Amun erupted. He gave her every drop, fil ing her up, branding her, staking that claim.

Mine, mine, mine. No secret. Not to him, and not to his demon, and not to Haidee.

Final y, when he had nothing left, he col apsed atop her.

She didn’t complain. She sagged to the ground, as depleted as he was. He barely managed to angle his body so that he wouldn’t crush her, but he didn’t move off her al the way, didn’t pul out of her. He was where he belonged, and he was loath to lose the connection.


Her eyes were closed, the long length of her lashes creating a fan of shadows over her cheeks. “No.

Dead.” He chuckled. Then my woman is pleased? Even though she had to do most of the work herself?

She blinked open those pearl-grays. “So I am your woman?”

His humor drained in the face of her doubt. Now. Always.

“Wil you—?” She licked her swol en, wel -kissed lips. “Wil you say the words, then?”

He smoothed his hands over her brow, not surprised to note that he was shaking. He had needed the words, so it stood to reason that she did, as wel . He was ashamed he hadn’t said them before now. Had been so selfish, enjoying her declaration but not offering his own. I love you, Haidee. I love you so much I ache.

Tension seemed to drain from her, though he’d never felt her stiffen. “Do you forgive me for what I did?

Al those centuries ago?”

Sweetheart. What is there to forgive? You were as consumed by your demon as I was by mine.

Tears sprinkled from the corners of her eyes, then rained down her cheeks, streaking down her lovely skin. “My demon. I don’t think I’l ever get used to hearing those words in conjunction with myself.”

But it’s true. You took a piece of Hate, but didn’t know to purge it. That piece bonded with you, became a part of you.

That piece drove you.

She placed her palm over his heart. “Your friends wil never understand that. They’l never accept me.”

He cupped her jaw and angled her head, forcing her to peer up at him. You’re first with me. They’l accept that or they’l lose me.

“But I don’t want you to lose them. You need them.”

I need you.

“What if I accidently take their demons?”

You won’t.

“How can you be sure?”

Just like with me, you won’t want to. Therefore you won’t.

“You trust me that much?”


Her arms banded around his neck and drew him down, al owing her to bury her face in the hol ow of his neck. The tears continued to flow, icy crystals that broke his heart. Her lithe body rocked against him as she sobbed.

What’s wrong, sweetheart? I wanted to make you happy, not sad.

“I am happy. I’ve never been first before. I mean, for a while, with my parents, I was. After they’d decided to keep me, I guess, and before my sister was born. But then, when Hate tortured them, they begged him to take me, and that hurt me. Here, now, I know you’l always put me first and I shouldn’t let you do that. Not for me. Not for anyone, and I’m babbling, I know, but if I let you do this, you’l just be unhappy later on.”

He rol ed to his back, fitting her atop him like a wel -placed puzzle piece. Unhappy? Why, are you planning to leave me?

“No, you deliberately obtuse man. I’m too greedy.”

He found himself chuckling again. As long as I’ve got you, I can never be unhappy.

“Your friends—”

Wil accept you. Or else, he thought.

Secrets remained quiet. Perhaps the demon knew the truth of their reactions, perhaps not. Either way, Amun planned to do everything in his power to ensure his friends did, in fact, accept his woman.

If they couldn’t, fine. He’d go. He’d miss them, always love them, but he’d go. If they threatened her, he’d go—but he’d hurt them before he did. If they tried to make him choose between them and Haidee, they’d lose. No question.

His heart beat for this woman. He lived for this woman.

She’d endured travesty after travesty when she only deserved pleasure. He would now provide that pleasure.

Nothing would stand in his way.

She was amazing. She had survived the only way she’d known how, with grit, courage and determination, never realizing she was battling herself as wel as the forces poised against her. With Hate a part of her, she probably shouldn’t have been able to love—by her own admission, loving wasn’t easy for her—but again she had proven just how amazing she was. Her love was stronger than the darkness inside her.

He held her until she settled, caressing her and whispering to her, then kissed her temple. I want you to know that I’m not going away, sweetheart, and I’m not going to regret choosing you. I’m with you, now and always, just like I said.

“How can you love me?” she asked between hiccups.

How can you love me?

“I just do. You’re a part of me.”


Her arms squeezed at him again, and he felt her chil y sigh.

