Cameo slipped quietly inside his chamber and shut the entrance with a soft snick. She flipped the lock, and for several ticks of the clock, kept her back to him. Long dark hair tumbled to her waist, curling at the ends.Once, she’d allowed him to twirl a few of those ends around his gloveless finger, careful, so careful not to touch her skin. It had been his first true contact with a woman in hundreds of years. He’d almost come, just from the feel of those silky strands. But that small touch was all she’d permitted, all she could ever permit and all he could ever risk.

Actually, he was surprised they’d risked even that much. With his gloves on, sure. The chance of infecting her was nil. But tendrils against skin, silk against warmth, female against male? That required bravery and trust on her part and desperation and foolishness on his. Hair wasn’t skin, but what if he’d slipped? What if she’d fallen against him? For some reason, neither of them had been able to make the consequences matter.

Last time he’d touched a woman, an entire village had been wiped out. Black Plague, they’d called it. That’s what was inside him, swirling in his veins, laughing in his mind. For years afterward, Torin had scrubbed his skin until the black blood poured from him. Cleansing himself of the virus proved impossible, however.

Over the ensuing centuries, he’d learned to suppress the constant feeling of being dirty, tainted, hiding it with smiles and wry humor, but never had he suppressed the longing for what he couldn’t have: companionship. Cameo, at least, understood him, knew what he was dealing with, what he could and could not do, and didn’t ask for more.

He wished she would ask for more, and he hated himself for it.

Slowly she turned to him. Her lips were red and wet, as if she’d been chewing them, and her cheeks were flushed to a dusty rose. Up and down her chest lifted and fell in quick, shallow pants. His own breath blistered his throat.

“We’re back,” she said on a wispy catch of breath.

He remained seated, arching a brow as if he hadn’t a care. “You’re unharmed?”


“Good. Take off your clothes.”

Since the caressing of her hair those few months ago, they’d become best friends. With benefits. Pleasuring-themselves-at-a-distance-while-watching-the-other-do-the-same benefits, but benefits all the same. It complicated the hell out of everything. The here and now…the future. One day she’d want a lover who could truly touch her, make love to her, pound in and out of her, kiss her and taste her and wrap himself around her, and Torin would have to step aside and not kill the bastard.

Until then…

She hadn’t obeyed.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear,” he said. “I want you to take off your clothes.”

Later, she’d punish him for ordering her around. He knew her well, knew how diligently she fought to prove she was just as powerful as her male counterparts. Now, need was upon her. He could smell the sweetness of her arousal. She wouldn’t be able to resist much longer.

Sure enough, shaky fingers curled around the hem of her shirt and tugged it over her head. A lacy black bra. His favorite.

“That’s a good girl,” he praised.

Her eyes narrowed, zeroing in on the erection straining past the waist of his pants. “I told you to be naked when I got here. You were not a good boy.”

Used to her sorrowful voice, he didn’t flinch as the others always did. Inwardly or outwardly. That voice was a part of who she was—warrior to her core, beautiful disaster…unintentional nightmare. To him, it was a soulful melody, one that echoed within his own soul.

Torin pushed to his full height, his muscles coiled, his bones taut. “When am I ever good?”

Her pupils dilated fully, her nipples hardened. She liked it when he challenged her. Maybe because she knew the value of a prize increased the more you had to work for it.

He only wished he had the fortitude to win a battle with her—once, just once. In the end, she always won. He had little experience with women, was too desperate for what transpired here. But he always made a good showing.

“I’ll strip when you’re bare,” he said, voice hoarse. “Not a moment before.” Strong words he couldn’t possibly see through.

“We’ll see…” Black hair swished as she sauntered to his dresser. She kicked one booted foot on the chair in front of her, gaze devouring him. Never had the unlacing of shoes been so sexy an act. The first boot she threw at him, he dodged with only a slight head tilt. The second he allowed to smack him in the chest. Tearing his gaze from her to avoid impact, even for a second, was not an option.

Ziiip. Down went the pants. She stepped out of them.

Black lace panties to match her bra. Perfection. Weapons, everywhere. Delightful.

Her breasts were small and pert and he knew her nipples were like rosebuds. She had an oval-shaped mole on her right hipbone. What he would have given to lick it…But what drew the hottest fires of his fascination was the glittery butterfly tattoo wrapped around her hips.

