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The Wicked In Me: Chapter 24

“Ireally is a horrible way to die, I’m telling you,” said Anabel as she wiped down the kitchen table the following evening. “One of my worst and most traumatic experiences for sure. I still have nightmares about it.”

Delilah paused in sweeping the kitchen floor. “What did you do to upset him so much?”

Anabel did a double-take. “What?”

“You must have done something. What was it? Did you insult him? Tease him? Criticize him? Flip him off?”

“He was a shark, Del. I really don’t think any of those things would have bothered him all that much.”

“They don’t just savage people like that for no reason.”

“Well, I didn’t do anything wrong.” Anabel scrubbed the table a little harder than necessary. “I was surfing, minding my own business.”

“Likely story.”

“It’s not a story, it’s the truth.”

“Maybe he was rabid,” suggested Hattie, drying the plate Wynter had just washed. “That disease can make an animal crazy. ”

Wynter felt her nose wrinkle. “I don’t think sharks can catch rabies.”

“Wynter’s right, they can’t,” said Xavier, taking the dry plate from Hattie and putting it away in the cupboard. “It’s a mammalian disease.”

Delilah looked at Anabel. “Then we’re back to you provoking the shark.”

“I did not provoke him,” the blonde insisted. “I can’t believe you’re blaming me for my own death. Where’s the compassion? Where’s the sympathy? Where’s the distress you’re supposed to feel?”

“Why would I be distressed?” Delilah went back to sweeping. “I didn’t know you back then. You were a whole different person.”

Hattie glanced at Anabel. “This does explain why you wouldn’t watch Jaws with us at one of the motels we stayed it.”

Anabel jutted out her chin. “The flashbacks are painful, all right? I see no need to worsen it for myself by—stop it, Del, you’re not funny!

But Delilah kept on humming the Jaws theme tune.

Wynter tossed the woman a look. “Leave her be.”

“I just wanna know what she did to the shark,” said Delilah.

Anabel slapped the cloth on the table. “I didn’t do anything!”

Xavier put away yet another plate. “Relax, I believe you. Now if you were Del, I’d have a different opinion, because she’s a fucking shit stirrer who could rile up even a nun. A shark would be no problem for her. She’d welcome the challenge.”

Delilah glanced at him. “Coming from a fellow shit stirrer, that was an excellent compliment.”

Anabel scowled at her. “He wasn’t complimenting you; he was pointing out that you’re wacked.”

“Aw, don’t be jealous that he likes me better. Everyone likes me better.” Delilah shrugged. “You’re just too neurotic for most people’s tastes, sweetie. But don’t beat yourself up about it; it’s not your fault. Actually, scrap that, it’s totally your fault, since you insist on using yourself as a test trial subject. I’m curious, did you do that during every life you led? Because it would explain a few things. Like why you’d stupidly taunt a shark.”

I did not taunt him.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Hattie cut in, “How old were you when it happened, Anabel?”

“Eighteen.” The blonde sighed. “I always die young, and I always die hard. My hope is that I’ll one day live to be a ripe old age but, given our present circumstances, I don’t believe that’ll happen in this lifetime.”

Delilah gave her a soft smile. “We’ll miss you when you’re gone, if that helps.”

Anabel fired her a glare. “It doesn’t.”

“Stop giving me hate eyes. You adore me really.”

A snort. “What’s there to adore?”

“Ooh, now that was bitchy. Is this how you behaved toward that poor shark?”

Anabel lunged at Delilah, but Xavier slid between them and ushered the blonde backwards as she growled, “Just let me kill her, no one will care.”

Wynter arched a brow at a grinning Delilah. “This makes you happy? Really?”

“Really,” Delilah confirmed.

God, the woman was a trial. “There are so many things wrong with you I don’t know where to begin.”

“Yeah, I hear that often,” said Delilah, sounding awful smug about it.

Done washing the dishes, Wynter wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. “Apologize to Anabel.”

Rolling her eyes, Delilah turned to the blonde. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

Anabel set her fists on her hips. “Are you actually sorry, though? Ever? About anything?”

“It’s rare, but it happens,” said Delilah. “An empty apology still has meaning, though, right?”

“No,” barked Anabel. “No, it really doesn’t.”

“Why not? It’s the thought that counts. Isn’t that how the saying goes?”

Wynter groaned. “I swear, you two could argue about anything. Like literally anything.”

Anabel frowned. “We’re not that bad.”

“You both fought over a cushion this morning. A cushion.” It had been exhausting watching them quibble like children. “There are two other fucking identical cushions in the same damn room.”

