Chapter Twenty-Four

"How does everything look? Is she all right? Is the balas well?"

Dr. Leza Franz removed her gloves as she walked away from the bed and deposited them in the trash. "Easy, Alexander. They are both very healthy."

"You're sure?" Alex pressed, following the veana as she collected her bag. "I know my mate has told you of my fears regarding this child, so if you are trying to spare me-"

She turned to face him, gave him a very stern look. "Sara is in far better health, both mentally and physically, than you. Especially mentally."

He growled playfully at her.

"Now back up and let me leave," she said. "Call me if you need anything, Sara."

"I will. Thank you, Leza."

When the doctor left the room, Alexander turned and gave his mate, her brother, and Celestine a rare smile. They all huddled around Sara in the bed. He had been a terrified paven-so worried he'd be a failure as a father, he hadn't even wanted to try. But now, as his female's belly grew and he felt his balas move within her, he couldn't wait. Lucian's child and his would grow up together, a chance he and his brothers hadn't had the luck to experience.


Cellie was watching him, waiting for him to give her the sign that it was all right to talk with her daughter, tell both Sara and Gray the truth. The complete truth.

He nodded.

"What's going on?" Sara asked warily. "Are you planning something? You guys know I don't get into surprises. They freak me out."

"Whatever it is would be a surprise to me too," Gray chimed in, seated beside his sister on the bed. "I have no idea what's up between them."

Sara and Gray both turned to look at Cellie, who appeared pale and worried but resolute in her desire to come clean.

"Do you both recall the conversation we had outside this house?" she began, her gaze moving from one to the other. "The conversation about your father, your true bloodline?"

"Yes," Gray said, looking slightly uncomfortable. "Not one of my all-time favorite memories."

"No," Cellie remarked. "Mine either."

Sitting up against her pillows, Sara coaxed the veana along. "Mom, what's going on? Did something happen?"

"Oh, my dears." Her voice cracked, and she quickly cleared her throat. "Something I never thought I would ever have to tell you. Shouldn't have had to tell you."

Gray cursed. "There's more. Isn't there?"

"Gray . . ." she started.

"I knew it. I knew that wasn't everything."

Stop acting like a whiny child. You're the leader of Impure Resistance, for fuck's sake.

Alexander had said the words in his mind, knowing Gray could hear every word. The Impure male caught his gaze and snarled at him.

Cellie continued, though her eyes weren't connecting with any of them. "When your father was in the Paleo, I thought I'd lose my mind. I couldn't function, I missed him so much, and I feared for his life. I tried everything to get to him. Used every resource." She shook her head. "But I couldn't help him. He was my partner, my friend, the love of my life." When she finally looked up, looked at each one of them in turn, her eyes were wild and desperate. "Ask yourselves: What would I do, how far would I go, to save my true mate?"

Sara glanced at Alexander, who hated the panic he saw in her eyes but remained quiet.

"How far did you go, Mom?" Gray asked, his tone dark.

Cellie looked as though she wanted to melt into the floor. "I went to Cruen."

"Oh, my gods," Sara breathed, put a hand over her mouth.

"I bargained for your father. I gave him what he wanted"-her breath hitched-"and yet Jeremy still returned to me a castrated male."

"What was the bargain?" Gray asked, though the pained look in his eyes said he had a pretty good idea. "What did you give him?"

"Myself," Cellie said in a small voice.

Before another word was spoken, Luca burst through the door, his gaze frantic and pissed off. He found Alex and cursed. "The veana's gone."

"What?" Alex darted a look at Cellie. "When?"

"Bron went to check on her, bring her something to eat, she was gone. We searched everywhere."


"Oh, gods," Cellie said.

"Why do veanas always run from this house?" Lucian remarked.

"Who's gone?" Sara demanded, her now tight, angry gaze on Alex. "Damn it, Alexander! What do you know that I don't? Who was here in my house?"

Alexander hated the stain of his betrayal in her eyes. He had kept something from her and prayed she would come to understand why and forgive him in time.

"Who, Alex?" she repeated tersely.

"Your sister," he rasped.

