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She would’ve picked the green wall if she’d made a personal choice instead of trying to mess with the mountebanks, and she knew he could force her to give up the goods and let that machine properly assess her.

When had she become so easy to read?

“How are we?” he asked, pausing in the doorway, wondering if a fleeting hope of escape would cross her face.

As if she’d slipped into a coat, a new wave of confidence washed over her. She didn’t so much as glance out of the room. If he hadn’t seen her handle those beast handlers at the magical fair, he would’ve bought it all. But she’d been terrified then, and she was terrified now.

He would soon find out why—what she was hiding.

“We?” she said, her voice strong and even. She did excellently under pressure. “Well, you seem to be fabulous, and I am rather humdrum. Thanks for asking.”

He smiled and stepped into the room before closing the door behind him. He eyed the wall colors. “I think I’ll choose green.”

“Great to know. Should I jot that down?”

“You don’t have any paper. Make a mental note. I like when my women know every minute detail about me. It makes my life easier.”

Her lips tightened, and he barely kept from laughing. The mountebanks found her deflective, dry humor exasperating. He had no idea why. He found it refreshing that someone didn’t agree with his every word. It kept things interesting.

“My name is Kieran. Demigod Kieran, Valens Drusus’s son.” Her eyes narrowed instead of widening. “Or did you finally figure out who I was?”

“Your people have the gift of gab. Cindy at the bar filled me in.”

“My people?”

“Yeah. Irish. Awful gossips.”

He did smile this time before leaning back in his chair, getting comfortable. “Cindy, yes. She pours a good pint.” He let his gaze roam her face, snagging on that inviting, heart-shaped mouth. “Do you know why I’m here?”

“In this room, or in this city?”

“The room. You know…in part, why I’m in this city.”

She glanced around at the walls. “These rooms are usually bugged, right? Do you want the whole world hearing what I know? Because I have no problem with snitching.”

“These rooms are usually monitored, yes. But not right now.” He hoped Zorn knew to plug in some earphones if he wanted to keep listening. “I hoped you’d consent to a proper assessment test.”

“I have. They’ve tested me three times.”

“With varying results.”

“The machines are clearly buggy.”

“Just so we’re clear, the room was monitored before I came in.”

Her jaw set stubbornly, but she didn’t say anything.

“I have the ability to bend an individual’s mind to my will, Alexis.” He kept his tone light, but fear flashed within her eyes. No, she did not want to be controlled. She’d given up much in her life—she did not want to give up her power over her mind. He respected that. Only a weak person would. “I’d rather not do that to you.”

“I would rather you not do that, too. Look at us—something in common.”

“But I need that assessment, Alexis.”

“Conundrum.” So, she was digging in her heels. He’d expected no less.

“That’s how it’s going to be, then?”

“Do your worst,” she said, using a different voice. He wondered if it was a reference from a movie he wasn’t getting. Regardless, he grinned and gave in to her command.



I wondered what Kieran would do. How far he would go. He was a Demigod, and with the magnitude of his power, he could make me grovel at his feet like a starving, begging child.

Please don’t make me grovel.

He half rose and scooted his chair closer, stopping in the center of the room.

“I’d stay out of kicking distance, if I were you,” I warned.

That sexy grin twisted his lips again. “Noted. So…” He entwined his fingers, as calm as they came.

“So,” I said, trying to mimic it. I did a horrible job. It came out like I wanted to put a spike through his heart.

“It seems you are somehow preventing the machine from getting accurate readings. Because this facility has not had experience with that before…” They had, because my mother had been the master at it. She’d always hit her target within a few points, a talent I couldn’t seem to duplicate. These guys just hadn’t caught anyone doing it before. “…they don’t know how to get what we need.”

“So they called in the big guns.”

He bent his head, and that damn grin stretched a little wider. He thought all this was hilarious, the dog.

