That she’d kept them waiting longer than necessary…guilt rose again, hotter than before, and Gwen tumbled straight into a shame spiral. I did this. I did this to my strong, proud sister. “I don’t care about Mom.” And she didn’t. Not really. They’d never been close. “But you’re going to have to come to me. I’m with the, uh, Lords of the Underworld, and they’d like to meet you. You know, they’re the guys that are—”

“Demon-possessed?” Bianka whooped with excitement, then grew suddenly somber. “What are you doing with them? Are they the ones who took you?” There was murder in her tone.

“No. No. They’re the good guys.”

“Good guys?” She laughed. “Well, whatever they are, they aren’t your usual bag o’ fun. Unless your personality has undergone a huge overhaul this past year and a half?”

Not really. “Just…will you come?”

No hesitation. “We’re on our way, baby girl.”


THE KITCHEN LOOKED as if it had been bombed. Hungry warriors were savages, Sabin thought. Before coming down, he’d texted each of them—gods, he loved technology; he’d even brought technophobe Maddox into the twenty-first century—calling a meeting at noon to discuss what the Hunters had told him about both Distrust and the boarding school for the half-human, half-immortal children, as well as the impending arrival of Gwen’s sisters.

The sisters. Tears had filled Gwen’s eyes the moment one of the Harpies had answered the phone, turning the bright gold to melted bullion. Relief, hope and sadness had played across her face, and Sabin had had to fight the urge to go to her, to wrap her in his arms, offering whatever comfort he could. Every warrior instinct he possessed had been needed to hold himself in place.He hoped the rest of the day was easier. With a flick of his wrist, he closed the refrigerator door. Warm air instantly blanketed him. He faced Gwen, who was staring down at the marble countertops. Or maybe the stainless steel sink, perhaps wondering why so ancient a home had been modernized in some places and left to age in others.

He’d had the same thought himself upon arriving in Budapest a few months ago. He’d made some improvements since moving in, and planned to have the entire monstrosity pimped out by the end of the year. It was funny. He’d traveled all over the world, had a base of operations in many places, but this fortress had quickly become his home.

“Empty,” he announced.

Her gaze snapped to his and a moment passed before she focused. When she did, she ran a hand through her still-damp hair as though embarrassed. “I’ll be fine without food.”

“No.” No way he’d allow her to go without. For a year, she’d endured the horrors of starvation. Not one more day would she do so while in his care. Her every need was his to meet. Because he desired her help and cooperation.

He was in a better mood than before, so he supposed he could placate her with “stolen” goods, after all. “We’ll go into town,” he added. Paris, whose job it was to shop, was probably still jacked out of his mind. “After we cover you from head to toe.” No way he wanted people seeing that precious-gem skin.

“Makeup will take care of my face,” she said, guessing his intentions. “And anyway, Anya brought you a tray…uh, what I mean to say is that I had food earlier.”

So that’s how Anya had gotten her to eat. Claiming the food was for him, ensuring that eating it was stealing it. For once Sabin applauded the goddess’s trickery. “One meal won’t satisfy you forever. Besides, we can grab you some clothes that fit while we’re out.”

Pleasure consumed her expression and that amazing skin seemed to glint with all the colors of the rainbow. His cock hardened painfully, his blood heated dangerously and images of her naked body, wet and glistening, flashed in his mind. Suddenly he could taste her decadence in his mouth, hear her cries in his ears.

“Clothes?” she said. “Of my very own?”

Her happiness was too much for Doubt, who decided to pounce, using Sabin’s distraction to its advantage and ripping free of its leash. New clothes won’t make your situation better. They might even make it worse. How are you supposed to pay for them? With your body? Or maybe your sisters will be the ones to pay. What if Sabin desires them? He didn’t penetrate you, even though he was primed. What if he takes your sisters to bed instead?

Usually the demon was more circumspect, a gentle whisper, a quiet supposition, each designed to destroy the listener’s confidence. Now it was using what had happened between them in the shower to ignite jealousy and feminine pique. Gwen didn’t have to like him or even desire more of him for it to work, either. No one enjoyed the thought of their would-be lover in bed with someone else. Sabin was already prepared to cut out the eyes of anyone who even admired Gwen.

You knew this would happen. Knew Doubt would continue to go after her. “Gwen,” he said, jaw clenched. “Those thoughts…I’m sorry.” I’m going to hurt you for this, you sick fuck. “You won’t owe me anything for the clothes. No one will.”

