“A warrior angel, at that. She has wings with gold.”

“Not anymore.”

The tugging became harder, more violent. She kicked and hit and bit, trying to fight her way free to run and hide, but there were too many demons around her, the jagged, rocky landscape behind them unfamiliar to her, so her efforts elicited no results. The tendons anchoring her wings in place began to tear; the scalding pain spread, consuming her until every thought in her head revolved around the easiest way to stop it: dying.

Please. Let me die.

Stars winked over her eyes, suddenly the only thing she could see. Everything else had gone black. But black was good, black was welcome. Still, on and on the laughter and tugging continued. Dizziness soon flooded her, and nausea began churning in her stomach.

Why wasn’t she dead? Then one of her wings ripped free completely and she screamed, that scalding pain morphing into what she now knew was true agony. Not even death could end this kind of suffering. No, this would follow her into the afterlife.

The other wing quickly followed, and she screamed again and again and again. Claws continued to scrape at her clothing, damaging more of her skin and sinking inside the fresh wounds on her back. Finally, she did vomit, emptying her stomach of the heavenly fruits she’d consumed just that morning.

“Not so pretty now, are you, warrior?”

Hands squeezed at her, touching her in places no one had ever touched her before. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she lay there, helpless. This was it. The end. Finally. Except, one thought glimmered in that sea of black: she’d given up her beautiful life, only to die in hell without ever knowing joy, without spending time with Aeron. No. No!

You are stronger than this. Fight! Yes, yes. She was stronger than this. She would fight. She would—


The hard, familiar voice swept through her mind, momentarily blocking the hated images, the pain and the sorrow. The determination.

“Olivia. Wake up.”

A nightmare, she thought, with a small hint of relief. Only a nightmare. Humans often had them. But she knew the assault had been much more to her. A memory, a replay of her time in hell.

She still thrashed atop the bed, she realized, her back even now aflame, the rest of her bruised and knotted. Forcing herself to cease, she pried her eyelids apart. She was panting, chest swiftly lifting and falling against the mattress, air burning her nose and throat as if she were inhaling acid. Sweat dripped from her, soaking her robe to her skin. That blessed numbness she’d experienced earlier was completely obliterated; she felt everything.

Death might have been preferable, after all.

Once more Aeron was crouched beside the bed and peering over at her. A male—the one named Torin, she recalled—stood beside him and watched her through haunted green eyes.

Demon, Olivia thought. Torin was a demon. Just like the others. The ones who had ripped out her wings. The ones who had touched her and taunted her.

A piercing scream coiled from her raw throat. She wanted Aeron, only Aeron; she didn’t trust anyone else. Didn’t want anyone else even looking at her right now. Especially a demon. That Aeron himself was possessed by Wrath had no bearing on the situation. To her, Aeron was simply Aeron. But all she could think about when she looked at Torin was how scaled hands had pinched her nipples and sunk between her legs. How those hands would have done far more if she hadn’t begun fighting.

Fight. Yes. She kicked out her leg, but the foolish limb flopped uselessly, the muscles too tense to work properly. Helpless. Again. A sob joined her scream, both choking from her as she then tried to scramble from the bed and throw herself into Aeron’s arms. But once more, her feeble body refused to cooperate.

“Make him leave, make him leave, make him leave,” she shouted, burying her face in the pillow. Even looking at the newcomer was painful to her. She might know Torin on sight, but she didn’t know him the way she knew Aeron. Didn’t crave him the way she craved Aeron.

Aeron, who could make everything better, as he did for his friend Paris every night. Aeron, who could protect her as he did his little Legion. Aeron, who was so fierce he had scared her nightmares away.

Strong hands settled on her shoulders and held her down to stop her renewed thrashing. “Shh. Shh now. You have to calm down before you injure yourself further.”

“What’s going on?” Torin asked. “What can I do to help?”

No. No, no, no. The demon was still here. “Make him leave! You have to make him leave. Now. Right now.”

“I’m not going to hurt you, angel,” Torin said gently. “I’m here to—”

Hysteria was bubbling up inside her, about to consume her and sweep her under. “Make him leave. Please, Aeron, make him leave. Please.”

Aeron growled low in his throat. “Torin, damn it. Get the hell out of here. She’s not going to calm down until you do.”

There was a heavy sigh, sadness in the undertones, then blessedly, footsteps sounded.

