- The Darkest Seduction
“Sienna!” Paris’s voice echoed off the walls. “Sienna! Where the hell did you go?”
Something lurched in her chest, and she was once again fighting tears. Damn you, Cronus. Of all his torments, this was the worst. Her hands continued to move along the shield, quaking now.
Those scalding tears flooded her eyes and splashed down her cheeks, leaving burning tracks. The memories had never followed her before. When she moved to a new room a new one would appear, one horror exchanged for another. This was the first ever to dog her.
And…she stilled, frowned. This couldn’t be a memory, she realized, the answer to her earlier concern finally slipping into place. As far as she knew, Paris had never been to this castle, and she’d never seen the Gargl anywhere else. So, the two had never fought in her presence.
Could he… Was he…
Her heart skipped a beat.
“Who is that?” Winter demanded.
“Another prisoner?” Cameron.
“And who’s this Sienna?” Irish.
They heard Paris’s voice. They had never seen or heard the memories before. This wasn’t… This couldn’t be… Her heart stopped altogether.
“Sienna! Damn it.” Grunt, bang. “Get off me, you perverted bag of stone.” Bang. “Sienna!”
This wasn’t a memory, wasn’t a vision. This was real and happening right now. Paris was here. He’d come for her. Was searching for her, trying to get to her. A second later, her heart kicked back into gear, slamming into a too-fast rhythm, making her pant. The Gargl might have hurt him, might be hurting him even now.
“Paris!” Panicked, she straightened and raced down the hall, down the steps. Just as before, her wings caught on the carpet. Her momentum propelled her forward, onto her face. She cringed, moaned, but two seconds after she landed, she was back on her feet and sprinting. “Paris, I’m here!”
If he continued to fight the Gargl, they would have his organs as snacks. She’d seen it happen too many times to count. And once they tasted a man’s insides, nothing and no one could stop the ensuing feast.
She quickened her step and prayed she wasn’t too late.
CRONUS FLASHED TO HIS private bedchamber in his favorite secret palace, gripping a puny, wretched Hunter by the scruff of his neck. The moment the wall murals appeared at his sides, a large bed crafted from the darkest ebony materializing in front of him, he shoved the Hunter to his knees, maintaining that hard grip. A thick crimson carpet kept the action from fracturing the human’s kneecaps, the only mercy the man would receive this day.
Atop the bed, chains rattled. The naked female bound to the posts spotted him and struggled to free herself. Of course, she failed. The chains were not just reinforced steel; they were mystically enhanced. And really, she only had herself to blame for her confinement. Cronus never would have captured her if she hadn’t come here with the intention of seducing and chaining him.
Had he not been in possession of the All-Key, she would have succeeded. Now, nothing could restrain him.
Grinning, he studied her. Dark hair tangled around bruised shoulders, evidence she had struggled long before his arrival. Skin usually the color of flawless cream was now amusingly sallow. When eyes a mix of crystal and crimson flashed absolute hatred at him, his grin widened.
“I will massacre you for this,” she snarled. Before he had time to respond, she calmed, returned his grin with a wicked, wanton one of her own, and purred, “But only after I play with you a bit.”
“Now, now, darling.” Cronus tsked under his tongue. If any female were capable of harming him, it was this one, but he would never admit it. “Is that any way to greet your husband of countless centuries?”
Rhea, queen of the Titans, eyed him as if he were an animal—and she wanted to wear his pelt as a victory coat. “A better way to greet you would be with a sword swinging at your neck.”
He waved his hand through the air as if he hadn’t a care, the action so patronizing it was sure to reignite the fuse of her temper. “Careful, my dearest. You’re in danger of protesting too much.”
“Argh!” With her demon, Strife, flashing ruby-colored scales and gnarled bone under the surface of her skin, she intensified her struggles. “You will pay for this.”
“So you’ve said innumerable times. Alas.” He let out a mocking sigh, barely audible over her raspy panting. “How you humiliate yourself, my heart of hearts, but do go on. My favorite part comes when you realize nothing you do, nothing you say, will aid you, and you sag in defeat.”
Despite his taunt, she did indeed continue to fight. And as his own wrists and ankles throbbed in protest, he lost his amusement. He was connected to this horrid creature. Connected in a way he could not escape.
When someone injured her, he was injured also. No matter where he was or what he was doing. Likewise, when she experienced pleasure, so did he. Yes, he always knew when she bedded another man. But then, she always knew when he bedded another woman.
