What female would have you long-term?

What, he was possessed by Doubt now?


“Sorry,” Anya muttered. “Who’d I hit?”

“I need—” Strider’s breath sawed in and out, shallow and raspy, pained. “Help. Help me. Please.”

“Soon,” Anya promised, then cooed at him for a few minutes. More footsteps.

Bang. Scrape.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” a voice boomed from what Gideon assumed were hidden speakers. And it didn’t belong to anyone he knew. “Is it my birthday?”

The room grew eerily quiet, until Anya beat a hasty path back to Lucien, her heels clacking against the tiled floor.

Lights flickered on, chasing away the shadows. In that moment, sweet peace claimed Gideon. He blinked against the spots clouding his vision, seeing his friends for the first time in forever. Lucien was splayed across the floor, his head resting in Anya’s lap as the goddess clutched him protectively. Reyes was slumped against the wall, grinning eerily. Strider was on his side, clutching his stomach, knees drawn to his chest, and Amun was beside him, petting his head, his own features glazed.

No sign of Hunters, though. The windows were still blocked, the door still closed.

“I wondered who had tripped my silent alarm. Had to take care of your friends in Buda before I could return here, though.” Cruel laugh. “We’ve been hoping you’d come here, ever since that article was published. I see our denial of this facility’s existence had the desired effect and convinced you there was no way this could be a trap.”

With the sudden quiet in his mind, Gideon was able to sift that voice through his mental files, and hello. It belonged to someone he knew, after all. Dean Stefano. Second in command of the Hunters, answerable only to that sick fuck, Galen. Stefano hated Sabin for stealing Darla, his wife; said Darla would still be alive if the Lords and the evil they housed were in hell where they belonged.

Stefano’s evil knew no bounds. He’d sent Danika, an innocent, to spy on them, planning to use her to capture—and torture—the Lords one by one. Not that his plan had worked. But he’d sent her in, and then tried to bomb the fortress with her in it.

Dread tightened Gideon’s stomach, followed quickly by rage and sorrow as Stefano’s words took root and spread. Had to take care of your friends. Understanding dawned. Hunters had been to Budapest. They’d fought—and they’d won, or they wouldn’t be here now. Sabin would never have let them escape.

Where was Sabin now? Until the box was found, Hunters wouldn’t kill the Lords, believing their demons would escape and cause more trouble. Had they imprisoned him? Tortured him? Pushing to his feet proved difficult, but Gideon did it. Swayed, but managed to stay upright. All but Strider did the same, extending their weapons, ready to do what was necessary despite their infirmities.

“Come in here.” Reyes waved his fingers in challenge. “I dare you.”

Stefano gave another laugh, this one genuinely amused. “Why should I? I can starve you, watch you waste away. I can poison your air, watch you suffer. And I can do all of those things without ever touching your filthy bodies.” There at the end, his voice had hardened, eagerness dripping from the sharp edges.

“Let the woman go,” Lucien called. “She’s done nothing to you.”

“Hell, no.” Anya shook her head, pale hair flying in every direction. “I stay here.”

“How sweet,” Stefano said mockingly. “She wants to stay with her demon. Well, I think I’ll remove her. Just for you, Death. I don’t think you’ll like what I do to her, though.”

Snarling, Lucien crouched, preparing to engage. His semiautomatic was raised, aimed. Ready. He looked brutal and savage, every inch Death. “Try.”

That’s when a boy, around eleven years old, walked through the far wall as though he were a ghost. Gideon’s eyes widened, his mind replaying the scene in hopes of processing the extraordinary event.

“Come with me,” the boy said to Anya. “Please.”

“Neat trick.” She slowly spun, arms spread. “You sent a child into the lion’s den. Cowardly, don’t you think? And do you really think your little pet can force me to do something I don’t want to do?”

“Yes, I can,” the boy responded in all seriousness. “But there’s no need to engage in violence.”

Lucien shoved Anya behind him, his eyes glowing red, his teeth sharp and bared. Seeing the usually stoic warrior worked into such a frenzy was almost painful. The man loved his woman and would die for her. Would rather die, actually, than to see her hurt.

Stealthily Gideon moved beside Death, unsure of what to do but knowing he couldn’t passively watch. But really, who reeked of evil here? The men in the cage or the men who had sent a child into the midst of war?

Reyes, Strider and Amun flanked Gideon’s other side, forming a protective wall around Anya.

