I should have killed those hellhounds when I had the chance.

Kane tossed and turned on the lumpy motel bed. He needed to relax, and concentrate. He planned to summon Tink, somehow, through their link, and force her to project her image into his mind. They would talk. She would tell him where she was.

He forced himself to close his eyes. Lucien had refused to leave his side, and was now resting comfortably on the other bed, Anya draped across his body. “I’m a living tramp stamp,” she’d said laughingly before drifting off.

Lucien hadn’t wanted to spend the night without her. Actually, Lucien couldn’t function a few hours without her. It was disgusting. It was embarrassing.

That’s what I feel with Tink.

Disaster chuckled. Too bad you’ll never see her again.

The fiend was in the best mood of his existence. Though Kane had hoped to provide zero nourishment, he’d unwittingly prepared another feast—and was still serving seconds. The darkness of his emotions had become an internal IV for the demon, offering strength and contentedness, no matter what happened around him.

“Tink,” Kane inwardly shouted. “Tink, I need you. Need you so much.” Even when she’d been ticked at him, she’d never been able to resist aiding him.

There was no response.

Time for another tactic... “Tinker Bell. Josephina. Wife! You have five seconds to appear or the next time I see you I will put you over my knee.”

Still no response.

“One. Two. I’m serious, I mean it. Three. Four. Last chance to save yourself from the humiliation of my wrath. Fi—”

Fog rolled in, surrounding his bed. Then Tink was standing over him. “You will not put me over your knee, you...you...caveman!”

Every cell in his body cried out in relief. It had worked. “Are you okay?” he demanded. “Have the warriors hurt you?” There were no bruises on her skin, and the clothes Malcolm had given her were still intact, without a single tear.

If Lucien and Anya heard him, they ignored him.

“I’m good,” she said. “The guys have actually been kind of nice, doing their best to romance me so that I’ll decide to live with them forever and, I’m just guessing here, make them my brother husbands.” She looked Kane over, and what remained of the ambivalence left her in a snap. “What about you? You said you needed me. Is something wrong?”

“Of course something’s wrong. You’re not at my side. And what do you mean you heard me? Why didn’t you reply right away?” he demanded, but he already knew the answer. He was still in the doghouse.

Chin trembling, as if she were suddenly fighting tears, she said, “I’m not helpless. Not anymore. I’m handling things.”

“I know, Tinky Dink. I do. But I miss you. I want you with me for all the days of my life. I’m not complete without you. Let me come for you.”

* * *

JOSEPHINA PEERED AT Kane, his sweet words echoing in her mind. I’m not complete without you. She had to forgive him for the kiss, didn’t she? She had to torch the bitterness trying so diligently to grow roots deep in her heart, or she’d be trapped in this state for the rest of her life. He’d done what he’d done out of desperation and a desire to protect her. He’d promised never to do it again, and she believed him.

He wanted to make things right between them, but so far, she hadn’t given him a chance. He’d called for her, his voice whisking through a doorway they’d somehow opened between their minds—I need you—and though her heart had sped into a wild beat of excitement, she’d ignored the urge to respond to him. For a little while, at least.

She just...she hadn’t wanted him to see her like this. Defeated. Not again. Unlike the Fae, he prized strength in a female. So, she’d wanted to prove herself worthy and free herself, surprising him.

She would be all, Ta da! Here I am. Look at what I did all by myself. Aren’t I spectacular?

He would never again think to kiss another woman just to protect her.

But, at this rate, Josephina may not ever get free.

So, she had a few choices to make. Either she believed Kane would want her, no matter what, or she had to let him go. Either she forgave him completely, and stayed with him, or held on to her hurt and bitterness and remained alone. She couldn’t have both. If she couldn’t trust him, if she couldn’t forgive, but stayed with him anyway, she would continue to lash out at him, and she knew very well what such cruel treatment could do to a person.

“Kane,” she said.

He looked away from her. “Yes, Tink.”

He thought she meant to reject him, she realized. “Project to me.”

He knew what she meant, and a second later, he was standing before her, gazing at her with hope.

Her chest constricted as she wrapped her arms around his neck and held on tight. “I’m really glad you called me.”

He buried his face in the hollow of her neck. “You are?”

“I am.” The tears returned, but this time, they sprang from a well of joy. “Can I ask you something?”

