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Wicked Ruin (Se7en Sinners Book 3) by S.L. Jennings (14)

 

Irin gives us a couple hours to cool off and regroup before demanding our presence in her quarters. I’m tempted to tell her and everyone else to fuck off, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a little more than curious to know why Lucifer has dared to show his face here, of all places. And if he knew about me—if Legion knew about me—then why keep me here? Why not just hand me over to Uriel and save themselves? If I was made to merely be a distraction, so why not eliminate the problem?

None of this makes sense. It’s like they’re biding their time when they know it won’t end well as long as I’m a liability. But what other option do I have other than sitting and waiting? My sister is here getting medical treatment that she needs. I can’t leave her. And if I did, what would that mean for her survival?

Too many questions, and not enough answers, so I begrudgingly drag myself out of my room and head down the long hallway, past the enormous space where Irin likes to entertain, and hit the opposite wing where we’ve held all our meetings since we arrived. I swear, between Irin’s lounge and the gym, I don’t have much of a life.

I’m not surprised to find Lucifer lazing beside her and casually chatting, but the sight of him still gives me pause. Refusing to make eye contact, I take up residence in my usual corner of the oversized, plush sectional, which seems much smaller than it did hours before. Only Niko has arrived so far, and I note that he barely looks my way when I sit down beside him. Looks like the cold playboy act is back on, which I can’t blame him for. Lucifer is his boss for all intents and purposes. Showing any sign of vulnerability or fondness for me could inevitably be used against him. And now I understand why Niko wanted to keep his family out of this.

To say the atmosphere is uncomfortable is an understatement, and it feels like I’m sitting on hot coals as we wait for the others to arrive. When Adriel flits in and settles on Irin’s other side, I want to hurl. But whatever I expected to feel when Legion and the Se7en arrive pales in comparison to the sorrow and dread that coils in my gut when they step into the room.

“What the fuck is he doing here?” Legion spits, stopping at the entrance. The others follow suit.

“Lucifer is a guest,” Irin answers, not at all perturbed by Legion’s reaction. “I asked him to be here.”

“This has nothing to do with him.”

“Actually,” Luc chimes in. “You may want to hear me out, brother. It certainly can’t hurt, considering the sorry state of your cause.”

“And as this is my home, you will abide by my rules,” Irin adds. “Sit. There is much to discuss.”

Legion glares at Lucifer for a long, furious beat before reluctantly going to the other side of the sectional. However, he doesn’t sit. One small act of rebellion.

Irin begins, although there’s no sign of Crysis. “The masquerade party will proceed as planned. Legion, you and your people have full use of surveillance and security services.”

It’s Phenex who answers. “Thank you, Irin. We appreciate your hospitality.”

“Yes, very hospitable, as always, Irin,” Lucifer pipes with a mocking grin. Asshole. I guess whatever sincerity he displayed upon his arrival is long forgotten. “But one has to wonder—with the fate of the human realm hanging in the balance, why on earth would a gaudy party seem appropriate?”

The Se7en don’t answer. And I damn sure don’t plan on lending any information to that manipulating prick.

“They’ve decided that with the Redeemer still in the hands of the Seraph,” Irin offers, “that a party would potentially draw them here, revealing their numbers. It was young Eden’s plan.”

I know he turns in my direction, because I can feel the very moment his eyes fall on me, roaming my entire frame. I keep looking straight ahead at nothing at all.

“Interesting. Noble,” he notes. “But what would be the point?”

“Well, considering the Seraph want to use the Redeemer to kill us to fulfill some petty revenge fantasy,” Lilith snaps at her former co-conspirator, “it’s probably a good idea to know what we’re up against.”

“Wants to kill you?” Lucifer guffaws unceremoniously, causing every one of the Se7en to glare at him with contempt. “Oh dear, thank the Almighty I arrived when I did.”

“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Cain questions, his expression dark and his fists clenched at his sides.

“It means that you all are completely clueless, although I’m not surprised. The Seraph want you dead, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Honestly, exacting revenge is merely a bonus.”

“So what do they want?” Phenex asks.

Lucifer leans forward, elbows on his knees, his violet eyes swirling with obsidian. “To kill everyone. Chicago is just the beginning, and killing you,” He waves a graceful hand towards the Se7en, “is merely eliminating a speed bump. And once you’re no longer an obstacle, they’ll move on to every major city in the world. New York. Los Angeles. Miami. London. Hong Kong. Paris. Debase and destroy—that’s what they want.”

“Why?” The entire room turns to me at my uttered outburst. So much for acting indifferent.

Lucifer’s gaze softens a fraction. Even his tone isn’t as sharp and taunting. “So they can justify the end of humanity.”

“Bullshit,” Legion barks. I’m grateful when Lucifer turns to face him, releasing me from his uncomfortable stare. “They don’t have the power.”

