“There’s a reason you’ve never lost. You’ve never fought me,” Kaia replied haughtily.

She is going to be killed.

The feminine voice stampeded through his head. Tabitha’s voice. The same voice he’d heard during orientation. Her attention hadn’t transferred to him, but he knew. “Like hell,” he muttered.

Kaia threw him a disbelieving, offended look. “It’s true.”

“I know that, baby doll. Wasn’t talking to you.”

“Oh. Well. Okay.”

Win! There was a tremor in Defeat’s tone, but still, the little bastard wasn’t going to back down. They’d decided to aid Kaia, and they would. She would not be killed.

She is going to be killed—and there is nothing you can do to help her.

“Stop it,” he commanded, gaze narrowing on the woman responsible.

Tabitha blinked innocently. “Why is your consort speaking to me without my having addressed him first?” she asked Kaia. “Have you not taught him the proper order of things?”

So the little man wasn’t supposed to speak to the women folk without an invitation? Screw that. “Just stay out of my head, Harpy, or I’ll make sure you regret it. By the way, how’s the leg?”

She hissed at him.


I know, Strider reassured the demon. I told you. I won’t let anything happen to Kaia.

Kaia blinked, too, only she appeared shocked. She didn’t question her mother, though, and he wondered if she remained quiet because she knew her mother wouldn’t answer or because questioning her mother would have revealed ignorance and ignorance would have been perceived as weakness.

Harpies, man. Life seemed to be one big chess match for them. Ridiculous, if you asked him. And yeah, he got the irony. But he had to turn everything he did into a contest of wits and might. They didn’t, nor did they suffer afterward. They just did it for funsies.

“Don’t concern yourself with my man,” Kaia finally said, her chin lifting.

My man. He kinda liked the sound of that.

His jaw clenched. This was pretend and he couldn’t let himself confuse pretend with reality.

“I’m surprised you won a fearsome Lord of the Underworld,” Tabitha said.

“I’m not,” Kaia replied with a shrug. “I’m pretty much made of awesome.”

Still not a flicker of emotion crossed Tabitha’s face. Not pride, nor disappointment. “I guess we’ll find out exactly what you’re made of tomorrow, when the games truly begin.”


PARIS, THE KEEPER OF Promiscuity—or Sex, as Paris called the demon—clutched two standard-issue daggers as he slinked through the back-alley shadows. Standard issue sucked. Sure, they sliced and diced just fine, but up here, with gods, goddesses, vampires and fallen angels, slicing and dicing wasn’t enough.

Whatever. Keep going.

Never ceased to amaze him how similar the immortal world was to the human one. In this heavenly metropolis, there were bars, shops, restaurants and hotels. Not to mention drugs and those who sold them. Whatever you wanted, you could get.

Speaking of, I’ll want some ambrosia. Soon. Already he was shaky from withdrawal.

No time to imbibe now. He couldn’t be late.

Couldn’t afford to so much as talk to anyone. One look at his face, one inhalation of his scent, and people—no matter their species or gender—threw themselves at him.

Perhaps he should have let them, he thought next. Sex derived strength from anything erotic, and Paris hadn’t yet supplied that crucial daily dose. But then, he hated sleeping with people he didn’t actually desire and tried to limit himself. And he’d get today’s influx of strength just as soon as he met with the goddess of weaponry.

The female owned crystal daggers that could morph into any type of weapon the holder desired. He could have them, she’d said, for a price. No one ever wanted money from him, so he’d agreed to give her what she did want. Him. He’d whore himself, and that was fine. Whatever. He’d done so a thousand times before and would probably have to do so a thousand more. Eventually he’d get over the guilt and humiliation.

He needed those crystal blades to rescue the female he did want. Sienna.

His Sienna. Killed because of his actions, only to be brought back in soul form. A soul he could not see or hear. Yet.

Cronus, the god king, had enslaved her and paired her with the demon of Wrath. To keep Paris away from her, Cronus had then trapped her in another realm. He would pay for that. After Paris saved her. And he would. He had a three-part plan.

1. Obtain the crystal daggers.

2. Find Arca, former messenger goddess. Rumor was, she knew where Cronus hid his greatest treasures.

3. Find Viola, minor goddess of the Afterlife. Rumor was, she could teach anyone to see the dead.

Boom, done. Simple, easy. Yeah. Right. Seduction was the only thing easy for him.

