“I don’t—” He frowned. Then he reached into his jeans pocket and withdrew his phone. His gaze quickly scanned the screen, and when their eyes next met, there was smoldering rage in those electric depths. “We don’t have visitors.”

“Friends of yours?” She didn’t ask how he knew. She could guess, loving modern technology as she did.

“Yeah. I adore Hunters.”

She could have struck him again, quickly jabbing both of his eyes, leaving him to deal with the uninvited guests injured and blinded. But he was hers to hurt, not theirs.

“How many?” she demanded, removing the utensil and switching the focus of her rage. Wake up, Nightmares. Your skills might be needed.

The demon stretched and yawned inside her head.

“I know,” Gideon said.

So he was as clueless as she on that score. “Which door did they enter?” she asked.

“Not the front.”

She performed a quick inspection. There was a doorway that led out of the bedroom-slash-kitchenette into a vestibule. That vestibule branched into three hallways. No matter which direction the intruders came from, they’d have to enter it. Perfect.

You ready, baby? Because Mama was wrong. No maybe about it. You’re needed.

A purr of anticipation rumbled through her. Gonna be fun.

I’ll handle the final blow. Okay?


Yes. But then, she needed some outlet for the growing darkness inside her. And leave Gideon alone. I don’t want him to see the things you show his enemies.

That earned her a growl. I would never hurt him.

It was a declaration she’d never thought to hear, even with the creature’s reluctance to scare the warrior in his dreams. Had the circumstances been different, she would have demanded to know why. Not that it would have done her any good. Nightmares was as generous with answers as she was.

“Get on the bed,” she commanded Gideon. “I’ve got this.”

“Hell, yes,” he said, unsheathing a sharp, gleaming knife and a small revolver from the waist of his pants. He’d been armed this entire time, yet he hadn’t defended himself against her. “I relish the thought of you battling such sweethearts alone.”

Macho men. They considered women a liability in situations like this. But this one would soon learn. She wasn’t the same girl he’d known in prison. Or rather, the same girl he couldn’t recall.

“They’re here. I know they’re here,” someone whispered. A whisper, yes, but her ears registered every word as if the person were right beside her. A skill she’d developed in prison. A skill that had saved her life on countless occasions.

“If we take him the girl, they’ll have to let us in,” another said.

“And the guy?” Yet another.


As Nightmares laughed, more than ready to begin, Scarlet shoved Gideon back into his chair. He landed with a huff as she lowered her internal guard and unleashed her demon. Darkness exploded from her, thousands of terrified screams threading through the impenetrable thickness. Even Gideon, powerful immortal that he was, wouldn’t be able to see through it. She, however, would have no trouble drinking in every sparkling detail.

“I’d cover your ears, if I were you,” she suggested.

“Scar,” he began, as close to her name as his demon would apparently let him get, a hint of anger in the undertone. And oh, was his expression stony. He hated this. But whatever he meant to say was cut off as Scarlet pressed a finger against his lips, a silent command for no talkie-talkie. The enemy would hear.

A moment passed. The stiffness never left him, but Gideon nodded. He was graciously bowing out of the fight and letting her handle things. His surrender was completely unexpected. Why hadn’t he jumped to his feet and foolishly demanded to help her?

Ponder it later. Frowning, she turned to face the intruders. There were four of them, all male, and all holding weapons.

Only four? They must think themselves stronger than they actually were. Or consider her and Gideon weaker than they really were. Or perhaps this was just the beginning. Most likely others were posted throughout the hotel, watching, waiting for the right time to strike.

As the men entered the bedroom, they encountered the darkness and the screams and stumbled to a halt, trying to orient themselves and figure out what was going on. But it was too late for that. Nightmares wove around them, a swirling, dark dancer, as graceful as he was lethal, holding them in place, even floating to their ears and whispering their deepest fears.




Soon they were clutching their heads, moaning, images of the Lords of the Underworld strapping them down, torturing them as the Hunters had often tortured others, becoming all that they could see.

One of Nightmares’s talents was sensing hidden fears and exploiting them. That’s how they’d known about Gideon’s fear of spiders. Only problem was, they had no way of knowing what had caused those fears. And she was beyond curious about Gideon. He hadn’t seemed to care about the bug while with her in Tartarus. He’d even flicked the creatures off her when they’d invaded her cell.

