Fatefully Yours 9

Reckoning
What started as a simple night out with his warriors quickly turns into one of Echo’s worst nightmares. If being kidnapped and assaulted isn’t bad enough, no one is prepared for the revelation of who is behind the attack. More questions arise. Echo’s mother is strangely absent, and when he meets his father, it’s not the happy reunion he’d anticipated. Even more disturbing is the reasoning behind his conception and the newest task entrusted to him. Will he have the courage to see it through, though? Delving into Hex’s memories opens more heartache and pain, but finally gives the demons some of the answers they seek. When everything comes out in the open, only one thing is clear to Echo—the gods are not to be trusted. Having all the answers wrapped in a pretty, red bow still doesn’t prepare him for the twist that no one saw coming.

NOTE! You are purchasing Siren's newest serialized imprint, the LoveXtreme Forever Series. This is the conclusion of the Fatefully Yours collection. These books are not stand alone. Each is a continuation of the previous book and must be read in the numbered order. The final book contains a happily forever after for the beta hero and all his men. Genre: Alternative (M/M or F/F), Fantasy, Ménage a Trois/Quatre Length: 41,714 words

RECKONING
Fatefully Yours 9

Gabrielle Evans

LOVEXTREME FOREVER MANLOVE

Siren Publishing, Inc. www.SirenPublishing.com

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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK IMPRINT: LoveXtreme Forever ManLove

RECKONING Copyright © 2011 by Gabrielle Evans E-book ISBN: 1-61034-820-6 First E-book Publication: September 2011 Cover design by Jinger Heaston All art and logo copyright © 2011 by Siren Publishing, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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Letter to Readers
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Regarding E-book Piracy This book is copyrighted intellectual property. No other individual or group has resale rights, auction rights, membership rights, sharing rights, or any kind of rights to sell or to give away a copy of this book. The author and the publisher work very hard to bring our paying readers high-quality reading entertainment. This is Gabrielle Evans’s livelihood. It’s fair and simple. Please respect Ms. Evans’s right to earn a living from her work. Amanda Hilton, Publisher www.SirenPublishing.com www.BookStrand.com

RECKONING
Fatefully Yours 9 GABRIELLE EVANS
Copyright © 2011

Prologue
June 12th Syx gave me this journal yesterday and said I should use it to write down my thoughts and feelings, or maybe to tell my story. He thinks it might make a great book one day. So, where do I begin? I would like to tell you that my story has a happy ending, but I’m afraid that is not for me to say. So many things have happened in such a short amount of time. I met and fell in love with seven magnificent demons who treat me as though I am the most precious thing in their world. I have faced, fought, and come out victorious against numerous enemies that would seek to destroy me. I died. But not even death could conquer me. So, again, I’d like to tell you that I lived happily ever after with my warriors, but the final battle has yet to come. Of all the challenges we have faced, this will decide my fate. So, why do I write this if I do not yet know my ending?

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I write in hopes that one day, no matter where I find myself, someone will know my story. Not the story of how I defeated or fell to a god, whatever the outcome may be. But the story of triumph and victory over a personal hell, and the shining light at the end of the tunnel that beckons me forward. The war does not frighten me. Even if Ares should stand victorious, covered in my blood, I have already won. In this life or the next, I have two things he can never take from me. I have love. I have hope. Bring on the Reckoning. — Echo

Reckoning

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Chapter One
“He’s so cute when he’s drunk.” “S’not drunk,” Echo slurred to Myst. He wound his arms around Hex’s neck and rested his head on the warrior’s shoulder. “Had fun.” “Yeah, it was a good night.” Hex kissed the top of his head and chuckled. “I’ll second that!” Echo smiled at Myst’s enthusiasm. He imagined getting fucked in an alley behind the club had made the demon’s entire month. He was just happy he could help. “I’m starving.” “How about that room service?” Hex asked as he stepped into the elevator. There was a little hang-up about whether or not the small compartment would hold them all and what the weight limit was. Finally, they agreed they could ride together, and everyone crammed into the confined space. Echo giggled. He wasn’t sure why he found it so funny, but in that moment, they were all adorable. “Not what I’m hungry for.” He licked his lips, scraping his tongue over his canines when they lengthened. Damn, his throat burned, and he needed something he was pretty sure wasn’t on any takeout menu. Without warning, without even thinking about it, he struck. His fangs sank through Hex’s flesh like a hot knife through butter, and sweet, delicious blood flowed into his parched mouth. Growling like an animal, he wiggled and squirmed, pulling at Hex until he’d flipped around so he could lock his ankles behind his mate’s back. Loud groans reverberated off the walls of the elevator, but Echo barely heard them. Keeping a firm hold on the back of Hex’s neck, he

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used his other hand to fumble with the button on his suddenly tootight jeans. His cock throbbed, straining against his zipper until he thought the damn thing would snap in two. “Not here,” Syx warned, touching Echo’s arm to still his movements. “We’re almost to the top floor.” Echo pulled his teeth from Hex’s neck and turned to snarl at his lover. Ripping his arm away from Syx, he tore at his jeans until the button flew off and he could reach inside to pull out his weeping cock. Gripping the pulsing flesh, he jerked it quickly, his head dropping back on his shoulders as he moaned like a wanton slut. “Holy fuck.” Fiero groaned. “Can’t someone control him?” “Are you really complaining?” Hex asked, his voice none too steady. “He’s going to get our asses arrested.” Echo blocked them out as he rocked in Hex’s arms, stroking his heated cock from tip to root. “Fuck me,” he pleaded. “Someone fuck me.” Releasing his hold on his rigid dick, he reached between them and began jerking on Hex’s waistband, trying to pop the button free. “Now!” The ding sounded, indicating that they’d reached their floor, and there was a collective sigh of relief when the doors hissed open. “Please, please, please,” Echo chanted, still fumbling with his mate’s skin-tight leather pants. “Shh, baby. One minute. We’re almost there.” Hex breathed heavily as he rushed them down the hallway. “Who has the damn key?” His large hand wrapped around Echo’s cock and began jacking him slowly. “Guys?” Someone must have pulled their head out of the lusty haze and unlocked the door, because the next thing Echo knew, he was on the floor inside their suite. “Mmm.” He purred as he writhed beneath his mates when they all converged on him.

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Hands were everywhere, clothes started flying, and loud growls permeated the room. Echo’s cock was stroked and licked. His nipples were pinched, pulled, and bitten. His head whipped back and forth, a continuous stream of moans and whimpers falling from his panting lips. Then his knees were pushed to his chest, and a lubed finger found his needy entrance, pushing in and hitting his pleasure button without error. Crying out, he peeked down his body to find Vapre kneeling between his legs with lidded eyes and a sultry smile. Looking beyond Vapre’s shoulder, Echo also realized that they’d neglected to close the door in their eagerness to get to him. He started to comment, but Vapre chose that moment to insert a second finger into Echo’s quivering hole at the same time Myst dove down to engulf the crown of his cock. Echo went off like a firecracker. Arching his back, he pushed deeper into Myst’s mouth as he shouted out his release and poured his cream down the man’s throat. “Disgusting,” someone spat. Disoriented from the intense orgasm, Echo frowned. It certainly seemed like an odd statement considering their current situation. “Fucking faggots, man,” another voice said in disdain. Lifting his head, Echo met the eyes of two very large and menacing looking men standing just outside the doorway in the hall. “I don’t know, Jeff. He’s kind of pretty. I might let him suck my cock. I bet he’d love that.” The man met Echo’s eyes and leered. The room erupted into loud snarls, and Echo mentally cursed himself for not saying something about the open door. He didn’t fear the two assholes. He had the biggest, toughest bodyguards on earth. No, his fear was for the men. They had no idea who they were taunting. The men who treated him with such care were preparing to rip the two idiots apart. “Guys,” Echo croaked. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “Guys! Snap out of it. They’re just a couple of rednecks. It’s not worth it.”

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“Yeah, listen to the little slut,” the biggest man sneered. Then he and his partner turned to walk away. Sensing his demons were about to follow, Echo jumped up and dove across the room to slam the door shut. Pressing his back to it, he stared them all down. “They’re not worth it,” he repeated. “Just let it go.” The warriors nodded grudgingly, but no one looked in the mood to continue their fun. His dick was still damp from Myst’s mouth. That’s how quickly things had had gone downhill. Fucking wonderful. Shaking his head sadly, Echo made his way to the bathroom and turned on the shower. He shut the door and locked it. He wasn’t angry with his mates, but he did need a minute alone. His men weren’t the only ones upset by the comments made by the two douche bags in the hallway. Echo imagined he was upset for an entirely different reason, though. He’d lived in the research facility for years. Sexual orientation was never an issue there. When you lived in a dormitory with only men for company, it was practically expected that they would turn to one another to scratch their itches. Since finding his mates, they’d done everything in their power to protect him from the world at large. Sure, they’d had to face down some truly terrifying creatures, but those beasts didn’t give a shit who they fucked. Honestly, why did it upset him so much? Stepping under the warm spray, Echo dropped his head and groaned. He’d been living inside a nice little bubble his entire life. Though it hadn’t always been pleasant, people hadn’t judged him based on the fact that he liked having a cock up his ass. Surrounded by the love and attentiveness of his mates, it was easy to forget that anything outside their home existed. The outside world was very real, though. And that world was a cruel one.

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“Life’s not fair,” Echo mumbled around a dark frown. He immediately chastised himself for his self-pitying thoughts. He had seven men who loved him desperately. He had good friends who had become more like his family. He’d finally found his mother. True, she was a goddess. She had lied to him, abandoned him, and rarely spoke to him, but Athena was still his mother. Too bad that just raised more questions than answers. The first and foremost in his mind was who the hell his father was. He pushed those thoughts away as well and began scrubbing his hair. They would be home soon enough, and all their troubles would still be waiting for them. Until then, he would enjoy what time they had left, the excitement of staying in a hotel for the first time, and the anticipation of room service for breakfast. **** Waking up cold, with no blankets, and his ass hanging off the bed, was not the way Echo imagined starting his morning. Myst and Hex were sprawled together in the king-size bed, hogging all the damn covers and leaving little room for him. Practically falling off the mattress, he padded naked out of the bedroom, crossed the common room, and peeked into the other bedroom. Syx, Vapre, and Onyx were wound around each other on one of the queen-size beds, while Eyce and Fiero took up the majority of the other. Well, it didn’t look like he’d find a place to squeeze in there either. Closing the door quietly, he glanced at the sofa. Before he could decide whether or not to try and get a couple more hours of sleep, his stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten before he’d crashed. Snatching up the phone on the small circular table, he read over the speed dial numbers and quickly pushed the button for room

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service. He was almost giddy about it. When an automated recording came over the line, his face fell. Room service did not begin until eight o’clock, but the recording did offer an alternative. A buffet-style breakfast would be served in the gathering hall beginning at six. Placing the phone back in its cradle, he glanced at the clock on the small microwave that sat atop the minifridge. It was only a few minutes after six. He wondered if he should wake his lovers to go down with him, or at least let them know he was leaving. Stepping back into the bedroom he’d been sharing with Myst and Hex, he dressed quietly and crept to the alpha’s side of the bed. “Hex,” he whispered into the man’s ear. “Hmm?” Hex didn’t even open his eyes. “I’m going downstairs to get something to eat. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” “Give me a sec.” Hex yawned. “I’ll come with you.” Echo choked back a chuckle so as not to wake Myst. “That’s okay, big guy. Go back to sleep. I just wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t worry.” Hex opened his eyes and blinked blearily. “Do you have your phone?” “It’s in the car. I’ll only be downstairs.” “Take mine.” Rolling his eyes, Echo leaned closer and kissed Hex’s cheek. “Fine. Do you want me to bring you anything?” “Naw. Be careful.” Echo rolled his eyes again, but didn’t comment. Waiting until Hex curled around Myst’s back and drifted back to sleep, Echo slipped out of the room, grabbed the room key and Hex’s cell phone from the table, and headed out to find some grub. Making his way down the hall, he noticed several Do Not Disturb signs hanging from the doorknobs, and reached the elevator just as the double doors slid open. The two men from the night before curled their lips at him in identical sneers of disgust and hatred. Then,

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noticing he was alone, their expressions changed to something that Echo didn’t want to contemplate. Turning away from the elevators, he hurried back down the hall, digging in his pocket for the keycard to his room. He’d almost made it when a beefy arm wrapped around his midsection and hauled him off his feet. He started to scream, but a large hand clamped over his mouth, effectively cutting off his shouts for help. Though he kicked and flailed, the man carried him easily, taking him farther down the hall and waiting while the other man opened the door to another suite. “Go ahead and fight, sugar. We like it a little rough,” the man holding him drawled. “Pretty little cocksucker like you won’t mind some hard handling.” The arm around his waist tightened, and the man humped the mound in his jeans against Echo’s ass. Then he dropped him to his feet and shoved him down on the sofa. “You’re going to die,” Echo warned before the first man landed on top of him and started squirming all over him, fumbling with his zipper while Echo tried to push him off. “Syx! Wake the fuck up!” Echo continued to struggle with the man, feeling his panic rising when he heard the rasp as the asshole’s zipper finally give way. The other man was fumbling with his jeans as well, getting them undone and pushing them down his hips. “Syx! Please wake up! I’m down the hall. Help me!” The man on top of him wrapped his long fingers around Echo’s throat and squeezed. His other hand tore at Echo’s jeans, jerking on the waistband until the sound of ripping fabric sounded over the man’s labored breathing. Echo began to fight in earnest, kicking and punching, trying to cause pain to any part of the man he could reach. The guy’s friend moved swiftly, grabbing Echo’s wrists and pulling them over his head. Echo went crazy. Jerking his knee up, he rammed it into the fucker’s groin, earning him a vicious backhand for his efforts.

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He screamed over and over, fighting with every ounce of strength he possessed as the men jeered and continued to tear at his clothing. “Go ahead and scream, cocksucker,” the man holding his wrists said with a growl. “We’ll make you scream.” Then he lost it. His fangs elongated, and he jerked around, sinking them into the bastard’s forearm. His attacker screamed, jerking his arm away and releasing his hold on Echo. Twisting back to the man on top of him, Echo drove his fist into the idiot’s face, growling in satisfaction when he heard bones crunching. Rearing up and shouting in pain, the dumbass exposed his neck, and Echo struck. He wasn’t gentle about it either. He bit and chewed, tearing at the flesh with a savageness he didn’t know he possessed. The asshole with the bleeding arm returned, landing a solid blow with his fist against Echo’s temple. It barely fazed him. Snarling like an animal, Echo pushed the one man off of him as though he weighed nothing and launched himself off the sofa. Landing on top of the douche with the bleeding arm, he swung out, connecting with the man’s face over and over. Jerking and bucking beneath him, the guy finally managed to throw Echo off him and roll so that he straddled Echo’s hips. His huge fist cocked back and a demented light flashed in his eyes. The door crashed inward and the noise level became deafening. While his attacker looked like he was going to piss himself, Echo almost passed out in relief. The growling, snarling, and roaring was music to his ears. The jackass on top of him was wrenched away, and strong but gentle arms scooped Echo up off the floor. “I swear we can’t take you anywhere,” Syx whispered. Echo laughed. It felt good to laugh even if it was slightly hysterical. It lasted only a moment though before he broke down and started sobbing. The adrenaline ebbed and his whole body shook as he clung to Syx’s neck and buried his face in the demon’s throat.

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It became eerily silent, and Echo finally controlled himself enough to look around the room. Hex had one man by the neck, blood spilling over his hand from the gaping bite mark on the redneck’s throat. The guy’s feet dangled off the ground, and his face was turning red as Hex shook him like a ragdoll. Myst had the other man pinned to the floor, holding him there by resting his foot on the side of the asshole’s face. “Can we kill them now?” Myst asked calmly. “Yes,” Hex growled. “No!” Echo looked up at Syx pleadingly. “Call the police. Don’t let them do this.” Syx wasn’t looking at him, though. He was staring down at the man on the floor, and there was murder in his eyes. Looking between his lovers, Echo started to shake again. The fuckers should be punished for what they’d done to him. Maybe if they’d succeeded in their little plan, he might be feeling differently. But he was mostly unharmed, and he didn’t want anyone to die— especially not by his mates’ hands. “Fucking weres,” Onyx spat and kicked the guy on the floor in the ribs. “Do you have any idea what we are?” “Please,” the man whimpered. “Oh, now it’s please?” Fiero snarled. “Weren’t too worried about manners when you attacked our mate, were you?” “We didn’t know.” “Syx, take Echo to the room,” Eyce ordered. His voice was so calm, yet so full of venom, it made Echo’s blood run cold. It was too late. His mates had reached the point of no return—at least not until they had eliminated the threat to their mate. They were running on instinct—most of them had partially shifted already—and nothing Echo could say would penetrate their rage. Squeezing his eyes closed, he pressed his face into Syx’s neck and let the demon carry him from the room without argument.

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Chapter Two
Once Echo was out of the room and away from the danger, some form of coherency seemed to return to them. Eyce took deep, calming breaths and let them out slowly. “I’ll call hotel security.” Hex sighed as though he was very put out and dropped the guy to the floor where he crumbled like a stale piece of bread and gasped for air, pressing his palm against the bleeding wound on his neck. Eyce felt a surge of pride that his mate had fought so vehemently. “I really want to kill them.” Hex huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. “Eyce ruins everything.” Myst sounded almost whiney. “I vote with Hex. Did you see Echo’s clothes?” Eyce ignored them both. Crouching down beside the gasping man, he gripped the bastard’s chin and jerked his face up. “Who sent you?” The man tried to shake his head, but Eyce wasn’t letting go. “Who fucking sent you?” “I don’t know, okay? Some guy at the club paid us a grand apiece to follow you and bring the little blond back.” “Did he pay you to rape him, too?” Eyce was leaning more toward ripping their throats out with every breath. The man didn’t respond. “What did this man look like?” Vapre asked, his voice steady. “Kind of small with brown hair. He looked crazy as fuck.” Well, that was vague and unhelpful. “Where were you supposed to take him?” Eyce continued the questioning. When the man didn’t answer, Vapre grabbed the jerkwad’s balls and squeezed roughly. “Answer the man, sugar.”

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“Back to the club. Fuck!” Vapre let go, and the man panted and groaned in pain. “Tonight?” Eyce asked. “Yes. We were supposed to meet someone just before closing.” Apparently, the douche bag was fond of having his balls attached. He was real chatty now. “He said to meet him around back near the Dumpsters, and he’d pay us another grand.” “Why does he want him?” Hex asked with a whole lot of hostility. “He didn’t tell us anything, I swear.” Eyce wanted to scream at the man and ask why they fuck they’d did it, but he already knew the answer. Money spoke volumes, especially to a couple of idiot shifters with half a brain cell between them. “What are you going to do with us?” the other guy asked. Myst pressed harder on the man’s face with his foot. “Shut up, asshole.” The he crossed his arms over his chest. “So, can we kill them now?” “When the hell did you become so violent?” Vapre questioned. “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just take offense to someone kidnapping, beating, and attempting to sexually assault my mate!” Eyce pinched the bridge of his nose and growled. Gods, he wanted to kill them—slowly and painfully. The logical part of his brain argued that killing them now that they’d been subdued would be murder. Did he care? No. But Echo would. “I’ll call hotel security,” he repeated with a bit of disappointment. “Wait.” Hex shoved his hand through his hair, but he looked less volatile. “We need to find out who’s paying them.” “So, we’re taking them to the club tonight.” Eyce nodded curtly. He had no problem following Hex’s train of thought. “He’s not getting anywhere near Echo, though.” Hex shook his head. “We have all day to work out a plan. Myst, immobilize them. Everyone else go back to the room. Fiero, send Syx

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over.” He snapped out orders as he began pacing the floor. “Eyce, call Craze and Gage. It doesn’t hurt to have backup, just in case.” “Craze won’t come.” Hex paused and looked at Onyx icily. “Why not?” “It’s daylight. He won’t leave his mates alone, and they can’t travel until dark,” Onyx answered reasonably. “Find a way.” Sensing Hex was losing the thin hold on his control again, Eyce jumped to his feet and began ushering everyone out of the room. Just before following them through the door, he looked over his shoulder at Hex. “Don’t kill them.” He took a step out the door, but stopped and poked his head back in. “Yet.” A high-pitched yelp had him spinning around to find a middleaged woman stepping out of her room across the hall. Closing the door behind him quickly, Eyce prayed she hadn’t seen the blood and broken furniture inside. Her eyes were wide and appeared to be locked on Eyce’s groin. Glancing down his body, Eyce winced when he realized he was butt naked and more than a little excited from the thrill of battle—however tame it had been. His hard cock jutted from his groin, swollen and pulsing. Covering it quickly with both hands, Eyce felt his cheeks heat. “Uh, sorry, ma’am.” When she just continued to stare at him, he spun around and beat a hasty retreat to his room, groaning when he found it locked. “Guys! Damn it, let me in!” He beat on the door with his fist, his other hand continuing to shield his groin. More people peeked out of their rooms, and Eyce thought he would die. “C’mon, guys!” “Do you really want some woman to jump his dick?” Echo’s voice was muffled through the door, but at that, it opened quickly, and Eyce was jerked inside. “Didn’t think so,” Echo said with a little smirk.

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Syx rolled his eyes and pecked the top of Echo’s head before sliding past Eyce and out the door. One look at Echo’s bruised and swelling face, and Eyce wavered on whether they really needed the assholes. His hands shook, his jaw clenched, and every part of him wanted to storm back into that room and rip their slimy throats out. He could only imagine the expression on his face, but it must have been in sync with his dark thoughts, because Echo rushed over and wrapped his slim arms around Eyce’s waist. “I’m fine,” he mumbled, rubbing his battered cheek against Eyce’s chest. Sighing in disappointment, Eyce picked Echo up in his arms and snuggled him close. “You are never leaving the house again.” “I figured you’d say that.” Echo didn’t sound exactly upset about the fact, though. “Did you call the police? Do we have to stay? Do I have to give a statement? When are we going home?” He rattled off questions too quickly for Eyce to answer before jumping on to the next. “We haven’t called the police yet. We’ll see how tonight plays out and go from there.” Eyce wouldn’t say it out loud, but he was secretly hoping things didn’t go as planned, and he’d get to terminate the stupid weres before the sun rose. “We have to go back to Silver City tonight.” Echo frowned. “What did I miss?” Pecking his mate’s lips, Eyce sat him on his feet and did his best to ignore the question. He should have known better. Echo was nothing if not persistent. “Eyce, tell me what’s going on.” “Someone paid them to kidnap you. They’re supposed to deliver you back at the club tonight.” “I’ll need some new jeans,” Echo mumbled. “I didn’t bring a change of clothes, and I can’t show up at the club looking like this.” “First, it’s exactly how you should look if they kidnapped you and roughed you up a little. It doesn’t matter, though, because you’re not

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going.” Eyce crossed his arms over his chest and glared. Echo was not going to persuade him to change his mind. “Well, if they’re expecting me, don’t you think it will be an instant alarm if I’m not there?” Echo mirrored his pose and arched an eyebrow. “I don’t care. We’ll figure a way around it. You’re not going.” “You’re not making any sense,” Echo huffed. “Is someone going to back me up?” Eyce asked the room at large. Everyone turned without a word and disappeared into one of the bedrooms. Fucking cowards. “I can help. Why are you being difficult?” “Echo, you just got your ass kicked. It might have been more than that if Syx hadn’t heard you inside his head.” Eyce shuddered at what could have happened. “Uh, excuse me? I think I handled myself just fine before you got there. Maybe give me a little fucking credit?” It was true, but Eyce wouldn’t admit it. Conceding that Echo had indeed been able to take care of himself would defeat any argument against the little man going with them to the club. No way in hell was that going to happen. He marched into the bedroom the warriors had disappeared to, gave them all scathing looks, and pulled on a pair of jeans. “I’m going to see if Syx found out anything useful,” he announced. “Try to keep an eye on Echo.” “I heard that,” Echo said coldly from the doorway. “I wasn’t trying to hide it.” He slipped past his mate, out of the door, and jogged down the hall. He rapped lightly on the door, relieved when Myst opened it immediately. “I thought you’d be back.” The warrior stepped aside to let him enter. “Syx is doing his thing now.” “Does he know who the guy is?” “He hasn’t said yet, but you know how he is. Give him a minute.”

