- The Darkest Seduction
The shadows had been too sated from gorging to fight back, their helplessness an aphrodisiac to Wrath, making him crave more, more, more, and the moment he’d finished with the shadows, he had turned his sights on the other beings living in this hidden realm, rhapsodizing when they, too, screamed in pain.
When his hunger was finally satisfied, he tried to force her to walk back to the castle. For the first time, she had known what he was doing while he was doing it, her mind refusing to break its link with Paris, and she’d fought him—and fought hard. Ultimately, as replete as he’d been, he’d given up and retreated to the back of her mind. Now she was at the wheel and driving the (short) bus.
Sadly, her fighting wasn’t yet done. There was an invisible cord connecting the castle and her neck, trying to pull her closer and closer. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could resist. Her wings were shredded—not that she knew how to fly without Wrath’s guidance—and though they would heal in a few hours, they were currently unable to hold her weight. Still, she dug her heels into the ground and managed to slow her momentum. Pain vibrated in her bones. She cringed as she turned…turned…and began to slip away in the opposite direction. Yes. Yes!
To go back, even to see Paris, to say goodbye, to kiss him one last time, to make love to him, was to imprison herself. And though she was tempted, oh, was she tempted, she had to do this. For him. For Skye. Before Cronus learned of her escape, thought to punish Paris and started pulling her strings all over again.
If she could reach Galen, interrogate and kill him before Cronus realized she was gone, she wouldn’t have to seduce him, and the war between the Lords and the Hunters would at last end. Even if the keeper of Hope never told her where her sister was, he couldn’t hurt the girl if he was dead. That would have to suffice.
Footsteps echoed, jerking her out of her mind. There were beings behind her, she realized, following her. She didn’t have to glance back to know they were empty-eyed males with sagging, gray-tinted skin and jaws that split into rows of four, each loaded with razor-sharp fangs. They were killers without a conscience, the blood of their enemies their source of life.
A few weeks ago, Wrath had struck at their camp, leaving blood and death in his wake. Of course, that meant Sienna—the face the survivors had seen—had become Enemy One. They’d been gunning for her ever since, and would have attacked the castle if not for the Gargl.
The urge to run was nearly irresistible. From the glimpses her demon had given her of these creatures, she knew how they’d hunted in the past, knew how mercilessly they’d killed. Knew they enjoyed the chase more than they enjoyed the slaughter. So maybe if she kept a calm head, maybe if she stayed on her current path, they’d lose interest in her.
Yeah, maybe. Not.
“You took our ssslavesss, female. Now you become our ssslave.”
That lisp came courtesy of his fangs, which sliced at the words as they emerged.
“The thingsss we’ll do to you…” A calculated snicker. “The ssscreamsss you’ll utter…”
Offering no reply, but remaining highly attuned to their every move, she forced herself farther and farther from the castle. Her surroundings became darker, the air thicker, scented with blood and other things. She bypassed piles of bones, crimson-colored ponds, caverns that sprang from the mouths of large, carved skulls. She had no weapons, and wasn’t exactly sure where the realm’s exit was—only knew it was here because Cronus had brought her through while she was semi-conscious, and besides, how else would Paris and his friend have entered?—or where in the heavens she would next find herself.
Should have questioned Paris. Hindsight sucked.
“Yesss, keep walking, female. You’re headed ssstraight for our camp.”
Truth or lie? Wrath was no help this time. Should she stop? Fight them? Her self-defense skills were laughable, considering she had trouble balancing her weight. No matter what she did or where she went, the men were going to attack her, and that was that. Waiting for them to strike merely delayed the inevitable.
A pain-filled grunt rent the air behind her, followed by another. Then another. The men must be fighting among themselves, she thought with a tide of relief, saving her the trouble.
A head—without a body—rolled past her. The empty-eyed stare flashed, disappeared, flashed, disappeared. She tripped over her own feet as another head rolled past. Her stomach churned, even as her relief tripled.
“Must you kill so needlessly?” a male voice asked. Emotionless, and yet there was something in the cadence, something that caressed her ears.
“Yeah. I must.”
Paris! Sienna whirled around, her heart a thunderstorm inside her chest. Her gaze cut through the darkness. Where was— There! Her knees nearly buckled from the ensuing flood of happiness.
