- The Darkest Passion
Needs he’d claimed not to have. But he couldn’t deny that while he’d been crouched beside her, something had stirred inside him. Something hot and dangerous. She’d smelled of sunshine and earth, and her eyes, as blue and clear as the morning sky, had regarded him with trust and hope. As if he were a savior rather than a destroyer. And he’d liked it.
Idiot! A demon, keeping an angel? Hardly. Besides, she’s here to have fun and you, my friend, are as far from fun as a man can be.
Finally. News. Relieved to push Olivia from his thoughts, Aeron whipped around and saw Torin leaning one shoulder against the wall, gloved arms crossed over his chest and an irreverent smile curling his mouth.
As keeper of Disease, Torin couldn’t touch another being skin to skin without beginning a plague. The gloves protected them all.
“Once again, a Lord of the Underworld has a woman locked in his chambers while he tries to figure out what to do with her.” Torin chuckled.
Before Aeron could reply, images began flashing through his head. Images of Torin lifting a blade, expression intent, determined. That blade descended…nailed its target in the heart…and emerged wet and red.
The man who’d been stabbed, a human, collapsed into a heap on the ground. Dead. There was a figure eight tattooed on his wrist, the symbol of infinity and the mark of a Hunter. He hadn’t hurt Torin, hadn’t even threatened to do so. The two had simply passed each other on the street, some four hundred years ago, when the warrior had left the fortress to finally be with the woman he’d fallen for, but had first spied the brand and attacked.
To Wrath, the act was malicious and without provocation. To Wrath, the act deserved punishment.
Aeron had seen this particular event many times already, and each time he’d had to suppress the urge to act. Now was no different. He actually felt his fingers curling around the hilt of his dagger, the need to stab Torin as Torin had stabbed the Hunter strong.
I would have done the same thing, he mentally shouted at the demon. I would have killed that Hunter, maliciously and without provocation. Torin doesn’t deserve castigation.
Calm. Aeron’s arm fell to his side, his hand empty.
“Demon wanting a go at me?” Torin asked matter-of-factly.
His friends knew him very well. “Yes, but no worries. I’ve got the bastard under control.”
He thought he heard the demon snort.
The more he denied Wrath, the more its desire to penalize would grow—until the need overtook Aeron so completely, he would snap. That was when he’d fly into town, no one safe, the slightest sins met with absolute cruelty and ruthlessness.
Those vengeance sprees were the reason Aeron had tattooed himself as he had. As he was immortal and prone to heal quickly, he’d had to mix dried ambrosia into the ink to be permanently marked and it had been like injecting fire straight into his veins. Had he minded, though? Hell, no. Every time he looked into the mirror, he was reminded of the things he’d done—and what he would do again if he wasn’t careful.
But more than that, the tattoos assured him that the people he’d killed, the ones who hadn’t deserved to die, would never truly be forgotten. Sometimes that helped ease his guilt. And sometimes it helped dim his irrational pride in the demon’s strength.
“—sure you have control?”
“What?” he asked, pulling himself from his thoughts.
Torin grinned again. “I asked if you were sure you had control of your demon. You’re winking in and out, and your eyes are glowing red.”
“I’m fine.” Unlike Olivia, there wasn’t utter truth in his voice. The lie was there for all to hear.
“I believe you. Really. So…back to our conversation?” Torin asked.
Where had he gotten sidetracked? Oh, yes. “I’m sure you didn’t come here to compare me to our mated friends. I’m hardly the love-struck fool all of them were when they brought their women here.”
“And just like that, you’ve ruined my next three jokes. You’re no fun.”
Exactly what Aeron had thought when Olivia had mentioned her three desires. Having the knowledge confirmed, though, scraped him up inside for reasons he couldn’t explain. “Torin. Your purpose, please.”
“Fine. Your angel’s already causing problems. Some of us want to get rid of her, and some want to keep her. I’m on Team Keep. I think we need to charm her to our side before you make her hate us all and she decides to help the enemy.”
“Stay away from her.” Aeron didn’t want the warrior anywhere near Olivia. And it had nothing to do with the man’s white hair, black brows and green eyes that never seemed to take anything seriously, ensuring Torin didn’t need to touch a woman to win her.
Torin rolled those eyes. “Moron. You should be thanking me, not threatening me. I came to tell you to hide her. William’s on my team and he wants to be the one to do the charming.”
