The Darkest Passion / Page 14

Page 14


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Fear sparked inside her chest, and she had trouble catching her breath. Before she realized what she was doing, she had pulled from Aeron’s clasp and inched behind him, hiding from view. To remain upright, she had to flatten her palms against his back.


“Finally. Fresh angel meat,” a woman said with a husky laugh. “We were beginning to think Aeron planned to keep you hidden forever. Not that I would’ve allowed such a thing, you understand. I’d already dug out my trusty lock pick and had a rendezvous scheduled for midnight.”


A nice-to-meet-you rendezvous or a how-does-the-tip-of-my-blade-feel rendezvous? Probably the latter. Olivia recognized the raspy voice as that of Kaia Skyhawk, Bianka’s twin and Gwen’s big sister. She was a stealing, lying Harpy, and the spawn of Lucifer. She was also aiding the Lords in their quest to find Pandora’s box, and would destroy anything she viewed as a threat. Like an angel.


Gwen, the youngest Skyhawk, lived here with Sabin, though the pair was currently in Rome, last Olivia had heard, along with several others, searching one of the Titans’ newly risen temples for artifacts that had once belonged to Cronus.


Silly Cronus, whom the Lords assumed was all-powerful. If they only knew…


“I’d keep my mouth shut if I were you,” the one called Paris warned the Harpy.


Olivia peeked around Aeron’s shoulder.


“Why?” Kaia asked, unconcerned. “You think Aeron will attack me? You should know by now that I like to wrestle. In oil.”


Paris’s lips pursed at the unpleasant reminder of his own oil-wrestling experience. With Lysander. Something Olivia would have loved to watch. “No, I don’t think you should be quiet because of Aeron. I think you should be quiet because you’re prettier that way.”


There was a feminine snort, and Olivia smiled in response. No longer drunk with pain and memories, she found, to her surprise, that her fear of the demons was fading. Maybe she really could do this.


“So, Olivia,” Paris said. “How are you? Feeling better?”


Though she didn’t move from behind Aeron, she replied, “Yes, thank you.”


“Mmm. I’d love to give you something to be really thankful for.” This speaker was William, she realized. He was handsome, wickedly so, with black hair and blue eyes. He was also an untamable rogue with an odd sense of humor Olivia didn’t always understand.


“Someone needs to remove your something for the good of womankind.” That pronouncement came from Cameo, the only female Lord. Well, the only one the Lords knew about. She was possessed by Misery, and all the world’s sorrows rested in her voice.


Just then, Olivia wanted to give the woman a hug. No one here knew it, but Cameo always fell asleep crying. It was heartbreaking. Maybe…maybe they could become friends now, she thought, again surprised by her still-fading fear.


“Now that that’s out of the way,” Aeron said, once again taking Olivia’s hand and dragging her with him as he marched forward. When he reached the table, he pulled out a chair for her.


She kept her eyes downcast as she shook her head. “No, thank you.”


“Why?”


“I don’t want to sit alone.” Not after she’d experienced the bliss of having him as her mattress and then her cane.


Sighing, he plopped into the chair himself. Fighting a triumphant grin, Olivia perched herself on his lap. Well, she fell into his lap. No longer able to use him as a cane, she’d had no anchor to steady her. He stiffened, but didn’t rebuke her.


She had no idea what everyone thought of her display because she kept her gaze downcast. For the moment, she was calm and she wanted to stay that way.


“Where’s everyone else?” Aeron asked, picking up the conversation as if it had never tapered off.


“Lucien and Anya are in town, still looking for your Shadow Girl,” Paris replied. “Torin’s in his bedroom, of course, watching the world and keeping us safe. Danika—” Aeron flinched at the girl’s name, and Olivia patted his hand in comfort. Clearly, he still felt guilty for almost killing her. “Danika is painting something, but she won’t tell us what yet, and Ashlyn is looking over the scrolls Cronus gave us, trying to remember if she ever heard a conversation about any of the people listed.”


The scrolls in question documented nearly everyone who had been possessed by one of the demons released from Pandora’s box, Olivia knew. Angels had kept watch over them throughout the centuries, so she knew where a few lived. Would she be marked for death by her own kind if she told? Would that break an ancient law?


“Gods, Sex. We should rename you Boring. Let’s get to the good stuff. Introductions are in order, yes?” William prompted. “It’s only polite, really.”


“Since when do you care about politeness?” Aeron barked.


“Since now.”


Behind her, she heard her warrior’s teeth grind. “This is Olivia. She’s an angel,” he said to no one in particular. His harsh tone didn’t invite further conversation.


