- The Darkest Whisper
You know the answer to that, though you’ve tried to deny it. Him. Sabin. Not attracted to him? Ha! She studied him, noting the thin lines of strain branching from his eyes, the spiky shadows cast by his lashes, the muscle twitching in his jaw. The erratic pound of his pulse, now so loud in her ears. Maybe he was just as attracted to her, but was fighting it, as she was. The thought pleased her.
Did he have a woman waiting for him in Budapest? A wife?
Gwen’s hands fisted, the nails digging deep, cutting. She was no longer pleased. This doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t want him.
“Gwen. Will you?”
The way he said her name was a slap and a caress at the same time, jarring her, making her shiver. She liked that he sought her cooperation, though she suspected he would try and force her to his will if she declined. “Maybe I should have run.”
“To what? A life of regrets? A life of wishing you had acted against the ones who hurt you? I’m offering you a chance to help me kill Hunters. And just so you know, killing them won’t be the only benefit,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“I can help you control your beast the way I control mine. I can help you channel it for a good cause. Don’t you want to be in control?”
All her life, she’d wanted only three things: to meet her father, earn her family’s respect and learn to control her Harpy. If Sabin could deliver on that promise, she would finally, after all these years, have achieved one of the three. He was probably overreaching and destined to fail, but it was a temptation she couldn’t resist.
“I’ll go with you,” she said. “I’ll help you as best I can.”
Relief pulsed from him as he closed his eyes and smiled. “Thank you.”
That smile relaxed the stark edges of his face, making him appear boyish once again. As she drank him in, the plane jolted abruptly. Sabin was pushed back; she was propelled forward. To her delight—dismay—the distance between them never widened.
“On one condition,” she added when they settled.
His relief hardened into something cruel. “What?”
“You have to invite my sisters.” Maybe not right away. She was embarrassed by her circumstances and didn’t want her sisters to see her like this, to know what had happened to her. But she missed them like crazy, and knew her homesickness would soon outweigh her embarrassment.
“Invite your sisters? You mean you want me to have to deal with more of you?”
“That had better be happiness in your tone, not disgust,” she said, offended. “My sisters have castrated men for less.”
Sabin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sure. Invite them. Gods save us all.”
PARIS SLOUCHED in the backseat of an Escalade, Strider at the wheel and completely unaware of speed limits. Though the sun was shining on downtown Budapest, you couldn’t tell it from where Paris was sitting. The windows were tinted so thickly the interior was cast in gloomy shadows. Anya, Lucien’s lover and the minor goddess of Anarchy, had stolen the vehicle from gods knew where—along with a matching second and a Bentley for herself—just before they’d left for Egypt.
You don’t have to thank me, she’d said, smiling beatifically. Your horrified expressions are gift enough. The cars are very upscale gangster, if I do say so myself. And let’s face it. You guys were in serious need of a makeover and these wheels do the job.Unfortunately, Paris had gotten stuck in the same car as Amun, who was gripping his head as if it was about to explode; Aeron, who couldn’t stop glowering—dude needed his little demon friend, Legion, like, stat—as well as Sabin and his Harpy.
Sabin couldn’t keep his eyes off the dangerous, throat-eating woman, and hadn’t lost his hard-on since kissing her on the plane. Understandable, sure. She was incomparably lovely, with golden eyes almost diamondlike in their purity, lips as red as Eve’s apple had probably been and a body that defined the word temptation. And that strawberry hair was a miracle all its own. But she was a Harpy who’d been found in the enemy’s camp and therefore not to be trusted for any reason.
Maybe she’d been abused like the other prisoners. Maybe she despised the Hunters as much as he did. Maybe…
But maybe wasn’t good enough to earn his trust. Not anymore. She could be Bait, a pretty trap the Hunters had set and the Lords had welcomed with open arms.
Paris didn’t want Sabin ending up like him: craving an enemy with every fiber of his being but unable to have her.
A minute, an hour, a month, a year ago—he didn’t know, time no longer mattered to him—he’d been ambushed by Hunters and imprisoned. Because he played host to the demon of Promiscuity, he needed sex to survive. Sex every day, at least once, but never with the same woman. In that cell, strapped to a gurney, he’d grown so weak opening his eyes had become a chore. Not wanting to kill him before they found Pandora’s box—without it, the death of his body would have freed his demon, allowing it to wander the earth, crazed, unfettered—they’d sent her in. Sienna. Plain, freckled Sienna with her elegant hands and untapped sensuality.
