She was holding a knife, he saw, and her knuckles bleached of color. “I. Will. Kill. Him.”
“Already promised to do so.”
“We’ll do it together, then. After we get out of here.” Her attention flicked behind her, urgent, before returning to him. “Come on. We have to go before someone realizes what I’ve done.”
“Just let me look at you. Just let me enjoy this moment. Let me apologize for what I said to you. You said you wanted an apology, yes? I didn’t mean it, not a word I said that last day, but I—”
She closed the distance between them and slapped him. Hard. The blow knocked him back against the cot and caused stars to wink over his vision.
Once more, he blinked at her. “You hit me.”
“Yeah, and I’ll do it again if you don’t get your ass in gear.”
“But you’re real.” He sat up, saying the words but not truly absorbing them. This couldn’t be happening.
She dropped to her knees so that they were eye to eye. “Again, yes.” Just as he’d once done to her, she placed her fingers over his collar and blew into the center. As the metal softened, he finally understood what his brain had been trying to tell him. Nike was here. She was really here. And she was saving his life.
With a scowl, he jumped to his feet. “I told you to go to earth, damn it.”
“Okay, not the reaction I expected.” She stood and pressed a swift kiss to his lips. “Good thing I never listen to you. Now let’s go. I’ve already taken out the guards below. And no, I didn’t kill your friends. Just made them wish they were dead.” As she spoke, she latched on to his hand and dragged him out of the cell. “Cronus could realize what’s going down at any moment and appear, and then we’ll both be in trouble. As long as we’re here, we’re easy pickings.”
True. Nike was a fugitive now; he wanted her out of this prison, out of this realm, as soon as possible. “You risked your life to save me, you fool.”
“Well, you risked your life to save me.”
Down the stairs they pounded and, sure enough, all three of the guards were flat on their faces, motionless. One of them was missing an arm—and he knew exactly where to find it. Not that he’d take the time to tell. The arm, lost or not, would grow back. “But you were free. You had what you wanted.”
“Not everything,” she threw over her shoulder.
Okay, wow. She’d just admitted she wanted him more than freedom. Atlas couldn’t help himself. He gave a tug, propelling her backward, into his arms. “I love you,” he finally proclaimed, and mashed their lips together. His tongue thrust deep, tasting, demanding. “I mean it. I love you more than anything. Anyone.”
She only allowed the kiss for a few seconds, her hands fisting his hair and taking everything he had to give, before she pulled away, panting. “I love you, too. But let’s get the hell out of here. I need your pretty head connected to your amazing body.”
Once again, they surged forward. Still, he almost couldn’t believe this was happening. It was so much like a dream. “I’m going to spend the rest of eternity making up for what I did to you.”
“Good. I think I’ll like seeing you grovel. But just for the record, I love my tattoo and I know why you said those nasty things. Sure, I would have found a better way to get you to safety, but then, I’m smarter than you are, so really, I can’t blame you.”
He laughed. Gods, he loved this woman. “Vixen.”
“Mine. Always. You’ll mark me again just as soon as my skin heals.”
“Already planned on it.”
Good. He wouldn’t feel complete until she did. “So where are we going to live?” he asked. “We can’t stay in the heavens.”
“You ordered me to hide on earth. I thought we could do so—together. Though I hate that you have to give up your amazing house.”
“You’ve been there?” He found he really liked the thought of her there, surrounded by his things, breathing in his essence. “You know where I chose to live?”
“Yes. Why did you? Choose there, I mean.”
“To feel closer to you.”
“Well, you’re about to be a lot closer to me.”
A laugh boomed from him. There was no woman more perfect for him. “The only thing I’ll miss from that house is the portrait of you. But now I have the real thing.” He placed a swift kiss on her lips. “Back to our new living arrangements. There are other gods out there, Greeks like you, who are in hiding. Cronus has never been able to find them. That means there are places he can’t see.”
“Maybe we’ll find them and join them. We are Strength, after all. And Victory.”
“We can succeed where he has failed.”
“In the meantime, we might even try to find the Lords of the Underworld. Cronus mentioned being distracted by them. If they are his enemies, they might be good friends for us to have.”
