Susan woke up suddenly. At first she couldn't tell what had disturbed her. But as she remembered where she was, she realized that Ravyn was twitching while he slept. She started to shrug it off and go back to sleep, but something in the way he moved reminded her of someone caught in a nightmare they couldn't wake up from.

"Ravyn?" She gently shook him.

Before she could blink, he seized her in a fierce grip and whipped her over him, onto her back. His breathing was ragged as he growled a sound so feral that she half-expected him to rip out her throat.

"Ravyn!" she shouted, afraid he might hurt her before he came to his full senses.

He froze for a full ten seconds before his touch gentled. He dipped his head down to inhale deeply by her hair as if savoring her scent. "Susan?"

"Yes."

He pulled back and ran his hands over her as if assuring himself that he hadn't broken anything. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"No," she whispered, trying to ignore just how good his hands felt roaming her body. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah." He got up from the mattress and moved toward the door. She couldn't really see him until he opened it and the light from outside illuminated his tough stance. He'd removed his shirt and wore nothing but the black jeans as he stepped across the hall to the bathroom.

Susan didn't move while she waited for his return. When he came back to bed, his hair was damp as if he'd washed his face and then raked his hands through it. He wiped the back of his hand over his face before he shut the door and rejoined her on the bed.

He turned his back to her as if nothing had happened. But even so she could sense his unrest. There was an aura of deep sadness and something else she couldn't quite place. His actions reminded her of a tough kid who glared at the world through angry eyes. One who wanted nothing more than kindness and yet any time someone tried to offer it, he rebuffed them rather than take a chance on being hurt again.

There in the darkness, Ravyn's pain reached out to her and it made her want to soothe him.

"You want to talk about it?"

Ravyn lay there with visions of his nightmare still tormenting him. He really hated to sleep. It was the only time he was truly vulnerable. Awake, he could control his thoughts and emotions. Then as soon as he slept, all the things he wanted to forget came back with a vicious clarity. If he could, he'd purge those memories from him entirely.

But they were his memories and his feelings. Two things he didn't like to share with anyone else.

"Not really."

He could sense Susan's disappointment. But what confused him was her gentle kindness that was all but unknown to him. He didn't understand why it was important to her that she try to soothe his unrest.

She rolled over on the mattress so that she was facing his back. When she spoke, her tone was low and comforting. "You know, when I was a little girl, I used to have these awful dreams about..." She hesitated as if considering whether she should continue. With a soft laugh, she admitted her nightmare. "Well, okay, my mother's dolls coming alive while I slept. It was kind of stupid, but it used to scare me to death. "

Ravyn let out a tired breath even though he appreciated what she was trying to do. "I assure you, I'm not dreaming about dolls, Susan."

"I know. But whenever I woke up from my nightmare, my mother would always make me tell her what I'd been dreaming- no matter how stupid it seemed. She said that when you talk about it, you get it out of your mind so that you can dream about good things instead."

"I don't want to talk about it."

But then he felt her hand in his hair, gently stroking his scalp. "Okay."

Ravyn closed his eyes as a foreign emotion went through him. He couldn't remember the last time someone had offered him comfort. The last time a woman had touched him like this. She moved her hand lower, over his shoulder to his arm, where she gently rubbed his biceps. Her touch... no, her kindness singed him with heat.

Susan didn't say a word as she rubbed his back. She merely lay there, comforting him, gliding her hand along his flesh. Reminding him that he wasn't alone in the darkness. Reminding him that it was okay to be human. He didn't sense her judging him. She didn't think him weak or ineffectual.

And before he realized what he was doing, he was speaking to her about his nightmare. "It's always the same memory..." he whispered. "I'm meeting Isabeau by the lake where I first saw her. She was a merchant's daughter in the town that wasn't far from our village. She and a small group of her friends had been picnicking when my brothers and I were passing through. They'd waved to us, and Dorian had headed for them. "

Ravyn could still see that day so clearly in his mind. It'd been an absolutely perfect warm spring day. The three of them had ridden to town for supplies and were on their way home. He and Dorian were on horseback while Phoenix drove the cart.

