She’d removed everything that didn’t belong, and was now cleaning the blood from his chest. As the crimson was wiped away, she began to piece together the tattoos on his chest, stitching his skin in place. A butterfly over his left pectoral, and one over his right.

Two butterflies?

Legion’s gaze jolted up and clashed with his. He was still eyeing her through those narrowed lids, daring her to say something. She gulped, kept quiet.

“I got the Cloak, stole Maddox’s woman and traded her for this one.” He motioned to Legion with a tilt of his chin. “Hey! Can you at least pretend to be a woman and try for gentle?”

“Wuss. Why her?” Fox demanded, spreading some kind of paste over each of the wounds.

“Don’t worry about her. She’s mine, and she’s not going to hurt me. Are you, Legion?”

If only. She shook her head.

“Say it. Say the words.”

A tremor moved through her. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She couldn’t. Even if he chained her up and did…and did… Bile, spreading faster and faster…

“Because I’m commanding you to take care of me, and you have to obey me, don’t you.” Not a question.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Calm down, Gay Man,” Fox told him. “Your heartbeat is jacked up, and it’s causing you to bleed more heavily.”

“You know I hate when you call me that.”

He’d grumbled the admonishment, but he hadn’t struck at her, and that shocked Legion to the bone. He must really like the woman, she thought. And was that…could that be…jealousy swimming through her?

No way. Legion wanted nothing to do with Galen. Nothing! Hate him. For what he’d done to Aeron, to Ashlyn.

A short while later, Fox had him bandaged up and lying flat on the mattress. She tucked the covers around him and stood there, brushing his hair from his face until he fell asleep with a last shuddering command. “Don’t hurt her.”

That’s when Fox turned and leveled Legion with the evilest stare she’d ever seen—and she’d been chained to the devil himself a few times.

“Galen might think of you as his, little girl, but he is mine. And I protect, and avenge, what’s mine. You harm him in any way, and not even he will be able to stop me from harming you in kind.”


CRONUS SEETHED WHEN he discovered his Lords had found his hiding place, the Realm of Blood and Shadows, where he kept Sienna and the three demon-possessed warriors he’d locked there. They’d invaded his private castle. All except for Torin, the keeper of Disease, who was back at the fortress in Budapest, having refused to let Lucien flash him. Too much risk, he’d said, even if he was draped from head to toe with protective gear.

One touch of Torin’s skin against his, and Lucien would be infected with the very disease running rampant in the other warrior’s veins. Torin put his friends before himself, always, an attitude Cronus did not understand or respect. But the thought reminded Cronus there was a way to work this situation to his favor.

Torin would do anything to touch a female human without hurting her. Even accept a gift that wasn’t a gift. A gift that was a curse. A gift that was a death sentence. A gift that would ruin Rhea’s own plans. Not that he would know it. Cronus grinned.

Unlike Lucien, Cronus did not have to touch an individual to move him. Cronus simply spoke, and Torin appeared in front of him.

The warrior palmed two blades in his gloved hands and spun, searching for the culprit, even as he oriented himself to his new surroundings. He stilled when he noticed Cronus, though his gaze continued to rove, memorizing the details, the exits.

A field of ambrosia stretched for miles, scenting the air oh, so sweetly, the violet petals glistening under the gleam of a sun that offered the perfect amount of light and heat.

“Cronus,” Torin said with a nod of his head. If he was upset or even thrilled about being pulled from his Budapest fortress for the first time in centuries, he didn’t show it. No bowing, either, so of course, no scraping.

All of his current problems stemmed from his leniency with the Lords, Cronus mused. They issued commands and expected him to obey. Then, when he issued commands, they refused him, sometimes openly, sometimes by more stealthy means. His mistake was trying to connect with them, to become one of them. He should have proven his strength and demonstrated the consequences of defying him from the beginning. He wasn’t their friend, would never be their friend. He was their king, their master.

And now he would prove it.

“You rang?”

Oh, yes. He would prove it. Cronus studied him, this warrior he was about to use. Torin had white hair that shagged around a wicked face humans craved for the rest of their lives if they were unlucky enough to catch a single glimpse of it. Emerald eyes, more sinful than anything. Lips that had never known a female’s taste.

“Walk with me,” he commanded, expecting absolute compliance.

