- The Darkest Surrender
“Don’t be silly. With your body, of course.”
She planted little kisses all over his face. “And I will. But didn’t you have something else to tell me?”
“Yes, but how do you know that?”
She tapped a finger against her temple. “Smart, remember?”
He sat up, reached down and dug into his discarded pants’ pocket. When he straightened, he held out his hand, a chain dangling from his fingers. “Here.”
“What’s this?” she asked, sitting up beside him as she claimed it. A thin wooden disk hung from the links. In the center was an intricate, if lopsided, blue butterfly, matching the one tattooed across his stomach and hip.
A flush colored his cheeks. “It’s a necklace. Well, a medallion. It’s not the same as your mom’s or the one she gave you, but—”
“The cuts on your hands,” she gasped out. “You carved this yourself.”
Her eyes filled with tears as she removed the one Tabitha had given her, placed it on the nightstand and donned the new one. “This is better than my mother’s.” She threw her arms around his neck. “I love you, Strider. I was just kidding before, but now I mean it.”
He gave a warm, husky chuckle. “Actually, I prefer Bonin’. And I seriously love you, too, Red. More than I can ever say.”
“All Sabin did was tattoo Gwen’s name on several parts of his body after they got married, the loser,” she said, fingering the medallion’s surface. “I’m so lucky.”
He stiffened. “Uh, yeah, speaking of married…”
“Finally,” she said on a laugh. “But if you’ve got something to confess, there’s a better time. Like, when you’re about to be inside me.”
“You know we’re hitched,” he said, studying her intently, and she nodded. He relaxed. “How?”
“Some people make bad secret-keepers and would be better served spilling everything to their doting wife.”
“Fine. I felt the connection.”
“Because of the mind-speak, I’m betting. I should have known.” He grinned at that. “And you don’t mind?”
“Mind? I want to be your wife. You remember my goals as a young girl, don’t you?” She nibbled on her bottom lip. “But…maybe you should get my name tattooed all over you. I mean, I adore the medallion so the ink would just be icing on the cake, proving we’re a better couple than Sabin and Gwen.”
“Consider it done.”
As she straddled his waist, he reached up and cupped her jaw. “Now, I’m not doubting you, you understand, but I’m gonna need you to prove your love. You do remember promising to do so, don’t you?”
“I do. Just tell me how,” she whispered, breathless, knowing exactly where he was headed with this. “I mean, I love you for your mind, of course, so I guess I could sit here for hours, describing how I delight in your every genius idea. And then I could—”
“Just for today, we’re going to pretend you love me for my body.” He lay back down, pulling her with him. “So, you can start up top and work your way down. Okay, okay. You can also show me how grateful you are for my brilliance while you’re at it. I mean, your sister is safe because of me. It’s the least you can do.”
She barely cut off her laugh. “You’re not afraid I’ll challenge you?”
Those navy eyes gleamed. “Baby doll, I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
KANE CAME AWAKE IN AN INSTANT, jolting upright. Panic swam through him, perhaps left over from the falling boulders—and deepened when he saw the iron bars around him.
Bars? A cage? He was in a damned cage? What…why…? Before the thought could fully form, he saw that William, unconscious and bleeding, was outside the cage and being carted away.
Dread slapped at Kane, cold and hard and stinging. He reached out, his hand shaky, and tried to shout for his friend. Wake up. Fight. But no words emerged.
Kane swallowed, his throat filled with sawdust. And damn it, his head throbbed like a son of a bitch. His stomach threatened to heave at any moment, his body jostling left and right, left and right.
The cage was being wheeled through a cavernous hallway, he realized. Then dizziness flooded him and he closed his eyes. He measured his breaths, hoping the spinning would stop. The air was hot, humid and layered with the scents of rot and sulfur.
Rot. Sulfur. They could mean only one thing. Hell. He was being taken deeper into hell.
His demon roared.
Kane cracked open his lids and glanced at his surroundings, slow and easy this time. He spotted horned, winged monsters beside his cage. They had scales rather than skin, and glowing red eyes.
The roaring in his head turned to laughter. His demon was genuinely amused. That was not a good sign.
He must have groaned. One of the creatures glanced in his direction and scowled, flashing long, white saber teeth. A moment later, a clawed hand reached inside the cage and batted at his cheek, splitting skin.
Once more, Kane slipped into oblivion.
ONE ITEM LEFT ON HIS LIST, and then he could go after Sienna, Paris thought. All he had to do was find Viola, the minor goddess of the Afterlife and discover how a man like him could see the souls of the dead.
Word was, she frequented a bar in the heavens. He was headed there now. As he stomped along the streets, he withdrew his phone and sent his man Strider a text.
I release U from UR vow
He pressed Send and pocketed the phone. After what he’d learned from Arca about the dangers of the two realms he’d have to enter—and the possibility of never leaving one of them—he wasn’t willing to risk his friend’s life. Especially since the guy had just married his Harpy. Yeah, he’d gotten a text from Strider with the happy news.
I’ll never have that, he thought hollowly. Rather than wallow in despair, however, he opened himself back up to the darkness now constantly frothing inside him. So much darkness. A mist, sweeping through him, turning him into a cold, hard bastard.
Good. He needed that coldness, now more than ever.
No matter what, he would save Sienna—even at the expense of his own life.