Think you have a lot of pressure on your shoulders? Nick Gautier was born to bring about the end of the world . . . it's not easy being the heir of a demon overlord.
But Nick is determined to thwart his destiny and get into a good college. To be more than his genetics and prophecy foretell. No one is ever going to tell this stubborn Cajun who and what he really is. Or how to live his life.
Not even the Fates of the Universe. But now that he and his team of ancient gods and demons have claimed the Eye of Ananke and he sees the missteps of the future, he has to battle the demons within that are far deadlier and more treacherous than any he's battled before. All the while his arch nemesis is back and determined to reclaim his place as the harbinger for Armageddon. Even if it means killing Nick and barbecuing everyone he loves to do so.
New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon is a regular in the #1 spot. This extraordinary bestseller continues to top every genre in which she writes. More than 60 million copies of her books are in print in more than one hundred countries. Her current series include The Dark-Hunters, The League, and Chronicles of Nick. Her Chronicles of Nick and Dark-Hunter series are soon to be major motion pictures.
Nick stood in the center of his bedroom, staring at the symbols on his wall. They were ancient protection sigils that Caleb and his aunt Menyara had placed there to keep out anything that could harm either him or his mother. The first time he'd noticed them as a small child, Menyara had told him they were special Monster Away sprays that she'd made for him. It'd made him feel extra-loved and protected.
Little had he known then that they weren't just for protection. Those scrolled emblems had also been there to restrict his powers and bind them so that he couldn't accidentally uncover his birthright.
As a result, he really didn't understand a lot about who and what he was.
But it was time he learned. He was through guessing and flying by the seat of his pants. If he was to save Zavid and not get enslaved by the oldest, most primal evil, he needed to really comprehend what he was capable of pulling off.
And there was one person he knew who could answer this.
Mr. Fuzzy Boots rose up from the sofa to arch his back and yawn.
Nick snorted at Xev's alternate feline form. "I need you as a human, dude. Shed the cat skin for a while."
He flashed himself into his extremely tall human body. Although Nick couldn't blame him for wanting to spend most of his time in the lazy house cat incarnation. He wouldn't mind spending his days snoozing, either.
Not to mention, the old powers had done a number on Xev when they'd cursed him to this state. Instead of being the boy-band member he'd been born, his perfect good looks were now off-putting, and there was nothing they could do to change them. Heaven knew they'd tried enough L'Oréal products to convert the entire North American and European Goth communities to normal hair colors.
Instead of his natural black, Xev's hair was an unnatural shade of red on one side and a vibrant, fake yellow on the other. If that wasn't bad enough, his eyebrows were a light, electric blue that clashed with his rusty-greenish-blue hazel eyes.
At least he could fake being emo in this time period, but still ...
It had to suck to have your own family be so cruel as to condemn you to such a fate.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Xev scowled at Nick. "What's trying to eat you now?"
Nick rolled his eyes and ignored the question. "Did you know Zavid was still alive?"
He made a peculiar noise. "Alive is an interesting term when one attempts to apply it to a soul-eating hellhound who was possessed by the source of all evil. But to be honest, I hadn't thought about it, one way or another."
"Would you mind applying your skills to it and telling me what you think?"
Xev nodded slowly. "Yes. Given that he most likely couldn't be killed per se, he probably does exist in a noncorporeal state in Azmodea."
"Can I have the English translation of that?"
Xev rubbed at the corner of his eye with his middle finger in a deliberate manner before he answered. "Remember when you were divided? Your soul not in your body?"
Like that wasn't seared into his brain? Especially given the number of things that had tried to eat him and it was how the two of them had bonded. "Not something one forgets easily."
"Well, there you go."
"Um, you lost me, Sparky." Nick scowled at something that confused him. If the soul was divided from the body ... "Then he's dead."
He glared at Xev as he continued to play vague in a way that would make the ancient Atlantean god Acheron proud. "Would you stop with the head games and please answer the question?"
"I'm trying. It's not that simple."
