Night In A Waste Land (Hell Theory #2) - Lauren Gilley
It wouldn’t have been honest to call Arthur Becket a legend. More like a cautionary tale; a juicy bit of gossip. A dark truth whispered where Castor couldn’t hear. By the time Lance came aboard with Castor’s elite guard, after he’d lied and killed to prove himself worthy of the position, he’d done his best to fit in with the others: a rough lot, when they weren’t on the job, fond of drinking, and dirty magazines. They spent their free hours gambling, or forcing strippers to service them in the backs of dark clubs. He’d done more listening than talking, only prodding with questions here and there, and he’d heard the stories about Becket.
Even among the killers and thugs of Castor’s men, Beck was spoken about with horrified awe and open contempt. He’d had a taste for a certain kind of violence that had repulsed the others. He likes carving people up, a fellow guard confessed one night over bitter, cheap whiskey. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it feels good to pop a fucker, but Becket loved it. Caught him licking his knife one time, the sick piece of shit.
There were codes of behavior, even amongst the worst of criminals, and Becket had broken them, it seemed.
Lance’s first glimpse of him had been on the factory floor: a flash of flaring black coat and tossing honey hair through a blur of mist. He’d glimpsed the fire in Becket’s eyes, the joy, the thrill. Had seen his teeth bared in a sharp, feral smile.
The girl had been a shock. Slender, and smaller, but just as deadly, her movements quick, practiced, efficient. A second striking snake amidst the blunt force of the death squad. He’d had an impression of two equally-matched predators in the thick of their element; and then the mist had sealed around them, and pandemonium reigned, and Castor was alive, somehow, and Lance was hustling him out of the building.
His second glimpse had come a few hours later. Beck unguarded in the dark of his bedroom, sleeping face-to-face with the girl. Their eyes closed, their expressions peaceful, fingers overlapping on top of the sheets. Beck’s hair had lain softly on one lean cheek, wrists nearly delicate inside the overlarge sleeves of his pajama shirt, and he hadn’t looked like a monster or a lover of violence, then; only a rich boy who’d gone astray, all clean lines, and good breeding, and aristocratic bone structure.
And the girl…she’d taken his breath a little, just for a moment, as they all stood hovering around the edges of the bed. Face silvered with moonlight, her hair a spill of ink across the pillow. She had the faintest dusting of freckles across her nose, and a lush mouth, faintly parted in sleep.
He’d felt an alarming tug in his gut – it had been a long time since he’d slept with anyone who wasn’t a jaded professional, cash on the table and a dull, dead look in her eyes. For one guilty moment, he let himself imagine.
But then Becket was startling awake, leaping up with eyes open, and knife bared. Lance had grappled with him a moment – felt the ungodly strength in his whipcord arms and known that Beck intended to kill him messily, intimately, before Harper got the needle in his neck and he went limp.
His last glimpse had been in the basement ritual room beneath Castor’s mansion. A dead conduit in his arms, and a fist of blood closing around him, dragging him down. The girl, Rose, had kicked and clawed, and screamed; he’d felt her heartbreak in the wild thrash and hum of her body. The way she’d fought to get loose, to join him.
I did the right thing, he told himself, after. While she pressed her sobs into a blanket in the passenger seat. When she twirled a knife and squared off from him on the mats at the training facility. When they pinned her wings on, and announced her a full-fledged Rift Walker. I did the right thing, saving her.
She still whispered Beck’s name in her sleep; had kissed it into the base of Lance’s throat more than once, in the throes, while her nails raked down his back, and she wished that he was her first lover.
He couldn’t refuse her, even though he’d wanted to. Couldn’t dismiss her theory. They were drowning, and they needed help. Needed a trump card: a new weapon in this war. If Arthur Becket could be that weapon, so be it. It couldn’t