Kane wasn’t sure why William took such care with the girl, when he’d never done anything sexual with her. At least, Kane didn’t think he had.

He better not have.

Eyes narrowed, William threw the rest of the food into the ashes. “Just remembered something. As I was packing, Danika showed up and asked me to give you the most important painting of your life.” He dug through his pack and withdrew a small, wrapped canvas.

Danika, Reyes’s woman, possessed the ability to see into heaven and hell, past, present and future, and paint the images. Like the Moirai, her predictions had never been wrong—that he could prove.

About ten yards away, a twig snapped.

The Phoenix had decided to close in, he realized.

Kane grabbed the canvas from William and stuffed it inside his own pack, then swung the whole thing over his back, using it as a shield, and lay flat on his belly. Closing one eye, he pressed the other against the night-vision scope on the rifle. In an instant, the world around him became painted with bright green.

The Phoenix was...there. She had climbed one of the taller trees and was currently walking across one of the thicker limbs...nope, she was hopping to another limb on another tree, coming closer and closer, clearly trying to sneak up on him.

Mine, Disaster said with a possessive growl, and Kane frowned.

Another mine?

The female looked to be five foot nine and scantily dressed, considering the weather. She wore a bralike top and tiny shorts, and there were two daggers tied to her calves, two sheathed in her combat boots.

Kane tracked her for a moment, watched as she paused and reached for one of the hilts. Never bring a knife to a gun fight, sweetness. You’ll lose every time. He squeezed the trigger.


He was a great shot and knew he’d grazed her thigh before he even heard her shriek of pain. He leaped up and started running. By the time she hit the ground, gasping for breath, he was there, in her face. She was pretty. Blonde. Bold. Though he would have rather bathed in acid, he pressed his arm into her throat, making it even more difficult for her to take in any air, and patted her down to discard all of her weapons.

There were more than he’d realized. Eleven daggers. Two guns. Three throwing stars. Two vials of poison. A bag of pills. Detachable metal claws. And the makings of a bomb hidden in the soles of her shoes.

He tried not to be impressed.

Working quickly, he bound her wrists with a rope of chain he’d been using as a belt and tied her to the base of the tree. The moment he finished, he jolted away from her, severing contact. Already his stomach was churning, sickness brewing. But at least he didn’t experience the pain Tinker Bell caused.

A swarm of bees darted from the trees, circling Kane’s head. Disaster laughed.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

The girl kicked out her uninjured leg, swiped only at air. “Let me go!”

“I doubt that’s your name. Try again.”

“I had no plans to hurt you,” she snarled, her struggles increasing. Heat radiated from her, such intense heat, and it was only getting stronger. Any moment now, she would catch fire with flames as hot as those in hell and melt the metal links. “I only want to hurt Josephina. Now, I’ll kill you and enslave the girl.”

“Josephina?” A sting in his neck. He slapped at the wound, and a bee stung him on the wrist.

“As if you don’t know the girl you’re following. The Fae.”

His rescuer’s name was Josephina. Pretty. But he liked Tinker Bell better. “You want to enslave her, do you?” Was that why the girl had a death wish? She feared what the Phoenix would do to her?

Buzz, buzz.

Sting. Sting.

“Argh!” Again she kicked out. Again she missed. “I refuse to answer any more of your questions. Let me go or I’ll make you regret it before I slay you!”

“Did someone mention a lay? For the right price, I’m willing to make myself available.” William strolled into the area, chewing another nutrition bar. “And do you think she’s talking about the Fae female who just raced through our camp?”

“What!” Kane got in the warrior’s face. “When?”

“Just now.”

“And you let her go?” he roared.

Buzz. Sting.

“Well, yeah. Our chase would have ended, and I’m not ready to go home. She told me to tell you hi, though. Or maybe she said to tell you to do what you promised or leave her alone since you’re drawing the wrong attention to her. It’s so hard to tell when you’re not really listening.”

Battling an urge to slice the warrior to ribbons, and waste time, Kane gritted out, “Don’t let this one escape,” and bolted into action.


JOSEPHINA SPRINTED THROUGH the forest, twigs beating at her, leaves sticking to her. She pumped her arms and legs with all her might and began to pant, the night air burning her nose and throat. In one terrible swoop, all of her enemies had found her—yet none of them wanted to kill her.

A Fae army was here, determined to escort her home.

The Phoenix was here, determined to enslave her.

Kane was here, determined to...finally do as he’d promised? Or did he plan to hand her over to her family and collect a reward?

