Authors: Ann Mayburn
“Just the TV,” Daisy said quickly. “You're the sister I
never had. I'm so worried about you being there with him. Are you sure you
“Yeah, I'm sure.” The thought of anything happening to
Daisy's family because of her made the beer in her stomach slosh around in a
Daisy sucked in a deep breath. “Then you need to get with a
Dom who will be good to you. Alice said Malik is a wonderful Dom, and he'll
protect you from Devon. He mentioned something to her about being sad that
you're going to be another of Devon's playthings.”
The thought of being in Malik's arms was all wrong and added
to her distress and budding headache. “Oh gods. What am I going to do, Daisy?”
“I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Better you find
out now than after you've fallen in love with him and it's too late. Devon King
is bad news. You need to get away from him as quickly as possible. I don't want
to have to kick his ass for hurting you.”
She let out rough laugh, her voice thick and strained.
A knock at the door had her jerking the phone behind her
with a pang of guilt. Firming her lips, she held the phone back to her mouth
and whispered, “Gotta go.”
“Don't fall for his shit,” Daisy said quickly. “Let Malik
know that you need his protection.”
“I—I will. I'll call him after I get off the phone with
She hung up and stared at the door through the thick steam
of the shower.
“Shan?” Devon asked from the other side.
“I'm fine,” she lied. “Just taking a shower.”
Devon stared at the closed door and rested his hand on the
frame. All he wanted to do was go in there and bury himself inside of her. Make
her realize that she was the one his heart yearned for, not Maria. Shan had
been too angry to hear him in the car, and now she needed some time to calm
down. He had learned a long time ago that trying to have a conversation with a
pissed woman was like trying to whistle in a hurricane.
“I'll make dinner,” he offered, hoping that she would see
that for the peace offering it was. Damn it, he wanted to spend the night
making her lose control, making her want to stay with him forever. Instead, he
was walking through an emotional minefield with his feisty little sub.
When no answer came, he busied himself making dinner. Like
the rest of her space, the kitchen had been designed with her comfort in mind.
Soothing cool colors complemented the stainless steel appliances and a counter
filled with different pieces of ceramic art. He took a moment to admire her knives
then smiled when he saw the rose etched onto the blades. Of course she had made
Chopping up the peppers, he extended his awareness through
the large building, mentally touching his shields. Magic wasn't his strong
suit, but his bond with Mentu helped give his barriers enough strength to stop
practically anything. Including the demon that had tried to breach his wards
Glancing at the closed bedroom door, he pulled his 9mm out
of the gym bag and set it on the counter. With quick movements, he loaded the
gun with hollow silver bullets filled with holy water. He wished he had his
blessed sword with him, but the gun and bronze dagger would have to do for now.
He grabbed a hand towel and tossed it over the gun. What he
hadn't told her about the demon was that it was using someone as a vessel.
There was a distinctly human aura mixed in with the demonic, and that
complicated things. While a demon was harder to kill in its own form, he didn't
want to end up murdering an innocent person who had the bad luck to be
The pipes next to the kitchen grew silent after the water in
her bathroom shut off. Putting the steak and baked potatoes onto some forest
green ceramic plates, he impatiently waited for her to come to dinner.
The ringing of his cell phone interrupted the staring
contest he was having with the closed door to Shan's bedroom. Over an hour had
passed since she went to take a shower, and now their dinner sat cold and
uneaten on the table. The butter and sour cream had congealed in the baked
potatoes, and he was on his second beer.
Glancing at the phone, he answered it with a tired, “Yeah.”
Malik said in an equally worn-out voice, “Hey, I'm
downstairs. Let me in so I don't get my ass fried by your damned shields.”
“What the hell are you doing downstairs?” He considered
hammering on Shan's door again, but if she said, “Give me a minute” one more
time, he was going to kick it down.
“Shan called me and asked me to come over to rescue her.”
“She what!” he thundered and gripped his phone so tight the
plastic creaked in protest.
“You’d better come let me in before your kitten decides to
make a run for it. She sounded way freaked out on the phone.”
