- The Darkest Seduction
“That, I cannot give you, and that was not the bargain. You wanted a woman to touch. I can give you one.”
A long while passed in silence while Torin considered the offer. “Is she dead?”
“No. She lives.”
“Old? A child?”
“No. She is neither too old nor too young.”
“How will I be able to—”
“Answers were not part of the bargain, either. Decide!”
Finally Torin nodded, as Cronus had known he would. “Very well. You have a deal.”
He did not allow himself to smile. When the All-Key left him, its powers would leave Rhea. He could imprison her. Have her at his mercy—or lack thereof.
What he did not mention to Torin: the All-Key wiped the memory of the one who gave it away. Except Cronus’s, and probably, because of their connection, Rhea’s. Cronus had created the key, and so had ensured it would never adversely affect him. However, no one else, Torin included, was extended the same courtesy.
When Torin bent his knees, as if to push himself into a stand, Cronus shook his head and reached down. “Stay there. This might hurt a bit.”
ON THE OTHER SIDE of the heavens, Lysander stepped from the cloud he shared with his Harpy mate, Bianka, his wings spread and gliding just enough to leave him hovering in place.
“I am failing you,” Zacharel said, the words gritted. The snowstorm that followed him constantly increased in ferocity, the flakes catching in his eyelashes, between the feathers of his wings, weighing them down.
“You have not failed me, and you will not fail me. I have complete faith in you. Now, what report do you have of the girl?”
He rallied and said, “While she thinks she will be able to walk away from Paris in a few days, the pair has grown closer. Worse, she now carries his darkness.” He’d seen the shadows swirling in her eyes after he’d carted Paris away from her.
“The war grows ever closer,” Lysander replied. “She will still be of great use to us.”
“Are you sure? Cronus has tricked her, convinced her to aid him. I expected him to lie to her, but I also expected her demon to catch on. He hasn’t. And now that Paris has learned of his marriage to her, he will fight for her to the death.” He’d thought Paris would never learn of the connection, which was the only reason Zacharel had helped tattoo him. Had he refused, Paris would have done it anyway and begun resisting him ahead of schedule.
“Cronus is a greedy fool, but Paris has surprised me. He might have shared his darkness with her, but she has shared some of her light with him.” Lysander thought for a moment. “If he wants her as I want my Bianka, he will not part from her easily.”
Too true. Passion, desire, lust, whatever you wanted to call that wild craze to mate, still remained completely out of Zacharel’s realm of understanding, yet he could not deny something took hold of the pair whenever they so much as looked at each other.
Like magnets, Paris and Sienna were drawn to each other. They fought for each other, and parting would destroy them on some fundamental level. That he’d once thought to convince Paris to willingly walk away from her had been foolish. Force would be needed.
“Whatever you wish me to do,” he said, bowing his head, “I will do.”
Lysander expelled a weary sigh. “We need her. No matter what, we need her. Do whatever you must to convince her to side with us. If that’s not enough, simply take her.”
IN THE DEPTHS OF HELL, Kane sank in and out of consciousness. As vulnerable as he was when he slept, he much preferred it to the crippling pain of having his guts tucked back inside his body and his flesh stapled back together. Then, when the staples failed, having that battered flesh cauterized with liquid fire. He felt like someone had parked a bus on his chest, done some donuts, then let the passengers stampede off.
And the laughter…oh, the laughter from his demon. Disaster loved this. Loved the pain, and the degradation, and the helplessness. Kane imagined this was exactly how Legion had felt when she’d been stuck down here.
He should have supported her better. Should have tried to help her. Not that Kane wanted help himself. Part of him still wanted to die.
The horsemen—Black and Red—were saviors as well as tyrants. When he’d screamed as they “doctored” him, they’d next taped a ball gag in his mouth. When he’d thrashed, they had chained him down. They weren’t cruel about it, though; they were matter-of-fact, as if they were doing him a favor. A reason he wouldn’t take them with him when he kicked it.
Red stood over him now, blowing cigar smoke in his direction. “You up for a little poker yet?”
Whenever the pair realized he was awake, they always asked the same question. That one. He shook his head, unsure why a game of cards was so important to them.
“Bummer.” Genuine disappointment shone in his features. “Soon, though.”
Kane nodded in agreement because he didn’t know what else to do, and closed his eyes. Without any resistance on his part, he drifted back to his favorite place, a black void of nothingness.
