- The Darkest Lie
“Priest.” Strider’s head slanted thoughtfully. Of course, he ignored Gideon’s questions. Him, though, Gideon easily forgave. “I like it. I mean, it’s practically true. I have sent many women through the gates of heaven.”
Hadn’t they all?
And Scarlet would be no different, he assured himself.
Grinning now, Gideon carried his woman away.
SCARLET AWOKE with a jolt. But then, she always did. The moment her demon’s required time in dreamland ended, awareness would slam into her brain, as if she’d been hooked to a generator and the switch had been flipped.
Panting, sweating, she sat up, wild gaze roving though not really seeing. Yet. The screams she and her demon had garnered from their victims were already fading, but the images they’d projected into those sleeping minds remained in hers. Crackling flames, melting flesh, black ash wafting and dancing in the breeze.The night’s terror du jour had been fire.
She couldn’t control the demon while she slept, as he searched out anyone he could find, wreaking what havoc he could. She could, however, make suggestions, urging him to attack certain people in certain ways. And he usually rushed to do so. Not that she’d made any suggestions lately.
Ever since the Lords of the Underworld had captured her, she’d been operating on autopilot, her thoughts consumed with one warrior in particular. The blue-haired, gorgeous, utterly frustrating Gideon.
Why didn’t he remember her?
As always, recalling his selective amnesia had every muscle in her body tensing on bone. Her hands fisted; her teeth gnashed together, little pains shooting through her jaw. But most of all, a savage need to kill someone, anyone, consumed her.
Anger isn’t good for those around you. Calm down. Think of something else.
She forced her mind to return to her demon; sadly, death and chaos were a much safer topic than that of her husband. During their hours awake—which amounted to twelve each and every day, though not always the same twelve—she pulled the strings. She could summon the darkness, and she could garner the screams. The demon could urge her, and she often heeded those urgings. Turnabout was fair play, after all. And usually, Nightmares liked to urge. Scare him… Make her scream…
But right now, her demon was strangely content.
We’re out of the dungeon, Nightmares said, seeing their surroundings before she could.
Aw. No wonder.
The flames finally died, and Scarlet scanned the area. She frowned. Okay. So. Where the hell was she now?
She’d been locked in that dungeon for several weeks, enclosed in crumbling stone and iron bars. Pained moans had constantly drifted from the other cells, and all kinds of pungent, acrid scents had taken up permanent residence inside her nose.
Now…decadence. Floral paper decorated the walls, and dark velvet curtains hung over the bay windows. There was a glistening, violet chandelier over the bed, the lights shaped like bundles of grapes. And the bed, well, her gaze slid along every inch of it. Large, with soft blue sheets and four hand-carved posters.
Best of all, the air smelled sweet, like those hanging grapes mixed with apples and vanilla. She breathed deeply, savoring. How had she gotten here? Without her knowledge?
Clearly, she’d been carried while she’d slept like the dead. Something she usually despised but couldn’t this time because it meant she’d been set free, just as she’d hoped. Yes, hoped. She hadn’t wanted to remain in that fortress, just to be near Gideon. Really.
Still. While she was lost to the dreams of others—and yeah, no matter what time she slipped into that realm of darkness and turmoil, someone, somewhere was sleeping, the demon feeding off their terror—anyone could attack her, and she would be unable to defend herself. Anyone could do anything to her, and she would be powerless to stop them.
Being moved while she was helpless irked.
Usually she protected herself from just such a situation with shadows. She had only to crook a mental finger just before she drifted and they would envelop her the entire time she slept, making it impossible for anyone to see her. But once she’d realized she was inside Gideon’s home, she’d stopped summoning those shadows.
Perhaps she’d wished, on some level, that watching her while she slept would revive his memory of her. Perhaps she’d wished he would grow to desire her again and beg to be a part of her new life. Which was stupid. The bastard had left her to rot inside Tartarus; she shouldn’t want his desire.
She should want his ruin.
“Well, well. I’m so upset you’re finally awake.”
At the sound of his voice, deep and rumbling, Scarlet stiffened, gaze once again roving. Then, she spotted him, and her heart stopped abruptly. He stood in the bedroom’s doorway, muscled arms hanging loosely. He was a warrior whose wicked face promised incomparable nights of sinful pleasures, his eyes bright with anticipation and contradicting his casual pose.
Gideon. Once her beloved husband, but now a man who deserved only her scorn.
