Knox and Harper's story continues as the Las Vegas lair - and its two infamous Co-Primes - face their most terrifying enemy yet . . .
Together, Harper and Knox have overcome just about every evil thing you can think of - from Horsemen of the Apocalypse to dark magic practitioners to Lucifer's insistent belief that he's hilarious. They're looking forward to some well-earned downtime - until Harper is attacked by mercenaries in the middle of her tattoo shop. Worse still, the attackers are trying to take her wings - the ones no one is meant to know she even has.
It's a near miss and once a furious Knox has managed to pull his demon back into line there's only one thing clear - someone knows Harper's secrets and is systematically setting out to destroy her. It seems likely that someone is the third Horseman - but how do they know so much about Harper? It seems the impossible might be true - they have an enemy hiding at the very heart of the lair.
To survive Harper will need to embrace power that's darker than she's ever experienced and even Knox can't protect her from everything - though God knows nothing's going to stop him trying. The stakes have never been higher, for if Harper's taken by this new threat, Knox won't be able to stop his demon from taking a vicious pleasure in tearing the world apart . . .
Release date: July 4, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Print pages: 384
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Shoving the drawer closed, Harper Wallis cursed. She’d searched the reception desk, her office, the breakroom, and every tattoo station. There was no sign of her keys, which was a major problem since she couldn’t leave without locking the studio.
Having been raised by imps, she was very security conscious. Breaking and entering was merely one talent that imps possessed. They also excelled at lying, cheating, stealing, and identity theft. She might biologically be a sphinx like her mother, but Harper was an imp in every other way that counted.
Speaking of imps… Harper turned to her teenage cousin. “Did you find the keys?”
“Nope,” Robbie replied.
“Well, maybe if you got up off your ass and looked instead of lounging on the sofa flicking through the portfolios, you might actually find them.”
Heidi, her other cousin who was only five, came skipping out of the breakroom and crossed to Harper. “They’re not back there.”
Harper stroked the little imp’s white-blonde hair. “Thanks anyway, Heidi-ho.” The kid truly did look like an absolute angel. As a demon, she was, of course, far from it.
“Why not just call Raini?” asked Robbie. “She’s the co-owner; she must have her own set of keys.”
“She does,” said Harper. “But I’m not calling her all the way back here.” It wasn’t exactly a simple location to arrive at. Six months ago, they’d relocated the business to the Underground, a demonic paradise that was pretty much a subterranean, hyperactive version of the Las Vegas strip.
Harper’s mate, Knox Thorne, had built the Underground a long time ago, and it was globally popular – mostly because demons were impulsive creatures that had instant gratification issues, loved adrenaline rushes, and were plagued by boredom and restlessness.
“Done,” declared Richie, her uncle. Dusting off his hands, he backed away from the vending machine. “It should work fine.” He lightly pounded his fist on the side of the machine, and it sprung to life with a whir as it dropped a bag of chips.
Harper shook her head. “It doesn’t matter how many times I do that, it never works for me.” His daughter, Khloë – who also happened to be Harper’s receptionist – did it just as effortlessly. “Thanks, Richie, I appreciate the help.”
He frowned at her. “I still don’t understand why you want to work here when you could earn a hell of a lot more money working for me,” he griped. Her uncle could fix anything. He could also recreate any piece of art. He’d produced and sold countless counterfeit paintings, and he’d passed on his expertise to Harper. As such, it disappointed him that she chose to “waste her artistic talent by drawing with needles”.
Harper raised a hand. “I’m not having this conversation with you again.”
Richie grunted. “Come on, kids, your mom will be waiting for you.” Although he was unmated, he had dozens of kids with five different mothers. He was a good dad, though. Financially and emotionally supportive. Never missed a single baseball game, school play, or ballet recital. In that sense, he was very unlike Harper’s nomadic father who could go for months at a time without contacting her, though Lucian did actually consider that to be full-time parenting.
Gathering his tools, Richie spoke. “Where’s your bodyguard?”
“Tanner has the night off, since I’m riding home with Knox.” Her mate was a busy guy, so their work days didn’t always finish at the same time. “I’m meeting Knox at his office and then we’re going out for a meal.”
