“Interesting. Are they—”

“Nope. My turn to ask a question,” Kaia interjected. “So is this Scarlet a good guy or a bad guy?”

Olivia pondered her answer. “I suppose that depends on your definition of good and bad. She was raised in a prison, surrounded by criminals. That’s all she knew before being paired with her demon and later cast to Earth. Everything she’s done, she’s done to survive.”

“As have we,” Cameo muttered.

Which wasn’t true for Olivia. Everything she’d recently done, she’d done to suit her own needs. She should feel guilty about that, she thought, but…she didn’t. In discovering the path to her happiness, she just might discover Aeron’s, as well.

No “just might” about it, her newfound confidence piped up.

Finally Kaia finished applying the makeup, the brush strokes ceasing. The Harpy clapped her hands and whistled. “All done, and damn, I’m good.”

Slowly, Olivia cracked open her eyelids. The moment she found the mirror, she gasped. And she’d thought herself radiant before… The blue shadow complemented the color of her eyes, making them appear electric. The black mascara added so much length to her lashes, they nearly reached her brows, offering the perfect frame. The rosy blush on her cheeks gave her a just-roused-from-bed glow, and the bloodred lipstick gave her lips a kiss-me glaze.

“No need to offer your firstborn in thanks,” Kaia said. “I only accept cash. Now, if you’d like, we can go into town, find Anya, ’cause I think she’s still there, grab a beer and a man and continue your miseducation.”

Still entranced, Olivia reached up and grazed a fingertip over the half ring of black under her eyes. They were smoky, sultry. Perfect.

Try to resist me now, Aeron, she thought. I dare you.

Confidence was more than nice. Confidence was soul-changing.

“You can’t leave,” Cameo protested. “I’m not done with my questions.”

Kaia rolled her eyes. “So ask them in town while we’re drinking ourselves into a stupor. I’m thirsty, and Anya will decapitate us if we fail to include her.”

“You have an answer for everything,” the female Lord grumbled.

“I know, right? Isn’t it wonderful?”


As the two bantered back and forth, Olivia next traced her lips. Soon she would know the feel of Aeron’s. Again, no “might” about it. He wouldn’t be able to resist her. She could barely resist herself. Would his lips be hard or soft? Would they plunder or be gentle? Didn’t matter, really. She would finally taste him, and that’s what she craved most.

“Isss thisss her? Isss thisss the one? Well, guesss what? You will die, angel,” a new voice suddenly proclaimed, and there was enough hate in that voice to slay an army.

Olivia jolted up and spun, barely managing to remain upright. A tiny demon stood across the bedroom, its eyes bright red with malice. Its claws were elongated and ready for attack, its teeth sharp and bared. Even its green scales seemed sharpened, standing on end like pieces of broken glass—ready to cut.

This time, she hadn’t fallen into hell. Hell had come to her.

No! A scream formed in her throat, but just before it could unfurl, it lodged in the knot growing there, so all that emerged was a choking sound.

Calm, steady. She’d caught a glimpse of this creature a few times while following Aeron and knew who it was. Legion. You don’t have to be afraid.

Squaring her shoulders, she tried to unfold her wings for balance—only to be reminded that she no longer had them. She gulped. “Hello, Legion. My name is Olivia. I—I mean you no harm.”

“Sssorry, but I can’t sssay the sssame.”

“Now, now.” Cameo jumped in front of Olivia, acting as a shield. “There’ll be none of that. We’re all friends here.”

“I’ll kill you, too, if you get in my way,” Legion snarled. “Move! That angel isss mine.”

Kaia pressed into Cameo’s side, the two more than a shield. They were a wall. “Well, I guess you’ll have to kill me, too, then.”

They were…protecting her? Guarding her? Despite her fear, Olivia’s chest swelled with pleasure. They didn’t know her, yet they were treating her as one of their own. As if she already belonged.

“So?” Kaia demanded. “What’s it gonna be, demon girl?”

“I accept your offer. I’ll kill you, too.” Then Legion…disappeared.

O-kay. After her words, that disappearance was a relief. But why would—

She reappeared between the two warrior women. Before either had time to deflect or prepare, she’d bitten them both on the neck. Both women collapsed on the ground, writhing and moaning in pain.

Olivia barely had time to process what she’d witnessed. “How could you do such a thing! I thought they were your friends. They hadn’t hurt you, only wanted to save me.”

Those red eyes locked on her, the hate intensifying. “Aeron isss mine. You don’t get to have him.”

