Jim out.

Bingo. Just as Colin came around, she planted her feet, and with every ounce of strength she had, she brought the metal mass across the back of his dark head.

Light exploded everywhere, blinding her and throwing her back just like Adrian—except her trajectory was going to take her right into one of the double-hung windows. With a messy trip-and-fall, she managed to redirect herself off that course—but even as she was cushioned by a swath of heavy velvet draping, the impact stopped her heart and drove the breath out of her lungs.

She didn't lose consciousness, though—so as she went into her own slump, she got to watch the man with the crystal knife lose his footing and go into a stumble of his own, the injury to his head knocking him waaaaay off his game. It was all Jim needed. With a vicious yank, he tore the dagger out of the other man's hand and kicked that hard torso, separating the two with force.

Later, Sissy would endlessly replay the sequence of what happened next, running the reel backward and forward as if there were some other outcome lurking in between the nanoseconds, some other path that could be chosen if only she could find the way to make a splice and insert new film.

But of course, that was a no-go.

As Colin hit the floor, the man looked up at Jim with pure hatred in his red-rimmed eyes. “You killed him!”

“What the fuck—”

“Your hand was on that dagger!”

“—is wrong with you!”

The two of them went back and forth at a scream, their male
voices thundering throughout the house, Jim's accent American, the other man's British.

“I lost him because of you!”

“I know!” Jim yelled.

That shut Colin up. And the man stayed quiet as Jim continued to roar, “And I'm going to get him back!”

A nasty laugh cracked like a whip. “Oh, you are, mate? Precisely how do you intend to do that.”

Jim looked across at her. Glanced at Adrian. “You're going to have to help me out. Somehow—”

Ad threw out his arms as if trying to stop a car crash. “Jim! No, don't—”

Jim stared back at Sissy. Opened his mouth like he was going to say something . . . but instead of speaking, he turned the crystal dagger on himself, pointing the sharp tip at his stomach and extending his arms as far away from himself as they could get.

“No!” Sissy screamed as she jumped up.

At the last second, he changed his mind. But not to stop. Instead, he changed angles, dropping his left arm, bringing up the right . . .

...and with a vicious slash, sliced his own throat open.

“Noooooooooo!” Sissy lunged across the carpet as the knife fell in slow motion from his lax hand.

Jim fell, too, as blood poured out of his neck—at least, she assumed it was blood, as it was silver, not red.

Oh, God, it had to be blood soaking the front of that plain white T-shirt he wore.

The sound of his knees hitting the floor was like a clap of thunder, and she reached him just as he sat back on his heels. His mouth was open, gaping, clicking as he tried to breathe through the geyser.

“Jim!
Jim
!” She reached up to press her hands to the self-
created wound, but what a waste of time. Even if she'd had yards and yards of surgical gauze, there was no stemming this.

No saving him.

His blue stare locked on hers as he began to list to the side, his massive torso giving in to gravity, his immortal life slipping away right before her very eyes.

Tears speared into her vision as a frantic
not now! not ever!
clogged up her brain: As much as she had been livid at him this morning, she was now terrified of the thought that she had lost him forever.

A chance not taken.

A door unopened.

A destiny unrealized.

And that loss felt worse than everything that had happened to her. Even Hell itself.

“Don't leave me, just stay with me, don't leave me. . . .”

His mouth kept moving, and she realized he wasn't trying to breathe—he was trying to say something to her.

“What?” she croaked. “What are you . . .”

Those lips, stained with silver, moved more and more slowly, the pupils in those eyes expanding as if they were trying to compensate for a lack of light.

Sissy knew the instant he died. It wasn't when his mouth stopped or when the eyes rolled back. It was when the scent of a bouquet of flowers filled the air, choking the inside of her nose and thickening the back of her throat.

It was just as they had told her in Sunday school when she'd been young: When a saint died, you smelled flowers.

Jim . . . the savior . . . was gone.

Chapter
Seven

Collections were a good thing.

Of course, hers was probably a little out of control, Devina thought as she stepped free of her office building's elevator.

And how fucking great was that.

Stretching out before her, in a basement that was nearly the size of a football field, rows and rows of antique bureaus filled with a millennium of taking souls were hidden and safe. It was the kind of sight that made her take a deep breath for two reasons: one, they were still where she'd left them; and two, they were hers, all hers.

Her high heels made a clipping noise as she strode over the bare concrete floor. From time to time she paused, put her little bag with the box of new Loubous in it down, and pulled out a drawer. Whether it was a cluster of pocket watches with their gold chains, or a tangle of nineteenth-century spectacles, or a jangle of keys, every single object was cataloged in her mind—she could remember who had owned it, how she'd gotten it from them, and the exact circumstance when she had taken over their soul and put them into her wall. But this wasn't just a happy trip down memory lane. Anytime she touched a metal button or an earring or a keepsake coin, she could feel the person's very essence.

