She laughed. She just couldn’t help herself. “Good luck with that.” Stopping an angel was like stopping the wind: in a word, impossible.

His scowl intensified. “Are you hungry?”

The subject change didn’t bother her; it actually delighted her. He’d often done the same thing with his friends, moving from one topic to another without warning. “Oh, yes. I’m starved.”

“Then I’ll feed you before taking you into town,” he said, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and standing.

Still Olivia remained in place, but this time the immobility was because her limbs felt as if they were anchored to rocks. First, he was gorgeous. All muscle and danger and mouthwateringly colorful skin. Second— “You still mean to cast me out?”

“Of course.”

Don’t you dare cry. “Why?” Had Lysander said something, as she’d suspected?

“Better question. When did I ever imply otherwise?” He strode to his bathroom and she lost sight of him. There was a rustle of clothing, and then a burst of water upon porcelain.

“But you held me in your arms all night,” she called. “You cared for me for three days.” That had to mean something. Right? Men didn’t do such things unless they were besotted. Right? In all her time with Aeron, she’d never seen him with a female. Well, besides Legion, but the little demon didn’t count. He’d never held her in his arms all night. So his attention to Olivia was special. Right?

There was no reply. Soon, steam and the scent of sandalwood soap were drifting through the room. He was showering, she realized, and her heart once more picked up speed, even skipping a beat altogether. He’d never showered when she’d been here before. He’d always waited until she had left.

Seeing his naked body had become an obsession.

Was he tattooed there, between his legs? If so, what design had he chosen?

And why do I want to lick that design the same way I want to lick the butterflies? Imagining doing so, Olivia traced her tongue over her lips before freezing in astonishment. Bad, naughty girl. Such a desire…

Well, I’m not fully an angel anymore, she reminded herself, and she wanted to see—and taste—him. So see him—and hopefully taste him—she would. After everything she’d endured, she deserved a little treat. Or maybe a big treat? Either way, she wasn’t leaving this fortress until she’d gotten a peek.

Determined, Olivia finally pushed to her feet. Without her wings to center her, she had no sense of balance, and quickly toppled over, sharp pains exploding from her knees and making her wince. This pain, however, was bearable. After the wing extraction, everything was probably bearable.

Again, she stood. Again she fell. Argh! All too soon, the water shut off. There was a slap of wet flesh against marble, and then a glide of cotton from metal.

Hurry! Before it was too late.

For balance, she placed one foot in front and one in back and spread her arms wide. Slowly she inched to her full height. She wobbled left, then right, but managed to stay upright this time. Go, me!

Then Aeron emerged from the bathroom, and disappointment filled her. There was a towel wrapped around his waist and another winding around his neck. Too late. Double argh!

“You showered so swiftly. Surely you missed a spot,” she said.

He didn’t flick her a glance, but kept his attention on the dresser in front of him. “No. I didn’t.”


“Now it’s your turn,” he said after placing a T-shirt on top of the wood. He used the second towel to dry what little hair he had.

Had she called him gorgeous before? She should have said magnificent. “My robe cleans me.” Did she sound as breathless to him as she did to herself?

He frowned, still not facing her. “Even your hair?”

“Yes.” Her hands were shaking as she pulled the hood over her head, gave it time to work its magic, and then cast it back. As the material fell, she smoothed a hand through her now silky, smooth locks. “See? All of me.”

Finally, he looked her over, gaze sliding down her body, lingering in certain places, heating her blood, making her skin tingle. When their eyes met, his pupils were once again dilated, black overshadowing violet.

Seriously, what was she doing to cause such anger?

“That it does,” he growled. He turned on his heel and strode forward, entering his closet and disappearing from view. The towel soared out and landed in a heap on the floor.

He was naked again, she thought, forgetting his anger. Now’s your chance. Grinning, Olivia propelled into motion. She managed two steps before toppling and landing on her knees—then launching the rest of the way to her stomach, air whooshing from her lungs.

“What are you doing?”

Up, up she looked. There was Aeron, in the closet doorway, dressed in that black T-shirt, now paired with jeans. He’d also pulled on a pair of boots and weapons were probably strapped all over his muscled body. His eyes were narrowed, his lips drawn tight in a frown.

