- The Darkest Lie
“You think so?” Scarlet popped to a stand and kicked him in the stomach. No mercy. She couldn’t show him any mercy. “That’s for sleeping with her. Actually, that’s for sleeping with all your bimbos while you were married to me.”
Stop. Nightmares again. Despondent. You must stop.
No mercy. Not until he’s dead. But her own mind rebelled at that. I thought you’d decided not to kill him.
Demon red flickered in the depths of Gideon’s eyes. “Don’t you dare listen to me, to what I’m really saying. I slept with her. I did. Okay? All right?”
There was something about his claim, something she should be considering, but at the moment, she couldn’t make rational thought matter. All she could see was Gideon’s naked body wrapped around her aunt’s, the two lost to their passion. All she could hear were Gideon’s moans of pleasure.
He’d wanted Mnemosyne all along.
Scarlet’s hands balled, her nails cutting skin. “You’re going to regret ever meeting me. That’s a truth you can take to the bank. Or better yet, the grave.”
“You are so not stubborn,” he gritted out, remaining exactly as he was. Splayed, hers to abuse. “I will always betray you. Don’t you understand? Always. Betray. You.”
“I know!” Another kick.
Breath exploded from his mouth. He closed his eyes for a moment, lines of frustration branching in every direction. “Don’t think about this,” he repeated. “I’d met your aunt a thousand times before. There are many reasons—”
“Shut up! There’s nothing for me to think about.” Scowling, she paced around his prone body. Another kick. But again, satisfaction proved elusive.
Growls suddenly filled her head. Nightmares had stopped pleading and was now worked into writhing fury. Stop, or I’ll make you relive Steel’s death. Over and over again.
“You don’t know me better than anyone,” Gideon burst out on a wheeze. “Why would I need you to win her back, when I’d met her so many times? How could I touch her if I wanted you?”
Those questions made absolutely no sense. Why was he— Wait. He was Lies, she reminded herself. He couldn’t speak truth. Translation: why had he needed Scarlet to win a woman he’d never met, and how could he have touched Scarlet if he’d wanted Mnemosyne? That’s what he was really asking.
She raised her fist.
“Because you—” She stopped, frowned. Good questions. She considered her options, her demon panting, waiting for her to strike, to finally unleash a tidal wave of grief over her. A tidal wave that would not stop her. “Because you…needed me to make her jealous.” Yes, that was it. The knowledge solidified as she pulled the memories of her recent time with Gideon to the forefront of her mind.
Every time he’d kissed and touched her, he’d been distanced. He hadn’t made love to her, hadn’t tried to penetrate her. Because that would have been taking things too far when he loved another. Yes, yes. The more she considered this, the more everything made sense. The more right her aunt seemed.
“Yeah, that’s totally my style,” he said dryly.
Style or not, it just made sense. “You…bastard! I wasn’t good enough to fuck, is that it? You were saving your precious cock for her.” Scarlet swung her fist down, intending to knock him in one ear and cause his brain to fly out the other.
An image of Steel, cut and bleeding, dying, took residence inside her head, and she whimpered.
In the blink of an eye, Gideon was sitting up and gripping her wrist. His eyes narrowed, his lips pulled tight. “You don’t want penetration? I won’t give you penetration.” With a sharp tug, he had her on the ground. Before she could protest, he rolled on top of her, pinning her down with his muscled weight.
Nightmares removed the gory, hated image and moaned. Yes!
No way Gideon would—oh, yes. He would. He worked at the waist of her pants, trying to jerk them open and down.
“Stop,” she said on a trembling breath. What was happening? “Stop.”
More, her demon demanded.
The warrior stilled, but he was panting as he glared down at her, reminding her of herself a few moments ago. When she’d been furious and jealous and…irrational? Surely not. She was thinking clearly for the first time in centuries. Wasn’t she?
“You can’t accuse me of being a lot of things, Scar, and wanting you more than air to breathe isn’t one of them.”
Another translation was needed: she could accuse him of a lot of things, and wanting her more than air was one of them. So…he did want her. Proof: he wasn’t writhing in pain.
Scarlet gulped back the sudden lump in her throat. He. Wanted. Her. So why had her aunt— Wait. That was the something she’d been trying to remember a short while ago. He had to speak in lies or he would hurt. Savagely. And he’d said, I slept with her. I did. Her, meaning Mnemosyne. Yet he hadn’t screamed, passed out or grown weak. So he had been lying. He hadn’t ever slept with her aunt.
This was…this made no sense.
“I need to think,” she said softly.
