"You one to talk," Xirena said testily. "Nobody likes your family, either."
"Yeah!" Simi paused. She put her hand to her face to whisper at her sister, "Is that true?"
"Yeah!" Simi shook her fist in the air to prove her point.
Sin shook his head at her. "I think I’m getting a migraine from this. "
"You can’t get migraines," Kat reminded him. "Then it’s a tumor … one the size of two demons."
She laughed at his acerbic tone. "You wanted help. I give you the cavalry. "
Well, she had done that. But Sin wasn’t convinced the cure might not be a thousand times worse than the ailment. "Strange, I have this feeling our cavalry may yet run us both over … then eat us."
Kat gave him an agitated stare. "So where do they stay?"
Sin hesitated at the question. Leaving them alone didn’t seem like a good idea to him. "Can they be left alone?"
She shrugged. "l don’t see where they’re any more dangerous than the Daimons you have downstairs patrolling tourists for dinner."
"They don’t have wings and horns."
Xirena returned to looking human. "Neither do we. Unless we want them. "
Simi lifted her hand like a student. "If the Daimons are eatin tourists, can we?"
"No," Sin and Kat said simultaneously.
"Well, poo." Simi pouted. "Why them Daimons get special treatment?"
Xirena screwed her face up in a huff. "Maybe we ought to get back to Katoteros. At least there we got them dragon things to eat whenever we’re hungry."
Simi’s face paled. "You ate akri’s pets? Bad Xirena. He don’t like it when they go away. Oooo, you better hide when he come home and finds them missing. He’ll be very upset."
Kat cleared her throat and hoped to get them off this topic and back to the one that needed to be discussed. She looked at Sin. "You can put them in a room with QVC and they’ll be as happy as clams.’· "QVC?" the demons said in unison.
Simi looked at her watch. "It Diamonique time, too. Where’s ~ TV?"
Sin rubbed his eyebrow before he went to call Kish and boot the two demons a room down the hall from his suite.
They were still chattering about the yummy Diamonique flavor when Kish came to get them and show them to their room.
Sin stood in the doorway watching them leave. "Those are some demons you’ve got there."
"Yes," she said with a smile as she closed the distance between them, "they are. We just have to make sure nothing happens the Simi. Acheron would kill us both."
Sin’s eyes softened as he looked down at her. "I somehow doubt he would kill you. But l, on the other hand, would most likely be short a couple of heads. "
She frowned. "Couple?"
He pointed to the one on his shoulders, then dipped his hand down to his groin.
"Ah." Kat laughed. "You’re awful."
"Yes, but while I know I can hold my own against most creatures, Ash is one I know for a fact can hand me my ass in a box Therefore, I try to stay on his good side as much as possible."
She wasn’t sure she bought that statement. "You’re not really afraid of him, are you?"
"Definitely not afraid. Just highly respectful. I thank the Fates for what they did to him by making him live as a human being for a while. Had they not, can you imagine what the universe would be like? Think of the power he and Apollymi command. Now put the ego of a typical god on it."
Yeah, it was the stuff of nightmares.
But it also begged the question of whether or not that was what had made Acheron the way he was. It was a question Kat had pondered a lot. "Yet you have a conscience. I can’t imagine you running over people to get what you want."
"I’m not the same creature now that I was when I had my godhood. When I was a young, I was angry and bitter over what my father had done to us and, as a god, I had a lot to prove. Not to mention living as a human has a very sobering way of altering your perspective on many things."
Kat’s stomach shrank at the tone of his voice. Her gaze fell to the scar on his neck. She reached up to touch it and thought about how much pain that wound must have caused him. She had to bite her lip to keep from apologizing to him for taking his powers.
She’d been so young and stupid herself. Like most children, she’d been blind to her mother’s faults. She’d only wanted to please Artemis and make her happy. How was she to know one mistake would hurt someone else so badly and alter the history of the world?
If only she could take his powers from her mother and return them to him, but Artemis would never allow her to do that. If she tried, she’d lose her mother forever, and even in spite of Artemis’s faults, Kat loved her. She would never do anything to hurt her mother.
Sin took Kat’s hand from his neck and placed a light kiss on her palm. Even so, there was a wild look in his eyes. He was allowing her near him, but he could turn on her any moment. It was scary and titillating.
"We still have to find my brother," he reminded her.
Kat nodded. "All right. I think it best if I go alone. I’ll go see if my grandmother can help with the sfora." And if she’s in a receiving mood. For something like this, they wanted Apollymi to be happy and helpful. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time to visit and would most likely result in her refusing to help them at all.
Kat stepped away from Sin, but before she could flash out of the room, he laid a hand on her arm.
"Thank you, Katra. I appreciate the help."
She didn’t know why, but those few words made her heart soar. "You’re welcome."
He inclined his head before he gave a tender squeeze. "And I haven’t forgotten your gift to me. Thank you again."
She stepped forward and laid a gentle kiss to his cheek. "I’ll be back soon."
Artemis hesitated as she neared her bedroom. She chewed her thumbnail in indecision. Maybe she should just go to Zeus’s temple for a while and think of something on her own …
"What did you do?"
She jumped at the sound of Acheron’s voice coming from behind her. "l thought you were in bed," she snapped. "I had to go to the bathroom."
His swirling silver eyes were piercing as he glared at her.
"What have you done, Artie? And don’t say, ‘Nothing.’ I know by the way you’re acting that it’s going to seriously piss me off."
She hated when he could read her so easily. How did he do that?
But she refused to be the one on the defensive. So she did what she always did. She went on the offense. "Well, it’s your own fault."
