Every eye darted to him. He ground his molars and nodded in acknowledgment.

A hard hand on his shoulder drew his attention to the male behind him. “You ready?”

Surprised, he said, “William. What are you doing here?”

“That’s the welcome I get after everything I’ve done for you? Thanks a lot, dude.”

Kane drew back a fist and let it fly, nailing the warrior in the nose. Blood instantly spurted. “No, that’s the thanks you get.”

William grinned, his warped sense of humor obviously coming out to play. “Better.”

“Next time you try and trick me, I won’t stop with one punch.”

“I’m sure.”

And now that that was settled... “Last I saw you, you were headed into a fight with the minions. What happened?”

“A slaughter, that’s what. Those females got what was coming to them, I assure you. And now, you owe me, like, big time.” He blew the ladies a kiss and started toward the library. He only looked back at Gilly once.

Kane followed him, and, taking a page from his playbook, threw one last glance at Tink. She smiled at him, so sweet and pretty, and he smiled back.

“I owe you nothing,” he said to William. He wasn’t sure whether to feel elated his enemy was dead, or ticked that vengeance would never be his.

He’d go with ticked.

“So, where’d you get my ring?” he asked, just to taunt the warrior.

Those electric blues narrowed to tiny slits. “You mean my ring.”

“That’s what I said. My ring.”

A pause. A stiff shrug. “Fine. Keep it. I stole it from a woman I bedded and killed. What? Why are you looking at me like that? Anyway. The ring’s probably cursed, luring you into a false sense of calm.”

Another light bulb shorted out, a spray of flames seeking Kane as if he wore a bull’s eye. He remained silent as he entered the room. William shut and locked the door, just in case the women decided to come looking for them. Kane swept his gaze over the men scattered throughout the room. Lucien, Sabin, Strider, Amun, Paris, Gideon, Aeron, Reyes, Maddox and Torin, who stood in the far corner. Weeks had passed since they’d all been together like this.

Together, they were a force to be reckoned with.

“So your girl’s in trouble, huh?” Strider said. “William told us about her father’s plans.”

“What can we do to help?” Sabin asked.

Help, he’d said. He wasn’t trying to take over, and didn’t plan to leave Kane behind. He understood Kane’s need to participate in his woman’s liberation. Some of the tension left him—

Until another light bulb shorted out.

“First, I have to be straight with you,” he said. “I need you out of the fortress, no questions asked, in a little less than three months.”



“What’s going on?”

Yeah. No questions asked, he thought with a roll of his eyes. Whatever. “To find Tink, I made a bargain with someone. That person gets the fortress.”

“Who?” Sabin demanded.

“None of your business. Just do it.”

There was grumbling. Of course there was grumbling. But the warriors would have done the same thing for their women, and they knew it. There was no debate in the end—they would leave.

Next, Kane outlined his plan for the Fae king, and all of his friends nodded encouragingly. It was dangerous, and it required a huge sacrifice from every person in the fortress, but it was the fastest way to prove Tink’s worth to her father—and all of the Fae.

Then, and only then, would Tiberius understand Kane would never let her go. Hunting her would do no good. She would never again be a blood slave.

When he finished, Sabin stroked his chin and pondered. “Will it hurt?” the warrior asked.

“No,” Kane replied.

“Cause any lasting damage?” Reyes demanded.


“You’re sure?” Lucien asked.

“I am.”

“Well, you have my agreement,” Strider said with a shrug. “Now, you just have to get Kaia’s.”

Kane nodded. He’d expected that. “I will.” He wouldn’t fail.

William placed his hand over his heart. “This plan is so devious, it’s almost as if I thought of it. I’m quite impressed.”

Kane flipped him off, just because. And even as the wall beside him rumbled and shook, as if preparing to collapse on him, he felt lighter than he had in weeks. He felt...free. Free of the past and the pain, the memories and the hate.

Last night, Tink had done something to him. She had soothed the beast inside, perhaps. Or maybe she had cauterized what remained of his wounds.

Now, he would do the same for her.

“We leave in the morning,” he said.


