Fine. No probably about it, if the moans Strider had heard from the many hotel rooms Paris had rented throughout the centuries could be believed.

Now, the pleasure that came with a win…sweet gods above. There was nothing like it, not even sex. Strider was addicted to the rush the same way Paris was addicted to ambrosia, the drug of choice for immortals. In fact, he’d stab a dear friend in the throat before letting him—or her—trounce him in something as minor as a spelling bee.

The best way to spell victory? K-I-L-L.

“Anyway,” Paris said, drawing him back to the present. “What did Kaia do for you that you’d willingly indenture yourself to me?”

“I already told you. It’s none of your damn business.”

“Yeah, but I figured if I kept asking, you’d cave.”

“You were wrong. News flash, I’m a little more stubborn than most. And by the way, I didn’t indenture myself to you. In exchange for your help tonight, I agreed to go to Titania with you to hunt for Sienna.” Titania. Dumbass name. But Cronus, the egomaniacal god king, had renamed Olympus to piss off the now incarcerated Greeks who had once reigned there.

Took a real set of titanium cojones to name a location after yourself. Or maybe Cronus was simply overcompenating for something.

Not that Strider and his beloved cock, which he’d modestly nicknamed Stridey-Monster, knew anything about that. They were perfect in every way.

Ego check. Damn it. How many would he need in one day?

“Dude, you totally indentured yourself. You also agreed to kidnap that shithead William and take him with us,” Paris said.

“I also agreed to kidnap that shithead William and take him with us, yes.” A fact that still pissed him off. William, a sex-addicted immortal who wanted to sleep with Kaia. Unfortunately, Willy was also the only person who could actually spot Sienna, being as how Sienna was dead and he had that whole I-see-dead-people thing going on.

Also, it helped that the guy could now flash. For whatever reason, the abilities the gods had once stripped him of were now returning.

Anyway. Something Strider and his cohorts had recently learned was that “dead” didn’t necessarily mean “gone forever.” Not for humans and certainly not for immortals. Far from it, in fact. Souls could be captured, manipulated…abused. Sienna was of the abused variety, and Paris was desperate to save her.

The besotted warrior shifted from one booted foot to the other. Behind the counter, a female groaned as if the movement was torture—for her. “You agreed to help me knowing you’d have to find Sienna, no matter how long it takes, or you’ll hurt. Bad.”

As far as Strider was concerned, the longer it took them, the better. The more distance between him and Kaia, the better. He had to prove to himself that he could walk away and forget about her.

He’d done it before. Only problem was, now he knew her better and the attraction was stronger.

“You’ve been in the heavens for weeks and made no progress,” he said. “You needed me.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t need me. Not for something as simple as this.”

Actually, he did. He needed to see Paris and Kaia together. Needed to remind himself why he couldn’t have her, why he had to stop thinking about her all the damn time. Why she was bad news. Preferably before his demon decided they had to have her—or else.

Besides, Strider had needed to escape Budapest, his home not-really-sweet home, as well as put some distance between himself, Amun and Amun’s new girlfriend, Haidee. Strider had laid his semi-best moves on her, but she’d wanted nothing to do with him. Sure, he’d also insulted her at every turn and threatened to decapitate her, but give a guy a damn break. He’d had excellent reasons.

Haidee had once been a Hunter, had killed his best friend, Baden, keeper of Distrust, and had attempted to savage his home.

Yet still he’d desired her. And now, every time he looked at her, he was reminded of his failure. His loss. The ensuing pain. But…and here was the kicker. He’d never had a problem resisting her. He’d kept his mouth, hands and favorite appendage to himself without any difficulty.

Kaia, however, wouldn’t be extended the same courtesy if they spent any alone time together. Already his mouth watered for a taste, his hands itched for a touch and his favorite appendage stood at embarrassing attention.

Oh, yes. He had to get as far, far away from the whole situation as possible.

“Stridey-Man. You here with me or what?”

He blinked into focus. Paris. Police station. Humans with guns. Winking in and out was stupid. He blamed Kaia for his lax concentration—another reason to avoid her. “I don’t want to talk about it,” was all he said.

Paris opened his mouth to respond, but closed it with a snap when they heard the welcome sound of high heels clacking down the nearest hallway. Then Kaia was rounding the corner, silky red hair hanging down her back in complete disarray, gray-gold eyes bright and wicked body swaying with a seductive beat Strider prayed only he could hear.

