Sin braced himself for the coming fight, but strangely, Kessar didn't make any moves toward him.

Instead, he stared at Zakar with a twisted half smile. "I see you found my pet, Nana." He returned his gaze to Sin and his face turned to stone. "And my brother."

Sin shrugged in feigned sympathy. "He attacked us," he said sarcastically. "What was I supposed to do? Invite him to dinner?"

"You were supposed to die." Kessar narrowed his eyes on him. "It would have been a good start."

Sin shook his head. "I don't know. I die, you get bored. World ends. Doesn't really fit, does it? Besides, I can't make things too easy on you. What's life without pain?"

Kessar's gaze went back to Zakar. "That's a question best answered by the pet, isn't it?"

Fury darkened Sin's gaze as he saw the shame on Zakar's face, but before he could move to retaliate, Zakar blasted the demon.

Kessar turned it away with a wave of his hand. "Don't you ever learn, dog?"

Zakar glared at him. "I will fight you till I die."

Kessar laughed. "Oh, you're going to die all right. All of you. And for what you've done to my brother you will suffer unimaginably."

"Yada yada yada." Kat slowly enunciated each word before she looked at Sin as if bored by their exchange. "Am I the only one who gets sick of the bad-guy monologue?" She held her arms out like a zombie and mocked Kessar's accent. " 'Ooo, I'm the big evil. I'm going to kill you all. Just wait while I bore you to tears with my egomaniacal bullshit. I'm just a demon windbag who likes to hear himself speak and I'm trying to intimidate you.' "

She looked back at Kessar and put her arms down. "Really, if that's the case, you need to stop letting your mother dress you funny. It's hard to take anyone serious as a killer when he looks likes an investment banker. The only part of me that's nervous is my checkbook."

Kessar ran his tongue over his fangs as he eyed her as if she were a tender niblet. "Your girlfriend has quite a mouth, Nana. I'm going to enjoy shoving her words down her throat."

Sin glared at him. "Not nearly as much as I'm going to enjoy killing you."

Kat rolled her eyes. "What is this? A hen party? For a couple of guys, you're talking more than an episode of Oprah. If we're going to fight, let's fight."

Zakar frowned at her. "So eager to die are you?"

Kat shrugged. "Not particularly, but I'd rather go down clubbing Kessar than from boredom."

Suddenly there were four dozen Kessars all around them.

Kat cursed as she realized she might have spoken too soon. This could get ugly-and given the number of Kessars present, that was putting it mildly-fast.

"Yo, Toto," she said to Sin, "I'm having a bad Matrix II flashback and hearing Mr. Anderson in my head from that guy who was the elf in Lord of the Rings."

Sin arched a brow. "Orlando Bloom?"

"No, the other one."

Without warning, Kessar started for her. Kat moved to attack him, but before he reached her, she was jerked out of the way.

All of a sudden, someone was shaking her. Hard.

"Ow!" Kat blinked open her eyes to find Kytara standing over her while she lay in bed beside Sin. "What the...?"

"Wake up your boyfriend. I'm going to get the one in the other room before Kessar tears him apart." Kytara vanished.

Yawning, Kat rolled over and did what Kytara had told her. Sin came awake, ready to fight.

"Whoa," Kat said, ducking his grip. "It's me. Kat."

It took him a second to focus on her face and to realize he was awake. "Where's Kessar?"

"Not here. He's only in our dreams." She scooted toward the edge of the bed. "Kytara just woke me, then headed out toward your brother. Let's go see if she can explain all this."

They left the bedroom to find Kytara in the main room, which was so dark, they could barely see. Sin turned on a small lamp on the bar that cast a dull yellow glow around them.

The Dream-Huntress was kneeling on the floor beside Zakar, staring at him while he continued to sleep.

Sin went to wake him, but Kytara grabbed his arm to stop him. Her eyes were vibrant and blue in the low light. "He's not what you think."

"He's my brother."

"Yes," she breathed as she met his gaze, "but ask yourself why they let him live."

"To torture him."

Kytara shook her head. "To ruin him, Sin. He's no longer a god of dreams. He's become one of them."

Sin shook his head in denial. "He fought against them. I saw it for myself."

