It was critical that they catch the traitor, not for revenge, but to find out how deeply they were compromised. No one was supposed to know anything about the operations Soleil’s group led, and yet everything that could go wrong that night had gone wrong.
Aurora crouched down and shook her head after a moment. “This isn’t leading anywhere.” The slender brown-eyed redhead was mostly known as the brains of the group, but few people were aware that she was also the better tracker among her sisters. “He knows we’re on his trail.”
“Or she,” Soleil murmured absently.
“I don’t care about the blasted traitor’s gender,” Fleur grumbled. The doe-eyed brunette looked around furtively as she spoke, and her sense of foreboding increased when she heard the leaves rustle around them. Only her sisters knew of her intense distrust of everything otherworldly.
And what could be more otherworldly, she thought glumly, than the Woods of the Wraiths?
A forest of black, silver, and white, it was a place that threatened to devour anything with color in life.
Anything or anyone, Fleur corrected herself, knowing that even trained soldiers like her and her sisters were still in danger in this particular neck of woods. Even if it had been a solid lead, and she knew it was, they really shouldn’t have come here. The Woods of the Wraiths were forbidden territory, even for them. Anyone here was fair game, literally. If they ended up devoured by a rabid shifter or turned into a living voodoo toy by a crazed witch-—since they had come here without express permission from their superiors, no one would be coming to their rescue. Even if it meant being torn or chewed into pieces, Asphodel’s human government would consider their deaths an unfortunate accident.
Fleur glanced up, and the sight of the full moon in the sky made her grimace. To most other people, it might be a romantic view, but for those like her who knew the truth, it usually meant bad stuff was more likely to happen.
“It would really, really be nice,” she said half-seriously, “if we had someone furry to protect us.”
Soleil let out a rare, unladylike snort. “Says the one who’s been adamantly against an otherworlder partner—-”
“But that’s me, not you,” Fleur pointed out, before adding piously, “And for the record, I happen to think his lordship is the ideal partner for my beloved eldest sister—-”
“Perhaps because he also happened to grant you a one-day access to Brimstone’s ducal library?”
Fleur had the audacity to grin. “Oh, you know about that?”
Soleil simply sighed. Where had she gone wrong at raising this girl? She was just so easily bribed.
“I also think Fleur has a point, though,” Aurora volunteered.
“Not you too, Aurora.” Soleil stomped her foot, which would have been a cute display of vexation – if she had been wearing her usual silk slippers. But with high-grade, battle-proof military boots, she only looked like she wanted to crush someone to death.
“We’ve survived without him for almost ten years—-”
“But it’s different now,” Aurora interrupted.
“How is it different, pray tell?”
“Gladly. Then, the otherworlders we fought didn’t really want to kill us. It wasn’t personal.”
One golden, beautifully arched brow went up. “Oh, so killing us can be not personal?”
Fleur pretended to gasp. “Oh my! Is that our kind, perfect sister actually being—-” A pause. “Sarcastic?”
Aurora nodded seriously. “Such an abominable thing.”
Soleil glared at the two. “Why are you ganging up on me?”
“Because you’re being unreasonable,” Aurora answered readily. “You know what I mean. That night was obviously a setup, and it was meant to kill us. So yes, that makes it very, very personal.” She paused—-
And at that moment, a twig cracked in the not-so-far distance.
Their plan to lure out their target had worked, as expected, and the Orpheline sisters smiled.
“They always give themselves away like that, don’t they?” Aurora remarked.
Fleur’s shoulders moved in a dainty shrug. “What can you expect from idiots?”
“Who are you calling idiots?” A man stepped out from the darkness. Small and thin, he had an unshaven look about him and possessed the most unhandsome posture, with his stooped shoulders and bow-legged walk.
“You, I’m afraid,” Soleil murmured apologetically. The trail had not gone cold, but they had pretended otherwise because the location they had chosen was perfect for their needs, allowing them a fair chance of survival even if they were outnumbered.
And so they had deliberately dawdled, pretending to be troubled, when all they wanted was to lure their opponent out – right where they wanted the traitor to be.
Soleil sang out, “Come out, come out, wherever you imps are.”
As she spoke, said imps crawled out of their hiding places. There were ten of them, horrible, vicious-looking creatures that made up the lowest ranks of Hell, but even so they were demons, not at all easy to kill, and would obey only certain humans—-