Sin ducked as Kat's dagger narrowly missed his throat. He smiled at her skill, extremely impressed by it. It wasn't often he found anyone who could come close to striking him, and especially not someone who was put together like a brick house. Like Kish had said about Angelina, he wouldn't mind having his ass beat by Kat, so long as she did it in a black lace or leather teddy. Yeah, the thought of her naked in spiked red heels made him hard even as she slashed at his face.

He caught her wrist as she swung back, but he wasn't expecting her knee a heartbeat later. It landed straight in his ribs.

He grunted before he squeezed the dagger out of her hand. The next thing he knew, she'd head-butted him.

Pain splintered his skull as his head snapped back and blood trickled from his nose. Damn, the woman could hit hard...

"Omigod!" she said instantly. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to. I got carried away."

He shook his head to clear it even though his forehead and nose were still throbbing and his ears were ringing. "You always apologize to your enemies when you land a solid blow?"

"Never, but I do so whenever I accidentally whack my sparring partner."

Rubbing his head, he smiled as he noted the red spot on her sweaty forehead. The flush on her cheeks made her eyes practically glow. Daughter of Artemis or not, Kat was absolutely beautiful.

"What?" she said, stepping back.

"Nothing. I was just looking at the red place on your forehead where you 'whacked' me. I was wondering if mine looked the same way."

She let out a light laugh before she reached up and touched his head where it was throbbing. "Just a little, Uni."


Her smile made his cock twitch. "Unicorn. You look like someone sliced the horn right off your forehead." She lifted up to kiss the spot she was eyeing.

That kiss did nothing to ease the serious hard-on that was now aching unmercifully. It'd been a long time since a woman had turned him on like this without being naked in his bed. Or down on her knees in front of him.

Then again, he didn't really converse with his lovers. Basically he'd spy them in the casino, pass a few strategically flattering words, and in no time they'd be in his room completely naked and sweating. Once he was finished with them, he'd send them packing.

Yeah, he was what gave men a bad name and he knew it. But he always made sure that the women knew before they left the casino that he wasn't going to be interested in anything more than casual sex. He didn't take their numbers and promise to call, only to leave them hanging. They knew exactly what his intentions were from the get-go.

As a rule, Dark-Hunters were forbidden from having relationships with humans. And even though he wasn't technically one of their breed, he'd accepted that part of his life. His wife had humiliated him enough with her infidelities. The last thing he wanted was to give another woman any kind of control over his emotions. They just weren't trustworthy enough for that.

But something about Kat was different and he didn't know what it was. Part of him enjoyed her teasing. Hell, he even enjoyed her barbs. That was something that had never happened before.

She bit her lip as she gave him a sympathetic pout. "I really am sorry I head-butted you."

"It's all right. Remember to keep that aim. Unlike a Daimon, the only way to temporarily stop a gallu is to hit it right between the eyes."

"Or sever the spine," she said, to his surprise. "Believe it or not, I was listening."

"Good. That knowledge will save your life." But he wasn't really concentrating on their conversation. His thoughts were on the sweat that was rolling down between her breasts, which swelled underneath her tank. His mouth actually watered for a taste.

She was only a couple inches shorter than him, and in four-inch heels she'd probably force him to look slightly up at her. He didn't know why, but he found that thought incredibly sexy.

Yeah, he could easily see himself in his bed with her on top of him, her body naked except for those heels as she ground herself against him. It was enough to make him crazy.

When he'd developed a shoe fetish he didn't know, but he couldn't get that image out of his head.

Thanks, Kish. He'd have to beat the man later for this torture.

Kat swallowed at the hot look in Sin's golden eyes. She'd had men stare at her lustfully before, but she wasn't used to being affected by it. For some reason she didn't understand, she wasn't immune to Sin. He turned her on in ways she'd never thought possible.

Closing her eyes, she could feel his lips on hers. The scent of his skin filled her head and made her want to bury her face against his neck so that she could bathe in that scent. She wanted to feel those muscles rippling under her palms. To have him lying against her...

He was so hypnotic. She barely heard the sound of him dropping the dagger to the floor before he placed his hand on the small of her back and pulled her closer to him.

Still he didn't kiss her. He stared down at her as if waiting for her to shove him away or turn her head. His lips hung over hers as his eyes burned voraciously.

Unable to stand it, she lifted her hand to sink her fingers in his soft black curls and pull his head down to hers. When their lips touched, she moaned in satisfaction. She couldn't imagine anyone tasting better. Couldn't imagine a sweeter place than in his arms.

