- The Darkest Seduction
Besides Olivia, Scarlet, Anya, the still-pacing Haidee and Danika, who had her arm around a girl named Gilly, there were two Harpies, half-sisters Gwen and Kaia. Gwen belonged to Sabin, and Kaia to Strider. The pair had their heads together as they whispered. Galen was Gwen’s father, and, if Viola’s superior hearing was on target—and it always was—Gwen planned to hunt him down herself, crack open his ribs and rip out his black, rotted heart. Just her little way of making up for the lenience she’d once shown him.
“That Torin guy didn’t get any recordings of Galen?” Viola asked, recalling his wall of computers and monitors.
No one looked her way or paid her any attention.
Her demon scraped sharp, pointed horns against the inside of her temples, and she bit back a moan. Ignoring her was the fastest way to gain Narci’s attention. And when Narci’s attention was locked…oh, stars above. Trouble followed. Always. Viola didn’t want her other half intruding on this heartbreaking event, determined to make everything about her.
“No, there are no recordings,” a soft, gentle voice said from beside her.
With a gasp, she spun. She hadn’t heard anyone approach, but now a tall, slender female with long, blond hair was at her side. The girl looked fragile…haunted. Pain consumed those dark eyes. More pain than any one person should ever have to bear. She watched Maddox, a tear streaking down her pale cheek.
Viola thought she’d interacted with everyone in the house, but this girl was new. She had a blanket draped around her, the material clutched tight to her chest, her knuckles without a shred of color. “Did you talk to him? To Torin?”
The girl’s chin was trembling too violently for her to speak; she shook her head.
“Then how do you know about the recordings? Better question—who are you?”
More tears tumbled. They had to burn, because whatever path they traveled, they left red welts behind. “I’m…I’m Legion.” Such a soft, soft whisper.
Legion. Ah, yes. Once a demon who had made a deal with the devil. The devil that granted her a human body. A deal she’d lost, forcing her to return to hell, where she was tortured in the vilest of ways, raped, abused, passed around and tortured some more.
Viola looked at the girl. Really looked at her, the way only she could. Past skin, past bone, and into soul. Legion was dying. Actually, some part of her was already dead. Her will to live had been obliterated. She was a brittle leaf hanging on by the thinnest thread, the next cold wind all that was needed to pull her loose and finally send her tumbling away.
By nature of her birth, Viola could be that wind. All she need do was reach out, curl her fingers around Legion’s wrist and draw her close. Not usually so simple, and not usually so easy; but then, willingness made all the difference. A deep breath in, and there would be nothing remaining of Legion’s soul. She would cease to exist on every level.
Perhaps Viola had stared a bit too long or a bit too intently because Legion began to quake, shifting from one foot to the other, and then, when that wasn’t enough, inching away.
“I won’t hurt you,” Viola said.
Legion stopped as if she’d shouted. Poor, broken girl. A china doll already shattered. She drew the blanket closer, trying to fold herself within and hide.
“Lucien.” Anya’s relief was palpable, filling the room after the keeper of Death appeared.
Viola turned, watching as the minor goddess threw herself in her man’s arms. He hugged her with unyielding strength, their love a tangible thing. Once again Viola’s chest ached. She wanted that. Wanted that so badly she would kill to have it. But, of course, she could never have that. She was destined to love herself, and only herself.
Everyone else in the room quieted, waiting to hear what the warrior had to say, so tense their bodies were ready to snap. The scarred warrior looked them over, opened his mouth, closed it.
“Just say it,” Maddox commanded. He’d worked his way to his feet, was checking the clip on one of his guns. “Tell me what you learned.”
Lips compressed, Lucien gave the room another sweep. This time he stopped on Legion, who had bravely eked her way back to Viola’s side. “Legion, sweetheart,” he said, his tone so gentle he could have been talking to a child locked in a closet, afraid a monster waited under her bed, “go on up to your room. This isn’t for you. All right? Okay?”
After everyone turned to face her, and she had wilted under the attention, she spun and ran away. Several agonizing heartbeats passed before Maddox broke.
“Tell me. Now.”
Lucien drew Anya deeper into his body. “Galen didn’t try to hide. He knew I would follow his trail, and so he waited for me to catch up. Ashlyn wasn’t with him,” he added as Maddox opened his mouth to say something. “He said I would no longer be able to follow him, that I’d found him only because he’d let me get that far. And he was right. Afterward, I tried. I failed. I’m sorry.”
