Mihail spread his white wings, regaining Lucifer’s attention, but not for long. It drifted away again, his gaze roaming downwards and across the courtyard, to the prone mortal that lay like an offering on an altar between his fortress and the angel.
Lucifer’s golden gaze narrowed on her and questions filled his mind again, ones that wouldn’t be ignored this time. Why had Mihail dumped an unconscious female in his courtyard?
Was she bait?
If the male thought he would leave the safety of his fortress for the sake of a mere mortal female, the fool was mistaken.
He eyed the female in question.
She had hair the colour of autumn leaves threaded with gold, strewn like the river of lava he so despised across the obsidian flagstones. Her skin was pale beneath the black dust that spotted it and the tear across the stomach of her white blouse. The thin shirt gaped open at the collar, and the angle of her body, with her shoulders flat against the paving and her arms resting above her head, caused the curve of one breast to show together with a hint of cream lace.
She looked weak like that.
Lucifer canted his head and allowed his gaze to drift over her. Her hips lay rotated, her left one raised and her knee pressing against the flagstones, pointed towards him. The short black skirt she wore rode high on that leg, revealing a long rip in her stockings.
What had Mihail done to the female before laying her out like a virgin sacrifice in his courtyard?
Lucifer growled low in his throat, the urge to leave his fortress and beat an answer out of the angel racing through his blood, setting it on fire. He had no love for mortals, and no use for females of their race when he had given up attempting to sire another child, but the sight of the woman stirred darkness in his veins, a deep and commanding need that he couldn’t quite decipher.
The angel backed off a step, his pale blue eyes still locked on Lucifer.
He was up to something. Playing the snake to his Adam, and she was the forbidden fruit. Lucifer wouldn’t be tempted though. He was stronger than the angel believed. More cunning.
Two of his angels flew over the tall spires of black rock that surrounded the courtyard and fortress, their crimson wings urgently beating the hot air as their scarlet eyes scoured the flagstones. Mihail turned to face them and the angels broke apart, keeping their distance from the male. They followed the curve of the wall towards the fortress and landed close to it, their wings furling against their red-edged obsidian armour as they touched down.
The larger of the two males rolled his shoulders and stomped forwards, cautiously approaching the female.
The other drew a long curved black blade from the air and set his sights on Mihail, snarling at him through twin rows of sharp teeth.
The angel of Heaven backed off a few steps before turning away and taking flight, heading back over the spires of rock towards the plateau.
Lucifer lowered his gaze back to his men. They warily approached the prone female. With good reason. He had ordered them to retrieve her and bring her to the entrance of his fortress. He hadn’t told them why. He had only warned them not to test his temper. No doubt they thought just eyeing the woman would be enough to have him trussing them up for punishment.
The larger Hell’s angel scooped the female up into his thickly-muscled arms and she rolled towards him, her cheek coming to rest against his hard breastplate.
A growl curled from Lucifer’s lips, rumbling up from the pit of his soul. He frowned at the hot need that pumped through his veins, a visceral ache that demanded he go down and take the female from his man and punish the maggot for touching her.
He clenched his fists at his sides, grimaced as his short black claws bit into his palms, and sharply turned away from the window. The female was nothing. The only reason he was bringing her into his home was because he wanted answers. He wanted to know why Mihail had brought her to Hell. He wanted to find out whether she was a trap for him and she was in on the plan.
Lucifer strode from the study and banked right along the corridor. Beyond the end of the hallway, the entire fortress opened up into a cathedral-like room in the centre of his home. He stepped out onto the walkway that ran around the one hundred foot high space and headed down the floating black stone staircase that cut directly across the enormous room and connected the third floor to the second one. Above him to his right, the steps to the fourth floor flowed upwards.
Warm light from the gilded bone chandeliers that hung from the underside of the staircases flooded the room and washed over him, giving more colour to his skin. He glanced down at his left hand, closed his eyes, and turned away from it and the memories of a time when his skin had been as golden as many of the angels who joined the ranks of his men on falling.
A time when he had flown carefree in the world of mortals and had lived to serve his purpose.
A time before he had realised what his true purpose was.
Lucifer ground his teeth, shoved those memories away, locking them back deep inside him where they belonged, and strode onwards, following the open-sided staircases as they criss-crossed the high room. Below him, the tall twin doors of the fortress opened and the heavy thud of boots echoed up to him. He glanced down at the two Hell’s angels, issuing a silent command to halt and wait for him.
He would take their new guest from here.
Lucifer stepped down onto the polished black floor of the entrance hall and took swift strides across it, his Italian leather shoes clicking with each determined step. As he approached, the two angels bent their heads, and the larger one held the female out to him.
He reached for her and tensed as an unfamiliar sensation shot down his arms and pooled in the pit of his chest, stopping him from taking hold of her.
It took him a moment to name the emotion.
Lucifer sneered at the feeling and crushed it out of existence. The mortal was weak. If she was in league with the angels, he would crush her out of existence too. There was no need to fear her. She was no threat to him. There wasn’t even a need to fear Mihail.
He took the redhead from his man, cradling her with one arm behind her back and the other tucked under her knees, and turned away from the angels to head for the stairs. Once she was conscious, he would begin questioning her, and if she spoke a lie he would know it. If she wasn’t in on Mihail’s plan, then he would keep her alive. She would become bait for the angel. The male was sure to return to take her back from him sooner or later.
Lucifer didn’t care which it was. He had infinite patience when it came to taking down an enemy, and Mihail’s demise was long past due.
He took the first step and paused as he glanced down at his cargo. Soft pink lips parted as her head lolled away from his chest, her breath escaping her on a little sigh. Russet brown eyebrows puckered and then smoothed, and Lucifer canted his head.
The world around him fell into silence as he studied her face, caught up in wondering what she was dreaming.
She wasn’t a threat to him.
She was nothing but a mere mortal.
A weak creature he could end with little more than a thought.
So why did the weight of her in his arms, the warmth of her body against his, and the scent of her curling around him all feel dangerous to him?.