He ran his tongue over his teeth. I’m sexy, damn it! Yeah, his appearance was a little unorthodox. Blue hair, a few piercings. Tattoos—although nothing on the scale of Aeron’s. Boy was covered. Gideon, at least, had himself and the ink under control. He’d chosen designs that meant something to him.
A pair of black eyes he saw every time he closed his eyes. A pair of bloodred…lips… He sat up with a jolt, staring over at Scarlet. Who had black eyes. Who had bloodred lips.
“What?” she snarled. “I know I’m gorgeous, unlike you, but come on. Show some manners, for gods’ sake.”
For as long as he could remember, he’d had images in his mind. Black eyes, red lips, even a phrase he thought of only during the darkest time of night: TO PART IS TO DIE. Bright red flowers curved beneath them.
In his mind, he’d seen those words and flowers wrapping around a woman’s waist. His heart accelerated every time he thought of them, so he’d had the words—and yes, the flowers—tattooed around his waist, as well. Girly of him, and something many people had teased him about, but he didn’t care.
“I don’t want to see your lower back,” he told her starkly.
She stilled completely, not even daring to breathe. “Not just no, but hell, no.”
“I’m not willing to beg.” He had to see. Had to know. “I haven’t seen you before. I don’t know that you have a tattoo of flowers there.” She did, he knew she did.
“You’re wrong. I don’t.”
Lie, surely. “Don’t prove it, then.”
“I don’t have to.”
Argh! Frustrating woman. He pushed to his feet. He’d been sitting so long, his muscles ached in protest and his knees shook.
“What? You don’t get your way so you’re leaving? Fine. Go sulk like a child.”
First she’d wanted him to leave and now she threw a tantrum because she thought he was doing so. Women.
Bandaged as his wrists were, it was hard to grip the hem of his shirt, but after several agonizing minutes, he managed to do so. He raised the material and turned, offering Scarlet his back. At first, she gave no reaction. Then he heard a sharp intake of breath, a rustle of clothes, the patter of footsteps.
Warm fingers met his flesh, and he had to bite his bottom lip to contain his pleasured moan. Her skin was callused—from using weapons?—and abraded deliciously as she traced every word, every petal.
She could have had a blade hidden, could have stabbed him while he was distracted, but he couldn’t make that matter. She was touching him. It was more arousing, more…everything than being inside another woman.
“To part is to die,” she whispered brokenly. “Do you know what it means?”
“Yes. Don’t tell me.” Please, gods, please.
“I—I—” Her hand fell away. One step, two, she increased the distance between them.
Gideon whipped around. For a moment, he forgot about the bars and reached for her. His wounds hit the metal, and he cringed. Scarlet blanked her expression as she danced out of reach.
“Don’t tell me,” he commanded.
“I told you to go away, Gideon.”
Gideon. For the first time, she’d used his name. It affected him deeply. Slithered through him, burning each of his organs—especially his speeding heart. Because…because…while this was the first time she’d said his name during their conversation, it wasn’t the first time he’d ever heard her say it.
Just then he knew, knew, that he had heard her say his name before. Somewhere, sometime. She’d shouted his name in passion; she’d whispered his name in entreaty. She’d growled his name in anger; she’d cried his name in pain.
He had been with her.
“Devil,” he said, wishing he could say her name instead.
She must have heard the riotous emotions in his voice because for once, she didn’t have a sarcastic comment.
“Just go, Gideon, as I asked you to do in the beginning. Please.”
Please. He doubted that was a word she said often. But then, she sounded close to tears and she didn’t strike him as a woman who would relish crying in front of a man. Ever, over anything.
Except, she had before. He knew it. She’d cried and he’d held her. When? Where?
The only possible time would have been while he’d lived in the heavens. Since she was possessed by one of Pandora’s demons, she had once been a prisoner of Tartarus. He hadn’t locked her away, but could he have seen her there when he’d deposited other prisoners? Could he have spoken to her?
How could they have had a relationship, though, and he not recall it?
Could someone have erased his memory? Gods were capable of such things. Gods were capable of all kinds of cruel things. But that raised the question of why someone would have wanted to erase his memory. What could such a deed have gained? Prevented?