She’d seduced him, strengthening him exponentially. And for the first time since his possession, Paris had gotten hard for the same woman twice. In that moment, he’d known she belonged to him. Known that she was his—his reason for breathing. The reason he’d been spared death all these thousands of years. But her own people had shot her down as Paris absconded with her.
She’d died in his arms.
Now Paris was still forced to bed a new woman every day, and if he couldn’t find a woman, he had to find a man, even though he’d never been attracted to his own sex. A fuck was a fuck to the demon of Promiscuity. A fact that had long since plunged him down a spiral of shame.
Yet nowadays, no matter who his bed partner was, he had to picture Sienna’s face to get hard. He had to picture her face to finish the job, because every cell in his body knew the person underneath him was wrong. Wrong scent, wrong curves, wrong voice, wrong texture. Wrong everything.
Today would be the same. Tomorrow, as well. And the next day and the next. For an eternity. There was no end in sight for him. Except death, but he didn’t deserve death yet. Not until Sienna was avenged. Would she ever be?
You didn’t love her. This is madness.
Wise words. From his demon? Himself? He didn’t know anymore. Could no longer distinguish one voice from the other. They were one and the same, two halves of a whole. And both of them were at the breaking point, ready to snap at any moment.
Paris patted the bag of dried ambrosia in his pocket and let out a sigh of relief. Still there. He now carried the potent stuff with him wherever he went. Just in case he needed it. Which, more often than not, he did.
Only when the ambrosia was mixed with human wine did the alcohol do what it was supposed to do and numb him. If only for a little while. Every day, though, it seemed like he had to add more to achieve the same buzz.
He’d just have to ask his friend to steal more. Gods knew he deserved a few hours of peace, a chance to lose himself. Afterward, he would be refreshed, stronger, ready to fight his enemy.
Don’t think about that now. Soon as he reached the fortress, he had a job to do. That came first; it had to. He forced his eyes to focus on his surroundings, his mind to blank. Gone were the multihued palaces, humans traipsing from one side of the streets to another. In their place were thickly treed hills, abandoned, forgotten.
The SUV popped a rocky ledge and ascended one of those hills, dodging trees and the little presents he and the others had left for any Hunter stupid enough to come gunning for them. Again, that is.
About a month ago, they’d stormed inside and blasted the hell out of his home, a home he’d lived in for centuries, forcing the warriors to patch up quickly before heading out on another trip, another battle. New furniture had been needed. New appliances. He didn’t like it. There’d been so much change in his life lately—women in residence, the return of an old frienemy, the eruption of the war—he couldn’t handle much more.
The fortress came into view, a towering monstrosity of shadow and stone. Ivy climbed the jagged walls, blending home into land and making it nearly impossible to differentiate between the two. The only thing that set them apart was the iron gate that now surrounded the structure. Another addition.
Eagerness suddenly saturated the cool air. Bodies tensed, mouthfuls of oxygen were held. So close…
Torin, who watched them from inside the fortress on monitors and sensors, opened that gate. As they meandered toward the tall, arching front doors, Aeron squeezed his armrest so tightly it snapped.
“A wee bit excited, are you?” Strider asked, glancing at him from the rearview mirror.
Aeron didn’t reply. There was a good chance he hadn’t even heard the question. His tattooed face registered determination and anger. Not the usual indulgent expression he wore when about to see Legion.
When the vehicle stopped, the entire group jumped out. Glaring sunlight beat down on his body, making him sweat under his T-shirt and jeans. Gods, was it even this hot in hell?
Soon as she emerged from the car, the little Harpy stepped to the side, delicate arms around her middle, eyes wide, face pale. Sabin tracked her every movement, not even looking away when he jerked out a bag and another toppled to his feet.
How could something as vicious as a Harpy be so timid? It just wasn’t possible; it didn’t fit. She was like two pieces of two different puzzles, and now Paris was thinking the girl should have been blindfolded on the way to the fortress.
Hindsight. They could always cut out her tongue to keep her from talking, he supposed. Maybe cut off her hands to keep her from signing or writing.
Who are you?
Before Sienna, he would have been the one fighting to protect the female. That he wasn’t now, that he actually wanted her injured, should have filled him with guilt. Instead, he was angry that he hadn’t done a better job of guarding his friends against her. All possible threats had to be eliminated. Throughout the years, the other warriors had tried to convince him of that but he’d always resisted. Now, he understood.