Honestly, she didn’t feel up to it. She was so tired that her mind was foggy with exhaustion, and all she wanted to do was go home and crash. Not that there would be much point in that. Sleep hadn’t been coming easy to her lately. That might not have been so bad since, as a rule, demons didn’t need much sleep and could even go days without it. But when she did sleep, it was restless and didn’t restore her energy.
“Want us to walk you to Knox’s office?” asked Richie.
She shook her head. “I can’t leave until I find the keys.” In general, she wasn’t a forgetful person, but it had been a long, tiring day and her brain just wasn’t cooperating. “Don’t worry, I’ll find them. They’re here somewhere. Thanks again for your help.”
Richie nodded. “Ready, kids?”
“Yep.” Heidi peppered Harper’s face with kisses and then turned to skip away, but Harper grabbed her by the back of her sweater.
“What?” asked Heidi, blinking innocently.
Harper held out her hand. “I want whatever you’ve stolen with those sticky fingers of yours.”
Heidi pouted and then fished a diamond belly button ring out of her pocket. The little girl could always be counted on to take something shiny. “You’re no fun,” she said.
Harper gaped at her. “How did you even get this?” The glass reception desk doubled as a display cabinet for jewelry and other products, and Harper always kept it locked.
Heidi gave her a look that said, “Don’t insult me.” Then she skipped over to Richie.
He patted his daughter on the head. “You make your daddy proud.”
Harper rolled her eyes. “I’ll see you all soon.”
They said their goodbyes, and Robbie then ushered the kids out of the studio.
Determined to find the damn keys, Harper restarted her search. She checked every desk drawer, the spaces between the sofa cushions, and then underneath the table and couch. Once she was positive they weren’t in the reception area, she moved onto the tattoo stations and thoroughly searched every one of them – still no keys.
Harper’s inner demon huffed at her in sheer exasperation, like she was failing on freaking purpose. It had absolutely no sympathy for her; it just wanted to be with its mate.
Sharing your soul with a dark predator that was essentially a psychopath could be a bitch of a situation at times. The demon had no conscience, no empathy, no ability to love. It also possessed a strong and annoying sense of entitlement that made it a persistent motherfucker.
As Harper made her way through the breakroom and into the stockroom, a mind – dark, familiar, and comforting – brushed against hers. You’re late, baby. It wasn’t a reproach; more like a need for confirmation that nothing was wrong.
She smiled as the velvety, smoky, rumble seemed to slide over her skin. Knox’s sinfully seductive voice truly shouldn’t be legal. I’m sorry, I can’t find my keys.
You don’t think anybody’s taken them, do you? There was a promise of retribution in his words.
No, they’re here somewhere. But as Harper scanned the inventory, she didn’t see them.
I have a spare set. I’ll bring them to you.
She lifted a brow, even though he couldn’t see. And just why do you have spare keys to my studio?
A vibe of amusement touched her mind. Apparently, her snippy remark didn’t bother him. It used to be one of my security offices, remember?
Oh, yeah, she’d kind of forgotten that. Give me ten minutes. If I haven’t found mine by then, I’ll use the spare set.
If that’s what you —
She frowned when he abruptly cut off. Knox?
I need to have a quick talk with Levi, he said, sounding distracted. After that, I’ll come to you if you haven’t already arrived.
If he was doing that “keeping things from her to protect her” thing again, there’d be an argument for sure. But since his mind had already pulled away from hers, she didn’t bother saying as much.
Turning her attention back to the mystery of the disappearing keys, Harper looked in the small restroom and gave the kitchenette a thorough exploration. Nothing.
Cursing, she returned to her office to give it yet another search. Looking under her sketchpads, she froze as a prickle of awareness danced across her nape.
She was about to turn when a heavy weight slammed into her back, propelling her forwards so that she was bent over the table. Just as fast, the back of her shirt was ripped open and a body appeared in front of her as two meaty hands grabbed hers, fisting her own hands and pinning them in place.
“We need to do this quickly,” said a gruff voice.
What the fuck? Knox! No response. A familiar, protective power rushed from her belly to her fingertips. They prickled as the power fought for release. Harper would be more than fucking happy to release it on her captive, but her hands were trapped. “Get the fuck off me!”
“Do it now.”
