Katie's Hope (Chapter Three, page 1 of 18)

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"So this is where you're hiding out."

Gabriel whipped around at the voice, lowering the weapon that emerged instinctively at the sound of a stranger in his home. Rhyn kept his distance, knowing just how jumpy an assassin could be. Gabriel was at his place in the underworld, a small cottage tucked into Death's realm, in the Everdark forest of Immortal trees whose hissing, fanlike leaves and snake-like branches moved to catch the quiet wind. Gabriel's small cottage was lit by a single candle that cast light on a collection of weapons along one wall and a few books on a bookshelf on another.

"I didn't think you could come here," the assassin said.

"The Code says I shouldn't, not that I can't. Important distinction," Rhyn replied and pulled out a chair from the table on which the candle was placed. He straddled the chair and rested his forearms on its back. "You left without saying good-bye."

Gabriel rubbed his face, and Rhyn saw the shadow of stubble the assassin never allowed to grow. Something was really wrong if Gabriel's thousands-year-old habit changed suddenly.

"I didn't have a choice," Gabriel said with some difficulty. "Death owns me now."

Rhyn understood without asking. Gabriel had always been a free man; now the human- turned Immortal was a slave.

"Welcome to my world," he said with a chuckle. "You'll find making friends is hard when everyone hates you."

"I'm beginning to see that. Didn't realize I liked having some sort of free will." "You still have choices. Just none of them are good."

Gabriel snorted in response.

"Since I know I can drop in on you whenever I want, I promise to come back," Rhyn continued. "I need a hand finding an Ancient healer named Lankha."

"Your girl hurt again?"

"I suppose you'll be the latest to tell me she's better off without me," Rhyn said. "But no, it's not her this time. It's Toby."

Gabriel frowned and ran a hand through his hair. Rhyn watched him, concerned at finding his sole friend so affected by the recent change in his life. He sensed much more amiss than Gabriel would ever admit.

"The healers moved to the other side of the Immortal world, past Elisia and closer to Hell. I can't take you, but here." He held out his hand. Rhyn stretched to tap fists with him, and the portal information lit up his thoughts. He'd spent most his life in Hell and remembered little of the Immortal world.

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