The Darkest Passion

By: Gena Showalter

CHAPTER ONE




“THEY DON’T SEEM TO CARE that they’re dying.”

Aeron, an immortal warrior possessed by the demon of Wrath, was perched atop the roof of the Bübájos Apartments in central Budapest, peering down at the humans so blithely going about their evening. Some were shopping, some talking and laughing, and some snacking while they walked. But none of them were dropping to their knees and begging the gods for more time in those feeble bodies. Nor were they sobbing because they wouldn’t get it.

He shifted his focus from the people to their surroundings. Muted moonlight spilled from the sky, blending with the amber glow of the street lamps and casting shadows on the paved pathways. Buildings stretched on every side, some of the higher points wrapped in light green awnings, the perfect contrast to the emerald trees rising from their bases.

Pretty, as far as coffins went.

Humans knew they were fading. Hell, they grew up knowing they’d have to abandon everything and everyone they loved, and yet, as he’d already observed, they didn’t demand or even request more time. And that…fascinated him. Were Aeron to learn he’d soon be separated from his friends, the other demon-possessed warriors he’d spent the last few thousand years protecting, he would have done anything—yes, even beg—to change his fate.

So why didn’t the mortals? What did they know that he did not?

“They aren’t dying,” his friend Paris said from beside him. “They’re living while they have the chance.”

Aeron snorted. That wasn’t the answer he sought. For how could they live while they had the chance when their “chance” was a mere blink of time? “They’re frail. Easily destroyed. As you well know.” Cruel of him to say because Paris’s…girlfriend? Lover? Chosen female? Whatever she was, she’d recently been shot to death in front of Paris. Still, Aeron couldn’t regret his words.

Paris was the keeper of Promiscuity, forced to bed a different human every day or he would weaken and die himself. He couldn’t afford to mourn the loss of one specific lover. Especially an enemy lover, which was what his little Sienna had been.

Aeron hated to admit it, but on some level, he was glad the woman was dead. She would have used Paris’s needs against him and ultimately ruined him.

I, however, will ensure his safety always. It was a vow. The king of the gods had given Paris a choice: the return of his female’s soul or Aeron’s freedom from a horrific blood-craze that constantly danced thoughts of maiming and killing through his mind. Thoughts, he was ashamed to admit, he had acted upon. Over and over again.

Because of that curse, Reyes, the keeper of the demon of Pain, had almost lost his beloved Danika. In fact, Aeron had been poised to strike that final blow, blade sharpened, raised…falling toward her pretty neck. But just before contact, Paris had chosen Aeron and the craze had instantly left him, sparing Danika’s life.

Part of Aeron still felt guilty about what had almost happened—and about the consequences of Paris’s choice. A guilt that was like acid in his bones, eating away at him. Paris now suffered while he reveled in his freedom. That didn’t mean he would show Paris mercy in this matter, however. He loved his friend too much for that. More than that, Aeron owed him. And Aeron always repaid his debts.

Hence the reason they were on this roof.

Taking care of Paris, though, was not an easy task. For the past six nights Aeron had carted his friend here amid ceaseless protests. Paris had only to pick a woman, then Aeron would procure her and ensure the two were safe while they had sex. But each night the choice was made later. And later.

Aeron had a feeling he and Paris would sit here and talk until sunrise this time.

Had the now-depressed warrior eschewed these weak mortals as Aeron did, he would not currently be wishing for something he couldn’t have. He would not be desperate for it—and denied it for all eternity.

Aeron sighed. “Paris,” he began. Then stopped. How should he proceed? “Your mourning must end.” Good. To the point, just as he preferred. “It’s weakening you.”

Paris ran his tongue over his teeth. “As if you’re one to talk about weakness. How many times have you been Wrath’s bitch? Countless. And in how many of those countless instances can you blame the gods? Only once. When that demon overtakes you, you lose all control of your actions. So don’t add hypocrisy to your list of sins, okay?”