The Darkest Surrender(6)

By: Gena Showalter


“Actually, that, as you called it, happened a mere fifteen hundred years ago, but we aren’t discussing it. So what about Kane, keeper of Disaster, huh? I thought you once had a moment with him? A shock to your senses or something like that.”

“Nothing but static.”

A snort full of amusement. “Try again.”

“I don’t know. Maybe his demon sensed a kindred spirit in me and reached out, hoping to fan the flames of a romance. That doesn’t mean Kane and I are destined to be together. I’m not attracted to him.”

“Better, and okay, Kane’s out. Maybe you need to look elsewhere for a boyfriend. Like, say, the heavens. I can set you up with an angel.” Bianka held up a flowing swath of blue material with sequined flower appliqués sewn into the top and layer after layer of lacy ruffles at the bottom. “What do you think of this one?”

Ignoring the dress, Kaia pressed on. “No setups. I want Strider.”

“He’s no good for you.”

He’s perfect for me. “One, he doesn’t belong to another Harpy. Two, he isn’t psychotic. Well,” she added with a few seconds of afterthought, “he isn’t psychotic all of the time. And three, he’s…he’s my consort, I know it.” There. She’d said the words out loud to someone other than herself and the brain-damaged man in question.

My consort.

Consorts, as Kaia now knew, were extremely hard to find and utterly cherished because of that. Actually, they were necessary. Harpies were volatile by nature, dangerous and, when annoyed, lethal to the entire world. Consorts calmed them. Consorts appeased them.

If only you could select your consort from a catalog and be done with it. Instead, instinct picked for you, and your body followed suit. Wouldn’t have been so bad, except each Harpy was granted one consort during her seemingly endless life. Only one. You lost him, and you suffered eternally. If you didn’t kill yourself outright.

That Kaia had once tried to steal Juliette’s, that Juliette had been without her male all this time, not knowing whether he lived or had died, hating him for what he’d done but needing him anyway, that Juliette still loathed Kaia and had promised retribution—retribution the bitch still clearly planned to achieve—shamed her. But then, what could she say to defend herself? Nothing!

She had disobeyed. She had set the man free. She had unleashed his fury upon an unsuspecting community.

Every year Kaia mailed Juliette a fruit basket with a “sorry about your consort” card, and every year the basket was returned with rotten apple cores, black banana peels and a picture of Juliette flipping her off with “Die, Whore, Die” written in blood somewhere.

Only reason Juliette hadn’t yet attacked was out of respect for Tabitha, who was still a force to be reckoned with among allies and enemies alike.

Don’t think about the past. You’ll start spiraling.

She’d think about her consort. Strider. Barbaric, slutty, idiotic Strider. He was an immortal warrior who’d long ago stolen and opened Pandora’s box to “teach those asshole gods a lesson” for daring to pick a “mere woman” to guard such a “dumb relic,” and because of his rampant senselessness, he and the friends who’d helped him—the infamous and deliciously frightening for everyone but a Harpy Lords of the Underworld—had been cursed, forever forced to carry the demons they’d set free inside themselves.

Strider, the beautiful moron, was possessed by the demon of Defeat. He couldn’t lose a single challenge without suffering debilitating pain. Of course, that made him determined to win everything, even something as silly as Rock Band. Which she refused to ever again play with him because she’d totally nailed the Fender, then the drums, then the mic and he’d spazzed out and yelled at her before passing out and twitching with pain.

So melodramatic.

Anyway, his determination made him stupid, egotistical, stupid, an all-around asshat and stupid! But there was no man more handsome, no man more fierce.

No man who wanted less to do with her.

Had she mentioned he was stupid?

“Well?” Bianka shook the dress in Kaia’s face, forcefully claiming her attention. “Opinion, please. And sometime today.”