- The Darkest Whisper
“I’m Anya, goddess of Anarchy.”
No reason to doubt the statement. Otherworldly power radiated from the woman, practically sparking in the air. But what was a goddess doing with demons? “I—”
“Oh, fiddlesticks. Will you excuse me? I hear Lucien—Lucien’s my man, so hands off him—calling for me. Don’t go anywhere, ’kay? I’ll be right back.”
Gwen hadn’t heard anything, but she didn’t protest. The moment the door closed behind the goddess, she was at the dresser, stuffing Sabin’s sandwich into her mouth, washing it down with the juice, then scooping the chips in one hand and the grapes in the other. She scarfed them as though she’d never tasted anything so fine.
Maybe she hadn’t.
It was like having a rainbow in her mouth. A mélange of flavors, textures and temperatures. Her stomach greedily accepted every morsel and begged for more of the stolen goods.
Anya was only gone a minute, maybe two, but when she reentered the chamber, the food was gone and Gwen was seated on the bed, wiping her face with the back of her wrist and swallowing the final bite.
“Now then. Where were we?” Without sparing the tray a glance, Anya strolled to the bed and perched beside Gwen. “Oh, yeah. I was making you comfortable.”
“Sabin told me he was sending you, but I thought he’d changed his mind. I, uh, don’t need a guard. Honest.” Please don’t notice the tray. “I’m not going to try and escape.”
“Please.” The beautiful goddess waved a dismissive hand. “As I said, I’m the goddess of Anarchy. Like I’d lower myself to such a station. Besides, nobody sends me anywhere I don’t want to go. I’m merely bored and curious. Now one question has been answered in my mind, at least. You’re unbelievably pretty. Look at this hair.” She sifted a few of the strands between her fingers. “No wonder Sabin chose you as his female.”
Gwen’s eyelids drifted closed, her head leaning into the goddess’s touch. The Harpy was quiet, lulled first by the meal, and now by the companionship. All she needed now was to leave the fortress, just for a few hours, and catch a few Zs. “He didn’t choose me as his female.” But something inside her liked the thought of it, she realized. Her nipples had hardened, and heat had bloomed between her legs, spreading like wildfire.
“Of course you’re his.” Anya’s arm fell away. “You’re staying in his room.”
Her eyelids popped open, and she barely held back her whimper. Why did no one want to continue touching her? “I’m here by force.”
Anya laughed as if she’d just cracked a joke. “Good one!”
“Seriously. I asked for my own room but he wouldn’t give it to me.”
“Like anyone could force a Harpy to stay somewhere she didn’t want to stay.”
That was true of her sisters. Her? Not so much. At least there’d been no hint of disdain in Anya’s tone when she’d said the word Harpy. So many creatures of “myth” and “legend” considered Harpies beneath them, mere killers and thieves.
“Believe me, I’m nothing like the rest of my family.”
“Ouch. There was enough disgust in your voice to flay the skin from someone’s body. Don’t like our origins or ourself?”
Gwen’s gaze fell to her hands, which were twisting in her lap. Was this information that could be used against her? Would keeping it secret award her some type of advantage? Would a lie serve just as well, if not better?
“Either,” she finally replied, deciding it was safe to tell the truth. She missed her sisters beyond belief, and here was a female, listening to her, seeming to care. At this point, whether Anya truly cared or not didn’t matter. Sharing her feelings was nice. Hell, talking was nice. Twelve months had passed since anyone had listened to her.
Sighing, Anya flopped back against the mattress. “But you guys are, like, the coolest things ever. No one disses you and lives to tell about it. Even the gods pee their pants when you approach.”
“Yeah, but making friends is impossible because nobody wants to come near us. Worse, showing your true self in a romantic relationship is a no-no because you might actually eat your boyfriend.” Gwen fell beside the goddess, their shoulders brushing. She couldn’t help herself; she cuddled closer.
“And that’s a bad thing? When I was a girl, I was utterly reviled by my peers. They called me a whore, some even refusing to stand in the same room as me, as if I’d somehow taint their precious lives. I wanted to be a Harpy so badly I could taste it. Then no one would have messed with me. Guaranteed.”
“You were reviled?” This beautiful, gentle, utterly kind female?
“Yeah. Imprisoned, too, then banished here to earth.” Anya rolled to her side, tucking her hands under her cheek and peering over at Gwen. “So what clan are you part of?”