“Wait,” Aeron called, and Olivia wanted to scream. “Did Lucien flash to the States as planned the other day and purchase Tylenol for the women?”

“As far as I know, yes,” Torin replied.

They were conversing? Now? “Make him leave!” Olivia shouted.

“Bring me some,” Aeron said, talking over her.

The door creaked open. Finally, the demon was leaving—but he would return with human medicine. Olivia whimpered. She couldn’t go through this again. Would probably die from fear alone.

“Just throw it inside the room,” Aeron added, as though sensing her thoughts.

Thank you, sweet merciful Deity in heaven. As Olivia slumped onto the mattress, the door clicked shut.

“He’s gone,” Aeron said softly. “It’s just you and me now.”

She was trembling so violently, the entire bed shook. “Don’t leave me. Please, don’t leave me.” The plea proved just how weak she currently was, but she didn’t care. She needed him.

Aeron smoothed the sweat-damp hair from her temples, his touch as soft as his voice. This couldn’t be her Aeron, speaking to her so sweetly, caressing her so tenderly. The change in him was almost too vast to be believed. Why had he changed? Why was he treating her, a virtual stranger, as he usually only treated his friends?

“You wanted me to hold you earlier,” he said. “Do you still wish it?”

“Yes.” Oh, yes. Whatever the reason for the change, it didn’t matter. He was here, and he was giving her what she’d desired for so long.

Very slowly, he eased beside her, careful not to jostle her. When he was stretched out, she inched forward until her head was resting in the groove of his strong, hot shoulder. The action lanced more of that debilitating pain through her, but being this close to him, finally touching him, was worth it. This was why she’d come here.

He wrapped one arm around her lower back, still so careful of her wounds, and his warm breath trekked down her forehead. “Why aren’t you healing, Olivia?”

She loved when he uttered her name. Like a prayer and a plea, wrapped in the same pretty package. “I told you. I fell. I’m fully human now.”

“Fully human,” he said, stiffening. “No, you didn’t tell me that. I could have brought you medicine sooner.”

There was guilt in his tone. Guilt and dread. The dread she didn’t understand, but was too wrung out to question. And then she forgot all about it. In the center of the room, an amber light sparked. That light grew…and grew…brightening so much she had to squint.

A body took shape. A big, muscled body draped in a white robe very similar to hers. Pale hair appeared next, waving to thick shoulders. She saw eyes like liquid onyx and pale skin with the slightest dusting of gilt. Last to fill her gaze were wings of pure, shimmering gold.

She wanted to wave but could only manage a faint grin. Sweet Lysander, here to comfort her at last, even as a figment of her imagination. “I’m dreaming again. Only, I like this one.”

“Shh, shh,” Aeron whispered to her. “I’m here.”

“As am I.” Lysander’s gaze swept his surroundings and his lips curled with distaste. “Unfortunately, this is no dream.” As always, he spoke true, his voice as filled with certainty as hers.

This was truly happening? “But I’m human now. I shouldn’t be able to see you.” Actually, seeing him was now against the rules. Unless her Deity thought to reward her? Given that she’d just turned her back on her heritage, that hardly seemed likely.

Now he peered straight into her eyes—straight, it seemed, into her soul. “I petitioned the Council on your behalf. They’ve agreed to give you one more chance. And so, right now, a part of you is still angelic and will remain so for the next fourteen days. Fourteen days in which you may change your mind and reclaim your rightful place.”

Like a bolt of lightning, shock lanced through her, burning and sizzling. “I don’t understand.” No fallen angel had ever been given a second chance before.

“Nothing to understand,” Aeron said, still trying to soothe her. “I’ve got you.”

“I am of the Seven, Olivia. I wanted fourteen days for you, and so you were given fourteen days. To live here, to…enjoy. And then, to return.” Lysander’s affronted tone proclaimed his status should explain everything.

It did not, but still the hope in his voice saddened her. The only thing she regretted about her choice was hurting this amazing warrior. He loved her, desired only the best for her.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t change my mind.”

He appeared thunderstruck. “Even when the immortal is taken from you?”

She barely managed to stop her horrified cry. I’m not ready to lose him. But weak as she was, there was nothing she could do to save him, and she knew it. “Is that why you’re—”

“No, no. Calm yourself. I’m not here to kill him.” The word yet was unsaid, but present all the same. “If you decide to stay, his new executioner will not be decided until your fourteen days have passed.”