Page 33

Gideon twisted the knob, relieved when the door opened soundlessly.

Inside the new quarters, he closed the door and watched as the paneling blended into the mirrored wall. Then he faced Scarlet and placed a finger at his lips. Quiet. This room might be empty, but he hadn’t forgotten that the one next to it was not.

She nodded in understanding.

Avoiding the immaculate feathered bed was tough—he could just imagine Scarlet on top of him, grinding on his always-hard cock—but he managed to place one foot in front of other. Eye on the prize and all that shit. As planned, they backtracked. In the hall, several sprites bustled past with their cleaning supplies. Gideon acted as if he belonged there and they ignored him. With all the immortals that passed through this palace, they were probably used to strangers.

Mnemosyne’s door was closed. And damn, he was growing tired of trying to pronounce that name, even in his mind. He’d never be able to say it out loud, anyway, thanks to his truth-curse. NeeMah would have to do instead. Besides, Scarlet thought she remembered this woman pushing her down, so that made the bitch an enemy, as far as Gideon was concerned.

“Let me do all the talking,” he said.

“Thank gods. I wasn’t going to say anything to you, but since you mentioned it…she wouldn’t understand you, so you’d be doing everyone a favor, letting me take over.”

He pressed a hard kiss on her lips, a silent thank-you. Then, with his free hand, he palmed a dagger and burst inside.

The goddess gasped as she spun to face him, a hand fluttering over her heart. “What—”

“Hello, Auntie,” Scarlet said at his side. “Did you miss me?” He was proud of her. There was iron-hard determination in her tone.

Blue eyes widened. “S-Scarlet?”

“The one and only.”

“How did you get up here?” She couldn’t mask her outrage. Or her fear. “Your mother—”

“Doesn’t matter,” Scarlet said. “We have questions, and you have answers. Answers you will give us.”

Good girl.

NeeMah gulped. Laughed shakily. “Yes, of course. And of course I missed you. I love you so much. You know that. I would do anything for you, just as I did when you were a child. Do you remember?”

A moment passed. Scarlet’s head tilted to the side, and she rubbed her lips together as if she were pondering something important. Her warrior-stance relaxed. “I— Yes. Yes, I do. You were so kind to me.”

Gideon squeezed her hand. Don’t lose focus now, sweetness. She was looking at the goddess; her mind shouldn’t be fuzzing. Should be clearing. Right? That’s how it had worked in the hallway.

“I’m so glad you remember.” NeeMah’s arms opened, the very picture of love. “Now come over here and give your favorite aunt a hug.”

Scarlet tugged from his hold and rushed forward. “I’m so sorry we scared you. We’re not going to hurt you, I swear.”

Gideon tried to grab her, but she danced out of reach, threw herself at her aunt, and he was forced to watch as smug satisfaction filled the goddess’s eyes. Definitely a bitch, he thought. Besides that, his demon was suddenly going batshit crazy. In a good way. The demon liked her.

Pathological liars always had that effect.

“I’m just so happy to see you,” Scarlet continued, oblivious. Looking at NeeMah must not matter when you were in the same room with her. Or when she purposely wove a deception.

“And I’m so…happy you’re alive.”

Lie. Both he and his demon recognized it.

The bitch would pay for playing with his woman. He’d thought it before, but now, now it was a need.

“Now. Tell me about the man you brought me.” The goddess’s gaze landed on Gideon, intent, studying this time. Recognition—followed by shock—claimed her features. “You. Wh-what are you doing here? With Scarlet? What questions do you have for me?”

He ran his tongue over his teeth. Such a telling reaction. She knew him, and she had expected him to stay away from Scarlet. “Scar, devil,” he said, waving her back to his side. “Don’t ask her if she screwed with my memory.”

Suddenly panic overrode every other emotion on the goddess’s face. She straightened, stiffened. “Scarlet, my sweet. Your friend is being very rude. And sadly, he’s acted this way before, hasn’t he?” She caressed Scarlet’s temples, rubbing her thumbs in circles. “Even though you try so very hard to instruct him with his manners.”

“Gideon,” Scarlet admonished, releasing her aunt and turning to him. Her eyes were glazed but narrowed. “How dare you treat my favorite aunt that way? You know better. I’ve told you and I’ve told you to treat my family with respect.” Uh. Excuse me?

NeeMah remained behind her, taller than Scarlet and towering over her shoulder, but using her as a shield nonetheless.

