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By Larissa Ione
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2013 Larissa Ione
All rights reserved.
In any other building in the world, the sight of a hellhound lying on the floor with a baby in its mouth would send people screaming in horror or scrambling for weapons.
In a castle belonging to one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, people didn't bat an eye.
Reaver ignored the shaggy black beast that bared its teeth at him as he strode across the great room. Hellhounds hated angels, and the feeling was mutual.
"Thanatos," Reaver called out, "Cujo is slobbering on your son."
Thanatos poked his blond head out of the library doorway. "That's why Logan gets a lot of baths."
The hound, a puppy itself at around two hundred pounds, flopped onto its side and allowed Logan to tug on its fur and ears as the infant climbed on top of the beast. Logan was going to be a soggy, furry mess by the time his mother, Regan, got home.
It had been months since Reaver had been here, and not much had changed. The fire that burned practically year-round was going in the hearth, vampire servants bustled between the cavernous rooms, and the mouthwatering aroma of fresh bread wafted from the kitchen. Regan had added personal touches here and there, replacing some of Thanatos's ancient weapons and gory paintings on the walls with tapestries and pictures of the local landscape. Throw rugs now covered the hard, cold floors, and baby toys lay scattered like colorful land mines that squeaked in shrill protest when Reaver's booted feet accidentally stomped on them.
The keep's massive wooden doors flew open behind Reaver, bringing a chilly blast of late spring Greenlandic wind through the entrance. Ares, Reseph, and Limos came in with the breeze, Ares in shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops, Reseph in jeans and nothing else, and Limos in a glaringly orange maternity sundress. When she saw Reaver, she grinned, and despite being five months pregnant, she tackled him in a fierce embrace.
He'd always loved her enthusiasm, even before he learned she was his daughter, and he hugged her close. He just wished he'd been able to give her much-needed hugs when she was a child. Wished he could have been there for her first steps, her first words.
If only he'd known about her. And Ares. And Thanatos. And Reseph.
"'Sup, Pops?" Limos pulled away, taking her tropical piña colada scent with her. "Where have you been? We haven't seen you in months."
Time ran differently in Heaven, so it felt like only days to Reaver. And maybe he'd been a little hesitant to visit. For years he'd been the Horsemen's Heavenly Watcher, but the dynamic of their relationship had changed since he'd discovered they were his offspring. He'd been fired as their Watcher, and more important, he wasn't sure how to be a father to five-thousand-year-old legends.
Worse, he didn't know how to be a grandfather. He was over five thousand years old and technically could be a grandfather thousands of times over, but he didn't feel old enough to be a grandfather even once.
"I've been in the Akashic Library trying to find something ... anything, that'll help track down Gethel," Reaver said, and Thanatos growled at the mention of the Horsemen's ex-Watcher, an angel who betrayed Heaven and nearly killed Than's son. "I even searched her home in Heaven, but it's been ransacked by Enforcers already."
Enforcers, Heaven's angel lawkeepers, had made finding the renegade angel a top priority, their zealous pursuit spurred by the fact that the entire underworld was buzzing about her rumored involvement in some sort of plot against Heaven. Intel from the Heavenly spy network indicated a countdown was also involved. But a countdown to what?
"It should not be this difficult." Frustration lashed Reaver all the way to his wing feathers. He'd been searching for eight months without a single lead. "She isn't technically a fallen angel, so she can't hide in Sheoul—" He broke off, wheeling around at the sudden sensation of evil emanating from the doorway.
"My ears are burning." Tiny flecks of light materialized into a shape. Gethel's shape.
Instantly, the Horsemen flicked their fingers over the crescent-shaped scars on their throats, activating their armor and their weapons. Snarling, the hellhound leaped to his feet, somehow sweeping Logan beneath his big body as everyone put themselves between the child and Gethel.
"Limos!" Than shouted. "Get Logan out of here."
Reaver didn't hesitate. He blasted the angel with nuclear-grade direlight. The blue spear of sizzling light whispered through Gethel's body and blew up the keep's massive wooden door. Gethel, unharmed, merely smiled, even when he sent an arc of fire at her head. The flaming column passed through her like an arrow through fog.
"How the fuck did you do that?" Thanatos advanced on her, sword leveled at her throat, but Reaver suspected the Horseman's weapon would be as useless as his own. The souls Than stored in his armor—the souls of those he killed—swirled at his feet, anxious to kill. "How did you get in here? My keep is warded against anyone but my Watchers and Reaver flashing in."
"The child I carry lent me his power." Gethel touched her stomach, and Reaver's mouth went dry at the sight of the bump under her palm.
What kind of child could she possibly be carrying? Power of that magnitude in any species was almost unheard of.
The answer came to him like a poleax between the eyes. A Radiant, or Shadow Angel, as some called them, would be powerful enough to blow through Than's wards. But there hadn't been any angels of that class around for centuries. If Gethel was pregnant with an angel who could travel freely through both Heaven and Hell, the archangels needed to know.
