She didn’t bolt. A good sign. “You may call me Legion,” she whispered. “It’s fine.”
No, it wasn’t. Her name, her choice. He’d been an ass to insist otherwise. “How about I call you…Leila,” he said, and nodded, enamored of the syllables as they rolled from his tongue.
She frowned. “Leila?”
“L-E from Legion, paired with I-L-A.”
“Ila. Dark beauty in the old language.” The corners of her mouth twitched, the sight nearly his undoing. “Yes! I love, love, love it.”
Could a male spontaneously orgasm? That almost smile really lit the fuse on his rocket.
“Why did you save me?” he asked, his head tilting to the side. And what did her letters say?
The letters! Some of the papers had gotten soaked with blood. Surely a few remained legible. Where had Fox left them? Next time he rolled solo, he would go hunting.
Slowly, hands wringing together, Legion said, “I saved you because…I owed you.”
Duty, then. Disappointment blistered him with the heat of a thousand suns, but not by word or deed did he reveal it. In fact, pride glued on a couldn’t-care-less expression. Unfortunately, pride used weak glue.
“And because you intrigue me,” she added, her voice soft. “And because I remembered how good it felt to be with you. And because I’m tired of being afraid every second of every day. And because I don’t know how to change, or how to protect myself. Maybe you could…I don’t know…teach me? Maybe,” she reiterated.
As his heart raced, False Hope whispered poison. The more time you spend with her, the more she’ll learn about you, and the more she’ll hate you.
The opposite of hope? Fear. Once again, the demon’s greatest weapon.
Galen bit his tongue until he tasted blood. “Yes,” he said. “I will teach you.”
Oblivious to his inner turmoil, Legion—Leila—said, “You told Fox that Sienna will protect you. I’m assuming you spoke of Sienna Blackstone, keeper of Wrath, wife to Paris, and current queen of the Titans.”
“The very one.”
He understood the question—how had he garnered such a promise. “A while back, she and the Lords were desperate to find Pandora’s box.” After they’d opened it all those centuries ago, it had vanished. No big deal, except the box supposedly had the power to kill every demon-possessed immortal in the world. “Four artifacts were needed to find it. I had one, and we traded. The artifact for two years of protection.”
The Lords had gotten the better end of the bargain, no doubt about it. They’d eventually found the box. So far, Sienna had done shit for Galen.
Legion—damn it, Leila—surprised him by asking, “Since we’re talking about the infamous box, why did you betray your friends and tell Zeus they planned to steal it?”
“Many reasons,” he grated, hating this subject. “Why are you so curious?” Already looking for a reason to ditch him and his lessons?
She ignored his question. “Name three reasons for doing what you did.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“I’m, well…” She hiked her shoulders in a shrug, doing her best to appear casual. “I’m interviewing you for the position of my helper.”
Considering how much he wanted the job, he opted for honesty yet again. “One, Lucien and Sabin were leaders of Zeus’s Elite Guard and I hoped they’d get fired. Two, I liked Pandora, and I didn’t want her executed if the steal-and-open plan succeeded. Three, I tried to talk to the guys about my reservations, but they ignored me, so I decided they deserved to fail.”
“So…out of spite?”
“Yes,” he admitted.
Silence stretched between them, tense and oppressive, her thoughts clearly spinning. He opened his mouth to give her the hard sell, thought better of it, and said nothing. He wanted Leila to crave the real Galen, not some fake veneer.
Besides, if he said anything more, he might push her away rather than urge her closer. His fragile flower had to be handled with care. But waiting had never been easy for Galen. When he wanted something, he wanted it. And Leila…he wanted her more than he’d ever wanted anyone else.
“What will we do if Cronus or Lucifer finds us?” she asked.
“They won’t. You’re safe here. No one knows I own this realm, and no one can enter without portaling in. Few immortals wield the magic needed to portal, and neither bastard has a Gatekeeper on staff.” Not even Hades had one, though rumors suggested Hades’s son William possessed the ability to a limited degree.
