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Page 9

“Well?” she said, clearly impatient. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

Slowly he sat up. He didn’t want this moment to end. Didn’t want to lose sight of her. “I missed you. So much.”

“And I wanted an apology. I much prefer this.” She grinned, practically beaming. “I missed you, too, but we’ll have to catch up later.” Her gaze fell to his chest, and she gaped in astonishment. Then she growled. “Did the god king cut my name off you?”

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“Yes.”

She was holding a knife, he saw, and her knuckles bleached of color. “I. Will. Kill. Him.”

“Already promised to do so.”

“We’ll do it together, then. After we get out of here.” Her attention flicked behind her, urgent, before returning to him. “Come on. We have to go before someone realizes what I’ve done.”

“Just let me look at you. Just let me enjoy this moment. Let me apologize for what I said to you. You said you wanted an apology, yes? I didn’t mean it, not a word I said that last day, but I—”

She closed the distance between them and slapped him. Hard. The blow knocked him back against the cot and caused stars to wink over his vision.

Once more, he blinked at her. “You hit me.”

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“Yeah, and I’ll do it again if you don’t get your ass in gear.”

“You’re real.”

“Yes.”

“But you’re real.” He sat up, saying the words but not truly absorbing them. This couldn’t be happening.

She dropped to her knees. “Again, yes.” Just as he’d once done to her, she placed her fingers over his collar and blew into the center. As the metal softened, he finally understood what his brain had been trying to tell him. Nike was here. She was really here. And she was saving his life.

With a scowl, he jumped to his feet. “I told you to go to earth, damn it.”

“Okay, not the reaction I expected.” She stood and pressed a swift kiss to his lips. “Good thing I never listen to you. Now let’s go. I’ve already taken out the guards below. And no, I didn’t kill your friends. Just made them wish they were dead.” As she spoke, she latched on to his hand and dragged him out of the cell. “Cronus could realize what’s going down at any moment and appear, and then we’ll both be in trouble. As long as we’re here, we’re easy pickings.”

True. Nike was a fugitive now; he wanted her out of this prison, out of this realm, as soon as possible. “You risked your life to save me, you fool.”

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“Well, you risked your life to save me.”

Down the stairs they pounded and, sure enough, all three of the guards were flat on their faces, motionless. “But you were free. You had what you wanted.”

“Not everything,” she threw over her shoulder.

Okay, wow. She’d just admitted she wanted him more than freedom. Atlas couldn’t help himself. He gave a tug, propelling her backward, into his arms. “I love you,” he finally proclaimed, and mashed their lips together. His tongue thrust deep, tasting, demanding.

She only allowed the kiss for a few seconds, her hands fisting his hair and taking everything he had to give, before she pulled away, panting. “I love you, too. But let’s get the hell out of here. I need your pretty head connected to your body.”

Once again, they surged forward. Still, he almost couldn’t believe this was happening. It was too much like a dream. “I’m going to spend the rest of eternity making up for what I did to you.”

“Good. I think I’ll like seeing you grovel. But just for the record, I love my tattoo and I know why you said those nasty things. Sure, I would have found a better way to get you to safety, but then, I’m smarter than you are, so really, I can’t blame you.”

He laughed. Gods, he loved this woman. “Vixen.”

“Your vixen.”

“Mine. Always. You’ll mark me again just as soon as my skin heals.”

“Already planned on it.”

Good. He wouldn’t feel complete until she did. “So where are we going to live?” he asked. “We can’t stay in the heavens.”

“You ordered me to hide on earth. I thought we could do so—together. Though I hate that you have to give up your amazing house.”

“You’ve been there?” He found he really liked the thought of her there, surrounded by his things, breathing in his essence.

“I, well, I broke in.”

A laugh boomed from him. There was no woman more perfect for him. He would have done the same thing. “The only thing I’ll miss from that house is the portrait of you. But now I have the real thing.” He placed a swift kiss on her lips. “Back to our new living arrangements. There are other gods out there, Greeks like you, who are in hiding. Cronus has never been able to find them. That means there are places he can’t see.”

“Maybe we’ll find them and join them. We are Strength, after all. We can succeed where he has failed.”

“In the meantime, we might even try to find the Lords of the Underworld. Cronus mentioned being distracted by them, whoever they are. If they are his enemies, they might be good friends for us to have.”

Her eyes widened. “I know of whom you speak. They were Zeus’s immortal warriors long ago, but now they house the demons once locked inside Pandora’s box. Cronus will have his hands tied for a long, long time. They would be very good friends to have.”

They reached the door and burst outside, all without incident. Clouds instantly enveloped them, the sun shining brightly. Nike whirled and threw herself in his arms, placing nips and kisses all over his face.

“We did it. Now take us somewhere. Anywhere. As long as we can be together.”

“I love you,” he said again, then did exactly as his woman had ordered.