Damn it! Would it have killed her to show him a little gratitude? He could have stayed home, left her rotting. Instead, she’d metaphorically batted her lashes at him and he’d jumped like a girl with a rope. Frustrating woman.

He’d done her wrong, yes, and unlike Haidee, she hadn’t deserved it. Thought you weren’t gonna ponder that. The memories came, anyway.

A group of Hunters had been riding his tail for days, but he’d been too wrapped up in his pity party over losing Haidee to Amun to notice or care. Kaia had stepped in and saved the day, preventing a disastrous ambush. And gods almighty, she was sexy when she fought.

He hadn’t seen that particular fight, but he’d seen several before it—and the one after it—and had even practiced battle-moves with her. He could very well imagine the lethal dance she’d performed that night.

Then had come the battle after, when she’d challenged him to a round of Who Can Slaughter More Hunters. He’d been royally pissed because one, she could slaughter more Hunters, no question, and two, he’d had other things to do. Like take his first vacation in centuries. Still, the challenge had been issued, his demon had accepted, and Strider’d had to drop everything or suffer a loss.

To his shock, she had let him win. Harpy that she was, she could rip through an entire army in seconds—all without breaking a sweat or a nail—but rather than render the final blows, she’d piled up her still-breathing conquests and given them to Strider. Then she’d taken off.

He hadn’t heard from her again until she’d left that message.

Yeah, he needed to apologize.

“Not to point out how lame you are or anything,” Kaia said to him, buffing her nails on her shirt, “but I once had to bail Bianka out of jail twelve times in one day. I didn’t complain a single time.”

Not amused, he reminded himself. “Have I ever told you how much I hate when people exaggerate?”

“I swear!” She stomped her foot. “I honestly didn’t complain.”

Really not amused. I won’t laugh. “Not what I was calling you on.”

“Oh, well.” The indignation drained from her. “I never exaggerate. Ever.”

His throat got tight as he swallowed back a laugh—of exasperation, not amusement, he assured himself. “You’re exaggerating now.”

“And you’re still whining, you crybaby!”

Gods, she was lovely when she was pissed. Her eyes glittered more gold than gray, as if flames danced through her irises, and her cheeks flushed the color of a rare, exotic rose. That glorious mane of red hair practically lifted from her scalp, as if she’d stuck her finger into a socket. Energy crackled around her.

“Wow,” Paris said, glancing around. “This is a lot of fun.”

“Have I ever told you how much I hate sarcasm?” Strider asked him.

Kaia drew in a measured breath, her gaze remaining on Strider. “Lookit, all your crybaby bawling aside, I’m not paying you back and I’m not showing up for my hearing.” Her chin flew into the air, all snotty attitude and refusal to forgive. “So there.”

Goodbye, non-amusement. Screw an apology. Defeat was humming now, gearing up to fight, intimidated by her or not. Strider popped his jaw but didn’t say another word. He just turned on his heel and stomped out of the building before things got ugly, forcing Paris and Kaia to follow. Together. Maybe they’d do him a solid and hold hands.

He heard them clomping behind him, chattering steadily, and jerked his sunglasses from his jacket pocket. He slid the metal frames up his nose. Despite the chill in the air, the sun was bright, glaring. Down the steps he stomped, then he stopped, whipped around.

No hand-holding, but definite we’ve-seen-each-other-naked sparks. Their heads were pressed together, their tones low, intimate. They were probably reminiscing about the thousands of orgasms they’d shared.

This was exactly what he’d wanted, needed. A reminder.

A reminder that Paris had once ripped the clothes from Kaia’s body. Had once tossed her down on his bed, watching her lush breasts jiggle as she bounced. Had grabbed her knees and pried them apart. Had stared into the hottest, wettest slice of heaven ever to grace the earth. Had bent his head, licked, tasted, feasted, hearing feminine cries of surrender and passion ringing in his ears, soft yet firm legs pressing into his back. Maybe even stilettos. And then, when the hunger had become too much for him, Paris had surged up and sunk into a core so tight, so exquisite, he would never be the same.

Kaia had wrapped herself around the warrior. Had screamed his name. Had scratched him and bitten him and begged him for more.

Paris’s face suddenly morphed into Strider’s, and it was Strider who slammed into that lithe little body, in and out, over and over again. Hard and fast as he grunted and groaned, desperate for more.


