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If this didn’t end soon, the water would lose its potency and nothing would save them.

Can’t let them die. Him, yeah. He welcomed an end. But not his friends. Never his friends. With a roar, Amun raised his arm, blade at the ready. And yes, the voices and images grew in intensity, but he didn’t let either stop him this time. He plowed forward, out of the protective embrace of his friends, and slashed. Slashed and slashed and slashed. Demon after demon fell, grunting, groaning, bleeding at his feet.

By the time he reached the center of them, he was dripping with their fluids, his eyes burning, his mouth filled with the taste of rot, but still he didn’t stop. And soon, he didn’t want to stop. The images…yes, he wanted to kill. He wanted to maim.

He cut off a demon’s arm and grinned. He snapped a demon’s leg in two and laughed. He removed eyeballs, tongues, even private parts, and laughed all the harder. This. Was. Fun.

Fear sparked in their crimson eyes, and they were soon backing away from him. But he was having none of that. Needed more. Was excited. Was imagining all the things he could do to them. They’d scream, they’d beg, they’d bleed. Yes. Fun.

“Stop him!” Lucifer shouted, no longer relaxed. “Take his head.”

“How about we take your head instead?” a new voice proclaimed. “It will look very nice in my trophy case.”

Amun recognized that voice, knew it belonged to someone he admired, but didn’t take time to look at the speaker. So many targets, just waiting for his blade. He sliced a throat, stabbed a heart, felt a warm splatter on his face and licked it away. Delicious.

“Lysander,” Lucifer hissed.

“Oh, Aeron,” a female shouted. “My poor darling. You’re falling apart.”

“Olivia! Get out of here. Go! You shouldn’t see this.”

“Not without you. And if you had any idea what I had to do to convince the Heavenly High Council to send an army down here, you would be begging my forgiveness for leaving me behind and then thanking me profusely for coming to your aid.”

The angels had arrived, Amun thought distantly. He probably should have been happy about that, but the demons around him flew from the chamber, screaming, leaving him with no one else to kill. Or take. That was not fun.

Scowling, he whipped around. Saw the army of white-robed angels forming a half circle around Lucifer. Saw the prince of darkness hissing at them as he, too, tried to flee. One of those angels held a sobbing Legion, one a nearly unconscious William, and Olivia had her arms wrapped around a trembling Aeron.

If Amun couldn’t kill demons, he supposed he could kill angels. Yes. Yes, he thought, he could. He smiled. They might even be better targets. They would scream louder, fall harder, hurt easier.

Grinning now, he launched forward, blade raised…swiping down…about to nail one of the winged bastards in the back. Fun, fun, fun. But a hard hand locked around his wrist, stopping him.

Amun roared out his fury. He hadn’t spoken in a while, and his vocal cords were raw, the sound they created raspy.

“What are you doing, Secrets?” Lysander demanded, shaking him. “These are my people, come to help you. You do not attack them. Ever.”

Again, Amun roared. From the corner of his eye, he watched as the weakened Aeron tried to pull from Olivia’s grip. “Let him go, Lysander. He isn’t himself.”

“Aeron, stop,” Olivia said, wings wrapped around him to bind him closer to her. “Look at Amun’s eyes. He’s fully demon now. Stay away from him or he might infect you, too.”

Infect? Amun had never felt better. Had never enjoyed himself more. His friends would be lucky to experience this.

“Just let me talk to him,” Aeron pleaded. “He’s like this because of me.”

“Talk alone won’t suffice,” Lysander said, dark eyes swirling, practically peering into Amun’s dark soul. His voice was calm, hypnotic. “Will it, demon?”

Amun wrenched himself free and swiped at the angel, startled to find a demon’s arm cradled within his grasp. When had he ripped it off? Lysander expected the blow, however, and blocked it with one hand; with the other he created a fiery sword out of thin air.

“No!” Aeron and William shouted in unison.

But it was too late. The momentum of the angel’s block had spun Amun around, and the ensuing dizziness had sent him to his knees. It was the perfect position for a beheading.

Only, Lysander didn’t take his head.

The sword of fire descended, struck him in the chest, burned through clothing and flesh and left a gaping hole.

At first, Amun was too stunned to do more than gaze down at that smoking wound. Then the pain set in, sweeping through him, eating him alive, shooting the voices and images inside his head into a tailspin of their own. He fell forward, onto his face, every muscle in his body spasming with agony.

