- The Darkest Whisper
And why the hell had he made things worse, tainting her memories of her ex? How low was he, telling her there was no way the man she’d trusted had been faithful to her, no matter that his demon had driven him to say it? Worse, with every moment that passed, Doubt’s determination to destroy what little confidence Gwen had strengthened. Maybe because Sabin had made her the forbidden fruit, constantly commanding the demon to stay away from her.
There was no help for that, though. If he stopped reining the demon in, Gwen’s already shaky self-esteem would vanish. Her confidence would be obliterated. And he couldn’t let that happen. He had to protect his weapon. Surely that was the only reason he cared about her state of mind.
He just had to figure out the best way to use her. Maybe he’d convince her to pretend to join the Hunters and cut them down from the inside. That certainly had possibilities.
Hunters had been trying such a strategy for thousands of years, Baden their greatest success. It was past time he used their own wiles against them.
Would he be able to convince Gwen to do it, though?
The question plagued him as he maneuvered through the fortress. Stained glass windows cast colorful prisms over the hallway and illuminated the dust dancing through the air.
Sabin hadn’t lived here long, but even he could tell the new female residents had breathed life into the place. Their decorating had somehow chased away the gloom he’d noticed when he’d first arrived here. Ashlyn had selected the furniture. Sabin didn’t know a lot about that sort of thing, but suspected they were expensive pieces, as they reminded him of the years he’d spent in Victorian England.
No longer was every piece a shade of red to hide the blood that Reyes spilled when forced to cut himself. Now there was an off-white lounge, a chair draped in pink velvet, a carousel horse, and a walnut-and-marble desk. There was even a nursery next door to Maddox and Ashlyn’s room.
Anya had supplied the…extras. The bubblegum machine in the far corner, the stripper’s pole he had to sidestep and the Ms. Pacman arcade at the side of the staircase.
Danika had painted the portraits lining the walls. Some were of angels, soaring through the heavens, some were of demons, skulking through hell, but each depicted a vision that she, as the All-Seeing Eye, had once had. Through those paintings, they were learning more about the spirits inside themselves, as well as the gods who now controlled them.
Of course, interspersed with the visions of heaven and hell were more “extras” from Anya. These happened to be portraits of naked men. To everyone’s consternation, she’d managed to save them from the Hunters’ bomb blast. Only once had Sabin attempted to take one down. The next day, he’d found a naked portrait of himself in its place. How the goddess had had it painted so quickly—and so accurately—he would never know. He would also never take down another of her pictures.
Sabin rounded a corner and stalked past the open doorway of the entertainment room, intending to take the second flight of stairs up to Lucien and Anya’s bedroom. From the corner of his eye, he spotted someone tall and slender, and backtracked. He stopped in the entrance, Anya coming into focus. Dressed in an ultrashort leather dress and tall, spiked boots, she was as perfect as a female could be. Not a single flaw to her. Except her warped sense of humor.
At the moment she was playing Guitar Hero with her friend William. Her head was bobbing to the erratic beat of music, tendrils of hair dancing all around her. William was immortal and had long ago been kicked out of the heavens just as the Lords had. While they had nearly destroyed the world with their misdeeds, his crime had simply been seducing the wrong woman. Or two. Or three thousand. Not unlike Paris, he’d bedded any woman who would have him, married or not. Even the god queen. King Zeus had found them together and, as William liked to say, “flipped out.”
Now his fate was bound to a book, a book Anya had stolen from him and liked to give back a handful of pages at a time. A book that supposedly predicted that a curse—one involving a woman—would befall him.
True to form, as he pounded on the drums, the warrior was eyeing Anya’s ass like it was candy and he had a sweet tooth that had been long denied. “I could do this all day,” he said, eyebrows waggling.
“Pay attention to your notes,” Anya admonished. “You’re missing them and dragging down the band.”
There was a pause, and then they both laughed.
“Don’t praise him, Gilly! He didn’t do his best. Only a girl with a cru—uh, never mind. Just—tell him how awful he is!” Anya twirled, fingers never slowing over the guitar.
Gilly was here? Sabin glanced around, but saw no sign of her. Then he noticed the earpieces both Anya and William sported and realized they were playing long-distance with Gilly.
Sabin leaned a shoulder against the door frame, crossed his arms over his chest, and waited impatiently until the end of the song. “Where’s Lucien?”
Neither Anya nor William spun or gasped or acted as though they were surprised by his presence in any way.
