- The Darkest Seduction
Enough! I don’t want her, Sex suddenly piped up. Find someone else.
Well, well. For once they were in agreement. “Is there anything else I should know? Any consequences I should be aware of—”
The familiar voice came from behind him. Paris whipped around, sickness already churning inside his stomach. Whenever Lucien visited him, bad news was quick on his heels. “What’s wrong?”
LUCIEN, KEEPER OF DEATH, stood tall and strong, a powerful presence even through the haze of mist that enveloped him. Like Viola, the warrior could flash from one location to another with only a thought. His dark hair was a mop of tangles sticking out in spikes. His eyes—one blue, one brown—were bright with concern. Dirt smudged his scarred cheeks, and there were rips in his wrinkled shirt and pants.
“Since I told you not to come back for me until I texted you, I take it that’s not why you’re here.” Out of habit, Paris palmed his blades. “You better start talking.”
Lucien’s gaze strayed to Viola. “Get rid of her first.”
The “her” in question straightened her spine with a jolt. “Oh, no, he didn’t. I’m not some pretty a man can just toss aside whenever—oh, hey. You’re Anya’s man.” The indignation left her, and she waved happily. “Hi! I’m Viola. As if you couldn’t guess. My reputation for awesomeness precedes me, and I’m sure Anya has mentioned me countless times.”
She knew Anya, the minor goddess of Anarchy? A woman who had more balls than most men—because she’d cut them off the guys stupid enough to get in her way and kept them as souvenirs. Well, of course Viola knew Anya. They might have “minor” in their respective titles, but they were both major pains in the ass.
Lucien’s dark brows drew low. “No, she never—”
“Stops talking about you,” Paris rushed out, halting his friend before he insulted the egomaniac. He ran his hand along the front of his neck, his fingers taut as a blade, the universal sign for cut that out or die.
“Yes,” Lucien lied, frowning. “She mentions you all the time.”
Viola laughed, a tinkling sound of amusement. “No need to state the obvious, you darling boy. As if I’m not aware of how often I come up in conversation.”
“You should probably Screech about seeing Anya’s man,” Paris said. “Maybe describe him. Post a picture. Whatever.”
Expression serious, she said, “Ixnay on the picture. Those are reserved for my image, otherwise my fans get twitchy. But the other thing…totally. Description is one of the many areas I shine in, since I shine in everything.” She grabbed her phone and typed away. “Hair of indigo and eyes of crystal and chocolate, he stands before me…”
Paris met Lucien’s confused stare. “She’s the keeper of Narcissism, and she only registers conversations about herself.” Clearly. “You can talk freely with me.”
Lucien’s eyes widened, and he studied Viola anew. “Another keeper? How did you find… Why isn’t she…? Never mind. Doesn’t matter right now.” His focus whipped back to Paris. “I’m here because Kane’s missing.”
The sickness returned to burn a path up Paris’s chest, stopping to play a game of tonsil hockey in his throat. “How long?”
“Just a few days. He and William were together. Someone captured them, took them into hell to execute them. Maybe Hunters, maybe not. Another group attacked the first. William says the cavern they were in collapsed and knocked him out before the men could do anything to him. When he woke up, he was in a motel room in Budapest. Without Kane.”
Paris rubbed a hand down his face. “Is Kane still…alive?” He had trouble speaking that last word, much less thinking it. If his friend had been slain while he’d been chasing tail, he would never forgive himself.
“Yeah. He is. He has to be.”
Because they couldn’t stand the thought of living without him. “You putting together a posse to search for him?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
“Who do you have so far?”
“Amun, Aeron, Sabin and Gideon.”
Nasty fighters, all of them. If Paris were missing, he’d want the same guys looking for him. Seriously, the only team capable of getting better results would be Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Hannibal Lecter.
Amun was the keeper of Secrets, and there was no greater warrior to have on your side. The man was like a worm in your brain, able to ferret out in seconds information you’d buried for years. In fact, there was nothing anyone could hide from him. So Kane’s location? No prob.
Aeron was the former keeper of Wrath. He’d recently been beheaded and given a new body, and that’s when his demon had merged with Sienna. But even without his darker half, Aeron liked to make his prey squeal before he moved in for the kill. Anyone who’d hurt Kane would pay. Repeatedly.
