“Our loved ones,” she corrected. He wanted a family, and she wanted him happy. So she would do everything in her power to help him patch up his fractured relationships. “And maybe I was too ambitious, asking you to always stand down. Besides, it’s not like these Lords and Ladies can’t protect themselves.”

He blinked with surprise before gifting her with his most wicked smile to date, his gaze promising untold sensual delights. “If I didn’t think our crowd of eavesdroppers would peek around the corner and watch, I would drop to my knees right here, right now.”

The erotic glint in his eyes… Shivers and heat spread through her. She placed her hand over his heart—his racing heart. As much as she wanted him, he wanted her right back.

Aeron rounded the corner, spotted them, and sighed. “We have a location for Cronus. Let’s go. I called dibs on the killing blow, of course, but you can pulverize his bones or feast on his organs afterwards.”

Wait, wait, wait. All of the strength she’d acquired seemed to vanish in an instant. Suddenly queasy, she dug her nails into Galen’s shoulders. He was heading off to war already?

Anticipation glimmered over his expression, and worry bombarded her. If something happened to him…

Galen placed a swift kiss on her lips. “We have unfinished business, Sugar Tits. I’ll be back, and we’ll pick up right where we left off. Count on it.”

She snort-laughed, and her eyes widened. Still this man had the power to amuse her during the most stressful times of her life.

He’s strong. He’ll come back to me.

But what if he didn’t?

A lump grew in her throat. “Be careful,” she said, forcing herself to pry her nails from his body.

He gave her another swift kiss before striding off with Aeron, side by side, the two arguing over who got to make that last, killing blow.

A lone white feather floated to the floor. She bent down to pick it up, and traced the tip over the seam of her lips. So soft, so warm. Scented with her man’s unique fragrance. A true comfort.

After pinning the feather underneath her bra, she returned to the kitchen. Realizing she wasn’t alone, she screeched to a halt. Fox had remained behind, and now sat at the table eating a sandwich.

“Why aren’t you with Galen?” Legion asked. “Shouldn’t you be opening a mystical doorway or something, and guarding his back?”

“William wields magic. He opened the doorway. I don’t…I can’t…” Fox frowned and grabbed hanks of her hair.

The demon of Distrust acting up? “You don’t have to worry. William won’t strike at Galen, because hurting Galen would hurt me.”

Eons ago, William had lived in hell. As the adopted son of Hades, he’d had a kingdom of his own. Until he was cursed by a witch, and prophesied to die at the hand of the woman he loved. Now he spent his days trying to decipher a book of codes, strange symbols, and text that might or might not explain how to save him.

He lived by no moral code but his own, but it was as warped as Galen’s sense of humor. Still, anyone he’d liked—and there were only a handful of names on the list—he’d stringently and violently protected. As a part of the Lords’ family, Legion qualified.

Fox inhaled deeply, exhaled sharply, and eased her hands into her lap, as if concentrating on the conversation took great effort. “You’re right. I should be with Galen, guarding his back. But he messaged and told me to stay here to protect you.” She paused. “You’re going to be the death of him. You know that, right?”

“No.” Legion shook her head and clutched her stomach. “I would never—”

“You won’t mean to, but you will. Look at the wives of the other Lords. All strong. All capable of protecting themselves and their loved ones. But you…you are a burden. Galen is forced to protect you, leaving himself open to attack.”

The blood rushed from Legion’s head, her ears ringing loudly. Fox wasn’t wrong. Her fears had made her a weak link. An anchor with the potential to drag him down—to drown him.

So what was she going to do about it?

* * * *

Galen rushed down a narrow, underground corridor, Aeron at his side. Water dripped from limestone. Glowworms emitted a bright phosphorescent light until they detected the sound of heavy breathing and the rumble of footsteps.

Darkness worked better for today’s ambush, anyway.

A musty scent tinged the cool, damp air. How he missed the sweetness of Leila’s wildflowers.

Focus. Right. He needed to figure out what Cronus wished to acquire from Lucifer’s Palace of Infinite Horrors, and fast.

“Betray her,” Aeron said as they turned a corner, “and I’ll remove your balls with a machete.”

