Shifting Winds

A Danny Lee Novel

Mara Lee

 

Prologue

It was just about the ugliest thing she had ever seen, and it was currently staring right at her—staring and salivating.

Danny sighed, and ignoring the sharp, burning pain shooting through her body, she strengthened her wards. Warding herself shouldn’t hurt this much. Why it did right now, well, that was a question left for another day … a day when she wasn’t trying to vanquish an enraged demon that seemed hell-bent on eating her alive.

The demon let out a horrendous scream and began to thrash in its invisible prison. She wasn’t worried. She had done this before and she knew how strong her wards were. This demonic pus bucket wasn’t going anywhere, save back to its maker.

“You’re a feisty one, aren’t you?” she muttered, taking out a charm and readying herself.

“Danny? Are you certain you don’t need any help?”

Danny shook her head. “I’m fine, Sabine, thanks.” No, she could totally handle this. She wasn’t about to get Sabine embroiled in this messy business. No, an Airok needed to keep her hands “clean”—relatively speaking. Danny was well aware that Sabine had contacted her for that very reason. Sabine had told her she had done questionable things, and to that, Danny had no doubt, but the Airok had to appear untainted and she certainly had to deal with politics in her Coven, just as Danny had to deal with politics in her Pack. It wouldn’t do at all to have the Airok seen handling a demon. That was Danny’s job—well, it used to be Danny’s job, a job she had, and it seemed, still, was good at.

“Gotcha, you ugly motherfucker.” Danny cast quickly and wrapped the threads of her ward even tighter. She watched as the demon began to writhe and smoke. It was working. Seconds later the smoke completely covered the demon and the room began to smell like charred flesh—lovely. “Hope it burns like hell,” Danny said with a smile as the demon melted away—literally.

“Mother help me,” Sabine whispered. Her hand was pressed to her chest.

“You’ve seen demons before, haven’t you?” Danny asked, wiping her sweaty and salty hands on her jeans.

“Never this close.”

“Really?” Danny was surprised, although she wasn’t sure why. Airoks did not associate with demons. Unless of course they were leaders of black Coven’sCovens, and black Covens were ostracized along with their Airoks. Black Covens practiced the dark arts and were considered no better than the evil they associated with. “Okay,” Danny clucked her tongue and regarded Sabine intently, “would you mind telling me how in the world you ended up having a demon after your ass?”

Chapter One

Asmodai, Asmodai, where are you? Complete silence met her. Danny wasn’t standing for it. Sabine had had no idea why a demon had infiltrated her Coven, or why she seemed to be targeted, but Danny knew to whom she had to go to for some answers. Sometimes it was good having an “in” with the ones below, especially when those “ones” controlled the demon horde that sometimes escaped to Earth. Great, you’re invasive, intrusive and totally don’t understand the boundaries of personal space, but when I actually call for you, you don’t answer. Asmodai? Get your ass out here! Danny waited. She didn’t have to wait long after that.

Amour … you are upset?

Danny took a deep breath, allowed the flames to flow through her, and moments later found herself standing on familiar ground—the Burning Fields.

This is getting easier, Danny said, as she watched the river of fire flow. She dipped her foot into the river and sighed in pleasure.

I told you it would, my amour. You are their queen; they rejoice to have you home.

I’m not staying, she retorted.

Yes, I know. Asmodai’s voice was filled with sadness. Yet, you are here now. Why are you here, my dear one?

Ha, like you don’t know! Danny rolled her eyes at Asmodai’s blank expression. Oh, come on, the demon, hello…

Hello, what?

God help me, Danny muttered. Listen, did you or did you not send a demon after my friend.

A demon?

Yeah, a demonite … or whatever you call them down here. I just dispatched one not but two hours ago. It was sent after my friend Sabine. Danny narrowed her eyes when she saw the slight stiffening of Asmodai’s shoulders. Uh-huh, I thought so. So spill, what the hell is going on? Why in all that is holy, or in this case, unholy, would you send a demon after Sabine? She hasn’t done anything to you, and she’s my friend, Danny finished softly.

I sent nothing after your friend, amour.

Don’t lie to me.

I would not dream to do so.

Asmodai, are you really looking into my eyes and telling me that you had nothing to do with the demon?