“The demons have been purged from you,” she said sleepily. “We don’t have to stay down here anymore.”

She was right. He should have realized. He’d already planned to leave, but now their mission was actual y completed. Funny, but he found he wasn’t quite ready to abandon their cave. He wanted his woman al to himself for just a little longer. Let’s get some rest, and when we wake up, we’l find a way to summon Zacharel. He brought us here, so he can return us to the fortress. If he didn’t, wel , they would simply find another way.

Nothing was impossible. He knew that now.

“Al right,” she said.

Before we go, though, we’re going to use the pack to summon the proper tools to tattoo you. He wanted Micah’s name erased and his own added. Al over. On every limb, finger and toe, so that she would always know the name of the man she belonged with.

“Good idea. Yours can be the first name on my un-inked arm.”

More than my name. There’s going to be an entire paragraph dedicated to how much you love me.

She chuckled, and the husky sound delighted him. Turned him on. Hel , everything about her turned him on.

Who are the others tattooed on your arm? Skye? Viola?

“Skye saved my life once. We were prisoners, and I was too injured to escape on my own. And Viola is possessed by the demon of Narcissism. See how the i is dotted with an x? We fought. I don’t remember the outcome.”

Secrets could help her with that.

We’l need to send you notes about me, then. Pictures, too.

If he could find a camera that could capture his face, that is.

Somehow his demon managed to distort even drawings of him. Stil . He wasn’t taking any chances. Yes, he was going to do everything in his power to defend her, would even die for her, shield her with his own body, but damn it, al their bases were going to be covered. Just in case.

“Another good idea,” she said after a big yawn.

Sleep now, sweetheart.

“Yes.” She drifted into sleep almost immediately, her body relaxing against his.

He wanted every night to end exactly this way. With Haidee on top of him, sated and trusting him to keep her safe. And he wanted to awaken each morning with her stil in his arms. They’d make love, talk and share, drown in each other.

He was smiling as he, too, drifted off to sleep.


CLAWS SCRAPED AGAINST A nearby wal . “Haidee.”

The eerie howl of her name echoed, blending with the swish of a robe.

Blood, a river between her mother and her father. Both helpless…dead.

Haidee’s eyelids popped open, dread already curling in her stomach. She knew those sounds, knew that voice. Only a nightmare, she told herself, or another realm of hel . Trust no one and nothing. Except Amun. A lesson she’d learned wel .

“Little Haidee,” the voice sang, a whisper. “I know you’re close by. I can smel you.”

Please be a nightmare or another realm of hel , she thought desperately.

“You cannot hide from me, little Haidee. You have what’s mine. Mine, mine, mine.” Scraaape.

“Hay…dee…final y, you’re going to give it back.”

Blood, a river between her mother and her father. Both helpless…dead.

“Hay…dee… You hid when you were a little girl, too. Do you remember? I do. The screams, the splatter. The pleas. Your sister squealed like a pig when the blade sank into her bel y. Your mother begged me to stop, to take you away.

Your father, wel , he was the first to die, wasn’t he?”

She cringed, fought a wave of sickness. No, not a nightmare, not another realm. There was too much glee in that tone. Too much truth to the memory.

Hate was here.

Somehow, the demon had found her. Had come for her.


Denial roaring through her head—not now, please not now

—she jackknifed to her feet, wild gaze already searching.

She didn’t see him, but that didn’t lessen her dread. She was stil in the cave, Amun lying on the pal et he’d made for them.

He must have awoken at her movement, or maybe he’d heard the bastard’s taunts. His eyes were already open. He sat up stiffly, pul ed on a pair of pants and grabbed two blades without pausing to clear his head.

He asked no questions. Maybe he didn’t have to. Since making love that second time, they’d been utterly attuned to each other, and she’d actual y felt his emotions for her, the sweet depths of his love.

“Haidee.” Hate was closer now. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

Blood, a river between her mother and her father. Both helpless…dead.

No. No, no, no. The memory would not consume her. Since meeting Amun, she’d barely thought of that night and thought perhaps she was final y healing. She would not be distracted. Not this time.

She dressed as swiftly as Amun had, then weaponed up.

She’d known this day would come. She just hadn’t expected it to come now. No warnings, no sensing Hate’s approach. Just hel o, terror.