Everyone within the room turned to Celestine. She looked small and ashamed, and she whimpered as she put her face in her hands. "It was a mistake. She wasn't supposed to have lived." A sob wrenched from her throat. "Cruen and I made a child."

Hellen stared at him, drank him in. It had been only a few days, but it felt as though she hadn't seen him in a year. Dressed in black jeans and a black T-shirt, his dark hair falling to his jaw, his diamond eyes flashing with heat, and his demon resting just below the surface of his skin, he looked dangerous and sexy.

And Hellen wanted to consume him whole.

Ladd was with Levia and Polly in the fireflower garden, bragging about his stellar projecting talents while chasing the puppies one of the females had conjured. Being properly spoiled, he had stated that he was in Heaven in Hell and didn't want to go anywhere else until bedtime. Levia and Polly had begged to keep him, allowing Erion and Hellen the chance to talk.

But looking at him now, Hellen mused, standing beside the mirror in her bedroom, that intense wickedness he wore so well flashing in his eyes, she wanted to do so much more than talk.

Erion, however, was insistent.

"We are back here once again," he said, his tone a perfect key to his mood.

Pissed off.

Hellen stood beside the bed. She hadn't found herself a larger suite, something befitting the ruler of Hell. During their time apart, she hadn't been able to bring herself to move from the room where Erion had made love to her. Lying in her bed at night, she had reveled in the fact that she could still scent him on her bedding, in the air.

She held his gaze and jumped in. "You look angry, Erion."

"Anger doesn't come close to how I feel," he said in a cold voice.

Light from the bedside lamp spilled across the room, casting him in a beautifully strange shadow. "You have to understand why I did it."

"I understand, Hellen. I understand that you made a decision for us-for me-without my approval."

She reacted instantly. "I couldn't have you choosing me over Ladd."

His eyes softened just a hair. "There was your mistake, demon girl. Believing I would."

The shock of his words made Hellen gasp. They were harsh, pointed, and she wanted to run from them. He would've gone anyway? Is that what he was saying? He would've chosen his son over her.

Her shoulders fell. Yes, of course, she thought inanely. That is exactly what he would've done. That is what a good father, a loving father, would do.

Her eyes lifted. And yet her heart deflated. Maybe that was part of the reason she'd made the decision to send him back through the hellfire without her. She hadn't wanted to hear the truth.

"I can see your mind spinning, demon girl," he said, watching her. "And it's not what you think, what you're creating in that overactive brain I adore so much." He walked over to her. "I love you, Hellen, and I love that balas, and I would've found a way to keep us together." His eyes locked with hers. "We would've found a way."

Tears pricked her eyes. "Oh, Erion. I'm sorry."

"You didn't even give us a chance."

Her gaze dropped, swept the floor, her mind searching for answers. "I know." Oh, gods. "I know. I think I was afraid of what you'd say, that maybe you didn't love me enough." She hated how vulnerable she felt, how foolish she sounded.

"But it was more than that. Wasn't it?" he said gently. "More than going aboveground, more than your fear I didn't love you?"

"Yes." How did he see her so clearly, when she could barely see herself?

"Tell me, demon girl."

In that moment, Hellen realized what had truly driven her decision to send him back and lock him out. Location and rejection were there and real, but it was more. It was her. It was what Eberny had called her. Who she was-who she'd become the moment she'd ended her father's life. She hadn't wanted Erion to know the truth of what was inside her.

"Hellen . . ."

"I'm the Devil, Erion!"

It wasn't what he expected her to say, and his brows knit together. "What?"

"Not just in some flippant way to express how I feel about myself," she said miserably. "But really and truly. When Abbadon died, I became not just the ruler of Hell, but the carrier of all that is evil and all the power that supports it."

He stared at her for a long time, his gaze moving over every inch of her face as if he was studying it, memorizing it. Finally, he stopped. His eyes connected with hers and he shrugged.

He shrugged.

"You have nothing to say?" she asked, dumbfounded.

