Page 49

Truth. Lies hissed inside his head. “Sounds wonderful.” He replaced the perfume and lifted a brush. Several strands of hair were intertwined in the bristles.

“What do you mean, wonderful? It’s terrible, and you know it.”

She knew he was possessed by the demon of Lies, she just hadn’t connected the dots yet. Oh, the fun he could have with her, he thought, cutting off his grin before it could form.

“I’m not curious about why you brought me here and what you plan to do with me,” he said.

“Ha! I know better. You’re seething with curiosity.”

He merely shrugged as he tossed the brush back onto the vanity surface, watching as it skidded and crashed into a jar of green paste. Clearly Rhea cared about her appearance. “Actually, I’m seething with worry for Galen. Please tell me he’s recovered, oh, beautiful queen.”

“Liar! You don’t care about Galen.” He never heard the woman move, but in the next instant, she was behind him, claws digging into his neck and whipping him around. “You hate him, want him dead. Well, guess what? You didn’t get your wish. He’s alive, and he will heal.”


She popped her jaw, eyes glittering. “He begged me to kill you. I told him no, that I had other plans for you.”

Again, truth. Lies hissed at her. “Lucky me.”

Scowling, she released him. But not for long. All too soon, she returned her hands to him, but this time, the action wasn’t born of anger but of determination.

“Think yourself unflappable, do you? Well, let’s see what we can do about that. Let’s make you more comfortable.” Her voice had become husky with sensual promise.

Hell. No. Scarlet was the only woman he wanted to bed. But he couldn’t move away from Rhea. Somehow, she had pinned his feet in place. Relax your expression, boy. Don’t let her know she’s getting to you.

One of her fingers traced the center of his T-shirt and the material burned away, the cotton smoldering completely and leaving his chest bare. His skin remained cool to the touch.

Oh, yes, she was powerful.

“Wow. Thanks.” Calm, smooth. No way would he let her know just how much he hated this. “This does feel better.”

Bewildered, she stepped back, widening the distance between them. “I thought you liked my daughter.”


Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What game do you play?”

“No game.” A grin lifted the corners of his lips.

For a long while, she simply stared at him, gauging. Then she squared her shoulders. “You’re lying. You love her. I can tell. But let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?” Gaze never leaving him, she reached for the scooped bodice of her robe and tugged. The material split down the center, drooped from her arms and fell to the floor, leaving her utterly naked.

Gideon’s molars ground together. He could just imagine his confession to Scarlet, because no way would he try and keep something like this a secret. He wanted no secrets between them. Ever. And besides, better she hear this from him than her bitch of a mother who would skew the facts. Hey, devil, your mom—you know, the woman you love so much—didn’t disrobe in front of me and I didn’t see her wax preference.

He’d deserve another fork to the chest.

“Gorgeous, aren’t I?” Rhea smoothed her palms over the jagged butterfly tattoo gracing her breasts and shoulders, then down her sides, over her perfectly curved hips and then inched around to the apex of her thighs, where her fingers dabbled at the fine tuft of dark hair.

Every bit the coward she’d accused him of being, he peered up at the domed ceiling, watching as fluffy white clouds drifted by. Dread bloomed in his veins and spread through his entire body. He could guess where this was heading.

“Well?” she demanded.

“Yeah. Gorgeous.”

“Tsk, tsk. Your tone suggests you’re lying again, but we both know you desire me. And soon Scarlet will know it, too.”

Motherfucker! His guess had been right, then. She planned to rape him. And it would be rape, because there was no way he’d consent. Then she would tattle to her daughter. Mother of the Year Award, meet Rhea. Or not.

Once again, Rhea reached out and touched him. Her fingers danced over the waist of his pants and those, too, burned away, smoldering as they fell, yet leaving his skin cool, unaffected.

“Isn’t that so much bett…er.” A growl of frustration escaped her.

No doubt she’d just seen his flaccid cock. Little Gid would not be responding to her in any way. He almost laughed. Almost. “I hope you feel really good about this,” he said. “About what you’re planning. After all, you haven’t hurt Scarlet nearly enough over the years. And I’m sure she’s deserved everything you’ve done to her. ’Cause she never loved you, did she? Yeah, you should be real proud of yourself, sweetheart.”

With every word he uttered, the queen stiffened a little more. “Finished?” She scraped a nail down his chest, drawing blood this time. Red sparks lit her eyes, revealing the demon she tried so hard to hide.

