Escaping the Devil: Chapter Twenty Four

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CONTENT WARNING

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.

Trigger Warning: Violence


Sound came back to her first. Elizaveta was suspended in a sea of inky blackness, too aware of her limbs. Everything felt heavy. Even the breath in her lungs felt like it weighed a tonne. She tried her luck, tapping a finger at first. The movement felt slow — sluggish — as if an anchor was wrapped around the tiny appendage.

Everything was too muddy for her to make any sense of it. Then, distantly, she realized she could hear bestial growling. Panic welled up in her breast when she recalled where she was and who she was with. She tried to blink, hoping that it would be enough to clear her vision of its twilight.

It worked. But when it did, she found herself wishing she could go back to her blindness. Landyn’s body was pitched over hers, his teeth bared as the ceiling moved behind him. She became alarmingly aware of the stone against her back — the way that it grabbed and tugged at the bared skin of her spine as she was dragged across the floor.

Clarity came to her like a gunshot sounding in her head. She flailed, her back arching off the ground so she could kick at Landyn. She pressed her heels into his chest and pushed him backward. A startled sounding snarl ripped past his lips. His grip on her legs faltered, which gave her the only opening she needed. Twisting herself to the side, she drove her knee hard into the stone floor. She barely acknowledged the pain as she scrambled away, hoping to get far enough to find her footing again.

Her head swam, and her vision threatened to give out on her with every labored breath. 

“Why don’t you ever just stay down?

His hand closed around her ankle. Pain lanced up her calf as he tugged her back. Her chin cracked against the floor. Hot agony traced the lines of her jaw and dugs its fingertips into her temple. Her breath escaped her in an exhale, emptying her lungs. They burned, aching in protest when she struggled to draw in another breath. Landyn’s hands found her throat, cutting off the blood flow. She scratched at his hands, trying to claw them away from her neck. She knew Landyn well enough to know that letting her live the first time had been a kindness. The chances of him being so kind a second time were slim to none. 

Her heartbeat raced, thumping at an impossible speed. Her cheeks felt molten hot — even the top of her head felt like a volcano, soon to erupt. But then everything began to slow. A blessed stillness. In those final moments, she accepted her Devil’s fate. 

She had known he would be the death of her. Even at the beginning. 

A thunderous boom sounded from another world — the sound of the planets colliding and galaxies being born. The pressure around her neck loosened, and in this strange, hazy place, she was able to breathe again. She felt her body slip from his grasp and land on the marble floor with a solid thud. This time, there was no pain.

Relief washed over her — the coolness of the tile beneath her cheek felt heaven-sent. 

The end had come for her, and she was ready.

Hideous snarling erupted behind her, and panic ignited anew. It had been too much to hope that she would find herself in a good place — whatever that afterlife would have looked like. She had earned the stain on her hands, just as everyone else in Nex had. 

The hellhounds were nearby. She could all but smell their breath and feel their spittle on her heels. Still lightheaded, she scrambled to her feet. Her throat burned, and her chest ached.

When she turned, she saw an imposing mass of muscle standing over a smaller frame. She watched a tanned, tattooed hand pull back and descend — she heard meat against meat. The unmistakable thud of fists demanding their pound of flesh.

It took her too long to realize what she was seeing.

She was there, in her apartment, still very much so alive, watching as Archangel took on the Devil.

Landyn used his taller, leaner mass to throw Gunner off balance. With a groan and a thud, the coyote was on his back. The Devil climbed on top, bringing down his own torrent of fists. Even from across the room, she could see his eyes taking on their Lupine hue. What little was left of his humanity had been shed with the blood pooling on the floor. He was replaced with a monster — a demon wearing his flesh. 

No. The Devil had never worn a mask. 

She had only just been too blind to see him for what he truly was.

Gunner arched off the ground, driving his hips upward until Landyn was forced to balance his weight onto one knee. Then, propped up on one elbow, the Archangel drove his skull into his enemy’s. A sickening crack turned her insides to water.

Landyn fell backward, his hand closed around his gushing nose. He shrieked out his anguish, only to have his words muffled and caught by his hands.

The smuggler didn’t care to hear what he had to say. He was smarter than Eli in not allowing him a moment to spew his vitriol. Barely a heartbeat passed before the mountainous man grabbed him by the collar and drew him up to his feet. All legs, and long limbs, Landyn looked like a rag doll in comparison. 

Another maelstrom of fists came down on the Werewolf’s torso. Landyn did his best to grab hold of his assailant — bloodied hands clutching to the leather collar and jacket. But as the hits kept coming, it became clear that his only intention was to keep himself on his feet. 

Eli watched on, transfixed by the bloodshed. Panic stilled her in place, cementing her feet to the ground. 

Somehow, the Devil managed to change the tide of the battle. He mustered up the last reserves of his strength and drove Archangel backward. His legs collided with her couch, sending him toppling ass-over-tea-kettle to the ground. Landyn was too quick to pull a knife from his pocket, the blade hastily unsheathed.

Eli lurched toward the counter — her fingers closed around the pearl handle of Landyn’s favored gun. Her hands shook as she leveled it at him. 