Sin knew he should break away from her. She was her mother's daughter...

And yet her touch set him on fire. The taste of her lips, the feeling of her body against his... it was enough to make him forget everything else. There was no hate inside him when she held him. No past tormenting his thoughts. All he could see, taste, smell, or hear was her.

And he reveled in it.

Her hand in his hair sent chills down his spine. Unable to bear it, he lifted her up in his arms. She wrapped her long legs around his waist as he pinned her to the wall. "I want you, Katra," he growled an inch from her lips as he stared hungrily at her. "Right now."

Kat couldn't think straight from the sensation of his body between her legs. She was throbbing with need and every bit as hungry for him as he was for her. "My mother will kill you."

He let out a wicked laugh. "You'd be worth it."

She bit her lip as she felt the swell of him against her. No man had ever touched her-not like this. Truthfully, she'd never been this close to one unless they were fighting. It was actually kind of scary. She'd lived her entire life without the complication of a man.

And they were a complication. Everything about them. Because of a man, her grandmother was imprisoned for eternity. Her mother was forever tied to her father even though she wanted to let him go. Not even Cassandra was free anymore. Wulf meant everything to her and he had become her life. Her friend Geary had given up her life's quest so that she could stay with Arik...

Don't be silly, Kat. It's only sex... it doesn't have to be a life-time commitment.

If only she were sure about that. Would being with him change her?

Then again, how could it? Simi hadn't changed. She was still the same exact demon she'd always been.

Kat felt him lifting the hem of her shirt. She had to decide before he went any further.

Yes or no.

In the end, it was her curiosity that won out. She wanted to know what it was like to be with a man, and no other one had ever attracted her like this. If a woman had to lose her virginity, who better than a fertility god to give it to? If there was one thing any of them knew, it was how to please a woman.

And Kat was anything but a coward.

Taking a deep breath, she removed their clothes with her thoughts.

Sin sucked his breath in sharply between his teeth as he felt her naked flesh on his. There was nothing between them now. Nothing. They were skin to skin. It took a full second for that to register in his mind.

He looked down in awe of her bared beauty. Her breasts were perfect and pale. Her nipples were pink and taut, begging him to taste them. He dipped his head down to draw the tip of one into his mouth.

Kat groaned at the foreign tickle that made her stomach contract wildly in response to his gentle licks. The sight of him nuzzling her breast warmed her through and through. Groaning, she ran her hand down his spine and over the scars that marred his darker skin. She laid her cheek against the top of his head as her heart pounded. She and her family had taken so much from him that it only seemed right she should give him what she'd never given to another.

But more than that, she wanted to know him like this. To feel the strength of him surrounding her, filling her. She wanted to share her body with his.

He pulled back from her breast to blow a stinging breath across it before he kissed her again. Mmmm, he was divinity and she couldn't wait to experience more.

Then he slowly lowered them to the floor.

Kat ached at the pleasure of him lying on top of her. It really was scrumptious. He slid his hot mouth slowly down her body, licking and teasing every part of her. She shivered every time his tongue touched her skin and it made her nerve endings dance.

Sin smiled at the little twitches and murmurs she made with every caress he gave her. She was exquisite and he wanted to know every inch of her body.

Her fingers and palms danced over his skin, but when she took him into her hand it was all he could do not to immediately come. He hadn't been with a woman who knew what he was in centuries. Then again, since the death of his wife he hadn't had any woman who'd known even the most basic thing about him. All of his lovers had been one-night stands. Fleeting faces that came and went only when he couldn't bear celibacy any longer.

Unlike the others, Kat would still be here when they were finished. She wasn't going to walk out and never return. It made her special and it made him want to make sure that she had the best time possible in his bed.

When she left his side, she'd never be able to say he'd been lacking in any way. Kissing her, he slid his hand over her thigh to the short curls between her legs.

Kat gasped as Sin slid his fingers between her legs to touch the most private part of her. Fire shot through her as his fingers stroked her tender folds and found the part of her that came alive at his touch. And when he sank one long finger inside her, she moaned out loud.

Sin froze as he felt the impossible. It couldn't be... His jaw dropping, he pulled back to stare up at Kat. "You're a virgin?"


That confused him even more. "How?"

She lifted her chin, and when she spoke her tone was heavy with sarcasm. "I've never been with a man before."

He rolled his eyes. "I know how you're a virgin, my question is how did you manage to stay one?"

"I told you, they keep watch on me."

