DEMETRIUS—He’s the hulking, brooding warrior his fellow Guardians avoid. Too dark. Too damaged. And given his heritage, he knows it’s best to keep everyone at arm’s length.
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Bound. In a matter of hours, she’d be bound.
Demetrius ducked under the doorway and stepped into the dusty pub in the Tenedos region of Tiyrns, one thought in mind.
Forget, dammit. All he wanted to do was forget.
Heads turned his way, voices died in the dimly lit room. He was well-known in these parts and the Argoleans who frequented this establishment gave him a wide berth. Glasses clinked against wood and bodies parted as he headed for the back of the pub. A hushed whisper crept over the space.
He slid into a booth in a shadowy corner, watching the lowlife and social misfits who called this area home as conversation picked back up. Though he was an Argonaut and, theoretically, had been blessed by the gods, he wasn’t much different from those around him. He was a loner, just like them. He came here to escape, just like they did. And at the end of the day, if something were to happen to him, no one would give a shit. Just like no one would care if this whole building and everything in it went up in flames.
The darkness he lived with each and every day crouched inside him like a lion ready to strike, but he ignored it. Reminded himself in a few hours, he’d be free.
A dark-haired waitress with curls and a scar down the left side of her face sidled up to his table. She dropped a napkin on the dented wooden surface. “Didn’t expect to see you here tonight. Thought all the Argonauts were supposed to be at the castle for the princess’s binding ceremony.”
That darkness bubbled up but Demetrius breathed deep and focused on the waitress to keep from losing what was left of his mind. He’d seen the female in here before. Had heard her name…Kadence, Khloe, no, Kaliope. That was it. His jaw clenched. “I’ll have the usual.”
She eyed him a moment then turned for the bar.
Alone, his gaze swept over the room again, but thanks to the chippy waitress, his mind was now across the city, at the castle, where the other Argonauts—like she’d said—were gathering to witness Isadora’s binding to Zander.
Zander. Of all the Argonauts, she was binding herself to the one who couldn’t be killed.
His hand fisted on the table as he forced the image of the two of them together from his mind. This was exactly what he wanted, he reminded himself. What he’d wanted for more years than he could count. So what if he felt like his skin was being peeled off one agonizing inch at a time? In a few hours, everything would be right. Everyone would finally be safe.
Kaliope returned, set the shot of whiskey on the table followed by the bottle. But she didn’t leave like he’d hoped. Instead she tucked the tray under her arm and narrowed her gaze on him.
Unease pinged through his chest as she leaned forward. The scent of vanilla wafted in the air. In the dark, the other patrons probably thought she was making a move, but the way she stared at him, he had the strangest sensation she was looking all the way through him. Right into that part no one should see.
“You’re not free, Guardian. You’re never going to be free.”
Trepidation washed over him. “What do you know?”
“I know much.” She pushed up the sleeve of her shirt. Carved into the flesh of her forearm was the sun symbol—Helios—surrounded by a pentagram.
A witch. His gaze shot back to her face. The waitress was a witch. What the hell was she doing here?
“Watching you,” she answered, as if reading his mind. “We’re everywhere. But unlike you, we don’t turn our backs on our own kind.”
His chest went cold. Without a word he pushed from the table, brushed past her and headed out the way he’d come in, leaving his glass untouched. Bodies scrambled out of the way. Someone yelped and spilled their drink across his boot, but Demetrius barely cared. The only thing that mattered was getting away from the witch who saw way too much.
He stopped on the dingy street, drew in a deep breath of garbage-laden air. Across the crumbling rooftops that proved Argolea wasn’t the utopia many believed, he could just make out the spires of the castle. The bells tolled, signaling the start of the binding ceremony.
His lungs felt ten times too small and the tightness in his chest grew with every ring echoing in the cool air. He had to get the hell out of here. Alcohol wasn’t going to do the job tonight. He needed pain. The kind that dulled the senses and sucked the thoughts right from ones’ mind.
He stepped off the curb, intent on reaching the Gatehouse where he could cross the portal into the human realm and find that pain up close and personal. But laughter at his back brought him around.
Kaliope stood in the doorway of the pub, light spilling out around her one-size-too-small waitress uniform, a knowing smile on her shadowed face. “You can run, Guardian, but you can’t hide. Temptation will still be here when you return. Some things are certain.”
Her rolling laughter mocked him as he closed his eyes and flashed to the Gatehouse. And as he stepped through the portal into the human realm, with the bells of the castle chiming in the distance, a small part of him knew the witch was right.
One thing was certain. Bound or not, Isadora would forever be a temptation he would fight to indulge.
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