Her eyes widened. “I know of whom you speak. They were Zeus’s immortal warriors long ago, but now they house the demons once locked inside Pandora’s box. Cronus will have his hands tied for a long, long time with them. They would be very good friends to have.”
They reached the door and burst outside, all without incident. Clouds instantly enveloped them, the sun shining brightly. Nike whirled and threw herself in his arms, placing nips and kisses all over his face.
“We did it. Now take us somewhere. Anywhere. As long as we can be together.”
“I love you,” he said again, then did exactly as his woman had ordered.
Lords of the Underworld
A BONUS GUIDE
I, CRONUS, KING OF THE T ITANS, powerful warrior god, defender of the people, hereby command you to read and enjoy this guide. I am not mentioned nearly enough, but that is neither here nor there. What you will find in the pages that follow: an interview with Gena Showalter herself, conducted by the one and only New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole; notes from those vile fools, the Hunters; once-missing chapters from Gena’s first attempt at writing about these immortal warriors (she thought she tossed them, but I, all-powerful god that I am, dug them up); interviews with the Lords of the Underworld, as organized by that irreverent whelp William the Ever Randy; a candid discussion about the Lords of the Underworld among their women; answers to questions readers have been dying to know; a preview of the upcoming novel The Darkest Passion; and an intimate look at my very own sacred scrolls.
As I said, you will read and you will enjoy. That is your mission. Nay, your honor. Do not disappoint me. You will not like the results. Just ask Aeron, keeper of the demon of Wrath. Bad things tend to happen.
Yours in the heavens,
KING OF THE TITANS
FILES FROM THE PRIVATE RECORDS OF DEAN STEFANO,
THE HUNTERS’ SECOND-IN-COMMAND
THE GREATER GOOD. That’s all I’ve ever fought for. A life without evil. Without sickness and violence. Without corruption and greed. That life is within my grasp. I know this, and that is what drives me so tirelessly. And yes, you might think me ruthless, the way I kill and seem to use others, but if you knew what could be—peace and hope and love—you would be fighting with me. You would be doing the same “terrible” things.
Who knows? One day you might. One day you might be like me, waking up every morning of every day, thinking, this could be it. This could be the day we find the box. The day we rid the world of Pandora’s demons. The day that begins our eternal celebration because we live in a world of absolute bliss.
Am I distressed that we haven’t reached that day yet? Yes. We are close, though…I know that, too. Meanwhile, I continue to be vigilant, to study the demons and the men that house them, meticulously documenting my observations in the hopes that someday they can be put to good use.
And just remember. If you aren’t working with us, you are working against us. Remember also that our enemies tend to die, slowly and painfully….
Eyes: Violet ( Note: eyes glow red when angry)
Butterfly tattoo: Upper left shoulder, wrapping around to his back
Other distinguishing marks: Demon’s skeletal face becomes visible through subject’s skin when subject is angered.
Preferred weapon: Fists
Demon culpability: The stabbing death of Pandora, and thereby the disappearance of her box, can be traced directly to Violence. In modern society Violence is deemed responsible for street-gang warfare, rape, murder and terrorism.
Notable background: Curse resulting from Pandora’s slaying caused the subject to be killed each night and resurrected each day for centuries. Curse has now been broken—methods unclear. Subject still erupts into fits of violence and should be presumed volatile and highly dangerous.
Achilles heel: Recent emotional attachment to human female Ashlyn Darrow, former para-audiologist for the World Institute of Parapsychology who now resides at Budapest fortress. I cannot help but believe that if her mentor, the late Dr. Frederick McIntosh, hadn’t hidden from her the true purpose of her work at the Institute, Darrow would not have defected to the Lords’ camp. Note: Darrow is believed pregnant with subject’s child. Due date to be determined.
Objectives: Capture Ashlyn Darrow if possible, use her as bait for subject to rescue, capture subject and imprison him until such time as Pandora’s box is found. Note: Beware Darrow’s ability to stand in one place and hear every conversation that ever took place there. Utter silence will be needed for any recon or capture missions. The element of surprise is crucial.
(LEADER, BUDAPEST CONTINGENT)
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