“Tell me!” Maddox had stashed his gun and now clutched two blades. One of them he held by its body rather than by its hilt, and his palm had already sliced open. He didn’t seem to notice as blood dripped, dripped. “Finish it.”
A stiff nod. Lucien looked as if the words were being jerked out of him, and the jerking hurt. “He said she’s safe, for now, and that he’ll send you a video of her to prove it. He said…he said…if we want her back alive, we’ll trade Legion for her.”
Viola wasn’t sure anyone else heard the gasp and frantic footfalls beyond that shattered wall, but she did. And she knew. Legion hadn’t gone up to her room. She’d hung back and listened. Now, though, she was at last running for her chamber, no doubt seeking sanctuary between its walls.
The warriors argued, words shooting between them with rapid-fire precision.
“Where does he want to meet? When?” Maddox.
“Rome. The Temple of the Unspoken Ones. Tomorrow. Midnight.” Lucien.
“Take me there. Now.” Maddox.
“Be sensible about this.” Strider. “Those bastards are hard-core, and if they’re on his side—”
“I don’t care! Get that through your heads. I don’t care about anything but my woman and my children. And you will take me there, and I will hunt him down, and when I find him I will kill him. Do you hear me? Take me to that island. You have five seconds to flash me or I’m catching the red-eye, and there’s no one in this world or the other that can help the mortals who get in my way.”
Deciding not to wait for Lucien’s reply, Viola snuck out of the room. No one noticed, and that once again pricked at Narci.
Be a good girl, she told her other half, and I’ll show you how pretty you are.
The demon bounced up and down inside her head. When?
Now. A whine.
Now. A demand.
Soon? Another whine.
Soon. You drive a hard bargain. Viola followed Legion’s spiritual trail—Lucien wasn’t the only one with such a talent—flashing herself into the bedroom. The girl was pacing, her hair flying wildly behind her. She hadn’t abandoned the blanket, but clutched the material ever closer.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t leave. I can’t go to him.”
“Legion,” Viola said gently. Yes, she was uncomfortable with other people’s feelings, but she’d peered at this broken doll’s soul and wanted to help.
How odd. Once, Viola had fed on souls, on their energy. She had drained them, ended them. One day, though, she’d taken the wrong soul at the wrong time—the only terrible memory she’d managed to retain—and found herself imprisoned in Tartarus. Then, of course, she was paired with Narci and the only soul she’d been able to feed on was her own.
Like an immortal’s limb, her soul kept growing back and she kept feeding on it, but it never grew back in its entirety because she never actually stopped eating. For lack of a better word. So, basically, she was half of a person, as well as a spiritual cannibal, and she never ever concerned herself with others.
Why had she come here again? She should leave.
Those dark eyes found her, tears catching in equally dark lashes, and Viola’s feet rooted in place. “I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. He’ll want to touch me. Hurt me. I…can’t.”
Legion raced to her bathroom, hunched over the toilet and vomited. Viola’s feet tugged free, but still she didn’t leave. She walked into the bathroom and held back the girl’s hair, only to realize she hadn’t actually vomited. She had dry heaved. Poor thing. She probably hadn’t eaten a decent meal in weeks.
Hours seemed to tick by in endless misery. Between each of her heaves, the girl sobbed. And when she wasn’t sobbing, she was shaking so violently her teeth chattered. No one ever came to the door, and Viola decided the Lords had opted not to trade the girl for Ashlyn’s safe return.
Finally, blessedly, Legion’s outburst drained her. She slumped over the toilet, her tear ducts tapped out.
Viola stepped away, and those red, swollen eyes followed her.
I really must leave now, she thought. She’d stayed far too long, the sense of unease returning. “I’ll tell the warriors you’re a no-go, okay?” Maddox might try and slay her for her efforts, but Narci would dig the attention, so whatever.
“I can’t go, I can’t go,” Legion whispered. “He was here, I smelled him, knew he was here, but I couldn’t make my voice work, haven’t spoken since I got here, couldn’t even scream, even though I wanted to scream and scream and scream. I hid under the bed. I should have screamed, I should have screamed.”
Her words were heavy on the guilt, an emotion Viola refused to tangle with. “Yeah, so, uh, good luck with that. It was nice meeting you and everything.” One step, two, she backed her way out. She didn’t do the friendship thing. Ever. With anyone. Especially not broken china dolls that would require way too much time and effort.