- The Darkest Passion
Oh, yes. This could be nothing else but the Cloak of Invisibility.
Galen tucked the artifact into his robe, even as Aeron reached out automatically. Stay. Wait. His arm fell to his side. Information first, artifact second.
“There are cameras here,” the human said. “I haven’t found them, but I know the demons keep the city under surveillance.”
“Don’t worry.” Galen laughed, smug. “They’ve been taken care of.”
Oh, really. How? The cameras hadn’t been disabled. Torin would have texted him. Had someone hacked into the system perhaps, and was even now replaying feed? That had happened in one of the movies Paris had forced him to watch. Or could more powerful forces be at work?
Cronus sometimes helped the Lords, so it stood to reason that another god could be helping the Hunters.
“You confirmed that they have an angel in their midst?” Galen asked.
“Yes, though she doesn’t seem to be as powerful as you.”
“Few angels are. And half their troops are missing?”
Another laugh from Galen. “Very good. Now join the others and stay hidden until I return. Some of our troops disappeared yesterday, and even our lovely queen has lost sight of them. Once I find them, we can attack. And this time, we’ll show no mercy.”
Punish! Wrath chimed in again.
“No mercy? But I thought—”
Galen shook his head. “Tell the others our experiment was a success.”
The man’s grin was slow but no less satisfied. “No mercy, then.”
Those white wings shot out, flapped, then stilled. Galen frowned. “My daughter. I want her left alone and alive.” With that, he leapt into the air.
His surprising concern for Gwen would not save him, Aeron mused darkly, darting into the air himself. His wings were completely healed and he would have no problem following—
Galen disappeared, there one moment, gone the next.
Damn it, Aeron inwardly fumed. I can’t. The Cloak was gone, out of his reach, and Galen with it. Only thing left to do was dig up more information. Not that getting it would redeem him from this failure.
His gaze narrowed on the human below him. The male wound around buildings and parked cars, always scanning his surroundings. Aeron followed. Finally his prey entered the newly remodeled Club Destiny—now under new management and renamed The Asylum—and didn’t emerge.
Was that where the Hunters had set up camp?
Impossible. Some of the Lords were fond of partying there, so Torin had installed security cameras inside. They would have picked up their enemy’s presence. But…
Maybe not impossible. Perhaps the camera feed was being distorted, as it had been in the streets?
Other questions began playing through his mind. What experiment had been a success? Where had Galen’s troops gone? Who was their “queen”?
With Wrath still screaming in his head, demanding he act, he withdrew his cell phone and texted Torin. Call a meeting. Two hours. He had a few things to take care of first. Namely, Olivia. If she had answers, he would get them out of her. Meanwhile, she could calm him as he’d originally planned. I found something. Even saw Galen with the godsdamn Cloak of Invisibility.
Torin, who never seemed to sleep, replied instantly. Make it one. If what you know is more important than our enemy having an artifact, I gotta hear it ASAP.
Done. Aeron pocketed the phone and pivoted on his heel to head back to Gilly’s apartment, wake Olivia if he had to and demand those answers. But halfway there, a tall, menacing figure stopped him in his tracks.
Cronus, king of the gods, was frowning. As always, he wore a long, white robe and his feet were wrapped in sandals. His toes were visible, his toenails yellowed and curled.
Still, Aeron couldn’t help but notice he looked younger than he ever had before. His hair no longer sported strands of gray, but was thick and sandy-colored. His face was almost unlined, his eyes a brighter brown than Aeron was accustomed to. What had caused the change?
“My Lord,” he said, careful to keep his irritation to himself. The god rarely appeared when summoned, but never minded visiting at the most inopportune moments.
Wrath, still primed and ready, didn’t flash images inside Aeron’s mind, but then, it never did with this god. As had occurred when he spotted Galen, with too many sins to process, he merely experienced an overwhelming rush. Not to kill this time, but, curiously, to steal everything the god possessed. An urge he didn’t understand, and hadn’t been able to decipher.
“You have disappointed me, demon.”
Don’t I always? “This isn’t the place for such a discussion. Hunters—”
“No one can see or hear us. I’ve made sure of it.”
Just like another god had made sure the Hunters were unobservable? he wondered again. “Then please. Tell me why I have disappointed you. I cannot live another moment without knowing.”
