He extracted himself from her hold and put two feet between them. "You betrayed me."
She moved even closer to him so that she could bury her face against his neck and inhale the scent of him… and his blood. "Sin," she breathed against his skin as she tongued the area she wanted to bite.
He pushed her away. "You betrayed me. Why didn’t you tell me it was you who took my powers?"
She was trying to follow his words, but it was useless. She could smell the blood… taste it, and that desire was all-consuming.
Sin tried to leave, then cursed as he realized he didn’t have to powers to leave Olympus. "Release me, Katra. Now." Still she pursued him.
He held her by the shoulders to keep her away from him. He’d trusted her in ways he hadn’t trusted anyone in centuries. Around her he’d dropped his guard, and for what? To learn that she’d kept this from him? That she’d duped him and allowed him to blame her mother for something Artemis hadn’t done?
God, how many times had Kat told him she couldn’t give him his powers back when she could? Damn her to hell!
He felt like such a fool. "I don’t want you touching me right now. Do you understand? You ruined my entire life and then you didn’t even have the decency to tell me it was you when you knew I was blaming Artemis for it."
"Sorry?" He couldn’t believe that was her comeback. "Is that all you have to say? ‘Sorry’ doesn’t even begin to fix what you’ve broken. Because of you, my entire family is dead except for my twin brother, who has spent centuries at the mercy of demons who’ve tortured him. And now he’s one of them. I put my faith in you… came to the home of my enemy to save your life, and for what? To find out that you’re the same lying sack of shit that everyone else is? That the one person I put at my back is the one person who has hurt me most in my life? I hate you for what you’ve done. You made me believe in someone again, and then, the moment I did, you screwed me over."
Kat let go as those words cut through the haze in her mind. "I never meant to hurt you."
"What? Did you think I was going to wake up powerless and thank you for it? And what about when you came after me in New York to kill me? What about that? It seems to me all you’ve ever tried to do is hurt me." He raked her with a cold, hard look. "Congratulations, Kat. You hit the mark with this one."
She reached for him, but he moved away.
"Acheron!" he shouted.
Ash appeared instantly in front of him. Sin was thankful that he looked like a man again and was no longer blue.
"Send me back to my penthouse."
Scowling, Ash looked back and forth between them. "She hasn’t finished feeding."
Sin glared at him. "And I really don’t care."
Ash stiffened. "That’s not what you told me."
"Yeah, well, I’ve learned a few new things about her."
Sin shot a heated glare toward Kat, who was standing there with tears in her eyes. A few hours ago, that would have mattered to him, too. But right now, he never wanted to see her again as long as he lived and if she were hurting… good. "She stole my godhood from me and gave it to her mother."
Ash snapped his head toward Kat, who was looking down at the floor in front of her. "She what?"
"You heard me, and you have no idea what that kind of betrayal feels like."
Ash laughed bitterly. "Man up, Sin. Trust me, when it comes to betrayal, you’re a neophyte, and what she did to you doesn’t even register on my scale of pain." He walked slowly toward Kat, who practically cringed at his approach. "You’re a conduit?"
She nodded. "I thought he was out to hurt her. I was only trying to protect my mother."
Sin could respect the reasoning, but it didn’t change the facts of what she’d taken from him. "I was innocent."
She looked up, her green eyes swimming from her unshed tears. "I know that now. How do you think I feel when I look at you, knowing what I cost you? Do you think any of this has been easy for me?"
"Then give me my powers back."
A single tear sped down her cheek, and in spite of himself it hurt to see her cry. But how many tears had she caused him? No, he would not let his sympathy for her negate his anger in this.
"Don’t you think I would return those powers if I could? My mother knows how to block me. The only powers I could possibly give you are mine."
He arched an expectant brow at that.
"No," she said adamantly. "Acheron, tell him I can’t do it."
"I’m pretty sure he heard you."
Sin shook his head as his anger continued to build. "I want to go home, Ash. It’s the least you can do."
Ash was torn between loyalty to a friend and to the daughter he didn’t really know. But in the end, he knew the best thing to do would be to get Sin away from Katra for a while. They both needed to calm down.
But first, Ash wanted to remind Sin what he was about to walk away from. "You told me you were willing to do anything to save her. That her life was the only thing in the world that mattered to you."
"That was before I knew she was the one who’d betrayed me. That is the one thing I’m incapable of forgiving."
