“We’re ready for you,” Sabin called.

Kane’s grin disappeared. “We’ll be down in fifteen minutes.”

He tugged Josephina into the bathroom, stripped her, stripped himself and turned on the water for a quick shower. Soapy hands wandered, and once again Josephina found herself panting from exertion. As much touching as they’d done, her body was already primed.

“We only have a few minutes,” she said.

“That’s all I need.”

“Really?” But, every time before had taken hours. “Are you sure I’ll enjoy this? I mean, I want you, but I also want to reach the end.”

“I consider it a personal mission to ensure that you do.” He donned a condom and pushed her against the wall. He was inside her a second later, and oh...oh! The way he moved...hard and fast, nothing held back...he wrung groan after groan from her. He kissed her, a tinge of desperation to every thrust of his tongue.

“I could drain the life out of you in seconds,” she rasped. “I could kill you.”

He moaned with pleasure-roughened arousal. “Tell me more.”

“You’d never know what happened. One moment you would be lucid, the next you would be dead.”

He became a wild man, whatever tether he’d had on his control broken. Her thoughts derailed as he hammered at her, the pleasure too much, not enough and...yes, yes, yes...

“Kane!” she shouted, her body breaking apart, reforming, every inch of her branded by the man in her arms.

He bit the cord between her neck and shoulder as he shuddered against her, the pressure somehow propelling her into another level of rapture. For a minute...an eternity...black dots flashed behind her eyes and silence cloaked her ears. She was lost to the pleasure.

When she came down, Kane was grinning at her. “Told you,” he said, all masculine satisfaction.

The tub shattered beneath their feet. He slipped and caught himself on the curtain rod above their heads. Her legs were still wrapped around Kane’s waist, her feet protected from the shards. But not his. Blood welled from several incisions.

“This will pass,” she said.

“I know.” Scowling now, Kane carried her out of the debris. He set her on her feet, and they dressed as swiftly as possible and rushed to the ballroom to meet with his friends.

The women formed a line in the center, their men behind them.

“I don’t like this,” she muttered.

“Trust me.” He gave her a swift kiss. “Your family will never see you coming.”

And she had to do whatever was necessary to defeat them. That way, they would never again think to use her.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked the women. She was to borrow the strength and power of everyone but Scarlet, who was demon-possessed, Ashlyn, a nursing mother, and Danika, whose visions of the future could distract her.

Each female squared her shoulders, raised her chin.

“Very well.” Trembling, Josephina reached toward Gwen. She stopped just before contact. “Last chance to back out. When I’m done, you’ll be weak. It could last a few hours or a few weeks.”

“Weak schmeak. I know the problems dirtbag dads can cause.”

“Her father is Galen, keeper of Hope and Jealousy,” Kane explained, stepping up beside her to offer moral support. “Though he doesn’t carry the kind of hope you might think. It’s false hope that Galen offers. Real hope is essential...miraculous.” He looked at her, his hazels bright. “The kind that you gave me.”

The kind he’d given her.

She melted into him.

“Do it. Drain me. You’ll need what I’ve got,” Gwen added as Sabin came to stand behind her. “I’m amazingly strong and faster than light.”

Sabin placed his hands on his wife’s shoulders. “Just don’t hurt my favorite toy, and we’ll be fine.”

Gwen preened as she tapped her thumb against her chest. “Today I’m his toy.” Next, she hitched that thumb in Sabin’s direction. “Tomorrow he’s mine.”

Toy. Yes. The perfect word to describe such a delicate-looking female; Josephina wasn’t sure how much strength she would be able to take without putting the girl into a coma.

“I’ll be gentle,” Josephina promised, wrapping her fingers around Gwen’s wrist. “And thank you for this. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to repay you.”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

She closed her eyes, flipped the mental switch that she now knew caused her pores to open and create suction...pulling...pulling on the strength the female possessed.

Energy fizzed in her veins, as potent as if she’d stuck her finger into a light socket, and she reeled at the force, feeling shocked and giddy.

When she released Gwen, the poor girl sagged into her husband’s arms. “Wow! That was amazing.”

Kane urged her to turn to Kaia.

