Simone canceled her afternoon class. Between her powers, which were still making her ill, and all the chaos of attacking demons and her body going out of control without notice, she thought it might be the safest thing for her students. The last thing they needed to see was their professor's eyes turn bright red.

Or worse, have one of them eaten by a gallu. The administration might take some issue with that.

So would the poor student.

In the meantime, she was learning certain things about herself and her new powers. Xypher had moved the furniture around in her living room so that he could show her specific moves to fight the gallu and make them cry. Her favorite to date was gross, but highly effective.

Acid spit.

She scratched the back of her neck as she looked at the metal cup she'd just destroyed. "I feel like the alien in the space movies."

Xypher gave her a hot once-over before he pressed himself against her and breathed in her ear. "Lucky for me, you're much better looking."

She smiled at the compliment as her entire body heated from his touch.

"Oooo!" Jesse said as he came skating sideways into the room. "Someone moved furniture. This is great!"

Before Simone could speak, the Clash "Should I Stay or Should I Go" started playing. "Jesse . . ."

He started dancing like a chicken. "Oh, c'mon, Sim. It's the Clash. You gotta dance." He took her hand and spun her about.


Laughing, she shook her head and then joined his famous Chicken Neck Dance thing that they did, usually when no one else was around.

Gloria squealed in delight before she joined them.

Xypher stood back, watching the three of them with a stem frown. Never in all his existence had he seen anything so strange. They went from a chicken line dance to robots to something that looked like the twist-if you had some sort of spinal injury. And then they began do-si-doing. The song didn't last long before it went into "Boys Don't Cry, I Wanna Be a Cowboy."

Jesse pointed one finger and then another at him and pretended to shoot him as he sang to the song.

Xypher scratched his cheek, "All of you have lost your mind."

Simone laughed. "C'mon, Ted," she said, using the name of the cowboy in the song. "Dance with us."

"I have never in my entire, long existence danced."

"And I've never been able to hear someone else's heartbeat from three feet away until today, either" She grabbed his arms and tugged him toward the group. "Dance with me, Xypher. No one here will laugh at you for it. Trust me, if we don't mock Jesse for his lack of grace, we'd never mock you."

He felt completely ridiculous for all of ten seconds. But moving in unison with Simone while her eyes sparkled made him forget about the fact he probably looked like a jackass.

The music segued into Tina Turner, "Better Be Good to Me."

"Monkey dance!" Jesse shouted.

Xypher exchanged a puzzled look with Gloria, who was as lost as he was.

Simone came to rest at his side and showed him how to raise one hand at a time in time to the music. "Now shake your tail like a monkey . . . It's a monkey dance."

Xypher laughed, and for the first time in his life, it wasn't bitter or mo clang. It was a real, honest-to -goodness, from-the-depth-of-his-stomach laugh that warmed him from the inside out. Dear gods, he was enjoying himself. Really enjoying himself. He'd never, ever done this before.

So this was what real fun felt like. No wonder people sought it out. Fun was incredible.

Minutes and songs flew by as they just enjoyed being together, acting completely stupid. Simone twilled around, laughing, then collapsed on the couch.

"Oh, I'm getting old. I can't keep up."

Jesse and Gloria kept dancing while Xypher went to sit next to her on the couch.

"You okay?"

She laughed. "Hot and sweat. You?"

"Same. You guys do this a lot?"

She smiled as she watched Jesse and Gloria dancing together. "About once a week. But we don't usually move the furniture first."

Xypher brushed a stray piece of hair back from her face, but the

Moment he touched her, he realized he's make a mistake. A wave of heat scorched his groin.

Growling at the ferocity of the sudden desire, he leaned over and captured her lips with his.

Simone moaned softly at the taste of Xypher. Her heart raced even faster as she buried her hand in his thick, black hair and let the strands twine themselves around her fingers. His whiskers grazed her skin, making her burn with need. Closing her eyes, she imagined being in bed with him. . . naked.

