- The Darkest Passion
“Say it,” he demanded, no longer the kind and benevolent man he’d pretended to be.
The moment the words left her mouth, a sharp pain tore through her. Grunting, she doubled over. She couldn’t breathe, was fading, every muscle she possessed spasming. But just as quickly as the pain had sprouted, the bargain birthing to life inside her, it left her and she straightened.
“And so it is done,” Lucifer said. Then he gave her the same smile he’d bestowed on her when he’d first brought her here. Wicked, satisfied. “Did I forget to mention that, when you fail, my first order of business will be to murder each of the Lords of the Underworld and set their demons free?”
AS THE NIGHT GAVE WAY to dawn, the citizens just now awakening and emerging to begin their days, Aeron stalked the streets, Paris at his side, both remaining in the shadows, silent. Perhaps Paris, who hadn’t hesitated in his choice of companion this time—did that mean he was finally getting over Sienna?—was as lost in thought as Aeron was as they headed back to the fortress.
Olivia had cried herself to sleep, and he’d held her through those tears. When she’d finally fallen into unconsciousness, he’d flown her to Gilly’s apartment, thinking that things would be easier that way. If she couldn’t talk to him, she couldn’t tempt him to forget his purpose. But he hadn’t left right away. Paris had needed time with his chosen, so Aeron had snuggled in next to the angel.Once again, he’d found that he liked holding her. Which was all the more reason to finally get rid of her. But as he’d walked away from her, meaning to do so permanently, he’d no longer been sure he wanted to get rid of her. Not that he’d ever been sure, but damn, his resolve had been shaken.
Seeing her in Gideon’s arms had given life to a possessive streak he hadn’t known he possessed, the earlier incidents with William and Paris paltry in comparison. The thought of Olivia roaming these roads, determined to have “fun,” alone, so easy for the plucking… His teeth ground together, a common occurrence whenever he thought of her.
A man passed, claiming his attention. A human. Mid-twenties. Large. Instantly Wrath began growling, chomping for freedom, conveying images of meaty hands swinging at—and connecting with—a sobbing female face.
Wifebeater, Aeron realized as Wrath flashed more of those images through his mind.
You’re worthless, the man liked to yell, spittle spraying from his mouth. I’m not sure why I married you. You were a fat cow then and you’re a fatter cow now.
For once, Aeron didn’t try to stop himself. What if Olivia had been the target of that rage? What if Legion had been? Allowing Wrath to pull his strings without any resistance, loving his demon more than he should, without the taint of guilt, he turned on his heel, raced forward and closed the distance between himself and the man. A man who gasped when Aeron grabbed him and spun him around.
“What the hell?”
“Aeron,” Paris called, weary.
Aeron ignored him. “You disgust me, you insignificant little shit. Why don’t you try beating me?”
The man paled, trembled. “I don’t know who you are or what you think you’re doing, but you better get out of my face, asshole.”
Tourist, he thought, or he would have been recognized. “Or what?” Aeron smiled slowly, cruelly. “You’ll call me another bad name?”
There was a snarl low in the man’s throat. He had a knife in his pocket, Aeron suddenly knew. He wanted to stab Aeron in the stomach, in the neck, and watch him bleed to death.
Without any warning, Aeron struck. His right fist connected with the man’s nose. There was a grunt, a howl of pain. Blood sprayed. He didn’t pause, but swung his other hand. His left fist connected with the man’s mouth, splitting tissue. The howl became a scream.
Aeron wasn’t done.
Can’t fight fair. Have to hurt. Wrath was in total control.
Still, Aeron didn’t mind.
As the man tried to orient himself, tried to struggle free, Aeron kneed him in the groin. His opponent doubled over, air shooting out of his crimson-soaked lips. No mercy. This bastard had never shown any. Aeron kicked him in the shoulder, and he flew backward. After that, he was in too much pain to stand or even defend himself.
He gazed up at Aeron through tear-filled eyes. “Don’t hurt me. Please, don’t hurt me.”
“How many times has your wife said something similar to you?” Aeron dropped to his knees, straddling the man’s waist.
Drawing on a reservoir of strength he probably hadn’t known he possessed, the white-faced man tried to scoot backward. Aeron merely tightened the grip of his legs, holding the bastard in place.
“Please.” The man’s voice was shaky, desperate.
Aeron struck again and again, raining one blow after another. The man’s head whipped left and right with each new impact. More blood sprayed. Teeth even flew out like pieces of candy. Skin split and bones broke.
Soon, there were no grunts, no gasps.
