If only that loophole had not been closed… “Once, we were forbidden to kill demon High Lords, and that is what your Wrath is. Then they escaped the depths, forcing us to change our rules accordingly. So…I was to kill Wrath, as well.”

The admission caused his victorious expression to fade. “You fell. That means you didn’t agree with the edict. With killing me, my demon and Legion.”

“Not true,” she said. “I think you should be spared, yes. And Wrath, too, since the demon is a part of you. Do I think Legion should be permitted to live in this world? No. She is a menace in ways you haven’t yet learned, and she’ll most likely cause untold harm. I fell because—”

“You wanted freedom and love and fun,” he said, parroting her earlier words. Only, his were sneered. “Why were you chosen for this task? Have you killed before?”

She gulped, not wanting to admit how things had unfolded but knowing she owed him an explanation. “The dark one, Reyes…he has visited the heavens many times because of his woman, Danika. I saw him once and followed him here, curious about the life a demon-possessed warrior could have built for himself.”

“Wait.” Aeron scowled over at her. “You followed Reyes.”

“Yes.” Hadn’t she just said that?

“But you followed Reyes.” Anger radiated from him, body and tone.

“Yes,” she whispered, understanding. Suddenly she wished she’d kept that part of the story to herself. She knew how protective Aeron was of his friends, and his dislike of her had to be growing by the minute. “I didn’t hurt him, though. I…I spent every day afterward traipsing these grounds.” Following you. Wanting you. “I was chosen because I, better than anyone, knew your routine.”

Or had the elders sensed her mounting desire for him, and thought that if she were the one to eliminate Aeron, she would eliminate that appalling desire, as well? She’d often wondered.

“Just so you know, Reyes has a woman.” Aeron arched a brow, disrupting the etching of ghostly souls on his forehead. Screaming souls rising toward damnation. “But that hardly matters. I want to know how you would have killed me.”

She would have formed a sword of fire, just as Lysander had taught her, and taken his head. That was the quickest death an angel could deliver, she was told. The quickest and the most merciful, over and done with before a single thread of pain could be felt.

“There are ways,” was all she said.

“But you fell and are now unable to complete your mission,” Aeron replied, and now his voice was tight with dread. “Someone else will be sent in your place, won’t they?”

Finally he was beginning to understand. She nodded.

His frown gave way to another scowl. “Like I said, I will allow no harm to befall Legion. She’s mine, and I protect what’s mine.”

Oh, to be his, she thought, the longing inside her fiercer than her lingering pain. That’s why she was here, after all. Better to experience a moment with him than a lifetime with anyone else.

She would have liked more than a moment, yes, but a moment was all they had. When her replacement came, and he would, Aeron would die. Though her heart sank at the thought, the circumstances were as simple as that. Aeron would be defenseless against an opponent he could not see, hear or touch. An opponent who would be able to see, hear and touch him.

And, knowing heavenly justice as she did, that replacement would be Lysander. Olivia had failed, and so her mentor would be held responsible for her shortcoming.

Lysander wouldn’t hesitate to deliver the final blow. He never did. Yes, he was different now that he’d mated with Bianka, a Harpy and descendant of Lucifer himself. But to walk away from Aeron meant that Lysander, too, would have to fall. He would have to give up his forever with Bianka, and that was not something the elite warrior would do. Bianka had become his everything.

“I thank you for the warning.” Aeron pushed to his feet. If he’d said something before that, she’d missed it, distracted as she’d been. What was wrong with her? She’d come here for him, but since her arrival, she’d mostly retreated into her mind.

“You’re welcome. But there’s something I’d like in return. I—I would like to stay here,” she rushed out. “With you. I can even help with your maid duties, if you’d like.” So many times she’d watched Aeron clean this fortress, grumbling about his hatred for the assigned chore.

He bent down to untie her wrists, his motions so tender he elicited only the barest twinges of pain. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible.”

“But…why? I won’t be any trouble. Honest.”

“You have already caused trouble.”

Her chin started trembling again, the emotional numbness she’d experienced fading quickly. He still plans to get rid of me. Fear, confusion, despair all bombarded her. She buried her face in the pillow, not wanting Aeron to see. She was already at enough of a disadvantage with him.

