The flames should have lit her up, blazed bright, but they somehow surrounded her in darkness, darkness she couldn’t find her way out of.

She was dying. She had to be dying. That was the only time she’d ever battled such darkness and pain.

Sweetheart, oh, gods, sweetheart. What’s wrong? Tel me what’s wrong. His hands smoothed over her face, and for once, it was not heat she felt from him. He was as cold as a meat locker, and she was envious.

I don’t know what’s wrong, she wanted to shout, but her jaw was locked together, the pain knotting her muscles and preventing her from moving, even in the slightest way.

Somehow, Amun heard her and replied. I don’t know, either, sweetheart.

Help me. Please. Any more and she real y would die. Just then, she wanted to die.

I’l find a way. I swear to the gods I’l find a way.

The vow was the last thing she heard from him. The darkness thickened until she could see the slick texture of it, the evil that oozed from it. Like black oil, coating her…

destroying her.

Demons, she realized with a moan. The demons—his demons—were now a part of her.


WHAT THE HELL HAD HE done to her?

Amun was in a panic. Physical y, he had never felt better; he was clearheaded, sated, both energized and relaxed.

Cold, yes. He was far colder than he’d ever been. Rather than destroy him, as the cold had done to the congo, he was strengthened. And yet, his woman now suffered unbearably. Her beautiful skin was flushed a bright red, but not from pleasure. She was racked with pain, her body curled into itself, her fingers actual y gnarling as she screamed, over and over again.

He’d promised to help her, but he didn’t know how, had no medicine, could only ask for—the backpack, he thought suddenly. Some of his panic eased as his gaze landed on the angel’s gift. Of course. So simple. Please be simple.

The backpack had given him back his hands. Now it would give Haidee back her life.

Amun grabbed the pack, his grip so tight he feared he would rip the material. Give me something to help her, something to save her. Though urgency bombarded him, he waited one second, two.

Trembling now, he reached inside and found—nothing.

Help me help her, he demanded. Again, nothing appeared inside. Cursing, Amun upended and shook the material, but stil he found nothing. The bag remained empty.

That didn’t mean…couldn’t mean… No. No! He refused to believe Haidee was beyond saving. She would survive this, whatever “this” was. She had to; he needed her. Had never needed a person more.

He didn’t care that she would be reanimated if she…if she…he couldn’t even think the word. She hated when that happened, hated the pain that fol owed. Hated her loss of memories.

She would survive, he thought again. She was the missing piece of his soul, a necessary part of his soul.

How he’d ever lived without her, he didn’t know. But he did know that he loved her. Loved her strength, her courage, her wit and the tender way she cared for him, so at odds with the sexy, tough-girl look of her. He loved the way she gave herself to him, her body his to do with as he pleased, inhibitions vanquished.

He had only to kiss her, and she became a live wire in his arms. No other woman had ever responded to him like that.

She truly reveled in his touch and wasn’t ashamed to beg for more. She made him forget they were on a mission, made him forget that anyone or thing existed beyond the two of them.

And she had chosen him. She’d known the consequences of cutting ties with the Hunters, of becoming Amun’s woman

—he’d made sure of it—but she had chosen to be with him anyway.

He wasn’t giving her up. Once, he’d thought he could. Once, he’d thought their time together would end the moment they left this realm. Wrong. He was keeping her. Now, always.

Just as he’d told her.

Hot, she whimpered. Hot. Tears trickled from her closed eyelids, catching in her lashes before running down her cheeks.

She was talking inside his mind. He’d thought he’d heard her earlier, had convinced himself he was mistaken, but now there was no denying the truth. The connection was complete. The barrier that had kept her out of his head, whatever it was, had clearly been shattered. Probably because he had utterly lowered his guard the moment he’d penetrated her.

He had been defenseless against her, vulnerable, and hadn’t cared. He had welcomed her, every part of her, inside and out. He had craved an unbreakable connection, no matter the consequences, wanting no secrets between them. The good, the bad, he’d wanted to share al of it. With her and no other. Just as she had said. Al , everything.

He had to save her.

Amun eased beside her and gently, so gently, lifted her in his arms. He sat with his back propped against a rocky wal and settled her on his lap. At first, she struggled against his hold, every motion probably torturing her. Then the new coolness of his skin seeped past the new burn of hers. She rubbed her cheek against his chest, moaned and cuddled against him.

