- The Darkest Craving
He caught her, and they tumbled to the floor in a tangle of limbs. Her laughter died as he pressed his lips to hers.
“Kane,” she breathed, melting against him.
“My Tinker Bell. I’m going to have you.”
“Yes. Hurry. I want you.”
“No, I’m going to savor you.” He took his time undressing her, every moment a new revelation of his feelings for her—because he loved every inch of her. Every curve. Every hollow. Every scar.
He kissed his way down her body, treasuring her breathy sighs, her heated touches, the languorous way she moved, clutching at him, as if touching him was something she’d been born to do.
He would never get enough of her.
And he would never forget her, not even in death.
In a way, they’d grown up together. When they’d met, they’d both been in a very dark place. They’d lacked hope. Their fears had overwhelmed them. Together, they’d climbed out of the depths of hell—literally and figuratively. They’d found reasons to laugh. They’d let go of hate and embraced love. The weaknesses they’d had had been blasted by fire and were now strengthened with steel. They hadn’t broken. They wouldn’t break.
He couldn’t even imagine what would have happened to him if he’d never gone back for her. Disaster had tried to stop him, and maybe the Moirai had even tried to stop him, but there was something in him that was greater than both. Love. And love couldn’t ever be stopped.
Kane parted her legs and slid inside her—home, this was his home—then set out to slowly drive them both insane. She writhed against him, losing herself to the pleasure, the passion, the moment, the inexorable connection.
He was the one to beg for more. He couldn’t get enough.
His control began to fray. Always she had that effect on him. His motions came quicker, harder. And when he began to surge so forcefully her head banged into the wall, her lips parted on a scream of pleasure. She arched her back, taking him even deeper, and he found himself following her over the edge, growling and shuddering with the force of his release.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed before he recovered enough to pick her up and carry her to the bed. He only knew he didn’t want to let her go. Touching her was a need, a requirement. And not knowing how much longer he would be with her made the thought of separation so much more difficult.
But he had to go. She needed sleep, and if he stayed, he would take her again.
She snuggled under the covers and gazed up at him sleepily.
“Do you still love me?” he asked.
“I love you, too.” He kissed her brow. “So much. You’re my number one.”
“Number one,” she said on a contented sigh. “What I’ve always wanted to be.”
By the time he straightened, she was already asleep. He dressed, stepped into the hall. When he stepped forward, intending to return to the throne room, Malcolm appeared just in front of him, stopping him.
Startled, he furrowed his brow. “You want to tell me what’s going on and why I keep seeing you?”
“Want? No. Will I?” Malcolm shrugged. “In a moment. First, tell me why you’re so unhappy.”
“Unhappy? When I’ve done everything I set out to do, giving Tink a new life, a reason to live?” He tried to scoff. He failed.
“Yes,” the Sent One said.
“Why do you care?”
“We will get to that, as well.”
He popped his jaw, and admitted, “I don’t want to ever leave my wife. I’d return to the way things were, with Disaster, but I also don’t want the demon able to hurt her. Basically, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
“And that is the crux of a curse such as yours. But perhaps I can soften the blow.”
“What do you mean?” Kane demanded.
You’ll never be rid of me, Disaster said, his low, whispery voice wafting through Kane’s mind. Determined as he was to survive, the demon had lost his fear of Malcolm.
Kane’s hands fisted.
“I will kill Disaster, once and for all,” Malcolm said. “I will burn the evil out of you. No demon can withstand the sword of fire. The problem is, this will—”
“Kill me, too,” Kane said hollowly. Everything always came back to that. “How does that help me get what I want most? A demon-free future with my wife?”
“It doesn’t. But at least your spirit will live on.”
“That’s exactly what would happen without your sword of fire.”
“Yes, but without the fire, the essence of the demon’s evil will remain inside you, and when you die, your spirit will go down rather than up.”
Meaning, if he died the way he’d intended, his spirit would go to hell. For all eternity. Trapped with more demons. Suddenly Kane had to fight to breathe. He hadn’t considered such a consequence. “My friend Baden was beheaded while he was possessed. He went to another realm.”
