Kat tried to crawl out from under Sin, but he wouldn't let her. "Stay down," he growled in her ear before he rolled away and stood up to confront whatever had knocked him into her.

I should probably listen...

But that just wasn't who she was. So she pushed herself up, then wished she'd listened to him after all.

Kessar was in the room with six other demons. That alone made her blood run cold. Yet it wasn't the only bad news. They had Zakar in chains again, and the worst was Kytara, who lay dead a few feet from her.

Her eyes misting, Kat stared in horror at her friend's lifeless body. It looked as if they'd tried to literally tear Kytara apart. The sight and grief made Kat sick to her stomach. How could they have done such a thing?

Sin was on his feet, trying to fight the demons-"trying" being the operative word. It was obvious something was wrong with his powers.

Infuriated over what they'd done, Kat tried to blast Kessar and then realized exactly what had happened to Sin. She had no powers, either. Something was negating them.

"He has the Tablet," Sin said from between clenched teeth as he slung one demon into another.

Well, that explained it, but it didn't help. The Tablet was sucking their powers out of them. Oh, fabulous. No wonder they demons had been able to take Zakar and kill Kytara.

Kessar laughed before he headed toward Kat with a deadly intent.

To her shock, Sin put himself between them. Kessar swung at Sin, who jumped back and struck him a fierce blow in the chest. It didn't faze Kessar as he kicked Sin so hard, it lifted him off his feet.

"Simi!" Kat shouted at the top of her lungs. It was time to put a stop to this.

Simi and Xirena instantly appeared. "What?" Simi asked until she saw the demons.

Both she and Xirena exploded into demon form. Kat stumbled back... it was the first time she'd ever seen the whole of Simi's true form. Her skin was a deep bloody red with black lips, hair, wings, and claws. She wrapped herself around the nearest demon and ripped his throat out.

Kat turned away from the awful sight.

Kessar pointed the Tablet at Simi before he spoke in Sumerian.

Xirena laughed. "We're not gods, you moron. We're demons, and that has no effect on us." She flew at him.

He dodged, grabbed the chains holding Zakar, and vanished with him.

"No!" Sin shouted, trying to catch them before they vanished, but he was too late.

And he had no powers to follow.

Kat felt the grief she saw on his face as he turned to look at her while Simi and Xirena finished off the demons they were "eating." She'd never seen any man look more stricken.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

There was no forgiveness in his expression at all as he stalked toward her. His eyes were filled with utter agony. "You keep saying that."

"But I'm sincere."

He raked her with a sneer. "Sincerity doesn't fix any of this, now does it?"

No, it didn't, and it didn't bring back Kytara's life. How the hell had they managed to kill her? It didn't make sense. "What happened?"

He let out a tired breath as he wiped the blood from a cut over his left eye. "When I came back, Kessar had Zakar in chains and was holding the Tablet in his hand." He gestured toward Kytara. "He must have used the Tablet to drain her. She was already dead when I arrived."

"How did he get his hands on the Tablet?"

"Damned if I know. I had it locked in the safe in my bedroom."

This was awful. Kat covered her eyes as guilt and pain settled deep in her soul. This was all her fault. All of it.

If not for her, Sin would still have his god powers and there would be no danger to the world.

Kytara would still be alive...

How could she even begin to make this right? Everything was falling apart because she'd made a really bad decision centuries ago. Her heart sank to her stomach as she tried to imagine the coming attack from the Dimme. "We're doomed, aren't we?"

"Yeah," he said, his voice thick. "We are. If you have any last wishes to accomplish before total annihilation hits, I suggest you get started."

Still in demon form, Simi approached them with an ecstatic gleam in her eyes. "Can I eat the bitch-goddess?"

Kat sighed in resignation. "I'm afraid the only bitch-goddess around right now would be me."

Simi shook her head. "Akra-Kat isn't a bitch. You're always nice to the Simi."

"But I wasn't nice to Sin." She walked slowly toward him, wanting him to understand the depth of her sorrow and guilt. "I know you don't believe me, but I am sorry about all this. More than you'll ever know."