Someone blew into her ear, and suddenly Harper was at home. She stood in the doorway of her bedroom. It was almost eerily dim. Weirdly, the entire space was bare apart from one thing: a cradle. It would have been deathly quiet if it wasn’t for the sound of a baby crying.
For some reason, the sound made her stomach tighten. She crept forward, feeling disturbingly compelled toward the cradle and —
Abruptly back in her office, Harper hissed through her teeth. The flesh of her back felt like it was on fire. Her demon raged, freaking the fuck out. Harper writhed and struggled against her captive’s grip, scrambling to understand what the hell was happening.
“You want to release me,” she said in a compelling tone that came with the sphinx package.
A dark chuckle. “No, we don’t.”
Her surroundings shifted once again, and she found herself walking toward the cradle again. Time was slow here. There was no pain, no panic, no anger. But it wasn’t real… was it? She didn’t know, so she kept her mind focused on the vision in front of her. The crying seemed louder now and —
Finding herself bent over the office table once more, she blinked, disorientated. Her body bucked and writhed as what felt like some sort of magnetic force called to her wings. They snapped to the surface and fanned out around her – huge, gold, heavy, eagle-like, gossamer wings that were silky-soft but strong as steel.
“Look at the black and red streaks running through the gold feathers,” said the demon subduing her hands. His shock was understandable – they were the colors of the flames of hell.
A covetous hand stroked one wing. Red-hot rage whipped through her, and she writhed like crazy. “Let me go, you motherfuckers!”
“She shouldn’t be partially aware!”
“Well I know that, but she is!”
Knox! Knox! Where the hell was he? Was someone attacking him too and —?
She was back in her bedroom again, closer to the cradle now. The cries had eased a little, as if whatever lay there was calmed by her presence. A part of her wanted to retreat, but she needed to see the source of the crying. Needed to know if —
Arching like a bow, Harper screamed around her gag – gag? – as something sliced into her back. No, into the stems of her wings. The son of a bitch was trying to sever her wings! Tears stung her eyes each time the jagged blade mercilessly cut into the stems. She redoubled her efforts to be free, even as it worsened the pain that was burning her from the inside out. Her heartbeat was racing so fast that she wouldn’t have been surprised if it collapsed.
The male behind her cursed. “If sphinx wings were as flimsy as they look, this would be a lot goddamn easier.”
“I swear I will fucking kill you!” she growled around the gag.
The males just laughed. Laughed.
Her inner demon shoved its way to the surface and pulled back its lips. “You will die for this,” it told them in a flat, emotionless voice that was barely audible, but the demon’s presence still made both males pause for a moment.
“For God’s sake, put her out!”
A warm breath blew into her ear once more, and she was back in her room. Two single steps were all it would take to get her up close to the cradle. She took one step, then another. And there, eyes closed as it fussed and kicked its little legs, was a baby. It looked so tiny and sweet, sucking on its fist.
Harper’s smile was slow but real as she tentatively reached out and ran the tip of her finger over the small hand, warmed by the feel of its petal-soft skin. The baby’s eyes flipped open, and all she could see were flames.
Harper snapped back to reality, pain ripping through her as someone continued sawing into the stems of her wings. Black spots filled her vision, and the sickly tastes of blood and fear flooded her mouth until they almost choked her.
She wanted to shout. Struggle. Fight back. But she felt paralyzed with the sheer agony that came with each and every slice. Not even the adrenaline pumping through her was much help at this point.
“Now those rings sure are pretty,” said her captor, keeping her hands fisted so tightly that her nails bit hard into her palms. “I’ll bet there are people willing to pay top dollar for them – maybe even more than this guy’s paying us for the wings.”
Like hell would she let them take the rings. Knox had given them to her. One was a black diamond; something a demon only gave to their mate. It was a symbol of the ultimate commitment. They meant more to her than even her wings.
“No, don’t free her hands. She can cause soul-deep pain, idiot.”
“She’s trapped in a dream right now. She doesn’t even know we’re here or where she is.”
This was her chance, Harper thought. If nothing else, she could hurt one of the bastards who was hurting her. She didn’t move when he slowly lifted her third finger. She remained still, quiet. As she felt him try to tug off her rings, she did nothing more than poke his hand. The dark power prickling the pad of her finger forced its way inside him.
