“Missssed you,” she cooed. “Ssso much.”

He reached up and scratched behind her ears the way she liked. Soon she was purring. “Where have you been?” He liked having her nearby, liked knowing she was safe.

“Hell. You know that. Me told you.”

Yes, he’d known that, but he’d been hoping she had changed her mind and gone somewhere else. Hell was a place she despised, but a place Sabin kept convincing her to return to—to “help” Aeron through recon work, the warrior always said. Bastard. Her brethren there sensed the good in her and thrilled in hurting her, taunting her as if she were a damned soul rather than one of their own.

“Anyone hurt you?” he demanded.

“Try. Me run.”

“Good.” He would have found a way inside that fiery cavern if they’d harmed a single scale on her body.

She slithered up, propping her elbows on his shoulder and her cheek against his. The touch was hot, like a brand, but he didn’t push her away. Nor did he flinch when she ran the tip of a poisoned fang against his jaw stubble. For whatever reason, Legion adored him. She would rather die than hurt him, and he would rather die than injure her feelings.

The only time Legion had gotten upset with him was when he’d traveled to the edge of town to watch the citizens. A habit of his. Their weaknesses and frailty both disgusted and entranced him. They seemed oblivious to the fact that they were destined to die, some that very day, and he wanted so badly to understand their thought processes.

Legion had assumed he’d been on the lookout for a potential bedmate and had flipped out. You belong to me. Me! she’d cried. Only after he’d assured her that he’d never offer himself to creatures so feeble had she calmed.

“You eyesss gone.” Relief dripped from her tone.

His eyes—his stalker. And yes, his “eyes” were gone. But for how long? That gaze bore into him randomly, never at the same time of day or night. Last time he’d felt them, he’d been stripping for a shower. Before he’d removed his briefs, he’d found himself alone.

“Don’t worry. I’m going to find out who or what it is.” Somehow, some way. “And I’m going to stop them.” By whatever means necessary.

“Oh, oh. I learn for you!” Legion clapped happily, but then began to pout. “Ssshe a girl. An angel.” Gag, shudder.

He blinked, sure he’d misheard. “What do you mean, an angel?”

“From…” Another gag. “Heaven.” Another shudder.

Why would an angel from the heavens be watching him? A female, at that? In appearance, he had to be everything such a being would deplore. Tattooed, pierced…rough. “How do you know this?”

“Everyone talking in hell. That’sss why I come back, sssso’ssss I can warn you. They sssaying angel in trouble for following Lord of Underworld. Sssaying ssshe about to fall.”

“But…why?” And what happened to angels when they fell?

“Don’t know. But ssshe be in big trouble. Big big trouble.”

“They have to be mistaken.” He could understand a god or a goddess watching his every move. They wanted the artifacts; they wanted the box. Cronus, king of the Titans, liked nothing more than to use the warriors for his own gain, demanding they kill his enemies or suffer.

As Aeron well knew.

“Hate her,” Legion spat.

If his shadow were indeed an angel, that certainly explained why Legion couldn’t remain in his presence. Angels, he’d learned from Danika, were demon assassins. They weren’t controlled by the gods, but by a single being no one had ever seen. Only…felt.

“Perhaps she’s here to kill me,” he mused. Ah, now that made sense, considering what he was. But why him, rather than another demon-possessed Lord? Why now? He and the other warriors had been walking the earth for thousands of years. The angels had always left them alone.

“No! No, no, no. Me kill her!” was the fervent reply.

“I don’t want you to challenge her, sweet.” Aeron patted the top of Legion’s head. “I’ll think of something. You have my word. And I’m grateful to you for the information.” He wouldn’t accept a death sentence easily; he had Legion to protect. He wouldn’t allow the artifacts to be snatched from his friends, either, if that’s what the angel wanted. Too many lives were at stake.

What he would do was talk to Danika, learn all he could about his new shadow. And how to destroy it.

Gradually Legion relaxed against him. He was gratified to learn that he calmed her as thoroughly as she calmed him. “What you doing here, anyway? Me want to play catch and claw.”

“I can’t. Not yet. I have to help Paris.”

“Oh, oh.” She clapped excitedly again, long nails clacking together. “Let’sss play with him!”

“No.” He hated to deny her, but he liked his friends alive. And when it came to Legion and games, death was usually involved. “I need him.”