“Why?” The speaker was a dark-haired man dressed in a robe, keeping pace beside Paris. He had a sublime face, wicked in its heartless beauty. Majestic wings of white-gold stretched from his back. He looked like a fallen angel, but then, so did Galen. Still, if Paris trusted him, so would she. Snow wafted around him, but only him. The flakes seemed to absorb into his skin and crystallize.
“They were looking at her, threatening her,” Paris said, but if he knew where Sienna waited, he gave no indication, “and my demon knew what they were thinking. They deserved a hell of a lot worse than they got.”
“I caught you, saved you from painting the ground with your organs. You owed me a favor, and I asked for a single day without bloodshed.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t specify which day.” With that, Paris dismissed the angel and at last focused on her.
Tall and strong, scowling, he strode toward her. He had bruises under his eyes and cuts that rode the length of his arms, but his gait, though slow, was steady. Bodies were piled up behind him. She’d thought only two of the creatures were following her, but oh, had she miscalculated. At least eleven had trailed her.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Paris demanded the moment he reached her.
Her gaze fell to his lips. Those lush, red lips that had kissed her and sipped at her and smashed against her own. Lips she craved all over her. “Somewhere else. I’m trying to escape, and doing an excellent job of it, thank you,” she replied.
“Without saying goodbye?” He latched on to her bloodstained wrist, turned her arm left and right, searching for any damage. “Nice, Sienna. Real nice.”
Was he actually mad about that? Guilt rose, followed by shame and even delight. She raised her chin, refusing to buckle under his stare. “If I had returned to the castle—and believe me, my body wants to return and even standing here is a chore—I’d be stuck there again. You said you wanted my curse broken. Well, I’m doing my best to break it.”
He released her, sighed. “Fine. You did the right thing, but I hate the fact that if I hadn’t come after you I never would have seen you again.” He could have accused her of abandoning him, of leaving him there to suffer, or any number of other things. That he hadn’t…
“I hate that, too,” she admitted.
Clearing his throat as though uncomfortable with the direction of their conversation, he massaged his neck. Those ocean-blues looked as if the sun shone behind them, glistening off the water. “Anyway, I don’t want you out here by yourself. It’s too dangerous.”
“Well, I don’t want me out here by myself, either.” A wave of dizziness suddenly hit her, and she swayed.
He examined her from head to toe, some of the angel’s frost setting up shop on his skin. “That’s not just other people’s blood you’re wearing, is it? You’re hurt.”
Concern. For her. If she’d had any resistance left, she would have lost every bit of it in that moment. “I’ll heal.”
“Who hurt you?” Lethal menace in his tone.
“Wrath, when he burst through the window. The other times he took over, he made me walk to the parapet on the castle’s roof. This time he was afraid you’d slow me down. So—” she shrugged “—he picked a faster route.”
The long spikes of Paris’s lashes fused together, barely masking the menace resting behind them. “Don’t let him take over anymore.”
Not the least bit intimidated by the warrior’s growing anger, she rolled her eyes. “Earlier you wanted me to do just that.”
“I changed my mind,” he said, leaning down until they were nose-to-nose. “Don’t push me on this, woman. I’m too keyed up.”
They stayed like that for several seconds, breath mixing, emerging faster. She wanted him to kiss her again, to finish what they’d started.
“This area is not safe,” the other man said, ruining the sensuality of the moment.
Paris jolted upright, his back going ramrod straight. “Sienna, meet Zacharel. He’s a warrior angel for the One, True Deity. Zacharel, meet Sienna. She’s mine.”
A shiver rippled through her. Uh, had he just claimed her? Had he just warned the other male away from her, as if he were possessive of her? Pleasure warmed her up, chasing away the numbing cold the angel had brought with him.
Zacharel offered his hand to her, his fingers long and thick. “I will protect you,” he said, the words somehow an invitation—and a vow.
“No touching,” Paris snapped, pushing the angel away from her. “Ever.”
Zacharel’s neutral expression never wavered, nor did the intensity of his gaze.
She shifted uncomfortably, uncertain why he wanted to protect her. There was a note of truth in his tone, however, one she could not refute. Somehow she knew he would do everything in his power to keep her safe.
Or…maybe that was a trick. Maybe, like Galen, Zacharel built up hopes and smashed them down. Gulping, she looked to Paris for answers. “Is he…”
“Like Galen?” he asked, sensing the direction of her thoughts. “No. He’s the real deal, as well as a self-righteous prig who will test every limit of your patience. He’s also impotent. Now, where are you headed?” He cupped her jaw and forced her focus on him and him alone.