Luc was limp, tired and in bed again. It felt like he spent all his time these days resting or sleeping. His body felt weighty as if the earth’s gravity had increased five times it usual strength while he slept. His throat was dry, and his eyes crusted over. He could almost count his muscles from the sheer pain each and every one was causing him. Coming back from hell was – hell.
A scream from the other room jolted him. He recognized that sound.
That was his vamp.
Fighting his weariness, Luc pulled himself out of bed, stumbling on his way to the door. A quick check proved he was in sleep pants, but shirtless.
Good enough for company.
Forcing his body forward, Luc tore open the door and stepped into the other room.
Surprisingly, the guard Nikko had mentioned was missing.
The scene that met his eyes wasn’t what he expected. Jerrod wasn’t cowering on the floor. Instead three of Nikko’s vamps were trembling on the ground. Each was pinned by a growling hellhound with flaming eyes and jowls dripping acid. The vamps were screaming as the corrosive liquid burned through their clothing and onto their skin.
“Where did the hellhounds come from?” Nikko demanded.
Luc spoke up as he leant against the doorjamb. “One of the protections that Jerrod’s necklace provides is hellhounds to hold his enemies until he can escape.” He looked over at his vamp. “Are you okay?”
Jerrod gave him a smirk and stood taller than he ever had before. “Of course, you promised I would always be safe.”
Luc nodded, not thinking much about the statement. It was true. He took care of his own. He turned his head to look at the master vampire. “Perhaps you need to teach your boys some manners.”
“They’re new.” Nikko tilted his head. “Do you think you can call off your hellhounds?”
“Sure, which do you think they should eat?”
“What?” Nikko asked a stunned expression on his handsome face.
“Hellhounds need to be satisfied with blood before they will return to their resting place. In this case, hell. Who do you think they should eat?”
Nikko chuckled. “Well, I guess it will depend on who started this fight. Jerrod?”
Luc’s servant wrung his hands. “I was sitting there,” he pointed at the chaise, “staying out of trouble, waiting for my Master to wake, when these three started coming on to me. I didn’t want them touching me.” He shifted from foot to foot. “Only you can touch me,” he added fiercely, looking at Luc.
“And how are you touching him?” Nikko grabbed his arm.
“Can we focus here?” Luc asked, yanking out of Nikko’s hold.
“I told them to let me go but then that one…” He pointed to the largest of the three vampires pinned beneath the hellhounds. “He said he was going to make me his boy and the others grabbed me and pulled me down.”
The first one Jerrod pointed to started to scream. “Fuck, man. I didn’t know he was yours. Let me go. It burns. I’ll never touch him again, I swear!”
Luc walked over and gripped Jerrod’s amulet in one hand before chanting the basic hellhound incantation. “Return from where you came.”
The dogs looked up from the vamps they were torturing.
“And tell the hound master to give you those special rations I set aside.”
Happy yips followed this announcement. The stench of sulphur and black smoke filled the room. A cloud of blackness wrapped around the three dogs right before they vanished. As the room cleared, the vampires waited patiently for permission to get up.
Nikko looked at Luc with amusement. “Guess they didn’t need blood after all.”
Luc shrugged. He enjoyed keeping them guessing.
“You may rise,” Nikko said.
Ohhh. Nikko’s voice had a commanding tone. It made Luc tremble as he became hard. All of his energy, used up from his march into the room, escaped and he fell into the closest chair. Jerrod knelt at his feet while Luc absently stroked his hair.
“Where’s Carn?” Luc whispered.
“Getting you food,” Jerrod responded in an equally quiet voice. “Bran called to say he’d be by later.”
He missed Bran, but maybe it was better to be away from him before he was pulled below. He knew Bran would suffer the most when Luc didn’t return from hell. With a motion from Nikko, the three vampires leapt to their feet, shifting their eyes between Nikko and Luc, giving them equally nervous glances.
“In general, touching is permitted as long as it’s consensual,” Nikko said to the vamps. “However, Jerrod doesn’t belong to the tribe and he wasn’t willing. He belongs to Luc. Luc is very protective and doesn’t allow touching of his servant. Is that understood?”
The vamp in the middle with the most acid burns on his shirt raised his hand.
“Why does he have a servant, he’s not a vampire?” The vamp was polite, although shaking a little.
“He killed a master vampire and the mark was transferred. He is also my mate. Luc has special status, harming him is harming me. Are we understood?”
Luc wanted to scream and stamp his foot to let Nikko know he wasn’t his mate, but now wasn’t the time. He belonged to Bran even if it was only for a few more days.
“Yes, Master,” the trio responded as if coming from one mouth.
Laurence raised his hand again.
Nikko sighed. “What now?”
“Can I belong to Luc? I’ve never had a hellhound to protect me.”
Jerrod’s grip on Luc’s legs became numbing.
“No,” Luc said. “One is enough for me.”
Jerrod rubbed his head against Luc’s thigh, earning a glare from Nikko.
“Yes,” Nikko agreed. “One is more than enough.”
After dismissing the vampires, Nikko turned his attention to Luc. “You don’t look so well, love. Why don’t you go back to bed?”
Luc knew his time was fading but Nikko was right. He needed sleep or he’d never be able to put up a fight when his brothers came for him.
* * * *
“Good morning, Master. I have your food.”
“Hmm.” Luc opened his eyes. The warmth was gone. Jerrod had already risen. He must’ve been sleeping hard.
Luc rubbed his eyes until Carn came into view. “Evening, Carn. You brought me some food?”
