- The Darkest Seduction
“I want to leave with you,” he said. “Go somewhere Cronus can’t find you. Where no one can hurt you.”
Her heart lurched. No one—meaning his friends. “I told you. I don’t want you to be mad at anyone on my behalf.”
“They disrespected you.”
“And I deserved it.”
“No!” He threw a punch, his fist going through the headboard, wood shards raining. “I told you not to talk like that. And the next time you do, I’m putting you over my knee. They aren’t perfect, not a single one of them. We’ve all done things. Things that would shame hardened criminals.”
“Well, they’re reformed.”
“So are you. I’m not saying I want to leave them forever. I love them. Need them. I just want to give them time to accept you. And just so you know, if I ever treated their women the way they’ve treated you, they would retaliate.”
She had to change the subject. Had. To. He was melting her resolve. Being what she needed, saying such wonderful things. And he meant them. His tone was all about the serious.
“Hiding from Cronus,” she said. “I don’t think that’s possible.”
Gradually he relaxed. “There are medallions. Whoever wears them is hidden from him and all his followers. He gave them to us once, then took them away. I can steal one.”
And enrage the beast, placing himself in eternal danger? “No. I have to do this, Paris. I have to go to Galen, and Cronus is going to take me. I just have to,” she finished lamely. For you, for me.
“That’s it?” Anger returned to those electric eyes. “You’re not even going to think about it? When the very idea of my enemy breathing the same air as you drives me to commit murder?”
Her own anger sparked. “When it comes to putting you in danger? When it comes to making sure you survive? There isn’t anything to think about.”
He softened, but only slightly. “Same with me. I don’t want you in danger. Ever. And you think about this. I will waste away without you. Yeah, I know I’m the king of manipulation, playing on your emotions, but I will do anything to keep you. I will kill. I will lie. I will betray and cheat and steal. I will topple mountains.”
He wasn’t done. “All my life I have fought and I have fucked, and I thought I was happy until you pissed me off and woke me up and I realized I’d simply existed and accepted. And you might have gotten my attention through my demon, but you kept it because of you. I could have anyone right now, and no, that isn’t ego or a front, it’s just me telling you that now that Sex knows I’m committed, he’s making me hard for every damn female in the place, or he was, and he can again, but I don’t want them and I won’t take them.”
Careful, girl. This man, this man she loved, could talk her into anything. There could be no spending the rest of the night with him. She had to leave. And she had to leave now.
The knowledge shattered her.
“Sienna, baby. I know I’m coming on strong. I know I’m pushing for a lot. Just…give me some time, okay? We’ll figure this out. There’s a solution, there has to be. Trust me.”
So many pieces of her, scattered and broken, never to be fitted back together. “I do,” she croaked. “I trust you.” The truth, but it wouldn’t stop her.
“Good.” He must have assumed she’d agreed to give him time.
She didn’t correct the mistake.
“Now, I want you to listen to me. Do you remember when I told you not to let anyone smell your blood, to always clean yourself up if you are injured?” He waited for her nod before he went on. “That’s because Cronus has made you into an ambrosia spout. Your blood is a drug for immortals and highly addictive.”
“That’s not—” Yeah, no reason to finish that sentence. Anything was possible. She was living—er, undead—proof of that. Bitterness rose, joining the anger and the hopelessness. “How did he do it? Why would he?” Even as she spoke, she knew the answer to the latter.
Why—so that she could more easily “seduce” and control Galen. That’s how she would keep his interest. How dare he do this! she seethed. How dare he turn her into a…a…walking narcotic!
Yes. She would punish. Would that stop her from doing what needed doing? No. Not when Paris’s life was at stake. But, oh, she and Cronus would have a reckoning one day.
Wrath grunted his approval.
Gruff, Paris said, “I’m sorry about what happened, baby. I wish I could go back, stop him.”
Melting… “Is there a way to fix me?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
She leaned into Paris, pressing her lips into his. He wanted to continue the conversation, she could tell, but he was into the kiss and accepted her tongue, taking it as his right—and it was. While he was distracted, she reached for the ring Viola had left her. Slid the metal onto her middle finger.
Tears burned the backs of her eyes. Do it.