His expression was cold. "I appreciate the thought, but it doesn't really change anything, does it?" He walked over to Kytara and closed her eyes, then he covered her with a blanket. "You should probably take her body home to Olympus. It's the least we can do."

Kat was confused. "We don't have to burn her?"

He shook his head. "No. They just killed her. There's no bite marks on her that I could see. Guess they didn't want to convert her over."

Kat couldn't imagine that, since Kessar and crew seemed intent on converting as many people as they could. Surely a dream god would have been a big boon for them. But then nothing the demon did made sense.

How had all this gotten so out of hand?

Sighing, she frowned as she saw Simi and Xirena changing back into their more human forms. "Why didn't you call for Simi and Xirena when you saw them?"

He gave her a cold glare. "Well gee, since I popped in here in the middle of a fight and I was trying to save my brother and had hoped Kytara was only wounded and not dead, I really didn't think about them. Sorry I was so self-absorbed in staying alive that I forgot about the demons down the hall."

Kat had to bite back an equally caustic retort. He was hurting and she knew it. This wasn't easy on either one of them, and more sarcasm wouldn't accomplish anything more than to further alienate him from her. "Are our powers gone for good?"

"No. Not unless they have a conduit"-he gave her a meaningful sneer-"to drain you. Our powers will be back. Personally I think the prick is just playing with us."

Kat didn't believe that. "No, he was honestly afraid of Simi and Xirena."

"That's because they can rip his heart out and, as we learned, they're immune to the Tablet."

"Which gives us an advantage."

"As long as their numbers are small, yes. But the minute they open the doorway and let the whole demon clan out to party, our demons are dead."

Xirena's eyes widened. "Um, I don't like dead. Dead is bad."

Simi nodded in agreement. "Akri would be really sad if his Simi died. The Simi wouldn't be happy about it, either."

"And neither would I," Kat assured them. "Don't worry. We won't let them eat you."

Sin folded up the couch. By his demeanor, she could tell he was trying to think of a solution. Finally, he met her gaze. "Any chance Grandma will let more demons out of her sight?"

"I don't know. Too many Charontes out of Kalosis without Apollymi here to rein them in would be like too many gallu set free. I think we'd just be changing the face of human annihilation."

"Of course it would," Sin growled. "Now they have the Moon, they have the Tablet that I found for them, and we have no powers so long as they hold it. If we attack, they drain us. I should just shoot myself and end my suffering before they turn me into one of them."

Kat rolled her eyes at his melodramatic tirade. "Don't go Socrates yet. It's not over until they let loose the Dimme, right?"

He snorted. "Excuse me if I'm not feeling really upbeat and hopeful at the moment. After all, the one person I thought I could trust is the one who fucked me the hardest."

Kat had to clench her hand to keep from slapping him. Her first instinct was to give tit for tat. But as she opened her mouth to let him have it, she remembered Acheron's words.

"But I do know this, Katra. The first betrayal, even as severe as it was, could have been forgiven had your mother just apologized and meant it. Had she come to me and promised that she'd never hurt me again, I would have laid my life down for her. Instead she let her pride get in the way. She was more focused on punishing me for her imagined embarrassment than she was on the future we could have had together."

Those words quelled her tongue. She didn't want to make the same mistake her mother had made. She'd wronged Sin and they both knew it.

Taking a deep breath for patience, she turned toward Simi. "Simi?" she said quietly. "Will you please take Kytara's body home to Olympus? Give her to M'Adoc."

Simi nodded as she came forward to hug her. "Don't be so sad, akra-Kat. We'll eat all them gallu demons and make it all right. You'll see."

Kat smiled at the two demons. "I know you will, Simi. Thank you."

As Simi went to pick up Kytara from the floor, Xirena looked a bit awkward, as if she wasn't sure what she should do. "I'll wait in our room." Xirena vanished an instant before Simi did.

Sin headed for the bar to pour himself a drink. "You might as well join them. No need in staying around here."

Kat followed him behind the counter. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."

