Riesgo looked toward the field and frowned. “Where did they go?”
Eve’s gaze followed his. Montevista and Sydney were nowhere to be seen. She engaged her mark-enhanced vision and delved into the darkness beyond the reach of the powerful field lights. “I don’t know.”
She started down the bleacher steps with growing apprehension. The moment her foot hit the dirt, a flash of white caught the periphery of her vision. Too fast to be mortal. Lightning-quick, Eve darted after it. It was faster than she was, feinting to the left and right. Several seconds later, she found herself on the pitcher’s mound again. She ran back Riesgo. The priest was presently rubbing at his eyes with his fists.
“I must be wiped out,” he said. “My vision’s getting blurry. One second, it looked like you were over there. Then the next, you were right here.”
Catching his elbow, she tugged him toward home base. It was rarely good to be cornered, but at least she’d have one less side—their rear—to worry about defending.
“What are you—” He quieted, sensing her preoccupation. Without another word, he bent and picked up a metal baseball bat. Sans the collar and dressed in black sweats, he looked like someone you didn’t want to fuck with . . . if you were mortal.
Eve’s brows rose, but she put her back to his and tried angling him to face the corner. He, being the chivalrous type, tried to maneuver her the same way.
The flash of white came again, but this time it stopped in front of her. An Infernal such as she’d never seen, with white hair and eyes. He was wearing an ice-blue and silver Halloween costume that included a doublet and bombastic hose.
Her connection with Reed allowed her to recognize the demon inside the getup.
“Azazel,” she greeted grimly.
Riesgo positioned himself shoulder to shoulder with her. “Is this the guy that’s after you?”
“One of them.” Eve sent up a request for a flaming sword. She wasn’t too surprised when nothing happened. She widened her stance and raised her fists. The demon laughed, a sound made more maddening for its rich, deep tone.
This Infernal was clearly good at his job.
“Stand easy, Evangeline.” The unknown voice rumbled through the air from no discernible source.
The ground shook and a fissure opened. Blood rushed upward from the depths like a geyser before settling into the shape of a man with massive, beautiful crimson wings.
Satan. Eve knew who it was without any help.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Riesgo breathed. He made the sign of the cross with his free hand.
“Mary can’t save you, priest,” Azazel said, with a malicious smile. “God won’t save you either.”
Fear blossomed in Eve’s chest like a spreading stain. The Prince of Hell was impossibly beautiful, far more so than even Sabrael. His skin shimmered as if coated with gold dust. Shiny black hair fell halfway down his back, rippling and writhing with a life of its own. The silky tresses moved sinuously, covetously; caressing him as a lover would, framing a face that could not have been more perfect. His irises flickered like flames, while his mouth curved in a smile that was terrifying for its seductiveness. The urge to undress and spread her legs for him was strong enough to tug Eve forward one step. She jerked herself to a halt by clinging to Reed in her mind, like a snapping flag anchored to a pole.
“Ah,” Satan murmured, circling from a distance with a smooth alluring gait. Sex incarnate. “I see why they want you. Looking at you makes a man hard and ready to fuck.”
Eve flipped him the bird.
With a careless wave of his hand, he snapped the digit, bending it backward until her knuckle touched the back of her hand. She dropped to her knees, screaming.
Riesgo stepped forward, but she caught him with her left hand around his ankle. As a mortal, she would never have been able to stop him. As a Mark, she nearly toppled him.
“Don’t,” she ordered in a richly nuanced rumble.
He stilled instantly, frozen.
Persuasion. A gift given to Marks that she likened to the Jedi mind trick. Why it would kick in—for the first time—now, when what she really needed was a weapon, was a gripe she would add to her long list . . . later. And while she was bitching, she’d mention the failure of her mark to kick in and give her some ass-whupping mojo.
Where was Reed? Alec? Anyone?
She released the priest and reached for her broken finger, groaning through gritted teeth as she wrestled it back into place.
Azazel tsked. “They teach less and less respect as the years pass, my liege.”
Satan came to her, looking down at her with gorgeous, emotionless eyes. His clawed fingertips lifted her chin and moved her head from side to side. His touch was cool, almost tender. She was riveted as much by that tenderness as by horror. Deep inside her, something trembled in paralyzing fear.
With proximity, the full effect of the Devil’s allure was undeniable. He wore a three-piece suit that reminded her of Reed, but the overlong hair and Dr. Martens were Alec’s. Even his features and build resembled her lovers, as did his scent—smoky, exotic, and deeply male. She wondered if he wore a guise to disorient her, or if she and God just had the same idea of what constituted a hot guy.
“Get away from her,” Riesgo growled.
Satan shot him a bored but dangerous look.
Eve caught the Devil’s wrists, wincing at the throb of her injured hand. It would heal with time, but would hurt like hell in the interim. “It’s me you want. I’m the one who ran over your dog. Let the priest go.”
The Devil’s sleek head turned back to her. He looked amused. “But the priest is the means by which I will force your hand.”
She quivered inside. “No. You don’t need him. Deal with me.”
“You do not yet know what I want,” he crooned, cupping her face in his hands. His touch was so invasively cold it seeped into the very marrow of her bones, making her shiver violently. “Perhaps I want to defile you, lovely Evangeline. Perhaps I want to do things to you that will break your mind and spirit. Perhaps I want to watch while others do those same things to you. Listen to the melody of your screams until there is no fight left in you.”
She wished she could laugh at his drama, but really, she feared pissing herself instead.
Where were Montevista and Sydney? Were they battling Infernals somewhere? Were they dead?
“Please. L-let him g-go,” she managed through chattering teeth. She might as well be dunked in a frozen lake for all the warmth she felt.
Riesgo growled and began to speak. “I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the—”
“Shut him up,” Satan snapped.
Azazel flew like a bullet across the yardage that separated him from Riesgo. The priest was in the middle of a retaliatory lunge at impact, the crashing of the two bodies thudding violently. The ground opened as they fell, swallowing them whole. As the chasm closed as if it had never existed, the earth shuddered like a child who’d swallowed particularly nasty medicine.
“Oh my god,” Eve breathed, so shocked and frozen that she barely felt the burning of her mark. “What the fuck are you doing?”
Satan smiled, his thumbs brushing across her trembling lips. “Such a lovely mouth. You really should be working for me. I would appreciate your cynicism. I certainly appreciate how readily you discount Jehovah’s lies.”
Somehow she managed to wrench free, tumbling to her side and crawling with what strength she could muster. He followed her with leisurely steps, his hands clasped behind his back.
She stopped after progressing only a few feet. “What d-do you w-want?”
“Poor Evangeline,” he murmured, reaching for her. “You are chilled to the bone. Let me warm you.”
The moment his hand touched her skin, warmth coursed over her body like a hot summer breeze. So startled was she by the change that it took a moment before the sudden softness of the ground beneath her registered.
Satan straightened. Eve’s head turned slowly.
It was now the middle of the day, and they were far from the baseball field. Warm sand cushioned her side and the sun blazed in the cloudless sky above her. It was a desert of some sort, barren except for golden sand and large monolithic outcroppings. The chill in her blood began to fade. She struggled to her feet, ignoring the hand that the Devil held out to assist her.
Eve faced him with shoulders back and chin lifted.
“Some of your mannerisms are so like hers,” he murmured, with a mysterious smile.
“So like whom?”
“Your namesake.” His gorgeous blood-red feathers fluttered in the oven-hot breeze. “Otherwise known as the ransom you will bring to me in return for the priest. And Raguel.”