Her heart kicked back into gear, quickly gaining speed, and her blood heated with tendrils of awareness. The same reaction she’d experienced the first time she’d seen him, thousands of years ago.
Not my fault, then or now. There was no man more beautiful, part angel, part devil, and all the more masculine for it. No man who tempted even as he repelled, someplace deep inside a woman warning her of the dangers that awaited her should she succumb to his allure. Dangers she couldn’t help but crave.
He wore a black T-shirt that read “You Know You Want Me,” black pants that bagged just a little and a silver chain belt. There were three piercings in his right eyebrow, and now one in his lip. A hoop. Silver. To match his belt, she thought snidely.
He’d always cared about his appearance, and hadn’t liked being teased about it. Something that had once amused her, for it had showed a softer side of him. A hint of vulnerability.
Today, however, she couldn’t summon any joviality. While he stood there looking as edible as a chocolate truffle dipped in caramel, she probably resembled a gutter rat dipped in sewage. She’d only been able to scrub herself with the water the Lords brought her each evening, so her clothes were wrinkled and dirty and her hair a mass of tangles.
“Got lots to say, huh?” he muttered. “We’re on the right track, then.”
She knew he could only speak lies, so she knew exactly what he meant. He wanted her talking. Keep it cas. Don’t let him know how he affects you. She arched a brow, donning what she hoped was an unconcerned expression. “Remember me yet?” Good. There hadn’t been a single spark of hurt in her tone.
His eyes drained of emotion, making those crystalline orbs look as hard as diamonds. “Of course I do.”
So, no. He didn’t. Bastard. She didn’t allow her expression to change, wouldn’t let him know how much he upset her. “Then why did you take me out of the fortress?” Slowly, purposefully, she traced a finger down the column of her neck, between her breasts, wondering if—yep. His gaze followed the entire way. Did some part of him still find her attractive? “I’m a very dangerous woman.”
“Haven’t been warned about that already.” The words were broken, emerging on a rasp of breath. “And I didn’t remove you to talk comfortably, that’s for sure.”
Not because he’d wanted her, then, but just to appease his curiosity. Her hand fell to her lap. She was not disappointed. This was more of the same, and she’d steeled herself against the mental anguish countless times already. One more time should hardly make a difference.
“You’re a fool if you thought a change of scenery would loosen my tongue.”
Though he remained silent, a muscle ticked in his jaw. He was clearly perturbed.
She offered him a sugar-sweet smile, determined to enjoy the moment. And there was something satisfying about leaving him in the dark, keeping him guessing the way he’d kept her guessing about his whereabouts for thousands of worry-filled years.
Reminded of her worry, that soul-deep, ever-present worry, she couldn’t stop her smile, fake as it was, from vanishing. She even had to press her tongue to the roof of her mouth to stop herself from chomping on it in fury.
“I’ll come back for you,” he’d told her one night. “I’ll set you free, I swear it.”
“No. Don’t go. Don’t leave me here.” Gods, she’d been so whiny back then. But she’d been a prisoner, and he’d been her only bright light.
“I love you too much to be without you for long, sweetheart. You know that. But I have to do this. For both of us.”
Of course, she hadn’t seen or heard from him after that. Not until the Titans escaped Tartarus, a prison for immortals, and wrested control of the heavens from the Greeks. Not until she’d come here to Earth and searched…only to find him carousing for tail at some skanky nightclub.
The fury expanded, dotted her line of vision with red. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Slowly the dots dissipated.
“We’re done here,” she said, though she remained still, gauging his reaction. “You’re not getting what you want, and you’re certainly not keeping me here.”
“Feel free to run from me.” He crossed his arms over his massive chest, pulling the fabric of his shirt tight across his pecs. “You won’t regret it.”
Again, she knew what he meant. Run, and he would ensure she suffered. But she said, “Soon as I stretch, I’ll take you up on that offer and run. Thanks for the suggestion, by the way. I never would have thought of it on my own.”
He growled with frustration and anger, all hint of casualness gone. “I was cruel to bring you here. You don’t owe me a favor in return, so you had better not stay put.”
“We’re in agreement. You’re cruel, and I don’t owe you anything, so I won’t feel obligated to remain.”
Another growl. She tried not to laugh. Damnation, he was still fun to tease.
Fun? Her grin faded a second time. She should hate that he could only speak in lies, not enjoy it. That deceitful tongue of his had once shattered her already fragile heart.