Yield the Night by Annette Marie


  Kindra gave her a look. “But do you want more than that, hmm?”

  Piper glanced down, pressing her lips together. Why was she even having this conversation, especially with a daemon? She wasn’t great with feelings at the best of times. Other girls always seemed to know exactly how they felt when it came to everything and everyone, but she’d never had much time to worry about feelings. She’d been too busy training or kicking ass.

  And Ash, well. Things were complicated. She couldn’t deny she was attracted to him. She couldn’t deny she was drawn to him in other ways besides physical desire. But he was still a mystery, still a stranger in so many ways. But whenever she tried to convince herself that, really, she didn’t know him at all, her mind would conjure up a perfect memory of his dark eyes, gleaming with fire and determination, staring through her skin and scorching her soul with their intensity.

  “It doesn’t matter,” she finally answered, her voice flat. “He’s never coming back here. He’s gone for good.”

  He, Seiya—his sister—and Lyre had gone deep underground, hiding from Samael’s relentless spies, and she’d done a pretty good job over the last two months of convincing herself she would never see any of them again. But the thought still made her ache inside.

  Kindra opened her mouth to respond but thumping footsteps made them both turn toward the back of the kitchen. Marcelo appeared at the top of the stairs and stopped at the sight of them. His eyebrows shot up and his dark gaze snapped over Piper. His buzz cut, sturdy build, and heavy boots made him look more like a soldier than a Consul. The ugly bump on his nose from a badly healed break ruined his look a bit.

  “Piper? What are you doing here?” His tone was much closer to disgruntled surprise than welcoming.

  “I live here.”

  He snorted. “Not anymore.”

  “Uh, actually, I do. I was at school, not banished.”

  He folded his arms, biceps bulging. “The only people allowed in Consulates are Consuls, Apprentice Consuls, and daemons. Ergo, you shouldn’t be here.”

  “Are you drunk, Marcelo?” Kindra snapped. “You said it yourself. Apprentice Consuls belong here just as much as you do.”

  “They do. But since there are no Apprentice Consuls in this Consulate right now, the point is moot.”

  Kindra looked sharply at Piper, who flexed her jaw, wishing she could break Marcelo’s ugly nose a second time.

  “Piper’s apprenticeship was cancelled two months ago,” he informed Kindra, barely suppressing his smug delight. “I don’t know what the official reason is, but ‘gross incompetence’ is probably pretty close.”

  “Piper is a good Apprentice!” Kindra said angrily.

  He snorted again. “I spent more time cleaning up her messes than doing my job. But the last two months have been great. It’s been so quiet it’s almost been boring, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

  Waving a dismissive hand at Piper, he smiled coolly. “We all knew you wouldn’t make it. We were surprised you lasted this long. Even I think your father has been pretty damn cruel, stringing you along for so many years. You’ll have a better time of things once you settle into a human community.”

  “I’m not going to a human community,” she ground out.

  “You sure as hell aren’t staying here.”

  She bared her teeth at him. “You’ve been enjoying the peace and quiet, haven’t you? You like it better that way because then maybe no one will notice that you couldn’t beat a daemon in a fight if your life depended on it.”

  He sneered. “Talk all you want, but you won’t be here long. Your father is already planning how to get rid of you again.”

  With a nasty chuckle, he strode over to the fridge, grabbed a can of soda, and disappeared back down the stairs. Piper glared after him, hands clenched into fists.

  “Piper ...” Kindra said softly. “I’m sorry.”

  She stood, motions jerky with anger. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

  Striding out of the kitchen, she headed for the grand staircase at the front of the manor. Marcelo’s words rang in her head. Already planning how to get rid of you again. It wouldn’t surprise her. Quinn wanted her as far away from the Consulate—any Consulate—as he could possibly get her.

  She half-jogged up the stairs and stopped at the top, breathing hard. To her left were four Consul suites; to her right, an open-concept living, dining, and kitchen space where live-in and on-shift Consuls could relax. Two months ago, she’d been standing in almost this exact spot, her suitcase beside her, about to head down to the foyer to watch for the car from the school, when Quinn had told her that her apprenticeship had been cancelled. He’d told her literally ten minutes before she was to leave.