“Don’t ask her!” he shouted.

Scarlet blinked, the glaze fading from her eyes. “Ask her…”

A now-trembling NeeMah laid a hand on Scarlet’s shoulder. “Scarlet. You know I love you. You know I would never hurt you. And now you know, much to my regret, that Gideon used you to get to me. He and I were lovers, and he’s always wanted me back. Isn’t that right? We’ve talked about this.” Liar!

And yet, power hummed from each of her words, and Gideon almost believed he’d used Scarlet to reach this point. That he’d wanted to kill Scarlet and her aunt all along. Because if he couldn’t have NeeMah, no one could.

Lies laughed, a giddy sound, and an image popped into Gideon’s head. Small, fuzzy, but there. An image of Gideon pacing back and forth, planning. And the more he studied the image, the more the details filled in. He’d been in his bedroom in Budapest, and he’d—

Again, Lies laughed. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

This time, he was jarred from his thoughts. If Lies “hated” the images so much, that meant they were fabricated. And if they were fabricated, that meant NeeMah had planted them. And if NeeMah had planted them…

“You used me,” Scarlet gasped out. Absolute betrayal filled her eyes as she stared at him.

Had the same false images floated through her mind? Of course they had, he thought. NeeMah was more powerful than he ever could have realized. “Devil, you don’t have to believe me. I wouldn’t kill your aunt if you were in front of her.” Come on, darling. Move away from her and I’ll end her.

“How could you do that to me?” Scarlet croaked. “How could you use me to win back my aunt after everything you already did to me?”

“I never—” Shit. He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t speak the truth. “Your aunt is beautiful to me.” Understand what I’m saying, please understand. “You’re not the only one I want.”

Grinning now, fear gone, NeeMah backed away from Scarlet. “I’ll go get help, my sweet.” Despite her expression, her tone was still sad. “You keep him here. Whatever it takes.”

“Yes.” Scarlet widened her legs, balled her fists. An attack position. And this time, her warrior-stance was directed at him.

What the hell? “Scar, this isn’t—” he began, but before he could utter another word, Scarlet had launched herself at him, her intent to kill more than obvious as she slashed at his throat.


BETRAYED AGAIN, Scarlet thought darkly. By the same man. And she couldn’t fully blame him. She kept letting it happen because she was attracted to him. Well, no more. She wouldn’t kill him, she decided just before contact, though part of her knew that was the only way to truly end the madness inside her. But she would beat him senseless and hold him here until her beloved aunt returned.

Whatever happened to him after that, she wouldn’t care.She didn’t care.

As they hit the ground, Gideon arched back to avoid her nails in his jugular. He also took the brunt of the fall. The back of his skull slammed into the floor, and he winced. Must have cracked him good, because blood splattered. To her surprise, he didn’t try to fight her off as she straddled his chest and glared down at him.

“I should never have trusted you,” she snarled. “Trusting you always destroys another piece of my life.”

His hands—hot and hard and callused—flattened on her thighs, as though he was holding her to him rather than pushing her away. “That woman was telling the truth. I did this to you. She didn’t. She wasn’t lying. She wasn’t manipulating your memories and weaving fake stories inside your head.” The words escaped him in a rush.

Mnemosyne lie to her? Ha! “You’re the only liar here.” She drove her fist into his nose, and more of his blood spurted. “That’s for forgetting me,” she spat. She’d wanted to do this for a long time. Nothing would stop her now. She punched his face again. More blood. “That’s for abandoning your son.”

Stop, Nightmares cried inside her head. Don’t hurt him.

Decided to wake up, did you? Well, you can just shut the hell up!

Don’t hurt him. Please. He’s telling you the truth.

Defending the bastard? You’re my demon. Not his. Now do what you were created to do and frighten him. Cover him with spiders. No.

Fine. She would destroy him on her own. Except, when she raised her fist for a third punch, Gideon didn’t turn away. He waited, his expression resigned, even expectant, and she paused. He was letting her hurt him, damn him. Scarlet tried to catch her breath. There was no satisfaction in his acceptance. Only shame.

“Don’t think about this, devil.”

Devil. His version of angel or sweetheart. This wasn’t the first time he’d used the endearment, and just as before, her heart squeezed in her chest. “You don’t get to call me that. You don’t have the right.” Not anymore. “Besides that, there’s nothing to think about. You were using me to punish my aunt.”

“Godsdamn it, you aren’t the most exasperating creature I’ve ever met.”