The Rod? Dude, I’m working on it. A little space would be nice.


I know, damn you! “What if I… Shit.” He released Kaia to scrub a hand down his face. As many battles as he’d fought during his long life, he could sniff out a dead end before he turned the corner and spied the brick wall. They were at an impasse, and he knew it. She wouldn’t budge—unless he changed the stakes.

“Do this for me, and I’ll sleep with you. Okay?”

For a moment, she gave no reaction. Then a squawk parted her lips and she batted him away from her. And by “batted” he meant that she used so much force, he actually spun around, unable to stop himself.

“How magnanimous of you.” An instant later, she was in front of him again. She shoved him, hard, and he stumbled backward until the backs of his knees hit the edge of the bed. “To offer up your body when you so clearly have no desire for me. To lower your standards and whore yourself. To use me, no matter how badly I’ll suffer in the end.”

Her words were like arrows, direct hits, and he cringed, but he offered no reply. Not yet. As he collapsed and bounced on the mattress, he focused on his demon. This isn’t a challenge to dominate her sexually, you get me?


Strider pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth. He thought the demon was still focused on the Rod, but he couldn’t be sure. So, when Kaia jumped on top of him, straddling his waist, he twisted, tossing her down and pinning her with his weight. And gods, that felt good. She fit him perfectly, her breasts soft against his chest, the apex of her thighs offering an exquisite cradle to the thickness of his shaft.

The scent of cinnamon continued to waft from her, enveloping him, hazing his thoughts. Heat, so much heat, pulsed from her soft, luscious skin, branding him.


Bastard. “This is life and death, Kaia.”

She was panting as she tangled her hands in his hair, nails biting into his scalp. “For me, too.”

“Would you do it for…Paris?” he asked, hating himself.


No hesitation from her, and that eased the tightness in his chest. A tightness he hadn’t even been aware of until just that moment. “Kaia.”


“I—I never said I didn’t desire you.” He wasn’t sure what he’d meant to say, he only knew that wasn’t it, that the words had slipped out without his consent. “I do. How could I not?”

She nibbled on her bottom lip. “Are you saying you agree to be my consort?”

“No.” He wouldn’t lie about that. Not to her. And not because she’d rip him to pieces when she discovered the truth. “I can’t give you forever.”

The nibbling increased in intensity, leaving a bead of blood in the center of her mouth. “Because we’re not a good match?”

Of course she would remember every insult he’d ever thrown at her. “Yes.”

“Then what can you give me?”

“Here. Now.” Something his body craved more with every second that passed.

“In exchange for my aid in the theft of the Paring Rod.” A statement, not a question.

“Yes.” Maybe even without it. So badly he wanted to arch into her, rub against her, stoke her passions until she begged him to finish her off.

She ran the pink tip of her tongue over her teeth. Teeth sharpening into a mouthful of daggers, but gods, that tongue was pretty. “You’ll have to convince me,” she said huskily, even as she drew his head down…down…until his lips hovered just above hers. “Give me a taste of what you’re offering.”


A challenge. Intentional or not. And this time, he had no trouble interpreting what his demon expected, needed. Strider had to kiss her, and he had to convince her, or he would hurt.

He waited for fury to fill him, but as he stared down at her, breathing her in, all he wanted to do was give her that taste.

He removed her nails from his scalp and flattened her hands over her head, forcing her back to bow, her body to slide against his. Her nipples were hard, just waiting for his mouth.

“Don’t say another goddamn word,” he commanded, and then he finally, finally went in for the kill.


KAIA FELT AS IF SHE’D BEEN waiting for this moment forever. And in a way, she had. At long last, she lay in her consort’s embrace, and he was meeting her needs. Her wildest, most sensual needs. Strider’s lips pressed against hers, his tongue thrusting inside her mouth, hot, decadent, his taste filling her up, consuming her. She’d never loved cinnamon more. Sweet and tangy with just a little spice.

The weight of his muscled body pinned her to the mattress, and the weapons strapped all over him pressed into bone, probably bruising. As if she cared. What were a few bruises when one of Strider’s big hands held her head tilted to the side to deepen their connection?

What were a few bruises when her breasts rasped against his chest with her every inhalation, and her aching nipples rubbed at him, sparking the desire inside her to a hotter degree?