“Well, I’m afraid I can’t agree with you.” Though Olivia trembled—she was alone, weaponless, defenseless and unstable—she stood her ground. “Aeron will be mine.” One way or another. She wouldn’t lie about that, even to save herself.

A forked tongue swiped over those pointed teeth. “You gonna pay for that, angel. With your life.”

Legion leapt at her.


SEVEN DAYS. Seven damn days, and not a single result. Strider, keeper of Defeat, wiped his sweaty face with a towel. He propped himself against the boulder at his back and surveyed his surroundings. The sun was shining brightly, hotter here than it had ever been in Buda. Pristine water gently washed toward this island near Rome, the soft hum of it a balm for his ears.

All that remained of the Temple of the Unspoken Ones were battered pillars identical to the one at his back—some fallen, some standing—and an altar still stained and splattered with crimson. There was a vibration of energy in the air. Energy that caused his hair to stand on end. And yet, despite the altar and the energy, Strider felt an odd sort of kinship with the place. After all, a lot of people considered him an unspoken one. Evil and unnecessary.Not that he agreed. He was paired with Defeat and couldn’t lose a single challenge without suffering for it. Where was the evil in that? Wasn’t like he killed indiscriminately just to win an Xbox game or anything.

Anyway. Last time he’d been here, archaeologists had been studying every nook and cranny. Hunters had been among their numbers, hoping to find one of Cronus’s powerful artifacts or even Pandora’s box itself. They weren’t here anymore. Why?

Though the temple had risen from the sea only a few months ago, trees had already grown, tall and lush and green. They circled the area where the temple had once stood proud, but they didn’t quite touch that temple. They actually arched away from it, as if afraid of getting too close.

What was here that hadn’t been the last time he’d visited was bones. Human bones. The archaeologists’, most likely. What had killed them, he could only guess. There was no trace of flesh or blood. Yeah, an animal could have devoured so many people in the handful of months since he’d last been here, but wouldn’t there have been some trace of the feasting? Well, besides the bones. A bloodstain here, a piece of rotten meat there. Claw marks where the humans had fought for freedom. Footprints where they had tried to run away.

There weren’t.

So. What could consume so cleanly? A godly creature, that’s what.

Anya, (minor) goddess of Anarchy and Lucien’s girlfriend-slash-soon-to-be-wife—horror of horrors, the naughty little vixen had decided to plan a wedding for herself—didn’t know much about these Unspoken Ones, so wouldn’t verify his idea that they had turned the humans into meals-on-heels. The gods had never, well, spoken of them, she’d said, so she wasn’t sure what they could do. The gods had feared them, however.

Still, Strider wasn’t leaving. He had to find those artifacts. He had to find Pandora’s box. He had to destroy the Hunters. Finally. His life depended on it. Hell, his peace of mind depended on it. Every day Defeat spoke a little louder inside his head, so every day he was reminded more and more of the first days of his possession. Days he wanted to forget.

His demon had been a roar, a constant scream, the consuming need to challenge everyone he encountered driving him. No matter the consequences. Kill a friend? So be it. As long as he won.

He’d hated himself back then. His friends had probably hated him, too. Well, not true. They’d been as wild from their demons as he’d been from his. It had taken centuries to learn how to control themselves. But while they now had control of their darker halves, he was edging closer to its loss.

“Looks like someone decided to take his break before the rest of us,” a raspy voice teased from behind him.

Strider turned. Gwen, a redheaded beauty who was stronger and more vicious than any of the Lords, approached him, a glistening bottle of water in her hand. She tossed it at him, and he easily caught it. Within seconds, he had the entire thing drained. Gods, the cold felt good as the liquid moistened his dry throat.


“You’re welcome.” Slowly she grinned, and he knew exactly why Sabin had fallen in love with her. Naughty women ruled. “I stole it from Sabin.”

“I heard that, wife,” Sabin said, striding around the boulder across from them. He increased his speed until he reached Gwen’s side, then draped an arm around her shoulders.

Immediately she reached up and twined her fingers with his. She even leaned her head against his side, trusting the man to hold her up and keep her safe. They might enjoy one-upping each other, but they were unified. That much was clear.

Their pairing had initially shocked Strider, truth be told. After all, Gwen was Galen’s daughter and Galen was leader of their greatest enemy. More than that, Sabin was the keeper of Doubt and Gwen had been a timid little mouse the first time the two had met. The demon had practically eaten her alive.