Faster than she could blink, he grabbed her by the throat and pushed her against the wall. Yet for the quickness and ferocity of his action, he didn’t hurt her. He merely held her neck in the large paw of his hand in a gentle grip while that one deep blue eye pierced her.
Jericho wanted to snap her neck in two. His pent-up fury begged him to do it. Send her back to Zeus in pieces.
But he couldn’t bring himself to kill her.
Grinding his teeth, he released her. "Don’t push me."
She met his gaze unflinchingly. "I didn’t realize pushing you would involve me stating a simple fact."
He was appalled by her unending temerity that seemed to prevent her from being silent even when it was the prudent thing to do. "Have you no concept of self-preservation?"
"Have you no concept of decent behavior?"
That made him really want to hurt her because deep inside it cut him harshly. There had been a time when he’d been decent. Even courteous. But his past degradations had killed that long ago. No one had showed him mercy, so why should he ever give it to another?
"No, I don’t."
Delphine felt a whisper of wind before he vanished out of the room. She looked around, but there was no sign of him. Even his sword was gone. Yet what surprised her was that in its place was a set of clothes for her. A pair of jeans, shoes and a pink top.
Why would he bother?
Grateful even though it didn’t make sense, she dropped the cloak and reached for them. The moment she did, she became aware of just how cold it was here in his room. Chills ran over her body, making her teeth chatter.
It was absolutely frigid.
Frowning, she touched the cloak that vibrated with warmth. It truly felt like living body heat….
Was it from his blood? She had no idea, but she was grateful for the warmth. And right now, she wanted to have something on besides her skin and his cloak.
With her hands shaking, she quickly dressed. She kept trying to use her powers, but the containment collar was more than effective.
Furious with her predicament, she opened the door to leave, then pulled up sharply. There in the hallway was what had to be the largest, ugliest demon she’d ever seen in her life. At least ten feet tall, he had bulbous skin and a stench so foul she had to hold her breath.
She immediately took a step back and slammed the door shut.
His evil laughter echoed outside.
Delphine rolled her eyes. "What are you? Stupid? Of course they have a guard. What part of ‘You’re a prisoner’ did you miss?" she castigated herself out loud.
Feeling ill, frustrated and upset, she wrapped her arms around her chest and wondered what she could do to help the others from here. This had to be where the Skoti were taking them. If she could find their prison, maybe she could set the hostages free…
Then she could focus on converting Jericho back to their side. That would be the best of all worlds.
But how did one go about seducing someone? She truly had no idea. Most of her interactions with people were through dreams and since she wasn’t an erotic Skotos, she’d never been sexually involved with them. She’d gone in only as a warrior to combat the Skoti and free the dreamer from their spell.
As a human…
Well, that had been a long time ago. And while she remembered having an appreciation for some of the boys in her village, those feelings had been muted.
Now her emotions were something else. Raw. Hurtful. Painful.
Anger burned her over their holding her captive and she wanted to hurt someone. Luckily, she understood that it was only an exaggerated fury inside her and not real anger. She had to calm down and think rationally.
She went over to it and drew the curtains back. Rain soundlessly pelted the glass. Gray skies stretched out endlessly with puffed and ugly clouds. Her view looked out on a sea that boiled and crashed upon black stones. Placing her hand to the pane, she snatched it back immediately. It was so cold that it burned her.
"Calm down," she whispered, trying to remember everything she knew about Azmodea. Honestly, it wasn’t much. It was said to be the primordial ooze that had been left over when the universe had been created. Afraid it might taint the beauty of the rest of the universe, the Source had banished it to the deepest part of the earth, never to be seen again.
When Noir and his sisters had risen to power, they had profaned the light and taken up residence here. It was said that the walls of their palace were painted red with the blood of the victims they had tortured.
She looked at the burgundy paint. No, it wasn’t dried blood. That was just a story meant to frighten.
It’s doing a superbly good job.
Stop it! She was rational and not given to panic attacks even though a chill went down her spine. While the room was large and well-dressed with intricately carved furniture, the austere ambiance made it less than inviting. Honestly, she preferred the hole Jericho had lived in on earth to this place. At least the hovel hadn’t been insidious and so icy cold. Creepy. She kept expecting something to jump out of the walls and grab her.
Nervous and out of sorts, she went to the mirror and tried to pry her collar off even though she knew just what a waste of time it would be. It was better than doing nothing. It’d never been in her nature to not fight.
But after a few minutes, her frustration grew and left her snatching at it until she had a bruise forming.
So much for that.
"Where are you, Jericho?" And most importantly, what was he doing?
Jericho paused outside the door to the where Azura had first taken him. She’d called it their war room, which made sense. But as he stood there, he felt a sharp pain in his chest. It was so hard to breathe. To think.
Images flashed through his mind. Quick and intense, he saw himself as he’d been in the human realm. He felt the hunger and the pain of it.
Bet you wish you’d never turned on Zeus now, huh?
He didn’t know the name of the Dolophonos who’d killed him that time, but if he ever found that bastard, he’d bathe in his blood.
He gripped the hilt of his sword, dying to use it on anyone who dared to cross him. Again, he was surprised by the warmth of it. It really was as if it were alive, and he knew this was a sword meant for killing.
Why would Azura have given him so valuable a gift? Such creatures as she and Noir weren’t stupid. They wanted something more from him than just a warrior. He could feel it deep inside his soul.
But what exactly were they after? And why was he so important to them?
Wanting to find out, he pushed open the door to find Azura alone in the room.
She turned toward him with an arched brow. "Is something wrong?"
