She expected a storm of relief.

Waiting…

Still waiting…

All she felt? Trepidation. What fresh horrors awaited her outside these walls?

Well, then. She would stay put.

Now relief stormed through her.

Sips scratched and bit her arm. Racoon speak for, Put me down, you fool.

“Okay, okay.” After setting him on the floor, he scratched and bit her leg, just for giggles. As she protested, he ran away.

Rather than explore the house, Legion shut herself in the bedroom next to Galen’s and unpacked her jewels. Precious treasures she considered a part of her family. All the while, the warrior’s incredible scent teased her. Summer storms, dark spices, and masculine musk.

Maybe her stay here wouldn’t be so bad.

* * * *

Days passed in a haze of sleepiness and anguish. Legion’s nightmares returned full force. Sips the Traitor never visited the spacious chamber, leaving her alone, afraid, and betrayed. Why did she even miss that stupid raccoon?

Easy. He was a total dick, yes, but he was her dick.

Wait, that sounded wrong. Whatever! Her only comfort came from her jewels. Stroke the precious.

Galen bellowed a string of curses, and she flinched, her stomach flip-flopping. He roared every time he woke up. Aiding the warrior ceased being a simple desire—it became a complicated need. But how? As a former demon who’d specialized in maximizing her victim’s pain, she had nothing to offer.

“Fox! Get your ass in here.” His ragged voice wasn’t as slurred as before. Had part of his tongue already grown back? “Make it stop.”

Helplessness bombarded Legion. She had to think this through. To think it through, she’d have to first clear the debris from her head. Maybe she’d take a walk.

She peeked out her bedroom’s only window, a sea of white greeting her. Clouds? Had Galen taken her to a level of the heavens, where Sent Ones hunted her kind for sport?

Okay, no walk. She shrank back and pressed her back against the wall. Inhale, exhale.

A self-help book had mentioned the merits of focusing on a monotonous activity, so she gave that a try and counted furniture. One: a four-poster bed with a feather-soft mattress and lovely pink canopy. Two: a vanity embedded with colorful gemstones. Three: a wardrobe overflowing with ball gowns. Four, five, six: jewelry boxes filled to the brim. Seven: a nightstand made of mother-of-pearl.

Her heart rate slowed, fear ebbing. This room seemed tailor-made for her, as if the designer had reached inside her brain and rooted through her preferences. Galen’s doing?

The only flaw? The lack of books. In hell, reading was forbidden. But on one of Hades’s rare visits to the cabin, he’d given her an iPod loaded with “how to” programs, and it hadn’t taken long for the lessons to click. Now, Legion loved to read, to discover new worlds without ever leaving the safety of her home. No matter how savage, no matter how brutal, a romance novel hero never hurt his heroine, his icy exterior melting for her alone.

Am I Galen’s heroine?

Did she want to be?

Clear your head and find out!

Fox’s voice seeped through the walls, snagging her attention. “First you have to get better, but you’re not getting better. Why aren’t you getting better, Galen?”

Acid burned Legion’s chest. Before, she’d worried Galen might die. Today, the possibility seemed more certain.

No. No! He would survive this, if only to save Legion from Fox. In books, the heroes never…or rarely died. Just depended on whether or not the author wanted Legion to track her down and complain! Although, Galen probably qualified as the villain, and villains always got axed.

Why not explore the house, clearing her head and mapping out an escape route, just in case?

Legion inched into the hallway, her feet as heavy as cinder blocks. Deep breath in, out. Good, that was good. A step forward, pause. Another step, pause. When she turned the corner and nothing bad happened, some of her tension drained. Steps lighter, she motored on, peeking into rooms and investigating the state-of-the-art appliances and expensive decor.

Galen had excellent taste, that was for sure. She recognized Qianlong and Ming Dynasty vases, exquisite Persian rugs, and priceless artwork collectors would probably commit terrible crimes to own. Artwork she vaguely remembered being reported stolen over the centuries.

Her host also possessed a wealth of technological marvels, reminiscent of the robotic birds he’d sent to the cabin. In a workroom, she found tables cluttered with tools, all kinds of metals, and different robots in varying stages of completion.