A moment passed in silence. Then she sighed. “Fine. Me be bored just for you.”

Aeron was chuckling as he turned back to the door. When Paris failed to answer his next summons, he twisted the knob. The lock held steady. “Stand over there, sweet. I’m going to bust it in.”

“No, no. Me fix.” Legion slithered down his chest, the lower half of her body still anchored around his neck while she reached out and used her claws to disable the cylinder. Click. Hinges squeaked, the wood gliding open. A giggle.

“That’s my girl.”

As she preened, he strolled inside the bedroom. Once, it had been a sensual haven. Blow-up dolls, sex toys and silk sheets had abounded. Now, the dolls had holes in them—and not the good kind. They’d been slashed. The toys were piled in the trash bin and the bed had been stripped of every amenity.

A quick search, and he found Paris in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet and moaning. His hair, a beautiful mix of black and golden brown, was tied in a knot at the base of his neck. Normally pale, his skin was now pallid, the veins bright and thick. There were dark half moons under his eyes, his irises a dull blue.

Aeron crouched beside him and spotted the bottles and Baggies littering the onyx floor. Ambrosia and human alcohol, and lots of each. “Paris?”

“Quiet.” Moans growing in velocity, Paris rose on his haunches and emptied the remaining contents of his stomach into the toilet.

When he finished, Aeron said, “Can I do anything for you?”

“Yeah.” Barely audible. “Leave.”

“Watch you tone, you—”

Aeron motioned for Legion to hush, and surprisingly enough, she did. She even slid off him and perched in the corner of the bathroom, arms crossed over her chest and lower lip trembling. The intensity of his sudden guilt almost had him reaching for her. Take care of Paris first.

“How long since you had sex?” Aeron asked his friend.

Another moan. “Two—three days.” Paris wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist.

Which meant Paris hadn’t had a female since before their return. But Aeron knew Lucien had flashed the warrior into town every night they’d spent in the desert for just that reason. Had the warrior had trouble finding a willing partner?

“Let me take you into town. You can—”

“No. Only want Sienna. My female. Mine.”

Uh, what now? Far as Aeron knew, Paris was as single as ever, plowing his way through the female population one at a time—sometimes two or three at a time. Probably just the ambrosia talking, Aeron decided. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to humor the man. “Tell me where she is, and I’ll go get her.”

Bitter laugh. “Can’t. She’s dead. Hunters killed her.”

Okay, that was a little too specific to be fueled by ambrosia. But Aeron had never met this Sienna, never even heard of her.

“Cronus was going to give her back to me, but I picked you instead. Knew you hated the bloodlust. Knew Reyes would die without the blonde. So I gave her up. Never going to see her again.”

All of the pieces suddenly fell into place. The reason for Paris’s recent behavior, the reason Aeron’s bloodlust had left him so suddenly. Paris must have met the girl in Greece, while searching the Temple of the All Gods for the box. Dear gods. He’d given up his lover for Aeron.

Aeron didn’t have a female of his own, had never wanted one, but he’d seen the way Maddox was with Ashlyn, Lucien with Anya, Reyes with Danika. They would die for each other. In Ashlyn’s case, she had. Each constantly thought of the other, craved the other and went crazy when alone.

Staggered, Aeron’s knees gave out and he plopped onto the cold tile. The enormity of Paris’s actions settled like a heavy weight across his shoulders. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“Love you.”

That simple.


“Don’t.” The warrior pushed to shaky legs and swayed.

Aeron was on his own feet in an instant, wrapping an arm about his friend’s waist and holding him upright. When he tried to step forward, leading Paris to the bed, the warrior groaned and clutched his stomach. So Aeron swung him up, holding him steady against his chest.

Rather than carry him to bed, Aeron set him in the tub. Soon hot, steaming water was beating down, washing away the evidence of sickness. After Paris struggled out of his clothes, Aeron handed him a rag and soap and waited until the warrior cleaned himself from head to toe. Through it all, Paris stared past the stall, past the bathroom, as if, mentally, he were in a different place altogether.

“It pains me that you’ve done this to yourself,” Aeron said softly. “And for me. I don’t deserve it.”

“I’ll recover,” Paris said, but Aeron didn’t think either one of them believed it.

After he switched off the water, he handed his friend a towel. He would have dried Paris himself, but didn’t think the big guy’s pride would appreciate it.