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Scarlet tripped over a vine, and Gideon grabbed her by the T-shirt, hefting her up and keeping her on her feet. She didn’t seem to notice, kept striding forward, remaining close to Cronus and glued to his every word.

Gods, she was lovely in the sunlight. Even lost to sorrow and confusion, she seemed to soak up the rays and glow from within.

“Do you understand now?” Cronus asked.

“No. Her methods don’t explain anything,” Scarlet lashed out. “I know every detail of Steel’s life. Every detail. My aunt could not have created so complex a tapestry.”

“She can and obviously did. Once Mnemosyne makes a suggestion, the seed of a memory is planted. The more you consider that seed, the more it’s watered, and the more it will grow. As it grows, your mind begins to fill in the blanks, so to speak, making the memory plausible. Making it as real to you as if it truly happened.”

Gideon kept his gaze glued on the endless sea of green and pink in front of him. He didn’t dare glance over at Scarlet again. She was the strongest female—or rather, person—he’d ever met, but he doubted even she could withstand this type of devastating news without breaking down. A breakdown she wouldn’t want anyone to witness.

“I—I—” Her voice quivered. Was drenched with an agony so overwhelming he had never encountered its like. To her, this must be like watching Steel die, helpless to save him, all over again.

Just then, Gideon would have willingly died to give the boy life.

“I can’t talk about Steel right now,” she said in a tragic tone that rivaled that of Cameo, keeper of the demon of Misery. “Just tell me if Gideon and I were…were…”

Slowly, so slowly, Cronus shook his head. “You were not.”


Lies roared, furious, disbelieving. And Gideon wasn’t sure whether it was because the demon hated truth, or because the demon wanted those words to be a lie.

Gideon hissed in disappointment. He desired Scarlet more than he’d ever desired another, and he liked having her with him. Most of all, he loved knowing she belonged to him and no other man.

Perhaps…perhaps he’d wed her now. For real this time. It was worth considering, at the very least. Because damn, he hated the thought of being without her.

No, Lies said. No. Yes, yes.

“Why would Mnemosyne not do something like that?” Gideon asked. He was surprised by how rough his voice was, as if his throat had been scrubbed raw with sandpaper.

Cronus sighed. “I can guess. Scarlet’s mother. Shortly after Rhea and I were cursed with an aging spell, Scarlet grew unexpectedly happy. Not because we were aging, she hardly seemed to notice that, but because she clearly had a secret. Looking back, I realize Mnemosyne must have begun weaving those memories of you at Rhea’s behest, to punish her daughter for the spell. You see, any time Rhea tried to kill her, the queen aged a bit more.”

And if the queen had looked anything like Cronus when they’d come out of Tartarus, she had tried many, many times to off his sweet Scarlet. Again, Gideon wasn’t opposed to killing females, and he added Rhea’s name to his Must Die Painfully list.

“The sisters had noticed how Scarlet watched you,” the king continued. “Everyone had. There was absolute longing in her gaze. That’s why, I’m sure, it was so easy for Mnemosyne to plant the suggestion of a marriage when in fact, the two of you had never even spoken.”

“Oh, gods,” Scarlet gasped, tenting her hands over her mouth. Her horrified gaze landed on Gideon. “I—I—”

She had desired him, even then, and the knowledge filled him with pride. But she didn’t like that he knew, that much was clear, and he found that he wanted to ease her, even in this.

Gideon stopped, grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “Don’t recall that even before I met you, I didn’t see you in my mind. Don’t recall that I didn’t even tattoo myself with your eyes, with the same tattoo you bear. We may have married, and we may have met, but I did not notice you, too.” Understand me, sweet. I craved you, even then.

As he spoke, however, several questions claimed his attention. How had he known about the tattoo? How had he seen it before he’d actually met the woman? Had they been connected somehow?

She’d begun to relax, to nod, but then she stiffened and jerked from his hold. Cold infused her eyes. “After our…fake marriage, after my possession, after I gained control, I entered your dreams until your doorway disappeared. Another reason I thought you were dead. I never used my demon against you, I simply watched over you. That must be how you saw me.”

Well, another question answered. And once again, he was filled with pride. So much desire… But not her. There was no pride, no joy. Her horror had only grown.

“You didn’t want me in prison,” she said, tears forming, spilling over. “You didn’t notice me then.”

Those tears nearly dropped him to his knees. “Devil.” He reached out, meaning to force her to accept his embrace. He would comfort her, damn it. He may not have noticed her back then, but he noticed her now.

