So Amun had kil ed her. Again. His love for her had doomed her for eternity. She would have lived if he’d left her alone, if he had refused to bring her down here. If he hadn’t given in to his craving for her.

He hated himself.

He hated Zacharel now, too.

They had moved her around like a chess piece. They had set her up for failure. And why? To save him.

If Haidee had survived this, Amun could have continued on with his life. Even if she’d hated him, he could have continued on, happy in the knowledge that she was out there somewhere. But this…this shattered him. She was gone forevermore, and he was responsible. The knowledge ruined him. He was raw, eternal y wounded, unable to heal.

And he didn’t need Secrets to confirm that.

There was only one thing left to do.

Take me home, he signed, as determined as he was defeated.

“I find I am oddly…troubled by your reaction. I did not expect this, nor do I understand what I am feeling. What I know is that I do not like it and something must be done.”

In less than a heartbeat of time, Amun’s surroundings changed. Gone were the bleak rocks he’d shared with Haidee, and in their place were the smooth white wal s of his bedroom. He took no comfort from the familiar setting.

He moved to his bed and sat down on the edge. The angel never reappeared, and that was probably for the best.

Amun wanted to kil him for hiding the truth—however he’d done so—and for al owing Amun to save himself and condemn his woman. And he would kil the angel. Soon, but not yet, for the action would earn him a death sentence of his own. A sentence he would welcome just as soon as he said goodbye to his friends.

That was al he had left to do.

He wasn’t going to live without Haidee; it was as simple as that.

AFTER ZACHAREL BRIEFED TORIN on everything that had happened to Amun and Haidee, gathered the rest of his angels and final y left the fortress for good, their job now done, the keeper of Disease studied his friend on several of his computer monitors. The cameras Strider had placed in Secrets’s bedroom hadn’t yet been disabled, so Torin had a clear view of his friend from multiple angles.

The warrior might be back to normal, but he wasn’t even close to being happy. Desolation seemed to cling to him.

His dark skin was dul ed, and his eyes were bleaker than Torin had ever seen them.

Torin ached for him. Even though he didn’t understand how Amun had fal en for such a woman, he stil ached for the man. And he wouldn’t judge. Amun would get enough of that from the others. What he needed right now was compassion and unconditional support. Support Torin would give him.

Once upon a time, Torin had kil ed a woman he lusted after.

He’d worshipped her from afar and had final y given in and touched her. Just a simple brush of his knuckles on her soft cheek, but soon afterward, he’d been forced to watch her sicken and die. He’d been helpless to save her.

Knowing he was responsible had torn him up inside. And if Zacharel was right, Amun blamed himself for Haidee’s loss.

And the fact that Torin had merely lusted but Amun had loved…wel , he doubted his pain could compare.

Torin tugged at an earlobe. Things were stil calm here.

Hunters were stil missing, stil disappearing for seemingly no reason, but now Rhea had disappeared, as wel . As Cronus had done with Strider, he’d just popped in and informed him. So…

Whether the warriors here would judge Amun or not, Amun needed them. Needed a distraction from his guilt. That wouldn’t be the same as compassion and support, but those things would fol ow. Hopeful y.

So Torin lifted his cel phone and sent everyone the same message. Amun’s here & sane. Angels gone.

Return ASAP. He needs help.

Replies began arriving seconds after he pressed send, and soon every single one of the warriors (besides Wil iam) had agreed to come home.

On way. He OK? Aeron.

Coming. Something wrong? Lucien.

Take me out of your address book. Wil iam.

Wil make it. Gideon.

Cameo & me just hit town. We’l be there in 10. Kane.

Let me get Ash situated 1st. Maddox.

Done & done. Sabin.

Me & Paris R in the States. Might take a bit, but we’l B

there. Strider.

Had a tail 4 few days. Wil show as soon as I lose it. Reyes.

Pleased at their show of loyalty amid this crisis, Torin settled back in his chair and waited.


AMUN’S FRIENDS TRIED TO CHEER him up, they real y did. They hugged him, slapped him on the back and told him what they’d been up to. Strider, fighting Hunters. Aeron, playing with his Olivia in the clouds. Lucien, guarding the Cage of Compulsion with his Anya. Gideon, honeymooning with his Scarlet.

Kane and Cameo, scouring the city for any sign of the enemy. Maddox, playing nursemaid to his Ashlyn, who was “big as a house.” Her words, not Amun’s.

