- The Darkest Whisper
But, oh, how he wanted to touch Cameo. Would have given anything for the chance. He pictured her in his mind. Small, slender, that long dark hair, those sad gray eyes.
Would he still want her if he could have his pick of women? he found himself wondering for the thousandth time that day. Would he still want her if he could touch anyone he wished? Go into town anytime? As a man, yeah, he’d want her. She was pretty, smart, amusing if you got past her suicidal voice. But anything permanent? He just didn’t know. Because…his gaze strayed to the monitor to his left.
Every so often he would catch a glimpse of a beautiful woman walking through town. Long black hair, exotic eyes that were bright one moment and glazed the next. She’d pause in her stride, smile, frown, then kick back into gear. When the wind caressed her, ruffling her hair, Torin would catch the barest hint of…pointed ears? Whether he was seeing things or not, the sight of those ears made him hard as a rock. He had the strangest urge to lick them.
She wore a T-shirt that said Nixie’s IAD House O’ Fun, and she had earbuds in her ears. What was a Nixie? A quick Google search and he figured it—she?—was some sort of Immortal After Dark. Interesting. Because he’d like nothing more than to explore her after dark.
What type of music was she listening to? Judging by the brisk nod of her head, it was something fast and hard. Where had she come from? What was she? Delicious, I bet…
Lusting after the strange woman had shaken him, sent those questions about Cameo spiraling through him. If he could desire another, he wasn’t in love with Cameo. And if he wasn’t in love with her, was it cruel of him to mess around with her? Would he eventually hurt her? Hurt himself?
He’d never be able to touch her, and as passionate as she was, she would eventually need a man who could. He’d never had to worry about these things before because he’d never been with a woman. Not even before his possession. He’d been too busy then, too involved in his job. Maybe he needed to join Workaholics Anonymous, he thought dryly. He had to be the only millennia-old virgin in history.
One of his monitors flashed, and he gave it a detailed scan. Nothing out of the ordinary. No sign of his pointy-eared brunette, either. Another question popped into his head: if Cameo weren’t worried about her demon inflicting untold misery upon a human, would she have chosen another man to dally with?
At the thought of her with another man, there was no intense surge of jealousy, as a taken male should feel. Okay, so there was more confirmation. Much as he adored her, much as he craved her sexually, much as he couldn’t resist her when she stepped inside this room, he wouldn’t have chosen her had circumstances been different.
Damn. What kind of moron was he?
To his right, there was a flash of azure light. Torin twisted to face it, dread already pooling in his stomach. Cronus.
Sure enough, when the light faded, the god king was standing in the middle of Torin’s bedroom. “Hello again, Disease,” said that imperial voice. A white robe draped one of Cronus’s deceptively fragile-looking shoulders and flowed to his ankles. On his feet were leather sandals. What always struck Torin was the clawlike curve of the immortal’s toenails. They just didn’t fit with the man’s old world nobility.
“Your Lordship.” Torin didn’t stand, as he knew Cronus expected. Already this god had too much power over him and his friends. He would keep what he could. Even this, so small a thing.
“Have you been searching for the possessed prisoners as I commanded?”
Torin studied him more intently. Something was different about the god. He looked…younger, maybe. His silver beard wasn’t as thick as usual, and there were streaks of blond mixed with his white hair. If the heavenly sovereign had been going for Botox and highlights, he should have had time for a pedicure.
Wait. What did Cronus want to know? Oh, yeah. “Some of the warriors have been searching for them, yes.”
A muscle ticked in the king’s jaw. “Not good enough. I want the other possessed men and women found as soon as possible.”
Well, Torin wanted to touch a female skin to skin without killing her, or in the case of an immortal, ruining the rest of her endless existence. Not everyone got what they wanted, did they? “Our hands are a little full at the moment.”
Silver eyes narrowed on him. “Un-fill them.”
As if it were that easy. “Wouldn’t matter if I had all the time in the world. Some of the names have been removed from the list, so there’s no way I’ll be able to find them all.”
There was a pause. Then, “I removed them. You did not need those names.”
“So many questions, demon. So little action. Find the possessed or suffer my wrath. That is all you need know. I am not asking for the impossible. I have given you the names you require. Now all you must do is find them. You can identify them by the butterflies tattooed on their bodies.” There at the end, the god’s tone had been dry. Almost…amused.
