Tannis had blithely allowed herself to decay on her twenty-seventh birthday while Stryker held her in his arms, begging her to take a human life so that she could live another day. She’d steadfastly refused. And her screams for mercy echoed in his ears to this day.
Medea turned her face into his hand, then kneed him hard in the groin.
Cursing, Stryker caught her hand before she could hit him again and shoved her back. His body aching, he wanted to kill her for what she’d done. But she was her mother’s daughter.
Using his powers, he pinned her to the wall behind her. "You’ve no idea how lucky you are that I’ve been regretting killing my son for doing a lot less to me than you just did. But for that, you’d be dead already."
"I love you, too, Dad." The sarcastic tone was acerbic and cold.
But at least she wasn’t like Urian, telling him how much she hated his guts and wanted to kill him.
"Davyn!" he shouted, calling in one of his commanders. He stood upright and refused to let his man see the fact that he was in pain. No one would ever know his weaknesses.
Davyn entered the room. "My lord?"
He jerked his chin toward Medea. "Take our guest to my quarters and lock her in until I have time to deal with her." He lifted his hand, letting her fall free from the wall before he manifested a pair of shackles on her wrists.
She sucked her breath in as she tried to break them. "I’ll get you for this."
"And your little dog, too," he added snidely.
Davyn wisely ignored their comments. "Yes, sir. I’m on it."
Medea didn’t speak as the handsome man stepped forward. To his credit, he didn’t touch her.
"If you’ll follow me." He held his hand out toward the door.
As if she had a choice? Bugger bastards!
Furious, she glared at her father before she allowed Davyn to lead her from the room. "You always obey him?" she asked as soon as they were alone.
Davyn glanced back at her over his shoulder. Tall and blond, he had short hair and a small goatee. "If I didn’t want to live, I’d stop taking human souls and expire. It would be a lot less painful than crossing Stryker."
"So you fear him?"
Davyn snorted. "Everyone fears him. The man killed his own son."
"So he keeps telling me."
"Yeah, well, I was there when it happened. We were facing our enemies when Stryker walked up to him all calm and collected, hugged him close, then cut his throat and left him to die."
That description actually sent a shiver down her spine. How could any father be so coldblooded? The fact that he was hers was even more chilling.
Davyn turned left and headed down another hallway. "Urian was one of my best friends and he loved his father more than anything. He’d served him for centuries with absolute loyalty. Believe me, he didn’t deserve what he got."
What had her half brother done to cause so severe a punishment? "Why did Stryker kill him?"
"He married one of our enemies behind his back."
She stumbled at his low words, unable to believe so slight an offense would be worth taking a life over, never mind that of one’s own child. "That was it?"
Davyn paused to open a door. "That was it."
Unable to believe the man’s cruelty, Medea hesitated as she sensed something about her escort. "You’re Anglekos." They were Daimons who only preyed on evil humans. Daimons who vowed to take only the souls that deserved to die. Pedophiles. Rapists. Murderers. The lowest of the low.
He blanched. "How do you know that?"
"I can sense the souls inside you. You took three kills recently." It was then she realized another fact about him. He wasn’t like her father. He still had a heart that hadn’t been destroyed.
"I know why you pick the ones you do, but let me give you some advice. Those souls will wear you down. They will corrupt you until you become the very thing you feed on."
Davyn watched her warily. "How do you know?"
That was one question she had no intention of answering.
STRYKER SAT IN HIS OFFICE, WATCHING ZEPHYRA pace furiously through his new sfora. That woman moved like liquid silver. Hot. Fluid. Graceful. It made every hormone in his body fire into overdrive as he remembered how she’d felt in his arms. How it felt to make love to such a hellbrand. Her scent and touch were seared into his memories.
He’d always loved it when she was angry. One time not long after they’d married, he’d pissed her off by flirting with another woman. When they’d returned home, she’d grabbed him and shoved him to the floor, then made love to him until he’d all but gone blind from the plea sure of it. He’d had rug burns on his knees for a solid week afterward.
"You ever look at another woman and I’ll claw your eyes out."
Instead, she’d clawed most of the skin off his back as they made love the entire night. His heart raced at the memory of her skills and he was instantly hard as he ached for another taste of her.
Walking away from her had been the hardest thing he’d ever done. But had he stayed, his father would have mercilessly killed her. There was no way Apollo would have allowed them as mortals to defy his divine plans. He was even less forgiving than Stryker was.
And so he’d done the noble thing. The right thing. Rather than try to fight a losing battle that would have cost them both their lives, he’d left her alive, thinking that she’d be able to find a man worthy of her.
And in all these centuries since then, Stryker had thought of her every day and missed her. He’d regretted every moment they had been denied.
But he’d never regretted saving her life from his father’s wrath.
Unable to stand being away from her for another instant, Stryker flashed himself to her temple in Greece. One of the last remaining temples of Artemis that was still used to worship her, it was as cold and timeless as the goddess herself.
As soon as Zephyra felt his presence, she turned on him with the full weight of her fury. Her black eyes blazing, she snatched the dagger from its sheath in her boot and advanced toward him.
"Don’t," he said calmly, even though his body was on fire for a taste of her. "Kill me and my men will destroy Medea."
Zephyra’s grip tightened on the dagger as she froze before him. "You would use your own daughter as a bargaining chip?"
He shrugged. "Agamemnon killed his just to sail a ship to attack his enemy. We are ancient Greeks, are we not?"
"You were a half Greek pig. I’m an Atlantean Apollite." She returned her dagger to its sheath, then straightened. Her tough stance let him know that she was more than ready to fight. "So what do you want?"