Yeah, but for eleven thousand years? Damn. That was extreme. "They're not watching you now."

She traced the line of his eyebrow while a smile twitched at the edges of her lips. "No. Only you're watching me."

Sin still didn't understand it. "Why would you wait all these centuries and then throw it away on a whim? You barely even know me."

Her expression had to be the tenderest one any woman had ever given him, and it made him melt. "I know you, Sin. I've been inside you... and I want you inside me. Is that so hard to understand?"

Part of Sin wanted to curse her and the tender feelings she stirred inside him. He wanted to tell her she was nothing and that he didn't need anything from her.

The other part of him wanted only to hold her. To crawl into her arms and have her soothe him even more than she already had.

In the end, it was his anger he listened to. He couldn't afford to open himself up to her or anyone else. He' d been hurt enough in his life. The last thing he wanted was to bring any more ��pain into his life. He was through being used and through being manipulated. "This won't give you any hold over me."

"l don't expect it to."

"Then what are you hoping for by sleeping with me?"

"Nothing, Sin." Her gaze was so sincere and guileless it actually sent a wave of guilt through him that he'd been so suspicious of her. "Nothing more than a few moments of pleasure. I don't want anything else from you. Promise." She made a small x over her heart.

He shook his head. It couldn't be this simple. It couldn't. "l find that hard to believe. Nothing comes free in this world. Ever."

"Then get up and get dressed." She looked to the right.

"There's the door. I'm sure you know how to use it. It's a really simple process. You put one foot in front of the other, turn the knob, and keep going."

He should do that. It was what he intended, but as she laid her hand against his cheek, he was lost by the tenderness. He just wanted to be held ...

Damn him for it. He was so tired of being alone. Of coming home to an empty room where he tended his wounds and lived for no other reason than to fight. He didn't even know why he fought anymore.

Why should he care about a world that couldn't care less about him? But when he looked at her, he saw things he hadn't seen in a long time. Compassion. Humor. Beauty. And that was one thing that was lethal more times than it wasn't.

His emotions were churning as she rolled him onto his back and laid her body against his. His senses reeled as she teased his jaw with her tongue and teeth. Her hair slid against his skin, tickling him. But it was the warmth of her body that seared him most. He was lost to her for now. Lost to her touch and her comfort.

With her holding him like this, he couldn't have gotten up if the room was on fire

Kat had seen thousands of beautiful naked male bodies in her lifetime. Flawless and perfect, they had come and gone.

None of them could compare to the scarred beauty of Sin's.

His body told the story of a man with no one there to keep him safe. In that aspect, he reminded her of her father. But Sin was nothing like Acheron.

There was a spiritual coldness to Sin. He was a man who'd been wounded so many times that he no longer believed in goodness. He couldn't even accept her kindness. What a frigid place to live in.

And all she wanted to do was warm him. To let him know that not everyone meant him harm. Some people could be trusted. Not everyone was out to hurt other people. There was still goodness and decency to be found.

But she wasn't sure he would ever believe that. He most definitely wouldn't if he ever learned the truth about the night Artemis had taken his godhood.

No, the night she had taken it and given his powers to her mother. It'd been so wrong, but she'd done it trying to protect her mother. She could kill herself for her stupidity. Back then, she'd believed everything her mother had told her.

She was such a fool.

If only she could go back and change it. Unfortunately, she couldn't. All she could do was try to comfort him now. To be here when he needed help in his fight.

And that she would.

Sin watched her with hooded eyes as she slid herself down his body, exploring every part of it. Now he recognized the innocence in her hesitant touch. The curiosity.

And when she got to the center of his body, she paused. Holding his breath, he watched as she combed the soft tangle of cuds with her nails while she studied him intently. It was painful to have her look and not touch him, especially given how hard he was.

Her gaze met his. One comer of her mouth lifted in a tender smile before she touched him. Groaning in satisfaction, he arched his back. Her fingers probed the length of his cock from his sac to the tip, and all the while she watched him writhing in pleasure.

Her smile widened before she dipped her head down to replace her fingers with her mouth.

Sin was forced to bang his head against the floor to keep from coming as she gently sucked and licked. Damn. Damn, she was seriously talented with her tongue.

"Are you sure you haven't done this before?"

She laughed, tickling him. She pulled back to shake her head.

"Never before."

Damn ... it was all he could think. "You didn't have to stop."

Kat arched a brow at him. "No?"

"Hell, no."

She teased his tip with her tongue before she blew a cool breath across him.

