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Was this a dream? Nothing like this had ever happened before. Galen operated in the shadows, always sending humans to do his dirty work. But the warrior had never, never openly challenged the Lords.

“He’s completely sane, right?” Gideon asked. The guy was batshit crazy.

“I don’t know why he’s singled you out.” Torin typed furiously at his keyboard. “There aren’t any Hunters on the ground that I can see. Still, I wouldn’t trust him not to have backup hiding somewhere.”

“Lies! Either you come out here and fight me or I burn your home to the ground.”

“This has to be a trick,” Torin insisted. “Or he would have already tried to burn us to the ground, rather than simply threatening to do so.”

Trick or not, Gideon couldn’t miss this opportunity. Capturing Galen could end the war with the Hunters. Successfully. And ultimately, that would eliminate one of the threats against Scarlet.

“I can try to shoot him down,” Torin said, “and you can—”

“Yes.” If Torin missed, the bastard might run away. Again. “Don’t let me do it. My aim’s not better.”


Torin nodded. “Just to be safe, I’m texting Kane and Cameo. I’m telling them to head into the forest and ensure you aren’t ambushed.”

“No, thanks. Now don’t tell our friend I’ll be out in five.”

Torin nodded again and rushed to comply.

Gideon raced to his bedroom. He was already swathed in weapons since a warrior could never be too careful, but he grabbed his RPG and a grenade and grinned. He hadn’t gotten to use this baby in a long, long time, Sabin having deemed it too dangerous to fire off with innocents around.

Today, there were no innocents around.

He sprinted to the side of the fortress that Galen occupied and hunkered down at the highest window, placing him above the Hunter. Galen was watching the ground, expecting him to emerge from the front door. Fool. As quietly as possible, Gideon raised the window-pane and edged the end of the barrel between the slit in the curtains.

“Lies!” the frantic immortal shouted. “Coward! Face me, damn you!”

Coward? No. He was smart. Gideon loaded the grenade in front, rested the heavy launcher on his shoulder, aimed, held steady, held, grinned again as Galen appeared in the crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger.


Strong as Gideon was, he was propelled backward with the force of the grenade, but he straightened quickly and surveyed his handiwork through the smoke left behind.

He’d hit his target, tossing Galen several yards, spinning him through the air, and causing an explosion of fire and soot in the sky. That would have killed a mortal. Galen, however, was cut and bruised and now missing a hand—payback was a bitch—but he wasn’t out for the count.

He just looked pissed.

With a roar, the now-flaming warrior propelled himself through the window in the next room over. Glass shattered, and there was a grunt, then pounding footsteps rained. Gideon palmed two daggers and darted into the hall, the portraits and freshly polished tables blurring at his sides.

He met his enemy in the middle of the walkway, flying to the ground in a punching, kicking, stabbing heap. Galen’s wings were broken, and his mangled wrist was gushing blood that soaked into Gideon’s clothes, warm and wet. There was a smoking hole in his shoulder where the rocket must have hit first, yet his strength was undisturbed. Determination would do that.

“You won’t take my head,” the keeper of Hope roared, swinging with his good hand. He’d managed to maintain a hold on his blade and now sliced the side of Gideon’s face. His cheek split open, and his own blood began to gush.

With a roar of his own, Gideon slashed his knives forward. One cut at Galen’s neck, slicing to spine, and the other at his uninjured shoulder. This man had been his friend for many years, yet he’d been Gideon’s enemy for thousands more. No love remained. No fond memories.

They would end this. Here, now.

Galen flailed for breath, clutching at his now-open neck. Gideon disengaged and stood, panting, sweating, bleeding, staring down at the man responsible for so much of his suffering.

Had Galen not existed, he never would have thought to steal and open Pandora’s box. He would have remained in the heavens, a soldier to Zeus. Perhaps he would have finally noticed Scarlet and freed her as she’d dreamed. Perhaps they would have lived happily ever after.

Or perhaps he would have been locked away when the Titans escaped Tartarus. Then again, perhaps the Titans wouldn’t have escaped if he and the other warriors had been there. But that didn’t matter. What was done, was done. Now, he had a chance to make things right.

In the background, Gideon could hear the thump of two pairs of boots and knew Kane and Cameo were running to help him. He laughed. So simple, so easy this seemed. This man had eluded him, caused trouble from afar, but had been taken down in a matter of minutes.

Life just didn’t get any better than that.

