- The Darkest Secret
Amun watched, horrified. She watched, too, amazed that she hadn’t had to corner him and force him out. Amazed that she didn’t hurt anymore. But when the beast darted out of the cave, roaring hysterical y, she found there was nothing left to tether her to her body. Darkness was pul ing at her.
Her organs were shutting down, the ice that had saved her now kil ing her. She knew the feeling wel .
Had experienced it hundreds of times before. This was the end of her.
I love you, she told Amun.
He never stopped bandaging her wounds. Then stay, damn it. Fight this. Haidee! Do you hear me?
Don’t you dare leave me!
I love you, she repeated, and then, because she couldn’t fight any longer, she al owed herself to be pul ed the rest of the way into the darkness.
AMUN WAS GOING CRAZY. Haidee had died. Died. Her heart had stopped, her ruined body had gone stil and her eyes had glazed. She’d had no breath left inside her lungs, even when he’d pumped at her chest for hours, her blood al over his hands. And then she’d disappeared. Simply vanished, as if she’d never existed.
He screamed for hours more—and Secrets screamed along with him.
While Amun had been making love with Haidee that second time, the demon had realized that she would never hurt them, no matter how powerful she was. That she would always strive to make life better for them.
With the realization, affection for her had grown. Not just because she possessed so many secrets, but because of her. Even though she was a demon-slayer, a justice-dealer, she was the demon’s favorite playground.
How could Themis have sentenced such a precious female to die? Where was the justice in such a vile action?
Amun was suddenly happy the goddess was currently rotting in Tartarus with the rest of the Greeks.
After everything she’d done, she deserved that and more.
Only, if she hadn’t acted, Amun never would have had this second chance with Haidee. Or even met her at al . She was a gift. His gift. And he’d failed her. In every way that mattered, he’d failed her. Twice she’d died because of him.
And she hated to die, feared the pain, the loss of her memories.
My fault, he thought.
The first time had been an accident on his part. This second time, she had rushed headlong into danger to save him. He’d been too focused on slaying their enemy to take note of her plan. Foolish of him. He was the keeper of Secrets, damn it! He should have guessed her intentions, and he should have stopped her.
When she had locked on Hate, Amun hadn’t known what to do or how to separate them. Al Secrets had known was that breaking the link between the pair would hurt Haidee far more than letting her finish drawing the demon into herself. But then Hate had begun fighting her, chomping at her, clawing at her, and Amun hadn’t cared about her pain
—he’d cared only about saving her life. He’d ripped them apart.
But he was too late.
The wound in Haidee’s neck had been fatal.
Amun paced. If he summoned the angel, Zacharel, he would be escorted home. His demon knew this, sensed it now as if the knowledge had always been there, yet Amun could not force himself to do so.
This was the last place he’d seen Haidee, the last place he’d held her, tasted her, and he didn’t want to leave just yet, didn’t want to give up the sweet scent of her that lingered in the air or the chil of her that was wrapped around him like a cloak.
He needed to formulate a plan. Without interference from his friends.
Haidee had told him not to try to find her cave. That, he would ignore. He would find that cave. He would help her through those waves of hate. If she stil possessed any hint of the demon inside her, that is.
The creature had risen from her, and had seemed intact. Nothing missing.
But even without the demon, she wouldn’t stay dead. She’d said so herself. She would come back to him.
And if she was without even that smal piece, she could very wel remember him.
Suddenly hope wel ed within him. First, he had to find her.
And he would. She was out there. She had to be out there.
If she didn’t remember him and fought him, he would let her go, wouldn’t hurt her, even to save himself.
But then what?
What if she returned to the Hunters?
He would just have to fol ow her, guard her from a distance.
He’d slipped past her defenses once. He could do so again.
Al he had to do was reach her.
Decided on his course of action, he grabbed the backpack and at last shouted for Zacharel in his mind.
A few seconds later, as expected, the angel appeared. No bright light, just blink, and the winged warrior was there. Those wings arched over the wide expanse of his shoulders, white threaded with gold. He stil wore a colorless robe, his dark hair slicked back from his face.
Those bril iant green eyes regarded Amun with satisfaction.
“And so you are saved.”
Yes, he signed. Now take me to my woman.
His demand elicited a single shake of that dark head.