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They moved closer to where Syx was crouched down in front of the man Echo had bitten on the neck and waited. Syx mumbled questions to the guy, trying to lead him to the information they needed. His expression was blank, but Eyce saw the demon’s lips thin almost imperceptivity at whatever he was seeing. “This is the man that paid you to abduct our mate?” The man nodded mutely. “That’s all I know, I swear.” Syx dipped his head curtly and rose to his feet. “This is bad.” “What?” Eyce, Hex, and Myst asked in stereo. “We’re going to have to rethink our theory about where our missing profits have disappeared to and why.” “Just spit it out,” Hex demanded. The alpha looked strung tight and ready to blow. “The man that paid these two idiots?” They all nodded, but Eyce was growing impatient. He knew better than to rush Syx, though. The man would get to the point in his own good time. “He looks an awful lot like Echo’s lover from the lab.” “Motherfucker,” Myst breathed in astonishment. “Are you sure?” “No, I’m not positive. He looks a little different, but I think it’s him.” “Is he human?” Eyce asked. Syx frowned and rubbed at his jaw. “I don’t think so, but I have no idea what he is. This is bad,” he repeated. “Vampire?” Hex asked. “No,” Syx answered immediately. “It was daylight when he came with those guys from the lab.” Eyce nodded, though he was confused as hell. “Do you think this is connected to Ares?” “I couldn’t answer that either.” Syx shrugged. “I have as many questions as you do, but unfortunately, no answers. Maybe Echo knows something.”

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“Echo thinks he’s going with us.” Eyce thought it was only fair to give them warning before the little runt started in on everyone. “That’s nice.” Hex waved his hand to dismiss this. “He’s not.” “That’s what I told him, but you don’t really expect him to give up without a fight, do you? I still can’t believe he fought off both of these guys.” The men were huge—not quite as big as Eyce, but close. “Let’s not go there,” Hex growled. “I might forget why we need them and shred them to ribbons anyway.” “So, who’s telling Echo that he can’t go?” Myst asked. “Not it.” He took a step back and smirked when Eyce glared at him. “Not it,” Hex and Eyce said in unison, then turned to look at Syx. “I’ll talk to him.” Syx didn’t appear even a little concerned. “I think he could be a lot of help, though, and it will be a controlled situation. It could be a trap. Divide and conquer, so to speak. If we leave Echo, some of us are going to have to stay behind to protect him—which diminishes our numbers at each location and makes us vulnerable.” Hex scrubbed both hands over his face and groaned. “I hate it when he makes sense.” “Why do you think it’s a trap?” Eyce wasn’t dismissing the idea. He was just curious as to Syx’s logic. “Think about it.” Syx motioned toward the bastards on the floor. “There are two of them and seven of us. Echo is rarely alone. This morning was just a fluke. Do you honestly believe that anyone expected them to actually succeed?” “Oh, come on.” Myst threw his hands up and rolled his eyes. “I see what you’re saying, but who would expect us to let them live?” “Someone who’s been watching us,” Syx answered without a trace of sarcasm. “We’ve changed since Echo arrived. There’s a moral boundary that’s been thrown up in our faces. I can’t say if that’s good or bad, but it makes me feel a lot less like a soulless sack of shit.”

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Eyce bobbed his head in agreement. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t tear someone apart to protect himself or his mates, but the idea of killing unarmed men suddenly felt wrong. Being in love took all the fun out of being a fucking warrior demon. Good thing it was worth it. “Did anyone call Craze and Gage?” “I’ll check.” Maybe it was childish, but Eyce wanted to be the first to tell Echo that he would be accompanying them to the club. Hey, brownie points never hurt anyone.

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Chapter Three
His clothes ripped, his hands tied behind his back, and his body tired and achy, Echo rested on his side in the hatchback of the SUV. He understood why he couldn’t shower or change clothes. He knew why Hex couldn’t heal him—though his body was slowly beginning to heal itself. Knowing these things did nothing to improve his foul mood, however. When the vehicle pulled to a stop and the engine cut off, Echo took a deep breath to steady his nerves. He knew his men were close and wouldn’t let anything happen to him. Craze and Gage had arrived an hour earlier for added protection. It made him smile to remember Craze bitching because of the tongue-lashing his mates had given him about being left behind. Gage’s mates had been more understanding, and Pax, Jet, and Lorcan had agreed to stay at the house to protect them. At least no one had to worry about their friends’ safety with the shifters on guard duty. Faint light drifted in through the darkly tinted windows, and Echo guessed they were parked near the alley behind the club. He could hear the two weres in the front of the car hissing at each other as they argued and vaguely wondered what kind of shifters they were. Not that it mattered. Hopefully, they’d have this all settled in the next few minutes, and he’d never have to see them again. Hell, if they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, no one would ever see them again because Echo’s mates would rip them apart. He shuddered a little at the thought then pulled himself together when he heard the front doors open and slam closed. Showtime.

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“I don’t like this, Jeff. Those demons are fuckin’ smart. What if they know it’s a trap?” “Shut up!” the other guy snarled. “Nothing will go wrong. Just keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told.” Echo rolled until he could sit up and leaned his back against the seat behind him. Then he stayed perfectly still, breathing deeply and trying to calm his racing pulse. The back hatch lifted slowly, and the weres leaned in to grab him. The minute they were close enough, Echo kicked out and up with all his strength, connecting squarely with the biggest guy’s nose. Rolling to his side, he swung his leg out a second time, catching the other shifter in the temple. Both men howled and dropped to the ground, clutching at their injuries. Scrambling into a crouch, Echo took a deep breath and prayed that he wouldn’t break his fool neck. Then he leapt out of the SUV. With his hands still tied behind his back, his balance was crap, and he dropped to the ground and rolled several times until the security lamp stopped him. Good thing someone thought to put it there. Groaning in pain, Echo sat up and shook his head to clear some of the dizziness. His attackers were on their feet and prowling toward him. “I will rip your throat out,” the smaller guy promised. Hmm, guess he’s not so worried about the demons anymore. Watching as the men shifted into big, sleek panthers right before his eyes, Echo did the only thing he could do. “Syx! It’s a trap. Get out of here!” Before he’d even gotten the entire thought out, loud footsteps sounded, and Hex appeared in front of him, scooping him up from the ground and passing him off to Gage. Echo turned his face into Gage’s chest, and squeezed his eyes closed. He couldn’t block out the shrieks from the big cats, though. “Fuck!” Gage spat. Then they were moving, sprinting away from the fight.

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Echo opened his eyes and looked around Gage’s shoulder. “Stop!” he screamed as he fought to free himself from the werewolf’s hold. “Go back!” He couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, but all seven of his men and Craze were on the ground, convulsing and roaring in pain. A small, shadowy figure stood near the mouth of the alley, flanked by two larger shadows. “Put me down!” “My orders were to get you out of here if something went wrong.” “I can help! Goddammit, Gage, would you just run away if it were Mac and Sony?” Gage stumbled but kept running. “That’s different.” “The fuck it is. Now put me down, or I swear to the gods, I will drain your furry ass!” Gage finally came to a stop, closed his eyes, and groaned. “Hex is going to kill me.” He gently set Echo on his feet and whirled him around to untie the ropes binding his wrists together. “I hope to hell you know what you’re doing.” The sounds of his mates’ continued agony rent through the air, and Echo hoped he knew what he was doing as well. Sprinting back down the alleyway, Echo felt a bit of reassurance when he heard Gage right behind him. The man wasn’t nearly as powerful as him or his warriors, so the fact that he’d put his life on the line for them spoke volumes. Pushing away the sappy thought and refocusing on the situation, Echo narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth. Old friend or not, he’d kill the asshole for the pain he was causing his lovers. A haze of fury descended over him, boiling his blood and stoking his powers. He had no clue how he produced the brilliant white light—or if it would even help—but at the moment it was the only hope they had. The closer he came, the angrier he got. The more pissed off he felt, the more his blood pressure rose. The loud roars were hard enough to hear, but the quieter whimpering tore through his heart like

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a knife. Whatever was happening to his men, it was clear they were in agony. Never had he heard those particular noises from the demons. Coming to a complete stop just feet from the fallen men, Echo closed his eyes and lifted his arms out to his sides. He knew he was presenting one hell of a target and half expected to be struck down at any moment. What he didn’t expect was the two large figures at the end of the alley to curse before turning and sprinting away. The smaller shadow stepped forward into the dim light, and Echo growled as he recognized the face of his former lover. He didn’t give a shit. If this fucker had enough power to take down eight fully-grown men without even lifting a finger, then he certainly had the power to end Echo like a bug beneath his shoe. So, that left the question—why didn’t he? Then his head fell back on his shoulders, and he started to laugh, his voice shrill and grating in the cool night air. It was a cold, nasty laugh, and did little to calm Echo’s rage. One-seventeen was not only hurting the men he loved but enjoying the hell out it. The man’s head popped up, and though he couldn’t see his eyes, Echo could feel the asshole’s stare like a physical force. His old friend was taunting him, daring him to make the next move. And unimaginable malice rose up in him like nothing he’d ever felt. He’d probably feel ashamed of himself later, but in that moment, he wanted the bastard to suffer. Echo wanted him to hurt—to scream until his throat bled. The dark thoughts consumed him, burrowing into his soul and clouding his mind. The snarl of twisted thoughts in his head overwhelmed him, seeming to feed on his rage until his vision blurred and he could see nothing but the horrible images in his brain. “Shine the light,” his mother’s voice whispered inside his head. “Let go of the darkness, Echo.” Too consumed with hatred and vengeance, Echo ignored the goddess. There was no light in him to shine. Every crevice of his heart

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and spirit was blackness. He vaguely realized that he couldn’t feel his powers anymore, but he quickly dismissed any concern. He’d rip One-seventeen apart with his bare hands. In fact, he preferred it that way. “Echo,” Hex rasped. “Run.” Some of the darkness began to ebb as the voice penetrated the fog of rage. Blinking several times, Echo finally focused on his alpha and felt the tears prickle the corners of his eyes. His big, tough warrior had been reduced to a writhing mass of pain and surrender. Thin streams of blood dripped from Hex’s ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. The image was disturbing, appalling, and utterly heartwrenching. “Echo,” Hex tried again as he slumped to his side and curled into a ball. “Go, baby.” “I love you,” Echo whispered in return just before his old flame began laughing again. “Love…you,” Hex replied with a strangled groan. Moving his eyes away from Hex’s face, Echo glanced at the other men on the ground and felt his stomach twist painfully. They were all in similar states of distress, but Echo didn’t know how to help them. Gods, he was fucking useless. He was just going to stand there in that grimy alley and watch his men die. “Echo,” Gage whispered in his ear. “I’m still waiting for this magnificent plan of yours. Help them.” “I can’t.” He couldn’t feel one ounce of the energy that normally coursed through him. Rage gave way to despair, and Echo hoped he’d die right along with his mates. He’d never be able to survive without them. “Shine the light,” Athena repeated. “Purge your heart.” Memories of the past several months bombarded him, hitting with the force of a locomotive and causing him to gasp. The night he’d arrived on their doorstep. The night they’d claimed him as their own. The first time each of them confessed their love. Shopping at the mall,

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lounging by the pond, dancing in the living room, eating breakfast together—it all came back to him like a punch to the chest. As his heart filled with love, driving away the shadows from his soul, his energy returned in full force. Without even thinking about his next actions, Echo swung his arms forward, his elbows locked, and clapped his hands together in front of him. A huge boom sounded like the roll of thunder, and a brilliant, blinding light shot from his clasped hands in a perfect sphere. It sped toward the enemy at the mouth of the alley, and just before impact, exploded into a shower of golden light. “Holy fuck,” Echo breathed. “I didn’t know I could to that.” “Holy fuck,” Gage echoed from his right. “He’s gone.” Echo didn’t even have to look to know the werewolf spoke the truth. He could almost feel the cold weight lifted from them. Shaking his head to dispel the shock, he hurried over and dropped to his knees beside Hex. “Hey, big guy.” His heart kicked painfully against his ribs when Hex didn’t move. “Hex?” Still, he received no reply. His mate looked pale and way too still. Was he even breathing? Fear choked him, cut off his air supply, and made his stomach churn violently. With trembling hands, Echo pressed two fingers against the side of Hex’s throat and almost passed out in relief when he felt the slow but steady thump of his mate’s heart. “Please,” he whimpered. “Wake up, Hex.” As though he’d spoken some magic incantation, Hex groaned and his eyelashes began to flutter against his cheeks. Echo stroked and petted him, pushing the tangled hair away from his lover’s face and kissing his temple. “I love you,” he whispered over and over. “Shh, baby.” Hex’s eyelids finally opened. “Don’t cry, sweetheart. Not going to leave you, remember?” Echo sniffled and tried to smile. “I remember.” “I haven’t broken a promise yet, have I?”

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“No.” Maybe he just had a really weak stomach, because Echo felt like he was going to throw up again. This time it was just the sheer relief that made his stomach flop over, though. “Well, I’m not going to start now.” Echo kissed his alpha once more before moving around the group and lavishing affection on each of his injured men. They looked weary, drained, and slightly gruesome with the blood on their faces, but they were alive, and Echo thought they were beautiful. Once he’d assured himself his mates were okay, he moved over to Craze and crouched down beside the man. “How are you?” Craze hung his head and looked away. “I’m sorry, Echo.” “What?” “I’m sorry that I couldn’t help them. I’m sorry that I let you down.” Echo slapped the man’s shoulder. “Shut up. You didn’t let anyone down. Thank you for coming when we needed you.” Then he wrapped his arms around Craze’s neck and gave him a tight squeeze. “I love you like a brother. You’ve proven your place in this family.” Hesitantly, Craze’s arms circled Echo’s back, and he hugged him briefly before quiet snarls had them breaking apart. Echo rolled his eyes and chuckled. “If you’re feeling well enough to be jealous, then you’re up to getting off the ground and going home.” The demons gave him sheepish grins and laboriously climbed to their feet. When Syx opened his mouth, Echo held up a hand to forestall him. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions, and hopefully a few theories. Right now I just want to get you all home and into bed. The heavy stuff can wait for later.” Syx eyed him for a minute before nodding. “Thank you, sweetheart. You saved our asses.” Echo swallowed around the lump in his throat but shrugged casually. “You’ve saved mine enough times. I figure it was time to return the favor.” Seeing their exhaustion, Echo bit his lip and debated

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the wisdom of the four-hour drive back to Montana. “Maybe we should stay another night here.” “No,” Hex said immediately. “I can drive one vehicle,” Gage announced. “I’m mostly healed,” Craze added. “I can drive the other. We’ll get you guys home.” Letting out the breath he’d been holding, Echo nodded his appreciation. “Let’s go.” “He saves our lives, and now he thinks he owns us,” Myst mumbled under his breath, but the corners of his lips twitched. Echo sauntered over and gripped a handful of Myst’s firm ass. “I do own you.” He gave the muscled globe a good squeeze. “Your ass is mine, babe. Don’t forget it.” “Yes, sir,” Myst purred. “Oh, now I know you’re feeling better.” He pushed up on his toes and kissed the underside of Myst’s jaw. “Take me home.”

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Chapter Four
The ride home was uneventful considering that they’d nearly lost their lives. Syx had so many ideas running through his brain, he wasn’t sure how he’d hold them all in until Echo felt ready to discuss what had happened. He was both anxious and wary, but also excited because he felt sure a new piece of the puzzle had just fallen into place. Sitting in the backseat with Echo and Vapre, Syx felt good despite the fact that he’d been bleeding from practically every facial orifice. The pain had been excruciating, like someone driving nails into his skull. He’d felt sure he would die in that alley among the broken beer bottles and discarded trash. Once again, Echo had saved all their asses. Syx couldn’t have been prouder than if his firstborn had started playing Mozart at the age of two. Though the temptation was there, he refrained from dipping into his lovers’ minds and rummaging through their thoughts. They all needed a little break and time to regroup before they began talking about what had unfolded back at Silver City. If he caught even a glimpse of their thoughts, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his mouth closed. “I love you,” Echo whispered, stretching out in the seat between him and Vapre. His tiny feet rested in Vapre’s lap, while his blond head nestled on Syx’s thigh. “I’m glad you didn’t die.” Syx chuckled under his breath. That was his Echo. The man rarely made a big deal about any of the hardships they faced. “I love you, too, sweetheart. I’m very glad we didn’t die, either. Thank you.”

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Echo flopped his hand around and yawned. “It was nothing. I hope he’s dead.” This startled Syx. Echo didn’t have a violent bone in his body. Each time he’d been forced to take a life to protect himself or someone else, the guilt had eaten away at him. What were they changing their sweet little mate into? Echo hadn’t even spared a glance for the fallen werecats—something that would have normally had the man in tears or close to it. “Do you mean that?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking. “Yes.” Echo rolled over and cuddled closer to him. “I’m sorry if that makes me sound cold and heartless.” Syx glanced over to see the same startled look on Vapre’s face that must have shown on his. Hadn’t Echo begged them not to kill the weres at the hotel? And now he practically relished in their demise. Though Syx had no reservations over the fact that Echo’s ex-lover and his henchmen deserved exactly what had been delivered to them, he didn’t like that Echo felt the same. His sweet, innocent mate was their light and refuge. They couldn’t allow him to become what they were. With a silent sigh, he looked straight ahead and caught Gage’s gaze in the rearview mirror. The man’s eyebrows drew together, and he shook his head slightly. Then he reached up and pushed his hand through his hair, subtly tapping his temple. Syx caught on immediately, dropped his shields, and reached out to Gage’s mind. “I can see what you’re thinking, and stop it. Echo did what he needed to do to save us all. Worrying over his motives isn’t going to help anyone.” Syx frowned and shook his head slowly. He pushed his thoughts back at Gage. Slipping into people’s minds to extract thoughts was intrusive enough, so he rarely used the reverse of his power. Besides, it was much more difficult, and the other person had to be receptive.

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“It’s not his motives that concern me. It’s that he doesn’t seem to feel any remorse. He’s never been this way before, and it worries me that we’re changing him.” “War changes people,” Gage answered immediately. “He protected his mates. He’s riding the high of everyone being safe. Wait until tomorrow before you start jumping to conclusions.” Syx met the werewolf’s eyes again and nodded. Perhaps the man was right. Though he didn’t want Echo marred with the emotional scars of battle, he also couldn’t stomach the idea of his mate becoming a hardened killer like the rest of them. It wasn’t as though killing was a recreational sport, or even that they enjoyed it. Once it was over, they never thought about it again, though. It was just a part of life. A part of life that Syx hoped never touched the sleeping man in his lap. **** Echo’s head bounced on Syx’s thigh, waking him from his nap. The SUV bumped along, rocking slightly from side to side, and Echo grinned broadly. They were home. He was so happy to be back. Would it be too weird to lock them all inside and never leave again? Probably. Rolling to his back, he peered up at Syx. The concern in his lover’s eyes had him mirroring the drawn eyebrows and slight frown. Reaching up, he skimmed his fingertips down the side of Syx’s cheek. “What’s wrong?” Syx looked at him for a long time, but eventually sighed and shook his head. “Nothing, baby. We’re home.” Echo didn’t believe the demon for a second, but he was too tired to argue. Besides, he’d learned early on in their relationship that the quickest way to make Syx shut down was to push him. The man would talk when he was ready, and not a moment before. It was

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something Echo admired. Very rarely did Syx speak without fully thinking through his words first. How many arguments and misunderstandings could be avoided if more of them were like that? Sitting up, he stretched his arms over his head and groaned. He wondered if Hex could heal him now or if he’d need to wait until morning. The alpha sat in the passenger seat beside Gage, and he looked completely wiped out. Yeah, maybe Echo would just wait until the morning. He felt sore and achy, and his face throbbed where he’d been punched, but it wasn’t anything life threatening. Hex needed rest and time for his own body to heal before he began worrying about the rest of them. “I need a shower, food, a bed, and lots of cuddles—in that order.” “Nice to see where we rank on your priority list,” Vapre teased. “The way I’m feeling, you’re lucky you made the list at all.” Echo shrugged, lifting his hand to his mouth to stifle another yawn. It wasn’t that he didn’t want his men with him, but he imagined he’d be asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow. As exhausted as he felt, he probably wouldn’t even know they were there. Luckily, he didn’t have to explain any of it. Vapre chuckled and wrapped his fingers around the back of Echo’s neck, pulling him closer and kissing his temple. “I love you, goofball.” Echo gave Vapre a crooked grin and stuck his tongue out. “Love you, too.” With seven men to please and cherish, Echo felt like he said the words a hundred times a day. It still wasn’t enough. Once the vehicle pulled to a stop, Syx opened his door and slid out of his seat. He stretched and groaned, much as Echo had, then turned to offer his help. Echo bit his lip. He didn’t want to appear weak and unmanly, but his legs felt like rubber. Besides, he just really needed to be held. He didn’t know if Syx picked the information from his brain, or if he was just that easy to read, but the warrior stepped closer and held his arms out, waiting for Echo to move into them. Then he wrapped

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Echo up securely and held him close to his chest. “Is this what you were after?” Too happy to feel embarrassed, Echo nuzzled against the side of Syx’s throat and sighed. “Yes.” He knew his mates loved carrying him around and holding him, but that was different. He’d never actually asked for it. “I hurt everywhere. I can only imagine how sore you are. Do you need help in the shower, or would you just like to soak in the tub?” Echo knew Syx was trying to help him save face, but the man deserved nothing but completely honesty. “I am a bit sore, but I’ll be fine to shower. I just wanted you to hold me.” Syx kissed Echo on the forehead before rubbing his cheek against the top of Echo’s head. “You never have to ask to be held.” “I lied.” “Oh?” Syx walked up the steps and in through the open front door. “What did you lie about, baby?” “I don’t like hurting people, even the ones who deserve it. I don’t really hope One-seventeen is dead. I do want him to pay for what he did, though.” To his bewilderment, Syx beamed at him. “I’m glad to hear you say that.” The smiled slipped from his face, and an intimidating snarl fell from his lips. “If he isn’t dead, he’ll wish he was. Make no mistake, Echo. He will pay, but not by your hands. I don’t want…” Echo waited, but when it appeared Syx wouldn’t finish, he prodded for a little more. “What don’t you want?” “I…I don’t want the world to taint you. You are everything that is good in our life. I don’t want anything to take that away.” Remaining silent, Echo thought over the words. He didn’t think it was realistic for him to remain the same person after all they’d been through in the past months. It warmed him that his lovers wanted to protect him from the world, but that also wasn’t realistic. Still, he felt like the same person essentially. He was a little less naïve, a little

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more accepting that death was a part of battle. It was either adapt or lose his mind, though. Adapting seemed the better choice. “Oh, gods!” A loud, anguished cry cut into his inner ramblings, and Echo whipped his head around just in time to see Jinx and Syn launch themselves into Craze’s arms. “Oh, baby, baby, baby,” Syn crooned, touching Craze everywhere he could reach. “What happened to you?” Though the Addonexus had been able to heal himself, there was still dried blood smeared across his handsome face. Considering Echo’s reaction when he’d first witnessed the awful sight, he could only imagine how terrified he’d be if he was seeing it secondhand without any knowledge of what had happened. “Shh, love.” Craze dropped to the sofa and crushed his lovers to him. “I’m fine. I just need a shower and some rest, and I’ll be good as new.” Jinx jumped up and grabbed Craze’s hand. “Let’s get you cleaned up and off to bed then. We’ll take care of you.” “Let me see if I can help the guys out first. Go get the shower started. I’ll be right up.” Craze kissed Jinx’s hand and patted Syn on the hip. When they looked at him skeptically, he smiled and dipped his head. “I promise, guys. Go on.” The vampires seemed reluctant to leave their mate, but eventually nodded their agreement and shuffled up the stairs. Craze pushed up from the sofa with a grunt and went to stand in front of Gage. Mac and Sony clung to the big werewolf, and Mac actually had tears in his chocolate brown eyes. “Are you hurt?” Craze asked. Gage shook his head. “Just tired. I’m fine, but thank you. I’m just going to take my mates to bed.” Sony backed away toward the stairs, tugging Gage with him. “Come on, my big, bad protector. Let us love you.” The trio disappeared up the staircase, and Craze started making his rounds. Each time he touched a warrior, the demon would

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immediately begin to regain some color. Echo had completely forgotten that not only could Craze heal himself, but others as well. When Craze finally made it to him and Syx, Echo looked up and smiled as the man worked on Syx. “You didn’t have to do this. Thank you.” Craze removed his hand from the side of Syx’s head and returned Echo’s smile. “I don’t mind.” Echo could see it was taking a toll on the big man, though. Now Craze was the one who looked pale and exhausted. His hand reached out, but Echo caught Craze’s wrist and shook his head. “I appreciate the offer, and I swear it has nothing to do with me not liking you. I actually respect the hell out of you and think you’re a pretty great guy once you let your guard down. You’re tired and hurting, though. I’m only a little sore. Go let your mates take care of you.” Craze looked torn. It was obvious he wanted to be with his mates, but he also wanted to heal Echo. “It will only take a minute.” “And then you’ll probably drop like a sack of potatoes. I can tell it’s draining you, Craze. I’m fine.” Eventually, Craze stepped away and nodded. “You know where to find me if you change your mind.” He turned without another word and hurried off to find Jinx and Syn. “Are you really okay?” Echo shifted his gaze to the other side of the room. He hadn’t even noticed Pax and Jet huddled against the wall. They stood on either side of a big, burly man who looked more suited to leathers and Harleys than the Wranglers and cowboy boots he was currently sporting. “I’m fine.” Syx began to sway a little, and Echo felt like the world’s biggest asshole. Here he was complaining about a few aches and pains, making his lover carry him, and Syx had been through something exceedingly worse. The man had almost died, for fuck’s sake.