  Her current situation was too unstable, he’d said. She wasn’t in a position to dedicate the proper effort to her training. She needed time off to get her life back in order.

  Though he’d referenced recent events, she suspected his real feelings on the matter were a little different. He’d treated her strangely ever since he’d learned she could wield the Sahar. She could draw only one conclusion: he thought she was unstable. He was afraid she’d become fragile or even unhinged after everything that had happened to her. And his idea of the best approach to his daughter’s potential psychosis and her ability to wield massively destructive levels of magic was to get her as far away from daemons as physically possible.

  Fury surged through her. She’d charged through an army of daemons to reach him and Miysis, then she’d used the Sahar to open up an escape route for them. And her reward? The cancelation of her apprenticeship. If anything, she’d proved herself to be strong and capable, but instead, Quinn thought she was damaged and brittle.

  Jaw clenched, she stalked into her bedroom and shut the door, barely managing not to slam it. Damn Marcelo for digging at old wounds. Dropping into her desk chair, she rubbed her face and massaged her aching temples.

  Propping her elbows on the desk, she stared listlessly around her room. She’d been so delighted to return home that she hadn’t given a lot of thought to what came next. Unless she convinced her father to reinstate her apprenticeship, she couldn’t live at the Consulate anymore. Marcelo was right. A random haemon hanging around would create all kinds of complications; deprived of her authority as an apprentice, she would be a target for any daemon in a bad mood. Besides that, without training or shifts to complete, she’d have nothing to do.

  Without an apprenticeship, she would have to leave. But where would she go? This was the only life she’d ever known.

  She stared in the general direction of her desk for several minutes, thoughts spinning through her head, before she realized what she was seeing. The corner of a red piece of paper peeked out from beneath a battered textbook on advanced first aid—a textbook she would no longer need to study without her apprenticeship.

  Brow furrowed, she pulled the paper out. She didn’t own any red stationery that she could recall and she was certain the sheet hadn’t been there when she’d left for Westwood. Unfolding it, she discovered it had been torn from a larger page. What appeared to be a cheap menu was printed on one side. She flipped it over to find unfamiliar handwriting scrawled on the opposite side.

  MIDNIGHT ON SATURDAY

  AT THE WELL.

  — L.

  She stared at the message, then looked at the desk. A note hidden in her room. Only two people with names that started with an L would want to meet her in secret. Since Lilith wasn’t the “secret handwritten messages” type—as far as she knew—that meant the note had to be from Lyre.

  Excitement erupted inside her like fire in her veins. Lyre had been here. In her room. When? Her excitement turned into anxiety. How long ago? What if he’d hid the note weeks ago, thinking she would be home to find it? No, he’d known she was going to a boarding school. It was common knowledge that today was the last day of the winter semester for schools across the region.

  So he must have hidden the note just
this week. Maybe he’d even been in the Consulate that very day. He must mean tomorrow night. There was an old well on the Consulate property, dry for decades; she knew the spot.

  Her hands twitched, wanting to clench the note tight. So close. She’d been so close to seeing him—and Ash—again. Just when she’d finally accepted that they were gone forever, this! But why? Her exhilaration waned a second time. Why did Lyre want a secret meeting? Why was he back from the Underworld? Were Ash and Seiya with him? She’d assumed they were together, but what if something had gone wrong? What if Lyre wanted to meet her because he had bad news?

  The last bit of her happy bubble popped as another thought occurred to her.

  What if the note wasn’t from Lyre at all?

  She didn’t know what Lyre’s handwriting looked like. What if it was a trick? Some plot of Samael’s or Lilith’s to lure her out into the forest by herself in the middle of the night?

  Her hand clenched, crushing the note. There was no way to know for sure without going to the meeting point tomorrow night and hoping for the best. Biting her lip, she smoothed out the paper. She didn’t know why, but her gut said it really was from Lyre. She would have to take the risk.

  “Piper!”