“Sienna,” Paris said. He cupped her jaw as he liked to do, as gentle as if she were a precious treasure he couldn’t bear to bruise. “Talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. Please.”
Do it. Do it! First, one more kiss, just one more. She dove back in, filling her mouth with his special taste. All that heat and chocolate. What lay ahead of her was an eternity of misery, but then, that was her punishment, wasn’t it. For what she’d done to him before. Part of her even thought Wrath approved, for the demon was now purring in the back of her mind, as he’d done for Olivia, feeding off Sienna’s sorrow.
Do. It. Still she hesitated. Was she going to talk herself out of this? No, oh, no. She was talking herself into it, she realized when her next thought hit. Paris had to fall out of love with her. He just had to. He had to forget the vow he’d made her, and live. Live happily.
And so she did it. She did the one thing guaranteed to make him hate her.
She positioned her ringed finger at his throat, just as she’d done once before, that day they’d first met. His pulse was erratic, a drunken drumbeat.
DO IT. A tragic “I’m sorry” left her as she struck. She shouldn’t have said that. Should have been cold, heartless.
His eyes flared wide. “What the—” Comprehension bled into his irises, even as they glazed. The liquid had broken the blood/brain barrier instantly. Rather than shout at her, curse at her, he slurred out, “Don’t leave me. Don’t…leave… Stay…mine…please…”
Though he fought the effects, he couldn’t stop them, and his eyelids drifted shut. His arms plopped to his sides. He was very still, his chest rising and falling evenly. Took everything she had to climb out of the bed. To dress in clothing Cronus had provided for her, choosing a long-sleeved T-shirt that fit around her wings, black leather pants and combat boots. She quaked the entire time, tears pouring down her cheeks.
She claimed two daggers, and neither of them were crystal. Those she left on the nightstand, resting next to each other. They were his. He would need them. She strapped the weapons on her wrists, hilts down. A shake of her arms, and those blades would slide right into her palms.
For a moment, she closed her eyes. Had to be done, had to be done, she chanted. Didn’t make her ache any less, or feel any better. Or any less guilty. Why couldn’t Paris have looked at her with anger there at the end? Why’d he have to be so understanding?
She refused to delude herself. He would come after her.
She had to stop him.
Though she almost broke down and sobbed when she exited the bedroom, she somehow managed to pick herself up and scour the castle. She found Lucien down the hall, in the room he’d claimed for his own. He sat in a velvet-lined chair, a glass of something amber in one hand, the other wrapped around Anya, who perched in his lap.
He sensed the intrusion immediately, his gaze arrowing straight for Sienna. He set his glass on the floor.
“What’s wrong?” Anya demanded. “You tensed.”
When he registered Sienna’s identity, he relaxed, his scarred face easing off the someone’s-gonna-die throttle. “Anya, sweetheart, will do you something for me?” he asked, tenderly running his fingers through her fall of pale hair.
“Anything, Flowers.” She licked up his neck, humming ecstatically. “You know that.”
He fisted a thick lock and lifted her head, forcing the pleasuring to end. “Will you go to the kitchen and make me some hot chocolate? With whipped cream and marshmallows?”
“Wait. What?” Her red lips pulled into a frown. “I thought you wanted me to do something totally, absolutely freaky to your body, and I was one-hundred-percent racer ready for that. Hot chocolate—”
“Anya. Please. I have a craving.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Are you pregnant?”
“What? It’s a legit question right now, considering what you’re willing to give up, but fine. My man has a craving.” Off Anya went, grumbling, leaving Lucien alone with Sienna and not realizing it.
“I drugged Paris,” she admitted. And wow, what a way to kick things off poorly.
Scowling, Lucien jumped to his feet. “Did you hurt him?”
“No, no. Of course not.” She leaned against the door, no longer able to hold herself up. “Cronus wants me to go…to Galen…to spy for him, to control him.” Why was this so difficult? She’d drugged the man she loved; this should be as easy as breathing. “It’s the only way to save Paris, and you guys, from certain death. The longer I stay here, the more likely the chance Galen will get to Cronus, and Rhea will take the throne.” And the harder it would be to leave Paris.
His blue eye swirled, hypnotizing her, while his brown one seemed to lock her in place. “I could accuse you of lying, of saying this so that we won’t suspect you of rejoining your flock and sharing our secrets.”