She darted out of reach, and several tears splashed onto his hand. “I hated you,” she spat. “For so long, I hated you for abandoning me. I even blamed you for Steel’s death, and I wanted to punish you. I dreamed of punishing you. Then I entered your life, and I did hurt you. In your dreams, I presented you with your greatest fear. And I was glad. I liked doing it. Liked hurting you. Then, today, I punished you again. Yet you had done nothing wrong. You had never done anything wrong.” She choked on the last word, a sob bubbling from her parted, trembling lips.

“Devil, you did everything wrong. Blame yourself. I wouldn’t have done the same thing.” Please understand. It had never been more important for a person to understand what he was truly saying.

Shaking her head, she swiped at the still-falling tears with the back of her hand. “I’m sorry. You’ll never know how sorry I am for everything I did to you. I—I—I have to go. Send me home. Please.” Her gaze swung to Cronus. Or rather, to where Cronus had once stood.

The god king was nowhere to be seen.

“Cronus. Cronus!” Scarlet shouted.

In the next instant, the fields disappeared and walls of gray stone rose at Gideon’s sides. Gideon whipped around, taking in his new surroundings. His bedroom, he realized. His bedroom in Buda.

Moonlight seeped from the window, illuminating his furnishings. A platform bed with a brown-and-white comforter. Two nightstands, both marred by the knives he constantly tossed at them. One balanced a red lamp that had a chink on its left side. One held a bowl of candy bars.

There was his dresser, his scuffed leather chair. His closet stuffed with more weapons than clothing. The doorway to his bathroom.

Home. He was home. But it didn’t feel like home without Scarlet. Where was she? Had Cronus left her there, in that field? Alone with her grief? He roared as Lies had done earlier, enraged, helpless, desperate. He would—


Scarlet appeared in the center of his room, and Gideon breathed a sigh of relief. Except…

Her tears were gone. Her horror and hurt, vanished. Her face was a blank canvas, completely devoid of emotion.

“Scar,” he began, rushing toward her.

Her gaze met his, and she held up one hand to ward him off. “I wish you a safe and happy life, Gideon. Nothing more needs to be said.” She tried to pass him, but he latched onto her arm, stopping her.

“Where aren’t you going?”


No way in hell. He knew her, knew she planned to hunt and torture her mother and aunt for what they’d done to her. “We’ll kiss them together.” Kill them together. “No?”

“No.” Something in her eyes hardened. Like liquid cooling and solidifying into steel. Steel was the perfect name for any child of hers. She was stubborn to her very core. “I’ll take care of my mother and aunt.”

His grip tightened, and he jerked her into the inflexible line of his body. She slammed into him with a huff, but refused to look up at him. Her gaze remained on the wild pulse at the base of his neck.

He was panting, he realized. In fear that he wouldn’t be able to reach her. In arousal. She smelled of the ambrosia fields and radiated warmth. “You must have heard me correctly. We’ll kiss them together.”

Finally, her gaze lifted. Pinpricks of red flashed every few seconds, as if her demon was ready to break free. “After I kill my aunt, I’m going to find a way to remove my memories. All of them. I want a fresh start, a clean slate. Because right now I have no idea what’s real and what’s fake. I don’t know, and it’s killing me. Do you understand? It’s killing me.”

His own anger draining, he kissed her forehead. “I’m not sorry. So not sorry, devil. You can’t let me help you kiss her, okay?” The other thing, well, he’d die before he allowed Scarlet’s memories of him to be taken.

A tremor rocked her; she gulped. “How can you want to help me after everything I’ve done to you?”

“I don’t…like you. I don’t miss him, too.”

He didn’t have to elaborate. She knew who “him” was. Once again, tears pooled in her eyes. He’d never thought to be glad to see a woman cry, but her sadness was much easier to take than her emotional barrenness.

“He wasn’t real,” she whispered, hands clutching Gideon’s shirt and twisting.

“You’re right. He wasn’t.”

“I know— Wait. What?” She blinked in surprise. He could only speak in lies, so what he’d said should have felled him. But he was still standing, still strong.

“Steel wasn’t real. To the two of us, in our hearts, he wasn’t real.”

The tears spilled down her cheeks.

“We won’t make them pay for this, devil. I just need you to…not trust me.” Trust me, please.

“They manipulated me,” she said, the melted metal he’d seen in her face bleeding into her voice. “Laughed at me all these years. Why? What did I ever do to them?”