“Make it stop, please make it stop,” someone pleaded.

“Enough!” someone else shouted.

No. Not nearly enough. Cold, uncaring. That’s how she had to be. And really, she enjoyed this as much as her demon did. Enjoyed hurting those who thrived on suffering. For too long, she’d been a victim herself. But no longer. Never again.

Smiling, she strolled toward the men, fork still in hand. She reached the nearest, his terrified moans like candy to her ears, and brushed his hair from his face. The soothing touch startled him, yet he leaned into it, as if seeking comfort anywhere he could find it. As if he assumed she was a friend.

Without any more warning, she jammed the fork into his jugular. He screamed, but that scream blended with all the others floating from her. A chilling but welcome music. Warm blood spurted from him, coating her hand as he collapsed. She eased to the next man, gifted him with that same gentle touch, the calm before the storm, then stabbed him, as well.

More blood sprayed, a river of the deepest scarlet, the very essence of her name.

She finished off the other two just as quickly and efficiently. Just as ruthlessly. Perhaps she should have played with them a bit. Oh, well. Next time.

Once the moans and movement ceased, she closed her eyes and tugged the shadows and screams back inside her. There they whirled like a tornado until she blocked them from her awareness, something she’d learned to do over the years. Otherwise, she would have tumbled into insanity a long time ago.

Perhaps it was a blessing that she and Gideon would never be intimate again, she thought then. When she lost control of her body’s sensations, she lost her hold on her demon, allowing the beast to have free rein even though she was awake. What she’d done to those boys—Hunters?—would be done automatically to her lovers. Not the cutting, but the absolute dissolution of light, the cries of the damned ringing in their ears.

For a man, it was hard to stay, well, hard during something like that. Watching fear and disgust contort Gideon’s features while his cock was buried deep inside her might just end her. Her pride, surely. Her will to live, maybe. Already, she existed on only an instinctual level. Breathe, eat, kill. That was it.

Mind on the task at hand. Gideon was sitting exactly as she’d left him. Only, his expression was blank, a guarded mask as his gaze raked her, taking in the blood coating her hands. He traced his tongue over his teeth before looking at the men.

“Harmed?” he asked, still without any hint of emotion.

“Dead,” she replied. “You’re welcome.” Would a thank-you have been too much to ask? She’d saved him from suffering a single injury. Well, besides the ones she’d given him.

Blue eyes snapped back up, pinning her in place. “Yeah, I was talking about them. Not you.”

Oh. He wanted to know about her? Shocker. No softening. “I’m fine. Not a scratch on me. But we should probably go.” Our separate ways, she silently added, ignoring the pang in her chest. “I’m sure more Hunters are on their way.”

He offered no reply.

Do it. Leave, she commanded herself. She didn’t. She remained in place like the idiot she was. Closure must not have been achieved yet. Not really.

What would it take?

“Are you just going to sit there?” she threw at him.

He stood, but still he didn’t sheath his weapons. “You and utensils make a bad team.”

Another pang speared her chest. “No more compliments, or I’ll give you another firsthand demonstration.” Just to taunt him, she held up the dripping fork and waved it through the air.

“Yes, please. Another demonstration would be nice.” He bypassed her, unafraid, and crouched in front of her victims. With quick proficiency, he searched their bodies, even under their clothing. “All of them are marked.”

Her arm fell heavily to her side. Hunters tattooed themselves with the symbol of infinity, their way of proclaiming they wanted a forever without evil. That these boys didn’t bear the mark… Huh. “Maybe they’re just recruits. When they entered, one of them said something about being let in. Maybe he meant being let in to the Hunters Are Assholes club.”

Gideon nodded as he stood, a lock of cobalt falling over his brow. “That makes no sense.”

“Because I’m smarter than you are.” She fought the urge to smooth the hair into place. Still no closure, but she forced herself to say, “I guess we’re done here, then.” For real, this time.

“Sure.” He closed what little distance there was between them, putting them nose-to-nose, his heat enveloping her, his musky cologne fuzzing her senses. “Don’t listen carefully. I’m upset you’re okay.” His lashes fell, oh, so slowly, before stopping, lingering, and she knew he was peering at her lips.

Thinking of kissing her?

She gulped. No. No, no, no. “Gideon.”