“Shut your mouth. Had you played nice, I would have let you go after I finished with you. Now…”

Finally the boot lifted from Paris’s neck, then the guy was crouched between his legs, working at his zipper. Distracted. Good. Using the last of his strength, Paris swung his arm up. Another dagger found solace in a jugular.

Blood gurgled from the guy’s mouth, shock and pain glazing his eyes. Paris ripped the blade free, but that wouldn’t save him. Crimson continued to flow, and he slumped over, on top of Paris, motionless…dead.

Weak but determined, Paris pushed the weight away and lumbered to shaky legs. He gave himself a once-over. His clothes were ripped, stained and soaked in blood, his skin abraded, bruised and sliced. The goddess might turn him away the moment she saw him.

Probably not a bad idea. She expected pleasure, and right now he was too pathetic to see to hers. On the flip side, he needed sex to heal. But if he used her to heal, taking his own pleasure while unable to see to hers, he wouldn’t be able to sleep with her a second time in exchange for the crystal daggers.

Okay. Change of plans. Next female he spotted, he’d seduce, unleashing his demon, nothing held back. The thought sickened him, but whatever. Then he’d head to the goddess’s palace. He’d be late, but he could charm her out of any pique that tardiness might cause. Another sickening thought.

Get over yourself. He’d chosen to travel this path. He would live with the emotional fallout.

Resolute, Paris stumbled out of the alley.

SIENNA BLACKSTONE HUDDLED in the corner, enveloped by tormenting shadows. Her wings—those ever-growing black wings, courtesy of the demon now inside her—pulled at tendons and bone she hadn’t known she had, shooting aches all through her body.

Cronus had brought her here—wherever “here” was. A dilapidated castle guarded by gargoyles that came to life. Those gargoyles could see and hear her—unlike Paris, the warrior she’d hoped to find—and they ensured she remained exactly where she was. And when she actually fought her way through their fangs, horns, claws and tails, some kind of clear shield prevented her from stepping into the outside world.

At first, she’d been terrified. Someone should have told her death would be a thousand times more horrifying than life. Over the ensuing weeks, she’d had to learn to adapt to all these supernatural creatures. Though she’d known demons existed and had once hated them, everything else was new to her. And now all she wanted was to get out of here so she could reach one of those demons. Hold him. Help him. But…

She could leave only when she vowed to obey Cronus in all things. A condition she didn’t understand.

Why did he so desperately want her obedience? Her aid? What did he expect her to do for him? He’d never said. But in his desperate bid for control of her, he’d even taken her to spy on her former colleagues. Hunters. God, the things they’d done…

She was disgusted, and she was angry. She’d once hurt an innocent man—for them. She had struck when Paris was at his weakest—for them. She would have helped them kill the warrior if he hadn’t escaped with her. She had blamed him for her death, thinking he’d used her body as a shield. She had hated him for that. Now, she only hated herself.

No, that wasn’t true. She hated the Hunters and everything they represented.

Before she died—again—she was taking them down. Actually, she would help Paris take them down. Somehow, some way, she would leave this castle. She would find him once more. She would tell him everything she knew about his enemy. Every secret hideout, every battle plan, every strategy she’d ever heard whispered about. And if he still couldn’t see or hear her, she would tell someone who could, like his dark-haired friend. And then…then she was gifting Paris’s other friend, Aeron, with Wrath.

Doing so would finally end her. Forever.

That wouldn’t make up for the wrongs she’d done, she doubted anything could, but it was a start.

You just have to find a way out…?.

A sigh left her. She wasn’t chained, and she knew Cronus kept other prisoners here. They screamed and ranted and raved constantly. Unlike her, they didn’t have the run of the entire castle. They were limited to the bedrooms on an upper floor. The few times Sienna convinced herself to drag her winged self up the stairs, the demon inside her had gone insane, flashing all kinds of hateful images through her head. Images of blood, torture and death.

The people upstairs…they were warriors, demon-possessed like her. She didn’t hate them, didn’t want to hurt them. She wanted to help them—but her demon wanted to punish them. Always punish.

You can’t help them down here.

I can’t hurt them, either.

Arguing with herself. She laughed. She’d always forced herself to be demure, even somber. She’d always quashed any hint of temper and sarcasm. The fear of injuring somebody’s feelings, the shame of disappointing her loved ones had been too much. After her younger sister’s abduction, she’d had to be a rock. Causing more emotional turmoil would have destroyed her.