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Echo patted him on the chest and wiggled until Syx got the idea and set him on his feet. “I’m sorry,” Echo whispered. “I didn’t think. I get starry-eyed sometimes and think nothing can ever hurt you. Let me talk to my friends for a minute, and I’ll make it up to you.” Syx frowned at him. “I’m tired. That’s no reason why I can’t hold you, though. I’m not weak.” Oh, look at that cute little pout. “I never said you were weak. I said it was unfair for me to take advantage of you and put more strain on you when I know you’re hurting as much if not more than I am.” “I’m fine.” With an indulgent smile, Echo decided to let it go and walked across the room. “You guys look good,” he told the shifters. It had been weeks since he’d seen them, and he missed his friends. “We feel good,” Jet answered as he looked up at Lorcan. “Isn’t he gorgeous?” Echo bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing when Lorcan rolled his eyes and huffed. The cute blush that worked up his neck gave away how pleased he was at the compliment, though. “Thank you.” Echo held his hand out to the big shifter. “You’re welcome to stay the night or as long as you’d like.” Lorcan took his hand and squeezed gently before releasing it. “It wasn’t any problem. I appreciate the offer, but I think I better get these guys home.” Since Pax was currently grinding against Lorcan’s hip like a pole dancer, Echo figured the man had a point. Chuckling under his breath, he gave Jet a hug, shook Lorcan’s hand again, and rolled his eyes when Pax completely ignored him. “Go on before he wears a hole in the leg of your jeans.” Lorcan winked and swooped Pax up and over his shoulder. He slapped his mate’s ass hard, then reached back to grab Jet’s hand. “Later.”

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Strong arms wound around his waist, and Echo looked over his shoulder to find Onyx grinning down at him. “Go shower. I’ll bring food to your room.” Though his voice was soft, it held a hint of command that made Echo shiver. “Yes, sir,” he answered automatically. “Will you stay?” “Try to keep me away.” Onyx kissed the side of Echo’s neck. “Only if you promise to behave, though.” “Promise. I’m too tired to get it up anyway.” Onyx’s hand wandered down Echo’s chest to cup his flaccid cock. “Good to know.” Echo’s stupid dick obviously had different ideas about what his body could and couldn’t handle at the moment. It perked right up, swelling quickly in Onyx’s hold. “Mmm, down boy.” Onyx pressed the heel of his hand against Echo’s erection and rubbed. The action did zero to “down” anything. He nipped Echo’s earlobe and turned him around to press their mouths together. “Go shower. I’ll bring food. Do you need anything else?” Onyx’s thumb slipped into Echo’s mouth and skimmed across his retracted canines. “How are you feeling?” Fucking horny! He heard Syx snort from across the room and turned to give his mate the evil eye. Syx seemed suddenly interested in conversation with Eyce. “I’m thirsty, but it can wait until morning. Food will help.” What he didn’t add was that he didn’t want to take anything from his men that they couldn’t afford to give him. He fidgeted a little under Onyx’s scrutiny, but refused to back down. Finally, the warrior sighed and kissed Echo’s temple. “I’ll be up in a minute.” Echo looked down at the sizeable lump in his ripped jeans. “Uh, give me ten.”

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Chapter Five
Eyce cuddled Echo close when the man began to whimper in his sleep. Looking up, he saw Onyx rise up on his elbow and look down at their mate in concern. “Is he okay?” “I think he’s fine. Come here.” Onyx molded himself to Echo’s back, leaning over him and meeting Eyce halfway until their lips pressed together. “How are you feeling?” Eyce asked, reaching up to cup his lover’s cheek. Smiling, Onyx rubbed his cheek over Eyce’s palm. “Much better. Hex healed Echo, right?” Eyce nodded. “After he fell asleep, of course. You know how stubborn the little shit is.” “I heard that.” Onyx snorted, and Eyce groaned as he looked down at Echo. “Well, you are, and you know it. It’s a good thing you’re so cute.” “I’m something else right now,” Echo mumbled sleepily. Smoothing his palm over Echo’s hip, Eyce bent in to nuzzle against the side of the smaller man’s neck. “Mmm, and what would that be?” “Thirsty,” Echo rasped. “Oh.” Enlightenment dawned, and Eyce had Echo in his arms and straddling his lap in a heartbeat. He tilted his head to the side, baring his neck, and wound his fingers in Echo’s golden hair. “Please,” he practically begged. There was nothing more erotic or that got his motor running faster than when Echo drank from him. Echo giggled and licked a slow path up the column of Eyce’s throat, right over his jumping vein. “How about Onyx gets you ready

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while I play? I can hold out for a little longer, and you know how much you love for me to bite you when you come.” Eyce shivered and a deep moan vibrated his chest. “Yes.” Maybe he was a kinky slut, but who gave a fuck? His men were just as needy and wanton as he was when it came to the smallest member of their group. Besides, Echo had nailed it on the head. There was nothing Eyce loved more than when his men bit him during sex. And there had been a whole lot of that going on since they’d all claimed each other. Who needed Elysium? Eyce moved his other hand down to squeeze Echo’s pert ass. He had paradise in the palm of his hand. Coming up from his lusty fog, Eyce gave Onyx a heated look and jerked his head toward the nightstand. “Hurry.” “Oh, yeah.” Onyx fell off the bed and onto his ass in his haste to get to the needed supplies. Eyce nipped at Echo’s collarbone when the little imp began to chuckle. “We’ll see who’s laughing when I have my cock buried in your ass.” “Gods,” Echo moaned. “You’re as bad as Syx.” He highly doubted that. Syx had made him come with only words and a few kisses on more than one occasion. The man could make a porn star blush, and Eyce couldn’t get enough. Hell, he couldn’t get enough of any of his mates. They all brought something special to the table, and when combined, the sex was explosive. Onyx appeared beside Eyce, grabbed his legs, and swung him around so that his ass hung off the edge of the mattress. Echo fell against his chest, laughing like a loon as he pushed his long hair behind his ear. “Hey, you. Come here often?” Eyce rolled his eyes. “I hope to be coming soon and often. Now get down here and kiss me.” “Mmm, love it when you’re bossy.” A loud smack sounded, and Echo yelped, jerking around to look over his shoulder. A wicked

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smile spread over his lips. “You know you’re my one and only, Sir. Don’t be jealous.” Onyx returned the grin. “Not jealous. You had this sweet little ass turned up and wiggling it at me. What did you expect?” “For you to lick it,” Echo purred seductively before turning again and pressing his lips to Eyce’s. “Oh, I needed this.” “Gods, yes.” Eyce fisted both hands in Echo’s hair, pulling him closer and devouring him. A slick finger pressed between his cheeks, and Onyx rubbed at his quivering opening before pushing inside. “Don’t go easy,” he demanded around Echo’s lips. Echo looked confused before Eyce attacked his mouth again. Eyce knew Onyx understood, though, when three fingers were immediately inserted into his hungry hole. The digits pumped hard and fast, slipping into his channel then pulling out to leave Eyce feeling empty. More, he definitely needed more. “Me,” Echo whined. Damn, he was too cute. Unlatching one hand from Echo’s hair, Eyce held his hand out, palm up. He heard the snick of the bottle cap, and then cool liquid squirted into his palm. Slipping his hand between him and Echo, he palmed his straining cock, giving it a few good tugs before releasing it and reaching around to prepare his lover. “Hard and fast,” Echo demanded before latching on to Eyce’s lips again. Always one to please, Eyce pushed two slick fingers into Echo’s tight entrance. Echo’s hips jerked, and he rocked back, impaling himself farther on the digits as he moaned into Eyce’s mouth. When Eyce felt Onyx’s finger slip into Echo’s hole beside his own, he nearly lost his mind. He wished he could see it, but his brain had no problem conjuring up the delectably erotic image. “Now,” Echo pleaded. “Please, I need you.” Onyx’s fingers disappeared from Eyce’s passage, and he helped lift Echo while Eyce pointed his dick upward and held it immobile. Gritting his teeth together, he closed his eyes and prayed for stamina

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when Echo began lowering himself, his heated tunnel wrapping around every inch of Eyce’s cock like a velvety glove. “Ready?” Onyx asked once Echo’s ass rested firmly against Eyce’s thighs. A grunt was the only compliance Eyce could give as he struggled to hold on to some semblance of control. When he felt the tip of Onyx’s prick kiss his tight ring, Eyce breathed deeply, willing his body to relax and accept the monster cock working its way into his ass. “Damn, you’re hung like a fucking horse.” A large hand landed on his outer thigh. “I’m not as big as you, and it’s not the first time you’ve had my cock up your ass. Now stop complaining, or I won’t fuck you.” That shut Eyce up in a hurry. He hitched his legs higher around Onyx’s waist, locking his ankles behind the warrior’s back and holding on for dear life as his mates began to move. Echo planted his feet on either side of Eyce and began riding him hard and fast, rising and lowering, moving his hips at lightning speed. Onyx’s slow glide in and out of his spasming hole was such a delicious contrast, Eyce felt his head start to spin. Then they changed. Onyx slammed into Eyce’s hole, burying his cock to the root then pulling out until only the crown remained. Over and over, he plunged into Eyce’s body in fast, hard strokes. Echo slowed his movements, settling his firm ass against Eyce’s groin and doing a slow, sensual grind. His hands roamed over his slim chest and pinched at his nipples. He licked his lips, his eyes never leaving Eyce’s as he continued to torment him. “Touch me.” Though he didn’t think he’d get his hand to move if he wanted to, Eyce bobbed his head dazedly. With a crooked smirk, Echo took one of Eyce’s hands and wrapped it around his leaking cock. The feel of the hot flesh in his palm had Eyce growling like a wild animal. He jacked his lover from base to tip with the same rhythm Onyx used to pound into his ass.

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His skin burned, his balls ached, and his inner walls clamped around Onyx’s rigid shaft, heralding his impending climax. He stroked Echo faster, harder, twisting his wrist and using every trick in the book to bring his lover to completion. The look of desperation must have shown on his face because Onyx slowed his pace and leaned over to whisper in Echo’s ear. “Come, baby.” Just like that, Echo exploded like a fucking geyser. He screamed out his release, cum erupting from his slit to coat Eyce’s hand, chest, and abs. The look on his face was pure bliss, and Eyce wanted to follow him over the edge. He still had one mate to take care of, though. “Come, Eyce,” Onyx demanded. “I’m close. Don’t worry about me. Just let go.” How selfish of a lover would that make him if he did as he was told? Then all thoughts flew out the window when Echo leaned over him and sank his fangs into Eyce’s neck with ease. The instant pleasure rocked him like nothing he’d ever felt. His dick pulsed inside Echo’s tight ass, swelling further if possible. Onyx pounded into him, roaring and snarling, his body shuddering as Eyce felt the wet heat of Onyx’s climax deep within his passage. Satisfied that his lovers were well cared for, Eyce finally let himself go, tumbling over the edge and into oblivion. It seemed his vein had a direct connection his cock. Even after he felt he’d emptied his balls of everything he had to give, each pull on his neck from Echo sent a fresh wave of semen erupting from his slit until it began to leak back out around his still-hard dick. “I’m going to die,” he moaned. Not that he minded, but he’d like a repeat performance, and preferably soon. Echo’s muffled chuckle vibrated against his throat. He extracted his canines and licked lazily at the marks. “Mmm, you taste so good, I forget myself sometimes. Did I take too much?”

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Eyce shook his head. “No, baby. I’m perfect.” He winced a little when Onyx pulled out of his sensitive hole. Then the demon dropped down beside him and began peppering his face with kisses. “Love you,” he whispered against Onyx’s lips. “Yes, love you.” Onyx seemed a little disoriented, and Eyce couldn’t help but grin at the goofy look on the warrior’s face. “Good one?” “It’s always good with you guys.” Onyx pushed up, wrapped his arms around the back of Echo’s neck, and flicked his tongue over the man’s lips. Eyce moaned, his cock still swollen and throbbing as he watched his mates duel in a battle of lips, tongues, and teeth. “Give me some of that.” Breaking the kiss, Echo smiled impishly, leaned over, and bit right into the skin over Eyce’s heart. At the same time, Onyx tangled his fingers in Eyce’s hair and jerked his head to the side, sinking his teeth into Eyce’s neck just over Echo’s bite. “Oh, fuck!” Eyce howled, snapping his hips up and thrusting into Echo’s slick hole. Two pumps later, and he exploded again. His head began to swim, his legs felt like rubber, and every muscle in his body melted. “Nap,” he mumbled. “Love you, big guy.” Echo pecked Eyce’s lips and lifted off of his lap. He started to roll away, but a sudden thought penetrated Eyce’s post-coital happy bubble. Grabbing Echo’s wrist to keep him on the mattress, Eyce blinked open his eyes and stared seriously at his mate. “Did you have a nightmare?” “Kind of, I guess. It was more like memories of all the awful stuff that has happened lately. I’ll be fine.” “Do you want to talk about it?” Onyx asked. Echo shook his head. “You were there. You know what happened. What’s the point of rehashing it?”

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“I didn’t mean the dreams.” Onyx slid off the bed to kneel in front of their mate. “Do you want to talk about the stuff that’s happened? How you feel about it? You know we’re here anytime you need us.” Echo scrambled across the bed, ripped open the drawer of the nightstand, and rummaged around inside. “Uh, Echo, I have the lube right here.” “Shut up.” Eyce closed his mouth. Craning his neck to see what Echo was doing, he was surprised when his lover came back to sit cross-legged in the middle of the bed. His small fist was clutched to his chest and unshed tears shimmered in his brilliant blue eyes. Echo breathed deeply a couple of times then unclenched his fist to reveal a tiny teardrop sapphire dangling from the end of a dark leather cord. He pulled it over his head and pressed his palm against his heart, holding the sapphire tightly to his chest as he closed his eyes. “Echo?” Eyce rolled to his side and caressed Echo’s bare thigh. “What’s wrong, baby?” “Nothing.” Echo shook his head fiercely. “Nothing is wrong. I just needed this. I’ve been missing it.” His eyelids fluttered open, and he smiled beautifully. “I know it’s silly, but it’s the first thing you guys ever gave me, and it means a lot. Thank you.” Eyce didn’t know what to say. He swallowed down the lump in his throat, and decided for once that words weren’t necessary.

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Chapter Six
Biting his lip to keep from laughing, Echo watched Syx pace about the kitchen. The demon’s lips were moving, but he made no sound. It was obvious that he was chomping at the bit to discuss his theories with the rest of them. “I guess I’ve tortured you enough.” Echo eased into one of the chairs at the table, wiggling a bit at the wonderful ache in his ass that declared he’d been well and truly loved that morning. “Go ahead and spill what you know.” Syx stopped pacing and fisted his hands on his hips. He stared down at the floor, shaking his head slowly as though he wasn’t sure where to begin. “Maybe we should take this to the office.” “Syx, just tell me.” “The light that you make?” He waited for Echo’s nod. “I think it’s sunlight.” Echo nodded again. “That makes sense. It vaporizes vampires, but doesn’t hurt anyone else. So, I guess this has something to do with my father.” Syx gaped at him. “You’re very intuitive.” “I guess it might also explain why I’m so in tune with the daylight. I also feel better when it’s sunny, and I know when the sun is setting. I just don’t understand why I never felt it before I was changed.” Echo had learned to be very careful when discussing how he’d come to have fangs and crave blood. His men were still touchy about the subject of his death. The warriors’ reactions were predictable. Some winced, some scowled, but every one of them looked very unhappy about the topic

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of conversation. Echo resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It was over and done with. There was nothing they could do to change it. He was a little different now, but basically the same as always. His men really needed to get over it. “Your powers are stronger now. You also couldn’t produce the light before you became a daemon. I think that might have something to do with it, but I’ll need to think on it some more before I have a concrete answer for you.” Echo acknowledged Syx with a dip of his head. Yes, answers would be nice, but Echo had decided they weren’t as important as he’d once believed. They’d rarely had any kind of answers before their challenges during the new moons, and they’d always come out on top. Besides, the whys and hows of his gifts weren’t really important in the grand scheme of things. Knowing his lineage or why he produced bursts of lights from his fingertips wouldn’t help them win against Ares. He’d been so desperate to sort out the puzzle that he hadn’t taken time to look at the bigger picture. And in that great canvas of life… “It doesn’t matter.” All heads turned to him, and Echo shrugged. “Well, it doesn’t. Yeah, it’d be nice to know who my father is, why all this stuff is happening to me, but will knowing the answers make any difference to who I am or the things I can do?” He met each of their eyes and shook his head before answering his own question. “No. Knowing that my father is Helios, or Apollo, or whoever won’t change a damn thing.” “Since Apollo is Athena’s half-brother, I’m going to hope it’s not him,” Myst mumbled under his breath. “It’s bad enough that there are girl parts involved. I can’t think about incest.” Echo’s eyes went wide, and he slapped a hand over his mouth to muffle some of his laughter. Oh, the demon was too much. “Well, I hope not, either, but you never know with gods and goddess.”

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“I’d guess Helios,” Syx said without a hint of amusement. “Because he’s a Titan, it just makes more sense—especially with the strength you have.” Echo didn’t see how it made more sense, but he agreed with Syx. “You’d think I would feel a little more divine with immortal deities as parents. Not sure how I could die if I’m supposed to be a full-blown god.” “That’s something you’ll have to ask your mother.” Syx started pacing again. “I think it’s possible that you had your immortality stripped before you were sent away. After you were dipped in the Lethe River, you’d have no recollection of life before the lab.” Echo still wasn’t sure how he felt about that piece of information. Maybe it was better that way. How could he miss what he never knew existed? “So, I guess the main questions right now are what does Oneseventeen have to do with all of this, and what exactly is Ares after?” Syx’s gaze swung to Hex, and Echo mimicked him. Whatever was going on, Hex was at the center of it. Echo didn’t blame the demon, though. It wasn’t as though he asked for Ares’ attention. Somehow, Echo had an idea there was a much bigger reason behind the war that none of them had figured out yet, and they were all just pawns. “I’ll help however I can,” Hex said after a pregnant pause. “I honestly don’t know what it is that I’m supposed to remember, though. Ares and I messed around a little when he was training us. He came once after we’d escaped Tartarus, but he left easily enough. I have no idea what he wants with me.” Slipping out of his seat, Echo moved around the table to crawl up into Hex’s lap. The man was shaking, but trying damn hard not to let it show. The bags under his eyes attested to the lack of sleep he’d received during the night. “No one is blaming you, love. We’ll get through this together, and we’ll be stronger for it.” Echo cradled Hex’s face in his palms. “I love you, yeah?” Hex kissed his lips and rubbed their noses together. “Yeah.” Something in his eyes scared Echo, though. They weren’t exactly

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vacant, but though he looked into Echo’s eyes, it was like he couldn’t really see him. “What are you thinking?” “Nothing.” Hex shook his head and leaned back in his chair. “We’ll figure it out.” He didn’t sound convincing in the least. “Syx, could you guys please give us a minute without making it obvious?” “We need to take a look at the whiteboard and add some things,” Syx said aloud. “If you guys have any questions, they need to go up there.” He gave the demons a meaningful look and started out of the kitchen. Hex didn’t seem to notice them. Everyone rose and followed Syx without question. Hex patted Echo’s hip to get him up, but Echo wasn’t moving. He waited for everyone to leave the room before grabbing Hex’s face and pushing up so that they were eye to eye. “Don’t hide from me, Hex. Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.” “I’m not hiding anything.” “If you try to leave again, I won’t let you back.” Of course, he didn’t mean that, but he had to get Hex’s attention somehow. Hex’s eyes narrowed and his lips pressed together in a thin line. He looked angry for all of a minute, and then he sighed and slumped back in his seat. “It would be safer for everyone if I met Ares on my own and found out what he wants.” “No it won’t. Everything we’ve faced, we’ve done it together. This isn’t going to be any different. If you love us, you have to trust us. You can’t beat him on your own.” Hex’s arms wound behind Echo and pulled him close. “You’re right. It makes me sick to think of anything happening to you guys. It’s worse when I know it’s my fault that it’s happening. I just don’t know how it’s my fault.” Kissing along the hopping vein in Hex’s neck, Echo sighed. “It’s not your fault. Ares is bat-shit crazy. If you leave us, who’s to say he’ll leave us alone? Would you really leave us undefended?” Echo

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knew he was fighting dirty, but he didn’t feel guilty. He’d do whatever it took to keep Hex with them. “You know I won’t. I’m sorry I even entertained the idea. We’re in this together.” “See how much easier life is when you just agree with me?” He sat up and flicked his tongue over Hex’s lips. “Please get some rest. You look like death, sweetheart.” “Come with me.” “You know we’ll never sleep if I do that.” Not that he was complaining. The fact that his men couldn’t get enough of him was a powerful ego boost. “Yes, we will,” Hex argued. “I’m wiped. My head is pounding. I just want to curl around you and sleep.” Thinking it over for a second, Echo finally nodded and crawled out of Hex’s lap. “Let me help you with your headache, and it’s a deal.” “Please,” Hex practically whimpered. Standing behind his lover, Echo pressed his fingertips to Hex’s temples and closed his eyes. “I really wish you’d tell me before it gets this bad. It doesn’t make you weak to ask for help.” He absorbed a little of Hex’s healing powers, recycled it, and pushed it back into his mate. Within seconds, Hex’s posture became more relaxed, and his head dropped back on his shoulders to look up at Echo. “Thank you, baby.” Echo gave him a quick upside down kiss and stroked his hair. “Take a shower and get in bed. I’ll be up in just a minute.” “Deal. Bring Myst.” Echo winked over his shoulder as he walked out of the kitchen. “Where do you think I’m going?” ****

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Breathing a sigh of relief as Echo and Myst left the office, Eyce waited to make sure they were out of earshot before speaking. “It’s not that I don’t want them here, but they’re both kind of blabbermouths. I don’t think Hex needs to know everything just yet. That man has more stress on him than the rest of us combined.” Murmurs of agreement went around the room. Syx hovered near his board, staring at it as though it held the secrets of life. In a way, Eyce supposed it did. There were far more questions on the white expanse than answers, but it was a starting point. He had to admit that having something physical to look at helped keep them focused during these little meetings. That’s why he was a bit surprised when Syx used his arm to erase everything written on the board. “Uh, Syx?” Syx didn’t even look at him. He picked up a black dry-erase marker from the desk before he turned to face them. “We’re starting over. We’ll list what we need to know now, what we need to find out soon, and what is only important in the peripheral.” “So, we’re going to prioritize.” Eyce bobbed his head. “Where do you want to start?” “The least important.” “Echo’s parentage,” Vapre spoke up. “I don’t think that’s of dire importance to why Ares wants Hex.” Syx wrote the question on the top right hand corner of the marker board. “What else?” “Echo’s ex-lover,” Onyx added. “I’m sure he’s connected, but I don’t believe the how is important.” After a half hour of back and forth, the board was once again filled with Syx’s neat handwriting. They still agreed that the most important thing was to find out what part Hex would play in the final showdown. If they learned a few answers along the way—score one for them. Syx sighed and scrubbed at his face. “I’m going to have to help him remember. I really don’t want to do this.”

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“The more we know, the better prepared we are,” Fiero reminded him. “Yeah, it sucks, and he’s probably not going to like it. What can we do, though? Just sit around and wait for Ares to gift wrap the solutions?” He snorted and shook his head. “Not fucking likely.” “I’ll wait until tomorrow. Maybe Echo and Myst can butter him up a little before I broach the subject of dipping into his brain.” “Hex wants this over with as much as the rest of us. I don’t think he’ll give you problems.” “I hope you’re right, Eyce.” Syx moved over to perch on top of the mahogany desk. “It will be a lot easier if he’s cooperative. Something tells me it’s not going to be a walk in the park. If those memories are hidden, there’s a reason for it. Finding them could cause a lot of damage.” “What kind of damage?” Vapre’s eyes were wide, and he looked scared. “Like brain damage?” Syx shook his head sadly. “No, but it could damage what we’ve spent thousands of years building. Not to mention the relationship that Echo has solidified. If he’s repressing the memories purposely, everything could come crashing down once he remembers.” “You think there’s a chance that his memories were wiped?” Onyx cocked his head to the side in question. “I’m not ruling anything out. If they were wiped, that opens a whole new can of worms and brings up a lot more questions, though.” “As in why it was important to conceal those thoughts in the first place.” Eyce propped his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. A drink sounded pretty fucking good at the moment. “I’ll second that.” Syx stood straight and jerked his head toward the door. “I say we get shitfaced and deal with this crap tomorrow. My damn brain hurts.” “I won’t say no to a beer, but drowning our sorrows in booze isn’t going to help anything.” Fiero stood from the sofa and marched over to the office door. “This shit isn’t going away just because we don’t want to deal with it. I suggest you put your big girl panties on and get

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the fuck over it.” Then he wrenched open the door and disappeared down the hallway. “I’ll go.” Eyce was on his feet and moving before the words even left his mouth. He didn’t have to search far to find the warrior. Fiero leaned against the kitchen counter, beer bottle in hand. He wasn’t drinking it, though. The cap wasn’t even off. He just stared at it as though it had morally offended him. Then he opened the refrigerator door and replaced the bottle. “We drink too much.” “We fight and swear too much as well.” Eyce eased into the room cautiously. “What’s going on, man?” Eyce didn’t expect an answer, so when Fiero started talking he had to quickly school his features and erase any trace of shock. “It feels like everyone is giving up. We just came back from our little escape from reality. One conversation later and Syx wants to get plastered and forget about all of this. We can’t keep putting it off forever.” “We’re not giving up.” Eyce crossed the kitchen until he stood right in front of his lover. He crowded Fiero back against the fridge and rested his hands on the man’s hips. “Syx is scared.” “Yeah, well, I’m fucking scared, too. That doesn’t mean I’m just going to roll over and take it up the ass, though.” Eyce thrust his hips forward to rub their groins together. “I bet you would.” Fiero wasn’t amused. He shoved at Eyce’s chest and glared. “This is not some goddamn game, Eyce. You do realize that one or more of us could end up dead, right? What if Ares takes Hex? What if he actually succeeds in offing Echo this time?” “We’re not going to let that happen. We’ll find the answers, kick Ares’ ass all the way back to Olympus, and live happily ever after like in the fairy tales. Is that what you want me to tell you? I don’t know what’s going to happen any more than you do. Being a dick to everyone isn’t helping, though.”

