No one to hinder, but no one to help, either.
A murmur drifted through the crowd. And then a single word began to echo from everyone’s lips. “Yes.”
“We can’t sleep, anyway,” Maddox grumbled. “Not with Nightmares in residence. When are we going to get rid of her, by the way?”
No one had an answer to that. The other, however, was quickly decided. Tonight, they would attack.
GIDEON COULD HEAR the warriors shuffling around above him. Their footsteps were harried, and he thought he even detected the click of guns being locked and loaded, the whistle of metal being sheathed.
He didn’t care. Didn’t budge. Nearly a full day had passed since he’d first entered the dungeon. After Scarlet had made her announcement—Lies, we’re together at last—she’d hissed a curse at him, said, “And now that I know it’s you, you can go,” then turned her back on him, lain down on her cot and ignored him, humming under her breath as if she hadn’t a care. She’d fallen asleep at sunrise, nothing he did or screamed able to rouse her, and had only woken up a few minutes ago as the sun set again.She’d sat up with a gasp, her gaze frantic. When she’d spotted him, the wildness had left her, replaced by anger and resentment—neither of which he understood—and she’d flopped back against the mattress.
“I can’t stay here all day, you know,” he said. Torin, who watched him from the many cameras set up down here, must have felt sorry for him because Disease had long ago brought him a chair. A chair he had pushed as close to Scarlet’s cell as possible. His long legs were outstretched, his ankles propped on the bars.
Hearing her voice after all that silence was like finding a pool of acid with Hunters already inside it: a whole lot of awesome. He even shivered. Thank the gods he’d never be able to admit that aloud, though. Em-bar-rassing.
“What, you’re ignoring me now?” she grumbled.
It would serve her right, as much as she’d ignored him. “Yep. Ignoring you.” Every cell in his body was attuned to every move she made, so even though he would’ve liked to give her what she deserved, he couldn’t.
Shameful. Men were supposed to be in charge, and women were supposed to be grateful for their attention. Men were supposed to give orders and women were supposed to obey them.
Okay, fine. He’d never wished for that before but he abso-fucking-lutely wished for it now. Didn’t help that Lies was freaking putty in her hands, quiet now, but humming softly in appreciation, just happy to be near her.
Another bout of silence ensued, and he knew she was punishing him. For what, though, he didn’t know. He hadn’t been the one to lock her up. Sure, he hadn’t set her free, either, but give him props for his intelligence, for gods’ sake. She would have run away.
Scarlet—he really liked that name. It fit her. Fit the curve of her wicked lips, the ease with which she flayed him and the darkness of her personality—scrubbed a hand down her face. “Just go, okay. I’m done with you.”
Finally. More talking. He’d stay here forever, he thought, just to be near her. Which didn’t make any damn sense! “My name isn’t Gideon.” There. Simple. Easy. And hopefully she would begin to reveal personal information about herself in exchange. Like how she knew him. Like how he knew her but didn’t remember her.
“Duh,” was all she said.
She knew? How? He doubted she’d tell him, so he didn’t bother asking. “I know a lot about you. Such as, you can’t enter other people’s dreams.”
Not so simple. Not so easy. “I’d really hate it if you left my friends alone.”
“Well, then. Consider it done. I’ll mess with them all night long, just to keep you happy.”
He stared up at the ceiling for a moment, praying for divine patience. “Please do.” Damn it. He rarely minded that he could only speak in lies, but right now it was irritating the hell out of him.
“Or would you like it better if I only concentrated on you?”
“No.” Yes. While he wanted his friends to be able to rest peacefully, that wasn’t the real reason he wanted this woman to stay out of their dreams. He wanted her to himself. All of her. Even her ability. Just until he figured this out.
Even still, that didn’t make any sense. He wasn’t a possessive man. More than that, he had no reason to be possessive of this woman.
“Sorry,” she said, sounding anything but. “I can’t promise that.”
“They won’t consider drugging you.”
“What kind of drugs? Can I request Vicodin?”
So she enjoyed human drugs. He couldn’t blame her. He’d indulged a time or twenty. Not that they affected him much, but a little was better than nothing. “How’d you know I loved spiders so much?”
