He shrugged. “I’ve never tried. What few remained after the Fae killed or imprisoned them, we cultivated alliances with.”
Imprisoned. Criminy. I still couldn’t get over the news that the gods had been imprisoned beneath Arlington Abbey all this time. When Kat had told us that, I’d instantly flashed back to the night in the cemetery, years ago, when hundreds of dark Shadelike beings had risen from the earth, finally solving a chafing, unsolved case in my files.
I’d been standing right there when the gods gained enough strength to escape their tombs, months after the Song had been sung. I’d watched it happen, with no idea what they were.
I narrowed my eyes. They hadn’t cared for my hand that night. “It’s also possible I could kill him. I’d just need to get a direct hit to his eye next time.”
“No,” Ryodan snarled.
“No,” Kat snapped.
“No,” Enyo spat.
I blinked at them. “Seriously, guys, look at me. I can’t be touched anymore. Do you really think I’m going to sit on my hands, literally and figuratively, and do nothing to save our world, so I don’t get worse? How much worse can it get?” I had a fair idea. The difference between human and not. But they didn’t know that. Not for sure.
Ryodan locked gazes with me, growling so only I could hear, Let others tackle the enemy this time. You’ve done more than your share. He looked sharply away but not before I caught, Christ, woman, just stay with me awhile, will you? As long as you can.
It flayed me. I wanted to stay, too. Time had always been the problem with us. I said, “I’ll be the last resort, okay? I promise not to do anything unless I absolutely must, only if no one else can.” That was the best I could offer. I know myself. If I can do something to save the world and no one else can, I’ll pay the price. It’s the way I’m wired.
Everyone in the room nodded, looking enormously relieved. Inwardly, I beamed. They all wanted to keep me as long as they could.
Kat said, “When he was trying to take your soul, did you pick up any details about where he’s made his base camp, Dani?”
“Not a bloody thing. He could be anywhere. But his henchmen, Callum and Alfie, said he wanted them in Dublin for some reason and wouldn’t let them move to another location. I got the impression of tens of thousands of people, perhaps a hundred thousand or more, all gathered in the same place. It’s not easy to hide an army of that size.”
“I’ve already got most of the Nine out searching,” Ryodan said. “They’ll scour every inch of the city tonight and range out beyond that by morning.”
“In the meantime, we’ll continue researching,” Kat said, pushing to her feet, “and see if we can turn up anything else.”
“Can you get in touch with Christian and Sean?” I asked her. “They could cover a lot more ground from the sky.” So could I—if I were a Hunter.
“Christian, yes. Sean, no,” she said. “I’ll reach out to him.”
I said, “Ryodan and I will patrol, hunt the bastards abducting humans. If we can just find one of those mirrors, that will solve all of our problems.”
“We will not,” Ryodan said tightly.
Before I could even argue, Kat agreed. “Dani, I didn’t tell you this because I knew you had your hands full, but a dozen of our Adepts went missing last Saturday. From what Christian said, it’s a fair guess Balor’s holding them as Fae watchdogs. Two people, against the god you described, plus an army of countless humans controlled by him, won’t be enough. Our sisters are there. I want all boots on the ground for this mission.”
“She’s right,” Ryodan growled. “We need a location, we go in force. All of the Nine, all of the sidhe-seers, Christian and Sean.” He cut a dark look at Kat. “Fix whatever the fuck his problem is and get him functional.”
She sighed. “Easier said than done. I’m trying.”
“But if I kill Balor,” I argued, “it’s logical to conclude the humans will no longer be controlled. It could work.”
“You just made us a promise,” Kat snapped. “You’re the last resort. Period.”
“What she said,” Ryodan said icily.