These inanimates were her connection with her children down below, her way of communing with her captives, her tangible tie to her immortal life's work. Millions of objects—and yet, it so wasn't enough. Her hunger was a worm that never stopped turning, and didn't that make the war so much more real to her.

Shit, to think of the fun she and Jim could have.

He could also help her protect all this. Anytime she went away, there was always an undercurrent of fear that something would happen, that she'd get in that elevator, hit the
down
button, and find those doors opening a moment later to a whole lot of nothing. And this was even though she had the best security system in the world: At the moment, it was thanks to a twenty-two-year-old computer programmer from Neuvo-Tec, a company she had “hired” to come here to her “human resources firm” to configure “banks of servers” to properly support her “intranet.”

Or some shit.

In reality, she'd created all that fiction just to get the poor virginal sonofabitch and his pathetic pocket protector on her premises. Whereupon she'd metaphorically knocked his socks off with a gold Prada pantsuit and a mile-high pair of Manolos—and then literally knocked his block off by coming at him from behind and overpowering him as he'd checked out the illusion of a computer system. After that, there had been the bloodletting, the ritual, the symbols in the flesh . . . and way-to-go, she had her early-warning system.

If anyone came in on that first floor above, or tried to get into the elevators? Wherever she was, up here on earth or down there in her Well of Souls, she'd know about it.

And she could protect her precious possessions.

Man, it'd be really fucking nice to have a partner in all this. Yeah, sure, her minions were fine when she felt like ordering something around, but they couldn't think for themselves, and
that got boring quick. Jim Heron was the opposite of compliant—she fought constantly with him, and that was just the hot sauce she was looking for.

Resuming her promenade, she headed for the back to her bedroom-ish area. Above her, banks of fluorescent lights glowed like fake suns, and soon enough, her rolling stands of hangered clothes overtook the lineup of bureaus. Past her showroom of a wardrobe came her shoes in their floor-to-ceiling cases; her accessory area, where she kept her handbags, scarves, and jewelry; and finally her makeup table, with its mirrors and all her Chanel compacts, YSL liners, and Estée Lauder foundations.

And then there was her bed, of course. Oh, her bed, with its acres of Porthault and its down comforters and pillows. She'd actually never had sex in the thing before, but how cool was it going to be when she broke the mattress in with Jim?

A sudden image of Sissy Barten made her clench her teeth.

Goddamn it, if it was the last thing she did, Jim was going to lie in that bed with his legs spread and his cock hard and ready, and he was going to tell her he loved her and beg her to have sex with him. And when they did get it on? It was going to be total hotness, because she'd know that she had won and he was with her forevermore.

That was just the way it had to be.

“Right?” she said to her new shoes.

The good news was that the prospect of putting the twin sparklies in with the rest of her collection was a great de-stresser—except she had to check one more thing first.

Of all her objects . . . it was the nastiest-looking. Also the most valuable—in spite of the amount of pilfered jewelry she had down here.

Her real mirror was in the far corner of the basement. And it was tucked away in the darkness not just to keep it safe, but
because it was fugly and a half: The thing was at least five feet high and three feet wide—maybe it was even bigger. There was scrollwork around all four sides, and from a distance you might have assumed it was a flowery motif or some kind of French fanciness. Up close, though, it was clear that the undulating pattern was a series of tortured bodies, their limbs mangled or missing, their faces distorted in pain. And fuck the gold leaf—there was a glimmer to the thing, but it was not from any precious metal.

It was like the glow of a cobra's eyes.

As for the surface of it, the flat plane was pockmarked, pitted, and spotty, more like the skin of an old person than anything reflective. Then again, she didn't use it to see herself. The mirror was a portal, the conduit for her to travel back and forth from her Well of Souls—and the only way she could get there. Once down in her lair, she could welcome new souls or minions or Jim and Adrian, but she had to be in Hell to do that; otherwise the place was locked up, even to her.

If she lost or broke the mirror? Then
poof!
went the access to her collection of souls.

The horror was too much to think about—

At first she didn't know what got her attention. Twisting around, she searched her private space, eyes narrowing, claws prepared to come out. But there was nothing behind her, and no warning from up above that someone had crossed the barrier she'd created.

Walking back into the light, she put the stiff bag with the hotel's gold logo on it down on the duvet. Then she stayed perfectly still.

The only one who could get in would be the Creator Himself.

“Jim?” She frowned, wondering how that would be possible. Unless . . .

No, this was definitely about Jim.

Her eyes shot over to her vanity table. In between a Clarins clarifying mask and some Chanel Précision Sublimage, there was something that didn't have jack-all to do with makeup—and ordinarily she wouldn't have been able to tolerate the discordance of objects.

But this one got special dispensation.

It was the hood ornament of her own Mercedes S550 4Matic—and for once, she wasn't rushing to get the thing put back in its proper place. In fact, she'd broken the neck off herself . . . because that trademarked circle with its intersecting lines had a very special accessory of its own: When she'd hit Jim with her car the other night, he'd been clipped by the front hood, and a little part of him had been left behind in the ornament's metal.