The women had been laughing and drinking wine... a lot of wine. Before Ravyn and his brothers had ridden by, the women had been bathing in the lake. Then they'd climbed out to sun themselves on the banks. Half-dressed in soggy chemises that kept falling off their bare shoulders to expose their better assets and giddy from their play, the women had actually catcalled to him and his brothers.

But he left those details out of his story as he told it to Susan. "Since Phoenix was mated, he'd gone on ahead while Dorian and I joined the women. They offered us food and wine." And other things best left unsaid. "I don't know why, but I was instantly attracted to Isabeau. There was something about her that seemed more vivacious than the rest of her companions."

Susan felt an inexplicable stab of jealousy at his words. She didn't like the idea of him cavorting with another woman. But she didn't say anything while he continued to talk.

"After it started getting late, the women packed up to return home. So Isabeau and I made plans to meet again in a few days. Alone."

"You were on the make."

"Yeah, and she wasn't a virgin." He gave a short, bitter laugh. "She was a woman with a hefty appetite and I didn't mind being her main course."

Susan had to force herself not to yank a hank of his hair at that. Bastard.

But then he'd paid dearly for his dalliance with the little tart. It was something Susan wouldn't wish on her worst enemy.

Ravyn took a deep breath before he continued. "One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, we'd set up our meetings fairly regularly."

She frowned at his words. "Weren't you afraid of making her pregnant?"

"No. Weres can't have children with anyone but their mates. Since we weren't mated, there was no chance of that. "

Susan would give him that, but pregnancy wasn't the only thing to be concerned about. "Not to be rude, but what about STDs? Given how quickly she threw herself at you, weren't you afraid she'd give you a gift that kept on giving?"

He snorted. "No. Again, my people can't get those diseases. Our magick keeps us immune from the rest. The only human diseases we share are cancer and common colds."

Lucky you. Susan had to bite back the sarcasm. She didn't want him to pull away while he was telling her his story. "So how long did the two of you keep meeting?"

"About four months. And after a while, I was really infatuated with her. She kept asking me to marry her and I kept putting her off."

"Because she wasn't your mate?"

"Exactly. There was no point in bringing her into my world when she couldn't really be a part of it. And I didn't want to tie myself to someone who wasn't my mate. I used to have this stupid idea that one day I'd have a mate and kids and live happily ever after."

Susan's heart jerked at the hurt that underlined those words. "It's not such a stupid idea, Ravyn. You know a lot of people have the same exact thought. "

"Yeah," he said in a tone that told her he thought those people were fools. "Anyway, when the mark finally appeared on our hands, I thought it was too good to be true. She'd been telling me for months that she loved me. I wasn't sure if I loved her or not, but I enjoyed her company so I proposed as soon as I saw the marking. Isabeau was scared, of course. She thought it was the mark of the devil and I tried to tell her not to worry, but she ran off before I could explain it. "

"You went after her?"

"No," he said to her surprise. "Something in my gut told me to leave her alone... she'd been really hysterical before she took off. So I went home and that night my mother saw the mark on my palm and asked me about it. I told her the truth and tried to make her understand just how distraught Isabeau had been. She assured me that Isabeau was just taken by surprise. And that I owed it to both her and myself to tell her the truth about who and what we were. She was sure that a woman who loved me would accept the truth of it and join us."

He rolled over onto his back to stare up at the ceiling. She could feel the guilt and anger inside him, reaching out to touch her heart. "You have no idea how much I wish I could go back in time and change that night. It's probably why Artemis stripped the ability to time travel from me. God knows, it eats at me constantly and I'm sure if I could, I'd go back and do something stupid."

Susan rubbed his arm soothingly. "Is that what you dream of?"

