Olivia screamed. The burn, like acid and salt and fire…oh, Deity. Her hand was turning to ash, surely. But when she looked down, she saw the flesh was merely cut and bleeding, a little swollen.

“Olivia,” Aeron shouted, rushing to her.

Her knees gave out and she slid to the floor, no longer able to hold her own weight. She clutched her hand to her chest, breathing suddenly too difficult. The pain was just too intense, like having her wings ripped out all over again.

Before, during the fight, stars had winked over her eyes. Now she saw black spots and they were a thousand times worse. They grew and intertwined, ruining her sight and leaving her in a dark void of solitude and pain.

“What did you do to her?” Aeron snarled, cutting through the illusion of aloneness. And even though he was angry, she welcomed the intrusion.

“Pro-protecting myself,” Olivia managed to work past trembling lips.

“Not you,” he said, and this time his tone was gentle. Callused fingers smoothed over her brow, just as gentle, brushing her hair out of the way.

Despite the agony still blistering and sizzling in her hand, she offered him a weak smile. Aeron might not have wanted her to stay in the fortress, might even have run from her, but on some level he cared about her well-being. He’d bypassed Kaia and Cameo and come straight for Olivia.

Her newfound confidence had not been misplaced.

There was a shuffle of footsteps. Then, “Aeron, my Aeron. Ssshe’sss nothing. Leave her and—”

“The only one leaving her will be you. I told you to stay away from her, Legion. I told you not to hurt her.” Aeron’s hands fell away from Olivia and she moaned, bereft. “You disobeyed me.”


“Go to my room. Now. We’ll talk about this later.”

Silence. Then a sob. “Aeron, pleassse.”

“Don’t argue with me. Go.” Clothing rustled. He must have turned away from her. “What did she do to you, Olivia?”

“H-hand,” she managed to work past chattering teeth. She still felt as if she was on fire, and yet, now she was as cold as ice. “Bite.”

Those strong, callused fingers returned to her, only this time, they circled her wrist and lifted her hand. Probably to inspect the injury, but that didn’t matter. The action increased the velocity of her blood-flow, which increased the intensity of the pain, and she whimpered.

“I’ll make it better,” he promised.

“Others were bitten first. Help them, then me.”

He didn’t reply. Instead, he fit his warm lips around her wound and began sucking. In this, he was not gentle. Her back arched and another scream ripped from her. She tried to jerk from his clasp but he held tight, sucking, sucking, and then spitting. Sucking, sucking, spitting.

Gradually, the pain ebbed. The burn cooled and the ice melted, and she slumped against the floor like a doll. Only then did Aeron stop.

“Now I’ll take care of the others,” he said, voice hoarse.

The black faded from her vision, and she watched fuzzily as he strode to Cameo and gave her the same treatment, sucking the poison from the wound in her neck and spitting it out. When the warrior woman finally stilled, sighing in relief, he turned his attentions to the Harpy.

As he was spitting out the last mouthful, the bedroom door burst open and two warriors rushed inside. Paris and William. The two searched the room, weapons drawn. Paris wielded some type of gun. William, two blades.

“What’s going on?” Paris demanded. “Torin texted us that you busted through Kaia’s window.”

“Great timing,” Aeron replied dryly.

“What?” William said, all innocence. “We did you a favor, taking our time. We thought you were playing kinky sex games.”

“I will…kill that…fucking bitch!” A scowling Kaia lumbered to her feet. “She bit me. She fucking bit me!”

“I’ll deal with her.” Aeron rose, as well. His expression was bleak but no less determined. “Not you.”

Kaia pointed a finger into his chest and lifted to her tiptoes, but that still didn’t place them nose to nose. “No, you’ll baby her like you always do.”

“I’ll deal with her,” he repeated firmly.

“Hold everything. I missed a four-way chick fight. Then I find out someone’s been nibbling.” William’s attention shifted to Olivia, who was still lying on the floor. “Please tell me our sweet little angel is the biter. It’ll make me want her ever so much more.”

Aeron growled low in his throat, closed the distance and crouched beside Olivia. “Get out of here, Willy. You’re not wanted or needed.”

“I beg to differ,” William huffed.

“Rather than allow Aeron to kill you, I’ll explain what happened on the way out.” Cameo scrubbed a hand down her face before holding out her arm expectantly.

