“Yes, it’s true. We all have a third eye hidden in our shoulder blade.”

She laughed out loud. “Where did that come from?”

“The bowels of my imagination and my desire to hear your laughter. You have an amazing laugh and I have a feeling you don’t do that much.”

Sam swallowed hard. He was right. She very seldom found anything amusing. Life was hard and she was hit with the reality of that fact every time she went near another person who was suffering. Which some days seemed to be everyone she came into contact with.

But Dev was different. He saw beauty and humor even when he had to dig it out of crap.

Or demon snot.

That, too, made her smile. “I meant that you guys can go all night and have multiple orgasms.”

He pressed himself deeper inside her so that she could tell he was already hard again and ready for more. “Oh, yes ma’am. Definite perk for my species.”

She tightened her thighs around him. “You telling me you’re at ready?”

He kissed her lightly on the lips. “Baby, I’m ready to go until neither of us can walk.”

She sucked her breath in sharply as he teased her nipple with his tongue. Oh, he felt so good. That tongue of his should be bronzed. “I intend to hold you to that.”

“Then let the marathon begin….”

Over the next few hours, he more than made good on that promise. Sam’s head swam from exhaustion and endorphins.

After starting in the foyer and working their way through the downstairs and staircase, they’d finally made it to her bedroom where they lay entwined in her light yellow silk sheets.

She was so sated and sore, she didn’t want to move at least for a week. “I think you’ve killed me.”

Dev laughed as he peeled the wax shell away from a mini Babybel piece of cheese—she didn’t know why she’d bought them since she normally couldn’t eat cheese without having farm flashbacks—which weren’t bad, just annoying to listen to cows mooing while she ate. But it’d looked so good on the commercials and in the store that she hadn’t been able to resist it. He offered her the first bite.

She hesitated, but as she sank her teeth in, she realized that it, too, was safe. It amazed her that she could eat it. There was just something about Dev…if he touched it first, it was like he cleansed it and removed what ever funk would attack her.

“You could have sent me away at any time,” he said as he ate his own little Babybel.

“True. But I’m just as bad and horny as you are.”

“Nah, you’re not…” A wicked light came into his beautiful blue eyes. “You’re worse.”

Laughing, she choked on the cheese.

Dev quickly handed her his glass of wine so that she could clear her esophagus. “Sorry about that.”

Sam froze as the domesticity…the normality of this moment hit her hard. It was like the realization knocked her out of her body and she floated above them, looking down. Dev was lying on his back with the sheet pooled at his waist while she lay beside him on her stomach. They were relaxed and enjoying each other’s company—like two old friends. She hadn’t been this way with a man since the night Ioel died.

Grief racked her entire being. How could I do this to him? How could I ever be so comfortable with another man after all he did for me? Gave me? Ioel had been loyal to her from the first moment they’d met. He’d never even looked at another woman. More than that, he’d almost caused a war within his own clan when he’d refused to marry the woman he was betrothed to so that he could marry Sam instead.

And he’d died protecting her and their children.

Images of that night ripped through her, shredding what little sanity she had as she saw him die in front of her eyes. Even after all these centuries, she still wanted him back. Still missed everything about him. The way he smelled. Felt. Kissed…

Oh God, Ioel…

How could he be gone?

Dev frowned as he saw the terrified look in Sam’s dark eyes. It was like she was reliving a nightmare. “You okay, baby?” He reached out to touch her.

She pulled away instantly. “I need you to leave.”

“Yeah, but—”

“Now!” she barked.

Dev held his hands up in surrender. “Fine. But if you need me—”

“I won’t. Now get out.”

Her tone offended him to the core of his being and it took everything he had not to lash back at her. If it wasn’t for the fact that he knew something inside her was hurting, he would have. But he wouldn’t be that cold. He didn’t believe in kicking anyone when they were down.

If there was one thing in life he understood, it was concealed pain. That core part of the soul that hurt so bad all it knew to do was lash out against anyone unlucky enough to be there when it snapped out of control.

Guess I was nothing but a booty call after all. He didn’t know why that thought cut him, but it did. He felt used. How weird.

What ever. He wasn’t about to sit around here and beg. It wasn’t in him.

Sam watched as Dev vanished from her bed. Part of her wanted to call him back and apologize. The other part wished she could return to the night Ioel died and have stayed dead instead of making her bargain with Artemis.