He turned his head to meet her gaze. "In part. I always see my mother as she urged me to go to Isabeau and bring her back to our village, and then it shifts to the night I became a Dark-Hunter. I keep seeing Isabeau's terrified face in my mind as I killed her father while she screamed and cowered in a corner. "

She hesitated to ask the next question, but she wanted to know the answer. "Did you kill Isabeau, too?"

"Yes."

Susan pulled back at that as her heart hammered. She'd seen Ravyn in action, but even so she hadn't thought that he could be that cold.

He winced as if he could still see the past. "While her father died, Isabeau found some courage. She grabbed a short sword from the wall and ran at me with it. I wasn't armed so I tried to dodge her swing, but she caught me across the arm with the blade. Acting on instinct, I knocked her away from me and cupped my arm. She stumbled back into the hearth and dropped the sword as the tail of her dress went into the fire. I reached for her to help her, but she bit me and went running for the open door as the fire spread up the back of her gown. As I ran after her, more of the men came between us and attacked me. By the time I'd killed them, it was too late for Isabeau. I found her lying in a heap not far from her cottage. As I rolled her over, I realized she was still alive. Her eyes flared as she saw me, then she spat in my face and died in my arms. I can't get the sight of her burned face out of my dreams. The hatred in her eyes as she spat on me. I keep thinking that I should have somehow known how it would all play out. That I could have done something to save all of them."

"It wasn't your fault Isabeau was stupid."

"No," he said, his dark eyes burning into hers. "She was just a woman of her time who was convinced I was the devil out to steal her soul. I should have never touched her."

"But then you wouldn't have found your mate."

"Yeah, and what good did it do me to find her?"

He did have a point. Sighing, Susan squeezed his hand in hers. "I'm sorry, Ravyn. Everyone deserves to have someone who loves them."

By his face she could tell that he didn't agree with that. Instead of hating Isabeau for her ignorance and stupidity, it was obvious that he hated himself for setting it all into motion. How she wished she could ease that guilt from him. But there was nothing she could do. He would have to learn to forgive himself someday.

"What about you?" he asked quietly as he played with her fingers.

"What about me?"

"Did you ever love anyone?"

Susan bit her lip as her own regret and sadness gnawed at her. "No. Not really." And it wasn't from lack of trying on her part. She just couldn't seem to find anyone who was in sync with her. Someone who could make her laugh... Someone she wanted to grow old with. "At least not like you read about in books or see in movies. I've always wondered what it would be like to be swept off my feet by some sexy stranger. To have that one person who I can't imagine living without come into my life and make me his." She sighed wistfully as an image of it happening played through her mind. Oh, what she wouldn't give to have that feeling just once in her life.

"Yeah. It's such bullshit."

"No," she said seriously. "It does exist. I saw it with Jimmy and Angie. They were so in love that there were times when I would have to leave the room to get away from the jealousy I felt. It wasn't that I begrudged them their happiness, it was just hard to see them so happy while I had no one in my own life."

Susan felt a sad smile play at the edges of her lips. "When I was a little girl, I remember going to see Urban Cowboy with my mom. Remember the scene at the end when John Travolta punches out the bad guy for hurting Debra Winger and then carries her outside? I always wondered what that would feel like."

His callused fingers continued to play with hers. "Well, considering the fact that he doesn't carry her out at the end, that would be hard."

Susan started at his words. "What?"

"She gets carried outside at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman. Not Urban Cowboy. Bud and Sissy walk out arm in arm at the end of that one."

"Oh." Susan frowned as she thought about that. He was actually right and she was amazed that he knew that. She turned to give him a chiding stare. "By the way, I find it fascinating that you know this."

His grin was wicked as he moved her hand to his chest while his thumb stroked her palm and sent little waves of pleasure through her. "Don't. Remember that I live with a girl who's recently gone through puberty. Erika watches those movies over and over again and then cries and carries on for hours about how men like that don't exist and how we're all insensitive pigs who should be neutered."

Susan laughed. She could just see Erika tirading against poor Ravyn, who would most likely look completely baffled by the attack. "You know, she's amazingly astute at times."

"Thanks."

