Page 26

Come on, baby. Wake up. Through the windowed doors that led to a balcony, he could see that the sun was muted and falling, darkening. That pampering could begin sooner rather than later. Any moment now and Scarlet would—

Her eyelids popped open and she bolted upright just as he had done. Her head slammed into his chin, and he winced.

As she rubbed the point of contact, their gazes met. Her eyes…so dark, so mysterious. So filled with pain and hope and regret. A treasure as priceless as this woman should only ever look satisfied.

She licked her lips and slowly eased back onto the mattress, twisting to her side to face him. Her mouth floundered open and closed for a moment, as if she were searching for the right words to say. He didn’t want her to bring up the dream. Not yet. That was a heavy subject and right now they both needed to relax. Or rather, he needed to comfort her as he hadn’t done before.

“So, who aren’t you today?” he asked, lying down so that they were eye to eye.

There was a flicker of relief on her face. “Scarlet…Long,” she replied.

Long. As in Justin. A man with black hair and brown eyes. Gideon almost smiled. Sweet progress. Hopefully, she’d never pick a blond again. And one day, maybe she’d even call herself Scarlet Lord.

Did he want that? Yes, he did, he realized almost immediately. He liked the thought of this woman belonging to him. Truly belonging to him in a way that all the world would recognize.

“How are you feeling?” she asked softly.


A lengthy breath escaped her. “Good. That’s good.”

With the last of his strength, he settled his arm over the curve of her waist. She didn’t rebuke him for so intimate a gesture, and he took heart. “When I’m even worse, I don’t want to hit Cronus’s bedroom.” He needed to get his hands on a slave collar. That way, the doors to Tartarus would open right up for him. Those collars were like keys to the gate. To get in, that is. Getting out would be a different matter entirely. “But damn. I’ve got my necklace, so I can roam freely.” Without it, Cronus would know where he was and what he was doing. The god king could stop him and send him back to Buda before he set a single foot in the prison realm.

One of Scarlet’s brows arched. “You’re saying you don’t have your butterfly necklace, so you can’t move freely around this palace?”

He nodded, trying to gauge her expression.

She pulled both chains from a knife sheath at her waist, letting them dangle from her fingers. “I’ve got them. I found where you’d tossed yours like garbage.” She sounded almost bitter. “So they aren’t just pretty decorations?” Now she sounded…disappointed.

He’d made her think the necklace was a present from him. And when she’d found his, she had thought he’d “tossed it like garbage.” As if she were garbage. He wouldn’t allow her to think such a thing.

I will never lie to her again, he vowed. Then blinked. Wait. He would never purposely mislead her with his lies. Better. “They don’t prevent the gods from watching us. From listening to us.”

As he spoke, her eyes widened. With that widening, she should have been even easier to read. Only, those orbs offered no hint of her emotions. “The necklaces are blocks, then.”

At least she hadn’t erupted at his deception. “Exactly wrong.”

“Good. Smart.” She moved to anchor one around her neck, but he shook his head, stopping her. “But why wait?” Okay, now she looked ready to erupt. Her eyes were narrowed, almost…fiery, and her teeth bared in a fearsome scowl.

“I’m too strong to leave right now—” too weak “—and we shouldn’t wait until we’re ready to sneak out of the palace to fall off Cronus’s radar.” They absolutely should wait. The moment Cronus lost his connection to Gideon, he would suspect the truth and do everything in his power to stop Gideon from succeeding.

“So you’re going to sneak out to—”

Again, he nodded.

Anticipation wafted from her. The two of them were going to Tartarus, and they were going to kill Zeus.

“How long till you’re recovered?” she asked.

“Not another day.” One more day.

Blink. “So what are we supposed to do in the meantime?”

Kiss. Touch. Relearn each other. Make love. “Not talking.”

She rolled her eyes as if he’d just made a funny. “You and me? Talk? I don’t think so. We’ve said all we need to say to each other. We’ll work together in this, because we’re stronger as a pair, but that’s all we’re doing. Working together. Killing together.”

Great. She was falling back into stubborn mode. But he didn’t mind. She could say anything she wanted, do anything to him. He planned to stick to her like pasties on a stripper.

“And anyway,” she continued, resolute, “let’s be real here. I don’t have to wait around. I can sneak through the palace and kill any god or goddess I stumble upon. I’m actually doing you a favor.”

A growl rumbled low in his throat, rose, lashed out. The thought of Scarlet traipsing through the palace halls alone did not sit well. She wouldn’t be up against humans, but immortals. Stronger, more violent immortals. Pure male instinct wanted her safe, happy and not in fucking constant danger.