No sooner had that thought shot through her mind, than she was in her bed with him, completely bare.

"Oh, my God," she breathed, pulling back as a wave of dizziness went through her.

With an evil glint in his eyes, Xypher laughed. "I think I like the fact that you don't have control over your powers. As long as you don't flash us into public naked, I'm good with it."

Pulling her sheet tight against her bare body, she squeaked in indignation. "I can't believe I just did this."

"Don't be embarrassed." He snuggled closer to her before he nibbled the comer of her mouth.

Simone hesitated. Part of her wanted to bolt from the bed, but the other part was absolutely eager for this. They'd been through so much already. More than that, he'd touched her heart and life in ways no man ever had before.

Smiling at him, she placed her hand against his whiskered cheek. His blue eyes were beguiling. She saw the need and the heat of his passion there, but he wasn't pushing her. He was waiting to make sure it was okay.

That alone broke her last bit of resistance.

She rolled into his arms and kissed him.

Xypher trembled with the relief that tore through him at her actions. She'd come to him.

Unable to stand it, he kissed her fiercely as he rolled to his back and draped her over his chest. He hissed at how good her breasts felt against his bare chest. At of the sensation of her naked legs sliding against his.

"Hey, Sim, what-"The words broke off into a horrified shriek that Sounded more like a little girl than a teenage boy. Jesse ran through the wall to escape.

"Next time, knock," Xypher called after him.

Jesse said something, but it was muffled by the stereo.

Simone didn't let it faze her. She'd see to Jesse later. Right now, she only wanted to be with Xypher. There was something about him that captivated her.

Once more, he rolled aver with her, pinning her to the bed. "You are so beautiful," he growled, nipping at her lips before he buried his face against her neck. He kissed a blazing trail aver her skin to her breasts,

Simone arched her back and held him close as she raked one hand down his back to feel his muscles flex. She was absolutely dizzy from the sensation of his lips on her flesh. From the warm, masculine scent of his body.

He looked up from her breast before he moved lower, to her stomach and then lower still.

Xypher took his time tasting her as he dipped his right hand to gently probe the delicate folds of her body. She gasped and jerked in response. Smiling at that, he circled her, delighting in how wet she already was. His own body was on fire at the thought of taking her. But he didn't want this over that fast.

He wanted to savor her.

With that thought foremost in his mind, he spread her legs; wide before he moved his hand away and ran his tongue down her cleft,

Simone whimpered in delight as she buried her hand in Xypher's hair. His tongue worked magic on her. She didn't know why but this was something more than just sex. Something about being here with him. . .

She needed this. It was like he touched more than just her body. He touched her heart. Her soul. And she wanted him to feel the same way.

Xypher nuzzled her, letting the scent of her body mark his. Grinding His teeth, he laid his head on her stomach and just enjoyed the sensation of her hands in his hair. She was so gentle with him. So sweet. He'd never thought to touch another woman like this. To have her touch him.

This was so much better than any dream he'd ever had. Here for a moment, he could pretend he belonged to someone. That he mattered to her. It was stupid, he knew, They were strangers. Jesse was her family, not him. He'd be gone in a few weeks and she'd go on with her life while he returned to hell.

But here for a moment, he was with her.

"Will you miss me?" As soon as the words left his lips, he wished he could recall them.

"Of course I'll miss you, Xypher. I don't want you to leave."

Those words branded themselves into his heart. Did she really mean them? He wanted to believe her. But Satara had made similar avowals.

She'd even told him that she loved him.

How could she have toyed with him like that? But Simone didn't seem to be the type of woman who would lie about her feelings. She laughed guilelessly. Lived her life in the open.

Touching her was like touching the sun. Warm, bright. Soothing.

He rose up above her so that he could look down and stare into her eyes. He could see forever in them. Sliding against her body, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed the up of her nose before he slid himself inside her.

A groan escaped his lips at how good she felt. Biting his lip, he drove himself deep inside her while staling into those eyes that were filled with kindness for him.