“On my way.” Sprinting down the stairs, he threw open the
door to reveal Malik standing patiently outside of his wards. To Devon’s
surprise, Alice was with him as well. The older woman looked elegant as always
in a perfectly tailored black suit that hugged her tall, lean figure. “What are
you doing here?” he barked out as he lowered his shielding to let them through.
“So nice to see you, Devon,” Alice said in a dry voice as
her black patent leather heels clicked up the steps.
Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath through his nose.
“My my, she really does have you worked up.” Her cool hand
patted his cheek as she joined him on the landing beneath the sodium light.
He glared at her then turned to Malik. “You have five
seconds to tell me what's going on.”
Unzipping his brown leather jacket, Malik moved to stand
next to Alice. “Shan called me and asked me to come protect her from you.” He
raised his voice over Devon's swearing. “Seems her friend Daisy called her and
told her you're some kind of slaver with a harem full of subs at home.”
“Why the hell would she do that?” Devon turned to go up the
stairs, but Alice stopped him with a surprisingly strong grip.
“I don't know who called Shan, but it wasn't Daisy.” She
smoothed her hair back in a nervous gesture. “I just got off the phone with
Daisy's mother, Nina. Daisy's been in the hospital since early this morning.
Nina couldn't get her to wake up, and they're running tests on her to try and
find out why a healthy twenty-three-year-old woman went into a coma.”
“It gets worse,” Malik added. “Over a dozen children of
different Creation High Priests and Priestesses have fallen into comas as well
over the past two days. Every healer we have is trying to figure it out, but
they say they can't make a connection with them. It's like their souls are
“Fuck,” Devon said and ran both his hands through his short
hair. It hurt his heart that Shan so easily believed that he would do that to
her. What hurt even more was the thought of telling her about her best friend.
“Come on up. Shan is hiding from me in her bedroom.”
They filed up silently behind him, and Malik let out a low
whistle when they reached the top floor. “From the outside, this place looks
like a real dump. But now I see why she likes it here. You could never get this
much space this close to the heart of the city without paying a fortune.”
Grunting, he led them into the living room where Alice
glanced at the food-filled table with raised eyebrows but wisely didn't say
anything. Taking a deep breath, he tried to keep his voice mellow as he knocked
on the door. “Shan, it's safe to come out. Malik is here.”
“Yep, your knight in shining leather,” Malik yelled over his
shoulder and let out a loud cough when Devon elbowed him.
The door cracked open, and Shan peeked out. Her eyes were
red-rimmed, and she wore an old pair of jeans and a faded flannel shirt.
Definitely not the attire for seduction. The look of relief on her face stabbed
at his heart as she saw Malik. Ducking beneath Devon’s arm, she quickly moved
toward Malik and stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of Alice.
Alice took a seat at the dinner table and smoothed the edge
of her tailored skirt over her legs. “Hello, Shan.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Shan stammered out, “H-hi,
Trying to keep his temper under control, Devon said in what
he hoped was a calm voice, “Why did you call Malik?” From the way she flinched,
he didn't think he managed it.
“Uh...because...” She examined her bare feet and flushed.
Her shields slipped, and he could feel her pain and confusion underneath a
layer of anger. “What's Alice doing here?”
Malik sighed and took the chair opposite Alice. He grabbed a
knife and cut into the cold steak, then gave Shan a hard look. “I told you on
the phone that Devon isn't some crazed slaver, but you wouldn't believe me. So
I brought someone you might listen to.”
Alice snorted, but her voice was kind as she said, “I
promise that Devon isn't looking for a 24/7 slave, nor does he have some secret
stash of beautiful submissives chained in his basement. If he did, I would have
rescued them all long ago and kept them for myself.”
Devon edged closer to Shan and watched her struggle with
what they were saying. “But Daisy…” She stopped and rubbed her face. “Why would
she lie to me? And what about Maria?”
“Maria?” Malik asked around a mouthful of steak.
“She means nothing to me. I know her from the Steel Chalice,
but that's it.” Devon inched closer until he could feel the edges of Shan's
She must have felt him as well because her shields closed up
tight with the next breath. “Then why was she making out with your hand in the
middle of the street?” Now she did look at him, and, boy, was she pissed.
