A bead of amusement rose in his chest, surprising him. “How has no one ever killed you?”
There was a pause as William opened another stolen nutrition bar, stuffed half into his mouth and swallowed. “Like anyone would want to see me dead. I’m too pretty.”
Pretty could only aid a person so long. “How many women have you been with?”
“Not so many I can’t count them.”
“That’s because you lack skill.”
“Maybe, but at least I can control my desires. Your lust is too strong and your willpower too weak to allow you to resist anyone with a pulse.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve been with plenty of people without a pulse. More than that, I say no to Gilly every day.”
Gilly, his best friend. A human girl Reyes, the keeper of Pain, had rescued. She was only seventeen years old, and for some reason, she’d developed a crush on William. A crush that had deepened every time the warrior had come to visit the Lords, whom she lived with. She’d doctored him every time he’d gotten hurt in battle, and he’d comforted her every time she’d cried out from bad dreams, the horrors of an abusive stepfather rising to haunt her.
Now, she called the male every morning at 8:00 a.m. to make sure he was “all right.” Translation: alone.
He always was.
William might take a new woman—or ten—whenever the mood stuck, but he never let the females stay the night with him. Not anymore. He didn’t want to hurt his precious Little Gilly Gumdrop’s feelings.
Kane wasn’t sure why William took such care with the girl, when he’d never done anything sexual with her. At least, Kane didn’t think he had.
He better not have.
Eyes narrowed, William threw the rest of the food into the ashes. “Just remembered something. As I was packing, Danika showed up and asked me to give you the most important painting of your life.” He dug through his pack and withdrew a small, wrapped canvas.
Danika, Reyes’s woman, possessed the ability to see into heaven and hell, past, present and future, and paint the images. Like the Moirai, her predictions had never been wrong—that he could prove.
About ten yards away, a twig snapped.
The Phoenix had decided to close in, he realized.
Kane grabbed the canvas from William and stuffed it inside his own pack, then swung the whole thing over his back, using it as a shield, and lay flat on his belly. Closing one eye, he pressed the other against the night-vision scope on the rifle. In an instant, the world around him became painted with bright green.
The Phoenix was…there. She had climbed one of the taller trees and was currently walking across one of the thicker limbs…nope, she was hopping to another limb on another tree, coming closer and closer, clearly trying to sneak up on him.
Mine, Disaster said with a possessive growl, and Kane frowned.
The female looked to be five foot nine and scantily dressed, considering the weather. She wore a bralike top and tiny shorts, and there were two daggers tied to her calves, two sheathed in her combat boots.
Kane tracked her for a moment, watched as she paused and reached for one of the hilts. Never bring a knife to a gun fight, sweetness. You’ll lose every time. He squeezed the trigger.
He was a great shot and knew he’d grazed her thigh before he even heard her shriek of pain. He leaped up and started running. By the time she hit the ground, gasping for breath, he was there, in her face. She was pretty. Blonde. Bold. Though he would have rather bathed in acid, he pressed his arm into her throat, making it even more difficult for her to take in any air, and patted her down to discard all of her weapons.
There were more than he’d realized. Eleven daggers. Two guns. Three throwing stars. Two vials of poison. A bag of pills. Detachable metal claws. And the makings of a bomb hidden in the soles of her shoes.
He tried not to be impressed.
Working quickly, he bound her wrists with a rope of chain he’d been using as a belt and tied her to the base of the tree. The moment he finished, he jolted away from her, severing contact. Already his stomach was churning, sickness brewing. But at least he didn’t experience the pain Tinker Bell caused.
A swarm of bees darted from the trees, circling Kane’s head. Disaster laughed.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
The girl kicked out her uninjured leg, swiped only at air. “Let me go!”
“I doubt that’s your name. Try again.”
“I had no plans to hurt you,” she snarled, her struggles increasing. Heat radiated from her, such intense heat, and it was only getting stronger. Any moment now, she would catch fire with flames as hot as those in hell and melt the metal links. “I only want to hurt Josephina. Now, I’ll kill you and enslave the girl.”
“Josephina?” A sting in his neck. He slapped at the wound, and a bee stung him on the wrist.
“As if you don’t know the girl you’re following. The Fae.”
His rescuer’s name was Josephina. Pretty. But he liked Tinker Bell better. “You want to enslave her, do you?” Was that why the girl had a death wish? She feared what the Phoenix would do to her?
“Argh!” Again she kicked out. Again she missed. “I refuse to answer any more of your questions. Let me go or I’ll make you regret it before I slay you!”
“Did someone mention a lay? For the right price, I’m willing to make myself available.” William strolled into the area, chewing another nutrition bar. “And do you think she’s talking about the Fae female who just raced through our camp?”
“What!” Kane got in the warrior’s face. “When?”
“And you let her go?” he roared.
“Well, yeah. Our chase would have ended, and I’m not ready to go home. She told me to tell you hi, though. Or maybe she said to tell you to do what you promised or leave her alone since you’re drawing the wrong attention to her. It’s so hard to tell when you’re not really listening.”
Battling an urge to slice the warrior to ribbons, and waste time, Kane gritted out, “Don’t let this one escape,” and bolted into action.
JOSEPHINA SPRINTED THROUGH the forest, twigs beating at her, leaves sticking to her. She pumped her arms and legs with all her might and began to pant, the night air burning her nose and throat. In one terrible swoop, all of her enemies had found her—yet none of them wanted to kill her.