The Darkest Kiss(135)

By: Gena Showalter

Even as he spoke, Death roared with far more fury and pain than Hydra had. Lucien suddenly felt as though he were burning, his insides kindling to a thirsty fire. He, too, began to roar. The pain, too much. He was being ripped in half.

Gods. Man and demon were separating, he realized. Pulling apart.

“Lucien. What’s wrong?” Anya shouted, pausing her ministrations to his physical form. “You’re going to be okay. I’m going to give Cronus the All-Key. You’re going to be okay,” she repeated.

He wanted to respond, wanted to tell her to stay away from Cronus, but the burning increased and the words melted in his throat. If he and Death divided completely, Lucien would die in truth. Just as Baden had. Wouldn’t he?

“I’ll take care of everything.” Anya disappeared. Before he could panic, she returned to that patch of bloody grass beside his body. Her eyes were luminous pools. “Tell me what’s happening to you. Let me help.”

Fighting the pain, trying to hold on to Death, he reached out again. Once more his fingers ghosted through. Tears were pouring from her now, and the sight broke him. “I love you,” he finally managed to work out.

“Cronus,” she screamed.

“Stop.” He doubled over. Any moment now, Death would be completely free. Funny, he’d spent so many years wishing for a life without the demon, yet now they both were trying to cling to each other with what little strength they had left.


Lucien opened his mouth to speak again, but no sound emerged. His last tie with Death broke, and he knew nothing more.

ANYA THREW UP THE MOMENT Lucien’s spirit disappeared. When her stomach was completely emptied, she screamed for Cronus again. “I’m ready to bargain. Do you hear me? I’m ready.”

As always, he appeared in a blinding flash of light. She blinked against it and pushed to shaky legs. Lucien’s spirit was still gone. Gone! Oh, gods. She’d seen the skeletal image of Death rip from him, howling—oh, gods, the howling—before it, too, disappeared. Please, don’t let me be too late.

She closed her eyes and tried to reverse time, but failed. She’d done it once before, for Maddox and Ashlyn. Why couldn’t she do so now? Why?

“I’m listening,” Cronus said, and she felt him gliding toward her, his white robe brushing the thick grass.

She peered up at him, vision blurred through her tears. “The key is yours. Willingly given if you’ll swear to bring Lucien back to life and leave us both alone.”

“I want the cage, as well. Where did you hide it?”

Fighting the sense of urgency running rampant inside of her, the sense of loss and panic, she shook her head. “You can’t have it. That belongs to Lucien. You only get the key.”

“Do you want your lover to live?”

“If he dies, you will never get the key!” Tears falling freely, she scooped her hands under Lucien’s head and lifted. She placed a soft kiss on his lips. I love you. I’ll make everything all better. Please, please, please, let this make everything better.

“Much longer, and even I will not be able to bring him back,” Cronus said cruelly. “As weak as he was, it took considerable effort to twine him and the demon together again to sustain Lucien’s life a bit longer. Without the key, I will gladly pull them apart again.”

Though she experienced a surge of hope that Lucien truly could be saved, her narrowed eyes flicked up at the god. “I will not cave on this. You may have the key. The cage belongs to Lucien. You once gave me a choice, Lucien or the key. Now I’m giving you the same choice. That is fair. That is just. And I will not budge on this.”

He met her piercing stare with a scowl. What tumbled through his mind, she didn’t know. Then he nodded, as though he sensed the absoluteness of her determination. Or perhaps he’d known all along that’s how it would be, and had only hoped for more. “Very well.”

“A deal is reached then. Lucien’s life for the key.” She was taking a terrible gamble, trusting a being she hated, who probably hated her. “If after this you take the cage from us, immortals far and wide will know of your dishonor. The Lords of the Underworld will turn against you and do all that they can to free the Greeks. There will be a war at a time when you seek only reverence. I know you consider yourself untouchable and stronger than mere immortal warriors, but know what? You were defeated once. You can be defeated again.”