- The Darkest Passion
“Fallen.” Olivia didn’t spare her a glance, instead remaining focused on William. “That cute little thing can kill everyone here. Tell the Lords and the women to stay awake if at all possible. The moment they go to sleep, Scarlet can invade their dreams even when she’s asleep herself. They’ll think what’s happening in those dreams is real, and their bodies will react accordingly, making any injury they sustain in the dream a reality.”
Wait. Aeron…asleep…nightmares… Had Scarlet already attacked Aeron? Olivia had to stifle a cry at the thought. She had to wake him. Soon.
William pursed his lips. “You couldn’t have told us that little gem before we brought her here?”
“Would it have mattered?” Saved Aeron? I’m an even worse girlfriend than I’d realized.
“No,” he said with a sigh. “Probably not.”
The truth, or was he trying to absolve her of culpability?
“Oh, and speaking of nightmares,” he added, “there are animals all around the fortress, just like there were around the car at Gilly’s school and in the cemetery. Want to explain that?”
“I wish I could,” Olivia replied, suddenly grateful to him and eager to help him any way she could. “Ever since I left that crypt, they’ve been seeking me out and I don’t know why.” Last thing she’d done was summon her inner light and—
And there was the answer. Her inner light. Of course. They’d sensed that light, and now sought the source. She explained to William.
“Cool trick, but it’s really freaking everyone out. And by everyone I mean everyone. Lucien flashed the rest of the men here. You know, the ones who were in Rome. And here’s a little tidbit of gossip.” Grinning, he rubbed his hands together. “Flashing makes Reyes ill and while vomiting, he had to fight off birds and rodents.”
“Sure you are.” Legion shot her a scowl. “You’re a troublemaker. Nothing goes right when you’re around.”
“Oh, shut up!” Olivia snapped. “We should be thinking of ways to help Aeron. Or, at the very least, finding him a doctor.”
“He doesn’t need a doctor. He just needs me. And I’m going to be there for him.” Legion began peeling off the dress she’d found while Olivia and Aeron had been fighting for their lives. A barely there dress clearly meant to rival Olivia’s slut-it-up outfit.
Olivia gaped at her. “You plan to be there for him by ravishing him while he sleeps?”
“That’s right.” Naked, completely unabashed, Legion pinched the covers around Aeron and pulled them back, clearly meaning to do as she’d claimed.
“Well, that’s gonna have to wait. Legion, honey, I need you to come with me,” William said with a crook of his finger.
Frowning, she paused, and her huge breasts jiggled. “Why?”
“Why?” he asked, as if he hadn’t thought that far ahead.
“Oh, well, I need to introduce you to the warriors who’ve been out of town. That way, they won’t try to attack you when they come to check on Aeron. And they will. Check on him and attack you, I mean.”
He was making it up as he went along, Olivia suspected, trying to give her some alone time with Aeron. She could have hugged him.
“But I can’t leave him,” Legion whined.
“We’ll only be a moment.” He smiled a beautifully practiced smile. “Promise.”
“Fine,” Legion grumbled, jerking the dress over her head and smoothing the white material down her dangerously curved hips. She hissed at Olivia. “If you touch him, I’ll eat your eyes in front of you and you’ll have to watch, unable to stop me!”
Olivia didn’t point out the flaw in her plan as the two left the bedroom and shut the door behind them, William winking over his shoulder. Not knowing how long this reprieve would last, she didn’t waste any time stretching out beside Aeron herself.
When things settled down, she was going to figure out who was invading her head and why.
She wouldn’t kiss him, but she would pray.
As she caressed her hand down Aeron’s chest, she closed her eyes. “Dear Heavenly Deity. I come to You now, as a humble servant who loves You. This man, he isn’t evil, despite the evil inside him. He’s kind. He’s considerate. He’s capable of great affection and boundless loyalty. Those are the very things You value most. He’s to die, I know. But not now. Not like this. You, who can work all things, even the worst of things, to our good, can heal him, making him ever stronger. You, who long ago conquered death, can save him.”
Please hear me. Please help me.
“Why are you doing this to yourself, Olivia? He’s going to die eventually, anyway.”
Lysander. That was even faster than she’d hoped. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you!
The voice—Temptation, she was going to call him—screeched in frustration. Not him. Anyone but him. I can’t stand that bastard.
