- The Darkest Seduction
He would expect her to warm his bed. She knew that. Before she had poisoned him, she had slept with him. Her first time with a man, and she had liked it, had craved more, until…
She gulped, once again forcing her mind to blank.
If she went to Galen, she would willingly place herself in another version of hell. But then, that’s what sacrificing yourself meant, didn’t it? Enduring pain so that someone else wouldn’t have to.
That’s what the warriors had done for her, time and time again. Could she really do any less for them?
A shudder of revulsion worked through her, and she closed her eyes. She was decided, then. She would go to Galen. She would trade herself for Ashlyn.
There was no other way, no other choice.
And now that the decision was made, she had only to close her eyes and think of him, and she would appear before him. The Lords had forgotten that, like Lucien, she could move from one location to another with only a thought. Only difference was, she didn’t have to follow a spiritual trail. Once she knew someone, she could appear before him anytime, anyplace.
Someone knocked on her door gently, as if afraid to startle her. She sniffed the air, recognized the sky-drenched scent of Danika, Reyes’s woman. She must have come to talk to her. Probably meant to reassure her that she was protected and safe, that no one thought to use her as Bait.
“Go away,” she shouted.
“No, I need to— Wait. You’re speaking. You’re speaking to me. It’s been so long—”
“I said go away!”
“Legion, let me in. Please. I need to talk to you. Need to tell you—”
“Goodbye,” she whispered, knowing she had to leave now or she would lose her nerve. Knowing she would never return. After the trade, after Ashlyn was safely returned, she would kill herself. She would rather die than be touched.
She pictured Galen—blond, beautiful and wicked. A moment later, the floor beneath her fell away.
SIENNA RIGHTED THE CLOTHING Cronus had given her when he’d first brought her to the castle. The shirt fit around her arms while tucking under her wings without having to wrap around the tops and drape over her shoulders. No fuss, no strain, but complete coverage. She was shaking.
What she’d just done with Paris…she’d never experienced anything like it. Not even with him. Nothing could have prepared her for the total body awakening. He’d pleasured her with soul-shattering thoroughness, had known exactly where to touch her, how to kiss her, what to say to ramp her desire up, up, oh, sweet heaven, up. She’d been completely into him, her mind focused on him, the rest of the world forgotten.
And yet, as beautiful as the loving had been, they were now, half an hour later, steeped in all kinds of awkward. For her, that had been way more emotional and meaningful than she’d been equipped to handle, and she had to wonder. Was it always like that for him, with everyone?
“So, uh, did being with me work?” she asked, then wished she could swallow her tongue, both dreading and excited about the answer. “For your demon?”
He nodded as he sat at the edge of the spring. “Yes. I’m strong now.”
Despite the affirmation, her dread increased. He’d closed off his expression, hiding his feelings behind a blank mask.
“Do you know how to use a weapon?” he asked abruptly. And clearly, that was the end of the demon conversation.
O-kay. So they weren’t going to talk about what had happened. Which meant they wouldn’t be talking about what came next in their relationship.
Two days does not a relationship make, idiot.
“What kind of weapon?” Dumb question. Whatever he said, the answer was the same.
“Not really. When Wrath overtakes me, he kills using my body or whatever’s available. I’m never aware when he does it—it’s only after the fact that the memories flood me—so the skills aren’t something I’ve retained.”
“What about before your possession?”
“I was always a behind-the-scenes girl.” Oh, damn. Why’d she have to go and mention the one thing sure to turn him into Mr. Distant? Or rather, Mr. Way More Distant.
But he surprised her. He showed her a small handgun thingy, then how to flip the safety. He released the clip, revealed the bullets and taught her how to put everything back together. “All you do is point and tap the trigger,” he said. “Hollow points will do enough damage to whatever you’re aiming at, no matter where you hit.”
And what about when she missed, which was a very real possibility? Because just thinking about holding the gun made her hands shake. “So, you want me to buy one and carry it, like, all the time?” She’d never, in all her life or death, fired one.
“No.” He leaned over and stuffed the metal in the waist of her pants. Cold, heavier than she would have guessed. “I want you to carry this one. The safety’s on, so you won’t hurt yourself.”
