- The Darkest Seduction
“Explaining my reasons was never part of our bargain,” Rhea said in that haughty voice of hers, the one he loathed. The one guaranteed to make him see red. “Let. Him. Go.”
Sure enough, Cronus’s rage intensified. He returned his attention to the male. Shadows formed half circles under his eyes, his cheeks were hollowed out and there was blood dripping down his chin, all proof of his mortality.
Had Rhea once welcomed him into her bed? Was this man one of the many Cronus had felt his wife enjoying these past few months? Had this bastard climaxed inside her?
When her passions came upon her, she become wild and wanton, and unaware of—or unconcerned by—the damage she inflicted.
Each new deliberation tossed another smoldering log onto the fires of his rage, until the only thing inside his body was thick, black smoke with crimson flames trapped throughout. He couldn’t see past them, could only choke on them. And only then did he realize that it was not the human who was quaking with such intensity; it was him, and the knowledge humiliated him.
The human had to pay.
“Look at me. Now.”
Long golden-brown lashes lifted. Eyes filled with challenge and hatred stared up at him. Resentment, too. Did this human yearn for what he himself possessed? A connection to Rhea?
Well, that ended now. Before Cronus realized he had moved, he’d released the girl, palmed a blade—and slashed. He watched as the man’s throat split in the center, blood welling and flowing. Watched as pain took the place of the resentment…watched as even that dulled…faded…and his body sagged.
The girl screamed, the shrill noise scraping at his ears, annoying him. Frowning down at her, intending to reprimand her, he uncurled his fingers from the man’s hair and reached for her. Thump. The lifeless body hit the floor, and she released another scream, darting out of his way.
Not before he caught Rhea’s gasp of horror.
His attention whipped to her, the girl suddenly forgotten. His wife had just gasped. Misery was to be her only companion in the countless eternity that awaited her, yes, but the fact that she’d dared to find that misery in the demise of some frail mortal failed to fill him with any kind of satisfaction.
Such a reaction meant he’d miscalculated, that she had, indeed, cared for the man. Even as his temper flared all the hotter, he struggled with understanding. Why care for a creature so limited by time and capability? A creature so fragile, so easily killed. As he had just demonstrated.
The black-haired wench scrambled to the body of the fallen male and gathered him close. She cried, her tears a flood of emotion. Obviously, she had cared for the man, too. But…why? What had he done to draw two women’s loyalty?
Cronus’s lip curled up in a snarl. The answer didn’t matter, not really. The bastard was gone now, never to return. “Let him go,” he commanded the girl.
She looked up at him, hatred shining in her eyes. She carefully laid the body upon the floor, pressed a kiss to his forehead and stood. Her steps clipped, measured, she approached Cronus, horrible sounds of grief rising from her.
Had he not taken her tongue, curses would have been hurled at him, he was sure. But she could not blame him for her lack. He had given her a choice. Return to the cage and die another day, or stay with the man, lose her tongue and die on this one. She’d chosen to stay.
“I am not a monster,” he said. “The pair of you sanctioned the wrong side of the war, and you paid for it.” One thing he’d learned while whiling away the centuries inside Tartarus: a king without a firm hand was a king without a throne.
What came next was expected. She threw herself against him, her fists pummeling at him, her fury and heartache infusing every blow. He didn’t try to defend himself. There was no need. Did she truly think she was hurting him? That she could hurt him?
A resounding no to both, yet her relentless effort soon aggravated him. He had better things to do. “Stop, female.”
Either she didn’t hear him or she didn’t care to obey. He set her away from him, a concession on his part, and one he did not often offer, but she just came back, a catapult of feminine ire. He could have frozen her in place with a wave of his hand, but he refused to venture down that path. Pride dictated she obey of her own accord or suffer the consequences.
“Do you wish to die, too?” he asked.
Somehow the question reached past her mania, and she stilled, a whisper of emotion-charged air separating their bodies. Panting breaths sawed in and out of her mouth, those heart-wrenching tears continuing to flow.
What came next was not expected.
With a cry springing from the depths of her soul, she threw herself into his blade. Her eyes widened with her pain; blood gurgled from her mouth. His blade. Oh, yes. He still clutched the hilt, the sharp, silver tip facing her—now inside her.
She did indeed want to die.
“Very well, female. Once again, I will support your choice.” A tug of his arm, and she was freed from the intrusion. A flick of his wrist, and he killed her the same way he’d killed her man. Quick, easy. A mercy slaying, he told himself.
