Night In A Waste Land (Hell Theory #2) - Lauren Gilley Page 0,1

hurt to try.

He’d seen Becket a total of three times, but all three moments had been memorable; Beck’s portrait was stamped firmly against the back of his mind.

A portrait matched by the visage of the winged creature currently holding Rose’s hand, unfolding itself from the flagstone floor with a long, black tail coiling around its leg, and broad, black wings unfurling, stretching wall-to-wall.

It wasn’t Beck – it couldn’t be. The horns, and the jet-black hair, and the fangs, and the black claws tipping its long fingers. But that was Beck’s nose; Beck’s aristocratic cheekbones and sharp jaw. The predatory tilt of his head as he turned to regard them all.

Lance had been so stunned that he’d let his attention slip; had let Gallo draw his gun, which was now pointed at the creature’s chest. The barrel trembled; Gallo’s dark curls shivered across his forehead.

“What is that?” he asked in a whisper, voice shaking as badly as his arms. “Holy fuck, what is that?”

Lance reached for him.

Tris got to him faster. “Francis,” he hissed, and caught a fistful of Gallo’s collar. He dragged him backward with one sharp jerk; got his arms around him, and took his gun all in a matter of seconds.

Gallo resisted – but clumsily, and not very hard. He stood inside Tris’s embrace slack-jawed, staring, fighting for breath. Utterly panicked.

Lance shifted his attention back to the creature – the one who still held Rose’s hand. She’d placed hers in his right away, without hesitation. She stood beside it – him; it was naked, and definitely male, steaming, still, and it had Beck’s face, and holy fuck was right.

The Beck Creature tilted his head, black hair sliding across his shoulders. When he spoke, there was an unnatural undercurrent to his voice; the low harmonics of a big cat, something like a growl. “You, I recognize.”

Lance took a deep breath, his chest tight, his pulse pounding. “Sergeant Lance du Lac, of the company of the Golden Knights. Formerly undercover with Anthony Castor.”

Newly-black brows jumped over glowing, golden eyes. “Ah. His death squad.”

Lance resisted the urge to fidget. Whatever Beck had become, he didn’t relish the idea of showing nervousness to it. “Only as an undercover operative.”

“Yessss…” A long, drawn-out hiss that couldn’t be called pleased. “You held onto Rosie.”

Rose stepped in closer, within the half-curled wing, and rested a hand on Beck’s bare chest; murmured something that Lance couldn’t hear, but which left Beck smirking darkly.

He swallowed with difficulty, keenly aware that he’d held onto Rose in more ways than one over the past five years – and now her former lover was not dead, was standing here, and he had wings and a tail and claws. “There was a lot of senseless violence that day,” he said. “I didn’t want to see someone innocent get dragged down into hell with you.”

Beck’s grin widened, fangs flashing in the lamplight. “Innocent?” He turned to look at Rose, and her face blossomed – opened and melted and shone with a love that was like worship. Wondering, full of awe and doubt like she couldn’t believe he was really here. “What do you think, sweetheart? Are you innocent?”

They shared a grin that left Lance feeling like an interloper. He felt vaguely sick.

He thought they would kiss – but then their smiles softened, and Beck lifted his head to survey them all. “Well, then. What have I missed?”



“Sergeant du Lac!”

Lance didn’t slow, but cast a glance over his shoulder at the young cadet rushing down the hall after him. The hall branched, and he took the right fork. “Better make it fast, Adamson, I’ve got a plane to catch.”

“Sir! I’ve just come down from the recruitment offices…” He panted as he caught up to Lance and drew alongside him. “There’s a girl up there – wants to join – Rift Walkers, she said – and some of the boys – they – sir, she challenged them. Wiped – wiped the floor with–”

Something pinged in the back of his mind, and he drew up short. Adamson nearly fell. “What’s her name?”

“I dunno. But she knows your name.” The cadet pitched forward, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. “She said you told her to come join up. And, sir, she’s kicking everyone’s ass.”

“Rose.” He turned and started back the way he’d come.

“Sir, what about your flight?”

“Tell them I’ll catch the next one.”

Rose stood in the center of the ground floor training room, barefoot, in leggings and a tank top that