He slammed a glass down on the counter so hard she was surprised it didn't shatter. "Don't push me, Kat. My anger at you right now is only surpassed by my desire to kill Kessar. Since I can't lay hands on him, you might prove a worthy substitution." He poured the glass full.

"And I want you to understand the depth of my sorrow over what I did to you and your family. If I could put a hair shirt on to make amends, I would. I wish by all the gods I've ever met or even heard of that I could go back and return your powers to you. You deserve them. But I can't do that." He turned to leave.

But she wasn't willing to let him go that easily. Angry over his dismissal, she spun him around and kissed him. "I love you, Sin. I just wanted you to know that."

Sin was stunned by both her actions and her declaration. He couldn't move. All he could see was the tender look on her face. The sincerity. But even so, he heard the laughter of his wife echoing in his head. "You're incompetent as a god, a lover, and a man..."

The only thing he'd ever been good at had been killing. But Kat made him feel as if he had more skills than that. She made him feel as if he mattered. As if he had value.

And that shredded his resistance to her.

She laid her soft hand to his cheek. "We will win this and we will save your brother. I promise. I won't ever let you down or hurt you again. I swear it by all that I am and all I hope to be. You can trust me, Sin."

He swallowed as his emotions choked him. He wanted to turn and walk away from her, but he couldn't. It was too late for that.

"Don't disappoint me, Kat. I don't think I could recover from it if you did."

Kat's eyes teared as she heard those words from him. He didn't say that he loved her, but it was a start. He hadn't laughed at her or thrown her out.

He'd given her the promise of a relationship. A chance to rebuild the trust that had been broken. She couldn't expect more than that.

"You have my word, Sin."

He dipped his head down and gave her the lightest whisper of a kiss. Even so, it sent shivers over her and it fired her blood.

She buried her hand in his hair and held him close so that she could nuzzle her cheek against his. The scent of his skin made her hot and shivery. Her entire life had been spent wanting this kind of contact. He felt so good in her arms.

She didn't want to be her mother. She didn't want to miss him. To live her life with a memory of what they'd had and then to know she'd lost it all because of stupidity.

For the first time in her life, she had total clarity on Artemis's relationship with her father. It was a tragedy she didn't want to duplicate.

She rubbed a lock of Sin's hair between her fingers as she realized just how much she really did love him. Not just his body, which was hot, but the man inside it. "We're going to win this."

"I can almost believe it when you say that."

Stepping back, she smiled. "So what do we need to do?"

He took a deep breath before he answered. "One. Don't die. Two. Don't get bitten."

She really hoped there was more to it than that. "And?"

"Kick their ass," he said simply.

"Good plan. Little vague on the details."

He gave her a wicked grin. "Isn't it though?"

She laughed at his mischievous demeanor. It would be infectious if their lives didn't hang in the balance. "I've found that specifics aren't necessarily a bad thing at times like this. Plans can actually be your friend."

"Really? I've found a game plan usually gets in the way. Better to hang loose and improvise."

She took his glass and drained it. "Hang loose, huh? Is that really what you're going to do?"

Sighing, he stepped away from her, and his face fell to complete sobriety. "No. We have a time bomb in our hands and a lot to do. Step one-"

"Get your brother."

He shook his head. "We have to get the Tablet first."

"You're willing to leave Zakar in their hands?"

He winced as if the mere thought cut him. "It's not my first choice, but now that they know we can get to him, they'll be guarding him a lot closer than before. And if they have the Tablet when we go for him..."

"They'll kick our asses."

"Exactly. We have to get the Tablet back. The question is how."

Kat considered that for a minute. They couldn't exactly waltz in there and demand it. They didn't even know where it was. What they needed was an insider.

"Does Kessar have a weakness?" she asked.

"None that I know of."

Why didn't that surprise her? Simple. If he'd known of one before now, he no doubt would have used it. "Well, I might know someone who can find it. Hold that thought."

He scowled at her. "Where are you going?"

"The Vanishing Isle. You stay here and rest and I'll be right back."

