“Ssso?” Legion persisted.
“So. In return, we’re going to be nice to her.”
“What? No! No, no, no.” If she’d been standing, she would have been stomping her feet. “I can hurt her if I want.”
“Legion,” he said, using his most authoritative tone. “This isn’t a negotiation. You will leave her alone. Promise me.”
Scowling, she sprang from his lap and paced the length of carpet in front of him. “You only want me to be nice to your friendsss. Ssso ssshe hasss to be your friend. But you can’t be friendsss with a disssgusssting angel.”
The words didn’t seem to be directed at him, so he didn’t reply. He let her continue to rant, hopefully getting it out of her system.
“Isss ssshe pretty? I bet ssshe’sss pretty.”
Again, Aeron remained silent. Legion, he knew, was protective of him and liked to be the center of his world. As was not uncommon among children of single fathers, she didn’t like him turning his attentions elsewhere.
“You like her,” she accused.
Finally he spoke up. “No. I don’t.” But even he could detect the uncertainty in his voice. He’d liked holding Olivia in his arms the last few nights. Liked it way too much. He’d liked her sitting in his lap at breakfast. He’d liked having her wild-sky scent in his nose. He’d liked the softness of her skin and the purity of her eyes. He’d liked her gentleness and her determination.
He’d liked the way she’d looked at him, as if he were part savior, part temptation.
“You like her,” Legion repeated, and this time there was so much fury in her words, they nearly scorched his skin.
“Legion,” he said. “Even if I like another woman, that doesn’t mean I’ll love you any less. You are my baby, and that will never change.”
Poison dripped from her too-sharp teeth—teeth she bared in a snarl. “I’m not a baby! And you can’t like her. You jussst can’t. I’ll kill her. I’ll kill her right now!” With that, Legion disappeared.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK?”
Olivia twirled clumsily in front of the full-length mirror, taking in the knee-high black boots, the so-short-it-barely-covered-her-bottom skirt and the cerulean-blue tank top she wore. The matching blue thong she had shimmied into even came up over the waist of the skirt. Talk about naugh-ty. She’d never revealed this much skin before. Not even to herself. There’d never been a need.She’d asked for this, however. “Make me beautiful,” she’d said to Kaia the moment Aeron had stomped from the fortress.
“Oh, goodie! A slut-it-up makeover,” the Harpy had responded.
The other two warriors, William and Paris, had groaned. Paris had even sung, “Boor-ring,” under his breath before leaving. William had tried to stick around to “help,” but Kaia had threatened to use his balls as earrings.
After that the Harpy had eyed Olivia with amusement. “You want Aeron to realize his mistake, huh?”
“Yes, please.” More than that, she’d wanted to shed her angelic image completely. Once and for all. She’d thought, by removing her robe, she could remove her fear and uncertainty, too. She’d thought, by donning the “slut-gear,” she could also cloak herself in confidence and aggression.
And as she spun a second time for a look at her backside, she realized she’d been right. Well, she realized she was right after her dizziness faded. Thankfully she was getting used to her legs—kind of—and managed to remain upright.
“I love it,” she said, grinning. She looked like a new person. She even looked human. But most of all, she looked radiant, and seeing that radiance was like swimming in a pool of power.
I’m strong. I’m beautiful.
What would Aeron think? In all the time she’d watched him, she’d never seen him pay any specific female attention—besides herself, the past few nights and this morning. So she wasn’t sure what kind of woman attracted him.
And it was better that way, she supposed. She couldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t. Otherwise she’d still be in the heavens. So he would have to like her for herself. Which was what she wanted most. If he couldn’t do so, well, he wasn’t worth her time anyway.
He’ll like you. How could he not?
Confidence was nice.
“Those are make-a-man-beg clothes for sure,” Kaia replied. The redhead had spent the last hour rifling through her closet to dress Olivia exactly right. “I stole them from a little place in town.”
Wait. “These garments haven’t been paid for?”
“Really?” Why did she suddenly feel sexier? Olivia wondered. Was she becoming as bad as the demons? Maybe she’d send the shop a little money. You don’t have any money. Maybe she’d send the shop some of Aeron’s money.
“Now sit,” Kaia commanded, motioning to the chair in front of the vanity mirror with a tilt of her chin.
Cameo moaned. “You’re not done yet?” She sat upon the bed, waiting (im)patiently for the slut-it-up session to end. “I have so many questions.”