Those brown eyes narrowed. “Your sarcasm displeases me.”
And as he knew all too well, bad things happened when the god king was displeased. Like Aeron’s mind and demon becoming crazed with bloodlust and his friends’ lives placed in jeopardy. “My apologies.” He bowed his head to hide the hate surely shimmering from behind his lashes.
“Need I remind you that Galen’s death is as important to you as it is to me? Yet you have allowed the angel to distract you.”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” he couldn’t help but ask.
Cronus waved a hand through the air. “Think you I paid any heed to your ridiculous begging? I do not want you distracted, so why would I send a woman to ensure that you are?”
He’d wondered the same thing.
“Get rid of her.”
“I’m trying,” he said, hands fisting.
Keep, Wrath snapped.
“Try harder,” Cronus ordered.
“She’ll only be here another ten—no, nine days.” With morning approaching, he’d lost a little more time with her. Which was a good thing. Yes, good. “And then she’ll be back in the heavens.” Where she belonged. He would make sure of it.
A pang of sadness hit him, but he ignored it. Just as he ignored Wrath’s whimper.
Cronus looked only marginally appeased at the words. “If she isn’t, I will—”
“You will what?” Another male suddenly appeared without warning. This one was tall and muscled, with pale hair and dark eyes. Like Galen, he had wings. Only, his were solid gold.
Aeron had only seen the warrior angel a few times, and as with Olivia, there were no flashes of vile deeds inside his head, no urge to punish in any way. That didn’t mean Aeron liked the bastard, though.
She’s too good for you, Lysander had said. Do not soil her or I’ll bury you and all those you love.
Aeron hadn’t sensed the angel on any level, then or now, and loathed how helpless that suddenly made him feel. Lysander could have sliced his throat and he wouldn’t have been able to fight back.
Olivia had been right.
Cronus paled to an unflattering shade of white. “Lysander.”
“Hurt her,” Lysander said, gaze darting between them, “touch a single hair on her head, and I will ruin you.”
“How dare you threaten me!” Cronus bared his teeth in a scowl, color swiftly returning with his fury. “I, who am almighty. I, who am—”
“A god, yes, but you can be killed.” Lysander laughed without humor. “You know I never make idle threats. You hear the truth in my voice. Harm her, and your ruin will be ensured by my hand.”
“I will do as I wish,” Cronus finally said, “and you will not stop me.” Contrary to his words, however, he disappeared.
Aeron struggled to gain his bearings. The god king had never backed down from anything. That he had now, before an angel…that didn’t bode well for Aeron, who was far less powerful.
“As for you.” Lysander held out his hand and a sword composed solely of fire suddenly appeared. The tip of that sword was pointed at Aeron’s throat before he could blink.
His flesh sizzled, even as his eyes narrowed. “Is this about the…soiling?”
“You have no idea how much I long to kill you,” the angel said. “Coldly, without mercy.”
“But you will not.” Otherwise, the angel would have already struck. They were clearly the same in that regard. When it was warranted, warriors acted without hesitation. They didn’t pause for conversation.
“No, I will not. Bianka wouldn’t like it. Nor would Olivia.” The sword lowered, vanished. “I want her back, but she…likes you.” Disgust layered his truthful voice. “Therefore, you will live. For now. But I want you to make her miserable, to make her hate this mortal life, and I want you to do it while keeping her safe.”
“So easily?” Those dark eyes widened. “You do not want to keep her?”
Want—yes. In that instant, at the thought of losing her once and for all, he admitted that part of him did indeed want to keep her. At least for a little while. He wanted to help her have fun, wanted to watch her smile and hear her laugh. He wanted to hold her again. Kiss her again. Touch her again. Finally sink inside that sweet little body. But he wouldn’t. She would be better off in the heavens, and he could return to the life he’d made for himself. A life without complications. Or worry. Well, except for the coming attempts to end his life.
If she remained on earth, she would be human. Fragile. She would soon wither and die. And he would only be able to watch her. That wasn’t something he would ever allow himself to do. Not for anyone. Not even her. Especially not her.
Mine, Wrath growled.
“No,” he forced himself to say—to Wrath, to Lysander. No more ignoring or accepting the demon’s claim. It was far too hazardous. “I don’t want to keep her.” Unlike the angel, he could lie unflinchingly.