I did not say that.

A dull throb began to pulse in Danny’s frontal lobe. You just said … all right, what did you say, exactly, then?

I said that I sent nothing after your friend.

But you do know something about the situation, right?

Asmodai nodded curtly.

Well?

Well what, amour?

Are you going to tell me?

Do I have a choice? Asmodai asked with a slight smile gracing his beautiful face.

Yeah, you do. You tell me, and I don’t kick your ass. Or I kick your ass, and then you tell me … your choice.

Asmodai laughed a deep and rich laugh. Ah, your choices seem to lack finesse.

Danny shrugged. Finesse isn’t needed in this situation.

Just so, Asmodai sighed, yes, I do know something of this rather interesting situation regarding your friend, amour.

Yes…?

It really is your fault, my amour.

My fault? Danny’s mouth dropped open.

Yes. You made a deal with my father, and my father is making certain that you hold up your end.

What deal?

Asmodai sidled closer to her. Have you already forgotten? He reached out and fingered a long lock of her hair. You are so beautiful, my amour. Your hair is like midnight and silk…

Would you stay on topic, Asmodai! Midnight and silk, jeesh, you’re just as bad as—she stopped abruptly.

Yes, you were saying? Asmodai’s voice had gone eerily menacing.

No, you were just saying, you were the one that got off subject. She waited, hoping he would let it drop. She did not want to deal with his jealousy or with the subject of Savior right now.

Asmodai raised one patrician eyebrow but snorted. Fine, we shall do it your way, for now.

For now. Danny knew that he wouldn’t let it go forever; they would have to deal with the subject of Savior eventually.

My father allowed you to leave our realm on one condition. You agreed to—

Oh, my God! Tell me this isn’t about pimping for your brothers.

Asmodai visibly winced. Please do not utter His name here, and no, you are not pimping for my brothers.

This isn’t about finding your brothers suitable, uh, amours?

Well, yes.

Then this is about pimping.

You are not a, a, pimp.

You’re damn right I’m not! Danny poked him in the chest. Let your brothers find their own women.

They are … with your help.

Danny cocked her head to one side just before her eyes went wide. You’ve marked Sabine, she croaked.

I’ve not marked your friend.

No, what I mean is that you’ve tagged her, you’ve decided she’s a match for one of your brothers.

As I said before, I’ve done nothing. You were the one that made the deal with my father, and you were the one that brought your friend to our attention. Remember, my amour, I can see you. I can see your thoughts.

Danny narrowed her eyes. Yeah, don’t remind me, you ass. I’m working on that.

He grinned. You’re succeeding. I have a harder time penetrating lately than I did. You’re guarding well.

She wasn’t sure if she believed him, but for the sake of her sanity she would have to take his word for it. She needed to believe that she had some privacy, if only just a little.

You’ve been staking out Sabine through me, haven’t you?” She shook her head, disgusted. You don’t even have to answer that question. I already know the answer. You bastard.

Asmodai regarded her coolly. I do not understand your ire, amour. You knew this to be a condition to your release, and yet you rail at me. It is quite irksome.

Irksome? Her fury began to rise.

Yes. Why are you angry?

Why was she angry? He had sent a demon after Sabine. He had been spying on her. He was manipulative and sneaky and now his brothers were trying to drag her friend to hell.

I took nothing from your mind that wasn’t offered, or left unshielded.

Oh, so that makes it all right. You can’t just mosey on through whenever you feel like it. For fuck’s sake, Asmodai, this is my mind we’re talking about!

You are angry because of this privacy that you had told me you wish to have.

Yes, that’s part of it. Part of it is about privacy. The other part of it is about common frigging decency. You sent a fucking demon after my friend.

I sent nothing—

Oh, whatever! You may not have sent it directly, but you had something to do with it.

My father…

Danny nodded slowly. I see, your father sent it. Did dear old dad think past trying to nab a bride for his son, to see and think about the fact that an Airok cannot dispatch a demon, not without tainting herself? Did he think about that? Did he think perhaps that the demon would eat my friend? Or maybe just suck her soul out entirely? Or perhaps he didn’t care. Perhaps he wouldn’t mind my friend being situated within a demon when she came to your brother’s bed, Danny spat out.