"You and Caleb ... what is it with the two of you? Did you take asshole pills this morning? Gah, you are brothers. I don't know why you can't get along. You're just alike."
Xev snorted. "You think we're bad? You should meet our father sometime. Your great-great-grandfather is a total piece of work. But to answer your question, Nick. Zavid would need to be reborn here. Yes, you could do that. The Malachai theoretically has power. But that kind of thing will cost you. It's not free, and the universal powers frown upon it. It's like altering time. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The hardest part of life is knowing when to walk away and let fate run its course. Even though it's a kick in the stones to let it do it."
"And if that was you trapped there? Would you still be advocating a retreat?"
"It was me trapped there, for countless centuries. And yes, it sucked." He reached over his shoulder to rub at his back. "You want to know why I choose to stay in my cat form most of the time?"
"You hate people."
He shook his head. "When I'm a cat, I'm not reminded of the fact that my own father ripped my wings off my back in a fit of anger over something I didn't do. You've no idea how many times I instinctively try to move them, only to remember they're gone. And why."
Yeah, that had to burn. Soul deep. Having wings himself, he knew they were the same as an appendage. It would be the same as someone ripping off an arm or leg. "I'm sorry."
Xev shrugged. "The point is we all have our own version of misery we deal with. And I do feel badly about Zavid. But you go down there, and there's no easy way back. It's a trap for you. Trust me. Noir will own you for eternity."
"My father escaped."
"By betraying a friend. You ready to do that?"
Nick snorted. "Depends on the friend."
Xev gave him a flat, droll stare.
"Lighten up. It was a joke. ... Sort of." Letting out a tired sigh, Nick checked his watch. "Anyway, I've got to get to work. Keep an eye on my mom?"
"All right. See you later." He left Xev, knowing the ancient being would die before he allowed anything bad to happen to Cherise Gautier.
That was the only good thing that had come of the deception that had been played with their lives. Xev wasn't just an immortal houseguest Nick had taken in, the ancient cursed god was also his great-grandfather.
Yeah, it really messed with his head whenever he stopped to think about it. While they physically appeared to be only a couple of years apart in age, their births were separated by thousands of years. He'd had no idea they were related when he'd saved Xev and allowed him to move in here.
Neither of them had known.
It was something they were slowly coming to terms with, especially since Xev had been forced to give up his son and had never thought to see him again. The last thing Xev had ever expected to find when Nick had rescued him was that he had a living granddaughter, never mind the addition of her smart-mouthed son.
Life as a Malachai was ever a strange, strange thing. But Nick was slowly acclimating to it.
Leaving Xev behind, he exited his condo and dug his car keys out of his pocket. His mom was still at work and would be there for another hour. Until Xev had moved in with them, Nick would have been worried about her walking home from the bar and grill where she worked by herself. But Xev would head over and see her home for him.
And he'd die before he allowed any harm to come to her.
That was the only thing that allowed Nick to function these days, especially given the number of creatures out to claim a piece of his hide. And who were willing to use his mom as a bargaining chip to get to him.
Thanks, Dad, for that birthright.
'Course, he couldn't blame it all on his father. A large chunk of it had to do with his own surly attitude of pissing off everyone around him and in particular the Grim Reaper, War, and the essence of all evil himself. Nick had done all that on his own.
No help whatsoever.
In retrospect, he should have thought it through a little better before he lipped off at them. But at the time, he'd been a little put out. It'd seemed like a good idea.
Well, he wasn't gutted yet. They hadn't captured or killed his mother or Kody. So, he was almost winning.
Yeah, that was the lie he was going to go with for now. It allowed him to sleep a few hours at night so long as nothing scratched at the windows or walls.
Pushing it out of his mind, he headed for Kyrian's and tried to focus on the next forthcoming near-death experience — facing his immortal boss with bad news.
