The Company of Fiends (Tempting Monsters 2) - Page 139


Iscowled as I watched Goliath, Leon, Conall, and a few other unfamiliar faces leave the theater. A heavy arm slid over my shoulders, and I leaned into Nireas's side as he hunched to whisper at me.

"You can't expect them all to put Constantine before Isabella," he murmured.

I pursed my lips but didn't argue. I'd barely managed my authoritative declaration of war on Birsha before I was promptly beaten down by arguments. Isabella was a member of the company, and in spite of her parting insults, we owed her our loyalty. On the other hand, there was no love lost between the rest of the company and any piece of my Gemini demon, bleeding or otherwise.

I turned to glare into the shadowy wing of the stage where Asterion, Hunter, Mr. Reddy, and Amon were questioning Antin. At least he was cleaned up, bandaged, and dressed.

"I want to go to Con," I said, too many times to count now.

A pair of shadows spiraled over the floor of the stage as Jude and Ronan flew down from Ronan's loft, a familiar stack of books in their arms. The texts they'd been reading with Constantine, researching the hold the warlock had over my demon.

"We're wasting time." I tried to take a step towards the wings to argue with the men, but Nireas's arm tightened around my shoulders, holding me to him.

"I will go after Con myself if I have to, nymph, for you. But give it just a little more time. We're more likely to be successful if we have a plan," Nireas said, glancing around the theater and then back to me. "And plenty of friends to help us."

I tore my eyes from Antin—his head bowed low and shoulders drooping, cornered by other monsters—to glance around at the crowd gathered. Esther Reed and her men were huddled together, speaking in whispers. The rest of the company mingled in the seats in front of the stage with a group of monsters Hunter and Asterion had brought with them, collective gazes glancing in my direction and then skirting away again. Were they embarrassed or guilty, unable to meet my eyes because they'd already decided to refuse to help Constantine?

Or were they afraid?

Afraid of the unknown, of what Birsha might be capable of? Or of what he would take from them if they fought against him?

And as Mr. Reddy stepped onto the stage, his eyes flicking between the floor and mine, his throat clearing softly, I knew what his answer would be.

I refused to hear it.

"You're a coward," I said.

Mr. Reddy sighed and turned his palms out at his sides. "Listen, Nix."

"No. I won't. You waited too long to tell us what was going on. You allowed Birsha to plant Constantine in the company, you kept your suspicions a secret from us. You kept Birsha's interest in the theater a secret, never warned any of us what kind of man or monster he was. Constantine is enslaved, but it isn't your problem," I said, and I glared at the faces in the audience too.

I stepped forward, shrugging off Nireas's arm, my hands clenched into fists at my side and a fire burning in my chest. "Why do you all keep waiting for Birsha to attack you first? To hurt someone you love? To hurt you?"

"He has allies—" a man in the audience started.

"So do we!" I cried out, waving an arm around the room. "Or are you only allies as long as it doesn't require you to risk your own neck?"

Over Mr. Reddy's shoulder, Hunter's lamplight gaze was glowing on me, his lips softly curved. That was pride glowing on his face, and it straightened my back and lifted my chin.

"I think the real problem is that you monsters are arrogant," I said. "Not one of you believes Birsha will reach you. So you turn your back on each other. On the women you supposedly covet. On his actions. You've allowed him to go on this way, and you'll continue to allow it if you decide not to do anything tonight. Not to stand up for Constantine, or for this theater, or even for yourselves."

"That's quite enough," Amon said, his voice cool but his eyes snagged on Esther as she stepped forward.

"I happen to agree with her, my love," Esther said, arching an eyebrow.

And just like that, the elegant sphinx sealed his lips and rolled his eyes to the heavens.

"So do I," a smooth voice called from the theater entrance.

The crowd turned in the direction of a small arrival party of men and women. At the front was a tall and shockingly handsome man with smooth black hair, gently curving ridged horns, and a pair of opaque black glasses covering his eyes.

"Marius," Asterion greeted, stepping forward to the edge of the stage. "I didn't think Mortimer would be able to convince you to come."

"She didn't. I had already volunteered," the man answered.

"That's a basilisk," Nireas whispered in my ear. "They're incredibly dangerous. And rare. One look at his eyes would kill you."

"That's even more surprising," Asterion said to Marius, but the minotaur was smiling.

The obscured stare turned in my direction, and even with the basilisk's eyes covered, I shivered. His power was obvious and eerie, and it reminded me of the first time I'd met Constantine. But he walked smoothly up the steps to the stage as if being slightly blinded didn't affect him, and I dropped my own stare to the floor, just in case those glasses slipped.

"Birsha made an enemy of me. And I agree with the girl—we've been meeting him with a weak defense for too long. It's time to remind him that we are the monsters he ought to fear, not the other way around."

I smiled to myself, and Hunter rounded Mr. Reddy and Asterion, Antin leaning on his arm and led to our small circle. "Dangerous is good. I like him," I whispered to my lovers.

Marius approached the stage, reaching a dark glove into his coat and pulling out a small white envelope. "Mortimer did send me with message for you," he said.

I hurried forward, my eyes remaining fixed to that card rather than risk catching his eye, and the stage waited in silence as I opened the note. Hope overflowed in my chest like the sudden pop of a champagne bottle as I read the elegantly scrawled words.

Sir Gabriel Anson. Bastard, I thought. I'll find you.

"Magdalena's found Constantine's warlock, and he's at the Seven Veils," I said, lifting my head to glare at those monsters who'd been resisting my urging. "Just as we'd guessed. Now will you act?"

A few gazes ducked away from mine, but some looked thoughtful at last.

"We needn't involve everyone," Dr. Underwood said slowly. "Mr. Tanner would be eager to take a fight to Birsha."

"I'm handy in a pinch," a cheeky voice announced from what appeared to be thin air.

I sighed at the sudden turn, my shoulders drooping with relief.

"Mutiny from my own house," Amon muttered, rubbing a furred hand over his face. He turned and smiled at Esther. "I suppose I'll go to make sure they don't get themselves killed."

"Thank you, my love," Esther cooed with exaggerated sweetness.

Tags: Kathryn Moon Tempting Monsters Paranormal
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