Monday, August 26, 2013
34. The Choices...continued
Alarmed at Cantrell's sudden interest in Katy, Lily dragged her deeper into the kitchen out of the man's sight. After tossing the bloody knife into the garbage and fighting off a sudden bout of roiling nausea, she turned to look at Katy's white, tear-streaked face. “Are you all right,” she whispered.
Shaking her head, Katy swallowed roughly around the lump of fear still wedged in her throat. “Dom's father is...” Unable to continue, to find the right words, she reached across the counter, tore off a paper towel and wiped her face and eyes. “So that makes Dominic, what? Half a demon?” Shivering, she remembered the moment his eyes had blazed red, though she knew his anger had been directed at the beast, not her.
“I’m not sure what he is, except possibly Daniel's brother.” Shaking her head, Lily looked sadly into Katy's eyes. “After hearing that horrible story, I just…I don’t know what to think.”
“He’s not bad, Lil. He’s not like the monster his father is, I’m sure of it.”
“You can’t be sure of anything, Katy. You barely know the guy,” Lily protested.
“But I do know him.” Taking Lily’s hand, she pulled her back toward the living room. “And somehow I’ll prove it to you.”
Dom shot a quick glance at Katy as she and Lily came out of the kitchen. She’d been crying and wouldn't meet his eyes. Though the distance between them nearly unmanned him, it was best that she no longer wanted him, trusted him. Better that she feared him. While he glared belligerently at his father, his mind raced. This situation wasn't remotely similar to any of the scenarios he'd envisioned over the years while planning his father's destruction. But now, to secure Katy's safety, all that mattered was to find the missing piece of this bizarre puzzle. It was time to play.
“Considering my low tolerance for boredom,” Dom said sarcastically, “how about a revelation or two to liven the party?”
“Ah, my son, so many revelations, one hardly knows where to begin,” Cantrell said affably, but though he smiled, it did nothing to warm the ice in his gaze. “Let us all sit, shall we?” When no one moved, he sighed despondently, as if the burden of dealing with such uncooperative children was just too heavy to bear. “Stand then, I don’t care.”
Jamieson Cantrell took his time, and a long swallow of his drink, before he finally spoke. “By a pure fluke of alchemy and research, I inadvertently opened a portal between the Abyss and this realm. I couldn't resist the temptation to explore, and after a time I realized that with the right army, the possibilities to expand my dominion were at hand.” He sighed. “It was such a perfect plan, but when I tried to return, to raise my troops, I found the portal closed against me. At first I was enraged, then I found a multitude of ways to entertain myself while working on a solution to the problem. Chief among those entertainments was amassing a fortune and building an empire, but I took a particular delight in my experiments in procreation.”
Shaking his head in mock despair, Cantrell said casually with a shrug, “I went through so many weak and worthless women over the years until,” he smiled broadly at Dom, “one finally brought forth my son.” His words, ripe with gratification, dropped like stones into the room. “Your mother proved unworthy in the end, of course, but by then it didn’t matter because I had you, my son.” Caught up in his vile tale, Cantrell didn't register that Daniel's lunge toward him had been effectively thwarted by both Wardens. Slapping Dom jovially on the back, a human gesture completely at odds with the demon lord’s total disregard for humanity.
Daniel spoke up then, angry at the Wardens. “What are you waiting for?” he snapped at Taurin. “Haul him off, yank his chain, revoke his visa. Send the bastard back to Hell,” he snarled. Rife with hatred, his eyes burned as he faced Cantrell and hissed, “You will never touch Lily or that book.”
Cantrell glanced with disinterest at the beautiful emerald green book with the golden script where it lay on the coffee table. “Such fools. It was never about the book.”
He laughed with malicious delight at the incredulous, disbelieving stares. “Allow me to spell it out for you since I don't plan on being here much longer. I needed a book to draw a Warden. Several years ago I found a woman with a modicum of ability to enter the Ethereal. I had hoped, erroneously as it transpired, that she would prove useful in reopening the portal. However, before her unfortunate...dinner engagement with the Hound, she unearthed two very interesting clues. First, that Wardens have the ability to move between realms to apprehend or investigate souls, a most useful talent, though one that requires a token of some unknown description. Therefore, if a book could be stolen from the Library of Souls, that would bring swift reprisal. In other words, for those of you having trouble keeping up, a Warden would be dispatched immediately, token or talisman in hand, so to speak.”
Looking around the room, he reveled in the rapt attention. “My little helper discovered the names of two people with a strong enough soul bond to enable one to take the other's book.” He waved a languid hand at Daniel and Lily, “That would be you two,” he said dismissively. “It was a brilliant scheme. I already knew of Valentine's altruistic excuse for robbing people, which only made it easier to trap him. And once he had the book, it was only a matter of time before a Warden would follow.” Cantrell’s smile was cruel as he met Daniel’s furious glower. “What I didn't anticipate was your little road trip. And by the way, my boy, does everyone here understand your part in this little adventure? Or might they be shocked and horrified at your deceit and treachery?”
Lily pried open Daniel's fist and took his hand. “Of course we know.” Her eyes narrowed. “Daniel told us everything.” Insolently, she let her gaze roam from the tips of his shiny Italian shoes to the top of his perfectly coiffed head. “Whatever you hoped to accomplish, you've failed.” Her voice cool with satisfaction, Lily said calmly, “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
With a disgruntled shake of his head, Cantrell turned to his son. “They’re hopeless. No imagination at all.” He tipped his glass and finished off the drink in one large swallow. “Once I find the means to come and go between realms, these small-minded humans will be so incredibly easy to control.” His look of disgust swept over all of them before settling on Katy. “Bring me your little pet, Dominic. I think I’ll take her.” He turned his cold, obsidian eyes on Dom. “You don't mind, do you, son?”
Dom knew it was a test of his loyalty, a test to see if Katy was a weapon that could be used against him. He also knew Katy’s life hung on the success of what he did next. Finally, he had the puzzle piece to finish his father.
So, without a word, he walked toward the group standing in a half-circle at the other end of the coffee table. He ignored Mickey and Taurin, standing on either side of Katy, when they stepped forward to block him, and didn’t spare a glance for Daniel when he edged behind the sofa dragging Lily with him.
Holding out his hand, eyes locked with hers, Dom waited for Katy to reach for him. Solemn, she hesitated for only a moment, then wrapped her fingers around his. As he started to draw her to him, Lily shouted, “Katy! No!” Daniel struggled to hold her back, though both Mickey and Taurin now stood transfixed.
Bending, Dom’s lips brushed against Katy’s ear as he whispered, “Don’t forget me, Red.” She felt a tiny, feathery kiss float across her cheek, heard the yearning in his velvet-soft words as he breathed them against her mouth, “I will always belong to you.” Before another breath could be drawn, he flung her at Taurin, reached unerringly toward Mickey, ripping the medallion from his neck. Without a moment's hesitation he spun, embraced his father with a powerful strength born of determination, and imaged the deepest, darkest pit in the Abyss.
As his father fought and roared with rage, as the world disappeared around them, Dom felt something clamp around his ankle in a tight, painful grip. Before he could wonder or question, oblivion claimed him.