Why had she fought this? So nice. No, so wonderful, just like Cronus, the man she hoped to please above all others always, always, always, and—
A sharp pain exploded through her temples, the feeling of relaxation subsiding, revealing a dark underbelly of menace. Insects seemed to crawl across her frontal lobe. She couldn’t…she needed…
Footsteps, curses. Metal clanged against metal. The insects scampered out of her head, new pains cutting through her temples. Blood dripped from her nose. She blinked rapidly—come on, focus!
The icy tundra came into view, highlighted by those fire pits. Amid a soundtrack of war, chaos reigned. Men and women fought with savage determination. No mercy.
There was William the Ever Randy, laughing as he sliced a man from nose to navel.
Hades ripped out a man’s trachea and tossed it to the ground, like garbage.
Torin and Keeley tag-teamed a group of six, tearing limbs from two opponents to beat the others.
Paris and Sienna sliced through the masses as easily as butter.
Aeron! Legion’s heart raced, and tears obscured her vison. Oh, how she’d missed the tattooed warrior who’d once offered her a home, friendship, and a life filled with love and laughter. Why had she avoided him? Seeing him now, fighting so fiercely on her behalf, old resentments faded.
Then there was Fox, a woman maddened in more ways than one. She was fury incarnate as she spun, struck, spun again, struck again—Legion spotted Galen and whimpered.
He hadn’t given himself time to strengthen and heal. He’d come for her.
Her heart raced faster. If Fox was fury, Galen was pure, unmanaged rage. He used his wings for both offense and defense. He swung his swords, punched, and kicked, all while hovering in the air.
Multiple men closed around him at once. On his next spin, metal hooks extended from the edges of his wings. Oh. Oh, wow. Those hooks disemboweled one victim after another. Guess Galen had replaced the razor blades with the thicker metal for maximum damage.
Metal glinted from one of his hands, too. The hand the soldiers had severed. A prosthetic?
His speed remained unmatched, bodies toppling all around him. He fought as dirty as a demon, but he had the heart of an angel.
He is mine. My man.
He hadn’t just come for her; he’d risked everything to come for her.
In a rush of motion, Cronus moved behind her, yanked her to her feet, and placed a dagger at her throat. The tip pierced her hammering pulse. “Not another step,” he told Galen.
Legion fought her terror and continued sawing, despite close proximity to her captor.
Panting, icy mist wafting in front of his face, Galen ground to an abrupt halt a few feet away. He wasn’t the only one. Aeron came up beside him. William, Hades, and the others, too. Everyone but Torin, who picked off the remaining stragglers.
Finally! The rope fell away from her wrists. Legion reached up to grip Cronus’s forearm, to push him away and ease the sting. He only dug the knife in deeper.
“Hurt her further, and I will make your torture my life’s mission.” Galen smiled, slow and all kinds of evil. “I’ll enjoy strapping you to my table. Once I tire of your screams, your death will become a cautionary tale.”
“You can have the parts I opt not to mince,” William said to Galen. “Meaning you get nothing. I just ordered my Miracle Blade, and I’m excited to see if I can slice through a skull as easily as a tomato.”
Cronus hissed and sank the knife deeper.
In unison, Galen and Aeron took a step forward.
“No closer,” Cronus shouted. Considering the way his body trembled against hers, she suspected his panicked gaze was darting between the males. Unlike his creator, he had no real life or battle experience.
“Focus on me, Titan,” Hades said as Sips leaped into his open arms. He caught the purring raccoon and stroked his back, channeling Dr. Evil, a fictional villain she’d kinda sorta crushed on during her stay in the cabin. “I am the one you should fear.”
Cronus jerked against her, once again sinking the knife a little deeper.
She swallowed a gasp of pain, lest Galen and Aeron revolt.
“You’ve had plenty of opportunities to kill Lucifer,” Cronus spat, “and yet you’ve failed. You allow the war to roll on, countless people dying for your cause. Why is that, hmm? You should tell your so-called friends the truth. As for me, I’ll do whatever it takes to reclaim my throne. Something you should understand. Now, you have a choice. Chase after me, or save your demon girl.”