If studying only one side of her, or even the front of her, it was almost impossible to tell what the shimmery, incandescent design was. Only when she had her back to him did the shape take form. Oh, how he longed to trace his tongue over every sharp peak and hollow.

He had a matching tattoo on his stomach, though his was onyx framed in crimson. Actually, all the warriors here had a butterfly tattoo, but no one’s demon mark resided in the same location. And not once had he ever yearned to have his hands, lips and body on the other men’s brands.

When Cameo finished removing her weapons, a small pile rested beside her. She arched a brow at him. “Your turn.” There was a tremor to her words, as if she were more affected by what was about to happen than she wanted him to know.

He took selfish comfort in that. “You aren’t bare.”

“I could be.”

He should put a stop to this, send her on her way, something, because they both knew this was as far as it could ever go and that it would never be enough for either of them, but…he stripped.

Cameo gasped as she always did at this point, gaze locked on his swollen erection. “Tell me everything you want to do to me,” she commanded, already cupping her breasts. “Don’t leave anything out.”

He obeyed, and her fingers acted as his, moving over her own body. Only when she’d come twice did he touch himself, his fingers acting as hers. But not once did he forget that this was all he could ever have, that more would never be his.


“I WANT A ROOM of my own.”

“No.”“Just like that? No hesitation?”

“That’s right. You’re staying here.” The words with me weren’t said, but then, he didn’t have to say them. His meaning was clear. “I haven’t lived in Buda long, haven’t stayed in this room much, but it’s mine.” As are you. Again, unsaid but there.

Gwen sat on the edge of an unfamiliar yet opulent bed in an unfamiliar yet terrifyingly masculine bedroom in an unfamiliar yet massive fortress with a very familiar yet fascinating man she had kinda sorta kissed and wanted to kiss again but couldn’t because he wanted nothing to do with her. And really, it wasn’t her that craved the kiss but the Harpy. At least, that’s what she told herself. The Harpy liked dangerous and dark, and demonic Sabin certainly fit the bill.

Gwen liked staid bordering on boring.

She watched as the completely unstaid Sabin unpacked his bag, his movements as stiff as his tone had been. His distance is for the best, she told herself. For the Harpy’s benefit, of course. Kissing the intoxicating and infuriating Sabin again would not have been wise. He was too intense, too much a mystery for her peace of mind. But damn, he was sexy—the act of unpacking, even as torqued as he clearly was, practically foreplay. The way his muscles moved…

Stop watching him. Not like you can start a relationship with him. Who’d said anything about starting a relationship? As afraid as she was of her dark side, Gwen had always been the get-in-get-what-you-want-and-get-out type of girl. Her six-month commitment to Tyson had been an anomaly.

What was Tyson doing now? Was he with someone else? Married, even? And how would she feel if he was? Did he ever think of her? Ever wonder where she was or why she’d been abducted? She should probably call him.

Mind on the task at hand. “Why do I have to share your room?” she asked Sabin.

“Safer this way.”

For who? Her? Or his friends? The thought depressed her. Oh, it was good that the men feared her. They’d leave her alone. But demons finding her too lethal to hang with? It should have been laughable. “I already promised to stay in Budapest. I’m not going to run.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

Her eyes narrowed on him, her lashes fusing together. His clipped replies were annoying. “Do you have a girlfriend like the others? A wife?” Bitch, she couldn’t help but think. “I’m sure she’ll have something to say about this situation.”

“I don’t. And if I did, it wouldn’t matter.”

She gaped at him, positive she had misheard. “Wouldn’t matter? Why? Your girlfriends aren’t worthy of your kindness or consideration?”

His knuckles were tight around a velvet bag of…throwing stars? They clanged together ominously as he walked them to a chest and locked them inside. A second velvet bag he left anchored at his waist. “I’ve never cheated on a lover. I’m faithful, always. But the war comes before anyone’s feelings. Every time.”

Wow. Battle before love. Without a doubt, he was the most unromantic male she’d ever met. Even more so than her great-grandfather, who had laughingly burned her great-grandmother to death after she’d given birth to Gwen’s grandmother. Gwen’s head tilted to the side as she studied Sabin more intently. “Would you cheat on your girlfriend if it helped you win the war?”

Back at his suitcase, he lifted a pair of combat boots. “What does that matter?”