Sabin, begging the Unspoken Ones to give back the artifact Strider had parted with. Reyes, guarding his Danika while she painted glimpses into the future. Paris, getting high on ambrosia and preparing to go to war in the heavens.

Amun spent two days with them. No one mentioned Haidee. They al avoided talk of her. But as he seated himself at the dinner table, he decided to change that. They didn’t know it, but this was to be his last dinner with them.

Tomorrow he would leave the fortress. Tomorrow he would chal enge Zacharel.

Tomorrow he would lose his head.

He knew what Aeron had experienced after his death.

Knew the warrior’s soul had gone to another realm, a place where formerly demon-possessed immortals were supposedly to be trapped, unable to taint any other souls with their darkness. Baden was there. Pandora, too.

But Aeron, Baden and Pandora had merely died as mortals did. Their souls hadn’t been burned to ash, as an angel’s sword of fire could make happen.

That’s the death Amun wanted for himself. An end. Total y, completely.

First, though, he wanted these men to know the kind of woman Haidee had been. To know her as he had, as sweetness and light. As worthy. As the best among them.

He wanted them to know what she had given up. And so, while they piled their plates high with food, he started talking.

“Haidee was not the monster we painted her. She was strong and courageous.”

Conversations tapered to quiet as everyone stared at him in shock. He’d never begun a conversation before. Had rarely spoken anything but other people’s memories since his possession.

He continued before his demon decided to take over and spil the secrets hiding inside everyone around him. “She had every reason to despise us. A demon kil ed her mother, her father, her sister and her husband. A demon, just like us. Hel , maybe one of us kil ed her husband. We were there when it happened. And then I helped kil her. Me.

I threw her in front of my enemy’s sword. Little wonder she came back for us. For vengeance. We would have done the same. We did the same.”

Thankful y, no one tried to stop him. Not even his demon.

“The same demon who kil ed her family managed to infect her, give her a piece of himself. Of Hate. Yet somehow, though she was little more than a human, she managed to defeat that demon’s darkest urges.

Then she was kil ed again and again and again, and even though every good and decent memory she had was always wiped from her, even though she knew only sadness and pain, she found a way to love me, to save me…to die for me. That is the woman we have hated al this time. Someone we hurt first.

Someone with the power to kil the rest of us, someone who could have been used against us, yet chose to save us instead. Through her own death.”

A thick, heavy silence enveloped the entire room.

Stil Secrets made no attempt to speak through him.

Perhaps because the taint of memories had been purged inside that cave. Perhaps because the demon mourned Haidee’s passing as he did.

His friends continued to stare at him, not moving, not even daring to breathe. Their thoughts and emotions grew in intensity, final y piercing the quiet. Some felt sorry for him.

Some felt guilty for having condemned Haidee. Only Sabin refused to back away from his own hate.

Strider, though… Strider was the worst. Her death is for the best, the warrior thought. Ultimately, she would have turned on him. She wouldn’t have been able to help herself. And when she hurt him, or us, he would have blamed himself. He wouldn’t have been able to forgive himself, either.

The statement pushed Amun over the edge. Hel . No.

Amun didn’t realize he’d launched out of his seat until he had his hands around Strider’s neck. Until he was tossing the warrior into the wal , plaster dusting around him. “What the fuck, man?” a scowling Strider demanded as he stood.

“Her death wasn’t for the best! She was lovely, damn you.

She deserved to live. I’m the one who should have died.

And you can wrap up your excuses as prettily as you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that you just don’t care that she’s dead.”

“Okay. Okay. Whatever. Just relax. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine.”

“Mine is the only one that matters!” With a roar, Amun launched at Strider again. They fel to the floor in a tangle of violence.

“Stop,” Lucien commanded. “Now.”

“Let them finish,” Sabin said.

Amun tuned them out. His fists pounded at Strider, his legs kicked. Strider, of course, began fighting back. They rol ed together and slammed into the table. Plates shattered, food splattered. Both of them knew how to fight, and fight dirty.

Knew how to stop a heart from beating, how to break a femur with a wel -placed kick, how to smash a trachea and prevent oxygen from making it into greedy lungs. They did al of that and more.

And stil they kept fighting, no one trying to separate them.

Amun’s hands soon swel ed from continuous impact with bone, his fingers refusing to bend. Dizziness washed through him, black winking over his vision, but even that didn’t slow him. When this was over, Strider was going to regret his thoughts and words. Strider was going to admit how special Haidee had been.