“But they’re betting on Father seeing reason. If humanity is doomed, why not wipe the slate clean and try again? He’s done it once before, in a failed attempt to undo what we achieved when we fell. Who’s to say he won’t try again?”

Legion’s clenched jaw quivers with an unleashed curse. I can see it written all over his hardened features—what Lucifer says holds some merit. And it makes sense. Violence, prostitution, drugs, corruption, pedophilia. The poor get poorer, the sick get sicker, and the rich get richer. And that’s just in Chicago. Even when there’s a beacon of hope and light, things don’t seem to ever get better. Of course, there’d be cause to want to give humanity a fresh start. But that doesn’t mean I want everyone I’ve ever known and loved to die. Even the people who have wronged me in my lifetime. I would never wish for them to be wiped from existence.

“But you could stop it,” Phenex tries to reason with Lucifer. “The lesser demons are destroying the city. People are dying; children are starving. What are you doing to alleviate the carnage and suffering?”

The accusation hangs heavy right before him, but Lucifer pretends not to notice. “I could seal Hell to keep any more from escaping, but it would have to be with me in it.”

“And that’s a problem because…?” Cain challenges.

“Because you need me.” Before I can brace myself, Lucifer turns to look right at me, his stare terrifying in its ability to cause my insides to liquefy. “You all do.”

“I’m certain many of us would be willing to argue that assessment,” Phenex comments.

“Then you’re all fools,” Lucifer snaps, turning to him. “You think the Seraph will make this easy for you? You have one greater demon, a gaggle of heavily armed minions, a mute angel, and two Nephilim, one of which wouldn’t be breathing had it not been for me sending the warlock. So yes, you do need me. You’d still be chasing your tails, trying to find out the Seraph’s plan—the plan I just laid out for you. So let’s see…I’ve been here a matter of hours, yet I’ve accomplished more than any of you have in a week. Pathetic.”

Every hackle is raised, but no one disputes his claims. And honestly, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. We only have one demon strong enough to fight a Seraph. One. And there’s no telling how many angels they’ve dragged to their cause. Lucifer could be a valuable ally, but would he really be on our side? Is anything about him honorable and honest?

Other than the love and loyalty he holds for his brother, of course.

So maybe he is telling the truth. Considering that’s the only person he’s shown to care about, I don’t think he’d do anything to jeopardize Legion’s existence.

Fuck the rest of us though.

“So what do you propose?” Legion questions, his expression anything but receptive.

Lucifer shrugs. “Have your little party. But I want in. One word of advice though…bench the angel.”

“Why?” Adriel frowns, showing her first sign of disapproval.

Lucifer completely ignores her and speaks directly to Legion. “Well, if the Seraph somehow detect her and take her, you’ve screwed yourself out of your insurance policy.”

I swear, I can hear crickets from the other side of the room. Insurance policy? How? And why didn’t that ever cross my mind?

“Oh. She doesn’t know, does she?” Lucifer muses donning a wicked smile. “My bad.”

Adriel looks at Legion; her expression crumpled with hurt. “What is he talking about?”

Legion squints his disdain for Lucifer, yet speaks to Adriel. “Uriel still wants you, meaning he’d be less inclined to strike knowing we have you.”

“And let’s not forget the little matter of your blood,” Lucifer adds. His shit-eating grin is so wide, he looks like the fucking Joker.

Legion releases a little growl of warning, but confirms Lucifer’s claim, shoving the knife embedded in Adriel’s heart in a little deeper. “We have reason to believe that angel blood can be used to heal a wound from the Redeemer. Phenex has been working on a way to synthesize it, so your presence here is necessary.”

“So in other words, dearie, they need it straight from the tap.” Lucifer is diabolical. I know they have history, but damn. This attack seems personal.

I see the pain on Adriel’s face, and I can’t help but feel a little bad for her. Still hate her, but I can’t imagine what she’s thinking right now. She’s only here to act as leverage, plus they need her blood. So maybe…maybe Legion isn’t keeping her around because he still has feelings for her. Maybe her presence is merely necessary for survival.

“Now that everything is out on the table,” Lucifer says, turning to take one of The Watcher’s petite hands, “Irin, I want to thank you for having me. Anything you need from me is yours.” He brings the hand up to his lips and brushes a kiss along her knuckles.

“You’re quite welcome, Lucy. As long as you manage to behave, this should be entertaining.” She snatches her hand back and snaps her fingers. Kairo appears seconds later, looking red-faced and flustered. “Kairo will show you to your room. My staff is at your disposal for whatever you may desire. Enjoy.”

Kairo bows, then looks up at Lucifer through long, black lashes, a seductive smile gracing his lips. Now I understand why he looks so flushed. He wants Lucifer. And judging by the way Lucifer gazes back, unblinking, I’m thinking he isn’t opposed to Kairo warming his bed during his stay here.

