What they’d just done…the things they’d done…

“I didn’t rape you, did I?” she asked softly. Her cheeks burned. Without the cloud of lust, she admitted that she’d been jealous, attacked him, and had decided to have sex with him whether he wanted it or not.

He laughed. “Are you kidding me?”

“Well, I was kind of forceful.” Her eyelids were so heavy she blinked—closed, open, closed—and then they refused to open again, as though they were glued together. If her sisters found her asleep, they’d freak out. They’d be disappointed in her, and they’d have every right. Had she learned nothing from her capture?

“Actually, you were kind of perfect.”

Words to make her melt. Instead, she stiffened, still fighting with all her might to remain awake for just a little longer. Anytime she and Sabin relaxed together, no anger between them, Doubt usually pounced.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, suddenly concerned.

“I was waiting for Doubt to try and tear me down.” Were her words truly as slurred as they sounded to her? “You say something nice, and he’s knocking on my door to point out why you’re wrong.”

Sabin pressed a soft kiss into the side of her neck. “He’s afraid of your Harpy, I think. She comes out, and he goes into hiding.” Joy and awe had entered in his tone there at the end, as if he’d reached some sort of decision with those words. But what?

“Someone afraid of me.” She grinned slowly. “I like the sound of that.”

“Me, too.” He stroked between her breasts, his index finger grazing a nipple. “Do Harpies have any weaknesses I should know about?”

Yes, but to admit it was to court punishment. Her sisters would cut her off as her mother had; they would have to. It was a rule that couldn’t be broken. Lethargy fragmented her thoughts before she could reason things out. She yawned and settled more snugly against him, fading…still struggling…


A soft entreaty, but it pounded through her mind, and she grabbed on to it like a life preserver. “Yes?”

“I lost you there for a moment. You were telling me about a Harpy’s greatest weakness.”

Was she? “Why do you want to know?”

“I want to make sure you’re protected so no one can use it against you.”

Good idea. I can’t believe you’re actually considering this. But this was Sabin, the man who’d just kissed and touched her everywhere. The man who wanted her strong, invincible. And she didn’t like that she had such a weakness, either. It was how the Hunters had subdued her, though they had never realized exactly what they’d done. It was what flooded her with worry every time her sisters decided to hire out their services.

“You can tell me,” he said. “I won’t use it to hurt you. I swear it.”

Once he’d admitted to forsaking his honor if it meant winning a battle. Would he forsake this vow? She sighed, sinking further under the blackness. Stay awake. You have to stay awake. This came down to one decision: to trust him or not. He desperately wanted her to help destroy his enemy. No way would he jeopardize that by betraying her.

“Our wings. Break them, cut them off, bind them, and we’re powerless. That’s how the Hunters got me. They didn’t know it, but when they wrapped me in that blanket to abduct me, they paralyzed my wings, thereby weakening me.”

He squeezed her tight. In comfort? “Maybe we can design something to protect them, something that still allows them to move freely. But you’re also going to need to train with them bound. It’s the only way to…”

His voice faded completely, the darkness thicker than ever. Lord, she’d done so many bad, bad things this last hour. She’d given him her body and snuggled in as though he were a comfortable couch. Harpy rule: always leave afterward.

If she fell asleep, Sabin would have to carry her out of the forest, past her sisters, who would see her zonked out and vulnerable, just as she’d feared.

I’m a failure in every way.

“Don’t…let…them see,” she managed before sinking into oblivion.


DON’T LET THEM SEE…what? Sabin wondered as he gathered the sleeping Gwen in his arms. A mewling sound parted her lips, soft and oddly erotic. He tightened his grip, feeling oddly protective.

Don’t let the Lords see her naked body? Done. He would rather die than allow another man a peek at her beauty.Don’t let her sisters see her like this? Again, done. They would ask questions he wasn’t ready to answer. More than that, they tended to react negatively to the thought of Gwen snoozing. Why? It still made no sense to him.

Another mewl, this one quieter, breathy. His stomach clenched in desire, because it was a sound she’d made while grinding on his erection. The sun stroked her, highlighting the glimmer of her skin, her rosy nipples. Her hands were folded over her belly, her body loose, her head resting trustingly at the base of his neck. Strawberry curls tumbled over his arm, his stomach, and it felt as if he were draped in silk.

