Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon
She gave him a frustrated glower. “Noir will destroy the world.”
“So what? Who says it's worth saving?”
Delphine wanted to shake him for his obstinacy. She'd never met anyone so dense and so unforgiving. What had they done to him to make him like this? “You would kill or enslave everyone? There is so much beauty in the world that they'd destroy. How do you not see it?”
He scoffed at her as if she were a child. “Spoken like someone who has only lived in the cushioned world of dreams. You have no idea what the real world is like. What people will do to you when they know they can get away with it. People are absolutely cruel and I say more power to Noir for tearing it down.”
“They can be cruel at times,” she admitted. “But I've seen the best in people. Their hopes and dreams.” That was why she fought so hard for mankind.
“And I've lived through their worst.” The pain in his eye scorched her.
It also explained a lot about him and his reasoning. But that didn't make it right. “So anything you do is justified, is that it? They were mean to you so it's okay for you to be mean back?”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “Sounds justifiable to me.”
She let out a long breath. What would it take to get through to him? To make him understand and most of all
about what he was doing? “Were you always this bitter?”
Jericho paused at her unexpected question. No one had ever asked him that before. No one. And it forced him to take a hard look inward.
He'd never really liked himself. Not when he served Zeus and definitely not after his banishment. From the moment of his birth, he'd been a god with a destiny that had been forced on him.
Balance your siblings. Serve your master. Do as you're told. No questions. No lifeÂ â¦
And so he'd existed until that one moment when he couldn't blindly obey anymore.
All things ended. Birth, destruction, death and rebirth. It was the law of the universe. The code of the Source. Who was he to fight against it?
But the truth was still harsh. “Yes,” he said, his tone cold. “I've always been this bitter.”
She let out a tired breath. “Then I'm very sorry for you.”
“Don't be. I don't need pity from someone who knows so little about living.”
Delphine shook her head. “That's not true. Every time I've stepped into a dream, I've seen life. I've seen love and joy in its purest forms. They're beautiful to behold even if they are muted by the dream state.”
He made a rude noise of disagreement. “You live like a by-product.”
That set her ire off to a level of rage she'd never experienced before. “And you don't? I saw you, too, you know. You didn't interact with anyone. Not even to say good-bye to them when you left. What kind of living is that?”
His nostrils flaring with anger, he sucked his breath in sharply as he advanced on her with a fury so potent, she tried to flee only to have him trap her in a corner. She had to crane her neck to look up at him. He was so incredibly large. So fierce. And that one eye glowed with absolute hatred.
Jericho wanted to tell her exactly why he couldn't interact with people. He wanted to lash out and make her pay for what Zeus had done to him. But as he stood there and the scent of her hit him, it paralyzed his entire body.
Worst of all, it evaporated his fury and it made his cock so hard, he was sure he could use it as a hammer. She became the focus of his reasoning, not his hatred.
She and that soft skin and delicate body that he wanted to taste so desperatelyÂ â¦
His gaze focused on her lips, which were parted by her rapid breathing. Were they as soft as they appeared? Would they give him the pleasure he hadn't known since he'd been damned and cursed?
He hadn't kissed a woman in centuries.â¦ Could he even remember how?
Kill the bitch and get on with your revenge. Deliver her to Zeus in pieces. Let him know what it feels like to suffer. Take from him what he took from you.
But he couldn't. Even with her words and his rage, it wasn't enough to make him hurt her. And damned if he knew why.
Her hazel eyes still had that fire and joyÂ â¦ even though she was afraid. He couldn't take that from her.
No, he didn't
to take that from her.
Before he even realized what he was doing, he picked up a fat curl from her shoulder. Her hair was so unbelievably soft. It wrapped around his finger, teasing his flesh. Lifting it to his face, he closed his eyes and inhaled the sweet scent of it and imagined what it would be like to make love to her until they were both sated.
His cock jerked with need as he imagined her naked in his arms.
Delphine couldn't breathe as she watched him. Part of her expected him to attack her still. But he didn't.
Instead he rubbed her hair against his lips. Lips that were so close to hersÂ â¦
Never had she been kissed. Until this moment she'd never even thought about it. Since she didn't really feel lust, it hadn't been a problem. Now for the first time, she felt her body flush with heat. Felt her heart quicken along with a deep heaviness she'd never experienced before.
She wanted him to touch her.â¦
He dipped his head as if he'd kiss her. But just as their lips would have touched, he buried his face in her hair and inhaled.
Not sure what to do, she cupped his head in her hand and wrapped her other arm around him. She was unprepared for just how good it would feel to hold him like this. He smelled of leather and sharp spices, of all man. His thick white hair was feather soft as it brushed against her face and made her shiver. She could feel his muscles rippling under her hand, the softness of his blond hair in her palm.â¦
Jericho buried his face in the crook of her neck as he imagined all the things he wanted to do to her. As he tried to imagine how good she would taste. He wanted desperately to breathe her in.
The sensation of her hands on his body right nowÂ â¦
It was heaven.
And it was hell.
He didn't want to feel like this. He didn't want to be weak ever again and definitely not for another person. To have someone control him. The last time he'd allowed himself to feel for someone, he'd lost everything.
Even his dignity.
Angry at the thought, he growled low in his throat and tore himself out of her grasp. He didn't need softness or comfort. He didn't need to be touched. Zeus had taught him that. He could survive well enough on his own with no one around him.
He was stronger that way.
“Stay away from me,” he snarled at her.
She looked baffled by his words. “You came at me.”
“Don't press me, woman!”
She narrowed her eyes. “You know, this whole emotion thing is new to me, too. I don't know how to cope with all these conflicting things, and you yelling at me isn't exactly helpingÂ â¦ Man!”
“Don't raise your voice to me!”
