Knight’s Absolution by Sherilee Gray

 

Prologue

"Why are you doing this?Why are you helping us?"

Luna glanced at Grace. The other female was almost unrecognizable after the beating that demon had given her.

There was no time for explanations. Her demon minders would be on them in minutes.

"Stairs," Luna directed before Grace could trip. "I wouldn't wish this life on anyone.”

"Come to the knights’ compound; they'll keep you safe,” Grace said, voice garbled, blood dripping down her chin.

Luna shook her head. Leaving wasn’t an option. "I can do more good where I am. I’m his favorite, he trusts me.”

“The demon I met, the powerful one?”

Luna didn’t answer; the less Grace knew, the better for all of them.

They made it to the garage, and Luna half carried Grace toward a black SUV. "I'm going to have to ask you to cover your eyes," Luna said.

They climbed in, and she quickly secured a scarf over Grace’s nearly swollen-shut eyes.

"At least there's no chance of me peeking," Grace joked weakly.

"I'm sorry you had to suffer through that. I would’ve come sooner, but I had to pick my moment.”

Feet pounding on concrete echoed in the distance. The assholes had already found her. Luna started the car and gunned it out of the garage and onto the street, weaving in and out of traffic, making a dozen turns, until she was sure no one was following.

Grace looked blindly at her. "They know what you've done. You can't go back."

“The windows are blacked out. They don’t know it’s me driving.” She had no choice but to go back. She wouldn’t leave without Ronan.

“Cameras?”

“None, it’s too risky.”

“Are you sure no one saw you?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

She’d survived all Sir’s punishments so far. She could again.

"Look, I know you can't tell me your name, but please, if you ever want to get out, if you ever need help...shit, just someone to talk to…call me. Will you do that?"

“Honestly…I hope I never see you again, Grace." The only other being she’d ever trusted was Spencer. The demi had been with her, with Sir, since she was seven years old. What would it be like to have someone else she could rely on?

The thought was pointless.

Being anything more to this female would be far too dangerous for Grace. Besides, she didn’t need anyone else.

The only thing a dhampir like her needed was blood. She was immune to emotion; had no physical or emotional needs.

That’s not entirely true, not anymore.

It had taken her time to realize it, to accept it, but somehow, a year ago, she’d started to feel anger. Just that, the one emotion.

That alone made her life more difficult. Learning to control it hadn’t been easy.

A strange sensation curled in her belly, making her breath catch and the beat of her heart quicken. The last time she’d experienced something similar was when she was near the knight. Gunner’s presence did something to her. Whenever he was near, she had a strange physical response. She didn’t understand it. Didn’t like it—

Or maybe she did?

She wasn’t sure, honestly.

Luna pulled off the road and stopped in an empty, shadowed parking lot outside Chambers Furniture Store. "You can take off the blindfold.”

With shaky hands, Grace removed the strip of fabric covering her eyes. She was a mess, and the scent of her blood—and there was a lot of it—was making it hard to concentrate, even as Luna’s stomach rebelled. Starvation was one of Sir’s favorite ways to control her, and he’d had her on an extremely restricted diet.

“You’re trying to stop him from releasing Diemos, aren’t you?” Grace asked, breaking the silence in the car.

Maybe it was the hunger, the burning pain in the pit of her stomach that had her dropping her guard, but she couldn’t stop herself from blurting the truth. “I’m going to kill him before he gets the chance. No one gets to do that but me.”

It was the right thing to do. Sir had aligned himself with the wrong side—and the power-hungry bastard had taken her and Ronan with him. It was her duty to stop him.

It would also appease the murderous rage she felt looking at his smug face.

Grace stared at her, long and hard. “You’re ill.”

Luna shook her head. Unless you counted starvation as an illness.

“We can help you,” Grace said weakly, her body trembling. “P-please don’t go back to that twisted fuck. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself for this cause.”

“I’m not ill.” She couldn’t stop her gaze from dropping to Grace’s throat, lingering on the frantic pulse beating there. Her mouth went dry, the pain in her belly intensifying.

It was only a matter of time before he allowed Luna to feed from him again, until her power thrummed through her like a live wire—until she felt Sir inside her, pumping through her veins like poison. “I’ll be okay…soon.”

“Your eyes, they look…lighter?”

Luna quickly looked away, the nausea spiking. “You’re mated to one of them, aren’t you?” she asked, ignoring Grace’s question. Not that she understood what that meant, not really. Mating. Sir spoke of it, the demons she was surrounded by did as well. But the concept of such a deep connection was foreign to her. Impossible to grasp.

“Yes.” Grace’s lids lowered, almost closing.

“Would you let your mate stop you from fighting? Even knowing the risks, could you stop?”

“No. I’ll n-never stop fighting.”

“I can’t stop either. I need to be where I am. I can get closer to him than anyone else.” Luna looked away, not wanting Grace to see the truth of her situation, what her survival—and the survival of her brother—involved. “I’m the only one who can kill him.”

