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       End of Eden (Se7en Sinners Book 2), p.1

           S. L. Jennings
 
End of Eden (Se7en Sinners Book 2)


  End of Eden

  Copyright © 2017 by S.L. Jennings.

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Cover design: Hang Le

  Editing: Kara Hildebrand

  Formatting: Champagne Formats

  Models: Kristina and Steven Lowe

  Photography: Mika Reyes Photography

  Creative: Maud

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  TITLE PAGE

  COPYRIGHT

  PREFACE

  ONE

  TWO

  THREE

  FOUR

  FIVE

  SIX

  SEVEN

  EIGHT

  NINE

  TEN

  ELEVEN

  TWELVE

  THIRTEEN

  FOURTEEN

  FIFTEEN

  SIXTEEN

  SEVENTEEN

  EIGHTEEN

  NINETEEN

  TWENTY

  TWENTY-ONE

  TWENTY-TWO

  TWENTY-THREE

  TWENTY-FOUR

  TWENTY-FIVE

  TWENTY-SIX

  TWENTY-SEVEN

  TWENTY-EIGHT

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  “And lead us not into temptation,

  But deliver us from evil.”

  “Are you sure this will work?”

  Legion looks down at the dagger in his palm, the blood rubies heating against his skin. It’s a natural reaction to those of his kind. The Redeemer is one of their most sacred relics. Very few weapons have the power to actually kill demons. This is the only one in the Se7en’s possession, and one they’ve kept concealed for hundreds of years.

  “I don’t have any other choice,” he replies, his gruff voice cracking under the strain of his anxiety. It’s been minutes since Eden was taken from him. No. Not taken. She left. She took his hand and she left him. She made a choice and she didn’t look back…didn’t even say goodbye.

  Shit.

  It’s been minutes. And he felt like he was losing his fucking mind.

  He didn’t fear for his voluntary death. He didn’t give a damn about tumbling back to Hell to retrieve her. He’d slaughter anyone who stood in his way, and no one could stop him. Hell, they wouldn’t even try. There was a reason he was revered as one of he most deadly demons in history, and today, he was grateful for that ugly red stain on his reputation.

  Legion watched as his friends—his brothers—fought to silence their protests. They knew their resistance was futile. And now that Dorian, the Dark King, had shown up, tripping their alarms and nearly getting himself decapitated in the process, they knew Legion would exhaust every effort and resource to rush to Eden’s aid. Even at the expense of his irredeemable soul. Even at the expense of his own life.

  He looks up from the dagger in his palm, his silver eyes blinded by the haze of rage and wrath. Setting foot back in Hell would potentially mean war. And when the fire died to embers and the smoke cleared, it would be down to only two: him and Lucifer. And only one would rise from the ash.

  He fell from Heaven, and he survived.

  He rose from Hell, and he survived.

  He battled the Called, the Alliance, and the torment of every lost soul he’s taken, and he survived that shit with his head held high.

  But losing Eden…to the Devil, to supreme evil…that is something he won’t be able to survive. Because he refuses to live one day—one fucking minute—on Earth without her.

  Legion turns to Dorian, pinning his skeptical pale blue gaze with molten hot steel, and nods once.

  “I’m certain, warlock. Send me back to Hell.”

  I’m in Hell.

  In every sense of the word.

  But what I expect—what has been engrained in me since I was a child through books, movies and my zealot mother’s teachings—is not what surrounds me.

  I’m standing in a hallway carved with rich, dark wood, the walls classically decorated with artwork from every corner of the earth. My uncultured eyes scan the grand space, taking in what will be my new home. I’m too stubborn to believe this is anything but a contrived illusion. A cruel trick, manufactured by the Devil himself to make me believe this is normal, luxurious even. I won’t let my eyes deceive me.

  “Welcome, Eden.” Fire spun silk releases my hand and I take a step back. He watches me carefully, closely, with irises speckled with twilight. “Not what you expected?”

  I shrug emphatically. “It’s not hot.”

  “Not for you, no. I want you to be comfortable here.”

  I turn to look at him, unafraid of his otherworldly beauty. Fear is futile now. “Why?”

  Lucifer shrugs, the all mighty pretender feigning nonchalance. “You’re not a prisoner here; your mortal soul is still intact. And I told you, Eden… I want to protect you. I want to be with you.”

  His gaze almost seems sincere. I know better than to see it as anything but hot, steaming bullshit.

  “Whatever.” I look away, my eyes falling on a painting of a gang of old dudes with swords drawn.

  “The Night Watch. Rembrandt. It’s the original. They all are,” Lucifer remarks, following my gaze. His voice is proud, as if he were speaking of a beloved child. Like I could possibly believe that he is even capable of anything resembling love. “I consider myself a procurer of rare, beautiful things.”

  The smears of color seem to pulsate on the canvas, drawing me into the dark still life fenced in gold gilt. It’s…odd. Unlike any painting I’ve ever seen. As if there is a soul throbbing just beneath those muted hues.

  I look away.

