- The Darkest Seduction
Her tongue thickened with the need to curse, but she plowed ahead anyway. “Yeah. You could. And that’s fine, more of the same, but Paris, he trusts me and he wants me to stay. He wouldn’t let me go.”
In the ensuing silence, she noticed something. Wrath was quiet now; he’d truly fed from her pain and her actions, and wasn’t concerned by Lucien in any way. And also, maybe she’d gotten it right before and Aeron had already won this battle. Maybe the Lords were exempt from the demon’s brand of justice. Whatever. Didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to be around them anymore, was she? Wrath could feed off her sorrow for eternity.
“Paris will want to come after me,” she said. “You know he will.”
A dark brow knitted into Lucien’s hairline. “So he can retaliate for being drugged?”
“No. To save me from Galen.”
His lips pursed as he considered her words. “What do you want me to do?”
“Stop him.” The words were shards of glass in her throat. “I have to stay with Galen, have to somehow find a way to control him.”
“Here’s a tip. Kill him,” Lucien suggested.
If only. “Cronus says I can’t, that if Galen dies you guys die, too. This is the way. The only way.” As she spoke, she straightened her shoulders. Her determination grew, turned her into a rock.
Sienna wasn’t weak, and she wasn’t a coward. Not any longer. She was doing this, even at the expense of her own happiness. “Don’t let him come for me. Keep him here, and keep him strong. So. Yeah. That’s all I came to say.”
A long, torturous pause as he considered his reply. “You know what you’re asking, right?”
“Yes.” To mask the newest flood of tears, she looked down at her booted feet. “You’re a good friend to him, and I’m glad.” Getting choked up again. “I’m glad he has you. Take care of him, Lucien. If ever there’s information I obtain that can help you, I will somehow send it on. Trust it or not, but it will be there if you want it.”
“Just…take care of him, like I said.” No need to open the door. She simply stepped through it and pounded her way to the roof.
There was only one thing left to do.
SIENNA’S WINGS LIFTED properly and were no longer dragging against the floor. Her shoulders ached, but the shooting pains were nothing she couldn’t handle. She was determined. Still rock-solid. Unbendable.
She would do this. Wouldn’t waver.
She pushed her way onto the roof, the cloying darkness of the realm once more enveloping her. No sign of that shadow guy…thing, but of course, his blood toll had been paid and he’d vowed to leave everyone alone. Whether or not he’d keep his word, she couldn’t be sure. Wrath had sensed the menace in him, yet the images the demon had shot through her head had been grainy and, well, shadowed, confusing them both.
Nothing had been clear, so she had no idea what the shadow guy was capable of doing. She trusted him because she had no other choice.
In the center of the parapet, she stopped and spread her arms. There was no hesitating to take a breath. No reflecting on what could have, should have, been. “Cronus! Cronus! I summon you!”
A flash of white at her left. Heart thumping, she spun. The angel Zacharel had taken shape, lovely in his heavenly glory, glowing with an aura that pulsed with energy, yet seeing him caused a tremor of fear to crawl down her spine. His expression was devoid of emotion, those white-and-gold wings spread regally, his robe pristine.
Wrath reacted as if he’d just spotted Olivia. Heaven!
“My people need you, Sienna,” Zacharel said. “I told you this.”
She raised her chin. “And I told you to get in line.”
“Why do that when I can simply take what I want?”
“If you could settle for my unwillingness, you would have taken me already.”
He inclined his head at her logic. “Then come with me of your own accord. You are the key to our victory.”
So sick of those words. “Why am I the key? How am I the key?”
“I do not know.”
So sick of nonanswers. “Well, then, you don’t get the key. Besides, I didn’t think angels and demons ever worked together.”
The slightest softening around his emerald eyes. “High Lord demons, like the one inside you, were angels once. I know—knew—your Wrath. Once upon a time, his justice was not perverted or warped, but fair and right.”
“That doesn’t change my mind.” Where the hell was Cronus? “Paris comes first, and this is my way to save him.” And if Paris himself hadn’t changed her mind about her current path, Zacharel had no chance.
His brow furrowed as he tossed her words through his mind. “Why do you love him?” He sounded genuinely baffled. “Why do you sacrifice yourself and your happiness for him?”
