“How do I use each artifact properly?” Cameo insisted.
“What are you talking about? How should I know? I’ve never used them. And besides, while I know everything, I sometimes like to be appreciated for more than my magnificent brain.” As she spoke, she bent down to peer into the crystal at the end of the Rod. “Oh, a pretty,” she breathed, appearing entranced by her own reflection.
She reached out. Made contact.
One second she stood beside Cameo, the next she was gone.
Silence filled the room.
“Viola,” Cameo said, spinning, but there was no sign of the girl.
Heartbeat picking up speed, Cameo focused on the camera in the far right corner. “Did you see that? Did what I think just happened really happen?”
There was a crackle of static before Torin’s voice flowed from strategically placed speakers. “Yeah. The moment she made contact with the Rod, she was adiosed.”
“What should I do?” she demanded.
“Nothing. I’m going to do a search for info and see what I can find.”
No. She wasn’t content to do nothing. Besides, he’d been searching for info since they’d gotten the thing, and hadn’t found anything.
Moving swiftly, Cameo unfolded the Cloak.
“Hey! What are you doing?” Torin demanded. “Stop that right now.”
“Make me.” He was the keeper of Disease. One touch of his skin against another’s and a plague would start. The poor guy spent most of his time alone in his bedroom, watching the world from a distance.
In a moment of weakness, they had begun a hands-off relationship, but just like with Kane, the sparks had quickly fizzled and they’d realized they were better off as friends.
He was concerned for her. She knew that. She also knew he liked to think before acting. To plan. To test. Most of the warriors living in the fortress were like that. Not Cameo. The longer she waited to do something, the more useless she became, the demon’s misery filling her, consuming her.
More than that, Viola could be in pain. Cameo didn’t like the girl, but she wasn’t going to let her suffer—no matter what she’d planned to do to her. She had to try to extract her.
Cameo reached out with a shaky hand.
“Don’t you dare do what she did,” Torin shouted over the speakers.
She paused. Maybe there was another way. Maybe—
“Maddox!” Torin’s voice boomed. “You’re needed in the artifact room. Now! Reyes, you, too. Anyone. Cameo’s about to make a huge and possibly fatal mistake.”
No time to reason things out.
Trembling, Cameo set the painting in the cage, grabbed the Cloak, and entered. She shut the door, and the lock automatically engaged. The moment she heard the soft click, she felt as though a heavy ring of metal had wrapped around her neck, wrists and ankles. But when she looked, she saw only the tan of her skin.
“I’m commanding you to stop, Cameo,” Torin said.
The Cage clearly didn’t consider him its owner, because she felt no compulsion to obey him.
She wrapped the Cloak around her shoulders and reached through the bars, intending to latch onto the Rod. Just before contact, her gaze locked on the painting. She froze. In an instant, insignificant details were wiped away. She saw the box, and in the shadows behind it, a man. He was of average height, with a thin build.
She couldn’t make out his features, could only see the red glow of his eyes. Who was he? What was he? Would he be friend or foe? Was he guarding Pandora’s box? Trying to prevent her from destroying it?
With so little muscle mass, he’d never stand a chance.
Find Viola. Find him.
Footsteps echoed inside the room. Hinges on the door creaked.
Maddox stormed inside, violent anger radiating from him. “Don’t you dare—”
She grabbed the Rod before he could finish his sentence, just in case, and felt the coldness of the crystal against her skin.
And then she knew nothing more.
CURRENTLY, JOSEPHINA WAS the ketchup in a beefcake sandwich. Two palace guards held her in a viselike grip, preventing her from running away. They were beautiful men, tall and strong—though not as tall and strong as Kane—with looks typical of the Fae. Each had white hair, blue eyes, pale skin and red lips. They wore fitted violet overcoats, and had several medals pinned along their shoulders. Their pants were white, without a speck of dirt, and practically painted on. Black boots stretched to their knees.
Oh, yes. They were beautiful men, but they were the proud owners of cold, dead hearts. They knew what would happen to her, but wouldn’t let her go. They held her all the tighter.
So close to freedom, she thought, fighting a wave of despair. And yet here I am.
At least the hatred and evil she’d borrowed from Kane had left her and returned to him.
The royal dais loomed in front of her. King Tiberius sat upon a lavish throne carved from a single block of the purest gold, his hand curled around the center of a bejeweled scepter. On his right was a smaller throne, and perched there was the elegant Queen Penelope. On his left was yet another throne, this one for the flawless Princess Synda.
Behind the trio was a higher tier. Higher, yet still it seemed the area was nothing more than an afterthought. There sat Prince Leopold. Even as much as he claimed to want her, he’d wasted no time escorting Josephina to the guards and abandoning her to their “care.”
The Opulens stood behind her. Dressed in their finest, they had gathered here to watch her newest chastisement. The women wore elaborate gowns with fitted bodices and wide, flaring skirts. Bold makeup decorated their faces, the colors dusted with diamond powder. Their hair was partially hidden by large, bejeweled headdresses that fanned out to form half-moons. Metal necklaces circled their throats and dripped beads down their shoulders and cle**age.
The men wore velvet jackets in every color imaginable, metal pieces sewn into the shoulders, elbows and hem. Their trousers were looser than what the guards wore, but still managed to mold to hard-won strength.
In Séduire, beauty mattered more than brains and clothing mattered more than food. Political intrigues were always in full swing. An open mouth was a lying mouth. Power was just as valuable as cash. Lust, greed and torture were always on the menu.
Josephina hated it here.
Every Fae wielded some type of extraordinary ability—though she actually wielded two—but some were better than others. The king was doubly gifted, like Josephina, able to bequeath abilities to others, as well as form a protective shield around his body. The queen had the power to touch an object and know its complete history. Leopold could cause pain in others with a single spoken word.