“I’ll give you one more chance to—”

“No,” I said. I could withstand his magic in the bar; I might as well try to withstand it here. Maybe he couldn’t—

The thought cut off as a wave of unadulterated bliss swept over me, promising unbearably sweet rewards. My core tightened to pounding, desperate for fulfillment. My nipples budded in anticipation of being suckled by his luscious lips.

I moaned—I couldn’t help it—before dropping my head forward and riding the wave of pleasure, revving up to orgasm right here in the assessment room.

I hoped he really had switched off the monitoring equipment, because I was about to make a fool of myself.

Then again…Kieran wanted me sexually. He’d said as much, and proven it in the bar. If I showed how much pleasure his magic caused me, it would drive him crazy because he couldn’t touch me.

Or, at least, I hoped so. This tactic would be ruined if he decided to ignore the law.

Heat pounded through my middle. I raked my teeth across my bottom lip before spreading my legs and leaning back. “Yes,” I sighed, not having to pretend. Pleasure coursed through me, throbbing and aching. I arched my back, soaking into it. Feeling the build. Right on the edge.

“Cut off the cameras,” Kieran said with what sounded like a clenched jaw, his voice hard and tight. Hard like his cock, I was certain.

But I didn’t have time to reach that big O, or be embarrassed about who else might’ve seen my little display. Hot spikes of agony ripped across my skin before digging in hard. I was dunked, headfirst, into more pain than I’d experienced in a very long time.

“Dick move…” I ground out, taking it. This was a battle of wills, and I would not give in. I only wished I had better magic so I could fight back. “Not letting me orgasm.”

“You’ll orgasm with me, or not at all,” came the reply, his voice still tight.

I laughed despite the pain. “My big pink vibrator begs to differ. You can suck it.”

“I will suck it. And lick it. And make you writhe in pleasure before screaming my name.”

It felt like daggers had been punched through my eyes. Fire burned across my scalp. I opened myself up to the pain, letting it consume me. Letting it drag me where it would.

“There you go,” I said, trying to stay loose and absorb the sensations. It made the magic bearable, somehow. Tolerable. I could handle this. “You’ve just proven yourself a liar, unless you’ll be jacking off while you eat me out?”

The magic switched on a dime, and I knew in a flash he was alternating between his mother’s and father’s magic. Sweet and sensual, then vicious and dominating, both utterly consuming. I wondered if he was even in control, or if his magic was instinctively reacting to my verbal pokes and prods.

Passion flared, erasing the sharp bite of pain from the moment before.

“You’re so fucking sexy, Alexis, you drive me to distraction,” he said in a low growl. I peeled my eyes open, hot and aching and needing his cock buried deeply inside of me.

The same heat burned in his eyes, as though he was using the magic on himself. As though I had the same effect on him as he was having on me.

Suddenly, I wondered how much of this was actually his magic, and how much was my reaction to him. I was scared of the answer.

“But this is too important,” he muttered. His jaw clenched, and for a moment—a split second—I thought I saw regret.

Then the pain rolled through me again, tearing down all the heat and sensuality from my sex-addled brain. God, he was good at keeping someone on edge. I had to hand it to him.

“You can end this whenever you want, Alexis,” he whispered, and I heard it that time, faintly. Regret.

“Where’s…the fun…in that?” I clenched my teeth, then tried a new tactic. Instead of sinking into his magic like I usually did, I floated through it—and I reached out a mental hand and tugged him in with me.

He grunted, as if I’d struck him. A moment later, without warning, a huge wave of his vicious magic crashed over me, blistering me as it tore me apart. Black spots danced before my eyes before enlarging, cutting out my vision. Fear choked me and pain blotted out my awareness. My equilibrium went next before something hard and immovable hit my side.

“No more."

That rough, sexy voice was much too familiar. The spine-crushing pain dried up, evaporating like raindrops on hot cement.

One minute I was in mental hell, and the next I was panting, lying on the floor, flat on my back, looking at white, puffy clouds painted on the light blue ceiling. Apparently, I wasn’t the first person who’d ended up flat on her back in this room. I was glad I didn’t know that coming in. Nothing had hit me—I’d hit the floor.

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