“Is it safe?” Adam asked. He nodded to Horus, who ran off.
Giguhl nodded. “You and Valva spread out and look for a flower with black leaves and purple petals.”
“What are you going to do?” Adam asked.
“I’m going to make sure none of my relatives bother our girl.”
Adam and the others ran off. Giguhl came to sit next to me on the rock. He put a heavy arm around my shoulders. “So,” he said conversationally, “you’re mortal now.”
I nodded. “I guess so.”
“Ah, don’t look so glum. You’ve still got us. You still know how to use a gun. And I bet Zenobia could even teach you some of the mortal magic she knows.”
As long as I’d known him, Giguhl had never been a glass half full kind of demon. Granted, his form of pessimism was usually hilarious, but I wouldn’t exactly describe him as an optimist. It was one of the things we had in common. But I appreciated his words nonetheless. “Thanks, G.”
He rocked into me. “No problem. I’m just glad you’re still here.”
“So what’s the plan?”
“There’s a flower that grows here. It’s got healing powers that rival just about any medicine on earth. You’re gonna eat some of it, rehydrate, and then go face your destiny.”
A shocked laugh escaped me. “You make it sound so easy.”
He shrugged. “Hey, what’s up with Nyx?”
I glanced over his shoulder to where Nyx and Tristan stood. They were close together, whispering about something. “She just found out that her mom was one of the Dominae.
He gasped. “Shut up! Which one?”
“Dude, that’s awesome news.”
I shot him a look. “Does she look like she agrees?”
He looked at the vampire, who was sobbing. “No, but it’s good news for you.”
“Red, if she’s Persephone’s daughter, you’re off the hook. She can lead the vampires.”
I stilled. “Holy shit, you’re right.”
Giguhl patted my shoulder. “See? Everything’s going to work out just fine.” His tone was jovial, but I detected a fine thread of tension that made me wonder which of us he was trying to convince.
Just then, Adam and Valva ran back over. In the Vanity’s hand was a clump of purple flowers. “Found them,” she called triumphantly.
Giguhl took them from her. “Okay, just eat some of these petals.”
I took them from him and sniffed. The noxious odor made me jerk my hand away. “It smells like ass.”
“What is this exactly?”
“They’re called Demon Tears. They’re created when demons spill their—” He cut off quickly. “Never mind that. Eat up!”
I grimaced, imagining several scenarios, each less appetizing than the last. “Are you sure this will help?”
“Red, would I steer you wrong?”
I cocked a brow.
“Please. Give me some credit.”
“He’s right,” Valva said. “They’re very healing.”
I traded a worried glance with Adam. He shrugged. “I trust him.”
I brought a small petal to my mouth for a nibble. A flavor not unlike crotch sweat exploded in my mouth. “Ack! It’s disgusting.”
“Quit being such a baby.” The Mischief demon shoved two more petals between my lips and held my nose closed until I swallowed them. When he released me, my eyes were stinging but I managed to swat him.
“You’re a shitty nurse,” I bitched, grabbing the canteen Horus offered. The water tasted fresh and sweet after the disgusting Demon Tears. I gulped down the entire container.
“How do you feel?” Adam asked.
I paused and took inventory. I was still weak, but my mouth had stopped throbbing where the devil’s dentist had removed my fangs. I probed the wounds with my tongue and cringed. It was like applying my tongue to a battery. A brief flare of vanity made me wonder if regular teeth would grow in their place, but I pushed that thought aside. I quickly took stock of the rest of my body and realized that despite the obscene taste of the flowers, my stomach had settled. “A little better,” I admitted reluctantly.
“Ha! Told you.”
Raised voices cut through Giguhl’s moment of victory. We all looked over and saw Nyx and Tristan were full-on arguing now. “What’s their problem?” Adam asked.
“Hey!” Valva called to the couple. They cut off mid-yell and looked over. “Adam wants to know why you’re fighting.”
Adam rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Valva.”
“It’s nothing,” Nyx said quickly.
Tristan shot her an annoyed glance. “Like hell.”
The vampire looked like she wanted to strangle him. “Don’t you dare,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Anyway,” Tristan said. “We were arguing about whether she should give you her vest. She says yes; I say no.”
Everyone fell silent.
I rose from the boulder slowly. I was surprised to find my legs could support my weight. Giguhl sent me a superior look, which I ignored and walked over to Nyx. Putting an arm around her, I said, “Thanks for your concern, but I agree with Tristan.”
“Sabina!” Adam’s tone was angry.
I turned to face him and everyone else. “There is a reason the tests required me to be weakened. If I cheat, how can I prove to Lilith I am serious about proving I am the Chosen?”
“Um, guys!” Valva shouted. “No time. We’ve got unfriendlies hotfooting this way.”
My heart clenched. “Shit, is it Cain?”
Giguhl jumped up on the rock, nearly knocking Valva off. “Oh shit! He’s got an army of vampires with him. Let’s move, people. The Bone Palace awaits!”
Despite having a totally lame name, the Bone Palace was the scariest f**king building I’d ever seen. The walls were crafted entirely of skulls. Their empty eye sockets and wide, gaping smiles welcomed us to the house of horrors.
A blood-filled moat surrounded the fortress. For the first time in my life, the scent disgusted me. But not more than the bridge made from live bodies. In order to reach the entrance, we had to walk on faces, arms, bu**ocks, and pelvises. The way their flesh gave with each step was bad enough. But it was the screams that made my skin crawl. They sounded so terrified… and hopeless.