Kat leaned back so that she could touch his face. He was so handsome in the dim light. His dark features were perfection. Yet she could still see in her mind the blood on his skin, the anguish on his features…
And she wanted to soothe him more than anything.
Sin’s breath caught as he saw the compassion in Kat’s eyes. The sympathy. It’d been so long since anyone had looked at him like that. Hatred, anger, disgust, those he could handle. But this one look was enough to weaken him.
It touched a part of him he didn’t even know. And it softened him. He’d never been so nak*d to anyone. She’d seen his past and she didn’t mock him for it. It was refreshing and terrifying.
She fingered his lips, which ignited a spark deep inside his body. It’d been a long time since any woman had…
No, he’d never felt like this with a woman. Not even his wife had attracted him the way Kat did. There was something about her that was infectious and inviting. Her humor, her courage. All of it.
And he wanted a taste of her so badly that all he could think of was stripping them nak*d and making love to her until the end of time.
Or at least until the Dimme ate them…
Kat watched the emotions sweep across Sin’s face. His desire was bold and hot in those golden eyes, and even without using her powers she knew what he felt.
She held her breath in expectation of his kiss.
His hold tightened an instant before he took possession of her mouth. She laid her hand against his cheek so that she could feel the muscle in his jaw working as his tongue danced with hers. He tasted of wine and man. Of comfort and warmth. She didn’t know why, but she found a strange sense of peace with him. Desire overwhelmed her.
Sin growled at the sensation of her tongue sweeping against his. Part of him expected Apollymi to blast them apart again, but as each second passed and all he could feel was Kat’s warm touch, he relaxed. There was no one here to break them apart. No one to come between them.
That made him a lot happier than it should.
Gods, she was so sweet. So soft. The warm scent of her skin intoxicated him. He’d almost forgotten how good it felt to hold a woman who knew who and what he was. Then again, she had seen into a part of him that no one else had ever seen. It was a part of himself that even he didn’t want to know existed.
He cupped her face in his hands as his senses swirled. All he wanted was to feel her nak*d against him. To have her long, graceful fingers stroking him. Have her long legs wrapped around his h*ps as he lost himself deep inside her body.
But instead, she pulled back to stare at him. Her wet lashes glistened as she looked up through them. "I’m sorry for what you’ve suffered."
"Don’t be. You didn’t do it."
Kat swallowed at his empty tone. No, she hadn’t done it all, but damned if her entire family hadn’t had a hand in it.
It’d been her grandfather Archon she’d seen in bed with Sin’s wife. Kat wondered if Apollymi had known her husband wasn’t faithful. If Apollymi did, it explained another reason she hated the Sumerians so.
The politics of the gods was always complicated. And usually painful, but never as much as it was in this case.
Bowing her head, she took his hand into hers and stared at the burn and battle scars. His skin was so dark compared to hers. There was so much strength there. But it was the loneliness he suffered that hurt her most.
"Strength through adversity." That was what the Chthonian Savitar had once told her when she’d asked him why some people had to suffer such unbelievable strife. "The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell. It is pounded and struck repeatedly before it’s plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it’s called upon to fight."
It’d seemed so cruel to her as a child. Sometimes it still seemed cruel.
But Sin had withstood it with grace.
Lifting his hand, she kissed the worst of the burn scars on the back of his left wrist.
Sin trembled at the tenderness of Kat’s actions. Honestly, he didn’t know how to deal with it. Insults and attacks he could handle.
That terrified him. "I thought you hated me."
She let out a short laugh that sent a rush of air over his skin. "I do." She looked up with an openness that seared him. "You know you shouldn’t condone Daimons working for you."
"My handful of Daimons haven’t wrecked nearly as many lives as your mother and uncle, but I notice you still love them."
He did have a point. "Only on most days." Kat cleared her throat and moved away from him. "You were going to train me to fight the gallu."
Even as she said the words, she saw the image of his daughter in her mind. Ishtar had been ripped open by the demons. Literally torn apart. And by the look on his face, Kat could tell he was having the same thought.
"Don’t worry," she assured him. "I can handle them. I’m born of two gods."
He scoffed at her bravado. "So was Ishtar."
Yeah, but Ishtar wasn’t her and didn’t have the same genetic makeup. "My father is the harbinger of death and destruction. My grandmother the Great Destroyer. My mother is the goddess of the hunt. I think I’ll be okay."
"Yeah," he breathed, stepping away from her. "You do have the history of absolute terror and cruelty in your veins."
She winked at him. "Remember that if you ever come between me and my chocolate bar."
"I’ll try." His tone was less than convincing. He didn’t think her much of a fighter, but he would learn. She’d show him exactly what she was made of.
"So how many Daimons do you have in your casino?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I’m not sure. Don’t study them close enough to worry about it. Damien keeps them in line. If they eat the wrong tourist, he kills them."
"And you’re totally okay with this?"
"I trust Damien more than I trust anyone else."
That made no sense to her whatsoever. Then again, her grandmother controlled an entire army of Daimons and said nothing of the lives and souls they took in order to stay alive. Of course their leader, Stryker, was now plotting her death, but that was another issue.
It took Kat a minute to realize why Sin’s tolerance bothered her so. It was because they were here on the same plane as the humans. Stryker and his army had to come to this plane to feed and she’d never witnessed it. Somehow it seemed more wrong to harbor Daimons right in the heart of humanity.
"I thought you didn’t trust anyone," she said.
"I never said I trusted Damien at my back or with my life. Only my money."
"And yet you’re trusting me at your back?"