Her pupils were thickening, black consuming gold…white…Soon she would be Harpy. Not knowing what else to do, he cupped the back of her neck and jerked her into his body. It had worked on the plane. Maybe…

His other hand snaked around her waist, fitting her against his still-hard cock. “Feel that? It’s for you. No one else. I can’t stop my reaction to you, crave only you.” He nuzzled the side of her neck. “It’s stupid, we can’t be together, but I can’t make that matter. I only want you.” He’d say it a thousand times if necessary. He only wished the words were a lie.

Nothing. No response.

He pressed a soft kiss to her lips, lingering, savoring. Even chaste as the kiss was, it rocked him. The feel of her…knowing the skin that lurked underneath her baggy clothes, the pink little nipples that liked to be licked.

She sucked in a breath—his breath. Ever so slightly, she arched into his touch, and her arms wound around him, holding tight, tugging him closer. Just like that, her pupils began to thin. Her breathing became less choppy, her muscles less stiff.

His words hadn’t reached her; his touch had. The Harpy must calm when given physical contact. He’d have to remember that.

But with the realization came a fury so hot his organs were blistered. A year, a full year, without contact must have been hell for this girl who so hated her darker side. The Harpy must have been a screaming voice inside her head, a constant hated companion.

It was one more link between them. Although Sabin didn’t hate his demon. Not all the time. He certainly enjoyed the torment it could bring to Hunters. Right now, if he were honest (and he had to be), hate could not be denied. The bastard refused to leave Gwen alone, provoking her when she deserved only peace.

“Good?” he asked.

A shuddering breath escaped her. Abruptly she released him, cheeks heating. “That depends. Have you put a muzzle on your friend?”

“Working on it. And as I’ve told you, the demon isn’t my friend.”

“Then I’m fine now, yes.”

There’d been resentment in her tone. “Sure?” He traced his thumb along her hairline.

“Sure. You can let go of me now.”

He didn’t want to; he wanted to hold on forever. And that’s exactly why he released her, stepping away. He’d already marked her. Anything else was overkill. Unnecessary and dangerous to his ultimate goal.

Doubt whimpered in disappointment, receding to the back of his mind to decide on its next point of attack.

AFTER SHE APPLIED a layer of makeup to cover her skin, makeup Sabin borrowed from one of the female residents, Gwen and Sabin left the fortress. He touched her constantly. A brush of his arm here. A caress of his fingers there. She never wanted him to stop. She knew the magic he could work, after all.

She shivered. The stimulation and memories were almost—almost—enough to distract her from the beauty of Budapest. There were castlelike homes, modern buildings, green trees, bricked streets and birds eating crumbs from them. There was a murky river, an iron-enclosed bridge and a chapel that dusted the sky with its points. There were columns and statues and multihued lights.Sabin almost managed to distract her from the townspeople, as well. They regarded him with awe, stepping out of his way but still trying to connect with him, any part of him. Some even gasped, “Angel” when he passed.

They shopped for several hours, and not once did he seem irritated with her need to try everything on, to draw every piece of material across her cheek and twirl in front of the full-length mirrors. Often she caught him smiling.

After deciding on several pairs of jeans, a handful of colorful T-shirts and glittery pink flip-flops, as well as her own set of makeup, they moved on to the food. But who cared about ever eating again? She was wearing her new clothes! A snug pair of denims and a lovely pink T-shirt.

She’d never been so happy with how she looked. After a year in that skimpy white tank and skirt, she felt beautiful and comfortable and, well, normal. Human. As they left the grocery store with their bounty, Sabin eyed her as though she was his favorite ice cream cone.

Of course, then the whispers began.

Are you sure you look okay? I wonder if your breath smells bad. How many women has Sabin been with? How many were prettier and smarter and braver than you?

Gwen’s happy mood faded, edginess taking its place. The whispers continued, and soon even the Harpy’s feathers became ruffled. If a total meltdown happened, havoc would invade this lovely town and Sabin would be hurt. Much as Sabin irritated her, Gwen still didn’t want a single drop of his blood spilled.

Right now he was loading their groceries into the back of the car, his muscles bunching with every movement. Breads, meats, fruits and vegetables abounded. The scents were divine. Several times in the store the temptation had proven to be too great, her mouth watering, and she’d pilfered. But her skills were seriously rusty, for Sabin had caught her every time. He hadn’t protested, though. No, he’d encouraged her with a smile or a wink, as if he were proud of her. That had shocked her—shocked her still.