Yes. Vengeance would be his.
WHAT HAVE I DONE? Legion thought, horrified, as Aeron stalked out of the chamber he’d decorated to amuse her. He was suffering. And she was the cause. He was right. He’d only ever treated her with kindness, and she’d reduced him to this. His eyes were bleak, his voice ripe with despair.
Her stomach churned with sickness. She would have done anything, anything, to make this better for him. Maybe…maybe even step aside so that he could be with Olivia again. No. Don’t think like that. Because she’d made that wretched bargain with Lucifer, her course was set—and so was Aeron’s.There had to be something else she could do, though. Something that would make him happy again. Something like…
The answer hit her, and she closed her eyes. No, no, no, she thought. Then, Only way.
With shaky hands, she tugged on her clothes. A pair of pants and a T-shirt she’d borrowed from Danika. She could get the angel back. Not for Aeron to be with, but so that he could finally tell her goodbye. Legion couldn’t follow spirit trails like Lucien, but she could sense her brethren. That’s how she’d found Aeron the day they’d first met. She’d sensed his demon nearby. She could sense Galen, as well.
I should never have let him leave with the angel. Despite the Cloak hiding him, she’d known the moment he stepped into this room. She’d said nothing, too busy hoping he’d destroy her competition. I’m a bad, bad girl.
Find him. Yes. Okay. That’s what she’d do. She’d present Aeron with both Olivia and Galen. And then Aeron would love her again.
“LEAVE ME ALONE, child.”
“I’m not a child.” Gilly placed her hands on her hips, the picture of feminine pique. Too-young feminine pique. “You need someone to care for your wounds.”“My wounds,” William told her with a frown, “are healing just fine.” Since the moment he’d returned to the fortress, riddled with slices, she’d been fussing over him.
Yeah, he liked it. What man wouldn’t enjoy being cared for? But the fact that he had to keep reminding himself that Gilly was too young for him was freaking him out. He shouldn’t have to remind himself that he preferred older, more sophisticated women.
He shouldn’t have to remind himself that he even preferred married women. Gods, did he love married women. The brokenhearted, too. They were easy pickings. Actually, anyone with low self-esteem was an aphrodisiac to him. He seriously jonesed, watching them bloom under his flattery. But adorable little Gilly?
No. No, no, no. Off-limits. Always. No matter her age. With all the women he’d been with—and yes, there’d been thousands—he knew you didn’t play with the toys in your own home. That left too big a mess. You played with other people’s toys in their homes.
“Why are you being this way?” She tucked a dark strand of hair behind her ears. A delicate ear. An ear made for nuzzling.
Idiot! “Get out,” he said more harshly than he’d intended.
She flinched, and then a blanket of hurt fell over her lovely features. “And go where? The other girls are with their boyfriends, and I don’t like hanging out with the single men.”
Uh, hello. “I’m single.”
“Yeah, but you’re not like them,” she said, gazing down at her shoes.
That was true. He was way more handsome and intelligent. Probably a little more deadly, too. “Gilly,” he said on a sigh. “I think it’s time we had a chat. I’ve sensed that you have some…feelings for me. I don’t blame you. Hell, I commend you for your intelligence and keen appreciation of beauty. But we’re friends, you and I, and that’s all we can ever be.”
“Why?” Those big eyes with their too-long lashes flicked up, pinning him in place, giving him ideas he shouldn’t be having. Like teaching her that pleasure didn’t have to be ugly.
You’re worse than an idiot. He made sure to moderate his tone. “Because you’re too young to be with a man and understand what that means.”
She laughed bitterly. “I’ve known for years what that means.”
There it was again, a verbal confirmation that things had been done to her. Things that should never have been done. “Whoever was with you was wrong,” he said tightly. “Very, very wrong.”
A blush bloomed in her cheeks, and he wasn’t sure if the color was born of shame, embarrassment or relief that someone recognized the ill-treatment she’d received. She didn’t know that he knew about the stepfather, and he wasn’t going to tell her; she only knew that William blamed the one who had hurt her, not Gilly herself.
Which was true. Her stepfather should be shot. And gutted. And then hung. And then set on fire. And William would see to it. In fact, that would be his next mission. Her mother wouldn’t fare very well, either.
“It wouldn’t be wrong with you,” she whispered.
