- The Darkest Secret
Secrets marveled at the deluge of information, a child at Christmas.
And stil so many questions remained… How had Haidee taken a piece of the demon High Lord? How had Hate’s host not died? How had Haidee never known Hate was inside her? How had she not known what the demon was thinking, feeling or wanting? Amun always knew. So did his friends. How had she not known Hate was the cause of her reanimation and memory loss? Or was Themis the one responsible?
How had the demon stayed with her even after she died, when Baden’s demon had been freed after his death?
When Aeron’s had been freed after his death?
More answers flowed… That smal piece of Hate had hidden inside her, strong enough to influence but too weak to do anything more. That’s why she hadn’t known the being was there or what he felt. His wants and needs had simply seemed like her own.
And Hate had not brought her back to life al those times; Themis had. Inadvertently. Since Haidee had sprung from a womb blessed by the goddess, she’d never been ful y human. So, like the souls who reanimated in hel , she never real y died. Only difference was, her corporal form could walk the earth, as wel as hel .
So much information…too much…not enough.
As she’d done for Hate, Haidee had taken the demon minions from Amun. Not just pieces, though, but every part of them. Secrets, a High Lord, was stronger, however, tethered to Amun by godly bonds, while the others hadn’t been.
Stil , she could have taken Secrets, but she hadn’t. She’d been careful, even though she hadn’t realized what was happening to her or to Amun.
Were the new demons forever a part of her now?
No. No! He couldn’t al ow that. He knew how evil those beings were, how disgusting their thoughts, and he would not leave Haidee to suffer like that. But what could he do?
He waited for Secrets to tel him, but this time, no response was forthcoming. The demon was stil lost inside those memories.
Haidee was curled in the fetal position, whimpering, her tears burning his chest as they streaked down his skin. He reasoned out the rest on his own. She’d been a little girl when Hate first attacked her, and she’d probably clung to the dark piece of the demon she’d drawn inside her, needing the emotion to survive the terrible deaths she’d witnessed her parents and sister suffering.
Hate was as much a part of her as Secrets was to him, but these other demons were new and hadn’t had time to bond with her yet. He hoped. They wouldn’t want to bond with her, either, and would fight the connection. After al , Themis had ensured Haidee was a demon executioner. That meant Haidee had the power to defeat the darkness inside her, even if she didn’t realize it, and the bastards had to sense that.
No wonder they’d been so afraid of her, of her pul and her cold.
Guilt fil ed Amun, surpassing every other emotion because, with this new knowledge, he realized he alone was responsible for her current torment. She had saved him, and he had harmed her.
Haidee, sweetheart, he said, squeezing her tight. I need you to listen to me.
Hurt, she moaned. I hurt so bad.
I know, darling, but fight past the pain and listen to me. Can you do that?
A pause, another whimper. Then a hesitant, yes. Yes.
Amun, you’re reading my mind. How are you reading my mind?
I think I instinctively built a mental wal to block you out when those demons were inside me. The moment you took them, that wal fel . Now I need you to fight the demons, sweetheart. Push them out of your body. Out of your skin.
How? Every time I mental y approach them, they dart away.
You can. And you wil . Do it. Now. He put enough steel in his voice to anger her. Do it, or I’l hand you over to Strider.
You think you’re suffering now, wel , wait until he gets you.
He wil torture the living hel out of you, and I’l cheer him on.
Then I’l make love to another woman in front of you.
Every muscle in her slight, trembling body stiffened. B-bastard.
I know. Get wel , and you can punish me.
T-trying. Her body uncurled, stretching taut as a bow.
They’re stil darting…like little flies…no, close, I’m close…
they can’t go anywhere else…there they are…
Her back arched as an agonized groan ripped past her lips.
Haidee? Talk to me. Tel me what’s going on.
Pushing, I’m pushing them. They’re screaming, want out.
Out, out, out.
That’s the way, sweetheart. You’re doing so good. I’m so proud of you. Keep pushing them. He flattened his palms, his cold, cold palms, on her and stroked. He stroked her everywhere, every inch of her body, wil ing the cold out of him and back into her. Push them out, and then cut any tether that binds them to you. Understand?
Slowly her skin began to darken. Not tanning, not becoming a lovely gold, but becoming a dark, sickly gray. She was doing it. She was expunging them. He could feel the malevolence pulsing off her.
