- The Darkest Passion
“Oh, baby,” Aeron said gently as he crouched beside her. Despite the gentleness, she could hear his worry and his fury. But he was here, he was safe after the earlier battle. “What did they do to you?”
Like Lucien, she didn’t have time for explanations. “They’re out here, looking for me. Waiting by the fortress.”
He immediately stiffened, his gaze sweeping the area. “No one’s near us. You’re safe. And I’ll call Torin and warn him about what’s going on. Anyone in the area will be taken care of before we get there.” With a tender expression, he withdrew a vial from his pocket and held it to her lips. “Drink, baby, drink.”
She shook her head. There was no need to waste a drop on her. She’d be going home soon and—
Determined, he parted her lips himself and tipped the glass. The cool liquid slid down her throat, more than a sip, and settled wonderfully in her stomach. Within seconds, that liquid was deluging the rest of her, giving her strength, peace. The pain left her entirely, leaving a cool hum of pleasure in its place.
Stubborn man. “You shouldn’t have given me so much.” Even her throat was healed, the words leaving her smoothly.
“I would give you all of it.”
What a sweet thing to say. Sweet and wrong. She didn’t want to hear things like that. Not now. It would make leaving him that much harder. “How did you find me?”
His eyes narrowed. “I knew you wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye, so I had Lucien hunt down your spirit trail. Which means he saw where you’d been, what paths you’d taken. I will never forgive myself for how long it took us to locate you. And I will murder that fucking bastard Galen if it’s the last thing—”
“Aeron,” she interjected. She wouldn’t have him endangering himself for her. “Just hold me.”
His arms settled under her knees and at her back, and he lifted her, cradling her against his chest. “When we get home, you’re going to tell me everything that was done to you. You might as well tell me what the demons did to you that first night, as well.” With every word, his voice hardened. “And then I’m going to find Galen and the demons and return the favor. No one hurts my woman and lives.”
AERON LAID OLIVIA ON HIS BED as gently as possible. The swelling was gone, her cuts and bones healed, but he wasn’t taking any chances. Legion was absent, and he was glad for that. He didn’t know where she was; all he knew was that he couldn’t deal with her right now. His darling Olivia…when he’d found her…
His hands fisted. Wrath screamed for vengeance, and Aeron wanted to give it to him. Now. No waiting. He wanted Lucien to flash him to wherever Olivia had been held and just start killing. Actually, the “want” was more of a need, like breathing and eating. But the cowards had already run away, the warehouse empty. That much Lucien had told him before carting him into that alley. Not that that mattered to his demon.Clearly Olivia had been beaten, tormented. Lucien had told him her energy had been bright red with pain and fear. Aeron didn’t care what he had to do to find Galen. He was going to do it and finally kill the bastard.
Slow and painful, Wrath said.
Slow and painful, he agreed. First, though, he would battle past those dark urges and have his promised chat with Olivia. Her comfort, her needs, came before everything. And also, he couldn’t punish Galen properly until he knew exactly what the asshole had done to his woman.
He was going to punish him properly.
Relax. For Olivia. Aeron crouched beside the bed and Olivia rolled to her side, maintaining eye contact. “I would’ve understood if you’d gone…home during Galen’s interrogation,” he said. In fact, he would have preferred it if she had. He would rather have lost her forevermore than know that she’d suffered.
“I didn’t want to leave. Yet. I had to make sure you got this.” She lifted a small piece of folded gray material. “It’s the Cloak of Invisibility.”
For a moment, he could only blink in astonishment. Then he shook his head and laughed. His first in forever, it seemed. This tiny woman, this fallen angel, had done what an army of immortals had not been able to do. She’d stolen the third artifact from under the Hunters’ noses—and she’d trounced Galen in the process. Pride swelled his chest.
First the demon had wanted to chastise Legion, now Wrath wanted to give Olivia a prize. We’re on the same page, demon. “Thank you. Not that those two little words express the depths of my gratitude, but thank you all the same.”
“You’re welcome. So, what do you think of it? The artifact, I mean.”
“Looks so small.” He studied it from every angle. So innocuous, too. “How does it—”
“Cover an entire body? It expands as you unfold it.”
