"You have got to be kidding me."
I stood up so fast that the rush of blood to my head made me dizzy, but at that point I didn't care about anything except the sudden tide of anger and betrayal washing over me. In a dangerously low voice, I snarled, “Get. Out.”
Wes’s eyes widened and he held his hands up pleadingly. “Wait—Scarlet—”
“Get out of this house or I swear to you I will call the cops!” Hot tears streamed down my face as I pointed a shaking finger at the figure on the couch. I knew that I was overreacting, but at that moment I didn’t care. “How dare you say something so completely insensitive and—stupid! Hunter is dead. And you’re a bigger idiot than I thought if you would walk into my house and abuse my trust. So I’m giving you ten seconds. And if you’re not out that door by then I swear—”
He stood up and placed both hands on my shoulders, staring directly into my eyes. “Scarlet. I would never, ever do anything to hurt you. Just listen to me. Give me a chance to prove what I’m saying to you.”
Somehow, something in his voice got through to my stubborn, angry heart and made me pause. I blinked and swallowed hard, trying to contain the rage that had come flooding out. I hissed through my teeth, “Go on, then.”
He shifted his touch from my shoulders to my hands, so that our fingers were intertwined. I gasped at how cold his skin was. “Francesca Evelina Scarlet T’Adora. You go by Scarlet because it was your mom’s favorite color, and she died when we were in fourth grade. We were close before she died, but afterward we were inseparable. We told each other everything. I know that when you were twelve you tried to run away, and you bought yourself a train ticket and you were going to leave and never look back. I know that you cried yourself to sleep every night for a year when your older brother died in the war. I know that your dream is to move to Florence, and escape your life here and all the pain. And I know…I know you never felt the same way about me as I did about you.” His voice trailed off, his deep blue eyes growing cloudy as his fingers gripped mine more tightly. “Why don’t you believe me?” He murmured, tracing my jaw line with a cold, calloused finger.
I turned away from his touch as my eyes filled with tears. Everything he’d said was true, like he was reading my life etched on the walls of my heart. “You’re dead,” I whispered through the tears, my voice breaking. “They told me you were dead.”
“I was dead,” he replied sorrowfully. “But I came back, and I’ll never leave you again.”
“How?” I whispered, the tears falling freely now. Hunter pulled me tight against his chest and stroked my hair. “I was brought out of death by a Soul Stealer called Cain. He reaps people’s souls, and in return for freeing me of a mundane life he made me a Soul Stealer as well.”
I pulled away from him as though I had been burned by fire, my hands flying to my mouth like startled birds. “What? So does that mean you’re not…human?”
He closed his eyes. “Do you want to see my true form?” His voice was solemn, resigned.
“Yes,” I murmured, before I could stop myself.
Hunter nodded, tersely, and then bowed his head and whispered a single word.
It was all I could do to keep from screaming as he changed. His eyes burned a deep, fiery red; their whites darkening to the color of pitch. Huge black wings unfurled from his shoulder blades, and his skin seemed to shift color in the light, as though there was smoke and fire trapped beneath. He spread his arms out and whispered, “This is what I have become.”