The Darkest Passion / Page 52

Page 52


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But how could she stay here and live with herself, knowing she could have saved Aeron and hadn’t? Even though saving him meant that he would be with another woman?


Was she truly that selfless?


No, she wasn’t. She should have killed him when she’d had the chance and saved each of them this pain. Another bitter laugh filled her head, but this one escaped.


Aeron rose, the action stiff, uncoordinated. “We have a little time. We don’t have to take care of this right this moment.”


So he didn’t plan to sleep with Legion right away. That was a small comfort, at least.


“Thank you,” Legion said, grateful, pleased and shamed all at once. “I promise I won’t—”


He turned, cutting her off, and Olivia’s gaze ate him up. His masculine beauty, his power. No, she wasn’t that selfless, but she was that in love, she realized.


Love. The word echoed in her mind. She loved him. Fully, utterly, wholly, completely. He was the reason her heart beat, the source of her joy. She would die for him. He was strong and brave, fierce and caring. Giving, selfless himself. What wasn’t to love?


She would stay here with him until he bedded Legion. She would soak up every moment she had with him. And then…then she would return to the heavens. She would ensure Lysander kept his end of the bargain and petitioned the Council for Aeron’s life.


Still. That didn’t guarantee their cooperation.


Well, she would just have to find another way.


What a difference a few days made, she thought sadly. She’d come here resigned to Aeron’s approaching death, happy with the time they would have and determined to experience joy as humans did. Yet she’d spent time with her warrior, and everything had changed. She could no longer accept the thought of him dying. Of his courage and strength being extinguished.


“Don’t worry, Aeron,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “Soon I’ll leave, and you and Legion will be safe.” A promise welded to her soul.


Legion gaped at her.


Lucifer screeched an unholy sound inside her head.


Aeron’s lips pulled tight in a scowl, his teeth bared, his eyes red, glowing. Demon eyes. “I said we have time. We don’t have to take care of this now. Therefore, you will stay. Now, enough about that. I have a meeting to attend. I’m going to leave the two of you in here and you will play nice. Understand? You won’t like what happens if you harm each other, I promise you that.” He didn’t wait for their replies but stormed from the room.


Unlike William, he didn’t gently shut the door behind him. He slammed it, rattling the pictures on the walls.


After everything she’d just agonized over, realized and decided, a little compassion—and a goodbye kiss—wouldn’t have been amiss.


Olivia stared over at Legion. Legion stared back.


“Well,” Olivia said, at a loss. She still ached from Aeron’s possession. Still felt the wetness he’d left behind. Yet very soon this female would be with Aeron the way she had just been with him.


“I won’t stay here with you,” Legion lashed out.


“That makes two of us. I’m leaving.”


Grinning, Legion jolted upright. “You’re returning to the sky already?”


“Not yet. I’ll be listening to what’s said at the meeting.”


Her grin faded, but she glanced at the door. “Your ears are probably so feeble you’ll need someone there to interpret the murmurings.”


She offered no reply, wanting to hate the woman but unable to do so. Hate required energy, and just then she had none to spare. Besides, this demon would have been like her stepdaughter if things had progressed the way she’d wanted. More than that, Legion had done what was necessary to win her man. Just as Olivia had.


Only, Legion had won.


IT WAS GOOD TO BE HOME, Strider thought, gazing around the entertainment room. All the men and women were accounted for. All three thousand of them, it seemed. Except for Gideon, who—according to the gossiping hens and William, the gossiping cock, as he happily called himself—was in the dungeon making nice with the newest prisoner.


The warriors, with their big, hard bodies, seemed to consume every inch of space, saturating the air with testosterone. The women perched on the couches and chairs, forcing the men to stand against the walls. Those who weren’t otherwise occupied, that is.Lucien and Sabin were playing a game of pool and talking amongst themselves, probably trying to sort things out before they spoke to the group. William was sitting in front of the TV, playing a video game. Aeron and Paris were in the far corner and passing a flask back and forth. Both looked miserable. Especially Aeron. His expression was carved from granite—livid granite—and his tattoos were stark against his now-pale skin. And his eyes…hell. They were demon red.


Still healing from that poisoned bullet? Or something more personal?


Strider had only been home a day, but he’d already heard about the man’s angel problems from three different sources. Cameo, Kaia and Legion—an unbelievably improved Legion. All three had been a font of conflicting information. Cameo liked Olivia, talked about how knowledgeable and helpful she was. Kaia talked about how delightfully naughty the real Olivia was. And Legion thought she was a bitch who would murder Aeron in his sleep.