She spread her legs, allowing his lower half to fall more firmly against hers. His erection—so big, so long, so perfectly thick—hit her just right, and she gasped. Hotter, hotter, sooo much hotter.

“Strider,” she moaned.


Her name on his lips…heaven and hell, sweet and torturous. A siren’s song. “More.”

“How do you like it?”

“However you give it.” Her nails had already lengthened into claws, and she dug them into his back, accidentally cutting past his shirt and into skin. He groaned, and their teeth scraped together. His fingers clenched on her jaw. “Sorry,” she panted. She squeezed his hips with her knees, just in case he thought to leave her.

“Don’t be sorry,” he growled. “Just do it again.” He sucked on her bottom lip, hard, causing sizzling goose bumps to sprout from head to toe.

More erotic, freeing words had never been spoken. As a Harpy, she was stronger and more vicious than almost all other immortals. She’d always had to temper her passions and hold back. Even with Paris.

She didn’t think she’d have to hold back with Strider—and wouldn’t. Whatever she dished, he could take. Hell, he would revel in. He was too strong, too determined for anything less. And really, he might look like an angel, but he was far wickeder than any other Lord. The best kind of wicked, at that. Devilish. Gentle and easy weren’t his style.

He found humor in the strangest things. If he discovered one of his friends chained to a female’s bed (cough Lucien cough), he took pictures and emailed them to every one he knew. How cool was that?

A man like that would never ask her to stop stealing. He might even join her on her obligatory forays, keeping her dark side happy without causing too much damage. More than that, he knew triumph and loss better than any other. He would revel in her every accomplishment, good, bad or ugly. He would be the first to tell her when she’d screwed up, but he wouldn’t write her off.

Or maybe the man she pictured in her mind was pure fantasy. The one on top of her thought to barter with her, his body in exchange for her cooperation. That pissed her off royally—but not enough to stop this tasting.

He was her drug of choice, she mused, and she was already addicted to him.

“Kaia! Pay some fucking attention to what’s happening here,” he snarled.

Startled back to her senses, she blinked up at him. He was panting, sweating—perhaps more than he should—his features tight with strain. He must have been calling for her for quite a while. And damn, she’d stopped kissing him to ponder his virtues and follies, she realized. A travesty she would rectify immediately.

“I’m here.” She wrapped her legs around him and locked her ankles, arching up. More contact with his erection, more gasping from her. So delicious. So perfect. So freaking hot.

“Good girl.” His tongue found its way back inside her mouth, and they dueled, fighting for dominance.

She let him win, submitting, allowing him to take the lead, urging her toward complete satisfaction. Or maybe insanity. Her mind fogged with desire, her blood heated to blistering and her Harpy sang with approval.

This was everything she had been dreaming of, fantasizing about, craving with every fiber of her being. Her man, feasting on her, grinding against her. She would never get enough of him, would always want more. Always need more. Her nerve endings caught fire, the ever-growing blaze nearly too much, the ache between her legs fierce.

She had to lock this deal up tight. Love him within an inch of his life, bind them together, and never, never, allow him to escape her. Never allow any of the other Harpies near him. He was hers. Would always be hers.

You can’t think like that. He’s a warrior, used to control. You try to bind him, and he’ll run. This has to be a partnership, not a Harpytatorship. Yes, okay. She could do that. Work with him. Anything to keep him with her, to kiss him again, to have him, all of him. Question—could he work with her?

“Damn it, Kaia.” He removed his hand from her jaw and cupped one of her breasts, squeezing. “What the hell is going on in that head of yours?”

“You, us, together. Yes,” she moaned, pressing herself into the touch. Hot, she was so hot, and only growing hotter. “More.”

“Good, okay, yes. Harder?”

“Harder. Please.” She lifted her hips off the mattress, the springs squeaking, and moved herself against him. Steam might even have risen from her pores, surrounding them both, thickening the air. “More. All.”

“Damn, your mouth is a firestorm. Burns. And yeah, baby doll, I’ll give you—” He sucked in another breath, stiffened, cursed. Cursed so violently she was surprised her ears hadn’t started bleeding. “All right. Yes. We’ll do this. You and me. I’ll give you more, all.”

His voice was…odd, she thought distantly. No longer layered with arousal, but as stiff as his body now was, and formal. Almost robotic. Why? What had changed? She mourned the loss.