"Not completely. You are to stay by my side so I can watch you. Don’t think for one minute that I’ve forgotten you’re the face and voice of the one woman I want to kill more than any other."
It really was too much to hope he could get past that. But then if someone had taken her godhood, she’d be a little upset herself. "Understood. So what’s the game plan other than to avoid Demon and my mother?"
"We have to find the Hayar Bedr."
Kat frowned at the unfamiliar term. "That would be what?"
"The Forsaken Moon."
"And would it be animal, vegetable, or mineral?"
"Animal. Definitely animal."
Why did that surprise her? Oh wait, ’cause it was completely normal to refer to an animal as a forsaken moon. Yeah… "Really? What kind of animal would be called the Forsaken Moon?"
"My twin brother."
Kat was stunned by the revelation. That was something she hadn’t seen inside him. "There are two of you?"
His features darkened. "In a manner of speaking. Originally, there were three of us born to a human mother. She was a peasant my father had taken a fancy to and impregnated. We were no more than children when the prophecy came down that said we would destroy the pantheon. In anger, my father killed the eldest triplet; then he came for me and Zakar. Even though I was only ten, I was the stronger, so I hid Zakar in the dream realm and fought my father for the right to live. I told him I’d already taken care of my brother and absorbed his powers."
"But you hadn’t."
"No, but the idea that I had possessed the power to kill my own brother scared my father enough to give him pause. Even though he still wanted me dead, he decided that since the prophecy had foretold the three of us would cause the destruction, one of us should be all right to live. So I took my place in their pantheon and Zakar stayed hidden for the most part. The humans knew him, but any time they made mention of him I told my father I was the one in their dreams using my brother’s name."
"And he believed you?"
He gave her a wicked grin. "You don’t screw with a fertility god if you want to stay vigorous."
True. Fertility gods had a way with a whammy that could ruin most men’s nights.
And their egos forever.
"So where’s your brother now?" Kat asked.
Sin let out a tired breath as he left her to go to his bar and pour himself a drink of whisky. "I have no idea. The last time I saw him was after Artemis had drained my powers and left me for dead. Zakar helped free me from her net, but he didn’t stay around long after that. He told me there was something he had to take care of and then he vanished."
"And you have no idea where he went?"
He knocked back the drink with one gulp and poured another glassful. "None. I’ve tried to summon him. Call him, you name it. Nothing. Not a postcard or whisper for thousands of years. Part of me wonders if he’s not dead."
"If he is, where does that leave us?"
"Basically screwed over raw." He tossed back another drink. "It was his blood we used to bind the gallu the last time. Which means we need his blood to bind them again."
"If you’re twins, why can’t we just use your blood to rebind them?"
He offered her a drink, but she declined with a shake of her head.
Sin put her glass away before he answered her question. "I’m not a Dreamwalker. Zakar is. In dreams, he once battled the demon Asag, the genetic father that was used to create the gallu. During their fight, Zakar absorbed some of the demon’s powers. It’s why he can stand against them alone and I can’t. He understands them and their weaknesses. It was through Zakar that I was able to control and fight the demons."
"Then how is it that Ishtar died by their hands?"
This time he didn’t bother with the glass. He drank straight from the bottle before he responded. "Once I was negated and Zakar had vanished, she was alone in the fight against them. I heard her crying out for help one night and I rushed to her even though I knew I didn’t have the power to fight them."
He swallowed as pain filled his eyes. "It was too late. You have no idea what it feels like to hold your child in your arms and watch her die. To know that if you still had your powers, you could have saved her." His look pierced her. "I could have forgiven Artemis what she did to me. It’s the death of my daughter that I will never get over. If I ever have a chance to kill that bitch, believe me, I will take it. All consequences be damned."
A chill ran over her at his heartfelt words. Not that she blamed him. She’d seen the pain of Ishtar’s death through his eyes and she’d felt his horror and rage.
No father deserved that memory.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she took a step forward. "Sin…"
"Don’t touch me. I don’t need comfort, especially not from the daughter of the woman who took everything from me."
Kat nodded. She understood that and it made her ache for him. "What happened to Ishtar’s powers when she died?"
He polished off the bottle with one last swig. "Before she died, she transferred enough of them to me to keep the universe from unraveling-it’s also why I can now fight the gallu and defeat them. After her death, the rest were released, which resulted in one hell of a volcanic eruption. Then Aphrodite entered our pantheon as the goddess of love and beauty to replace Ishtar, and it wasn’t long after that, that my pantheon was history. Literally."
Kat swallowed as she remembered the Greek gods talking about that. Aphrodite had used jealousy as a weapon to turn the Sumerians against one another until they no longer trusted anyone near them. Kat’s aunt had been insidious as a manipulator. It still amazed Kat how people who’d known one another for so long were so willing to listen to the lies of a newcomer.
How willing they were to give in to such a negative emotion to the point they would do anything to go after one another just to see their innocent enemy fall.
In the end, they had all paid a steep price.
But that was the past and it wouldn’t cure their current dilemma. What they needed was someone who could…
She paused as she remembered something Sin had said.
"I have a question. Why can’t you do what Zakar did? If you’re twins, can’t you fight Asag in a dream and then get the same kind of demon powers?"
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "If I had my own powers and not half of Ishtar’s, there’s a lot of things I could do… like kill your mother for instance."
She’d walked right into that one. Choosing to ignore his rancor, she tried another thought. "What about the Oneroi?" They were the dream gods for the Greek pantheon. "Could we get one of them to find Asag and fight him?"