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Fiero spun around and retrieved his beer from the refrigerator. “Well, it makes me feel better.” Then he pushed past Eyce and left the kitchen. Eyce hung his head and groaned. “That went well,” he told the empty room. He wouldn’t go after Fiero just yet. He’d give the man a little time to stew before he tried to talk to him again. They’d all been at each other’s throats for weeks. Sure, they had their good times, and it wasn’t like they constantly bickered night and day, but tempers were running high. They said things they didn’t mean—or at least didn’t mean to say out loud. How much more strain could their relationship withstand before it finally broke?

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Chapter Seven
Syx had passed Buzz Landing, climbed over Drunken Hill, and was well on his way to Smashedville. He stared at the shot of tequila clenched between his fingers and shrugged. “Down the hatch,” he mumbled before tossing it back. The stuff didn’t even burn anymore. He also couldn’t think any longer, which was exactly the goal he had in mind. Eyeing the nearly empty bottle of Cuervo, he contemplated just chugging directly from the source. There couldn’t be more than two shots left. It seemed silly to leave it. It took a couple of attempts to pick out the real bottle and grasp the neck. Had he ever been so drunk that he was seeing not just double, but triple? He didn’t think so. With another shrug, he pulled the bottle to his lips and turned it up, downing the last of its contents. How pathetic did it make him that he was falling down drunk and doing it alone? Blinking several times to clear his blurred vision, he quickly gave up and slammed the bottle down on the kitchen table. Where the fuck was everyone? “Guys!” he shouted. “Get your scrawny asses in here, and someone bring more booze!” Fuck, what time was it anyway? He was pretty sure the sun had set by the time he’d started drinking. If he’d been human, he might worry about alcohol poisoning. Good thing he wasn’t. He could drink as much as he liked and not even have a hangover the next morning. Yippie! When he realized no one had answered his summons, Syx growled and pushed up from his chair. Swaying on his feet, he gripped the table to steady himself. When he felt he could walk

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without falling on his face, he went in search of more liquor. Or was it spirits? He never really understood the distinction. It didn’t matter, either, as long as it kept doing its job. He rummaged through the cabinets in the kitchen, getting more pissed off by the minute when he didn’t immediately find what he was looking for. Well, he’d just have to go assault the liquor cabinet in the basement. “Assholes!” he yelled. Who the hell decided to put the booze in the basement? It seemed like a stupid place to him. Stumbling across the kitchen, he tried to reach for the doorknob that would allow him access to the basement, but the damn thing kept moving on him. “Asshole,” he repeated with a slight growl. Stepping away from the door, he lifted his foot and kicked at the thing. Though he landed a solid blow, the door didn’t budge. Syx, however, toppled over backward, whacked the back of his head on the table, and ended up on his back on the kitchen floor. “Motherfucker!” Now, not only didn’t he have tequila, but his head throbbed like crazy. Touching the back of his head where it hurt the worst, he grimaced when his fingers came away sticky with blood. “This is all your fault!” He had no idea who he was blaming, but it made him feel better. “Man, would you shut the hell up?” A blurred face appeared above him, and it took several seconds of concentration for Syx to realize the face belonged to Craze. “Where are my mates?” “Ignoring your belligerent ass, if I had to guess. Let me fix your head.” Craze knelt beside him and began running his hands over the bleeding wound. “Dumbass,” he muttered under his breath. “I heard that.” “Good, because you’re acting like an idiot. What’s gotten into you anyway? It’s three o’clock in the damn morning, and you’re down here banging around and yelling.” “You were up anyway. Why are you complaining?”

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Craze glared but helped Syx to a sitting position. “Jinx and Syn are hungry, but too afraid to leave the attic. Gage is threatening to kick your ass. You’re scaring the shit out of our mates.” “I’m not hurting anyone,” Syx argued. “I’m not having this discussion right now. I’ll explain it to you when you sober up. You’re going to hate yourself in the morning.” Craze grunted as he slung Syx’s arm around his neck and hauled him to his feet. “I don’t get hangovers.” “That’s not what I meant.” “Where are my mates?” Syx asked again, ignoring Craze’s comment. With his brain swimming in tequila, he couldn’t make heads or tails of it anyway. Craze wrapped an arm around Syx’s waist to support him, and led the way out of the kitchen. Syx forgot that he’d asked a question as he concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. “Bed or couch?” Craze asked. “I don’t know!” Syx screamed at him. “I don’t have any answers, okay? Why do I have to make all of the goddamn decisions? Just leave me alone!” His chest heaved by the time he’d finished shouting like a lunatic. Even he could hear the craziness in his voice, but he couldn’t stop himself. “I just want everyone to leave me the fuck alone!” Craze nodded curtly and dropped Syx to the sofa like a sack of potatoes. “Try to sleep, or at least shut up for a while.” Syx couldn’t make his limbs work to stretch out on the cushions, so he just threw his arms over his eyes and grunted. “Go away.” “You’re a prick when you drink.” “Yep, that’s me. Now, leave me alone. I don’t have any answers for you. I don’t have anything left to give. Go fuck your little bloodsuckers, or do you need me to tell you how to do that as well?” “You stupid son of a bi—” “Enough.”

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Syx groaned at Echo’s sharply spoken command. He so didn’t need this shit. “Craze, thank you. Go take care of your mates. We’ll talk tomorrow.” Heavy footsteps thundered across the floor, and Syx had a momentary sense of panic that Craze would hurt Echo. Before he could force his body to move to protect his mate, he heard Craze stomping up the staircase. Relaxing back into the cushions, he sighed. A moment later, he felt his boots being pulled off his feet, and then his legs were lifted to the sofa. Forcing himself to move, Syx groaned as he found a more comfortable position. He lifted his arm away from his face, but didn’t open his eyes. He knew he was being a huge dick, and he couldn’t stand seeing the disappointment in Echo’s eyes. The cushions dipped, and a warm body molded to his chest. His eyes snapped open, and he stared down at the top of Echo’s blond head. “What?” “Hush.” Echo cuddled closer, resting his head on Syx’s shoulder. “Don’t say a word. Just go to sleep.” “Echo, I…” Syx trailed off, unsure of what to say. What could he say? He was wrong, and he knew it. “I said shut up and go to sleep.” Echo rested his hand on Syx’s chest, right over his heart, and sighed. “Goodnight, Syx.” He didn’t deserve this, but he felt too needy to pass up the chance to hold his mate. Draping an arm over Echo’s waist, Syx pulled him close, rested his cheek on the top of his lover’s head, and fell asleep within seconds. The next time he opened his eyes, the sun was spilling in through the window, the house was unnaturally quiet, and he was alone. Resigned to the inevitable ass-chewing he’d get—and knowing he deserved it—Syx went in search of his mates. As predicted, he didn’t have a hangover. His mouth didn’t feel sticky or dry. Nothing about him said he’d spent the night getting

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sloshed and making an ass out of himself. Nothing, that is, except the fact that he was alone. How badly had he screwed up? He’d known it was a bad idea, but damn it, he just wanted to forget for a while. Just one night to escape the constant and unpleasant thoughts inside his head. No one would understand, though. They couldn’t understand. And how did he tell them that they’d contributed to his mini breakdown? No matter how hard he tried, or how many barriers he constructed, his lovers’ thoughts, fears, and doubts slipped into his mind. Maybe it was because he was so connected to them. Maybe it was because he was weak and his shields sucked. Whatever the reason, he was losing his fucking mind. Climbing the stairs, he steeled himself for the confrontation to come. He knew he wouldn’t be lucky enough for everyone to just ignore him and act as though nothing had happened. It just wasn’t the way they did things. Or hell, maybe it was. So much shit had changed so quickly, Syx still felt like he was spinning half the time. He checked Echo’s room first and found it empty, so he moved on to the next. Working his way down the hall, he finally found his mates gathered in Hex’s bedroom. They were all huddled around the bed, talking in hushed whispers. The minute Syx stepped into the room, all conversation ceased. “Good morning,” Echo said hesitantly. His salutation lacked its usual warmth, and there was no cheery smile on his face. “He looks like shit,” Myst thought. “That must have been one hell of a bender.” “We really don’t need him losing his head right now.” Hex eyed Syx uncertainly as his thoughts penetrated Syx’s shields. “What the hell is eating at him anyway? We’re all feeling the stress, but we’re not going to find answers at the bottom of a bottle.” “I wish he would have just came and talked to me. Why isn’t he talking to me?” Vapre’s thoughts held just a hint of sadness.

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“Maybe it’s too much,” Eyce thought. “Maybe he can’t handle it. We shouldn’t have asked so much from him.” “We should probably just leave him alone for a while. He looks like he’s about to fucking lose it. I really don’t want to be on the receiving end of that shit either.” Fiero scooted a little closer to Echo as though Syx would suddenly explode and hurt the man. “Someone should probably say something.” Onyx shifted uncomfortably where he knelt on the floor beside the bed. “He’s looking at us funny. I wonder if he can hear what I’m thinking.” On and on the thoughts pushed at him, each of his men questioning his sanity and his ability to hold up under the strain. One night of drinking, and he was suddenly labeled as a liability. Good to know. “Dude, he’s creeping me out. Why does he keep looking at us like that? It’s not like we don’t have valid concerns.” Myst opened his mouth to speak aloud, but Syx cut him off by doing exactly what they expected. He exploded. “Shut up! All of you, just shut the fuck up! I am not crazy, and I don’t need your sympathy or your concern. If you think you can do this without me, then be my fucking guest!” “Syx,” Echo said softly. “No!” Syx backed toward the doorway. “I’m sorry that I interrupted what must have been a great laugh at my expense.” “It’s not like that.” Echo started to climb down from the bed, but Fiero’s arm wound around him and held him in place. That hurt. The idea that Fiero honestly believed that Syx would do something to hurt any of them, especially the smallest of them, stabbed him right in the heart. “Fuck you,” he whispered, then spun around and marched out of the room. If they thought he was capable of harming Echo, they obviously didn’t know him at all—or had a very low opinion of him. He’d destroyed his sanity, lost sleep, literally made himself sick, and for

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what? Not a damn one of them appreciated the time and effort he put into finding answers to ensure they were all safe. No, now he was the crazy one—a danger to all of them. Well, they could just go screw themselves. He didn’t need them. He didn’t need anyone. They all viewed him as weak because he was the “sensitive” one. Well, not any more. He was a warrior, a demon, and born for battle. He could be just as cold and ruthless as anyone. Echo came running out of Hex’s room, shouting Syx’s name. “Will you just calm down and talk to me?” Stopping just before he entered his room, Syx turned slowly and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m calm. There’s nothing to say, though. Apparently, one screwup, and I’ve been tried and convicted without a word in my defense.” He held his hand up when Echo opened his mouth to argue. “I’m calm,” he repeated. “Syx, it wasn’t like that. We’re just worried about you.” Syx snorted. “I got drunk, Echo. It’s not like I set the house on fire, stripped naked, and danced around it.” “It’s not like you, though.” “And what exactly am I like? Sensitive, understanding, the guy who lets everyone walk all over him because he doesn’t have the balls to stand up for himself?” Syx shook his head. “I’m done being that guy.” He was also done with the conversation. Entering his room, he closed and locked the door right in Echo’s protesting face. “Syx!” Echo pounded on the door. “Open this damn door. I’m not finished talking to you.” Stripping out of his clothes, Syx crawled into bed and closed his eyes. It only took a few minutes for someone to come and lead Echo away. The blissful quiet settled over him, and Syx sighed in relief. Maybe if everyone was pissed at him, they’d keep their distance, and he’d finally be able to find a moment’s peace.

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Chapter Eight
By the time the sun went down, Echo had worked himself up to the point of nausea. He locked himself in his room, refused to eat, and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Syx hadn’t emerged from his room, either. No one could get him to say a word, not even Vapre. The silent treatment was beginning to gnaw at Eyce’s nerves. He could understand why the men were upset, but they were acting like a couple of women. Not that Eyce knew much about women, but they seemed more emotional and prone to tantrums—which is exactly what Syx and Echo were doing. They’d had their feelings hurt, overreacted, and were having themselves a good little pity party. “Still nothing?” Eyce looked over his shoulder at Fiero. He hadn’t even realized he was standing in front of Syx’s door, just staring at the wood. Okay, maybe he wasn’t as immune to the situation as he’d like to believe. It killed him that his men were hurting, and he didn’t know how to fix it. They were still being immature assholes, though. “No, nothing. Should we just kick the door down and drag him out?” Fiero snorted and shook his head. “Yeah, I see that going over well. Maybe we should just leave him alone until he’s calmed down and pulled his head out of his ass.” Though stubbornness played a major factor, Eyce suspected there was more to Syx’s meltdown than they knew. The screaming fit the warrior had when none of them had uttered a word out loud was one

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clue as to Syx’s state of mind. Eyce wasn’t sure what happened after that. Syx had gone quiet and seemed angrier than ever. He’d also looked hurt before walking out of Hex’s bedroom. The fact that he wouldn’t even allow Echo to talk to him spoke volumes. No one could resist Echo no matter how upset they were. “If you’re going to think so loudly would you please do it somewhere else?” Syx yelled through the door, causing Eyce to jump. “Or you could just open the door so I can say it out loud and to your face,” he countered. “Go away.” “You’re acting like a child. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and just talk to us,” Fiero yelled right back. Eyce closed his eyes and groaned. That wasn’t the way to get through to Syx. The harder they pushed, the more the demon retreated into himself. Putting demands on him and calling him names was not the way to get the response they wanted. “I’m not feeling sorry for myself.” Good grief, Syx even sounded whiney. “And I’m not whining!” Eyce couldn’t help but chuckle. He was a little ashamed to admit it, but Syx’s behavior was something he expected from Echo. That didn’t mean he thought Echo was a child or less of a man, but his mate was young, impulsive, and overemotional at times. It was to be expected. A three-thousand-year-old warrior pouting in his room was beyond hilarious. “Syx, just open the door.” Eyce jumped again at Vapre’s softly spoken request. People really needed to stop popping up on him. Couldn’t a man worry in peace? “Not in this house they can’t,” Syx called. “Huh?” Vapre’s eyebrows drew together, and he tilted his head to the side.

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“I think he was commenting to my thoughts, not your verbal request.” Eyce rolled his eyes and pounded on the door. “Just open up, damn it!” To his astonishment, the door swung open almost immediately. Syx stood in the doorway, wearing nothing but a frown. Even pissed off and disheveled, he looked good enough to eat. Eyce swallowed hard and tried to ignore the swelling of his cock. “Don’t think you can sway me with sexual favors,” Syx said haughtily. He turned his nose up and sniffed. “I will not be wooed by hard muscles and throbbing erections.” Eyce grabbed his lover by the hips and jerked him forward, mashing their groins together and grinding against him. “Are you sure about that?” Syx sighed and rested his forehead on Eyce’s shoulder. “Just tell me what you want and go away.” “We want to talk.” Vapre moved around Syx and molded himself to the man’s back. “We’re just worried about you.” “You mean worried that I’ve gone off the deep end and will hurt someone.” “What?” Eyce jerked back and lifted Syx’s face with both hands. “What are you talking about? No one thinks that.” Syx glanced past him to Fiero. “Are you sure about that?” he repeated Eyce’s words from seconds before. “Huh?” Fiero stepped closer and scowled. It appeared Eyce wasn’t the only one confused by the statement. “You held Echo back when he tried to come to me, like you were protecting him. I don’t know what I did to make you think I’d ever lay a finger on him in anger, but I assure you, I wouldn’t.” “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Fiero growled and threw his hands up in the air. It wasn’t the reaction Eyce had expected. He saw this rendezvous going south in a hurry, and opened his mouth to intervene, but Fiero beat him to it.

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“Is that why you’ve been sulking in your room? Dude, you really need to get over yourself. I held Echo back because you didn’t look exactly welcome to contact. It had nothing to do with you hurting him. I was trying to protect you, dumbass!” “You…me…I…” Syx stammered. “You, me, uh, uh,” Fiero mocked. “Yes, you! If you’d bothered to use some of those communication skills you’re so fond of spouting off about, maybe you’d have saved everyone a lot of worry. For a genius, you’re damn thick sometimes.” Syx launched himself at Fiero and attacked his mouth like a starving man. Eyce watched, rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head. No one was reacting the way he thought they would or should. They were confusing the shit out of him. “Thank you,” Syx panted long seconds later. “I love you.” “Uh, okay,” Fiero mumbled, looking completely debauched. “Love you, too.” Syx just laughed and kissed him again. “Now, where’s Echo?” “Hiding in his room,” Vapre answered immediately. “He hasn’t come out since you two argued.” “Great.” Syx sighed as he pushed back into his room and began dressing. “Now I feel like an even bigger asshole. I’ll talk to him.” “I’m thinking you’re the only one he’d listen to right now,” Eyce admitted. “Yep, and it’s my mess. I’ll fix it.” Syx finished buttoning his jeans and pulled a black T-shirt over his head. “Let me talk to Echo, and then we can all have a little powwow where I grovel and beg for forgiveness.” Eyce didn’t know where the sudden attitude shift had come from, but he wasn’t going to question it. As long as Syx was back, Eyce was happy. “So, we’re good now, right?” Syx grabbed Eyce around the back of the neck and crushed their mouths together. “We’re good. I was a dickhead, and I can admit that. Some things are going to have to change, but we’ll talk about it later.”

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He started to walk away, but paused and looked up toward the ceiling. “I need to apologize to Craze, too.” Then he shook his head and hurried down the hall to Echo’s bedroom. “Should we follow him?” Fiero asked. It was obvious the demon wanted to, but he was deferring to Eyce’s judgment. “Let’s give them a minute.” Eyce jerked his thumb in the opposite direction. “Let’s round everyone up and get dinner started.” He looked down the hall and smiled indulgently when he saw Syx slip into Echo’s room. “They’re fine.” Fiero shrugged, but he did look toward Echo’s room in longing. “Then let’s eat. I’m starving.” As Eyce led the way to the staircase, he couldn’t help but wonder which one of them would be the next to crack under the stress. **** “You’ve been saying that for weeks now!” Mac shouted. “I have friends in that damn compound. They don’t deserve what’s happening to them. I can feel it. I dream about it. Why won’t you help them?” The post-makeup-sex smile slid from Echo’s lips as he entered the kitchen with Syx in tow. There hadn’t been many words spoken, but then again, he figured they didn’t need them. They’d both said and done things that they didn’t mean, and there was no reason to drag bad memories to the surface. It seemed that Mac didn’t share his sentiments, though. His friend had a lot to say, and he was saying it very loudly, much to the displeasure of Echo’s mates if the frowns on their faces were any indication. Unfortunately, Mac was right. Even more unfortunate was the fact that Echo was going to have to tell his men that. “He’s right.” All heads snapped toward him, and Echo actually flinched. He wasn’t afraid, but they’d just made up, and he really didn’t want to

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cause another argument. No matter if the residents were part of this war or not, they needed to rescue them. “Can I ask you a question?” Syx spoke softly, without judgment, but Echo had a feeling he wasn’t going to like what the warrior had to say. “I suppose.” “Why is it so important to you that we save these guys?” Echo sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Like Mac said, they’re our friends. If they’re being hurt, it’s most likely because of me. I wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t try to help them.” “What about your first lover?” Vapre asked. “You sent him back to the lab without a backward glance. So, why do you suddenly have a conscience now?” Echo bit his lip as the guilt swamped him. He’d second-guessed his decision from the moment he made it. “C’mere, baby.” Hex scooted back from the table and held his arms open. Echo hesitated for only a moment before climbing up in his mate’s lap and resting his head on Hex’s shoulder. “You think I’m being selfish.” “No.” Hex kissed the top of his head and sighed. “I know he betrayed you and hurt you, but what choice did he have? They’d hurt him, baby. I didn’t get the impression that he’s very strong.” “Hex, you do remember that he tried to kill you in a filthy alley, right?” Echo wanted to growl in frustration. “What if he’s being forced to do those things, though?” “They didn’t beat him.” Echo growled under his breath. “Baby, he was covered in bruises and cuts.” “I didn’t get the impression that they’d beat him to make him help. His thoughts were almost smug when he was pushing them at me.” Here came the hard part. “I lied. Well, not so much lied as just withheld some things, but our relationship was so new at the time.

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Even though he hurt me and tried to hurt you, and I guess he was my friend at one time, and…” “Shh, baby.” Hex pulled him closer and smoothed his palm down Echo’s spine. “Take a deep breath, and just tell me.” “I was afraid if I told you the truth, that you’d hurt him or worse. He was my friend, and I thought I loved him in the beginning. Even if he hurt us, I didn’t want him dead.” Echo took a deep, shaky breath and let it out slowly. “He knew exactly what he was doing, and he was eager to help. He was, or maybe still is, sleeping with the head of security.” No one said anything for a long time, and Echo buried his face in Hex’s neck so he wouldn’t have to see the scrutiny or disappointment in their eyes. “I’m sorry. I was too pissed off at the time to realize it, but I think he wanted me to believe that he was just doing it for candy bars and video games. There was something dark inside his mind, though. I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew we couldn’t trust him. I don’t think anyone forced him to do those things in Spokane, either. There’s something bad going on. I just don’t know what.” “Get Gage,” Hex said quietly. His strong hands never stopped in their stroking, and after a few minutes, Echo began to calm down. “Just breathe, Echo. I’m not upset with you. That is the Echo I fell in love with, and I understand why you didn’t say anything. I got the same impression from him, and it would have been damn hard for you to talk me into helping him, anyway. We’ll get the residents out, and I even promise that we won’t purposely hurt your friend until we find out if he’s acting on his own or being used by someone else.” “He’s not my friend,” Echo stated firmly. “I just don’t want anyone to die if there’s a way around it. He is definitely the enemy, though. I really just want my friends out unharmed.” “I won’t lie and promise you that. We’ll do our best, though.” Echo clung to Hex’s shirt and nodded against his mate’s shoulder. “I know you will. I trust you, big guy. I’m sorry that I lied.”

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“Hush. It’s all over with, and none of it matters anymore. We need to talk to Gage and work out a plan. Do you want to stay?” “Yes. Where is Gage anyway?” Mac and Sony were in the kitchen, and the three were usually inseparable. “Sleeping,” Sony said icily. “Sleep wasn’t exactly easy to come by last night.” “Don’t start,” Echo said just as coldly as he looked up to glare across the table at his friend. “Syx feels bad about what happened, so just drop it.” Sony shook his head. “I wasn’t talking about Syx.” His lips snapped together, and he looked in the opposite direction when Gage entered the kitchen. Echo didn’t know what the big werewolf had done to land himself in hot water, but apparently Echo wasn’t the only one with trouble in paradise. Though the curiosity ate at him, he kept his mouth closed, and didn’t ask the questions that were burning his tongue. It wasn’t any of his business, and if Sony and Mac wanted him to know, they’d tell him when they were ready. “You wanted to talk to me?” Gage didn’t sit at the table or acknowledge his lovers’ presence in any way. He stood in the kitchen doorway, his hands shoved in his pockets, and his head hung like a whipped dog. “What did you do?” Echo closed his eyes and groaned at his outburst. Damn it, he hadn’t meant to say that. It hurt to watch his friends suffering, though. It might not be any of his business, but he wanted to help. He knew from experience just how stubborn alpha males could be. “Echo,” Eyce chided softly from the chair beside Hex. “Not now.” Echo sighed, but winked at Mac when the man giggled. “You see what I have to put up with? I can’t even ask a simple question.” “You talk too much.” Fiero grinned as he said it, though, then turned his attention to Gage. “So, what did you do to land your ass in a sling?”