  Hearing the alarm in Kindra’s voice, Piper sprang to her feet. She stuffed the note in her pocket and ran for her bedroom door.

  “What’s wrong?” she yelled as she threw the door open.

  “I smell smoke,” Kindra yelled from somewhere downstairs. “Something is on fire!”

  A zing of fear ran through her and an image rose in her mind: the grainy newspaper photograph of the destroyed Consulate. Panic surged and she bolted toward the stairs.

  She got ten steps down the hall before an ear-shattering explosion rocked the Consulate.

  She hit the floor. The building heaved. Light bulbs shattered, plunging her into darkness. Another detonation went off in the west wing. Wood and metal screamed as support beams gave way.

  With snapping sounds like gunfire, one end of the living area fell into the foyer. The floor plunged downward, turning into a ramp. She scrabbled desperately for a handhold as furniture and debris slid off the edge and crashed down into the entryway. Friction lost out and suddenly she was sliding fast. She screamed as she went over the edge. She landed hard and fell into a painful roll, crashing into an upside-down sofa. Debris rained down on her.

  A third detonation tore through the front of the manor.

  The earth bucked and trembled. The dining room table, a casualty from the upstairs kitchen, lay on its side a few feet away. She dove toward it. Tucking herself against the heavy wooden top, she covered her head with her arms as the front wall of the building buckled inward. Wood and bricks smashed down on the foyer, but the table shielded her from the worst of it.

  Breathing hard, limbs shaking, she shoved a chunk of drywall off and staggered to her feet. Cool night air whipped across her face but she barely spared a glance at the front lawn, which was now one with the demolished foyer. Half the manor was still standing.

  “Kindra!” she screamed.

  Stumbling over rubble—thank goodness she was wearing her leather boots—she ran into the hall, still calling for the daemon. Kindra had just been shouting to her; the daemon couldn’t be that far. The hall was pitch black, and as soon as she entered, she smelled it—smoke. Something was burning.

  She almost ran into a barricade at the end of the hall that separated her from the main-floor kitchen. Part of the upper floor had buried the hallway.

  “Kindra!” she yelled desperately.

  Kicking at the debris, she found a loose spot. She yanked a few two-by-fours out of the way and squeezed through the tiny gap. Halfway to the other side, the debris shifted and the hole tightened, squeezing her middle. With a terrified gasp, she squirmed out, scraping her hips on the splintered wood. As soon as she pulled her feet free, the gap caved in and she heard another wave of rubble fall from the upper level.

  Scrambling away, Piper turned toward the kitchen and saw where the smoke was coming from. The kitchen was on fire. Flames danced over every surface, greedily devouring the wooden cupboards.

  She spun away from the kitchen and toward the living room, eyes scouring the remains of the sitting area where, just a few minutes ago, she’d been sitting, eating cookies. A deafening crash rent the air as another part of the house caved in on itself. Breathing fast, she focused on the living room again. A wall had collapsed over half the room, burying the sofa, but—

  Her heart leaped into her throat. Red curls peeked out from beneath the broken wall.

  Piper dashed to the wreckage and grabbed a heavy piece of drywall with studs still attached and bent nails sticking out from the back. Straining, she dragged it off and flipped it aside. Kindra was sprawled amidst the remains of a bookshelf.

  “K-Kindra!” she coughed. It was becoming hard to breathe. Smoke burned her eyes.

  She grabbed the daemon’s arm and pulled it around her shoulder. Gritting her teeth, she stood, heaving Kindra up. The dead weight was almost too much for her. Kindra shuddered.

  “Piper?” she groaned.

  “Kindra, hang on, okay? This way.”

  Kindra got her feet under her and staggered beside Piper, leaning heavily on her. The heat from the fire beat at her as she led them toward the kitchen. The fastest way out of the manor was through the back door, except it was on fire too. She half-dragged Kindra to the edge of the inferno. With one arm shielding her face, she kicked the door hard. The flames jumped from the impact but the door remained intact. Teeth bared, she kicked again. The door flew open and Piper hauled Kindra out as the scorching heat singed her face.

