No, no, no! “Galen!”

“I’m not done with you, sugar.” He sank a finger deep, deep inside her.

“Yes!”

In, out. He spread her moisture over her clitoris. In, out. With the next inward glide, he plunged in a second finger, and she cried out. The two digits stretched her. In, out. In, out.

“The things you make me crave,” he said between panting breaths. As he wedged in a third finger, he pressed his thumb against the heart of her need. “I’m helpless against your allure.”

Just. Like. That. The ache and pressure collided, a bomb of ecstasy exploding inside her. She shook, lost in the throes of passion. Muscles clenched and unclenched on bone. White-hot heat enveloped her. Her inner walls tightened around his fingers, as if unwilling to part with him.

Nothing had ever felt this good, her body a live wire of sensation. She soared to the stars, until she crashed and shattered. Her defenses—gone.

Since her rescue from hell, emotions had plagued her. Hate, rage and helplessness. A corrosive brew, always festering. Here, now, with her barriers disintegrated, all three surged through her, leaving her raw and agonized.

Galen withdrew his fingers to spread her essence over her bottom lip. To her astonishment—and delight—he licked where he’d touched. A deliciously scandalous act. One that grounded her in the moment, and the frenzy of need, letting the past recede.

“Hit me,” he commanded softly. “You need to purge, and I need to feel your fury. When you needed me most, I failed to save you.”

Now the past came rushing back, joining the emotional deluge. “I sh-should have saved myself.”

“Sometimes we can’t save ourselves. I’ve been locked in multiple dungeons, bound by chains. Once, a dragon shifter burned me alive every time I regenerated. I’ve been staked to a table, my torso cut open from sternum to pubic bone, so that demons could feast on my organs.”

She cringed. “In hell, that particular torture is known as the All You Can Eat Buffet Experience.”

“And that isn’t the worst of it. I’ve had all of my teeth extracted with pliers, and my genitals removed with gardening shears. To this day, a certain Greek goddess uses my sac as a coin purse.”

Now Legion barked out a laugh, only to jolt from shock. “How can you turn a terrible moment into a joyous one?”

“It’s a gift.” He kissed her temple, a gesture he’d made before. This time, he followed up the action with a kiss on the tip of her nose, then her chin, as if staking a claim on each individual feature. This time, her heart ached. “My point is, sometimes a self-save isn’t possible for a thousand different reasons, but none of those reasons mean you are lacking. Our heart, mind, and body can only take so much. And that’s okay. It happens to us all. That is why family and friends are so important. They help us when we need it most. Then, when they need help, we return the favor.”

Her eyes misted over, and stomach fluttered. Blood suddenly hot and cold. His every word a caress, but also a searing poker to her inner wounds. The juxtaposition left her dazed.

“Hit me,” he repeated.

“Never!”

“Hit me! For centuries, I’ve been an instigator of pain. Now I’d rather bear the brunt of yours.”

“No,” she said, but even as the denial echoed between them, she swung. Her fist rammed into his shoulder. Before her mind had time to process the crashing wave of horror—I just punched the man who pleasured me—her other hand was swinging toward his face.

With a sob, Legion unleashed, hitting and hitting and hitting.

“That’s my girl.” Blood wet his teeth.

Hitting, harder and harder. She’d never shared her heartbreak with another. She’d never wanted to share, had only ever wanted to forget. As she shared the pain with Galen, festering inner wounds hurt a little less.

His eye swelled, and blood blurred his vision. A knot formed in his jaw. “Let the hurt out. Every bit of it.”

Hitting, harder still, until the last of her strength drained, and she sagged against the floor. Voice ragged, she whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

He scooped her into his arms, stood, and carried her to the living room, where he eased onto a chair designed to accommodate his wings. For a long while, he simply held her. Neither of them spoke.

“I’m sorry,” she said with more force. “No matter what you believe, you didn’t deserve my wrath.”

“And you didn’t deserve the terrible things Lucifer and his demons did to you.” Again, he kissed the tip of her nose, her cheek, the corner of her mouth.

