- The Darkest Lie
That seemed likely. Especially since the bastard hadn’t tried to turn down the music and talk to her again. Maybe he was even relieved that she’d closed their channels of communication. Which was dumb. He’d sprung her from prison to talk to her, hadn’t he? He should try harder. Not that she’d cooperate. The moment she did, he’d try to take her back to the dungeon and she’d have to ditch him as planned.
Actually, she’d do that tomorrow. His friends would probably be pissed that he’d lost her, but that wasn’t her problem. He’d also have to make it back to a city littered with Hunters without her aid, but again, that wasn’t her problem.
She had enough problems to deal with.
One of which was fast approaching.
Gideon was still driving when the sun began to rise. She stiffened in her seat, dreading what came next but helpless to stop it. First, lethargy beat through her, draining her strength, making her limbs feel heavy and her head loll. Then her eyelids closed of their own accord, her lashes seemingly glued together. Then darkness wove through her mind, an incessant spiderweb—spiders, Gideon hated spiders, funny that she thought of them now—followed quickly by dissonant screams that overshadowed all else.
Her demon took over from there.
Laughing gleefully, Nightmares propelled her into a dark, misty realm where human and inhuman minds were like doorways. When a door was open, that meant the person was asleep and the demon could enter at will. Location didn’t matter. Distance didn’t matter. Time zone didn’t matter. Adults, children, male, female, that didn’t matter, either. Nothing mattered to the demon but feeding on terror.
With only a glance, she and the demon would know who each doorway belonged to, what kind of person they were and what they feared most. Like with Gideon and his silly fear of spiders, she thought, smiling again. He was a big, bad warrior who had killed thousands of people without a jump in his heart rate. But he almost peed his pants when an insect scampered toward him.
She supposed she couldn’t blame him. She hated the creepy little bugs. They’d constantly invaded her cell in Tartarus, crawling from every shadow and wall crack. And every time she’d awoken from her impenetrable sleep, she would find herself covered with bite marks.
Not to mention the bruises her cellmates had left behind. Until she’d started invading their dreams.
Whatever she’d done to them in this dark realm, real life had parroted, and they’d awoken in puddles of their own blood, often missing limbs. Some had never awakened at all.
Who do we want? the demon asked her. The most frequently asked question between them.
Over the years, they’d learned to work together. They even liked each other, relied on each other. At times, the demon had been her only friend.
“A Hunter would be nice,” she replied. Maybe they could scare the guy to death. That always put Nightmares in a stellar mood. Besides, she owed the Hunters. Not because she cared that they wanted to hurt Gideon, but because they’d ruined a perfectly good meal for her.
This will be fun. More gleeful laughter as the demon whisked them forward, the doorways blurring at her side.
When they stopped, they stood in front of an open doorway that was far larger than any she’d seen before. Moans of pleasure echoed from inside, a decadent mix of male and female. There was a slap of flesh against flesh. Murmurs of “more” and “please.”
An erotic dream, then.
“Who is this?”
Galen. Leader of Hunters. Keeper of Hope.
Galen. She scowled. The warrior had led his army against the Lords because they were demon-possessed, and yet Galen himself carried a demon. The contradiction was baffling, but it didn’t surprise her.
Galen had always struck her as more snake than man. A few times, he’d helped Gideon bring a prisoner into Tartarus, and he’d been all smiles while Gideon faced him, but the moment Gideon had turned away, Galen’s glower had bored into his back.
When Gideon had told her that he’d found a way to curry the gods’ favor thanks to his pal Galen, and that for his reward, he would request her freedom, she had begged him not to do it, whatever he planned. Of course, he hadn’t listened. He’d been too assured, too hopeful, of his success.
She’d wanted to “thank” Galen for his part in Gideon’s failure for a long, long time, but hadn’t allowed herself to do so. That would have helped Gideon, and she hadn’t wanted to do that, either.
Now, however, with that necklace burning against her chest, she no longer minded the prospect quite so much.
Slowly she grinned. “Let’s do this.”
They stepped through the entrance, a phantom unseen by the dreamer, and suddenly Scarlet was viewing the evidence of what she’d heard. Galen was tall and muscled, with blond hair and blue eyes. Eyes that were peering down at a beautiful, pale-haired female. A female he had anchored against a bathroom sink, his majestic white wings outstretched, enclosing her in a feathered haven.