The hairs on the back of Reaver's neck stood up, and half a second later, the Horsemen's Sheoulic and Heavenly Watchers, Revenant and Lorelia, flashed in.
Ares's leather armor creaked as he stepped closer to Gethel, his two-handed sword poised to strike a lethal blow. "Explain."
Gethel dragged out a dramatic pause. "I'm going to give birth to Lucifer."
Bullshit. Lucifer, Satan's right-hand man, was dead. Reaver had seen the fallen angel torn to pieces with his own eyes. So what was Gethel's game?
"You mean Lucifer's child?" Reaver hoped not. Any spawn of Lucifer's would be as powerful as most archangels.
"Lucifer himself," she said sweetly, and Reaver's stomach wrenched with disbelief. "I was chosen to be the vessel that will give him physical form again." She eyed Thanatos's sword. "Go ahead and run me through. I'm not really here. My precious Lucifer has the power to project my image to the moon if I want."
A thunderous rumble tore through the castle, and then two archangels dressed in business casual slacks and shirts slammed to the ground in twin rays of golden light. Before anyone could react, Raphael and Metatron swept the Horsemen and Revenant, their evil Watcher, aside like flies, leaving them lying unconscious on the ground. Lorelia stood there looking stunned and grateful to be left conscious.
Reaver snared Raphael's arm. "What did you do to them?"
Irritation flickered in the angel's expression, and Reaver knew he was close to being laid out by some über-powerful archangel weapon.
"They'll recover." Raphael gestured to Gethel. "When we get hold of you, you won't recover."
"You are an angel, Gethel." Metatron's silver-blue eyes flashed lightning, but his words were measured. Controlled. The calm before the tempest. "You can stop this madness before it's too late."
"Why would I do that? I'm carrying the second most powerful being in Sheoul." She drummed her fingers on her belly. "His power will rival even yours."
"How is this possible?" Lorelia asked, obsessively twisting the ruby ring on her pinky. "Reseph destroyed Lucifer months ago."
In truth, Reseph's demon half, Pestilence, had also played a key role in Lucifer's messy demise, but Reaver wasn't going to split hairs right now.
"Lucifer was destroyed," Metatron agreed, never taking his eyes off Gethel. "But his soul was sent to Sheoulgra. Given the right, albeit unlikely, conditions—"
"He could be reborn," Raphael finished sourly. "But under what circumstances?"
Metatron closed his eyes as Gethel smirked, waiting for him to solve the puzzle. "Only Satan is powerful enough to sire a reincarnated fallen angel of Lucifer's status. The mother would need to be someone pure and holy who fell from grace."
"Or an angel who betrayed Heaven and Earth," Reaver said grimly. "Gethel."
Gethel clapped. "Bravo."
Raphael glared at Reaver. "If you'd killed her when you had the chance, this wouldn't have happened."
Way to stab me where it hurts, dickhead. Reaver's failure to kill the golden-haired wench during their last battle ate at him like acid. But that didn't mean he liked being taken to task about it by a puffed-up archangel who had parked his butt safely behind his monstrosity of a desk while the human realm suffered under a demon invasion and near-apocalypse.
"If any of you had gotten off your pampered asses to, I don't know, help, maybe she'd be dead by now," Reaver said, wondering if he should throw in a few expletives for emphasis. Ultimately, he decided not to push his luck. Either archangel could turn him into a juicy stain.
"You really should have killed me," Gethel said, twisting the knife Raphael had already stabbed him with. "Now I'm under the protection of both Satan and Lucifer." She patted her belly again, as if she was carrying a sweet, innocent baby and not, literally, the spawn of Satan. "Granted, my little boy isn't as strong as he could be yet, but I'm about to rectify that. Harvester's blood, extracted with the Dark Lord's own pressing machines, will nourish him." Fat black veins started to spread from her fingers to her arms, neck, and finally, her face, and her voice went low. "And then you will all know his wrath. All of Heaven will feel it."
Gethel's image faded away, and Reaver's heart plummeted to his feet at the mention of Harvester. Until five months ago, Reaver had believed she was the enemy. Raphael's revelation that she'd been working with Heaven all along, that she'd fallen from Heaven in order to watch over the Horsemen, had knocked Reaver for a loop.
But what had really blown his mind was that the archangels refused to rescue her from Satan's prison. Her service to Heaven and mankind deserved better.
Plus, Reaver wanted answers. He needed to know why she would give up everything to watch over children who weren't even hers.
Lorelia smoothed her hands down the front of her gray business jacket and matching skirt as she looked at the empty space where Gethel had stood. For at least the tenth time, Reaver wondered how she'd ever been chosen as Watcher. She'd always come across as a little mousy, a lot inquisitive, and definitely more scholar than warrior.
"What was Gethel talking about?" she asked.