No. He didn’t want to hear it, so he wouldn’t pray that he alone could. But if anyone else heard it, he’d rip out their goddamn eardrums. Because Kaia was, despite everything, his friend. They’d fought enemies together, bled for each other. Hell, they’d joked and laughed together. So yeah, they were friends, and he didn’t like his friends being harassed. And that was the only reason, damn it. He’d do the same thing for Paris. Who’d better not hear that beat!

“Don’t you go getting into any more trouble, you hear,” the officer escorting her said with open affection, and Strider wanted to kill the guy for so blatantly harassing her—or speaking to her at all. “We love ya, but we don’t want to see you here again.”

Calm down. You’re not dating her, and you’re not going to date her. Or kiss her. All over. The cop’s flirting doesn’t matter.

“As if I’d let myself get caught a fourth time,” she replied with a grin that was all about the charm.

A grin that caused Strider’s chest to constrict. No one should have lips so plump and red, or teeth so straight and white. Didn’t help that she wore pink knee-high snakeskin boots, a micromini jean skirt and a white tank top that clearly showcased the white lace bra underneath.

Miracle of miracles, she was wearing a bra today.

She stopped short when she spied him, her smile fading. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected from her, but he did know that reticence wasn’t it.

Her gaze moved to Paris, and the smile returned. As did the constricting in Strider’s chest. “Hey, stranger. What are you doing here?”

“I’m not sure exactly.” Paris threw him a quick frown. “Not that I’m unhappy to see you, you understand.”

“Yeah. You, too. And thanks for the pick up. Appreciate it.”

“Anytime. Just hopefully not anytime in the near future.”

She chuckled, the sound warm and rich and its undertones so erotic that it stroked over his skin. “Can’t promise.”

Neither said anything romantic, yet both of their voices grated on him. Maybe because he’d needed them to goo-it-up with each other so that his hormones would get the “not going there” message.

He had a feeling he would have been annoyed no matter what.

Like her smile, her chuckle shut down when she switched her attention to Strider. “So,” she said. “You.” As if she’d just spotted an oozing culture of flesh-eating bacteria on the bottom of her shoe.

The unfriendliness isn’t a challenge, he informed his demon as the stupid shit perked up.

There was no reply. Truth was, Defeat was intimidated by Kaia and didn’t often wish to draw her notice.

And really, the only time Defeat deigned to speak to Strider was when his competitive spirit was engaged. “Competitive spirit” being a nice way of saying Strider’s ass had been glued to the chopping block. He much preferred the little bastard to stay at the back of his mind, a dark, silent presence easily ignored.

“I expected you to send someone, not show up yourself,” Kaia added, rocking back on her heels.

“After the message you left me?” He snorted. “Hardly.”

“Are you whining? Because I hear a whiny schoolboy tone.”

She does not amuse me. “I don’t whine.”

He’d listened to that message a thousand times and knew every word, every hitch in her breath by heart. Beep. Strider. Hey. It’s Kaia. You know, the girl who saved your life a few weeks ago? The same girl you stomped all over afterward? Well, it’s payback time. Why don’t you get your lazy ass out of bed and come bail me out of jail before I decide to break out and use your face to test the stilettos on my boots. Beep.

Animosity was good, and he seriously hoped she maintained a tight grip on it, despite the fact that he’d had to move heaven and earth to get here. Heaven—phoning Paris and convincing the warrior to drop everything up there, have Lysander bring him home, and come with Strider. Earth—phoning Lucien and convincing the warrior to drop everything and use his flashing ability to get them from Budapest to Alaska in a mere blink of time. Neither of which had been an easy task.

In fact, he would rather have had his tongue removed with a dull, rusty butter knife. Both men had asked questions. Lots and lots of questions he hadn’t wanted to answer.

And yeah, Strider now owed the keeper of Death a favor, too. They were piling up, all because of the deceptively delicate-looking, utterly curvy stunner in front of him—who clearly wanted his head on a pike.

“Would have been nice if you’d given me some direction. Torin had to search every—” Strider stopped himself before he publicly admitted that Torin, the keeper of Disease, could hack into every database known to man. A skill like that was better kept under wraps. “He just had to search for you. Cost us some time.”


“So. That’s all you have to say for your appalling behavior?” Thank gods she was doing as he’d hoped and holding tight to that animosity of hers. Yeah, thank gods. “You could have called Bianka. Word is, she’s here in Anchorage with you.” Not that she’d taken his call. “Instead, you waste my time with this shit.”