Ignoring Alice’s and Malik's snickers, he cupped Shan's face
and tried to get her to look at him. A tremor ran through her body, and she
stubbornly stared at his chest. At least she wasn't trying to pull away. “She
left the service of Aphrodite and wanted to know if I could recommend her to
one of the Egyptian Temples.”
Alice spoke up. “Maria didn't leave voluntarily. She was
kicked out of the temple. Something about getting into a fight with one of the
priestesses. I don’t know the details, just that she left in a huff.”
“What?” Malik and Devon said at the same time.
Before Alice could continue, Shan jerked away from him and
interrupted in a strained voice, “But what about Daisy? She wouldn't lie to me.
Not about something like this.”
“That wasn't Daisy you spoke to on the phone,” Devon said in
a gentle voice.
“Don't be stupid. Of course it was Daisy.”
Alice sighed. “No, it wasn't. Daisy has been in the hospital
since this morning.”
“I just talked to her,” Shan insisted again, and his heart
constricted at the pain in her voice. She turned to him and reached out her
hand. “Didn't I?”
Devon pulled Shan into his arms, and she didn't resist the
comfort of his embrace. Taking in a deep breath of his scent, she clung to him.
She didn't protest when he held her close, and she turned in his arms to face
Malik and Alice. Feeling completely terrified and unhinged, she tried to hide
her vulnerability beneath sarcasm. “Can someone kindly tell me what the fuck is
going on? My best friend is in a coma, Devon isn't a man whore”—she ignored
Malik's choking laughter—”and some fucked-up demon that smells like farts and
armpits has been trying to break into my house.”
Guiding her to the couch, Devon sat and pulled her onto his
lap. He tightened his arms when she tried to move away. “Daisy isn't the only
one in trouble. Over a dozen children of different High Priests and Priestesses
are in comas.”
Alice turned in her chair, and the lines around her mouth
deepened as she frowned. “We can't figure out what is going on. All of their
medical scans are coming back clear, and all of our magical efforts have drawn
a blank.” She exchanged a glance with Malik. “The most disturbing thing is that
we can't find their souls.”
Swallowing hard, Shan said, “What do you mean you can’t find
“Only their bodies are here, on the mortal plane,” Alice
said in a low voice. “The divine spark that we call a soul isn’t there.”
“Holy shit,” Shan whispered and looked to Devon then back to
Alice. “Is Daisy’s soul missing as well?”
Nodding, Alice said, “Yes.”
Malik's eyebrows drew together as Shan let out a pained
noise. “You aren't the only one to receive an odd phone call today. A High
Priestess of Athena got a call from her son that he needed her to meet him at
the park. When she got there, a Destruction Chosen was waiting for her. The
only reason she escaped was because her police officer husband makes her carry
a can a mace. Her son is one of the children in the hospital in a coma.”
Devon shifted behind her, and his body grew tense. “Have we
done a head count of the other families of the kids in a coma?”
“Yes,” Alice answered with a grim look. “We have six priests
and priestesses unaccounted for.”
“Shit,” Shan said in a soft whisper. Her personal issues
seemed so petty in comparison to what was going on in the rest of the world,
and her heart ached for Daisy. “Whoever was pretending to be Daisy was trying
to get me to come to her house. When that didn't work, she urged me to call
Malik.” Clearing her throat past the sudden lump of guilt, she said, “Why would
they do that?”
Malik pushed the dinner plate aside and leaned forward on
his elbows. “To try and drive a wedge between you and Devon...and possibly me and
Devon. They must have thought we would fight over you.”
Shan gave a rude snort. “Yeah, 'cause guys handsome enough
to be underwear models fight over me all the time.”
A hint of sadness tinted Malik's smile, and he shook his
head. “Don't underestimate yourself. If I had seen you first, you can bet
everything you own that I would have made a play for your heart. But the gods,
who are infinitely wiser than myself, have other plans for you. Devon was
assigned to protect you for a reason. Maybe Destruction can't get to you while
he is around. Let's not forget the obvious that you fit the victim profile. The
daughter of not one but two High Priests.”