Whatever he had to do, though, he would do. For centuries, Paris had dreamed of being with a woman more than once. Because of his demon, his body failed to respond to a lover after one release. So his relationships lasted only the one night. Except with Sienna. He’d had her, and then he’d immediately gotten hard for her again. In that moment, he’d known they belonged together—despite the obstacles that stood between them.

She was a Hunter, his enemy. She had tricked him, drugged him and helped imprison him. Whatever. She’d also helped him escape, and that’s when she died. Shot down by her own people while in Paris’s arms.

He’d relived that nightmare over and over again, thinking of all the things he could have, should have, done differently. Thinking about her final words of hate, her wish that he had been the one to die. She’d blamed him for what had happened, and rightly so.

Yet still her soul had come back for him. Had escaped its heavenly prison and found him. For help? Revenge? He didn’t know and didn’t care. All he knew was that Cronus had carted her away before he’d gotten a chance to speak with her. She had to be terrified, confused and desperate.

He could soothe her. He just had to find her.

Want, his demon said, drawing him out of his mind.

Dread flooded him. That command could mean only one thing.

Paris focused, and sure enough at the end of the alley loomed a trio of ugly bruisers. Fallen angels, he would guess, who, for whatever reason, had given over to their dark sides. They couldn’t be gods, even minor ones, because no power pulsed from them.

He had only to pass them and turn right, and he’d reach the goddess’s street.

When they spotted him, they grinned greedily.

I want, his demon said.

You’ll get yours soon enough.

Ignoring him, Sex blasted his special fragrance from Paris’s pores. Soon the scent of chocolate and expensive champagne thickened the air. From experience, he knew that every time the men breathed in, desire would flood them. Desire for Paris and Paris alone, even if they didn’t swing that way.

Damn you! he growled.

I want!

His dread intensified as their grins faded and they began licking their lips.

“You want by, you’ll get on your knees.”

“We each get a turn.”

“And I’ll be first,” the biggest one said.

Paris slowed, but didn’t stop and didn’t change direction. Fallen angels were, in essence, little more than human. He could plow through them, no problem.

Hurt…kill… A soft whisper, a dark urge, one that had filled his mind more and more lately. Not from his demon, but from deep inside him. He wasn’t sure why it happened, or what had caused it, but every time, he’d given in. Now would be no different. He would reach the goddess, and these men weren’t going to deter him. He would plow through them, true, but he’d make it hurt—would kill—when he did.

In unison, the trio said, “Knees. Now.”

“Actually,” Paris replied. “The only thing going down will be you.”

He tossed both of his daggers in quick succession. The tip of one sank deep into the jugular of the guy on the right. The tip of the other embedded in a wall of golden brick, missing its mark.

Sex whimpered, racing to hide in a far corner of his mind. His demon was a lover, not a fighter.

The two remaining men watched, wide-eyed, as their friend collapsed, twitching as death approached.

Hurt…kill… Having run even as he’d thrown, Paris barreled into them, his arms spread, knocking both of them to the ground. They pulled themselves out of their sexual stupors and rolled him to his back, their fists hammering at him.

Vessels burst in one of his eyes, limiting his line of sight. His nose popped out of place. His jaw separated. The pain intensified with every blow, but still he fought. And fought dirty, going for groins, throats and kidneys.



The dark compulsions rose…rose…consumed. With a roar, he brought his legs up and kicked. Both men flew backward. He leapt at the one closest to him, pinning the guy’s shoulders to the concrete with his knees. One punch, two, three. Blood splattered.

He hit and hit and hit, until the guy’s head lolled to the side, his swollen eyes open but glazed. Only then did he realize the other guy had jumped on his back and had been punching him in the head that entire time.

Paris reached back, gripped a fistful of shirt and jerked. Guy soared over his shoulders and landed on top of his buddy, losing his breath. As Paris grabbed for the blade in his ankle holster, his opponent gathered his wits and swung a meaty fist, knocking him into the wall. Temple against brick, and brick won. Dazed, the blade was batted out of his hand.

A booted foot slammed into his trachea, pushing him to his back and holding him down.

The pressure increased as the guy unsheathed a dagger of his own, bent down and stabbed Paris in the stomach. An agonizing lance of pain. A searing hiss of air through his teeth.

“That should keep you docile.” Looming over him, panting raggedly, scowling, the guy unzipped his pants.

“Not a smart move,” Paris managed to croak out. Though instinct demanded he wrap his fingers around the guy’s ankle and shove, he inched his hand behind him, toward the hilt of his remaining blade. “You want to keep that thing, don’t you?”