She rolled her weight playfully into his side. "I was just teasing."

"Sure you were. Admit it, you agree with her."

"Some days," she joked. "After all, you guys are a little self-absorbed at times."

"Yeah, like we're the only ones."

Susan paused as she realized just how comfortable she was with him. She hadn't teased like this in a long time. And it felt really good. Licking her lips, she stared at their joined hands and wondered if Ravyn even realized what he was doing.

Ravyn's breath caught in his throat as he saw the tender look on Susan's face. As dark as the room was, he knew she couldn't see him all that well, but he had a perfect view of her face. And she was beautiful. Her blue eyes were tinged with dark circles, but they in no way took away from her angelic features. Her long blond hair was a complete mess and yet he'd never seen anything sexier in his life.

In that instant, he knew that he should get up and sleep somewhere else, but he didn't want to leave her. She'd been right, talking about his nightmare had made him feel better. A lot better. The haunting images were gone now, replaced by her hesitant smile and her gently teasing voice.

And deep in the back of his mind was the question of what his life would have been like if Isabeau had been more like Susan...

Without thinking, he cupped her face in his hand and watched as she closed her eyes to savor his touch. Her skin fascinated him with its softness. Before he could stop himself he leaned down and captured her lips with his. The taste of her invaded every part of his body. Her kiss was tender and precious, and there in the darkness it chased away the shadows of his past and eased the pain that had lived way too long inside him.

Susan sighed as she tasted Ravyn. His whiskers chafed her skin and prickled her lips making them both itchy, but still she didn't want to give up that mouth. There was something about him that she wanted to possess. Something that addicted her in a way she wouldn't have thought possible.

Her heart pounded as he left her lips to nibble his way down to her neck. Chills spread through her. His fangs gently nipped her skin that had been made sensitive from his whiskers. She wrapped her arms around him, delighting in the way his muscles rippled and bunched under her hands as he moved. It felt so good not to be alone in the darkness. So good to just hold someone, but especially this man who'd protected and comforted her.

Desire pooled itself to the center of her body as she reached out for him. But as he shifted, his hair fell into her face.

Her nose started burning immediately as her eyes watered and she sniffed. Then she sneezed.

Ravyn let out an irritated breath as he pulled back. "You really are allergic to me, aren't you?"

She gave an extremely undignified sniff. "Only to your hair."

"Fine then. I'll shave it off."

"Don't you dare..." She caught herself and the heated intensity of her voice. "I mean..."

His eyes gleamed at her with humor. "I know what you mean."

Susan cocked her head as his hair was immediately gathered back from his face into a ponytail without either one of them touching it.

"How did you do that?" she asked in awe.

He winked playfully at her. "Magick."

And before she could speak again, he returned to her lips to kiss her blind. Her body burned as he lifted up her shirt and exposed her stomach. He dipped his head down to tease her skin with his fangs. She shivered and groaned at the sensation of his hot lips on her cool skin. Nothing had ever felt better.

Ravyn growled at the taste of Susan. He wanted to bathe in her scent. To roll himself all over her until she coated every part of him. And when she reached down between them to cup him in her hands, he actually saw stars from it.

He moved farther up her body to recapture her lips as she slowly unbuttoned his fly to free him. Unable to stand it, he closed his eyes and melted their clothes from their bodies.

A light, gentle laugh filled his ears. "You know, that little talent could get you arrested in most states. "

"If you'd like to break out some handcuffs... I wouldn't be inclined to resist that arrest."

She laughed again as she wrapped her body around his and then rolled him over onto his back. Her eyes dark and hooded, she straddled his stomach, then slid her body down his. Ravyn hissed as pleasure tore through him. The hairs at the center of her body tickled his stomach as her wetness teased him with promise.

His heart racing, he cupped her breasts in his hands as she leaned forward to trace the outline of his jaw with her tongue.

