“Yeah, you do. My pleasure. That should be priority one.”

Teeth grinding together, he turned on his heel and strode away. “You will find it difficult to get into trouble here, so I suggest you do not even try.” His voice echoed behind him.

Please. She could get into trouble with nothing but a toothpick and a spoon. “If you leave, I’ll rearrange everything.” Not that there was any furniture to be seen.


“I’ll get bored and take off.”


It was a response, at least. “So you’re seriously going to leave me? Just like that?” She snapped her fingers.

“Yes.” Another response, though he didn’t stop walking.

“What about that bed you were going to chain me to? Where is it?”

Uh-oh, back to silence.

“You didn’t even tell me your name,” she called, irritated despite herself. How could he abandon her like that? He should hunger for more of her. “Well? I deserve to know the name of the man I’ll be cursing.”

Finally, he stopped. Still, a long while passed in silence and she thought he meant to ignore her. Again. Then he said, “My name is Lysander,” and stepped from the cloud, disappearing from view.


LYSANDER WATCHED AS TWO newly recruited warrior angels—angels under his training and command—finally subdued a demonic minion that had dug its way free from hell. The creature was scaled from head to hoof and little horns protruded from its shoulders and back. Its eyes were bright red, like crystallized blood.

The fight had lasted half an hour, and both angels were now bleeding, panting. Demons were notorious for their biting and scratching.Lysander should have been able to critique the men and tell them what they had done wrong. That way, they would do a better job next time. But as they’d struggled with the fiend, his mind had drifted to Bianka. What was she doing? Was she resigned to her fate yet? He’d given her several days alone to calm and accept.

“What now?” one of his trainees asked. Beacon was his name.

“You letsss me go, you letsss me go,” the demon said pleadingly, its forked tongue giving it a lisp. “I behave. I return. Ssswear.”

Lies. As a minion, it was a servant to a demon High Lord—just as there were three factions of angels, there were three factions of demons. High Lords held the most power, followed by Lords, who were followed by the lowest of them all, minions. Despite this one’s lack of status, it could cause untold damage among humans. Not only because it was evil, but also because it was a minion of Strife and took its nourishment from the trouble it caused others.

By the time Lysander had sensed its presence on earth, it had already broken up two marriages and convinced one teenager to start smoking and another to kill himself.

“Execute it,” Lysander commanded. “It knew the consequences of breaking a heavenly law, yet it chose to escape from hell anyway.”

The minion began to struggle again. “You going to lisssten to him when you obviousssly ssstronger and better than him? He make you do all hard work. He do nothing hissself. Lazy, if you asssk me. Kill him.”

“We do not ask you,” Lysander said.

Both angels raised their hands and fiery swords appeared.

“Pleassse,” the demon screeched. “No. Don’t do thisss.”

They didn’t hesitate. They struck.

The scaled head rolled, yet the angels did not dematerialize their swords. They kept the tips poised on the motionless body until it caught flame. When nothing but ash remained, they looked to Lysander for instruction.

“Excellent job.” He nodded in satisfaction. “You have improved since your last killing, and I am proud of you. But you will train with Raphael until further notice,” he said. Raphael was strong, intelligent and one of the best trackers in the heavens.

Raphael would not be distracted by a Harpy he had no hopes of possessing.

Possessing? Lysander’s jaw clenched tightly. He was not some vile demon. He possessed nothing. Ever. And when he finished with Bianka, she would be glad of that. There would be no more games, no more racing around him, caressing him and laughing. The clenching in his jaw stopped, but his shoulders sagged. In disappointment? Couldn’t be.

Perhaps he needed a few days to calm and accept.

HE’D LEFT HER ALONE for a week, the sun rising and setting beyond the clouds. And each day, Bianka grew madder—and madder. And madder. Worse, she grew weaker. Harpies could only eat what they stole (or earned, but there was no way to earn a single morsel here). And no, that wasn’t a rule she could overlook. It was a curse. A godly curse her people had endured for centuries. Reviled as Harpies were, the gods had banded together and decreed that no Harpy could enjoy a meal freely given or one they had prepared themselves. If they did, they sickened terribly. The gods’ hope? Destruction.

Instead, they’d merely ensured Harpies learned how to steal from birth. To survive, even an angel would sin.Lysander would learn that firsthand. She would make sure of it. Bastard.

Had he planned this to torture her?