He actually appeared to be afraid for her. "You sure you don't want me to come with you?"

"Yeah. This I'll need to do alone."

"Be careful."

Warmed by his concern, Kat nodded before she tried to flash. She didn't get far.

"It's the Tablet," Sin said as she let out a frustrated growl. "You're still drained."

She let out a fierce growl. "This is just a little inconvenient."

Sin moved to stand behind her. She closed her eyes as she felt the heat of him radiate through her. There was something about him that never failed to warm her body. His scent, his presence, it filled her with desire and strength.

He placed his hands on her hips and bent his head so that he could whisper in her ear. As soon as the melodic Sumerian words started, she felt power radiating from his hands to her body. It sent a warm fissure up her spine to her scalp, where it tingled.

"What are you doing, Sin?"

"I'm loaning you what powers I can."

His whispered words brought tears to her eyes and choked her. "You're trusting me?"

His lips were so close to her cheek that they tickled her skin. "You asked for another chance. I'm trying my best to give it to you."

Don't fail me.

Even though he didn't say those words, she could feel them in her heart. "I won't fail you, Sin," she whispered back to him an instant before their weakened powers united enough to flash her to the hall where Simi had taken Kytara. But Simi must have returned to Las Vegas, since she was nowhere to be seen.

Her raw emotions still churning, Kat paused in the corner to give herself a moment for composure. D'Alerian, M'Adoc, and M'Ordant stood with their backs to her. From this angle, the dream gods were almost identical in appearance. D'Alerian had long, straight black hair that hung just past his shoulders. M'Ordant's black hair hung to his collar and was straight, while M'Adoc's was the same length, only wavy. All three were dressed in black and speaking in a low tone.

M'Ordant lifted his hand and covered Kytara's body with a light silk sheet. "It's disturbing to imagine a gallu with this kind of power. I thought we'd seen the last of those bastards centuries ago."

D'Alerian shook his head. "Only on the human plane. Their gods were smart and hid them well from the rest of us."

Kat cleared her throat to let them know they weren't here alone. The three of them turned toward her with stern frowns that melted as soon as they realized it was her and not one of the other gods.

She closed the distance between them. "I'm sorry to eavesdrop."

M'Adoc didn't appear very forgiving of her actions. "Been there long?"

"No. I came in on the disturbing comment and concur with it."

Unlike M'Adoc, D'Alerian's expression was completely stoic. "So what brings you here, Katra? Does Artemis want us to haunt someone?"

That was normally her reason for disturbing them. "No. Not this time. I need to know if any of you have ever been in a gallu's dreams? More important, has any Dream-Hunter been in Kessar's?"

Still D'Alerian's face showed no emotions whatsoever. "Why would an Oneroi-"

"Not Oneroi," she said, interrupting him. "I'm not looking for someone who'd have been helpful or healing toward the gallu. I need a vicious Skotos. Someone who would know what Kessar is truly afraid of."

They exchanged puzzled looks.

M'Adoc folded his arms over his chest. "There are only two who would fit that. Solin or Xypher."

"Xypher," the other two said in unison.

M'Ordant folded his arms over his chest. "Even though he's vicious, Solin is too into women and sex. He doesn't stir fear unless it's to kick an Oneroi out of a dream."

D'Alerian concurred. "Xypher is the one who thrives most on fear and always has. But he's a complete renegade that not even we can rope in."

Xypher sounded exactly like what Kat needed. "Great. Where is he?"

"Tartarus," M'Adoc said coldly. "We were forced to kill him and now he's spending eternity being punished for his crimes."

Yeah, this was getting better by the minute. "You killed him?"

M'Adoc nodded. "Let me reiterate the part about him being a complete renegade. He is what made people afraid to go to sleep. But if there's someone who's going to know a way to scare a demon, he's your god."

"Sweet." Kat put as much sarcasm into that single word as was possible. "Can't wait to meet him. Would one of you care to send me over to Hades' place?"

M'Adoc scowled. "Can't you go yourself?"

"I'm a little low on juice at the moment and would deeply appreciate a small hand."

