- The Darkest Lie
“Why are you so…not stubborn about this?” he asked with what seemed to be genuine curiosity. “About keeping me in the light?”
Because she’d spent thousands of years wondering where he was, what he was doing and who he was doing it with. Wondering if he ever thought of her, wondering why he never returned for her. Wondering if he was even alive. Each day had been worse than the last, a constant churning in her mind, her emotions rolled out, flayed and left raw.
But she’d known with gut-wrenching intensity that he loved her, so she’d finally had to accept that he hadn’t returned because he’d been killed. Death was the only thing that could have kept him away. So she’d mourned him, crying so forcefully, so intensely, she’d actually shed tears of blood.
And when she’d finally discovered that he lived…Oh, the pain. Pain that still haunted her, a constant shadow in her heart.
In contrast, he’d been wondering about her for a few weeks. He didn’t cry himself to sleep about it. He didn’t throw up because the worry and the heartache were too much to bear.
Her hands clenched so tightly, the glass she held shattered. Beads of crimson sprang up all over her palm, but she didn’t flinch at the ensuing sting. This was nothing compared to what she’d once endured. Nothing. She no longer cried about anything.
Gideon sighed and wrapped his fingers around her wrist, inspecting the damage. “Love to see you injured. Don’t want to make it all better.” Truth.
When he had strode into his fortress’s dungeon and she’d seen his beautiful face, the only thing she’d truly felt at the time was awe. He was alive. He was with her again. But then the anger had sparked. Followed by the resentment and the consuming urge to hurt. None of those compared to what she felt just then, however.
Rage. So much rage.
How dare he. How fucking dare he care about such paltry wounds! He was sitting there, calm as could be, poking at her emotions like a child with a stick because he could. Because she was a big, fat question to him. That was all. He wanted answers. Not her. Not her forgiveness. He couldn’t care less about easing her real injuries and making her “all better.”
Had she been nothing to him, even all those centuries ago? Yes, he’d wed her, but he’d left her soon after. Left her, she now knew, to steal and open Pandora’s box. She also knew he’d been paired with his demon and shoved out of the heavens soon after that. But she’d been possessed that same day, still locked inside her cell.
After those centuries spent in darkness—what oddly seemed like a mere blink of time for her whenever she looked back—had passed and she’d once again had control of her mind, she’d remembered Gideon. Realized he’d been given a demon, too, and figured he had gained control of himself, as well. So she’d waited for him to return for her. And waited. And waited, for so damn long. Then all those questions began swirling in her head. And then the worry had set in, followed by the grief that he hadn’t survived.
And in that grief, she’d done things that had shocked even her demon. Terrible things. None of the gods and goddesses sharing her cell—the one she’d been moved to, away from the tender hand of her mother—had survived her rampage.
The Greeks had nearly executed her for those actions, but in the end, Zeus had preferred to parade her in front of Cronus, his own father and greatest foe, enjoying the fact that she was proof Rhea had cuckolded him. Anything that tormented the deposed Titan king was worth keeping alive, the Greek sovereign had said, no matter how dangerous that thing was.
And then the Titans finally won their freedom. Cronus and Rhea would have liked to leave her behind, she knew, but they’d needed her skills to help defeat the Greeks.
Once the screams had faded and the blood had stopped flowing, she’d scoured ancient scrolls for information about the Lords of the Underworld, hoping to find them and ask how Gideon had perished. Where his bones rested. She’d intended to give him a proper burial, pray over him, say goodbye.
Instead, she’d discovered her husband was still alive.
Her relief had known no bounds. But then, neither had her upset, for that’s when other questions had begun plaguing her. Why hadn’t he come back for her? Why hadn’t he sent word that he’d survived?
She’d sought him out to ask him. And yes, to throw herself back into his arms. To feel him surrounding her, sliding in and out of her, once again. Finally. The way she’d been dreaming about for so many years.
She’d found him in that bar in Buda. She’d walked past him. Except, he hadn’t noticed her. Glanced at her, yes. Moved his gaze away as if she were of no consequence, yes, that, too. He’d been too busy crooking his finger at a human female, and then having sex with that female right there in the club.
Scarlet had left, heartbroken all over again. As she did her best to learn about modern human society by watching TV, all the while secretly hoping Gideon would find her worthy when she did so—her, a woman who had been raised among criminals, who had never been wanted by her mother, had never known her father, and who had a wretched demon trapped inside her—she’d kept her ear to the ground, always curious about Gideon and what he was doing.
