- The Darkest Lie
GIDEON STARED down at the woman sleeping atop the bed of cloud-soft cerulean cotton.
Inky hair tangled around an innately sensual face, long lashes casting shadows over graceful cheeks. One of her hands rested at her temple, her fingers curling inward, her azure-painted nails gleaming in the golden glow of the lamp. Her nose was perfect in shape and size, her chin stubborn, and her lips the plumpest—and reddest—he’d ever seen.
And her body…gods. Perhaps those made-for-sin curves were the reason she bore the name Scarlet. Her wickedly rounded breasts…the slender dip of her waist…the feminine flare of her hips…the lean length of her legs…every part of her was meant to lure, to ensnare.
Without a doubt, she was the most hauntingly lovely female he’d ever beheld. A genuine sleeping beauty. Only, this beauty would come up swinging if he tried to kiss her awake.
The thought had him grinning in pure male satisfaction.
One look, and a man knew she was passion and fire underneath that snow-white skin. What most men didn’t know, however, was that, like Gideon, she was possessed by a demon.
Difference is, I earned mine. She didn’t.
For-freaking-ever ago, he’d helped his friends steal and open Pandora’s box, unleashing the evil inside. Yeah, yeah. A mistake. Hardly worth a second’s thought, if you asked him, but the gods hadn’t, so, as punishment, each warrior responsible was cursed to host a demon inside his own body. Baddies like Death, Disaster, Violence, Disease, yada yada.
There’d been more demons than warriors, though, so the remaining fiends had been placed inside the immortal prisoners of Tartarus. Where Scarlet had resided her entire life.
Gideon was paired with Lies, Scarlet with Nightmares.
Clearly, he’d gotten the short end of that demon-stick. She merely slept like the dead and invaded people’s dreams. He couldn’t utter a single truth without suffering. To tell a pretty woman that she was pretty was to fall to his knees, agony unlike any other exploding through him, cutting at his organs, acid spilling through his blood, draining his strength, even eroding his desire to live.
“You’re ugly,” he’d have to say instead. Most females would burst into tears and run the hell away. So, yeah, he was immune to tears.
But what would Scarlet do? he found himself wondering. And would her tears bother him?
He reached out and traced a fingertip along the curve of her jaw. Such silky, warm skin. Would she laugh at him, unconcerned? Would she try and slice his throat? Believe him? Call him a liar?
Or would she haul ass like the others?
The thought of hurting her, angering her and ultimately losing her didn’t sit well with him.
His arm fell to his side, hand fisting. Maybe I’ll tell her the truth. Maybe I’ll praise her. But he knew he wouldn’t. Make that mistake once, fine. You were stupid. Make it twice, and you were proving Darwin’s theory.
He’d already made it once.
Gideon’s greatest enemy, the Hunters, had captured him and told him that they’d killed Sabin, keeper of the demon of Doubt. Now, Gideon loved that man like a brother—boy could bitch-slap like no one else—so he’d erupted, screaming how much he hated them, how he was going to kill them all, and it had been the gods’ honest truth, every word of it. Though it might take him years, centuries, to see the promise through, that didn’t matter. He’d meant it and had been penalized for it, the anguish instantaneous.
After that, curled on the floor and writhing, he’d been an easy target for torture. And torture him the Hunters had. Repeatedly.
After beating him so severely his eyes had swollen shut and several teeth had flown the coop, after shoving sharp pins under his nails, electrocuting him and carving the mark of infinity—their mark—into his back, they’d removed his hands. He’d seriously thought he’d reached the end. Until a very much alive Sabin had found him, rescued him and carried him home (after doing some of that aforementioned bitch-slapping).
Thankfully, both of his hands had finally regenerated. Something he’d been waiting for. Very…patiently. So he could seek revenge, yes. Or rather, that had been the case at first. But then his friends had jailed this woman, this Scarlet, and she had claimed they were husband and wife.
His priorities had kinda switched at that point.
He didn’t remember her, much less wedding her. But he had seen flashes of her face all these thousands of years. Mostly every time he collapsed atop a woman, sweaty but not truly replete because he was too filled with longing for something, or someone, he hadn’t been able to name. Therefore, he couldn’t outright deny her claim. And he needed to deny her. To prove her wrong.
Otherwise, he would have to live with the knowledge that he’d abandoned a woman he’d promised to protect. He’d have to live with the knowledge that he’d slept with other women while his wife suffered.
He’d have to live with the knowledge that someone had fucked with his memory.
