Page 55

“Sorry.” He grunted.

More truth. “Don’t be sorry. Just shut up before you hurt yourself permanently.”

“Too…important…” He hissed.

“Shut. Up!” Scarlet helped him into bed, her motions stiff. As muscular as he was, he proved to be extremely heavy. But eventually, he was stretched out on the mattress, his eyelids closing, his head thrashing.

“Don’t…leave,” he said, the pain once again so intense it halted his speech. Blindly he reached for her, grasping for her. “Just…Scarlet?”

She knew what he was asking. Had she paired herself with another actor in her mind? “Yes, I’m just Scarlet,” she whispered. “Now be quiet like I told you. Please.” Eyes suddenly burning, she twined their fingers and sat beside him, unable to resist him even though she was desperate to stomp downstairs and end her aunt, once and for all. If she had the courage to even approach the woman.

Gideon calmed instantly, and her eyes burned a little more.

Moonlight seeped in from the room’s window, caressing him, making his sweat-glistened skin look as if it had been sprinkled with glitter. How she’d missed him. Craved him.

Damn him. He’d ruined everything. I love you, he’d said, and he’d meant it. She couldn’t give him up now, not even to save him from herself. Would you ever have been able to do so? Scarlet traced shaky fingers over his brow. He released another of those relieved sighs, much like Nightmares had, body turning toward hers, seeking. He. Loved. Her.

Seriously. How could he love her?

He couldn’t, she decided. He was confused, that was all. Perhaps feeling grateful because she’d finally given him the sex he’d been craving. Well, when the newness of that wore off, he’d realize she was wrong for him. He’d realize someone else would be better for him. He’d cast Scarlet aside.

She would be forced to give him up.

Her fingernails were lengthening, sharpening into claws as she imagined this magnificent warrior kissing and touching another woman. But Gideon must have sensed her upset, because he started thrashing again. As soon as she gentled her touch, he calmed anew.

A long while passed, Scarlet caressing his face, and eventually he slipped into a deep slumber. Her relief was as palpable as his had been earlier. She didn’t like to see him suffer. If anyone deserved peace, it was this man.

“Galen came after him, you know,” that voice from the hallway suddenly said.

Her gaze lifted, moved around the room. Again, no one loomed nearby. Which meant speakers were everywhere. And clearly the guy was watching her, which meant cameras were also everywhere, showcasing her every move.

“So you’ve got Galen locked away, too, huh?” She’d deal with him and her aunt when she went down to the dungeon. If she dared, she added again. Would she be able to pull a victory out of her hat-o-tricks this time?

“No. Galen was about to fall, finally, and was babbling about not allowing Gideon to kill him, when the god queen appeared. She flashed both men away.”

Galen, babbling about not allowing Gideon to kill him. Every bit of warmth abandoned Scarlet’s body, leaving her a hollow shell of herself. Galen had come after Gideon specifically. Gideon. Because of her, she realized with horror. Because she’d screwed with Galen’s dreams.

She’d meant to torment him, to make him back away. Instead, she’d drawn him deeper into the war, made him more determined to win. This was yet another thing she’d done to destroy Gideon’s life. Yet another reason someone else would be better for him. She had hurt him, time and time again. Sickness churned in her stomach.

Scarlet pushed to her feet, careful not to disturb Gideon, and tiptoed from the room. Her last visit here, she’d memorized the layout of the place and knew exactly where to go.

Yes. She dared.

“I won’t let you kill her,” the voice said. “Who are you?” she demanded as she strode down the steps. Some of the windows were stained glass, and as golden beams of moonlight hit them, rainbow shards spilled across the walls.

“Torin, keeper of Disease and protector of the universe.” No matter where she stepped, his voice remained the same volume. “Well, of the fortress, at least,” he amended.

“Never heard of you.”

“Not even when you were locked inside Tartarus? My exploits were legendary.”


A sigh of disappointment. “Anyway, Gideon isn’t done questioning the female, so I’m going to make sure she stays alive so that he can.”

A loyal friend. She could find no fault with that and was actually happy Gideon had such a strong support system. It was something she’d always wanted but had never found. “Guess what? He was saving her for me.” She thought she knew Gideon well enough to utter the words with confidence. He was a giver. “So I’m sure he won’t care when I rip out her throat. He’ll even thank me.”

“He’ll have to tell me that himself.” Torin’s firm tone left no room for argument.