He didn’t want to leave her, even for a second, but he had to ensure the Cloak’s protection. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, and she nodded.
He kissed her forehead, then stood reluctantly, practically sprinting from the room. The first warrior he ran into was—Strider. Again. Aeron shoved the material into his hands and said, “Cloak of Invisibility. Give it to Torin for safekeeping. Thanks.” There. Done. Not his problem anymore. And then he was off, heading back to his room.
Strider caught up to him just before he reached the door, grabbing his arm and jerking him to a stop. “How did you get this?”
“Fine. Deets about the Cloak are on hold. We’ve got more important things to discuss, anyway.”
“Later.” He only had five days left with Olivia—if he could convince her to stay for the rest of that time. If not… Hell, no. He would. He was a warrior. He would act like one. Victory, at any cost.
Heaven. Any cost.
Two against one. He liked his odds. Then, when their time was up, then he’d finally have his vengeance.
“This can’t wait,” Strider insisted.
“Too bad.” His fingers curled around the knob.
His friend gave another jerk.
Aeron swung around, scowling. “Let go of me, man. I’m busy.”
“For news like I’ve got, you need to make time for me. ’Cause, here we go. You’re about to lose your head. Literally. I wanted to break it to you gently, but you were too much of an ass.”
He froze. “What do you mean, lose my head? How do you know?”
“Danika painted a new picture. In it, your head was detached from your body.”
He was going to die? So far, Danika’s paintings had never been proven wrong. The Lords hoped they could change some of their outcomes, sure, but had never really learned whether they could or not. Which meant it was more than likely that he was going to die.
He waited for rage to fill him. It didn’t. He waited for sadness to overwhelm him. It didn’t. He waited for the urge to drop to his knees and cry and beg for more time to claim him. Again, it didn’t.
He’d lived for thousands of years. And now, having met Olivia, he’d led a full and glorious life. Because he’d loved. His friends, definitely. His surrogate daughter, Legion, despite her recent actions. But mostly Olivia. He loved her. He could deny the emotion no longer. She was his. She was Wrath’s. Their reason for being. The source of their happiness. Their obsession.
He would have chased her all over the world, just for a few more minutes of her time. Minutes. Perhaps all they had left now, he mused, rather than the days he’d thought to fight for. She was his everything, and he wasn’t going to waste any more of their remaining time away from her.
Finally, he understood the humans. They didn’t beg for more time because they wanted to spend what they had left enjoying each other. Not wishing for what could have been.
Wrath must have understood, as well. The demon wasn’t crying, wasn’t urging him to change his course. Without the angel, they had nothing. And as long as they completed their mission—Galen’s destruction—they could die happy.
“Aeron,” Strider prompted.
He forced himself back to the present. “Who takes my head?” He would still have to be with Legion. That couldn’t change. He wouldn’t allow his friends to deal with a mess of his creation without him, but he would take care of that once Olivia was gone and avenged. And then, then he could die in peace. It would be better that way, anyway. He didn’t want to live without his Olivia.
Now he wouldn’t have to.
“Lysander. I think. Cronus and Rhea are there. I’ve talked to the others and we decided—”
“Later,” he said. What the others speculated didn’t matter right now. If they didn’t have facts, they didn’t have anything he needed. “Tell me later. I appreciate the warning, but like I said, I’m busy now.” He pushed his way back into his bedroom and shut the door, his gaze remaining on Strider until the wood blocked them.
Any other time, the confusion and concern on Strider’s face would have made him laugh.
There was a knock. “Aeron. Come on, man.”
“Go away or I swear to the gods I’ll cut out your tongue and nail it to my wall.”
That earned a growl. “Shut your mouth, Wrath. I’m trying to ignore the challenge in your tone, but it’s not working. Now listen. We can’t lose you. We can’t go through something like that again. We just can’t.” As he spoke, Strider pounded at the wood. “You remember how it was after Baden.”
Not going there. Aeron opened the door, punched his friend in the face and shut it again.
Only a heartbeat later, Strider opened the door himself, punched Aeron twice, smiled sweetly, although a bit sadly, and replaced the block between them. “I won. As for the other thing, you’ve got thirty minutes, and then every single one of us will be inside that room to talk to you. Understand?”