The woman’s shirt was pushed to her chin, bearing her large—really large—breasts. He feasted on them eagerly. Her pants were around her ankles as Galen pounded inside her, hips shifting to produce maximum pleasure.
His pants were merely opened at the waist, so Scarlet saw very little of him. Too bad. She could have taunted Gideon with the size of his enemy’s cock and the hardness of his ass.
So many fears, Nightmares said with awe.
“Tell me.” She spoke aloud, knowing dream Galen couldn’t hear her unless she wanted him to.
Being alone. Being defeated. Helpless. Ineffective. Overlooked. Forgotten. Dead.
Weird. He carried the demon of Hope. Shouldn’t he be more optimistic? No matter. Scarlet walked through the dream bathroom, Galen as oblivious to her presence as he was to her voice, and allowed Nightmares to re-paint the scene.
“Make him sorry he was ever created.”
Suddenly, the writhing, moaning girl became a man. A human.
Galen stopped pounding. Even yelped and jumped away, wings shuddering with the movement.
Scarlet laughed. Oh, this was going to be fun. “More.”
The bathroom was replaced by a long, dark tunnel, and the human disappeared. Galen spun, wild gaze searching his new surroundings, the tips of those wings grazing the walls and scratching.
“What’s going on?” he rasped. “Where am I?”
His words echoed, but that was it, the only sound. Desperate for answers, he kicked into gear, racing forward. The tunnel stretched forever, no end in sight. His panic doubled, tripled, hot breath rasping from him and sweat pouring from his body.
Delicious. Nightmares laughed. Tastes so good.
“More,” she said again.
Do you want the honors?
Sharing was caring, she thought. “Yes. Please.”
Lead him to the edge, and I’ll show him what might one day happen to him. Oh, his fear…none of the others will compare.
Scarlet allowed herself to materialize, though she didn’t show the formidable warrior what she truly looked like. The image she projected was one of a little girl she’d met inside Tartarus. For the single day the child had been allowed inside a cell. A little girl named Fate.
Everyone had been frightened of her, because everything Fate had spoken had come true. Everything. That’s why the Greeks had so quickly put her to death, the poor thing.
But for that one day, she had been Scarlet’s friend.
“If you believe what you see, you’ll lose your husband,” Fate had told her during their only conversation.
Of course Scarlet had believed what she’d seen—Gideon’s absence—so of course Scarlet had lost him.
Many, many years had passed. Perhaps Galen would recognize Fate, perhaps not. Either way…let the games begin.
As Fate, Scarlet wore a robe streaked with dirt, had big blue eyes, so innocent, and a mouth forever dipped in sadness. Red hair hung in tangles all the way to her ankles.
She appeared a few feet in front of him. “Come,” she said gently, and held out her small, mud-caked hand. “You must see what awaits you.”
He tripped over his own feet but stopped before he hit her, still panting, still sweating. “Who are you?”
As forgetful as Gideon, then. But sometimes ignorance served her best. What people imagined was often far worse than anything she could tell them.
“Come,” she repeated. “You must see.”
“I— Yes. All right.” Galen shakily placed his palm against hers.
Down the corridor she ushered him, Nightmares practically jumping around in her head. Finally, because she willed it, a light appeared, and the significance of that light was not lost on him. Once again, his fear spiked.
He even tried to pull away from her, but she tightened her grip, stronger than she appeared. “You must see,” she told him. “You must know.”
They reached the light, which just happened to be a cliff ledge that overlooked a battlefield. On that battlefield was man after man, woman after woman, an ocean of death and destruction, for each body was bloody, motionless. And on each of their wrists was a tattoo of infinity. The mark of the Hunter.
There, in the center, was Galen. He was still standing, though he, too, was bloody and wounded. His white-feathered wings were outstretched but clearly broken. His strength was drained, his knocking knees threatening to give out.
“No. No!” Beside her, a shaking dream Galen did drop to his knees, dust pluming around him.
On the battlefield, Gideon strode toward him, as menacing as ever. His blue hair danced around his face in the strong wind, and his piercings gleamed in the sunlight. There was a trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth where his lip ring had been ripped out. In one hand, he gripped a long, sharp sword. In the other, he clutched a gun.
Laughing, he pointed the latter at Galen and fired. The leader of the Hunters flew backward, landing on his ass, unable to rise as Gideon continued to bear down on him.
“No!” the Galen beside her shouted again. “Stand up. Fight him! I didn’t survive that demon girl’s poisonous bite only to die at the hands of my enemy.”