Was this information that could be used against her? Would keeping it secret award—Oh, shut up. “The Skyhawks.”
Anya blinked, long black lashes momentarily casting shadows over her cheeks. “Wait. You’re a Skyhawk? With Taliyah, Bianka and Kaia?”
Now Gwen rolled to her side, staring over at the goddess with simultaneous twinges of hope and dread. “You know my sisters?”
“Hell, yeah. We had some good times together back in the, oh, sixteen hundreds, I believe. In all my centuries, I have only called a handful of people friend, and those girls reached the top of the list. We fell out of touch, though, a few hundred years ago. One of my human pets died, and well, I didn’t handle it well. Shut myself off from almost everybody.” Anya’s azure gaze became intent, gauging. “You must be a new addition.”
Was she comparing Gwen to her beautiful, smart, amazingly strong siblings? “Yes. I’m just twenty-seven mortal years.”
Anya sat up, clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “You’re just a baby, then. But with that kind of age gap between your sisters and you, wouldn’t your mom have long passed the age to hatch another rugrat?”
“Apparently not.” Gwen followed her upright, a spark of irritation kindling in her chest. She wasn’t a baby, damn it. A coward, yeah, but a grown, adult coward. These immortals would never see her any other way, that much was clear. Even Sabin had to consider her a child. A child too young even to kiss.
“Do the girls know you’re here?” Anya asked.
“You should call them. We can party.”
“I will,” she said. And she would. Just not yet. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that her fear of admitting what had happened to her was justified. It really was going to be humiliating. They were going to lecture her, punish her as was their right as her elders and maybe even command her home, forever, where they could watch and protect her. They’d never admit that the latter was just another kind of cage.
That’s exactly what she’d gone to Georgia to escape. She’d told herself she’d left to be with Tyson, who had been vacationing in Anchorage when they met. But these last few months, alone in her cell, she’d had nothing to do but think and she’d realized she’d simply wanted out. Freedom.
For once, she’d put on her big girl panties and acted on her own with no safety net. Yeah, she’d failed. But at least she’d tried.
The thought of putting off the call caused guilt to swim through her. Her sisters were probably worried about her lack of communication, whether they knew what had happened or not. No matter how humiliating it was going to be, she would have to contact them soon.
“You said you’ve fallen out of touch with them,” she couldn’t help but say. “But did you keep tabs on them? Do you know how they’re doing? What they’re doing?”
“I didn’t and I don’t. I’m sorry. But knowing them, they’re panties-deep in trouble.”
They shared a laugh. Gwen could easily recall the time Bianka and Kaia had painted a hopscotch square in their backyard. Rather than toss stones, they’d tossed cars. Taliyah had used semis.
“Good news is, they’ll approve of your choice of beefcake. Sabin’s just the sort of wicked they’d like, no doubt about it. Pun intended, of course.”
Pun? What pun? And Sabin was not her boyfriend. A good thing he wasn’t; because she’d left her sisters for Tyson, they’d probably slay her next boyfriend on principle alone. “My guess is they’d be dining on his liver five minutes after meeting him.” Another reason to put off her phone call, despite her guilt. Sabin wasn’t in her Fave Five at the moment, but she didn’t want him dead.
“That’s okay. He’d just grow a new one. Besides, you’re not giving my boy enough credit. When it comes to battle, he fights dirtier than anyone I know. Including myself, and I stabbed my BFF in the stomach just for the giggles!”
Okay. Maybe Anya wasn’t as kind and gentle as she’d supposed. “I’ve seen him fight. I know he’s fierce.”
“But you worry for him?” Anya studied her intently.
Yes. No. Maybe.
“Well, don’t. He’s half demon, after all.”
“Which demon possesses him?” she asked, unable to hide her impatience to know.
But Anya continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Let me give you a little background info. See, Sabin’s been clashing with Hunters—the men who held you captive—for thousands of years. They blame the Lords for the world’s evil, sickness, death, you name it, and will stop at nothing to obliterate every single one of them. Murder humans—” her gaze turned shrewd “—rape immortals.”
Gwen had to look away.
“Right now there’s a race to find four artifacts that once belonged to king Cronie, the shithead, because they’ll lead the way to Pandora’s box, the one thing guaranteed to kill the Lords. It’ll suck their demons right out of them.” There at the end, worry had seeped from her tone.