She snaked a corner, strode down another hallway and hit another staircase. This one was wider, cruder, dirtier. Even the air she breathed was becoming thicker, dust coating her lungs.

“If you hadn’t noticed,” she said, “Gideon’s a little incapacitated right now.”

“Which means, what? I’ll have to make sure she stays alive until he’s no longer incapacitated. Trust me, I’ll knock you out if I even think you’re going for a kill shot. And I have a feeling you spend enough time unconscious.”

“And how do you plan to knock me out, huh?”

He laughed with genuine humor, and it was a nice sound. “Like I’d really spill my secrets.”

“Fine. I’ll just talk to her,” she said on a sigh. Truth or lie, she wasn’t sure. She’d find out when she reached her aunt, she supposed.

Finally, she hit the bottom of the steps and entered the dungeon. She knew it well, having occupied a cell herself for several weeks. And she almost giggled like a schoolgirl when she saw her aunt trapped in the very same one Scarlet had occupied. What a nice bit of justice. Gold star for Gideon.

Wearing a soiled white robe, Mnemosyne slept atop a cot, large patches of her skin pink and healthy, while other areas were still black and charred. Some of her hair had grown back, though it was thin and short. Her chest rose and fell too quickly, shallowly.

Grinning, Scarlet gripped the bars. “Well, well, well. How far the mighty have fallen. From mistress to the god king, to immortal soup, to prisoner of the Underlords. Poor baby.”

Mnemosyne’s eyelids cracked open, and she focused on Scarlet. Then her aunt was whipping to a stand, backing up and pressing herself against the far wall. “What are you doing here?”

That fear delighted her even more than it delighted her demon. “I’ve come to say hello to my favorite aunt, that’s all.”

The pink tip of her tongue swiped over her blackened lips. “And beg me to erase your memories, I’m sure.”

“Beg?” Scarlet chuckled. “No.”

Her aunt raised her chin, anger obviously giving her courage. “It would do no good, anyway. You owe me thanks, little bastard child, not condemnation.”

“Do I?” She arched a brow in taunting salute as she razed her knuckles over the bars. “For what?”

“You wouldn’t have had the audacity to seek out your Gideon had you not thought he’d already wed you. You had watched him from afar for years, too afraid to draw his attention, too afraid he would spurn you.”

“For thousands of years, I also labored under the belief that I’d witnessed my son’s murder. So, thank you?” She gripped and rattled the bars with so much force the entire structure shook, dust falling from the ceiling. “No again. That won’t be what you receive from me.”

“Kill me, then.” Her aunt’s chin lifted another inch. “Do it.”

Scarlet allowed every dastardly deed she’d ever committed to shine in her expression. “I already told you. That’s not how I’m going to handle you.” So she wouldn’t be killing her aunt today, she realized, even though the desire was there and she was tempted. Not for Gideon, but because the woman didn’t deserve to drift off into nothingness, no pain, no suffering.


Fine, she thought, scowling. She wasn’t going to act now because Gideon hadn’t yet given the order for the woman’s death. Scarlet wanted to be as loyal to him as his friend was. Perhaps then she would be worthy enough to be his woman.

Did she want to have to prove herself worthy of him, though?

Yes. Yes, she did. More than anything else in the world, even vengeance against her aunt. She loved him. She loved him so much she ached. He wasn’t her husband, but still she loved him as if he were. Maybe it was because of the memories she’d created, maybe not. Either way, he owned her heart. Had always owned her heart. If there was a chance they could be together, even a small chance…

“Your man came to me, you know,” Mnemosyne said with relish, drawing Scarlet from her sanguine thoughts. “He wanted to know why I hate you so much, but I refused to tell him.” Smugness joined the relish.

Scarlet shrugged. “I honestly don’t care why you did what you did to me, only that you did it at all.”

Mnemosyne blinked, composure slipping before she shook her head and schooled her features. “You care. I know you do.”

“Once, I might have. But you know what? You aren’t important. Besides, what you did drew me to Gideon, as you said.” With that, Scarlet turned, ready to go back up and be with her man. To comfort him. To give him everything he needed.

“Where are you going? Get back here, Scarlet.”

One step, two, she climbed.

“Scarlet! You can’t leave. Your mother couldn’t kill you while we were prisoners, you know that. To even try meant she would begin to age. But to succeed meant she would become aged for all eternity, no hope for the return of her once-great beauty. Therefore, she tasked me with your torment, and I accepted because…because…”