“No! That’s not good enough.” Her foot slammed into his chest, but rather than shove him away, the action sealed her fate. His fingers twined around her ankle and jerked her closer.

“We’ll never know unless we try.”

Then a tear escaped the corner of her eye and slid the length of her cheek, and his chest constricted. “Please,” she rasped brokenly. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I hurt you.”

Don’t back down. “Like I said, there’s only one way to prove to you that I can handle anything you throw at me.” He hardened his heart against her tears; he had to. For her, for him, for peace inside this fortress, this had to be done. She had to be marked. Wanted to be marked, whether or not she admitted it. And like the warrior he was, he would see it through to the end. No matter what.


GWEN COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. Sabin, the man she’d kissed, fantasized about, craved, relied on, viewed as a protector, a villain, the man she didn’t want to desire but desired anyway, had stripped her despite her shouted protests and wild kicking and hauled her ass into the shower stall before climbing in behind her. Pissed as she’d been—was, damn it—she hadn’t turned Harpy.

At first, she’d been shocked. Then nervous. Then excited. Each emotion had lasted only a few minutes, but each had been world-shaking. Why hadn’t she hurt him? Because Sabin had yet to make a threatening move? Because the Harpy loved physical contact as much as Gwen did and would take it wherever and however she could get it?Right now steam enveloped her and Sabin, thick as clouds. Hot water cascaded down the planes and curves of her body. Nothing had ever felt so amazing—except for the naked man behind her, pinning her in, keeping her inside. She would not hook up with a demon, no matter how sexy he was. Would she? Her life didn’t need more weird. Did it?

Why couldn’t she make a decision? His demon wasn’t even pestering her, so she had no excuse.

Gwen wrapped her arms around her middle, not bothering to cover her breasts or the tiny triangle of hair between her legs. Why bother? Sabin was stronger and could pry her hands away in an instant if he so desired—and part of her wanted him to see her, to crave her. Still…

“Do you not realize you could have morning after regrets in the form of shredded skin and organs?” she asked.

Soapy hands settled on her shoulders, hot and wet, massaging. “You feel like silk. I doubt I’ll be regretting anything.” His voice was husky, rich…drugging.

Mmm, more. Her muscles loosened, her head lolling back and propping against the hollow of his neck. Stop. Tense up! Fight his allure. She tried, she really did, but her body refused to obey her mind. His ministrations simply felt too damn good.

I wonder if he finds you attractive. Or ugly.

Okay. Finally, she tensed. There was that beguiling, destructive voice. The demon, Doubt. So different in tenor from her own inner voice. Her jaw clenched painfully, and the Harpy squawked at the unwelcome intrusion. “Any way you can cap your friend? He’s annoying.”

“Such spirit. I like it. And the demon is hardly my friend.” Sabin’s thumbs traced her collarbone. He leaned down, his mouth at her ear, his breath a beautiful caress. “I don’t mean to change the subject, but have I told you yet that I find you utterly lovely?”

Gwen gulped, unsure of how to reply. Part of her still wanted to encourage him and part of her still wanted to shove him away before she forgot exactly why she had to resist him. He represented everything she hated about her life. Darkness, violence, chaos. More than that, he planned to use her to hurt his enemy. Nothing came before his hatred of the Hunters, not even the love of a woman.

“Let’s get to it, shall we?” Sabin released her, and she had to press her lips together to cut off a whimper. Then those sensual fingers tangled in her hair, working in shampoo, the scent of lemon dancing from them. Her eyes closed in ecstasy. No wonder he always smelled so edible.

“You go Harpy when you’re scared. What about when you’re aroused? Or climaxing?”

Such a blunt and personal question. But he’d picked the perfect time to ask. As they were currently naked, she didn’t mind answering. “S-sometimes she tries to make herself known. I try to be careful, though, and stop her.”

“Don’t try to stop her with me.” Before she could respond, he changed the subject again. “William told you about my demon.” He shifted his hips, his erection brushing the curve of her spine. An accident? “Did Anya tell you about my past?”

A shiver stole through Gwen. “Do you mean, did she tell me that you stabbed your friend in the back? No. She left that part out.”

His nails dug deeply in her scalp, and she gasped. Immediately he released her with a muttered, “Sorry.”

