- The Darkest Passion
“Well, hello, solution. Find a female with an ability that sets her apart,” Paris said dryly.
As if it were that easy. Besides… “I have Legion, and she’s all I can handle at the moment.” He pictured the little demon so like a daughter to him and grinned. When standing, she only reached his waist. She had green scales, two tiny horns that had just sprouted atop her head and sharp teeth that produced poisonous saliva. Tiaras were her favorite accessory and living flesh her favorite meal.
The first he enjoyed indulging, the second they were working on.
Aeron had met her in hell. Well, as close to the blistering pit as a man could get without actually melting inside its flames. He’d been chained next door, so to speak, drunk with that cursed bloodlust, determined to slay even his friends, when Legion had dug her way to him, her presence somehow clearing his mind, giving him the strength he so prized. She’d helped him escape, and they’d been together ever since.
Except for now. His precious baby girl had returned to hell, a place she despised, all because an honest-to-the-gods angel had been watching Aeron, skulking in the shadows, invisible, waiting for…something. What, he didn’t know. He only knew that intense gaze wasn’t on him right now, but it would return. It always did. And Legion couldn’t stand it.
He leaned back and peered up at the night sky. The stars were vivid tonight, like diamonds scattered across black satin. Sometimes, when he craved even the illusion of solitude, he would soar as high as his wings would take him and then fall, fast and sure, only slowing seconds before impact.
As Paris downed another mouthful of his liquor, the scent of ambrosia wafted on the breeze, as gentle and sweet as baby’s breath. Aeron shook his head. Ambrosia was his friend’s drug of choice, the only thing capable of numbing mind and body for men such as them, but its use was getting out of hand, making the once fierce soldier sloppy.
With Galen, leader of the Hunters and a demon-possessed warrior like them, roaming the streets, he needed his friend lucid at the very least. Factor in the angel, and well, he needed his friend in top fighting form. Angels, as he’d recently learned, were demon-assassins.
Did this angel want to kill him? He wasn’t sure, and Bianka’s consort, Lysander, wouldn’t tell him. But then, the answer really didn’t matter. He planned to gut the coward, male or female, the moment it grew some balls and appeared in front of him.
No one separated him from Legion. Not without suffering for it. Legion could even now be hurting, mentally and physically. At the thought, Aeron’s hands clenched so tightly the bones nearly fractured. The little darling’s brethren enjoyed taunting her for her kindness and compassion. They also enjoyed chasing her, and gods knew what they’d do to her if they actually caught her.
“Much as you love Legion,” Paris began, once again dragging Aeron from the sharply tangled mire of his thoughts. He tossed a stone at the building across from them before draining the rest of the flask. “She can’t meet all your needs.”
Meaning sex. Could they not abandon this topic once and for all? Aeron sighed. He hadn’t bedded a woman in years, perhaps centuries. They simply weren’t worth the effort. Because of Wrath, his desire to hurt them soon outweighed his desire to please them. More, as tattooed and battle-hardened as Aeron was, he had to work for every scrap of affection he received. Females were scared of him—and rightly so. Softening them required time and patience he didn’t have. After all, there were a thousand other, more important things he could be doing. Things like training, guarding his home, guarding his friends. Indulging Legion’s every whim.
“I have no such needs.” And for the most part, that was true. Disciplined as he was, he rarely indulged in pleasures of the flesh. Only time he did so was while alone. “I have everything I desire. Now, did we come here to share our feelings or find you a lover?”
With a growl, Paris tossed the empty flask as he’d tossed the stone. It slammed into the building’s wall, plumes of dust and rock filling the air. “One day, someone’s going to fascinate you, draw and ensnare you, and you’ll crave her with every cell in your body. I hope she drives you insane. I hope, for a little while at least, she denies you, leading you on a merry chase. Perhaps then you’ll understand a glimmer of my pain.”
“If that’s what’s necessary to repay the favor you did me, then I’ll gladly endure such a fate. I’ll even beseech the gods for it.” Aeron couldn’t imagine ever wanting a female, immortal or human, so much that it disrupted his life. He wasn’t like the other warriors, who constantly sought companionship. He truly was happiest when he was alone. Or rather, alone with Legion. Besides, he was too proud to chase after someone who didn’t return his ardor.
But he’d meant what he said. For Paris, he’d endure anything. “Did you hear that, Cronus?” he shouted to the heavens. “Send me a female. One who will torment me. One who will deny me.”
