To Geryon's surprise, no one jumped from the shadows as he walked; no one waited to punish him for daring to leave his post. Was he truly free? Dare he hope?

The goddess didn't face him when he reached her, but traced a fingertip along a thin, jagged groove in the middle stone. A groove that branched into smaller striations, like tiny rivers flowing from a churning ocean.

"It's small, I know, but already it has grown from what I saw yesterday. If the demons continue their abuse, it will continue to grow until the rock splits completely in two, allowing legions to enter the human realm."

"Were a single demon released upon the unsuspecting world," he muttered, "death and destruction would reign." Whether or not a punishment would be delivered to him, he would help her, Geryon decided. He could not allow such a thing to happen. Innocence should never be taken from the undeserving. It was too precious. "What would you have me do?"

She gave a startled gasp. "You'll help me? Even knowing you are no longer bound to the prince?"

"Yes." If she spoke true and he was free, he had no place to go. Too many centuries had passed, his home gone. His family, dead. Besides, he might crave the very freedom the goddess promised but he feared trusting her. She might not intend malice, but Lucifer certainly would.

With the prince, there was always a catch. Free today did not necessarily mean free tomorrow.

No, he dare not hope.

"Thank you. I didn't expect - I - Why did you sell your soul?" she asked softly, tracing the crack again.

There was a beat of silence.

"What would you have me do?" he repeated rather than answer. He did not wish to admit the reason for his folly and the subsequent humiliation.

Her arm dropped to her side, and her expression softened. "I am Kadence," she said, as though he had asked for her name rather than instruction.

Kadence. How he loved the way the syllables rolled through his mind, smooth as velvet - gods, how long since he'd touched a material so fine? - and sweet as wine. How long since he'd tasted such a drink?

"I am Geryon." Once, he'd had a different name. Upon arriving here, however, Lucifer had dubbed him Geryon. Guardian of the Damned, it translated to, which was what he was and all he would ever be.

Some legends, a demon had once jeered at him, proclaimed him to be a three-headed centaur. Some, a vicious dog. Nothing compared to what he was, so he did not mind the stories.

"I am yours to command," he said, adding, "Kadence." Tasted even better on his tongue.

Breath caught in her throat; he heard the hitch of it. "You say my name like a prayer." There was astonishment in her tone.

Had he? "I am sorry."

"Don't be." Her cheeks flushed prettily. Then she clapped her hands and brought the conversation back to what should have been their primary concern. "First we must patch these cracks."

He nodded but said, "I fear the wall is already compromised. Patching will merely strengthen it for a time." But might not prevent an eventual fall, he did not add.

"Yes. Knowing demons as I have come to, they will return and inflict more damage." Once more she turned to him. Once more she lifted her gaze to him, kernels of fear swirling where there should only be satisfaction. A crime. "Geryon," she began, only to press her lush lips together.

What was left of his heart skidded to an abrupt stop. She was just so lovely, her gentleness and goodness setting her apart from everything he represented. He wanted to duck his head, hide his ugliness from her. "Yes?"

"I should not ask this of you, but I know not what else to do."

"Ask me anything you desire." He would see it was done, no matter the consequences. "It will be my pleasure to aid you."

"I pray you remember those words. For after we've repaired the wall, we must enter hell - and hunt the demons who would destroy it."