“Do you not have a man?” His voice was so raw, so hoarse, anyone hearing him would have thought he had yet to recover from a severe throat infection. A husband, though, would have wanted Gideon out of the picture.
“No,” she whispered, so sad her tone brought tears to his eyes. So sad her tone rivaled Cameo’s, Misery herself. “I do not.”
“My father is dead.” She lay back on the cot, peering up at the ceiling. “Has been for a long, long time.”
Truth? Damn it, demon! Help me. “No mother?”
“My mother hates me.”
He would just have to take her words as gospel. “Is there anyone who would want to see you…happy?” Please understand that I mean miserable.
Rather than reply, she rolled to her side, facing away from him. “If I tell you what you want to know, will you leave me alone? I’m not pretending to bargain with you this time, Gideon. If I do this, and you don’t leave…”
He didn’t want to leave. Now, more than ever, he wanted to stay. But he had to know the answer. Perhaps it would help him piece this mystery together. “No. Tell me and I’ll stay.”
A pause. Then, “I lied to you earlier, when I pretended not to recognize you. I did, from the very beginning I did. To part is to die,” she croaked. “They were words you once told your…wife.”
AERON STOOD on the balcony next to his room, clutching the railing, peering into the indigo-tinted sky. Most difficult choice he’d ever had to make, deciding between Legion’s life and Olivia’s. If he’d picked Olivia, as he’d so desperately wanted—still wanted—Legion would have suffered eternally. His friends would have been in danger. From Lucifer, no less. By picking Legion, he’d saved her and his friends, and Olivia could return home, unscathed. As he’d once tried to force her to do. As he now yearned to wail against. As Wrath was wailing against.
Keep her. Please. We need her.Block it out. Don’t listen. A demand for himself.
Had Legion appeared just then, he might have shaken her. The position she’d placed him in…the things he would have to do…to her, to Olivia… His nails elongated and bit into his palm, and the metal whined, arcing out of place. The worst, though? The things he wouldn’t be able to do to Olivia. Not anymore.
No more making love. And that’s what it had been. Making love. He hadn’t wanted it to be, had tried to resist, but in the end, even his body had known. Being with Olivia was right. Perfect.
But now, he couldn’t keep her. Even if sending her home were not a life-and-death situation, no woman would stay with him knowing he would soon sleep with someone else. And he would. Bile rose in his throat. He wouldn’t allow Legion to be possessed. He wouldn’t allow the destructive Lucifer into this realm.
Eventually, Olivia will thank me for this. At least, that’s what he told himself in a bid for solace. If she stayed here, she would be human. She would wither and die and he would have to watch, helpless to save her. It was a prospect that had always baffled him. A prospect that had always horrified him, yet just then, he would have given anything to spend more time with her.
Can’t lose her.
We must. He would have liked to hold her, there at the end of their loving, as his mind became wrapped in thoughts of being together forever. Now he had to live the rest of his life without her, knowing she was out there, that he would forever be unable to see, hear or smell her.
How was he going to bed Legion when Olivia was the only female his body responded to? He laughed bitterly. He’d gone from having no girlfriends, cockily assured he didn’t need or want one, to basically having two. One he didn’t desire. The other was ready to leave him.
Soon I’ll return, Olivia had said.
Instantly he’d panicked. Can’t lose her now, he’d thought. So he’d told her they had time and that she was to stay here. All he’d done was prolong the inevitable, making the split more painful when it finally happened. But he hadn’t fucking cared!
“Aeron,” a soft voice beseeched from behind him.
Heaven. Wrath sighed.
Stay strong. Resist. He didn’t allow himself to face her, but called, “Out here.”
Soft footsteps resounded, then Olivia was beside him, gazing into the approaching night, her wild scent enveloping him. Smelling her without touching her was torture. Torture he deserved.
“Where’s Legion?” he asked, expecting the girl to burst through the door at any moment.
Without Aeron’s presence? “That doesn’t sound like her.”
Olivia shrugged a delicate shoulder. “If you must know, I drugged her. And I’m not sorry!”
His lips twitched. Gods, he lov—admired this woman. The smile, small as it’d been, fell away.
One of Wrath’s visions suddenly opened up in his head; it was of Olivia and Legion sneaking through the fortress halls, careful to tiptoe, even while pushing each other out of the way. Legion held a bottle of wine. Olivia held two glasses.