Kat stepped forward, agreeing completely with Sin. There was no way Zakar could be on the side of the gallu after all he'd gone through. Not after all Kessar and his minions had done to him. It wasn't possible.

But her friend knew something... had seen something that had her panicked. Kytara was hiding a truth she didn't think Sin could handle.

Kat knelt on the floor next to Kytara. "He told us he'd been fractured. What did he mean?"

Kytara sat back on her feet before she rose to tower over Kat.

"They have infected him and he can't control it. He's as likely to kill you as he is them."

Kat rose immediately as those words haunted her. Surely not...

By Sin's face, she could tell he refused to believe it. "Kat fixed his injuries."

"On the outside. It's what's inside him that's deadly. He now has the same blood hunger they have."

"No. He battled Asag and survived. It gave him immunity to the gallu."

"It gave him resistance, not immunity. They have been feeding on him for centuries with no letup. The gallu is inside him and it's trying to gnaw its way out even as we speak. He is a danger to all of us. Why do you think they had him tied down? He has their strength, the powers of a god, and the demon inside him that will kill anything without remorse."

Kat was sick at the news. It wasn't fair for Zakar to have suffered so much only to die now that he was free. "There has to be something we can do."

"Kill him," Kytara said simply.

"I can't." Sin's voice broke with the weight of his emotions. "He's my brother." His eyes betrayed the agony inside him. "My twin."

Kytara was merciless as she approached him. "Then he will kill you when he awakens." She met Kat's gaze. "You have no idea what you're up against. I've been in the dreams of every kind of evil. But these..." She visibly shivered. "They make Stryker look like a pussycat. And now they're in your dreams. You're going to need an army to guard your rest."

"What army?" Kat asked.

"A strong one."

Well, that was helpful, not at all. Kat stepped around the pulled-out bed to stand beside Kytara. "I don't understand."

Kytara took a deep breath before she spoke again. "I was only in contact with Kessar for a brief time. You weren't kidding about his powers-they are unbelievable. We need some serious muscle in the dream realm for you two whenever you sleep. They know how to find you now and they will weaken you there, then swoop in here for the kill."

Her face paling, Kytara placed the heel of her hand over her eyes. "I wish I could burn the images I've seen tonight out of my memory. It's enough to make me want to be Oneroi again." She lowered her hand so that they could see the tears in her eyes. "I wish to Zeus that I could go back to feeling nothing. It was the most horrific thing I've ever seen and now I'm scarred by it. You have to kill him, Sin. Trust me."

"No," he said emphatically.

"Then I'll do it for you." Kytara pulled out a knife and headed for Zakar.

Sin grabbed her and pushed her back, away from the bed. "Hell, no. You want to hurt him, you'll have to come through me. I'll be damned if I ever let anyone hurt him again."

The cold look on her face as she raked him with a sneer could have made glaciers. "Fine then, I'll make sure and mark that on your grave." She moved to stand beside Kat. "Do yourself a favor. Get out of here before that one"-she indicated Zakar-"wakes up. Trust me. You'll thank me for it later."

Kat ignored her words. She wasn't about to leave Sin alone in this. "Can you speak to the Oneroi and see what can be done about the gallu in our dreams?"

"I can try. I'm sure M'Adoc, M'Ordant, and D'Alerian would love a chance to be able to keep someone else in line."

Kat thought about the three Oneroi leaders Kytara had mentioned. She was speaking out of turn and had no idea how right her prediction was. Kat was one of the few people who knew that the Oneroi's emotions were coming back to them. Because of that, it meant they had emotional outbursts that were sometimes hard to disguise. A mission like this could very well help the Oneroi leaders maintain control of themselves. It would definitely be something they'd relish.

"Tell D'Alerian he owes me and I need to collect my favor."

Kytara cocked her head at that. "D'Alerian owes you a favor?"

Kat nodded. "From years ago, and I know he hasn't forgotten it."

A mischievous glint entered Kytara's pale eyes. "What did you do?"

"It's between us. Now go."

Curling her lip in response, Kytara dissolved.

Feeling Sin's concern and sadness, Kat went to Sin's side as he pulled the blanket up higher on his brother's body.

