Well, Tommy from class is stupid. You don’t have half as many as me, and I’m the prettiest girl in the world. You said so.

A girlish giggle. And I never lie!

I miss you so much, Skye, she thought now. I’ll find you. I’ll save you.

Paris’s thumb caressed the rise of her cheek. “I lost you there for a moment.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I was just saying your story isn’t embarrassing. It’s cute. By the way, I think your wings are hot, and I’m curious to know why I never wanted to lick them when Aeron had them.”

She placed her hand over his and forced herself to smile. Soon she would lose him, so she had to enjoy him while she had the chance. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I hope you get stabbed again. Like, real soon. I loved kissing you all better.”

Finally, a surprised laugh barked from him. He pulled her down until her body covered his. “Baby, I’d willingly stab myself for that kind of kissing. But thankfully there’s no need. I already have another owie and it needs your special doctoring skills.”


BY THE TIME THEY WERE DRESSED and stepping out of their private cave into the big, bad realm where Zacharel the Chastity Belt waited, Paris had regained every bit of his strength and then some. His muscles were jacked with adrenaline, his bones fortified with steel. His steps were heavier from his increased weight, surer with his superior balance.

All because of Sienna.

“I used my energy escorting the fallen…someplace else. We’ll have to walk to the doorway,” Zacharel said to Sienna. His cheeks were a little gaunt, his bronzed skin now lacking any shine. “That is what you still prefer, yes? Before, you told me you would rather walk with Paris than fly with me, anyway, and though you will soon discover why that is unwise, it is the best I can offer at the moment.”

“Yes, thank you,” she replied, ever polite.

“If you’re going to hang with us, make yourself useful.” Paris took the lead, urged Sienna to follow him and forced the angel to take up the rear. “Guard her with your life.”

A gust of wind danced around the angel, and only the angel, more chilling with every second that passed. “I plan to do so. No matter the threat against her.”

An easy tone, but his expression implied Paris himself was a threat, and Zach would take him down if necessary.

Good to know.

During the trek to find Sienna, hardly any creatures had been out and about, and there’d been a small measure of light, a crimson glow from the moon. Now, there were a lot of those hungry, oozing shadows slithering in every direction, and the only light came from the occasional fiend—like the ones who’d followed Sienna, with every intention of harming her. They were staked to poles and burning alive.

Paris reached back and hooked her fingers around the waist of his pants. “Don’t let go of me unless you have to fight.” I don’t want her to have to fight.

“I won’t.” Confident, unafraid.

That’s my girl. Their little train crept through the wilderness, and, like now, some sort of campground. Tents stretched on either side of him. Sex kept his big mouth closed, and this time Paris knew beyond any doubt that the demon was sleeping off the pleasure rather than hiding.

A hiss. A snap of teeth.


Paris searched through the darkness, found the source just up ahead at the top of the closest tent, and leapt into action. He went low, sliding on his knees, running his blade along the trunks of the same vinelike creatures he’d encountered on the climb down that cliff. He was back on his feet a second later, watching as the remains slithered along the sides of the fabric.

No time to relax. Three more rained down. He kept his pimp hand moving, arcing, slicing, and from the grunting he heard behind him, he knew Sienna and Zacharel were doing the same.

A quick look to check on his woman—she had her gaze on his back, swiping at anything that made a play for him—proved she had no wounds, hadn’t been hurt. One of the vines snapped in her direction, dripping fangs protruding from a pair of razored leaves. She was too busy protecting him to protect herself.

Paris swiped out his arm, and got a hunk of skin and muscle torn away. He sucked back a howl of pain. Okay, so now he knew what dribbled from those teeth. Acid.

“Fly her out of here,” he commanded Zacharel, even as he spun, hands crisscrossing and chopping, pieces of vine flung away. He’d rather lose her that way than another, more permanent way.

“Told you. I expended the rest of my energy removing the fallen.”

From the beginning, Paris had known he should off the punked-out bastard, but noooo. He’d sympathized with the guy’s plight. Lesson learned, though. Show a softer side, and boom, you’d be punished later.

“I’m not leaving you,” Sienna said while grabbing on to a stalk and hacking off the head with the crystal blade he’d given her. She was fast, but not fast enough, and soon they would be all over her. “Must have dropped the gun in the water. Sorry.”