Pride goeth before the fall…
"Send him home," Kat whispered.
Confused by her request, Ash looked at her. "Are you sure?"
She nodded. "I don’t want him here."
Well, that settled it. If she wanted him gone…
Before Ash approached Katra he flashed Sin back to his penthouse. "You’re not fully fed."
"Yeah, but the longer you go without feeding, the more amoral you’ll become. In time, you’ll be like a gallu… only worse."
She looked up at him with those eyes that were both innocent and all-knowing. "Is that why you tolerate Artemis?"
He nodded. There was no need to hide that fact from Katra when it was so obvious.
But his relationship with her mother wasn’t the one that was important right now. "Sin loves you, Katra. You should have seen the look on his face when he brought you here. He was terrified of losing you."
She wiped at the tear on her face. "That really doesn’t make me feel any better, since I’m the one who ruined it."
Ash pulled her against him so that he could hold her and soothe some of the pain she felt over this. "You know the incredible thing about hearts is their unbelievable capacity for forgiveness. You’d be amazed what people will overlook when they love someone."
She wrapped her arms around his waist and tucked her head under his chin. "Do you forgive Nick for sleeping with Simi?"
Ash ignored the razor-sharp pain that one question evoked. He still didn’t like it, but he’d put the matter behind him. "I have."
"But he hasn’t forgiven you."
No. He wasn’t sure if Nick would ever get over the death of his mother. But honestly, Ash would rather Nick blame him than try to live with the guilt of his own part in her death. God help the man if Nick ever took that responsibility on his own shoulders. It would kill him.
"I can’t control Nick’s feelings."
She swallowed before she spoke again. Her voice was scarcely more than a whisper. "And what about Mom? Have you forgiven her for what she’s done to you?"
Ash drew his breath in sharply at that one. That question hit him in an extremely raw spot. "That’s a little more complicated, Katra. We’re not talking one single mistake to forgive. Every time I think we’re past one betrayal, I learn of another she’s committed… like hiding you from me."
She pulled back to look up at him. "But you do love her, don’t you?"
Ash didn’t answer. He couldn’t.
He offered her a smile he didn’t feel. "I can’t answer a question I don’t know the answer to. You can’t hate to the extreme I do without having loved someone first. When all that hatred is shoved aside, is there any love left? I honestly don’t know."
He brushed the hair back from her face and cupped her cheeks in his hands. He wanted to give her the gift he wished someone had given to her mother. Katra needed to understand the crossroad where she was standing right now.
"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."
Kat frowned at him. "What are you saying?"
"I saw Sin, Katra, when he came to me, begging for your life. People don’t do that when they don’t care. It’s not too late yet. He can forgive you this."
"But his past-"
"Is one that hurts and that’s why this cut him so deeply. But because of that hurt, he needs you even more."
Kat held her breath as her father told her what she needed to hear. But she wasn’t sure she could believe it. "Are you sure?"
"Trust me, baby. Everyone wants someone they can hold and love. Someone who will be there to help pick up the pieces when everything falls apart. Sin is no different from anyone else."
Tears stung her eyes as she realized he spoke from the depth of his own pain. He was trying to help her, to spare her the centuries of agony that he’d known. "I love you, Dad."
He took her hand in his and laid a tender kiss to her cheek. "If you have any care for Sin at all, don’t leave him in darkness. It’s not fair to show someone the sun and then to banish him from it. Even the devil may cry when he looks around hell and realizes that he’s there alone."
She nodded and squeezed his hand. "I hear you, Dad. I just hope Sin will listen."
One corner of his mouth lifted. "If he doesn’t, you know where Artemis keeps her nets."
Kat sucked her breath in sharply. "I don’t think that would endear me to him."
"No, but it would keep him in place."
Laughing, she let go and stepped back. "I’m going to try this."
"No, baby. Trying is for fools." His gaze bore into hers. "You’re going to succeed."
She smiled at his confidence and his wisdom. "Wish me luck."
"Better than that. I wish you happiness."
Love for him warmed her as she nodded and flashed herself from Olympus back to Sin’s penthouse.
The minute she popped in, something slammed into her. Kat gasped as she hit the floor. She shifted, trying to move the weight off her.
It was then she realized what the weight was.
Sin, and he was bleeding profusely.
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.