See! Staking a claim. These feather-light brushes of his lips beamed bright lights of anticipation into her withered heart, revealing a truth she’d forgotten. Life didn’t have to be an endless parade of bad moments. After a storm, flowers bloomed.

Maybe False Hope was responsible for the shift in her mood, maybe not. Probably not. There was no hint of the fiend’s usual fear.

“I want to tell you what happened to me.” The tears spilled over, scalding her cheeks.

He tensed. “This is going to destroy me, but that’s okay. We’ll put each other back together.”

Back together. Yes. She wanted that. So she did it. She told him. How she was blindfolded and often staked to an altar. The way demons had laughed and taunted her. The way they had poked and prodded at her…the many ways they had violated her. How she’d never known what fresh hell would be visited upon her, the wait sometimes even more agonizing than the actual torture.

At first, she’d prayed for Aeron to save her. After a while, she’d hoped Galen would do the honors, despite the terrible way things had ended between them. Then she’d prayed for a quick death. But death had never come knocking, her tormentors careful to ensure her human body survived each new horror. Eventually, she’d resigned herself to a pain-filled eternity.

Galen listened, his muscles knotting. Her teeth began to chatter, even though she wasn’t cold, and he tightened his grip.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.” Gentle, so gentle, he wiped away her tears. “Their actions speak of their evil, not yours. Your worth was not tarnished by what they did.”

He sounded certain. 100%, zero doubts in his mind. Legion wasn’t convinced. “As a demon, I tortured countless souls. Later, I tried to murder you. Maybe I did deserve what was—”

“No. You didn’t. But let’s say you’re right. Let’s say you deserved everything that happened and more. Why did those particular demons deserve to mete out your punishment? What gave them the right to judge you for your crimes?”

Good question. “Nothing?”

“That’s right. Nothing.” The minty freshness of his breath caressed the crown of her head. “You love the Lords despite the crimes they committed in the past, yet you judge yourself so harshly.”

Wow, did this brute have a confounding number of layers. And, by some miracle, she began to believe he was… right. No one had the right to cast stones at her. No one had the right to violate her bo

dy.

The realization caused the floodgates to open anew, and she sobbed all over again. He petted her hair, stroked her back, and enfolded her with wings, the feathers caressing one side of her body while his intoxicating scent filled her nose.

By the time her tears dried, her eyes were puffy, her nose stuffy. Exhausted and sniffling, she sagged against him. “Galen?”

“Yes, Leila?”

She paused to double check her desires. Did she really want to suggest what she was about to suggest? Yes! “I think we should end the test part of our relationship and try for real.”

* * * *

“I agree.” The words rushed from his mouth, an unstoppable freight train. As he held this beautiful woman in his arms, rocking her back and forth, she moved to the #1 spot on his list of treasures.

She’s mine. I keep what’s mine.

“Out with the temporary arrangement,” he said, “and in with the permanent commitment.”

He wanted this woman. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally.

Eternally.

Ending their association had never been an option for him; he just hadn’t wanted to admit it before, had feared being rejected. But to let her go, he would have to rip out the best part of his heart and soul, becoming half a man.

Hell, Leila wasn’t just #1 on his list. She was everything to him, her needs and desires more important to him than his own. He didn’t care if it was healthy or not. He cared about her. Galen would do whatever proved necessary to protect her from the ramifications of an association with him.

When she’d come apart in his arms, gasping his name and clinging to his body, her tight inner walls clamping on his fingers, something inside him had changed. Contentment had beckoned, closer than ever before.

Fox was right. Leila was magic.

Every day since she’d moved in, he’d woken up brimming with anticipation, wondering what she would say or do next. The stunning beauty had turned mundane tasks into mini-adventures and meals into living fantasies. Each night, when he’d placed his head on a pillow, he’d fallen asleep with a smile, replaying their interactions.


Tags: Gena Showalter Lords of the Underworld Fantasy
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