Maybe she’d purposely allowed the Lords to capture her. Without consciously admitting that she craved a moment like this. A moment to see what a shit Gideon truly was. A moment to finally, blessedly cut him from her thoughts. Which, even now, was completely against her nature and something she’d sworn never to do. Captivity was something she despised. Yet she’d stayed in that fucking dungeon and hadn’t tried to escape. For this man who didn’t remember her. A man who had no problem using her. Hurting her. Tearing her down.
He. Needed. To. Suffer.
Scarlet jumped to her feet, plate in hand. A plate she tossed at Gideon without warning. It crashed into his face and shattered just as her wineglass had done. And just as her hand had beaded with blood, so did his face. Not enough.
Scowling, he jumped up, as well. “That was nice. Thanks!”
She’d already launched another plate, and this one slammed into his chest. It, too, broke apart, slicing past his T-shirt.
“What don’t you think you’re doing?”
“I’m not kicking your ass. I’m not hating your guts. I’m not thinking you are the biggest ass the gods ever created. How’s that? Did I speak a language you can understand?” Kill him. She wanted to kill him.
“I may remember you, Scarlet,” he bellowed, backing up when she grabbed her fork and held it out like a dagger. She’d murdered men with less. Even immortals. “But you haven’t haunted me.” Motions stiff, he raised his shirt. Amid the cuts, above his heart, was a tattoo of eyes. Dark eyes. Like hers. “Don’t you see? You…haven’t…haunted…me.”
It was a lie, like him. It had to be.
“That proves nothing! Thousands of people have dark eyes.”
He slanted his head and brushed the hair from the back of his neck. There, she found a tattoo of bloodred lips in the shape of a heart. Like hers. Then he turned and raised his shirt again. On his lower back were flowers, all kinds of flowers, and the words TO PART IS TO DIE.
It was an exact replica of her own tattoo. He’d shown it to her once before, the first time he’d entered the dungeon, but seeing it again was still like being punched in the chest.
“I just want to make no sense of this,” he added softly. He pivoted, facing her once again. “Don’t help me. Please.”
Seeing those tattoos didn’t lessen her fury. No, seeing them increased it. He’d imagined her, but he’d still slept with all those other women. He’d still continued on with his life, not seeking out the source of those images.
“You think that makes everything better, you uncaring bastard? While you were down here whoring around, loving life, I was in Tartarus, a slave to the Greeks.” One step, two, she eased around the table and approached him. Warrior that he was, he remained in place. “What they wanted me to do, I had to do. Whether I wanted to or not.” Parading around naked for their enjoyment. Fighting with other prisoners while they bet on the winner. Scrubbing other people’s filth on her hands and knees. “Yet you left me there. You never came for me. You promised you’d come for me!”
Seething, panting, she stabbed the fork into his chest and twisted with all her strength.
Surprisingly, he didn’t try to stop her. Didn’t try to defend himself. Rather, he stood there, his eyes narrowing. In his own fury? And if it was in fury, who was he pissed at? Her? Or the Greek gods who had forced her to do those vile things?
Didn’t matter. This was just the beginning of his punishment.
“And do you know what else?” Her fingers clutched the fork so tightly, her knuckles screamed in protest. “After I came here and saw you with another woman, I gave myself to another man. Willingly this time. And then another.” Lies, all lies. She’d tried. She’d wanted to hurt him that way, but she hadn’t been able to follow through.
And oh, how she hated herself for that failure. More than wanting to hurt him, though, she’d needed someone to make her feel as he once had. Protected, loved, cherished. Like a treasure. That, too, had failed miserably. She’d walked away from both encounters feeling hollow and sad.
Gideon’s shoulders slumped, and all that dark emotion seemed to drain from him. “I’m not sorry. I love that you felt the need to do such a thing. I don’t want to kill the men you were with. Even though I remember everything about our time together. You still somehow do not affect me.”
He was sorry, he loathed that she’d done such a thing and wanted to destroy the men. Pretty words. For him. But she was having none of it. He was far too late. With a snarl, she jerked the fork out of his chest, the prongs dripping crimson, then stabbed him anew and twisted. He grunted.
“Again,” she snarled, “do you think that makes everything better? You think the fact that you’ve forgotten me makes your actions any less painful?” Shut up, shut up, shut up. She didn’t want him to know how much he’d damaged her.