“She got you sentenced to the Never-ending, didn’t she?” he said. “You. Not her, the keeper of Irresponsibility.” He rubbed at his temples. “That’s how you ended up in hell.”
He seemed to be talking to himself as much as he was talking to her. “Yes. There are many openings to the Never-ending, and one is actually in Séduire. I was pushed inside, fell down the pit for a thousand years, yet only a day passed here. The bottom is the center of hell, and I finally reached it.”
“A thousand years,” he rasped. “Another reason you want to die. You don’t want to endure such torture again.”
Torture. Such a mild word for what had happened. “We’ve all heard the stories about it, but none of them do it justice. In that pit, it’s dark, with no hint of light. Soundless. You can’t even hear yourself scream and beg for help. It’s empty. There’s nothing to anchor you.” She shook her head to dislodge the memories. “No, I don’t want to endure it again.”
A strange vibration moved through him, as if he were barely holding himself back from an act of violence. He paled.
“I’m fine,” he rasped. And then he shocked her, taking her hand, twining their fingers, holding on to her as if she were a lifeline. The contact only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough to make her reel.
To hide her confusion…and her sudden inability to breathe…she returned her attention to her rag, rubbing at the banister. “I’ve got tons of work to do, Kane. I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to leave.”
“Why not kill yourself?” he continued, ignoring her. “Not that I’m suggesting you do such a thing. I’m not, and I’ll make you regret it if you try. I’m just curious.”
She sighed. “Whatever I do to myself brings only suffering, never death.”
His brow furrowed. “What if you managed to remove your head?”
“My body would grow back.”
“No way. One of my friends was beheaded, and there was nothing we could do to save him.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that I’ll recover.”
Josephina peered over the edge of the railing, and gave another sigh. “I’ll prove it.” And in the process, escape the sensations he awoke in her.
Trying to mask her fear, she climbed up the railing.
Behind her, she could hear the stomp of the guards.
Kane grabbed her by the arms, and forced her back to the ground. He was even warmer than before, his grip so deliciously firm. Her skin was suddenly more sensitive, tingling and aching. Her ears picked up every rasp of his breath, and heated. Her eyes drank in the purity of his features, and her nostrils became saturated with the decadence of his scent. Her mouth watered for a taste of…of…him?
“Stay back,” he called. “I’ve got her.”
The men retreated.
“I don’t need a demonstration,” he said to her, his voice tight. “I’ll believe you, whether it sounds far-fetched or not. Okay?”
The crystals in the chandelier rattled powerfully—a second later, the entire thing dropped from the top level and fell down, down, down, crashing into the floor at the bottom. Shards of glass shot in every direction. Screaming people raced out of the way.
Kane cursed under his breath. “Pay no attention to what just happened. Tell me about your problem.”
She nodded, because she didn’t want to think about the mess she would be forced to clean. “However I try to kill myself, I suffer with the pain for weeks, months, even if my organs go splat on the ground. Everything eventually grows back or heals.”
“How is that possible?”
Easy. “You know how I can absorb the abilities of others with a simple touch? Well, Tiberius can impart abilities to others. He imparted this one to me.”
“But what you absorb doesn’t last.”
“What he imparts does,” she replied simply.
He tapped his temples. “What about your ability to invade my head?”
Turning back to her rag so that he wouldn’t see the sudden bead of tears in her eyes, she said softly, “It was my mother’s ability, and she gave it to me right before she died. I guess it stayed with me because it had nowhere else to go.”
“But she was human. How did she possess an ability of a Fae?”
A pang in her heart as she said, “I probably should have qualified my description of her. One of her ancestors was Fae, but the line had become so diluted she was considered human.”
A pause. Then, “You have too much to live for, Tinker Bell, and I don’t want you to seek a killer while I’m here. Got it?”
She would vow no such thing and told him so with her silence.
He leaned down and whispered, “I’ll kill anyone you ask, and I won’t be nice about it. They’ll hurt, and they’ll beg, and they’ll scream, just like you said you did in the Never-ending. Only, their suffering won’t end as quickly as yours did. A thousand years? Try ten thousand.”
Trembling, she gripped the railing. “You have to let me do what I think is right.”
“When what you think is right is actually wrong? No. You’re mine, and I’ll see to you.”
Her gaze jerked up.
His cheeks reddened. The cascade of his warm breath stopped abruptly as he straightened. “I mean, you’re my responsibility now. I want you alive and well.”
You’re mine. Her body had come alive with those words. Her pulse had quickened. Her stomach had quivered. Every inch of her had heated. But the sensations had fled with his addition. She was a responsibility, nothing more.
“What’s wrong?” He pinched a lock of her hair between his fingers, tickling her scalp.
“Nothing.” She batted his arm away. One second he ran hot, the next cold. The next hot. He was twisting her into terrible knots, and she didn’t like it.
He frowned. “Tell me you won’t do anything foolish.”
“I can’t do that. I consider this conversation foolish, and yet I’m still participating.”
He took no offense. “There’s got to be a few things you want to do before you die. Besides meeting Torin.” With the dryness of his tone, he might as well have rolled his eyes.
There was something she wanted to do…. Her gaze fell to his lips. She wanted to kiss him. So bad. She gulped and croaked, “Like what?” Now who’s running hot and cold?