“Kidnap a chef who specializes in Legion’s preferred cuisine? Yes, again.”
“Buy Legion a cell phone?” She tossed the device his way. “Yes.”
Excellent. Like him, Leila had never really been on a date. Galen wanted to set the bar high with her favorite foods and gifts.
Fox crossed the distance, stopping in front of him to straighten his tie. “The meal is ready. I took the chef home and ensured he forever doubts what he saw and heard.”
One of Distrust’s only perks—instilling self-doubt in others. Few people knew how to recognize the fiend’s whispers.
Sips followed Fox and wound around her ankles. Something about the creature set off alarms in Galen’s head. His gaze, maybe. Far too direct.
“Is your new pet a shifter?” he asked.
“No. He’s a spy. Hades can link with him at any time. But Sips tells me whenever the king is at the wheel.”
“Oh, so you speak raccoon now?”
“Like it’s hard?” She smirked and fluffed her hair. “Be glad I learned. Sips is the one who told me all of your girlfriend’s beloved culinary delights.”
Girlfriend. A word he would never tire of hearing. “Thank you for aiding me.”
“I have a feeling you won’t be so grateful when you taste the gourmet circus cuisine.” She shuddered. “At first, Sips told me she liked fried squirrel on a stick. After I threatened to neuter him, he fessed up to the truth, which is just as horrifying.”
Were they talking about circus peanuts and popcorn? His palate wept.
“Just…hurry up and nail the girl so your obsession with her will fade, and we can get back to our world domination agenda.” She opened her mouth to say more, frowned, then shook her head.
Did the demon of Distrust attempt to poison her thoughts against Leila? Or Galen?
He’d known the possibility existed before he’d captured the fiend, but he’d considered the risk worth the reward.
Galen cupped one side of her face and pressed a soft kiss into the other. “We have an eternity to advance our world domination agenda. For the next week—month—maybe the next year, let’s focus on our personal shit.” Was a year long enough, though? “Go, get lost for a while. Enjoy an evening of debauchery anywhere but here.”
“I love you, too,” she grumbled.
“I love you, yes. With all my heart. But you are a cock-block. You always cramp my style.”
“You mean your slay now, question later style?”
“Close. Lay now, question later.”
She pretended to gag. “You might not want me nearby, but you need me. Legion’s bite is still venomous. If she attacks—”
“Let me stop you there. Whatever happens, you aren’t to harm Leila—Legion. Tell me you understand this.”
“I don’t care if you come back and find my severed limbs roasting on a spit. She’s off limits to you. Say it.”
Her eyes narrowed, but she grated, “Legion is off limits to me.”
“Good girl.” He patted Fox’s cheek in approval, accepted the notecards, and strode out of the room, ready to begin Leila’s seduction…
* * * *
Shocked to the bone, Legion performed a slow-mo 360. Galen’s kitchen had been transformed into an Arabian Nights paradise. Flickering candles filled the entire room. Multi-colored scarves cascaded from the ceiling, intermixing with strings of beads. A coffee table had replaced the kitchen table, jewel-toned pillows acting as chairs. Covered platters dominated the table’s surface, a gem-encrusted genie lamp the centerpiece.
Your wish is my command…
The scent of corn dogs, chili cheese fries, and cotton candy saturated the air, and her mouth watered.
As Galen stepped past a sheer purple curtain, electric pulses awakened every nerve in her body.
He looked her over. “You are stunning, Leila.”
His husky timbre sent shivers rushing down her spine. And when he looked her over a second time, taking in the frilly dress with a cinched-in waist and mid-thigh tulle skirt paired with ballet flats, his irises heated—and so did her blood.
Galen wore a dark, perfectly tailored suit, the polished veneer only enhancing the savagery of his soul. Awareness of him eclipsed her fears, and it was nice. Better than nice. Wonderful! For a moment, she felt like the old Legion again.
“I’m guessing I am stunning, too?” he prompted.
Did she detect a thrum of uncertainty? How adorable. The saucy, ultra-confident Galen cared about her opinion. Meaning she had power over him. How delicious.
“You are,” she admitted. “I think you’ve hijacked my thoughts.” And she was glad for it. Once, she’d made a deal with the devil because she’d dreamed of falling in love, being loved in return, and discovering why humans were so obsessed with getting naked and rolling around in bed. Here, now, she realized a part of her still yearned for those things, despite everything that had happened.
Fear had put her life on pause long enough. She deserved pleasure.
If she wanted better, she had to fight for it. Had she picked the right man for the job, though? Someone who would be patient with her, who would ease her back to life, and give as much as he took?
Time would reveal the truth, one way or another, but her hopes were high. Galen was strong. He would cross any line to get what he wanted, and for some reason, what he wanted most was a chance to keep her safe.
Unless he decided to bed her, even if she said no.
Sickness churned in her stomach. She would never be able to fight him off. Her body might appeal to males, but it was too frail, too weak.
“Whatever you’re thinking,” Galen grated, “stop. Please. False Hope is gleeful.” He clasped her hand, stopping her from continuing to stroke the diamond choker around her neck.
“I don’t understand. My thoughts aren’t hopeful. They’re dark.”
He kissed her wrist, his lips brushing the spot where her pulse hammered. The action surprised her and caused her brain to short-circuit. “Dark, as in fearful?” When she nodded, he added, “Fear is a type of hope. An expectation of the worst possible outcome.”
Yes, of course. Should have realized. Having grown up in hell, she had firsthand experience with demon trickery. The best way to combat False Hope? Truth.
If Galen had wanted to hurt her, he’d had multiple opportunities. In return for saving her life, he could have asked for anything, even sex
. When he’d woken up and realized she’d driven a blade through his heart, he hadn’t jumped to conclusions and punished her. He’d thought things through.
Fear? Suddenly, she had none, the truth freeing her from its shackles.
Galen must have sensed the change in her. He grinned, seduction incarnate, and waved to the table. “Sit. Please.”
Helpless to resist, she eased onto a pillow at one side of the coffee table. He selected a pillow directly across from her, his body heat and scent quickly enveloping her, more intense than usual.
He filled a plate with food, handed it to her, then filled another, only cringing twice.
“You aren’t a fan of corndogs, I take it,” she said. “Are you too sophisticated?”
“You mean am I someone who prefers his food not to go in one end and spew out the other? One hundred percent yes.”
“Did you just reference…you did, you really did.” She laughed with abandon.
Fascination lit his eyes, and she quieted. Her cheeks heated.
“Well,” she said, and cleared her throat. “We have nothing in common taste-wise.”
He slanted his head to the side. “And things in common is important to you?”
“According to the self-help books I’ve read, similar likes and dislikes are touted as ‘important,’ yes, but only if you want to make your relationship work.”
I’m thinking in terms of a relationship? Already?
Well, why not? Galen was the only person who excited her, in addition to terrifying her.
The likelihood that he would betray her at some point, in some way? High. Once, he’d been friends with the Lords. Then he’d ensured they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Or rather, Pandora’s box. For centuries, he’d warred with his former friends, had even murdered one. Baden, former Keeper of Distrust.