"They laughed," Sin said, remembering the tales of that event clearly in his mind.
Apollymi turned on him with her nostrils flared. He was amazed she didn’t use her powers to splinter him against the far wall. Obviously a quick death wasn’t what she had in mind-she wanted long-term pain. "My son suffered as no one should ever suffer and I want to return that to you… tenfold."
He could understand that. Hell, he could even respect her sentiment, but it didn’t change the fact that he was innocent in this. "I didn’t turn you away, Apollymi. I wasn’t there that day. I swear, I would have helped you had I known. By the time I heard about it, it was too late."
"It’s not a lie," he said calmly as another demon inched closer to him. He swallowed as he remembered his own bitter childhood. He’d been one of triplets. Within an hour of his birth, it’d been foretold that he and his brothers would cause the end of their pantheon.
The sad thing was, the prophecy had been correct. But it hadn’t been what his father had feared. It’d been the jealousy and hatred of his own family that had ultimately killed them. Their own actions had caused Sin to be the weak link that had allowed Artemis in so that the Greek gods could turn the Sumerians against one another and defeat them.
His pantheon had fallen only after he’d ceased to be a god, and his surviving brother had gone into hiding.
And when Sin spoke, his voice was thick with that grief. "My father killed my own brother over prophecy and he damn near killed me. I would never have allowed another child to suffer for such stupidity. That is not in me."
Kat frowned at his words as she saw the pain on her grandmother’s face and heard the sincere emotion in Sin’s voice. He really meant what he said.
"And how do I know you’re not lying to me now?" Apollymi demanded.
"Because I’ve lost my children, too, and I know the ache that lives inside the heart that no amount of solace or alcohol will squelch. I know what it’s like to have the powers of a god and to not be able to hold the one thing that means the most to me. And if you think for one minute that I would ever serve that to another being, even Artemis, who I’d like to torture for eternity, then go ahead and call down your army on me. I would deserve whatever death they give."
Kat swallowed as she saw the utter agony in his eyes as he spoke of his children and their loss. This was a man who felt that tragedy to the depth of his soul. It was enough to bring tears to her eyes, and it made her heart soften toward him. No one should hurt like that.
Apollymi stood as still as a statue. Her gaze was haunted and her skin was pale.
Sin backed the approaching demon up with nothing more than an angry glare before he spoke again. "I consider Acheron one of my very few friends, Apollymi. I would never have seen such a decent man hurt for any reason."
Still Apollymi didn’t speak, but she did finally move. She came down from the dais with a regal grace. She moved to stand just before Sin. Without a word, she reached out and touched his bleeding arm and shoulder, which were instantly healed.
When she finally spoke again, her voice was only a whisper, but it held enough power to be heard plainly by all. "My son has few friends and even fewer who know him for what he is. So long as you protect him, you live. Sumerian or not. But if you prove false in anything you’ve said here today, I will bring a wrath down on you so severe that you will spend eternity trying to dig out your own brains to alleviate the pain of it."
He glanced past her to Kat. "Now I know where you get your gift for imagery."
Kat stifled a smile. Only Sin and her father would be able to find humor at a moment like this.
Apollymi ignored Sin’s comment. "Katra." She spoke without looking at her. "He is your guest in my world. Take him from here and make sure he doesn’t wander into those who would kill him."
"But I thought we could eat him," the little boy Charonte whined.
Apollymi turned a gentle look to the child. "Another day, Parriton."
Parriton pouted as Kat came forward to take Sin. "Can I just have a little bite of him, akra?"
Kat laughed at his eagerness. "Another day, Parriton, I promise."
The boy gave an exaggerated sigh before he went back to his steak.
Kat paused before Sin and held her hand out to him. She half-expected him to refuse, but instead he wrapped his large hand around hers so that she could flash him back to her house. A strange thrill went though her at the sensation of his touch. There was an indescribable power that was innate to him. An inner peace.
At least until they were back in her living room.
He released her hand and gave her a droll look. "Wow," he said, his tone flat. "That was fun. Anyplace else you want to take me while we’re here? Maybe there’s a darker corner of hell than that hall of flesh-hungry demons, huh?"
Kat smiled at his sarcasm. "There is the Daimon hall. I’m sure Stryker would love to lay fangs on you."
He scoffed at her threat. "Stryker’s a pu**y. I’d have him wetting his pants three seconds after seeing me."
His bravado only amused her more. "Yeah, right. I heard he kicked your ass last time you met." Not true, but she felt the need to tease him.
"No," she taunted, moving closer to him with her hands on her hips, "serious shit. It’s all over the Dark-Hunter bbs how he mopped the floor with you and then laughed while you bled."
Kat froze as she realized she’d unknowingly walked right up to him during their mock fight. Now they were so close that she could feel his breath on her face.
He was tall and sexy. There was no denying it. And those eyes…
She could see to eternity in those sharp, golden eyes that were fringed with thick, dark lashes. What’s more, she was suddenly enticed with the texture of his skin. There was something electrifying about a man’s jawline. Something edible. And it beckoned her to want to touch him.
Sin stood completely still as his gaze focused on her parted lips. Kat had a beautiful mouth that complemented her pale features, and a sudden burst of desire pierced him, She really was beautiful all over. Her skin was so smooth and pale. Her eyes bright and intelligent.
The more he got to know her, the less like her mother Kat appeared.
And it’d been a long time since he’d been around a woman who dared to stand up to him, never mind openly taunt him. A long time since he’d felt such heat in his loins.
Before he knew what he was doing, he dipped his head down to kiss her.