Well, no longer. She was strong. She was capable. She was needed.

She could overcome her demon and aid the beings upstairs. She could.

For Paris.


THE NEXT MORNING DAWNED bright and early. Too bright, too early. Kaia had stayed awake all night, her mind too active to snooze. So when she spotted the big orange glow of the sun, she glared and flipped it the bird.

“Go away, you bastard!”

Strider lounged on “their” bed, watching her with an amused glint in his eyes. He’d slept, sprawled out over every inch of the mattress. She’d paced.

“Who’re you talking to?” he asked in a sleep-rumbling voice.

A sleep-rumbling voice that turned her on. Damn him, everything about him turned her on. Be proactive. Nip this in the bud. “Maybe I was talking to you,” she snapped, stomping to the bed, grabbing a pillow and beating his chest with it.

He didn’t bother raising his arms to protect himself. “Has anyone ever told you what a bundle of joy you are in the morning?”

Bang. “No.” Bang.

“Will you just sit down for a sec?” He ripped the pillow out of her hands and tossed it to the floor. “Geez. I need— I mean, you need a breather from all your worries.”

“I don’t have any worries,” she said, plopping beside him. Lysander had taken them all up to the heavens and given them each a room in his cloud, where no other Harpy could reach them. She and Strider had shared, and no one, not even Lysander, could breech its perimeter unless they both gave permission.

Never had she encountered such a kick-ass security system. Even better, misty walls of baby-blue acted as TV screens, revealing anything she requested to see. Her mother? Done. Juliette? Gag.

The absolute best? Kaia had only to say, “I want a dagger,” and one would magically appear in her palm.

No wonder Bianka had decided to shack up with a goody-goody. And really, Bianka would just have to take one for the team and do a little more of that shacking to convince Lysander to buy Kaia one of these. You know, so they could spend quality sis-time together. They were twins, after all, and Bianka needed her.

“You started stressing the moment you got that text,” Strider said. “Five minutes after we got here!”

That text. Ugh. Her stomach cramped as worry flooded her. Not that she’d admit it. The first Harpy Game, Tag, would begin in two hours.

Team captains were too valuable to lose so early in the games and never competed in the first event. Instead, the four strongest, most violent members were chosen, and the captain merely prayed they survived.

But though she was captain, Kaia had to compete.

Last night, thanks to the cloud walls, she’d kept watch on her motel room. One after the other, Harpies from every other team had snuck inside, hoping to brutalize her. As if she would stay in a room she’d rented under her own name. Please. But that’s how stupid they thought she was. Worse, they would continue to come after her unless they were taught to fear her.

That, she had learned from her mother.

And so today she would teach them to fear her.

The other three going in? Taliyah, Neeka—who Kaia had never seen fight, but Taliyah had recommended her, and Kaia trusted her older sis—and Gwen. Bianka was still pouting, but bottom line, Bianka was too damn sweet.

Once, she’d BBQed another Harpy who’d trashed her appearance. Cool, right? Well, as the girl screamed and writhed, a guilty Bianka had raced off to fetch a glass of water for her. Who did that? Marshmallows, that’s who.

“If you won’t sit still, at least tell Papa Stridey what’s bothering you.”

There was that rumbling voice again, caressing her, seeping past her skin to fuse with her cells, becoming a part of her. It was clear the bud remained un-nipped. “I’m thinking that only prison rules are going to apply.”

A laugh burst from him. “What does that mean? That you shouldn’t drop the soap? What, does round one involve multiple showerheads?”

“Would you be serious?”

He snorted. “You telling someone to be serious. Weird. But…” He sat up, his features lighting with interest. The sheet fell to his waist, revealing row after row of muscled strength. “Tell me round one involves multiple showerheads.”

Her lips twitched, even as her mouth watered for a taste of him. “No, you pervert. No showerheads. I have to kill the biggest and the baddest my first day on the inside. That way, all the others will leave me alone.”

“Smart. How can I help?”

“By sitting in the stands and looking pretty.”

“A given. But what can I do to help you win? That’s why I’m here, right?”

As if she’d forget. He wasn’t here because he loved her, needed her, wanted to make something work between them. He was here to help her win that damn Paring Rod.

He didn’t know about the Rod when he arrived. He likes you. You know that. Yeah, he liked her. Just not enough. She sighed.