Red dots flickered through her sight line, giving her tunnel vision. Must destroy Puck!
Launching onto his back, she hammered her fists into his chest. With each blow, sharp pains consumed her chest. Who cared? What was pain?
“Coward! Liar!” The worst insult of them all. “You disgust me.” Not good enough. “You repulse me.” Better.
“You are alive because of me.”
“I’m miserable because of you!”
Regret seemed to pulse from him, there and gone in a flash. An illusion? Too late to tell. With a screech, she switched her aim to his face, and battered his nose. More pain, blood pouring down her mouth and chin. Still she didn’t care.
Puck caught her wrists in a bruising grip, effectively ending her tirade. “My news should thrill you. After I drop you off with my friends, I’ll return to the mortal realm to recruit William. He’ll help me win back my crown, and I’ll sever my bond to you.”
Deep breath in, deep breath out. Tamp down your fury. Act as if all is well. When the time comes, strike.
First, she had to gather information. “What do you mean, you’ll sever our bond?” she asked through clenched teeth. “We can officially divorce without dying?”
“That is the plan, aye.” He offered no more, just resumed marching forward.
Um, did he not realize plans could be derailed? “Explain,” she insisted, trying to hop off his back.
Silent, he readjusted her position and tightened his grip, ensuring every step rubbed her breasts against him. Lance after lance of pleasure tore through her, and she hissed.
“Let me down. Now. I won’t fight you anymore.” Not yet, anyway.
Perhaps the fear in her voice spurred him on. He wrapped an arm around her waist and swung her around. For a split second, she hung upside down. Then he righted her and placed her on her feet, directly in front of him.
“I will do anything to win my crown,” he told her. “No deed is too dark. No task too gruesome.”
The fire in her veins cooled. “Why?”
“Long ago, my brother betrayed me. He turned a champion into a monster and later killed our father, all to keep the Connacht crown for himself. He is destroying my home, hurting my people, and he must be stopped. I will save the lands and the clans, and I will avenge the wrongs done to me. According to the Oracles, my only hope of success was finding William of the Dark and wedding his woman.”
Oracles? And oh, how casually he spoke of Gillian’s doom.
“I deserve to wear the crown,” he added. “I deserve vengeance. And I will be good to my people. I just need William’s help.”
“You’re despicable,” she spat.
“I know. But at least you’re still alive. I saved you from certain death, something your precious William wasn’t willing to do.”
“Thanks for the reminder, goat man. But to what end?” she snapped. “Sometimes death is preferable to life.” Her stephorrors had taught her that lesson very well. “William is smart. He’ll know better than to trust you.”
Puck hiked his wide shoulders in a shrug—a shrug!—and offered no assurances to the contrary.
She had to escape him, had to warn William.
Gillian faked left and darted right, but only made it four steps away before Puck caught her.
“Brace yourself,” he said. “We enter my homeland in five, four, three, two...”
She attempted to wrench free, but he tightened his hold.
Between one blink and the next, everything changed. The humid heat of the rain forest morphed into cold desert winds, grains of sand pelting her skin. The drop in temperature shocked her system and momentarily rendered her immobile.
Two golden suns shone from a purple-red sky. There were no homes that she could see. No animals, bodies of water or people.
Escape. Now! She spun, shoved Puck out of the way and soared through the invisible doorway they’d just exited—
Nope. She ate sand.
“Where is the doorway?” she screeched. Where had it gone? Puck peered up at the odd-colored sky, his arms spread, his legs braced apart. Before her eyes, he transformed, the horns vanishing, and the fur on his legs quickly following suit. His cheekbones, once sharp enough to cut glass, softened some- what. His claws retracted, and the boots and hooves turned to mist, revealing human feet.
Not just beautiful. Utterly exquisite... But also a stranger to her. She’d rather deal with the devil she knew.
He closed his eyes, inhaled...exhaled...as if savoring the moment. Another deception, surely. This horrible male savored nothing.
“How is this possible?” she demanded.
“A right of birth and magic. But it hasn’t happened in so long... I thought the ability gone forever.”
No way, no how magic controlled his appearance. Absolutely impossible! Except, he’d just gone from beast to chic in less than a blink. Denial was silly. Magic truly existed, and not just the hocus-pocus variety.
One day, too many fantastical things would happen and her mind would break.