As soon as Sin's hand neared Zakar's neck, Zakar came awake with a curse. He reached for Sin's throat, but he caught Zakar's wrist in his hand.

Time seemed suspended as their identical gazes met. Neither moved, and like them, Kat was held transfixed by the tenseness of the moment. The only difference between them was their hair. Sin's was well-groomed and fell just to his collar, while Zakar's was long and gnarled.

But other than that, it was like watching someone stare at himself in a mirror.

How extremely unnerving.

"Zakar?" Sin whispered, finally breaking the tense silence. "It's me. Sin."

Zakar let go and leaned back. He looked around as if dazed by his surroundings. "Where am I?"

"My place. We rescued you from the cavern."

Even though he'd been with them in their dreams, Zakar seemed unable to believe what he heard, what he saw.

An odd twinge went through Kat as she watched him. She sensed something inside him... something cold and evil. Something powerful. She wanted to warn Sin, but by the look of affection on his face as he watched his brother, she knew he wouldn't listen to her any more than he had to Kytara. And why should he? This was his family.

All Kat could do was stand by and be ready should Zakar attack.

Zakar's golden gaze met hers. "You're the Atlantean."

"Half Atlantean," she corrected, wondering why that was important to him.

His gaze went back to Sin. "How did you heal me?"

"I didn't." He indicated her with a tilt of his head. "Kat did."

Zakar turned back toward her. "Thank you."

She inclined her head to him. "Anytime. How do you feel?"

He gave a short laugh, but the smile on his face didn't reach his eyes. "Free."

That could be a good thing or a really bad thing. If Kytara was to be believed, it was really, really bad.

"Are you hungry?" Sin asked.

"No, but I'd kill for something to drink."

That wasn't exactly something Kat wanted to hear coming out of his mouth given the nature of the gallu and the warnings of Kytara.

"Wine?" Sin asked as if unfazed by his brother's words.

Zakar nodded.

Kat stepped forward as Sin went to the bar to get his brother a glass. Not moving from his bed, Zakar turned toward her with a taunting grin. "You have a problem with me?"

"Nope. I'm just thinking."


She narrowed her eyes on his neck, which, courtesy of her, no longer held a single trace of the bite marks that had once marred the tanned flesh. "Blood exchanges."

"And what do you know about them?" His tone couldn't have been more patronizing had the man been a militant kindergarten teacher asking a student to define the Hobbesian State of Nature.

"A lot more than I care to," she said, duplicating his snotty tone. "For one thing, they usually link the participants together."

"What are you saying, Kat?" Sin asked as he rejoined them.

She didn't know why, but she took comfort in his presence. "It's never the enemy without that destroys. It's the one from within."

She expected Sin to argue, but he didn't. He simply handed the glass to Zakar and remained uncharacteristically quiet. There was something in his demeanor that made her think he might have used that phrase himself a time or two.

Zakar sat up and downed all the contents in a single gulp. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before returning the glass to Sin.

Zakar then cast that gimlet glare back at her. "You don't trust me."

"I don't know you."

He smiled a smile that was so familiar and at the same time alien. Looking at him, he was identical to Sin, except for the scars that marred Sin's body. Yet she didn't react to Zakar's presence at all. There was no heart racing, no clammy hands. No desire to jump on top of him... nothing. It was just like looking at any handsome naked man. It left her cold and reminded her why the other handmaidens had often called her frigid.

Zakar tilted his head to look around her to where Sin was standing. "I don't believe your woman thinks much of me, Brother."

Sin gave her a devilish wink that managed to warm her. "Don't feel bad, she doesn't think much of anyone including me most days."

"True," she agreed. "People are basically irritating. Myself included."

Sin's cell phone started ringing. He excused himself and went to answer it.

Zakar leaned back against the back of the sofa and draped an arm along the top. His gaze stayed focused on Kat, who didn't flinch under his intense scrutiny. Rather, she duplicated it, letting him know that she wasn't the least bit intimidated by him.

Finally he broke the silence. "You want to say something to me, don't you?"

"Not really. Just chillin'." She glanced over to where Sin was moving to stand outside on the balcony while he talked. What was going on?

No doubt, she'd find out soon enough. So she turned her attention back to Zakar. "You must be relieved to be away from the gallu."

