Before she could fight her way free, a pair of boots appeared in front of her. Boots she recognized.
Josephina swallowed a groan. No. No! Anyone but him.
“Well, well,” the owner of those boots said. “What do we have here?”
She recognized the voice, as well. Leopold, her half brother, had found her. He would ensure she returned home…back to her own personal hell.
* * *
KANE HEARD TINKER Bell screaming, and battled a rage unlike any other.
Mine, he thought. No one was allowed to hurt her, not even him, not even as angry as he was with her for what she’d done to him.
What had she done to him?
He wanted to stand and help her, whatever was wrong with her. He did. Yet, his body was too weak.
He’d vowed never to be weak again. Or, barring that, to kill the cause.
Tinker Bell was the cause, somehow, but he wouldn’t be killing her. He would be…he wasn’t sure, and didn’t like that he couldn’t decide.
One second he’d been as normal as a man like him could be, carrying her over his shoulder. The next, he’d felt warm silk pressed against his arm, and he’d begun to weaken. He’d set her down as his limbs began to tremble. Then, he’d crumbled.
But then, so had she.
The darkness he’d carried for so long had thinned, but instead of strength taking its place, he’d experienced extreme fatigue.
He’d watched, helpless, as Tinker Bell curled into herself. Her skin had gone pallid, and horror had consumed her features. She’d looked…haunted. He’d reached for her, but she’d managed to crawl away. He hadn’t managed to follow. Soon she’d disappeared beyond the line of trees.
Must help her.
“So, it’s safe to say this night isn’t going according to plan.”
William’s voice hit him, and he struggled to sit up. “The girl.”
“Escaped. Burned me, too, the little—”
“Not the Phoenix. The Fae. Go get her.”
“I’m too hungry to run.”
Rage gave him enough strength to hurl a rock at the warrior’s fat, ugly head. “Go!”
“Fine.” Footsteps echoed. “But you’ll owe me.” Swaying limbs, swishing leaves, then…nothing.
In and out Kane breathed. There was something else happening inside him, something stranger than the sudden weakness, and he needed to figure out what it was. And it should be easy. For the first time in centuries, his mind was silent. Thoughts were easy, without any kind of dark filter. Emotions were pure, without any kind of terrible guidance. He was—
Alone, he realized.
Realization knocked him flat on his back. In that moment, there was no hint of the demon’s presence. No sickness in the pit of his stomach. No icy fingers of dread crawling all over his skin. No terrible whispers in the back of his mind.
But…how could that be? Kane was alive. And if he was alive, the demon was with him. Right?
Or, had the Greeks lied to him and his friends the first day of their possession, as he’d hoped? Gideon had once survived several minutes without his demon. Of course, the creature had still been tethered to him, and had returned.
Kane thought back. He’d never actually seen a possessed warrior killed simply because the demon had left his body. His friend Baden had died from a beheading. Cronus and Rhea, former king and queen of the Titans, had been demon possessed and had died from a beheading, too.
What if Disaster was gone? Permanently? But where could the demon have gone? With Tinker Bell?
Was Disaster the reason she’d screamed?
Or had she somehow killed the creature?
Had Kane finally experienced something good?
He rolled his shoulders, the muscles knotted and protesting as if he’d never really used them. He and Tinker Bell were going to have a long talk. He would ask questions and she would supply answers. If she hesitated, he would spank her. Yes. That’s what he’d do to her, he decided.
Part of him wanted her to hesitate.
He’d never thought to experience sexual desire again—not true desire—and yet, when he’d tackled her, her softness beneath him, and he’d had her scent in his nose, and her panting breaths in his ears, he’d yearned to strip her, to see her, all of her, and take everything she had to give.
She might have let him. But just how would his body, and his mind, have reacted?
Now, the need for her was still there, a thorn in his side. He didn’t like it, had to get rid of it.
A frowning William returned—without the girl.
Kane growled low in his throat. “What happened?”
“There was no sign of her,” the warrior said. “And don’t get your panties in a twist, but, uh, there was evidence of a struggle.”
The Realm of Blood and Shadows
LONG AGO, CAMEO had been cursed to host the demon of Misery and oh, the creature’s presence had never been more apparent than now. A deep sense of sorrow pressed heavily against her. Despair burned the center of her chest. Corrosive whispers drifted through her mind.
There’s no hope…
Life will never get better.
You’ll never succeed at anything. Might as well give up now.
She hated the demon of Misery with every fiber of her being. He was the essence of evil, darkness without any hint of light, yet she couldn’t survive without him. Problem was, she knew she couldn’t survive with him, either.
But what could she do?
Nothing, that’s what. Always nothing. Forever nothing.
And so, for the rest of her existence, tears would always burn at the backs of her eyes. If ever she laughed, she wouldn’t remember it. Her friends claimed she had, upon occasion, smiled, but she couldn’t recall a single instance—and never would.
But. Yes, but. While she couldn’t make her life better, she could make Kane’s better. Surely. Hopefully.
A few days ago, she’d visited him in his room. He’d worn anguish like a second skin, though he’d tried to mask it. He probably would have succeeded with anyone but Cameo. The misery of others delighted her demon.
For a moment, only a moment, she had felt better. Lighter. Finally free. Then, she had felt a thousand times worse as her own misery had merged with Kane’s.
Kane hadn’t seemed to notice. Distracted, he had played with the ends of her hair, the dark strands pretty against the bronze of his skin. “Silver Eyes,” he’d said, using his favorite nickname for her. “I missed you more than I can say.”
Lovely words. True words. They always missed each other when they were parted. But then he’d stood, not giving her a chance to reply, and padded to the bathroom, shutting himself inside. He hadn’t looked back.