“Yes, and that realm is located in a corridor of hell. The people there don’t know it yet, but they will. Every day the walls thin a little more.”
Kane tangled a hand in his hair. Poor Baden.
“If I do this,” Malcolm continued, “I could be kicked from the skies. Killing a man is against the rules.”
“I’m not exactly a man.”
“Close enough. Probably.”
“So what do you want in return?” he asked again.
“Your wedding ring.”
The Sent One gave a single, stiff nod. “You heard correctly. And keep in mind, Disaster is about to take a final stand. He’s weak, but he won’t die calmly. I have a feeling the chaos he caused in New York will seem like child’s play.”
And Tink would be at the center of it.
“So do we have a deal?” Malcolm asked. “You will give me the ring, and I will kill you and your demon before he has a chance to act out one last time.”
If he said no, Tink could lose her kingdom amid the chaos Disaster caused. She could be hurt. Or worse.
Was there really a choice here?
“Give me one more night with my wife. I’ll meet you in the garden at dawn. So, yes, we have a deal.”
* * *
JOSEPHINA LOST COUNT of the number of times Kane made love to her that night, before he fell into an exhausted sleep, but she never grew tired of his advances—because she knew what he was planning to do. Connected to him as she was, she had been waking up inside his head. She didn’t even have to try anymore. This time, she’d overheard his conversation with the Sent One.
She’d thought she’d known just how badly her husband wanted Disaster killed. But she hadn’t. He was willing to die himself.
Tears filled her eyes, and her chin trembled. Did he not understand she would be lost without him? That she would be right back where she’d started—praying for death?
I can’t let him do it.
But...more than she yearned to have him at her side, she yearned to see him happy. To know he was living the life he’d always dreamed.
She couldn’t have both. Not as long as the demon was inside him. Because, the only way to keep him here, with the demon, was to guilt him, and that she wouldn’t do. She wouldn’t trap him with her emotions the way the minions had once trapped him with their chains.
She had to let him go, didn’t she?
Her heart drummed into a too-fast beat. No. She didn’t have to let him go, she realized. Not when she could save him and finally set him free, giving a life for a life.
Her life for his.
Almost every day of her existence, she had been punished for other people’s crimes. The past few weeks, she’d done what she’d done to stop that from ever happening again. She’d planned and she’d fought and she’d conquered. But now, she had a chance to end Kane’s pain once and for all.
If she took the demon inside herself...if she met with the Sent One...
She could receive the final blow, saving Kane.
She would die. Once, a part of her had been resigned to such a fate. Now? All of her rebelled. But for Kane, she would do it. She would act as a blood slave was meant, and willingly take the punishment of another.
He deserved a chance to be the man he’d always dreamed of being. He could rule these people better than she ever could. And he would. He wouldn’t shrink from the duty just because she wasn’t here. He had too much honor.
I have to act now. What had her mother used to say? A horse had to be saddled before it could be ridden.
Knowing she only had a few hours until morning dawned and he would be expected in the garden, she slipped from the bed to quietly dress. Then, using the secret passageways her father had been so fond of, she made her way to the dungeon. Two guards stood sentry at the entrance. They nodded when they spotted her, and moved their crisscrossing swords out of the way. She soared past.
She had examined the cases of the men and women her father had kept down here, and had found out that most had done nothing more serious than annoy him...or have something he’d wanted. So, she’d released the “offenders” and given them bags of gold from the royal treasury. The money couldn’t make up for the pain they’d endured, and the years they’d lost, but it was a start.
Rather than keep the remaining prisoners out front, their arms shackled above their heads for all to come and view, she’d placed each individual in a cage, and she’d made sure they were far enough away from each other that they couldn’t talk and plan an escape.
The first cage belonged to her father.
She peered through the bars. He paced at the far wall, muttering to himself about the injustice of his circumstances. His clothes were ripped, dirty, and his hair tangled.
He spotted her and froze. “You,” he said on a sizzle of breath. “Let me out. Now.”
“No.” She shook her head. “You earned your place down here. I’m still trying to fix the messes you created for an entire race of people.”