Amour… Asmodai held out his hands helplessly.

No, I’m utterly disgusted with you right now.

Asmodai sighed deeply. I see that we have handled this wrong.

Ya think? Danny ground out sarcastically.

Asmodai continued. My father thought a test was necessary.

Your dad and tests. Danny rolled her eyes.

Yes, he wanted to see how capable your Airok was. He also believed that a closer link was necessary between the Airok and my brother.

A closer link?

Asmodai nodded. He saw how it turned out for us, and he thought the same would be true for my brother.

Wait, he was going to have the demon mark my friend and then he was going to have your brother suck out the demon’s memories?

Something like that, my amour.

This is totally sick. Danny began to pace. I can’t believe you guys. I can’t believe your gall. You are totally nutso!

It would have worked, amour, if you had not interfered.

If I had not come and saved my friend from being devoured, you mean.

Devoured? You are being dramatic.

I’m being realistic, you ass. Sabine could not deal with that demon. Do you get that? She’s an Airok. She’s an Airok of a very powerful Coven, if I may add. She has to remain clean, untainted.

Do not fool yourself, amour. Your friend has done things…

Has she had dealings with demons? Danny asked coolly.

No, that she has not done.

I thought not.

That does not mean she is clean, amour.

Don’t try to worm your way out of this one, Asmodai. I want you to stay the hell away from Sabine.

That I can do. However, I cannot promise you that my brothers will do the same.

Danny buried her head in her hands. You’re going to drive me crazy. You are going to drive me absolutely fucking crazy. She stiffened when he took her within his arms.

Amour, do not worry. All will be well.

Danny lifted her head. Will it? Will it really? You’re talking about sucking Sabine down to hell, submerging her in that black goop and perhaps burning her alive.

No, I do not believe that would be her fate, amour. She has immense power, and I believe she will survive the transition.

You believe, but you don’t know. Danny swallowed. Your silence is answer enough, Asmodai. No. You can’t do it. You can’t chance it. Not to mention, did you ever stop to think that Sabine may not want to be the bride of a prince of Hell?

No. Asmodai said simply.

It’s like talking to a brick wall, Danny muttered, infuriated.

Am I not handsome?

Danny snorted. Don’t go fishing for compliments.

Asmodai grinned. Are my brothers not handsome?

She rolled her eyes. Yeah, maybe, a little.

Then why would your friend have any arguments?

You think that’s all that goes into it? Really, don’t be stupid, Asmodai.

Did you just call me stupid?

Sort of. I said, don’t be stupid. You have to see that making a connection goes deeper than physical appearance. This has nothing to do with your brothers’ appearance. This is about you crossing the line, invading Sabine’s personal space, and hell, about attacking her. You could have killed her.

It would never have gone that far. She would merely have been marked. You really did all that work unnecessarily. In fact, Asmodai sighed, my father was rather upset about the loss of one of his minions. I think your habit of destroying his fold is beginning to wear on him.

Ask me if I care, Danny shot out sharply.

You should, my amour. For what my father has sent out thus far, is nothing compared to what he could send your way. There are nightmares that fear my father and his fold. My father is the dark which eats all.

Danny stiffened. If you think you’re scaring me, you’re not. I’ve seen the dark, Asmodai, and I know what lives there.

Asmodai leaned forward. His eyes bore deeply into her. You have not begun to know the dark.

Is that a threat?

No, my amour, it’s the truth, and the truth … you will take it as you will, but the truth it shall remain.

Danny balled her hands into tight fists. And here is my truth, Asmodai. If you or your damned brothers do anything to harm or hurt my friend, she allowed the flames to fill her eyes, I’ll make sure you know exactly what your queen is capable of, and to hell with our bond and anything else that comes along with it!

* * * *

She was exhausted. Her entire body was racked with fatigue. For as easy as it was to transition to the Burning Fields, coming back … that was an entirely different story. Asmodai had seen to that. He had made her journey back to Earth as difficult as possible. Yeah, they hadn’t left on jolly joy, joy, terms. He was angry that he hadn’t been able to convince her that his little kidnapping plan was feasible and a good idea, and she was still royally pissed off that he had known his father was going to sic a demon on her friend. Their conversation had certainly not ended with a meeting of minds, or any type of harmony.

