As he chanted, the wind picked up speed. It whispered around him as ancient forces gathered to awaken the one he called.
The tree began to shake as a black mist from the earth rose to encircle it. Kaiaphas looked up to see a pair of glowing eyes- one vibrant earth green and the other dark earth brown- materialize in the center of the mist. The air swirled faster, rising up like a geyser that began to form the shape of a tall, lean man standing on a large limb.
Black hair rose up, tangling in the wind before it settled over broad shoulders. It was followed by a rippling white that formed a shirt, then black pants and a brown, stitched leather jacket. The last to form was a face that was as handsome as it was brutal.
A thin gold band encircled the man’s throat and there at the base of his neck rested a stone as green as his inhuman right eye.
As quickly as it’d come, the wind stopped. The mist evaporated. Now the man and the tree stood out crisp and clear against the backdrop of night.
Those fierce duo colored eyes seemed to penetrate Kaiaphas. Suddenly, something hard wrapped itself around his neck and squeezed it closed.
Choking, Kaiaphas fell to his knees.
“There now,” the voice was deep and evil as Jaden jumped to the ground. He landed on his feet in front Kaiaphas before he kicked him onto his back.
Unable to speak for the pressure still wrapped around his throat, Kaiaphas stared up into the very face of evil. Not human, not demon, not a god, Jaden was born of the first power.
Al-Baraka. He was the go-between for the higher powers and demonkind.
Jaden cocked his head as he studied the demon lying before him. “Kaiaphas…” he let the name roll off his tongue. In one heartbeat, he knew everything about the demon. His past and his questionable future. “Why have you awakened me?”
“I need your help.”
Jaden laughed at the desperate plea. “Aye, you do. Tell me what you’ll give for my services.”
“Three unbaptized virgins.”
He scowled at the demon. What was this? The Middle Ages? “Three?”
“Is it not enough?”
It depended on the virgins…
And their skills. In this day and age, virgins could be more promiscuous than the sluts of the past.
“Perhaps.” Jaden hissed as he felt his arm burn in response to the summons that constricted Kaiaphas’s band. “You dare call me while your mistress summons you?”
Jaden blasted him. “Go, you maggot. In one moon rising you’ll have my answer.”
The demon vanished instantly.
Jaden stood there in the cold stillness under the shelter of the oak, getting his bearings on this time and place. He lifted his head to smell the blood that tainted the air around him.
Turning, he saw the body of a woman in her late twenties. Her lifeless eyes stared in horror.
He went to her and knelt before her. “Sleep in peace, little one,” he whispered, closing her eyes.
It was a most unnecessary death. Strike one against the demon.
Jaden paused as he caught something else in the wind. The tree was whispering to him, telling him what he needed to know. Kaiaphas wasn’t the only one thinking of him.
There was another…
Xypher lay on the cold, pine floor as he listened to Simone breathing. She’d fallen asleep about an hour ago while Jesse was in his room, playing records way too loud. He didn’t know how Simone could sleep through the same Altered Images song playing over and over again, but unlike him, she seemed immune.
Of course, he’d gotten used to not sleeping. In Tartarus, part of his punishment was someone beating him every time he closed his eyes to rest.
He tensed at the whispered call. The voice was a deep baritone laced with a demon’s sharp accent.
It was a voice he hadn’t heard in centuries.
The demon lord appeared before the closed door in a crouched position.
“Salt?” Jaden laughed. He stood up, walked to the window and licked his finger. His smile was cold as he lifted the digit to his mouth and sampled the salt they’d put there. “I know you weren’t trying to keep me out with this.”
“I know better. How is that you’re here?”
Jaden didn’t answer as he walked to the bed where Simone continued to sleep oblivious to the fact that one of the most powerful entities in existence was close enough to touch her. “She’s pretty enough. Is she your offering?”
He had to bite back his fury. To snap at Jaden invited instant death. “No.”
“That was a quick denial. Why do you seek me, demonspawn?”
As if he didn’t already know. But that was one thing about Jaden, he always wanted you to speak your needs. “I was going to summon you tomorrow.”
“In the daylight where I’m weak.” He tsked. “What bargain do you wish this time?”
“I need my powers returned and I want the human protected.”
Jaden arched a brow. He turned back toward Simone and brushed her face with his hand. “Human…”
Jealousy flared inside him so much that it was all he could do not to shove Jaden away from her. But that would be a fatal mistake, especially since he needed Jaden’s cooperation.
“A Daimon bound us together and I can’t do what I need to so long as we’re joined. I need your help. I have to have my freedom and my powers unencumbered.”
Jaden turned toward him. “My help comes at a premium price. You know that. You’ve already paid me once.”
Xypher wanted to curse at the reminder.