Eve of Chaos (Marked #3) - Page 25


Her arms crossed. “When I heard that you’d been promoted, I assumed you must have found a deeper communion with God and this advancement was your reward.”


The voices inside him laughed at the notion and prodded him to say bitterly, “Nothing so edifying, I’m afraid. I do the dirty work, Ima. That hasn’t changed.”


She sighed. Then her shoulders went back, a sign of her determination to ignore his faults and tackle the problems they created. The attitude reminded him so much of Eve that his jaw tightened.


“So someone made you an archangel for a price?” Her fingertips strummed silently atop the padded arm of her wingback chair. “Who?”


“What does it matter?”


“You are now the most powerful weapon ever created.” Her dark eyes stared into his. “I want to know who had the balls to pull that off. And why.”


***


“It’s like a ghost town around here,” Rosa mumbled around a bite of double-cheeseburger. “Brentwood is boring.”


Reed set his soda down and lounged in the restaurant booth they occupied. “Maybe that’s the way Grimshaw’s Beta is assuming control of the pack, by keeping them tied down until they adjust.”


“No. It’s because the population of Infernals in the area has dropped considerably in the last couple of weeks. They’re all migrating to the southern half of the state.”


Hunting Eve. Reed reached out—Babe ?—and was reassured when she nudged him back.


Don’t worry about me, she scolded.


Yeah, right. He returned his attention to his charge. “You did a smokin’ job on this latest hunt,” he praised. “I think you set a new record for killing a gwyllion.”


“I kicked that corno back to Hell and I’m ready to roll.” She smiled. “Wouldn’t mind seeing Disneyland.”


“Is that why you wanted to meet with me face-to- face? You want a vacation?”


“I want to be where the action is.”


Rosa resumed eating. The burger was almost too big for her to hold. A lovely Venezuelan with snapping hazel eyes and short, spiky black hair, she’d been in her midtwenties when she’d been marked about five years ago and her youth stood her in good stead. She was fast and nimble, with a fiery temper and staunch Catholic faith. Her father had been abusive to both her and her mother. One day, she’d had enough and she put a stop to it. Permanently.


He reached for a french fry, grinning inside at the cause of his unusual hunger. The second go-round with Eve had taken things between them to a whole nother level. He wondered if she knew that. If not, he planned to bring her up to speed, pronto. “There’s plenty of action here.”


“Not right now there isn’t.”


“You know something that’s got you fired up,” he said, sensing it through the connection between them. “Spill it.”


Setting the burger down, Rosa met his gaze. “If this is the start of Armageddon, I want to be in the thick of it”


Reed’s brows rose. “Is that what’s being said? That it’s the end of days?”


Marks gossiped madly. Some of what they made up was entertaining. Some of it was dangerous.


“It’s obvious. Satan is breeding hellhounds, Grimshaw was planning a revolt of some sort, and every Infernal within three hundred miles has a hard-on to kill Cain’s

girl. What the—”


“No.” The denial was out before he could censor himself.


“No?” Rosa studied him. “Are you living in a different world than I am?”


Exhaling slowly, he worked to suppress his jealousy. To call his response “possessive” would be an understatement. Eve was no longer Cain’s. But for Reed to stake his claim now would only make things more difficult for her. Many of the other Marks resented her for the advantages they assumed she gained from Cain’s mentorship. If they learned that she’d moved on and with whom, those resentments might intensify, and right now she needed all the help she could get.


“I meant,” he began, “that what is going on now doesn’t necessarily signify that it’s the beginning of the end. There are signs that would warn us. For one, the Rapture has yet to happen.”


“Whatever.” She shrugged dismissively. “Just send me down there.”


Reed nodded. “All right.”


“Yes!” Her eyes lit with both triumph and bloodlust.


“But if I need you somewhere else, don’t give me a hard time.”


She rolled her eyes and grabbed her burger. “By the way, Sarakiel is trying to get a hold of you.”


“I’ll touch bases with her when we’re done here.”


But he didn’t.


After he watched Rosa’s Prius pull out of the parking lot and head toward the freeway, he went to Charleston Estates. The gated community was the home of the Black Diamond Pack, which had recently suffered the loss of its Alpha, Charles Grimshaw.


