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“They aren’t monsters.” They were. Far greater than any demon he had encountered. “It had everything to do with you.” Nothing to do with his darling Scarlet. With his free hand, he threaded his fingers through her hair, once again offering what comfort he could. He didn’t dare release her at any point or she’d bolt. “They didn’t get one thing right, though. As far as I’m concerned, we aren’t really married.”

Her brow furrowed, but the rest of her sagged. “You’re saying you consider us married?”

Rather than try and explain in Gideon Speak, he nodded.

“Hell, no,” she said vehemently. She pounded a fist into his chest. “No.”

Not the reaction he’d expected. Or wanted. The words had flowed of their own accord. Natural, meant to be. He’d considered it before, but now he knew. He would have her, in every way. Whatever it took.

“The two of us?” she continued. “We’re done. We’re over. Not that we ever got started.”

Hardly. “You’re right.”

Her eyes narrowed, wet lashes nearly fusing together. “Now you listen to me. We’re lucky we escaped an eternal pairing. We’re terrible for each other. All wrong.” She laughed and the sound reminded him of a harbinger’s bell. A sound some immortals heard just before they died. “No wonder you didn’t notice me the night I first sought you out.”

He arched a brow. What night?

“You were at a club,” she answered, though he hadn’t spoken the question aloud. “And you nailed a human female in a shadowed corner, where anyone could have seen you. Where I saw you.”

Once, public sex had been a usual occurrence in his life. So, he shouldn’t have been able to isolate a single night in his memory and know, know Scarlet had been there. But suddenly he could.

An evening like any other, ambrosia-laced alcohol and sex his focus. Yet there’d been a thick cloud of darkness next to his table, one his eyes hadn’t been able to pierce. He’d thought his excess had addled his mind. Especially when the scent of orchids had wafted to his nose. When Lies had tried to jump out of his skull. When his cock had throbbed unbearably.

“I didn’t sense you,” he said. “Didn’t take someone else, thinking she was responsible for the lust I was feeling when in truth, she was—” not “—and you weren’t.” Were.

“I—I— Still.” Color bloomed in her cheeks, twin pink circles of embarrassment. “We’re still wrong for each other.”

“Right again.” And suddenly, all he could think about was her earlier words about how he couldn’t possibly want her because he’d never tried to penetrate her.

That’s what he got for being considerate. For giving her time.

Well, bye-bye consideration. He was taking what he wanted. All of what he wanted. He was going to have this woman, and she was going to accept him. She was going to admit that they belonged together. That they were perfect for each other. Everything else could be figured out later.

Was there anything to figure out, though? She amused him, delighted him, set his blood on fire. She never backed down, didn’t fear any part of him. Even his demon. She met him challenge for challenge. Was probably stronger than he was.

More than that, they both needed comforting right now, and there was only one way to achieve it. In bed.

Without a word, Gideon anchored both of his hands on Scarlet’s waist and tossed her atop the bed in question. She bounced on the mattress, but when she finally stilled, she didn’t scramble off; she just peered over at him, confused.

“What are you doing?” she asked in a husky voice.

“Finishing this,” he said, advancing on her. Finally, he was beginning it.


WIN, WIN, WIN. Have to win.

“I know.” Sweat poured down Strider’s face and chest as he rounded a corner, slowed his sprint to a frantic walk and pressed into the shadows cast by a looming column. Thankfully, he’d realized he had tails—four of them, to be exact—before reaching the Temple of the Unspoken Ones. So he’d changed directions and now found himself in the historic district of Rome, miles from the island, a gawking crowd around him, eyeing the towering white remains of the Temple of Vesta and taking pictures so they’d always remember the moment. Blending in was kind of a problem. He was taller than everyone around him and thicker with muscle.But he would have liked to gawk, as well. He had helped build that temple, after all. After he’d helped destroy the one that had been erected before it. Not that he’d ever be given credit. Not that he wanted credit.

Good deeds could ruin a man’s rep. ’Cause really, a sensitive warrior would not elicit fear inside the hearts of Hunters.

Fear was sometimes the only thing that kept those Hunters at bay.

Strider had been warring with them for thousands of years. In the old days, they’d followed him from one city to another, blood and screams and death in their wake. Buildings had been razed, history tainted. He and his friends had retaliated so savagely, so brutally, he’d thought his enemy exterminated.

Several years of peace had followed. Years his demon had basked in, high from victory. But of course, the hiding survivors one day forgot their fear and rose again. Attacked again. The war resumed as if it had never ceased.