Yeah, okay, it was time to stop. If she didn't, they were both going to be disappointed. Sin sat up and pulled her close. Kat actually purred as he nuzzled her neck. His whiskers teased her skin, making her breasts swell and tingle. She cupped his head to her as her senses swirled. He braced his hands on each side of her hips before he guided her down on top of him so that he could impale her.

She tensed as pain interrupted her pleasure.

"Sh," he breathed in her ear. His breath was scorching as his tongue swirled around her lobe.

Her body ignited as it adjusted to take in his thickness.

Sin felt her relaxing again. He ran his hands over her smooth back and cupped her bottom. He lifted her up and showed her how to move against him. She was a quick learner. In no time, she'd settled into a sweet, slow rhythm that resonated through his entire body.

He leaned back on the floor so that he could watch her while she rode him. She was shameless in her strokes. Oh, the sight of her there, like that ... it was enough to kill him. Good thing he was immortal.

Smiling, he dipped his hand down so that he could stroke her clit while she rode him. The instant he touched her, she let out a small squeak of pleasure.

"Like that, do you?"

"Mmmm-hmmm," she breathed.

It was torture for him to hold back, but he wouldn't do that to her. He wasn't an ex-fertility god without reason. There was no way he was going to finish before she did. Even if it killed him.

Kat felt molten as she stared down at Sin. She'd never dreamt how good it would feel to have a man inside her. There was something so filling and special about this. She was sharing with him what she'd never shared with anyone else. It was intimate and special. She stared at those golden eyes before she reached to take his hand in hers. Lifting it to her lips, she placed a kiss in his palm, then one on the backs of his fingers.

How could anyone have ever hurt him? It made her angry and protective. Most of all, it saddened her. People could be so cruel and the gods were even worse.

Kat's thoughts scattered as a strange pleasure started inside her.

It was warm and wicked and spread through every part of her. Like a wave, it seemed to build and crest until she couldn't stand it anymore.

A second later, her body exploded into intense sensations that made her shake all over.

Sin laughed in triumph as he felt her body spasming around his. Taking her hips in his hands, he thrust harder against her, intensifying her orgasm. She actually cried out as she leaned over him.

Her hair tickled him, and in one heartbeat he joined her climax.

He growled as absolute pleasure tore through him. She was exquisite and she left him breathless and weak. So weak he doubted he could ever move again in this lifetime.

She fell against him, covering him with her body. An uncharacteristic giggle escaped her as she snuggled in his arms.

"Are you okay?" he asked, concerned about her.

"Fine," she said in a dreamy tone. "l feel as satisfied as a well fed kitten."

He laughed at her. "Yeah, I know the feeling." He wrapped her in his arms before he rolled over with her and pinned her against the floor. "l was right. It was worth your mother killing me."

He dipped his head down and kissed her.

Kat sighed at the way his muscles flexed under her hands. He tasted so incredibly good ... She never wanted to leave this spot. Ever.

"Ah, gawd, naked people! I'm going to be sick!"

Sin tensed at the deep, feminine voice that came from the doorway. Turning his head, he gaped at the sight of not one but two Charonte demons ... At least he thought that's what they were. But their skin wasn't mottled with swirling colors-something that always marked their species. Rather, they looked like two women in their early twenties.

One was dressed in black, like a Goth college student, with a short black velvet dress and corset-laced boots. Her hair was black with streaks of red through it. The other one was blond, wearing a pair of jeans and a loose, flowing red top.

"Well, then don't look," the dark-haired demon said to the blond one, who looked strangely like Apollymi. "Why you looking if you don't want to see? Look, right there." She pointed to his Dali painting on the wall. "They got nice walls with paintings here. You should look at them instead, then you won't be sick. See how it works?"

Kat was biting back a smile as she slid from under him and manifested her clothes on her body. "Hi, Simi."

Sin quickly clothed himself and waited for the demons to realize what he was and attack.

They didn't.

The dark-haired demon smiled, showing off a set of small fangs. "Hello, akra-kitty. Sorry it took so long to get here, but someone"-she stared angrily at the blond demon-"wouldn't let me come without her, 'cause she said that Vegas has lots of sparklies she wanted to see. The Simi told her she was wrong, but you see who won the fight, don't you?" She made a loud huffy noise. "You're so lucky you're an only child. The Simi misses her time before someone" -she . glared at the blond demon again, but the tirade didn't seem to faze her companion-"that would be Xirena came along and moved into my house. The Simi is just lucky that akri didn't make her share her room."

