Actual y, no. The old crone at the circus had tried to warn her, hadn’t she? “Soon” had final y arrived.

Amun tugged her toward the only entrance to the cave, pressed her to the side, out of striking distance, then turned and waited, ready to attack. His shoulder pressed into the center of her chest, holding her in place.

“Haidee girl. Dead girl. You have what’s mine. You’re not going to die before I can take it. Not this time. That wil come after.”

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

Her molars ground together. “What are you planning? He’s not like your friends,” she whispered. “Not human in any way.”

I know, Amun final y said, dark and menacing as their thoughts merged. Secrets knows. He is more than immortal. He is a child of a goddess. Of Themis. Her son.

Always he enjoyed kil ing, suffering. That’s why he was sent to Tartarus.

She couldn’t hide her sudden spike of terror. Not from Amun. Her breathing grew shal ow. Hate was the child of a goddess. A god himself. How would they defeat a god?

Secrets flashed images of Hate through Amun’s head, which in turn caused them to flash in hers. He was fast, too fast, his strength unparal eled. Haidee was the only person who’d ever walked away from him, and she’d done so only because the cold had surprised him. He wouldn’t be surprised this time.

“We can’t fight him. We’l lose.”

I fought gods al the time when I lived in the heavens.

“Yes, and that was thousands of years ago, and you had an immortal army as backup. Right now it’s just me and you.

He’l slaughter us.”

We’l think of something.

Secrets disagreed, and his certainty swam through her.

“No matter what we do, I’m going to die today,” she said flatly. The demon wasn’t even trying to hide the realization, the knowledge now as much a part of her as Hate. She wasn’t ready, though. Needed more time.

No. No, you’re not. I won’t let you.

Just as surely as she could discern Secrets’s knowledge, she could feel Amun’s rising panic. She had to fight her own panic al the more stringently or they would feed off each other, make each other worse.

Someone had to stay calm. Someone had to get Amun out of this alive.

It was already too late for her.

“Listen to me.” As she spoke, she forced herself to accept her fate. She would die—in her way—and she would hurt.

So what. She’d done it before. And this time, she’d do it for Amun. There was no greater reason. “In a few days, I’l be in my cave. No,” she rushed out when his gaze swung to her.

“Don’t say anything. And don’t…don’t come for me. I won’t remember you, and I’l attack you. But I think—” hoped “—I’l dream of you again and when the hate settles, I’l come for you. We’l be together again.”

You’re not dying. Not this time. I’l die first.

That’s what she feared most. “Just…let him have a go at me,” she pleaded. “You heard him. He wants his demon back, and he’s not leaving without it.”

He won’t be leaving, anyway.

Oh, Amun. Stubborn to his core. “Something’s changed.

Always before, he kept his distance when he found me, afraid to touch me. This time, I don’t think he’s afraid.”

He is. A little.

But not enough. “Good,” she forced herself to say. “I can work with that. You’l stay here, and I can—”


She knew she’d just insulted Amun’s warrior core, but she didn’t want to risk his life. She would come back. He would not. “Amun, just listen to me. I don’t want you to fight him, either. He’s a freaking god.”

Demigod. And you can’t stop me.

“Whatever. You know the outcome. We both know the outcome. Your demon is not—”

“Haidee…mine…mine, you have what’s mine,” that despised voice from her past said. Hate didn’t sweep through the cave’s only opening. He simply walked through the wal to stand in front of her and Amun. “Together again, at long last. The thief wil final y have her due. You took what’s mine. I want it back.”

“Repeat ourselves much?” As the past col ided with present, she wanted to vomit. As always, he wore a hooded black robe, his face cast in thick, impenetrable shadows.

His feet floated just above the ground, a wind she couldn’t feel ghosting around him.

Don’t approach him, Amun growled, inching away from her, severing contact. And don’t touch me.

Okay? We need to engage him verbal y if we’re to learn how to best him without engaging him physical y.

Okay, she said. Lied. Maybe. She wasn’t sure. And why couldn’t she touch Amun? When his shoulder had pressed into her, she’d read his mind, his demon. Now, there was…


Amun gave a jerky nod to let her know he’d heard her reply before their connection had been severed.

