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Her bitter laugh shut him up. “Guess what? I lied to Mother Dearest. Besides that, you and I don’t have a past,” she continued before he could respond. “We’re attracted to each other, yes, but that will fade. Right now I’m just the shiny new toy who gets you and your sidekick, and that’s got to be a relief for you. But we have different goals, and that’s what matters. I’m going to kill my mother and my aunt, even if it takes an eternity. You’re going to protect your friends.”

Shiny new toy. Fuck that! He popped to his knees, dislodging the sheet completely. Yeah, his erection stretched toward her, and yeah, she noticed, even backed up a step, but he didn’t cover it. Let her see what the shiny new toy did to him.

Don’t grab her, Lies commanded.

Grab her? He’d lose an arm. We have to finesse this. “Clearly you’re thinking this through rationally, Scar. You don’t follow through with your promise, and you’ll live happily ever after.” One thing he knew. For immortals, a broken vow was fatal. He’d imprisoned many Greeks for just such a crime. Therefore, Scarlet would be following through. “Second, you face your aunt and she won’t give you new memories. She won’t beat you.” Gideon, too, laughed bitterly. They both knew her ass would be handed to her. “She won’t chain you to a leash of her choosing.”

“I know what she can do now. I know what to guard against.”

Oh, really? “Having trouble recalling what happened today?”

She squared her shoulders and raised her chin. “I told you. I’m prepared now.”

“That’ll make a difference.” No fucking difference at all! Why couldn’t she see that?

“Well, failure is a chance I’m willing to take.”

Well, he damn well wasn’t. “Don’t stay here with me, and I won’t help you defeat her.” Then, whatever. “We’re weaker together, you know we are.” They were stronger. “I mean, I did nothing to help you come to your senses last time, right?” He’d done everything.

Fury sparked in her eyes as she crossed her arms over her chest. “And just how long would you expect me to stay?”

He didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He didn’t know how long he’d need to guard the fortress and everyone inside. Didn’t know how much time would pass before Amun returned.

“That’s what I thought,” she said and turned away. The elegant curve of her back had him sweating, and those tattoos…he’d never licked them, never given them the attention they deserved. One day. One day he’d devote an entire night to her back. If she let him. “You’d keep me here indefinitely, and that I won’t allow. I’m going.”

Yes. Yes, let her go. Stop her.


“I’m going,” she repeated, but still she didn’t storm off. “Yes. I’m going.” One step, two. Hesitant. As if she warred with herself. Or perhaps her demon.

His own demon whimpered.

She took another step, still hesitant. And then silence, waiting. Maybe he’d gotten to her. Maybe—

She fisted her hands and strode into the closet. Clothing whooshed. A growl. Stop her, Lies gritted out, and it was the first time in all their centuries together that the demon had told the truth. Please.

Gideon blinked in shock, even as the demon screamed in pain. Pain that radiated through his entire body. A grunt escaped him, his muscles seeming to rip from his bones, his bones seeming to pop out of his skin.

“No,” he barked. “No!”



Another grunt. Black winked over his vision. Shut up! We have to stay strong. Stop…

The sweat poured from him, little rivers all over his body. “Don’t give me…a couple days…to learn more about…what’s going on and do…what I can to help…so I can’t leave with…a clear conscience.” He could barely get the words out.

She leaned out of the closet, brow furrowed. “What’s wrong with you?”


A moment passed as she waited for him to elaborate. “Are you in pain?”


Again she waited. Again he offered nothing more. He didn’t want her pity. Didn’t want her having to take care of him. He wanted her to view him as the warrior he was.

She frowned, looked away. “Listen. We both know the truth. You can’t leave this place with a clear conscience. No matter how long I give you. And no, I’m not doing this to be cruel. Please believe that,” she whispered, then ducked back inside, disappearing from view.


Shut up! Panting, almost wheezing, he said, “I have slept…with very few women.” Many. “All of them made me feel…utterly satisfied.” He’d been pleasured, yes, but always hollow and lonely. “But with you, it’s all physical.” It wasn’t. “I don’t admire your strength…and your courage and fuck, I don’t want…to see your smile.” He did. More than anything.

“You don’t know me,” she called, but there was a tremble in her voice.

