- The Darkest Surrender
Zacharel. Strider had met the winged warrior weeks ago, when the being was sent to the fortress to prevent Amun from leaving. He’d had a hard time facing the guy, his body reacting every time they’d neared each other.
Strider had never swung that way, but he couldn’t be blamed. There was no being more physically perfect than Zacharel. Well, except for Kaia. This time, however, the reaction was muted. Maybe because, as strongly as he reacted to Kaia, nothing else could compare.
Sabin and Gwen strutted in next, moving to flank the angels. Even though Strider hadn’t texted his leader to tell him the Eagleshields were here, the warrior didn’t look surprised to see them. He must have watched them from the heavens, then, as planned.
Any luck finding the Rod?
“Bianka,” Kaia said with a laugh as she launched herself to meet her sister in the middle of the room. The twins hugged and danced as if they hadn’t seen each other in years.
“I would have been here sooner but Lysander held me prisoner in our cloud,” Bianka said with a grin. “He wouldn’t relent until Sabin gave the okay. Which I still don’t understand and will continue to punish him for until he spills. Secrets or guts, I don’t care which.”
That would explain the black eye the warrior currently possessed, Strider thought with a grin of his own.
“You’re so lucky,” Kaia said. “You can harm your consort.”
“I know. And feel free to harm him yourself. Although, maybe don’t hurt him too badly. There’s all kinds of trouble in the heavens nowadays, something about losing a piece of love, whatever that means, and my pookybear is stressed.”
That was the last thing Strider understood as the sisters began talking over each other.
“—because you look amazing and—”
“—wouldn’t believe the balls on—”
“—next time I want video feed of—”
“—cut just right, flesh makes the cutest purse—”
“—she doing here?”
In unison, they faced the bar, leveling Juliette with glares of abject disgust. Juliette pretended not to notice. Not her consort, though. He smiled at the twins as if they were the Christmas present he’d always wanted.
Strider would have volleyed himself like an H-bomb if a hard hand hadn’t settled on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t,” Lysander said.
“You wouldn’t. I would.” His gaze remained locked on the male he desperately wanted to slay.
An equally hard hand settled on his other shoulder. “Perhaps you should rethink your strategy,” Zacharel said in his cold, toneless voice.
Yeah, well, perhaps the humans disagreed with Strider’s “physically perfect” description, because they still loitered inside the bar, paying the angels no heed. And hell, they had wings and wore girly robes. Two other reasons to stare right there.
“They cannot see Lysander or me,” Zacharel explained. “You were correct. If they could, they would stare.”
Strider’s jaw clenched. “Stay out of my head.”
“Stop projecting your thoughts.”
He didn’t mind when Amun read him, but Zacharel? An angel? Freaking irritating. “The consort. What is he?”
Lysander didn’t ask for clarification. “His name is Lazarus, and he is the only son of Typhon.”
Oh, shit. He’d been right—guy was far from human. Strider wanted to shake his head, to deny, to do anything but accept. But when an angel spoke, there was no doubting him. Ever. Truth layered every nuance of Lysander’s voice and every cell in Strider’s body believed what he’d just been told.
As an elite guard to Zeus, Strider had fought many monsters. None had ever compared to Typhon. Bastard was a giant with the head of a dragon and the body of a snake. His wings spanned the entire length of a football field and a never-ending abyss had waited in his eyes.
Typhon had challenged Zeus, and he would have won, had been winning, until Strider and friends arrived on the scene, causing the giant to flee. You’re welcome, he thought dryly, recalling how Zeus had blamed them for distracting him, claiming he would have pulled through without them. Strider hadn’t heard a shred of gossip about Typhon since, and now he had to wonder what had happened to the guy.
“Who’s his mother?” Strider asked.
“I do not know her name, only that she is a Gorgon.”
“This just gets better by the second,” he muttered dryly. Gorgons could turn a man to stone with only a glance. They had snakes on their heads rather than hair—snakes that poisoned their victims when they bit. Medusa was the most famous of them, and so legendary even humans told tales of her evil prowess.
Mortals. So gullible. If they only knew Medusa was the cream of the crop and a real sweetheart compared to others of her race.
“Clearly, he wants a piece of Kaia.”
“Who doesn’t?” Zacharel asked, deadpan. As always. “She is a beautiful woman and I have seen how happy a Harpy can make an angel.”