William just arched a brow. A frowning Paris strode forward, clasped her hand and tugged her upright.

“Thanks,” she muttered with an irritated look to William.

He shrugged. “You’re not my type, so I don’t feel the need to help you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Every woman’s your type.”

That should have made everyone in the room laugh, but tragic as Cameo’s voice was, everyone cringed.

Aeron scooped Olivia up. Good thing. All energy had abandoned her. Her muscles were still trembling, reminding her of the aftershocks of an earthquake. Without a word to the others, who hadn’t left as planned, he carted her into the hall.

“Every time I stumble upon you, you’re injured,” Aeron said.

True, but she wasn’t going to ask him to stay away. “I suppose I should thank you for saving me.”

“You suppose, angel?” He snorted.

Fine. No supposing about it, but no way would she admit it. He’d called her angel. Again. Which meant he still saw her as she’d once been, not as she now was. He needed to realize she’d left her sweetness behind with her robe.

“With that attitude,” she said, “you’ll get no thanks from me. Ever.”

No response.

She fought a wave of disappointment. “So?” she prompted.

“So what?”

Impossible man. “Do you now assume I’m weak and easily breakable?”

Again, he gave no reply. Which meant that, yes, he did. She frowned. As much as he hated weakness, she would never be able to work her way into his bed—with him in it and naked, that is—if this kept up.

She’d have to find a way to prove how strong she really was.

The words faith and love once more drifted through her mind. She doubted he was ready for either one, however. And besides, she didn’t love him. Did she? She just didn’t know. What she felt for him was different from what she’d ever felt for anyone else, but she’d never loved anyone in the romantic sense.

All she really knew about that kind of love was that it meant being willing to die for the other person. As Ashlyn had for Maddox. As Anya almost had for Lucien. Was she ready to die for Aeron? No. She didn’t think so. She hadn’t offered such a compromise to the Council when she’d had the chance, something they might have considered. Sacrifice always earned a reward.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked, changing the subject. She was still too groggy to reason things out. More than that, Legion was in his bedroom and Olivia was not ready for another run-in. If that was where he was headed, then—

“My bedroom,” he said, and her stomach clenched.

Ugh. He was. “But—”

“Legion isn’t there. As always, she disobeyed me. I felt her leave this plane of existence.”

Olivia’s eyes widened in surprise. She’d known they were linked, but that was…wow. “You’re that connected to her?”

He nodded.

Maybe Legion was right. Maybe she was meant to be with Aeron. The thought was like another injection of acid in Olivia’s veins. She herself wanted to be more than Aeron’s acquaintance, more than his friend. She wanted to be his lover. That had never been clearer than now, this moment, as his strong arms banded around her and held her close. As his heart hammered against her ear and his warm breath trekked over her skin. But she wouldn’t share him with Legion, no matter how much she desired him.

You won’t have to. You’re a confident, aggressive woman now, and you go after what you want.


“I’m sorry she hurt you,” Aeron said gruffly, surprising her. “She’s just a child, and I—”

“Wait. I’m going to stop you there.” Though she did like hearing him apologize. “Legion isn’t a child. She’s not much younger than you.”

For a moment, he just blinked down at her. “But she’s so innocent.”

Innocent? Now Olivia was the one to snort. “What kind of life have you led that you consider that little fiend innocent?”

His lips twitched as he pounded up a flight of stairs. Her weight didn’t seem to bother him. “It’s just…her lisp, I guess. And her joy at dressing up and playing princess.”

“She’s spent her life in hell, surrounded by evil, souls being tortured in every corner. Of course dressing up is fun to her, but that doesn’t mean her mind is childlike. She loves you, Aeron.” Or so she said. Would Legion die for him? “She wants you the way a woman wants a man.” There was no question of that.

He stopped in the middle of another hallway, one foot raised midair. He tilted his head until their gazes locked together, his violet irises wild. “You’re wrong. She loves me like a father.”

“No. She plans to marry you.”


“Yes. You hear me and you know I speak true.”

A muscle in his jaw ticked. “If what you say is correct—”

“It is. Again, you hear the truth in my voice.”

Aeron gulped, shook his head as if to dislodge her claim. At least he didn’t try to deny it this time. “I’ll talk to her, tell her a romantic relationship isn’t possible. She’ll understand.”