"You've no idea."

"Seeing how you were pinned down, I wouldn't go that far. I imagine it was pretty gruesome for you."

That succeeded in making him look away from her. "I need clothes."

She frowned at the odd note in his voice. "You going somewhere?"

He didn't answer. He merely got up, completely bare assed, and headed for the bedroom like there was nothing wrong with streaking through his brother's penthouse in front of her. Kat would have gaped, but then she knew ancient men hadn't been modest...

Then again, there weren't many modern men afflicted with modesty, either.

Sin stepped back in from the balcony and swept the room with his dark gaze. "Where's Zakar?"

"Said he needed clothes."

Sin frowned. "My bedroom?"

"That's where he went, so that would be my best guess."

Sin headed toward the room with her right behind him. When they got there, the room was completely empty. Dumbfounded, she kept waiting for Zakar to reappear before them.

He didn't.

Sin went to the closet and opened it, but there was no sign of Zakar anywhere. They even checked the bathroom. The man had flashed himself out of the room and gone... who knew where.

"Where do you think he went?"

Sin shrugged. "I have no idea. But something with him wasn't right."

"I thought it was just me."

"No, I felt it, too." He slammed the bathroom door shut. "Damn it. What have we unleashed?"

She sighed. "Doom, destruction... at least he's not nuclear, right?"

A smile toyed at the edges of Sin's lips. "At this point, who knows?"

Kat beamed. "Oh look, Mr. Positive has come out to play again. Welcome back, Mr. Positive. All the boys and girls have missed you so."

Sin smiled in spite of himself. Her humor should irritate him, but instead he found it a refreshing relief from the seriousness of the situation. Honestly, he couldn't remember any time in his life he'd enjoyed more than this time with her. And all things considered, this had to be the worst part of his existence, since they were only days away from Armageddon.

The only thing that made any of this bearable was her wit and courage. "You're really not right, are you?"

She scoffed. "With my background and genetic makeup, buddy, you're lucky I'm as normal as I am."

"Point well taken." He let out a tired breath as he tried to locate Zakar, but nothing would come to him. It was as if his brother had vanished into a black hole. "Can you locate him?"

"Not even a buzz. What about you?"

He shook his head. "As much as I hate to say this, I guess we'll have to wait for him to return."

By her face he could tell the idea appealed as much to her as it did to him. But what choice did they have? Without a bearing, they had no idea where to even begin searching for Zakar. Sin could kill his brother for this.

Kat moved over to him and rubbed his back. "Who was on the phone?"

"Damien. He said a gallu tried to get in, but the mirrors repelled him."

Her smile warmed him before she rested her chin on his shoulder and wrapped her arm around his waist. Yeah, a man could get used to this. There was something not only comforting but highly unsettling about the way her innocent touch set him on fire.

"Maybe we ought to get mirrored armor," she said. "You know, like they had in the Brothers Grimm movie?"

"That was just metal they wore."

"But we could make it out of mirrors. Then they'd be repelled any time they came near us... you know, we could start like a whole fashion line of mirrored clothing. One that could save humanity. Just think about it."

He laughed at her train of thought. Oddly enough, he appreciated it, but it was highly impractical. "And when we broke one of the mirrors while trying to fight them off we'd have seven years' bad luck."

She didn't miss a bit before she retorted, "Ah, we're immortal. What's seven years to us?"

"An eternity when it's bad."

She stuck her tongue out at him in a playful gesture that somehow managed to be adorable on her.

What was wrong with him?

"Just be a spoilsport, why don't you?"

He supposed he was. He wanted to be playful like her, but he wasn't. At the end of the day, he was all about doom and gloom and he couldn't help wondering what his brother was up to. Where Zakar had gone...

Sin raked his hands through his hair as guilt gnawed at him. "What have I done?"

Kat tightened her grip around him. "You saved your brother."

He leaned his head against hers and inhaled the sweet scent of her hair and skin. "What if I haven't? What if Kytara is right and we should have killed him while we had the chance?"

"Is that really what you think?"

"At this point, I don't know."

Kat laid a gentle kiss to his shoulder blade that seared him. "I do know, Sin. I believe in you and your judgment. I know you've done the right thing."

