Lilah held in the scream that threatened to bubble up from her lungs. If she didn’t, she would only attract mortals, signing their death warrant. Nothing came between a wolf and its prey and lives.
Instead, she followed her instincts and dealt a vicious elbow to his ribs. He growled and redoubled his efforts, his claws shredding the thin fabric. Once her breasts were revealed, his tongue darted between his lips and wet them with anticipation. Though he was still in mostly human form, the wolf’s claws had lengthened into deadly tips that could destroy her flesh as easily as they’d scored the fabric.
She thought to summon her bow from the ether, but the wolf was too close. He would be on her before she could even nock an arrow. Instead, Lilah snagged the dagger from her boot and tried to level the playing field. The wolf danced out of her reach, hovering in a silvery pool of moonlight that wafted through the clouds above. Emboldened, he came at her again. She backed up a pace and lashed out at him, cutting a gash into his chest. He yowled with pain but didn’t stop his approach, high on power and adrenaline. Even if Artemis’s strength had flowed through Lilah’s veins, the wolf would still be a formidable adversary.
When she threw another elbow, he dodged and backhanded her across the face, stunning her. Lilah’s head whipped to the side, and she spat blood. Lightning streaked through her vision. Slowly, the world came back into focus. She was on her back. The wolf was snarling at her throat as she turned her head away. She saw her blade, knocked from her grasp and just beyond her reach. If she could only get to it, she might have a chance of escape.
The humiliation at running from battle hurt worse than the wolf’s claws. But she could never beat him in her current state. After all, the moonlight strengthened him too.
Her attacker’s eyes had gone completely yellow. Feral.
He tried to open her legs with his knee. She had glued them shut with all the power in her body. Still somewhat dazed from the last blow, she swung weakly, just missing his nose. He let out a howl that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end before settling his entire weight on top of her, forcing the air from her lungs.
With a violent shove, the wolf wrenched her knees apart. Holding her down by her throat with one hand, he used the other to rip his fly open, freeing his shaft. His eyes were bottomless pools of lust, the yellow seeping into them from the center. Disgust roiled inside Lilah, and blood pounded in her ears as she tried to marshal her strength against the monster.
“All right, slut. Let’s see what you got,” he rasped, his voice inhuman.
Stars burst in her vision as the wolf tightened his grip on her throat, cutting off her air. She tried to scratch his face. He easily batted her away and rammed a rough hand up her thighs to rip off her panties. He threw them aside as she struggled against him.
She heard Artemis’s voice in her head from all those centuries ago. “No man, mortal or immortal, can ever force a warrior maiden of mine. You are impervious to males because you are their betters. They are beneath you. You are imbued with the power of a goddess.”
Artemis had been full of pride at her creations, the fierce females who accompanied her on the hunt and guarded her while she slept. No man could ever defeat them in battle, and no man could take what was not given. No more.
She burned with rage as she felt the wolf push his probing head into her thigh, searching for her core. In seconds he would find it, and she would be defiled more than she already was. No.
With all the strength Lilah had, she tried to buck him off and nearly did. She lunged sideways toward the blade but could not grasp it before he was on her again, erasing her one chance of escape.
He grinned and traced a slow lick up the side of her face. “Gonna make this fun for me?”
Despair filtered through the anger. Still, Lilah refused to give up. She wouldn’t let this happen. She was one of Artemis’s warriors. No male could take what was not given.
But the wolf’s grip around her throat was making the world fade. She kept struggling against him, getting weaker by the second as the beast redoubled his efforts to take her. Her fingers grazed the edge of her dagger’s hilt. As she gasped for breath and her vision dimmed, she worked the dagger into her hand. With a weak thrust, she stabbed the wolf’s side. It wouldn’t be enough to stop him, but it would hurt. Hot blood sprayed onto her chest. What? The wolf leaped away.
She rolled to her side and into the moonlight, once more feeling the hum the glowing orb gave her. She hitched in some breaths and blinked away the spots that clouded her sight. The wolf lay in the shadows. She saw his unearthly yellow eyes gleaming at her. Blood spurted from a deep slash in his neck as he hopelessly tried to stanch the flow with his hand. His mouth worked as if to say something but could only open and close like a gasping fish.
