- Meet The Girls
- Meet The Guys
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Thirteen
- Chapter Fourteen
This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.
He was like a ghost. An apparition who filled her head. He drowned out her thoughts. Yet, try as she might think of something else, everything always led back to him. More than just his strong jaw and the hyper-vigilance of his stare. More than just the broad, chorded muscle she had noted beneath the suit that seemed ill-fitted on a physique like his.
Archangel was likely her last chance at escape. Her last chance to slip out from beneath Landyn’s thumb.
Every moment afterward was spent daydreaming about ways to get to him. If she played her cards right, she could give the security Landyn had given her the slip. Or, if the fates were kind, she could entreaty him to let her go off on her own. He was at his low point — remorseful for the damage he had done to her.
The daydreams became more and more elaborate. She thought about where she’d find him — how his lips would twist up in a too-knowing smile. “You’re ready to leave the Devil?” He’d ask and hold out his hand. She would take it, uncaring if she traded one devil for another. This one, she knew, wouldn’t warm her bed. This one, she knew, she wouldn’t let near her heart.
What was left of hers had been broken into tiny pieces and ground to dust beneath Landyn’s boot heel. The tricks that were played on her before wouldn’t work again. Now, she was hardened. Now, she was wise to the cruelties of men. She was learning to return fire. To allow herself to be molded into something harder. Less forgiving.
She owed Damien that.
There wasn’t much that money couldn’t buy. Anywhere, but in Vegas particularly. She took her allotment and put it in the underground, paying those with loose lips for whatever information they could dig up on Archangel.
For the most part, people were keen to keep their mouths shut. His reputation preceded him, and it seemed everyone she had come into contact with had ample reason for wanting their truths to themselves. It took quite a bit of finessing but, finally, at long last, someone returned with information on how to find him. Where to find him.
It was easy to formulate a plan with that information under her belt.
She arranged for a day spent out of her ivory tower. She went to Landyn with her hand held out. She expected his credit card pressed into the flat of her palm. The Devil never stopped delighting in those little moments of domesticity. In his twisted little mind, he felt that it meant he was providing for her — that he was giving her something that no one else could.
Wealth didn’t lessen the hurt he delivered upon her. Fortune didn’t soften the edges of her scars. But if it meant that she could buy some time until she got away from him, she’d cater to whatever sick fantasy he had.
Landyn insisted that she should get whatever she pleased. Make a day of it. As always, when a problem arose, his only way of fixing it was to throw mountains of money at it. “Left my girlfriend for dead, buy her a new wardrobe.”
Eli traced the inside of her teeth with her tongue. A self-soothing action she couldn’t halt, not even as she slipped out of the car and onto the street. The driver had been given strict instructions not to leave her current location. Fortunately enough, he hadn’t been asked to follow her inside.
Deep down in the marrow of her bones, she couldn’t help but feel that the trust he was showing her was just another trick. She knew she should be more cautious, but desperation made her reckless.
No one was going to save her. So she had to do it herself.
Eli padded through the store, cutting through the familiar rows of overpriced garments. She would exit through the back, which would lead her into the shopping center. From there, Archangel’s known location was only a stone’s throw away.
She stuffed her cell phone into a decorative pot outside the store, knowing full well that her every movement had been tracked. Her contact had left her a bag of petty cash and a burner phone in the neighboring pot, allowing her to call for a car. It might have been easier to have her contact drive her, but she wasn’t willing to take any risks. Doing it this way ensured that she was faceless. Nameless. Just another stranger they were slated to drop off at their destination.
Her heart hammered loudly in her ears as she climbed into the backseat. She buckled herself up, affording the driver barely a few words. She much preferred when they were silent. Small talk was the cruelest torture that could have ever been wished upon someone.
The driver’s expression shifted considerably the closer they drew to their destination. Vegas hadn’t earned the nickname the “City of Sin” for no reason. There were places that even the toughest would think twice about going to. And they were traveling deep into the heart of the uncivilized world of crime. Where might made right and brawn was all that one needed to get ahead. It was more than just a rumor that a funny look earned many people a few nights in the hospital. His knuckles turned white against the steering wheel as he pulled to a stop outside of a biker bar.
The Flat Tire. A biker bar that swore no fealty to anyone. From what Eli had been able to glean, they had a strict rule against wearing their colors. It was supposed to be a place for everyone to converge. A wholesome message for what she knew was less wholesome norms.
It wasn’t a place for like-minded people to meet. Nor was it a place to make friends. Instead, it was a place to forge alliances — neutral territory for them to discuss the finer details of their business plans. But, even more importantly, it was a place for people like Archangel to hang out. Third-party scum bags whose loyalty went to whoever bankrolled their next job.
Eli tried not to think of the eyes that pinned her down as she stepped into the smoke-filled bar. Her eyes darted around, drinking in her surroundings. There was a threadbare pool table to her left, fraught with cigarette burns and scratches from wayward cues. A buxom blonde practically used its edge like a push-up bra for her asscheeks as she cast a disdainful look in Eli’s direction.
A few tables lined the walls, all of which looked like they hadn’t seen a damp rag in well over a decade. A man with raven-dyed mutton chops glowered at her, his fingers tightening around the base of his stein.