Hate hadn’t spoken during the byplay, had merely watched them. Now a low growl erupted from his throat. “You’ve been together. Demon and Hunter.” The words carried a hint of fire. “You do not deserve pleasure, Haidee my girl.

Mine. After what you did to me, you deserve only pain.”

“What happened here is none of your business,” she said, raising her chin.

Haidee, watch your words. I said engage him, not infuriate him.

Good, they could stil talk to each other. And just what can I say to make him want to stick around and chat, rather than do what he came to do?

I don’t know.

Before she could respond, Hate’s growl sharpened like the deadliest of blades. “I want what’s mine, and you wil give it to me.”

Amun’s arm stretched out, a hard block that prevented her from moving forward—or Hate from launching at her directly. She almost pushed that arm aside, but remembered his command not to touch him. Damn it. She wanted to save him, not offer him up as a replacement dinner.

“Do you have no response, little Haidee? Dead Haidee?”

Even as Amun warned her to keep quiet, she said, “What if I decide to keep it?” She didn’t want the bastard’s attention riveted on her man. Hate could move too quickly, kil before his victim could even blink. Hel , Hate could walk through wal s, as he’d already proven, and simply attack Amun from behind. “Forever.”

Damn it, Amun cursed. Are you trying to ring the starting bel ? I just need a little more time. I’m having trouble reading him.

Clawed hands curled into fists, peeking out of the long sleeves of that dark robe. “You wil give me what’s mine.

Give it now.”

“No,” she said with false calm, “I don’t think I wil .”

The wind whipped up, agitating the hem of his robe. “I’l make you.”

“Wil you real y? Then why haven’t you already?”

Wind, wind, so much wind.

If she wasn’t careful, the bastard would attack no matter what she did or said. “Wil I die if I do give you what you want?” she asked, pretending she was thinking it over.

Good. That’s good.

“Give. Me.”

He hadn’t answered her question, she noticed. “You know what? If you want that piece of the demon back so badly, you come over here and take it.”

What? Amun shouted, the wind rocking through the entire cavern.

Like I said, he can’t do it on his own or he would have already. He has to have my cooperation. I’m just reminding him of that.

Dark tension pulsed from that floating body. “Now, Haidee.

Is that any way to speak to your lover?” For the first time in their sporadic, centuries-long acquaintance, Hate flipped back the hood of his robe, freeing his features from those too-thick shadows.

She gaped, horrified. He was grotesque. His skin was rotted, pitted, and most of his hair was missing.

The few patches there were were thin and coarse, frizzed. Rather than eyes, he watched her through two black holes of despair.

“You have never been my lover,” she spat.

“Are you sure?” Before her eyes, his skin smoothed out, darkened. His hair grew, thick and black, glossy like silk.

Beautiful brown eyes appeared in those fathomless holes.

Soon, beautiful Micah stood before her. Nearly identical to Amun, but without the sizzle of awareness.

“No,” she said, shaking her head violently. “No!” She would have known. Would have sensed. There would have been a clue. Something, anything. Right? Like the fact that he’d gotten it wrong. She and Micah had never been lovers. Not real y.

He wasn’t the Micah you were with, sweetheart. Amun’s voice soothed her rising disgust.

“Yes,” Hate said. “I know you better than you know yourself, and knew you wanted this face.

Therefore I gave you this face.”

He’s lying, I swear to you. But keep him talking. My demon is stil rooting through his head and we’re close, so close to discovering how to defeat him.

“How did you find me?” she growled.

Hate glared at her, but he said, “The phone cal , how else?

Once I locked onto your voice, it was only a matter of hours before I found you, wherever you happened to be. I admit, I didn’t expect to find you here, reeking of another demon.”

“So how do you have Micah’s face? How long have you been Micah? Where is the real Micah?”

Familiar lips curled into a smile. “Perhaps I was your Micah al along.”

No, Amun said. He became Micah a few days after Strider grabbed you.

Was Secrets revealing the truth to him? Because she believed Amun. Always. Which meant she hadn’t kissed this creature, hadn’t completed missions with this creature.

Only Micah. Her relief was palpable. “And now the human is…?”

“Dead? Yes. I kil ed him. And do you know what? While he lay dying, I showed him your face.” For a split second, she saw her own face staring over at her. Then he returned to Micah’s image. “I told him how much you despised him.”