And in that moment, he discovered a blistering truth. He'd sold his soul for the wrong thing.

He should have sold it for Simone's love. To be part of her world for all time . . .

It was so unfair that he'd met her now when he had no choice except to leave. Shivering at the thought, he pressed his cheek against hers and listened to her short, sharp breaths as he quickened his strokes.

Simone cradled Xypher to her as she let the strength of his body carry her to the ultimate height of pleasure. Who would have ever dreamed that a demon could be so tender? But he was. He held her as if she were unspeakably precious. As if he were afraid she'd break.

The only part of her that was in jeopardy of that was her heart. She'd lost everyone in her life who meant something to her.

Only Jesse had been a constant. And now she'd have to lose Xypher, It wasn't right.

She moaned as he drove himself so deeply into her body that it touched her very soul. She lifted her hips, drawing him in even deeper, until she felt herself slipping.

Screaming out, she came in a bright burst of release.

He laughed in triumph before he moved even quicker against her. And when he came, he growled like a wild animal who'd been temporarily tamed.

Simone held him against her in the darkness and listened to the sound of his ragged breathing in her ear. "I won't let go of you without a fight, Xypher. Hades can't have you back. I won't let him."

Xypher winced at those words that cut into his heart. The fact that she said them meant the world to him. But he knew better than to put stock in words whispered in a lover's arms. Such words were empty more times than not.

Besides, words were easy. It was the doing that was hard. People started down the road with good intentions, but the moment the road became rough or difficult, they'd abandon it. There was no reason to believe Simone would be any different from anyone else.

He wasn't worth fighting for. All he could offer her was a broken future.

But it was nice to pretend that he could put faith in her conviction. That she would fight for him and not throw him to his enemies . . .


He slid to her side and pulled her into his arms. "Yes?"

"Did you love Satara?"

"I thought I did, but I realized too late that I have no understanding of love. It's a human emotion."

"My father felt it."

"He was an exception, as was your mother."

She looked up at him. "You don't believe in love, do you?"

"I think it exists. I just don't think it will ever exist for me."

She sighed before she snuggled back down on top of him. "What happened to make you hate Satara the way you do?"

He paused, his hand in her hair, as unfettered pain tore through him. He'd never told a single soul what had happened, but as he lay here with Simone, the truth came pouring out before he could stop it. "I made a bargain with Jaden to accept her punishment."


He let out a tired sigh, "I showed Satara how to walk into people's dreams. I allowed her to use my powers and manipulate them."

"Why did you do that?"

"For the same reason you dance with Jesse. Dreams were the only place where I could have emotions. Whenever Satara joined me there, I felt like a man. And I thought I felt love for her. At the time, I was willing to do anything to make her happy."

"But you didn't love her?"

He sank his hand in her hair and spread it out aver his chest. He savored the cool, tickling sensation of it. "No. And she didn't love me, either, even though she said she did. She was using me and my powers so that she could attack people and torture them while they were helplessly asleep."

Simone's heart sank at what he described. "What?"

"That's the curse of the Skoti. If we visit one person too much, we can burn them out and either kill them or make them go insane. Satara was using my powers as a way to assassinate those she didn't like."

Xypher drew in a sharp breath as he remembered that fate fill day. Satara had been dressed in red, her blond hair flowing around her like an angel as she ran to him and threw herself into his arms.

"Xypher, help me, please . . ." Her eyes had sparkled with her tears.

He'd never seen her cry before.

"What's wrong?"

"Zeus and Hades are going to kill me. You can't let them."

"Kill you for what?"

"For the dreams you taught me. They . . . they said I was doing something wrong, but the people I killed deserved it. You believe that, don't you?"

"Of course."

She'd smiled at him then and he'd been lost. "Please don't let me die, Xypher. I love you. I'll always love you."

Gods, what a fool he'd been to believe her.

Simone swallowed as the knot in her stomach tightened. She knew what he'd done. "You summoned Jaden."