“You’ll want what I’ve got most of all,” Kaia said. “I’m part Phoenix, and I start fires when I’m angry.”

The moment they touched, Josephina experienced the same crackling surge of energy, but also a flood of warmth. Heat...so much heat swept through her, and she felt as if her body would erupt into flames at any second. It was a familiar sensation, the same one she’d encountered with the other Phoenix.

With Anya, she felt as if she had been invaded by a mighty wind.

With Haidee, there was freezing cold.

Gilly tried to step up to the line. “My turn,” the girl said.

William appeared at her side and tugged her to the far corner of the room, saying, “Not going to happen, Gum Drop.” To Josephina, he called, “She’s only human.”

“Being human isn’t synonymous with weakness,” the girl said.

“Synonymous is a big word for such a small child,” he retorted.

“Hey! I’m not a child. I’m old enough to carry my weight around here.”

“Well, then, I guess it’s a good thing you don’t weigh very much.”

She pointed a finger in his face. “One day I’m going to show you just how strong I actually am, William the Idiot.”

He shrugged, as if he didn’t care, but the hard gleam in his eyes said otherwise.

“I don’t think I can hold anything else,” Josephina said. She could burst at any second. Never had she felt this strong. This...invincible. And...and...she couldn’t just stand there. She had to move.

“What are you doing?” Kane asked after she’d leaped into motion.

“Running around the room.” She was too hot....too cold...too everything. Could fight any enemy. Conquer the entire world. And she wouldn’t even chip a nail, she thought with a maniacal laugh. “Are the women okay? Do you think they’re okay? I really hope they’re okay.” The words poured from her, coming faster and faster. Just like her steps. Soon she was sprinting—and not even winded.

“William,” Kane called, watching her. His lips twitched at the corners. “We’re ready.”

The warrior glanced away from the teenage girl, and said, “Just a sec,” before turning back to the girl and getting in her face. “Go to your room and wait for me. We’re going to discuss the whole proving-yourself thing and put a stop to it now, before I’m forced to clean up a mess I’ll make you wish you hadn’t made.”

“Stop telling me what to do. You aren’t my father.”

“How many times do I have to tell you I’ve never wanted to be your father?” he yelled, raising his voice for the first time since Josephina had met him. “I want you safe, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to see to it, even hurt your feelings.”

All of the Lords watched with unabashed shock.

Cheeks reddened from the force of her anger, Gilly marched from the room.

William watched her until he could watch her no more. Then he tangled a hand through his hair and faced the men, his expression devoid of emotion.

“Let’s do this.” He strode to the center of the room and withdrew a few things from his pockets. Pieces of gum?

He held the—no, not gum—whatever up, and when he let go, the small, chewy-looking objects actually remained in midair.

“Incoming,” he shouted, and everyone in the room turned away.

Kane threw himself at Josephina, knocking her into the ground, absorbing most of the impact. What—


A hot gust of air licked over her, then Kane was rolling away from her and helping her to her feet. Or rather, trying to. She accidentally jerked him down beside her, and he hit with so much force he might have punctured a lung.

“Sorry,” she said. “Sorry.”

He laughed. Actually laughed. “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart.” He stood and motioned for her to do the same.

She hopped to her feet and saw that William had somehow blasted through the realm to create a doorway into Séduire. Night had fallen—the time for parties. The entire Fae court would be gathered in the throne room. The moon was out, a crimson sliver in the blackness of the sky. A walking path was lit by torches.

“Maybe we should think about this,” she said, suddenly nervous.

“No more thinking.”

What about stalling? “What happened to the key?”

“Apparently, if you aren’t a Fae, they break down and stop working,” Kane replied. “Mine stopped working.”

“All right. Okay.” If she didn’t act now, she wasn’t going to act at all. “I’m ready.” She raced forward.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Kane called, stopping her.

“What—” Oh, yeah. “Sorry.” She backtracked and grabbed Kane’s hand. He cringed, and she realized she had to keep her newfound strength in check or she would crush his bones. “Sorry again!”

His grin returned, wide and toothy and full of good humor. “I told you. Don’t worry about it. Now do what needs doing.”