Darkness…rising… Paris dropped his daggers and went for his own crystal blade. A single mental command, and the metal elongated…becoming a torch crackling with flames. He pressed those flames against the leather walls, the material soon engulfed…and the sparks jumped to the next tent.

Shrieks blended with the blaze’s crackle as he, Sienna and Zacharel raced away.

After a mile or so they slowed down and Zacharel said, “I thought you wished to remain inconspicuous.”

“We needed to send a message.” Thankfully, the shadow creatures got the message, too. Mess with Paris’s ragtag group, and fry. They kept their distance. Only Sienna’s presence prevented Paris from stomping over and doing some damage.

He wanted to hurt them, but he wanted her safe more.

You can always return for them. True. When Sienna left him, he’d need a good fight to level him out.

Great. Now, at the thought of her leaving him, he was ticked all over again. He only began to calm a few hours later. Nothing and no one dared approach, and more than once his thoughts skipped back to what Zacharel had said.

Paris’s darkness…his temper. Zacharel had implied that Paris would one day hurt Sienna. Yet, when they had been inside the cave and he’d been worked into a dark, consuming rage, he had remained totally aware of her. He hadn’t let the action near her.

With the vines, same deal. He’d remained aware of her. Had sought to protect her, placing that need above the one to maim.

Good news, right? Except, what if she ever pricked his temper? What if all his darkness focused on her?

Oh, hell, no. That wasn’t happening. Zacharel had made him paranoid, that was all. But doubts, once planted, could take on a life of their own, and Paris found himself sweating over the possibility.

Sienna affected him in a way no one else ever had. She accepted him as he was, good, bad and ugly. But if she ever betrayed him, if she ever lied to him, if she ever fought him or turned against him, he couldn’t predict how he would react. Especially now that he knew the thrill of her complete surrender.

What are you doing, pondering the worst? He’d given her a small measure of his trust. By succumbing to these fears, he would dishonor them both. He’d never minded dishonoring himself, but the thought of dishonoring her weighed heavily on his shoulders.

She’d taken him in her mouth, tasted all that he was, and loved his body with such shattering sweetness he would never be the same. She’d seen him at his worst. She knew his past, his future, and yet she still watched him with awe in her eyes, as if he meant something to her. He would not diminish that gift. And it was a gift.

A stumble over a rock propelled her into the side of his body and jerked him out of his head. He caught her with his free hand before she fell.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to space out,” she muttered as she straightened. While the sex had strengthened him, it had clearly tired her.

He shouldn’t have felt such pride about that, but he did. “You don’t hear me complaining about having you in my arms.”

Her lush, lovely grin flashed up at him. “True.”

Zacharel might have rolled his eyes.

Paris gave him a mental bird before scanning the stretch of land ahead. There were miles of dark yet to travel, filled with lots of little landmines. Like the puddle he next had to jump over, then help Sienna do the same. His nose wrinkled. The water smelled like rotting corpses. Probably because…yep, he saw a pair of dull, dead eyes floating underneath.

A fly as big as his fist darted past, then another. One landed on his arm and immediately bit his biceps. He slapped the insect, meaning to fling it away from him, but he ended up smashing it, the damn thing splattering all over him.

The entire realm was a cocktail of creepy from some of his favorite worst horror movies ever. Yeah. He dug the cheese. He also enjoyed romance novels, bench pressing buses and baking chocolate chip cookies.

He hadn’t had time for that stuff in a while, and now…now he realized just how much he’d missed it. How cool would it be to throw in a DVD, kick back with Sienna beside him and watch the bloody good times roll. After that, they could curl up together and maybe read a few scenes from a romance novel.

None of that would happen, though. He and Sienna were parting as soon as they reached the exit. And what do you know. Now he wanted to kill something—simply hurting was no longer good enough—with his bare hands. Was actually praying some feral, foaming-at-the-mouth male would jump out and attack him.

This wasn’t good. Meant his obsession with Sienna had reached the next level.

Paris maybe could have forced himself to let her go without much of a fuss before their time in that cavern. Now? Not likely. She was everything he’d ever wanted for himself and everything he hadn’t known he needed, all rolled into one sexy little package. A warrior when she needed to be, a siren when he needed her to be, yet always soft and sweet and giving. And brave, so brave.

When that pink-haired punk had invaded their private space, she hadn’t run. She’d stayed put. In case Paris needed her, and to keep Zacharel out of his face when things got dicey. He admired that about her. Hell, he was beginning to admire everything about her.