Eli had been made the moment she crossed the threshold to this place. They knew who she was. After all, Landyn had done his best to make her something of a trophy for all to see. His prize.
A long, black bar hugged the furthest wall. There were shelves of sweet liquid release, illuminated by cheap, strobing LED strips. The bartender was little more than one giant tattoo on his russet skin. His closely cropped hair barely hid a hideous car that crawled its way behind his ear and along the back of his skull. Bored, he kept his attention locked on the glass in his hands. He buffed non-existent watermarks out of it, his dark eyes meeting hers just long enough to say that he saw her face. “I’d offer you a drink, but you’d be out of your fucking mind if you wanted to sit down.”
“I don’t,” she drawled, gesturing at the bar stool. “Everything looks sticky.”
“Figured that would make you right at home,” he rumbled.
Eli’s jaw worked, his eyes narrowing on the stranger. She hated how everyone knew her. Not just her face, but whose bed she had come crawling out of.
“Amazed you still have your head.”
“Probably because of shock,” she said, her hands braced against the now confirmed sticky bar-top.
“You might be right about that. So, now the question becomes what you’re doing here, Lilith?”
She frowned, her head quirking doggedly to the side. “Lilith?”
“Mother of Demons, bride to the Mourning Star,” he grinned, clearly pleased at his poetry.
She bared her teeth. “Mother to no one, and bride to no one either.”
“That’s not what the word on the street is.”
“You’re all just a bunch of gossipers, eh?” She grinned, resisting the urge to grimace as she leaned onto the bar, feeling her forearms sticking to the surface.
“That’s how you survive. Keeping your ear to the ground.”
“What else have you heard, hm? Keeping your ear to the ground?”
He grinned wickedly, his shoulder lifting in a lopsided shrug. “Not for me to say, Queen Elizaveta.”
She gnashed her teeth together, her eyes darkening as she studied him. He was good not to show his fear, but she could hear his heart rate pick up. Scent the sweat on his skin.
“It does beg the question of what you’re doing outside of your ivory tower,” he added, his eyes darting to hers. “Across enemy lines, at that.”
“I’m looking for someone,” she said, her hip braced against the railing. “I was informed that he could be found here.”
“There are many people who can be ‘found here,'” he said, his lips wrapping around his teeth in an unflattering line. His gaze hardened as he studied her, undoubtedly trying to assess her to see what sort of trouble she would be bringing down on them.
“I’m looking for someone in particular.”
“Do I get a name?”
The bartender’s spine went rigid as if he had heard the whisperings of a ghost, tracing the line of his neck. He looked around, double-checking to ensure that no one had overheard her. “You’re sure that’s who you’re looking for?” He asked, his expression ashen. “No one else? Maybe someone who can… provide a similar service.”
“No,” she said, her eyes locked onto his. Unflinching. Unwavering. “I want Archangel.”
The bartender’s eyes shifted nervously over his shoulder, locking onto someone at the far end of the bar. Eli didn’t have to study the interaction to sense that they were having a silent conversation. Curiosity niggled at the back of her mind, leaving her to wonder what it was about this man that made everyone act like an Eldritch terror had confronted them.
She hoped to find out soon.
After what felt like an eternity, the bartender slipped out from behind the counter. He swallowed audibly, inclining his head toward the kitchens, such as they were. Together, they silently made their way through a tomb of crusty linoleum and grease-stained stainless steel. Finally, they emerged in the back alley, swallowed up by brick buildings and the acrid stench of urine and trash. “He’ll be out in a few,” the bartender said, his eyes roving over her as if getting one last good look at her.
Wrongness settled into the pit of her stomach when the door closed behind him. She fished around in her pocket, producing a pack of cigarettes. She began to pace with one wedged between her teeth — one foot in front of the other. Soon, the cigarette was lit, and the smoke burned her lungs on the way down.
One foot in front of the other.
A growl erupted behind her — the sound of something cutting through air whizzed past her head. She felt the sting of something solid collide with her shoulder, dropping her weight to one knee.
There was another sharp gust of wind as the weapon was pulled back, pulled high overhead. Eli rolled out of the way, her cigarette abandoned on the concrete. A low slew of profanity escaped her as she kicked at her assailant. But, much to her surprise, it was not the bartender who had her pinned to the ground. Instead, it was the man with the raven-dyed mutton chops. Her pride ached more than her shoulder as she drove herself to her feet.
“You shouldn’t have come around here, Princess,” the man barked, his brogue implacable in the heat of the moment.
“I’ll say. Getting attacked in a back alley wasn’t the warm welcome I was expecting.”
“You’re lucky this is all you’re gettin’!” He hissed, diving for her again. She was quicker now that she was on her feet, taking full advantage of the skills her preternatural nature gave her. Her hands closed around the crowbar, pulling it free with a precise twist. The man’s wrist cracked and spasmed.
He cried out in pain, gripping it in his uninjured hand. The movement and agony had dropped him to his knees, leaving him to stare terrified and pained up at her.
“If you see Archangel, let him know I’m looking for him,” she said, dropping the crowbar unceremoniously on his head. He tried to shield himself from the collision, instead only managing to bend back his fingers in the process and still earn a throbbing headache.
He offered a garbled response. Not that she could hear much over her laughter.
It would take more than that to keep her away from Archangel.
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