Before he stopped himself, he jerked her into his arms to kiss her.
Zephyra had thought she’d stab him the moment he touched her, but the instant his lips were on hers she remembered why she’d married him. Insufferably arrogant, dismally loyal, and unbelievably sexy, Stryker had always made her hot. No one kissed like he did. No one felt the way he did. His warrior’s body was sculpted by hard, taut muscles that moved like water. Muscles that beckoned to be stroked and licked.
And with his arms around her, she could forgive him anything.
She shoved him back. "That won’t work with me anymore, ass**le. I’m not the little girl you left behind."
His swirling eyes darkened. "No, you’re not. She was beautiful, but you . . . you’re a goddess."
Retrieving her weapon again, Zephyra held her dagger against his neck, just below his Adam’s apple. She wanted to slice his throat and yet some foreign part of her couldn’t quite complete the task. What was wrong with her? She never hesitated. "Don’t come any closer."
His gorgeous features taunted her. Gods, but no man had ever been born more handsome. Black eyebrows arched over a pair of pale swirling silver eyes. And his lips . . . all too well she remembered how well they’d pleased her and for how long. He’d been an insatiable, skilled, and thoughtful lover. One who’d never left her wanting.
"Would you really cut my throat?" he asked, his voice dropping an octave.
She stood strong against her volatile emotions. "Release my daughter and you’ll find out."
He rubbed his neck against the sharp blade, letting it cut a fine line into his skin. Zephyra stared at the blood, her mouth watering for a taste of it. That was one of the things she hated most about what Apollo had done to them. The lure of Apollite blood was a madness that made them have to feed whenever they smelled it. It was a compulsion no one born of her race could deny.
Unable to stand it, she pulled the dagger back, grabbed Stryker by the hair, and drew him close.
Stryker sucked his breath in sharply as she clamped her fangs into his skin. Chills spread through his body while he welcomed her arms holding him close. The sensation of her breath on his neck heated his entire body.
"Gods, how I’ve missed you."
She bit harder, drawing the blood into her mouth until it pained him. "I hate you with every beat of my heart."
Those words hurt him more than her feeding. Yet he took plea sure from the pain. He deserved her hatred. "I wish I could go back and change the night I left."
Zephyra pulled back with a curse. "You were always a coward."
He grabbed her arm and jerked her closer. "Never a coward. A fool maybe, but I’ve never run from anything."
"If you really think that, you’re even dumber than I thought. Now give me Medea."
He shook his head. "My daughter stays with me."
Growling, Zephyra went for his throat.
Stryker caught her and held her back. "Still so unreasonable." But worse, she was delectable and he wanted her with a madness that was allconsuming. He leaned close enough to her hair that he could inhale the delicate scent of valerian mixed with lavender. That smell slammed into him. Gods, how he wanted her. "I’ll tell you what. You want me dead and I want to taste you. What say we settle this like the warriors we are?"
"We fight and if you win, you kill me."
She cocked her head suspiciously. "If I lose?"
"You give me two weeks to win you back. If at the end of two weeks you still loathe me, I’ll let you execute me."
Zephyra froze at his offer. She eyed him suspiciously. "How do I know I can trust you?"
"I’m a man of my word. Of all people, you know my honor means everything to me. If I haven’t won you back in two weeks, then I deserve nothing better than to die by your hand."
"You know I’m not the same weak-kneed fool who couldn’t cut her own meat that you married. I will kill you."
"Then I accept your terms." She stepped back. "Now prepare to die."
Stryker manifested two ancient Greek swords and handed one to her.
Her eyes glowing with anger, she took it from his hand and readied herself. Stryker saluted her with his.
She charged, slicing at his throat. He caught the blade with his and forced her back. Twirling, he changed hands to catch her on an upswing that almost succeeded in disarming her. But she was quick and strong. And like him, she changed hands, and drove him back with the ferocity of her attack.
"You’re incredible," he breathed, impressed with her skill and passion.
"And you’re not." She scissor-kicked him back and swung the blade at his neck.
Stryker felt the burn of it as he dodged left and dropped to the floor, where he swept her feet out from under her. Cursing him, she flipped to land back on her feet before she thrust at his outstretched arm. Stryker smiled in appreciation as he continued to press his attack. She feinted left, then right. He caught her blade with his and swung it high, out of her grasp.
She shoved him back, sank her teeth into his arm, then rolled on the ground so that she could scoop the hilt back into her hand and rise with the sword held at ready.
Stryker cursed as he covered the wound on his arm with his hand. "You bit me?"
"We use what we have." She came at him swinging.
"That’s such a girl move," he said, disappointed that she’d used those tactics.
"But it works. Maybe if you fought like a girl and not a stunted baboon, you’d actually win."
His arm throbbing, he caught her blow and pressed her to his left. Out of instinct, he lifted his hand to strike her face, then stopped.
He would never lay hand to the mother of his child. Never lay hand to the woman he’d once loved more than his own life.
That hesitation cost him, as she jerked the sword free and laid open the skin on his shoulder. Hissing in pain, he staggered back. Like a true warrior, she pressed her advantage, slamming her sword against his over and over again.
The ferocity of her attack did more than just damage his injured arm. It cut him deep in his heart. "You really want me dead?"
"With every part of me."
Unwilling to concede that to her, he renewed his attack, sweeping his blade under hers and then wringing it from her hand. It arced up.
Pushing her away, he yanked it from the air and then angled both blades at her throat.
Her eyes flared with anger. "I hate you, you bastard!"
"And I’ve won in all fairness. Concede the fight."