Orpheus has just one goal: to rescue his brother from the Underworld. He's not expecting a woman to get in the way. Especially not a Siren as gorgeous as Skyla. He has no idea she's an assassin sent by Zeus to seduce, entrap, and ultimately destroy him.
Yet Skyla herself might have the most to lose. There's a reason Orpheus feels so familiar to her, a reason her body seems to crave him. Perhaps he's not the man everyone thinks... The truth could reveal a deadly secret as old as the Eternal Guardians themselves.
As he maneuvered through the metalheads in the crowd of outdoor concertgoers banging to the beat of the pounding bass, he couldn't help but be slightly amused by their stupidity. They had no idea what they were opening themselves up to with the satanic lyrics and black-magic worship. But Orpheus did.
Boy, did he ever.
He glanced around the crowd again, searching for the familiar darkness he knew was hovering somewhere close. His urgency ratchetted up about ten notches. After tracking her for the last three months, he'd finally found her at this outdoor concert in western Washington. What she was doing with a bunch of headbangers, he didn't know, but he wasn't about to lose her. Not to the chase, and definitely not to them.
A blur of black crossed his line of sight four people over, and his adrenaline amped. He pushed past a man wearing leather pants and a dog collar.
Beer sloshed over the man's T-shirt. He turned and glared Orpheus's way. "Hey, dickhead, watch it!"
Normally Orpheus would be right up in the guy's face, but not tonight. Tonight he had more important matters to deal with. He scanned the crowd again, searching for her. She was petite, and dressed all in black with that long dark hair, not easy to find, but he caught sight of her again when she looked back to see if he was still following. The whites of her eyes all but glowed in the darkness, and the recognition and fear on her pale face told him she knew just what he was.
Smart girl to run. In any other situation, that might amuse him. But he'd had it with playing cat and mouse.
She picked up her pace, maneuvered easily through the crowd as she headed away from the stage. Orpheus wasn't so lucky. His size kept him from weaving through the throng of people. He muscled his way past the pulsing fans, intent on not losing her.
She brushed by a woman with long blond hair. The blond turned to look after her, said something Orpheus couldn't hear, but his target didn't even slow. She disappeared again in the crowd. The blond, however, turned to look his way as if she sensed him. Their eyes held for the briefest of seconds.
Violet eyes. The color so startling, he faltered. Like polished amethyst. Déjà vu struck him square in the chest. He didn't know how or where, but he'd seen this human before.
Before he thought better of it, he took in the long hair that fell to the center of her back. She wasn't dressed outrageously, like some of the others in the crowd—no chains or dog collars, just a denim jacket that covered a fitted scoop-necked black shirt and slim black pants. But the clothes accentuated her curves in all the right places. And the knee-high black goth boots that propped her up a good four inches were sexier than hell.
She wasn't headbanging or jumping to the beat, but she was obviously here for the show. One corner of her glossed lips curled into a wicked smirk as she studied him back. As much as he would have liked to let her look her fill, the longer he distracted himself with this human the farther away his target would get.
And yet...where the hell had he seen her before?
He turned away from the blond, scanned the crowd again. Called himself ten kinds of stupid for being distracted by a measly human. He let his senses guide him. The darkness within his target he could stomach. It was the light that repelled him. That odd light that marked her as one of Zeus's own and told him exactly where she was located in the mass of people.
His daemon surged forward. He moved to see past a couple with spiked purple hair and caught sight of the ends of her long black locks waving in the wind as she ran past the last concertgoers and dropped down over the other side of the hill.
He picked up his pace and finally reached the peak of the grassy incline. She was already at the fence some thirty yards below, nothing more than a shadow climbing up and over the chain link like a seasoned cat burglar. Where had this female trained? With the Argonauts themselves?
He shoved that thought aside and followed. Darkness pressed in, but the eerie orange lights spaced every so often across the vast parking lot made her easy to see. That and his heightened night vision, now that they were out of the chaos of the concert.
He was over the fence in moments, this time easily weaving through cars in the lot. She didn't look back, but his highly attuned hearing caught every pound of her heart and each push and pull of air in her lungs as she ran toward the trees.