“But it could take too long that—”
“Dani, shut the fuck up,” Enyo snapped. “We’re just trying to keep you alive, okay? Let us handle this. Yes, it may take longer. We all know we’re not as bloody superhero as you are. But we can do it. Think about it this way, we’ll have to do it if you’re no longer here. And it sounds like you won’t be here soon!” Her voice cracked and I stared at her, dumbfounded, as the hardened warrior’s eyes shimmered with sudden tears. She shook her head, wiping angrily at the moisture. “God, for being so brilliant, you are so fucking dense sometimes. You still don’t get it, do you? You bloody saved me when you found me. I was losing it. You roped me in and put me to work and gave me a cause worth fighting for. I don’t want to lose you. None of us do.” She sprang to her feet and stalked from the room, unleashing a stream of curses as she went.
“You always save everyone else,” Kat said quietly. “Let us save what we can of you this time.”
I couldn’t deal with this shit.
I shoved to my feet and stormed from the room.
* * *
I paced Ryodan’s suite, practically gouging tufts of polished, glazed concrete from the floor with each step.
They wanted me to do nothing. Sit idly by, while they went to battle against Balor. I had no idea how to live that way. And I saw little point. My future was inevitable. The only difference between me turning now or turning later was that I’d get to spend more time with the people I loved. But what if me sitting back and not fighting ended up costing the lives of those very people I wanted to spend that time with? I’d never be able to live with that!
I felt like I was being torn in half. Part of me wanted desperately to hang on as long as I could and stay here with my friends, but there was another part of me that…“Oh, hell, Dani, admit it,” I muttered aloud. Part of me hungered for the power that was growing in me. There was so much good I could do with it. Turning into a Hunter wouldn’t have been my first choice for the way my life would go. In fact, it wouldn’t have even been on my list of choices. But if it had to happen, well, at least I didn’t end up turning into any of the many other, weaker, disgusting things I’d killed. Hunters were lethal, their power astronomical. And I was pretty sure they were immortal.
I could watch over my friends forever. Protect them eternally. Kill Fae, kill anything that messed with them.
Then he was there, in the room with me, entering silently, stopping behind me. I shivered from raw aching awareness of him as a powerful, brilliant, basely sexual-in-all-the-right-ways man that had moved forever beyond my reach.
“Love is the one thing you’ve never understood,” he said quietly, “because you didn’t have it. You don’t need to save the world to make us love you, Dani. We already do.”
I exploded into tears, crying ugly.
How did he always know my secrets? That was exactly what I kept boxed in one of my highest security vaults.
The “Mega’s” greatest insecurity: I have to be Mega; I have to be a superhero to be loved.
Hands fisting, he took two steps forward then jerked to a stop. We both knew he couldn’t touch me. “Christ, it fucking slays me when you cry,” he said roughly.
I growled through tears, “I’ll get it under control, just give me a minute.”
“You always do,” he said flatly. I looked at him, startled by the undercurrents in his voice. Enormous respect, enormous sorrow. Gargantuan frustration at not being able to touch me.
I forced myself to breathe deep and even. I’d figured out long ago that freedom wasn’t just another word for nothing left to lose.
I’d had nothing to lose. No mom. No home. No friends. No life. It’s easy to be fearless in those circumstances.
Now I had everything to lose, and a destructive, raging part of me wanted to go ahead and lose it right away, get it over with because limbo unravels me. Once you lose everything, you can take action: You either die or cope. But before, while you’re watching it all go to hell, there’s no action you can take. You’re helpless, caught in a killing undertow. My mom was my entire world and, trapped in a cage, I was forced to watch her slip away bit by bit, unable to do anything to prevent it. I might have stolen food for us. With my super skills, I could have stolen money, we’d have been rich. I could have taken care of us.
But I’d had to sit there, watching, while everything fell apart.
“Close your eyes,” Ryodan said softly.
I didn’t argue, just let my lids flutter closed, then he was there, standing next to me. I could see him, us, as clearly as if it was actually happening. I shivered with emotion, with desire. I could smell the scent of his skin, feel the omnipresent erotic current of his body as his powerful arms slipped around me.
I dropped my head to his chest and melted into him like a second skin, savoring his strength, his heat, his big, hard body. This man was the one thing in my universe that made me feel safe.