“Woman,” he growled. “I told you not to cry.”

“Then don’t hurt my feelings.” The words were muffled from the cotton pressed against her lips—and yes, from her tears.

There was a rustle of clothing, as if he were shifting from one foot to the other. “Hurt your feelings? You should be grateful I haven’t killed you. You caused me untold grief this past month. I had no idea who followed me or why. My loyal companion couldn’t remain with me and had to return to a place she loathes.”

A place she deserved to be, despite Aeron’s earlier assertion, but whatever, as some of the Lords were fond of saying. “I’m sorry.” Despite everything, she really was. Soon, he would lose all he valued and there would be nothing either of them could do to stop it from happening.

Don’t think like that or you’ll start crying again.

He sighed. “I accept your apology, but that doesn’t change anything. You aren’t welcome here.”

He forgave her? Finally, a step in the right direction. “But—”

“You are fallen, but you’re still immortal. Yes?” He didn’t give her time to reply. Her clothing had healed itself, so in his mind it probably stood to reason that she would, too. “You’ll be fine by morning. And then I’ll want you out of this fortress.”


AERON PACED THE LENGTH of the hallway. He’d been at it for hours, but saw no reprieve in his immediate future. Someone had to guard the angel. Not from intruders but from her intrusion, just in case she was here to sneak about and listen to things she shouldn’t.

A rationalization that didn’t make a lot of sense, but one he would stick with. Yes, she could have listened to things she shouldn’t have as an angel, invisible and protected, but she was vulnerable now, and she could one day be captured by the Hunters and used to hurt his friends.His hands fisted, and he forced his mind to retreat from thoughts of her torture and their deaths before he punched a wall. Or a friend.

Besides, when Olivia was well enough, which should be any time now, part of him expected her to try and escape his room to hunt for Legion. Even though Legion was absent, that wasn’t something Aeron would allow. Not that Olivia, fallen as she now was, could do much damage during her search.

Still. She could reveal her findings to another angel, the one she predicted would come, and that angel could attempt to see the deed done.

Not on my watch, he thought.

His friends had already had their meeting—he’d heard their mutterings, then their laughter, then their footsteps as they parted—but he had no idea what had been decided. No one had visited him. Were they going to pursue the odd female he’d met in that alley? Had Lucien found any sign of Hunters on the hill?

Aeron hadn’t changed his mind; he didn’t believe Olivia was involved with them. But they could have followed her here. Sneak attacks were their specialty, after all.

And really, an invasion would be the perfect end to this terrible night.

Half an hour ago, he’d called for Legion to warn her about what was happening. Usually, no matter the distance between them, she heard his cry and came to him. Not this time. Like Lucien, she could flash from one location to another with only a thought, but she hadn’t appeared.

Was she hurt? Bound? He was tempted to formally summon her, just as she’d taught him—though until Olivia’s explanation, he hadn’t understood what she meant—for that wasn’t something she could ignore. The more he’d considered the possibility, the more he’d thought it likely that the angel—fallen or not—had to be out of the fortress before Legion would feel comfortable enough to return. He remembered her fear, the way she’d trembled even uttering the word angel.

He could have asked Olivia to stop doing whatever she was doing that pained the little demon and not him. Or his friends, for that matter. They’d never sensed Olivia, not in any way. But he hadn’t asked. She was healing, and he didn’t want to disturb her.

Especially when she’d done so much for him already. No softening.

So he’d left Legion alone, as well. For now.

Not that he could imagine the fragile Olivia hurting anyone. Even at full strength—whatever that was. Should it come to a fight, Legion would have the angel pinned, those poisoned fangs deep inside Olivia’s vein, in seconds.

That’s my girl, he thought, grinning. Only, his grin didn’t last. The thought of Olivia dying didn’t sit well. She hadn’t killed him as she’d been ordered. Not that she could have, but she hadn’t even tried to do so. Nor had she harmed Legion, as she’d probably wished to. She wanted only to experience the joys of life she’d clearly been denied.

She didn’t deserve to die.

For a moment, only a moment, he thought about keeping her. As calm as Wrath was around her, not demanding he punish her for some crime she’d committed twenty years ago, a day ago, a minute ago, she would be the perfect companion for him. She could see to his needs, as Paris had said.