Damn it. Her sarcastic tongue kept creeping out at the worst times. Soon someone (cough Sabin cough) was going to take exception and try and cut it out. And really, suppressing that side of her nature shouldn’t be hard. She’d been doing it her entire life. For the first time, however, there was a spark of resentment in her chest. If she weren’t such a coward crybaby, she wouldn’t fear people’s reactions, wouldn’t fear her own response and could just be herself.

Herself. Did she even know who that was anymore?

“Duck your head under the water,” Sabin said suddenly, gruffly.

He didn’t give her time to obey, but cupped the back of her neck and shoved her under the hot stream. Sudsy droplets sprayed into her mouth, and she sputtered.

“Close your eyes or they’ll—”

“Ow, ow, ow!” She squeezed her eyelids tightly closed.

“Burn,” he finished with a laugh.

Gwen rubbed her eyes, perturbed despite herself by his casual attitude about all this. He’d been so jealous about William—at least, that was the only emotion that had made any sense. And his gaze had scorched her as he’d stripped her, promising incomparable pleasure.

So why wasn’t he copping a feel?

Motions clipped, businesslike, he soaped her from neck to toes. His palms glided over her breasts and hardened nipples without pause, then delved between her legs. Though his touch was somehow detached, he still managed to leave her trembling and achy, breathless and needy.

“I can clean myself,” she muttered.

“You had the chance yesterday and the day before that. Hell, you had the chance this morning. You didn’t take it.” He shifted, his erection brushing her once again. “Why is that?”

Her blood heated as she pressed her lips together. No reason to tell him what he wanted to know. He would deduce the answer on his own any moment now. And, to be honest, she was almost excited to witness his reaction. Already he’d admitted he found her lovely. What would he think of her without the mask of grime? Would he finally make a freaking move?

When he finished cleaning and rinsing her, he stilled. His breath seemed to catch in his throat, and she felt a swirling heat seep into her, spreading, intensifying. Here it was, his reaction. He’d noticed. “Your skin…”

“I tried to warn you.”

“Well, you should have tried harder.” He spun her around, gaze perusing her swiftly, then more leisurely.

Seeing him, she realized just how wrong she’d been. There was nothing casual about him. His eyes were bright, hot as fire, his lips pulled back over his teeth, thin lines of strain bracketing his mouth.

“Your skin…” he repeated.

She didn’t need a mirror to know that without the grime, she glowed. There was a translucent sheen to her that made her look like a freshly polished opal.

Tentatively, as though in a trance, Sabin reached out. His fingertip traced her jawline, dipped to her neck, between her breasts. She didn’t back away. No, she stepped forward. Closer. Craving more. Unable to stop. Goose bumps broke out, and all thoughts of resisting him vanished.

“Smooth and warm and luminous,” he whispered reverently. “Why do you hide—” His teeth pressed together and the reverence mutated into anger before her eyes. “Men can’t keep their hands off you, can they?”

A lump formed in her throat, preventing her from replying. She shook her head. What would Sabin do and say next? He changed moods faster than anyone she’d ever met. Touch me.

But he wasn’t done with his line of questioning. “Do your sisters have skin like this?”


“All Harpies?”

“Yes.” Hopefully he was finished now.

“Have you called them?”

Nope. Not done. “Not yet.”

“You’ll do it the moment we leave this shower. I want them here, in this fortress, within the week.”

She gaped at him, shocked to her core. She was naked, her skin at its most alluring, and he wanted to speak of her sisters? To meet them? Why did he—the answer slid into place and her shock faded. Of course he wanted them here. He probably thought they’d help him with his war. Or maybe he wanted a harem of Harpies.

Something dark and powerful bloomed in Gwen’s chest. Something poisonous. It caused her nails to elongate, the Harpy to screech and her teeth to sharpen. Red spotted her vision.

“You’re angry.” He blinked in confusion. “Why?”

“I’m not angry.” I will kill you if you try and bed them.

“You’re gripping me so tightly, my palm is bleeding.”

Part of her registered that he didn’t sound upset or frightened. The rest of her was still too furious to admire his courage under fire.

“You want to sleep with my sisters,” she snarled. Snarled? Her, Gwendolyn the Timid?

He rolled his eyes. “No, I want my friends to sleep with them.”

She blinked just as he had done, not under…standing. Oh. Oh. All of her fury drained as swiftly as her shock had, leaving the sweetest sense of pleasure. If his friends were occupied with her sisters, they would leave Gwen alone. Was Sabin that possessive of her?