“You do know,” Stefano said. “You traipsed that fortress for weeks without anyone knowing you were there. You had to have seen it.”
Olivia, please. Return with me. I can’t stand to see you like this. I can’t stand this sense of helplessness, of knowing I can save you but being unable to act.
“I can’t,” she told him.
Stefano punched her arm, just as she’d known he would, and a small cry finally found its way free. Stars winked over her vision, and dizziness rushed through her head, slamming from one temple to the other.
“I can’t,” she said again, gasping for breath.
Slap. “You can,” the human replied, thinking she had spoken to him. “You’re not giving me enough credit for what I can and will do to you, and that hurts my feelings.”
The sting inside her already-cut mouth spread.
Olivia, Lysander snarled again. This is madness. Nothing is worth this. Come home. Please. I can’t help you any more until you do.
“Your wife…would not have…wanted this.” This time she was speaking to Stefano and ignoring Lysander. She was glad he was here, yes, but she wouldn’t cave in this matter.
Through her spying, Olivia knew that Darla, the wife in question, had committed suicide. Because of Sabin, keeper of Doubt, and Stefano—the two men who had loved her. She’d been locked in a tug-of-war between them, death her only escape.
Stefano’s eyes narrowed, shielding the darkness of his irises. “She was tricked. The demons tricked her into liking them.” He leaned down, flattening his palms on her bound arms—on her broken bone—and pressed. “If she’d been in her right mind, she would’ve wanted me to do more.”
Another cry escaped her. The pain was so sharp, it traveled through her entire body before collecting in her stomach and burning.
“Aeron will hate me more than ever, as well, when I send him one of your fingers,” Stefano said, as calm as when he’d caressed her with that feather. “Then he’ll come for you. He’ll end up dying for you. Is that a price you’re willing to pay? Tell me where the Cage is, and I’ll spare his life.”
There it was again. That hope for a better future. If she told Stefano what he wanted to know, she would go free, return to Aeron, and they could be together forever. They could make love again, and even start a family.
Did Galen know what his man was doing in a bid for the answers he sought? Did he care? Did he realize what his nearness was doing to her?
Olivia, damn you. You don’t have to tell him and you don’t have to endure. Just come home.
In and out she breathed. Fighting herself, her desires. Fighting that silly hope. Fighting the pain. She opened her mouth. What she planned to say, she might never know. Stefano hit her and she couldn’t form a single word…was fading…sinking…blessedly lost…
“IT’S GOING TO TAKE A WHILE and could yield no results.”
Aeron studied his friend, barely able to stop himself from latching onto those massive shoulders and shaking. Lucien’s mismatched eyes, one brown, one blue, were regarding him with grim resolve. “I don’t care how long it takes. Just do it.”He wanted to shake himself for not thinking of this sooner.
Everyone here thought that Olivia had returned to the heavens, as Legion had claimed. Hell, they’d all watched the video Torin’s camera had recorded. The one of her jumping from the balcony in his bedroom.
The scene played through his mind constantly. She’d been standing inside his room, staring out at the night. She’d stiffened, turned. Then she’d turned again, walking outside, her mouth moving as if she were talking to someone—Legion said she’d been mumbling about her excitement to rejoin her friends—but it had been terror that had bled from her expression. Then she’d leapt. Fallen, fallen, begun to soar. Without her wings.
How could she have flown without her wings? Why had she been afraid?
The others assumed that terror stemmed from the unknown, of wondering how the angels would receive her. Aeron knew better. Olivia wouldn’t fear that. She’d told him the angels were forgiving—patient, had been her word—and that they would welcome her with open arms.
The only rational conclusion was that Legion was lying. Again. Which meant Olivia had been taken, as he’d first assumed. And there was only one way that could’ve happened. Galen. Galen had used the Cloak of Invisibility.
Save her. Punish him.
That the demon wished to save first and punish second proved the depths of his affection.
Aeron had scoured the entire city of Buda. He had raided buildings, terrorized citizens and killed. Oh, had he killed, and happily, too, no trace of guilt, having discovered many Hunters still lingering nearby. He might never be able to remove the blood from his hands. But there’d been no sign of Olivia. No hint of her scent. No rumors, no sightings. He. Was. Desperate. And only growing more so.
“Come. There’s no better time to begin.” He led Lucien down the hallway to his bedroom, where he threw open the door.
Legion, who was once again lounging on the bed, sat up. The sheet fell to her waist, revealing bare breasts. “Finally. Are you ready to do this or what?”
