She jolted out of reach. “I believe you can protect me, idiot, I just don’t want you hurt doing it. And if you do this, you’ll be hurt. They’ll hunt you. Forever.”

The sharpest edge of his intensity dulled. “Being hunted was something you were willing to risk, obviously. Do me a favor and allow me the same choice.”

She...had no response to that.

“I’ve thought about this, and thought about this, and I’ve nearly given myself a brain aneurism from thinking some more, and this morning I finally picked a plan and decided to stick with it. You’re not going to like it, but honestly? I don’t really care. I don’t like you within these walls, and I can’t deal with the demon any longer. I have to get out of here, and I have to kill him or I’m going to start hurting people, maybe even you. Again.”

He was rambling, without giving her any useful information. “You can’t just—”

“I can.” He lunged for her, latching onto her before she could get away, and draping her over his shoulder. A favorite position of his. At the moment of contact, breath exploded from her lungs. She kicked and hit at him, but he sped into motion without missing a beat. “Every woman I come across throws herself at me, but not you. You keep fighting me.”

“I’ll never stop!”

“That’s probably wise.” He took her through secret passages he shouldn’t have known about, up several flights of stairs, and into the daylight. “Why are you still wearing gloves? You know you can control your ability now.”

“Because my hands are ugly.” People had begun staring.

“Listen to me. Believe me. They’re not.”

She caught the scent of freshly cut grass and flowers, and the sound of murmuring voices...voices tapering to a quiet. Shock bombarded her, and she stilled. He wasn’t sneaking out. He was walking through the crowd of wedding guests. How could he...the courage such an act required...the utter stupidity!

“I told you I’d marry your daughter, and I will,” Kane called to the king. “That’s not going to change. But I want this one.”

What! Marry...Josephina? Despite their discord? No, that couldn’t be right.

“There’s two ways this can go down. You’ll either gain a connection to my family by giving Josephina to me—in marriage—or I’ll kill you here and now. Pick.”

Yes. Her. But...but...

I won’t let him. I’ll put a stop to it.

“No,” Leopold, standing behind the sputtering king, snarled. “You can’t—”

“Go with option two,” a male said with a laugh, interrupting him. “I’ll finally get to put my pimp hand to good use.”

She turned her head and watched as William, Red, Black, White and Green stepped into the gazebo where the royal family awaited the bride and groom. All five warriors were armed for war. Swords peeked over their shoulders. Guns were sheathed at their waists. And there were more men behind them! Men she recognized from the picture books the scribes had commissioned.

Oh, sweet lightning. The Lords of the Underworld were here. The frightful males were loaded with even more weapons than William and his crew. There was the scarred Lucien, the dark Reyes, the scary Sabin and the irreverent Strider.

Her heart sped into a faster rhythm. “Hi,” she called, and waved at Lucien. “I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve dreamed of this day all my life.”

His scarred features were pale, and there were bruises under his eyes. He looked as if he’d been without sleep for several centuries. “Your wedding?” he asked her.

“No, I’m not getting married. I’ve been waiting to meet you,” she said, her voice fluttering.

“All right, calm yourself,” Kane muttered. “And yes, you’re getting married.”


He continued. “I didn’t want help, but I realized I needed it. There was no other way. But don’t you ever trust the Rainbow Rejects. They’re only aiding me now so they’ll have an easier shot at you later.”

“William, my darkling,” the queen gasped out. “What are you doing? You’re to be my protector.”

The king roared, “Darkling? You’re calling another male by my pet name?”

“Shut it, both of you,” William snapped, all humor gone. “We’ve heard enough out of you.”

The queen’s mouth floundered open and closed, but she never made another sound.

Leopold stepped forward, but Red reached out and grabbed him by the neck, jerking him backward. In the next blink, a blade was poised at the prince’s hammering pulse and he was gurgling in pain, a bead of blood leaking to the fluffy collar of his dress shirt. He tried to speak, but the weapon prevented any sound from forming.

“But what about me?” Synda called, racing up behind Kane, her wedding dress not quite fastened. She had to hold up the beautiful Fae lace with her hands. And her veil was askew, about to fall out of her pale curls.