Susan delighted at the sensation of his whiskers prickling her lips. A part of her was appalled that she was making out with a guy she barely knew, and yet she felt as if she'd known him an eternity. There was something about him that called out to her. Something inside her that wanted only to be with him... at least for this moment in time. No, that was wrong. She felt a connection with him. This wasn't just scratching an itch. It was something more.

She didn't know why having sex with him seemed so important, but this was something she had to do.

He ran his warm hands down her back before he lifted her up ever so slightly to stroke her gently between her legs. Susan moaned as she slowly rode his fingers. It'd been so long since any man had touched her like this. She'd almost forgotten just how good it felt.

Wanting to taste more of him, she trailed her lips from his jaw to his chest so that she could lave his nipple. She laughed deep in her throat as she felt chills spread over his body.

Ravyn couldn't think straight as Susan made her way down his body. Her sweet mouth was working the most amazing magick on him as it caused his own magick to swell and increase. Sex always invigorated his kind. He watched as she moved to kneel between his thighs. He reached to brush her hair back from her face only to have her capture his hand in hers and lead it to her mouth.

His entire body burned as she gently suckled his fingers. And when she pulled away, he actually wanted to whimper until she took the tip of him into her mouth.

Arching his back, he buried his hand in her hair as she ran her tongue around him, taking his cock even deeper into her mouth. Something inside him shattered at the sight of her tasting him. It'd never been in his nature to let anyone close to him. And yet he found himself softening for her. She was the kind of woman a man fought for. The kind he kept near him no matter what.

That thought scared him. He was a Dark-Hunter. Women were a passing curiosity for them. A scratch for a biological itch. But as he watched Susan, he realized that he didn't want to walk out of her life. He wanted to spend more days with her like this... well preferably without people trying to kill them. Most of all, he wanted to get to know everything about her.

Susan paused as she caught Ravyn's hooded gaze. There was something so tender in his expression that it actually made her breath catch. He looked so good lying on the bed, his prone body just waiting for her.

Pulling back, she ignored her stuffy, itchy nose and gave one long, wicked lick from the base of his cock all the way to the tip, delighting in the salty taste of his body. She was on fire for him. He pulled her up his body so that he could kiss her.

She ran her hands over his steely arms, seeking out every dip and curve of muscle. Unable to stand it anymore, she shifted her weight so that the center of her body was pressed against the tip of him. Pulling back from his kiss, she slowly inched herself down his shaft until he completely impaled her.

She ground her teeth at the incredible sensation of his hard length inside her. She lifted her gaze to lock with his as she lifted herself up and then slid back down to take him in all the way to the hilt.

Ravyn growled as pleasure tore through him. He lifted his hips, driving himself even deeper into her as she rode him at a furious pace. His entire body was on fire as he cupped her breasts in his hands.

Susan covered his hands with hers as her pleasure mounted. Never in her life had any man felt so good inside her. She quickened her strokes, wanting to feel him even deeper. And then she felt it... that magical moment when her entire world exploded into white-hot ribbons of ecstasy.

Ravyn growled as he felt her orgasm. His Were-Hunter powers were fired by it, and as they gained strength, his own pleasure built until he joined her release.

Throwing his head back, he groaned aloud. Susan collapsed on top of him, covering his body with hers as they both struggled to breathe.

His entire body covered in a fine sheet of sweat, he held her close, his heart racing, his magick snapping. Her breath fell in gentle puffs against his skin while he held her and marveled at the tenderness she awoke inside him. "That was amazing," he said quietly.

"You've no idea," she said as her fingers toyed with his right nipple.

"Oh, I think I do," he teased, nuzzling her until he had her lips again. The warmth he felt for her both delighted and scared him. He wasn't supposed to feel this way, and especially not toward a Squire. They weren't supposed to touch, and yet he couldn't seem to stop himself.

Susan's eyes widened as she realized that he was already growing hard again. Pulling back, she looked down to see that she wasn't imagining it.

Shocked, she met his evil grin.

"Welcome to the world of the Were-Hunters, baby. We're not like human men."

"No kidding..." Before she could move, he sat up with her in his arms.