His mouth opened in a silent scream as pain scorched his nerve endings, punctured his organs, sawed through his bones, and battered his soul. He stumbled back and fell, knocking piles of paper down with him. And there were her keys. Grabbing them, she infused hellfire into them and – bracing herself for yet more pain – swung back her arm and slashed at the male behind her.
There was a cry of pain, and then his weight left her. Twisting, Harper spun to face the bastard, breaths sawing in and out of her. Stocky. Dirty blond hair. Scruffy beard. Leather jacket. He also had a saw in his hand that dripped with blood. Not good.
He was glaring at the sizzling slash across his chest as his skin blistered and peeled away, thanks to the hellfire eating at it. Her demon smiled at the sight. His gaze snapped to hers just as Harper tugged down the gag, and he lifted his saw threateningly.
She thought about snatching the stiletto blade from her boot and infusing it with hellfire, but it was really no match for the saw, was it? Still, if she could touch him just once, he’d be a soul-deep wreck just like his friend. He shifted from foot to foot, and she knew he was preparing to charge at her. Her breathing quick and shallow, she braced herself. But he didn’t move.
Eyes cold, mouth set into a sneer, he spoke. “You burned me.”
Using the back of her trembling hand to wipe at the sweat beading her forehead, she snarled, “And you almost cut off my fucking wings.” She wanted to bludgeon the son of a bitch with his own weapon. But not before sawing off his arms and mangling him.
Her demon shoved its way to the surface and hissed at him. “I warned you that you would pay. You should have heeded me.” Harper forced her demon to retreat and abruptly lashed out with the blazing keys. He jerked back, but they still scored his cheek. His skin sizzled as the hellfire ate at it. Her demon grinned.
“You bitch!” He lifted his saw again, ready to attack.
With a battle cry, he lunged.
She sidestepped him, barely avoiding the saw. He crashed into her desk with a grunt, slashing at thin air and —
Fire thundered to life outside the office doorway. He whirled around to watch as the fire spat and crackled. The flames then faded, and there was Knox. Relief flooded Harper so fast, her legs shook.
Deep-set ebony eyes swept over her, and his perfectly sculpted face set into a mask of savage anger. Her attacker took a cautious step away as those dark eyes slammed on him with lethal intent, glittering with a fury that began to pulse around them.
Her attacker made a gurgling sound and dropped his bloody saw, clawing at an invisible hand that lifted him off his feet. Knox’s psychic hands had touched her more than once and always given her nothing but pleasure. That had made it so easy for her to forget that they could also deliver a shit load of pain.
Knox stalked to him. Slowly. Casually. Utterly composed. Yet, every step was both predatory and threatening. She shivered a little. It always spooked her when he was so unnaturally calm.
His eyes flicked to the other demon, who was still sobbing in the corner, but his gaze quickly snapped back to the male in his psychic grip. Knox halted in front of him and cocked his head. “Your little friend over there can answer my questions,” he rumbled. “Which is a very good thing because there isn’t the slightest chance that I could let you live even a moment longer.”
Knox’s eyes bled to black and the room temperature plummeted as his demon rose to the surface. Harper tensed. It would never harm her, she knew that. But it would be dumb to ever let herself forget how cold, menacing, and old the entity was. It could destroy them all so very easily. And it wasn’t particularly interested in the right or wrong of wreaking havoc when it was in a rage. Right then, it was incalculably pissed.
The demon glared at its captive. “You hurt what’s mine,” it said in a chilling, disembodied voice. “Cut her. Made her bleed. Caused her pain.” It leaned forward slightly. “Now I will do the same to you.”
Straightening, the demon held up its hand. The male’s body arched toward it; legs kicking, arms flailing, eyes bulging. His face was red and contorted with an agony that he’d undoubtedly cry out with if his larynx wasn’t being crushed. His body violently bucked, and there was a nauseating crack as his ribs broke and his chest somehow burst open. His heart flew into the demon’s open hand, still beating.
Harper didn’t know whether to be impressed or revolted. Her bloodthirsty demon was most certainly impressed, grinning with a wicked satisfaction.
The corpse dropped to the floor like a sack of spuds. Hellfire erupted out of the demon’s hand, devouring the organ it held until even the blood was completely gone.