“Then leave,” she snapped, a suspicion blooming. Temptation clearly hated her mentor, an angel, and the only beings to hate angels were demons.
That meant Temptation was a demon.
I will. So for now, later, baby.
When this demon returned, and he would, she had no doubt, she would have to be better guarded.
“Olivia?” Lysander said.
She opened her eyes a crack. Sure enough, her mentor stood off to the side. Tall, imposing, pulsing with power. His golden wings arched over his shoulders, and his robe swayed at his ankles.
What had he first asked? Oh, yes. Why are you doing this to yourself? “Aeron doesn’t deserve to die like this.”
“Many do not deserve the deaths that come for them.”
She curled into Aeron’s side, acting as his shield, as a proper girlfriend should do. “You were given a second chance with your Harpy. I deserve a second chance with Aeron.”
“And when his time is up, will you request a third?”
To answer as he wished was to lie. “Why are you here, Lysander?”
A muscle ticked in his jaw. “I’m here to tell you that your prayer was heard. I’m here to tell you that Aeron will be healed, but that you must make a sacrifice in return, as is our way.”
Sacrifice. Yes, that was usually the way of things. Since the beginning of time, self-sacrifice, undiluted proof of love, had always held the power to sway her Deity—and change the world. “I accept. Therefore, you may do what you were sent to do and leave.”
He remained unmoving. “Do you not care to know what you will be losing?”
“Are you sure? Well, no matter. I will tell you, anyway. You will lose your Voice of Truth. No longer will others believe everything you say. No longer will you never face doubt. No longer will you recognize a lie the moment it’s spoken. And if you decide to return to the heavens and be the angel you were meant to be, you still won’t have your Voice of Truth. It will be gone from you forever.”
Automatically, her hand sought her throat. Lose her truth? She would rather lose her hands as Gideon had. How would she deal with Aeron doubting her, when she would know in her soul that what she spoke was true?
Her gaze flicked to him. So still, so pale. So gaunt.
“Think carefully,” Lysander said. “Every hour, every minute, the path you are on develops more dangerous curves. And do you know what I see at the end of that road, no matter the direction you take? Do you know what awaits you there? Death, Olivia. Your death. And for what? A few more days with him. A few more days with a man who made a deal with me.”
“I vowed that if he can convince you to return to the heavens, I will try and convince the Council to spare his life as well as his demon companion’s.”
Her mouth floundered open and closed. In shock, yes, that Lysander was now willing to fight the Council when he’d always denied her pleas to do so, but mostly in hurt. This explained so much. Lysander’s secret visit with Aeron. Why Aeron hadn’t given her that last orgasm. Why he’d wanted her to see him fight, showing her the harshness of his life.
She meant nothing to him. Not really. How could she, if he were so eager to use her as a bargaining chip? And yet, he was still a man she admired. He was willing to do anything to save someone he loved. To save Legion.
If only that loved one could have been her.
“If I return with you, you can guarantee he will live?” she croaked.
“I can try.” Which didn’t sound like a guarantee to her. “What’s important here is that he agreed,” Lysander added before she could reply. “He’s willing to part with you to save himself.”
The hurt expanded, consuming her, choking her.
“Does that change your mind about this healing?” Lysander asked quietly. Hopefully. “This sacrifice?”
“No,” she answered without hesitation. Aeron had placed Legion’s well-being above hers, yes, but she’d expected that. What she hadn’t expected was to lose him before their time was up. Despite everything, she couldn’t lose him. “I still wish to make this bargain.”
Sadness filled Lysander’s eyes. “Then so it shall be done.”
As the last word left him, her vocal cords seized. For a moment, she couldn’t speak at all. Couldn’t even gurgle or gasp or breathe. She clawed at her throat, her mind fogging as ice and fire melded in her blood.
“It will pass,” Lysander said, suddenly in front of her and stroking her temple. It was what he’d done anytime she’d failed to bring her human charges joy. Offered comfort. He had always wanted the best for her, and clearly did now, as well. He was not a bad man, and she would do well to remember that.
As he’d promised, oxygen finally began to seep past her throat and into her lungs. The fire dulled, the ice melted. The fog dissipated. Grateful, she sucked in breath after breath.