The frown became a slow, sensual smile. So I can dish my brand of…punishment to him.
Dread had sparked inside her. And how do you punish him?
How do you think? But don’t worry. I’ll leave him begging for more. I always do.
Atlas had tried to run then, mowing right over them both, but with his collar still in place, he hadn’t gotten far. Nike had locked him back up and, suspicious, questioned all the female guards. Nearly every single one of them had had a go at him. And he’d told them all the same thing: You are beautiful. I want to spend my life with you. All I need is my freedom, and I will be your slave for eternity.
So, have sex with him again? “Hell, no.”
“You want me,” he snapped. His grip tightened on her, his fingers digging deep, bruising. “I know you do.”
Just like that, she knew what this little make-out session was about. He planned to sleep with her, make her fall in love with him all over again, and then dump her. He’d grind up her pride, spit it out and stomp all over it. Again. All to punish her, she was sure, for daring to tattoo him as she had. Marking her with his name clearly wasn’t enough.
“Wanting you dead and wanting your body aren’t the same things.” With a sugar-sweet grin, she patted his cheek. “And I can promise you that while I do want the first, I was only teasing you about the second.” Now who was playing who? “So…if we’re done here…? I believe there is a minor god awaiting my return.”
Atlas ran his tongue over his teeth. His arms fell away from her, and he stepped back. She nearly collapsed, but managed to shift her legs and absorb her own weight. Unaffected. That’s how she had to appear.
“We’re done,” he said, his tone clipped. “We are definitely done.”
Good, she thought. So why did she suddenly want to cry for real?
ATLAS HAD TO EMPTY A CELL of its seven occupants and place those gods and goddesses within other, already cramped cells to make a place for Nike. The time and effort was worth it, though. He couldn’t tolerate the thought of her with that bastard Erebos, doing the same things to him that she’d once done to Atlas.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
And maybe, perhaps, there was a slight chance it had nothing to do with punishing her and everything to do with the pleasure he’d earlier denied. In her arms, he’d come alive. That had happened last time, too, but he’d written it off as prisoner insanity. Now, he couldn’t write it off. He wasn’t a prisoner; he was a warden. He’d come alive, and he needed more. Of her, only her. Yet she claimed she’d merely been playing him.
Fucking playing him. He wanted that to be a lie more than he wanted to take his next breath. Which he really wanted to take. He didn’t understand this. She was doomed to spend eternity hidden away, which meant they could not have any kind of life together. Not even if he freed her. He would then be locked away or put to death. Unlike her, that was not something he was willing to risk.
But that she had been, all those centuries ago…it was humbling. He still could not get over the emotion.
Surely she still wanted him.
For a week, Atlas lamented his plight and pondered what to do. All the while, he stayed away from Nike’s new cell. That didn’t stop him from thinking about her, however. What was she doing? Did she think of him? Did she dream of him and that shattering kiss?
He did. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the passion glowing from her face. A face that was exquisite. From barely passable, to pretty, to exquisite, all in a week’s time. He shook his head in wonder. But she deserved the praise. Her lashes were long and as rich as black velvet. Velvet that framed sensual chocolate eyes. Her cheeks were smooth, perfect for caressing, and her lush, red lips were sweeter than ambrosia. And all that strength…his shaft filled and lengthened just remembering it. She’d gripped and scratched him with savage abandon. He still bore the marks.
Fine. He had lied to her. They definitely weren’t done. Not even close. He had to experience that again.
Finally, he could stand the separation no longer. Thankfully, his shift was over. A shift that had consisted of walking the prison halls, watching the prisoners inside their cells and ensuring everyone remained calm.
That should have bored him. After all, he was a warrior. But bore him it didn’t. And that should have irritated him. After all, he’d spent countless centuries in this place and had sworn never to return once he’d escaped. But again, irritation was not what he felt. He’d wanted this job to be close to Nike. To have his vengeance, he’d once told himself. Now, he wasn’t so sure. Today, and all week really, he’d walked the halls invigorated, knowing all he had to do to catch sight of her was turn a corner.
He hadn’t allowed himself to do so. Until now. Finally, he would see her.