"Now let me show you how a cat makes love to a woman."

She stiffened instantly. "I don't do bestiality."

"Good, neither do I."

He faced her to the wall and placed her hands there to brace her weight as he nudged her thighs wide apart. Susan turned to see him over her shoulder before he brushed her hair from her neck and nibbled the skin there. Chills exploded over her. What was it about him that made her crave him so?

As he pressed himself closer to her, she could feel his earlier release start to trickle out from her. Until he moved his hand down around her stomach to trail to the center of her. He gently separated the folds of her until he could stroke her.

Susan cried out as her muscles jerked in response to his hot touch. He took a nip of her skin in his fangs an instant before he drove himself deep inside her again.

She clenched her hands into fists against the wall as unimaginable pleasure filled her. He drove himself so deep inside her that she swore he actually touched her womb. His fingers teased her in time to his thrusts while his hot breath singed her neck.

Ravyn closed his eyes as he moved even faster against her. This was a position that most of his kind reserved only for the mating ritual, and he'd never used it with any woman before. He wasn't even sure why he did so now except that he wanted to know just once what it was like to make love to a woman like this.

And he couldn't think of anyone better than Susan to experience it with.

Susan pushed herself away from the wall and leaned back against him as he continued to thrust himself into her. He felt so incredibly good there. She fell back in his arms so that she could reach over her head and sink her hand into his silken hair even though it made her skin itch. He moved his lips so that he could tease her lobe while she massaged his scalp, and chills consumed her. No man had ever felt better. And her body was growing hotter and hotter.

She tightened her grip in his hair an instant before she cried out in ecstasy. Still he kept his hand buried between her legs, wringing out every tremor of pleasure from her body until she fell forward and begged him for mercy.

He moved his hands and then braced them against her hips as he quickened his strokes until he, too, found his release. He kept himself deep inside her as he nuzzled and licked the flesh of her back.

Susan trembled as Ravyn held her while he was still inside her. Their bodies still joined, he pulled her with him down to the mattress.

"You know," she said as she slowly floated back into her body. "Aside from the allergies, I think I could get used to you being a cat."

He laughed gently in her ear before he wiggled his hips against hers. She moaned at the sensation of him stroking her deep inside.

Then suddenly the blanket was over them again.

"Ravyn?"

"Yes?"

"Do you think we'll ever get our lives back to normal?"

Ravyn was silent as he considered that. The concept of normal to him was actually laughable. But he knew that wasn't what she was asking him.

She wanted him to tell her that everything would be all right.

"I'm sure you'll get your life back, Susan." The only problem was that he knew he, too, would go back to being a Dark-Hunter, but after spending this day with her he didn't think that his life would ever be the same again. How could it?

He'd shared things with her that he'd never shared with another living being. More than that, she'd touched a part of him that he didn't even know he still had.

But he also knew that in the end, he was going to have to walk away from her. It was all he could do. He was a Dark-Hunter and she was human.

And that reality broke the heart he thought had died more than three hundred years ago.

Cael jerked awake as a sense of foreboding terrorized him. Amaranda rolled over in bed to stare up at him with her brow furrowed by concern.

"Are you okay, baby?"

He couldn't speak as he tried to pull his dream into his conscious mind. One of his gifts as a Dark-Hunter was the power of precognition.

Yet this vision escaped him completely. Except for one thing that he remembered clearly.

Amaranda's death.

He pulled her into his arms and held her as pain racked him. He couldn't lose her. He couldn't.

"Cael? You're starting to scare me."

Still, he couldn't speak, not while he saw her dead at his feet. And as in the past, the thought of her death weakened his Dark-Hunter powers. He could feel them slipping, even as he drew personal strength from her.

"Cael?"

"It's okay, Randa," he said, finally. But inside it wasn't. He'd already lost everyone who'd ever meant anything to him. He didn't want to ever feel that grief again.

And yet what choice did he have?

She was going to die. Their time together was so finite that he couldn't even let himself think about it.