Yes, it’d given her vengeance against the ones who’d killed those she loved. But her family was still dead. And eternity without them was brutal. Their pain had ended. Hers went on to infinity. There was no hope of it ever ending and that was what had made her a Dog of War. That rage and fury over the injustice of it all that screamed out for some semblance of solace when there was none to be had.

Trust no one. Not even blood.

In the end, everyone had a price and for the right amount, anyone would betray even those they loved most. It was harsh, but true.

Dev had been a nice distraction for a few hours. Now real work began and he wasn’t part of her world. Her life was her job. She didn’t want any kind of emotional attachment. She didn’t want to be normal or have anything like other people.

She was a Dog and she bled their spirit.

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi.

Age. Fac ut gaudeam.

Between a rock and a hard place.

Go ahead. Make my day. Loosely translated, but the meaning was the same. When cornered, the Dogs fought until they died. No one touched them.

They were the ultimate killing machine. The ultimate protectors of the world. She would stand and she would fight.

Forever alone. To the death.

´H Tαν ´H Επι Τας—either with her shield or upon it.

Those words resonated deep inside her as she went to shower. But as she let her mind wander, she saw a new enemy appear. One far deadlier than any they’d ever faced before.

And this particular one would be coming for her.

Things were about to get bloody and she would be in the very center of it.

4

“We have a problem.”

Sitting in his leather chair in front of the fire in his study, Stryker looked up from the book he was reading to find his newest High General and second-in-command standing in front of him. He didn’t like for his soldiers to materialize without warning. If she wasn’t his daughter and if she didn’t look so much like her mother whom he loved more than anything, he’d kill her for the intrusion.

Irritated at her, he turned the page slowly before he responded to her emotional outburst. “I don’t have a problem, Medea. Care to tell me yours?”

With an annoyed expression that twisted her beautiful features into a fierce scowl, Medea glared furiously at him—another trait she shared with her fiery mother. “The demon who escaped your party that Phrix blasted with your latest toy? He went from here to Sanctuary where he exploded all over one of the bears.”

He had to keep one corner of his mouth from quirking up in amusement. Too bad he’d missed seeing the bear doused with demon entrails. That had to have been entertaining. “And that concerns me how?”

“The Dark-Hunters now not only know for a fact, but believe we walk in daylight. The proverbial cat has escaped his bag and taken a dump all over your carefully laid plans…Father.”

Oh, now that was truly upsetting and it made him want to rip out someone’s heart. Lucky for Medea, he loved her enough to curb that impulse.

For the moment.

Stryker cursed at their lost advantage against their enemies. It was one they really couldn’t afford. “And you know this how?”

“I have a spy in the club who heard the bears and wolves talking about it. Congratulations, Father. We’re officially screwed.”

He ignored her sarcasm. “You have a spy in Sanctuary?” He was impressed by her drive and resourcefulness. That was one of many reasons he’d replaced Davyn with her. Davyn had yet to say a word about being replaced. Of course he had no choice except to live with it.

If not, Stryker would kill him for daring to protest. Though to be honest, Davyn had seemed rather relieved to be removed from command. But that was neither here nor there.

Medea crossed her arms over her chest. “I have a lot of friends in low places.” She gave him a look that was definitely inherited from her mother’s mostly acerbic personality. “Family too.”

And he couldn’t be prouder even though it was an obvious dig. Another reason he’d promoted her. Unlike Davyn, he didn’t get the impression she was about to wet herself every time she had an audience with him. “Good girl. Did this spy tell you anything else pertinent?”

“Acheron’s wife is three months pregnant.”

Stryker went completely still as raw anger overtook him. One cause was jealousy, pure and simple. It wasn’t fair that Acheron could breed while that ability had been taken from Stryker and his fellow Daimons over something none of them had done or even participated in. As Apollites, they could have children—for a brief period during their seriously truncated lives. But the moment they refused to lie down and die horribly at age twenty-seven, when they crossed over to being Daimons that right ended.

Bastard Apollo. For that, among many reasons, he wanted to hold Apollo’s heart in his fist and feast on it.

The second cause of his anger was that he couldn’t touch Acheron’s wife no matter how much he might want to. Gods how alliances sucked.