Sin was stunned by her conviction, and it meant more to him than he could even begin to put into words. "Thanks. I just wish I shared your faith."

"Don't worry, I've got enough for both of us."

Sin smiled even though he was worried about what Zakar was doing. He felt like he should be searching for Zakar. But he didn't know where to begin. Like Kat, he wasn't picking up anything from his brother. Not even a small trace.

And Zakar wasn't answering Sin's summons. There was no telling what his brother was into.

A bad feeling went through Sin. Had he been blinded by loyalty and love? Gods, what if he'd unleashed something unholy onto mankind?

"Stop fretting." Kat smoothed his frown with her fingers.

"Yeah, but we don't know what he's doing or who he's doing it to."

"I know." She pulled the small sfora from around her neck and held it in her hand. "Let's try finding him this way, shall we?"

Sin stepped back as she used the stone to summon Zakar. But after a few minutes, she looked up with a grimace. "It's not working."

"What do you mean?"

"It's like he's not on the earth. Anywhere. You think he went back to the cavern?"

"Hardly believable, given what they'd done to him. But for argument's sake, even if he did, the sfora found him there last time. Wouldn't it be able to find him there again?"

"One would think." Kat looked up to meet his gaze. "You ever feel like the world no longer makes sense?"

"Every day of my life."

"Yeah, well, I'm not used to that feeling and I find it highly disturbing."

He rubbed her arms and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "We'll find him."

Kat wanted to believe that, but she wasn't sure. What had they brought back? Was Zakar the demon Kytara had warned them about or was there enough of his decency left to combat it?

"If he's fighting for the gallu..."

Sin's face hardened. "He won't. I have to believe that."

"But if they converted him?"

"I will kill him," he said with a conviction so sincere, it was almost believable.

But Kat knew how much he loved his brother. "Do you really think you can do that?"

He hesitated as if he was considering his answer. When he met her gaze, there was no denying his intent. "I won't have a choice. I can't let the Dimme out and I can't allow Kessar to win in this. Whatever it takes. Whoever I have to sacrifice. I will do what I have to to keep them away from the innocent."

She couldn't imagine the strength inside him that would allow him to carry out such a thing. She laid her head on his chest and held him close as she tried to fathom the source of his courage. To kill family was hard... to kill a twin brother you'd spent your life protecting to save the world...

He was incredible.

"You're a good man, Sin."

He laid his cheek against her head. "No, I'm not. I'm just trying to make right something I should have never let go wrong."

Kat leaned back to kiss him. She couldn't believe how she'd misjudged him when her mother had sent her out to kill him. In all her life, she'd never met anyone who came close to the compassion and altruism of her father.

Until now.

Sin was everything a woman could hope for.

It gave her hope for the world and she wanted to touch him. To give him something of his own to hold on to. Pulling his T-shirt over his head, she threw it to the floor.

He frowned at her. "What are you doing?"

"Seducing you."

"Shouldn't we be looking for my brother?"

"Will twenty minutes really matter?"

He laughed low in his throat. "Twenty? You seriously underestimate my fortitude."

Spoken like a true fertility god. "Then let's make it an appetizer for later."

His smile warmed every part of her as he slowly unbuttoned her pajama top. Kat groaned as he ran his hands over her breasts after he parted the soft material. And when he dipped his head down to take her nipple in his mouth, she swore she saw stars from it.

Sin couldn't breathe as he felt her hands in his hair. He slid her pants down her long legs until they pooled at her feet. He'd never seen a more beautiful woman. Never.

Unable to stand it, he slid to his knees so that he could taste her better.

Kat leaned back against the bar while Sin gently tongued her. Waves of pleasure pierced her until she could barely stand. How could any man be so talented with his tongue? She gripped the wood behind her with her hands as she rose to her tiptoes.

Unable to stand it, she came in a searing moment of ecstasy. Leaning her head back, she cried out.

Sin growled at the taste of her climax. Rising to his feet, he pushed his pants down and separated her legs.

She bit her lip as he entered her, then wrapped her legs around his waist. Sin sucked his breath in sharply at the pleasure that went through him. Using the bar as leverage, she took control.