“Stop right where you fucking are!” She growled as she thumbed back the safety.

Landyn turned his vicious scowl on her, the blade still clutched in the palm of his hand. 

“Don’t do this, Eli,” he growled, his eyes shining viciously, made all the more threatening by his blood-drenched face.

“Drop the knife.”

“Eli—”

“Drop the fucking knife, or I swear, I will blow your brains out all over the apartment!”

He jumped at the caustic snarl in her throat. Wide-eyed, he held his hands up, the blade clutched between his thumb and forefinger. “All right, Elizaveta,” he crooned, his voice too soothing for what had occurred. “Just take it easy, okay?”

“Put. The. Knife. Down.”

Landyn hinged at the waist, his eyes locked on hers as he slowly lowered the knife to the floor. “Eli, it doesn’t have to be like—” He palmed the blade and lurched for her.

There was a crash — the sound of ceramic breaking. Landyn’s body fell limp to the floor. 

Gunner stood behind him, clutching the shattered remains of an end table lamp. 

They stared at each other for a long moment. Thousands of words were exchanged in the meeting of their eyes. But neither could bring themselves to give breath to anything. 

The Archangel inclined his head toward the door, wiping his blood from his mouth with the back of his hand.

“What are you doing here?” She hissed, her hands still shaking as she held the gun.

“Would you mind maybe putting that thing down?” His eyes darted to the weapon and then back to her. Slowly, she lowered the gun. Her hands moved by reflex, putting the safety back into place. Then, with a sniff, she tucked it into the waistband of her pants. The cold felt good against her flushed skin. Her head throbbed and only promised to worsen the longer they stood under the too-harsh lighting. “We need to get out of here.”

“We aren’t supposed to be leaving for a few more hours….”

“Things change,” he drawled, allowing his gaze to focus on Landyn’s limp body. “It’s only a matter of time before people come looking for Tweedle-Dipshit here. And then you’re going to be in for a world of hurt. We need to get moving.”

Eli nodded, grinding her teeth as she weighed his words. He was right, of course. It would be harder to escape looking the way they did, especially with Landyn’s unconscious body still being in her apartment. If they didn’t get out of there soon, someone would come looking for him. 

“Shit,” she hissed, raking her fingers through her hair. “Shit, shit, shit. How am I supposed to… leave? They saw him come in!” 

“Out your front door,” he said, carving a beeline toward her closet and producing her bag. With the way he moved around, one would have thought he had been there hundreds of times before. It was unsettling how he knew where she had stashed it.

Grudgingly, she took the bag from his outstretched hand. Her eyes locked on his demanding answers. 

He gave none.

“How do you expect me to walk out that door without the guards knowing that something is going on?”

Gunner smiled a Cheshire smile, his shoulder lifting in a half shrug. “I guess you’ll just have to trust me.”

She didn’t. Though, to be fair, she didn’t trust much of anyone. Especially in Vegas. Her tongue darted over her lip, her shoulders rolling back as she forced her spine to straighten. 

“Now, Eli,” he said, his tone gentler. Almost compassionate. “We need to get going. Before he wakes up.”

Her eyes darted to the Devil, now an unconscious, bloody mess on her floor. A delighted shiver rolled up her spine to realize that this would be how she last saw him. Pathetic and broken. The way he deserved to be.

She fidgeted with her hair, pulling her dark tresses into place to conceal the rapidly bruising flesh of her neck. Shouldering her bag, she took off in a purposeful stride toward the door. 

“I’ll meet you at La Cocina,” he said as he turned in the opposite direction to walk toward her balcony.

Eli offered no response despite how she mentally acknowledged him. Her words remained lodged in her throat, dread carving a straight path from the pit of her stomach. With considerable effort, she managed to reach for the door’s handle and still her shaking hands. With one final exhale, she twisted the knob and stepped outside.

Tobias gave her a worried once-over — and for a moment, she thought she saw Damien standing there in his place. A pain awoke in her breast, temporarily stilling her heart until the absence of its beating caused her insides to twist. 

Their eyes had met for only a second, but it felt like lifetimes had unfolded in their gaze. It was impossible to know if he sensed what was happening. Impossible to know if he was turning a blind eye. But, as one last parting gift for herself, she imagined that he did. That he saw her plight for what it was and knew that letting her go was the right thing to do.

It took every ounce of self-control to walk — and not run — down the hallway toward the elevator. It wasn’t until the doors opened and she stepped inside that she felt even a fraction of relief. But, even still, she knew that it was too soon to celebrate. 

The doors opened, spitting her out into the lobby she hoped she was seeing for the last time. She tried to pretend that everything was business as usual, managing to nod at those who caught her eye — smile at those she knew. She wondered what they’d think of her disappearance. She wondered if they even knew that Hell was not a place below their feet but instead located on the ninth floor.

The doors parted, and the night air kissed her cheeks. She smelled the rancor of Las Vegas streets — urine, trash, and stale alcohol. But more than that, she scented freedom on the winds.

She walked toward La Cocina, her hands in her pockets, her bag draped over her shoulder. And for the first time in years, she smiled.

She really smiled.



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