Everything was the same as Erebus remembered.
The wooden walls and floors, the familiar scents and sounds as he strolled through each long hallway filled with people. Much nicer than anything he was used to in the Underworld. Perhaps he should come here more often, only that meant having to endure one of Edwin's many lectures and putting up with that damp wolf, Lucas.
“Ungrateful beast,” Erebus muttered to himself, still irritated that he’d had to help the likes of someone like him, someone who hadn’t even bothered to thank him for his aid since his release.
Still, there were a few people he cared for around here, and there was that deal he’d struck with Thane, something he would need to call upon soon.
Erebus continued through the corridors, looking this way and that, taking it all in, thankful to be anywhere other than his own plane when he heard the deep timbre of Than’es voice from the other end of the hall.
“We’ve already checked twice, Thane. She’d not there.”
Erebus stepped a little closer and listened in before he slipped past the door that had been left ajar, and paused behind the boy who’d spoken. The human boy, Hugh. Honestly, Erebus had expected Thane to call him weeks ago to ask for his help tracking down Keri, the vampire who had almost succeeded in killing his mate, Anya, but this wolf was just as stubborn as Lucas, if not more so, something he never thought possible.
“Do you want my help, or not?” Erebus asked, a smirk on his face when the boy in front of him almost jumped out of his skin.
Thane turned and mirrored his stance, arms crossed over his broad chest, one brow raised in question. He always was a man, or beast, of few words.
“I am a far better tracker than these two buffoons combined.”
“Watch your tongue, demon,” Duncan sneered from his position across the room, a deathly glare aimed in his direction.
“And what would you require in return?”
“I’m hurt,” Erebus said in a mocking tone, clutching his chest for effect. “I offer you aid out of the goodness of my heart, and you assume I want something.”
“Funny, I didn’t know you had one,” Thane chuckled, a lopsided grin curving his lips as he paused beside Erebus and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I thought you didn’t like it here?”
“Coming topside has its advantages,” he said under his breath. Of course, he knew that Thane would hear him, Duncan probably had to, but he didn’t wish to go into any details and he knew that Thane of all people would respect that and not ask too many questions. He wasn’t like Edwin and so many of the other Guardians that pushed until you told them everything, it was one of the reasons he actually liked the guy. That and his wicked sense of humour that the others didn’t understand or were too stuck up to appreciate a good joke.
“Besides, you’ll only come to me later if Anya ends up taken again. Best we save ourselves some time and get to her first.”
Thane growled and tensed, his eyes flashing navy at the mere mention of anything befalling his mate before he grunted and frowned. He didn’t buy Erebus’s reason for being here, but he chose not to call him out on the lie.
Erebus didn’t like the idea of lying to him, Thane was after all one of the few people he liked around here, but he wasn’t prepared to tell him the truth yet, or admit that he had a soft spot for the young pop. Thane was possessive and overprotective enough at the best of times, let alone now he was a newly mated male. Erebus didn’t need the aggravation that would certainly come should Thane find out he knew who and what Anya was from the moment he had found her in that barn all those years ago.
“I work fast, and I have a favour or two I can call on if needed.”
“No. I don’t want anybody else involved. If Richard finds out—”
“You honestly think he doesn’t know already?”
Thane and the other two traded looks, none of them saying anything before they looked away.
“You’ve been back haven't you?” Erebus asked, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Are you stupid?”
“We—I needed to know what he knew.”
“And if he had known what you were? He could have killed you then and there, or locked you away as he did with Lucas.”
Thane wasn’t thinking clearly. Nor had he stopped to consider Anya. The girl was new to this world after being kept in the dark about it for too many years. She wouldn't take kindly to being left alone if something were to happen to Thane. She may have her dad back, and Edwin who had always been a father to her since they’d found her and brought her here, as well as a few new friends, but Thane was her mate, her heartbeat. Thane was the one person who had given her enough fight to come back from the brink of death. The connection they shared through their bond was strong enough that he’d been able to reach her when she’d needed him most, even if the wolf was too foolish to realise he was the one who saved her in the end.
Anya craved answers from her so-called old friend, Keri. She would not wish for them if they came at the expense of his demise.
“Well, he didn’t.”
“Clearly.” Erebus drawled, grumbling under his breath as he pictured Richard, knitting his brows. “How exactly did you manage to trick him a second time? That couldn’t have been an easy task.”
Richard was by no means a fool, and yet Thane had undermined him on more than one occasion proving otherwise. Nor did the man trust easily from what Erebus had seen and heard, so how had Thane managed to sneak by his defences a second time? Perhaps the hype that followed Ruchard was an exaggeration. Or maybe Thane and these two idiots were too blindsided to realise they were walking right into a trap.
“Richard already suspected that Keri was up to something. Hugh and I just helped him fill in a few blanks, directing his attention elsewhere and putting all the blame on her should she be foolish enough to try and return to him.”
“Clever.” Erebus had to admit that was a good plan. Stupid and risky, but clever nonetheless.
He knew that Thane could be cunning, another plus to his character. Fooling someone like Richard however. Someone rumoured to be devious and conniving was an impressive skill. Still, it didn’t sit right with him. He wasn’t sure he bought that Richard didn’t suspect anything, especially since Hugh, his stepson, hadn’t been home much recently. It reeked of a trap to him. Erebus would have to keep a close eye on Richard for the duration of his time here, just to be sure.
“So, do you require my help or not?”
“I’m already in your debt, what harm could it do?” Thane said with a shrug.
Erebus faltered, a sharp stab of pain through his chest at the mention of their previous bargain.
He was a hypocrite, annoyed that Thane would risk himself by returning to Richard when what he had roped him into was something much, much worse.