Finally, Leila nodded. “I hate to bargain, but I know of no other way to do this. You will protect me, and help me overcome my fears, all my fears, moving at a pace I find comfortable, and I will…” She nibbled on her bottom lip, an obvious habit. “What do you want from me in return?”
No need to ponder. “You. I will devour every inch of you, if ever you give me permission,” he said, his voice husky with longing. “For now, we’ll start with a dinner date.”
After Leila returned to her bedroom, Galen texted Fox a set of instructions. Then he found and read the letters Leila had written but never sent. As he’d hoped, some had remained legible.
Her replies ran the gamut, everything from “leave me alone” to “never stop wanting me” to “I’d never known true satisfaction until our interlude in the bar. In hell, I was a piece of property, passed from one abuser to another. I meant nothing. I WAS nothing. To you, I think I mattered.”
The words blurred at that point. Because he’d gotten dust in his eyes.
He felt the same way about her. He might not matter to her—yet—but the moment he’d come inside her was the one and only time he’d experienced true satisfaction. For the first time in his life, something other than a ravenous hunger for power had controlled him. Actually, even that hunger had been momentarily assuaged. She’d consumed his thoughts and enslaved his body.
In her letters, Leila also mentioned that she wished she’d stayed with him after they’d had sex, and wondered what her life would have been like if she’d chosen a different path.
He couldn’t change the past for her, but he could do everything possible to ensure he left her in better condition than he’d found her…and no other man ever had a chance to compare.
Another man…touching my woman…
I’ll kill him.
Galen showered, brushed his teeth about a thousand times, and dressed for the coming dinner date with great care. All the while, he trembled with eagerness. Not nervousness. Nope. Not him. He didn’t do nervous.
He checked his reflection in the full-length mirror to search for flaws. Not a single one. The dark pin-striped suit made from the finest silk money could buy had cutouts for his wings, and the white button-up molded to his significant muscle mass. Dayum. He looked so good he had a crush on himself. His pale hair appeared wind-blown, but also perfect. Dare he mention the sparkle in his electric blues?
Leila’s reservations would melt like ice cream on a hot summer’s day. And so would her panties.
Unless she’s using you as a substitute for Aeron.
He stiffened. Clearly, False Hope and Jealousy planned to ruin his evening. Well, too bad, so sad. Nothing could ruin this. Except for a long list of emotional landmines, of course. His past. His present. His future. His attitude. Going too fast. Going too slow. Basically—everything about him.
The trembling worsened. Because he was even more eager, not even more nervous.
He would be meeting Leila in the kitchen in T-minus fifty-nine minutes, twenty-eight seconds, and he would romance the hell out of her.
So he hadn’t been on a date in…ever. So what? He excelled at everything.
Yes, you do, False Hope said. Most of all, you excel at failure.
Inhale. Exhale. Ignore the fiend. In the past, if Galen had wanted a woman he’d either A) paid for a few hours of her time or B) flirted, had sex, then blazed a path to the nearest exit. He’d never had mo
re than a one-night stand. Why build a life the demons would one day destroy?
Besides, Galen had trust issues. And rightly so. Welcoming a lover into his home would only end one of three ways. An attack while he was distracted by pleasure—a ploy he’d often used against his foes. An ambush at a later date. His personal information leaked to others. No, thanks.
Going to a female’s place had been out of the question, too. He had too many enemies willing to use women as bait.
Distraction killed as surely as a blade.
But again, Leila proved to be an exception to his every rule.
“I finally got to speak with Sienna.” Fox’s voice sounded behind him.
He turned on the heels of his expensive Italian loafers, one brow quirked. “And?”
She stood in front of the door, Sips at her feet. The trash panda had taken a liking to her. “She told me you’re alive today only because she’s handled some of the contracts on your life. She asked that you lay low, and mentioned she’ll help Aeron skin you alive if you harm Legion.”
What if Aeron decides he wants Leila as his sidepiece? Will she go running back to him?
You can’t win her affections. Why try?
Jealousy, attempting to shift his focus. False Hope, attempting to stop him before he even started.
He stiffened. Ignore. Them. “Did you do as I requested and—”
“Google the best questions to ask on a first date? Yes,” she interjected, waving a handful of notecards.
“And did you—”