“Ditto, buddy. Ditto.” She hadn't realized she'd drawn near him again until she was looking up at him, toe to toe.
The rage inside him actually hurt her, but there was nothing she could do for him. Nothing at all, and the frustration of that made her want to withdraw to someplace where she could feel safe again. “I just want to go home.”
Jericho did a mental flinch at those softly spoken words. It was a cry that he'd echoed so many times the first century he'd been banished that it was still a raw aching need in his heart. How many times had he closed his eyes and remembered the sound of Nike's laughter? The beauty of being respected?
All he'd wanted was to change what he'd done and to beg forgiveness from them so that he could go home, too.
But over time, he'd learned not to want. Learned not to remember.
wasn't degrading or torturing her like they'd done to him.
“You'd better get used to it here. Soon there won't be a home for you to return to.”
She was aghast. “You would kill your own mother?”
There was nothing but coldness inside him where the goddess Styx was concerned. “My mother was the one who stripped my powers from me and turned me out into the world. What do you think?”
“I think your mother should be beaten for her cruelty and probably Zeus, too, but the rest of us shouldn't have to die because the two of them were wrong.”
Yes, but that wasn't good enough to appease his anger. Not by a long shot. “You know
“You're right. I don't. All I know is how to protect people. It's all I've ever done.”
“Because you're a mindless automaton.”
She lifted her chin. “Better a mindless automaton who protects than a rampaging murderer without any regard for others. Just because my emotions were bound, it doesn't make me mindless any more than you were while you carried out Zeus's punishments before your banishment. Hephaestus told me how he begged you not to hurt Prometheus. Yet you stood over Hephaestus, making him shackle the god to the rock so that he could be torn apart every single day for the rest of eternity.”
“And you see how well that turned out. Believe me, I have paid dearly for my mindless obedience. If I could go back, I would have driven my sword through Zeus when I had the chance.”
Delphine put her hands up and choked the air between them. “But you didn't. You did the right thing, and now I ask you to do the right thing again. Join our side in this battle. Don't let evil take over the world.”
He laughed bitterly. “You do realize that the one and only time in my life I did the right thing, I was cursed for it? That fact doesn't really motivate me to repeat the experience. When Zeus asked if any god would stand up for me, they all turned their backs. They're the ones who started this.
of them. Now I intend to finish it
them. The world be damned.”
“And it will be,” she said choking on the hopeless grief that welled up inside her. “It will be.” She drew a deep breath before she spoke again. “Then what will become of you?”
“Does it matter?”
“If it doesn't matter to you, how could it possibly matter to someone else?”
He curled his lip. “Don't twist my words with your bullshit psychology. No one likes me. Boo-hoo. I really don't give a shit. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an army to meet and train.” He vanished.
Delphine expelled a long breath as the air around her cleared. His anger and pain was so thick, it was virtually tangible.
What would it take to reach him?
Was it even possible?
But the saddest part was that she couldn't blame him even a little for his reaction. What had been done to him had been wrong. Unforgivable. How would she have reacted in his place? To save a life and have it ruin yoursÂ â¦
The trade-off seemed so unfair.
And the clock was ticking. Time would be up soon.
If he can't be turned, he must be destroyed.â¦
There was no other way.
This time Jericho found noir in the war room with no sign of Azura. Dressed in his burgundy armor, the primordial god was sitting in a chair with his legs propped up on the table and his ankles crossed. His eyes were half-opened, his fingers laced as his hands rested on his stomach.
If Jericho didn't know better, he'd think Noir had been napping.
“You want something?”
Jericho paused at the gruff words. Even though Noir hadn't added an insult to the end, they were said with enough contempt that it was more than implied.
“Azura told me I was to lead an army. I would like to meet those soldiers.”
Noir smirked at him. “Do you understand what we're asking you to do?”
“Kill Zeus and bring the Olympians down.”
Noir's face was impassive and cold. “You think you can do that?”
Jericho wasn't one to be intimidated. While he knew Noir was the more powerful of the two of them, he really didn't give a shit. “I'm a Titan and I fought with Zeus to imprison my brethren for him. What do you think?”
“I think if you stand by those brave words, you'll be a worthy ally.”
“You doubt me?”
Noir shrugged before he yawned as if the conversation bored him. “I doubt everyone. I have yet to find one person I can't corrupt and/or own. Everyone is for sale. It's just a matter of negotiating the right price.”
“Then I probably should have asked for more.”
Noir laughed. “Yes, you should have. I expected you to be harder to sway, but then I didn't take into account your immense hatred of Zeus.” He took in a long, savoring breath. “I so love the smell of hatred and revenge. It's the headiest of concoctions.”
Jericho disagreed. “I personally feel that way toward blood. No better smell in the universe than when it's combined with the aroma of those fearing death.”
Noir sucked his breath in sharply as if he was getting a sexual thrill from Jericho's description. “Oh, I do like you. True kindred spirits are hard to find.”
“You forgot who and what birthed me.”
Noir nodded as he twiddled his thumbs. “I pity those born of the lighter side. They have no understanding of how seductive cruelty is. The music made out of screams and pleas for mercy. Mmmm. Nothing better.”
Jericho swore he could feel the blade at his side tremble, but whether in approval or fear, he couldn't tell.
“Asmodeus!” Noir shouted suddenly. “Show yourself.”
A dark cloud formed at Noir's side. It slowly solidified into a being that reminded Jericho of a tall elf. His sharp features leaned toward pretty, yet his dark gray eyes showed nothing but cruelty. Dressed all in black, the demon looked sinister and emotionless. “You called me, Master?”
Noir gave him a cold stare. “I would never call
master, slug.” He jerked his chin to indicate Jericho. “This is our newest ally. I want you to show him to Zeth and the rest of the Olympian dogs who fight for us.”