Her eyes rolled back in her head as her body slumped beside her man’s.
A long moment passed in silence. Something burned in his chest. Regret, perhaps. Though why he would feel such a strong emotion for someone he did not know and did not care about was a mystery. Violence walked hand in hand with victory. In the heavens, you could not have one without the other.
“Well, well,” Rhea said, and there was no longer a hint of remorse in her tone. No anger or betrayal, either. “My compliments on a job well done, darling.”
He spun to face her. He was not met with tears, recrimination or even sorrow. He was met with glee. Lips he’d once kissed with reverence lifted in a smug grin. “How did that feel, murdering two innocents?”
He schooled his expression to blankness, unwilling to reveal his confusion. “Why so haughty, wife? It is your man bleeding all over my carpet, is it not?”
“No. It’s not.” She arched a brow at his flinching response. “Do you think I know not our prophecies? How it will be my Galen to take your head—unless you bind him to the female with wings of midnight.”
He wiped his blade on the coverlet at Rhea’s feet, a stark reminder of his prowess. One she would be forced to see for the rest of her stay here. “If your Galen takes my head, you die, as well.”
Laughter layered with ice left her, causing a chill to crawl down his spine. “I know.” And she didn’t sound as if she cared. “I also know how your mind works. You expect Galen to want to use the winged girl and her new demon, but you doubt he will desire the girl herself. How, then, could you force a bonding? Let me think, let me think. Oh, yes, I know. By turning her into a walking fountain of ambrosia and addicting Galen to her blood. How am I doing so far?”
Not since Zeus ambushed him and drove him to his knees had Cronus experienced such fear. “Shut your mouth. You know nothing!”
Rhea continued on, her voice a silky caress. “You could not infect a living girl with ambrosia; you could only infect a dead one. And who better to pick than someone the Lord of Sex desired? He will convince his friends to leave her alone, and she will convince him to leave Galen alone. Finally, peace will reign and your head will be safe. Yes? That’s what you believe, isn’t it?”
His heart slammed against his ribs. “Wrong,” he croaked. “You are so wrong.”
“How you disgrace us both with your lie. Did you think I would have no idea what was predicted all those centuries ago?”
Remaining silent, he once again schooled his features, unwilling to give her any more of a reaction.
“And did you truly think I would do nothing when I learned you’d given the demon of Wrath to a dead human girl, and she was growing wings of midnight?” Another grin, devious in its joy. “Well, what I did, husband, was learn everything I could about her. About her missing sister, Skye, and Skye’s mate. The two people you just killed.”
A moment passed as he digested her claim. When he did, he stumbled backward, shaking his head vehemently. “No. No.”
“Why do you think I allowed you to capture me, hmm? Why do you think I allowed you to capture my people? How else do you think your spies learned where they were hiding? I have been waiting for just this day. The day you brought about your own ruin, the day you realized that because you carry the All-Key inside of you, I do, as well. Think your Sienna will aid you now?”
With that, Rhea vanished from the bed, the chains that had bound her thudding onto the vacant mattress.
LEGION PACED HER BEDROOM floor as if her feet were on fire. The Lords had already left the fortress, destination Rome, determined to find and kill Galen, thereby saving Ashlyn and the babies. That they hadn’t come for her…she knew they’d never once considered trading her.
They were that honorable.
How did Legion repay them? By hiding herself away. And because of her actions, Ashlyn would suffer.
Sweet, sweet Ashlyn. What was Galen doing to her? If he hurt her the way the demons had hurt Legion… Stomach rebelling, she raced to her bathroom and hunched over the toilet. As many times as she’d thrown up the past day—week?—she was surprised when her lungs remained in her chest. Surprised, and disappointed.
She wanted to die. She would rather die than go through another pawing, having hands rip at her clothing, having things…done…to… “Argh!” She cut off the venomous thoughts before they could fully form. One unbidden image and she would collapse, hysterical, useless for days to come.
With a shuddering sigh, she rested her temple on the lid of the toilet. That beautiful blonde minor goddess had asked her a question. Who did she love most? The men who had saved her, or herself? Finally she copped to the answer. The men, definitely. They could have left her in hell, but they’d come for her, rescued her. She owed them. But…if she gave herself to Galen, he would torture her. She’d poisoned him, after all. Had tried to kill him.