“Well, I had it first,” claimed Delilah … which Anabel quickly denied, and so they began to argue yet again.

Wynter was about to break it up, but then an alarm began blaring loudly from outside. Everyone went quiet.

She’d been warned about the potential of an alarm going off sometime soon. According to Cain, there were plenty of scouts roaming the border to keep a lookout for the Aeons. Apparently, they were finally here. Or, at the very least, they were heading in the direction of the town.

Her gut rolling, Wynter swept her gaze along her crew, taking in their now-grim expressions. “You all sure you want to be part of this?”

“We’re sure,” said Anabel.

“There’s no way you’re going into any kind of battle without us,” Delilah declared.

Xavier nodded. “We went over this earlier.”

“Three times,” Hattie chipped in.

Wynter raised her hands. “I was just checking.”

“Are you planning to release your monster at any point?” Delilah asked her.

Wynter shook her head. “No. It doesn’t distinguish friend from foe, and it wouldn’t stay with you four to fight at your side. I’m not down with that. We’re a team.”

“We’re a coven,” Delilah corrected. “The Bloodrose coven. And you’re our—”

“Don’t make me hurt you right now.”

“So touchy.”

“Whatever. Now let’s get moving.”


No sooner had Cain heard the alarm than he and the other Ancients, as pre-agreed, met in the manor’s large foyer as they waited for Maxim to appear and relay the scouts’ report. Around them, townspeople made their way to the exit, but no one stopped to ask anyone for guidance. They didn’t need to. The aides had already relayed the Ancients’ plans well in advance, so everyone knew what they should be doing and where they were supposed to be.

It took no longer than a minute for Maxim to appear at Cain’s side, his face solemn.

Cain flicked a brow. “Well?”

“A very large army was teleported to a spot just beyond the southern end of the prairie land,” replied Maxim. “It took several teleportation trips before all the troops were gathered. Enough troops to successfully take us out. They are on their way here, led by a small party. A woman appears to be fronting it.” He rattled off a description of her.

“Lailah,” said Cain.

“Being as misogynistic as they are, neither Adam nor Abel would allow her to lead them, so I think we can safely say that they aren’t here.” Dantalion sighed. “Unfortunate.”

“Saul will probably be with her,” said Seth. “He would have no problem following her lead. He’s done it in the past.” Seth cut his gaze to Maxim. “They’re approaching from the southern side, you said?”

The aide dipped his chin. “It would seem that they don’t intend to use the tunnel to enter the town, given that it’s located on the opposite side.”

“They would know that we will have people guarding the tunnel to make it difficult for them to invade the town,” Seth pointed out. “The only other way to enter would be to clamber over the cliffs, which we suspected they might.”

“We shall soon see if we were also right in suspecting that the Aeons will attack us from a distance rather than invade the town with their troops,” said Dantalion.

“I will be sincerely surprised if they use a different tactic,” said Cain. Lailah would be sure of her success, but she wouldn’t give the Ancients even the slightest edge. If she remained beyond the border of the prison, it would prevent the Ancients from physically getting to the Aeons.

“I suppose we had better gather on the roof and wait for the army to appear,” said Lilith.

The others murmured their agreement and followed her along the hallway. Cain lingered, needing to see Wynter one last time before the battle began. He didn’t question the impulse. Didn’t care to.

It wasn’t long before he spotted her and her coven were making their way to the exit. All looked serious and battle-ready, even Hattie … who now moved with grace and purpose as opposed to awkwardly shuffling forward the way she usually did. Not that he hadn’t sensed that the ‘bad back’ routine was anything other than a farce.

Everything in him, including his monster, wanted to send Wynter back down below. If he’d thought it would get him anywhere, he would have done. But he’d already tried convincing her to remain underground after fucking them both raw last night. The conversation had gotten him nowhere. She’d calmly argued her right to be present for the battle and, essentially, talked him in circles.

He knew she’d be an asset. He couldn’t deny that the strategies she suggested made sense. But although she was far more powerful than he ever could have imagined, it didn’t make him feel any better about the fact that she’d be on the battlefield. She had a habit of rising from the dead, yes, but—despite how Kali seemingly had some purpose for Wynter—there was no guarantee she would always return from death.

He’d eventually relented as he knew that she’d fight with or without his blessing. And since Kali would likely free her if he attempted to keep her contained, that option was out. At least this way he would know exactly where she’d be at all times since, between the two of them, they’d agreed on the best place for her and her coven to situate themselves throughout the battle.