Danny ran a hand haphazardly through her disheveled hair. God, what was he thinking … was he thinking at all? He couldn’t have been, not if he truly believed he could just kidnap brides for his brothers. And where did he get off? The nerve of him, traipsing around her mind and spying on her! No, he was entirely in the wrong here. He was lucky she didn’t fry him for good measure … not—Danny thought sourly—that any of her flames would work on him.

She flopped down on her bed, reached for the telephone, and dialed Sabine’s private number. The Airok answered on the third ring.

“Hello?” Sabine’s voice was cool and soothing.

“Sabine, just wanted to let you know that everything has been taken care of.”

“Ah, so you spoke with your prince of Hell.” There was laughter in her voice now.

Spoke? More like railed, cursed and yelled, but spoke would do. “Yeah.”

“And things are now settled between the two of you?”

“As settled as they’re going to be at this juncture.”

“That does not sound promising, Danny.”

No, promising was not in Danny’s vocabulary of late. Everything seemed to point to her downward spiral into total and abject misery.

“It’s taken care of Sabine, that’s all you should be concerned with.”

“Somehow I believe that there is a lot more to it than that, Danny.”

“Nothing that I can’t deal with.”

“Why should you be the only one dealing with it? This demon came after me, correct?”

“Yeah,” Danny said shortly.

“Then I believe I am also wrapped up in this business. Please, Danny, tell me.”

Danny hesitated. She didn’t want to get Sabine involved, but Sabine was right, she was involved whether she wished her to be or not. Seconds later it all spilled out. She told Sabine about what had transpired in the Burning Fields, and about the deal she had supposedly made with Saitaine. She told her all and waited, waited for the inevitable fall out.

“So, I am to be a bride for one of the princes of Hell.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Did your prince tell you which of his brothers had been chosen for me?”

Danny frowned into the phone. “No, I didn’t really give him much of a chance to speak once he spilled the beans about the demon.”

“I’ll be over in a minute.” Sabine paused before adding, “Make that fifteen minutes.” She hung up.

Danny hit her head with the phone. “Dumb, Danny, dumb, dumb, dumb. You just told your soon to be ex-friend that she’s been targeted by a demon and is supposed to marry a devil.” She was beginning to get the impression that it was time to seriously rethink her life … rethink her life? God, that was a total laugh. Even if she did want to change, how would she do it? How did you get rid of, or change, an integral part of yourself? The answer was that you didn’t. You just sucked it up and dealt with it like a big girl, uh, wolf.

“Danny?”

Danny turned toward the voice. April was standing hesitantly in the doorway. “Hey, April.”

“I, well, I just wanted to let you know that it’s three o’clock and that—”

“Shit, its three o’clock already?” Danny bolted out of bed and vaulted toward the door. “How was he this morning?”

“Well, he’s, uh…” April’s voice faltered.

“That good, huh?” Danny sighed. It just never ended, she thought, as she walked through the door to the bedroom next to hers. “Good afternoon, Alex,” Danny spoke softly, respectfully, to her Alpha.

Alexander, her dear, sometimes tyrannical Alpha, lay watchful on the bed. His eyes were deep and searching and his body tightly coiled. He said nothing and yet he needed no words to convey the depth of his feelings, emotions, and raging anger. Oh yes, he was angry, or perhaps more appropriately said, beast-ridden.

Danny rubbed her aching temples. She took a seat, carefully, on the side of the bed and kept her eyes trained on him. His form was now human, but there was very little of him that actually was … human. His eyes, the expression on his face, everything about him was feral, beastly. With Sabine’s help, Danny had been able to rouse enough power (without calling on the flames) to shift Alexander’s physical form. She was able to bring him back to his human body. She had not, however, been able to bring him back to his humanity, that. That was an entirely separate matter, a matter she was afraid would only be resolved with the Grand Dame. And fuck if she didn’t want to deal with the Grand Dame or what the Grand Dame expected from her. She was still hoping to find a way to resolve the situation without resorting to the measures the Grand Dame insisted she resort touse.

