Seth wiped the blood off his blade with a charred piece of the Shemyaza’s shirt. The wind ruffled his wings, sending a chill down his spine. That sensation never failed to amaze him, considering his wings were made of power and light. “Is that it? Are there any more of them?”

 

The Shem were angel-born who had given themselves over to their baser desires, becoming demonic in both appearance and temperament. Like the Nephilim, they had the ability to appear as human as Seth normally did. It was the job of the Nephilim to hunt them down, to keep humanity safe from their depravities. They almost always hunted alone, unable or unwilling to share hunting grounds with one another.

 

Unfortunately, from time to time Shem had been known to gang up on some poor soul, especially if they knew Nephilim like Seth were in the area.

 

Damien lifted his face to the wind and closed his dark blue eyes. Light cascaded over his body in rippling, iridescent waves, highlighting his black hair. He opened his eyes, his expression serene, the light fading away to nothing. It always awed Seth to watch him work, that beautiful light show that marked his friend as a Malachi, one of the rarest of the Nephilim. One of his gifts was the ability to sense angel-born within a few miles of his location, a serious advantage when they were hunting. “I think so. I can’t sense anything for miles.”

 

Seth put his blade in its specially designed over-the-shoulder sheath. The short sword and sheath would be mostly hidden by his T-shirt, completely hidden if he wore a trench coat. “Dante? You can put him out now.”

 

“Aw, Dad. You never let me have any fun.” The vicious grin on Dante’s face was lit by the burning Shem at his feet. Dante waved a hand and the fire went blue-hot, burning the figure to ash before going out completely. Even the ashes would be cold within seconds. “Speaking of fun, any idea when Piotr will get back into town?”

 

Of all the Nephilim, Seth was the closest to Piotr, so it made sense that Dante would ask him. They shared a history none of the others would ever understand. He was Piotr’s brother in all but blood, more so than with any of them. “Last I heard, he was in Moscow.”

 

Damien holstered the gun he’d brought to the fight, hiding it under his trench coat. He had all the necessary concealed-carry permits, something Dante had insisted on for all the Neph who chose to use firearms. “Why is he in Moscow? Isn’t that where the Shemyaza leader is hiding out?”

 

Seth grinned. He wasn’t touching that one with a ten-foot pole. “Have you ever done one of those random-name-generator things?”

 

“Oh, here we go,” Dante muttered, dusting Shem ash off his jacket and out of his dirty-blond hair.

 

Seth was glad he didn’t have Dante’s powers. As a Seris, Dante’s power over fire was frightening, but it came with an equally fiery temperament that often got the detective in trouble with his chief.

 

“We should do one of those and see what our Mafia names should be.”

 

Dante never took the bait, but Damien—

 

“Our Mafia names?” Damien made a face as he stepped around the ashy remains of the Shem.

 

“Yup. You could be Damien the Douche.”

 

Damien bopped Seth on the back of the head.

 

“Seriously. We could call Dante—”

 

Dante bopped Seth on the back of the head, staggering him. Damn, the bastard’s strong. He forgot sometimes how strong, because Dante would never really hurt one of his Nephilim brothers. “Va all´inferno, stronzo.

 

Damien’s grin was pure evil. “Would you like a translation? I’d be more than happy to give it to you.”

 

“Knock it off, Boy Scout. If I wanted him to know, I’d have said it in English.”

 

Seth ignored them both and dismissed his wings, the glowing blue appendages disappearing under his skin. The only mark left behind would be the two blue wing tattoos that covered him from his shoulders to the middle of his thighs, an exact replica of his real wings when furled.

 

Fuck, it was chilly. Being an Angelus was a pain in the ass sometimes. Having to go shirtless on a night like this sucked donkey balls, but the one time he’d tried to leave the shirt on, his wings had gotten stuck.

 

That? Had hurt like hell.

 

“Seriously. You guys need to chill the fuck out. Like Piotr wants anything to do with Ivan the Terrible.” Seth shivered hard. Damn, it was cold now that Dante’s fire had gone out. He pulled the T-shirt he’d tucked into his back pocket out and tugged it on, grateful for the hint of warmth.

 

Unfortunately, the two Nephilim who disliked Piotr the most were Dante and Damien. If only they knew how little Piotr wanted to have to do with Ivan Ilyanovich Romanov, they’d shit purple kittens. Seth wished they’d come to understand the true nature of the man, rather than fearing the beast that lived within him.