* * *
Nick blinked at the deep, thick, indefinable accent that belonged exclusively to Acheron Parthenopaeus. An accent that came and went on Ash's whims, much like his bizarre hair color that often rivaled Xev's for garish hideousness. But in Ash's case, it was a personal choice. As were the facial piercings and extreme Goth wardrobe. Something Acheron did in order to be off-putting and intimidating.
Not that he really needed it given his mammoth six foot eight inches of height. And that was without the additional three inches he gained by wearing his red Doc Martens combat boots. Or the terrifying aura that said he'd rather rip your spine out than converse with you.
A normal person with any kind of survival instinct would run for cover.
Luckily, normality had waved good-bye to Nick a long time ago and taken his sanity with it.
Turning to look at Ash, he raked a teasing grin over the ancient immortal's intimidating lope and let it linger on his waist-length hair. "Nice shade of green you got going on there, buddy. Should I call Commissioner Gordon and let him know the Joker's back in town?"
Ash didn't comment on his snide tone as he used his inhuman powers to close the door behind him, as he drew closer to Nick's location. 'Cause that wasn't unnerving at all.
Good thing Nick was used to Ash's idiosyncrasies, otherwise Kyrian would be looking for new help. After having to clean up a massive urine stain from his expensive carpets.
Ash paused beside Nick to frown down at him. "So, if I'm the Joker, that would make you —"
"The Boy Wonder."
"Ah, so what are you doing in here ... Dick?"
"Ouch! Somebody call me a burn unit!" Shaking his hand, Nick laughed and tried to deflect Ash's attention from the fact that he'd been caught in Kyrian's solarium where his boss kept the ancient Greek statue of his three sisters. It was one of the few things Kyrian had in the house from his days as a Greek prince. While he was proud of his heritage, Kyrian didn't keep a lot of his past around. It was as if it was too painful for him to bear.
His sisters, however, were another matter. At least once a night, he'd come in here and "visit" with them. Sometimes he'd even leave flowers at the base of their feet.
Nick screwed his face up, unwilling to admit that he'd come in here trying to use the Eye to see if he could detect scenes from Kyrian's past. "Nothing."
Ash arched a brow that said he knew Nick was lying, but didn't feel like calling him out on it. "Where's Rosa?"
"She wasn't feeling well. I beat her down and made her go home early."
"What act of Congress did that take?"
Ash wasn't joking about that. Kyrian's ornery housekeeper never neglected her duty or Kyrian, whom she saw as another child and treated with utmost care and regard. There was only one other male who had any kind of power over her ...
"An act of Miguel. I've learned to play dirty. One call to the son and the mothership caves."
Ash sucked his breath in sharply. "That's harsh, Gautier."
"Yeah, I fight to win."
"I'll remember that in the future." Ash started to withdraw.
"Hey, Ash?" Nick hesitated as Ash paused to look back at him. "Can I ask you something?"
"How do you live when you know the future?"
Ash snorted. "Wow, you just dove right in there with no preamble."
"Yeah, I tend to do that sort of thing. You taught me to drive. You know how I am. Full throttle. All the time. Trash cans and pedestrians be danged."
"And I'm still in therapy over it, too. Eleven thousand years without any serious trauma, and five months of driving with you and I have more PTSD than five tours as a war vet."
"You laugh," Ash scoffed. "I'm serious."
"So am I." Nick sobered as he touched the Eye he still held in his pocket. "How do you cope with knowing what's going to happen to everyone around you? Doesn't it ever freak you out?"
Ash let out an elongated breath before he answered. "I try not to look."
Nick rolled his eyes. "I'm serious," he repeated.
"Me, too. It's all you can do. Because when you look in and see what's coming for those around you, that's when you really screw things up."
"How do you mean?"
"Simple. You try to avoid this and cause that, and the minute you do ... you get blindsided by an unexpected twist caused by the actions you took. Case in point, the worst events in my life were a direct result of someone trying to help me. I'd have been better off had the ones who loved me just let fate play out, instead of trying to circumvent it. It's why I try really hard not to involve myself in the free will of others."
"Does it work?"