The music faded to a dim thump. The crowd's screams died in the background. His boots crunched across the pavement, then turned quiet as he moved from asphalt to forest floor to mix with the scents of earth and moss wafting on the air. Did she think she could outrun him? Hide in the trees? It didn't matter that she could trace her roots back to Zeus himself. The female was about to learn there was no hiding from him. Not when she was the key to his getting what he needed most.
Douglas fir rose up around him. In the distance, the White River gurgled over rocks and downed limbs. He slowed when he saw her standing in filtered moonlight twenty yards away, still as stone and staring into the darkness as if she were nothing more than a statue.
For a second, he wondered if she'd been frozen in place by some sort of dark magic. His brother Gryphon possessed that gift—the ability to freeze those around him for miniscule seconds—but Gryphon was now dead, his soul rotting somewhere in Hades, all thanks to Orpheus. No way his brother had cast any kind of power from the other side, and not once in three hundred years had Orpheus come across another with the same gift. Which meant something else had stopped her. Or spooked her more than he had.
The familiar darkness he'd sensed earlier stirred his daemon within. Anxious to get to her before it did, he stepped cautiously toward her, was just about to tell her who he was so they could end this idiotic game of chase, when a voice at his back drew him to a stop.
"Step away from her, daemon."
He turned—as did his target—toward the blond in the goth boots, who stood near a cluster of trees.
His quarry gasped. He reached out and wrapped his hand around her upper arm before she could get away. The female was nothing but skin and bones. Though she was definitely quick.
She struggled, but he held her firm and dragged her toward his chest. To the blond he growled, "Go back to the concert, woman."
But before he could send the blond packing, Orpheus realized something besides him had spooked the female in his arms. Sonofabitch.
He whipped around, spotted the three massive males walking their way. His target tensed, sucked in a breath. Orpheus cursed his dumbass luck and pushed her behind him. He wanted to tell the blond to run, but there was nothing these dogs liked better than a chase. He'd take care of them, then her.
"Look what we have here," the one in the middle said. All three wore sunglasses, even though it was night. But Orpheus didn't need to see their eyes to know they were glowing. He could feel it. Just as he could feel his own eyes begin to glow in response.
Damn it. And damn his target for running straight for them.
"Looks to me like he has plenty to share," the one to the left said, the one with the shaved head and double gold hoop earrings. "We're hungry too, brother."
Oh, Orpheus didn't doubt these three daemons were hungry. Atalanta, their leader, may be trapped in the Fields of Asphodel, but her new breed of daemon—monsters who looked human but weren't—lived on. And they needed to feed to regain the strength they were no longer getting from the Underworld. What Atalanta didn't know was that she couldn't control hybrids the way she could her army of ordinary daemons. They weren't brainless soldiers. They were part human, and as such retained that human characteristic that all the gods hated—free will.
Yeah, Orpheus knew that better than anyone, didn't he? Cursing his luck all over again, he scanned the trees, focused on his senses. Didn't pick up any other threat around them, which meant these three dickheads were alone.
"Look, guys. The chick and I were just about to get nice and friendly, so why don't you just turn right around and go find some unsuspecting sheep to toy with. I'm sure that's right up your alley."
"Come on, man. You don't need two. We'll take the blond." The leader licked his lips and stepped forward.
Skata. Stupid human with her stupid curiosity. Behind him he heard the female he'd been chasing shuffle backward. She obviously knew what they faced, but the human probably didn't. In a minute though—unless he figured a way out of this mess—she was going to discover just what kind of nightmare she'd wandered into.
Man, his day was heading right for the shitter.
He reached back for the blade he kept sheathed against his spine beneath his coat, the one as long as his forearm. The one that had belonged to his brother and bore the marking of their forefather on the handle. Then he whispered, "Run. Take the human and run."
"That," the male to the right growled, taking a step away from the others and puffing up his chest, "is an unwise move, daemon."
Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. But Orpheus was out of options, as far as he could see. If his target died, he was screwed, and daemon hybrid himself or not, he didn't want to see the stupid human female get eaten either. Maybe because she was hot and he didn't like seeing hot chicks sliced and diced. Maybe because he still felt like he knew her from somewhere. Either way, it meant she was a burden he just didn't need. And the sooner she got gone, the sooner she'd be someone else's burden.