He rolled his eyes at her. "Of course it is. Everything’s always my fault. So what did I do now?"
She narrowed her gaze at him in anger, but there was still a par! of her that was terrified of him. Most of all she was terrified of what he was going to do when she told him what she needed … and mostly why she needed it.
"You have to promise me two things before I tell you." A tic worked in his jaw. "What?"
She took a step back to put more distance between them. "First that you won’t kill me. Ever. And the second that you’ll stay here another week."
Ash hesitated. This had to be even worse than he suspected for her to want to make such a bargain with him. His gut knotted in anger. He could feel his eyes turning red and his cheeks growing warm. But she wouldn’t care about that.
And he knew her well enough to know that if he didn’t give her what she wanted, she’d never tell him whatever it was that had her so nervous.
"Say the words, Acheron. I want to know you are bound by them."
He cursed before he spoke between clenched teeth. "Fine. I promise I won’t kill you, and-"
Ash took a deep breath before he said, "Ever." Gods, how he’d like to choke her.
"And you’ll stay here for another week … unless I need you to do something for me."
That made his blood run cold. "Do what?"
"Say it, Acheron, and then I’ll tell you."
Oh yeah, this was going to infuriate him. He only hoped he could keep his word. If not, he’d perish from it right alongside her. "All right. I won’t leave here for another week, unless you need me to do something."
She let out a long, relieved breath. "Good. Now you stand right there."
Okay … He did and wondered what the hell was wrong with her … besides the fact that she was selfish and cold.
She, on the other hand, moved to the other side of the room, far away from him.
"What are you doing, Artemis?"
"I had something to tell you."
"Have," he corrected. "And yes, we’ve already ascertained this. What is it?"
"You’re getting angry."
Disgust filled him that she was continuing to play this game.
"You didn’t make me promise not to."
"Only because I knew you would and then you’d die."
" Artemis! "
"Fine," she said in a huff. "Don’t shout at me. I can’t stand it when you do that."
"I’m about to do more than shout."
"Okay, be that way. Do you remember when you were first brought back from the dead?"
Remember it? It haunted him daily. It’d been one of the more painful moments in a life marked by agony. "What about it?"
"Well …" Biting her lip, she twisted her hand in her gown.
"There were months where you wouldn’t come to my temple even though I tried to summon you."
"Yes. I was just a little pissed at what you and your brother had done to me."
"But I want you to remember that I did do my best to summon you."
She was a little too eager about this for his tastes, but he sought to ease her stress in spite of the fact that what he really wanted to do was choke her. "I remember, Artemis. You damn near drove me insane with your insistent shrieking that I come to you."
"And when you finally came, do you remember what happened?"
Ash let out another frustrated breath. He could see that moment clearly. Artemis had met him outside her temple here in her forest. He’d stood in the center of a clearing, glaring at her. He’d been hungry and furious, and he’d wanted her blood in the worst sort of way.
She’d approached him cautiously that day as if terrified of him.
"Please don’t be angry at me, Acheron."
He’d laughed bitterly. "Oh, ‘angry’ doesn’t even begin to describe what I am at you. How dare you bring me back."
She’d gulped. "l had no choice."
"We all have choices."
"No, Acheron. We don’t."
As if he’d believed it. She’d always been selfish and vain and no doubt that was the only reason he’d been brought back when he should have been left dead. "Is this why you’ve been summoning me? You want to apologize?"
She’ d shaken her head. "I’m not sorry for what I’ve done. I would do it over again in a heart pound."
"Beat," he’d snarled.
She’ d waved the word away with her hand. "l want there to be peace between us."
Peace? Was she insane? She was lucky he didn’t kill her right now. If it weren’t for fear of what could happen to the innocent, he would have.
"There will never be peace between us. Ever. You shattered any hope of it when you watched your brother kill me and refused to speak up on my behalf."
"l was afraid."
"And I was butchered and gutted on the floor like an animal sacrifice. Excuse me if I don’t feel your pain. I’m too busy with my own." He’d turned to leave her then, but she’d stopped him.
It was then he heard the muffled whimpering of a baby. Scowling, he’d watched in horror as Artemis withdrew an infant from the folds of her peplos.
"l have a baby for you, Acheron."
He’d jerked his arm away from her as fury singed every part of him. "You bitch! Do you honestly think that could ever replace my nephew you let die? I hate you. I will always hate you. For once in your life, do the right thing and return that to its mother. The last thing a babe needs is to be left with a heartless viper like you."
She’d slapped him then with enough strength to split his upper lip. "Go and rot, you worthless bastard."
Laughing, he’d wiped the blood away with the back of his hand while he stared venomously at her. "l may be a worthless bastard, but better that than a frigid whore who sacrificed the only man to ever love her because she was too self-absorbed to save him.
The look on her face had scorched him. "I’m not the whore here, Acheron. You are. Bought and sold to anyone who could pay your fee. How dare you think for one minute you were ever worthy of a goddess."
The pain of those words had seared a permanent place in his heart and soul. "You’re right, my lady. I’m not worthy of you or anyone else. I’m just a piece of shit to be dumped nak*d in the street. Forgive me for ever sullying you. "
And then he’d vanished from her, and for two thousand years he’d avoided any and all contact with her. The only thing he’d accept from her was vials of her blood so that he could eat and live.
If he’d had his way, he’d have never seen her again. But then she’d used the powers she’d stolen from him to create the Dark-Hunters under the guise of using them to protect the humans from the Daimons Apollo had created. The reality was, she’d used the Dark-Hunters to tie Acheron to her forever and to force him to come and barter with her for their freedom.