Xirena made a sound of disgust in the back of her throat. "Oh, stop it, Xiamara. All you do is whine, whine, whine. You're a demon. Act like it."

"Demon?" Simi snorted. "l have you know that I am more demon than an army of them. I am the Simi and the Simi acts any way she wants to 'cause akri says I am the best demon ever born. You're just jealous your akri don't love you like mine does me."

Sin was stunned by their exchange. He'd never seen demons this ... chatty. Simi was more like a spoiled teenaged girl than a flesh-eating demon. "Is this ... What is ... ?" He stopped because he was rambling as he tried to make sense of them. "l have to say that I've never witnessed this before. They do this a lot?"

Kat laughed. "Simi hasn't adjusted to her sister yet. They're having socialization issues."

Xirena curled her lip. "I'm not having an issue with anything other than the fact the cursed god has made my sister strange."

Sin frowned. "Cursed god would be Acheron?"

"Simi belongs to him," Kat explained.

Oh ... that couldn't be good.

Simi beamed. "The Simi is akri's daughter."

Xirena made a choking noise. "How many times do I have to tell you that you are not the daughter of the cursed god? You are the daughter of two demons! Stop calling your akri your daddy. It makes my wings droop."

Simi stuck her tongue out at Xirena. "My akri is my daddy. He said so and it is so, so your wings can droop all they want, 'cause it won't change anything."

Sin was still befuddled by the two of them. How were these two supposed to help them combat the gallu? Kessar would tear them apart. Rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably, he looked at Kat. "Are you sure we shouldn't see about getting another set of demons? I don't see how they're going to help given the way they're arguing."

"Oh, trust me," Kat said with a short laugh, "the fighting stop s as soon as food comes into the picture."

"Food?" Simi stopped her tirade instantly. "Where's some: food?"

"Is it good food?" Xirena chimed in.

Simi rolled her eyes at her sister. "Is there such a thing as bad food?"

"Well, yeah, there's Daimon. They're kind of gamey tasting and they stick in my fangs."

"Oh, that's true," Simi agreed. "But I have this one kind of barbecue sauce from New Orleans that can kill that gamey taste. It makes them really good eats. Rank Daimon meat right up there with human and opossum."

Xirena looked thrilled. "Is that that sauce I saw in your room with the woman with a leather whip on it?"

"Oh no. That's Pain and Suffering, but that one's good, too.

This one got a man who's breathing fire like a fat dragon, only he's not fat, he's-"

"Excuse me, demons?" Sin asked, interrupting them.

They looked at him as if he were about to be added to their menu.

And coming under their full attention was a big mistake. As soon as Xirena's gaze met his, recognition lit her black eyes. "You a Sumerian."

Her eyes flashed yellow as her skin mottled with red and black and black wings grew out of her back.

He braced for the fight, but before she could attack, Kat stepped in front of him. "Calm down, Xirena. Sin's on our side."

Xirena spat on his floor, which irritated the hell out of him, and he was sure housekeeping wouldn't appreciate it, either. "Death to all Sumerians."

"They're not all bad," Simi said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Akri knew this one Sumerian who was a fisherman for a long time. He's really nice to the Simi. He used to feed me these tasty balls of fish all soaked in olive oil and wrapped in grape leaves. Then he'd let the Simi eat fishcakes and the eyeballs. Fish eyes are very tasty, especially in olive oil"

Xirena growled at her, "Sumerians are all enemies to the Charonte."

Simi put her hand on her hip and cocked her head. "Well, that's just stupid. You can't hate an entire race 'cause one or two of them are mean. What you got against the Sumerians anyway?"

"They created the gallu demons to kill us."

"OOOO." Simi's face brightened. "l like them gallu demons. They so crispy when you burn-them. Akri used to let me eat them by the dozen. And he never cared, neither-not like when I'd eat people. But then all them gallu went away and the Simi couldn't eat them anymore. I really miss them. They were so yummy."

"And now they're back," Kat said, gaining their attention again. Xirena's expression looked as if she'd just stepped in a manure factory.

Simi just looked excited. "Can I eat them?" Sin nodded. "Bon appetit."

Kat gave him a chastising glance over her shoulder. "Yes, Simi. But we need you and Xirena to help us fight them."

Xirena jerked her chin toward Sin. "l think we should feed the Sumerian to them. He would deserve it."

