An arm’s length away from each other now, they straightened and glared. Paris had yet to land a single blow on the man. He wanted to land a blow. Would land a blow. Then, when Halo was immobilized, Paris would slice him from navel to neck.

From the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of alabaster, a ripple of molten gold amid the feathers of an angelic warrior, and the snow that had become Zacharel’s closest companion.

The man desires his woman as you desire yours. You would punish him for that?

The words drifted through Paris’s mind, rays of light scented with hope. To his shock, the darkness thinned and he thought, No, I don’t want to punish a man for going after the woman he craves. Even if I’m the obstacle he faces.

“I’ll probably regret this,” Paris said, gripping the invisible blade hilts tighter, just in case, “but I’m willing to let you leave. This is a one-time offer. Leave and live. That’s it. No negotiation.”

Halo scowled, his chin lifting, dark gaze narrowing. Whatever his name, there was no denying his punk-rocker appeal. His hair had been dyed the same pink as Viola’s phone and lashes. Tears of blood were inked at the corners of his eyes. A ring of steel protruded from the center of his lower lip. “I’m not leaving. She’s mine, and I will not allow you to have her, to use and discard her when you finish with her.”

Everything always came back to that, Paris thought, disgusted with himself and his demon’s need for sex. But then, the guy had said the one thing guaranteed to demolish his no-negotiation boast, so they’d try this a different way. “Does Viola want you in return?”

A hiss of fury. “She will.”

Same thing Paris had once thought about Sienna. Still did, if he were being honest. He hoped that there was something he could do or say that would change her mind about him and she would come around, want him the way he wanted her.

Did the fallen angel have a chance at success? Did he? Females were the most stubborn creatures ever created.

“Just so you know, I don’t want Viola.” He stepped to the left, again and again until they were circling each other, every second bringing Paris back to the man he used to be: honorable, concerned, valiant. This wouldn’t last, he knew, but he ran with it while he could.

“You lie!” Halo’s nostrils flared with the force of his inhalation. “I, who never before craved a woman, could not resist her. Everyone wants her.”

“Again, not me. I’m here for info that will help me save my woman. That’s it.”

A heavy pause as Halo flexed and unflexed his fingers, debating the truth of Paris’s claim.

Circle, circle. “Information only,” Paris reiterated. “I swear.”

“No.” He gave an abrupt shake of that pink head, his stubbornness a rival to that of a female. “I do not believe you. You carry the evil nature of a demon. You won’t be able to help yourself. You will lust after her, take advantage of her. Bed her.”

No, he wouldn’t. He was too close to Sienna, and he would wait for her as long as he could and survive. Fine. So maybe the truth was—he might. Survival had caused him to do terrible things. Maybe he should point out that Viola carried a demon, too. But then, Halo was past the point of thinking logically.

Paris sighed, the darkness rising again. “We finish this, then.”


“No!” he gritted, blocking Zacharel’s voice from his head. “I tried your way. It didn’t work.”

He and Halo leapt at each other, meeting in the middle. Just as before, those meaty fists hammered at Paris. While the beating felt like stampeding demon hooves on his face, Halo’s midsection was left wide-open. But rather than take the kill stabs as Paris had done with the others—some of Zacharel’s light must have stuck around after all—he swept his arm low and sliced into Halo’s thigh, barely nicking his femoral.

Still the beating continued to rain, the fallen never registering the fact that he was going to bleed out if he didn’t leave and stitch himself up. Arms swinging, legs kicking, they fell into a table, toppled to the ground, rolled. Broken glass cut at Paris’s arms, his back. He landed several searing blows, accidentally slicing with his blades, until finally he sent Halo stumbling backward, out of range.

Halo stood, gasping for breath as he stepped forward once, twice. Then he stopped and frowned with confusion. At last his knees gave out. He dropped like a stone in the ocean. His once-tanned skin blanched to an unnatural chalk-white, his tattoos dimming. His eyes were suddenly fever-bright.

Fallen angels did not heal like immortals. They healed like humans: slowly. Or not at all.


“Won.” Done, done and done. All three were felled. “Get some help, and you should recover just fine.”

“But you…” Incredulity bathed Halo’s punk-rocker features. “You won through cheating. That was a blade I felt. Multiple times!”

“Hate to break it to you, big boy, but cheating happens a lot. You might want to try it yourself. Besides, you said you didn’t care what weapons I used.”

