She’d already killed him twice this week.
Monday, the harpy bitch grabbed the wheel just as he was making a tight turn on a cliff-side highway. The car jumped the barrier and exploded in a fiery crash of glass and twisted metal at the bottom of Moraca Canyon.
On Wednesday morning, he’d chanced taking a shower and she dropped a hair dryer in with him, sending a deadly shock through his wet body.
It wasn’t even the weekend and she was already trying to kill him a third time.
Luke had awakened to the sinuous slide of her body atop his and, for one groggy moment, he’d enjoyed the carnal sensation of a woman in bed with him.
Then her knee came crushing down on his windpipe.
Now Luke thrashed upon the mattress, grabbing at her supple thighs, trying to throw her off. The curve of her breast brushed his arm, her moist lips parted and she clutched at his face as if she were going to draw him into an intimate embrace…just before fingernails like talons cut his flesh to bloody ribbons.
Or at least that’s what it felt like.
With the lightest touch, she could put an ordinary mortal man in complete agony. But he wasn’t an ordinary mortal man and she should have known better than to touch him.
“Atone,” the fury demanded, her voice driving needles of agony into his spine. “Atone!”
Luke was desperate enough to consider it. Anything to get rid of her. Anything to make the pain stop. Anything that might relieve him of the memories that haunted him. The blood in the sand and all the lies…
Take the money, Luke. There’ll be more where that came from.
His traitorous lips parted in surrender, ready to tell the fury whatever she wanted to hear, but then he felt his square jaw clench tight in stubborn refusal.
No. Screw atonement and regret. Luke would rather die again.
Her lithe legs wrapped around his waist like a vise. They were locked together as tightly as lovers and in blind suffering he banged the back of his skull on the headboard. It started like a fever, a sexual rush of heat that seared its way through his veins, pulsing through his hammering heart, racing to his groin.
Damn it. He liked this villa, but he’d burn the place down to get free of her if he had to. Sparks leaped from his fingertips to the bedsheets and the scent of scorched linen rose to his nostrils. The fire would obey him—it was the one goddamned thing in his life he still had any control over—so Luke made the fire rise higher, engulfing them both in a flash of flames and searing pain.
His bones went white-hot, molten beneath his skin, and he screamed. He was turning to ash. He was burning her too, burning her alive. He could have held onto her. He could have forced her to share his torment to the bitter end, but he flung her away. And her tumbling body was the last thing he saw before he died….
Phaedra was accustomed to inflicting pain, not suffering it. But now every cell in her body screamed in protest as her burned skin rose up in blisters. She was immortal. She could never die. That didn’t mean she couldn’t feel pain, and making this man miserable had somehow become her own personal torment.
She lay dazed in agony on the floor, smoke filling her lungs while Lieutenant Luke Lazaros burned alive before her very eyes. Gods of Olympus, he was stubborn. He should have broken by now, but he was only getting more unmanageable. None of the men she’d been sent to torture had ever been so obstinate. Then again, she’d never been unleashed upon a phoenix before.
In the light of the crackling blaze, Phaedra’s blistered body healed, new pink flesh knitting over the old with miraculous speed, and it occurred to her that the fire alarm wasn’t shrieking. A quick glance up at the scorched ceiling told her that he’d disabled it. That he’d planned for this exact circumstance. He was handy that way. Good with modern gadgets. And a born strategist. He’d started anticipating her. Adapting…
All at once, the conflagration on the bed extinguished itself and a burst of air dusted her with Luke’s charred human remains. A bit of stagecraft on his part.
Of course, she’d seen him do this before—rise from the ashes as a new man, his dark curly hair cut in sharp military style, his name and blood type displayed upon frayed patches on his desert fatigues. A backpack full of cash in his right hand.
This was how he looked the moment he was war-forged. The instant he stopped being an ordinary mortal man and became a monster. But as many times as she watched him die, she couldn’t enjoy it. Watching him now, she took no satisfaction in his shudder of revulsion at the feel of a new body that wasn’t his own. Nor did it encourage her to see the half hostile, half haunted look in his eyes as he tried to remember himself. Shaking his head as if to fasten upon his old memories, he caught her look of dismay and gave a dark smile-that-was-not-a-smile.
“What’s the matter?” Luke asked. “Didn’t expect me to be so hot in bed?”
Given that she was clutching the burned and blackened remains of her clothing against her body, Phaedra didn’t appreciate the sexual innuendo. It didn’t surprise her though. Every time the lieutenant was reborn, he battled overwhelming hunger. He’d be ravenous now, for food, drink…sex.
Still, he grabbed one of his white dress shirts from a drawer and tossed it to her. “Here. You can wear this.”
The gallant gesture was starkly out of place considering their situation. Phaedra eyed her nemesis as she fastened the buttons, disconcerted by his scent on the shirt and how it mingled with the perfume of her newly healed skin. “Does this mean you’re ready to be redeemed, Luke Lazaros?”
“Just means I was brought up right,” Luke said through his teeth. “And that an officer falls back on his training in a crisis. Or maybe I’ve just always fantasized about a leggy woman wearing nothing but my shirt. Until I get rid of you, I might as well improve the scenery.”
“How many times must we go through this?” Phaedra asked, ignoring the predatory glare in his eyes. She rose to her feet. She was tall, but he was taller. She was hard-bodied and imposing; even before they felt the torture of her touch, most men had the sense to cower. But not this man. “There is no getting rid of me, Lieutenant. Once a fury is unleashed upon a criminal, she’s unbreakably bound to him until he atones or is driven to insanity.”
“I’m not a criminal,” Luke snapped. “And I will find a way to be rid of you.”
I hope you do find a way, Phaedra thought. Because she was every bit as stuck with him as he was with her.