She could see that Grace wanted to say more, ask more, but in the end, decided against it. “What about the other demi-demons being held?”

Sir had been collecting demi for their unique powers like some kind of evil zookeeper. Building an army here on earth for Diemos, the current ruler of Hell.

Grace had been trying to find and free them.

“I promise, as soon as I get back, I’ll get a message to your people, let them know where you can find them.” Sir couldn’t win, there was too much at stake. And the only way she could stop him was to stay with him.

Forcing her shoulders to relax, Luna dropped the block she had covering Grace while keeping up her own. Blocking herself was usually as easy as breathing, but the hunger made it a little more draining.

"So now what?" Grace coughed, wincing in pain as blood trickled down her chin.

“We wait," Luna said.

If what Sir said was true about a mated couple’s connection, Grace’s mate would have sensed her as soon as Luna dropped the block and would already be on his way.

With a groan, Grace leaned forward and opened the glove compartment in front of her, finding a pen. “Give me your hand. My number.”

It was a bad idea, but something inside her made her reach out, offering her hand to Grace. The pen slipped through Grace’s bloody fingers several times, but she managed to write her number just above Luna’s wrist, so her sleeve would cover it.

Grace blinked heavily. “I m-meant what I said."

Luna nodded as the odd sensation in her belly moved up, behind her ribs, and squeezed. Maybe she was ill? These odd feelings had been coming more frequently.

Maybe you’re starting to feel other emotions.

If that was true, she was screwed. She wouldn’t survive Sir without the numbness, the shield of emotionlessness to protect her. Her anger was hard enough to contain and hide.

Several more minutes ticked by.

The thump and screech of buckling metal above them was loud—

A fist smashed through her window. A massive hand attached to a muscled, heavily tattooed forearm pinned Luna to her seat by her throat as Grace’s door was torn from its hinges and flung across the parking lot.

Luna stared up at the male snarling down at her. Gunner. She’d never been this close to the knight before. He was huge, towering over her. His jaw was covered in a short beard, and the scar through his upper lip made his mouth twist as he scowled down at her. For some reason, her hand itched to reach out and touch him, and her hunger—it skyrocketed.

Her fangs tingled, extended. There was no nausea, no repulsion at the idea of taking his blood into her body. No, her mouth watered. Something that had never happened before.

She couldn’t bring herself to look away. Feeling trapped by the beautiful, fierce male about to snap her neck.

“Gunner, no. L-let her go. She helped me." His pale-gold gaze slid to Grace and her mate. Chaos nodded. Sir had cursed him, all of them, enough times for Luna to know their names. Gunner’s hard, intense gaze slid back to hers, flashing fire before he released her throat and stepped back.

"Bring her to the compound," Chaos said.

"No." Grace shook her head, or tried to. “W-we made a deal. Let her go."

Chaos scowled, but in the end, gave Gunner another sharp nod.

Luna held Grace’s gaze for several seconds, and hoped the other female would be okay. Luna took a step, about to run, but couldn’t stop herself from glancing back at Gunner.

The knight was watching her, his beautiful yet deadly gaze boring into her as if he were trying to see inside her. And instinct told her that if she hung around for a moment longer, he might actually be able to.

Swallowing hard, she forced herself to turn away and ran into the night. And, as soon as she was deep in shadow, she summoned the last of her strength and threw up the heaviest block she could.

She couldn’t let them follow her.

If they did, her brother would pay.

As she drew closer to their home on the other side of Roxburgh, Gunner’s face flashed through her mind again.

She still couldn’t believe what she’d done a few weeks ago.

Her master had summoned a beast from the depths of Hell, and when it went for Gunner, she’d stopped it. She’d saved him.

The creature had run at the knight, and as she’d watched, her pulse had sped up, her belly gripping so tight she was close to throwing up. She hadn’t understood her reaction, still didn’t. She’d just known, she didn’t want it to be him that died, that it couldn’t be him.

And just before the beast reached him, her hand had shot up as if it had a life of its own, and she’d thrown a barrier up in front of him, protecting him from all those jagged teeth.

Gunner being alive had mattered. She didn’t know why, but it had. There was something about him. She didn’t know what it was, but she was…drawn to him.

He was beautiful.

He was most definitely fascinating.

And sad. He always looked so sad.

She may not experience emotions, beyond anger, but she’d read about them, seen people on television feeling them. Humans showed so much on their faces.

She braced and reached out with her senses—but she couldn’t feel Sir. He wasn’t back yet.

Since the Gunner-beast incident, Sir had been questioning her loyalty, and as a result, he’d assigned two of his favorite goons to follow her everywhere.

Which meant he probably knew by now that she’d gotten away from them.

She stepped onto the bare plot surrounded by caution tape. The facade the rest of the world saw was still intact. Her brother’s power was so strong he could make beings see, or not see, whatever he wanted. Although Luna hadn’t seen Ronan since they were children, his unmistakable power, so similar to hers, was all the proof she needed that he still lived.