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“Fiero!” Hex, Eyce, and Syx all yelled in unison. Echo was having a hard time containing his laughter, and Mac was right there with him. Even Sony was biting his lip as he stared resolutely in the opposite direction. “What?” Fiero demanded. “I see what Echo means. A guy can’t even ask a damn question around here.” He waved his hand toward Gage. “The man looks like someone dick-punched him. Sony looks like he wants to shake the person’s hand who did it. Mac’s about to fall off his damn chair from trying not to laugh. I just want to know what happened.” “Did it ever occur to you that it might not be any of your business?” Onyx asked. “No.” Fiero crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head stubbornly. Echo lost it. He fell against Hex’s chest and laughed until he couldn’t breathe. Of course Fiero wouldn’t understand that the world didn’t revolve around him. The demon wanted answers, and he just expected everyone to serve them up hot with a side dish of asskissing. “Gage told Sony that—” That was as far as Mac got before Sony reached over and covered the guy’s mouth with his hand. “Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it.” “Oh, and the plot thickens.” Fiero rubbed his hands together and sat forward in his chair. “So, what did you tell the runt?” He jerked his head from Gage to Sony as though there was no question as to whom he meant. “Nothing,” Gage grumbled. “I said nothing.” “Should I just dig it out of his head?” Syx volunteered. “No!” Sony, Hex, Eyce, and Gage all shouted together, while everyone else yelled in the affirmative. Syx started choking. “You did not!” Gage winced, but nodded. “Well?”

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Syx looked at Echo, back to Gage, then back to Echo again. “Gage told Sony…” “He told me that his ex-boyfriend used to do this thing with his tongue when he was giving Gage head, and asked if I could try it.” Sony glared at Gage for a moment, then flopped back in his chair and averted his eyes. “Oh, wow,” Echo breathed. He didn’t even know what to say to that, but he could definitely understand why Sony was so upset. He hoped to hell his men had more brains than that. “What wrong with that?” Fiero asked. “Don’t you want to know what he likes?” Echo rolled his eyes. Well, there went that theory. “Fiero, sometimes you have all the social sophistication of a bag of rocks.” He looked his mate right in the eye as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table. “My ex-lover did this thing where he swiveled his hips while he was rid—” Fiero jumped up from his chair and snarled. “Shut up! I do not want to hear about you having sex with someone else!” Echo arched an eyebrow and smirked. “Yeah, I get it.” He pointed his finger at Gage. “You’re a bastard, and you should be on your knees groveling.” “Believe me, I’ve tried.” “Well, try harder,” Echo countered. “Would you rather be with your ex?” “No!” Gage roared. “I don’t want anyone else.” Hex chuckled as he combed his fingers through Echo’s hair. “We’ll meet again later. I think you have more important things to do right now.” Gage nodded once, strode across the room, and lifted Sony over his shoulder. He left the room without a word. Sony wasn’t nearly as quiet, though. “Put me down, asshole!” Mac stood from the table and smiled at Echo. “Sony’s not really that mad about it. He just likes the attention.”

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“Oh, I get it.” He winked at his friend and mouthed, “Watch this.” Then he glanced over at Onyx and took a deep breath. “Screw you.” Onyx didn’t even blink, but his voice was deep and commanding. “You know the drill. Upstairs, naked, and make your choices.” “Yes, sir.” Echo hopped out of Hex’s lap and darted out of the room, smiling like an idiot the entire way up the stairs and to the playroom.

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Chapter Nine
“You know he’s playing you, right?” Onyx rose from the table and shrugged. “I know.” “It’s not exactly the same if he asks for it, though.” Onyx cocked his head to the side and smiled. “Why is that? It’s all a game, Eyce. I have no desire to dominate him outside of that room. We can give each other something that we need. I don’t think it really matters how we get there, as long as we’re both on the same page.” “I just…” Eyce trailed off and looked away. How could he tell Onyx that he was feeling a bit jealous? It wasn’t as though he resented the time Echo spent with the warrior, but sometimes he wanted to be the one to give their mate what he needed. However, it seemed Echo turned to him less and less these days. If he made a big deal about it, he looked like an overbearing, jealous idiot. If he said nothing, things would continue on as they were, and it would eventually drive a wedge between them. Either way he lost, and either way, he’d end up the bad guy. “Eyce?” Onyx rested his hip on the table beside Eyce, and looked down at him. “You just what?” “I…just want you to be careful with him. I know you wouldn’t hurt him, but I don’t think he knows his own limits.” “Go.” Eyce jerked his head up to stare at the demon. “What? Go where?” “Go get Echo.” Onyx cupped Eyce’s cheek and smiled. “You’re not fooling anyone. I was right where you are a couple of months ago, and I know how much it sucks. Echo needs you just as much as he

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needs the rest of us, but I know you won’t believe me. So, go get him and talk it out.” Syx shuffled over and bent to kiss Eyce’s cheek. “Don’t let it build up and do something stupid like I did.” “You’re not stupid.” Syx chuckled quietly. “I didn’t say that. Now go.” “I still need someone to play with,” Onyx announced. Myst was the first out of his seat and running out of the kitchen. Fiero and Vapre bolted as well, pushing and shoving at each other in their attempt to be the first through the doorway. “Gentlemen.” Onyx tipped an imaginary hat. “If you’ll excuse me.” Then he swaggered out of the kitchen. “He’s an idiot,” Syx said with a laugh. “Do you think Echo’s going to be disappointed? I mean, he wanted to play with Onyx. I can dominate him, but not the way Onyx can.” Syx smacked him in the back of the head. “Do you really think that little of Echo?” “No. I just don’t want him to be pissed, disappointed, or feel like we’re passing him around like a fucking salt shaker.” “Well, I’m going to be really disappointed if someone doesn’t play with me.” Echo walked into the kitchen stark naked and crossed his arms over his chest. “They kicked me out.” His bottom lip protruded as he glanced down at the rigid cock between his slim thighs. “What am I supposed to do with this now?” Several ideas went through Eyce’s head, but he couldn’t help feel like he’d been set up. Had Onyx told Echo of his worries? Was this simply a pity fuck? “Damn it!” Eyce rubbed the back of his head and glared up at Syx. “Would you stop doing that?” “I will when you stop acting like a moron. I’m hoping if I hit you enough, it will shake loose all the idiotic thoughts in your head.” “Never mind,” Echo whispered. His shoulders slumped, and he hung his head as he turned to leave the kitchen.

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And like the moron Syx accused him of being, Eyce let him go. “Damn it, Syx!” Eyce jumped up from his chair so fast that it fell over and crashed to the floor. “Stop hitting me!” “Stop being a dickhead!” “What the fuck do you want me to do? If he doesn’t want me, I’m not going to force him. I don’t want to be the next best option, either. You and I both know that he wouldn’t be here if Onyx hadn’t sent him.” “Enough.” Hex rose slowly from his chair and motioned for Syx to leave. Syx glared at Eyce for a moment longer, then huffed and stormed out of the room. With the demon gone, Hex turned to Eyce and just stared at him for a long time. “Your mate walked in here with his dick in his hand and his heart on his sleeve…” “He didn’t have sleeves, and his dick wasn’t in his hand,” Eyce argued. He growled when Hex cuffed him in the side of the head. “I’m getting really fucking sick of people slapping me around.” “Well, then I guess you should pull your head out of your ass. Did it ever occur to you that Echo would welcome you in on the little games he likes to play with Onyx? Or did you stop to think that Onyx needs that time with Echo? Did it even cross your mind that not a damn one of us can make Echo do anything he doesn’t want to do?” “I never said that.” It was just like he knew it would be. Now, he was the bad guy. “It’s not like I imagine Onyx could force Echo to want to be with me. I do know that Echo will put everyone else’s needs before his own. He shouldn’t feel like he has to hold my hand and stroke my ego just because the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.” “And why is that? There’s never been any jealousy between us before, so why now?” “I wasn’t jealous that Echo wanted to be with Onyx.” Eyce closed his eyes and sighed. How could he explain it without looking like a

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selfish prick? “This is going to come out all wrong, but I don’t know how else to say it.” “Just tell me,” Hex coaxed. “Echo told me he loved me first.” Oh, that was a great beginning to his explanation. Instead of a selfish asshole, he sounded like a petulant child. “I knew he loved each of you, but he told me first.” Hell, it was just getting worse. Maybe he should shut up. Hex chuckled. “Keep going, babe.” The endearment more than anything gave Eyce the courage to continue. “It’s not like I think I’m better than anyone, but for that little bit of time, Echo came to me when he was hurting, or when he needed something.” “Do you wish he didn’t love the rest of us?” “No!” Eyce shook his head vehemently. “That’s not it at all. I just…” Crap, why was this so hard? “You just…” “I feel like I’m losing him,” Eyce whispered. “He doesn’t need me anymore. He wouldn’t talk to me when he found out that he might be a demigod, but he talked to Gage, and then to Syx. When he discovered how much he likes being dominated, he started turning to Onyx. When he’s scared and needs to feel safe, he goes to you.” “That doesn’t mean—” Eyce held his hand up to cut off Hex’s argument. “Myst makes him laugh. Though I don’t understand it, he seems to like getting under Fiero’s skin and bickering with the dumbass.” He actually laughed at this. It had taken him a little while to figure it out, but it was a game between the pair. “He goes to Syx and Vapre when he wants answers. What the hell does he need me for?” “Maybe just because I love you,” Echo whispered from across the room. Eyce spun around and felt his heart plummet. Echo stood in the kitchen doorway once more with a blanket wrapped around him and

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tears streaming down his soft cheeks. “Echo, I didn’t mean that you don’t love me. I’m sorry if I hurt you.” “Don’t. I really can’t handle your apologies right now.” “Don’t fuck this up,” Hex whispered into Eyce’s ear. Then he kissed his temple and walked across the room. He paused beside Echo, whispered something in his ear as well, kissed the top of his head, and left. “Tell me what to do,” Eyce pleaded. He was desperate to feel close to his mate. He just didn’t know how to accomplish it. Echo wasn’t going to make it easy, either. His mate stood rooted to the spot, just staring at him, as the tears ran from his eyes. The worst of it was that Eyce had no idea what he’d done to hurt Echo so much. “Is that how you really feel?” Eyce frowned. “Like you don’t need me? In way, yes. I’m not saying that you don’t love me,” he reiterated. “You just don’t need me like you do the others.” “You’re wrong.” It took everything in him to not growl in frustration. Echo just wasn’t getting it. It wasn’t that Eyce questioned his mate’s feelings for him. He just didn’t know how to give Echo what he needed. The other warriors seemed to have things well in hand. Echo dropped the blanket to reveal his nude body and held his arms open. “Come here.” Gods save him, but Eyce didn’t even hesitate. He rushed across the room, wrapped Echo up in his arms, and lifted the smaller man off his feet. “Please, tell me what you need. Let me take care of you,” he begged. “I just need you,” Echo whispered thickly. “You’re my peace, Eyce. Everything goes away when I’m with you. You love and need each of us in different ways, right?” Eyce thought it over carefully before he nodded. He needed all of his men like he needed air, but realized that he did seek something

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different from each of them. He was still confused, though. What was Echo trying to tell him? “Oh, love,” Echo sighed. “I always need you. When I sit with you on the couch, lie beside you at night, or even hold your hand at breakfast, those are the times I need you. Don’t you see that?” Though he knew the words were meant to comfort and reassure him, they just made him feel worse. “Then I failed you. I didn’t give you what you needed any of those times.” To his surprise, Echo laughed. “You gave me exactly what I needed. You gave me just a few minutes to feel normal when the entire world was crashing down around us.” It seemed like such a small thing, but Eyce felt his heart lighten that he’d been able to give that to his mate—even if he hadn’t known he was doing it at the time. “I love you, baby.” “I know.” Echo nuzzled against Eyce’s neck for just a moment before pulling back and smirking at him. “There is something that I need from you now, though.” “Anything,” Eyce answered immediately. “I’ll give the moon and stars with a pretty red bow if that’s what you want.” Echo giggled and rubbed their noses together. “Nothing quite that extravagant. I do want to find out why everyone practically trips over themselves to get in the shower with you, though. I’ve showered with you, and I haven’t really seen what the fuss is about or why everyone gets so worked up.” “You’re right.” Eyce always seemed to lose his head when he had Echo naked and under him—or above, in front, or beside him. He couldn’t keep his hands off his mate or his libido in check long enough to show Echo exactly what being a water demon was all about. “Tell me one thing,” he whispered, insecurities creeping into the moment. “If Onyx hadn’t told you that I was down here pouting, would you be here right now?”

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Echo shook his head, and Eyce felt his heart sink. “Onyx didn’t tell me anything. If he hadn’t kicked me out of the room, I’d still be there, though.” Eyce appreciated the honesty, and logically, he knew he had no right to feel hurt by it. He just couldn’t get past the feeling that Echo was settling for him when it was Onyx that he really wanted. “I could still be there if I really wanted to,” Echo said quietly. “I think I’m needed more here, though.” “You don’t have to babysit me because I’m PMSing,” Eyce said gruffly. Echo snorted and rolled his eyes. “Nothing I can say is going to make you happy. So, why don’t you just shut up, kiss me, and then take me upstairs and fuck my brains out?” “I don’t want you to settle for me,” Eyce blurted and immediately wanted to smack himself in the head. “Okay, I didn’t want to play this card, but I’m going to anyway. It’s no secret that I can have any of you whenever and wherever I want.” “I hate to break it to you, but that pretty much goes for everyone. If Fiero wanted me to suck his cock in the middle of the supermarket, I’d do it.” Echo grinned. “We’re going to have to test that theory.” Then he shook his head and became serious again. “Look, if I didn’t want your cock up my ass, I wouldn’t be here. So, can you please stop whining? You’re getting on my nerves.” Eyce still wasn’t totally convinced, but he decided to let it go. He was being an idiot, and he knew it. He had a gorgeous man in his arms, practically begging for him, and he was wasting time by overanalyzing everything to death. “What did Hex say to you?” he asked as he carried his mate out of the kitchen and through the living room. Echo nibbled at the skin on Eyce’s throat. “That we could use his shower.”

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Chapter Ten
He smiled all the way to Hex’s room, but inside, his heart was breaking. How could Eyce doubt that he needed him? Had he done something to make the warrior think that? They’d all been preoccupied lately, but Echo tried to give his men as much attention as possible. Sometimes it was like being a single mom with seven kids. He always had to juggle his time and make sure they each received his individual attention. It was exhausting, but damn worth it. “You still with me?” Echo kept his limbs locked around Eyce and tried to smile. “I’m good.” “No you’re not.” Eyce slowed when they reached the top of the stairs. “I’m going to make it okay, though. I’m sorry I was an idiot, baby.” “No more talking.” Echo tightened his arms around his mate’s neck and pulled himself up to press their lips together. “Show me what I’ve been missing.” Eyce grinned mischievously. “You got it.” He pecked Echo’s nose and set him on his feet inside Hex’s room. “Get the shower started.” When Eyce started stripping out of his clothes, it didn’t even cross Echo’s mind to hesitate. He hurried into the bathroom and chuckled under his breath when he found the shower already running. Hex would be getting a big thank-you later. Sliding back the glass door, Echo stepped inside the large shower stall and sighed happily as the warm water beat against him from not only the shower head but the six jets embedded in the tiles. Gods, he

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loved Hex’s shower. Grabbing the liquid soap, he washed quickly before moving on to his hair. By the time Eyce stepped into the shower behind him, Echo was squeaky clean and panting with anticipation. He kept his back to Eyce, his body thrumming with arousal as he eagerly waited for his mate’s touch. The corners of his lips turned down in a confused frown when it never came. “Uh, Eyce?” “Quiet.” Echo gulped audibly at the husky quality of Eyce’s voice. Instead of answering verbally, he bobbed his head in understanding. When his lover still didn’t reach for him, Echo started to turn around, but a large hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Do. Not. Move.” Eyce sounded as though he was holding on to his control by a thread, and it only ratcheted Echo’s lust higher. The heat from Eyce’s hand disappeared, and Echo whimpered in protest. His cock jutted from his groin, throbbing painfully and flexing with each beat of his thundering heart. His balls were already drawn tight, aching for release. His skin tingled, his hole clenched and relaxed, and his muscles quivered with need. “Please,” he sobbed. “Quiet,” Eyce demanded again. So Echo snapped his lips together and dropped his head submissively. He’d do whatever his lover wanted if Eyce would just touch him. Instead of the feel of his mate’s strong hands on his skin, though, something began to happen with the water. The jets no longer pulsed, but seemed to flow out in a steady stream to swirl around his body. Echo gasped, but otherwise said nothing. Water wound around his wrists like liquid ropes, lifting his arms and pressing his palms flat against the tiles in front of him. The same happened with his ankles, the water spreading his legs wide until the sides of his feet rested against either wall. “Eyce!” A wave of water smacked against his ass hard enough to sting, and Echo bit his lip and groaned. It was beyond anything he’d

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ever experienced. He was already fighting back his orgasm, and Eyce hadn’t even touched him yet. When those hot, rough palms finally smoothed over his upturned ass, Echo thought he’d blow then and there. Water trickled down his crease, and his cheeks separated as though held by soft, wet fingers. The snick of a bottle cap reached his ears over the pounding of his heart and the roar of the shower. Eyce’s slick finger found his fluttering opening and caressed it lightly as he skimmed his lips along the back of Echo’s neck. “Have I told you how beautiful you are?” “Men aren’t beautiful,” Echo panted. “I’m ruggedly handsome.” Eyce chuckled. “Beautiful.” Then he cut off any protest Echo might have had by pushing the lubed finger through the guarding ring of muscle and pumping into Echo’s ass. Groaning at the welcome invasion, Echo struggled to remember how to breathe. The water licked down his chest, stroking his skin like a lover, then swirled around his cock. The touch was light, too light, but it sent Echo’s pulse racing to dangerous speeds. The water trickled lower, forming a mini whirlpool around his aching sac and squeezing it gently. “Please, please,” he whimpered. A second finger breached his needy hole as Eyce’s lips continued their assault down Echo’s neck and across his shoulders. Two fingers became three, and Eyce sawed the digits in and out of Echo’s ass a few more times before he finally pulled them free. Echo didn’t even have time to bemoan the loss before another whirl of water looped around his waist and lifted his feet from the shower floor. A blunt pressure nudged at his back door, and Echo cried out when Eyce thrust home, impaling Echo on his thick cock all the way to the root. Eyce didn’t pause, hesitate, or start out slowly. He gripped Echo’s hips, jerking him backward as he slammed into Echo’s passage in a hard, demanding tempo.

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His mate grunted and growled, his sharp teeth grazed down the side of Echo’s neck, and Echo’s entire world centered around the throbbing cock plunging into his hole with a reckless abandon. The fire started in Echo’s belly, spreading quickly until it engulfed his entire body. Little electrical pulses chased each other along his spine, and his head began to swim with the need to come. He never wanted the intense pleasure to stop, but honestly didn’t know how much more he could take. Echo felt like he was being consumed by the overload of erotic sensations. Just when he thought it couldn’t get any better, the swirling water around his rigid cock increased in speed, and the whirlpool around his balls flicked against his perineum. Wet warmth slithered up his back, over his neck, and through his hair. Then his head was jerked back on his shoulders and tilted to one side just as Eyce roared loud enough to shake the glass door. His mate’s pointed canines pierced the side of his neck, sinking in deep, and Echo went stiff as he screamed over and over until his voice sounded raw and scratchy. Scorching lava splashed against his inner walls at the same moment his own release rocketed up his shaft and exploded from his cock. When he could finally think again, he found himself in Eyce’s arms as the demon stepped out of the shower. His lover sat him on the counter beside the sink and began drying him with a soft, fluffy towel. Echo didn’t think he could move if his life depended on it. His brain felt mushy, and he doubted he could string two words together. “I take it you enjoyed yourself?” Eyce sounded smug. Echo grunted in response. Damn, he couldn’t even make his neck muscles work to nod. Eyce chuckled and swooped Echo up into his arms, mashing their mouths together in a passionate kiss. “Maybe next time we can all play with our powers.” Echo swallowed hard. There was no way he’d be able to survive it, but that wouldn’t stop him from stepping up to the challenge.

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**** “I’ve told you everything I know.” Gage slammed his fist against the tabletop and growled. “We’re not saying you’re lying. We just want to ask you some questions. Maybe you can remember something more. That’s all.” Syx spoke soothingly, trying to placate the agitated werewolf. It didn’t work, but Gage did calm almost immediately when Mac started rubbing his arm and cooing to him. “We have to help them, Gage. I’m getting really scared for my friends.” Gage kissed Mac’s forehead and nodded before looking up at Syx again. “I’ll answer anything I can, but I swear I didn’t have a high enough security clearance to know all the ins and outs of the place.” “That’s okay. What we really want is some information on the head of security.” Gage made a face and glanced at Sony out of the corner of his eye. The thought, “We were lovers,” flashed through his mind, and Syx winced as well. He caught Gage’s attention and gave him a meaningful look that said he would tread carefully around the subject. The ex-guard nodded his thanks and sat up straighter in his seat. “What exactly do you want to know about him?” “Did he ever have relationships with the residents?” This was apparently the wrong question to start off with because Gage flinched. He nodded, though, so Syx continued. “Were they consensual relationships?” “Yes. He never forced himself on anyone, not that I know of anyway.” “What about One-seventeen?” Syx glanced at Echo as he said it, but the man looked like he was half-asleep where he curled in Eyce’s lap. Syx was glad that the two had been able to work out their problems. He didn’t like his men fighting amongst themselves any more than he liked being in the middle of an argument.

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“Yes,” Gage answered immediately. “Though Marcus didn’t call him by his number.” “Marcus? Is that the head of security?” When Gage only nodded, Syx continued. “So, what did he call him?” It wasn’t really important, but Syx could admit he was curious. “Peter.” “Huh?” Syx’s brow wrinkled in confusion. The name sounded so normal. “Peter had a life before he came to the lab. I don’t know all the details, but I do know he was treated better than most of the residents.” Syx looked to Mac and Sony for confirmation. “Yes,” Sony answered. “Sometimes it was more like he was one of the orderlies or doctors than a prisoner like the rest of us.” “He’s the one that always talked them into letting me out of the capsule,” Echo added softly. “I didn’t understand why they would listen to him, but I was just grateful to be free of the dark.” “Shh, baby.” Eyce squeezed Echo tighter and rocked him from side to side. “That’s all over with, and you’ll never have to go back there.” Echo rolled his eyes, but settled back into Eyce’s embrace. “I’m fine, love. I was just explaining.” Syx had a suspicious feeling about Peter, but he needed more information before he could confirm it. “Okay, if he was banging the head of security, why was he getting his ass kicked? He’d been beaten black and blue when he showed up here.” “I never saw him beaten at the lab.” “I did once,” Echo spoke up. “I guess that guard guy had hit him, but he seemed really pleased about it. He said something about control. I thought maybe he was just into really rough, kinky sex. We’d stopped sleeping together by then, and I didn’t see him very often. I tried talking to him about it, but he’d either change the subject or leave.”

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Syx thought back to when he’d first met the man just inside the woods behind their house. “Hex asked him if they’d threatened him to get his cooperation.” “He said no,” Hex supplied. “I thought it was kind of weird considering that he was covered in bruises.” “He was telling the truth, though.” Syx closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples as he tried to remember. He’d been worked up at the time, half shifted, and his only concern had been for Echo’s safety. “That was the last thing I got from him. I remember you asked him some other questions, but his mind was completely blank.” “You think he knew that you could read his mind,” Vapre surmised. “He was keeping his mind blank on purpose.” “Yes.” Syx felt like he was missing something—like he was on the edge of some great revelation, but he just couldn’t quite grasp it. “Gage, did Marcus ever talk about his relationship with Peter?” “Not often. He came to my room one night, though. His knuckles were bruised and swollen, and he was freaking out because he couldn’t remember how they’d gotten that way. He was afraid one of the doctors was messing with his mind.” “Did he say that?” “He said the doc wouldn’t let him go. I was fired about two weeks later, so I never found out what he meant by that. After that night, he avoided me like the plague.” “Who gave you your walking papers?” “Marcus. He was frantic for me to leave. I got the distinct impression that he was supposed to terminate more than my employment.” “When did you meet Marcus?” “We went to high school together,” Gage whispered. “I’ve known him most of my life. He’s the one that brought me on as part of his team at the compound. When he was hustling my ass out the door, he kept apologizing over and over. I don’t think he knew what he was getting us into when he accepted the position.”