Tightening his arms around her, he laid a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Go back to sleep, love."

He reluctantly pulled away from her.

She frowned at him. "Where are you going?"

"Bathroom." Cael pulled up his plaid and wrapped it around his hips before he opened the door and stepped through it toward the bathroom in the hallway.

He'd only taken a few steps when he felt a preternatural frisson go up his spine. He turned just as a door opened on his right to show him a man almost even in height to him. And even though the man had black hair, he oozed the scent and aura of a Daimon.

But unlike a Daimon, this man had swirling silver eyes that Cael had only seen on one other being.

Acheron Parthenopaeus.

"Who are you?"

The man smiled to show him a set of fangs. "Stryker."

"You don't belong here."

He arched a brow at that. "I would think, as a Daimon, that I have more right here than a Dark-Hunter does. Tell me, why is the enemy living in peace in a commune of Apollites?"

"That's none of your business."

"Isn't it?"

Cael started for the Daimon only to have him vanish. Two heartbeats later, he appeared at Cael's back.

"I'm not your enemy, Cael."

"How do you know my name?"

"I know lots of things about you, including your marriage to Amaranda. More than that, I know what you fear most."

He curled his lip at the Daimon. "You don't know shit about me."

"Oh no, that's not true. But tell me something? If I told you there was a way to save her, would you take it?"

Cael's heart literally stopped beating. "I won't let her go Daimon."

"What if there was another way to save her?"

Dare he even hope for that? "What other way?"

Stryker moved to stand just before him. So close that Cael could feel the heat from his body. "Join my army, Cael, and I will give you the secret you need to keep Amaranda alive as an Apollite past her birthday. "

He cut a suspicious glare at Stryker. "What army?"

"The Illuminati. We serve the goddess Apollymi, mortal enemy of Artemis and Acheron."

Cael stiffened at those words that asked him to betray two people he owed his loyalty to. "I made my oath to Artemis. I won't go back on it. Ever."

Stryker tsked at him. "Pity you then. I hope your oath keeps you company after your beautiful wife disintegrates in your arms. "

Cael sucked his breath in sharply as his dream came back to him in crystal clarity and again he felt his powers drain.

Stryker handed him a small medallion. "Think about my offer, Dark-Hunter, and if you change your mind-"

"I won't."

Stryker gave him an evil smile. "As I said, if you change your mind, use the medallion to call me."

Cael didn't move as the Daimon summoned a bolt-hole and stepped into it. He looked down at the golden medallion that held a dragon flying in the center of a sunburst. It was the universal sign of the ancient Spathis.

Was the Daimon serious? Could there be a way to save Amaranda's life?

He's lying to you, Cael. Don't be a fool.

But what if he wasn't?

Clenching his fist over the medallion, Cael went to the bathroom, then returned to his bedroom. He stood over the bed, staring at Amaranda, who'd returned to sleep. Her long blond hair was fanned out around her as she lay on her side completely naked.

He reached out and touched her supple arm. She meant the world to him. Before he'd met her, he'd been nothing but an empty shell who'd been incapable of feeling anything at all. She'd taught him to laugh again. To breathe. He owed her everything and the thought of living for even one minute without her crippled him with pain.

He put the medallion on the dresser, then dropped his plaid and joined her in the bed. If she were awake, she'd be angry at him for even thinking about betraying his oath.

"We'll enjoy what we have and be grateful for it, Cael. Don't wish for more than what the Fates have decreed for us. "

Her compassion and strength was only part of why he loved her so much.

And it was why he didn't want to lose her.

Swallowing against the lump in his throat, he pulled her warm body flush to his.

And as he closed his eyes, he could have sworn he heard Stryker's voice in his head.

"One single word, Cael, and you'll never have to lose her. Just one. "

Cael whispered a prayer for strength and courage. But in the end, his gift of second sight laid out a future that scared him. Because in his heart, he knew the truth.

He would do anything to keep this woman by his side. The only question was what exactly Stryker would ask him to do in order to save his wife's life.



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