Foiled again. She sighed in dejection.

“Doesn’t matter, really,” he said, clearly done waiting for her reply. “It’s time for us to go.”

Now? “You can’t take me into town,” she rushed out. “You need me.”

He sputtered for a moment. “Hardly. I need no one.”

Oh, really? “Someone else will be sent to do the job I couldn’t do, remember? As you couldn’t sense Lysander when he visited me, you won’t be able to sense another angel.”

Aeron crossed his arms over his massive chest, the very picture of male stubbornness. “I sensed you, didn’t I?”

Yes, he had, and she still hadn’t figured out how he’d done so. “Well, like I said, you didn’t sense Lysander. I, however, can see the angels. I can warn you when another approaches.” Not that they would come for him until her fourteen-day reprieve ended—wait, they had an eleven-day reprieve now, since three had already passed—but he didn’t need to know that.

He popped his jaw left and right, disrupting the flow of the images etched there. “You told me you were hungry. Let’s find you something to eat.”

Again with the subject change. This time, she hated it, but still let it slide, sensing further argument was futile. Besides, she was hungry. She crawled to her knees, then eased to her feet. One step, two…three…Soon she was in front of Aeron, smiling at her success.

“What was that?” he asked.


“Took you so long, I’m officially fifty years older.”

She raised her chin, pride undiminished. “Well, I didn’t fall.”

He shook his head—in exasperation?—and took her hand in his. “Come on, angel.”

“Fallen,” she automatically corrected. The feel of his fingers curled around hers, warm and strong, made her shiver. A sensation she wasn’t allowed to relish.

When he tugged her forward, she tripped over her own feet. Thankfully, before she could kiss the ground again, he jerked her up and into his side, anchoring her there.

“Thank you,” she muttered.

Now this was the life. She snuggled as close to him as she could get. Throughout the centuries, she’d watched many humans succumb to their baser desires, but until that golden down had appeared in her wings, she hadn’t truly wondered why they did so. Now she knew: every touch was as delicious as Eve’s apple had probably been.

She wanted more.

“You are a menace,” Aeron mumbled.

“A helpful menace.” Maybe, if she reminded him enough, he would begin to realize that he did, in fact, need her.

He didn’t offer a response, but led her down a hallway, keeping her upright the entire time. Even better, he had to carry her down the flight of stairs. Something she would have enjoyed far more if she hadn’t been so distracted. The walls were lined with portraits of the heavens—angels she recognized flying through the clouds—as well as hell. The latter she avoided studying, not wanting any reminders of her time there.

Also lining the walls were pictures of naked men, most lounging on beds of silk. Those she stared at, a fact that didn’t embarrass her. Really. Even when she had to mop up her drool. All that skin…that brawn…that sinew… Too bad they weren’t tattooed from head to toe.

“Anya’s been doing some decorating. You should cover your eyes,” Aeron said, his deep voice cutting into her ogling.

“Why?” Covering her eyes would be a crime. One that would surely insult her Deity, for wasn’t it her duty to admire his creations?

“You’re an angel, for gods’ sake. You aren’t supposed to look at such things.”

“I’m fallen,” she reminded him. Again. “And how do you know what I’m supposed to do?”

“Just…close your eyes.” He dropped her legs, forcing her to stand, and ushered her around a corner.

A bevy of voices suddenly assaulted her ears, and she stiffened, stumbled, unprepared to deal with anyone but Aeron.

“Careful,” he said.

She slowed her steps. People were unpredictable, and his immortal friends more than most. Worse, her body was now susceptible to all forms of injury. They could torture her, physically, mentally and emotionally, and she wouldn’t be able to fly away.

In the heavens, everyone loved everyone else. There was no hate, no cruelty. Here, kindness was often an afterthought. Humans often called each other terrible names, tore down each other’s self-esteem and purposely broke one another’s pride.

Olivia would have been happiest spending every minute of her humanity alone with Aeron.

You weighed the good versus the bad, remember? You thought the possibility of pleasure worth any price. You can deal. You have to.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yes.” She was determined.

They rounded another corner, entering the dining room, and Aeron stopped. Immediately, the voices tapered to quiet. Olivia did a quick scan and saw that four individuals sat at a table piled high with food. Four potential torturers.