Alex narrowed his eyes and began to sniff her hand. He growled deeply, but it was not a menacing growl. No, he recognized her scent, he recognized her implicitly and he was calling to her … he wanted her. Nothing had changed. Funny how that worked. He was beast-ridden and still … nothing had changed. He still sought her. He still called to her. He still tried to mark her.

Danny had managed to keep Alex’s condition secret from the rest of the Pack. Although, she was afraid that this was a secret she would not be able to contain for very long. She was Roit, and she had been tested and tried in battle, there were few—if any—that who would question her word, or her commands. The Pack knew only that their Alpha was indisposed, but that would stand for only so long, and God help them all if there were any Pack matters that would call for the Alpha’s attention. There would be no way Danny could keep Alex safe then, and yes, what she did now was to keep him safe. If any dominant knew that Alex was beast-ridden they’d challenge him for rule, and they’d be in their right to do so. A weak Alpha was a dead Alpha. Danny feared greatly for Alex in the condition he was in right now.

“How long can I keep them at bay?” she murmured. “How long, Alex?” Danny held out her hand hesitantly and waited. When she saw that he made no move to attack her, she rested it gently upon his cheek. “Alexander Holt … Alex … my, my, friend, you have to come back to me. Please Alex, please…”

Alex rumbled. The sound started from deep within his throat. He captured her hand within his and moved it to his chest, where he held it, tightly, desperately. His eyes had deepened further, and began to dilate.

“No, Alex.” Danny tried to pull her hand free, but his hold was firm and unyielding. He was not ready to give it back. “No, you have to fight it, Alex. You must fight the beast. You are our Alpha,” she spoke quietly now, “you have the power, the strength … you have everything. You can fight against the beast that rages upon you. I know you can. Alex, Alex, you must.” She watched for any signs of understanding, but came away empty. “It has been two days, and they will not be appeased for much longer, already some of the Pack is growing restless. I can’t—” Her voice broke, and she tried again. “I can’t do this without you. I … I, oh God, I need you, Alex. I need you. You have to fight this.” She thought nothing of telling him that she needed him, not now, not like this, for it was true … she did need him. She could not go this alone. She was Roit now, and she held a position of great honor in the Pack. She could not continue (not after the many years of running from responsibility and Pack politics) to navigate the intricate web of deceit and workings that was the inner sanctum of the Pack. She needed a guiding hand … she needed Alex’s guiding hand—the same hand that had hurt her, could now help, if only he could control the beast and bring back the man.

Alex growled and shifted even closer to her.

Danny blinked and leaned into him. Was there a spark of understanding there? Had she seen it, if only for a minute? His eyes were swirling turbulently, and yes, yes, right there beneath the surface Danny could sense the calm, sense the power that was inherent to an Alpha. He wasn’t lost. He was there. Thank the Lord. He was there.

“I see you, Alex.” She returned his grip and smiled into his taut face. “I see you there. Don’t worry…” She closed her eyes for a minute and took a deep, cleansing breath. “Don’t worry, I won’t leave you. I won’t leave you like this.” I can’t leave you like this. The words echoed in her brain, a litany, a refrain. He was her Alpha … he was her, her Alex, and she would not let him suffer like this, not if she had it within her power to help him.

Oh, God! Oh, dear God! The enormity of her realization momentarily took her breath away. It came to her in a wash of panic and fear, what saving Alex would mean, what it would mean to her life, and the course of her life.

Danny licked her lips. She looked down at Alex, who was still staring at her intently. It seemed as if he was aware that something was happening, but he did not know what, and in the state that he was in right now, could do nothing about.

Breathe, she just had to continue breathing.

A crash sounded from down below shaking her into action. “Alex, you must let go of my hand now.” Danny tugged, but Alex’s grip was firm. “Alex, please, if there is anything left of the man I know, you must let go of my hand. I promise, I will be back.” She felt his hold slacken slightly and she breathed a sigh of relief. She did not want to expend any energy fighting him right now. “Let go, my Alpha, and I will return, I give you my word, the word of your Roit.” She did not let go of her flames, but she did allow the power of the wolf, the power of the Pack, to flow over him. She needed him to see that she was his Roit, and that she understood his wolf and that she would return to him.

