Home > The Darkest Destiny (Lords of the Underworld #15.5)(4)

The Darkest Destiny (Lords of the Underworld #15.5)(4)
Author: Gena Showalter

The dips and rises. The subtle shading of colors. Layer upon layer of exquisite detail. Honestly, nothing compared to this. The sheer, unadulterated majesty welled tears in her eyes.

From somewhere nearby, a man asked, “Is she admiring…herself?”

“She is,” another man replied, glee in the undertone. “She’s possessed by the demon of Narcissism. To capture her, I had only to hold up this mirror. Within seconds, she stopped fighting.”

The duo laughed, pleased with themselves.

Silly males. She wasn’t possessed, a term used too loosely among their ilk. She was oppressed. There was a big difference. Possession equaled a total takeover. Oppression pointed to shackles of influence the fiend utilized liberally, all from the safety of a stronghold it had built inside her mind. A stronghold she had allowed it to build.

Ignorance destroyed as surely as a blade.

Now, Narcissism sought adoration and destruction in equal measure, and used her to get it.

Someone applied pressure to her shoulders, forcing her to perch on an uncomfortable chair. Oh, wow. And I thought such perfection couldn’t be improved. Standing, she was magnificent. But sitting? More so.

One of her companions drew her arms behind her back. Something cold and hard circled her wrists. The same sensations registered on her ankles as well. Fetters?

I look amazing in chains.

No, no. This isn’t right.

“Remove her weapons,” the second male commanded.

In a shadowy corner of Viola’s mind, she knew she’d allowed this detainment for a specific purpose. She remembered waking to the sound of her alarm clock—clapping and cheering, as she deserved. Then she had beautified—aka breathed—and gone to a bar to condemn someone to death and…what, what? Just as soon as she broke the mirror’s spell, she would remember her endgame, then save herself and the day. Obviously. There was no one as strong or wise as her. But…

Shouldn’t she admire her sun-kissed skin a little longer? What about the mischievous glint in her rich umber eyes? The classic perfection of her bone structure. The waterfall of silken blond locks. The delicacy of her—

A dark cloth whooshed over the glass, hiding her reflection.

Narcissism clawed in protest. His specialty.

As sharp pains ripped through her head, she bellowed, “I’ll strangle you with your entrails!” Viola erupted from the chair, planning to do just that. Nope. The fetters held steady, locking her in place.

Realization dawned. I’m trapped? Panic warred with rage. She didn’t accept captivity well. The daughter of a powerful goddess, Viola had spent the first twenty-six years of her life trapped inside a palace, hidden by her mother from the woman’s more powerful spouse. Hidden from all the worlds. It had been an opulent home, yes, but a prison all the same.

Not long after her escape, she was arrested by an army of gods. She ended up spending a multitude of centuries sealed inside the impenetrable Tartarus, a jailhouse for immortals. Worse, until recently, she’d thought herself responsible for her incarceration. That she had done something horribly wrong and ended the wrong soul at the wrong time. In reality, the demon had hidden the truth from her, and it was something far worse than she could have ever imagined. A truth devastating to her sense of self-worth.

Well, never again! Not the lower than dirt self-esteem and certainly not the lock-up.

The demon continued its assault, and oh, how she despised the foul, horrid creature. Demons brimmed with evil and oozed wickedness. They had no redeeming qualities and couldn’t be reasoned with. Couldn’t be satisfied or placated. Insidious, each of them, with a single purpose: cause as much pain and destruction as possible. For their hosts. For those their hosts loved.

At first, she hadn’t even noticed the fiend’s presence. Then, it had begun to whisper to her. She’d foolishly listened, allowing her new companion to provoke certain emotions. Indignation. Offense. Envy. More whispers had come. The more she’d mused on its words, the stronger her emotions became, soon creating a bond between them, making her a slave to the wiles of her greatest enemy. In the aftermath, the person she used to be—the person she should be—had gotten lost.

Focus. Think. The past didn’t matter. Viola settled into the seat. Inhale. Exhale. As awareness of the present situation returned, she took stock. A small room. No, a cell. Dank and dirty with a mud floor and crumbling, blood-stained brickwork. An array of torches hung on the walls, providing light without heat. The frigid air was putrid and infused with the scent of rot.

From a legendary vampire bar to a crappy dungeon? The insult! An exquisite female like Viola deserved wining and dining in pure luxury, nothing less.

The only other occupants: her kidnappers, the speakers. Two Fallen Ones with wings. Former Sent Ones. Only, their wings hadn’t rotted off, an act that would have stripped them of their immortality and all its boons. How certain individuals retained their wings, she didn’t know. But the rare few who did…changed.

These two had undergone a transformation, and the result wasn’t pretty.

They stood across the cell, near the bars, clad in only loose-fitting pants. The tallest had leathery, crimson skin. The other sported green flesh speckled with onyx. Both had too-prominent facial features and cesspool irises. Black wings with razor-sharp edges arched over broad shoulders. Curling claws tipped their hands and feet.

What did these males want with her? Other than the obvious, of course.

Viola exaggerated a sigh. “Listen, boys. You’re not the first misguided souls to abduct me, hoping to level up and win the most beautiful goddess ever born. Like every time before, my answer is no. I absolutely will not agree to be your captive bride, bear your Fallen spawn, and make you the happiest of creatures. Although, you do have an almost delicious muscle mass, so what the heck? A little role-playing might not be amiss. Try not to get offended when I moan someone else’s name.”

Crimson shuddered, then offered her a chiding look. “I decline with every fiber of my being. I prefer my females to be…not you.”

“Okay. Sure.” She rolled her eyes. “Whatever you need to tell yourself.” Everyone desired her. How could they not? Forget her stunning beauty and brilliant mind. If possible. She had so many magnificent qualities. So much more to offer. Her sparkling wit and magical laugh delighted all who heard her—and also those who didn’t. Intelligent beyond words, she’d even helped her own mother birth her. And Viola had done most of the work! Forget Helen of Troy. Viola had launched two thousand ships with a wink.

Ignore the pang of uncertainty in your chest. It means nothing.

“Your ultimate fate isn’t in question, goddess,” the Fallen One announced. “Be assured, you will die today. But there’s no reason for you to fret about it. Answer my questions, and I’ll end you swiftly.”

Poor, addled soul. He believed he had the necessary power to defeat her. Her! Should she laugh now or later?

Wait. Why not now and later?

Viola laughed, and it was more magical than advertised. “A swift end sounds boring.”

He shrugged. “That is your choice. Just understand I still plan to kill you. But this way, I’ll ensure you linger.”

“Ohhhh. Yes, let’s do that.” She nodded for emphasis. “I love dramatic goodbyes. No, you know what? I think I’ll escape my bonds and murder you instead. Yes, I’ll do that. But there’s no reason to fret about it,” she added, gifting him with a blinding smile. “I’ll make it hurt no matter what you do.”

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