D'Alerian snapped his fingers and an instant later she found herself in one of the last places she wanted to be. The Underworld. It was a special kind of spooky. The kind that went down your spine like an ice cube and left you wanting to look over your shoulder to see what might be stalking you for dinner. There were all kinds of unsavory beings who called this place home.

But it wasn't all bad. The Elysian Fields were actually nice. They were the paradise where decent souls were sent to live out eternity in total happiness. If only Xypher were there. Instead, he was in the worst place of all. Tartarus. It was where the evil were sent to be punished. There was no light here. No laughter. Nothing pretty or nice.

It was dark and pain filled. The entire area was lined with caverns and holding cells where screams of agony echoed, begging for mercy. The occupants were seldom in a state to be recognized by even their own mothers, and the caverns were laid out like an intricate labyrinth.

Without help, Kat would never be able to find Xypher.

"Eris!" she called, summoning the goddess of discord-her less than favorite friend. The last time the two of them had been together, they'd ended up in a bolt war that had ended only when Zeus had intervened and sent them both to their rooms for a solid decade.

Eris appeared before her in a pique. Dressed in a sheer black gown, Eris was as pale as a ghost. Her black hair was swept up toward the crown of her head, where curls cascaded down to fall all the way to her hips. As beautiful as Aphrodite, Eris was the most evil of any god. "You rang, bitchtress?"

Kat took a deep breath to keep from answering that insult. As a goddess of discord, it was always Eris' nature to pick a fight. "I need to find an inmate here and you're the one I'm sure who can lead me straight to him."

She arched a brow. "Really? What makes you think that?"

Kat looked around the dismal place. "The fact that I know how much you love to torture people. Any time Ares is bedding someone, I know you come here to play."

Lifting her chin defiantly, Eris narrowed her gaze. "And who told you that? Persephone?"

"It doesn't matter who told me. The point is I need your help."

"And what will you give me for that?"

I won't kick your ass. If only she could say that out loud. "Hmm... I guess what I'll do is continue to keep the secret that you're the one who told Zeus about Hera's affair with that cover model in New York last fall."

Eris's face paled as all smugness left her features. "How do you know that?"

"Unlike you, I have friends all over the place who love to gossip. Now are you going to help me?"

Eris's nostrils flared. "You know-"

Kat put her hand up. "Don't even waste your time threatening me. You do anything to irritate me and I'll make you eat that golden apple you love to throw at people. Now show me where the former Skotos Xypher is kept."

A mischievous glint came to her dark eyes. "You do like to live dangerously, don't you? But to be fair, I should warn you that he's an animal."

"Goody... now lead me to him."

Eris smirked before they vanished. When Kat could see again, she was inside a small cavern. She couldn't see anything, but she could hear the constant sound of something in motion. She wasn't sure what exactly it was.

At least not until Eris snapped her fingers and light appeared.

Kat cringed as she saw a man on the floor whose entire back was covered with bloody welts. The noise she'd heard was of a whip that was wielded by a skeleton who stood over him beating him constantly.

Growling, he rolled over and grabbed the whip only to have it disintegrate in his hand. Another one appeared in the hand of the skeleton, who continued with the lashes.

Eris made a clicking noise with her teeth. "Here, little Xypher... want to play with Cousin Eris?"

"Fuck you, bitch."

"Oooo," Eris said, wrinkling her nose, "feeling spry this morning, are we? Should I join the fun?"

"Eris," Kat said quickly. "Leave us alone."

Eris gave her a pout that any spoiled toddler would envy before she vanished.

Kat stepped forward as Xypher tried to grab the whip again, only to have the same thing happen. She could see and feel the frustration from him, the pain. Every lash cut through his body. But he didn't cry out.

Closing her eyes, she summoned as much of her powers as she could. The sfora heated on her chest as she wished the skeleton out of the chambers.

To her amazement, it worked.

Dressed only in a pair of black leather pants, Xypher lifted his head to look over his shoulder. He turned to her with an angry glare. That glare lacerated her with its hatred as he rose slowly to his feet. "Bring it on, bitch."