Relief only increased his urgency. His hands moved faster, trying to touch every inch of her at once.
That’s the way.
The ice. Yes, the ice. Need it. Need it. Need— She screamed. Screamed until her voice broke, until his eardrums nearly burst just to escape the noise. Darkness was now pouring off her, drifting into the air like dust motes before darting out of the cave entirely.
Her nails raked at him, drawing blood. She thrashed, she fought, but he never released her from his hold.
Final y, thank the gods, final y, she sagged against him, silent, not even trembling, as if every bit of strength had been sapped from her and she could barely even manage to breathe.
Amun never stopped cooing at her. He whispered everything he’d learned about her past, knowing she would want every detail. He promised he would never al ow anyone—not gods, demons or humans—to hurt her. Final y, she ral ied.
I suspected you were part goddess, you know, he said.
A smal , sad smile. I almost can’t take this in. Chosen and betrayed by Justice. Targeted by Hate. Part Hate myself. I mean, I’m a demon and I’ve fought demons al my life.
Lives. It’s ironic and weird and…and…I hate it. Hate. A bitter laugh. Makes sense now.
No one can blame you for what happened.
I can. I do.
I want to deny it al , so damn badly, but I can’t.
You are a wonderful person, and what we’ve learned today doesn’t change that.
I— Whatever argument she meant to give, she changed her mind. Thank you, Amun. For everything you did, everything you said. For liking me despite this.
Liking? He more than liked her, but she’d endured enough revelations for the moment. Sleep now, sweetheart.
The gray cast eventual y faded from her flesh, returning her skin to that lovely golden shimmer. The fever even cooled.
He, too, sagged, his relief so great he practical y choked on it.
Hours passed while she dozed, her body trying to fortify itself. Though he was exhausted, he never al owed himself to drift. He remained awake, alert, keeping guard. And as always, just being near Haidee aroused him. More so now, considering how close he’d come to losing her.
She was naked, he was naked, and her soft scent was imprinted in his sinuses. Her breasts were pressed into his chest. Breasts he’d held, suckled. Her legs were twined with his. Legs he’d spread, caressed. Soon he was sweating, the chil inside him gone as if it had never been.
He needed to reaffirm that his woman lived, that their bond hadn’t been shattered.
She’s too weak. She needs a little recovery time. More than that, making love had almost kil ed her. He would not risk her again. Ever. He would be with her, safeguard her, pamper her, but never again would they be together in a sexual way.
“I’m not too weak,” she murmured sleepily, the coolness of her breath tickling his chest. “I’l never be too weak for that.”
He inhaled sharply. In that moment, he knew. He knew she was going to be al right. His arms tightened around her, squeezing so tightly he feared he would crack one of her ribs. But he couldn’t temper his reaction, couldn’t dilute his need to hold her and never let go.
“Make love to me,” she said. She raised her chin and looked up at him, though she never lifted her cheek from his chest. “Remind me that I’m alive.”
No, sweetheart. No. We’re just going to hold each other.
“But why?” Was she…pouting?
His cock twitched in response. What if there are other demons hiding inside me? Or what if you draw Secrets out this time? Secrets is a High Lord, and the demons you took from me were merely minions.
High Lords make minions look like infant children in need of a bottle.
“But there were hundreds of those minions.”
Thousands of minions could not compare with one High Lord.
She sighed. “That’s probably true.”
Is that piece of Hate stil inside you? he asked. Or did you expunge it, too?
“It’s stil with me. I can feel the emotion, weaker than before, but there.”
I don’t want to risk losing you. I’l die if I’m separated from Secrets, and I fear the same wil happen to you if you’re separated from Hate. Even so smal a piece.
“Oh…yeah,” she said, disappointed. “I forgot about that.”
His heart stuttered to a stop. Does it bother you that I wil always be a demon?
“Not at al .” She slid one of her hands to his neck and pressed a fingertip against his pulse, jump-starting his heart into action again. “I accept you for who and what you are.”
He hadn’t realized how badly he’d needed to hear those words until she’d said them. As I accept you.
She placed a soft kiss on his sternum. “I’m stil in shock. But God, this explains so much, you know?
Why I have so much trouble loving, why people tend to dislike me when they first meet me. Why moods are sometimes blackened in my presence.”
I’m sorry. Sorry that happened to you.