Probably the reward. Some of the Lords were wily like that.

What had she done wrong? How had she been spotted? She’d been so careful, sneaking here, hiding there. Only twice had she spoken to a human, and only to ask the males to run her over with their cars.

Both men had looked at her as if she were insane.

Maybe she was.

All she knew was that death—any death—was preferable to life with her family. The pain and suffering that came with Synda’s punishments was bad, but the agony of not knowing what the next punishment would be was far, far worse.

Her own father hated her, and rejected her at every turn. For centuries, she’d just wanted someone to love her. To see value in her.

Of course, then there was Leopold. Her own half brother wanted her in his bed, and wouldn’t stop pressing until he got her there.

Every day was a new stress. Josephina would wake up feeling as if she were standing on top of a mountain, screaming for help, but no one cared enough to listen. Tension never left her. And by the end of each day, her nerves were so frayed she feared she would have a nervous breakdown.

It was too much. She was tired, so very tired. She craved an end. Needed an end. Finally.

Sadly, she couldn’t kill herself—and how morbid was a thought like that? Other Fae could end their own lives, but not her. To purposely injure herself was to suffer with that injury, no matter how severe, for weeks, sometimes months. Eventually, she would heal. Even from a beheading. Yes, her body would grow back. Her father had made sure of it, using an ability she would love to steal, but couldn’t. The guards protected him too diligently.

Something hard slammed into her back, tossing her down. She hit the dirt and twig-laden ground with a loud crash, her lungs momentarily deflating. As she struggled to breathe, she was flipped over. Panic overwhelmed her, heating and freezing her at the same time. Tiny black dots winked through her vision, yet she managed to make out the shape of a man looming over her.

“Josephina,” he gritted out.

Kane. She recognized the low, gruff quality of his voice, and the panic receded. “Jerk! Just because you’re a star doesn’t mean you can act that way. A simple ‘stop’ would have sufficed.”

“I did say stop. You ignored me.” The weight of him lifted from her, allowing her to pull herself into a sitting position. She drank in as much oxygen as possible, and her eyesight finally cleared.

The warrior crouched in front of her, slivers of moonlight dancing over him. His hair was disheveled, but that hardly mattered. The strands of flax glowed as if they’d been sprinkled with stardust, reminding her of gorgeous ribbons of gold only the Opulens—the Fae upper class—could afford. The darker strands blended into the night. Red eyes watched her intently, angrily...with the barest glimpse of sizzle?

“Your eyes,” she said, unsure whether she shivered or shuddered. She recognized that bloodlike color, had seen it glowing from Synda’s gaze too many times to count. But the princess had never caused her every pulse point to flutter wildly.

He looked away, as though shamed. “They’re red. I know.”

Poor Kane. “What happened?” What had caused the demon to become so strong?

Without thought, she reached out to brush her gloved fingers against the skin underneath. He caught the motion and stiffened, reminding her of his dislike of contact; his air of anger intensified. But he didn’t flinch, as he’d done with Sabin.

“Is this okay?” she whispered.

He gave a stiff nod.

Gulping, she continued reaching.

At contact, his pupils expanded, gobbling up every bit of color. Even the red. His breathing changed, from slow and even to deep and shallow. The very air around them seemed to charge with electrical impulses, little sparks dancing over every inch of her.

I...like him?

No. Surely not. She’d had crushes before, but this was something else entirely. More intense. Almost overwhelming.

“That’s enough.” He grabbed her by the wrist, moving with lightning-fast reflexes, and she realized he was trembling. “Forget my eyes,” he bit out, setting her hand away from him. “Every time I’m near you, I hurt. Why?”

Deep down, part of her mourned the separation with him. The other part of her wanted to cry over this brand-new rejection.

You’re angry with him. This is silly.

“How should I know? You’re the first person ever to complain.”

“You’re not doing anything to me?”

“Of course not. Now, how did you find me? How do you know my name?”

“The answers don’t matter. I came to help you.”

“Help me?” Hope opened as sweetly as a rose in sunlight, bright and beautiful. “Really?”

He nodded.

“Oh, Kane. Thank you!” He planned to kill her, the darling man. No longer would fear be her constant companion. No longer would she have to endure her half sister’s punishments. No longer would she have to avoid Leopold’s advances. “How do you want to do it? A dagger? Your bare hands? Poison? My vote is quick and painless, but I’ll be satisfied with whatever you choose. Really. You won’t hear a single complaint out of me.”