His anger baffled her. "Bring on what?"

"Whatever torture you've got planned. I'm ready."

She felt bad for him that he would expect nothing else from a visitor. "I'm not here to punish you."

"Sure you're not..."

"Really. I'm not."

"Then what are you here for? Fun and games?"


He laughed cruelly. "Since I've been stuck for centuries in this hole, I find that hard to believe. I don't even know what year it is, so what information could I possibly have that would be of any use to you?"

"I was told that you're a Phobotory Skotos. I need to know if you've ever been inside the dreams of demons."

He hesitated before he answered. "What of it?"

"I need information about what scares one of them."

No sooner had she spoken than two more skeletons appeared-both holding barbed whips.

Kat cringed while Xypher backed up, eyeing the two of them warily. She would tell them to go away, but she held no authority here to order them, and what little power she had left she needed to conserve until the Tablet's effects wore off.

When the first skeleton swung the whip, Xypher dodged it. But it didn't do him any good. Vines grew out of the earthen ceiling to wrap themselves around his arms. He fought as best he could, but in the end, they dragged him up and held him for his beating.

Cursing in frustration, Xypher leaned his head back and tensed an instant before they both lashed him with the whips. He tried to kick at the skeletons, but it did no good.

Finally, he lifted his head to stare at her. "You want my help. Get me out of here."

"I can't do that."

"Then I don't know anything." He hissed as they lashed him again.

Kat turned away, sickened by what was going on. He was right, she couldn't leave him like this. It was cruel beyond cruel. She didn't know what he'd done, but surely it didn't warrant this amount of abuse.

Very well, she could hope for the best and try to negotiate. "Hades?"

The dark god appeared before her. Tall and lean, Hades was gorgeous. His black hair curled becomingly around his shoulders as he eyed her with an amused gleam in his eyes. "You again? Don't you have anything better to do than chafe my tolerance?"

She frowned at him. "I haven't seen you in more than a decade."

"Really? It seems like yesterday. Oh well." He stepped around her to grimace at the skeletons. "What are you? Girls? Learn to hit like you mean it. Damn, my wife could beat him harder than that."

Kat winced as the skeletons picked up speed and vigor. "Could you please stop with the beating?"

Hades scoffed. "He's being punished. Hello? This is Tartarus, remember the purpose of this part of the Underworld? We're not really warm and fluffy over here."

"And I need a favor from him, which he will not do so long as you're beating him."

Hades looked less than pleased. "What favor could you possibly need from something like him?"

"Information about a dream."

He dismissed her request. "Get it from one of the other Oneroi."

"I tried, but they sent me to Xypher. They said he was the only one who could help me."

"Poor you, then."

"No, Hades," she said sternly, wanting him to understand what was at stake. "Poor all of us. The Sumerian gallu demons are breaking out and they're about to unleash the Dimme. We are currently powerless to stop them, and I need someone who can get me inside their heads and tell me how to stop them."

Hades held his hand up. The skeletons stopped moving. "Do you know what happened the last time one of the Dimme went free?"

"No, but given what I've seen of the gallu, I imagine it was rather rough."

"You have no idea." He left her to approach Xypher. The only way anyone could tell he was hurt other than his wounds was by his ragged breathing. "Do you know about the gallu?"

Xypher didn't answer.

Hades punched him fiercely in the side.

"Hey!" Kat said, closing the distance between them. "I think he's had enough."

"No, he hasn't."

Xypher spat at Hades, only the spittle didn't make it to the god. It reversed course and went straight to Xypher.

Hades smirked at him. "Nice try, dick. Think you're the first one to attempt that? Now answer my question."

She couldn't believe the angry look on Xypher's face. He was practically goading Hades. "Why should I tell you shit?"

"Because I can make your stay here even worse than it already is."

"I look forward to it."

Hades drew back, but Kat grabbed his hand. "Please, Hades, can we try this my way?"

"You're a fool, Katra. He only respects violence. It's why he's here. Did you know it took eleven Oneroi to kill him? Eleven and they barely survived it."