“Fallen angel,” she corrected anyway. She spied a bowl of grapes and couldn’t stop her squeal of delight. Three days of neglect caught up with her.


Sharing and moderation, creeds she had lived by all her life, abandoned her as she grabbed the bowl and pressed it into her chest. One by one (handful), she popped the delicious fruit into her mouth, savoring, moaning her satisfaction. But all too soon, the bowl was empty and she frowned—until she spied a plate of apple slices.


“Yummy.” Olivia leaned forward. She would have tipped to the side, but Aeron’s big hands settled on her hips, securing her in place and making her shiver. “Thank you.”


“Welcome,” he rasped.


Grinning, she swiped up the plate and settled back in his lap. He tensed as she did so, and poked her in the lower back, but she barely noticed. The slices, too, were consumed amid happy moans. Food tasted even better as a human. Sweeter. Necessary rather than an afterthought.


Finally full, she glanced up to offer someone the last remaining slice. Everyone was staring at her, and the food settled like lead inside her stomach. “I’m sorry,” she said automatically. What had she done wrong?


“Why are you apologizing?” Kaia asked. There was nothing malicious in her tone, only genuine curiosity.


“Everyone is watching me, so I thought…” More than that, Aeron was tenser than before.


“I’m with the Harpy,” William added, wiggling his eyebrows. “I love a woman who molests her breakfast.”


She had not done that. Had she?


Kaia slapped the back of his head. “Shut it, playboy. No one cares about your opinions.” To Olivia, she said, “In case you had trouble grasping my meaning, I’m staring at you because I’m curious about you.”


Just as Olivia was curious about her, she realized. The Harpies could only eat what they stole, lied unabashedly and killed with abandon. In short, they were the antithesis of the angels, yet they enjoyed life to its fullest, which was why Lysander had chosen to be with one.


Soon, I will enjoy life to the fullest, as well.


“Do you know Lysander, my twin sister’s man?” Kaia asked.


“Yes. Very well.”


The Harpy propped her elbows on the table, rattling dishes. “Is he as ironfisted as I think?” Disgust layered her voice.


“Probably more so.”


“I knew it! Poor B.” Sympathy darkened her features, but she quickly brightened. “I know. You and I can put our heads together, because two gorgeous heads are always better than one, and plan ways to loosen him up a bit. We can even get to know each other better. The girls of the house have to stick together.”


“Not possible. I’m taking Olivia into town.” Aeron’s hold, which had never fallen away, tightened further. “There’ll be no planning. No loosening up. Definitely no getting to know each other.”


Olivia’s shoulders slumped. Had Aeron always been so harsh and she just hadn’t noticed? Or was this attitude for her benefit? “Are you sure you want to get rid of me?” she asked him. “I’m good for you. I promise!”


“Because you can help me?” A question when it should have been a statement.


She wanted to shake him, the stubborn man. “Yes.”


“Well, we’ve got enough helpers here, so, yes, I’m sure.”


“I can also make you smile. That was my job, you know.” Her old job, anyway, and one she missed. “Would you like to smile?”


He offered no hesitation. “No.”


“I would.” William clapped. “I like to smile when I’m in bed and naked, so I say we keep her.”


Aeron’s nails dug past her robe and into skin, but she didn’t protest. If she did, he would remove his hands, and she liked them where they were. “Like Kaia said, your opinion doesn’t matter.”


“Besides,” Kaia added. “I doubt the big guy even knows how to smile.”


“I do, too,” Aeron snapped, causing everyone to laugh.


“Sure you do, Grumpy.” Kaia tossed her bright red hair over her shoulder. “Listen, there’s no need for you to take her into town. News flash—I’m taking myself up on my offer and getting to know her. I’m totally impressed by the fact that she got herself booted from the heavens, and I need all the juicy details.”


“As will I.” Cameo nodded to emphasize her determination. “Be getting to know her, that is.”


“You can include me, too.” William blew Olivia a kiss, and her cheeks heated with a blush. “No need to say anything. I already know what words are perched on your tongue. Stop me if I’m wrong, but my getting to know you will be your pleasure.”


Aeron growled low in his throat. “She’s not staying, and there will be no pleasure. As I said, I am taking her into town and leaving her there. Today.”


“But why?” Olivia asked. She might have hated her duties as a warrior angel and might not have ever made a kill, but that didn’t mean she was a complete pushover. “You said you didn’t want any more helpers, but I promise you, those you have can’t help you with the next angel sent to kill you.”


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