- The Darkest Lie
The dream continued, her aunt now unable to wake.
Mnemosyne saw herself on the heavenly throne, queen to gods and mortals alike. She issued orders that were instantly obeyed, and poems were composed about her beauty. Though she was mistress to Cronus in reality, Cronus wasn’t the man she truly desired. That honor belonged to the Titan god of Strength, Atlas. He was a handsome man with dark hair and eyes a darker shade of blue than Gideon’s, and he sat at her right-hand side, worshipping her.
So tranquil the scene was, so hopeful.
Scarlet wanted to scream. Her aunt didn’t deserve such accolades, even in her dreams. Not after everything she’d done. Not after the pain she had caused.
Scowling, Scarlet held out her hands and began wiping away the background. Atlas was the first to go, then the golden throne, then the palace. Thorns and fire sprouted in their place. She placed Mnemosyne in the center of those scorching flames, watching as they licked her aunt’s body, burning away her skin, her beauty.
Mnemosyne shrieked in terror, in utter agony. So real was the dream, her skin would be melting in reality. It wouldn’t kill her, Scarlet wouldn’t allow the flames to last that long, but it would horrify the bitch to see herself in the morning. To see her pretty looks gone and a revolting hag in her place. Yes, that skin would regenerate. But until it did… Scarlet laughed.
Nightmares danced inside her head, loving every moment of this. More!
“My pleasure.” With only a thought, Scarlet dismissed the blaze.
Moaning, her aunt fell to the ground, her knees too weak to hold her up. Scarlet walked to her, unhurried, rearranging the scene with every step. The plain gray walls of Tartarus formed, followed by the many cots that had filled their shared cell. Next, Cronus and Rhea appeared, arguing in a corner.
Lastly, Scarlet added herself. Bedraggled, dirty, a slave collar around her neck, and hair in tangles to her waist. When she’d reached adulthood, her mother had stopped arranging for her head to be shaved. Allowing Scarlet to be pestered by other prisoners had been more important to Rhea than being the fairest in the realm. The guards hadn’t wanted to help Scarlet, either, and getting her hands on a blade had been impossible. Cutting it had become a luxury and one of the first things she’d done upon her release.
In the vision, she pressed her back against the bars and peered down at her aunt.
“Remember this?” she asked. “Our centuries of slavery?”
Mnemosyne barely had the strength to look up, but look up she did, hate glinting in her eyes. She was laboring for every breath, and tears were streaming down her ruined cheeks. Those salty droplets had to sting.
“Either you find me,” Scarlet told her, crouching down to her level and cupping her chin despite her aunt’s flinch to avoid contact, “or I come to you every time you fall asleep. If you thought the flames were bad, wait until you see what I have planned next.”
“Bitch,” Mnemosyne choked out. Strands of hair were charred to her skull, her cheeks sunken, some of her bones visible. “Cronus will kill you when he sees what you’ve done to me.”
Slowly she smiled. “Good. I look forward to his attempts. Meanwhile, enjoy your first taste of tomorrow’s entertainment.”
With that, Scarlet threw her aunt to the wolves. Literally.
GIDEON LASTED three days. Three damn days. Once he’d regained his strength, he’d helped fortify the fortress, had snuck into town on several occasions to hunt for Hunters, had found a few stragglers, interrogated them, hadn’t learned anything, and had killed them.
Now, he was going after Scarlet.Her memories of him were her own creation, and yeah, she now knew they were false memories. Fake or not, though, she had constructed some really good times between them. And she had to want him still. Even though she’d thought he had left her in prison, even though she’d thought he had betrayed her with countless women, she had come to Budapest for him.
He could do no less for her.
The simple fact was, he loved her. Loved her with every breath in his body, every cell in his blood, every bone and organ he possessed. He loved her to the depths of his very soul. Had only taken five minutes after she’d walked away to realize it.
She was strong and courageous, she understood him in a way no one else ever had. She teased him and never seemed annoyed that he couldn’t tell the truth. No, she was amused.
She was beautiful and fit him perfectly. He couldn’t think straight when she was gone because he could only think of her. Could only wonder where she was and what she was doing. Wonder if she missed him, needed him, thought of the pleasure they’d brought each other and could bring each other again.
All he had to do was find her.
No, Lies said on a sigh of contented agreement. No, thank you.
No thanks needed, buddy.
Where was she? Determined, Gideon massaged the back of his neck. He could reason this out. Scarlet wanted to destroy the goddess of Memory; the last person to see the goddess had been Cronus. In the heavens. Only immortals who could flash or had wings could enter on their own, and neither applied to Scarlet. So she would have needed help.
