Sean stared unseeing at Divia’s lifeless body as his brain tried to catch up. Dead. She was dead. She was dead and he was about to throw himself off a fucking building.
The air rushed back into him and Sean heaved as he realized he wasn’t breathing. “Soot, you came back. You… How did you find me? How did you know I’d…?” Tears stung his eyes and Sean fought to keep his focus as he was hit with an overwhelm of emotion. Soot came back. He was pissed about the TJ thing, but he still came back. Soot tracked him down in this huge city, faced a building of witches and… and…
Dear fuck, he just nearly died.
He started shaking and Sean grasped to the side, nothing to grab onto as his knees abruptly gave out. Just as surely as Soot was feet away, he was suddenly beside him. He crouched down, and Sean was quick to slide into his arms and breathe his unique scent in. He would have been dead. If Soot hadn’t showed up and taken Divia out, he would have been dead.
Lips pressed to his cheek and Sean jolted. “I think I’m growing horns. Horns,” he babbled as he gripped Soot’s arm. “She was going to kill me because I might grow horns, because I have fangs. Why? Why would that be a reason to kill anyone? My fuck, you destroyed my apartment and I still don’t want to kill you. Maybe I should—maybe I’m weird. I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. My head…”
Sean groaned and pressed his face to Soot’s chest. His head was pounding and he was impossibly dizzy. It was like everything that happened since the explosion hit him all at once and was overwhelming his senses. Sean reeled as his battered brain tried to make sense of it all. Soot’s fingers gently brushed a spot two inches above Sean’s eyebrow and soothed the skin stretched over the protruding black bone. Sean sighed and closed his eyes, his nose pressed warm to Soot’s flesh.
Soot changed him so they could be together. Sean wasn’t angry about it, not anymore. Not after Divia. His anger was directed inward along with a shit ton of guilt. He started this trip planning on throwing Soot into the lap of a psycho like Divia even though he first met the demon in a witch’s cage. Sean was a monster well before growing horns.
“I’m sorry,” Sean whispered as he pulled his head up. “I’m sorry I made you come here—I’m so glad you fucking did, don’t get me wrong. But I’m sorry you came into this place to save me. These witches are insane. They kill each other, they kill demons—or people changed by demons. They put demons in cages.” Sean breathed out unsteadily as his chest twisted painfully. He just kept fucking up. “I am so sorry, Soot. I never should have agreed to come here. Magnolia fucked herself and I stupidly chased after her to try and save what was already lost.”
His business was ruined the moment Magnolia showed and Sean just didn’t want to accept it. Maybe if he had, if he just started looking for a new apartment, none of this would have happened.
Soot’s eyes gleamed and his eyebrows quirked in an expression full of the obvious. A hysterical laugh bubbled out of Sean and he wrapped his arms around the demon’s neck and pulled closer. “Shit, I’m so crazy, I make you look sane.” Sean’s smile wavered as he stared into Soot’s beautiful, violet eyes. “You saved my fucking life.”
Soot’s touch was gentle as his fingers combed into Sean’s hair. His thumb curled around his ear and grazed over the new point. Sean’s blood felt like it was roaring in his veins when violet eyes drifted to his parted lips. This. This was what he’d been missing. Every time Soot came close, Sean couldn’t help but feel it like an invisible cord around his heart. Damn it, he seriously fell for a demon.
Sean pushed to his knees and surged up, needing to remember how Soot tasted, how he felt, to know he was real. Soot huffed in surprise when Sean’s lips sealed over his and tongue pushed into his mouth. He was quick to pull Sean closer, wrap him tight in his arms, and kiss him back just as consumingly.
“Don’t you dare take off like that again, idiot,” Sean said huskily between kisses. “I say stupid shit. I always say stupid shit. If you leave, I can’t tell you I’m sorry for being stupid and it makes everything worse.” Sean pulled back with a groan and stared into Soot’s eyes. Damn, he felt crazy and all he wanted to do was wrap himself up in Soot’s arms and never leave. “Let’s go home. Let’s get the fuck out of this crazy place and go home.”
Soot’s smile was breathtaking, and Sean knew he finally said the right thing. There were still things to figure out but he would—they would. As long as Soot didn’t run off, they could figure shit out. Soot snagged him by the chin and guided his lips to his. Sean melted forward and opened readily to Soot’s claiming kiss. It was perfect, everything a kiss should be. Sean groaned when Soot pulled back and dipped his wide tongue into his mouth, licking and stroking into him in all the dirty ways only he did. Sean was willing to admit to himself it might have made his kisses extra perfect, his dick hardening in response as Soot plundered his mouth until his lips were red and swollen.