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“So, he’s still there?” If they’d been such good friends, Syx wondered why Gage hadn’t wanted to rescue the man when they’d gone after Sony and Mac. “No.” Gage shook his head. “He got me out of the compound, but he wouldn’t come with me. He did tell me about them moving the facility, though. I didn’t think he knew about Sony and Mac, but that’s the only reason I can think that he’d say anything.” “So, how do you know he didn’t go back to the lab?” Syx didn’t think Gage was lying to him, but he needed to cover all his bases. “They killed him. He got me to my truck and outside the gates.” Gage jerked a thumb toward the front of the house, indicating the pickup parked out in the driveway. “He told me how to find you. I had no idea why he was telling me this at the time, but thinking back on it, he had to have known what Sony and Mac were to me. I begged him to come with me, but he wouldn’t listen. I watched them gun him down in my rearview mirror.” “Oh, Gage,” Mac breathed. “Why didn’t you tell us?” “Are we finished here?” Gage asked in a subdued voice. Syx felt like the world’s biggest prick for making the man relive his pain. The justification that he hadn’t known didn’t seem like a very good excuse, either. Still, he had one more question. “Was Marcus a werewolf?” “Yes.” “We’re done.” Syx sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, man.” Gage waved him away. “It’s not your fault. I hope I told you something that might help. I’m sorry it’s not more.” He stood and motioned for his mates to join him. “It’s actually a lot. I don’t think Peter was a resident,” Syx confessed. “You think he was a doctor.” Gage nodded. “I was beginning to wonder the same thing. If you think of something else, I’ll be in my room.” He took Mac’s hand and led him to the kitchen entryway.

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Mac stopped just before they stepped over the threshold and turned to address the room. “Are we still going to help them?” All eyes turned to Hex. Syx was damn grateful that he wasn’t the one who’d have to make the decision. Hex sighed and rubbed at the back of his neck. Then he looked up and met Echo’s eyes across the table. They just stared at each other for a long time, and Syx resisted the urge to pop into their heads and listen. Finally, Hex turned his attention to Mac and nodded once. “We’ll leave after the full moon.” “When is that?” Echo asked around a yawn. “Day after tomorrow.” Echo nodded. “What are we going to do with everyone, though?” “How many are there?” Syx asked Gage. “Not including Mac, Sony, Jet, Pax, Echo, or Peter, there were twelve by my last count.” “We don’t have enough room to house them here.” Syx growled in frustration. “What about Lorcan?” Fiero asked, speaking for the first time since the meeting began. “Maybe some of his pack can take them in until we can either find where they came from or get them on their feet.” “I’ll make the call,” Hex said. “We need to try to come up with an alternative in case Lorcan isn’t open to the idea, though.” “Uh, guys?” Everyone turned to look at Onyx. “You know I have your back and all, but I don’t think we can leave in two days.” “Why not?” Mac demanded. “We have no idea where this place is,” Onyx answered simply. “It’s going to be kind of hard to rescue your friends if we don’t know where they are.” “Okay, so do we think Ares is running this lab and stealing money from us?” Myst questioned. “Or are we back to thinking this is some kind of government thing?”

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Syx wanted to scream and bang his head against the wall. “I just don’t know anymore. I don’t know anything.” Damn, he was so confused, he didn’t know whether to scratch his watch or wind his butt. “Let me try to trace the money that went missing. It might give us some idea as to how Echo’s old lover fits into all of this as well.” Vapre rose from his chair and walked around the table to enfold Syx in his arms. “Tomorrow. You need to get some sleep. First thing tomorrow, I’ll help you sift through documents until either our eyes bleed or we find something. Deal?” Syx melted into his lover’s embrace and groaned. “Deal.”

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Chapter Eleven
This was a very strange dream. When Echo met with his mother in his dreams, it was most always in Elysium. Now, he sat in what appeared to be an office. Floor to ceiling bookshelves were built into two of the walls and lined with thousands upon thousands of books. The squishy armchair he perched in smelled of new leather, and the cherry oak desk in front of him gleamed in the bright light that spilled through the bay windows. The man sitting behind the desk was so beautiful it hurt to look at him. His pale blond hair fanned around his face, his bronzed skin seemed to glow, and his eyes were the most magnificent shade of blue. Who the hell was he, though? There was only one way to find out, so Echo just blurted it out. “Who are you?” The man chuckled, a musical sound that brought joy and peace to Echo’s heart. “Straight to the issue, I see. I am the Titan, Helios.” He waved a hand around the room. “This is my home.” “Um, well, thank you for having me in your home, but why am I here?” “I wished to speak with you in private.” “Is Athena here?” Helios shook his head. “Your mother has other matters to attend to, but you will see her soon.” Echo bit his lip and nodded. Where his mother seemed evasive during their meetings, Helios seemed extremely straightforward. Echo had no idea why he’d been summoned by the Titan, but if he played his cards right, maybe he’d finally get some answers.

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“I’m sorry that we have not spoken sooner, but time is very different here than it is in your world. It was only a few months here before I learned of your disappearance. I believe several years have passed in the mortal realm, correct?” Echo bobbed his head again. “Are you my father?” he blurted before he could think better of it. “Yes.” He held his hand up to halt Echo’s next question. “I cannot give you all the answers, Aaron.” “Echo. My name is Echo.” “Very well, Echo.” “Why can’t you just give me answers?” Echo was so tired of everyone playing with him. If they could drop hints and give him partial answers, why couldn’t they just make all his problems disappear? Wasn’t that what parents were supposed to do? “It would be cheating.” Helios smirked. “Your fight with Ares is your own. You already have the weapons to beat him, to offer more would be to tip the scales. Altering destiny—” “Demands sacrifice,” Echo mumbled, interrupting the man. “I know. So, why am I here?” Where the hell did the Titan’s sense of fair play come from? Ares certainly didn’t fight fair, so why did Helios insist that Echo did? Left to him, Echo would use every dirty trick in the book to defeat Ares. “Athena has been forbidden to speak of any aspects of your life. Zeus does not rule me, however, and he can kiss my ass. Besides, what I have to tell you does not correlate to this skirmish with Ares.” Echo snorted. “He’s tried to kill me several times and actually succeeded once. I’d call that a little more than a skirmish.” “And by his rash actions has made you a stronger, more formidable enemy. Do not mourn the loss of your mortal life.” “Wasn’t I already immortal? I mean, I have a goddess and a Titan as parents.” “Very astute. However, we are only immortal within the realm of the gods.”

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Echo sat up a little straighter. “So, I lost my immortality when I was sent to live on Earth.” The wheels turned and his neurons snapped. “So…that means that Ares’s status as a god means nothing on Earth. He can be killed.” Helios smiled crookedly and dipped his head. “You are so very much like your mother. Your wisdom far surpasses your years.” “I’m not so wise.” Echo wrinkled his nose and settled back in his chair. “Can you tell me why I was sent away?” “No. That is for you to learn.” “I don’t understand,” Echo admitted. “If you are not bound by the laws of Zeus, why can’t you tell me?” “Technically, I can tell you. Think of it like learning to ride a bicycle. You can watch someone do it a thousand times, but it still will not prepare you for that first ride.” Echo thought over the words for a long time, but still couldn’t make sense of them. He’d have to ask Syx about it later. His mate always had a way of explaining things for Echo to understand. “Okay, so what can you tell me? There’s obviously a reason I’m here. And if you found out months ago that I’d disappeared, why are you just now contacting me?” “Your mother has asked for my help. I know it may seem cruel and callous to you, but I do not love your mother. She bargained with me for a child, and here you are. Once my part of the deal was cemented, I gave either of you little thought. Athena, however, does love you. She came to me once more and bargained for my help.” It was on the tip of his tongue to ask what bargain they’d made, but then Echo decided he really didn’t want to know. “Why you?” “Only someone of your blood can summon you to Olympus. Athena is bound by the sacrifices she made, which prevent her from calling you home.” “This is not my home,” Echo spat. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, I’m not dreaming, am I?”

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“No, you are not dreaming. How you came to be here is not important. Athena chose me to father you so that you might be the light to combat the darkness.” Echo held up his hand in a “stop” gesture. “I’ve always had powers, but I wasn’t able to produce light until I became a daemon. Why is that?” “Though no longer immortal, you still maintained some of your powers on Earth. You’ve always had the light within you, but since you were no longer a god, the power was dimmed and hidden away. Daemons are essentially ghosts, unable to die by even the hands of a god. They walk between realms since that is their purpose. They are protectors and the epitome of immortality. Once your immortal status was restored, your powers began to resurface.” “When my mates claimed me, they said I was immortal then.” It wasn’t a question, but Echo wasn’t sure how to phrase it. “There is much your demons do not know.” Echo waited for more, but when Helios didn’t elaborate, he probed further. “So, I wasn’t immortal before I died? And is it true that I have to drink from them to maintain my corporeal form?” Helios stared at him for a long time as though judging how much he should divulge. “You were immortal, but bound to creatures of the darkness. Your light could not shine. You require blood from an immortal to maintain a physical form, but not necessarily from your mates.” Rubbing at his temples, Echo tried to make sense to it all, but he was growing more confused by the second. “I’m still bound to them, though. None of this is making sense to me.” “You are bound to them, but they are no longer servants of Hades.” “I kind of imagine they stopped serving Hades when they escaped the Underworld.” “Then you would be wrong.” “So, what changed?”

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“You.” Echo threw his hands up in frustration. “You are worse than Athena. She doesn’t answer anything, and you give me only enough to make me want more. Is there a point to this conversation?” To his surprise, Helios began to chuckle. “You would have made a fierce warrior, my son. I require a favor from you.” Echo’s brows drew together and he frowned. “I thought Athena wanted you to speak to me?” “She did, but I only agreed because there is something I desire from you.” He shrugged as if this were only natural and Echo should have expected it. “What’s the favor?” Instead of answering, Helios produced a small, glowing orb from his pocket and handed it across the table to Echo. Though hesitantly, Echo reached out for the globe, shocked to find it cool to the touch. He’d expected it to burn him with how brightly it shined. It looked kind of like a tiny sun contained within a crystal ball. “Okay, so what do I do with this?” “Use it to destroy the Protector.” “Uh, who is that, and why am I destroying him?” “Demigods are not permitted to live on Olympus. Luckily, most have human parents who are able to care for them. Those who are orphaned are sent to live under the care of the Protector. He was granted gifts from the gods, including immortality, in exchange for his service.” “Okay, you’ve lost me again. You said that gods can’t maintain their immortality on Earth, but this Protector guy can. My mates are immortal. Something isn’t adding up.” Helios linked his fingers together on the desk and sighed. “The demons were forged, not born, and therefore retain no souls. Hades has little use for the vessel in which a soul is housed. It is the soul itself that is called to the Underworld.” “So, this Protector has no soul?”

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“Correct.” “Do gods have souls? I mean, if what you’re saying is true, how can gods be immortal? How am I immortal?” “You ask a lot of questions.” The Titan didn’t sound like that was exactly a good thing, either. Then he shook his head and chuckled. “You cast off your mortal shell when your life was taken. You are now purely a soul. A soul cannot die. Hades can call you to the Underworld, but he won’t. Only the virtuous become daemons. Hades has little use for the righteous.” “What about the gods?” “The gods are all powerful. We were not meant to live among mortals. To live among humans is either a punishment or a choice. Some gods may choose to give up their immortality to live life on Earth. Others have been stripped of their immortality and banished from Olympus.” “Well, I wasn’t given a choice, so I guess that means I was banished.” Echo wasn’t sure how he felt about the information. Nothing about this conversation was helpful. He had more questions than ever, and Helios’s explanations left much to be desired. Maybe he was being difficult, but he still didn’t understand how living on Earth would make a god mortal. After several minutes of silence, Echo eventually waved his hand around and huffed. “I don’t understand any of this. I feel like you’re just talking in circles. Why don’t you just tell me what you want and let me go home?” “I want you to destroy the Protector.” “And who is that?” “You know him. Think, boy. Do you believe your mother would send you to earth with no one to watch over you?” Echo’s eyes widened, and he almost dropped the little ball in his hand. He clutched it tight and brought it to his chest. “Who is he?” Helios looked at him across the desk, and Echo saw a great sadness in the Titan’s eyes. “His mother was the only woman that I

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ever truly loved. She died many years ago as mortals do. He was all I had left of her, but as a mortal, I could not bring him to Olympus. I persuaded Zeus to grant him immortality in exchange for his soul and allow him to protect the demi-gods.” “Wait. If Peter is your son, wouldn’t that make him a demi-god as well?” If Peter was the son of Helios, and Helios was also Echo’s dad, then that meant… Echo’s stomach churned, and his heart did its best to crack his sternum as it thundered inside his chest. The things he’d done with Peter slithered through his mind like a disease. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t known at the time. Oh, gods, he was a sick freak. “Peter is not my son—not by blood anyway. I granted him powers that no mortal should ever possess, but I did not father him.” Helios sounded as though the words hurt to say. The relief that slammed into Echo, though, was so overpowering that he slumped back in his chair and had to close his eyes for a moment to regain some of his composure. Oh, thank the gods. Before he could ask any more questions, Echo found himself standing in the field behind his home. Part of him was grateful to be away from the man who had fathered him. Another part of him was hurt that the Titan obviously didn’t want him. A tiny piece of him was sorry he’d ever met Helios. Mostly, he was just happy to be home. He had so much to tell his mates and prayed that Syx and Vapre could make heads or tails of it. Running across the field, he bounded up the steps and hurried in through the kitchen. He’d only been gone an hour or so, but he missed his men and knew they’d be worried out of their minds if they realized he was missing. “Guys! Where is everyone?” He tucked the glowing orb into his pocket and started across the kitchen. He pulled up short, though, when Fiero came barreling into the room.

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Every ounce of blood drained for the warrior’s face as he stared at Echo. Then he dropped to his knees right there in the doorway and began gasping for breath. Rushing across the room, Echo knelt in front of his mate and began stroking Fiero’s cheeks. “Breathe, big guy, just breathe.” The other demons rushed into the kitchen and stood there, staring down at Echo as though he’d grown a second head. “What is wrong with you guys? I realize that you were worried, but I wasn’t gone that long.” Eyce fell to the floor beside Echo and crushed him to his heaving chest. The rest gathered on the tiles with them, all wrapping their arms around Echo, Eyce, and each other. They stayed that way for a long time, all breathing heavily and not saying a word. Myst looked like he was trying damn hard not to cry. Hex had a crazy look in his eyes that scared the shit out of Echo. “Guys, seriously, I was gone for an hour. I’m sorry that you were worried, but you’re freaking me out.” Eyce’s fingers gripped the back of Echo’s neck and pulled him into a kiss that could only be described as desperate. The kiss went on forever, and when the warrior finally disengaged from Echo’s lips, a deep growl rumbled in his chest. “Where have you been?” “In a meeting,” Echo said with a sly smirk. “I have a lot of stuff to talk to you about.” He reached up and stroked Eyce’s cheek when the man continued to growl. “I’m perfectly fine, love.” “Echo?” Glancing up, Echo found Mac standing in the doorway with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Hey, Mac.” “You’re back,” his friend breathed. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.” Echo rolled his eyes. “What the hell has gotten into everyone? I haven’t been gone that long.” Then he suddenly remembered Helios telling him that time worked differently where the gods lived. “Have I?”

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Mac’s eyes widened, and he looked between Echo’s mates before he swallowed hard and bobbed his head. “You’ve been gone for over two months. The equinox is in two weeks.”

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Chapter Twelve
Eyce refused to let go of Echo. He knew his other mates needed to hold the smaller man and assure themselves that he was fine, but he just couldn’t let go. He carried Echo to the living room and perched his lover in his lap, keeping him crushed in his arms. He still couldn’t breathe properly. For nine weeks, he’d done nothing but think of Echo and search for the man. They’d all lost weight. None of them had been interested in eating. They rarely slept. They’d scoured every inch of the woods and any other place they could think to look for their missing mate. They’d dredged up every old contact, had anyone at their disposal looking for Echo, but it was as though he’d vanished into thin air. “Gods, I’ve missed you,” Onyx breathed as he sat beside Echo and buried his face in Echo’s neck. His massive shoulders shook, and Eyce wrapped one arm around him while holding tight to Echo with the other. The other demons moved closer to them, all touching and stroking any part of Echo they could reach. Fiero’s arms wrapped around Echo’s waist and pulled him out of Eyce’s arm. Eyce had to bite back the hysteria that bubbled inside him at being separated from his mate again. “I love you,” Fiero whispered raggedly. He repeated the words again and again, petting Echo’s hair with trembling fingers. Echo looked shaken and pale, but not nearly as upset at the rest of them. If Eyce had to guess, he figured their reaction to his return was what was making Echo so nervous. Trying to calm himself and be strong for his lover, Eyce took several deep breaths before he spoke.

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“Echo, can you tell us where you went?” “I don’t know where I was exactly, but I think it was Olympus. He said that time was different in the immortal realm.” “Who?” Hex growled. “Helios. I guess he summoned me there. I really don’t know. I thought I was dreaming.” “But…” Syx trailed off and looked to Vapre. The two exchanged some kind of silent communication, and Vapre eventually nodded. “Only those of your blood can summon you to Olympus against your will.” “Yep.” Echo nodded, but he didn’t look very happy about it. “You were right. Helios is my sperm donor.” “Your father is a Titan?” Myst sounded properly impressed. Echo growled, though. “He is not my father. To hear him tell it, I’m merely the byproduct of a bargain made with my mother.” He took a deep breath and seemed to regain some composure. “I did get some information out of him, and I have a lot to tell you.” “It can wait,” Syx said immediately. “Just let us hold you for a while.” Echo smiled but shook his head. “We only have two weeks until the equinox. Unfortunately, there’s not much time.” “Not time for what?” “We have to rescue the residents from the lab, and it needs to happen before we face Ares. Have you found out where the compound is located?” Vapre shook his head. “We haven’t done anything but look for you since you disappeared.” Echo’s eyes softened, and he reached out to cup Vapre’s jaw. “I’m okay, my love. I’m so sorry you were worried about me, but I’m back. We need to focus now. There’s not much time.” “Can we just sleep and talk about it in the morning?” Myst moved to the floor and rested his head in Echo’s lap. “Please? I can’t even think right now.”

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Echo combed his fingers through Myst’s hair and sighed. “I suppose a few more hours won’t hurt.” Eyce rose from the sofa and motioned for Hex, Onyx, and Vapre to follow him. It didn’t take long for them to gather blankets and pillows from their rooms and bring them downstairs to pile in the middle of the floor. “Good thinking,” Echo approved. “I need all of you tonight.” Eyce nodded but couldn’t form words around the lump in his throat. Echo might need them, but not nearly as much as they needed him. **** Pacing the floor inside the office, Syx listened to Echo recount the conversation he’d had with his father without interruption. When Echo finally ran down, he slumped back on the sofa and sighed. “So, that’s it. I don’t understand what half of it means, and I have so many questions.” Syx stopped pacing and leaned against the desk. “Let’s see if we can answer your questions first, then we’ll go from there.” After being apart from his mate for so long, Syx had the uncontrollable desire to give Echo anything he wanted. “I’m so glad you said that.” Echo flashed him a smile, and Syx thought he’d melt into a big pile of goo right there on the desk. “I don’t get this soul thing. How is it that some people are immortal and others aren’t? It doesn’t make any sense to me.” “When we escaped the Underworld, we had no souls.” This was one of the easier questions for Syx to answer. “We were immortal because Hades couldn’t recall our souls.” “Then why did the prophecy say that you’d have to go back to Hades if we lost this war?” Syx smirked. “I didn’t understand that for a long time, either, but I get it now. As creatures of the darkness, we were empty shells. Once

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we let the light in, we earned our souls and the right to live among the righteous.” “What light? Huh?” Echo tilted his head, looking too damn cute. “You, sweetheart. You taught us to love, pushed our moral compass a little closer to north. To put it simply, you saved us.” Echo snorted. “I didn’t do anything but give Hades another weapon against you.” He chewed on his lip for a minute before he finally nodded. “Okay, fine. If I can accept the fact that I’m now some kind of spirit, I guess I can accept that you suddenly have a soul. What about me, though? I’m still confused about that. And if you have a soul now, does that mean that you’re no longer immortal?” “Helios is correct that you are immortal. By being bound to us, that guaranteed it, but as we had no souls, your light couldn’t penetrate the darkness.” “Okay.” Echo waved his hand around. “What about you being immortal now?” “I think so.” Syx bobbed his head slowly. “We are bound to you.” “You think?” Echo yelped. “So, you don’t know for sure?” “Echo, calm down. There’s a reason we’re all together. Just trust in that.” Echo calmed a little. “So, is that the thing that’s going on with your eyes? I mean, is that why they changed colors?” Syx nodded. “Our eyes swirled with infinite color because we were nothing more than a void. When you opened us to the light, the color of our eyes reflected the changes within us.” Echo smirked. “So, Myst has a purple soul? Oh, I can’t wait to tell him.” He paused for a minute to think through his next question. “Okay, so what did Helios mean about riding a bicycle?” “Remember when you said that the answers wouldn’t be nearly as important if they weren’t discovered on our own?” “What does that have to do with a fucking bicycle?” Syx bit his tongue to keep from laughing. “You can learn the basic mechanics of riding a bicycle by watching someone else do it. Until

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you touch it, sit on top of it, learn to balance your weight, you can’t hope to ride it on your own, though.” “You are just as confusing as everyone else.” Echo crossed his arms over his chest and huffed. “I just feel like I’m being made to suffer.” “That’s kind of it. You won’t appreciate the good times unless you suffer through the bad.” “That’s bullshit. Why can’t everything just be the way I want it?” “If there was nothing wrong in the world, then there would be nothing right.” “Did you just quote Shinedown lyrics?” Fiero asked as he stepped into the room. “Who the hell is that?” Fiero gasped and clutched his chest as though he’d been wounded. “You did not seriously ask me that. We need to educate you in fine music, babe.” “Anyway,” Echo said loudly and cleared his throat. “So, who’s this Protector, and what am I supposed to do with this?” He pulled the little ball of light from his pocket and held it up for them to inspect. “I believe Helios’s Protector is your Peter.” “He’s not my anything,” Echo spat. “If he’s so bad, why was I sent to him?” “I don’t think he was always bad, love.” Syx pinched the bridge of his nose as he thought of how to explain it. “Even with the powers from the gods, Peter is still mostly human, ruled by greed and hungry for power.” “I don’t think that’s a trait unique to humans.” Echo tossed the ball in the air and caught it in his palm. “So, he was supposed to protect me until…whatever happened.” “Until you were ready to find us. That would be my guess.” “You guys make my head hurt.” Fiero turned and walked back out the door. “I’ll bring food,” he called over his shoulder.

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Echo laughed. “I’m glad things haven’t changed since I was gone.” Then he became serious again. “Okay, so how do I use this to defeat him?” “I have a feeling you’ll know when the time comes.” “You know he’s connected to Ares somehow, right?” Syx nodded. “I’m not too concerned, however. I think Ares was merely using him to get to you. I still think it was Ares, or at least his idea to take the money from our accounts. It’s exactly the type of game he’d play.” “So, why can’t the gods just kill Peter? Or take away his gifts?” “I don’t know why they can’t take back his immortality, but it is forbidden for the gods to kill a mortal.” “Ares killed me,” Echo argued. “And we haven’t seen or heard from him since Hex’s test. I’m sure he was severely punished.” “I hope so.” “Now, we just have to figure out where he is.” Syx growled in frustration. “Gage said they were moving the facility to the Olympic Peninsula, right?” Syx nodded. “Then I suggest we start looking near Mount Olympus. If Peter is so hungry for power, then I have a feeling that he wants to be more than just a half-god. It seems fitting that he’d want to rule Olympus.” “You are a freakin’ genius, Echo!” Syx couldn’t contain his excitement. “I need to talk to Vapre.” Echo pushed up from the sofa and sauntered across the room to give Syx a deep kiss. “I’ll go help Fiero get us something to eat. Find Vapre and be brilliant.” “If we can pinpoint his location, we need to move fast.” Syx hated bringing Echo into more danger, but they’d need his help. He wasn’t too proud to admit it, either.

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“I’ll be ready to roll the minute you give me the word. I think we should bring Gage and Craze along as well. Maybe we can get Lorcan to babysit again.” Echo bit his lip, but it looked like he was having a hard time not smiling. Syx had no such issues. He threw his head back and laughed like a loon. “I wouldn’t put it that way to your friends, but Lorcan did everything he could to help us find you. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to play bodyguard again.” “We’re going to have to help Hex remember,” Echo whispered, all traces of his previous amusement vanishing. “Do you think we should do it before or after?” Syx gave it serious thought before answering. “I think after. We can’t afford distractions, and whatever he needs to remember, I think it’s going to be big.” “I agree.” Echo sighed and kissed Syx’s lips again. “We’re running out of time.” “We’ll be ready.” Syx prayed he hadn’t just told the biggest lie of his life.