The demon beamed, his eyes glowing with fervor. A tray was placed over Luc’s lap. It held a plate of Eggs Benedict with hash browns, surrounded by an assortment of fruit.
“Wow, this looks great.”
“It is my pleasure to serve.” Carn knelt beside the bed.
“You made this?”
The demon nodded. “I’ve been training as a chef under Doem.”
Luc was certain his father didn’t know Carn was training to be a chef. If Lucifer or Luc’s brothers knew this, they would have never harmed the demon. Father loved his food.
The first bite was like eating paradise. Luc let out a low groan. “That is the best damned Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.” He was about to continue when he felt a coldness seep into the house. An unnatural stillness took over. Ice crystallized his cup and his orange juice solidified.
It was a familiar feeling.
“He had a meeting.”
Carn shook his head. “He said it was across town.”
Convenient for someone. By the time he returned, Nikko could lose everything. He might not agree with the vampire’s methods, but Luc couldn’t let the man’s house fall apart while he was gone. Pithel demons were ruthless and took whatever they liked. Luc was almost certain that the Pithels had received a tip by someone on the inside.
Great, just what he needed. Another confrontation.
Luc slipped out of bed, quickly dressing as he went. “Stay out of sight,” he whispered to Carn.
“I’m going with you,” the demon stated proudly.
“Then stay behind me so I’m not worried about your safety.” Luc left his room, went through the outer lounge and slipped down the stairs, keeping his steps quiet. Once he got to the bottom, he saw he didn’t need to bother.
A dozen Pithel demons were standing in the foyer facing down a group of Nikko’s vamps. Neither group was moving but Luc could feel the hatred in the air. Nikko would be crushed if any of his vamps were killed by demons while he was away. Pithel demons were nasty and unremorseful. A group of vamps would be no problem for them. They could kill the entire household then take the time to pick their teeth with the bones.
Centering himself, Luc let in and out a deep breath before walking closer. His energy was still low. If they challenged him, he would be visiting his father sooner than he planned. There was no hope, but to bluster it out.
“Well, look who has come to play.” Luc was pleased he sounded more confident than he felt.
The demons stared at Luc. He could feel Nikko’s vamps trying to decide if they should get in the way or not. After all, if the demons didn’t kill them, Nikko would for letting Luc get hurt.
“Baby Luc, is that you?” The leader of the Pithel demons turned towards Luc.
Lady luck was smiling at him today. He didn’t try to hide his laughter as he faced down the biggest of the Pithel demons and a good friend. It was like visiting memory lane this week. “Turell, how in the hell are you and what are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you.” The large, white demon stepped forwards; his wings scraped the floor as he spread his arms for a hug.
It was lethal to be scratched or bitten by a Pithel, for both their fangs and wingtips were tipped with acid. To everyone in the room besides the two hugging, it looked like an act of courage.
Only Turell and Luc knew he was completely immune.
Luc stepped back, patting his friend’s feathery white shoulder. “I’m staying here now. Nikko is my friend.”
“No!” Turell shouted. His pale face turned red with anger. “I was supposed to get a vampire tribe. They were going to be mine!”
“Not this one.” He might not be there for long, but Nikko had treated Luc decently and the very least he could do was keep this pack off Nikko’s property. Besides the vampire’s territory was too close to Bran’s. Pithel demons didn’t stay in one spot and they tended to kill anything in their way.
Turell’s black eyes burned, turning red like overheated coals. “But I was promised.”
Shit, Pithel demons are scary.
Luc stood his ground. “Well, whoever promised you, lied. Maybe you should take it up with them.” Keeping his cool, he flicked a piece of lint off his shirt, glad he’d got dressed before coming downstairs.
“I say we take it anyway.” The Pithel demon closest to Turell sent Luc a leer. “Then we eat his soul.”
It was amazing what little effort it took to rip out a demon’s heart. It was much harder to get it off your hands. Luc flicked the organ on the ground before meeting Turell’s gaze with a cold one of his own. “I hope you have a backup plan.”
The sound of the demon’s dead body falling to the ground echoed loudly in the still room.
Luc wiped his hand on the demon leader’s chest.
For a moment, Turell watched Luc’s hand as he smeared the blood on his clean white skin, then he threw back his head and laughed. “Dylan was a stupid second, I’m glad to see him gone.” He gave a quick sweep of the room with his eyes. “What should we do? I want a vampire enclave and obviously I can’t have this one.”
Luc scanned the room and spotted Gabriel, Nikko’s lieutenant. “Gabe, who’s Nikko’s biggest enemy?”
Might as well get rid of two birds with one stone.
“Thomas,” Gabe said without hesitation.
“Where does he live?” asked Luc.
“In the memorial cemetery on Queen Anne hill.”
Luc waved his hand. “Well, there you go. Obviously, a bastard that needs to die. Help yourself.”
Turell gave a short nod of his head. “Thank you, friend. I’ll send you a token once we get settled.”
The demons turned and left.
Luc spun around to see Nikko’s vampires shifting stares between him and the demon on the ground. “Jerrod.”
“Yes, Master.” The vampire stood slightly behind the crowd but stepped forward at the sound of Luc’s voice.
“Have you any interest in trying Pithel blood? I hear it’s a delicacy.”
Jerrod’s headshake was definite. “No, Master. I have enough demon blood.”
“Gabe, please do with this what you will as long as it’s cleaned up.” His gaze swept the entire group. “I don’t think we need to mention this little incident to Nikko. He worries.” Luc flashed a smile. “I’m so fragile you know.”