“Cocky bastard.” Paris chuckled. “What if he actually sends you this unattainable female?”
Gods, that amusement pleased him. It was so like the old Paris. “Doubtful.” Cronus wanted the warriors focused on defeating Galen. Which had been his obsession ever since Danika had predicted the god king would die by Galen’s hand.
As the All-Seeing Eye, Danika’s predictions were always accurate. Even the bad ones. But there was a silver lining: those visions could be used to elicit change. At least in theory.
“But what if?” Paris prompted when his silence dragged on too long.
“If Cronus answers my plea, I’ll enjoy the ride,” Aeron lied with a grin. “Now, enough about me. Let’s do what we came here to do.” He sat up and peered down at the street, scanning the thinning crowd.
To preserve the roads, cars weren’t allowed in this part of town, so everyone had to hoof it. That’s why he’d picked this location. Pulling a female out of a moving vehicle wasn’t something he enjoyed. This way, Paris had only to make his selection and Aeron would spread his wings and fly the warrior down. One glance at the gorgeous blue-eyed devil, and the chosen female would stop and gasp. Sometimes a smile was all that was needed to convince her to strip, right there in public, where anyone lurking in the alleyways could watch.
“You won’t find anyone,” Paris said. “I’ve already looked.”
“What about…her?” He pointed to a plump, scantily dressed blonde.
“No.” No hesitation. “Too…obvious.”
Here we go again, he thought with dread, but gestured to another woman. “And her?” This one was tall and perfectly curved with a short cap of red hair. And she was dressed conservatively.
“No. Too mannish.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“That I don’t want her. Next.”
For the ensuing hour, Aeron pointed out potential bedmates and Paris shot them down for various—ridiculous—reasons. Too pristine, too rumpled, too tan, too pale. The only rejection that mattered was “I’ve had her before” and as many as Paris had had, Aeron heard that one a lot.
“You’re going to have to settle on one eventually. Why not save us both the hassle, close your eyes and point. Whoever you’re pointing at will be our winner.”
“I’ve played that game once before. Ended up—” Paris shuddered. “Never mind. It’s not good to wander down that particular memory trail. So no. Just no.”
“What about—” His words halted abruptly as the woman he’d been eyeballing disappeared in the shadows. She hadn’t faded from view, as was natural. Normal. She had simply ceased to exist, there one moment, gone the next, the shadows somehow tugged to her as if they’d been jerked on a leash.
Aeron jumped to his feet, wings automatically pushing from the slits in his bare back and expanding. “We have a problem.”
“What’s wrong?” Paris, too, sprang to his feet. Even though he wavered slightly from the ambrosia, he was still a soldier and palmed a dagger.
“The dark-haired female. Did you see her?”
That answered Aeron’s question. No, Paris hadn’t seen her. If he had, the warrior wouldn’t have needed to ask of whom Aeron spoke.
“Come on.” Aeron snaked his arms around his friend’s waist and leapt from the building. Wind blasted through Paris’s multicolored locks, whipping several strands against his face as the ground loomed closer…closer still… “Be on the lookout for a woman with shoulder-length black hair, straight as a pin, roughly five-ten, early twenties, black clothing. Most likely she’s more than human.”
“Capture. I have questions for her.” Like how she’d disappeared like that. Like why she was here. Like who she worked for.
Immortals always had an agenda.
Just before they hit concrete and stone, Aeron flapped his wings. He slowed just enough to land upright with only a mild jarring. He released his charge, and they instantly branched in separate directions. After thousands of years of fighting together, they knew how to proceed without first outlining every move.
As Aeron sprinted down the alleyway to his left, the direction the woman had been heading, he folded his wings back under their slits. He spotted several people—a couple holding hands, a homeless male draining a bottle of whiskey, a man walking his dog—but no dark-haired female. He reached a brick wall and spun. Damn this. Was she like Lucien? Able to whisk herself to any location with only a thought?
Scowling, he kicked back into motion. He’d search every alley in the area if need be. Only, halfway down, the shadows around him thickened, consuming him, choking out the golden glow of the street lamps. Thousands of muted screams seemed to seep from the gloom. Tortured screams. Agonized screams.
He stopped, lest he slam into something—or someone—and palmed two blades. What the hell was—
A woman—the woman—stepped from the shadows, only a few feet away from him. She was the only light in that sudden, vast expanse of dark. Her eyes were as black as the gloom around her, her lips as red and moist as blood. She was pretty, in a feral kind of way.