The cause of his wound was apparent—a large Underworlder stood watching her. The blade in his hand dripped the wolf’s blood onto the stones in lingering droplets. He was easily six and a half feet tall with impossibly broad shoulders.
“Gods.” Lilah’s breath left her in a whoosh as she struggled to sit up. Her chest was covered in the wolf’s blood. It coursed down her breasts and pooled on what was left of her leather skirt. “Ugh,” she said and started trying to brush the blood off, wiping her hands on the shreds of her corset.
She glanced up to catch the creature watching unabashedly as she rubbed the blood from her breasts. His dark gaze seemed to pierce right through her as she brought her arms up to cover herself.
“No, don’t stop. I was rather enjoying it,” he said, a rakish smile turning the corners of his full lips.
Alarm bells were going off in Lilah’s head. She couldn’t get a bead on what exactly he was, which was troublesome. There were a host of immortals from the Underworld—a land the mortals only knew of in myth—who traveled to Earth in search of adventure or a new life. Though some made trouble and likely came to Earth because they had bounties on their heads, most just sought to live lives free of the highly stratified society that ruled in the Underworld. Lilah had only been to visit a few times, since getting a free pass to and from there was no small feat unless one had the right connections.
She prided herself on her immortal radar. The creature before her flew right under it.
One thing was certain—he was powerful. Strength emanated off him like a blast of cold air, which made her nipples embarrassingly hard in her current situation. This keeps getting better and better.
“Could you, er, toss me that fur stole?” she asked, knowing she was blushing a deep crimson. And knowing he knew she was blushing? Mortifying.
“Must I?” he asked, taking in the full length of her body in the moonlight. She shivered despite herself.
His accent was French with a hint of some older European tongue. She couldn’t place it, though it was familiar. The dark hair that fell to his shoulders was a deep chocolate that played handsomely against his tan skin and dark suit. He must have been frozen into his immortality right after he got back from Cannes. Lucky bastard.
The creature reluctantly turned and grabbed what was left of the stole. He reached his long arm out to offer it to her as he stood a few steps away, the smirk on his face giving him a roguish appeal.
“You realize if I reach for that, I can’t cover myself?” Lilah tried to keep the exasperation from her tone but didn’t quite manage it. She was no exhibitionist, especially not to a stranger who could mean her harm.
“Of course I do,” he said with a wicked grin. He dangled the stole tantalizingly just out of her reach. “Now, do you want it or should I just take it with me and go?” He went to take a step away from her.
“Son of a bitch,” she cursed and grabbed it as quickly as she could. His eyes glanced back to her breasts, and he drew in a sharp breath, no doubt noticing the stiff peaks of her nipples.
“There’s no need for that kind of language, carissima
She could feel him watching her closely as she fastened the stole around her as best she could. At least the girls were covered, which was an improvement.
He sighed like he had just caught the closing credits of his favorite movie on TV. Then he offered her a hand. She took it, feeling a tingle of cold snaking up her arm as he set her easily on her feet. It was not an unpleasant feeling.
After arranging what was left of her clothing, Lilah returned to the task at hand—sizing up her “rescuer.” She cringed just thinking of the word. Lilah de Artemis needed a rescuer? How the mighty hath fallen.
“Where are my panties?” she asked before thinking what that would sound like aloud. The blush deepened even more.
“What panties?” he asked innocently, keeping his gaze fastened on her as she searched the cobblestones for her thong.
“Gone. Great.” She spared a look toward the wolf. He was still holding his wound. Too bad it wouldn’t kill him. The only way to permanently slay an immortal was to take his head, give or take some gruesome injuries. So he lived, though she didn’t miss the opportunity to land what had to be an extremely painful kick to his goods. The wolf wailed and clutched himself with the one hand that wasn’t busy at his neck. He gave her a look of pure acid that promised retribution. But she wasn’t worried. She’d be long gone by the time he was up and at ’em, as it were.
He didn’t know how lucky he was; she would have done a lot more than just kick him if they weren’t out in the open. She had almost been raped at the hands of that cretin, and now she was in the debt of some stranger who had all the manners of a naughty frat boy. Party hats all around!
“We should leave this area before someone finds my handiwork,” the stranger said, though his tone was not the least bit worried. He seemed as if he’d just spray-painted a little graffiti or taken a piss on the sidewalk instead of nearly beheading a wolf.
