Aeron’s thoughts fragmented, but he knew there was something he needed to tell his friend. Something vital. Something about life and death. Yes. That was it. Life! “Men…shot…die…need…water,” he managed.
“I don’t understand.”
Shit, shit, shit. If he passed out before he explained what was needed, his friends would suffer. They might die before he awakened or Olivia explained. “River. Drink.”
“Water. Men. Must. Drink. Water. Life.”
“Aeron, I don’t understand,” Strider said, his frustration clear. “The men who were shot need water? How will water save them?”
“Water life. Only need…little. Olivia. Olivia…know.” And then the darkness dragged him under completely.
OLIVIA PACED the confines of Aeron’s bedroom. Legion was still sleeping, but she’d been moaning the past hour so Olivia knew she would awaken at any moment. And wouldn’t that just be a treat?
—can’t give up, Temptation—Lucifer—was saying. He’d been jabbering for hours. You must win Aeron.Allowing a prince of darkness to win, as well. Never. That was something she’d fought against her entire life. Victory was all that truly mattered, even at the expense of her own happiness. And that’s exactly what the price was. Her happiness.
He needs you.
He’ll be miserable without you.
“And he’ll deserve every bit of that misery.” Holy Deity, who was she becoming? That kind of attitude wouldn’t serve her well in the heavens. Yes, angels were tolerant and patient, as she’d told Aeron, but that didn’t mean they had to like who she’d become.
If you leave, you’ll never be allowed to taste him again.
A whimper escaped her. She wanted to hit the wall. “You are a thief, a liar and a destroyer. You will leave me alone. Or by my Deity, I will request Lysander be sent into the depths of hell to silence you. We both know that request will be granted. You are not to consort with the angels.”
You’re no longer an angel.
“I will be.”
Lucifer screamed in frustration, but didn’t say another word.
“Your voice is so annoying,” Legion mumbled as she sat up. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She must have forgotten how she’d fallen asleep, because she didn’t leap up and attack. Either that, or she didn’t care about retribution now that she knew Olivia would be leaving. “Where’s Aeron?”
Anger draining as concern swept through her, Olivia stopped at the vanity and plopped into the chair, facing the bed. “He’s raiding a Hunter camp.” Was he all right? She’d left his balcony doors open so that he could fly straight into this room. Though forever had passed, he hadn’t yet appeared.
Legion yawned. “Oh. Well. He’ll be home soon, then. My man kills quickly.”
Her man. Yes. He was now. Once again, Olivia wanted to punch the wall. A hole would leave some reminder of her. A reminder they could patch up when she was gone, but whatever.
That wasn’t important now.
A cool breeze had been dancing in through the open door, but for the past few minutes, she’d felt something sinister in the air. A sign of Lucifer’s presence, perhaps, or something else? The dark hints of smoke stung her throat, burned her eyes.
Perhaps the battle had already erupted.
Was it over? Was Aeron hurt?
Licking her lips, she wrapped trembling fingers around the vial she’d slipped into her robe’s pocket. The River of Life. She lifted the cold glass and studied the swirling blue liquid. Only a drop had been used, and there was plenty more. Would he need another drop this night? More than a drop?
If so, how long would the contents last?
“What’s that?” Legion asked with a yawn.
No longer did Olivia have to tell the truth, so she could have lied to Legion and kept the healing water a secret. But she wasn’t going to be around much longer, and she wanted the Lords to have access to the contents.
She explained what it was while reluctantly approaching the girl. When she held out her hand, the precious vial resting in her palm, she said, “Here. I want you to have it.”
“Hell, no.” With a grimace, the demon batted her hand away.
The vial slapped against the mattress, and Olivia anchored her fists on her waist. “Legion!”
“Your River of Life ruins our water system. We can’t even bathe after a single drop of that crap has contaminated just one of our five streams.”
“How sad for you. Just make sure the Lords use it sparingly. The longer it lasts, the more times you can bring Aeron back from the brink of death.”
“It can save Aeron?” Legion’s distaste had yet to dissipate, but she pinched the vial between her fingers, then smashed it between her cleavage. “I’ll use it sparingly. Promise.”
Olivia believed her. If anyone would see to Aeron’s health and make sure the warrior came first, it was Legion.
Should have been me.