A hand patted his shoulder. “You’ve punished him. You can stop now,” Paris said from behind him.
Aeron stilled. He was panting, his knuckles throbbing. Too easy. That had been too easy. The man hadn’t paid enough for the damage he’d inflicted. But maybe he learned a lesson, a voice of reason said inside Aeron’s head. For reason to have returned, control must be his once again.
“Let’s go home,” Paris suggested.
Home, no. He wasn’t ready to return to his room—to see the bed where he’d kissed and touched Olivia. Still, Aeron stood. He gave the man a final kick in the stomach before facing his friend. “I need some time. Alone.”
A while passed in silence, Paris studying his hard expression. Finally he nodded. “All right. Maybe use it to decompress, ’cause damn.”
“Plan to.” Even after Paris walked away, Aeron remained in place, trying to pull himself back together. I’m in control, he reminded himself, even though he still didn’t want to be. I’m in control.
Wrath continued to prowl through his mind, worked into a frenzy and ready for the next victim.
He needed Legion.
Or Olivia, he thought then.
His heart began pounding for a different reason, and it took him a minute to realize why. Arousal mixed with regret was beating through him exactly as his fists had beat at the human. Olivia hadn’t woken when he’d left her in Gilly’s guest room. She hadn’t woken when he’d given Gilly instructions to call him the moment she did. No, she’d lain on the bed, splayed adorably, hair tangled around her, snoring delicately. Fighting the urge to curl beside her again had proved nearly impossible. But he’d done it. He’d headed out to round up Paris.
Perhaps he should return to her, he thought, heading in the direction of Gilly’s apartment before he could stop himself. He glanced up at the heavens, hoping for guidance. His gaze never made it to the stars. Instead, he caught sight of white, feathered wings and ground to a halt.
Galen. Leader of the Hunters. False angel. Bastard.
Automatically Aeron palmed two blades and slipped deeper in the shadows. He shouldn’t have come into town without a gun, but he’d been so preoccupied with Olivia that he hadn’t thought to grab anything extra. Galen was perched on top of a building, those wings outstretched as he scanned the streets.
If he knew Aeron was below, watching him, he gave no notice.
All the while Wrath howled inside Aeron’s head. The warrior had committed too many sins for the demon to process, the need to kill simply flooding Aeron. Control. Absolute control. He couldn’t lose it this time.
Galen straightened unexpectedly. Aeron pressed against the wall of the building behind him, sure he’d been spotted but unwilling to walk away. Perhaps tonight they would end this. Finally.
Galen jumped, falling…falling… His wings stretched farther, flapped once, and he landed softly, several yards away from Aeron.
Aeron tensed. He couldn’t kill Galen without severe consequences, but he could torture the bastard before locking him away. And then torture him again afterward.
A moment ticked by, then another, Galen simply tucking his wings into his back and waiting. He never approached.
Every fiber of Aeron’s being wanted to leap forward and attack. Surprise attacks were his forte, after all, but he held himself steady. Sometimes battle wasn’t the best course of action in a war. Sometimes merely watching and learning reaped far greater rewards. What was going on here? What was Galen doing in Budapest?
He’d come here before, of course, but he’d recently left to fight a contingent of Lords who had raided a facility in Chicago where he’d been raising—and educating—halfling children. Half human, half immortal. All of whom had been taught to hate the Lords.
Now that school was in ruins, the Lords having liberated the kids and found them loving homes. Homes the Hunters would hopefully never be able to track down.
Was Galen here for vengeance, then?
Punish, Wrath said.
“Finally,” Galen said, his rich voice filling the silence.
Aeron scanned the area, but saw no one approaching. So, to whom was Galen speaking? To himself? Or—
A pair of legs appeared a few feet in front of Galen. Only, those legs weren’t attached to a torso. What the hell? The question had barely formed before a waist appeared, then shoulders, arms—and there, on the inside of the…apparition’s right wrist, was a symbol of Infinity, the mark of a true, dedicated Hunter—and lastly, a face. Then a male was standing there, fully formed, holding a piece of dark, flowing cloth.
Not a ghost, then, for there was no shimmering outline around him. Just a man, as real as Aeron was. But how had he— Cloth. The word echoed through Aeron’s mind, followed by another. Invisible.
His eyes widened in dread and astonishment. Cloth. Cloak. The…Cloak of Invisibility?
“I’ll take that.” Galen confiscated the cloak and folded it once, twice. Rather than cause the material to shrink yet thicken, each fold diminished both size and width, and soon it appeared the warrior held a simple square of paper.