When she stopped before him, Cain collared her throat and kissed her hard, uncaring of their audience. “Stay alive. If you do die, make sure you come back to me.”

She nodded, a battle-thirsty spark in her eyes that called to the creature inside him and made it want to bite her. “Be careful,” she said, squeezing his upper arm. “And kill any Aeons extra hard for me.”

That he’d be happy to do.

He gave Maxim a look that reminded him to stay close to her at all times. The aide nodded, his expression grave. Satisfied, Cain headed upstairs and ascended the staircase that led to the rooftop terrace. The cool evening breeze fanned over his skin. Thick, inky black clouds that carried a hint of purple blanketed the sky.

The other Ancients were spread out, facing the southern cliff, waiting for their enemies to arrive. Given that the manor was the tallest building they had, it made sense to plant themselves there.

Cain moved to stand between Azazel and Seth as he took in the scene below. The townspeople were swiftly moving into position. Some would stand in full view of the invaders. Others would remain hidden until the moment came when they needed to spring.

Wynter, her coven, and Maxim soon joined the rest of the aides and positioned themselves in front of the manor. One of the reasons Cain had agreed for her to act as the Ancients’ line of defense was that she would then be where he could see her at all times. From this angle, he could glimpse the side of her face—she looked focused, determined, ready. Her mark wasn’t visible, and he couldn’t understand why Kali would hide it.

It was a shame that Kali wouldn’t involve herself more fully to protect Wynter. ‘Upgrading’ people in this realm and occasionally guiding them was about as involved as a deity got, even when it came to their Favored.

By the time a scout signaled that the Aeons were close, the movement below had come to a stop. Everyone was ready.

Cain flexed his fingers, welcoming the feel of the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Anticipation was a live wire inside him. An anticipation his monster shared.

So long. They had waited so long for this battle. Too long.

He spared a glance at the other Ancients, sensing that they were equally amped up. Killing Lailah wouldn’t be enough to take down the invisible cage that held them—all four of its creators would need to die for that to happen. But ending the life of at least one of the fuckers would be a joy all on its own. More, it would be enough to draw the other ruling Aeons here.

Soon, people began to plant themselves on the top of the cliff opposite. Cain recognized the first row of people as Aeons. Most were from the second and third generations, and all had partaken in the original war. They were also evidently being used as shields for Lailah and Saul, because the siblings came up behind them along with other Aeons.

“There’s got to be, what, a dozen Aeons over there?” asked Azazel, a note of eagerness in his voice that said he was relishing the thought of obliterating them all.

“It appears so,” replied Cain. “The scout told Maxim that the number of troops was large enough to take on our population, but it doesn’t seem that large. Perhaps some have been told to situate themselves out of sight.”

“Perhaps,” said Dantalion. “How good of Lailah to bring along her brother. We now get to kill two of the ruling Aeons.”

“Just as we expected, they are being careful not to cross the boundary and mean to attack us from outside our prison,” commented Inanna. “How very brave and noble.”

Lilith sniffed. “I’m rather insulted that they would send such a small force of Aeons.”

It truly was a small force. Of course, so many Aeons against seven Ancients probably seemed like a hopeless situation to others. But there was a reason that the Aeons had had to cheat in order to defeat Cain and his people a millennia ago—the Aeons weren’t as powerful. Which was something they’d always resented.

“You forget, Lilith, that they thought we’d weaken over time,” said Dantalion.

“And they were wrong,” said Ishtar. “Well, shall we get this party started or what?”

Battle adrenaline pumping through his blood, Cain used power to amplify his voice as he addressed the intruders. “You should not have come here.”

There was a slight shift in the crowd on the cliff, and then … “If you had not given us cause to do so, we would not have,” said Lailah, lifting her chin. “We would have left you in peace. You brought this on yourselves.”

“Do you never tire of pinning the blame for your actions on us?” asked Cain.

Azazel flicked him a look. “I’m thinking, no, they don’t.”

Lailah slid her gaze to him. “I have no idea why you’re smiling, Azazel, but I shall enjoy wiping that smile from your face. Of course, it does not need to come to that. I will give you all one last chance to surrender the witch to us. Do it now.”

As if she would genuinely walk away after hauling her ass all the way here. Lailah had come for a war. And she’d get one.

“Wynter stays with us,” said Cain.

A troop hurried to Saul’s side and spoke into his ear while pointing directly at Wynter. Motherfucker.