  Fresh air swept into her lungs as she led Kindra away from the building and onto the lawn. Cold drops of water peppered her face; it was starting to rain. A dozen yards out, her legs buckled and she fell on the grass. Kindra dropped to her knees, one hand pressed to her head. Blood streaked the side of her face.

  “What happened?” she whispered, eyes still dazed.

  Piper shook her head, looking back at the building. The corner with the kitchen was the only part of the manor still standing, but the flames were quickly consuming it. Somewhere in the destruction, all her worldly belongings had been crushed and were burning. And somewhere inside, Marcelo and two daemons were either trapped or dead.

  “It’s the seventh attack,” Kindra said hoarsely, also staring at the wreckage. “One every night this week ...”

  Piper didn’t answer, unable to speak. Her heart pounded and her head spun. She kind of thought she might throw up. Or pass out. Or both. She should do something. There was something she should be doing, right? Search for Marcelo? Call for help? Maybe she and Kindra could dig them out. She rubbed her hand over her face, smearing soot and raindrops across her skin.

  A thought popped into her head, snapping her out of her daze.

  “Kindra,” she hissed. “We have to get out of here.”

  “What? No, we need to—”

  “Now!”

  “But—”

  Piper grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. She ran for the dark line of trees at the edge of the lawn. They ducked into the foliage and Piper crouched behind a thorny bush.

  “Don’t you remember what the article said?” she whispered, pulling Kindra into the shadows with her. Rain pattered on the leaves overhead. “That daemon who survived the explosion was killed afterward, shot in the head.”

  No sooner did she finish speaking than shadowed figures appeared, slowly circling the Consulate. Kindra went still and silent, her jaw tight as she watched the strangers. Piper’s hands clenched. The six men came around to survey the demolished half of the building, their backs to Piper and Kindra as they examined the rubble, searching for survivors to finish off. Even in the uncertain light, Piper could tell they were armed; they carried themselves with that stiff-shouldered stance of men with heavy guns. She gritted her teeth. They were the ones who’d been blowing up Consulate
s for a week. The ones who’d blown up her home.

  Kindra shifted her weight. Piper glanced over—and gasped.

  “Kindra, no—”

  The daemon rose to her feet, shedding her glamour in the same movement. Her wild red hair drifted outward, suddenly immune to gravity. Her ears were now pointed, cheeks hollow beneath dramatically sharp cheekbones. Her eyes were huge and black as coal. Her body, more willowy and lightweight than ever, coiled in readiness. Narrow red things—scales? feathers?—rose in lines on her arms like a cat’s hair standing on end.

  Before Piper could even finish her protest, Kindra sprang out of the trees. With impossible speed, she flashed across the expanse of lawn. Piper swore under her breath and ran out after her, keeping low.

  Kindra was on the first man before he could turn. Piper didn’t see what Kindra did but the man screamed as he fell. The others spun toward the daemon. She dashed away, almost too fast for the eye to follow, then reappeared, making a grab for a second one. The third got his gun up and fired but Kindra abandoned her target and flashed away, a dark blur. His gun flipped up, hitting him in the face, struck by an invisible blow from the daemon. He staggered, brandishing his rifle and wildly looking around for Kindra.

  Between the darkness, the haze of rain, and the lethal daemon, none of them noticed Piper coming.

  She rushed in and swung her leg up in a hard kick, her booted foot hitting the nearest man’s hand before he could pull the trigger, crushing his fingers against the metal. He yelped and twisted toward her, but she grabbed his gun and wrenched it hard, probably breaking more of his fingers as she tore it from his grip. As soon as she’d disarmed him, she slammed the stock into his face, knocking him clear off his feet.

  To her left, another man yelled in panic as Kindra caught him. He collapsed and the daemon sped away as the remaining three let loose deafening sprays of bullets at the empty space where she’d just been. Tossing the rifle aside, Piper dove toward them, dropped low, and swept her leg into the nearest one’s ankles. He fell, landing hard on his back. Piper jumped on him and smashed her elbow into his temple. Two left.

 
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