“Or maybe he is essential to you becoming a Chosen,” Alice
added. “There must be something about you that is a threat to them. Have there
been any visits from any gods or goddesses?”
“I—I'm not sure.” Shan shifted in Devon's lap as a memory of
Daisy whispered through her mind like smoke. “My dreams have been much more
intense than usual. I've always had nightmares for as long as I can remember,
but these are different. I think I had a dream about Daisy today while Devon
and I took a nap together.” Her cheeks burned with a blush at Malik's lewd
smirk. “It felt like that dream I had at the cosplay convention.”
“The one where you helped the priestess' daughter?” Devon
asked as he continued to stroke her back. Though his touch continued to be
light and gentle, Malik’s and Alice's concentration on her sharpened until she
squirmed. Having the total attention of three Doms was intimidating to say the
least and didn't help her efforts to recall the fragments of her dream.
“Yeah, it was like that one.” She strained to latch onto a
solid memory. “I was in a tree because the bad guys were coming. Daisy was
there, but she...” An image of her naked friend engaging in a passionate kiss
sent another rush of embarrassment through her. “She was okay,” she finished in
a lame voice.
“Okay?” Alice asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Uh, I don't want you to think I'm a pervert having a sexy
dream about my best friend,” Shan muttered and gave Devon an elbow to the ribs
when he snickered. “She was kissing some guy in a pool of water.” They waited
for her to continue, and she pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes
until she saw stars. They needed her help, and she was failing them. “Damn it,
I can't remember anything else.”
“There was definite Creation God magic,” Devon added in a
soothing voice. “We couldn't wake her up right away, and when she did come
around, she brought a rush of major mojo with her.”
Malik's cell phone rang, and he answered it in a low voice.
His swarthy complexion paled, and he spoke in a melodic language that she
Whatever he said made Alice gasp and Devon's growl rumbled
against her body. Confused, Shan whispered, “What's he saying?”
Making a shushing motion, Devon focused on Malik, and she
felt his aura pulse around him with a bright burst of cold anger. Shivering,
she scooted off his lap, but Devon’s arm locked around her and pulled her back
to his side. His shields locked down, and he placed an apologetic kiss on her
Guilt tightened her gut, and she felt like such a bitch for
believing those things about him. Instead of talking to him like any sane and
rational person would have, she’d run off to nurse her hurt feelings. That
brought her thoughts back around to Daisy again, and her heart ached. She
should have known something was up, but her self-doubt had overrun her common
sense. If she had talked to Devon, maybe they could have done something to help
Almost as one, Alice and Malik stood and moved back from the
table. Each radiated a barely contained anger. Malik shoved his phone in his
pocket and zipped his jacket. “Keep her safe.”
Devon moved her off his lap, helping her stand before he
stood as well. “Can someone please tell the one person in the room without
super human hearing what's going on?”
Malik paused at the top of the stairs while Alice talked
into her cell phone. “More children have fallen, but now they are children of
Creation Chosen. They're running out of space at the hospital so some of them
are being placed in the medical section of Mother's Arms under guard.”
“Under guard? Has someone hurt them?”
Devon cracked his knuckles and paced. “One of the children,
a six-year-old, woke up earlier. She attacked everyone in the room and almost
killed her father, a High Priest, before they were able to subdue her. Once she
was restrained, she lapsed right back into a coma. We think something was using
Alice raised a hand and started down the stairs in a run.
Malik edged closer to the stairs, and it was obvious that he wanted to follow
her. “It took three adults to hold her down. If a six-year-old is that hard to
subdue, we hate to think what will happen when some of the older children wake
“And no one wants to hurt the children by accident,” Shan
said with a shudder.
“Exactly. They need all available bodies at the hospital and
Mother's Arms to help.” Malik gave Devon a sympathetic glance. “You'll do the
most good here.”
Nodding, Devon continued to pace and said in a tight voice,
Without another word, Malik dashed down the steps, and Shan
drew a deep breath in the sudden silence. So much had happened in the past few
hours that she was helpless to correct, but there was one thing she had to do.