Gideon eased off her, but didn’t move away. She lay there, struggling to put the rest of the pieces together.
First, Mnemosyne had accused him of trying to make her jealous. But what had he done to make her aunt jealous? Nothing, that’s what. He’d come up here to find Zeus and avenge Steel. Scarlet had followed him, and he’d been genuinely surprised to see her. Which meant he hadn’t planned for her to follow him.
She’d told him about her aunt, and he hadn’t acted as if he knew the woman. Granted, that could have been a lie. But then, why would he have arranged for Scarlet to see her if he’d wanted to keep their association secret? The jealous thing, sure, but he hadn’t put his arm around Scarlet while Mnemosyne watched. He hadn’t tried to kiss Scarlet or seduce her in front of her aunt, either. He’d just yelled at her, commanding her to find out if her aunt had messed with his memory.
That’s when Mnemosyne had placed a warm hand on Scarlet’s shoulder and told her about Gideon’s plan. Told her. Yes. The moment Mnemosyne had spoken, the first image of Gideon and her aunt rolling around in bed, naked, had appeared in Scarlet’s mind. That image had been fuzzy at first, but the more Scarlet had believed it possible, the clearer the image had become.
“T-tell me you desire my aunt,” Scarlet said, focusing on the man above her.
There was a hard glint in his eyes. “I desire your aunt.”
Not a flicker of pain.
Not daring to hope, she said, “Tell me you used me to win her.”
“I used you to win her.”
Again, no pain.
Her aunt had lied to her.
Scarlet closed her eyes. Anything to hide the burning relief most likely banked there. Gideon hadn’t betrayed her. Gideon hadn’t betrayed her! The knowledge was part soothing balm for her battered heart and part kindling for her sudden, raging guilt.
“I’m sorry for kicking you,” she said on a groan. “And punching you. And screaming at you.”
At last, Nightmares calmed.
Slowly Gideon eased the rest of the way off her. “You’re not forgiven.” The words offered absolution, but there was no emotion in his tone.
Scarlet cracked open her eyelids, only to see that Gideon had already turned, presenting her his back. Still angry? Hiding his expression? “She’s powerful. To have made me believe in your cruelty, and so strongly, so quickly…” Scarlet shuddered. “I can’t believe the sweet woman I remember did that to me.”
“Yeah, she’s a real sweetheart.” Gideon flicked her a glance over his shoulder as he stood. Nope, he hadn’t been hiding his expression; it was as empty as his tone. “And I’m sure all of your memories of her are correct.”
Correct equaled wrong. Every muscle in Scarlet’s body tensed. He was right. The image she had of her aunt didn’t fit with the woman she’d just encountered. Of course Mnemosyne had manipulated her perception at some point.
Mnemosyne had certainly had plenty of opportunities. For centuries, they had shared a cell. A simple touch, a spoken word, and boom. Scarlet’s life was completely altered.
Dear gods. How many times had Mnemosyne screwed with her head? How many of her memories were fake?
Which memories were fake?
Air burned her nose, her lungs. Suddenly Scarlet didn’t trust anything she believed. Even…her wild gaze landed on Gideon.
“We don’t need to get out of here,” he said, extending a hand.
Don’t think about this now. You can’t afford the panic. Gulping, she twined their fingers and allowed him to tug her upright. As before, when he’d gripped her thigh, his skin was hot, hard and callused. Shiver-inducing. “Enough time has passed that I doubt Mnemosyne went for help. She ran. Is probably hiding. Otherwise, guards would be in here, weapons pointed at us.”
Strong shoulders lifted in a shrug. “Better sorry than safe.”
“We can’t leave, though. We have to find her. I need to…talk with her, find out what other lies she’s convinced me of.”
Gideon shook his head, resolute. “What Zeus did is—”
“A lie, maybe.” The realization hit her and she gasped, her free hand flying to cover her mouth. Maybe Zeus hadn’t truly murdered Steel. Maybe someone else had. Or maybe Steel had never been killed. Maybe Steel was alive. Maybe he was out there, waiting for her to find him.
Hope bloomed inside her chest, filling her with a joy she hadn’t known since the last time she’d held Steel in her arms. “We have to summon Cronus.” She fisted Gideon’s shirt. “We have to find out if he knows anything about Steel.”
His expression gentled, and he cupped her cheeks. “Scar, devil…”
Devil. There was that endearment again. She rose on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. Lips still swollen from meeting her fist. Lips that were bleeding and missing a ring. Had she tugged it loose? “I’m sorry” wasn’t enough.