“Shall we go to your place?” he asked with another playful smile, sidling up to her.
“I think not.”
His angular face took on a look of mock disappointment as he tsked at her.
She smirked and bent down to retrieve her dagger from the wolf’s side.
The stranger let out an appreciative whistle. “Kitty has claws.”
She followed the curve of his mouth as he did so, and she couldn’t help licking her lips. She saw a look of pure heat steal across his face as he watched her clean the blade on the wolf’s shirt.
“And I like to sharpen them on doggies,” she replied cockily before giving the wolf one last parting gift, a backhand to the face to match the one he’d dealt earlier. She rose and steadied herself, doing her best to put on a mask of indifference.
Inwardly, she was shaken. It had been a close call, and Lilah could only pray that Artemis hadn’t seen her weakness through one of the many viewing pools in the Forgotten Forest of Olympus. The shame of having to be rescued
was already too much to bear. If Artemis or Lilah’s sisters had seen the entire affair, it would have been the icing on the cake of self-loathing.
Ignoring the likelihood of Artemis laughing at her until it hurt, Lilah eyed the Underworlder apprehensively. She wasn’t about to let anything else get the drop on her, no matter how handsome he was. Problem was, she wasn’t ready to let him go quite yet. She needed information, and this creature might just be old enough to know the one she was searching for. This might even be a stroke of luck for once.
But she couldn’t allow him to bolt on her. She brandished her dagger and moved to his back. He remained still, watching her with interest, neither threatened nor threatening.
“I have a few questions that you are going to answer.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way, carissima.”
The world lilted off his tongue. She didn’t know what it meant, but sensed it was somehow a compliment. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t about to fall for any sweet words. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—you get the picture. Now, walk.” She cut through the smooth fabric and nicked his skin to make sure he knew she meant business.
“Of course.” He shrugged and gave her body one last, long look before he turned and started down the hill toward the glittering Seine. She followed close behind and kept the threat of her blade at his broad back. He was large and strong, easily able to overpower her. But she had the blade, and Artemis had trained her well. She was in control and was going to stay that way. The memory of the wolf clawing and pressing into her soft flesh would make sure of that.
They walked in silence for a while as Lilah tried to collect herself and push all thoughts of the wolf from her mind. As wolves went, she was zero for two. Next time she saw one, she was going to run, not walk, the other way.
This creature was different. Whatever he was, her body responded to him. Even now she felt a warmth creeping up her thighs as she watched the breeze ruffle his shoulder-length hair. His broad shoulders seemed made for her to dig her nails into, or even her teeth. Stop this madness. This is the kind of thinking that got you into this mess!
Thank the gods Iphi and Elena weren’t here to see her going weak in the knees over a male. Even gentle Shala would lose her lunch if she knew Lilah felt anything other than scorn for the creature she held at knifepoint. Warrior maidens had no time for males and scoffed at any being who was fool enough to make advances. At least, most warrior maidens did.
After a century of kicking herself, Lilah still took every opportunity to relive her folly with Farrow. She should have shot him through with an arrow the first time she set eyes on him. Not run away with him like some sex-crazed nymph, forsaking her vows to Artemis and solidifying her ruination. Never again.
The scent of the flowers that bloomed in the garden at the tip of the Île de la Cité woke Lilah from her reverie of regret. She realized the Underworlder hadn’t spoken for several blocks, politely leaving her alone with her thoughts. Not letting that sway her, she began her interrogation. “Tell me why you were following me.”
“How do you know I was following you? I could have been following the wolf,” he replied, his voice the smoothest silk.
“Well, then, tell me who you were following.”
“Glad we got that cleared up. Now, why were you following me?”
“Perhaps I wanted to be your knight in shining armor, rescuing you from the dog.” He said the last word with a palpable disdain.
“Altruism? I don’t think so. Try and tell me the truth this time, or my dagger might just slip.” Of course, she didn’t particularly want to hurt him. He had done her a good turn. Even so, she was all too familiar with how a good turn could rapidly become a kick in the teeth.
“Fine, carissima. If you must know, I was curious about you.” His simple answer had the ring of truth.
“Why?” Before she could blink, the creature had whipped around behind her and pulled her dagger arm behind her back. He pulled her into the shadow of a cathedral overlooking the river and pressed his lips to her still-tender neck.