Something rumbled out in the darkness of the fast approaching night. “Wait,” Sean whispered and pressed a hand to Soot’s chest. He tried to quiet his breathing as he turned his head toward the open door that led out onto the balcony at the top of the building. He squinted but he couldn’t find the dragon he was certain was out there. Sean didn’t want to be caught by the witch’s pet when Divia’s body was barely cold. It was a sharp reminder of just how unsafe they really were. There was still a building of witches below them and gargoyle and dragon security outside. Anyone could show up and decide to punish them for Divia’s demise.
There was a loud huff, followed by a low pitched call Sean had heard only once before when Magnolia was being carted off by the giant wyvern. He glared out into the night warily. “Soot, is that thing going to…” The breath exploded from Sean in a rush when his eyes fell to the tiled floor directly in front of the balcony door. “What? Who?”
But Sean knew, and his heart stuttered. He could tell even at the distance, even with the body collapsed and crumpled on the floor. It was the same hair, the same build, the same lime-green work shirt with Lola’s Animal Shelter logo blazoned on the back. Still, it didn’t feel real, not until Sean saw the little gray puff of a kitten skittering in circles next to TJ’s fallen form.
Sean struggled to his feet, all the color drained from his face. “What have you done?” He couldn’t tell if TJ was breathing, and he was shaking too much to get his legs to move so he could see.
This was his fault. He admitted to Soot he loved TJ, and in a fit of rage, his demon lover killed him. Soot hadn’t come there to save Sean; he came to gloat that he killed his best friend.
“Oh, fuck… Holy fuck.” Sean couldn’t breathe. His lungs felt like stone and his vision wavered. “TJ. You killed TJ.”
Soot, who was watching Sean shake apart, rolled his eyes and pushed himself up to his feet. He stalked over to where TJ was lying on the floor and flicked his tail out. It cracked loudly as it struck TJ’s face, and TJ jerked, groaned, and fumbled disorientedly at the stinging spot. His movements stilled again, but TJ’s chest rose with even breaths. With a disgruntled huff, Soot returned with his arms crossed over his chest and eyes fixed on Sean’s ever changing expression.
“I don’t understand,” Sean finally managed to get out once he was certain TJ was actually alive. How long was that going to be allowed to be? Soot came in there and killed Divia in an instant and it was hard to think TJ wouldn’t go the same way. Sean took a deep breath and dragged his gaze from TJ’s fallen form. It was a struggle to meet the demon’s eyes as so many fears swirled in his head. “Soot, why is he here? Why did you—why?” Sean threw his hands up in exasperation, at a loss of how to even describe what was going through his mind.
“Was he waiting at the apartment? Sean tried, wanting to give Soot the benefit of the doubt even as his brain was painting a totally different picture. “Did you find him at my place and he helped you find me? Why would you need the kitten? I don’t understand.” TJ wasn’t wounded, not that Sean could see, but for how long? Soot left that alley simmering in anger, and now here was TJ, barely conscious in a heap. All this after Soot went giant killer cat because of Blake? Fuck, what was he honestly supposed to think?
Soot’s wings unfurled and furled in a twitch of agitation the longer Sean stared at him expectantly. Growling, he crossed the distance and grabbed both of Sean’s hands, pulling him close. Sean held his breath, his anxiety making his heart race as Soot leaned down and gently traced the tip of his tongue along his lips.
“Don’t take him from me,” Sean whispered, his throat tight with threatening tears. Soot scowled and grabbed him by the nape and crushed their lips together. Sean whimpered, gasping into the hungry kiss. Soot pushed him back, Divia’s desk biting into the back of Sean’s thighs as claws tore through his shirt. Moaning, Sean couldn’t help but arch into the hot hands running possessively over his torso. His head tilted back as Soot licked and nipped at his throat in claiming touches.
Sean reached shakily for Soot’s horn, gripping hard until the demon stilled his desperate kisses and looked up. “Please, Soot. Whatever it is you want from me, you can have it. You have fucking won. Just, please, don’t hurt him.”
Torment flashed in Soot’s eyes and he pulled away, his tail slashing the air. Glaring around the room, Soot fixed his gaze to the side where the stone dais rested. A growl rumbled in his chest as he stepped over Divia’s body and stalked to where Magnolia was struggling with the metal bonds on her wrists and ankles chaining her in place. Soot leaned over the trapped witch and roared down into her face, the sound just as intimidating and fierce as when in panther form.
“Get away!” Magnolia’s bracelets clamored as she shrieked, her voice having regained its volume now Divia was dead. Something she chose not to reveal until faced with the demon who killed the witch. “If you so much as touch me, I will wring your neck, you foul beast! Back! Back!”