And that makes me feel…warm. Stifling hot.

I never thought about Lucifer with men, but now that the idea has been presented, I’m more than a bit curious to know what that might be like. Would he be rough with Kairo, or gentle? Would he worship his body, or demand that Kairo devote himself to please him? Shit. Just the thought of two beautiful men together, sheets twisted at their feet as their naked bodies tangle in ecstasy…I don’t see how I can focus on anything else for the rest of the night.

The Se7en begin to rise and disperse, but Legion seems hesitant to leave, his eyes going to me then to Lucifer. He’s worried. About what, I’m not sure. The cat’s already out of the bag—I know everything. Legion knew more than he let on. He lied to me. And even though what Lucifer did was ten times worse, if it wasn’t for him, I may not ever know the truth. He’s an asshole, but at least he’s somewhat of an honest asshole.

“Eden.” Lucifer is suddenly in front of me, hand extended to help me to my feet.

I quickly glance over at Legion, who stares back unabashedly. I opened my heart and my body to him, and he knew things about me—things he hadn’t planned to disclose. He didn’t want to believe that being with me would affect his judgment because maybe he didn’t care enough or think I was significant enough. I’m not stupid enough to think that Lucifer is any better, but what Legion and I shared…I thought it was special. I thought it was real. Now, I find it was all a lie. I was literally made to be his plaything, something for him to fuck and fondle instead of focusing on the real threat—my father. It’s sick and degrading, yet I let it happen. More than that, I craved that sickness. I dropped to my knees and begged to be degraded over and over again.

I take Lucifer’s hand, ignoring the pang of guilt and shame in my chest. His touch is just as I remembered, and a dozen memories of my time with him flood back to the forefront of my mind. The way he watched me over his wineglass at his many elaborate dinners. How I woke to find him watching me while I slept. How he wasn’t afraid to show his sense of humor when we had breakfast in his suite. And the way I felt in his arms as he twirled me around his ballroom…

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so beautiful in my entire life. The dress and the shoes were gorgeous, yes, but the way he looked at me in them is what had me coasting on a cloud of contentment.

“You’re looking beautiful, as always. Angel blood agrees with you,” he drawls.

“What do you want, Lucifer?” I huff, hating the way his touch makes me feel. Hating the way my body instantly remembers what it was like to have him deep inside of me in Irin’s bathroom.

“Just wanted to extend my congrats. As you know, Nephilim are rare. Seraph Nephilim even more rare. You should consider this an esteemed honor.”

“And should I consider you trying to get me killed an honor too?” I bite back, snatching my hand from his grasp. “Or how about threatening to hurt my sister so you could kidnap me when that plan didn’t work?”

He raises his hands and shrugs. “All’s fair in love and war. And in war, there are casualties, even those that you love. You’ll understand that sooner than you think.” He spies my neck, where a fading bite mark still lingers, and his brows raise. “I see you may already know what I’m talking about.”

I shake my head and look away. Angry tears sting the backs of my eyes, but I refuse to let him see that he hurt me.

Lucifer hurt me.

I wanted to believe there was something redeemable within him, and there was. Just not where it pertained to me. Silly, stupid girl. What made me think I could change the Devil’s heart? And why did I want to?

“Look, you’re here, and I can’t change that. But do me a favor? Stay the fuck out of my way.”

With that, I turn on my heel and march out of Irin’s quarters without a single glance in Legion’s direction. I don’t stop until I’m in my bedroom, panting, my back pressed to the door. When a knock sounds from the other side, I yelp with a curse.

“Holy shit,” I gasp when I swing open the door to find Niko standing there. He hurriedly enters and shuts it behind him.

“Seriously, if you don’t want to get him worked up, maybe you shouldn’t speak his love language.”

“What?”

“Lucifer,” he answers. “He practically had an instant hard-on after you told him to fuck off. You’re playing right into his sick, twisted game. The best reaction is no reaction, E. He literally thrives off your resistance.”

“So what? I’m so supposed to fawn over him like Kairo? No thanks.” I cringe at the thought of looking like a love-struck puppy for Lucifer. I’d rather pull a Jinn and cut out my own tongue.

“No. You’re supposed to make him believe that no matter what he does or says to you, he can’t affect you. I told you this before when we were Hell. Same rules apply.”

He’s right. Shit. I should have followed Niko’s lead and remained quiet and cold.

“I know,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s just…I hate him. I hate him so fucking much.”

“Well, that won’t do either.” He goes over to the bed and settles down at the foot.

“Why not?” I frown, sidling up beside him.

“Love. Hate. They’re the two strongest emotions one can covet. And to him, they’re both essentially the same. If he can make you feel one, he can make you feel the other just as passionately.”

I flop back on the bed and release a frustrated breath. Niko does the same, resting his head beside mine.

Shit.

I’m so fucked.

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