Delphine stepped forward. "No buts, sweetie. Give us the ring before someone gets hurt."
Berith cleared his throat. "That someone would be you, just for clarification."
The boy’s eyes widened before he pulled the ring off his pinkie and held it out to them. "I just wanted Kerry to notice me."
Jericho took it from him. "For the record, kid, summoning a demon to kidnap her, not the best way to meet a woman. It usually backfires on you."
Delphine arched a brow at that.
Jericho didn’t comment on her unspoken sarcasm.
The next thing Delphine knew, they were all back in Azmodea in Jericho’s room.
He turned to the demon. "Berith, back in the ring. Now."
Berith saluted him before he complied. Jericho slid the ring onto his finger. Small and gold, it held a single blood-red stone that had a skull etched into it. The ring looked rather creepy, and given the fact that it housed a demon, it was rather apropos.
"What are you planning to do with that?" she asked, indicating the ring.
He shrugged. "It never hurts to have a surprise your enemies don’t know about. Even the toughest of us need the cavalry from time to time."
That made sense to her. And Berith would have nothing to gain by working for Noir.
Not to mention Jericho didn’t trust Noir. Even though he didn’t say it in so many words, she sensed it in the way he was more on guard here than he’d been in the restaurant.
He might talk the game, but he knew the drill. She gave him credit for not blindly following someone she had no doubt would turn on him even worse than Zeus had.
She walked closer to Jericho. His hair was long and blond again-he’d made it short for their brief trip to New Orleans, probably because he seemed to have an aversion to standing out. But now he looked like the god he was, complete with an eye that glowed with color.
He was so much larger than she. Stronger. She should be afraid of him, and yet she had this overwhelming compulsion to rub herself against him. To have him hold her.
In spite of those feelings, she playfully narrowed her gaze. "By the way, I want to revisit that demon comment you made earlier. Isn’t that how we met?"
He scoffed. "And you see how wonderfully sweet you’ve been to me as a result of it. You’ve done all but bite me."
She tucked her hands behind her back and smiled devilishly. "1 probably should have done that while I had the chance."
"Well, there’s always tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll get around to it then." There was no humor in his tone at all. It was deadly serious.
"I was teasing."
"Sure you were."
She caught him as he started past her. "You don’t trust anyone, do you?"
"What do you think? I’m sure you’ll turn on me just like everyone else has. It’s not like we’re family or even friends. Like Noir said, we’re all for sale. It’s just a question of price."
"And I don’t believe that. There is nothing that could make me turn against M’Adoc."
His mocking laugh rang in her ears. "Easy for you to say. You’ve never been tested."
"And there you’d be wrong."
She turned around to give him her back. Lifting her shirt, she showed him the scars that she usually used her powers to conceal. Since her powers were bound, she was sure they were prominent now.
Jericho paused as he saw the scars she held from a past beating. How had he missed them earlier? But then, he’d been so occupied with getting her covered that he’d been trying not to focus on her body, only on concealing it. Because he knew how embarrassing it was to be nak*d in front of strangers, he’d kept his gaze off her bare skin.
It was routine for the Oneroi to be beaten whenever they broke the rules. But he couldn’t imagine Delphine doing anything to warrant such cruelty. He touched the faint scars as a wave of anger consumed him that someone would defile her body so. "What are these from?"
She put her shirt down and turned to face him. "My refusal to pursue Arik when he turned Skoti."
"Arik?" He didn’t know that name.
"He was the Oneroi who came to me when I thought myself human. He tutored me and protected me until I was strong enough to fight on my own. You asked if I had a sibling… I always considered him a brother for his kindness in helping me. Therefore, I refused to hunt him even after they threatened me and carried out their beatings. I would have died before I betrayed what I felt I owed to him."
That was the kind of loyalty Jericho was desperate for. Just once.
He tried to tell himself that he’d had that with Nike, but he knew the truth. His sister could have helped him. Yet she never had. Not once in all these centuries.
She’d turned her back on him like the rest of them.
And it made his heart clench that Delphine was capable of it. "I commend your loyalty. It’s a rare thing."
She shook her head. "I don’t think so. And I don’t think I’m any better a person than anyone else. So if I can stand by my principles, I know other people can, too. Case in point, Deimos and M’Adoc could turn against the Olympians and join Noir. Yet they’d rather be tortured than betray their people. Is that not loyalty?"
"So what?" he snarled. "I’m a bastard for betraying the Olympians? Is that what you’re saying?"
"No. I’m…" She paused as if frustrated. "Forget it. You’re beyond hearing me."
That set his fury to boil. She was dismissing him, and he couldn’t stand it. "I’m not a piece of shit for you to flush and walk away!"
Delphine caught his face in her hands. "Jericho, relax. I haven’t accused you of anything."
"You don’t have to. Your eyes do it for you." He tried to pull away, but she held him in place.
Those eyes tore at him and weakened him as she gave him a gentle look. "Don’t put your insecurities on me. I won’t take that from you. I don’t condemn you for what you’ve done. A single beating for disobeying orders doesn’t equate to the betrayal you had, and I know that. While I was hurt, I wasn’t thrown out, powerless, to survive on my own."
No, she hadn’t been, and the fact that she understood the difference weakened him even more.
Then she did something no one had done in centuries.
She hugged him.
Jericho wanted to curse and shove her away, but the softness of her body against his… the sensation of her arms around him… he couldn’t move. Deep inside, in the darkest place of his soul that he’d always denied, he craved this so desperately that all he could do was savor it.