 

“Hmm. Sounds fishy.” Damien glared at Seth. “You know what he’s doing there.”

 

“If you think I’m telling you what Piotr’s doing in Moscow under Gabriel’s orders, you’re off your rocker.” Seth wasn’t that stupid. Piotr or no, if Gabriel wanted Damien and Dante to know what one of his Neph was doing, he’d tell them.

 

Damien grimaced. “Oh.”

 

“The Boy Scout has a point, though. I might trust Piotr more if he attended the company picnics.” Dante, ever the watchful cop, stepped out of the alleyway and glanced around. He nodded the all clear to Seth and Damien before resuming his walk to their cars. “He doesn’t show up at Gabriel’s very often.”

 

God, Seth was so over this. “He’s a bazillionaire. He’s a little busy running his empire and offing Shemyaza. Cut the guy a break.”

 

“I get it. You care about the icy son of a bitch. But I’ll tell you this much, unless Piotr steps up and really becomes one of us, he’ll never truly be my brother.” Dante climbed into his car.

 

Damien shook his head at Seth. “I agree with Dante. It’s a dangerous game Piotr’s playing. One of these days he’s going to slip up, and then we’ll know for sure which side of the fence he’s been sitting on all along.”

 

Dante rolled down his window. “We worry about you, asshole. See you at Gabriel’s tomorrow?”

 

“I’ll be there. And love you guys too.”

 

Dante drove off with a quick wave. His sedate, tan-colored cop’s sedan was a horrendous mismatch for the man inside. He honked the horn twice as he turned the corner, giving them the green light to move out.

 

“Seth?”

 

Seth pinched the bridge of his nose. “Piotr is on our side, Damien. Do you honestly think he could fool Gabriel, of all people?”

 

Damien closed his eyes, the faint shimmer of his power dancing along his skin. “Gabriel has his own blind spots, but I don’t. And there’s something Piotr is hiding. Something dangerous.” Damien opened his eyes, their luminescence brilliant even under the streetlights. “I intend to find out what.” He patted Seth’s shoulder. “Try not to get caught in the crossfire. You’re the only reason Dante and I have tolerated him for this long.” He headed for his own car, a tricked-out, metallic-black roadster that cost more than Seth made in a year. “Stay safe, my brother.”

 

“You too, my brother,” Seth muttered as Damien drove off, honking twice as he rounded the corner toward his own home. “Shit. Now I have to get Gabriel to call off the Double Trouble Team.” If they messed up Piotr’s mission, his brother’s life would be in danger. If they had any idea the risks Piotr took to keep the rest of them safe, they’d be singing a different tune. Unfortunately, that wasn’t his tale to tell.

 

Seth crawled into his car, exhausted beyond belief, and glanced at his watch. He swore under his breath, pulling out into the quiet street. He should have listened to Gabriel and let Dante and Damien hunt without him tonight, but he’d been determined to find out if the Shem they were hunting knew anything about Abby.

 

Unfortunately, Damien’s intel had been right. The Shem had been hired to hunt down Abby, but not to harm her, something that sent a hard shiver down his spine. Why would a Shem want a human like Abby Marcheson for anything more than food? As far as he could tell, she had nothing to do with their world.

 

But the dead Shem had known more than Seth was comfortable with, and less than he’d hoped.

 

He’d known where she lived. For that alone, Seth would have killed him.

 

Worse, he’d been a tough kill, nailing Dante in the arm with his claws and almost taking Damien’s head. Rafe would be more than willing to heal Dante. Too bad the stubborn bastard would never drive his ugly, putty-colored car to Gabriel’s for what he considered to be a minor wound.

 

Seth snorted. Yeah. Dante was going to be sore tomorrow.

 

Seth pulled up in front of his town house, ready to drop from exhaustion. He wasn’t even certain he had the energy left to order a pizza, and hunger was the only thing keeping him on his feet. He shuffled past Abby’s door.

 

Abby’s windows were open. The aroma of burritos wafted out to him, his stomach immediately growling.

 

As good as those burritos smelled, and God, they smelled amazing, she shouldn’t have had her windows open. She didn’t know that she was being targeted. She had no reason to believe she should stay behind locked doors and closed windows.

 

Damn it. He was so fucking tired. But he’d promised Bill, his closest human friend, that he would watch over the man’s baby sister when she moved two doors down from him.

 

He sighed. So far, he was doing a bang-up job of it.

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Dana Marie Bell.

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