Metatron spoke up, his voice still calm, but an underlying current of anger charged the air around him. "Lucifer's power was second only to Satan's before he died; being born as Satan's son will only make him stronger." Like most archangels, Metatron rarely put away his wings, and now the silver wingtips that matched the streaks in his dark hair fluttered at his feet. "Worse, the rare reincarnation of any fallen angel results in fractures in Heaven's very foundation."
"But Lucifer isn't just any angel," Raphael said, his voice going hoarse as the implications of Lucifer's rebirth sank in. "His birth will cause cataclysmic events in Heaven. Quakes. Floods. Volcanic eruptions. Angels and humans in Heaven will be caught in the disasters and die, lost forever."
Lorelia asked, "How does Harvester fit in with this?"
"She's Satan's daughter," Reaver told Lorelia. "Feeding Lucifer her blood can only make him stronger."
"She's not just his daughter," Metatron reminded them grimly. "She's the only one of his children conceived while he was still an angel. Even though she's fallen, her blood will give Lucifer some talents and powers that are usually exclusive only to Heavenly angels."
"We have to find and destroy Gethel before Lucifer is born," Raphael, angel of the freaking obvious, said.
"And how do you propose to do that?" Lorelia asked.
Metatron and Raphael looked stumped, but Reaver had an idea that could not only take care of Lucifer but could force the archangels to do what they should have done months ago.
"We'll have to spring Harvester from Satan's prison."
"Absolutely not," Raphael barked.
Metatron snorted. "Impossible. Any rescue attempt on our part will confirm Heaven's role in her espionage against Satan, and it'll start a war—"
"Yeah, yeah," Reaver interrupted. "A war between Heaven and hell will mean death, destruction, and rivers running with angel blood, blah, blah."
Funny how the archangels were concerned about this war when they hadn't been all that worried about an apocalypse in the human realm. But then, most angels liked to bury their heads in the clouds and pretend humans and demons didn't exist.
"It's wrong that she's imprisoned," Reaver argued. "She was helping our side."
Raphael shook his head. "She was well aware that if she was ever caught, she'd go down as a lone wolf who was working her own evil agenda. Her cover was blown, she got caught, and it's over."
"I still don't understand," Lorelia said. A summoned copy of A History of the Watchers of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse popped into her hand, and she immediately started flipping through it. Yup, scholar. "How will rescuing Harvester help our cause?"
Reaver chose his words carefully. Raphael and Metatron needed to believe Reaver had no ulterior motive. That he didn't want to rescue Harvester in part so he could piece together the past he'd lost when his memories of being Yenrieth were ripped from his mind. He'd asked for his memory back, over and over, but he'd been met with refusal every time.
But Harvester had known Yenrieth. She'd given up her wings for his children. Clearly, Yenrieth had meant something to her once, even if she didn't remember what he looked like.
"As Satan's daughter," Reaver began, "Harvester can sense her siblings. She can find Lucifer even if he's inside Gethel."
Lorelia scowled. "What's to keep her brothers and sisters from finding Harvester after she escapes?"
"Harvester's ability to sense Satan's offspring is unique," Metatron answered, "for the same reason her blood is stronger than that of her siblings. She was conceived in Heaven before Satan was expelled."
"No." Raphael crossed his arms over his chest and pegged Reaver with a hard glare. "Nyet. Nein. Non. Nei. Nu. Na. Shise. Yai. You aren't rescuing Harvester. Is any of this getting through to you?"
Reaver smiled. "You're wrong about shise. That's Sheoulic for fungus. The word you're looking for is shishe." Idiot.
"Why am I not surprised by your fluency in the universal demon language?" Raphael's own smile was chilly. "Did all your demon friends and lovers teach you?"
Reaver didn't take the archangel's bait. His best friends were demons, but he hadn't been intimate with a demon in years. Not since the day he earned his wings back. And right now, his friends weren't the issue.
"If you won't mount a rescue for Harvester, let me do it. Give me command of a flight of battle angels."
Raphael scoffed. "You want command of an entire flight? You're barely capable as a battle soldier."
"I'm more powerful than any battle angel, and you know it."
"But you can't follow orders. How are you supposed to lead if you can't follow?" Metatron sounded almost reasonable. Wrong, but reasonable.
Raphael's shrewd gaze fixed on Reaver as if stripping him down to his very essence. Reaver actually looked down to make sure he was still clothed in jeans and a navy button-down.
"We appreciate your wanting to help," Raphael said in the same tone someone might use to pat a child on the head. "But even if we did decide to rescue Harvester, you'd be the last person we'd send. She hated Yenrieth. She'd be more likely to hand you over to Satan than let you rescue her."
Reaver frowned. "But she gave up her wings for his—my—children. Why would she do that if she hated me?"
Raphael's mouth puckered like he'd licked a rotten lemon. "I've wondered the same thing." He waved his hand, dismissing the subject and Reaver. "We'll take it from here."
"You can't do this—"
Raphael waved his hand again, and Reaver's voice cut out. "We can do whatever we want."
Excerpted from Reaver by Larissa Ione. Copyright © 2013 Larissa Ione. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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