Kaia thought Aeron would marry the girl. Cameo thought Aeron would kick the girl out and never see her again. And Legion thought she was a bitch and a murderer. (That was pretty much all Legion had said. Oh, wait. She’d asked Strider to kill that “bitch and murderer.”) When he’d refused, she’d threatened to pay someone to “do him prison-style.”


“I’m waiting,” Strider called. “Me no likes to wait.”


Finally, Lucien and Sabin ended their game, nodded to each other as if they’d reached an understanding and approached the front of the room. Conversations tapered to quiet.


Both men anchored their arms behind their backs, their legs braced apart. They were ready for action. Good thing. Everyone else in the room was tense and ready to receive that action.


“We called this meeting so that each group could bring the other up to speed on what’s been happening in Rome and Buda,” Sabin began. “I’ll go first. The Unspoken Ones want us to bring them Cronus’s head, but that little deed will free them, and if they’re freed…” He shuddered. “No telling what evil they’ll unleash.”


“However,” Lucien said, picking up where Sabin had stopped. “They’ve hedged their bets and asked the Hunters to bring them Cronus’s head, as well. Whoever succeeds in doing so, us or the Hunters, will be given the fourth and final artifact.”


The Paring Rod. No one knew what it did. Not really. Even if it was useless, Strider would’ve massacred an army to possess it. If there was the slightest chance it was powerful, and there was, it couldn’t end up in his enemies’ hands.


“But Cronus is a god,” Maddox said. And they’d all been up against the gods before. That’s why they were here, rather than in the heavens. That’s why they were demon-possessed. “We can’t contain him.” Despite the grim topic, the man had never looked happier.


Why? Later. The gods had always been more powerful than they were, able to strike them down with only a wave of their capricious hands.


“But he’s also possessed,” Cameo said. “His demon will have a weakness. All of ours do.”


Oh, the agony of her voice. Strider was too busy cringing to process her words.


“His demon is Greed.” This was said by Aeron, and the agony of his voice was a thousand times worse than Cameo’s.


Holy hell, Strider needed to gouge out his ears and—Wait, wait, wait. Backtracking. Cronus was possessed by Greed. Lucien had told him this already, but Cameo had made a very good point. All the demons had a weakness. That weakness made the warriors vulnerable. His was losing and the coma that followed. Anyone could attack him then, and he wouldn’t be able to protect himself.


What was Cronus’s weakness?


That kind of intel would be critical in a fight…not that he planned to fight the god king, but a guy had to be prepared.


From the corner of his eye, he saw Amun sign with his hands.


“What of Danika’s painting?” Strider translated. “The one where she predicted that Galen would take Cronus’s head?” For himself, he added, “I know we’re hoping we can change the course she saw, but maybe the way to change it isn’t to kill Cronus ourselves. Maybe we should increase our efforts to kill Galen.”


“But Galen has the Cloak,” Reyes said, striding to the couch, lifting Danika, sitting down and pulling her into his lap. “He might be harder to destroy than even a god.”


“Galen has the Cloak,” Aeron repeated, “so why hasn’t he acted against us? His troops have been here a while. So again, why haven’t they attacked us?”


Maddox shrugged. “Maybe they were waiting for their little Distrust experiment to succeed. And now that it has…”


“We have to strike first,” Aeron said, “and catch them unawares. Hopefully we can cut their numbers significantly, buy ourselves time to figure out what to do about Distrust and maybe even force Galen out of hiding.”


Good rationale, but was his bloodlust returning? Besides that glint of red in his eyes, his hands were clenched and his posture rigid.


“Will they be unaware, though?” Reyes asked. “What if they’re waiting for us to attack?”


The soldiers on the island had waited. That might be the new Hunter M.O. Plus, a lot of warriors were still recovering from that battle. They weren’t at their strongest, and their strongest would be needed for a victory of this magnitude. “And let’s not forget they’ve got Rhea on their side. No telling how she’ll aid them.”


“Not true,” Torin said, speaking up for the first time. He’d placed a speaker and monitor in the room so that he could attend the meeting without actually having to enter the too-crowded room. “I’ve spoken to Cronus. He’s distracting his beloved wife as long as he can today. That’s why I asked Lucien and Sabin to call this meeting now. Anything we do today, we do without godly interference. From the queen or the king.”


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