Perhaps that was why they despised each other so passionately, and why they had chosen opposite sides of the war that raged between immortals and their human enemy. Cronus had aligned himself with the Lords of the Underworld, and Rhea the Hunters.
“Death is too kind for you!” she spat just before sagging against the mattress as he’d predicted, perspiration dotting every inch of her body and making her glow.
He enjoyed seeing her this way. Helpless, naked and utterly unable to protect or cover herself. She had lush breasts with lovely tawny tips. A soft belly, and even softer thighs. And once upon a time, he truly had loved her. He would have given her anything, would have given everything, to make her happy. Actually, he had given everything.
Though he’d known better, he had shared his throne with her. Had even shared his godly abilities. He’d hungered for her so absolutely, he hadn’t wished to exist if she could not be by his side, ruling with equal power.
As the centuries passed, however, she began to change. From sultry to grasping, from kind to cruel, her thirst for power surpassing his own. Ultimately, she betrayed him in an attempt to usurp him. She was the reason he’d been incarcerated inside Tartarus. She was the reason the Titans had fallen to the Greeks. At least the ones she’d aided in rising up against him had betrayed her in kind.
Now, nothing would save her from his eternal wrath.
“It’s that time again, my pet,” he said, all hint of his softer emotions gone.
During one of their many altercations in prison, after he had killed her lover and she had killed his, they had vowed to never again harm those closest to the other, and a vow given was unbreakable. Therefore, Cronus could not touch her precious Galen or any of Galen’s top advisers—though Cronus had finally found the bastard’s lair, as well as his first in command, the new keeper of Distrust, Fox. In turn, Rhea could not touch any of his Lords.
They could, however, harm the minor foot soldiers. As he would soon prove.
“Your choice, Rhea. I beat you, or I kill one of your Hunters.”
The human kneeling at Cronus’s side jerked at the threat, mewling sounds seeping from his bloody lips, but he never spoke a word. Just a guess, but that could be because Cronus had already cut out his tongue.
Cronus wanted Rhea to choose her punishment, and he didn’t care that he would, essentially, be punishing himself. Causing her to suffer overrode all other concerns. “Which is it to be?” Every day he offered her the same choice, and every day she gave the same answer.
“You think I care about a fragile, useless human?” She lifted her chin, her narrowed gaze remaining on Cronus, completely lacking in fear or mercy. “Kill him.”
A whimper escaped the Hunter.
No, her answer had not changed. Cronus could have beaten her anyway, and perhaps one day he would. For the time being, he liked giving her what she asked for. Liked thinking she would be haunted by her selfishness for decades to come.
“Very well.” Cronus stretched out his free arm, summoned a sword from nothing but air, and struck. The Hunter’s head fell to the floor with a thump. His body quickly followed.
The scent of copper coated the air.
Rhea’s thunderous expression remained the same, untouched by remorse. “Do you feel better now, my stallion? Do you feel like a big, strong male?”
Bitch. He would not allow her to gain the upper hand. “Do you care nothing for your ever-dwindling army? The very men fighting for your cause.”
One bare shoulder lifted in a casual shrug. “I feel the same for my army as you feel for yours, I’m sure. Nothing.”
No, he did not care for his Lords, but he respected their strength and determination. Or rather, he had. Lately the warriors were too busy falling in love, too concerned with their own petty squabbles, and now too busy rescuing Kane, the keeper of Disaster, to heed Cronus’s orders. Still, they were a buffer between Cronus and eternal death, so he needed them.
He frowned at the thought of all that had transpired to bring him to this moment. Long ago, the first All-Seeing Eye under his command—a being capable of seeing into heaven, hell, past and future—had prophesied that a man filled with hope would fly to him on wings of white and behead him. At the time, Galen had not yet been created. Therefore, Cronus had assumed an angel assassin would come for him, which was why he’d pitted himself against the Deity’s Elite soldiers. War had broken out—among angels and gods, Greeks and Titans—and even those on earth had suffered.
Weakened from the ceaseless fighting, Cronus found himself defeated by Zeus and thrown into Tartarus. Soon afterward Zeus created the Lords, Galen among them, to serve as his personal army, ready to defend him should the Titans rise up from their moldering prison. But in a fit of foolish pique, those same warriors opened Pandora’s box, unleashing the demons from within and raining down more havoc on a world still reeling from the heavenly war. When Zeus meted out their punishment, decreeing that each would house a demon inside himself, Galen was paired with the demon of Hope, wings of white sprouting from his back. Then, upon Cronus’s escape from the immortal prison, the newest All-Seeing Eye had painted the same future that had earlier been foretold, this time showing Galen’s victory over him.