When she came upon an office, she nearly wept with joy. So. Many. Books. The mothership. Her new happy place. Maybe she could find a medical guide for immortals.

She searched the shelves, excitement morphing into disappointment. Nearly every tome dealt with war, torture, or overcoming a traumatic past.

What kind of traumas had he suffered in his long, long life? If his experiences had been anything like hers… An unexpected pang of sympathy speared her.

Focus! Maybe she would fire off a message to Aeron and Olivia to let them know she’d left the cabin, and ask if they knew how to save Galen’s life.

And give the couple a chance to attack the warrior while he couldn’t defend himself? No.

A book without a title caught her attention. She flipped through the pages, her eyes widening. A scrapbook about Gwendolyn the Fierce, Galen’s daughter. The pages were filled with photographs of Gwen from the age of four-ish to adulthood.

He’d only recently found out about her, and he’d claimed to want nothing to do with her. Yet he’d dug so deeply into her past? Why would he hide—

“He’s not getting better.” The familiar voice spilled through the office, interrupting Legion’s thoughts.

Jolting, she spun to face the threat. A fatigued Fox occupied the open doorway, her arms crossed over her chest, Sips purring as he wound around her feet like a cat.

Fear squeezed Legion’s throat. Her heart thudded against her ribs, and nausea churned in her stomach. For a moment, her mind transported back to hell, when she’d been Lucifer’s prisoner.

—a blindfold covered her eyes as a blade sliced into her torso. She screamed and fought to no avail. Demons cackled with glee—

—hot, fetid breath fanned her ear…fangs scraped between her breasts before sinking deep—

“No!” she shouted, struggling to breathe.

Fox gave her a withering glare.

Inhale, exhale. Tears burned her eyes. Legion hated being this girl. Once upon a time, she had faced every challenge with bravery and confidence. Nothing had frightened her.

“Calm down,” Fox demanded. Taller than Legion by several inches and regal in a way few people could mimic, she didn’t just command a room—she commanded all she surveyed. “I think Galen was poisoned while saving your worthless life.”

A spark of anger torched the last vestiges of the past, a remnant of the old Legion snapping, “Or maybe you’re just a crappy caregiver?”

“Wrong. I’m a mediocre caregiver. Now t

ell me what happened.” Black lines branched from her eye sockets, a sign of fury, and a consequence of the demon she carried within.

“Around my house, there were wards designed to cause temporary brain bleeds and confusion, so that any attackers would forget me.” Why hadn’t Galen forgotten her? “As soon as we exited the cabin, Galen should have healed from that. As for his other injuries…I only saw an arrow pierce his wing. Everything else comes from battles he waged before he reached me.” She nibbled on her lower lip. “If Lucifer sent the army, then Galen was poisoned.”

Even saying the Destroyer’s name left a foul taste in her mouth, but the suspicion of poison proved far worse. If only fear hadn’t scrambled her brain, she would have realized it sooner!

She could have saved Galen days of anguish. If he’d reached the point of no return, reviving him would no longer be possible. Was she already too late?

“You still think Cronus is responsible?” she asked, hopeful.

“Yes. He probably used the same methods as the Prince of Darkness. Villains do learn from each other. So, tell me about the poison,” Fox insisted. “Where can I find an antidote?”

“La pire mort. The worst death. The poison won’t deactivate until Galen is dead. And there isn’t an antidote.”

Fox popped her jaw. Her hands fisted. “There has to be—”

“There isn’t.” Legion shook her head to punctuate her words, strands of hair slapping her cheeks. La pire mort provided an unescapable doom. “To save him, we’ll have to kill him.”

“No. Absolutely not. You’re lying. You’d say anything to orchestrate his death.”

“Then,” she continued as if Fox hadn’t spoken, “we’ll have to revive him.” There was no other way.

Anguish colored Fox’s expression. “Say you’re right. The moment he dies, the demons will leave him. When the demons leave him, there’ll be a grand total of zero ways to revive him.”


Tags: Gena Showalter Lords of the Underworld Fantasy
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