And getting it. When the warrior reached his side, he pivoted and strode through the field, the lush leaves caressing his suit-clad legs. He ran scenarios through his mind, gauging the pros and cons of his decision.

“So…what’s up?”

The impudent tone irritated him, but he made no comment. For now. “I have a new task for you.”

A groan. “You and your tasks. Torture so-and-so. Kill so-and-so. Rally my boys and send them into the danger zone. So, fine. Let’s hear this new one. I’m sure it will delight me as much as the others.”

“Tone,” he snapped.

“Yes. I have one.”

Calm. “And you’ll lose your tongue if you use it again.”


Excellent. “Today, Disease, I give you a gift. The greatest treasure in my possession. Despite your disappointing, offensive attitude.”

Those green eyes rolled. “All right. I’ll bite. What’s this gift?”

“My…All-Key.” He needed to give it away, but doing so irked considering the lengths he’d gone through to get it.

“Great, but I have no flippin’ idea what that is.”

Of course not. Save for four others, Cronus had murdered everyone who knew about it. The four? Anya, the minor goddess of Anarchy and its former possessor; her father, Tartarus, who had given it to her; Lucien, who knew every one of Anya’s secrets; and Reyes, who had once dared to shackle Cronus and barter for his woman’s freedom. And the quartet lived only because Cronus had a use for them. Had they ever spoken of the key, he would have stopped caring about their usefulness, and they knew it.

“This key unlocks any door, any prison, any curse. Anything. Nothing can bind you. And if anyone tries to take it from you, they will die.” That did not mean Torin would be free of his demon. The two were bonded, two halves of a whole. One could not live successfully without the other.

“Sounds cool, but why me?”

Because Torin was solitary, spending more time alone than with his friends. Because he would never fall in love, nor betray his secrets to a female while they whiled away too much time in bed. Something that happened far too much for Cronus’s liking. Something he himself had once been guilty of doing.

“Should you tell anyone about this gift,” he continued, not deigning to reply aloud, “I will kill you as well as the one you told. Should you try and give it away, I will kill you and all those you love. And, when I ask you to return it to me, you will do so without hesitation. One moment of resistance, just one, and I will do more than kill your loved ones. I will hurt them in ways you cannot imagine.”

Torin’s purposeful stride never faltered. “Yeah, well, thanks for thinking of me, but I’d rather eat dirt.”

Cronus sent a wave of power slamming into the man’s temples, knocking him off his feet. He hit the ground, writhing from the pain of it, blood soon spurting from his ears.

Looming over him, Cronus said, “You were saying?” A wave of his hand, and the pain eased.

Torin lay there, panting, dripping with sweat. “I was saying dirt is delicious, thanks for the mouthful.”

His lips pursed. Breaking the Lords would clearly take more than his usual strong-arm tactics. They smiled when he hurt them, laughed when he threatened. As much as that frustrated and angered him, it also fascinated him. Despite everything, they were honorable. When they gave their word, they stood by it. A foolish practice, really, but one he’d come to rely on where they were concerned.

Only when he threatened those they loved did they fall in line with him. But Torin could not simply cooperate because of fear. Not this time. Not with something as important as the All-Key.

“Do this, keep the key safe for me, and I will grant you a boon,” Cronus said. “Anything you wish. Anything that is in my power to give, of course.”

Suspicion danced in the warrior’s eyes, and Cronus knew he was weighing his options. Refuse the king, and face punishment. Accept, and face potential trickery. Betrayal. But for the prospect of such a reward, he would not say no.

“I think we both know what you want,” Cronus pressed. “A chance to touch a woman without sickening her and starting a plague.”

Breath caught in Torin’s throat, and Cronus knew that he had him. “Can you give me that chance?”

“In a way. What happened to the vial of water the angel Lysander gave you?” If there was but a single drop left, Torin could touch a woman, then feed her the droplet and save her, for the water healed any wound on any creature. Would he be able to touch her after that? No, but his condition would have been met.

“Gone. And the angels won’t give us any more.”

Unfortunate, but understandable. The angels had to endure terrible, terrible things to even approach the River of Life from whence the water came. Cronus himself had never dared go near it. “There is a woman…I will force her to meet with you. You can touch her all you desire, and she will never sicken.”

“Yeah, uh, no thanks. I want to pick my own woman.”