That residue in the very molecular fiber of the steel was how she'd managed to get into his house, into his bed, and oh so close to seducing him while pretending to be Sissy.

It was a one-way connection, though. So there was no way he could use it to get to her—

From out of nowhere, a wave of pain rang her chest like a bell, as if she'd been shot or stabbed. But there was nobody around. Nobody up above.

And yet something was wrong, something . . .

“Jim . . . ?” She walked forward. “Jim?”

Suffocation followed. The kind that made her feel like someone had their hands around her throat. Or maybe a rope. Abruptly, she reached up to grab at that which wasn't there, opening her mouth so she could breathe.

Fucking hell, she was now the salesguy from the hotel, her access to air cut off by an unseen force.

Except it wasn't suffocation in the true sense. This was . . . an emotional pain so great it literally robbed her of the ability to inflate the lungs she pretended to have.

“Jim!”
she screamed, the dots connecting to a terrifying conclusion.

Vaporizing her physical form, she entered the HVAC system ductwork and shot through the innards of the building, expelling herself into the open air through a vent and shooting off in the direction of that old house he stayed in.

Faster, faster, faster . . .

She knew the very moment he left the coil of the earth: A lancing agony overtook her soul, sure as if she had been cleaved in half.

Storm clouds gathered in her wake as she landed on the front lawn of the property he rented, and she rushed for the front door—

The barrier she hit was a brick wall that didn't exist, an invisible, impenetrable force field that repelled her so hard, she fell back on her ass. Looking up in panic, her frantic mind couldn't figure out what the fuck it was—but then she caught sight of a subtle red glimmer. The bastard had locked her out with an additional, stronger spell.

Except it didn't last.

With Jim's life-force having been extinguished, his protection spell lost its source and gradually peeled free of the house, retreating from the roof and freeing up from the walls.

The inevitable recession was like watching him die in front of her, seeing his life slip away.

“Jim . . .” she groaned as the last of it disappeared.

Scrambling to her feet, she ran forward and went to the windows of the parlor. With shaking hands, she leaned into the bubbly old glass and cupped her palms, peering through. . . .

The moan that rippled up through her tight throat was a release of agony. Across the parlor, Jim lay in a shambled sprawl on the floor, his arms and legs helter-skelter, as if he had fallen back without trying to stop himself or protect against the impact.
Silver blood was everywhere down his chest, a gaping slash in his throat the cause of the tidal wave.

There was a crystal dagger in his right hand—that was stained with more of that mercury-like substance that filled his veins.

Clearly, he'd taken someone with him.

Such a hero, she thought as she teared up.

And yes, opposite him, Colin the archangel was a shadow of his powerful self, his face drawn in horror, his body straining as if he were in physical conflict—except there was no one coming at him. There had been, though—his face was bruising up and there was silver blood on his hands. The room was also trashed, lamps knocked over, tables overturned, sofas out of place.

Jim had been in the process of fighting with the archangel. Maybe over her honor? That was so like her Jim . . . but it shouldn't have ended like it had.

And she wasn't the only one who felt that way. That dumb whore Sissy Barten was screaming at the top of her lungs as she went over and took Jim's head into her lap, and across the way, Adrian the angel was looking like he'd seen a ghost. Or maybe the Grim Reaper.

The only bright spot was the obvious agony of that girl, and Devina took a moment to absorb the incandescent pain. It was the only balm she was going to have for a long, long while. The shit was going to be useful, too.

But not now. Now, it was all she could do to keep from breaking down.

Splaying her fingers out, Devina leaned in until her forehead touched the cool glass. “My love . . .”

Some animal was loose and going crazy in the parlor.

Oh, wait—it was her, Sissy thought.

With her mouth wide-open and her lungs working with a seemingly endless supply of air, she was making a noise that was part lioness, part atomic bomb detonation. Staring at Jim's lifeless body, cradling him against her, getting stained by his silver blood, she unhinged—

And lunged at his attacker.

Without conscious thought, she scrambled over the floor like a crab, launching herself at Colin, who remained stunned stupid either by her having smashed him on the head or because of what Jim had just done to himself.

She went for the eyes.

She didn't get close. He grabbed her wrists and flipped her onto her back on the floor, straddling her and pinning her arms over her head.

“Fuck you!” she spat at him, fighting against the hold, kicking with her legs, thrashing around. When she tried to bite him, he somehow kept her down while freeing one of his hands—which he clapped on her jaw to hold her head in place.

He didn't hurt her. Just let her wear herself out.

It felt like a year until all she could do was heave for breath underneath him, and still he sat over her calmly, as if he'd put no effort into any of it at all.

As water hit her face, she couldn't figure out where it was coming from—

BOOK: Immortal
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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