Danny breathed a large sigh of relief when he released her hand. “Thank you, Alex.” She rushed from the room and raced down the steps, stopping abruptly at the scene that met her eyes. Sabine was standing in the doorway. She stood still and seemed outwardly calm, but Danny knew better. The pretty Airok’s power was a fierce thing, and Danny could feel it from her place on the steps. Confronting Sabine was Titus, one of Alex’s sentinels. He was fast becoming quite the fixture in the Pack. He was powerful, and physically intimidating, and Danny was beginning to think that he’d probably soon make the move from his position as first sentinel to Alpha’s second. Danny wasn’t sure how she felt about that idea—yet. Mostly because she wasn’t sure how she felt about Titus. The large wolf was cool and aloof toward her (not that she minded his attitude at all) in fact, she wished more of the Pack would take up Titus’ attitude. It would mean a lot less work on her part, and perhaps less fewer challenges to boot.

Titus was radiating the power of Pack. At least Danny now knew where the source of the disturbance was coming from. She could also clearly see that he was directing his power and his rage at Sabine. Sabine, for her part, seemed to take it all in stride, although there were some tight lines around her eyes as she was clearly working on deflecting his attack.

“Stop!” Danny shouted, rushing the rest of the way down the steps. She moved to place herself between Titus and Sabine. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” She snarled.

Titus growled and his power magnified, swelling, pulsing throughout the room. “The witch is the cause of the Alpha’s pain. Kill the witch, eliminate our Alpha’s suffering.”

“Thinking of re-enacting Salem?” Sabine asked smoothly.

“Sabine.” Danny rolled her eyes. That was all she needed right now, Sabine egging on an enraged wolf. “Titus, I asked Sabine to come, she is here on my wishes.” Not entirely true … but it would work, for now.

“You brought this witch here? She is foul.”

“I’m hurt, and here I am, having just taken a shower,” Sabine countered.

“Sabine—”

“I know,” Sabine held up her hand, “I’m not helping. I do apologize, Danny. He got under my skin, what with his horrible manners. I do believe I’m perspiring.”

Danny cast a glance quickly in Sabine’s direction. “You are,” she said brusquely.

Sabine sighed. “He’s quite powerful.”

“Yeah,” Danny said darkly, “he is.”

“I didn’t expect the welcoming committee to be quite this forceful.”

“Well, we do our best to accommodate our guests,” Danny said with choked laughter. “Next time I’ll throw in a demon or two. How would that be for a welcome?”

“Oh, lovely, perhaps I’ll even try to vanquish it myself, who knows, I may need to broaden my horizons a bit.”

Danny nodded. “Don’t worry, after your first, well, the rest are a breeze.” Danny caught the bewildered look on Titus’ face and couldn’t help but laugh. “Titus, could you dial it back a bit? Ease up, will ya.”

Titus’ jaw worked back and forth for a moment before his power began to dissipate. His innate power was like a storm that breaks and then fades into a breezy dawn.

“That is much better,” Sabine said.

“Yeah, it is.” Danny took a deep breath. “Thank you, Titus,” she felt compelled to add.

“I still do not like it. She is the cause of—”

“No, Titus, she is not the cause of anything. In fact, without her the Alpha would have been truly lost.” It was obvious to Danny that Titus did not believe her. Danny looked between Titus and Sabine and made a decision that she hoped would not result in bloodshed or death. Somehow she knew, deep in her bones, that this wolf was one that who would be very important in the days to come, and would play an intrinsic part of the Pack that Alex was trying to build and mold. She was going to have to trust him. Frigging A, she was going to have to trust him. “Come with me, Titus.”

“Why?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Fine, don’t come, but if you truly care about our Alpha, and you wish to know what is happening, then you’ll follow me. Otherwise, just stay there and be ignorant and, and, a stoic pain in the ass.” She wasn’t sure if it was the sincerity in her voice (yeah right) or the “stoic pain in the ass” that did it, but Titus nodded curtly.

“Are you certain that this is a good idea, Danny,” ?” Sabine asked quietly.

“Nope. In fact, it could be a really, really bad one, but,” Danny threw up her hands, “I’m going to do it anyway. Come on, time to show the big man what’s going on.”

 

 

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