Harper’s brows rose. Now that was definitely impressive. Her inner demon wholeheartedly agreed.
The entity turned to face Harper, and its black eyes raked over her. Then those eyes changed, and she was once more looking at Knox. But then they bled to black again, and she realized that he and his demon were battling for dominance. She stayed rigid as she waited to see who would win.
Finally, the entity seemed to have agreed to retreat, and suddenly Knox’s dark eyes were focused solely on her. Despite that danger clung to him, that his demon was so pitiless and cruel, and that he was every inch the most lethal predator she’d ever met, Harper felt nothing but safe when he stalked to her and cradled her face with his hands.
“Ah, baby, what did they do to you?” Even though his voice vibrated with a rage that was thickening the air, there was a gentle note to it that almost undid her.
“They tried to saw off my wings,” she told him, struggling to ease the tremble in her limbs. Now that the adrenaline rush was fading, the pain was like nothing she’d ever felt and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stay conscious.
Knox viciously swore. “Let me see.”
Holding herself stiffly, she turned. “How bad is it?” He didn’t answer, but fury blasted the air, sending shockwaves sweeping outwards. The walls and ceiling shook slightly. She slowly turned back to face him. His expression was now blank, and he looked the image of composure even as his anger seemed to clog up the room. “How bad?” she asked again, panicking now.
Knox cupped his mate’s jaw, wanting to pull her close and hold her tight against him, but he was scared he’d hurt her. She was in enough pain as it was. “The bastards didn’t get very far. The saw didn’t even make it halfway through the stems.” But he knew that every drag of the serrated blade must have been absolutely agonizing. He clenched his jaw, hating the very thought of her in such excruciating pain.
She wasn’t bleeding badly, but the cuts on her back were ugly. The saw had sliced into her flesh several times, as if she’d repeatedly jerked and the blade had accidentally nicked her each time.
The front door burst open just moments before Levi came skidding into the office. His gun-metal gray eyes took in Harper, the dead demon, his whimpering friend, and the bloody saw. “Fuck,” he bit out.
Knox wasn’t surprised to see his sentinel. They’d been in the middle of a conversation when Knox had heard Harper’s telepathic scream, whispered her name, and then abruptly pyroported from his office to the studio. Levi had no doubt panicked.
“They tried to steal Harper’s wings,” Knox told him. “I believe they’re hunters.”
Levi cursed again. “How successful were they?” he growled, examining the dead body.
“Not very,” said Harper. “I’ll be okay.”
Knox framed her face again, fighting to keep his touch gentle when he was feeling anything but. “You should have called me immediately. I know you want to protect me just as I do you, but why wait until you’re so badly hurt?”
“I did call you. You didn’t come.”
He frowned. “I came as soon as I heard you.”
She shook her head. “I called you over and over. You didn’t come.” She’d started to think that he wasn’t going to come at all. “I thought something might have happened to you.”
Knox slid a possessive hand around her nape and gave it a comforting squeeze. “I only heard you once, baby. It was like an echo of a scream.” And it had pierced a heart he hadn’t thought he had until he met Harper. “One of the hunters must be a blocker.”
“Someone who can block telepathic calls. If you weren’t so strong, I probably wouldn’t have heard you at all.” And then they’d have taken her wings, he thought. They might have even killed her to protect their identities. He could have arrived here, spare set of keys in hand, only to find her dead. His breath caught in his throat at just the very idea, and his demon bared its teeth, wanting vengeance on the other male who’d dared to harm its mate.
Knox stroked his thumb along her jaw. “We need to get you home.” Where she’d be safe, where he could get her cleaned up, where she could heal. Vengeance would come later.
“Are we taking that little fucker with us?” Levi clipped.
Knox cut his gaze to the hunter that was huddled against the wall, shaking and whimpering as what Knox suspected was soul-deep pain reverberated through him. That wasn’t good enough for Knox or his demon. No amount of pain would be enough. They wanted to see the bastard bleed, wanted to hear him scream in the sheer agony that he and the other hunter had put Harper through. Neither Knox nor his demon would settle for anything less.