  Maybe if I weren’t so empty—maybe if I could give a shit—I’d deem it interesting enough to speculate. Or at least find beauty lurking within the centuries old piece. But it just seems bland to me. All of it. The artwork, the tapestries, the furniture…they’re all cold and colorless.

  I let myself feel once. I allowed myself to fall for Legion and his tormented past. I had let myself slip into one of those people I had once sworn I’d never be: the hopelessly stupid and naïve and carefree. The type of person that lost herself at the first taste of good dick and a few sweet whispered words in the dark. One of those girls. I used to hate those girls. Even went out of my way to let them know it. But they didn’t care. They were popular and pretty. They wore designer clothes and spent daddy’s money. They didn’t give a shit about the weirdo with hand-me-down clothes and bargain bin shoes. Insults from a piss poor delinquent held no weight. But my words…my words…

  I shake my head, dispelling the memories from my mind. I’ve long moved past regret. And considering the line between right and wrong is so fucking blurred that I can’t even recognize it, what do I really have to feel regret for? I am exactly who I was meant to be.

  Lucifer shifts beside me, almost nervously. Strange. He had so much shit to talk a few minutes ago.

  He releases a resigning sigh. “Dinner will be served in a couple hours. I expect you to join me.


  I look at him, my expression etched in boredom. “I’m not hungry.”

  “Then you’ll sit and watch me eat.” The flare and arrogance are gone, replaced with simmering irritation. “That wasn’t a request.” A storm brews in those dusk-colored eyes and the temperature in the room rises by at least twenty degrees. “Eden, you’re here as my guest, and I meant what I said—I have no plans to harm you. But you will play by my rules. Make no mistake—I am not Legion. I don’t think your defiance is cute.”

  He heaves out a breath, releasing the tension in his shoulders along with the raised temperature, then smiles. His lips are dripping with venom. “Now, let’s try this again. Dinner will be served in a couple hours. You will dine beside me. Saskia will get you settled into your quarters and attend to your needs.”

  He waves a hand, and from some undisclosed location, an impish, dark-haired woman appears. Her gaze never leaves the ground, and she approaches with timid, jerky steps. Fear. This woman is wracked with fear.

  “Saskia, please ensure that Eden is groomed and dressed appropriately. And be sure she is comfortable at all times. Whatever she desires, it is at her disposal.”

  “Yes, Master,” the tiny female responds. Her voice is…odd. As if she is straining to speak through a tight grasp on her throat. It’s the sound one makes when they are on the verge of a scream.

  Like he’s choking her with an invisible vise that crushes her windpipe from the inside.

  I can feel the blood seep from my face, but I school my features and turn to follow her. She doesn’t say a thing as she leads me down hallway after massive hallway. I make a mental note not to ask her any questions unless absolutely necessary.

  We turn a corner, and my mouth dries.

  There’s a man casually leaning against the wall, his impassive gaze settled on his cuticles. Dressed in black from head to toe, the perfect match to his midnight black hair that falls over his brow in a deliberately disheveled way. Slightly above average height, broad shoulders, square jaw.

  Saskia’s steps slow, her small frame trembling on approach. I have good sense enough to know that I should take her body language as a clue. This one is dangerous.

  “I’ll take it from here, Saskia,” the man says without looking up from his nails.

  The elfish woman falters, her words just a quiet tremble. “But…but Master said…”

  “Your master won’t mind in the least. Unless you’d like to disturb him and ask. Why don’t we go fetch him and inquire together, little one?”

  “No,” Saskia quickly replies, her voice cracking with strain. “No, that won’t be necessary. Forgive me.” She turns to me, her dark eyes wide with fright. A silent warning. “Simply say my name when I am required. I will be back shortly to help you wash and dress.” Then she disappears down the hallway we just came from, her steps swift.

  The man pushes off the wall, and without a word, begins to walk. I don’t dare make a move.

  “Well…are you coming? Or would you rather drop trou right here in the vestibule.”

  I weigh my options, only to find that I have none. With a frustrated huff and a roll of my eyes, I fall into step behind him.

  “Where are you taking me?” I know better than to sound scared. Scared would be eaten alive here.

  “Your room.”

  Not with you, I’m not, I think.

  But as I look around as we pass door after door in this palace-like prison, I realize that I have no choice but to follow him. I’ll never find my way in this maze.

  Besides, there’s nothing he can do to me that hasn’t already been done. I’ve been beaten, humiliated, deceived. There is no word for what I feel…no level of rage or hurt that can quite sum up the intense ache in my chest.

  So I swallow it all, washing it down with a hefty dose of detachment. Emotion has no place here. Not for what’s in store for me.

  He stops at a door that looks like all the rest—heavy, polished wood, ornate, gold handle—and opens it, waiting for me to enter. I peer inside, halfway expecting to see a St. Andrew’s Cross, chains and leather. But what I find is a large bed draped in what looks to be expensive violet and ivory linens. An armoire and dresser sit against the far wall of the room, while more priceless artwork that I don’t give a fuck about decorates the walls. No windows. There’s no need for them down here.

  The man enters the room like he owns the very air within it, striding past me to a round table outfitted with a bowl of fresh fruit. There’s also a decanter of amber liquid sitting atop the dark wood, which he helps himself to. That’s when I get a good look at him. And I really, really wish I hadn’t.