It’s Beta—now Alpha—was Devon Chaney. If Chaney followed precedent, he would be eager to establish himself as stronger and more powerful than his predecessor. Reed was counting on that impetus to make his plan work.


A guard station stood at the entrance and the exit, and a tall stucco fence surrounded the perimeter. Affluence and privilege were two of the words that came to mind when one saw the exterior. But beyond the crescent moon emblem embedded in the circular cobblestone driveway, there was nothing to betray the fact that every single resident was a werewolf.


He walked up to the guard station with one hand in his pocket and the other twirling his sunglasses. He glanced up casually, a smile curving his mouth as the guard realized what and who he was.


“Call your new Alpha,” Reed said smoothly, “and tell him I want to chat.”


“Repent, Jezebel! Repent or you’ll roast in Hell!”


Eve fought the urge to roll down her window and sock Evil Santa in the mouth. Instead, she sat impatiently at the stoplight while the zealot stood at her window, strumming his guitar and screaming at her through the glass.


When he didn’t get a rise out of her, he moved to the driver’s side passenger window and yelled at Sydney. “Save yourself from lust of the flesh and the claws of this heathen woman! Save yourself, before you burn in the lake of fire!”


Montevista cleared his throat, drawing Eve’s gaze to where he sat in the front passenger seat. “Okay,” he said. “I’m liking your priest idea more and more.”


“Yep.” Eve hit the gas pedal the moment the light changed. Thankfully, when she’d called the church after dinner, Riesgo had been there, and he had agreed to see her right away. They were heading to Glover Stadium in Anaheim, where he was filling in as a coach for a Little League practice for

one of his parishioners.


“Do you think Father Riesgo will help?” Sydney asked. “You’re not a member of his congregation.”


“I hope he’ll play along, but at this point, he could definitely resort to extortion. I’d actually attend one of his services, if it would get that nut out of my hair.”


Montevista shook his head. “I’ve never worked with a Mark who had no faith. Your parents are pious, right? What happened with you?”


Eve held up a hand. “You and I are friends. That means we can never talk about politics or religion.”


He started to retort, then glanced at her. His mouth shut. “All right.”


“I know that tone,” she said, fingertips tapping against the steering wheel. “You think I’m pissed off at God and irreverence is my retaliation. But I’m not mad. I just think that many of the stories in the Bible show a God who has the same faults we do. He has pride and a temper, and he plays with humans like we’re toys. It’ll take a damn sight more than the promise of an unseen heaven for me to worship someone like that.”


“Yeesh,” Sydney breathed.


“Sorry I asked,” Montevista agreed.


No one said anything else the rest of the short drive. Not because of the discussion about religion, but because of the number of laser-bright eyes that followed them as they progressed. The sidewalks were only slightly more crowded than usual, but the number of Infernals was clearly elevated by a tremendous degree.


“When we get to the stadium,” Montevista said, “just idle by the entrance while I see if the priest has arrived. If shit hits the fan, you punch the gas and get the hell out of there.”


Sydney leaned forward. “I can run in. If it comes down to it, you’re the best one to protect her.”


He made an aggravated noise, then spoke harshly, “No. You stick with Hollis.”


In the rearview mirror, Eve watched Sydney’s brows rise. The Mark settled back into the seat and caught Eve’s gaze.


PMS? Eve mouthed.


A wry smile curved Sydney’s lips, but it didn’t reach her eyes. Montevista was a bit off kilter this afternoon.


They pulled into the tiny parking lot adjacent to the stadium. The place was familiar to her. Although her high school was a few miles away, Glover Stadium was the official home of Loara High School football.


Montevista had the door open and was unfolding from the car when Riesgo appeared from between two vehicles. The moment he saw her, a grin lit his blunt but arresting features. He was dressed in black sweats and athletic shoes, and he had a baseball bat bag slung over one shoulder and a mesh bag filled with mitts in his other hand. She hit the button to lower her window.


“Hey;’ he said.


“Hey to you, too. I brought your Bible back.”


Even with the dangerous scar that marred his cheek, the amusement that lit his features made him look boyish. “You could have mailed it.”


“Yeah,” she conceded, returning his smile, “but I have a favor to ask, too.”


“Really.” His gaze moved to Sydney, then to Montevista, who stood next to the open passenger door. “Hello. I’m Father Riesgo.”


Montevista introduced himself. Sydney stepped out and followed suit.