Strider had his nose pressed into the angel’s a second later, breath sawing in and out. “You better stay away from her.”
“I will,” the angel said easily. “Stay away from her, that is.”
Strider blinked, confused, and backed a step away. “But you just—”
“I just agreed with you. Yes. Every unmated man in this building wants a piece of her.”
He was back in the guy’s face a second later. “And you?” Damn it. He had to get himself under control. He’d vowed not to let himself be challenged majorly for the next few weeks, yet he kept reacting to everyone who so much as glanced in Kaia’s direction.
“I was merely ensuring you desire her, rather than…someone else.”
Someone, like an angel. Once again, he stepped backward. Faster this time, his cheeks heating with mortification. So. The bastard had picked up on the earlier fascination.
“You look all innocent and shit, but you’re really a devil in disguise, aren’t you?”
Zacharel merely shrugged, his expression unchanging.
Yeah. We won that round. The angel hadn’t made a play for Kaia, and that was all that mattered.
Defeat might have agreed, but there were no accompanying sparks of pleasure. Nor were there spurts of pain.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” he grumbled.
“Bianka competes in the next game. Lysander wishes me to—”
“Lysander can speak for himself,” the warrior interjected. “I wished for a supporting arm to either hold me back or help me, should I be inclined to punish Bianka’s opponents.”
Aw. True love. How sickening.
Both Lysander and Zacharel could create swords of fire from nothing but air. A few Harpy heads would probably roll by the time the second game ended if any harm came to Kaia’s twin.
“You do know you’ll embarrass Bianka if you—”
“Who are you talking to, Strider?” Though Haidee had closed most of the distance between them, she asked the question from behind her beer bottle, not daring to glance in his direction. He knew she didn’t fear Kaia, though she should, but merely thought to prevent another attack while the enemy was nearby.
And damn it. The angels had warned him. No one else could see them. Well, Sabin and Gwen could, he was sure, since they were smothering their laughter behind beers of their own.
“No one,” he muttered. No one important. He refocused on Kaia and Bianka, the Twin Troublemakers.
“—no better time,” Bianka was saying.
“Then let’s do it,” Kaia responded with an evil grin. “Juliette will never know what hit her.”
Shit. Do what? With those two, “it” always involved bloodshed, grand theft auto or a five-alarm blaze. Or, on special days, a combination of all three. He watched, dread coursing through him, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice, as the girls moved forward.
Then the worst of his fears were confirmed when they climbed onto the dais.
PARIS PRESSED INTO A SHADOWED corner of the heavenly harem. Mindless chatter and the sound of playful splashing coasted on the over-warm air. The scent of jasmine oil and sandalwood drifted to his nose and he tried not to inhale. Ambrosia layered both, a waft of coconut that lured and seduced, and he couldn’t yet afford to get high. No matter how much his body shook, desperate for a fix.
After his back-alley brawl, he’d taken the first female he’d stumbled upon. Sex had ensured her willingness, despite Paris’s ragged appearance, and he’d healed quickly afterward.
Unfortunately, the vital encounter had made him an hour late to his meeting with Mina, the goddess of weaponry, and he’d had to pay extra for the crystal blades.
She liked her pleasure with a bit of bite, and he’d had to do things to her that might haunt him for years. But he had the daggers now and had crossed item one off his To Do list.
He rubbed the hilts as he scanned his surroundings, hating the cobalt wisps of fabric that fell from the ceiling and draped the entire enclosure. Hating the beaded lounge pillows, the naked, glistening bodies strolling this way and that.
Time to cross off item number two. Arca, the messenger goddess. Surely she would know where Sienna was being held, as one of his many partners had led him to believe. Pillow talk—his best friend, and everyone else’s worst enemy.
If she wasn’t here, he had no idea where to go next. Or who to do.
Don’t think like that. No one here had sensed him. Yet. That would change all too soon. Sex craved today’s dose. Already the scents of chocolate and champagne drifted from him. Soon mortals and immortals alike, all brought here to service Cronus, would find themselves consumed by hunger.
The god king had given up keeping a single mistress. Now he was keeping thirty…three. Yes, thirty-three, Paris counted. The twenty-seven others standing around the pool ledge were bodyguards, not sexual conquests.