- The Darkest Passion
“Yet you do wish to…. soil her completely?”
He pressed his lips into a mulish line. They were not having that conversation. Already his body reacted at the thought of bedding her, hardening in all the right places.
“I can see that you do. Very well, then.” Or maybe they were. “Be with her in…that way, if that’s what you both desire. I will not punish you for it, for no one knows better than I that a woman bent on seduction is irresistible. And no one knows Olivia better than I. If she doesn’t experience everything—” Lysander, the fearsome angel actually blushed “—she won’t leave you. So. After the act, make her miserable like I told you. Convince her to leave you without physically harming her, and I’ll do my best to convince the Heavenly High Council to spare you and your demon friend.”
Lysander’s best would equal success. No question in Aeron’s mind.
Which meant Aeron and Legion would be alive, and Olivia would be forever protected. Olivia, whom Lysander knew better than anyone. That statement roused more emotion than any other—even the one about being spared.
He should be the one to know her best.
“Thank you,” he forced himself to say. Funny. The words sounded like they’d been shoved past blades.
Lysander backed away, one step, two. “I’ll go now, but not without first imparting information you have long craved, as you cannot protect my ward the way she needs if you do not know what’s happening around you.” He didn’t wait for Aeron’s response. But then, Aeron didn’t have one. Had he spoken, he might have accidentally sent Lysander on his way rather than urging him to continue. “You’ve often wondered why Cronus refuses to harm Galen on his own. The reason is simple. Cronus and his wife, Rhea, despise each other. They have taken opposite sides in your war and have vowed not to capture or kill any Lord themselves. Their way of keeping the fight somewhat fair, I suppose. Rhea is, of course, Galen’s shield and informant.”
So. A god was helping the Hunters. And not just any god, but the Titan queen.
Should have known, should have guessed. Aeron had met her once, when the Titans had first defeated the Greeks and overtaken the heavens. They’d summoned him, hoping he would supply information about the Lords. Rhea had looked as old as Cronus once had, with silver hair and wrinkled skin. She had radiated such coldness and hatred, Aeron had been taken aback—though at the time, he’d been more concerned by the news about the changing of the heavenly guard than by one lone goddess’s chilly stare.
“One more bit of information I’ll leave you with,” Lysander said, “for this will aid you more than any other. Cronus and Rhea are like you.”
Like him? “What do you mean?”
“They are gods, yes, but they are also Lords. She is possessed by the demon of Strife and he—he is possessed by Greed.”
OLIVIA GROANED. Her temples throbbed and her brain felt as if it had been doused in gasoline and set on fire. Still, she blinked open her eyes, determined to find out what was wrong with her; tears instantly formed, burning hotter than her head. And now, as awareness swept through her, she realized her mouth felt as if it had been stuffed with barbed wire and cotton.
She smacked her lips, confused, concerned.“That’s a good girl,” Aeron said. Though the words themselves were positive, he sounded harried. Even upset. And loud. Way too loud. “Wake up. Come on, Olivia. You can do it.”
“Hush.” Through a foggy haze, she managed to focus on him. He crouched beside her, both hands extended. In one, two little pills rested. In the other was a cup of something dark and steamy. “Please.”
“I need you to take these and drink this.” At least he whispered this time.
As an angel, her senses hadn’t been attuned to this plane and she’d never truly smelled what humans cooked or drank or misted all over their bodies. But she could smell now, and that dark liquid was divine. Like bottled power, promising a fresh start, perhaps even a total body healing.
Coffee, she knew humans called it. No wonder they stood in mile-long lines and were willing to hand over every cent in their pockets for a single shot of it.
“What are those?” she managed to croak out, motioning to the pills with a tilt of her chin. Mistake! The movement sent a wave of dizziness crashing through her.
“Just take them. They’ll make you feel better.”
That, he hadn’t whispered and she covered her ears. “Do you have an inside voice? Could you use it, please?”
He fisted the pills and gently dislodged her hands. “Stop playing. We don’t have a lot of time.”
“Shh! Livvie’s talking, and she’s not averse to crushing your vocal cords if you don’t keep it down.” Why did she like this man again?
Gingerly she sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her still-burning brain nearly exploded, and she groaned.
Aeron gave her an impatient scowl. No, not impatient. The emotion in that scowl was dark, yes, but whatever he felt was harder. Needier? Had her groan affected him?
