- The Darkest Lie
“Please, Gideon. I think…I hope… What if he’s still alive? What if our baby is out there?”
He opened his mouth. To protest? Then he shook his head violently, scales flashing underneath his skin. “Oh, sweet sunshine and roses, I can absolutely believe I’m doing this,” he muttered, releasing her to jerk his necklace from around his neck and stuff the chain into his pocket.
Wow. That was the vilest curse she’d ever heard him utter.
“Cron!” he shouted, fist raised and pumping in the air. “I don’t want to talk to you.”
A moment passed in silence. Scarlet could barely contain herself; she felt ready to jump out of her skin. Knew she wouldn’t last much longer. Soon she would start shouting threats. Dismemberment, the removal of the king’s cock. “Cron!”
“Manners, Lies. Manners. You’re in my home. You do not bellow for me. You ask nicely.”
The voice came from behind them, and they swung around in unison. Cronus was perched at the edge of the bed, his lips pinched in displeasure.
Who cared about his displeasure? He was here! Scarlet’s shoulders sagged with relief. Answers were within her grasp, hope a living entity inside her.
“No thanks for coming,” Gideon said, bowing his head in deference. He’d never done such a thing before, and she knew he did so now for her benefit. Because she was desperate, and he was taking no chances.
“Well, well,” Cronus said, gaze roving over her warrior. “We’ve regained our strength, I see. I didn’t expect you to recover so quickly. But what are you doing in Leto’s bedroom?”
Pleasantries? Now? “I’ll do the talking,” Scarlet told Gideon before facing off with the king. Knowing him as she did, she knew she couldn’t just jump into her demands. “We’ve learned something disturbing about Mnemosyne. She—”
“Why. Are you. In Leto’s. Bedroom?” Cronus asked again. His attention never veered from Gideon.
Argh. “Your mistress was here. We wanted to talk with her.”
One dark brow arched, but that was it. His only reaction to her words. Damn him! After the aging curse was cast, after failing to kill her over and over again, he’d decided to ignore her, to pretend she didn’t exist. She was an embarrassment to him, after all. Proof his wife had cheated on him.
Like he could cast stones, though. His mistress was his wife’s sister.
Gideon sighed, and there was an angry twinge to it. On her behalf? Her guilt returned. She never should have punched him. So many times. “Your mistress wasn’t here.”
“Which one?” the king asked smoothly.
Just how many did he have?
“Not Mnemosyne,” Gideon said.
A curtain fell over Cronus’s features, obscuring his emotions. “And?”
“And she didn’t try to fuck with Scarlet’s memory.”
“And?” the king asked again.
“And we don’t want to talk to her,” Gideon snapped.
Cronus’s head tilted to the side as he studied the warrior. “She came to me. Told me you were in here. Tried to convince me you were here to kill me, but what she hasn’t yet realized is that her tricks do not work on me. She’s currently locked in my chambers while I figure out her game.”
“Let me help you with that,” Scarlet said, determined. She had a few ideas about how to extract information from her aunt. Needles were involved. So were hammers.
Again, Cronus ignored her. “I want Secrets to interrogate her, but he’s otherwise occupied at the moment.”
“And you don’t expect me to fetch him for you?” Gideon asked through gritted teeth.
“I expect you to return to your fortress and summon me the moment he returns. That is the boon I require of you as payment for the time you’ve spent in my palace.”
A muscle ticked in Gideon’s jaw. Hers, too. Rhea’s “requirement” for Scarlet was to stop Gideon from summoning Cronus when Amun returned, and she nearly roared in frustration. If finding Amun was the only way to gain information about Steel, she wouldn’t stop Gideon. No matter what she’d promised her mother.
No matter what that might cost her.
She’d heard stories about what happened to those who broke their promises to the gods, and those stories had never ended favorably. The liar was always weakened, curses were always heaped and death was always the end result.
Dying before holding her son again…hell, no!
Perhaps she could summon Cronus, she thought next, and grinned. Hello, loophole. Her grin quickly faded, however. What if the king ignored her? And what if her promise to her mother was still considered broken?
“You’re unwell?” Gideon whispered in her ear, drawing her attention.
You’re good, he meant. “I’m fine,” she replied. Her inattention must have worried him. “Thank you.”
“If Mnemosyne is aiding Rhea,” Cronus continued, “she must be destroyed. If not…” He shrugged. “I haven’t yet grown tired of her and the way she vexes my wife. So either way, I don’t think I’ll allow you to speak with her.”
Scarlet had to fight the urge to launch forward and slam her fists into Cronus’s face. To break his nose, his teeth, and introduce his penis to her knee. Multiple times.