She glanced around, then walked onto the property, through the facade, to the other side. To the place her brother had created, hiding them from the world. A mansion stood, tall and ugly. Imposing.

The door opened as she approached, Spencer filling the space. His lined face was frozen, and his eyes were almost black, an expression she’d seen on him many times. It happened when he was worried.

“Is he back?” Luna asked as she walked inside. She still hadn’t sensed him.

“Not yet. They’re all in an uproar that Grace escaped, though. He was furious, Luna. I’ve never seen him like that.”

“Do you think he knows it was me?”

Spencer swallowed, his eyes all black now. “I don’t know.”

She reached into her pocket, pulling out the phone that she’d bought on her way home and handed it to the only person in the world she could trust. “I’ve put Grace’s number on this. I don’t know what will happen when Sir gets back or how long I’ll be away. But I need you to message her, tell her where they can find the other demi being held, then destroy it.”

She had rubbed the number off her arm as soon as she’d programmed it into the phone. As generous as Grace’s offer was, she couldn’t risk being caught with it. For Ronan’s sake. She and her brother had only survived this long because they were useful.

But Sir liked to assert his authority, and she could only assume the sadistic prick did the same with her brother. He pushed her to her limits, testing her capacity for survival. One day he’d take it too far; one day he’d kill her. Seeing as dying wasn’t the plan, she needed to kill him first. But she couldn’t do that until she found her brother.

Wherever Sir kept him had to be close, but she’d yet to find where.

Spencer touched her arm. “Please, take some of my blood. Feed. You won’t survive if he locks you away now. You’re already weak.”

Luna’s stomach rebelled. “No.”

Hurt filled his eyes.

“I can’t…won’t do that to you.” I’d die before I did that. “Thank you, but I won’t do it.”

It would turn their relationship into something that they would never be able to come back from. She never wanted Spencer to see her like that.

She’d only ever drunk Sir’s blood. She’d never been permitted to drink from others, and never had. It was another way he controlled and manipulated her. He’d wanted her to crave him, hunger for him even when his blood made her so sick she barely stopped herself from throwing up after feeding.

Again an image of Gunner filled her head, the way he’d pinned her to the seat. Her fangs had actually tingled—

The door flew open, and Sir stalked in. His eyes were glowing, the veins in his throat bulging, lips peeled back.

“You betrayed me! Again!” he roared. “I have loved you, taken care of you, given you everything you ever wanted, and this is how you repay me?”

She said nothing. There was nothing she could say to convince him otherwise, not when he had already made up his mind.

As for his love? If this was love, she was glad she didn’t have to experience it. And anyway, his love of power, not her, was what drew him to her family. His brand of love meant slaughtering her mother in front of her, kidnapping her and her brother, then tearing them apart.

She’d heard Ronan’s cries through the wall, had heard him calling for her, for their mother, into the night. For dhampir, it was the connection to their human mothers that allowed them to have human emotions. If severed before they gained their powers, they’d lose the ability to feel. Luna was young when Sir came for her, she couldn’t remember what it felt like to have the full spectrum of emotions, but her brother’s cries that night still haunted her.

He’d been taken away the next day. She hadn’t seen him since, had only felt him, felt his presence, his power come into being, felt it grow.

Sir had appointed himself as some kind of twisted father figure. Until her hunger for blood began at age sixteen, then he’d become something else. And he’d made her pay for every ounce of blood he’d given her.

She finally gained her powers a year ago, and he had been taking full advantage of them since.

The male who had torn her life apart strode toward her now, and she forced herself to hold her ground, to rein in her anger. She couldn’t fight him, and there was no point running, no escape, no rescue from what was about to happen.

He backhanded her, knocking her to the floor, then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her down the hall, down the stairs to the basement.

She’d known this was the price she’d pay, and if given the chance, she’d do the same thing all over again. She’d still help Gunner and Grace and the other demi.

He opened the heavy iron door and crouched down, his eyes locking with hers. “If I don’t lock you away, I will kill you. I will slit your delicate throat deeper and deeper until I take your fucking head off.”

It was a waste of breath but still she tried because she knew the hell that was coming. “Sir,” she said, heart pounding. “Please, listen…”

He stomped down viciously on her leg, hard enough that the bone snapped. The sharp cry that left her surprised her. He’d broken her leg before, hobbling her so she couldn’t easily escape if she somehow got out of this room. Yes, she felt pain, but not like this. Dhampir didn’t feel physical pain like humans did. It was muted. The pain of hunger surpassed all else. But this…this was beyond her experience.

What the hell was happening to her?

Sir dragged her across the concrete floor, deeper into the small steel-walled room, and dropped her.

He strode to the door but paused, turning back. “Maybe I’ll be able to stomach looking at you in a couple of weeks.”

The door banged shut a moment later.

Luna threw her head back, and a sound came from her that she’d never made in her life.

She screamed.