Sean jumped, his eyes wide. Shit, was Soot going to kill Magnolia too?
“W-Wait. Just everyone calm the fuck down!” Sean pushed off the desk and stumbled around, only to nearly fall when his shoe tangled in Divia’s hair. Ugh, gross. So gross. Shuddering from the feel of death clawing around his ankle, Sean shook free and hurried forward, his shredded shirt tickling around his torso. “Let’s just talk about this.”
Soot, who was snarling down in Magnolia’s face, snapped his gaze to Sean and scowled. Sean shrugged, his face flushed. “Uh, let me rephrase that. Don’t kill her. Just calm down for…”
“I will skin your hide and use your pelt for a rug! I will find every one of your kind and…” Magnolia’s squawks were cut off when Soot smacked his palm over the witch’s mouth and growled down, glaring into her eyes.
“What? What the hell is it?” Sean pushed forward and grabbed Soot’s wrist, trying to pull him away. He wasn’t sure if he could handle anymore death. He sure as fuck couldn’t handle seeing Soot being at the center of a killing spree. “Whatever the fuck she did, she’s lost and you’ve won. You’re out of the cage. You’re free. Let’s just go.”
Soot snarled, but let Sean move his hand. “Good. Good, thank you. Just cool off and then we can talk about… Aw, fuck, about TJ.” Sean sighed heavily. Fuck, was this his life, now?
Sean looked around, wondering just how he was going to get Magnolia free from the dais. He was expecting fear, maybe some gratitude as he turned to the witch, not the mean spirited grin she pointed toward Soot.
“You’ll never get it back if I’m killed. I don’t care how few legs you learn to stand on; you’re still just another mindless beast.”
Soot’s growl tore through the air, his gaze murderous. His body rippled like a reflection in a pool and sleek, black spikes pressed out of his flesh. Thin blades with razor sharp edges jutted from him at all angles, glittering in the artificial light with vicious intent. One touch would leave a person sliced and bloody. Sean took a step back, his heart caught in his throat as he watched Soot become jagged and deadly in the matter of moments.
Magnolia laughed, the sound bordering hysterical in the face of Soot’s transformation. “That’s it, kill me if you have the balls, demon. I win even if I die here tonight. Just how will you claw to the top of your pitiful little kingdom without…?”
“What the fuck is wrong with you!” Sean pushed forward and slammed his hands down on either side of Magnolia’s face. “He just saved your life. We both risked everything to save you. Just shut your stupid face and stop making people want to kill you!” Sean was shaking, he was so upset. TJ was… TJ was lying on the damn floor, he had no fucking clue why Soot brought him there, and Magnolia couldn’t muster even one fucking thank you for saving her life.
Fuck, and why the hell was he trying to protect her? Sean pushed himself away with a dark mutter. “What am I doing? Why the fuck am I getting involved in this? You know what? You’re the fucking dumbass who hunted down a demon and locked him in a cage. You deserve everything you get.” Sean turned to where TJ was lying on the floor, having all intentions of dragging his ass through the entire building and city just to get the fuck away from Magnolia, Mystic Highrise, and Soot’s killer rage. He was done. He had horns and he was done for the day.
He was halfway to his destination when Sean’s footsteps stalled. The gray kitten had stopped playing with one of the glittering rubies scattered on the floor from Divia’s fall. No, it was pointed at the balcony door, hissing with as much energy as the little fluffball could muster. Dread coiled in Sean’s gut as he stared out into the darkness and felt something stare back.
“Soot?” Sean called, his voice too hoarse to travel far. He couldn’t turn his head away, not when he finally saw movement out in the night. Light caught and refracted off of dark scales as the wyvern slunk onto the balcony. As it approached the door and the light within, its ruined features became clear. The left side of its face was brutalized, an eye missing and horn torn from its flesh, the skull exposed beneath among the bloody mess.
Fuck. Sean inhaled sharply, having a fair guess Soot must have come in through the balcony and met the dragon before he took out Divia.
A taloned foot stepped through the door and the dragon’s face ghosted into the building, black blood gushing down its features and splattering to the floor. It turned its head and the dragon’s one remaining eye of yellow and orange glared at right at Sean. The primal, reptilian intelligence in its gaze sent the hair on Sean’s body standing on end and his knees went weak. He must of moved. The dragon reared up and opened its mouth to reveal hundreds of sharp, fingersized fangs as it shrieked in warning. Its breath was hot even at the distance, and full of the putrid stench of rotting flesh.
Sean felt like he was at his apartment door once again as he watched the wyvern take shuffling steps to tower over TJ’s fallen form. There was no way forward, no way to move, to breathe, to do anything. Sean could only watch, helpless to the fact he was about to lose the love of his life.