The Damned (The Unearthly Book 5)(5)By: Laura Thalassa
My eyes darted up to avoid catching a glimpse of all those agonized souls. Thick, filmy smoke hung high in the air, hell’s version of clouds. The firelight danced upon it. Beyond the smoke, all I saw was inky darkness.
While on earth, I’d never actually believed hell was below us. But right now it felt like I stood at the core of the earth, and the only thing that kept this place from being consumed entirely was the devil’s magic.
Despite my best efforts, my eyes moved back to the flames. I caught glimpses of souls here and there, and then the fire would roar up and swallow their image once more. And all those screams, they came together like a symphony, something haunted and hypnotic.
Somewhere out there the devil stood among them, or maybe he’d gone to the land of the living to make deals with the desperate.
Either way, he’d left me here to molder, and I had no doubt it was intentional. After all, I couldn’t spend an eternity cooped up in this building; I was barely managing a single day. Eventually, I’d seek him out.
Another frightening thought had me backing away from the window. I didn’t feel hollow. I didn’t feel like the wickedness of this place was trying to burrow under my skin. I could only guess that it had already claimed me.
My back bumped into the wall. The cold stone vibrated against my skin.
I was so fucked. So, so fucked.
My heart seized, as though it too realized the mess we were now in. I wheezed in a breath.
Not again. I thought I was done dying.
But it wasn’t my body giving out. Power washed over me, and then the cord that connected me to the devil flared to life.
Hello, little bird.
I sagged against the wall. “What are you doing?”
Strengthening our bond.
That was what caused the pain in my heart?
“I thought I was dying.” I rubbed the material covering my chest.
Not until all memory of our existence is wiped from the world and all traces of us have been destroyed will you face annihilation. Only then should you worry.
“Where are you?” I asked.
Everywhere there is sin. Are you speaking out loud to an empty room?
My cheeks pinkened ever so briefly at the realization that I was, in fact, doing just that. I touched my cheek. I could blush again.
I wish to see this.
In the next instant, the devil stood in front of me.
He tilted his head as he studied my face, and I had to look away because he was too much. Even though I’d shed my mortal life—along with the last of my humanity—the perfection of his features still felt almost painful to gaze at.
“I don’t like you inside my head,” I said.
“You also don’t like me inside your heart. Too bad for you, neither is going to change any time soon.”
The connection between us felt like a livewire. I could sense him on the other end, his glee and his anger and, beneath it all, his contentment. I hadn’t expected him to have human emotions, and I definitely hadn’t expected them to be so … normal.
“You make me feel human.” He said this with a frown. Someone didn’t like that fact.
Before I could react, he was gone again.
I breathed in and out through my nose, trying to control the cocktail of emotions welling up in me.
Hot damn, that man was unsettling.
I didn’t see the devil again until that evening. By then I’d discovered the castle’s (only?) library—if you could even call it that. A single bookshelf stood amidst the room.
Still, it meant respite from the boredom quickly setting in. The shelf contained a whopping thirty-two books. I knew because I’d counted them all. And now I’d begun the tedious process of flipping through each one.
I heard leather crack as I opened the newest tome. I winced. I wouldn’t think about the creature this leather came from. Nor would I think about the type of ink responsible for the brown pigment of each handwritten word.
I traced my finger over the letters. The language wasn’t English, and I’d never seen this alphabet before.
But I could read it. And when I opened my mouth and spoke the words out loud, I understood what I was saying. This had to be the language of the Underworld, a language I inherited the moment I had been made queen.