He nodded. "I gave him my soul if he would make the other gods believe I was the one who'd tortured the humans. Satara had promised me that once I was dead, she'd come to Tartarus and feed me seeds from the Destroyer's garden."

Simone frowned as she tried to understand. "Why eat seeds?"

"They would have killed me completely. Every facet of my being would have been wiped out of existence."

Simone gasped at the horror of what he described. "Why would you want that?"

He took her hand and rubbed it down the scars that marred his chest. "I didn't want to bleed for all eternity for something I didn't do. I was willing to die for her and I wanted her to make sure that I didn't continue to suffer.

Simone winced at the pain she felt for him. "She didn't carry out her part of the bargain."

"No. Instead she came and laughed at me for being so stupid." His eyes flared red. "There for a time, she'd even helped them to torture me. I would stare at her, wanting a part of her flesh so badly that I could taste it."

Simone covered her mouth with her hand as bile rose in her throat. "How could she do that?"

"She's a soulless bitch, and now you know why I can't go back to hell without taking her with me. I'm not the only man she's fucked over, but by the gods on Olympus I want to be the last."

Yeah, now she understood, but the understanding didn't change the fact that she didn't want him hurt. Or worse, dead.

"I would never betray you like that."

His gaze softened, but deep inside his eyes, she saw the doubt that tore at her.

How could she ever prove herself to a man who'd been so deeply behaved?

Simone laid her head against the worst of the scars on his chest and took his hand into hers. Somehow she was going to prove it to him. He wasn't going to be alone in this fight anymore.

"Satara deserves to pay for what she did." How could anyone, after having been given so much, turn on the very person who gave it? It was cruel beyond cruel.

"Believe me, she will. If I have to descend into hell and drag her out by her throat."

Simone shook her head at him. "There's the little ray of sunshine I know so well. Ever out to cheer people up."

"Well, it could be worse."

"How so?"

"I honestly don't know. But it's something humans say so I thought it would be appropriate."

Simone laughed until she saw the writing on his arm. "What is this?"

He covered the hand she held there. "It's a reminder I wrote of why I have to have Satara's blood. Why I can't give up my quest no matter the temptation."

Simone tightened her hand over the words. How sad that he had marked them there. And she wondered if there would ever be any way to erase them and replace them with something far kinder.

Stryker paused as he caught sight of his sister at his desk, writing. "What are you doing?"

She jumped, then pulled a book down over her paper. "Writing a letter."

"To whom?"

"It's personal." She got up and sauntered over to him. "I have good news for you. The gallu have found the Dimme."

Stryker lifted a single brow in interest, "Really?"

She nodded. "One Dimme could take out the Destroyer, yes?"

That was the theory. "We need her."

"No ..." Satara said with an evil smile, "you need her. But there's one small problem."

"Do you remember when Dionysus almost opened the portal to Kalosis and Apollymi sent her Charonte out to stop him?"

Of course he did. Apollymi had been livid that day. "They were sent to keep Acheron from dying, but yes, I remember. What of it?"

"The Charonte didn't all die. Apparently a large number of them survived and they're guarding our Dimme."

Stryker choked. "Charonte are guarding a Dimme? Is the world coming to an end and I missed the memo? How the hell did that happen?"

"I'm not sure. But if someone . . ."-she gave him a meaningful look-"will loan me some of his Spathi Daimons, I might be able to get my hands on the Dimme. Then we can use her to kill my Xypher problem and your Destroyer problem. What do you think?"

It sounded like a good idea, but also a risky one. While his Spathi were highly trained and excelled at killing, so were the Charonte. The last thing he wanted was to deplete his army. However, if he could kill Apollymi and claim her powers as his own, it would be worth losing a few dozen soldiers.

"Very well, sister. You'll have your pick of my soldiers. Just remember that if you fail in this, it's all on your head. I know nothing about your plan."

"Don't worry, Stryker. I'm not about to fail, and by tomorrow both of our problems will be solved."

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