"I don't care." He shook his head. "I don't care who you think you are or what you think you're capable of, because I know you. I love you, demon girl. I see what's behind your eyes and in your heart, and it all aches to be good." He reached out and brushed a stray curl away from her face; then he smiled. "We all have evil inside us, but it's the decisions and choices we make, the actions we choose, that make us who we truly are."

"The Devil is evil."

His eyes glittered with love. "Maybe you're a different breed of devil."

Her heart squeezed inside her ribs. "It's a risk, Erion."

He laughed. "Damn right."

Why doesn't he understand this, understand what I am so afraid of? Does he truly see me better than I see myself?

"I have him inside me," she continued, determined to make him understand. "I always have. But I've unleashed it now. When I ended his life, I-"

"When you ended his life, you were able to begin your own," he cut in passionately. "And give your sisters that chance as well."

"It is an ugly creature. This thing inside me." She turned away and laughed bitterly. "The ugliness on the outside is now matched by the ugliness on the inside."

Erion's terrible growl echoed throughout the room, and Hellen snapped back to look at him.

His teeth were bared, his fangs were down, and his eyes blazed with anger. "How dare you say such a thing?"

She drew back, unsure of why he'd reacted so strongly. "I'm sorry, I-"

"I'm taking off your clothes," he said savagely.


His voice dropped to a deadly whisper. "If you don't wish for me to rip them from your body, you will lift your arms and hold still."

Shaking slightly, she did as he asked. He made quick work of her pants and shirt, and when she stood nude before him, he took her hand and led her over to the full-length mirror. Without a word, he whirled her around so her back rested against his broad, rock-hard chest.

"Look at her," he demanded harshly. "Look at the female I love."

Her breath coming quick and uneven, Hellen stared at herself in the mirror. She was naked from head to foot. She had pale skin that liked to turn green from time to time. Her legs were long, her waist trim, her breasts heavy and high, and her face . . .

"Don't you dare turn away," Erion said. "Look at her. She's the most beautiful creature I've ever beheld. Inside and out. She is loved and cherished and desired beyond her wildest imaginings, and if you insult her, you insult me."

Hellen felt that desire press against the rise of her buttocks.

Erion's arms went around her, and his angry, rough expression calmed. "This will be our mating. We will make our promises to each other right now."

She nodded, stared at him in the mirror, her eyes shining with tears, her body trembling with the weight of his ferocity and emotion.

"You will never lock me out again," he said.

"I promise."

"Not from your room, your heart, or your thoughts."

She shook her head. "Never."

His arms squeezed her tighter, closer. "I promise to love you, support you in your rule and care of this land." His voice broke with emotion. "I will give you my hands to hold when you need friendship, my shoulders when you need to shed tears, my body when you need release and comfort, and my lips to remind you always how beautiful you are."

Tears slipped from her eyes as she held his gaze. "I love you so much, Erion."

Finally, the ire evaporated from his gaze, and it was all softness and heat and happiness. "I love you, demon girl. I am your mate."

"Yes, Erion."

"And you are mine."

"Forever." She broke then, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I was so miserable without you."

He laughed through his own struggle to hold on to his emotions. "I am glad to know I was not alone in such acute misery. Though I hate to think of you hurting. I want you smiling and laughing only." He kissed her shoulder. "Except when I'm touching you."

"Yes," she uttered, a soft smile touching her lips, "Then I will be crying out."

"Moaning for me."

She grinned. "Screaming."

"You are no devil, my love." His hand brushed her face. "Or perhaps you are because you have bewitched me. You have stolen my soul and kept it down here with you, safe and warm and miserable." His eyes clung to hers in the mirror. "I want it back now."

His hand slipped from her face and trailed down her neck. Hellen's breath caught as he ran his fingers over her breast, skimmed across her rib cage to her belly.

"Show me your demon, Hellen," he whispered against her neck as his hand continued its journey.

She smiled and her breath caught as he cupped her sex. "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," she uttered breathlessly.

He chuckled, pressing his cock against her ass as his fingers slipped inside her pussy.

"All in good time, demon girl," he purred, stroking her until she moaned his name, until she bucked against his hand and begged him to take her. "We have all night. We have forever."

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