“Mother?” she said now, awed and confused by what she was hearing from him.

Any time the demon spoke through him, revealing something, the voices of those involved were used, rather than his own. So what Haidee heard was indeed her mother.

“Listen wel , for we wil never speak of this again. You are special, my child. So special.”

There was a pause, his voice slipping into a softer, childlike timbre. “I don’t understand.”

Another pause, the return of the huskier voice. “For years, I could not conceive, and so I prayed and prayed, beseeching the gods to bless my barren body with fruit.

And one night, a being appeared to me in my dreams. She told me I had only to promise to relinquish rights to my firstborn, and I would have many children. I agreed. It was the hardest decision I’d ever had to make, but I was so desperate, I agreed, and nine months later you were born.”

Another pause, that switch of voices. “Me?”

Yet another pause, yet another switch. “Oh, yes, sweet darling. And soon after, your sister was born.

And now, another babe grows in my bel y.”

Pause. “I shal be a sister again?”

Pause. “Yes. But, darling, listen to Màna. The being has returned. She wants to take you from us.”

Pause. “I don’t want to leave you.”

Pause. “And we don’t want you to leave us. Therefore, you wil not. We wil pack our belongings and flee from this place. I don’t tel you this to frighten you, only to warn you. If ever someone approaches you, intending to take you away from us, run, my darling, run. Run and hide, and we wil find you.”

The voices continued, the mother easing the child with teasing stories and tickles, until both were laughing. The father and sister soon joined them, and their love for each other echoed in every word.

Real-life Haidee wrapped a trembling arm around Amun’s waist. Distantly, he thought she might have taken one of his weapons from him, might have been slashing with her free hand to discourage the creatures from approaching his side, where the red light didn’t reach, but he wasn’t sure.

“Come on, baby,” she urged between one of his pauses.

“Keep your eyes on those little bastards, and I’l get us out of here, okay?”

He couldn’t reply, could only weave the rest of the tale, the family spending what would be their last night together.

Haidee never ceased dragging him away from the hungry fiends until final y, the shadows gave way and another cave surrounded them. This one was wel -lit.

She eased him to the ground as gently as she could, and he lay there, stil talking, unable to do anything else. His mind was consumed by his demon, by the images forming, but soon the memory took a darker turn, the murders clearly imminent.

Amun didn’t want to go there, didn’t want Haidee to hear their screams, their pleas for mercy.

Somehow, someway, he managed to fight his way to the surface and peer up at her. The worst was yet to come, yet she was already staring down at him with horror. Horror she’d never before directed at him.

“Knock…me…out…” he managed between pauses.




She gulped, trembled as she reached down and clasped one of his blades. But when she straightened, she made no move toward him. “I—I can’t, Amun. I just can’t.”

“Please. Must. No other…way.” His eyes beseeched her, the memory trying to jerk him back down, escape him. Any second now, and the screams and pleas were going to burst from his mouth. “Please.”

“I—I—I’m sorry.” Something hard suddenly crashed into his temple.

But he was stil awake, stil talking. “Again.”

Once more, twice more, she hit him with the hilt of the blade. “So sorry.” A third time. Harder and harder.

Good girl. He smiled as darkness consumed him, at last quieting his demon.


HAIDEE STOOD OVER AMUN’S unconscious body for a long while, content to watch him, guard him, as he had often done for her. His breathing remained deep and even, and the torment etching his features eventual y smoothed out.

He looked like an innocent little boy, she mused, with his dark lashes curling out, his lips soft and parted.

Only the dried blood on his temple ruined the il usion. Wel , that, and his ginormous warrior frame. Such a beautiful man, and what the hel was dripping on him?

Her gaze narrowed on the red splatter now marring his cheek. Blood. Not his, though. Frowning, she moved her attention to her arm. She stil held the blade she’d stuck him with, she realized. She dropped the weapon, heard the clatter of metal against rock, and looked at her hand. There were multiple puncture wounds.

Her frown intensified when she swayed, overcome by dizziness. Wasn’t that just typical? She’d felt fine until she actual y spotted the wound. But damn, she must have lost quite a bit of blood. Which made sense. Those piranha-like creatures had chomped on each of her limbs. And God, did she remember the pain. Like having acid-tipped pins dril ed into her bones.