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Chapter Thirteen
“Are you ready?” Echo looked up at Hex and shook his head. “Not at all. Let’s go.” His stomach twisted into knots, and his heart galloped inside his chest. He bit back his fear, clutched the golden sphere in his hand, and slid out of the SUV. He still didn’t know how Syx and Vapre had managed to find the place, and it didn’t matter. They’d tried to explain something about GPS signals, and bank transfers, and blah, blah, blah. He didn’t understand, and he didn’t care. “There are four guards on the main gate, two perched on top of each roof, and that’s the easy part,” Gage whispered from the cover of the trees when Echo and Hex approached. Echo crouched low, peering out through the chain-link fence to the three cabin-like structures contained within. “This is nothing like the lab.” “No, but it was constructed on short notice,” Gage reminded him. He pointed toward the house closest to them. “I think this is the bunkhouse for the residents.” “Why do you say that?” Fiero asked. “There are more guards surrounding it than the others.” “What about the other two?” Damn, there were so many guards. Echo had no idea how they were going to get out of the mess alive. “I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess the smallest one is the doctors’ living quarters. The other is probably a makeshift lab and infirmary.” “Gage,” Echo spoke quietly, “no offense, but you’re probably the weakest link. I’m going to have to juice you up.”

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“No offense taken, and I agree. Do what you need to.” Echo was a little surprised, but damn grateful that the werewolf wasn’t going to argue with him. Now came the next part of his plan, and he wasn’t sure if his mates would be as agreeable as Gage. “I want to combine all of your powers, including, and especially Craze’s.” “Whatever you’re going to do, just do it fast,” Eyce answered immediately. “The sun will be up soon, and we want to be out of here before then.” “Okay, everyone gather ’round and hold hands.” Once they’d done as he said, Echo concentrated every bit of strength he had to absorb their energy and filter through it. It was a lot harder without being able to touch each of them directly, and by the time he’d finished, he was panting for breath and dizzy. “You okay, baby?” Onyx wound an arm around Echo’s waist to keep him upright. “Maybe you should sit this one out.” “Nice try, but I’m fine. The guards on the rooftops have to go first, followed quickly by the ones at the gate. Myst, we’re going to need you to get that gate open.” “I’ll get Echo to the doctors’ quarters.” Hex took up his command. “It’s going to be up to the rest of you to clear the way and get the residents out. Gage, you should probably hang back. These guys are going to be scared, and I doubt they’re going to be willing to go with a guard.” With that said, Hex grabbed Echo around the wrist and pulled him through the trees until they were right next to a small dirt road that led into the compound. “What now?” Echo breathed. “We wait. Once the gates open, it’s going to be a fucking war zone. Stick right beside me, and we’re going to run like hell to that building.” Hex pointed to the smallest cabin. “When we find Peter, I’ll do everything I can to help, but it’s going to be up to you.”

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Echo reached into his jacket pocket and squeezed his fingers around the small, glass orb. “Yeah, I got it. I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do, but I promise I won’t let you down.” Leaning closer, Hex kissed Echo’s temple. “I have faith in you, baby.” The words went a long way in calming Echo’s anxiety. So much had happened since the beginning of the year, and he was still amazed at how far he’d come. Before meeting his mates, he would have never had the courage to face down something as monumental as this. Knowing that they respected his abilities and had faith in him to succeed was just icing on the cake. “You did tell Fiero not to set the bunkhouse on fire, right?” Hex’s eyes widened, and he shook his head. “I didn’t tell him, but I’m sure he’ll know.” The words were barely out of his mouth when a huge fireball shot over the fence, straight for the bunkhouse that held the residents. Echo closed his eyes and groaned. Well, there went that theory. He was going to strangle the man when he got his hands on him. Just then, he had more important things to worry about. Rising out of his crouch, Echo watched as more fireballs zipped through the air. He counted seven in all, and by the time the flames had stopped raining from the sky, all three cabins were ablaze. Way to keep a low profile, asshole. Pushing away his less than affectionate thoughts about Fiero, Echo focused on the gates, smirking to himself when two of the guards went airborne and the other two went as still as statues. There was a loud, metallic clink, and then the eight-foot gates swung open on creaking hinges. “Let’s go,” Hex said, taking Echo’s wrist and dragging him out of the tree line. Myst, Eyce, and Gage sprinted ahead of them, taking the guards down easily and clearing their way. Craze trotted up beside them, looking terrifying and gruesome in shifted Addonexus form. His

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facial features were thin and pointed, his body even larger than usual, and his bones poked through his skin in various places, making him look as though he were covered in lethal spikes. Echo shuddered and looked away quickly. Thank the gods that Craze was on their side. He definitely wouldn’t want to go up against the man. Hurrying through the gates, Hex kept them crouched low to the ground, his head whipping around, searching for danger as they moved. The warriors fanned out behind them, some heading toward the guards near the lab, others racing toward the bunkhouse. Automatic gunfire ripped through the night air, competing with the sound of the raging fire and the roars of Echo’s men. Echo yelped, but ducked his head and kept running. What choice did he have? There was nowhere to hide, and he’d just have to trust in his demons to protect them. A sudden thought occurred to Echo, causing him to stumble and almost go down. Hex’s arm slipped around his waist, keeping him upright and preventing him from doing a face-plant in the dirt. “Where do the guards sleep?” Echo yelled over the sounds of the battle zone. “Fuck!” Hex spat. “Just keep going.” Echo would have loved to keep going, but as though his thoughts had conjured them, twenty heavily armed guards came running from between the cabins, screaming and shouting at them to get down. “Shit, shit, shit,” Echo chanted. “We are so going to die.” “We’re not going to die,” Craze said with a demented chuckle. Then he threw his head back, a loud battle cry flowing from his lips, and sprinted headlong into the approaching guards. Echo watched mesmerized for a second, before Hex jerked him out of his daze. Craze was fierce, fearless, and almost beautiful in his destruction. The spiky bones protruding through his skin cut through the guards easily, laying waste to the front line.

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The wind picked up, howling in its rage and knocking everyone to the ground in his ferocity—including Echo. The ground began to tremble and crack, splitting the earth as a trench opened up below the guards’ feet. “Echo, let’s go!” Hex yelled loud enough to be heard over the chaos surrounding them. Training his eyes on the door to the cabin that he believed Peter to be in, Echo scrambled to his feet and took off running once again. He’d made it no more than three steps when the door burst open and eight uniformed guards stepped out with their guns raised. Echo didn’t know a damn thing about what kind of guns they were, but he had no doubt he’d be dead in the next instant. Then the strangest thing happened. All eight men just crumpled to the ground. Echo pulled up short, tugging on Hex’s hand to stop his mate. Was it his imagination or was it growing darker? The air surrounding them grew colder, freezing Echo to the bone. The sounds of bodies hitting the ground with muffled thuds confused him. Keeping low and creeping toward the doctors’ cabin, Echo had to stop once again when all light was extinguished around him. He could hear the buildings burning, his men calling out to each other, the roar of the wind, but he couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face. The ground began to shake once more, but it felt more like a stampede than an earthquake. Barking and snarling rose up over the howl of the wind, and Echo started to shake so violently, his legs gave out, sending him to the ground with a loud cry of despair. “Shh, baby. It’s okay.” Hex’s arms went around him, pulling him against his lover’s broad, muscled chest. “The cavalry is here.” Before Echo could ask what that meant, his vision returned—or more to the point, the darkness lifted. The bright orange flames were so bright after the few minutes of nothingness that Echo held his hand up in front of his face and squinted to block out the glare.

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When his eyes finally adjusted, the first thing he noticed was Peter, standing only a few feet from them, and surrounded by at least twenty pissed off coyotes. “Lorcan’s pack,” Echo whispered. “And Erebus and Hypnos. It’s good to have friends in high places,” Hex said around a chuckle as he helped Echo to his feet. Echo would be sure to thank their rescuers later. Just then, he had business to attend to. “Peter!” “You can’t stop me,” Peter shouted back, then jumped when one of the coyotes snapped at him. “You can’t beat me!” Beat. “What did you do to Marcus?” “Marcus was weak and a fool,” Peter scoffed. “He loved me, which only made him easier to manipulate. Once I was able to control him, I knew I was ready to join the gods.” Huh? This nutjob was seriously off his rocker. “How did you control him?” “I forced him to beat me.” Peter actually smiled. “If my powers are strong enough to control someone who’d proclaimed to love me and make him hurt me, I can do anything.” Echo glanced over at Hex and rolled his eyes before returning his attention to Peter. “You are seriously insane.” “It didn’t work with you,” Peter pouted. “I tried and tried, but you never did what I wanted you to do. I assumed it was your demigod status.” “I’m not a demigod,” Echo snarled. “I am nothing.” At that moment, he hated everything to do with the gods. He didn’t even hold much affection for his mother. He didn’t have all the details yet, but he knew in his heart that she’d been the one to start it all. “Why do you want to join Helios?” Hex asked casually. “I gather that he doesn’t give a fuck about you.” “Yes, well, he was rather cross with me when I killed my mother.” Peter grinned wickedly. “Still, I made him believe it was as accident, and he’d promised my mother he would watch out for me. He really sucked at it. I needed much more supervision.” He giggled like a little

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boy at this. “How could he come to earth and live as a mortal without the sun falling, though?” His giggle turned to a cackle, and it made the hairs on Echo’s neck stand on end. “What does Ares have to do with this?” Echo knew he was stalling, but he’d never set out to commit premeditated murder before. He’d fought and killed to defend himself and his mates, but this felt different, and it didn’t sit right with him. Peter flicked his wrist dismissively. “He just wants you. I don’t see the appeal, but as long as he brings me more demigods, I don’t care. Oh…” He trailed off and an evil glint flickered in his eyes. “Thank you for your contribution to my work. The gods don’t pay nearly enough, you know.” Echo felt sick to his stomach. Slipping his hand into his jacket pocket, he was surprised to find the glass sphere was warm to the touch. Syx was so damn wrong, though. The time was definitely here, and Echo still had no clue how to use the little ball of light to get their asses out of this alive. “Shine the light,” Athena whispered inside his mind. “Oh, shut the fuck up and leave me alone.” Echo grumbled under his breath for a second, his mind working frantically to figure out how he would accomplish the task assigned to him. When nothing came to him, he pulled the orb from his pocket and shrugged. “Catch.” Then he hurled the light at Peter, striking him in the chest with it. The minute the glass made contact with Peter, it shattered, exploding into a gazillion pieces. The light inside surrounded Echo’s ex-lover, engulfed him, and when it finally faded away, Peter was nowhere to be seen. “Holy shit,” Echo breathed. “I can’t believe that actually worked.” “Look.” Hex took Echo’s shoulders and turned him, pointing over the tops of the trees to the moon. The moon will bleed. Echo’s mouth hung open as he stared at the blood moon. The red tint was eerie and spooky, but somehow fitting to the night. “So, this was it? What about the equinox?”

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“I don’t know,” Hex admitted. “I’m so damn proud of you, Echo.” Spinning around, Echo jumped into his mate’s arms and kissed him with as much passion as he could muster. “I love you.” “I love you, too. Everyone is just outside the gates.” “Well, let’s not keep them waiting.” Echo wiggled down from his lover’s arms and led the way back across the dusty courtyard. Seeing everyone kneeling on the ground in a loose circle hurried his footsteps and made his heart beat faster. “Someone’s hurt,” he called over his shoulder before sprinting full-out to the group. His heart stopped and he fell to his knees when he got close enough to recognize the figure as Gage. “No!” he screamed. “Hush, young one,” Erebus said as he stood to his impressive height. “He is merely sleeping.” “What?” Hypnos stood beside his father and chuckled. “He is a great warrior, but too foolhardy for his own good. I had to put him to sleep with the others to ensure that he didn’t get himself killed.” Gage groaned, and his head began turning from side to side. Echo was so relieved he lost his own head completely. Taking two running steps, he launched himself at Hypnos, wrapping his arms around the sleep god’s waist and squeezing him as tightly as he could. “Thank you.” Hypnos appeared startled for a moment, his muscles tensing. Then he slowly began to relax, and his arms wound around Echo tentatively. “You are welcome. We promised our assistance, and I was happy to help.” He spoke slowly, as though his words surprised him. Releasing the man, Echo took a step back and laughed. “You saved our asses. I am indeb—” A large hand covered his mouth, and Echo glanced up to see Eyce standing there, staring at the two gods. “Thank you. That’s all he meant to say.”

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Erebus chuckled and shook his head. “Do not worry, Warrior. There is no debt owed. Now, if we are no longer of service, we will be going.” “Thank you, again,” Hex offered. Erebus merely nodded his head, and then he and his son faded away. “What the fuck, man?” Gage pushed up to a sitting position and grabbed at his head. “What happened?” “We won!” Echo announced with a huge, shit-eating grin. “Not yet,” Syx reminded him with a meaningful glance toward Hex. Echo chose to ignore him. They’d worry about that tomorrow. He just wanted a few minutes to savor their victory. Eyeing the residents from the lab, he was pleased to note that they all looked a little shaken, but mostly unharmed. He counted twelve in all. “Is this everyone?” “Yes,” one of the men answered quietly. It didn’t escape Echo’s notice that five of the residents had coyotes standing by their sides, snarling and snapping at anyone stupid enough to come close to them. Echo smirked and looked up at Eyce, motioning toward the coyotes. “What do you make of that?” Eyce shook his head and started laughing. “It looks like fated attraction has struck again.”

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Chapter Fourteen
Discovering that there were three vampires in the group of residents they’d rescued forced them to seek shelter instead of driving straight home like they’d planned. Hex wouldn’t complain, though. He felt tired down to his toes. Stripping out of his clothes, he flopped down on one of the double beds and groaned. They had three connected rooms, six for the residents and the coyote shifters that insisted on accompanying them home, and another for Craze and Gage. It wasn’t as though they were hurting for money, but Hex didn’t like the idea of everyone being spread so thin. “Relax, love,” Echo whispered to him as he crawled up on the mattress and rested his head on Hex’s chest. “Those coyotes aren’t going to let anything happen to their mates. Gage and Craze are keeping an eye on the others, and we’re right down the hall if we’re needed.” He started giggling. “I bet the hotel manager loves us right now. We rented out half the floor.” “Dude, my fucking ass hurts,” Fiero complained as he flopped down on Hex’s other side. “One of those coyote punks bit me on my left cheek, the little fucker.” Hex bit his cheek to keep from laughing, but quickly gave up when Echo rocked back and forth, laughing like a lunatic. “Oh, poor baby,” Echo crooned. “Do you want me to kiss it and make it better?” “Yes,” Fiero pouted. “Kiss my ass, baby.” This sent Echo into more peals of laughter until he had tears streaming down his cheeks. “I need a shower.” Hex groaned again as he struggled up from the bed.

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“Do you want company?” Echo asked hopefully. Though he hated to disappoint his mate, Hex was just too damn exhausted, and he had things to think about. “Could you get Syx?” He worried for a minute that his words would be misconstrued, but as always, Echo understood perfectly. “Do you think that’s a good idea? Maybe we should wait until we get home.” Hex shook his head wearily. “It’s driving me insane to not know. I have to find out what it is that I’m supposed to remember. We’re running out of time, and we still have to shift through what I remember. I doubt it’s just going to suddenly answer all of our questions.” Echo nodded hesitantly. “Okay, big guy. Take a shower, and I’ll find Syx. Do you want me to get the others?” “Yeah. I have a feeling I’m going to need all of you.” “What do you want me to do?” Fiero asked, still sprawled facedown on the mattress. Hex laughed. “Just stay put. I doubt you could move if you wanted to anyway.” “I can move,” Fiero argued. He wiggled his ass a little, groaned, and went still again. “Never mind.” Rolling his eyes, Hex made his way to the bathroom and showered quickly. The water felt amazing, the warmth seeping into his tired muscles. Though he would have loved to linger, he knew his mates were waiting for him. No amount of stalling would put off the inevitable, and it would be better to just get it over with. Shutting off the shower, Hex stepped out of the tiny tub and dried quickly before wrapping the towel around his waist and shuffling back into the bedroom. All seven men gathered inside the room, looking up at him expectantly when he emerged from the bathroom. “Are you sure?” Syx asked. “Yes. I want to be done with this. Just tell me what to do.”

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Syx motioned toward one of the beds. “Just lie down here. I’m going to put you to sleep, and then me and Echo are going to see if we can try to unlock those memories. You won’t feel a thing, I swear.” “I’m not worried.” That wasn’t strictly true, but he wasn’t worried that his lovers would hurt him. Settling in the middle of the mattress, Hex rested his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. “Be gentle,” he half teased. “Look at me,” Syx whispered, his warm breath fanning over Hex’s face. Hex opened his eyelids, looking right into the jade-green depths of Syx’s eyes, and instantly felt himself falling into the darkness. With no concept of time inside his dreams, Hex didn’t know how long he slept before being plunged into the past. To him, it felt almost instant. He lay in the middle of a large bed, completely nude and shaking with the force of his emotions. Sobs wracked his body, and he curled into a fetal position, pulling the blankets up around his thin shoulders. Once again, his lover had come to him, used him, hurt him, then left without a word. A soft hand flitted through Hex’s dark hair, and he jolted upright, yelping when he found the warrior goddess, Athena, perched on the side of his bed. “You can’t be here.” Fuck, he was going to be in so much trouble if his master found out. “Shh, now, Hex. I’ve come to help you.” “You can’t help me. No one can help me.” “I can. It will mean a sacrifice, and most likely I will be punished for my deeds, but I can no longer sit by and watch you suffer at the hands of my brother.” Hex didn’t know what to say. No one ever tried to talk to him, and they most certainly didn’t try to help him. It was a trick. It had to be a trick. “Do you wish to stay?” Before he could stop himself, Hex shook his head. “I hate it here.”

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“I know, little one. I hate it for you. What are you willing to do to be free of this place?” “Anything.” Athena smiled kindly and rose from the bed. Hex started to panic. Here it came. This was the part where she hurried away to tell Ares of his unfaithfulness. Instead, she surprised him by waving her hand and clothing him. “We must hurry.” “Where am I going?” “I have procured a deal for you. If you are willing, that is.” “What kind of deal? What do I have to do?” “One thousand years guarding the pits of Tartarus.” Athena smiled sadly. “Everything comes with a price, my dear. When your service is up, I will help you reach the Top World, and there you will be free to live your life as you choose.” “I can’t guard anything!” Hex scrambled out of bed and waved his hand frantically toward his thin legs, tiny arms, and slim chest. “Just look at me! I’m a runt!” In the next blink, Hex gazed down at Athena instead of up. He gaped in awe as he examined his body, the huge rippling muscles, the vast size of the new him. He took a tentative step forward, frowning when he almost stumbled. There was a lot more of him to move around now, and he’d have to find a way to get used to it. “You didn’t think I would send you to the Underworld with no way to protect yourself?” “Can I hug you?” He might be a massive warrior now, but he still felt like the small, scared boy from moments before. Athena smiled softly and moved into his arms, giving him a quick hug. Then she stepped away and held out her hand. “We must hurry before Ares returns.” “Why doesn’t he love me?” “Oh, Hex. I fear our father made a grave mistake when he gave you to Ares. My brother has no capacity for love. He is a great soldier, but a lover he will never be.”

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“What do you mean I was given to him?” Athena sighed and tugged him along. “Father wanted to reward Ares for his skill on the battlefield by creating the perfect mate for him. You were to complement Ares in every way, being everything to him that he has missed, but he failed you.” Hex felt the tears pool in his eyes, but he pushed them back and gritted his teeth. “If I was made for Ares, does that mean that I will never have a mate of my own?” Turning to face him, Athena studied him for a long time before bringing his hand up and kissing his knuckles. “You deserve to find love—more love than you can ever hope to know what to do with. I will see to it personally that you have that.” “Will I have to guard Tartarus alone?” Hex couldn’t stop himself from asking so many questions. It had been years since he’d been allowed to talk to anyone. Besides, he wasn’t a fool. Whatever he was to face, he wanted to go into it with open eyes. “No, Hex. You will have warriors at your command. You will guide them, and they will teach you.” The next thing he knew, they were standing beside a river with the sun beating down on their backs. Hex blinked several times, stretching his face upward. “Why are we here?” “You must bathe in the river before we travel any farther.” “Do I smell?” Athena laughed, a quiet tinkling little sound. “This is the first step to a new beginning.” Hex closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and waded into the river without further debate. The water swirled around him, coming up to cover his head, and Hex felt his mind go blank, his memories being washed away, and a strange peace descended over him. Breaking the surface of the river, Hex snapped his eyes open as he gasped and shuddered. His mates sat around him in the small hotel room, all looking concerned and maybe a little sad. Echo’s head

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rested on his chest and hot tears pooled against Hex’s skin. Quiet sobs wracked Echo’s small frame, and Hex felt so helpless. “Hey, baby. Hush now. Why are you so upset?” “Ares is a bastard, and I fucking hate him,” Echo answered vehemently. Hex patted his lover’s shoulder. “Come here, Echo.” He waited for Echo to wiggle up his body then tapped him on the nose. “Don’t worry about Ares. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have you guys, and I wouldn’t be so big and tough to protect you.” He flexed his bicep under Echo’s head and wiggled his eyebrows. “I still hate him.” Echo sniffed and nuzzled against Hex’s ribs. “I’m so sorry he did those things to you.” He paused for a minute, and Hex felt his mate’s lips stretch into a smile against his skin. “You were so little. I think you might have been smaller than me. You were cute.” Hex felt his face heat, but couldn’t stop the goofy grin that spread over his lips. “Yeah, I guess I was.” “I like you better this way,” Echo whispered. “You make me feel safe.” “I think that’s the point. My subconscious must have remembered what it was like to be so small and helpless.” He held his hand up when Echo started to argue. “I’m not saying you’re helpless. I didn’t have any powers like you, though. I couldn’t even heal myself.” “So, did you get new memories like I did?” Hex shook his head. “I remember being reborn from the fire, but I think I just made up my own recollections about that.” “Did Hades give you the power to heal?” Syx asked quietly. “Or did you always have that?” “I was born with the power so that I could heal Ares after battle.” “I really hate him.” Hex started to soothe Echo when he realized the statement had not come from the small man in his arms, but from the demon sitting at

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the foot of the bed. He looked into Myst’s eyes for a long time before finally dipping his head. “Yeah, I guess I do, too.” “So, how do I fit into all of this?” Echo pushed up on his elbow to address the room. “I think it might be time for your dear mom to give us some answers,” Fiero answered with a slight growl in his voice. “I saw the red moon. If taking down that lab was our final test, I’m starting to think that this so-called war wasn’t about Ares at all. I feel like a fucking rat in a maze, and it’s pissing me off.” Hex wasn’t too happy with the goddess either, but he didn’t think it was fair to take it out on Echo. Their mate could no more control his mother’s actions than any of them could. “I agree,” Echo said immediately. “I’ll try to get a meeting with her when we get home.” He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, and his eyebrows drew together. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to, though. Helios said she was busy.” “You can only try,” Hex whispered, pulling Echo down to kiss his temple. “That’s all we can ask of you.” “Yeah, I know, but it’s only eleven days until the equinox. It would be nice to know what we’re going into for a change.” “I don’t think Ares is going to be much of a challenge, to be honest.” All eyes focused on Onyx. The warrior just shrugged. “Think about it. He disappeared after Hex’s test. If our fight with Peter was supposed to be the last challenge, that’s the end of the war. Whatever Ares has to do with this, I doubt he’s going to put up much of a fight.” “Dude, he’s a freakin’ god,” Myst argued. “Athena said he’d been stripped of his powers,” Echo offered. “What about his army?” “Maybe he was bluffing.” Onyx shrugged again. “Let’s get some rest, get home, and we’ll figure this out then.” Hex squeezed Echo to his side. “Just like everything else, we’ll face this together, no matter what it is.”