There was muttering behind him.

Paris raised his arms and spun in slow motion. The crowd had yet to disperse, more concerned with collecting bets than escaping notice. “Who’s next?” Blood dripped from his still-invisible daggers, pooling on the floor.

Suddenly they all had somewhere else to be. The sea of faces parted, giving him a direct view of Zacharel. The angel had his arms crossed over the wide expanse of his chest. His expression was troubled.

“Still here?” Paris arched a brow in challenge. “You want a piece of me, too?”

Frowning, silent, Zacharel vanished.

Seriously. Why the interest?

Does it matter? Urgency shooting through him, Paris stomped to Viola, who still studied herself in the mirror. He sheathed his weapons and jerked her toward the door. “Come on.”

It was definitely time to go. One, he didn’t want to risk anyone else deciding to fight him. Two, seeing him talking to her might be more than Halo could handle. And three, she might have changed her mind about telling him what he wanted to know. He’d have to get physical.

Halo watched her with longing in his eyes—and just before the door closed behind Paris, hatred. Yeah. The dude would be back for revenge. Shoulda killed him. He still could. But Paris opted not to return to finish the job. If Zacharel reappeared and kicked up a stink, his game plan would be screwed.

“Hey,” Viola said, at last snapping out of her trance. She tugged at his hold. A cool wind blew past them, caressing the silky length of her hair along his arm. “What do you think you’re doing?”

I want her, Sex said, peeking from the shadows of his mind.

On a mission here. “I’m getting you to safety,” he lied. “You don’t want your admirers to swarm you, do you?”

She tugged harder. “Of course I do. Here’s a lesson about women. We like to be admired from afar, and then complimented up close.”

He seriously did not need lessons. “I meant your admirers weren’t paying you the proper homage. They don’t deserve your exalted presence.”

And wouldn’t you know it. Her resistance ended there. “You make an excellent point.”

Of course, she’d missed his sarcasm.

He arrived at an abandoned alley and stopped. Perfect. The moon was so close he had only to reach out to trace the soft, orange-yellow edges. Clouds were closer still, enveloping him in a fine, dew-scented mist. Though the area was well-lit, no one passing by would see what transpired within the narrow space.

He rounded on Viola, pressing her against the solid gold bricks of the building, invading her personal space to gain her full attention. Except, her attention had already moved to her phone, her fingers flying over the keyboard.

I want, I want, I want!

I hope you rot and die.

“‘Lord of Sex is bloodier than before and…ick…swollen. My eyes are not amused.’ Send.”

He claimed her phone and, rather than smashing it as instinct demanded, returned it to the inside of her boot. “You can Screech about this later. As for right now, you’re going to talk to me. What can I do to see the dead? Remember, your worshippers insisted you tell me.”

A pout of those lush lips, but she said, “Burn the body of the soul you wish to see and save the ashes. Speaking of, did I ever tell you about how I once saved the ashes of a—”

On and on she droned about what she’d done, then about herself, her life, and Paris tuned her out, a curtain of hope forming around his mind. He’d already burned Sienna’s body and saved the ashes. At the time, he hadn’t known why he’d done so; he’d only known he couldn’t part with what remained of her. And ever since, he’d secretly carried a small vial of those ashes in his pocket.

Somehow, he must have suspected he would need them.

When Viola at last quieted, he said, “There’s more to seeing a soul than saving the ashes.” There had to be. A few weeks ago, Sienna had escaped Cronus, had hunted Paris down, yet Paris hadn’t seen her.

He never would have known about her arrival if William the Ever Randy, another being who could commune with the dead, had not been with him and casually mentioned the dead girl at his feet. Of course, Cronus had swiftly tracked her down and dragged her back to her prison.

An act the Titan king would pay for.

“Duh, of course there is. Mix the ashes with ambrosia and tattoo the rim of your eyes,” Viola said. “You’ll see her, I promise. If you want to touch her, tattoo the tips of your fingers. If you want to hear her, tattoo the flesh behind your ears, blah blah blah. I remember a time when I—”

Once again he tuned her out. This he could, would do. Tattooing one’s self with the ashes of the dead might be disgusting to most people, but Paris would have done a lot worse. “Will I smell her? Taste her?” he asked, interrupting Viola’s monologue.

“Only if you tattoo the inside of your nose, lips and top of your tongue. One time, in Tartarus, I—”