“He is strong.”
A snort. “Others are strong.”
She remembered doing the same thing to Paris, contradicting everything he said. Had she been this annoying? “He’s smart, and giving, and caring, and kind, and—”
“He is a killer.”
Though her eyes narrowed, she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “He is protective of me, and he makes me feel special. He takes care of me. And he sacrifices for me, too.”
“You wish a sacrifice to be made? Done. Name your price and I will see to it immediately.”
Hope ignited. “Can you save Paris from the fate Cronus showed me? In two of the potential futures, he dies. Can you save him and his friends?”
“No,” Zacharel replied honestly, and that shouldn’t have surprised her but it did. “The roadways have already been paved, the vehicles placed upon them and in motion. There are no breaks.”
As vivid as the metaphor was, the reality was inescapable. Hope burned to ash and floated away. “Very well, then. Cronus!” she shouted. “Cronus!”
Zacharel skimmed a fingertip along his brow. “The Titan king has lied to you, you know. Lied about so many things.”
Breath caught, froze in her lungs. “About Paris?”
Then nothing else mattered. “Cronus!”
He heaved a ragged sigh of frustration. “Help us, Sienna. A war brews in the heavens. Good versus evil. You want to be on the side of good.”
Been there, ruined lives because of that, she thought. “Cronus!”
“We will never lie to you,” he said, floating closer, “and you will have a chance to avenge the wrongs committed against you and those you love.”
Wrath really liked that idea, and slammed against her temples to gain her undivided attention.
Don’t need to sell that any harder. The thought of working on the side of the angels—for real this time—was hard-core awesome, and yeah, part of her wanted to be all over it. But. Yeah, always a but. “I’m sorry, I really am, but I drugged a good man to do this, and you can’t guarantee his safety, so I can’t help you.”
Zacharel studied her for a long while, silent. Then, “Very well. I will allow you to leave with the Titan. When you need me, and you will, simply speak my name and I will come for you.”
And take her straight into the heavens. “Find a way to save Paris and his friends, and I’m yours. See, I’ve learned something in this new, immortal world. Everything has a price, a toll. The Lords are mine. Their lives for mine, or no deal.”
“Very well,” he repeated just before he disappeared.
A split second later, Cronus materialized in front of her, and oh, was he pissed. His scowl broke up the clean lines of his face, turning regal features sinister. At least he’d given up the goth mesh and tailored suits in favor of his white robe.
“You summoned me, and then you blocked me?” Eyes a shimmering mix of ebony and scarlet, he snarled, “How did you block me?”
Just as before, Wrath went silent, unable to see into Cronus’s past. Frustrated them both. Much as she raged about the sick things the demon had made her do, she’d come to rely on his keen insight into the people around her.
“I didn’t block you,” she replied honestly, the words laced with venom. I hate this man, she realized. For everything he’d done to her, and everything he was doing to Paris. “I summoned you to tell you I’m ready. I want to go to Galen. But first…”
Steps unhurried, she approached him. Her arms were lowered at her sides, and she gave a little shake. The blades slid into her hands, as planned, and the moment she reached Cronus, she whipped into a frenzy of motion, shoving him back, into the castle wall, the tip of her weapon poised at his jugular.
He could have thrown her off, but the threat happened so quickly, he could only widen his eyes in astonishment.
“You fed me ambrosia, made me ambrosia.”
Finally he shoved, propelling her backward. Only by frantically flapping her wings did she prevent herself from flying over the rail.
“And the problem?” He brushed a piece of lint from his shoulder. “I did what was required to make this work. You were right, you aren’t pretty enough to capture Galen’s attention, and we need his attention.”
No apologies, the bastard.
He went on silkily, “Now, allow me to capture yours.”
She blinked and her surroundings changed, from dark to light, bleak to ostentatious. Befuddled, she sheathed her weapons.
Above, a teardrop chandelier hung from the center of intricately carved woodwork. At her sides, thick red-velvet curtains spilled over the windows, with chairs and lounges made of the same material scattered throughout. A rosewood desk, candelabra, tables with swirling bars of gold at their bases. Below, a plush wool carpet with the loveliest blooms woven in jewel tones. The scent of jasmine and honeysuckle saturated the air.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“This,” he replied, “is your new home.”