“Shut it, woman,” Kane snapped, mimicking William. “If I have to listen to one more bit of cruel, inane chatter from you, I’ll remove your tongue. I swear I will.”

Synda stopped, just stopped. No one had ever rejected her before—well, not for long. Bewilderment and hurt danced in her eyes, and Josephina almost felt sorry for her. Almost. She was too busy reeling. Kane had just put the girl in her place.

Red bloomed in the princess’s eyes as she marched through the sea of guests, throwing people out of their chairs.

The king blustered, saying, “This isn’t the way of things, Lord Kane. We should—”

“Pick,” Kane shouted. “I didn’t ask for commentary.”

Silence rolled through the masses, every gaze on Tiberius. The king switched his attention between Kane and his friends.

“Very well,” he finally gritted.

“Good choice.” Kane placed Josephina on her feet and glared down at her.

“Should I curtsy to your friends?” she asked to hide her nervousness. “I feel like I should curtsy.”

He leaned in until they were nose-to-nose. “You’ll accept this. Whatever you feel about me, whatever you believe about me, this is the best choice for you right now.”

A wave of dizziness struck her. “I can’t let you do this.” She needed to tell him something else, but...what? She couldn’t recall.

“Unlike your father, I’m not giving you a choice.” He turned to the male officiating the ceremony. “What are you waiting for? Begin.”

The priest obeyed him, but she didn’t hear a word he said. Her thoughts were too loud. Surely she couldn’t marry the very warrior that had slept with her half sister only last night. Surely she couldn’t allow him to welcome a lifelong war. Surely she wouldn’t bind her life to his, giving herself to him, while wearing a maid’s uniform, looking her worst.

Even if he was the most incredible man she’d ever met...even if every inch of her body screamed, yes!

But would he ever be faithful?

Did he even want her or was he just trying to protect her, as he felt he owed her?

Her gaze strayed to Kane’s friends. What had they thought of her at first glance? She’d been slung over Kane’s shoulder so...probably not much.

“I’m really quite wonderful,” she muttered.

“I know. You’ve told me,” Kane said. “Now answer the priest.”

“I will, just as soon as you tell me what he asked me.”

The same murderous red she’d just seen in Synda’s eyes pulsed from Kane’s. “Just say yes,” he snapped.

A beam in the canopy above them snapped and fell, and Kane had to drag her out of harm’s way.

“Say it,” he commanded.

“I will if the question was, does Kane annoy you? Because yes, he does,” she said, attention returning to the other lords.

“Tell me the answer to that question again,” Kane demanded, but he didn’t sound offended.

“Yes,” she threw at him.

He nodded, satisfied.

Lucien winked at her and she couldn’t help but offer him as big of a smile as she could manage at the moment. Reyes nodded in acknowledgment. Strider gave her a thumbs-up. Sabin continued to glare. She wanted Kane’s friends to like her—even though she didn’t currently like Kane.

“This is a mistake,” she whispered. Yes! Those were the words she’d wanted to give him. “We shouldn’t do this. Let’s stop before it’s too late.”

He squeezed her hand so tightly she whimpered, but even then, he didn’t loosen his grip. He slid a ring on her finger, the metal heavy, with a huge stone glittering in the center. A stone she didn’t recognize. The color hovered somewhere between ruby-red and sapphire-blue.

“It’s already too late. Don’t ever take this off, understand?” Kane said.

Too late? They were...they way.

Still. Eyes wide, she nodded.

“Oh, and here’s the big guy’s ring,” William said, handing her a plain, over-warm band that was vibrating.

Trembling, she slid the thing onto Kane’s finger, and finally he released her.

“It’s done,” he said, and there was a wealth of satisfaction in his voice.

Josephina could only nod, dazed.

A scream nearly split the daylight. “You’re not taking her away from me!”

Not Synda. But...the Phoenix?

Definitely. The entire back end of the garden burst into flames.

Kane threw Josephina over his shoulder.

“Not again,” she gritted out.

Lucien held out his arms. “I’ll take her now. And I’ll take good care of her, you have my word.”

“Change of plan,” Kane said. “She’s going with me. At least for now. Get the others to safety. And thanks for coming, my man.” He took off in a dead run. Smoke wafted to her nose, making her cough. Shouts of fear erupted through the crowd.