Her blond hair was so soft on his face. Her breath tickled his neck. Before he could stop himself, he cradled her head in his hand and imagined himself inside her. Imagined what it would be like to have her loyal to him and to know he could depend on her to stand by his side no matter what.
What would that feel like?
Wanting to be closer to her, he dipped his head down and captured her lips.
Delphine was unprepared for the ferocity of his kiss. Yet for all the passion, he was still gentle as he tasted her. Her entire body exploded with heat and need. The hardness of him… the sensation of his hand in her hair… it was a heady mixture. No wonder the Skoti turned into incubi and succubi. If a kiss held this much pleasure, the other would have to be blinding.
His teeth nipped at her lips as his breathing intensified. Growling deep in his throat, he ravaged her mouth.
Delphine melted into him, reveling in the sinews of his body, the power of his desire.
He took her hand in his and slowly led it to the bulge in his pants.
Jericho trembled as she cupped him through his jeans. It’d been so long since a woman had touched him like this. For centuries, he’d craved the ability to stay hard whenever a woman neared him. Until now, that had only been a dream.
And he was desperate to be touched…
Needing release, he unzipped his pants and freed himself. Her touch faltered.
"Please," he whispered, pressing her hand against his cock. "Please don’t pull away."
Delphine was afraid. What did he want from her? She wasn’t ready to have sex with him. They barely knew each other.
But he didn’t seem to be pawing at her for that. He wasn’t encroaching on her body. Rather he used her hand to stroke his. "This is all I want from you," he whispered, his tone deep and heartfelt.
Nodding, she looked down at their entwined hands. This was a man who’d known nothing but suffering, and this gave him pleasure. How could she deprive him of something that wasn’t hurting her?
For some reason she couldn’t name, she couldn’t bring herself to hurt him.
He buried his face in her neck as he thrust himself against her hand. His breathing was so ragged that it worried her. Was he okay?
The moment she said his name, he let out a fierce, primal growl as he released himself in her hand. His entire body shuddered violently. When he pulled back and met her gaze, his eye was a vibrant shade of blue as his wings shot out from his back and unfurled. They were black and huge as they fluttered softly, fanning her slightly.
Panting, he held her gaze with his. His cheeks were flushed bright red. He braced one arm on the wall behind her and leaned against it as he tried to calm his breathing.
"Are you all right?"
He answered her with a kiss so tender, she shivered. His lips were a mere whisper against hers. He wrapped his arms around her and held her like a lover.
Like she was precious.
No one had ever held her like this. And something inside her sparked from it. It felt so good to be held. To feel like she was part of him somehow. That they were something more than strangers.
Something more than enemies.
He trailed his kisses from her lips to her neck. Then he looked down at her wet hand. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make a mess." He manifested a small towel to clean her.
Delphine wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, but there was a profound change in him now. He seemed calmer.
Did sex do that to everyone?
As soon as her hand was clean, he lifted it to his lips and placed the sweetest of kisses on her knuckles.
The way he looked at her made her tremble. She lifted her hand from his lips to touch the patch over his eye. "May I?"
She saw his uncertainty before he gave the subtlest of nods.
Afraid of what she’d find, she removed the patch slowly to see the depth of the scar that bisected his face. It was brutal and harsh. She could only imagine how much it must have hurt when Zeus did that to him.
But he still had his eye. It was milky white, and by the way he focused his gaze on her she could tell he wasn’t blind in it.
"Why do you wear the patch?"
"It makes people less uncomfortable. They look away from the patch. They stare at the scar when it’s uncovered as if trying to figure out what happened to cause it."
And it hurt him when they did that. He didn’t say it in words, but his tone told her the truth.
She traced the shape of his eyebrow before she cupped his cheek in her hand. "I’m sorry they hurt you."
Jericho wanted to curse her for that sympathy, but he couldn’t. Her words touched him as deeply as her caress.
"We should rest," he said, his voice thick. He was so sated now after his release that all he wanted was to curl up and hold her. But what killed him most was the knowledge that she didn’t feel that way toward him. And he couldn’t blame her.
She was a prisoner.
And she’d given him the first real pleasure he’d had since Zeus pinned him to the floor in the temple hall. For that alone, he’d give her anything she asked. Thank the gods, she had no idea how weak he was right now.
How much power she held over him.
When she didn’t protest his desire to go to bed, be closed his eyes and exchanged her clothes for a sleek pink nightgown. It draped like a dream over her slender body, highlighting her curves. Her ni**les were hard and more than apparent through the satin.
What he wouldn’t give for a taste of them. But he wouldn’t take from her. Not without an invitation.
She gasped as the gown appeared and crossed her arms over her chest.
"I won’t hurt you," he promised, stamping down the urge to brush his hand inside the deep V of her gown and cup her breast. How could he hurt her after what she’d just done for him? "We’re just going to sleep."
She gave him a look that mirrored the suspicion he always held. Ignoring it, he changed his clothes for a pair of dark green flannel pajama bottoms. Normally he slept nak*d, but he was pretty sure she would protest that.
His patch forgotten, he tucked his wings into the skin of his back as he pulled her toward the bed.
Delphine wasn’t sure about this. But she admired the look of his sculpted backside as he moved away from her. He climbed into bed first, then waited for her.
"I’ve never slept with anyone in my life," he confessed.
"Neither have I." And she noticed he tucked his sword on the other side of his body as if he were afraid he might need it. The only question was, who did he think would attack him? One of the others?
"What are you doing?"
"I’m…" A muscle worked in his jaw as he pierced her with a harsh stare. "I’m trusting you."
In that moment, she understood that he was more afraid of her than she was of him. It took a lot of faith to lie down at someone’s side and trust them not to hurt you while you slept.