William, an immortal with a sex addiction. An immortal with black hair and blue eyes even more wicked than Torin’s. A warrior who was tall, muscled and untamed. A warrior whose only tattoos were hidden under his clothes. If Aeron was remembering correctly, there was an X over his heart and a treasure map on his back. A treasure map that crossed his ribs and dipped around his waist, finally ending over his “fun zone.”
He was a “real beefcake”—if human females could be believed—and was the epitome of fun.
Olivia would probably like him.
Why did Aeron suddenly want to bash the man’s face into the wall, ruining those pretty looks? Something he’d never wanted to do before, despite Wrath’s intense need to punish the man, breaking his heart into hundreds of pieces the way he’d done to hundreds of women. Only, Wrath wanted Aeron to use a blade.
Aeron had always resisted because he liked William, who may not be a true Lord, but who could be counted on during battle. The man had no limitations when it came to killing.
Without Legion, you’re looking for a fight. That’s all. Yes. Clearly he was on edge.
“Thank you, Torin, for the warning about William,” he said, hoping he sounded properly wry. “Though Olivia won’t be here long enough to be charmed by anyone.”
“I’m sure William would tell you he only needs a few seconds.”
Do not react. Although, if William showed up, Aeron could “accidentally” lose control of Wrath, allowing the demon to finally have a go at the immortal.
Wrath purred his approval.
“Oh, hey,” Torin said, claiming his attention. “Switching the topic from one sex addict to another, Paris wanted me to tell you that Lucien flashed him into town to find a woman. Lucien planned on leaving him there, so he won’t be back until morning.”
“Good.” His relief had nothing to do with Paris being far away from Olivia. “Did Lucien see any sign of Hunters while he was out there?”
“Nope. Not on the hill and not in Buda.”
“Good,” Aeron repeated, kicking back into motion. From one corner to the other he paced. “Was there any sign of the dark-haired woman?”
“No, but Paris promised to continue looking for her. Once he regained his strength, of course. And speaking of lost strength, Paris mentioned that the angel is injured. Do you want me to have someone fetch a doctor?”
“Fetch” meant “abduct” in this household. “No. She’ll heal on her own.” They’d been on the lookout for a doctor to permanently employ for some time, but they’d had no luck. Now time was of the essence, since Ashlyn was pregnant. But no one knew if the baby would be mortal or demon, so they had to be careful whom they chose.
Hunters, as they’d recently learned, had been breeding immortals with mortals for years, spawning halfling children in the hopes of creating an unstoppable army. The demon of Violence’s baby would be a prize among prizes, someone every Hunter would love to use. And in the hands of the wrong doctor, the Lords’ secrets would be anything but safe.
Torin shook his head in sympathy, as if Aeron were too dim-witted to think things through properly. “You sure she’ll heal? She was kicked out of the heavens.”
“We were kicked out of the heavens, yet we heal as fast as ever. We even regenerate limbs.” Which Gideon, keeper of the demon of Lies, was now in the process of doing. The warrior had been captured during their last battle with Hunters and tortured for information—information he had not given. In retaliation, the Hunters had removed both of his hands.
Gideon was still bedbound and a major pain in everyone’s ass.
“Good point,” Torin said.
A woman’s scream suddenly burst from Aeron’s bedroom.
He stopped pacing, and Torin straightened. By the time the second scream sounded, both were running for the room, though Torin kept a good distance between them. Aeron threw open the door, the first inside.
Olivia was on the bed, still lying on her stomach but now thrashing. Her eyes were closed, and despite the shadows her lashes cast, he could see that bruises now branched under them. That dark hair was in tangles around her trembling shoulders.
Her robe had obviously cleaned itself, most of the blood gone. Yet there were two new stains where her wings should have already begun to grow back, both bright crimson and wet.
THE DEMONS were tugging on her.
Olivia could feel their claws digging into her skin, cutting, stinging. She could feel the sticky slime on their scales and the burn of their putrid breath. She could hear the glee in their laughter and wanted to vomit.“Lookie what I found,” one of them cackled.
“A pretty angel, fallen right into our arms,” another chortled.
Plumes of sulfur and rot thickened the air, and the stench was sucked into her nostrils as she tried to catch her breath. She’d just fallen, the clouds opening up under her feet, sending her tumbling from the heavens, down…down, no end in sight, flailing for something, anything to catch and stop herself…and when the end had finally appeared, the ground had opened up, too, the flames of hell swallowing her whole.