A feral growl escaped him before he cupped her face in his hands and deepened the lass to an ecstatic level.
Xypher breathed the scent of her in, letting it wash over him. As their tongues swilled, he tasted her humanity, her spirit. Most of all, he tasted her passion. It set fire to his own, making him ache in places he didn’t even know a man could ache. But the needful pain that surprised him most was the one in his condemned soul.
For the first time in centuries, he didn’t feel like a demon. He felt like a man.
This is how Satara got to you . . .
That thought washed over him like an ice bath. Gasping at the truth, he pulled away. Anger coiled through him that he would be so stupid again. And for what? A gentle touch? A fleeting moment of pleasure?
One moment of bliss wasn’t worth an eternity in hell. And neither was Simone.
She was a human. No good could ever come of being with her. He belonged to the immortal world and she lived in this one with its rules and civility. There was no way she’d ever understand who and what he was.
Simone couldn’t breathe as she watched a multitude of emotions sweeping over Xypher’s face. Confusion, remorse, torment, but the one that stung her was the bitter anger.
"Stay away from me." His voice was a savage growl that reverberated through the room.
"You kissed me, not the other way around."
He laughed mockingly. "I never said I wasn’t stupid. Obviously. If I’d had a brain, I wouldn’t have fallen for the lies that got me damned." He turned and started to leave.
He cursed as he reached the doorway. "I can’t even get away from you." Leaning his head back, he glared at the ceiling. "I hate you. Hades, you bastard." A muscle worked furiously in his jaw as he turned back toward her. "I’d rather they just beat me than to be stuck here like this."
Well, if that didn’t sting her all the way to her core. How dare he! "I didn’t realize I was such a nuisance to you."
"You’re in my way, aren’t you?"
She balled her hands into fists then raised them at him and flung her fingers out as if to hex him. "I wish you’d been the one who was mute. No, I take it back. I’m glad you’re not mute. Because every time I start to think you’re an okay guy or that I like you, you open that mouth of yours and remind me that you’re not. So thank you. Now get out!" She pushed him through the door.
Xypher opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, she slammed the door shut in his face and locked it. Then she shoved her dresser over the opening, just to make sure he couldn’t open the door. Satisfied, she leaned against the dresser and folded her arms. A light knock sounded on the door. "Simone?"
"Go. Away." She added a silent "jerk" to the end of that sentence.
"I can’t. We’d die if I did."
"Then you can just stand there in the hallway until I calm down." It was immature, but even so it made her feel better. He deserved it.
You’re so childish.
Perhaps, but sometimes immaturity was called for. This was one of those times.
Xypher raked a hand through his hair as he fought the urge to use his powers to disintegrate that door. He could feel her sense of satisfaction and it set off his ire even more.
Unable to let her have the last word, he manifested right in front of her.
She glared furiously. "No, you didn’t!"
"You can’t keep me out."
"You are such a dickhead." She put her hands up to force him back, but the instant she touched him, something inside him shattered.
He pulled her against him and kissed her with every confused emotion he felt waning within him. Dizzy from it, he pinned her to the bureau she’d used to keep him out. Closing his eyes, he felt every inch of her body pressed against him. Her br**sts were so soft against his chest. Her breath sweet and welcoming as her hipbone rubbed against the part of him that was swollen stiff and begging for the softest part of her body.
Simone couldn’t think straight with him kissing her like this. His hands felt so good roaming her body as their tongues danced. She hadn’t been held in so long… She’d almost forgotten the feel of strong arms around her. The scent of a man as his whiskers brushed her skin.
It was heaven.
And all she wanted to do was climb on top of him and ride him until they were both begging for mercy.
"Push me away, Simone," he said in her ear, his voice ragged. "Is that what you want?"
"No," he growled. "I desperately want inside you. I want your scent on my skin as I taste every part of your body until I’m drunk from it."
She shivered. Right now, it was all she wanted, too. But they were strangers and he was a condemned demon.
Demon, Simone . . . demon.
Putting her hands on his shoulders, she pulled back. "I don’t understand you."
Xypher bit back a caustic retort. In truth, he didn’t understand himself, either. Any more than he understood why he wanted to be with her as badly as he did.
"Would you die for me?" Satara’s voice tainted him from the past.
And so he had. He’d given his life for hers and she’d laughed while he died.
He hadn’t been attracted to a woman since that day. Until now.
He cupped Simone’s face in his hand and tilted her chin until their eves met. "If you loved someone, would you make them die for you?"
Confusion darkened her gaze. "What?"
"Answer the question. Yes or no. Would you make someone you love die for you?"
"My entire family is gone-both the one I was born into and the one that adopted me. I live in fear of losing anyone else I’m close to. Hell no, Xypher. I would never ask someone I loved to die for me."
The joy those words brought him was unbelievable. "Would you die for someone you loved?"
"Of course. Wouldn’t you?"
Xypher stepped back as he remembered the day they’d dragged him down and killed him. Would he do it again?
He scoffed at the idea. "People aren’t worth your life. It’s a precious gift, and instead of cherishing it, they mock you for the sacrifice. Stop being naive."
Simone flinched as she realized what he was saying. Someone he’d laved had betrayed him. No wonder he wanted revenge. "Not everyone squanders love, Xypher. My father didn’t mock my mother when she died. He grieved more than anyone I’ve ever seen. So much so that he killed himself five months later."
She glanced to the photo on her desk of her with her mother, father, and brother. It’d been taken a month before their deaths. The happiness on their faces haunted her at times, and comforted her at others.
Tonight it comforted her.