Calm. He would just have to keep her busy. And if she wasn’t interested in talking, that left only one other option. What he’d wanted to do in the first place.

He’d considered himself depleted, but the thought of having her rallied his cells, muscle and bone, allowing him to roll on top of her. She gasped at his weight, but he didn’t shift away. No, he pressed himself down, giving her more.

“Talking it is, then,” he said, and as he’d done the last time he’d needed to soften her, he meshed his lips into hers.


SCARLET STARTED to utter a protest. She’d already kissed Gideon once, and now had his intoxicating taste seared into her mouth, her body, after centuries of fighting to remove it. Centuries of fighting to forget his weight, his heat, his strength. She didn’t need to do so again, didn’t need another reminder. Didn’t need the cravings to return.

Not that they’d ever stopped.She thought to push him away. He was weakened right now, and wouldn’t be able to stop her when she scrambled off the bed and out of the bedroom. He wouldn’t be able to draw her back into his arms, hold her close, overshadowing pain with pleasure.

But then his tongue rolled against hers, so damn sweet she could have wept. Then he whispered “Scar” as if the nickname were a prayer, and rather than protest, rather than push him, she cupped the back of his neck with one hand and tangled her fingers into his hair with the other, canting his head.

The kiss deepened, from languid to shattering in a single second. A match lit, thrown. An inferno. Raging. Thoughts derailing. Nothing mattered but here, now. The man, the passion. The past fading.

Thoughts struggling to form.

What are you doing?

Mouths claiming. Feasting. Breath mingling. Warm, then hot, then scorching. Tearing her down. Building her back up.

A glimmer of reason.

Don’t just start to protest. Do it! Protest. Don’t just think to push him away. Do it! Push.

Fire, cooling. Ice, crystallizing. Yes, yes. That’s what she needed to do. Protest, push. She wouldn’t lose herself again. She was smarter than that.

Prove it.

Scarlet wrenched her lips from his. Panting, she said, “You want to talk, we’ll talk.” Her body shrieked a protest all its own. Still, she continued. “I’m the daughter of Rhea, and I was born inside Tartarus. For thousands of years, it was all I ever knew.” The words rushed from her, laced with desperation. Surely this topic would douse her passion completely.

Gideon stilled. There was disappointment in his bright eyes, but also thrums of eagerness. Finally, he was getting what he’d really wanted. Information. “Don’t go on.” He didn’t move off her, though, and she foolishly didn’t insist that he do so. “I don’t want to know everything about you.”

How easy she was. Another declaration like that, and she might kiss him. “At first, Rhea loved me, cared for me. But then, as I grew older, she began to see me as a threat. She wanted me dead. Real bad.”

This topic should have dulled her passion, but it didn’t.

Every muscle in Gideon’s body tensed. And not in desire.

Great. The distraction ploy had worked. Only, it had worked on the wrong person.

“When we were freed, the Greeks defeated, I tried to follow her to this palace. I hoped to make amends with her, make use of the libraries.” To search for information about Gideon, but Scarlet kept that to herself. “She had me barred from entering.” Bitterness trickled from her voice, but again, it didn’t dull her passion in the slightest. He was on top of her, and all she had to do was open her legs. “She told me I wasn’t worthy to walk the halls.”

His eyes narrowed dangerously. “How’d you get her to keep you out this time?”

Knowing what he meant—how had she gotten her mother to let her in—Scarlet said, “I bargained with her.” Would he be pissed about that? “I have to stop you from giving Cronus whatever it is you promised him. What did you promise, by the way?”

No. No anger. Surprising. “We didn’t agree to discuss it at a later date,” he said.

Ah. The old you’ll-owe-me-a-favor-of-my-choosing-at-the-time-of-my-choosing. “You lied to him, of course.” It was a statement, not a question.

Gideon hiked his shoulders.

She’d take that as a resounding yes, and wished she could trust herself to flatten her hands on those wide shoulders, feel the muscles bunching and straining underneath. “So there you have it. What you didn’t know about my life in a dirty nutshell.”

He peered down at her for a long while, silent, searching. So many emotions played over his features. Regret, sorrow and the anger she’d looked for before. “I’m…not sorry for all you’ve endured. I’m…not sorry for my part in it. Damn it!” The anger clearly won, and he pounded the mattress with his fists, bouncing them both. “I really love that I can’t tell you what I really mean without setting us back a few days.”