Should he dress her? No, he thought a moment later. He didn’t want to jostle her and accidentally wake her. Finally, she was resting. Truly resting. And all he’d had to do was pleasure her senseless, he thought dryly. Then he grinned. If he had to, he would pleasure her senseless every night. Girl needed her rest, after all. And (cough, cough) he was used to making sacrifices.

He didn’t even consider dressing himself. He would have had to put her down and coverage wasn’t a good enough reason to risk a twig poking her or a bug crawling on her.

Sabin kissed her temple, unable to help himself, and stalked forward. Remaining in shadows, he edged toward the back of the fortress, always careful of the cameras, pits and trip wires he and the other warriors had designed to keep Hunters out.

What had just happened between him and Gwen…He’d never experienced anything like it before. Not even with Darla, whom he had loved.

And unlike Darla, Gwen just might be strong enough to cope with his demon over the long term. It had been a startling, and welcome, revelation.

Do you really think you can keep her? How long will she love you, if she’s ever stupid enough to love you? You might betray her. And you’re always rushing off to fight. Worse, you plan to fight beside her sisters. What if they’re killed? Gwen will blame you, and rightly so.

The doubts didn’t float through him. They screamed, pounding into his temples, beating at his skull. He cringed from the sharp ache of it. Now that Gwen was asleep, her Harpy tethered, Sabin’s demon had come out of hiding, pissed and desperate to feed.

What better to feed on than the secret fears Sabin only then realized he’d harbored? And now that they’d been forced to the forefront of his mind, there was no blocking them; they nearly swallowed him whole.

Did he want Gwen to love him?

To have those amber eyes regard him softly, today, tomorrow, forever…to have that luscious body in his bed every night…to hear that sparkling laughter…to protect her…to awaken her to the strength of her true nature…

Yes, he wanted her to love him. She could handle his demon in mental combat, as he’d just discovered. Hell, she’d frightened the beast into submission.

Part of him had loved her since the moment he’d seen her, he realized. When she’d been captive, helpless, his every instinct had clamored to save her. Then, as she’d struggled to keep her Harpy under tight control, to follow the rules of her people, he’d found himself fascinated by her. But he’d never really understood her, had mistakenly thought her weak. Now, he saw her for what she really was: stronger than her sisters, stronger than him.

For most of her life, she’d suppressed a seemingly insuppressible brute. Sabin had trouble caging his demon for more than a day. She’d left her family to pursue her own dream. She hadn’t run from him, even when she’d discovered his origins and even though she’d been afraid.

Oh, yes. There was more courage in this tiny female than anyone had realized. Even Gwen. Now, because of him, she wanted to attack the Hunters. She wanted to place herself in danger, each and every day.

If she were injured, she would heal. That, he knew. Rationally, at least. The thought of her injured, bloodied, broken, however, nearly had him roaring as he snuck in one of the back entrances to the fortress. I’m a fucking idiot!

No argument here.

Frowning, he made his way to a secret passage, a passage Torin monitored.

Sabin stared up at one of the hidden cameras and shook his head, a command for his friend’s silence. Never once did he slow his gait, though. When he reached his bedroom, he barricaded the door. Did Gwen love him? She was attracted to him, otherwise she wouldn’t have given herself to him. And so passionately, at that, gifting him with the best orgasm of his long, long life. She trusted him, otherwise she wouldn’t have admitted her greatest weakness. But love?

If she did love him, could that love withstand the trials they were sure to face? Yes or no, he realized he wouldn’t let her go. She belonged to him now, and he belonged to her. He’d warned her there would be consequences to giving herself to him.

He wanted to know everything about her. He wanted to see to her every need. Pamper her. Kill anyone who hurt her—even her sisters.

He’d once told her that he could—and would—sleep with a woman other than the one he loved if it meant aiding his cause. How silly he’d been. How naive. The thought of bedding another woman left him cold. Even sick. No one would feel, sound and taste like his Gwen. More than that, it would hurt her, and he couldn’t hurt her. And the thought of Gwen bedding another man—touching him, kissing him, enjoying him—just to win a battle sent Sabin into a killing rage.

What if she wants another man? Desires him? Craves—

Another word, and I swear to the gods I’ll find Pandora’s box and suck you out by the balls.

You’d die. There was a tremor to the words.

You’d suffer. And we both know I’ll spite myself to destroy my enemy.