Acheron’s mother, the goddess Apollymi, was their benefactor and Stryker’s adoptive mother. But for Apollymi, he’d have a way to cripple the Dark-Hunters forever. Take out their weakened queen—Acheron’s wife—and their king would follow. Pregnant women were always an easy target and Acheron loved her to such an extent that he’d never get over losing her. It was such a twofer that it was hard to resist.

But Stryker had enough self-preservation to let it go. Killing Soteria would anger the goddess he served and no one with a brain angered Apollymi. As the Atlantean goddess of destruction, she wielded a nasty tendency to disembowel anyone who irked her.

Even Stryker.

Damn.

Yet not completely bad. If Soteria was pregnant, Acheron would be distracted and wouldn’t venture far from home. He’d be too worried about his enemies, especially Artemis, coming after his wife to harm her or the baby. And given what had happened to Acheron’s sister and nephew when he’d left them alone and his own guilt over their deaths—The Atlantean would be semi-neutralized by that fear….

Stryker could work with that.

“What’s that grin mean, Father?”

“It means he’s plotting something, dearest. Something bloody and foul. The only question is who is his target, and pray to the gods the answer isn’t you.”

Stryker smiled wider as Zephyra joined them. She was without a doubt the most beautiful woman to ever live. The mere sight or scent of her made him so hard that it was all he could do not to strip her naked and take her no matter the audience.

That woman moved like a flowing breeze, graceful and slow. Seductive. And just as quick to turn vicious without warning. Her long blond hair made his fingers itch to touch it. She stopped beside Medea to give her a hug and the sight of them together made his heart rush. His girls. They looked more like sisters than mother and daughter and they were the only thing in the universe that meant anything to him.

Except for his son.

Pain lacerated his happiness as he tried not to think of how much Urian hated him and why.

But that wasn’t the focus of this. He had matters far more pressing than his son’s abject hatred over something he couldn’t change. “The Dark-Hunters are now acutely aware of our newly acquired powers.”

Zephyra growled in anger as she moved away from Medea to stand in front of his chair. “That puts a crimp in our plans. They’ll be fortifying now. Rotten bastard scum.”

Medea scoffed. “Their protectors are pathetic humans. Since when do we concern ourselves with cattle? I say we feast on them and massacre the Hunters while they sleep.”

Ah, her bloodthirsty, fighting spirit made him proud.

But Zephyra shook her head. She knew the same lesson Stryker did. “Don’t get cocky, child. Never underestimate a human in survival mode. They can be quite resourceful when cornered. Capable of anything.”

Stryker concurred. “The key is to not attack them yet. They’ll be looking for it right now. Keep them guessing and eventually, they’ll drop their guards. It’s just too exhausting for them to stay tense. Not to mention the fact that we’re still in the process of converting our army.”

Speaking of resourceful and highly aggravating creatures, the demons they had to use to make their people walk in daylight were now hiding from them.

Cowardly bastards. Why couldn’t they just lie down and die for them? Not like the demons had anything to live for anyway. They were disgusting and had no real use in the world. He and his people were doing them a favor by slaughtering them so that the ugly buggers would no longer have to look at themselves in the mirror.

Stryker turned his attention back to his daughter. “Once our numbers are strong, we’ll…” He paused as her earlier words went through him again and it jarred something in his brain. “Medea…how do the Were-Hunters know about us? Did the demon talk before he exploded?”

“No. I was told there was a Dark-Huntress there who was able to touch his slimy remains and see what happened.”

“Really?” Now that was interesting. Stryker fell silent as his mind kicked into high gear. A Huntress with psychometry…That was an extremely rare talent. So rare that he’d never heard of a Dark-Hunter with it before. Oh, this could be a blessing in disguise and then some. “How deep do her powers go?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

He met Zephyra’s gaze. Like Medea, she was scowling at him. “We need her.”

Phyra’s eyes darkened with irate suspicion. “What exactly do you need her for?”

He bit back a laugh before he offended her and she attacked him over it. His wife was ever jealous. Not that she had any worries where he was concerned. There was no other woman in the entire universe who was her equal in his eyes. “If she can touch someone or their belongings and pick out secrets, she could very well have the ability to tell us how to capture Apollo. Or better yet, uncover a way to break our curse and free our people.”