She moved to the terrace but remained just inside, resting her head on the door frame. The moon was still high, still golden, but the stars were hidden behind that smoky film. She couldn’t see the city lights any longer, just trees and hill. Her worry increased.
You need a distraction. “Why do you love Aeron?” she asked before she could stop herself.
A pause, then, “He plays with me. He makes sure I’m happy. He protects me.” Legion probably didn’t realize it, but she sounded defensive.
Hinges squeaked as the bedroom door suddenly swung open, and Olivia turned, heart suddenly slamming against her ribs. “Aeron?” No one replied because no one was there. And with the door now thrown wide, she could see that the hallway was empty, too. The breeze must have been stronger than she’d thought. When would he return?
The others, the women, were camped out in the attic with Gwen, Sabin’s wife, acting as their protector. Just in case someone dug through the floor, Torin had explained. Something Olivia didn’t understand, though he’d mentioned a text message. Anyway, she liked Gwen, had from the first moment she’d seen her, scared to be here, hating what she was. Now Gwen was confident. Happy. Like I want to be.
She’d been grateful for the woman’s offer to join her and the others, but Olivia hadn’t wanted to leave Legion sleeping helplessly. And when Gwen had offered to carry the demon to the upper level, she should have caved, but again, she’d said no. This was her last night inside the fortress. She hadn’t wanted to spend it with a group of women she knew but who didn’t really know her. They would have questioned her about Aeron, and she just couldn’t deal with that right now.
Besides, Torin watched every inch of this place. He would sound an alarm if anyone besides a Lord even approached it.
With a sigh, she strode to the door and closed it, then ambled back to the terrace entryway. Her gaze flicked to Legion along the way. The demon was still lounging on the bed, but now she was studying her nails as if she couldn’t believe how pretty they were.
Where had they left off? “If you love someone,” Olivia said, “you want them to be happy. Right?”
“Uh, yeah. Hence the reason I’m going to sleep with Aeron. It’ll make us both happy.”
Had Olivia ever been this clueless? “No. It’ll make you happy. He thinks of you as a daughter. By forcing him to do this, you’re going to destroy him. You’re going to keep him wallowing in guilt, just like his tattoos do, a constant reminder of what he is, what he’s done and what he can never have.”
Those nails ripped into linen. “And you think you can make him happy?”
“I know I can,” she said softly. Or knew she would have. The way he’d made love to her that last time…that hadn’t just been about pleasure. That had been about a meeting of souls. A promise of what could never be. “He needs me.”
There was a very masculine laugh behind her. “Well, well. A demon Lord in love with an angel. I can’t believe my luck.”
Olivia’s eyes widened as she spun. She didn’t recognize the voice—not Lucifer, then—nor did she see anyone in the room. Great. Another invisible tormentor. Who was it this time? Was this her payback for all the times she’d spied on Aeron unseen?
“Who said that?” Legion demanded.
“You heard him?” What did that—
Strong hands suddenly settled atop Olivia’s shoulders, propelling her outside and forcing her to face the sky. Before she had time to resist, those hands shoved her over the railing she’d repaired in Aeron’s absence, and she was falling down, down, down.
For the first time in her life, falling terrified her. “The water,” she screamed to Legion. “Don’t forget the—”
She would have said more, but something hard clamped over her mouth. Something else, just as hard, snaked around her waist, jerking her back into a solid wall. She leveled out, began to lift higher, higher still.
A man, she realized. A man was holding her. Not Aeron and not Lysander. Menace poured from this one. Using all the strength she possessed, she struggled for her freedom, scratching at the skin she couldn’t see but could now feel, kicking at the legs resting atop hers.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said. The voice from the room.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
They broke through a layer of clouds, hiding them from view. “I’m hurt, truly. I thought my reputation preceded me.”
Galen, she realized. Aeron’s greatest enemy. He had found the Cloak of Invisibility; Aeron had said as much to Torin. That’s how he’d entered the fortress undetected. That’s how he’d snuck into Aeron’s bedroom.
That’s how he would ruin what was left of her life.
Torin didn’t have cameras in the bedrooms, but there were cameras outside them and those would have captured her jumping and flying. Anyone watching the feed would believe she’d simply been heading back to the heavens. Unless Legion told him what had really happened, Aeron would assume Olivia had lied to him. He would think she’d left him without saying goodbye.