His hands curled into fists. Damn this, and damn Paris and Kaia. Because, if he were being honest, he was as furious with Paris as he was aroused by Kaia. And he was so damn aroused just then he had to fit his T-shirt over the waist of his slacks to hide the growing evidence. Paris should have resisted Kaia; he desired someone else, and Kaia deserved better than to be second place.

Why couldn’t Kaia see that?

Any moment now, Strider would stop wanting to rip them apart, stop wanting to grind Paris’s face into the concrete and afterward, suck the air right out of Kaia’s lungs. Any moment, he’d want to slap his boy on the back for a job well done and start thinking about Kaia as a pretty girl he counted as a friend but not a potential lover.

Yes. Any moment.


“GET LOST, WOULD YOU,” Kaia whispered fiercely to Paris as they descended the steps that led to her freedom…and Strider. “You’re like a bad rash that keeps coming back.”

He laughed, a booming sound that still managed to hold traces of pain.

“Seriously. This is the most attention Strider has paid me in forever, and you’re ruining everything. Beat it before I beat you.”

Paris stopped and gripped her arm, forcing her to stop, as well. Sympathy had replaced his amusement, highlighted now by the golden rays stroking him with the care and concern of a lover. Such a beautiful man. Even the elements had trouble resisting him.

“Listen up, sweetheart, because I’m about to give you a lifesaving tip. Be a good girl, and don’t poke at the bear today. He’s on edge already.”

Her eyes narrowed, dark lashes fusing together to keep Paris and only Paris in the crosshairs. “I thought you were the smart one, giving in to my wiles as easily as you did, but, hello. Sometimes the bear needs poking or he’ll never come out of hibernation.”

One corner of his mouth twitched. “Oh, yeah? Well, think about this. What’s the first thing a bear out of hibernation does?”

Duh. “He eats. And to be honest, I’m really looking forward to that.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. That can be fun.” Leaning down, mouth still twitching, Paris whispered, “But you know what else? Bears torture. Bears love to torture, Kye. They’re mean. When a human gets in a bear’s way, especially after a long sleep, the end result is never pretty. Let this one acclimate to your…what did you call your smart-ass mouth? Wiles.”

“First, I’m not exactly human,” she said, raising her chin. “And here’s a news flash for you, my little man candy. I’m stronger than you are. Stronger than he is. Stronger than all of you put together. I can handle anything he dishes out.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Strider suddenly snarled. “Enough already. We need to leave, Paris, so you can stop making out with our fugitive.”

Our, he’d said. Not your. Such sweet progress. Trying not to smile, Kaia stepped away from Paris and slowly turned to face Strider, some of her annoyance with him cooling out. Breath snagged in her throat. Paris was beautiful, yes, but Strider…Strider was magnificent.

Her first glimpse in weeks had been of him standing in the station’s lobby, stark white walls surrounding him, and her knees had almost buckled. His finger-combed pale hair had been in complete disarray, sticking out in spikes. His navy blue eyes had swept over her, lingering in all the right places, and her stomach had quivered.

Now, at this second glimpse… He was tall, towering over her even though she stood several steps up and wore high heels. He had a delicious muscle mass that couldn’t be hidden underneath the long leather jacket, tight black shirt and denim. And gods, his face. His oh-so-innocent, yet oh-so-wicked fallen angel face.

At first, she hadn’t recognized that face for the luscious contradiction it was. She had seen only the innocence, and had continued searching for someone with the qualities she’d always found most attractive: brooding, dangerous and temporary.

That’s why Paris had snagged her attention.

He mourned the loss of his human female. Brooding—check. He was an ambrosia addict who could kill without hesitation. Dangerous—check. He was a sure thing, a onetime-only event, and wouldn’t cling. Temporary—check. Afterward, though, she’d snuck out of his bed—a Harpy always left after the main event—hollow and empty.

Which was probably why she’d gone back for seconds a few weeks later. She’d wanted to feel what she’d felt while they were together. Fulfilled. Satisfied. But he’d turned her down, physically unable to give her a repeat, and pushed her out of his room. Yeah, he could have pleasured her and taken nothing for himself, but that would have been a pity-session and wasn’t something she could tolerate.

So, because she’d worn a robe and only a robe to his second seduction, she’d left in a robe and only a robe—and, distracted as she’d been, she’d smacked into Strider in the hallway.

That’s when she first saw the devil in his eyes.

In that moment, she felt as if a switch had been thrown inside her. She’d made a mistake going after Paris. The man in front of her was everything she’d ever wanted and more.