"Where is Noir?"
She tsked at him. "We don’t answer to you, love. You fight for us and that is all you do. Don’t ever forget your place."
Those were not the right words to make him happy. It was all he could do not to tell her to go screw herself.
Her features softened as she jerked her chin toward the door behind him. "Now why aren’t you entertaining yourself with your new pet?"
Her tone and attitude didn’t sit well with him. But he wasn’t about to let her know that. . . yet. He had a few things he wanted to investigate first. "I want to see the Oneroi who were brought in."
She scowled in displeasure. "Why?"
Her incessant questions were beginning to piss him off. "I have a score to settle with most of them."
"Have no fear. They are being made adequately miserable for you. I assure you, you would be impressed with their current conditions."
His suspicions snapped to the forefront at her continued denial. "Are telling me I’m a prisoner, too?"
"I didn’t say that. But you have to remember that we are as unsure of your loyalty to us as you are of ours to you. You, Noir and I have only a shaky alliance at present. One that is untested."
"Yet you gave me a rare sword?"
"A token of trust and a hope for our future together."
Something wasn’t right in this scenario. Every instinct he had was on guard. There was something more to this sword. Something she wasn’t telling him. "Why?"
"I told you. We want you on our side. So long as you’re with us, all you desire will be given to you."
And if he displeased them, they would make him pay. It was an unstated threat that hung heavy around him. One he didn’t take kindly to. He’d been down that road and crashed hard.
But if she wanted to give him his every wish… "I desire to see the Oneroi."
She laughed. "Insistent child. In time we will be open with you and you can do as you please. But not yet. Now return to your pet. Or if you’d rather, I can return you to your garage and remove your powers again."
Tempted to tell her to shove it all up her sphincter, he withdrew from her even though he wanted to attack her for her patronizing tone.
That would be suicide.
Rest now, gain bearings. Attack only when you’re in a position of strength. He knew the warrior’s code by heart.
Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling of dread inside him. Something was seriously wrong here. He just didn’t know what.
Unsettled and unhappy, he returned to his room to find Delphine dressed in the jeans and pink top he’d left for her. She also wore his cloak wrapped around her like an armored shield. Little did she know, it was. Nothing would be able to penetrate it.
She sat nervously on the bed, watching the door as if expecting someone to come in and attack her. Which, given this place, wasn’t that unlikely a fear.
He stopped halfway to the bed, unsure of what to say to her. Idle chatter hadn’t been something he’d participated in even before he’d left Olympus.
Hell, he’d barely spoken to anyone in centuries.
And especially not to an attractive woman. His c**k hardened from need just looking at her. One of Zeus’s crudest punishments had been to make him burn for a woman whenever he saw one, and then the minute he was alone with her, his body went soft. The frustration of wanting sex and never being able to have it had driven him insane. He couldn’t even take care of it himself.
That alone was enough to make him want to crush the Olympian god’s throat.
So he’d learned to not even think about it. To keep as far away from a woman and her scent as he could lest he make himself ache any worse than he already did. But honestly, he’d missed being touched and held. Missed the softness of a woman nak*d in his arms.
Yet there she sat, so pretty. So tempting.
But he couldn’t. For all he knew, his body would still go soft on him. And that made him even angrier.
"Are you hungry?" he growled at her.
She frowned. Her expression was one of worry and fear.
Was that the wrong thing to ask her? Instead of soothing her it put her more on guard. Or maybe it was his tone. How should he reassure her?
Someone really ought to write a manual. Then again, gods trying to communicate with hostages was probably something so rare no one would think to create it.
"I want this collar off me," she said, her tone stern. "1 can’t do that."
"Why not? Are you afraid of me having my powers?"
He snorted. "Yeah, right. Calling me a coward won’t accomplish anything. Believe me, you’re an amateur in that field and I’ve been called a lot worse."
Delphine didn’t miss the note of pain in his voice that he tried to hide. Given what she’d seen of his life, she was sure he’d been insulted and then some. But it didn’t change the fact that she was his prisoner and she hated it.
Most of all, she couldn’t understand why he was here. "Why did you join them?’
Jericho paused at her question as he considered how to best answer. If she would even understand his reasoning or motivation. In the end, he knew the truth. She’d have had to experience the hell he’d been through to comprehend it.
He raised his hands and created an arc of bright power that pulsed between his palms. For the first time in centuries, he could make and throw a god bolt to fry any and everything. That invigorating sensation. . . knowing he would never be stepped on again…
For that alone he’d sell his soul, his life and anything else they wanted. How could he have said no to what Azura offered? But he had no intention of sharing that with Delphine. "None of your business." He dropped his hands down and rested one on the hilt of his sword.
She gave him a frustrated glower. "Noir will destroy the world."
"So what? Who says it’s worth saving?"
Delphine wanted to shake him for his obstinacy. She’d never met anyone so dense and so unforgiving. What had they done to him to make him like this? "You would kill or enslave everyone? There is so much beauty in the world that they’d destroy. How do you not see it?"
He scoffed at her as if she were a child. "Spoken like someone who has only lived in the cushioned world of dreams. You have no idea what the real world is like. What people will do to you when they know they can get away with it. People are absolutely cruel and I say more power to Noir for tearing it down."
"They can be cruel at times." she admitted. "But I’ve seen the best in people. Their hopes and dreams." That was why she fought so hard for mankind.
"And I’ve lived through their worst." The pain in his eye scorched her.
It also explained a lot about him and his reasoning, But that didn’t make it right. "So anything you do is justified, is that it? They were mean to you so it’s okay for you to be mean back?"