The demon charged towards her with a roar, and Soleil’s reflexes kicked in. She rolled, crawled, and twisted, everything purely guided by her instincts. And all the while, she called to him, the man whose heart she was fated to keep in exchange of her soul.
Can you hear me?
Soleil called out to him with her mind, with all her heart, even thought the tiniest part of her thought it was too late.
The demon caught her just as she ran out of bullets. Its claws raked her body and pain engulfed her, but she managed to kick it away, the silver-coated soles of her boots leaving burning marks on its face.
The demon screamed.
What a baby, Soleil thought dizzily as she managed to pull the grenades out of her pockets.
The demon snarled at her, hitting Soleil with its tail and breaking her ribs in the process.
She snarled back, thinking absently that death was the only thing that could make her act this…childish. She was suffering from internal bleeding, with possibly severe injuries to a vital organ.
She calculated the time it would take her to die, and it wasn’t that long.
If you can hear me, please just save my soldiers.
Soleil closed her eyes as she started to unclip the grenades.
But nothing happened.
Instead, she felt wind so strong blowing over her, stinging her face, and somehow that wind managed to snatch the grenades out of her fingers. She heard it explode in the distance, and her eyes flew open.
The grenades had been thrown into the hellhole, and it vanished a moment later, Hell protecting itself from more attacks at the expense of its spawn. Placing her hand over her wound, she looked around dazedly as she heard a tremendous cry of pain. Following the sound, she saw the demon that had attacked her falling to the floor, its decapitated head rolling towards her before it was crushed under the weight of stampeding…imps.
The imps were running away – from what?
She tried to see what was after them and caught sight of a streak of white, too fast for her eyes to follow as it slashed its way around the room.
He had come.
A cacophony of cries and squeals filled the basement hall, imps dying left and right—-
Then she saw her soldiers breaking inside, fighting—-
Nausea hit her, and she fell back to the floor.
She closed her eyes.
And almost right after, she found herself being lifted and cradled in powerful arms—-
Pain pierced her throat, and she choked.
Blood filled her mouth.
In her mind, she heard his voice for the first time.
Why have you only called for me now?
“Le Marquis di Lunare,” the butler announced regally, and as the baron’s visitor strode forward, the butler bowed and did his best not to run away. There was something different about the marquis, the butler thought with a shiver of fear. Terrifyingly different, with the way marquis had made the vast parlor feel small and suffocating with his commanding height and dark presence.
His employer was all smiles, however, the grey-haired baron offering his hand as he said, “A pleasure to welcome you in my humble abode, milord.”
“The pleasure is mine,” the marquis replied with suave charm, “especially since you’ve been kind enough to meet me even at such short notice.”
“It’s nothing,” Charles dismissed it even though he was quite impressed at the other man’s show of respect, which was unnecessary, considering Charles was inferior in ranking. He gestured to the chaise, saying, “Have a seat, milord.” He pulled a bell, and a maid appeared to serve them tea and scones.
From there, both men effortlessly fell into a pleasant stream of civility, the two of them tacitly agreeing to use the time to size each other up.
Charles raised his cup for another sip, thinking that everything he had heard about Ilie Marcovici being an incurable rake was likely to be true.
Like most Corinthians, Ilie was dressed elegantly, and his choice of colors was bold but refined, with his burgundy coat a good match for his tan-colored breeches. He wore his hair simply, too, unpowdered and tied back with a plain black ribbon. No doubt the marquis was aware that his icy-blond locks were more than eye-catching enough to have all ladies swooning over him.
There was a lull in their conversation, and the marquis murmured, “I would have left my card and waited for your response if the matter wasn’t urgent.”
“Urgent, you say.” Charles’ tone gave nothing away.
“Yes, milord. Extremely urgent, actually.” The marquis’ lips curved in a smile, revealing the briefest glimpse of fangs. “’Tis why I’ve given you as much time as possible to make your decision.”
And now it was time to play, Charles thought, only he wasn’t going up against any ordinary nobleman.
This was Ilie Marcovici, and one should never forget that the marquis came from one of the kingdom’s noblest shapeshifting lines as well as being the bastard of the Duke of Lunare.