Ash shrugged. "Yes and no. It's painful at times. Like watching a child you love on the playground when you know they're about to tumble. You have that split second where you think, do I catch them or let them skin their knee and learn about gravity? It's an innate craving to want to keep them from harm, but if you don't let them learn now, the later repercussions can be a lot more catastrophic. Unfortunately, you don't know how bad until it's too late."
"Like marrying my wife."
Nick turned at the sound of Kyrian's unexpected Greek accent behind them. There was no missing the pain in his tone. He rarely spoke of Theone. Not that he blamed him. His ex had done a number on him when she'd handed Kyrian over to his bitterest enemies to be tortured and then crucified as a traitor of the Roman Empire.
It was one thing to read about history in school. Another thing to interact with the people who'd actually lived it and been affected by it.
Glancing at Acheron, Kyrian moved to stand next to Nick. "You remind me so much of myself at your age, boy. Hotheaded and stubborn. No one could ever tell me anything. I had to learn it for myself. My father did everything he could to talk sense into me and I wouldn't hear it for anything. I thought he was prejudiced and old-fashioned. Set in his ways. How stupid he was to judge a woman he didn't even know, based on her occupation that I thought she'd been forced into."
Perhaps, but it didn't change one basic thing that Nick would always come back to. "She shouldn't have betrayed you."
"I shouldn't have been blind."
Ash clapped Kyrian on his shoulder. "We make our own realities, brother. See what we want to in others and ourselves. Always."
Kyrian nodded. "And I saw a heart where there was only greed. Truth where none was spoken. It's easy to get suckered when you're young." He laughed bitterly. "My father used to always say, 'Kyrian, my son, you're not a pot of gold to anyone but me and your mother. And we will always love and worship the ground you tread upon. Sadly, the rest of the world won't cherish you for your worth. All they see is a smart-mouthed brat. For everyone loves a self-made man and despises his spoiled, entitled issue.'"
Nick grimaced. "Man, that's harsh."
"But true. And I never turned my ear. Rather, I chased the shiny apple only to find the swallowed fruit bitter on my tongue." He reached up to touch the marbled hand of his youngest sister as if he could still feel the flesh of her skin. "You would have thought with my sisters forever nagging me and pointing out my endless list of flaws that they'd have broken my spirit when I was young, and I'd have known not everyone would seek or enjoy my company."
Nick snorted at his self-deprecating humor, especially given that he normally said his sisters didn't criticize him at all. "Your wife was stupid."
"No, Nick. Theone was quite clever and calculating. She knew exactly what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it. I was the idiot who closed my eyes to things I should have seen." He narrowed his gaze. "She was nothing like your Kody. But to answer your earlier question, it's not as hard to live with the future you know as it is to live with the future you don't. Uncertainty is the hardest cross to bear. You will spend most of your life letting that shred your time. Does she love me? Should I do this or that instead?"
Ash nodded. "Kyrian's right. Nothing tears at the soul more than making a decision when you don't know how it's going to ultimately play out. And what you're going to be left with when it's all over."
"Except living with the burden of making a bad one," Nick mumbled.
Kyrian snorted. "Wow, Acheron, he does listen to us, after all. I think I'm scared now. Surely, this is a sign of the Apocalypse."
Nick blew him a raspberry. "Well, boss, as long as it doesn't involve any more zombies, I can handle it."
They both groaned at his reminder.
"Madaug hasn't been programming again, has he?"
Nick shook his head at Kyrian's question. "We've all banned him from computers. Threatened to break all his fingers, toes, and glasses."
Excerpted from Invision by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Copyright © 2016 Sherrilyn Kenyon. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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“Illusion [is] another great story. The humour [is] spot on… great balance between action and storytelling.” – Total Book Geek on Illusion
“[Chock] full of action, suspense, emotion, Nick’s perfectly timed humour and sarcasm, friends coming together to help one another, danger and peril at every turn, and of course Kenyon’s brilliant world building, character creations, and imagination that make you forget you are reading a work of fiction.” –The Reading Café on Instinct
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