Suffers with shame and guilt.

That thought was too shattering to ignore. He couldn’t take her, he realized like a harsh slap in the face. Not here. Not now. Not like this, with things left unsaid and unplanned.

Frustrated, he smoothed down her shirt and jolted upright. His body screamed a protest, his every cell rejecting the separation from her. He punched the headboard. Wood shards rained.

Tink gasped with surprise. “K-Kane? What’s wrong?”

His shame rose. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

At least the shaking had stopped, Disaster calming.

“Did I drain you and not realize?” she asked.

“No.” Remaining on his side, facing her, he lay down. “The demon was acting up.” Despite the pain of unsatisfied lust, there was no underlying ache—but there was a surprising underlying wave of contentment.

“I want to go to my room now,” she said hollowly.

Or maybe not. “You’re staying here. You’re sleeping here. That’s not up for discussion.”

“You don’t get to decide what’s up for discussion and what’s not.” Her voice had a bite to it.

“I do get to tie you to the bed if you even think about leaving.”

She closed her eyes, hiding the anguish he’d just glimpsed inside their depths. “You are so confusing! One second you’re all over me, the next you’re pulling away. I shouldn’t have kissed you, I admit that. Ultimately, your circumstances haven’t changed. In fact, they’re worse. I asked if you planned to marry Synda and you refused to answer.”

If the situation had been different—if he planned to marry Synda for any reason other than to save Tink—he would have agreed. “I thought it might prove necessary.” Yes, he’d entertained the notion of going through with the marriage to Synda, and yes, it was still an option, but just then, with Tink’s taste in his mouth and her warmth enveloping him, he knew it wasn’t an option he would ever be able to take. “I was wrong.”

He would think of something else. He would.

One of the wood shards had caught on the bed railing and now fell into his eye. He hissed.

Kane tilted back his head and poked around until he found and removed the tiny sliver.

Hatred for Disaster burned that much deeper.

“Is there anything you’re sure of?” Tink asked quietly.

He was sure he was tired of pretending. Tired of thoughts and memories and fears and indecision and...everything but this girl. “I’m sure we both need some rest.” Before Disaster caused her harm. “We’ll talk about this later.”



Kane looked around. Josephina stood at the side of the bed, surrounded by the same glittering white mist he’d seen in the dark alley beside the club. “Did you project yourself into my mind again? Even though you’re right next to me?”

Wait. She was next to him, wasn’t she?

He patted the space beside him, and sure enough, the heat of her caressed his hands.

She raised her chin, probably trying for haughty but only managing adorable. “Would you be angry if I pleaded guilty?”

“You’d already be over my knee if I were angry.”

An amused gleam danced in her eyes. “You would not spank me.”

“Are you sure you want to challenge me on this topic?”

She held up her palms and backed away from him. “No, no. Not me. I’d never do something like that.”

He laughed and waved her back, the sense of being carefree astonishing him. “Why not just talk to me in person?”

“Three reasons. I’m impatient. Our real bodies are clearly exhausted right now. And Disaster can’t hurt me here.”

“Way to bury the lead,” he said with a smile. “Who else have you invaded like this?”

“My mother.” She offered him a sad little smile. “Before she gave me the ability forever, I accidentally took it a few times.”

Curious, he said, “Why not use it with others?”

“There’s no one in this realm I want to talk to, and no one who wants to talk to me.”

Always breaking my heart. “Well, don’t invade anyone else.” He didn’t like the idea of her being this intimately involved with another.

She stuck out her tongue. “Whatever you say, Dad.”

He tsked, sitting up. “Careful. That’s an invitation to a guy like me.”

“What is? The action or the insult?”


She opened her mouth, and he suspected—hoped—she meant to issue a verbal invitation. But all she said was “Kane?”

The muscles in his stomach jumped as if she’d caressed him. “Yes.” He threw his legs over the side of the bed.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you.” She paced in front of him. “It’s kind of personal.”

Dread rolled through him. “I told you, you can ask me anything.”