“And I don’t…want to.” Fuck. He wouldn’t be able to stay awake much longer. Took every ounce of strength he possessed to get to his feet.

“Shut up! Just shut up. I have to leave.” A pause. A sniff. “I have to.” Another whisper.

No! A scream.

Gideon roared as more of that awful pain raged through him. “Morning won’t…arrive soon. Don’t wait another day at least.” Stay forever.

“Damn it, Gideon. What’s wrong with you? Tell me this time.” Soft black material hanging from her fingers, she once again leaned out. “Please.”

“Don’t stay,” he gritted out.

A frustrated sigh met his words. “The moon is high. I’ve got several hours to find someplace safe. I’ll be fine, so there’s no need to worry about me if that’s what you’re doing.”

Maybe he could stall her. Keep her talking until the sun rose and she drifted to sleep. “How did your demon…know I love spiders…so much?” It was the first question that popped into his head.

“My demon just knows. My demon always knows. Why are you afraid of them? I’ve wondered.”

He liked that she’d wondered about him. Even about that. “Before my possession —” after “—and never…at random times—” always “—I wouldn’t feel them…crawling all over me. I wouldn’t bat them away…and many more wouldn’t take their place.”

She disappeared back inside the closet. Something clanked. There was a muttered curse.

What else could he ask her? His brain was fogged, clouded by the pain, but surely there was something. “So why…” Damn it. What? “Why—”

“Stop. Just stop. You’ve never been this talkative before, so I know what you’re trying to do.” A gun clicked, metal slid against leather, and then she finally emerged fully.

Her hair was anchored in a ponytail at the base of her neck. She wore another of his T-shirts and a fresh pair of his sweatpants. Both were rolled to fit her shorter, smaller frame. In several places, there was a telltale bulge. Looked like she was stealing…four of his weapons. Not that he cared.

Gideon wanted to close the distance, grab her up and remind her of just how good it was between them. Weakened and hurting as he was, though, his knees finally gave out and he collapsed to the ground.

With a cry of concern, she stepped toward him. Just before contact, however, she stopped herself. Backed away. “Please understand, Gideon.” Cold, so cold, and that was far worse than her lack of emotion. “It has to be this way. Being with you…hurts. There’s just too much in the way. I’m too much of a liability to you. And I know that isn’t your fault, it’s mine, but that doesn’t change anything.”

Every instinct he possessed yearned to tell her she wasn’t a liability. But he couldn’t. Truth or lie, she would know his meaning. NeeMah influenced her too easily. That didn’t mean Scarlet wasn’t worth the risk.

She was worth every risk.

But he wanted her to be happy, even if that meant upsetting himself, and she didn’t think she could be happy with him. It hurt her.

The thought of her hurting utterly destroyed him. She’d endured far too much already.

“Besides,” she continued in that cold, detached way. Frowning, she rubbed her temple, as if her head were aching. Or perhaps, as he’d suspected, her demon was as loud and upset as his own. “Like I told you, I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure my memory is wiped clean. If I have to break into Tartarus and abduct the Greek god of Memory, I will. And when it’s done, I won’t remember you, so there’s no reason to start something that has no future.”

No, no, no. From the demon and Gideon. And yet…

Cringing at the effort required to move, he waved his arm toward the door. “Stay, then.” If she needed to leave to find happiness, so be it. But when he healed, when the fortress was fortified, he would go after her. Somehow, some way, he’d prove he could make her happy, too. Wiping her memory, though, wasn’t going to happen. Ever.

“Goodbye, Gideon,” she said, then hesitated only a moment before walking away from him and out of his room.

No! No! Mine. Come back! Lies shouted, and that was the last thing Gideon knew.


THE OLD MATTRESS squeaked as the punked-out female thrashed atop it, lost in what was probably a bloody, violent nightmare. I’ll have to thank Gideon’s woman later, Strider thought, just in case she was responsible. And he didn’t feel bad for the lack of compassion.

He had studied his bounty while she’d slept. Every inch of her, even peeling back her clothes for a look at all the hidden places. Weapons could be stored anywhere. Some would say he had no scruples, and he would agree. He didn’t. Not with this woman. Never with this woman.He now knew who she was, and she didn’t deserve leniency from him. She deserved the sting of his blade.