Lysander knelt beside him. “If you’re lucky,” the angel said, “you’ll die from this. If not, you’ll survive but wish you hadn’t. Either way, you’ll spend your remaining days imprisoned.”


SCARLET LOCKED herself in a crypt. That lasted six hours.

She stole a boat, intending to spend her days drifting at sea. She made it two miles.She flew to Siberia. For three minutes.

Every time, she’d been flashed back to Budapest. Inside the fortress—down the hall from Gideon’s room. Every time, she’d had to sneak out without being noticed. She was tired of sneaking out, though, because she knew she would only be brought back. By whom? She didn’t know. Didn’t care anymore.

Obviously, someone thought she had unfinished business here. So she would finish that business and return to her self-imposed, eternal exile. No revenge. No battles. No love. No Gideon.

It was safest that way. For him. For herself.

This way, she couldn’t be used against him. If she were to hurt him because her aunt screwed with her head again…if she were to see him with her mother again, naked, and liking it…

Her hands fisted. She pressed against the hallway wall that led to Gideon’s bedroom, her demon’s shadows thickly cloaking her. No one would be able to see her, but they would certainly be able to hear her. Nightmares’s screams were as thick as the shadows. Hopefully, though, they would think the wind was merely whistling against the windows.

Knowing the Lords as she did, she doubted that would be the case. They were cautious, suspicious, and prone to act first and ask questions later. Some of the many reasons she admired them. But she was taking no chances. She would find Gideon, talk to him and leave. Hopefully for good this time.

His door was around the corner and to the right. Just a little farther…

Everything inside her urged her to rush to him, to throw herself into his arms—this was Gideon, her sweet Gideon, who had given her more pleasure than anyone else ever had—but she had to maintain the slow pace or anyone who stumbled upon her would realize something was off. Wrong. They’d never have a chance to talk. She’d be tossed back into the dungeon.

“Yeah, uh, hey,” a male voice suddenly said, though there was no one around her. “I know you’re there, Scarlet. Don’t blame yourself for failing to hide from me, I happen to be made of awesome. Anyway, I just texted Gideon to let him know, so you should be seeing him any—”

“Scar!” she heard Gideon shout next. Her heart tried to crack through her ribs as he raced around the corner, quickly saying, “Torin didn’t spot you inside the fortress, so I don’t know you’re—” He stopped a few feet away from her, and expelled a shallow pant of breath. “Here.” His shoulders sagged. “No thanks to the gods.”

Nightmares sighed, content for the first time in days.

And shit, Gideon was so beautiful. His blue hair was in spikes around his head, his blue eyes bright, his skin tanned and perfect. Her hands itched to touch him. Her tongue longed to trace his tattoos. The one and only time they’d made love, she hadn’t explored him nearly enough; she’d been too eager to get him inside her. Next time, she thought.

Next time? There couldn’t be a next time.

“Don’t let me explain what you saw,” he said, still rushing to get the words out. “Your mother didn’t flash me into the heavens, and she didn’t burn away my clothes, somehow pin me down and climb on top of me. I didn’t want her, I swear to you.” The moment the last confession left him, his features contorted in pain and his knees collapsed.

Damn it. Truth. He’d told the truth. I didn’t want her. Melting inside, Scarlet willed the shadows and the screams to subside. She bent down, arms winding around his waist to heft him back to his feet.

“Idiot,” she said without heat. “I’d already figured that out.” For the most part. Kind of. “You should have lied to me. You shouldn’t have weakened yourself in my presence. Idiot!” she said again. Now she could take advantage of him…. “But…I…love…you.”

“What!” Scarlet dropped him, shock pounding through her. He thumped on the floor with a grunt. “Sorry,” she muttered, bending down and hefting him back up. Dear gods. He couldn’t have just said… It wasn’t possible….

Gideon couldn’t love her; she wasn’t lovable. She was too hard, too stubborn, too violent. He deserved sweet and soothing, tender and uplifting.

“I—I—” she said, then gulped.

“Don’t have to say it back.” He was panting now, the words falling from his lips faster, as if he knew he would soon pass out. “Just know I have your aunt. Cronus gave her to me.”

She nearly dropped him again, but managed to continue marching him onward. Finally they snaked the corner and entered his bedroom. Her aunt was here. Her fucking aunt was fucking here. Her aunt could do what Scarlet now feared most.

“Where is she?” she demanded.

“Dungeon.” He moaned.

“Damn it, Gideon. Start lying to me!”