Yeah, he’d demanded an explanation from Scarlet, but she was stubborn to her core and had refused to tell him anything more. Like how they’d met, when they’d met, if they’d been in love, happy. How they’d split.
To be honest, he couldn’t blame her for keeping the details a secret. How could he? She had been as much a prisoner to the Lords as he’d recently been to the Hunters, and he hadn’t talked to his captors, either. Even during that oh, so pleasant hand extraction.
So, he’d come up with a plan. For Scarlet to open up to him, he would have to take her somewhere else. Just for a little while. Just until he had answers. Then, this morning, he’d done it. While his supposed wife slept, oblivious to the world around her, he’d kidnapped her from his home and carted her fireman-style to this hotel in central Budapest.
Finally, he would have everything he wanted.
All she had to do was wake up…
A few hours earlier…
LET’S GET THE PARTY STARTED, Gideon thought with unparalleled determination as he stomped through the renovated hallways of his Budapest fortress.
The demon of Lies hummed inside his head, heartily in agreement. Both of them liked Scarlet, their alleged wife, but for different reasons. Gideon liked the look of her and the saucy, forked-tongued comments she made. Lies liked… Gideon wasn’t sure. He only knew that the beast purred in approval every time she opened her beautiful, I-can-do-things-you’ve-only-dreamed-about mouth.It was a reaction usually reserved for pathological liars. Except, the demon couldn’t actually tell if she fibbed or not. Which meant beneath all that affection for Scarlet, Lies was frustrated, sensitive to every word that left Gideon’s mouth. And that made Gideon’s life frustrating as hell. He couldn’t even call his friends by their own names anymore.
Was she or wasn’t she a filthy freaking liar? And yeah, he was well aware of the irony. He, a man who couldn’t utter a single truth, was complaining about someone who might be feeding him a big, heaping bowl of shit. But were they or weren’t they? Had they or hadn’t they? He had to know before he drove himself insane, puzzling over everything she’d ever said and everything he’d ever done and thought.
His request that she just lay out the facts, black and white, boom, done, over had been ignored for the last time.
He was finally taking action.
Hopefully, pretending to rescue her from his own dungeon would cause her to trust him. Hopefully, trusting him would cause her to open the hell up and answer his godsdamn questions.
Oops. His frustration was showing again.
“You can’t do this, Gid,” Strider, keeper of the demon of Defeat, said, suddenly keeping pace beside him.
Fuck. Anyone but him.
Strider couldn’t lose a challenge, any challenge, without suffering as Gideon suffered when he spoke true. Including Xbox, and that was seriously screwing with Gideon’s “Assassin’s Creed” mojo, because yeah, Gideon had challenged him, trying to distract himself and work out the stiffness in his new fingers.
Anyway. Always, without question, he and Strider guarded each other’s backs (video games aside). So, he shouldn’t have been surprised that his friend was here, resolved to save him from himself. Didn’t mean he’d roll over and play dead.
“She’s dangerous,” Strider added. “A walking blade through the heart, dude.”
Yes, she was. She invaded dreams, presented sleepers with their worst fears and fed off the ensuing terror. Hell, a few weeks ago, she’d done it to him. With spiders. He shuddered, momentarily sick to his stomach as he pictured the hairy little bastards crawling all over him.
Pussy. Suck it up. He’d faced countless swinging swords without flinching—as well as the monsters wielding them. What were a few spiders? Another shudder. Revolting, that’s what. He knew what they were thinking every time their beady eyes landed on him: tasty.
But why hadn’t Scarlet invaded anyone else’s dreams? He’d wondered about that almost as much as he’d wondered about their “marriage.” The other warriors, their female companions, she’d left alone. Despite the fact that she’d threatened to slaughter every single one of them. Something she truly could do.
“Damn it. Stop ignoring me,” Strider growled, punching a hole in the silver-stone wall seconds after they passed a closed bedroom door. “You know my demon doesn’t like it.”
Dust and debris plumed the air, a loud crack echoing. Great. Soon, other warriors would be up and running to find out what had just happened. Or maybe not. As temperamental as members of this household were (cough too much testosterone cough), they had to be used to unexpected, violent noises.
“Look. I’m not sorry.” Gideon flicked his friend a glance, taking in the blond hair, the blue eyes and the deceptively innocent features that were somehow perfect for his he-man build. More than one woman had called him “beautifully all-American,” whatever that meant. Those same women usually avoided looking at Gideon, as if even roving their gazes over his tattoos and piercings would blacken their souls. For all he knew, they were right. “But you’re correct. I can’t do this.”