“Ugh, you’re talkative. If I tell you something, will you shut up? I’ll take your silence for a yes. How did I know you loved spiders? Because I enter a person’s mind and just sense things. That’s how. Now shut it for good.”
Truth. His demon recognized truth as if it were a lone Hunter in a lineup with Lords. His demon usually hated it, was usually disgusted by it, even as Gideon always savored it. Today, the demon remained quiet and happy. No matter what poured from the girl’s beautiful mouth.
“That how you didn’t know my name?”
“I see bargaining isn’t a skill you possess.” She slapped the wall, and dust plumed around her. “So, what? You’re going to irritate me until I tell you everything I know?”
He didn’t want to admit that he just wanted to be with her, so he held up his bandaged hands and waved them. “There’s so much more I could be doing right now. Like fighting with my friends.”
“Injuries wouldn’t stop a real warrior.”
Ouch. “Yeah, ’cause a real warrior likes to get in everyone’s way and actually aid the enemy.”
“A real warrior succeeds despite his handicap.” She snorted. “I said handicap and you don’t have hands.”
Yeah. Funny. “If I didn’t have all my fingers, I totally wouldn’t be flipping you off.”
“The action of a man with more bark than bite. Figures you fall into that sad, sad category.”
What’s your problem? he wanted to demand, but the words would emerge as something like: Why don’t you have a problem with me? and he didn’t want to hear her say, Stupid question. I do have a problem with you. He’d say: Well, I don’t want to know what it is, and she’d say: Good, because I didn’t plan to tell you.
He’d had similar exchanges in the past. He was already frustrated, confused, curious, eager, and each emotion was pushing him closer and closer to the edge. An edge that always urged him to say things he didn’t mean and do things he couldn’t reverse.
“How’d you lose the hands, anyway?” This was asked grudgingly, as if she didn’t like that she wanted to know.
Her curiosity pleased him, and he lost some of his frustration. “The hands, well, they didn’t disappear through torture.”
“Of course.” There was pride in his tone. He hadn’t broken. Hadn’t spilled a single secret.
“Just as I suspected.”
His jaw clenched. Somehow she knew he was Lies. Had known all along. She also knew he couldn’t tell the truth, yet she continually pretended to take his words at face value. Just to piss him off? Because she was angry with him? An anger he still didn’t understand.
“Hunters do it?” she asked.
“How’s that going, by the way? The war with them?”
So she knew about that, as well, when he’d never heard of her involvement. How? Actually, she knew a lot that she shouldn’t. “We’re losing.” Winning, but just barely. Two artifacts against one. The liberation of all those halfling children the Hunters had created through hideous means. The discovery of their Buda hideout. Not that he could explain that to Scarlet. “Since you don’t seem to know me, I’m wondering if you didn’t come here for me.”
“Whatever,” she sputtered. “Look, I told your friend I just wanted you guys to leave me alone. I knew you were searching for me. I wanted you to stop. That’s all.”
No. That wasn’t true. Couldn’t be. Only, he couldn’t prove it. Lies still wasn’t helping. “How do you not know me? How do I feel like I don’t know you when I’ve met you before?”
Her gaze flicked to him, narrowed and once more filled with that anger. “You don’t remember me?” Okay. Anger wasn’t a strong enough word. Outrage had layered every word. “You don’t remember specifics?”
“I do no—” Lie, lie. He shouldn’t have had to remind himself, damn it. “Yes. I do.” But he couldn’t have met her. He would not have forgotten a woman like her. Beautiful, wild, a predator. Blunt, hard yet somehow vulnerable.
Yeah, he’d been with a lot of women over the years. Mostly one-night stands. Women didn’t come back for more when the man they were with constantly told them how ugly and stupid they were. Or when the man didn’t speak at all. And no, he didn’t remember all their faces, but as he’d already reasoned out, this was not a woman he would have forgotten.
“We were lovers,” he said to get them started, “so that’s in.” Out.
“Ha!” Her gaze returned to him and lingered, perusing him up and down. “I’m not sure I approve of the packaging, so no, we weren’t lovers.”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” he said, because he did know. She didn’t like the looks of him. His hands fisted. “For your information, I’m as ugly as they come.”
There was something smug in her eyes as she said, “Yeah. I know. That’s what I just said.”