“Yeah.” Only a few weeks ago, Gideon had learned that Rhea was keeper of the demon of Strife, that she fed off conflict. She couldn’t blame her demon, though. She’d been this much of a bitch before her possession. Look how she’d treated his beautiful Scarlet in prison. What’s more, she could have controlled her darker impulses, but had simply chosen not to. He and his friends were proof of that.

Reyes’s demon, Pain, had once wanted to hurt everyone it encountered. Reyes had learned to turn that desire inward, cutting himself to save others.

Maddox’s demon, Violence, had once wanted to erupt at every cross word, every accidental touch. But Maddox had learned to hold the rage inside himself.

Lucien’s demon, Death, had once wanted to steal the soul of every human it encountered. Lucien had learned to wait until those humans died before acting on the impulse.

Gideon could go on and on. Every demon-keeper had trials and struggles, but they’d done whatever was necessary to tame their beasts, to corral those darker urges. Rhea could’ve done the same, but she hadn’t. She preferred to create discord, even among those she was supposed to love and protect.

“I’ve figured it out,” Rhea suddenly said with a half smile. “You say the opposite of what you mean. You think Scarlet is innocent. You think I should coddle her. What you don’t know is that she has plotted and planned to destroy me and take my crown. From the very beginning! She even slept with my husband. Your leader.”

Lies. All lies. His demon purred with pleasure, even as Gideon fought a rage like he’d never known before. Not with Scarlet, never Scarlet, but with Rhea. How dare she utter such things about his woman. And yeah, Gideon totally got the irony.

He was tempted, so tempted, to yell at this woman, to tell her his true feelings about her and about his precious Scarlet. He wanted her to know and was more frustrated than ever that he couldn’t say his thoughts outright. Had he not needed to keep his strength around her… But he did. For Scarlet.

Rhea’s head slanted pensively as she reached up and dragged one of her nails along the curve of his jaw. He jerked away from her touch, but not before it burned him, searing his skin and leaving a raw, open wound.

“Well, well. Look who’s willing to believe the best of such a disappointing brat. Stupid of you, but admirable. Perhaps one day you’ll realize your mistake and give me that loyalty.”

Never. “Totally possible.”

She laced her arms around him and pressed her nakedness into his. His cock, of course, remained flaccid. That didn’t deter her, though. She nipped at his bottom lip and rubbed against him, knee sliding up and down his thigh. “My daughter thinks to ruin me in my dreams, you know. I can feel her outside my mind, waiting. But she’ll learn better than to challenge me. Do you want to know how, my darling boy?”

Gods help him.

“Every time she invades my dreams, you will make love to me.” A slow, eager smile lifted her lips. “And believe me, you will.”

He stiffened, though not the way she clearly wanted. “I wouldn’t rather die.” You raging psycho.

“Too bad. I’m not allowed to kill you, just as my husband isn’t allowed to kill my Hunters. But there are other ways to ensure your cooperation.”

He. Would. Fucking. Strangle. Her. With his feet still planted on the ground, he leaned into her, allowing his weight to hit her full force. Because she hadn’t thought to pin his hands, he reached for her, intending to close his fingers around her fragile neck. His hands met some type of invisible block.

A tinkling laugh escaped her. “Silly demon. No harm can befall me inside this room. Why else would I stay here? Now, let me show you why you’ll be making love to me whenever I wish….” One step, two, she backed away from him, forcing him to straighten.

Grinning, she spun in a quick circle. He would have laughed at her cluelessness—grinning? really?—but when she faced him again, she was no longer Rhea. She was Scarlet, and the shock was like a punch in the gut. Suddenly he was looking at Scarlet’s lovely face. Scarlet’s black eyes. Scarlet’s bloodred lips. Scarlet’s flawless skin. Scarlet’s taller and stronger frame. And his body responded!

His horrified study intensified as he desperately searched for an imperfection. Shit, shit, shit. They were the same. Fuck, they were— No. Wait. Rhea lacked Scarlet’s tattoos. Those amazing, lick-right-here tattoos. So, okay. All right. Fine. He could deal with this. They weren’t the same. Down, boy.

“What? You don’t like?” She even spoke in Scarlet’s raspy voice.

“No.” He liked. Fuck, he liked. He’d been so hungry for Scarlet, so damn hungry. And now, here she was, his for the taking. No tattoos, no Scarlet. Don’t forget.

“Not even when I do this?” Watching him as she moved, Rhea slid her fingers up the flat plane of her belly, cupped her breasts and pinched her nipples, hardening them to little pearls.