I have every faith that, when she awakens, she will begin to see you for what you really are.
Because of the being’s certainty that she would awaken, Aeron didn’t mind the implied insult. He was too relieved. “And what am I?” Not that he cared. But in the answer, he might learn who this speaker was.
Inferior, wicked, malicious, foolish, single-minded, rotten, unworthy and doomed.
“Tell me how you really feel,” he replied dryly, hoping his sarcasm hid his actions as he slowly edged over Olivia, using his body to shield hers. Wicked and malicious—the beliefs of the Hunters. Yet a Hunter would have attacked Aeron before offering anyone aid. Even their Bait.
Again he wondered if this newcomer was an angel. Despite that anger. And clearly, hatred.
Another growl echoed. Your insolence only proves my point. Which is why I will allow her to get to know you as she desires, for I have a feeling she will not like what she learns. Just…do not soil her. If you do, I will bury you and all those you love.
“I would never soil a—”
Silence. She awakens now.
To prove the words, Olivia moaned. In that moment, the amount of relief that flooded him was irrational. Too much for someone he didn’t know and wouldn’t mourn. One thing he did know: whoever the speaker was, he was indeed powerful, to draw Olivia from that deathly slumber so quickly.
“Thank you,” he said again. “She suffered unjustly and—”
I told you to be silent! If you dare disturb her healing process, demon…actually, I’ve had all of you I can stand for one evening. Sleep.
Though he fought against it, his body seemed unable to refuse the command and sagged against the mattress, a few inches from Olivia. His eyelids closed and lethargy beat through him, dragging him kicking and screaming into the darkness he would have previously welcomed. Still, that darkness couldn’t stop him from reaching for Olivia and drawing her into his side.
Where she belonged.
EYES STILL TOO HEAVY TO OPEN, Olivia stretched her arms over her head and arched her back, the knots unwinding from her muscles. Sooo good. Grinning, she drew in a deep breath that brought with it the scent of exotic spice and forbidden fantasies. Her cloud had never smelled this…sexy before. Nor had it ever been this warm, almost decadently so.
She wanted to stay just like this forever, but laziness wasn’t the way of the angels. Today she would visit Lysander, she decided. If he wasn’t away on a secret mission as he often was, and if he hadn’t locked himself away with his Bianka. Afterward, she would head to the fortress in Budapest. What would Aeron be doing today? Would his contradictions fascinate her once again? Would he sense her again, as he shouldn’t have been able to do, then demand she reveal herself so that he could kill her?Those demands always hurt her feelings, though she couldn’t blame him for his anger. He didn’t know who she was or what her intentions were. I want him to know me, she thought. She was likeable; she really was. Well, to other angels, she was. She wasn’t sure what a demon-possessed immortal warrior would think of the real her, his supposed opposite.
Only, Aeron didn’t seem like a demon to her. Not in any way. He called Legion his “precious baby,” bought her tiaras and decorated his room to fit her tastes. He’d even had his friend and fellow Lord Maddox construct a lounge chair for her. A lounge chair that rested beside his bed and was draped with pink lace.
Olivia wanted her own lacy lounge chair in that bedroom.
Envy is not a good look for you, she reminded herself. You might not have a lacy lounge, but you have helped countless people laugh and rejoice and learn to love their lives. Yes, she took a great amount of satisfaction from that. But…now she wanted more. Maybe she’d always wanted more, but just hadn’t realized it until her “promotion.”
So greedy, she thought with a sigh.
The rock-hard yet smooth mattress underneath her shifted and moaned.
Wait. Rock-hard? Shifted? Moaned? Jarred into lucidity, Olivia now had no trouble prying her eyelids apart. She jerked upright at the sight she beheld—or didn’t behold. The indigo haze of a rising sun and fat, puffy clouds were nowhere to be seen. Instead, she saw a bedroom with jagged stone walls, a wood floor and polished cherrywood furniture.
She also saw a lacy pink lounge chair.
Realization slammed into her. Fallen. I’ve fallen. She’d descended into hell, and the demons—do not think about them. Already, with only that small memory, her body had begun trembling. I’m with Aeron now. I’m safe. But if she truly was mortal, why did her body feel so…fit?
Another realization: because she wasn’t truly human.
Fourteen days, she recalled Lysander saying, before she lost all of her angelic traits. Did that mean… Could her wings have…
Biting her lower lip, afraid to hope, she reached behind and felt her back. What she encountered caused her shoulders to slump with both relief and sadness. No injuries remained, but her wings had not regrown, either.