With that, he jerked the blade across Legion’s throat. Oh, the pain! Burning, stinging. Hot blood pouring. Vision blurring. Knees knocking, buckling. A whoosh of air as she dropped. Darkness encroached upon her mind, but not before strong arms banded around her, easing her fall.
A hoarse denial rang out, warm breath brushing the crown of her head. “You will heal from this, Leila. Do you understand? I’ve got you, and I’m never letting you go.”
Legion slipped in and out of consciousness. The first time she awoke, nearly mindless with pain, Fox was stitching the wound in her neck, and Galen was issuing commands and shouting obscenities at Aeron.
“Careful! Do not hurt her. Save her whatever the cost.” Fury and fear layered Galen’s voice. “Aeron, get out of Fox’s way before I strangle you with your own intestines!”
“I don’t trust your friend,” Aeron snarled. “If she makes a play against my girl, she loses her head.”
“My girl,” Galen snarled right back.
“You’re both children,” Fox muttered. “Why don’t you both get out of my way, hmm?”
When the needle pricked a tendon, a stream of searing agony sent a message to Legion’s brain: Total factory shutdown.
When the lights flickered back on, sharp needle-like pinpricks stabbed every inch of her, deadened nerves regenerating. Icy cold invaded—shock?—and she shivered. She lay on her back, a soft mattress beneath her.
“Cold, sugar?” Galen’s voice. “Let me warm you.”
He lifted her legs and slid her bare feet underneath his shirt. The darling man was sharing his body heat, reminding her of a beloved hero in a Julie Garwood novel.
As Legion succumbed to sleep, she thought, I think I’m in love.
The next time she awoke, she was curled against Galen’s side, their bodies covered by soft blankets. Or maybe his wings? Sweat drenched him. While her teeth still chattered from cold, he was clearly overheated. But he didn’t seem to mind when she snuggled closer, basking in the deliciousness of his warmth and the decadence of his scent.
Drifting to sleep once again, she thought, I’m definitely in love.
Finally, she awoke for good and took stock of her physical condition. Only a mild twinge of discomfort in her neck. Not bad. She stretched, loosening knotted muscles.
Memories of Cronus’s attempted mind-rape swooped in, but they were quickly
overshadowed by memories of Galen’s bravery and kindness.
Where was he?
Disappointed to find herself alone, she eased into a sitting position. A note lay on the pillow next to hers. She read: Everyone is alive and well. Love, G
Wait, wait, wait. Love? Had he meant it as a figure of speech? Or did he love her love her?
Excitement surged, but she tamped it down and kept reading.
PS: Now that I’ve saved your life—twice!—there’s no better time to admit I also saved you all kinds of postage when I stole your letters from the cabin. You know, the ones you wrote but never sent. I particularly liked the part about how you’d never known true satisfaction until me. Let’s discuss.
Ahhhh. The blood-soaked papers she’d seen under his clothing finally made sense. Maybe a normal response would be anger? Right now, she was just grateful he knew the thoughts that had been tumbling around in her head.
One thing was clear, at least. Galen wasn’t nearby, and yet she felt hope for a better tomorrow. Therefore, False Hope wasn’t responsible. And, now that she thought about it, she hadn’t experienced any jealousy, either. Maybe his demons had no real power over her. Having lived in the presence of evil for centuries, she had better defenses than most.
Legion set the note on the nightstand and looked around. Sunlight glared through a large bay window, illuminating the entire bedroom. There was a desk with elaborate carvings, an armoire with crystal handles, weapons everywhere—swords, axes, and semi-automatics—and robotic birds positioned throughout. She recognized the floral wallpaper. Galen had brought her to the fortress owned by the Lords of the Underworld.
Even better, he’d carted her jewelry here. Everything she’d saved when those soldiers invaded her cabin. Darling man.
A fire crackled in a marble hearth, burning stalks of ambrosia like incense. Intoxicating smoke curled to the ceiling. As the drug of choice for immortals, ambrosia dulled pain and encouraged sedation. Kind of him, but she’d had enough sleep to last a lifetime.