She stopped, motioned to his hip. “Why a butterfly?”

Okay, that one was easy. He stood—but somehow left his body behind.

He frowned. “What just happened?”

“Uh, I think you just projected your image. Like I’m doing.”


“I don’t know.”

Were they bonded on some deep, primal level? Her abilities becoming his? Or, had she left a piece of herself behind when she’d taken Disaster from him?

She reached out, tracing her fingers along the curve of the wing stretching above the waist of his pants. “Like this, I can feeeel you.”

Instant. Hard-on. “And I can feel you,” he croaked.

“The butterfly...” she prompted with a shiver.

Right. “My friends and I have our theories, and none are the same.”

“I want to hear yours.” Her knuckles brushed against his navel, and he had to fight the urge to grab her force it to go lower.

“Inside a chrysalis, a caterpillar breaks down into imaginal cells. Those cells put themselves back together in a new shape and the creature emerges as a butterfly. Once, I was a warrior. Then the demon came, and I was broken down and reshaped into something else. Something dark and twisted.”

Her gaze found his. “But you and the demon aren’t one being. You’re separate.”

“Not yet, but we will be,” he said, unable to hide his determination. Before she could question him further, he offered his hand to her.

“What?” she asked, confused.

“Take it.”

A moment passed before she twined their fingers.

He remained quiet, easing forward into a slow walk around the room. She kept pace beside him, the mist constantly swirling and dancing with their motions. He enjoyed the peace and tranquility. “How does this ability of yours work? You projected your image into my mind, but do you control everything I see?”

“For the most part, yes.”

“Show me.”

“What would you like to see?”

“The best you’ve got.”

She cut him a look of determined delight. “Prepare to be amazed by my amazingness.” Rubbing her hands together, she closed her eyes. A moment later, a forest of lush green trees took the place of the room. A mutant dog-monkey hybrid materialized on one of the branches, swinging toward him and throwing an apple at his head.

He dodged, but not quickly enough. The red fruit hit his shoulder, causing Tink to chuckle.

“You’re in trouble now,” he said.

“Oh, dear, oh, no. Are you going to give me that spanking?” she gasped out with mock fear—and another apple slammed into his shoulder. “Or is the mean warrior going to give me a very stern lecture?”

Kane released a low snarl, as fake as her fear. “I’ll give you a lecture all right.”

She giggled as she raced forward, throwing over her shoulder, “You’ll have to catch me first.”

That much as he wanted to kiss and touch her again, he wanted to hear that giggle more. He darted after her, chasing her around thick trunks and other mutant animals she’d thought up. The cat-deer. The squirrel-wasp. The elephant-zebra. He almost caught her, and she giggled again; he laughed.

He wasn’t sure whether or not they were ghosting through walls, or still inside his bedroom, and he didn’t care. He’d never acted like a child. He’d never been a child. He’d come into this world fully formed, a vessel meant for war and vengeance. Then, after the Pandora’s box debacle, he’d become a container for evil—and his weeks in hell had only increased the darkness inside him. Until Tink, he’d never been anything more; he’d never known light.

“You can’t catch me I’m the muffin man,” she called.


“Are we saying random foods now? Cupcakes.”

He was shaking with laughter when next he caught her, and she managed to slip away.

“Poor Kane,” she called, and he could tell she was struggling not to pant from exertion. “Too old to keep up with such a young Fae?”

Pumping his arms and legs faster, he increased his pace until he was practically breathing down her neck. She released a laughing scream when he grabbed her by the waist and spun her around.

“Think I’m too old now?” he asked.

“You’re thousands of years old. Of course you’re too old.”

“Yeah, but am I too old for you?”

“I have daddy issues. No one’s too old for me.”

He choked on another laugh. “You are the oddest mix of innocence and modern sass.”

A pause as insecurity filled her eyes, then, “Too odd for you?” she asked hesitantly.

“Absolutely perfect for me,” he admitted. A man could get used to this. A man could get addicted to this.

Too bad it wouldn’t last. Not for Kane.