Saul grinned. “I see her, sister. She’s directly in front of the manor.”

Cain’s gut clenched. He’d known that Wynter would be easily spotted from her position, but he still didn’t like her being the focus of the Aeons. His creature rumbled an uneasy sound.

Lailah skimmed her gaze along the people in front of the manor and then finally settled it on Wynter. She smiled. “Ah, there you are. You and your dark magick have caused us much trouble, young witch. Perhaps you think it was clever of you to seek refuge here. You would be wrong. Because now all the people down there with you will be forced to fight to defend themselves and their home. Some will even die. Most will, I expect. That will be on you. But … such deaths can be prevented if you give yourself up now.”

“No one here will buy that you will trot along back to Aeon without a fight if you’re given what it is you seek,” Cain said to Lailah.

The female Ancient shot him a glare. “We will take her, Cain. If it means killing you and the other Ancients first, so be it.” Her gaze dropped back to Wynter, her mouth stretching into a taunting smile. “We do have one thing to thank you for, witch. All these lovely runes on many of our troops’ weapons. How fitting that your own magick will be used against you and your people here.”

A derisive snicker came from who might have been Xavier.

Faint flashes of red light came from several of the swords being held by the troops on the cliff. No, Cain, realized … the runes had flashed red. And the people holding those weapons seemed to have no fucking clue why.

Cain glanced at Wynter just in time to see a smirk curve her mouth as she stared at Lailah.

Seth leaned toward him. “Did Wynter just … deactivate the runes on those blades?”

“I think she did,” said Cain. “She must have a failsafe in place so that no one can use her own enchantments against her.”

“Do you think she’d planned for a day when her own people would turn their weapons on her like this?” asked Azazel.

“Maybe.” One thing was for certain: His woman was full of surprises. And as Kali’s mark gleamed to life on her face, he switched his gaze back to the intruders.

Lailah’s lips parted. Saul went stiff as a board. The other Aeons and their troops shifted nervously.

“Are you sure you wish to tangle with one of Kali’s Favored?” Lilith called out.

Lailah barked a laugh. “You cannot believe we would think that mark is real. I have seen revenants in my time. Wynter is no revenant.” She swept her gaze along the line of Ancients. “No agreement can be reached here today, I am assuming?”

None of the Ancients replied.

“Then you leave us no choice,” said Lailah, her voice grave.

Beside her, Saul gave some sort of signal, and their troops drew their weapons.

“If our town must fall, so will yours.” She lifted her hands, and the water in the river rose high in a wave. A wave she sent rushing toward the manor.


Wynter felt her entire face go slack as the river—the actual motherfucking river—sailed through the air. “Holy mother of God.”

Xavier gaped. “What in the …”

Half turning to glance at the Ancients and hoping they did something, Wynter automatically tensed, bracing herself to get slammed by the gulf of water.

Power blasted out of Cain’s hand and collided with the wave. The water disintegrated into mist that morphed and … buzzed? Then it was a massive swarm of locusts, and those locusts zoomed at the people on the cliff.

Perched on Wynter’s shoulder as a crow, Hattie squawked in alarm.

“Yeah, no shit,” said Xavier.

The swarm practically fucking engulfed the Aeons and their troops. People cried out and stumbled around. Hell, some even went tumbling off the cliff.

“Well, now,” said Anabel/Mary, seemingly impressed.

Power lit the air directly above the swarm and cracked like a whip, causing it to disperse.

Her flushed face a mask of sheer unadulterated fury, Lailah struck with a bolt of lightning that zipped toward the Ancients.

Seth briskly repelled her strike … and then the two camps of immortals officially went to blows. Power traveled back and forth in whips, blasts, winds, flames, and waves. Power so intense and potent that it charged the air like static.

“Damn,” Wynter murmured in awe, resting a hand on the head of the huge monstrous cat that butted her leg in what seemed like a ‘Are you seeing this shit?’ question.

Someone on the cliff yelled out an order. A battle cry went up, and troops clambered down the cliff—some in human form, some in animal form. More, other troops began pouring out of hiding and speedily followed them.

“Here they come,” said Xavier, twirling his sword by its hilt.

Tension bunching her muscles, Wynter idly flexed her grip on the hilt of her own blade, watching as the troops spilled onto the town. They weren’t hesitant or cautious about invading unknown territory. No, they were bold and aggressive and cocky, seemingly sure that they held the upper hand. They attacked buildings as they ran, apparently intending to cause as much damage as death.

None of the residents moved to stop them. Everyone stayed in place, watching, waiting, readying themselves to act.