Again, as if it were that easy. “Why butterflies, anyway?” he grumbled, knowing it would do no good to argue. No one was more stubborn than Cronus. But he also knew that Cronus needed him to find and contain Galen. What he didn’t know—what nobody knew—was why the god king couldn’t do so on his own. Cronus wasn’t exactly forthcoming.
“I’m un-filling my time, as commanded, so I’ve got enough to spare to listen to every one of those reasons.”
Cronus’s jaw clenched. “Someone considers himself more useful than he actually is, I see.”
“My apologies,” he said through gritted teeth. “I am lower than low, a nothing, unneeded, useless.”
Cronus inclined his head in acknowledgment. “As my pet so quickly learned his place, I will give him a reward. You wish to know about the butterflies. Butterflies my children, the Greeks, bestowed upon you.”
Torin nodded stiffly, not daring to speak lest he talk the god out of this boon.
“Before your possession, you were limited in what you could do, where you could go. Trapped in a cocoon, you could say. Now look at you.” He waved his hand along Torin’s body. “You emerged as something dark but beautiful. That’s why I would have chosen the mark, at least. My children, well…” He opened his mouth to say more, paused, and then his head tilted to the side. “You have another visitor. Next time I visit you, Disease, I expect results. Or you will not find me so lenient.” And then the god was gone and there was a knock at the door.
Torin flicked a glance to the monitor at his left. Cameo waved up at him, as if his earlier thoughts had summoned her. He shoved Cronus and the god’s warnings to the back of his mind. He planned to help the king, but he would not jump when the bastard said jump. Pet, indeed.
Body still prepped and ready because of the glimpses he’d gotten of Lickable Ears, he pressed the button that unlocked his door. Cameo sailed inside, closing the wood behind her with a determined click. He swiveled in his chair, studying her with new understanding. Her color was high, pretty, and tension hummed from her. But that was all. Tension. The need for release.
No, she wouldn’t have chosen him, either.
“Let me ask you a question,” he said, twining his fingers over his middle.
Her hips swayed as she approached him, and her lips curled into a slow smile. “All right.” She’d probably meant to sound husky, sexy, but that tragic voice only reached I-might-not-kill-myself-after-all.
“Why me? You could have any man here.”
That had her grinding to a stop. Then her smile inched into a frown as she hopped onto the edge of his desk, out of reach, legs swinging. “You really want to talk about this?”
“It won’t be pleasant.”
“What is, these days?”
“Okay, then. You understand me, my demon. My curse.”
“So do the others here.”
Her fingers twisted in her lap. “Again, I have to ask if you really want to go there. Especially since we could be doing something else…”
Did he? It might alter the good thing they had going. Pleasure for both of them. Pleasure he wouldn’t—and couldn’t—get anywhere else. “Yeah. I want to go there.” Idiot. But every day he saw Maddox and Ashlyn, Lucien and Anya, Reyes and Danika, and now Sabin and the Harpy, and he wanted something like that for himself.
Not that he could ever have it. He’d tried once, about four hundred years ago. All he’d had to do to ruin it was take off his gloves, caress his would-be-lover’s face—and then watch her die the next day, her body ravaged by the disease he’d given her.
He couldn’t go through that again.
Since then, he’d purposely stayed away from all things female. Until Cameo. She was the first woman he’d looked at, truly looked at, in too many years to count.
Her gaze darted away from him. “You’re here. You never leave. You won’t be killed in a battle. The man I loved was taken from me, tortured by my enemy and sent back in pieces. I don’t have to worry about that with you. And I like you. I really do.”
But she didn’t love him, and the potential for love, the forever, die-without-you kind of love, anyway, wasn’t there.
And wasn’t that just about on par with the rest of his life?
“So…do you want to stop?” she asked softly.
He glanced at the monitor again. No sign of his pointy-eared babe. “Do I look stupid?”
A laugh escaped her, chasing away her sadness. “Good. We’ll continue on as we have been. Right?”
“Right. But what happens when you meet a man you could love?”
She bit her bottom lip and shrugged. “We’ll stop.” She didn’t ask him the same question. Except, of course, switching “man” for “woman.” Both of them knew he’d never meet a woman who could live with him in any sense of the word.
One of his computers beeped, catching his attention. He straightened, scanning until he found the proper screen. A breath whistled from between his teeth. “Holy hell, I did it!”