She would have known Cronus wouldn’t aid her. She would have then turned to her mother, as she’d done when looking for Gideon. Except, would the god queen help her again? Scarlet was now bent on her destruction, as well.
So, probably not.
Who did that leave?
Damn it. He could think of no one. Which put him right back at square one. She’d never mentioned a friend or ally.
Didn’t matter, though. He was still going after her. If he had to tear the world apart, he would. And there was someone who could give him a starting place.
Gideon strode to Torin’s room. Before he could raise his hand to knock, his friend called, “Enter.” Cameras, he realized, and wanted to smack himself on the head. Should have thought of this before.
Excitement suddenly overwhelmed Gideon. Maybe tearing through the planet wouldn’t be necessary. Shaking now, he twisted the knob and stepped inside, then shut the door behind him.
“Expected you before this,” Torin said, swiveling in his chair. Twined hands rested on his middle, and that should have made him the picture of relaxed male. Only, his cheeks were flushed, his eyes were glassy and he couldn’t quite catch his breath.
Behind him, one of the computer screens played a YouTube video titled House of Witches—A Peaceful Night at Home.
Gideon saw women. Lots and lots of sexy women. Some were drinking champagne—from the bottle—some were dancing provocatively, but all were laughing uproariously.
“Show ’em what you got, Carrow!” someone called.
A black-haired stunner with green eyes came into sizzling focus and simply lifted her top, flashing a buxom pair of breasts as she shouted, “Whoohoo!” Then she paused with her chest still bared and said, “Post this without sharing the profits, and I’ll cut off your—”
“Damn it.” Torin swung around, pressed a few buttons, and the computer screen went blank. “I thought I’d turned that off,” he muttered as he once again faced Gideon.
I’m not even gonna ask. “So, uh, how isn’t everyone today?” All the Lords checked in with Torin at least once a day, so Gideon decided to get business out of the way before he made his “I’m outta here” announcement.
“Alive. That’s all I know. Though Strider texted me to say he would soon be coming home with a ‘prezie’ for everyone.”
A present? His curiosity was piqued, but Gideon only nodded. “Listen, there’s not something I need to tell you about—”
“Stop right there.” Torin held up a hand. “No need to bungle through something in a language I’m still having trouble deciphering. Like I said, I expected you before this. I heard about your ‘wife’ and I’m honestly surprised you lasted this long. Kane, Cameo and I have got things under control here. Since Strider took a page from Gwen’s book and played Goodbye Trachea with everyone surrounding the fortress, no one’s tried to attack us, and I’ve seen nothing to indicate that anyone will in the near future. So go get your woman. If you can convince her to join us, everyone will stop running to me and begging me to talk some sense into you and lock her up. It’s not like she’s tried to hurt us, anyway, you know?”
Relief speared him so intensely he almost dove into his friend for a bear hug. “I hate you, man. You don’t know that, right?”
Torin grinned, all pearly whites. “Now that I have no trouble deciphering. I hate you, too. But get all thoughts of hugging me out of your head. Yeah, I can tell you want to. I’m not the hugging type. I really will kill you with kindness.”
Might be worth it. “I wouldn’t, you know,” he said in all seriousness. “Hug you, I mean. Wouldn’t plant a big wet one right on your lips, either.” Which meant he totally would. Because really, he would still be able to kiss Scarlet. Yeah, he’d be infected and that would infect her, but neither of them would die from it, and then neither of them would ever be able to touch anyone else.
He liked the thought of having Scarlet all to himself.
The keeper of Disease puckered up. “In that case, don’t let me stop you. It’s been a while, so I’m desperate. Even you look good at this point.”
Gideon wasn’t sure Torin had ever been kissed, but found himself grinning, as well. “You are—”
“Lies!” a hard voice shouted from outside, echoing from Torin’s speakers. “Lies! I know you’re in there. Come out right now. Come out and face me, you mangy coward!”
Amusement fading, Torin swung around and eyed the computer monitors. Gideon edged in beside him for a closer look and what he saw astonished him. Galen, keeper of Hope, leader of the Hunters, was hovering outside the fortress, white wings flapping frantically.
Usually the warrior wore a pristine white robe. To better match the angels and gods, Gideon suspected. Today, that robe was covered in soot and blood and frayed at the hem.
“You won’t kill me,” the keeper of Hope shouted, arms splayed, blades gleaming in both hands. His pale hair stood on end, and his sky-blue eyes were wild. There was a fanatical glint in his eyes. “I’ll make sure of it.”