“You’re not afraid I’ll shoot you in the back?” The joke fell flat, their relationship—or whatever—too new, and she blushed
Of course, he surprised her yet again. “No. I’m not.” Utter confidence coated the words.
Relief swept through her. “I’m glad.”
He cleared his throat. “Do I have your full attention?”
“Yes. Of course.” And right then she knew, reality crashing into her hard enough to hurt. This was his way of saying goodbye. His way of preparing her to live without him. Her knees threatened to buckle, but she managed to remain upright. “Yes,” she reiterated.
“Good. Now listen up, and listen well.” His gaze drilled into hers. “I’ve done a lot of research about the living dead. If anyone threatens you, that means the person can see you. And if he can see you, he and his weapons will be solid to you. I won’t remind you about the men out there, how they saw you and would have been able to touch you. If they can touch you, that means you can touch them. So you need to act first, and think about it later. That means you shoot the culprits without hesitation. Got it?”
“All right, then. Moving on.” Next he withdrew a crystal blade. He stretched out his free hand and motioned her closer.
One step, two, until she was at his knee. Apparently, though, that wasn’t good enough. He latched on to her hip and dragged her between the deep vee of his legs. Though he wasn’t in a sexual mood, the touch excited her all over again.
He forced her to curl her fingers around the hilt, those ocean-blues grave. “If someone gets in your grille, they deserve what they get. Go for vitals, where they’re soft and you don’t have to worry about cutting through bone. Like here.” He moved her hand to his side, laying the blade flat a few inches above his hip. “And here.” He moved her hand to the ropes of his stomach.
Touching him there reminded her of just how hungry she was, and not just for his body, causing her own stomach to growl. Her cheeks heated all over again. Was she cursed to always embarrass herself in front of this man?
His beautiful lips curled into the semblance of a smile. “Still haven’t eaten, huh?”
Though a mere shadow of what it could be, that half smile lit up his entire face, dialing “beautiful” to “exquisite.” She, too, lit up, her nerve endings pulsating. Gulping back her always increasing desire, she nodded. “I’m starving.”
A moment passed. He cursed. “This goes against what few morals I have left.” Frowning, he released her to dig around in his pockets. He withdrew a plastic baggie filled with dark purple powder.
“What does?” Holding her? Giving her weapons? Now that she was aware of her hunger, the pains started up, her blood heating to the point of boiling, her skin shrinking over her bones.
Don’t think about it, and you’ll be fine.
He set the baggie aside, stared at it for several minutes, and released a ragged breath.
Wanting to give him time to come to grips with whatever was bothering him, she studied the knife he’d given her. The crystal blade was jagged, rainbow shards trapped under the clear exterior. The handle was a dull copper, solid, and warm with his body heat.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
“And you never will again. There are only two in the world, and I’ve got the other one. That baby will kill anything, even a god of this world, and do whatever you command, as long as it’s in your hand. Like, if you need to hide it, grip it and think invisible.”
Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. “I can’t accept this. The two are obviously a matched set and—”
“Don’t argue with me.” His tone was hard, uncompromising. He withdrew a small flask from his other pocket, picked up the plastic baggie and dumped half of its contents inside.
She’d told him where she was going when they parted, and who she would be with. He had clearly forgotten, or he would be insisting she give the crystal back and pretend she’d never seen it.
“Paris, listen to me. I’m going after the leader of the Hunters. Do you understand what I’m telling you? You can’t risk something like this falling into enemy—”
“Don’t. Don’t say another word right now. I’ve decided you’re not going near that psycho, and that’s that, so just take the knife and say thank you.” He swirled the liquid in the flask before lifting the small round rim to her lips. “Now drink.”
“You’ve decided? You can’t—”
She had no choice but to obey; he’d already begun pouring the contents down her throat. And sweet heaven, she loved the taste. A diluted version of what Cronus gave her, but delicious all the same. She gulped back one mouthful, then another and another, the warmth sliding into her, dancing through her, easing her pain faster than a blink.
“Enough.” He removed the flask before she could start licking at any stray droplets.