Sabin was the keeper of Doubt, a warrior of unparalleled strength and determination, and he had a vicious streak that caused hardened criminals to soil their pants in fear. He got into your head, reminded you of your weaknesses, and basically turned you into a slobbering bag of self-recrimination before he savagely murdered you—with a grin on his face.
And Gideon, well, he was the keeper of Lies. He dyed his hair blue, was tattooed and pierced, and had a warped sense of humor very few others got. His new favorite game involved casting his demon from his body and into his enemy’s, then sitting back and watching the human destroy himself as the evil consumed him.
Paris almost felt sorry for whoever had taken Kane.
“So, you in?” Lucien asked.
“I—” Hate this. He wanted to say yes. He did. He loved his friends. More than he loved himself, even more than Viola probably loved herself. (Speaking of, the damn woman was still typing, and from her mutterings, she was telling the world how the Lord of Death found her far more attractive than the goddess of Anarchy.) His friends had fought beside him, bled for him and always had his back.
They’d do more than take a bullet for him. They’d take a life—even their own. But… “I can’t,” he said, whether he’d be able to forgive himself or not. “Not right now. There’s something I have to do first.” His resolve, that cloud of darkness, still swirled inside him, driving him. He’d come this far; he couldn’t back out now.
Lucien nodded without hesitation. “Understood.” There was no trying to change Paris’s mind, no making him feel guilty, which meant there was no better friend. “You want help with your mission?” he added, and damn if Paris didn’t start to feel guilty anyway. “If you’re headed into something dangerous, I’m happy to volunteer William.”
William, Anya’s best friend and someone Lucien would love to see stabbed in the back. And heart. And groin. Willy wasn’t possessed by a demon, but according to gossip he was the devil’s blood-brother, as well as related to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Gossip was probably right. Nothing scared William. Nothing bothered him. And the cherry on top? If Willy ever opened a closet door and the boogeyman jumped out, it was only the boogeyman who’d be scared.
“Bring him to me,” Paris said. “He owes me.” William had let Cronus take Sienna without a fight. As far as Paris was concerned, the guy was now his slave for life.
“Done.” Lucien’s gaze shifted to Viola, who was still typing. “What about her? We can’t let her run around on her own. Cronus and the Hunters would doubtless love to snatch her.”
Cronus hated the Hunters, and the Hunters hated Cronus. Both sides were searching for the remaining demon-possessed immortals, each hoping to recruit more than the other, and neither would shy away from using brute force to get what they wanted. Paris enjoyed the idea of screwing both parties over.
“Take her,” he said, placing his hand on Viola’s shoulder, meaning to shake her and gain her attention.
The action, innocent though it was, startled her, and between one heartbeat and the next, she went from gorgeously angelic to looking like the demon inside her. Two horns extended from her scalp. Red scales replaced her skin, and her eyes glowed like radioactive rubies. Sharp, deadly fangs protruded over her lips. Her nails grew into claws. The scent of sulfur overpowered the scent of roses, a scarlet mist wafting from her, stinging his nostrils, making his demon whimper like a newborn baby.
With a roar of white-hot rage, she sank those claws into Paris’s wrist and tossed him so hard he smacked into the building next door, its solid gold bricks cracking and plumping filigree into the air.
Oxygen abandoned his lungs. Stars returned to his line of vision. What. The. Hell? When he was able to focus clearly, he saw that Viola was Viola again, exquisite, blonde and innocent.
“Oops. My bad.” With a tinkling chuckle, she stuffed her phone into her boot. “Touching the merchandise isn’t allowed. Ever. Now, did you need something from me?”
Lucien pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is gonna be fun. I can tell.”
“Do you mind going with Lucien?” Paris asked her as he lumbered to his feet. Every new breath scraped his lungs against his ribs. Worse, the wound in his neck had opened. With one toss, she’d done far more damage to his body than the three amigos inside the bar had. “He’ll take you to Anya and you two girls can, uh, catch up.” He’d thought to force her to go. Now? He’d beg if necessary.
“Seriously?” Viola clapped, twirled and threw herself into Lucien’s arms. “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I’m going with you, but only if you promise to stop and pick up my pet, Princess Fluffikans, on the way. Small word of warning, though. You’re about to fall madly, passionately in love with me, and Anya will be utterly heartbroken.”
It was far more likely that one of the other—single—warriors would fall madly, passionately in bed with her, but now wasn’t the time to point that out.