Win, win, win, the demon of Defeat chanted inside his head. Must win. “I fucking know.” But the Cloak of Invisibility was currently in his possession. He couldn’t chance being injured and immobilized in a fight. Which meant he had to run.

Gods, he hated running.

If he could just find a moment alone, he could drape himself with the stupid Cloak and disappear, then forget this had ever happened. That he’d ever been spotted, shot at, and now, cornered.

Only thing that stopped him from withdrawing the thing that very second was the possibility that the Hunters following him didn’t know he had it. No reason to show it to them and add fuel to their determination.

He tried to be gentle with humans as he pushed his way through them. Some muttered about his rudeness, others turned to yell at him only to zip their mouths when they got a glimpse of him. Dark as his expression was, he probably looked capable of murder.

Fitting. He was.

Had the Hunters found Lucien and Anya, wherever the couple had gone? Had they found Reyes and Danika? Soon as he was safe, he was going to call them, warn them that the enemy could be near.

The soles of his boots thumped against the paved streets of the Forum. Birds squawked and flew away. Sunlight speared the ground and bounced up, and he had to blink rapidly to wet his stinging corneas. If he could make it another few blocks, he would reach the Aedes Divi Iuli. He could lose himself in the ruins, something the Hunters chasing him couldn’t do.

At least, he didn’t think so. He knew this land because he had once lived on it. They hadn’t.

Pop. Whiz.

Silencers. “Shit!” The curse flew from his mouth as a sharp sting lanced the back of his shoulder. Accompanying the sting was a warm rush of liquid. Finally, they’d nailed him. As many times as he’d been peppered with bullets in the past, he knew the feeling. Shit. Shit!

Win. Win!

“I will.” Perhaps he should have gone to the States. Bigger crowds, larger land mass. Easier to lose oneself. But he’d wanted to chat with the Unspoken Ones. See if he could convince them to change the terms of their bargain. Like, rather than bring them Cronus’s head, freeing them and most likely endangering the entire world, maybe they would be happy ruling over their own realm or something. If he could get them to agree, he could go to Cronus and present the option.

Thankfully, he’d noticed his tail before he’d reached the temple and headed for the Roman Forum. The damage he could have caused had he unintentionally allowed his enemy to hear his plan was too vast to consider just then.


“Give me a minute.” What to do, what to do. He was wearing that fucking butterfly necklace, so Cronus wouldn’t know where he was or what was going down. Which meant Cronus wouldn’t be popping in and saving the day. And Strider couldn’t take the necklace off because Rhea could then pop in and ruin the day.

Pop. Whiz.

Another sharp sting, this one in his calf. He stumbled, but kept moving.


“I told you. I’m on it.” Looked like he’d have to use the Cloak of Invisibility, moment alone or not.

Strider reached into his pants pocket—damn it, his hand was shaking—and withdrew the small square of gray cloth. Surprised him every time he saw the thing. How could so powerful an artifact come in so small a package?

Someone stepped into his path, and Strider simply barreled through him. Another pop and whiz rang out. Humans might not recognize the muffled sounds, but they recognized danger and raced for cover.

Strider spun to the right just as a bullet soared past him. Plumes of dust and debris rained around him as the bullet lodged in rock.

Defeat laughed like a kid who’d just opened his Christmas present early and found out he’d gotten exactly what he’d asked Santa for. Winning!

Quickening his steps, he tossed a glance over his shoulder. There were four Hunters, three males and one female, racing after him, spreading out to engulf him from all sides, darting through the crowd as if they had done so a million times before.

A plan began to form in Strider’s mind, and he grinned. He wouldn’t need the Aedes Divi Iuli, after all. He took the next corner as if his feet were on rails and shook open the Cloak. The more he shook, the more the Cloak unraveled. The more it unraveled, the bigger it got. Soon, it was large enough to cover his entire body.

“Did you see that? He’s got the Cloak!” one of the males shouted. “Kill him!”

“No mercy!”

Win, win, win.

More pops. More whizzes. So many he couldn’t keep track. A few weeks ago, Hunters would’ve done everything in their power to keep him alive. Capture him, yes, but also ensure he lived. They’d feared freeing his demon and unleashing its evil upon an unsuspecting world. Except, Galen had found a way to pair the freed demons with new hosts. His plan? To pair them with people of his choosing. Humans who would follow his every command.