"Yeah," she breathed, "and the last Dream-Hunter I sent in after the gallu was killed by them."

By his face she could tell it wasn't news to him. "Kytara. She's in the Elysian Fields now."

Kat was grateful for that at least. She couldn't stand the thought of Kytara being punished like this. "I need someone who can go into the demons' sleep and not be taken out by them."

Hades cut a glare at Xypher. "He is already dead."

"Yes." Kat stepped around Hades so that she could speak directly to Xypher. "If we give you back your life, will you help us?"

"No!" Hades growled. "I will not allow something as monstrous as him to walk free again."

"What did he do that was so awful?"

"He tortured people, Katra. He drove them mad with nightmares and didn't care who he hurt. He is without conscience or morals."

"I don't want my life back," Xypher snarled, interrupting them. "You can shove that up both your asses."

Kat was baffled by his anger. "Then what do you want?"

"My freedom."

Hades snorted. "Freedom for you? Never."

"Hades, please," Kat begged. "I know you're able to negotiate. Do I need to get Persephone in on this?"

At the mention of his wife, Hades tensed. Since Kat and Persephone were longtime friends, Seph always sided with her and it never boded well for Hades.

Luckily, he knew that. "Fine, what do you want?"

Kat took a deep breath in relief that she was going to win this. She looked up at the Skotos. It was a gamble she was taking here, but with any luck it might work out. "Xypher, if you will help me, Hades will set you free and make you human." With him a human, they could always kill him again if he went back to being Rogue.

There was doubt in his eyes, but it was mixed with a tiny amount of hope. "You swear to free me from here?"

She nodded. "By the river Styx."

"Then it's a deal."

Smiling, Kat turned toward the god. "Hades?"

He hesitated as if debating whether or not he should agree. When he spoke, his voice was stern. "If he helps you, I will grant his freedom. But he will only be human for a month. If at the end of the month he hasn't shown himself worthy of humanity, he comes right back here."

By Xypher's expression it was obvious he wanted to tell Hades where to shove his pact. But in the end Xypher knew this was the best he could hope for.

"Fine. Let me go and I'll help."

The vines released him so suddenly that he fell against the floor. He rose slowly to tower over Kat. Even wounded, he made a formidable sight. "What do you need?"

"I need to know where the Tablet of Destiny is and I need a weakness for the demon Kessar... and I need it yesterday."

Xypher nodded before he looked at Hades. "I need all my powers returned to me."

He curled his lip. "You're dead."

"And I need my Oneroi powers back if I'm to help her."

Hades narrowed his eyes. "Don't think you can escape me even with them. You made a bargain and you are bound by it."

"And I will abide by it."

Hades snapped his fingers.

Relief flashed across Xypher's brow before he dressed himself. When his gaze met Kat's, she saw sincerity and gratitude there. "I'll be in touch." He vanished.

Kat smiled in contentment until Hades shook his head. "I hope you know what you're doing."

"I think I do."

"No, Kat, you don't. Did you even bother to ask anyone why he was served with a death sentence?"

"You said it yourself. He was a Skotos who refused to be reined in."

"Yes, he was. He would also hunt down humans and terrorize them until they went mad from it. Not a few people, Kat. We're talking more than a hundred. His last victim set himself on fire, trying to escape the nightmares Xypher had caused."

Kat covered her mouth as horror filled her. "Why didn't you tell me that?"

"Because you said you knew what you were doing. Nice to know you lie like everyone else."

That stung on more levels than she wanted to acknowledge. She hadn't meant to lie to anyone, and she hated the fact that Hades knew just where to attack someone.

But she wouldn't let him know that he'd struck a nerve. "Thanks for your help, Hades."

He inclined his head before he left her alone with her own fear over what she'd done. By trying to make things better she had a bad feeling she'd just unleashed another menace into the world.

At the rate she was going, who needed to fear the gallu? It appeared she was the biggest threat to humanity.

Her guilt churning, she left to go tell Sin the latest good news.

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