“Anything. Anytime. Always.” He straightened, brushed the corners of her eyes with his thumbs.

She gulped, almost unable to bear his tenderness. “Would you have picked me above all women? If you hadn’t been forced to marry me, I mean.”

“I would. I do. And I was never forced, Tinker Bell. I wanted you, and I would have found a way to have you. Your father just made things easier for me.”

Her mouth curved upward of its own accord. “So...you think I’m special.”

“The specialest.”

A laugh bubbled over. “I know it didn’t seem like it at the time, but I would have picked you above all men.”

“Even Torin and Paris?”

“Especially Torin and Paris. You are, without a doubt, the sexiest man ever created. I just didn’t want you to regret what we were doing.”

“I’ll never regret my time with you.” He kissed her, a sweet meeting of lips more about comfort than passion. But oh, the passion was there, too. Always it was there. “What you said...thank you, Tink. I was always the warrior left behind. My friends didn’t want to risk the trouble Disaster would cause and I couldn’t blame them. It’s nice to be wanted.”

He understood her pain, she realized. Their circumstances might have been different, but the outcome had been the same: a deep sense of rejection. He’d probably longed for acceptance all the days of his life. He’d probably hoped and dreamed of helping his friends, only to be crushed time and time again when they overlooked his amazing battle skills.

“There’s no one else I’d rather have fight for me,” she said truthfully.

He graced her with another kiss. “You are a treasure. I hope you know that.”

She beamed at him. A compliment she hadn’t had to give to herself. Was there anything sweeter? “Where did you go when we were running from the Brother Husbands?”

“The Moirai summoned me.”

“Oh.” Oh, no. “What happened?”

“I did what was necessary, and it might take the witches a few years to recover,” he said flatly. “Where are the Brother Husbands—is that what we’re calling them now? Where are they keeping you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“What do you remember seeing?”

“Well, I remember being on the street, then engaging the boys, then...nothing until I woke up inside a tent. I don’t know what’s outside it—I would have looked, but I’m bound to a post.”

He arched a brow. “You consider their binding you to a post doing their best to romance you?”

“They only bound me after I threw Green’s specially prepared food in his face—a fourth time. Anyway. The air is hot and smells of patchouli. There are four fur beds on the ground, and I think I hear screams in the background.”

A dark curtain fell over Kane’s features. “I know where you are. I’ll be there before sunrise.”

* * *

HE HAD TO return to hell.

The moment the fog disappeared, taking Tink with it, Kane stopped projecting his image and rose from the bed. His legs shook. His stomach twisted.

A hand here...a mouth there...so helpless...

A whip across his legs. A dagger along his ribs.

Hot breath on his wounded skin...kisses...

Panic threatened to fell him. He wouldn’t let it. Whatever his body’s reaction, he had to do this. He couldn’t leave Tink in hell. Wouldn’t leave her. He knew the things that happened there. Oh, yes, he knew, and now had to race to the bathroom to empty the contents of his stomach.

He rinsed out his mouth and stared at his haunted reflection. Tink could be stolen from the Rainbow Rejects and tortured by minions. If that happened, she would stop wanting to live and once again start wanting to die. She would never smile or laugh again. He couldn’t fathom a life without her smile. She needed him, and he’d vowed to protect her, no matter what, even if he had to face his worst nightmare to do it.

He forced himself to stalk to the side of Lucien’s bed, and, with a trembling hand, shook the warrior awake. “I need you to flash me to...hell.” He described the camp Lucien was to find, doing his best not to vomit. This had to be done.

The pair asked no questions. They stood. Lucien tucked Anya in his right side, and wrapped his left arm around Kane’s shoulders. Used to be, he could only flash one person at a time, but his power was increasing.

Kane fought the urge to jerk away. Ignored the thought that he’d rather die than return. For Tink, he would suffer anything.

Lucien flashed to the rocky entrance. Then deeper inside. Screams of agony filled the hot, sulfur-scented air. Disaster hummed with approval, loving how close he was to his minions.

Kane almost fought his way out of his friend’s hold. The worst of his memories played through his mind, picture stills, a flash of one, then another, images of pain and suffering, somehow all the worse because he now saw them in black-and-white—except for the blood. Scarlet dripped from his many wounds.