“If I showed you what I’ve got, it would be the last thing you ever saw.”

“Prove it.”

Like that, they were on each other, a choreographed dance straight from Star Wars. Funny that they both knew the moves. Paris used the klieg like a light saber, twirling the golden stream as he contorted his body left and right to dodge the sashay of those misty wings.

Finally, contact. When the light sliced through one of Shadow Man’s legs, there was a sizzle, a rise of steam, and the big guy released a firing-squad shout, his anger like little bullets that pelted against Paris’s mind, causing him to stumble.

That stumble cost him.

One of those dark wings whipped out and hit his arm with so much force the flashlight flew from his grip. Not mist, after all. Then that big body engulfed him, closing around him. Screams, thousands upon thousands of screams, echoed around him. So loud his eardrums burst and warm blood poured down his lobes.

Releasing a scream of his own, he covered his ears and fell to his knees. Ants were crawling all over him, surely eating at his flesh, ripping it away, consuming him bite by tasty bite.

Another firing-squad shout sounded, and the darkness instantly lifted from him. Took him a moment to orient himself, and what he saw made him want to vomit. Shadow Man was a few feet away, and Sienna was holding him off with the flashlight. Their mouths were moving, but Paris couldn’t hear what they were saying.

Until…boom, his eardrums healed and the volume came back on in an explosion of noise.

“—how many would you be willing to settle for…consuming?” Sienna was saying, trying not to reveal her disgust.

“Five. A day.”

“They never got five before! One,” she snapped. “A week.”

“Three. A day.”

“Three. A week.”

A moment of silence before Shadow Man nodded. “Agreed. First payment must be given today.”

“Yes, but only if all of us—the Lords, their loved ones, the babies, the immortals, me—are safe, no matter where we go in this realm or what we do.”

Another moment of silence, another nod. “And so the deal is made. But best you hurry, female. I might change my mind before the first payment is delivered.” With that, the black mist thinned, broke apart and disappeared altogether.

Sienna rushed to Paris’s side and sank to her knees, patting him down, checking for injuries.

“Are you okay?”

He hung his head. He hadn’t saved her, hadn’t helped her. She’d had to save him. She’d had to help him. He’d let her down in so many ways. What kind of warrior was he?

“I’m sorry, baby.”

“What? Why?” She handed him the flashlight.

A quick mental command, and the crystal blade returned. He stashed the thing at his waist. “I let you down. You could have been hurt.” And Zacharel had warned him about that, hadn’t he? That Paris’s temper would get the better of him and he would hurt his woman. He’d thought that meant he would strike at her, which he knew would never happen. But, no. The angel had known better. His temper would cause him to lose focus, to allow others to hurt her.

Yeah. Well. That was so not happening again. He’d keep himself level no matter what the hell he had to do.

“Paris, you’ve never let me down,” she said with feeling.

Yeah, he had, but that stopped now. His thigh muscles burned like a son of a bitch as he stood. He helped her do the same. Inside the castle, he tucked her into a corner, checked the only window in the small alcove to make sure William’s blood was still smeared over the top—it was—then cupped her cheeks.

“Stay here for me, okay? I’ve got to tell Lucien to find us three acceptable, uh, meals.”

“They don’t have to be immortal,” she said. “He finally admitted that immortals taste better, but anyone will do.”

Then Paris knew exactly who to use. Last he’d looked, there were Hunters stashed in their Budapest dungeon.

“Who are—”

“Don’t you worry about that.” If she knew the men, well, he wasn’t sure how she’d react. “In fact, why don’t you go to our room instead of staying here? I’ll join you in a bit. Okay?” He kissed her before she could reply, and left her there.

Didn’t take him long to locate Lucien. The warrior was still in the ballroom, and when he caught sight of Paris he apologized all over himself, his mismatched eyes filled with regret.

“We’ll talk about the intervention later. Right now I need you to do something.”

He explained what he needed, and the warrior was Johnny-on-the-spot, disappearing and returning a few minutes later with a Hunter clutched in each hand. Humans were easier to transport than immortals.

The men, both in their late thirties by the looks of them, were grimy, weak and had no fight left. Paris claimed them, and Lucien went back for a third.

Maybe this should have settled heavily on his shoulders, but these men had been captured while trying to slaughter his friends and their lovers. They would have cut the throats of the females without a moment’s hesitation.