“He’s definitely coming with us,” Knox replied as he prowled to the hunter. The smell of the male’s fear pleased his demon, who tried to resurface again, but Knox pushed it down. Now wasn’t the time to play with their prey. Getting Harper to safety where she could heal was his priority.
Knox squatted in front of him. “You and I will talk very soon. You’re going to tell me everything I want to know. Everything.”
And then he was going to die.
Stretched out beside his mate as she lay on her stomach, Knox stroked a hand over her long, sleek, dark hair and played with the gold ends. Although her cuts had faded to pink lines and the tears in the stems of her wings had partially reknitted, anger still blazed inside him. He took a deep, controlled breath, inhaling her warm, honeyed scent. She was alive. Safe. Healing. But rage was still a living, breathing, clawing thing inside him.
His demon’s anger didn’t show any signs of abating either. How could it? Their mate had been attacked, for fuck’s sake. Attacked in her own studio, a place where she should have been safe. He’d been the one to convince her that she would be safe there. She’d relocated her studio at his request, believing he was right, and he’d been far fucking from it.
His eyes fell closed as he remembered the moment he’d heard her telepathic scream. The panicked, pain-filled sound kept replaying in his mind like a broken record, and he knew he’d never forget it. Similarly, he’d never forget the sight of her there in her office; eyes clouded with pain, limbs trembling, and her skin glistening with a fine sheen of sweat.
His demon had almost lost it; had wanted nothing more than to rise and wreak havoc, but Knox had only given it dominance for a short time. He’d needed to check on Harper, had reminded the demon that she was more important than their revenge – something it luckily agreed with. The entity was selfish and merciless, but it would always put Harper first.
The dark entities that lived within demons couldn’t love; they simply weren’t capable of that emotion. But they could form attachments to people. It wasn’t something they did often or easily, but it was always permanent and always intense. Knox’s demon had claimed Harper as its mate. It had “collected” her and was every bit as possessive and protective of the little sphinx as Knox was.
Shiny, defiant, and unique, she’d instantly captured his demon’s interest the second they met. Knox had been just as fascinated. She was an intriguing creature. Smart. Stubborn. Complex. Elusive. There weren’t many things that Knox found unpredictable, but Harper often managed to surprise him. That was something he liked.
It sometimes amused him that someone so small had so easily upturned his life. Innately sensual with mouthwatering curves and a plush mouth that he’d never tire of biting, Harper was a package that he hadn’t been able to resist. He craved her on every level – mentally, physically, and even emotionally. She was indelible to him, as both his mate and his anchor.
Demons came in pairs; had fated psychic mates, or “anchors”, that could make them stronger and keep them stable enough to prevent them from ever turning rogue. It was impossible for demons to control the dark entity within them, but it was possible to resist the entity’s persistent attempts to completely take over if a demon linked minds with their anchor.
Knox hadn’t planned to claim his anchor, since he was powerful enough on his own. The whole thing had seemed unnecessary and complicated to him. He didn’t allow people in his life, but there was no way a person could maintain a distance between themselves and their anchor. Especially since they found it mentally uncomfortable to be separated for long periods.
Although the anchor bond was only psychic in nature as opposed to emotional or sexual, anchors still tended to be close friends and they always protected, supported, and were loyal toward each other. Knox didn’t consider himself a person who needed friends, even though a numbing loneliness had begun to plague him back then.
Still, when he’d first stroked Harper’s mind and realized what she was to him, he’d thought Mine. He hadn’t been able to walk away from her. He’d relentlessly pursued her both psychically and sexually. Only once he’d fused their psyches had he understood that she truly was the only thing that could ever keep him stable. For all his power, he could never have been enough to keep himself from turning rogue.
Just like, for all his power, he hadn’t heard her calling for him tonight.
The hunters had cut her, sawed at her wings, tried to steal them from her… and he’d been talking with Levi, completely oblivious. Knox had made her promise to call out to him if she was ever in danger. Stubborn and protective, Harper rarely did so – refusing to lure him into dangerous situations. The fact that she had reached out to him showed just how scared she’d been. It gutted him that she’d suffered so much pain and had feared that he wouldn’t come for her.
He traced the pink lines on her back, needing that proof that she was healing. A vicious sexual need pricked at him, pushing him to follow the primal urge to dr. . .
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