Her monster stirred dangerously as troops charged toward the manor. It wasn’t so pleased with her plan for it to sit out the battle. In fact, it had tried to rise when Lailah pinned her attention on Wynter, but Kali had thankfully stayed its hand.

When the charging troops were no more than twenty feet away from the manor, the townspeople sprung at them from all sides. They leapt out of windows, rushed out of doors, or poured out of the forest—their aim to box in the troops and decimate them.

Wynter watched as sheer chaos unfolded up ahead of her. There were roars, growls, screams, battle cries, and the clanging of swords. Energy balls, orbs of fire, and flashes of magick lit up the darkness. Lycans and other shapeshifting creatures galloped around, lunging at troops and tearing into them with teeth and claws. Dragons took to the air and began blasting enemies with ice-cold breaths or white-hot flames.

It wasn’t a case of packs, lairs, covens, conclaves, nests, courts, and hordes fighting individually. The townspeople all fought as one, along with the people who’d been called here to fight by the Ancients who owned their souls.

“It’s becoming pretty clear that the troops weren’t expecting such a resistance, let alone such a well-coordinated attack,” said Wynter. “They’re flapping.”

“Maybe they thought a population made up of so many preternatural breeds couldn’t possibly fight well together, given they often fight among themselves,” mused Xavier. “If so, they were wrong. And they’re realizing it far too late.”

That wasn’t leading anyone to retreat, though. On the contrary, in fact, the troops who’d evaded the attacking townspeople were almost on her and the rest of the people lined before the manor.

Feeling charged from head to toe, Wynter lifted her sword and angled it just right, conscious of Xavier and Anabel/Mary—who each stood either side of her—doing the same. Wynter licked her lips, ready and eager. “Get ready, people.” It was just as Anabel/ Mary began singing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” that a troop swung his sword at Wynter. She parried the blow and pitched her body forward to shove him back.

And so it began.

She twisted this way and that way as she struck at the asshole again and again. He didn’t aim to kill but to incapacitate. She fought hard, refusing to give him the opening he needed. When the crow flew at his face, taking him off-guard, Wynter wasted no time in impaling him on her sword.

He’d no sooner dropped to the ground than another troop charged her, but he was swiftly taken down by the monstrous cat that made no bones about ripping out his throat.

More and more troops came forward. They knew Wynter, knew that her blade was enchanted, knew that their skin wasn’t truly covered in insects. But the enchantment still distracted the fuck out of them, and she never hesitated to take advantage—slitting throats, puncturing hearts, slicing off heads.

She didn’t only use her blade, she also struck out with her magick. This time, she didn’t hold back power-wise. The toxic magick burned, infected, blistered, withered, and charred as it killed. Which meant that many of Xavier’s reanimated corpses looked so absolutely hideous it was nauseating.

“Fuck,” he spat as he accidentally bumped into her.

She stumbled slightly, and the bastard dueling with her lunged forward and almost accidentally severed her head clean off her neck. She jerked back out of reach, but the tip of his sword nonetheless slashed her face. Motherfucking ow.

He grinned at the wound, but his expression morphed into one of horror when Anabel/Mary hacked off his extended arm with a smile. The huge cat then pounced, finishing him off, while Anabel/Mary went back to singing—choosing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” this time as she expertly swung her sword to slice and block.

Wynter swore as an overgrown coyote pretty much flew at her. One of Xavier’s corpse-friends caught it, and both beast and zombie hit the ground hard. Together, Wynter and Xavier speared the coyote before it had the chance to rise.

“Our side definitely has the upper hand,” he said before then beginning to chant as he reanimated the dead coyote.

Panting, Wynter took a moment to drink in her surroundings and found that she had to agree with him. Plenty of mangled bodies were sprawled on the ground, but most were invaders from Aeon.

Not all those fighting were engaged in close-up combat. Some covens and conclaves stood off to the side and attacked with magick. Some fey attacked with elemental power while others shot arrows coated in dust that she knew caused all kinds of shit, including confusion, memory loss, lethargy, muscle pain, sensory paralysis, and—

Another troop rushed her.

“Hell.” Bracing herself, she slammed up her sword. Their blades clashed again and again as they fought with all they had.

It turned out that her opponent didn’t ‘have’ enough.

She punched her sword into his gut and viciously twisted the blade before yanking it out. He dropped like a stone, and then she saw that the Moonstar coven wasn’t too far behind him.

Ho, ho, ho, how fabulous.


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