Gods, she was killing him. “Why do you want to hang around me, anyway?” He wouldn’t tell her what he planned. She might try and stop him. “What makes me different from the others?”
She licked her lips, the pink tip of her tongue hiding away before he’d gotten a good enough look at it. “Well, you don’t smoke.”
That’s what she found appealing? “Neither do the other men here. But unlike them, I’ve been meaning to take up the habit.” And would do so, immediately. “And I won’t be using a filter!”
She crossed her arms over her chest and drummed her nails. “It’s more than that. You’re beautiful, as you’ve already told me.”
“As always, there’s no denying that.”
“Modest, too,” she added dryly.
He was what he was. He knew his appeal, and wasn’t ashamed to admit it. “Looks aren’t everything, though. Especially since I’m as shallow as a rain puddle. I use women, Gilly. I sleep with them and then I’m done with them, even if they want more from me.” He hated to taint her illusions about him, but it had to be done. One of them had to be smart about this.
She shifted from one foot to the other, once again looking away from him. “I knew all of that. I’ve heard talk about you.”
“From who?” Whoever gossiped about him needed to be—
Spanked. Hard. “Whatever she told you, just remember that she’s a liar.”
“She said you can make a woman forget her troubles. So much so that the woman is happier when you leave her than she was when you found her, no matter the broken heart you leave behind.”
Oh. “Well, for once she spoke true.” His touch was magical. “But listen. In a few years, the right man is going to come along and make you happier.” Sure, that man would have to meet William’s standards and gain his approval, but they would jump that hurdle when they came to it. “As for me, I’m not that man. I’m not right for anyone long-term.”
Again, hurt fell over her face. “But—”
“No. We aren’t going to happen, Gilly. Not now, not ever.”
She gulped, visibly gathering her composure. “Fine,” she finally said. “I’ll leave you alone. As you prefer.” True to her word, she stalked from his bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Unfortunately, she left the sweet scent of vanilla in her wake, taunting his bastard of a nose.
William pushed to his feet. His sides hurt, the wounds still in the process of scabbing over, but he had to get out of here before he followed her. The more distance between himself and Gilly the better. Besides, he had cigarettes to buy.
Maybe he’d help Aeron find his angel—who cared if she was findable or not—and then, when he was at full capacity, he would track and kill Gilly’s family.
A good plan, if he did say so himself, but why did he suddenly feel so…incomplete?
A WIFE, GIDEON THOUGHT, dazed. He’d had a wife. A wife he didn’t remember. How was that possible?
After Scarlet’s announcement, he’d just sort of stumbled from the dungeon. He hadn’t known what to say to her. Hadn’t known whether he could believe her, Lies absolutely no fucking help. All he’d known was that he hadn’t wanted to leave her, but he’d promised to do so, so he had.Except, he’d stayed nearby, in the stairwell. Waiting, thinking, floundering, hoping she would call for him. She hadn’t. Now, hours later, she was sleeping and he was headed…somewhere. He gazed up, meaning to keep track of his surroundings, when he bumped into an equally distracted Strider.
“Watch where you’re going, my man,” his friend said with a grin. “And shouldn’t you be in your room?”
He had his shoulder propped against the wall for support, was panting and sweating. He hadn’t eaten in forever, and was weakening by the second. “Probably not. No help needed.”
Concern chased away Strider’s smile. “Let me.”
A strong arm clasped his waist and Gideon shifted his weight. “No thanks, enemy.”
“You’re welcome.” Along the way, Strider told him about the bombing of The Asylum, and their victory. That explained the happy glow in the warrior’s eyes. But there was something else in his eyes. Something out of place. Something…dark, upsetting.
“That’s not great, but what about what’s not troubling you?”
Strider looked over his shoulder, then scanned the hallway, ensuring they were alone. They were. Even so, he remained silent until he got Gideon inside his room and situated atop his mattress.
He sat on the chair Ashlyn—and then sweet Olivia—had once occupied, propped his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, head dropping into his upraised hands. “So get this. We met the Unspoken Ones. They’re bad, dude. Bad. They know where the fourth artifact is, and they’re willing to give it to whoever brings them Cronus’s head. Even the Hunters.”
“So we won’t—”
“No, we won’t. You remember the painting Danika made of Galen?”