They deserved what they got.

When Lucien returned, they muscled their loads up the stairs and back into that small alcove. Sienna hadn’t moved an inch, and Paris cursed under his breath. But she didn’t say anything when she spotted his burdens, even though her mouth opened as if she had plenty to unleash. She just watched with wide eyes as he and Lucien stepped onto the roof.

“Stay,” he commanded, shutting the door in her face. He didn’t want her to see what happened next.

He and Lucien approached the edge and looked down. A whole lot of airtime before reaching the rocky, blood-soaked ground. Whatever. He still wasn’t gonna feel bad. But he did wonder, again, if Sienna knew these guys. If she’d understand why he’d picked them. If she’d understand that he would use the information she’d given him to find more Hunters, to bring them here and use them in the same way, for as long as necessary.

Drop them, a disembodied voice he now recognized said on a sudden wind.

Only then did the Hunters begin to struggle. Paris and Lucien shared a moment of oh, shit before shoving them over. Shadows immediately darted from the sky, surrounding the men, catching them, and then devouring them. Screams, more pain-filled than the ones he’d heard while inside Shadow Man, rent the night. Then, silence.

And so the deal is sealed, another wind proclaimed. You are safe. For now.

He wasn’t sure he could trust the Shadow Man, but Sienna would have caught a lie, so there you go. “Thanks,” he said to Lucien.

“Of course.” A pause, a sigh. “Listen. I am sorry about what happened, and I will talk to the others. I’ve never liked what we were doing to you, how we were pushing you, and I’ll make sure your woman is respected. She’s who you want, she’s who you’ll get.”

His throat tightened up. “Thanks,” he repeated.

Lucien drilled a hand on his shoulder, a love pat with more strength than he probably realized, before taking off. As he exited, Sienna entered.

“Hey,” she said, expression blank.

“Hey,” he replied. Trepidation, foreboding, yeah, he felt them.

“So the toll’s been paid?”

He nodded mutely.

“Good. I saw their sins. Those men were awful, had done terrible things. Wrath wanted a go at them.”

That was it? That was her response? She wasn’t going to question him, castigate him? Was just going to accept? “I love you,” he said. He couldn’t hold the words back. There was no hiding the truth any longer, not even from himself.

Her jaw dropped. Those beautiful hazels were once again all about the emerald, the chocolate completely overshadowed. He was more into this woman than he’d ever been into another. So into her that he would die for her. Willingly, happily.

She just fit him. Made him happy. Relaxed him, excited him, challenged him.

“I—I…” Twin pink circles appeared on her cheeks. Arousal, maybe. At least, he hoped.

“No, don’t say anything.” He motioned her over, said huskily, “Just come here.”

She stumbled over to him, and he drew her close for a hug. Breathing deeply, he drank in her tropical scent, letting it brand him, remake him. There wasn’t anyone or anything that could keep him from this woman. She was his. Now and always.

He placed the sweetest of kisses against the wildly hammering pulse at the base of her neck. “Let’s practice your flying, okay?”


She loved him back; she had to love him back. If she didn’t, he would seduce her, romance her and woo her until she did. Most important battle of my life.

He set her away from him, and they spent the next few hours working on extending her wings properly and quickly enough, as well as getting her feet off the ground. Having never flown himself, he repeated the things Aeron had told him, the things he’d learned simply from watching the warrior, and he was happy to note Sienna made progress. But shit, he knew there was a lot he didn’t know.

Eventually Sex came out of hiding, enjoying the contact, pushing Paris to take things to the next level.

Not yet. This is too important.

You told me “often.”

And you’ve been getting often, you stupid shit.

“She’ll never learn to sustain flight like that.” Familiar male voice. Behind him.

Paris didn’t bother turning around. “What do you suggest?” He was willing to take suggestions in this, and only this.

Zacharel sidled up to him, his fingers stroking his stubble-free chin. “I can only teach her the way I was taught. She must stand at the edge of the roof and spread her wings as far as she can get them.”

“What if I fall?” she gasped. “I won’t be able to catch myself in the air.”

“You will not fall,” the angel said, and the layer of truth in his voice was as convincing as ever.

Sienna met Paris’s eyes, and he nodded. Flying was important. Flying could one day save her soul. Because yes, as the shadows had proven, even souls could be ravaged.