Kat tsked at her. "Xirena ... "

"l told you, Katra," Simi said in a singsongy tone, "she all kinds of mean. You should have her eat your earrings when you're not looking. And they were the good ones, too. Covered with diamonds ... they sparkle a lot."

Xirena glared at Simi. "Well, you would be mean, too, if you saw how them gallu killed us, and eating them won't be easy without your akri there to shield their powers. They are evil demons who can kill us." She looked at Katra. "Will the cursed god help?"

Kat hesitated. She wished, but that wasn't an option right now.

"We're going to try and do this without his help."

Xirena's eyes widened. "Why would we do that?"

" 'Cause akri don't know about Katra," Simi explained. "If he learned about her, he would be really sad and the Simi don't want to make akri sad, so you can't say a word about Katra to him. He sad enough already because he has to deal with that bitch-goddess with the red hair."

"Simi," Kat said in a warning tone.

"Well, she is a bitch-goddess. I know you love her, akra-Kat, but facts is fact and she a mean heifer."

Xirena smacked her lips. "l haven't had a heifer in a while. Are there any heifers here?"

Simi cast a sideways look at her sister. "l know where a big red one is on Olympus."

Kat shook her head. "Simi!"

"What?" She batted her eyes with a wide, innocent expression.

"If Xirena eats her, then how can I get in trouble for it?"

Sin snorted. "lt's like dealing with children. Ye gods, how did the Atlanteans stand it?"

Kat pressed her hand to the throb in her temple as she wondered the same thing herself. "They're normally a bit more silent than this."

He looked less than convinced. "Really?"

"Apollymi keeps a tight rein on them."

At the mention of Apollymi's name, Xirena hissed. "Death to the bitch-goddess! May she die in a flaming pit of Charonte spit."

Sin laughed at Xirena's condemnation. "Damn, Kat, you can't win for losing. Is there anyone, other than you, who actually likes your family?"

She sighed in resignation. "Some days it seems not."

"You one to talk," Xirena said testily. "Nobody likes your family, either."

"Yeah!" Simi paused. She put her hand to her face to whisper at her sister, "Is that true?"


"Yeah!" Simi shook her fist in the air to prove her point.

Sin shook his head at her. "I think I'm getting a migraine from this. "

"You can't get migraines," Kat reminded him. "Then it's a tumor ... one the size of two demons."

She laughed at his acerbic tone. "You wanted help. I give you the cavalry. "

Well, she had done that. But Sin wasn't convinced the cure might not be a thousand times worse than the ailment. "Strange, I have this feeling our cavalry may yet run us both over ... then eat us."

Kat gave him an agitated stare. "So where do they stay?"

Sin hesitated at the question. Leaving them alone didn't seem like a good idea to him. "Can they be left alone?"

She shrugged. "l don't see where they're any more dangerous than the Daimons you have downstairs patrolling tourists for dinner."

"They don't have wings and horns."

Xirena returned to looking human. "Neither do we. Unless we want them. "

Simi lifted her hand like a student. "If the Daimons are eatin tourists, can we?"

"No," Sin and Kat said simultaneously.

"Well, poo." Simi pouted. "Why them Daimons get special treatment?"

Xirena screwed her face up in a huff. "Maybe we ought to get back to Katoteros. At least there we got them dragon things to eat whenever we're hungry."

Simi's face paled. "You ate akri's pets? Bad Xirena. He don't like it when they go away. Oooo, you better hide when he come home and finds them missing. He'll be very upset."

Kat cleared her throat and hoped to get them off this topic and back to the one that needed to be discussed. She looked at Sin. "You can put them in a room with QVC and they'll be as happy as clams.'�� "QVC?" the demons said in unison.

Simi looked at her watch. "It Diamonique time, too. Where's ~ TV?"

Sin rubbed his eyebrow before he went to call Kish and boot the two demons a room down the hall from his suite.

They were still chattering about the yummy Diamonique flavor when Kish came to get them and show them to their room.

Sin stood in the doorway watching them leave. "Those are some demons you've got there."

"Yes," she said with a smile as she closed the distance between them, "they are. We just have to make sure nothing happens the Simi. Acheron would kill us both."

Sin's eyes softened as he looked down at her. "I somehow doubt he would kill you. But l, on the other hand, would most likely be short a couple of heads. "

She frowned. "Couple?"

He pointed to the one on his shoulders, then dipped his hand down to his groin.

"Ah." Kat laughed. "You're awful."

"Yes, but while I know I can hold my own against most creatures, Ash is one I know for a fact can hand me my ass in a box Therefore, I try to stay on his good side as much as possible."