There was no sorrow in the angel’s expression. No emotion whatsoever. “I cannot do so. She is dead.”
So simply stated. Amun almost pounded over and stabbed the bastard in the heart. She wil be reanimated in Greece.
You wil take me to her. Now.
“No. She is not in Greece.”
Yes. She is.
Stil emotionless, the angel said, “When she drew the rest of Hate inside her, the demon reformed in its entirety. When she released it, she released every bit of it, even the part that had bonded to her. A bond that was never supposed to happen. She was supposed to draw and release. But because she did bond, she could no longer live without Hate. Just as you cannot live without your demon.” The layer of truth in his voice was devastating. “This, you already know.”
Stil he fought the very idea of it. She’s alive, I tel you.
Aeron died, but then he lived.
“Amun, Haidee had already died. She was already a soul, like those in the heavens and hel . A soul that has now withered once and for al , its source of life gone.”
No! She’s out there. She’s alive. She had to be. Souls reanimate in hel . I’ve seen them. You said so yourself.
“Those souls never bonded to a demon. Never then lost that demon.”
No! he repeated. She was blessed by a goddess.
“A goddess who later turned her back.”
Haidee is alive, damn you. A blessing is a blessing, and cannot be taken back.
“Just as the favored cannot fal into disfavor and be kicked from the heavens?”
That is not the same, and you know it. Why did she keep coming back to life after the goddess turned her back, then?
“Because she was stil intact. This time, she was not. I can take you to her cave, if you’d like. Though I warn you now, it is empty. I checked, just to be sure.”
He didn’t panic. Yet. He concentrated on his breathing, on drawing the stil -chil ed air through his nose, letting it fil his lungs, clear his mind. But with the breath, his demon—who didn’t like the angel, but couldn’t stay out of his head, searching for answers—at last discerned what was the fantasy Amun desired and what was the reality he feared.
Haidee had not returned to Greece.
There was no way to save her.
She. Was. Dead.
Zacharel had spoken the truth. As always.
A roar nearly split Amun’s head in two. He gripped his ears, trying to block the noise. That didn’t help.
On and on the roar tormented him. His eardrums shattered. Blood leaked onto his shoulders. Eventual y, his knees gave out. He fel to the ground, hot tears springing into his eyes. No. No, no, no. She couldn’t be dead.
She was dead.
She is waiting for me in her cave.
She wasn’t waiting for him in her cave.
She wil remember me.
She would remember nothing. She was dead. Now, always.
Any il usion he tried to create, his demon instantly destroyed. In that moment, he hated his demon.
Hated so much he could have been possessed by the essence of the demon Haidee had harbored inside her. The truth…oh, gods, the truth. Nothing had ever hurt him so intensely. She was dead, she was dead, she was dead, and there was nothing he could do to bring her back.
She shouldn’t have died. He should have died.
Why hadn’t he died?
Other questions swirled through the crushing grief, and he found himself glaring up at the angel. Did you know she would…that she would end up that way when you brought us here?
“Of course,” Zacharel offered without any hesitation. “Her death was the only way to save you.”
No reaction. Not yet. What do you mean? She had pul ed the demons from Amun and successful y released them, al without messing with Secrets. Afterward, she had been healthy, whole. Until Hate. But Hate had not been a part of Amun. So, after healing him, she could have walked away.
Oh, gods. She could have walked away.
If he had cal ed for Zacharel then…
“Have you not realized yet? You never needed to visit hel to release those demons. You had only to learn to trust each other. That was the only way Haidee could discover the truth about her abilities. That was the only way you would let her close enough to use those abilities on you.”
Then why did you send us here? Why? I would rather have died myself. Me!
“You were sent here because nothing draws people together faster than perilous situations. More than that, I was not told to save Haidee. Only you.”
But she didn’t have to die. His motions were jerky now. We could have left before Hate found her. You could have swooped in.
“She was going to die whether Hate found her or not. She loved you. Eventual y, that love would have weakened her demon. Just as your demon feeds on secrets, hers fed on hate. Ultimately, that love would have kil ed her.”
No. She loved before. Others loved her.
“Did she? Did they? No, she did not. No, they did not. Many overcame their dislike for her, some even came to care for her, but no one loved her with their whole heart. Until you.”
Secrets found no deception in the confession.