Kat shivered at the sensation of his lips on hers. She’d never had a real kiss before. Between her mother and her grandmother, Kat had been guarded and watched to the point that no man had ever really been alone with her.
At least not for long.
She’d always wondered what a tender kiss would feel like. And she had to say that Sin’s didn’t disappoint. His lips were soft and demanding, his body hard against hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him closer to her. Oh, it was heaven all right. Wonderful and warm. Hypnotizing. Oh yeah, she could stay here for a while.
Until he was suddenly ripped out of her arms and thrown against the far wall. Sin cursed as he was held six feet above the floor.
"Keep your lips and other body parts to yourself or you’ll be headless."
Kat laughed at the sound of her grandmother’s booming voice in the room an instant before Sin was slammed to the floor so hard, she could hear his bones rattle.
He let out a disgusted sigh. "I swear I’m getting my powers back if for no other reason than to-"
"Sh," Kat said, interrupting him. "Be careful, she can hear you."
He rolled himself over and leaned his head back to look at Kat from the floor. She didn’t know how such a pose could be sexy, but somehow he managed it. "How do you have a social life?"
"Yeah," he said as he rose to his feet. "I imagine Ash is even tougher on you than they are."
Sadness filled her at the mention of the father she would give anything to know. But the truth was, her mother had kept them apart and while it hurt Kat, she understood the reason and complied even though the daughter in her didn’t want to. Honestly, their separation was the thing she regretted most in life. "Not really. My father doesn’t know about me."
Sin was stunned by the news. If he knew anything about Acheron, it was that the man would be furious to learn he had a grown daughter no one had told him about. "How the hell have you kept that from him? He knows everything."
Kat shrugged. "Most everything. He can’t see those who are closest to him, and since I share a genetic link, I’m a ghost to his vision. My mother hid me from him first and then my grandmother joined in once she realized that giving him the knowledge of me would only hurt him more… and it would give my mother another tool to use against him. Believe me, it’s much better for everyone if he never learns I exist."
That made sense, but still it wasn’t right. Personally, he’d kill anyone who would keep such a thing from him. "And none of you thought about how wrong you were?"
"What do you mean?"
"Ash will die if he ever learns he has a child that he has never seen, especially since you’re grown."
"That’s why he can never know and why you have to stop referring to Artemis as my mother. As far as anyone is concerned, I, like all the other handmaidens, was a foundling that Artemis raised."
Sin shook his head. Damn, with the exception of losing a child, he couldn’t imagine anything worse than to have a child he didn’t know about. Acheron deserved so much better than this. "You three have really done a number on him. Does anyone else know?"
"Just you, Simi, and us. And I’m depending on you to not say anything."
"Don’t worry about me. I don’t want to be the messenger he kills in anger." He gave her a devilish smile as he relished an image of Ash blasting Artemis into oblivion. "You know, there is a bright side to this. Sooner or later he’s going to find out about you, and when he does he’ll kill Artemis for me. I just hope I’m there to see it."
She gave him a peeved look that somehow managed to make his groin jerk. "Very funny. He would never hurt her."
"Yeah, I know. Damn it to hell," he said in a low tone. "Bastard is still in love with her. There’s something seriously wrong with him."
"No," she said softly. "He’s not in love with her anymore. I would know it if he was. I’m not sure if he was ever anything more than infatuated by her. But he understands her and it’s not in his nature to hurt anyone if he can help it."
Sin snorted in disagreement. He’d seen Ash break loose on a few people over the centuries, which was one of the reasons Sin didn’t push the Atlantean god too far. And those were for minor encroachments. Sin couldn’t imagine how much fury Ash would unleash over something this major. "You don’t know him as well as you think you do."
"And what makes you the expert?"
"Let’s just say I understand betrayal. And having been where he is, I know the explosion to come. Trust me. ‘Duck’ won’t quite cover it."
She tensed at his warning. "Artemis didn’t betray you."
"Who said I was talking about her?"
Kat paused as she tried to read him, but Sin was anything but an open book. Even his emotions were hidden from her. Normally she could tell what anyone near her was feeling, and though she got twinges from him, it was nothing like what she normally felt. It was baffling and strange to be so clueless. "Who betrayed you then?"
He folded his arms over his chest. "That’s the thing about betrayal. You don’t really want to talk about it, especially not with strangers who are related to your worst enemy." He looked around the room before he spoke again. "So where does all this leave us anyway? You plan on keeping me here until after the gallu unleash the Dimme or what?"
That seemed to be the question of the day. She truly wasn’t sure what she should do with him. "You’re not lying about the Dimme, are you?"
He pulled his shirt off, over his head, to show her a body that was riddled with scarred muscles. Some of the scars appeared to be claw marks, while others were clearly from bite wounds and burns. "Do I look like I’m joking?"
No. He looked more battle scarred than an ancient warrior. A tremor of sympathy went through her. It was obvious he’d been fighting a long time to keep humanity safe.
And he’d been doing it for the most part alone. No one at his back.
That hurt her most of all. No one should face such a nightmare alone. "What can I do to help?"
He cocked a brow at her question as if he couldn’t believe her offer, before he put his shirt back on. But that look was quickly replaced with one that was hard and bitter. "Send me back to my place and stay out of my way."
Kat shook her head. How could she have forgotten the fact that he was a prehistoric macho god? "This is where I should probably remind you of a certain Greek blood hound who has your name and calling card. Remember him? Deimon isn’t exactly into making friends or showing mercy. But one thing he has to do is listen to me."
"And why is that?"