He raised his blade. One more strike, and Galen would be out for a long, long time. Time the Lords could use to decide whether or to not kill him and free his demon. Time for Gwen, his daughter, to say goodbye.

Of course, that was when Rhea, the god queen, suddenly appeared in a flash of bright azure light. She was pale and shaky, her face tight with a scowl. Had she been watching the entire time?

“How dare you!” she cried. “He is my warrior. Mine. You were not to hurt him. But now…now you will pay.”

In the next instant, Gideon found himself swept from the fortress and imprisoned inside a four-by-four cage, bars on every side, above and below, and looking into a palatial bedroom of velvet and marble. Ambrosia scented the air, and paintings of Titan gods decorated the walls. There was a four-poster bed with a lacy pink canopy, and a crystal chandelier that hung from the ceiling by a single vine of ivy. That ceiling, however, was clear and domed, and peered into a lovely blue sky.

Shit! Victory, gone. Defeat, his. All in a blink. He almost couldn’t believe it. Hoped this was only a dream. A nightmare of Scarlet’s creating. But deep down he knew she wouldn’t do that to him. This was real. He had lost.

Be careful what you wish for, he thought bitterly. He’d wanted someone to take him back to the heavens so that he might search for Scarlet, and now he was there. Only, he was at the god queen’s mercy.

Not that she had any.


GIDEON WAS left alone in the cage for several hours. Alone in the bedroom, too. He didn’t have to wonder where Rhea was, though; he could guess. She was with Galen, seeing to his health. He’s my warrior, she’d cried. Mine. You were not to hurt him.

What he did wonder about was whether or not he was trapped in something akin to the Cage of Compulsion that Lucien was in the process of hiding, where the prisoner was compelled to do whatever the owner of said cage wanted. He’d rather cut out his heart than become Rhea’s slave.He wanted her head on a platter. A platter he would then gift to Scarlet as a token of his affection. Scarlet…

Where was she? What was she doing? He would speculate every day until he saw her. It wasn’t that he was worried about her, either. The girl could take care of herself better than anyone he’d ever met. He simply missed her. She was a part of his life now. The best part.

He wanted to create new memories with her. Real memories, better than the ones she’d woven herself. He wanted to be there for her and make up for all the years he’d ignored her while she rotted in Tartarus.

First, though, he had to escape this fucking hell hole.

“Ray!” he shouted, shaking the bars. Gods, he reminded himself of Galen. Frantic, desperate. “Ray!”

Once again, a bright azure light filled his line of vision. Gideon remained on his knees, though he hated to do so. But there was no room in the cage, and standing wasn’t an option.

Rhea appeared in the center of the bedroom, her pretty features tired and tight, her dark hair in tangles. No more gray, he realized. She wore a white robe that was stained with blood and soot. So yep, she’d been with Galen.

“You rang?” Hate and smugness mixed in her tone, creating a timbre that scraped at his ears. “So eager for your punishment?”

He knew no one would be swooping in to rescue him. He’d tried to remove his butterfly necklace, which blocked his whereabouts from all immortals, but somehow, some way, the metal had been fused together and now refused to part. He couldn’t even lift the links over his head.

Rhea’s doing, he was sure.

His guess? She didn’t want Cronus finding him or even knowing what she did to him.

She waved her hand through the air and, shockingly, the bars around him disappeared. Since the bars behind him had been holding him up, he fell to his ass. Gideon was quick to recover, though, and jumped to his feet. He didn’t have a weapon, as those had been magically removed.

“Smart of you,” he remarked. She was as much a fool as Galen.

“Lunge at me, I dare you,” she replied, remaining in place. Her teeth were bared, as if she couldn’t wait to rip into him and work off a little steam.

He would have loved to accommodate her. He wanted her head on that platter, after all. But he wasn’t Strider, and he didn’t have to respond to every challenge. He didn’t have to give the bitch what she wanted. Besides, he didn’t know what powers she possessed, didn’t know what she was capable of, but he did know what her husband could do and if she were anything like him…Gideon shuddered. He would lose before the fight even began.

“Well, coward? Just going to stand there?”

“Yes.” He turned his back on her, heard her insulted gasp of breath and strode to the other side of the room as if he hadn’t a care. He stopped in front of a vanity, lifted a perfume bottle to his nose and sniffed. Grimaced. Did she actually wear this shit? It was potent, like bat wings mixed with eye of newt.

“I have removed all the exits, so wipe all thoughts of escape from your puny mind. You’re as trapped in this room as you were in the cage.”