"My father used to say that life is what you make it. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can’t change the past, but the future isn’t set in stone. You can effect a change there. Move forward not with hatred or love. Move forward with purpose."
He turned on her so fast that it made her gasp. "What did you say?"
She tried to remember. "That today is-"
"Not that. The last part."
It took her a second to remember. "Move forward?"
"Yes. Where did you hear that?"
"It was something my father always said. Does it mean something to you?"
He looked down at the writing on his arm. "It’s an old saying among Summerian demons. It’s almost like a battle cry we use. I’ve never known a human to use it before."
She touched the intricate scroll she couldn’t read. "Is that what’s written here?"
"And the rest?"
He pulled his arm away from her. "It’s a reminder to me of what I’ve been through. A reminder to not fail until I’ve tasted blood."
"Simone!" Jesse’s voice echoed in the room before he came running through the wall. "You’ve got to see this!" He snatched the cord for the blinds to lift them up.
Simone stumbled back into Xypher as chilling red eyes stared at her.
Xypher instinctively stepped between Simone and the window where Kaiaphas floated, glaring his hatred at them. Long black hair twisted around a repulsive face covered with boiling skin.
Screaming out, Kaiaphas tried to blast through die window, but the salt deflected the blast back toward him. He dodged it, then cursed.
He curled his lip at Xypher. "You don’t really think something so simplistic will save you from me, do you?"
Xypher gave a low, evil laugh. "Am I blind or did it just kick your ass? Must suck to have something like salt assault you. Guess that’s what happens when you’re part slug."
Kaiaphas raised his hands as if he intended to blast the window again, but caught himself. "You can’t stay inside there forever."
"True, but I can stay here long enough to ruin your best day."
Kaiaphas hissed at him. His gaze slid past Xypher to Simone, down to where Xypher had his hand protectively on her waist. "Fascinating . . . you’ve now progressed from frightening to protecting humans. If you really want to keep her safe, come outside and I’ll take your life and let her live."
"That would work if we weren’t wearing the bracelets Satara sent over. I die, she dies. Separate us and I might consider your offer."
Kaiaphas tsked. "Don’t you trust me?"
That single word took him back to his childhood. Barely more than a toddler, Xypher had been so hungry he would have done anything for food. The winter had been harsh, wiping out all the crops. Xypher had found a bit of bread cooling on a building ledge, but he hadn’t been tall enough to reach it. He’d tried for an hour to find something to either stand on or knock down the loaf But it continued to be out of his reach.
Frustrated, he’d cried and gone home, starving. Kaiaphas had come to him. "What’s wrong, brat?"
He’d foolishly told him about the bread. "Tell me where it is and I’ll share it with you."
"It’s my bread!"
Kaiaphas had tsked at him. "Your bread will be eaten by a human. Isn’t it better to have half a loaf than none at all? Trust me, brat. I’ll share."
Xypher had agreed. After disclosing the location, he’d watched as Kaiaphas took the fresh bread and ate it while he cried. The worst part was, unlike him, the bastard didn’t live on food. Kaiaphas needed blood. He’d eaten it just for meanness and nothing more. When Xypher had gone to his mother to complain, she’d backhanded him hard enough to bust his lip.
"If you’re not demon enough to get it on your own, you don’t deserve it." That had always been his mother. She’d mused him on venom and hatred.
Trust was for a fool.
And he would never trust Kaiaphas again. "Not a bit. Give me the key, and once she’s free, we’ll fight."
"I don’t have it."
Xypher gave him credit for not lying about it. "As I thought. No intention of carrying out our bargain. You never change, brother."
Kaiaphas charged the window. His face illuminated the entire pane. "I’m going to enjoy killing you."
Xypher walked slowly toward the window and grabbed the cord. "Give Mom my worst." He dropped the blinds.
Simone didn’t know what stunned her most. The fact that she had one seriously ugly demon floating outside her window or that said ugly demon was the brother of the hot piece of cheese in front of her. "He’s not really your brother, is he?"
"Can’t you see the resemblance?"
"Since your skin doesn’t boil and your eyes aren’t normally bloodied, no."
"Neither are his. It’s all affectation designed to scare humans. He’s such a f**king rookie."
"You could do better?"
Before she could blink, he spun up toward her ceiling and transformed from a man into a black seeping shadow that filled half her room. Fangs shot out of his mouth as his eyes turned a sickly fluorescent yellow. Fire rippled over every inch of him.
Simone stumbled back.
"Yeah," he said, his voice demonic and terrifying. "I can do a lot better."
In a flash he was human again. "My father is Phobetor. The Greek god of nightmares. Kaiaphas’s father was some flesh-eating demon that Ares used to set loose on his enemies for shits and giggles. My brother
has no flair. No panache. Complete rookie poser who flunks a deep demon voice and some scary red eyes will make everyone wet their pants in fear."
His rant was oddly amusing. "Yeah, okay . . . that’s some sibling rivalry you two have."
Xypher scoffed. "He doesn’t rival me. Ever." A muscle worked in his jaw. He tapped his thumb against his thigh as if he were contemplating something and not finding a satisfactory answer. "Satara knows he’s not powerful enough to kill me. Why would she summon him after me, then?"
That seemed obvious to her. "To kill me since I’m the weaker of die two of us."
"No, there has to be more than that, and why only send one demon? She could summon more. Why hasn’t she? Something’s not right." He returned to the window and snatched open the blind.
Kaiaphas was gone.
"I need my full powers," Xypher snarled. He dropped the blind again.
"If you need an oracle-"
"No. I need something a lot more powerful than Julian."