THE NEXT MORNING, AFTER spending the entire night making love to Sienna, Paris showered, threw on clothes someone had brought him from home, weaponed up and ensured Sienna’s crystal dagger rested on the nightstand, ready for her use if it proved necessary. Though he hated leaving her, he exited the bedroom and entered a whole new world.
Apparently Danika, the current All-Seeing Eye, had foreseen that terrible things would take place at the fortress in Budapest, and she’d sensed staying close to William was the only way to survive. So here they all were, one happy family—though how his friends had so quickly installed a weight room, a wet bar and a media room in the castle, Paris might never know.
He concentrated on the changes as he stalked the halls, so he wouldn’t think about his woman sleeping peacefully in his bed. Naked, sated, rosy from his mouth and his hands and his body. Wouldn’t think about the breathy sounds she’d made, the way she’d cried his name and begged for more. Wouldn’t think about the way she’d made him beg for more. The way they fit, so damn perfectly.
Maybe at first he’d been obsessed with her without really knowing her. But he was learning her. Underneath her prim and proper exterior, and even underneath that iron spine of stubbornness, she was soft and gentle. Delicate. She loved with her whole heart, and she fought to protect what she considered hers. Hell, she sacrificed her body, her time and her life for what she considered hers.
She was dedicated. That temper of hers was a huge turn-on. Every time she’d tossed a drawer at him, he’d gotten harder. How many females were brave enough to challenge him in a contest of strength? Not many. But she had, because when she looked at him, she saw past the face and the hair and the stained, corrupt past. She saw a man. Just a man.
He almost turned around and strode back to his room. He wanted her arousal on his face, and her nails going down his back. He wanted to be branded by her in every way. Then, anyone who looked at him would know. He belonged to her. And—
What the hell was that hanging on the wall? He skidded to a stop. Just like at the fortress in Buda, there were portraits lining the corridor walls. Only, every single portrait was of Viola.
Viola in a gown. Viola in leather. Viola lying down. Viola standing up. Viola looking over her shoulder. An endless stream of poses.
“Breathtaking, aren’t I.” A statement, not a question, coming from directly behind him. Viola moved to his side, a vision of loveliness in a pink tank and hip-huggers. “I fetched them from one of my homes.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure. Breathtaking.”
“Which one is your fave?” She tapped a fingertip against her chin, studying them. “I’m having a hard time picking between that one and—all the others.”
“Uh…let me think about it.”
While he pretended to look them over, Sex purred, wanting to be closer to her. A second later, Paris was sporting massive wood. Shit. He raked a hand through his hair, shamed. Even this was like a betrayal to Sienna.
Why are you doing this to me? he demanded of his demon. I thought we talked about this.
Cheating feels good. I want to feel good.
Well, cheating’s not gonna happen. And I want you to think about this for a moment. Every time we’re with Sienna, it’s a two-for-one deal. Or hell, maybe more than that. She’s a human, a ghost, an ambrosia supply, a former Hunter and a demon, all wrapped into one tasty package. And if we are untrue to her, we lose her. And you will never get a quintupping again.
Why, she’s an orgy waiting to happen.
A layered pause. Oh…well…hmm.
“Well?” Viola insisted.
Right. What would pacify her? “I can’t actually pick. They’re all equally amazing.”
“I know, right. I’ll have one delivered to your room. You and your hand can spend countless hours studying the details. I had a few surprises painted throughout. You’re welcome.” She whistled as she skipped away.
He stood there a moment, thinking about the fallen angel who desired her. He really should help throw the two together. Because really, was there a worse punishment for the guy than ending up with that for eternity? Food for thought.
He beat feet to the next hallway, and wasn’t surprised to find Anya taking down the pictures of Viola and replacing them with pictures of herself. The decorator wars were on, he supposed.
“Gwen, Kaia, seriously,” the (minor) goddess snapped, having trouble hanging on to a frame and a hammer at the same time as she balanced on a ladder. “This is the most important mission of your lives and you’re riding pine on the sidelines? Get in here, you lazy bitches!”
Not wanting to be recruited, Paris ducked his head and kept walking, hands shoved in his pockets. From the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the Harpy sisters in one of the bedrooms, studying a life-size—and warped—drawing of Galen. Guy had horns, crooked teeth and three fingers on each hand. His clown feet were too big for his body, and rather then genitals, he had an X. A really small X.