So evil, she whimpered.

He traced his fingertips over her brow, trying to ease the fever there. What’s evil, sweetheart? The demons.

Demons? Amun stil ed, not even daring to breathe. He’d felt her tugging on them, felt them resisting her, but his pleasure, the cold, he’d lost track of everything else.

They’re…inside you?

Yes. Another whimper.


I think so.

How could that be? He closed his eyes, searched his mind

—and found no evidence of the vile essence that had nearly destroyed him before Haidee had entered his life. There were no disgusting urges waiting to pounce, no creatures writhing deep in his cognizance, no painful memories desperate to spring to the surface.

He should have been happy, but he was infuriated. With himself. He would rather deal with the evil himself than subject Haidee to a single moment of this. Damn it. He had to help her. Another thought struck him, and he flinched.

If Secrets had left him, too, Amun would die. For the moment Secrets had possessed him, they’d become two halves of a whole. One could not survive without the other.

Not real y.

Secrets, he found himself rushing out.

His voice must have nudged the creature. Secrets sighed with relief. Relief and joy. Once again, it was just the two of them. And though Haidee’s chil —Amun’s chil now—

cloaked them, there was no more fear. They’d faced the storm and survived. Hel , they’d thrived.

How had Haidee taken the other demons but not Secrets?

He didn’t know, but he could find out. And perhaps, in doing so, he could save her. Determination replaced every other emotion inside him. You’re going to find the answer, al the answers, and you’re going to help her.

Information was the demon’s crack. Eagerly Secrets forced his way into Haidee’s mind. Actual y,

“forced” was too strong a word. The demon glided on in, as if the welcome mat had been placed at the front door, the windows left open. Even more astonishing, there were no barriers. The floodgate had opened. Whatever the demon wanted to glean, he gleaned.

Amun swam through the churning, never-ending sea of memories, searching for what he needed and discarding what he didn’t. He discarded most, in fact, but at long last, his efforts were rewarded. The story of Haidee’s life unfolded as if he were turning pages in a book.

After the Lords of the Underworld were kicked out of the heavens and tossed to earth, Themis, the Greek goddess of Justice, decided to balance the scales. The world had been given demons, and so, to her, the world required demon executioners. Executioners she could control, as the angels—demon-slayers in their own right—refused to do her bidding. Unable to simply create beings from air as Zeus, the god king, Themis was forced to find another way.

When she heard the prayers of Haidee’s parents, the answer came to her. The couple was childless, barren and desperate, and in their desperation, they agreed to the bargain Themis proposed. The goddess would bless the mother’s womb, and that womb would bear fruit. The couple would raise that child for ten years, and at the end of that tenth year, they would give her to the person of Themis’s choosing, so that she might be trained. They weren’t to worry, though, for the goddess would bless them with other children. Children they would be al owed to keep.

Al was set.

The parents tried to distance themselves from their little girl and save their love for their other children.

But one smile from the sweet little angel, and they fel . Unlike other babies, she was not fussy or contrary or even temperamental. She watched the world around her, thoughtful, always thoughtful.

As her tenth birthday approached, they realized they would rather die than lose her.

Themis, being Themis, granted their request. The couple had prevented a demon executioner from learning how to fulfil her purpose, and so they would die at the hand of a demon. Justice would once again be served.

And so the goddess commanded the keeper of Hate to slaughter the entire family, Haidee included, for she would start again, find someone new, someone she would raise from birth herself.

Hate was more than happy to comply.

After murdering Haidee’s parents and little sister, the demon-possessed immortal turned his sights on the god-touched child. But as he peered into her eyes, he remembered how Themis had once planned to use her and realized she might be able to save him. For if she could destroy the demon inside him, he would final y be free.

So Hate grabbed Haidee, intending to hide her until he figured out how exactly her ability worked. Only the moment he touched her, a strange cold infused him, tearing at his insides. He reacted instinctively, stabbing and releasing her, then running from her, the pain too much to bear.

As the days passed, he realized she had ripped a smal piece of his demon from him—like a human losing a limb.

And as time passed and he came to discover what happened to keepers who were severed from their demons… Wel , instead of yearning to break ties with the creature, he wanted to reclaim that missing part of it. But each time he found Haidee, she died before he could touch her, as if Themis had forever cursed him to fail in his quest because he had failed to destroy the girl as promised.