Kaia shrugged. “Ask her while I do her makeup.”
Olivia perched on the plush cushion as commanded and Kaia crouched in front of her. The Harpy had already palmed an eye-shadow brush and a case of azure powder. Never having worn makeup before, she wasn’t sure how she felt about that much color, but she didn’t complain. This was one of the reasons she was here, after all. To experience everything the world had to offer.
“Close your eyes,” Kaia said. When she complied, the brush began to dance gently over her lids. “You’re up, Cameo.”
No other prompting was needed. “You said you know where some of the demon-possessed immortals are staying,” Cameo said, getting down to business.
“Yes.” Again, no lightning struck and no angelic army swooped in.
“Aeron met a girl the night he saved you. She was surrounded by screaming shadows, whatever that means. Do you know her?”
Olivia was nodding before she could stop herself.
“Be still,” Kaia told her. “Now I have to fix your eye. It looks like I hit you. While I like that look, I don’t think Aeron will.”
“Sorry.” She straightened her spine, keeping her chin immobile. “That was Scarlet, daughter of Rhea. Oh, and if you don’t know, Rhea is the self-proclaimed mother to all the earth and embittered wife of Cronus.”
“What?” Cameo gasped out. “Shadow Girl’s a daughter of the gods? And not just any gods, but the king and queen of the Titans?”
“Well, one god. Cronus isn’t her father. Rhea spent forbidden time with a Myrmidon warrior when she and Cronus first began warring with each other.”
“Why were they warring?” Kaia asked. “I feel like I should know the answer, but I never kept up with heavenly politics.”
Easy enough to explain. “Cronus planned to lock their children, the Greeks, in Tartarus because his old All-Seeing Eye had predicted they would usurp his power. Rhea merely wanted them banished to earth. But he locked them away, anyway.”
Cameo muttered a quick “hmm” before saying, “So this Scarlet was conceived…when?”
Such a sad voice…Olivia’s heart actually bled, hurting more intently with every word the female spoke. “Rhea had her affair as she deliberated ways to help the Greeks escape Tartarus and overthrow Cronus. Her lover even helped her enact that plan, and died for his efforts. However, the Greeks were ultimately freed. Rhea expected to continue ruling, but Zeus feared she would later aid Cronus and locked her away right alongside his father. Scarlet was born and raised inside the prison.”
As she’d spoken, brush, sponge and stick had been used on her face, one after the other. Nervousness bloomed, burning her stomach. She prayed she wouldn’t resemble a clown when Kaia finished.
“So this Scarlet is possessed by…Shadows?” Cameo asked. “Darkness? If so, I’m not sure how either one can be considered evil. They seem like gifts rather than curses. To always be able to hide…to strike your enemy without being seen…”
“You’re thinking in terms of absolutes,” Olivia explained. “Your demon, Misery, isn’t necessarily a curse, either, for without pain there couldn’t be pleasure. Think about it. Everyone must experience the dark emotions on some level to appreciate what they have. Your demon is simply the extreme of the emotion. As is the case with the other Lords. And with Scarlet. But the demon she carries is neither darkness nor shadows. What she has inside her is Nightmares.”
“Okay, wow,” Kaia said. “And I thought the guys here were lucky. That has to be, like, the coolest demon ever.”
Nightmares? Cool? Hardly. “The darkness Scarlet summons is a complete absence of light. It’s an abyss within her, a never-ending pit of gloom. And inside that gloom lie the very things humans fear most.”
There was a rustle of clothing and she pictured Cameo shifting on the bed, leaning closer to her. “How do you know so much about this?”
“I’ve encountered many demons over the centuries. As a former bringer of joy, I saw how and why demonic influence ruined human lives.”
“Ohhh, cool. So what did you do with those demons?” Kaia asked. “Start with how you kicked ass and end with mopping up the blood.”
Adorable Harpy, to view her as so strong. “I didn’t fight them myself. If my presence alone failed to send them fleeing, I would have to summon a warrior angel to dispatch them.”
“Let’s backtrack a minute,” Cameo said. “That kind of experience wouldn’t tell you where Scarlet was and what she could do.”
Busted. Olivia’s cheeks heated. “I’ve been watching Aeron for a while and knew he wished to meet the others of his kind. I made sure to study those nearby—the closest of whom just happened to be Scarlet. There are a few others also scattered about, but most are hiding around the world.”