  His face is carved of alabaster—smooth and uniquely designed. It showcases defined cheekbones, a straight nose, and thin, yet sensual lips. He’s undoubtedly beautiful. But that’s not what gives me pause, freezing me in my tracks at the threshold.

  His eyes.

  I know his eyes. As if I’ve seen through them, right into the very core of his alluring darkness.

  I cross the threshold and close the door behind me, my steps measured. He fills two glasses, yet doesn’t offer me one until he downs his and refills two knuckles worth.

  “Thank you,” I say when he hands me one without bothering to turn his crystal blue gaze my way. He’s shown me it’s safe to drink. That’s all the courtesy I need.

  “Want to tell me why you’re here?”

  His voice is cold, yet there’s a tremor of mirth within it. I take a sip of scalding liquor, the taste acidic yet sweet on my tongue.

  “What do you mean?”

  “Look around you, Eden. This isn’t exactly a Sandals resort.”

  I swallow. “How do you know my name?”

  He has the nerve to smile at me, as if his amusement is a blessing. And I hate to admit that it is. It’s downright unnatural to be so unintentionally beautiful.

  Story of my life. In a world of secrets and lies—pain and misery—I’m constantly surrounded by alarmingly stunning creatures steeped in myth and fantasy. The Se7en. Warlocks. Even Lucifer in all his glorious horror. So much terrifying beauty lies within this ugly black smudge of iniquity. As if I needed yet another reason to remember what I am—pathetically, tragically human.

  “Do you really believe you ended up here by chance? It was only a matter of when. To be honest, I had hoped you had a little more self-respect. Pity.”

  His grin turns feral…lethally so. If I were to guess, the dazzling stranger is more animal than man. Maybe that is a gift. Maybe he’ll rip my throat out and spare me from whatever is planned for me down here.

  “Hope is for the weak,” I retort stonily before taking another sip of amber liquor. The burn is nothing. I don’t allow myself to feel it. “You were wrong.”

  “So you believe you are strong.” He snorts sardonically. “Good. You’ll need to be if you are to survive long enough to get the fuck out of here in one piece.”

  “And if I don’t?”

  He shrugs, bringing the crystal tumbler to his lips. “Then we’re all fucked. And so many of us will have died for nothing.”

  He tosses back the rest of his drink and slams the glass down on the table, sending a shockwave of tension around the room. It bounces off the walls before settling between us in sticky, frazzled molecules. The anxiety is so thick I can feel it…taste it.

  “I’m never getting out of here,” I find myself whispering, those six little words a scornful specter.

  “Not like that, you aren’t.” He casts a pointed gaze up and down my body. That’s when I remember my disheveled appearance.

  Just hours ago, I was cruising the slush-slick streets of Chicago, a stupid smile plastered onto my face, gazing at the man…the demon…I had allowed myself to fall for. Then in a flash of bright vengeance and twisted metal, Legion’s Jaguar was wrapped around the front of an armored car. At least that’s what Lucifer said after he plucked us from the wreckage and tied us up inside that concrete room. My room. The room from my nightma
res where I torture and maim my adopted sister and other innocents. All to make Lucifer happy. All to sate that dark violence deep within me that craves carnage.

  But I traded that darkness for Sister’s life. My final selfless act on Earth.

  I wish it could have just been that—selflessness. But truth be told, my darkness was no match for the pain I felt after finding out that I was nothing but a pawn to the Se7en. And I served my purpose well. Checkmate.

  Now here I am—a willing captive of Hell.

  The dark stranger strolls over to the wardrobe and without even flicking a finger, it opens, showcasing an array of sequins, lace and silk—all preposterously expensive, no doubt. He picks up a dress the color of glittering rubies and extends it towards me.

  “And what am I suppose to do with that?”

  “What the hell do you think?” he replies, a sinister gleam in his eye. “Wear it.”

  “And why should I?”

  “Because our friend likes pretty things. And right now, you’re his most intriguing toy. Let’s keep it that way for just a little while longer. He doesn’t do well with boredom.”

  I can’t argue with that. Still, I don’t get why… Why is this strange, absurdly attractive man helping me? What’s it to him?

  I down what’s left of my drink and set the glass down before ambling to where he stands with an air of confidence so potent, it’s nearly palpable. My chin raised in defiance and my glare trained on those dazzling eyes made of aquamarine, I take the scrap of red silk and sequins from his grasp.

  “Don’t try to slither your way into my mind.” He taps a finger to his temple. “It won’t work down here, and it will most likely get you killed.”

  I narrow my stare in aggravation. “And who are you supposed to be? My evil fairy godmother?”

  He lifts a dark brow. “You could say that. But I was hoping we could start by being…friends.” The word friends slinks up my spine, leaving a trail of burning cold in its wake.

  “So…who are you?” The question is tinged with demand.

  He smiles, his unnatural beauty disarming, and steps forward, closing the short distance between us. The wintergreen frost of his breath kisses my cheeks before sliding down my chest.

 
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