If she had suffered, shielded by Amun as she’d been, how much had he suffered, completely out in the open?

And how had she repaid him? By knocking him into a stupor.

He wanted you to do it, she reminded herself, but that didn’t ease her guilt. Maybe because, deep down, she had wanted to do it. She’d heard her mother’s voice, her father’s, her sister’s, had known their deaths were approaching and had almost col apsed. If she’d had to listen to them die—again—she would have col apsed, no question.

Amun had known that, and had fought to spare her. Always he considered her wel -being first, no matter the cost to himself. He’d known what he was saying, what he was about to say, and hadn’t wanted her hurt by it.

Until that moment, she hadn’t truly realized the constant burden he carried. He ascertained the dark thoughts and vile pasts of those around him and drew them inside himself. Unwittingly, yes, but rather than al ow those poisons to spil from him, he held every drop inside himself. That way, no one else had to be tainted.

The strength of wil such an act required… Haidee knew she would have crumbled long before now.

“What am I going to do with you, Amun?” she muttered. She hated that he hurt himself that way, that his only means of purging the darkness inside him came at such a high price.

For him, for those he loved.

Sighing, she grabbed the backpack and gathered the supplies necessary to clean and bandage him, then herself.

Then she ate a turkey sandwich and an apple and drained a bottle of water. Several more hours passed, but Amun didn’t awaken.

Had she caused permanent damage?

Concern rocked her, and she paced the spacious cavern.

Soon a sense of déjà vu overtook her. The enclosure looked exactly like the one the angel, Zacharel, had brought them to that first night: rocky wal s splattered with red, bones in every corner. Had they made no progress?

This was hel . Maybe every cavern looked like this.

As she paced, her heart ached and swel ed, any resistance she stil might have harbored toward Amun vanishing. He gave her what no one else had ever been able to give. A past to cherish. A present to enjoy. A future to anticipate.

And he wanted her, too. She knew he did. When he had pushed that image inside her head, the one of her in front of him, on her knees, his pants at his ankles and his hands in her hair, her mouth swal owing every inch of his massive erection, her own hands tugging at his testicles, she had nearly melted. She’d felt the raw need pulsing from him, the consuming hunger…the primal satisfaction.

She’d also felt his reasons for resisting her so steadfastly.

Guilt, fear and remorse. Guilt for having inadvertently helped to kil her that first time—she’d known that already.

Fear that he would hurt her again—that had been a surprise

—and remorse for giving her up, even though it was for her own good. That wasn’t going to be tolerated.

He didn’t want her to regret what happened between them.

Didn’t want her to later hate him. He would learn. She wouldn’t, couldn’t hate him. Not for any reason.

There had to be some way to prove how wrong he was.

That the only way he could hurt her was by giving her up.

That she would never regret being with him.

Amazed, she ground to a halt. It was true, she realized. She would never regret being with him. The Hunters would view her as a traitor, and they would target her as they targeted the Lords, but she didn’t care. And Micah, wel , he would turn on her, too.

He would feel betrayed, personal y and emotional y, but maybe one day, when he final y experienced the sizzle for himself, he would realize their split was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

Now that she’d experienced it, she only wanted more.

Now that she’d experienced it, she only wanted more.

Would do whatever was needed to have more. Even seduce Amun within an inch of his life.

No more waiting to move forward until she broke things off with Micah. Yes, she stil planned to cal him, to tel him they were finished, but their relationship was already over, done.

Amun had her loyalty now. Demon, immortal, whatever, he had her loyalty. He deserved her everything.

And real y, she was operating under a limited amount of time. If she couldn’t reach him before they left these caverns

—if they ever left these caverns—he would dump her somewhere and take off. For her own good. That, she knew, as wel . Somehow, some way, she had to prove they could make a relationship work before then.

Turning his vision into a reality would be a good start.

She gave herself a once-over. Her clothes were ripped, caked in dirt and dried blood, and she probably smel ed like dead piranha. She could clean up with wet wipes from the pack, she supposed, but tiny towelettes could only do so much. And yeah, she could summon another angel robe and that would magical y wash away every unwanted speck, but mental y, she would stil feel dirty.