Glancing up at Devon through her lashes, she watched him pace the wide room as
the muscles in his jaw flexed. He clearly wanted to go with them but was
staying behind to protect her from the thing pretending to be Daisy.
She had so easily fallen for their trap. What horrible fate
would have been waiting for her at Daisy's house? Cursing herself for being
such a fool, she forced herself to meet Devon's eyes. The hurt and forgiveness
that she saw there only added to her guilt. “I'm sorry I believed those things
Still moving, he walked past her and began to dig through
his duffel bag on the counter. “I'm not going to lie to you, Shan. It really
hurt me that you could see me being that kind of person.” He pulled out an
amulet shaped like a triangle and laid it on the granite.
“I'm sorry,” she said again and twisted her hands together.
“I realize we haven't been together long enough to know each
other, but do you really think I would bring you to meet my parents if I planned
on chaining you up in my basement?” He shook his head and continued to dig
through the bag. “What have I done to give you a reason not to trust me? What
have I done that would make you believe I would hurt you like that?”
She couldn't think of any answer that didn't make her feel
like an asshole. “I don't know.”
He made a disbelieving grunt. “I like you, Shan. A lot.” The
warm glow that suffused her at his words quickly chilled when he added, “But I
can't be with a woman who has no faith in me.”
“I have faith in you!” she blurted out. “I don't have faith
Pausing, he nailed her to the spot with his gaze. The
intensity of his attention reminded her of the way he was when they were
intimate together, totally focused on her. “What don't you have faith in?” he
asked in a careful voice.
Her first reaction was to make a flippant statement, but she
could tell by his expression that any attempt to dodge his question would not
be well met. Placing his fists on the countertop, he waited for her to continue.
His scrutiny was too intense, and she had to close her eyes as she said, “I
don't have faith in myself.”
The warmth of his body moved against her before his hands
stroked down the side of her face. “Why?”
Turning her cheek into his palm, she whispered against his
wrist, “Look at you and look at me.”
His aura brushed against her, and she lowered her shields in
response. The warmth of his essence filled her with his dark spice, and she
could taste the truth of his words as he said, “When I look at you, I see a
beautiful woman who amazes me with her strength and courage.” Her pulse picked
up as his energy took an erotic turn. Now it brushed against her in lazy waves
that made her skin tingle. “I also see a submissive who yearns for someone to
value her. A precious gift for the Master who is patient enough to earn her
From head to toe, her body melted into his embrace. Try as
she might, she couldn't find the right words to let him know how sorry she was
for doubting him. It was impossible to argue against his sincerity when his
very soul was opened to her. Strong, dominant, he was so aware of her. As his
thumbs stroked her cheeks, tenderness mixed with desire and she leaned up for a
kiss. If she couldn't speak her feelings, maybe she could show him.
With a low growl, he grabbed her hair in a tight fist and
held her lips a breath away from his. “You need to know this, Shan. I will
never be a vanilla lover in the bedroom. That doesn't mean that every day will
be whips and chains, or that I expect you to bow and scrape to me when we are
out together. But once that bedroom door closes...” He took her lips in a
demanding kiss, parting them and stroking against her tongue until she thought
she would lose her mind. Drawing back from her, his voice took on a rough edge.
“I will always be the Master.”
Her knees trembled as she weighed his words. Could she
really give up control like that? Let this man she barely knew, but, at the
same time, had a deep, intimate knowledge of, into her heart...her soul? The
knowledge that he wouldn't try to run her life was at once freeing and
terrifying. It stripped away one of the major excuses she used to keep from
falling for him and replaced it with a vision of completion like she’d never
His energy drew back, but his hand remained fisted in her
hair. That delicious sign of ownership started a throb in her pussy, and she
pressed herself against him. All that strength and power gentled for her. The
thick bulge of his erection pressed into her and drew a shiver from the pit of
her stomach. Well, maybe gentled wasn’t the right word…
“Can you accept that?” he asked and tilted her head to the
side, exposing her throat to the stinging edge of his teeth.
She tried to nod, but his fist kept her immobile in his
grip. His low laugh vibrated against her skin. “I want you to say the words.”
“Yes.” She moaned softly when his tongue smoothed away the
burn of a hard nip.