He ignored her—as he had since tossing that vial at Strider—so angry with her he no longer knew how to treat her, and stepped aside, allowing Lucien deeper inside the room.
Legion released a frustrated sigh. “Company? Now?”
Wrath hissed at her.
Aeron sensed that the demon liked her still, as he did, despite his rage, because there were no urges to hurt her. But no longer was Wrath calmed by her. She’d destroyed their piece of “heaven,” and neither of them could forget.
Lucien was careful not to glance toward the bed. He stopped in the center of the room and spun slowly. He was here to lock on to Olivia’s spirit trail—a trail he could then follow to wherever she was being held. Aeron’s hands fisted.
“Gods,” Lucien said, the awe in his tone clear. “She has the purest spirit I’ve ever beheld.”
Aeron couldn’t see it, but he could feel it, and nodded. “I know.”
“Who?” Legion asked with a pout.
Again, he ignored her. Six days left until he had to be with her, but just then he wasn’t sure he could do it, even to save his friends.
“I’ll follow it as far as it goes,” Lucien told him, “and if I—”
“When you,” Aeron corrected, a low growl forming in his throat. She is fine. She has to be fine.
The warrior nodded. “When I find her, I’ll come back for you.” With that, Lucien disappeared into the spirit realm to follow that trail.
Gods, he felt helpless. He wanted—needed—to be out there, actively looking for her himself. But his first attempt had wielded no results, and deep down he knew his second wouldn’t, either. Galen could have taken her anywhere, and Lucien would reach her much faster. If Aeron left the fortress now, Lucien would then have to hunt him down, once the warrior discovered her location.
“Aeron!” Legion jumped to her feet, scowling over at him as she clutched the sheet around her. “This is about the angel, I take it. Well, she’s gone. Let her stay gone. We’re better off. Why can’t you see that?”
“We aren’t better off without her,” he shouted, no longer able to temper his ferocity. He faced her, pinning her with the fierceness of his stare. Why couldn’t she see how much he needed Olivia? “She’s better than any of us.”
Disbelief glimmered in her eyes like tears. “I didn’t believe her, but she was right. You…you love her.”
Aeron didn’t allow himself the luxury of answering. If he admitted, even to himself, that he loved Olivia, he wouldn’t be able to let her go when the time came. He would keep her, no matter the consequences. “Tell me what happened when she left. Tell me the truth, damn you!”
She opened her mouth. To lie. He knew it; Wrath sensed it. “Don’t.” With anyone else, the demon would have plagued him with an urge to lie in return. Legion’s sins had never bothered Wrath before, hadn’t even registered, but as pissed as they were with her, things were changing. “The truth, godsdamn it. Only the truth. After everything I’ve done for you, do I deserve anything less?”
“Y-you’re right. I—I’m sorry. I just thought…I thought it’d be easier for you if you thought she was…willing to leave you.”
No. Fuck, no. A raw cry from him, from Wrath. “So Galen…”
“Has her. Yes. I’m sorry, Aeron. So sorry.”
Having his suspicions confirmed…well, he might as well have cut the heart from his chest and torched it. His beautiful Olivia was indeed with his enemy, probably hurting unbearably, for mercy was not something Galen’s army practiced.
He tilted back his head and roared.
“Aeron. Tell me what I can do to—”
“Quiet!” As he glared over at her, he bit the inside of his cheek until he tasted blood. “You’ve hurt a woman who gave up her life to save us. Us. Not just me, but you. She’s the reason you’re still here.”
“I’m sorry,” Legion repeated raggedly, pulling from his gaze and peering down at the floor. “I really am.”
“Doesn’t matter.” That didn’t bring Olivia back.
Wrath’s demand, tossed out so determinedly, threw him. Even though the demon had been edging in that direction already.
She betrayed us.
Careful. Wouldn’t you rather save Olivia? Aeron asked.
Anger morphed into sorrow. Heaven.
He’d take that as a yes. Pushing Legion from his mind, Aeron stalked to the closet and began to prepare for Lucien’s return, strapping on as many knives and guns as his body could hold.
Just in case, he also grabbed what remained of the River of Life. Half the bottle. Strider hadn’t heeded his instructions all that well, but a little was better than none. Hopefully, Olivia wouldn’t need any. But if Galen had hurt her, there wasn’t a hole the bastard would be able to hide in or a piece of fabric he’d be able to shield himself with. In the end, Aeron would find him.