KANE LEFT TINK sleeping in their room, and knocked on Reyes and Danika’s door.

“Go away,” Reyes shouted, sounding out of breath.

No need to wonder what was going on in there. “I need to speak with Danika. I’m staying put until I do.”

Pounding footsteps. The hard twist of a knob. A scowling Reyes appeared. He was shirtless, his pants undone, his hair askew. “You’re flirting with death.”

“And I’m sure Lucien finds me adorable. The painting,” he said, looking past his friend to the beautiful girl strolling toward him, tying a terrycloth robe around her waist. “What can you tell me about it?”

She nodded, saying, “I struggled with the appearance of the female. One second I saw a brunette that could have been Josephina, but I’m not one hundred percent certain about that, and the next I saw the pale-haired female I ended up painting.”

When he’d first met her, Tink had changed facades, but the ability of the Phoenix had left her, so she wasn’t the pale-haired one in disguise. “The Moirai told me I had two possible mates. William thought one was his daughter White, and I thought one was Tink’s half sister, Synda. Both are blondes.”

She thought for a moment, sighed. “You should show the artwork to Josephina. If that’s her body—”

“It’s not.”

“—she would recognize herself.”

“She won’t.” He’d seen and kissed and touched every inch of her. “I know her body better than she does.”

Danika gave another sigh. “I can believe it. Anyway, there’s something strange about that painting. I’ve never had trouble locking onto an identity, and I’ve never been wrong.”

“Tink’s safe.” The assurance was for him, not Danika. “I’m not going to let anything happen to her.” Even though his plan involved throwing her straight to the wolves. “There’s nothing more you can tell me?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“This meeting is over, then.” Reyes shut the door in his face.

* * *

PANTING AND SWEATING, Josephina peered up at Kane. He hovered over her, panting just as hard, sweating just as badly. She watched a bead trickle from his forehead to his temple and catch in his hair, mesmerized.

“How was that?” she asked.

“Absolutely terrible.” His lashes fused, hiding the brilliance of those angry hazel eyes. “The worst.”

Brutal honesty sucked sometimes. “I’m sorry.”

“You should be.”

“I’ll do better.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Hey! “You’re seconds away from being slapped!”

“That would be a welcome change.”

She shoved him off, and he rolled to a stand. They’d been training for hours, and she was tired. She hadn’t slept last night—even after Kane had made love to her and exhausted her—her mind too busy outlining every possible flaw to his crazy plan. The only real fight she’d ever been in had happened in hell, but at the time she’d had the abilities of the Phoenix and had simply burned everything that had approached her. She didn’t have that luxury now.

He helped her stand, his calluses tickling her skin. “You have to use every weapon at your disposal. A rock on the ground. Your knees. Whatever. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty, and inflict major damage. If your attacker’s face is within striking distance, like mine just was, poke out his eyes. Break his nose with the heel of your hand, sending cartilage into his brain.”

Josephina anchored her hands on her hips. “Until now, I haven’t wanted to do those things to you, and that’s the only reason you’ve been able to take me down so many times.”

“The only reason?”

Argh! She ripped off her tennis shoe and tossed it at him.

The heavy heel banged into his shoulder and toppled to the ground.

“Better.” He nodded with his first display of pride. “That’s a habit that must run in your family.”

“Do you want to feel the sting of the other shoe?”

“I need to know you can take down an opponent, Tink. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”

Okay. All right. That, she could understand. The plan hinged on her, and what she could do. She would be in the thick of danger, and he would be worried.

She would be worried, but she wasn’t going to let it stop her. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m determined. I know the stakes.

I deserve to live and love. And I will.

“Kane,” she said, stepping toward him. “You’ve left me no choice. I have to do this.”

She punched him in the mouth. Pain exploded through her knuckles and arm, and his head whipped to the side. Slowly he faced her. A cascade of crimson flowed from the corner of his lip, obscene against the bronze of his skin. He grinned, the blood even staining his teeth.

“Now that’s my girl. Good job.”

A knock reverberated through the room, saving her from an embarrassing display of self-congratulations.