“Come,” the boy said again, frowning now. “Please. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Isn’t he wonderful?” Stefano asked with a laugh. “I do hope you like him, my newest weapon against you. I didn’t plan to use him for a while yet. Then you had to venture into Egypt and steal my incubators. Incubators I will find and use again. Especially the one our friend Sabin so favors.”

“So glad to hear from you, Stefano,” Gideon said, ignoring the taunts. “This is wondrous—” sick “—even for you.”

A pause. Then, “Ahh, Lies. A delight, as always. How tedious your demon must be. But I have good news for you. We’ve found a way to draw the demons from your bodies and place them inside someone else. Someone weaker, someone who will accept their imprisonment for the good of mankind. Which is what we’ve already done to Sabin. After we defeated him, of course. He put up quite a fight, Sabin did, but in the end he fell. Just. Like. You.”

Hell, no. Sabin wasn’t dead. Sabin couldn’t be dead. He was too virile, too determined. More than that, sucking out their demons and placing them in another body wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be possible.

“You don’t believe me.” Stefano laughed again. “That’s fine. You will when it happens to you. Besides, why do you think your friend isn’t here, saving you?”

A fear Gideon had entertained himself. Don’t let Stefano get to you. He’s lying. Later you can—

Gideon slammed a fist into the wall at his right. Dust plumed around him. He hit it again and again, tears burning his eyes. He hit it so many times his bones cracked and his muscles tore. He’d spent thousands of years with Sabin, had thought to spend a thousand more.

“Poor Lies.” Stefano tsked under his tongue. “Without a leader. Whatever will you do now?”

“Fuck you!” Gideon screamed. “I’ll kill you. Fucking kill you.” And he meant it with everything inside of him, it was the truth, something he planned to do, wanted to do, would do. “You will die by my hand, motherfucker!”

As the heated words echoed around him, his demon gave a shocked cry—then a pained one. The pain shoved its way into Gideon, tearing him apart cell by cell. Felt like every one of his organs were splintering, his bones popping from their joints. Lies was clawing at his skull, falling to his feet, grasping for an anchor, biting at his toes as the pain drove it to madness. Still that wasn’t enough. The demon swept through the rest of him, screaming, tearing his veins, leaving only acid behind.

Gideon’s knees gave out, and he collapsed to the floor. The dagger he’d held in his good hand skidded out of reach. He’d known better. Allowing his emotions to overtake him was always his downfall. That’s why he’d learned to hide everything he felt behind sarcasm. Idiot! Stefano’s defeated you now. Your enemy has the advantage. He can walk in here, grab you up, beat you, cut off your limbs, and there’s not a fucking thing you can do about it.

“Hate…you…” he gritted out. Hell, he’d already told the truth once. Why not do it again? Say what he’d longed to say for so long. “Hate you to the depths of my soul.”

Again, the demon screamed. Screamed and screamed and screamed. Again the pain ripped through him, tore him apart.

He opened his mouth to reveal another truth.

“Ly-ing,” Amun said haltingly. “He’s…lying…Sabin…alive.”

They were the first words the keeper of Secrets had spoken in centuries. His voice was raw, as though his voice box had been wiped with sandpaper and run through a shredder, each word like rubbing salt in a wound.

“You don’t know that,” Stefano blustered. “You weren’t there. He’s dead, I promise you.”

Gideon stilled. Despite the agony, the torment of his current condition, he stilled. Stefano had lied to him. Fucking lied to him, and he’d believed it. Gideon, who could sniff out a lie from a thousand feet away. He’d uttered so many over his lifetime, identifying them was as natural as breathing.

Amun roared and fell to his knees beside Gideon. The floodgates had been opened, it seemed, for one word, then one sentence, then one story after another rushed from the warrior, all told in the different voices of their creators. He spoke of murder, rape and abuse of every kind. He spoke of jealousy, greed and infidelity. Incest, suicide and depression.

None of the crimes were his own, but they might as well have been. They belonged to the people he’d encountered over the years, the Hunters he had drained of memory, and they were as clear to him as if he had lived them himself.

Eyes squeezed shut tightly, Amun rubbed his temples, writhing, grimacing, the spew of poison never slowing. “He didn’t love me anymore, even though I did everything for him.” His voice was high, like a woman’s. Gideon thought he heard a gasp over the speakers, but couldn’t be sure. “Cooked and cleaned and slept with him even when I was too tired. All he cared about was his precious war. Though he still found time to screw our whore of a neighbor, over and over again. He treated me like I was garbage!”