She wasn't sure she bought that statement. "You're not really afraid of him, are you?"

"Definitely not afraid. Just highly respectful. I thank the Fates for what they did to him by making him live as a human being for a while. Had they not, can you imagine what the universe would be like? Think of the power he and Apollymi command. Now put the ego of a typical god on it."

Yeah, it was the stuff of nightmares.

But it also begged the question of whether or not that was what had made Acheron the way he was. It was a question Kat had pondered a lot. "Yet you have a conscience. I can't imagine you running over people to get what you want."

"I'm not the same creature now that I was when I had my godhood. When I was a young, I was angry and bitter over what my father had done to us and, as a god, I had a lot to prove. Not to mention living as a human has a very sobering way of altering your perspective on many things."

Kat's stomach shrank at the tone of his voice. Her gaze fell to the scar on his neck. She reached up to touch it and thought about how much pain that wound must have caused him. She had to bite her lip to keep from apologizing to him for taking his powers.

She'd been so young and stupid herself. Like most children, she'd been blind to her mother's faults. She'd only wanted to please Artemis and make her happy. How was she to know one mistake would hurt someone else so badly and alter the history of the world?

If only she could take his powers from her mother and return them to him, but Artemis would never allow her to do that. If she tried, she'd lose her mother forever, and even in spite of Artemis's faults, Kat loved her. She would never do anything to hurt her mother.

Sin took Kat's hand from his neck and placed a light kiss on her palm. Even so, there was a wild look in his eyes. He was allowing her near him, but he could turn on her any moment. It was scary and titillating.

"We still have to find my brother," he reminded her.

Kat nodded. "All right. I think it best if I go alone. I'll go see if my grandmother can help with the sfora." And if she's in a receiving mood. For something like this, they wanted Apollymi to be happy and helpful. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time to visit and would most likely result in her refusing to help them at all.

Kat stepped away from Sin, but before she could flash out of the room, he laid a hand on her arm.

"Thank you, Katra. I appreciate the help."

She didn't know why, but those few words made her heart soar. "You're welcome."

He inclined his head before he gave a tender squeeze. "And I haven't forgotten your gift to me. Thank you again."

She stepped forward and laid a gentle kiss to his cheek. "I'll be back soon."

Artemis hesitated as she neared her bedroom. She chewed her thumbnail in indecision. Maybe she should just go to Zeus's temple for a while and think of something on her own ...

"What did you do?"

She jumped at the sound of Acheron's voice coming from behind her. "l thought you were in bed," she snapped. "I had to go to the bathroom."


His swirling silver eyes were piercing as he glared at her.

"What have you done, Artie? And don't say, 'Nothing.' I know by the way you're acting that it's going to seriously piss me off."

She hated when he could read her so easily. How did he do that?

But she refused to be the one on the defensive. So she did what she always did. She went on the offense. "Well, it's your own fault."

He rolled his eyes at her. "Of course it is. Everything's always my fault. So what did I do now?"

She narrowed her gaze at him in anger, but there was still a par! of her that was terrified of him. Most of all she was terrified of what he was going to do when she told him what she needed ... and mostly why she needed it.

"You have to promise me two things before I tell you." A tic worked in his jaw. "What?"

She took a step back to put more distance between them. "First that you won't kill me. Ever. And the second that you'll stay here another week."

Ash hesitated. This had to be even worse than he suspected for her to want to make such a bargain with him. His gut knotted in anger. He could feel his eyes turning red and his cheeks growing warm. But she wouldn't care about that.

And he knew her well enough to know that if he didn't give her what she wanted, she'd never tell him whatever it was that had her so nervous.

"Okay. Fine."

"Say the words, Acheron. I want to know you are bound by them."

He cursed before he spoke between clenched teeth. "Fine. I promise I won't kill you, and-"

"Ever. "

Ash took a deep breath before he said, "Ever." Gods, how he'd like to choke her.

"And you'll stay here for another week ... unless I need you to do something for me."

That made his blood run cold. "Do what?"

"Say it, Acheron, and then I'll tell you."

Oh yeah, this was going to infuriate him. He only hoped he could keep his word. If not, he'd perish from it right alongside her. "All right. I won't leave here for another week, unless you need me to do something."

She let out a long, relieved breath. "Good. Now you stand right there."

Okay ... He did and wondered what the hell was wrong with her ... besides the fact that she was selfish and cold.