Galen snorted, ignoring a new surge of jealousy. He knew Leila would die for Aeron. Will she live for me? “You’d use any excuse to touch my balls.”

“Children, please.” William ran a few paces behind, practically crackling with eagerness. “It’s not nice to argue in front of friends…without first letting those friends take bets about who will win.”

Their group turned another corner, and all banter ceased. The corridor shrank, restricting Galen’s wings. Despite the pleasant temperature, sweat sheened his skin.

Cronus doesn’t know you’re here. You’ll surprise him, take him out, and all will be well.

False Hope, attempting to build him up. Foreboding bombarded Galen. If the demon claimed the Titan king had no idea the Lords had arrived, the opposite was true. “Cronus knows we’re here,” Galen said. “He’s expecting us.”

“How do you know?” Aeron demanded. “Did you both attend the same Villain 101 course? So far, we’ve found….let me count…zero traps, and killed all of the guards we’ve come across.”

Constant doubt was oh, so fun. “He’s never let himself be seen before. Why now, unless he has plans?”

“So what do you suggest?” Aeron asked. “We’ll kill him whether he knows we’re here or not.”

They snaked around another corner, and finally came to an abrupt stop. Row after row of armed soldiers blocked the path, semi-automatics aimed.

Boom, boom, boom! The army opened fire, bullets blazing through the cave. Galen jumped in front of Aeron. A sharp pain tore through his shoulder, gut, wing, and thigh. Searing agony. Blurry vision. Ringing ears. Blood gushed from each wound.

Taking an injury meant for someone else? That’s new.

Strength drained from him in a hurry, and he dropped. Bonus: he avoided the next line of fire. Using his momentum to his advantage, he rolled forward, kicking two soldiers between the legs and coming up swinging. His short swords cut through their torsos. Intestines spilled out, the splash-splash blending with bellows of shock and pain. With a simple twirl of his wrists, he struck again, removing their heads.

From the corner of his eye, he saw William take down six men at once, all with a swipe of his smoke-wings. The men clawed as their faces as flesh melted from their bones.

Note to self: Stay on William’s good side.

As Galen fought his way through enemy ranks, he took out the soldiers causing the most damage to his...allies. Maybe they’d be friends again one day, maybe not. Animosity was easy. You never had to worry about being vulnerable or betrayed. But as Leila had taught him, caring for others came with boundless rewards.

Bodies fell around him. Sensing a presence behind him, he spun. Just in time. He got to watch as Aeron took out two soldiers who’d snuck up behind Galen, planning to decapitate him.

“Now we’re even,” Aeron said.

“Did you take a bullet for me?” he asked, battling a soldier of his own. Thrust. Parry. “Then no. No, we aren’t even.”

“Anyone see Cronus?” Sabin shouted.

“No.” “Nope.” “Got too much of someone else’s blood in my eyes.”

Very few of the Titan’s soldiers remained standing. Galen grabbed one of the last by the throat and squeezed hard enough to compromise the guy’s windpipe. “Where is your leader? Tell me

!”

“Don’t…” The victim beat at his arms unsuccessfully. “Know.”

“Then you’re of no use to us.” He didn’t waste time with a proper interrogation or torture. He squeezed harder, until the man had strangled to death, his head lolling forward.

Disgusted, Galen released him, letting him crumple to the rocky ground. Panting, knees a bit weak, he scanned the cave. The rest of his team finished off the remaining soldiers.

“Everyone all right?” Aeron asked between panting breaths.

“Barely,” Galen muttered.

The others sounded off. There were a ton of injuries to contend with, but no one had died, so all was well. Leila would be happy. And maybe Galen was happy as well. It was nice, having men he’d once considered brothers protect him rather than attack him.

Before his legs gave out, he made a big show of sitting on the ground. “Let’s take a moment so you wimps can rest.”

William tossed him a handful of bandages. “Dress your wounds before you bleed out. None of us want to listen to a lecture from Legion.”

“She doesn’t lecture,” he said, even as he accepted the offering. “She cries and emotionally rips out your guts.”


Tags: Gena Showalter Lords of the Underworld Fantasy
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