Gideon must have sensed the direction of her thoughts because he twined their fingers and squeezed. To comfort her?
“Doubt me not,” she said harshly. “I will confront my aunt. And if she lied to me about my son’s death, I’ll kill her whether she betrayed you or not. Whether you want her alive or not.”
Cronus blinked at her, looking at her for the first time since entering the room. “Your son?” His astonished gaze returned to Gideon. “What’s she talking about?”
“Steel, damn you,” Scarlet shouted. “The child I gave birth to when we were still in captivity. Is there a chance he’s still alive?”
Silence. Thick, unwanted silence that slithered through her like a snake, ready to bite, to poison.
Then, “Scarlet,” the king said, and his tone was suddenly, shockingly gentle. “We were locked in the same cell from the time of your birth until we managed to escape. You never gave birth. You were never pregnant.”
THIS WAS THE FIRST time Gideon had ever seen Cronus exhibit any type of compassion. And that he did so toward a female he hated…well, Gideon could now forgive him for his earlier treatment of Scarlet, ignoring her as he had. And yet, Gideon wished there was no need for such compassion.
You were never pregnant. The words, though meant for Scarlet, hit Gideon, and he knew. Knew. Truth. Cronus spoke only truth. That meant only one thing. It hadn’t been Gideon’s memory that had been tampered with; it had been Scarlet’s.No wonder Lies liked her so much, yet hadn’t been able to tell if she spoke true. She was a living falsehood, but didn’t know it. They’d never had a son. They’d probably never been married.
Which sucked. He’d grown used to thinking of Scarlet as his wife. Perhaps they had married, though. In secret, as she’d said. After all, the first time he’d seen her, when she’d told him they had once wed, he’d had flashes of her in his mind, flashes of the two of them, naked and straining toward release. He’d thought those flashes were memories. And yeah, they could have been.
Because the fact was, he’d seen her in his dreams, too. Before he’d ever met her. That had to mean something. Right?
Steel, though…he’d had no flashes of his son. Not a single one. That, too, had to mean something. And yet, he didn’t have to wonder about his feelings for the boy. Now that the fury over Steel’s supposed treatment was gone, he realized he possessed a spark of love for what might have been. He truly mourned his child’s loss.
And if he mourned, when he’d had only that one glimpse of Steel, the glimpse Scarlet had given him, how much worse must she feel?
Scarlet’s gaze darted between the king and Gideon, Gideon and the king. She was shaking her head continuously, trembling, gasping for breath. His heart actually wrenched inside his chest, scraping against his ribs. He hated to see her like this. So torn up and vulnerable.
“You’re wrong. You have to be wrong. I held my little boy. I loved him.” The last was said angrily, as if daring the king to contradict her.
Frowning, Cronus rose from the bed. “There are too many eyes and ears here.” He waved his hand and their surroundings simply disappeared, leaving only a wide expanse of thick, white mist. The air was cool, fragrant with the sweet scent of ambrosia.
Gideon breathed deeply, savoring this moment of calm before the coming storm. The mist thinned, cleared, and he saw that they were in the heart of an ambrosia field, the tall flowering vines rising from the ground, pink flowers reaching toward the glowing sun.
Sun. Shining. His attention whipped to Scarlet. He expected her knees to collapse and her eyes to close as sleep claimed her, but she remained standing. Awake. Not even yawning. How?
“This is a realm where night and day are one,” Cronus explained, as if reading Gideon’s mind. Hell, he probably was. Some immortals could do so. Gideon knew that Amun could. “Besides that, Scarlet’s demon operates on a time scale, not the rise and fall of the sun.”
Didn’t bother him when Amun read his mind. Cronus, though, bothered him greatly. What he was feeling for Scarlet and Steel was private. His. He didn’t want to share. Not because he was embarrassed about the softer emotions running rampant through him, but because he wanted every part of them all for himself. Real or not.
Not important right now. Your woman is all that matters. He wrapped his arm around Scarlet’s waist, intent on soothing her the only way he could, but she jerked away from him, still shaking her head, her trembling becoming violent.
“My son was real. My son is real.”
“In your mind, no doubt he is.” Cronus pivoted on his heel and eased forward, forcing Gideon and Scarlet to follow. His fingers brushed the tips of the vines as he said, “Here’s how Mnemosyne works. She places her hand on you, for contact increases the power of her suggestions. She then tells you something. If it’s something you want to hear, your mind accepts it more readily. If not, she’ll tell you something else, then something else, until she’s woven a tapestry inside your mind.”