In this palace, Bianka had only to speak of something and it would materialize before her. An apple—bright and red and juicy. Baked turkey—succulent and plump. But she couldn’t eat them, and it was killing her. Liter—fucking—ally.

At first, Bianka had tried to escape. Several times. Unlike Lysander the Cruel, she couldn’t jump from the clouds. The floor expanded wherever she stepped and remained as hard as marble. All she could do was move from ethereal room to ethereal room, watching the murals play out battle scenes. Once she’d thought she’d even spied Lysander.

Of course, she’d said, “Rock,” and a nice-size stone had appeared in her hand. She’d chucked it at him, but the stupid thing had fallen to earth rather than hit him.

Where was he? What was he doing? Did he mean to kill her like this, despite his earlier denial? Slowly and painfully? At least the hunger pains had finally left her. Now she was merely consumed by a sensation of trembling emptiness.

She wanted to stab him the moment she saw him. Then set him on fire. Then scatter his ashes in a pasture where lots of animals roamed. He deserved to be smothered by several nice steaming piles. Of course, if he waited much longer, she would be the one burned and scattered. She couldn’t even drink a glass of water.

Besides, fighting him wasn’t the way to punish him. That, she’d realized the first day here. He didn’t like to be touched. Therefore, touching him was the way to punish him. And touch him she would. Anywhere, everywhere. Until he begged her to stop. No. Until he begged her to continue.

She would make him like it, and then take it away.

If she lasted.

Right now, she could barely hold herself up. In fact, why was she even trying?

“Bed,” she muttered weakly, and a large four-poster appeared just in front of her. She hadn’t slept since she’d gotten here. Usually she crashed in trees, but she wouldn’t have had the strength to climb one even if the cloud had been filled with them. She collapsed on the plush mattress, velvet coverlet soft against her skin. Sleep. She’d sleep for a little while.

FINALLY LYSANDER COULD STAND it no more. Nine days. He’d lasted nine days. Nine days of thinking about the female constantly, wondering what she was doing, what she was thinking. If her skin was as soft as it looked.

He could tolerate it no longer. He would check on her, that was all, and see for himself how—and what—she was doing. Then he would leave her again. Until he got himself under control. Until he stopped thinking about her. Stopped wanting to be near her. Her training had to begin sometime.His wings glided up and down as he soared to his cloud. His heartbeat was a bit…odd. Faster than normal, even bumping against his ribs. Also, his blood was like fire in his veins. He didn’t know what was wrong. Angels only sickened when they were infected with demon poison, and as Lysander had not been bitten by a demon—had not even fought one in weeks—he knew that was not the problem.

Blame could probably be laid at Bianka’s door, he thought with a scowl.

First thing he noticed upon entering was the food littering the floor. From fruits to meats to bags of chips. All were uneaten, even unopened.

Scowl melting into a frown, he folded his wings into his back and stalked forward. He found Bianka inside one of the rooms, lying atop a bed. She wore the same clothing she’d been clad in when he’d first taken her—red shirt, tights that molded to her perfect curves—but had discarded her boots. Her hair was tangled around her, and her skin worryingly pale. There was no sparkle to it, no pearl-like gleam. Bruises now formed half-moons under her eyes.

Part of him had expected to find her fuming—and out for his head. The other part of him had hoped to find her compliant. Not once had he thought to find her like this.

She thrashed, the covers bunched around her. His frown deepened.

“Hamburger,” she croaked.

A juicy burger appeared on the floor a few inches from the bed, all the extras—lettuce, tomato slices, pickles and cheese—decorating the edges of the plate. The manifestation didn’t surprise him. That was the beauty of these angelic homes. Whatever was desired—within reason, of course—was provided.

All this food, and she hadn’t taken a single bite. Why would she request—It wasn’t stolen, he realized, and for the first time in his endless existence, he was angry with himself. And scared. For her. He hated the emotion, but there it was. She hadn’t eaten in these last nine days because she couldn’t. She was truly starving to death.

Though he wanted her out of his head, out of his life, he hadn’t wanted her to suffer. Yet suffer she had. Unbearably. Now she was too weak to steal anything. And if he force-fed her, she would vomit, hurting more than she already was. Suddenly he wanted to roar.

“Blade,” he said, and within a single blink, a sharp-tipped blade rested in his hand. He stalked to the side of the bed. He was trembling.

“Fries. Chocolate shake.” Her voice was soft, barely audible.