The moment she came into view, his blood heated, blistering. His breath followed suit, flaming his lungs to ash. She sat atop her cot, arms gripping the rail, knees drawn up while she leaned slightly forward. Her hair was finger-combed to perfection, and her eyes were narrowed, shielding her irises and the emotion banked there, but at least he could see the shadows her lashes cast over her cheeks. Shadows he might trace with a fingertip. Or his tongue.
Oh, yes. She was exquisite.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Her voice was smooth as silk. Just beneath that silk, however, he thought he caught a tendril of fury.
Was she mad that he’d come? Or mad that he’d stayed away so long?
“I don’t have a girlfriend.” Though Mnemosyne was still trying to change that.
Even though he pushed her away every damn time.
Nike shrugged. “Too bad for you that whores never commit.”
He knew he was the whore that she spoke of, and popped his jaw. But he deserved that, he supposed. “I did what I had to do to escape, Nike. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel—” No. Oh, no. He would not go down that road. He hadn’t wanted to feel anything for her, but he had. That hadn’t stopped him from using her, so she’d never like what he had to say about the matter. “I’m sure you’d do anything to escape, as well.”
Her expression darkened, but she did not refute his words. “So, did you come to free me?”
“Then why are you here? We have nothing more to say to each other.”
Because you’re all I think about anymore. He never should have marked her. This might have been avoided. Or not. He might have slept with others all those years ago because he’d been desperate to flee this place, but it had been her face he’d imagined when he’d done so.
Without looking away from her, he leaned back against the bar behind him and crossed his arms over his chest. “There’s plenty to say. About the kiss.”
She yawned, patting her beautiful mouth. A mouth he wanted all over his body. “I’d rather sleep.”
So. She still wanted him to think she had been unaffected. Part of him believed it. An insecure part of him that had never really known how to deal with her, his equal in every way. Yes, even strength, though he often liked to deny it. The other part of him, the masculine part, knew she had liked everything he’d done. She’d shouted his name, for gods’ sake, and he hadn’t even made her climax.
“You’re saying you don’t want me?” he asked as silkily as she had.
“Not even a little.”
“Really?” He rested his fingers at the waist of his pants, twisting the button, and her eyes followed the movement. His cock was already hard, already straining, rising over the top. Moisture glistened there. “Not even a tiny, tiny bit?”
She gulped. “N-no.” The word was croaked. “But you are. Tiny, that is.”
Liar. She did. She wanted him. And he was huge, thank you very much. He stretched her. The sense of possessiveness returned, all the more intense because it was joined by satisfaction.
“I’ll have you yet, Nike. That I promise you.”
“Just…go away,” she said, suddenly sounding almost…dejected. She eased to her side, then rolled to her back, facing away from him. “We’re done with each other. Remember?”
Wrong move. Seeing her back, even covered by that baggy robe, reminded him of what he’d done and that set fire to his blood anew. Whatever he had to do, he was going to have this woman.
“I guess we’ll find out,” he told her before walking away.
To think. To plan.
ATLAS PUSHED PAST the double doors that led into Cronus’s throne room. Armed guards, immortal warriors Cronus himself had created, were stationed along the edges of the walls. Each held a spear, and swords swung from the sheaths at their waists. They stood at attention, waiting for an order or a threat. They would spring into action for both.
Of course, there were also warriors lining both sides of the purple lamb’s fleece carpet that led to the bejeweled dais, crowding Atlas as he made his way forward. His weapons had already been removed, but they were taking no chances, eyeing his every movement with distrust.
He wondered if, when she had been a free woman, Nike had ever been summoned to this room, albeit to meet with Zeus, her king. And if she had, had it been for a reward or a punishment?
Stop thinking about her. Concentrate on Cronus. He’s wily, that one. The god king was not the same man he’d been before his incarceration. The thousands of years inside Tartarus had changed him; he was harder, harsher. Utterly unforgiving. Any weakness, he pounced upon.
Nowadays, Cronus refused to stay in the heavens without an army to shield him. But then, a man at war with his own wife couldn’t be too careful. Especially when that wife was a queen with powerful abilities and allies of her own. A wife who—
Dizziness spun through Atlas’s head, fragmenting his thoughts, and he frowned. Frowned but didn’t stop until he reached the end of the fleece. He kept his attention, foggy as it was, fixed on Cronus. What was wrong with him?