The Damned Series, Book Four
By LM Pruitt
Release Date August 8, 2017
Enemies are so stimulating.–Katherine Hepburn
If you can look past the part where they’re trying to kill you.
The Damned want my head on a platter. The Winged have similar plans.
As for Morning Star and the Power… well, only They know.
One false step… and everything is lost.
CONTAINS SCENES OF GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL ACTIVITY. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
“You’ll catch cold if you stay out here much longer.”
I didn’t turn around, continuing to study the skyline. “I’m fine.”
“It’s three in the morning. You should be asleep.” He didn’t sound angry about the fact I wasn’t or the fact I was standing outside in late September in sleep pants and a thin cotton tank. If anything, his scolding sounded as if it was for form and nothing else. “It’s been a long day for all of us.”
“Yes.” Now I did turn around, studying Barry with the same intensity I’d shown the various buildings of Prague. “Why are you mad at me?”
“I’m not mad.” He pulled a cigar from the pocket of his sleep pants but didn’t light it, staring at the tip for a moment before sliding it back in his pocket. “I’m tired, Julie. As I said, it’s been a long day. The next few days—weeks, rather—promise to be equally long. We all need to sleep, to keep our strength up for what lies ahead.”
“You haven’t touched me since we got back.” Since he stood in front of my sister and ripped her heart out and then walked away without a backward glance. “You’ve barely said anything all night long.”
“As I said, I’m tired.” He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a long sigh. “There’s been quite a bit of upheaval in the last thirty-six hours or so. Quite a bit. Forgive me if I’m not my usual charming self. You have more than enough people here to pay you attention if you’re feeling uncared for.”
“That’s not what I meant.” I turned back to the city view, widening my eyes and blinking rapidly in an effort to keep the tears at bay. I didn’t have a problem with using tears as a weapon when they were called for but I wouldn’t use them with him, ever. “You’re right. It’s late. Go to sleep. I’m fine.”
“We both know I’m not going to sleep until you do.” I heard the sound of metal scraping over concrete and glanced over my shoulder to find he’d pulled one of the patio chairs free of the table. Sitting down and stretching out his legs, he said, “As long as you’re here, I’m here.”
“Arguing will only frustrate us both, Julie Elizabeth, and we’ve had enough frustration for the day.” He slid further down in the seat, almost slouching, and crossed his arms. “As long as you’re here, I’m here.”
“But do you want to be here?” The question tumbled out before I even realized it was in my mind and I bit my tongue, already regretting it. “Never mind. You don’t have to answer that.”
“Come here.” When I didn’t move, he uncrossed his arms and held out one hand. “Please.”
Crossing the balcony, I took his hand, curling up in his lap and resting my head on his shoulder. We sat in silence for a few minutes before he cleared his throat. “I don’t know any other way to say it. I can simply say as long as you’re here, I’m here. When you want to leave, we’ll leave.”
“And where would we go?” Joanne’s face in the instant after Barry verbally sucker punched her, Asmodeus’s face the second after I shot him, flashed through my mind and I hunched my shoulders as if the memory carried a physical blow. “There’s no place left. We burned all those bridges today.”
“The thing about bridges is they can always be rebuilt and when they are, they’re stronger than before they burned.” He brushed my hair away from my face, stroking one hand down my back and pulling me tighter against him. “But since you don’t want to leave, the discussion is moot.”
“We’re doing the right thing.”
“The right thing done the wrong way is no longer the right thing.”
“If there was a way to do this differently, we would have taken it.” We’d tried to take it. We’d tried to meet the others halfway. Nobody—Lilith, Asmodeus, the Power, Morning Star—wanted to bend.
So we would have to break them.
“After the raids begin today, there is no turning back. You and your supporters will be branded traitors. There will be bounties on your heads.” He pressed his lips to my hair, breathing deep. “On all our heads. You’ve never lived through a war.”
It wasn’t a question but I answered anyway. “No, I haven’t.”
“I’ve been through more than my fair share, even considering my age. When it’s impossible to die from manmade weapons, you tend to fight in wars simply to alleviate the boredom.” He turned, pressing his face in to my hair. “And they’re nothing compared to supernatural wars. So far you’ve only seen the pretty side of Hell. There are things which will be unleashed which should never exist out of nightmares.”
“On us or by us?”
“Both.” His hand shook as he stroked my back and I wasn’t sure if he was trying to comfort me or himself. “Some things can’t be unseen or unfelt. You’ll carry it with you until the day you die.”
“Are you trying to scare me?”
“I’m trying to warn you. Up until now, everything about this war has been theoretical. Until today, no true shots were fired.” He drew back, his face unnaturally somber, even for him. “I know you did what you had to do and I don’t fault you for that decision.”
“But I officially started the war.” I nodded. “I know. I’ll live with it.”
“Things will get worse.” He pressed a kiss to my forehead. “They always do.”
“And then they get better.” I had to believe that. If I didn’t, then there was a good chance I was wrecking and ruining lives for no reason at all. I pressed my lips to his, lightly, for comfort more than anything else. “Things will be better. We’re going to make them better.”
We didn’t have any other choice.
About the Author:
L.M. Pruitt has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. A native of Florida with a love of New Orleans, she has the uncanny ability to find humor in most things and would probably kill a plastic plant. She knows this because she’s killed bamboo. Twice. She is the author of the Winged series, the Plaisir Coupable series, Jude Magdalyn series, the Moon Rising series, and Taken: A Frankie Post Novel.