“He’s escorting souls,” Anya said, tossing her guitar on the couch. “Yes! I hit ninety-five percent. Gilly, you hit ninety-eight and poor William only hit fifty-six.” Pause. “What’d I tell you? No praising the man who harshed our mellow. Yeah, you too. Until next time, chica.” She removed her earpiece and threw it beside the guitar. Then she lifted a carton of cheese tots from the coffee table and started eating slowly, eyes closing in ecstasy.
Sabin’s mouth watered. Cheese tots—his favorite. Somehow, she’d known he’d come here, seek her out; she meant to torture him, the tease. “Give me a bite,” he said.
“Get your own,” she replied.
William tossed his sticks in the air, caught them, then placed them atop the drum set. “Doesn’t matter how many notes I miss, I still manage to make some beautiful music.”
“Ha! I totally carried you.” Anya downed the rest of the tots, her amused gaze on Sabin. She threw herself onto the couch, legs swinging over the side. “So, Sabie, I’ve been looking for you. Lucien tells me we have a Harpy in the house!” She clapped excitedly. “I adore Harpies. They’re so wonderfully naughty.”
He didn’t point out that she’d been playing games, not looking for him. “Wonderfully naughty? You didn’t see her rip out the throat of a Hunter.”
“No, I didn’t.” Her lips fell into a familiar pout. “I miss all the fun babysitting Willy.”
William rolled his eyes. “Thanks a lot, Annie. I stayed here, kept you company, helped you guard the females, and you wish you’d been off fighting. Gods, the blow you’ve just dealt me. I might even be tearing up.”
Anya reached over and patted his head. “Take a moment, collect yourself. Meanwhile, mommy is gonna chat with Doubtie poo. ’Kay?”
William’s mouth quirked at one corner. “Does that make me the daddy?”
“Only if you want to die,” Sabin said.
A laugh booming from him, William trekked to the seventy-three inch HDTV and plopped into the plush recliner in front of it. Three seconds later, a flesh fest was in full swing, moans abounding. Once, Paris had loved those movies. But in the weeks before their jaunt to Egypt, only William had gone near them.
“Tell me everything about the Harpy,” Anya said, leaning toward Sabin, her face alight with interest. “I’m dying to know.”
“The Harpy has a name.” Was that…irritation in his voice? Surely not. What did he care if everyone referred to her as the Harpy? That’s how he referred to her. “It’s Gwendolyn. Or Gwen.”
“Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn. Gwen.” Anya tapped her chin with a long, sharp fingernail. “Sorry, not familiar.”
“Gold eyes, red hair. Well, strawberry-blond hair.”
Her bright blue gaze suddenly glittered. “Hmm. That’s interesting.”
“What? The hair color?” Didn’t he know it! He wanted to plow his fingers through it, fist it, spread it over his pillow, his thighs.
“No, that you called it strawberry-blond.” A tinkling laugh bubbled from her. “Does little Sabin have a crush?”
His teeth ground together in irritation as heat flooded his cheeks. A blush? A fucking blush?
“Aww. How precious. Look who fell in love while searching all those pyramids. What else do you know about her?”
“She has three sisters, but I don’t know their names.” The words were raw, filled with violent warning. He was not in love.
“Well, find out,” she said, clearly exasperated that he hadn’t done so already.
“Actually, I was hoping you’d find out. I need you to keep her company.” Guard her, a part of him wanted to beg. Keep her safe. Wait. Part of him wanted to beg? Seriously? “But William stays here. William does not go near her.”
Leather rubbed against denim as William turned in the chair. He practically glowed with intrigue. “Why can’t I go near her? Is she pretty? I bet she’s pretty.”
Sabin ignored him. It was either that or kill him, and killing him would upset Anya. Upsetting Anya was the equivalent of placing your head in a guillotine.
At times like this, Sabin found himself longing for the dull routine of battling and training that had comprised his life pre-Lords reunion. Then he had only five roomies and no annoying women—beyond Cameo, but she didn’t count—or their horny friends to deal with. “Also, see if you can get her to eat,” he added. “She’s been with me for several days and has only eaten a few Twinkies, but she threw them up immediately afterward.”
“First, I never said I’d babysit your woman. And second, of course she won’t eat. She’s a Harpy.” Anya’s tone suggested he was a moron.
Maybe he was. “What are you talking about?”
“They only eat what they steal or earn. Duh. If you’re offering her food, she has to turn it down. Otherwise she’ll…drumroll please…throw up.”