She, on the other hand, moved to the other side of the room, far away from him.

"What are you doing, Artemis?"

"I had something to tell you."

"Have," he corrected. "And yes, we've already ascertained this. What is it?"

"You're getting angry."

Disgust filled him that she was continuing to play this game.

"You didn't make me promise not to."

"Only because I knew you would and then you'd die."

" Artemis! "

"Fine," she said in a huff. "Don't shout at me. I can't stand it when you do that."

"I'm about to do more than shout."

"Okay, be that way. Do you remember when you were first brought back from the dead?"

Remember it? It haunted him daily. It'd been one of the more painful moments in a life marked by agony. "What about it?"

"Well ..." Biting her lip, she twisted her hand in her gown.

"There were months where you wouldn't come to my temple even though I tried to summon you."

"Yes. I was just a little pissed at what you and your brother had done to me."

"But I want you to remember that I did do my best to summon you."

She was a little too eager about this for his tastes, but he sought to ease her stress in spite of the fact that what he really wanted to do was choke her. "I remember, Artemis. You damn near drove me insane with your insistent shrieking that I come to you."

"And when you finally came, do you remember what happened?"

Ash let out another frustrated breath. He could see that moment clearly. Artemis had met him outside her temple here in her forest. He'd stood in the center of a clearing, glaring at her. He'd been hungry and furious, and he'd wanted her blood in the worst sort of way.

She'd approached him cautiously that day as if terrified of him.

"Please don't be angry at me, Acheron."

He'd laughed bitterly. "Oh, 'angry' doesn't even begin to describe what I am at you. How dare you bring me back."

She'd gulped. "l had no choice."

"We all have choices."

"No, Acheron. We don't."

As if he'd believed it. She'd always been selfish and vain and no doubt that was the only reason he'd been brought back when he should have been left dead. "Is this why you've been summoning me? You want to apologize?"

She' d shaken her head. "I'm not sorry for what I've done. I would do it over again in a heart pound."

"Beat," he'd snarled.

She' d waved the word away with her hand. "l want there to be peace between us."

Peace? Was she insane? She was lucky he didn't kill her right now. If it weren't for fear of what could happen to the innocent, he would have.

"There will never be peace between us. Ever. You shattered any hope of it when you watched your brother kill me and refused to speak up on my behalf."

"l was afraid."

"And I was butchered and gutted on the floor like an animal sacrifice. Excuse me if I don't feel your pain. I'm too busy with my own." He'd turned to leave her then, but she'd stopped him.

It was then he heard the muffled whimpering of a baby. Scowling, he'd watched in horror as Artemis withdrew an infant from the folds of her peplos.

"l have a baby for you, Acheron."

He'd jerked his arm away from her as fury singed every part of him. "You bitch! Do you honestly think that could ever replace my nephew you let die? I hate you. I will always hate you. For once in your life, do the right thing and return that to its mother. The last thing a babe needs is to be left with a heartless viper like you."

She'd slapped him then with enough strength to split his upper lip. "Go and rot, you worthless bastard."

Laughing, he'd wiped the blood away with the back of his hand while he stared venomously at her. "l may be a worthless bastard, but better that than a frigid whore who sacrificed the only man to ever love her because she was too self-absorbed to save him.

The look on her face had scorched him. "I'm not the whore here, Acheron. You are. Bought and sold to anyone who could pay your fee. How dare you think for one minute you were ever worthy of a goddess."

The pain of those words had seared a permanent place in his heart and soul. "You're right, my lady. I'm not worthy of you or anyone else. I'm just a piece of shit to be dumped naked in the street. Forgive me for ever sullying you. "

And then he'd vanished from her, and for two thousand years he'd avoided any and all contact with her. The only thing he'd accept from her was vials of her blood so that he could eat and live.

If he'd had his way, he'd have never seen her again. But then she'd used the powers she'd stolen from him to create the Dark-Hunters under the guise of using them to protect the humans from the Daimons Apollo had created. The reality was, she'd used the Dark-Hunters to tie Acheron to her forever and to force him to come and barter with her for their freedom.

They were the only reason he had anything to do with her.

Them and the guilt he felt over their creation.

Damn them all for it.

But that was the ancient past and it was best left alone. "Why are you dredging up such bitter memories now, Artemis?"

And as soon as the words left his lips, he had sudden clarity. "I have a baby for you, Acheron."

Ash stepped back as disbelief and pain slammed him hard in the stomach. "The baby... "

Artemis nodded. "She was your daughter."

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