He'd never seen or felt anything hotter. She was absolutely shameless, taking what she needed from him.

The moonlight cut across her body, highlighting her breasts as he held her hips to his.

Kat licked her lips as Sin thrust against her. Each stroke felt deeper than the last... more fulfilling. No wonder people were willing to risk death for this.

When she came again, Sin joined her.

Sin held her close as his body withdrew from hers. "I think you just killed me."

She laughed. "No, I do believe you're made of sterner stuff than that."

"I'm not so sure." He kissed her tenderly before he pulled back. "We'll shower, then head out after Zakar."

"If we can find him, you mean."


He took her by the hand and led her back through his bedroom to the bathroom so that he could turn on the water and let it heat. Kat dropped her shirt to the floor and watched as Sin leaned into the shower to test the temperature.

The lean muscles on his back were a symphony of movement. Dang, he was gorgeous. From the broad shoulders, to his muscular legs, to his rump, which was absolutely prime.

He was so beautiful, she could barely stand it. "I swear, you have the best-looking butt on the planet."

He shook his head as he came out of the shower to face her. "One of two of them, anyway."


"I have a twin, remember? His butt would look just like mine."

Actually, she didn't remember that. Zakar's butt hadn't turned her on when he'd left the room earlier. Not the way Sin's did. Honestly, she wanted a bite of it so badly that she could think of little else.

"Like I would know. I'm not interested in checking his assets."

Sin rolled his eyes at her bad pun. He didn't believe her for a minute. In his experience, women were very quick to check out some other guy's parts. "Sure you're not."

She pulled him by the arm until he turned to face her. The look on her face made his heart stop beating. "I'm not Ningal, Sin. I have no interest in anyone but you."

Those words touched him a lot more than they should.

He cupped her face in his hands before he kissed her with everything he had. He wanted desperately to believe her. But could he? There was so much left to do, so many other men who might turn her head and her heart. He was the only one she'd ever known. What on earth made her believe that she'd be content with him?

He was grateful she at least made the effort. But in the back of his mind was the image of her with someone else, and it cut him so deep that he swore he could taste the blood from it.

She pulled back and stared up at him. "What's wrong?"


"Don't tell me, 'Nothing'. I can feel it. There's something inside you that's eating a sore place in your heart."

"There's nothing there. Believe me. I don't have a heart left."

Kat didn't know why he was lying, but it was obvious he didn't want to discuss it. Sighing, she stepped into the shower, and Sin followed her.

She wet herself first while he watched with a guarded expression. "I won't bite you, Sin."

"Seems I've heard that before." He looked down at his arm where there was a huge scar in the shape of a fanged bite.

She picked up his arm and placed her hand over the scar. "My bites don't wound and they don't leave scars."

"We'll see about that, won't we?"

She kissed his hand before she released it and soaped her hair. Was there any way to get through to him?

Then again, did she really blame him for his skepticism? How much could one person be hurt in his lifetime and continue to believe that not everyone was out to screw him? Sin was allowed to mistrust. The gods knew he'd earned it.

Sin forced himself to move away from Kat. Trying not to stay focused on the way the water cascaded over her body, he turned on the second showerhead, then yelped as he was pelted by ice-cold water.

Kat laughed before she stepped aside. "I will share, sweetie."

He paused at her endearment and the way it pierced him straight through his heart. "Sweetie?"


He didn't know why something that stupid touched him, but it did. "You are the first person in history to apply that term to me."

"Yeah, well, the others must not have known you all that well." She reached out and put a dab of soap on the tip of his nose.

Laughing, he pulled her against him and pinned her to the wall before he nipped her chin. And in that one moment, he realized he was in paradise. The feel of her soft, slick skin on his with the hot water pelting down his back and the sound of her laughter in his ears...

There couldn't be a better moment than this to be had. And he wanted to savor it. If he still had his powers, he'd stop time and make this last for eternity.

But instead of eternity, he heard someone banging on the bathroom door.

"Yo, boss!"

Releasing Kat, Sin stepped back at the intrusion of Kish's voice on his happiness. "There better be something going on worth your life, Kish. Because if there isn't, I'm going to kill you."

"We need you downstairs, right now. There's a demon eating a tourist!"

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