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Chapter Fifteen
The wet heat wrapped around the head of his cock brought Echo out of a peaceful sleep. He didn’t open his eyes, though. Maybe he was asleep and still dreaming. Either way, he didn’t want it to stop. The soft lips clamped around his rigid shaft, moving up and down in a steady rhythm designed to drive him out of his mind. His hands skimmed down his bare chest before plunging into strands of silky hair. He moaned softly, arching his hips up and pushing his prick farther into his lover’s mouth. Another set of lips trailed down his throat and over his collarbone before moving on to torture one of his erect nipples. Rough hands smoothed over the sensitive skin of his hip as another warm body pressed against his other side. Strong fingers gripped his knee, pulling it back toward his chest and opening him to further exploration. “Good morning, sweetheart,” Syx breathed against the shell of his ear. Echo moaned in response. The wet heat engulfing his cock was frying his brain, and anything resembling coherent speech was currently beyond his ability. It had been too long since they’d touched him like this. He wanted it, craved it, and demanded they give him more. Thankfully, his mates aimed to please. A slippery finger brushed against his exposed entrance, ringing the muscles twice before dipping inside his clenching channel. “More,” Echo pleaded, rocking his body to impale himself on the thick digit. The finger pumped inside him a few times before a second

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joined alongside it. When three fingers were sawing in and out of his needy hole easily, they disappeared. Echo’s cry of protest was short-lived when he felt something cool and hard nudge against his opening. Blinking open his eyes, he stared down his body, unsurprised to find Myst bobbing happily on his hard cock. Fiero knelt between his spread thighs, his brow wrinkled in concentration as he worked the silicone phallus into Echo’s passage. Dropping his head back to the pillow, he closed his eyes again, turned off his brain, and let his body take over. Fiero worked the dildo like a pro, pumping it into Echo’s ass with just the right amount of force and speed. The hard tip pegged his prostate with unerring accuracy just as Myst deep-throated him, swallowing around the head of his aching cock. One more brush of the toy against his sweet spot, and Echo went off like a bottle rocket. He whimpered his release, pouring his seed down Myst’s throat as his body jerked and shuddered with his orgasm. The dildo disappeared, replaced with something just as hard, though very much real. Myst popped off his dick a heartbeat before Fiero rammed into him with enough force to scoot him up the mattress. “Been too long,” the warrior grunted. His hips snapped forward, his pulsing cock driving into Echo’s ass at a demanding pace. Myst moved behind Fiero, licking and kissing at the man’s neck, and Fiero’s thrusts faltered. Then he stilled completely, groaning as his eyes rolled back in his head. When Myst was finally seated, they began a slow tempo until they slipped into a rhythm they’d used a hundred times. Hex rolled away from Echo’s side and stood on the bed, straddling Echo’s face with his feet planted beside Echo’s ears. Echo had only a second to wonder what the big alpha was doing before Syx’s knees came to rest beside Hex’s feet and the tip of his long cock brushed over Echo’s lips. “Open up, baby.”

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Echo complied with a happy hum, straining his neck up to capture the leaking tip between his lips. Syx groaned and his hips jerked, making Echo feel like a king. Staring up his mate’s perfect body, Echo took in the wide expanse of Syx’s chest, the smooth column of his neck, and finished at Syx’s mouth as Hex pushed his hard dick through Syx’s plump lips. Groaning at the sight, Echo sucked harder, hollowing his cheeks and swirling his tongue along the throbbing shaft. Reaching between Syx’s massive thighs, he gripped his own prick and jerked it quickly to the wild thrusts of Fiero’s cock pounding into his ass. It had been way too long, and within minutes Syx’s muffled moan reached his ears and salty semen splashed over his tongue. Hex growled, signaling his own climax a heartbeat before Myst echoed him. “Fuck!” Fiero shouted, plunging into Echo’s hole and grinding his groin against Echo’s ass cheeks. The sounds and smells, the taste of Syx’s cream on his tongue, and the feel of Fiero’s hot cum filling his depths pushed Echo over the edge. Pulling off Syx’s still-spurting prick, he cried out his orgasm, loving the feel of Syx’s sticky semen splashing against his cheeks and lips. His own cock erupted once more, covering his hand and stomach in cum. Slowly and reluctantly, they pulled apart as they each gasped for breath and tried to steady their racing hearts. “More sleep,” Echo slurred. Hex chuckled and scooped him up from the bed. “Shower, and then I promise you can nap. You’re going to need it.” Echo groaned. “I don’t want to think about it.” “Well, the equinox is tonight whether you like it or not. You’re welcome to stay here while we meet Ares.” Echo slapped Hex’s chest. “Don’t be stupid. I’m going.” Hex chuckled again and kissed Echo’s forehead. “I never doubted it. We’re going to need you, baby.”

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Smirking to himself, Echo let his head loll against Hex’s shoulder. “I know.” **** “Where the hell are we supposed to meet him?” Hex wrapped an arm around Echo’s shoulder and squeezed him in comfort. “I’m sure he’ll come to us.” They sat on the back deck, staring out at the setting sun. “Be patient.” “Yes, be patient for an angry god to come and destroy us. Brilliant plan, Hex. Why didn’t I think of that?” Echo snorted but moved closer to Hex’s side. “Is the pack here?” “Over there,” Hex said quietly, pointing toward the tree line to the east. “They’ve got our backs, baby.” “I feel like I’m waiting for the reckoning,” Myst mumbled. “It’s like this will determine the outcome of the rest of our lives—or the lack thereof.” “We’ll be fine,” Hex tried to reassure his mate. It still felt strange to refer to Myst or the other warriors as his mates, but that’s what they were. Holding Echo tighter to his side, he smiled. He knew exactly who to thank for giving him the greatest gifts on earth. “It does feel kind of like we’re being judged, doesn’t it?” Echo looked up at Hex with worry in his eyes. “No.” Hex shook his head firmly. “If anyone is to be judged, it’s Ares. This is his reckoning, not ours.” He was reluctant to speak further, but he needed to tell his men the plan before their adversary arrived. “This is between me and Ares. Unless he brings backup, I want you all to stay out of the way.” “Fuck that,” Fiero spat. “We’re not letting you face him alone.” “Well, if I start losing, feel free to jump in.” Hex chuckled. “I need to do this on my own, though. This is all because of me, even if I don’t know exactly why. Besides, if he wants me, he’ll be less likely to attack me.”

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“We’ll hang back,” Eyce said after a long pause. “We’re not letting your ass die, though. I have big plans for it later.” Hex laughed and leaned across Echo to kiss his beta. “Deal.” “I still think we should have Craze here,” Echo pouted. “That man is seriously badass.” “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you have a little crush on him.” Echo huffed and elbowed Hex in the ribs. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get Athena to talk to me,” he said quietly. “Not your fault. I doubt it would change anything.” He started to say more, but a rustling from the trees drew his attention, and he watched as Ares stepped into view. They all rose as one, moving across the field to meet the god. “You’re alone?” Onyx asked skeptically. Ares curled his lip, but otherwise didn’t answer. He stepped forward, and it didn’t escape Hex’s notice that the man favored his right leg. Odd. “You belong to me,” Ares growled at Hex. “Not anymore,” Hex answered calmly, ushering his men back and reaching for his dagger. Ares was fully dressed for a change, his hair tied back, and daggers strapped to his waist. “I don’t want to hurt you.” “It’s a little late for that,” Echo spat. Hex groaned, but kept his eyes on Ares. “What do you want?” “You.” “All this was for me? Everything that we’ve faced was because you wanted my ass?” Hex rolled his eyes and scoffed. “Try again.” Ares didn’t say anything, but his eyes lit with a wicked light as they strayed to Echo. “Leave him out of this,” Hex snarled. “If you want me, you take me by force. You’re not getting anywhere near him.” “She didn’t tell you,” Ares taunted. “Oh, how amusing.” Hex was on top of Ares before the words were fully out of his mouth. He got in one good punch before he was thrown backward,

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and Ares descended on him. They rolled in the grass, fists flying and connecting with every inch of flesh they could find. Sending Ares flying over his head, Hex scrambled to his feet and gripped his dagger. With or without his godlike powers, Ares was still a soldier and well-trained in battle. Ares gained his feet as well, pulling his own dagger from its sheath as they slowly circled each other. “You were meant for me,” Ares yelled. “You were made for me!” “And you abused that gift,” Hex shot back. “You never loved me, and I never loved you. Just let it go.” “I did let it go.” Ares stepped closer, his eyes wild with hatred. “Then I learned of the prophecy, of that little bastard!” he screamed, jabbing his knife toward Echo. “You are mine. How could the gods give you to another?” “Aww, are you jealous?” Hex goaded. “If you can’t have me, then no one else can?” “You are mine!” Ares screeched and lunged forward, the sharp blade of his dagger cutting through Hex’s shoulder. Hex gritted his teeth together to keep from crying out in pain. He would show no weakness to the fallen god. “I was never yours.” Then they were on each other again, except this time daggers sliced through the air instead of fists. Hex roared when Ares’ blade found its mark, sinking into the soft flesh of his stomach. Pulling the knife free, he watched the blood drip from it, and the rage consumed him. Waving his lovers away when they made to come to his defense, Hex tackled Ares to the ground with a wild tangle of limbs. The struggle seemed to last forever before Hex finally gained the upper hand. Pressing his knee into Ares’ stomach, he stared into the eyes of his tormentor and lifted the god’s own dagger over his head. Before he could plunge it through the man’s heart, loud barking had him jerking his head around just in time to see two coyotes fly

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through the air. They caught him in the chest, barreling him over so that he landed on the ground with a bone-jarring impact. Getting to his feet almost wasn’t worth the pain and effort, but he eventually managed it when Eyce and Myst rushed to his side to lend their support. His mates gathered around him, forming a united front. “This is over,” Fiero said firmly. “You’ve proven your point, Hex.” Too tired and in too much pain to argue, Hex simply dipped his head. “Friends of yours?” he asked Ares, motioning toward the growling coyotes on either side of him. It pissed him off to think that men he’d considered friends would betray him. Ares looked confused, though, as he stared at the animals. “I don’t know them,” he admitted. Seconds later, two men knelt on the ground where the coyotes had been, completely nude and still snarling. “Jason?” Echo asked in surprise. “Oliver?” Hex recognized them as well and felt hurt replace his anger. “Why?” Jason stopped snarling and shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry, Hex. I know you have beef with him, but…” He glanced over at Oliver pleadingly. Oliver dipped his head and looked up at Hex. “He’s our mate.” “What?” Ares gasped. “No!” Hex started laughing. It quickly turned into a groan of pain, but the entire situation was fucking priceless. “You’re mortal, aren’t you?” Then he started laughing again. The limping, the hand-to-hand combat, even his less than spectacular entrance—Ares’ mortality explained everything. “You’re bleeding,” Oliver whispered, reaching for Ares. Ares jerked away. “I am not your mate. Don’t touch me.” “You have your work cut out for you,” Echo said. “I don’t envy you at all. Are you sure you’re up for this?” His tone implied that he really hoped they weren’t so he could rip the former god apart.

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“We have no choice,” Jason responded, his eyes never leaving Ares. “He’s our mate. We couldn’t deny him if we wanted.” “I am not your fucking mate!” Ares screamed. “Do you want me to put him to sleep?” Syx offered. Jason nodded reluctantly. “It might be best until we can get him calmed.” Syx stepped forward, and Ares had fear in his eyes for the first time since arriving. “Stay away from me.” “Oh, it does suck to be human, doesn’t it?” Syx chuckled and crouched down in front of Ares. Ares closed his eyes tight, but Syx just slapped him in the jaw. Ares’ eyelids popped open, and a snarl fell from his mouth. It cut off quickly when he met Syx’s eyes, though. In the next heartbeat, Ares’ eyes rolled back in his head, and he slumped to the ground unconscious. “So, we’re just going to let him go? After all he did?” Echo sounded indignant, and Hex couldn’t blame him. “Don’t you think having his status as a god stripped away is enough punishment?” Vapre asked. “No,” Echo answered immediately. “Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.” “What horse?” Myst asked scanning the field. “I didn’t see a horse. Did I miss something?” Hex grabbed his wounded side as he started laughing again. Gods, he loved these men. It was all he’d ever wanted—to love and be loved. “Please?” Oliver pleaded. “I can’t make it right. I can’t fix or take away the things he’s done to you. I’m so sorry.” He dropped his head, but not before Hex saw the tear that trickled from the corner of his eye. “He’s our mate.” No one said anything for a long time. Then Echo threw his hands into the air and growled. “Fine! Take him home. If he comes

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anywhere near me or my family again, I will fucking kill him. Do you understand?” Jason and Oliver nodded quickly. “He’ll never bother you again. I swear it,” Jason said hurriedly. “I so can’t believe this is happening.” Echo growled once more, then spun on his heels and stomped off toward the house, grumbling under his breath the entire way. “I’m sorry,” Oliver whispered. “No matter what he’s done, he’s connected to us. Please understand.” Unfortunately, Hex did. “Get him out of here. I have my own mates to worry about.” He didn’t even wait for the coyotes to gather their new mate and leave before going in search of Echo. “That was totally anticlimactic,” Fiero grumbled. “Why don’t we ever get to kill anything anymore?” Hex shook his head. “Shut up and go find Craze. I’m bleeding like a stuck pig.” Fiero grouched some more, but hurried ahead to find Craze. “This so blows.” Sighing, Hex let Eyce and Onyx help him up the back steps. It didn’t matter to him. He had everything he’d ever wanted, and Ares couldn’t hurt them anymore. That was enough for him.

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Chapter Sixteen
Stomping into the house, Echo stumbled to a stop when he found Athena sitting on their sofa, looking extraordinarily out of place in their living room. “What do you want?” Yeah, he was rude as hell, but he figured he was owed some leeway after the day he’d had. “To talk to you,” she answered calmly. “Oh, now you want to talk? Where the fuck were you when I wanted to talk to you before?” “Echo,” Fiero said sternly as he stepped up behind him. “You wanted answers, so shut up and let the lady talk.” Echo rolled his eyes, but plopped down in an armchair and twirled his wrist at his mother. “So, talk.” His other mates filed into the room, looking just as shocked to see the goddess sitting there. “Fiero,” Hex said quietly. Fiero dipped his head and hurried up the stairs. Eyce and Onyx helped Hex down onto the loveseat, and Echo jumped up and hurried over to his alpha. “Does it hurt a lot?” “I’ll be fine.” Hex kissed his brow. “Fiero’s going to get Craze. Let’s hear what Athena has to say.” “Thank you for sparing my brother.” “Don’t thank me,” Echo answered coldly. “I’d have gutted him and mounted his head over the fireplace.” Athena winced. “Ares was not behind the trials you have endured.” Echo sat up a little straighter. “Come again?”

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“I’m sorry, Echo.” She lifted her head to address all of them. “I apologize to all of you. He is my only son, though. How could I possibly just turn him over without knowing you could protect him?” “You did this to us?” Echo wanted to launch himself across the room and rip the bitch’s hair out. Hex’s grip on his knee stopped him, however. “Ares knew,” Hex said calmly. Athena nodded. “He used the tests to his advantage, to try and build an army, but he did not devise them. Again, I’m sorry.” “Yeah, well you can take ‘sorry’ and shove it up your—” Hex’s grip on his knee cut him off, and Echo glared at his lover before turning back to the goddess. “What about Erebus? You’re the one who turned Hypnos’s powers against him, aren’t you? And the vampires? You killed innocent people just to test my mates? Are you insane?” Athena winced, but kept her back straight and her shoulders squared. “I will make amends to Hypnos. I did not kill anyone, however. The vampires were a threat that needed to be eliminated. I saw the opportunity to present it as a challenge to your demons and took it.” She sounded so unapologetic that Echo wanted to slap her. “What about Craze, Gage, and all the rest of my friends? I thought we were building an army.” It took all of his willpower not to growl the words. “Each person brought into your life was a test of your warriors’ loyalty and faithfulness.” Athena smiled a little. “And if they should fail, I wanted to ensure that you would be surrounded by people who cared about you and would keep you safe.” Echo opened his mouth to tell his dear mother exactly where she could go, but Hex spoke before he could get the words out. “Why now? After three thousand years, why does Ares want me now?” “My brother is spoiled and selfish. He cares nothing for you, but in his mind, you still belong to him. The knowledge that you were intended for another drove him mad with jealousy.”

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“Again,” Eyce said, “why now?” “Ares became aware of the prophecy and interpreted its meaning.” Echo growled. “It’s over, Mother. You can stop being so damn vague and cryptic. I believe what they’re asking is why it took threethousand fucking years for you make good on your promise to Hex.” Athena shifted in her seat and linked her hands together in her lap. “I knew that I would need to produce a child of light to combat the darkness once Hex became a servant of Hades. Because of the way I worded my vow, I also knew I would have to produce Hex’s intended mate. Only Helios could help me to produce of a child of light.” Echo was done playing games. If the goddess didn’t get to the point soon, he’d have to reconsider his position on ripping her hair out. “Helios was…uncooperative. It was many years until he needed something I could offer him.” “Which was?” Fiero asked as he came down the stairs with Craze right behind him. Echo moved away from Hex to make room for the Addonexus to work on his mate. Standing, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited for his mother to continue. “Someone to defeat the monster he had created,” Athena answered solemnly. “Peter,” Echo surmised. The goddess nodded. “Only you could have defeated him. Because of the powers he gave Peter, only someone of equal strength could have fought against him and won.” “Helios said you made another bargain for his help before he summoned me to Olympus.” “I secured his entrance into Elysium so that he could be with his mortal love,” Athena whispered. “You really are a shitty mother.” Echo sighed and uncrossed his arms. “It doesn’t even matter anymore. You’ve caused me all kinds of

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pain and suffering, but you did bring me to my mates. For that, I thank you. As for the rest of it, I’m not sure I can forgive you.” Athena seemed resigned to the fact. “I know. I am sorry. I hoped I had chosen well for you, but I had to be sure.” “So, we were never meant to be with Hex?” Myst spoke so softly, Echo almost didn’t hear him. “Yes, you were.” Athena smiled softly at Myst. “I promised Hex that he would have more love than he knew what to do with. I watched over you seven for many years. I knew you would need Echo to finally bring you together, though.” Myst looked relieved, and Echo could have cared less if it was a bold-faced lie. He never wanted any of his mates to doubt their position or importance in their relationship. “What did Ares do to get himself banished to the mortal realm?” Craze asked, standing straight and arching his back. “He killed Echo.” Athena actually growled a little at this. “It is forbidden to destroy a mortal. Echo was reborn as a daemon—fitting since he was meant to watch over you in the first place. Ares was stripped of his powers and banished to Earth in hopes that he can learn human compassion.” “So, it’s not permanent?” Echo didn’t like the sound of that. Athena shook her head. “That is up to Father.” “What about Elysium?” “It is your home now, if you choose.” Echo looked around the room, and when no one had any more questions, he returned his focus to Athena. “I want to stay here.” He waited for her nod of acceptance. “I’m going to ask you to leave now. I have a lot to think about before I can even try to forgive you.” The goddess rose gracefully and dipped her head in acknowledgement. “If you ever wish to speak to me, just call my name. I’d like a chance to get to know you again.” “We’ll see,” Echo answered noncommittally. Athena nodded again then simply vanished.

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**** “You know you’re welcome to stay here until the houses are built.” Echo stood on the front lawn as his friends piled into their vehicles. Gage smiled and shook his head. “It will be several months before the cabins are completed. Now that the threat is over, you guys don’t need us here anymore.” “Besides,” Craze added, clapping Echo on the shoulder, “we’re just right down the road. Once the houses are done, we’ll be neighbors. It’s not like you’ll never see us again.” “Yeah, I guess so. It’ll be weird not having you here, though.” “Just think,” Sony called from the passenger seat of Gage’s pickup, “you can fuck wherever you want now.” Echo laughed. “Like you being here ever stopped us before,” he yelled back, and everyone laughed. “Go celebrate having your life back,” Gage said with a little shove between Echo’s shoulder blades. “We’ll see you soon.” Echo gave his friends one last wave before trudging up the steps and into the house. He knew they wouldn’t be far away, but it just wasn’t the same. They’d all been there, willing to fight to the death for them. He was going to miss them. The minute he stepped through the door, Eyce pounced, lifting Echo and tossing him over one rock-hard shoulder. “I have a surprise for you.” Echo wiggled his ass. “I like surprises.” “Good, because you’re going to love this one.” Eyce carried him into the kitchen and deposited him on the table. His mates converged on him, stripping him out of his clothing and urging his back to the shiny wood. His arms were stretched over his head and secured with Velcro restraints. “So, what’s my surprise?” Echo teased.

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“Eyce says you like the shower,” Syx explained. “We’re going to prove how much better it can be when we all work together.” Echo swallowed hard. “I like teamwork.” Each man reached out to touch some part of Echo’s skin. “We need you to absorb our powers so we don’t hurt you,” Fiero said. “No using them against us, though.” Echo nodded and did as the man asked. With the task complete, he nodded curtly and waited with anticipation. Fiero jerked him to the edge of the table so that his ass hung off the edge and his arms stretched tighter over his head. Cool lube dribbled down his crease, and the blunt tip of Fiero’s cock pressed against his hole. Echo opened his mouth to protest the invasion without them bothering to stretch him first, but Hex moved beside Fiero and pressed his finger to Echo’s entrance, just beside Fiero’s crown. Then Fiero pressed in, thrusting in tiny movements until he bottomed out. Echo’s eyes widened, and he looked up at Hex’s smirking face. There was no burn, no pinch—no pain at all. “How?” Hex just winked at him and stepped away as Fiero began a hard rhythm, driving his huge cock into Echo’s ass. Moaning and squirming on the table, the pleasure hit him so hard Echo thought he’d pass out from it. Then he felt his lower body lifting into the air of its own accord. Snapping his attention to Myst, Echo’s only response was a loud cry when the new position allowed Fiero to nail his prostate. “You ready?” Eyce asked in a seductive whisper. Ready? There was more? Oh, gods, he didn’t think he’d survive it. Fiero’s thrusts slowed, and he began caressing Echo’s chest and abs with his hands. When flames flickered from his fingertips to dance across Echo’s skin, he knew he wouldn’t survive it. Holy damn, it was unlike anything he’d ever felt. Drops of water drew his attention to the ceiling, and Echo gasped as the water cascaded down around him, mixing with the flames and

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licking at his heated skin. Around and around in an intimate dance, the fire and water caressed his body and sent his head spinning with erotic pleasure. The Velcro straps disappeared from his wrists, replaced by long vines that held him in place and tickled up his arms. Echo didn’t even know where they came from, but he could barely breathe, let alone speak. Fiero’s thrusts picked up in speed and intensity, the cords in his neck straining as he growled at the ceiling. Molten lava filled Echo’s passage, pushing his desire into overdrive. Then Fiero slipped out of him easily, and Hex reappeared, caressing Echo’s hole and pumping his fingers inside. “Please!” Echo begged. His cock ached and flexed, bobbing against his stomach in its demand for attention. Hex extracted his fingers, and Vapre moved in between Echo’s splayed legs. He slipped in easily, pushing his impressive length in to the root before starting a demanding pace. The back door banged open, and a rush of warm air flooded the kitchen, whipping Echo’s hair around his face. The rush of wind swept over his body, swirling around him to mix with the fire, water, and vines. It whirled across his overheated skin, gripping his body and causing him to sway where he was suspended in midair. The position allowed Vapre deeper penetration, and the warrior used it to his full advantage, rocking Echo against the cushion of air and pulling him down on his cock with every snap of his hips. “Just look at you,” Syx’s voice slipped into his head, and Echo knew he was a goner. “All spread out for our enjoyment. You like that, don’t you? You love that we have complete control over you. Oh, my pretty little slut.” “Yes!” Echo screamed. Hell, if they wanted a slut, he’d give them one. Anything for them to touch him and bring him the relief he so desperately needed.

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“I want to mark you, baby. I want to cum all over that sweet face of yours. Would you like that? Do you want me to mark you as mine?” “Yes! Fuck, please!” His mates gathered around the table, stroking their cocks and looking at him with lust-filled eyes while Vapre continued his assault on Echo’s ass. Syx climbed up in one of the chairs, aiming his cock directly at Echo’s face as he jerked himself quickly. His head dropped back on his shoulders, and a loud growl erupted from his parted lips. “So close, baby. I want you to come with me. Can you do that? Show me how much you like what we make you feel. Come now!” Echo had no choice. He screamed in ecstasy as his cock exploded, shooting cum into the air where it arched gracefully before falling to his chest. Vapre groaned, filling Echo’s ass to overflowing, and loud grunts and growls reverberated around the room to signal his lovers’ completions. Creamy seed shot from Syx’s slit, painting Echo’s face while his other mates covered the rest of his body in their sticky release. Licking his lips and smiling like the well-fucked man he was, Echo slumped back onto the cushion of air beneath him and sighed. “We are so doing that again,” he mumbled as the water and fire dissipated. The vines slithered away from his wrists, and the wind died down, lowering him gently to the table. “Oh, we’re not finished with you,” Eyce said with a chuckle. “We’re just giving you a breather.” “I was thinking we could spend the entire day showing you how special you are,” Hex added. “Are you up for it?” He lifted his eyebrows and wiggled them playfully. How had he ever gotten so lucky? Echo still wasn’t sure if he was worthy of such amazing men, but he promised himself that he’d spend every day of his life working toward that goal. Lifting his arms for

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Hex to help him up, he swallowed around the lump in his throat and smiled. “Bring it on.”

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Epilogue
September 25th I found this lying around, and after reading, I have to say that it seems unfinished. I’m pretty sure Echo is going to kick my ass, but that’s what he gets for leaving his stuff where I can find it. So, you want to know what happened and how the story ended? We kicked ass, took names, and are going to live crazily ever after—because happily ever after just sounds wicked boring. — Fiero

THE END
WWW.GABRIELLEEVANS.COM

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabrielle Evans grew up in a small town in southern Oklahoma. We are talking one red light that may or may not work depending on the day of the week. She married her high school sweetheart and the rest is pretty much history. They have two very active boys and one high-strung wiener dog that keeps her constantly on the go. For now, she parks her car in central Indiana, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. Gabrielle believes in love at first sight, falling hard and fast, taking chances, and grabbing your happy-ever-after with both hands. She also believes that a great cup of coffee can cure anything.

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