She wanted to preen. She did fluff her hair—only to realize the curling mass tumbled down her shoulders in countless tangles. Her cheeks flamed as she pulled up the hood of her robe. Or tried to. Frowning, she looked down. Blue tank top, short black skirt.
Why was— Her slut-it-up makeover, she recalled. Oh, yeah. But that didn’t explain her headache. Her lashes lifted and she met Aeron’s penetrating stare. “Was I injured?”
He snorted. “Hardly. You drank too much, and are now paying the price.”
That wasn’t the only price she was paying. One terrible memory after another suddenly flooded her. After that first bottle of giggle juice, which clearly hadn’t been so giggly for her, she’d experienced a terrible sense of loss. After the second bottle, a crushing sense of depression had come over her, and she had sobbed uncontrollably. Gideon had held her, and she’d cried all over him. About Aeron. Mortifying.
Aeron lifted his hand to her mouth. “Take the pills, but don’t chew them. Understand? Swallow them whole.”
Could she? Just then, they looked as big as oranges. Her arm was shaking as she pinched the pills between her fingers and tossed them into her mouth. Tried to swallow. Failed. Ugh. The taste! Her face scrunched in revulsion.
“Drink. That’ll help.” He held the steaming cup to her lips and poured.
Olivia gagged. While the liquid smelled wonderful, it tasted like a mix of battery acid and dirt. How ladylike would she appear if she spit everything onto the bed?
“Swallow,” he barked as he set the cup aside.
She did. Barely. The pills slid down her throat, rubbing her raw, as did that disgusting coffee. When she stopped shuddering, she glared up at him. “Don’t ever do that to me again!”
He rolled his eyes and settled back on his haunches. “You did it to yourself when you allowed Gideon to get you drunk.”
How many times was he going to remind her of her folly?
“Now, I need you to get up. Livvie. We’ve got something to do.”
Right now she only wanted to go back to bed. In fact, she fell back onto the mattress and gazed up at the ceiling. There was a poster of a woman in a bikini, her skin golden, her cheeks red and her nipples hard. Long blond hair blew in the wind. Olivia frowned, confusion returning. That hadn’t been in Aeron’s bedroom before.
She scanned the rest of the room, but didn’t recognize anything. There was a walnut dresser with a crystal vase that glistened in the light seeping through white curtains, portraits of different-colored flowers on the walls and pretty beige carpet on the floor.
“This doesn’t look like your place,” she said.
“That’s because it isn’t.”
Her frown intensified. “So…whose is it?”
“Yours. You’ll be staying here with Gilly, in this guest room. Do you know Gilly?” He didn’t give her a chance to answer. “Both Paris and William have bunked here before, hence the poster. Anyway, you’ll be staying until you decide to return to the heavens.”
Realization hit. He was so desperate to be done with her, he’d flown her into town while she slept. Oh, that hurt.
Fight past your pain. “Yes, I do know Gilly,” she said, voice trembling. She knew the girl better than any of the Lords, actually. Gilly was young and sweet and had lived a tragic life until moving here, her parents having hurt her in so many ways.
At one time, Olivia had been responsible for bringing joy into Gilly’s life. That’s why, when Gilly ran away from home, she’d led the teen to Los Angeles. On a level even Olivia hadn’t understood, she’d known Gilly would find salvation there. What she hadn’t known then was that that salvation would be Danika and the Lords of the Underworld.
Her Deity worked in mysterious ways.
“But,” she continued, “I’m not going back to the heavens.”
Determination glinted in Aeron’s eyes, but all he said was, “We’ll talk about it later. Right now, as I told you, we have a job to do. You’ve got time for a fast shower, but it’ll have to be a multitasking one. I’ve got questions for you, so we’ll talk while you’re cleaning up.”
He didn’t wait for her response, but scooped her up and carted her to the bathroom. There wasn’t time to enjoy the ride. He set her down, severing all contact, bent over and worked the knobs in the stall. He had a nice butt, she observed, hugged just right by his jeans. And by “nice” she of course meant “so exquisite her stomach fluttered.”
Hot water suddenly burst from the spigot, startling her into averting her eyes. By the time she realized what she’d done—need more!—he’d already straightened. How disappointing. Or maybe not. That water promised strength, vitality and…her lids closed to half-mast. Fun, round two? Possibly. Her first shower, and Aeron would be an observer. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be able to look without touching.