Your choice. Your consequences. Yes. She accepted that. It was strange, though. This wingless body belonged to her. A body that would not live forever. A body that felt both the good and the bad.
And that was okay, she rushed to assure herself. She was in the Lords’ fortress, and she was with Aeron. Aeron, who was underneath her. How fun. So far this body had only experienced the bad, and she was more than ready for the good.
Olivia scooted off him and twisted to study him. He was still sleeping, his features relaxed, one arm tossed over his head, the other at his side, where she had been. He’d been holding her close. The corners of her lips lifted in a dreamy smile, and her heart fluttered wildly.
He wasn’t wearing a T-shirt, and the knowledge caused her heart’s fluttering to pick up speed. She had sprawled across the colorful expanse of his chest, had lain on those tiny brown nipples, those ropes of muscle and that intriguing navel.
Unfortunately, he was wearing jeans. His feet were bare, though, and she saw that even his toes were tattooed. Adorable.
Adorable? Really? Who are you? People were being murdered on those toes. Still, she wanted to trace her fingertips over them. She did trace a fingertip over the butterfly on his ribs. The wings curled into sharp points, destroying any illusion of delicacy.
At her touch, breath pushed from his lips, and she jolted backward. No way did she want to be caught molesting him. Well, without his permission. The action proved more forceful than she’d meant, and she propelled off the bed completely, plummeting to the floor with a painful thwack. Hair danced over her face, and when she brushed the strands aside, she realized she’d awoken Aeron.
He was sitting up, glaring down at her.
Olivia gulped and waved up at him shyly. “Uh, good morning.”
His gaze roved over her, narrowed. “You look better. Much better.” His voice was rough. Probably from sleep, and not desire as every cell in her body hoped. “Are you healed?”
“Yes, thank you.” At least she thought she was healed. Her heart had yet to calm, its continued erratic beat foreign to her. And there was an ache in her chest. Nothing terrible, as the pain in her back had been, but odd. Her stomach was even quivering.
“You suffered for three days. Any complications? Any lingering twinges?”
“Three days?” She hadn’t realized so much time had passed. And yet, three days hardly seemed long enough for her to have healed so thoroughly. “How am I all better?”
He glowered. “We had a visitor last night. He didn’t give me a name, but he said he would heal you, and I guess he was true to his word. He didn’t like me, by the way.”
“My mentor.” Of course. Healing her would have meant bending the rules, but Lysander had helped make those rules. If anyone would know ways around them, it was him. And an angel who didn’t like Aeron? Lysander for sure.
Once more Aeron’s gaze raked her, as if searching for injuries despite the truth in her claim. His pupils dilated, gobbling up every bit of that lovely violet. Not with happiness, but with…anger? Again? She had done nothing to quash his earlier tenderness. Had Lysander said something to upset him, then?
“Your robe…” he croaked, and quickly turned away from her, giving her his back. His second butterfly tattoo greeted her, and her mouth watered. What would those jagged wings taste like? “Fix it.”
Frowning, she looked down at herself. Her knees were drawn up and her robe was bunched at her waist, revealing the small, white panties she wore. He couldn’t be angry about that. Anya, Lucien’s wife and the minor goddess of Anarchy, wore much less on a daily basis. Still, Olivia smoothed the soft, flowing material to her ankles. She could have stood and rejoined him on the bed but decided not to risk either falling or a rejection.
“I’m covered now,” she said.
When he faced her, those pupils still blown, he tilted his head to the side, as if he were replaying their conversation through his mind. “Why do you have a mentor?”
Easy enough to answer. “Like humans, angels must learn how to survive. How to help those in need. How to fight demons. My mentor was—is—the greatest of his kind, and I was blessed to work with him.”
“His name.” The two words lashed like a whip, hard and sure, cutting.
Why such a negative reaction? “I believe he’s an acquaintance of yours, actually. You know Lysander, yes?”
Aeron’s pupils finally retracted, the violet irises once more visible—and drowning her in their irresistible depths. “Bianka’s Lysander?”
She smiled at the description. “Yes. He visited me, too.”
“The night I thought you were talking to yourself,” he said, nodding.
“Yes.” And he planned to return. That, she didn’t mention. Lysander loved her and wouldn’t hurt Aeron—yet—because that would, in turn, hurt her. At least, that was the hope she clung to.
Aeron scowled. “The angelic visits have to stop, Olivia. Between Hunters and our demons, we have enough to deal with already. Even though Lysander helped you, even though I’m grateful, I cannot allow the continued interference.”