No. She wasn't.
Ancreta had tortured him for the joy of it for months. Skye had never hurt him.
He released her and whirled away, slamming his fists into the stone of her cage. That was the problem. In all the time she'd had him at her mercy, she'd never once caused him an ounce of pain. Even after he attacked her.
If the witch in here with him were Ancreta, he'd have no trouble hurting her just as she'd hurt him all those months with her eyes filled with malicious glee.
But Skye wasn't Ancreta. He hated her for her lies, for making him think she was being abused so he'd fuck her. He despised the way she'd led the animals in her care to slaughter. Most of all, he hated the way she'd made him care about her, forcing this need in him to protect her.
But as far as he remembered, she'd never done anything to cause him pain. How could he get any satisfaction from hurting her in return? Even her fear was making him ill.
Yes, she'd taken him against his will, but he couldn't pretend there was any similarity. When she'd impaled herself on him during that ritual, he'd been furious. But she hadn't hurt him. Until the power rushed through him afterward, the physical act itself had brought him only pleasure.
That wouldn't be the case if he forced himself on her. Not unless she was wet and ready. Goddess, he could do that. He wanted to do that, to stroke her and touch her until she was writhing with need beneath his hand.
That he could force on her. A need she didn't want.
But he couldn't shake the thought of her on that stone, chained as he'd been. For whose pleasure? Birik's?
Fury burned through him, but it was a fury against her attackers, not against her.
For all he knew, every thought in his head was being manipulated by her deft enchantment.
He stormed out of the small cell without a backward glance, locking the barred door behind him. It was past time he got himself cleared of this damned magic. And the only way to do that was with a good sexual release. Evangeline's warm and willing body would have to do. But, goddess, the only one he wanted was the very one who'd enchanted him in the first place.
As Paenther climbed the stairs from the underground chambers, his fingers curled around the cold metal manacle biting into his opposite wrist. Dark fury twined with the rage that was as much a part of him as the magic that allowed him to shift. A magic chained as thoroughly by these damned shackles as he'd been chained to that rock.
His fingers dug into his flesh, trying to claw beneath the metal. He wanted the damned things off! The witch claimed they were magic, which meant they could be doing things to him. Goddess knew what.
The shackles alone were stopping him from racing back to that cavern to grab Vhyper before he couldn't find him again. Vhyper's soul was still in his body, Paenther was sure of it. Trapped by the evil that had already stolen too many.
If it was the last thing he did, he'd get him out of that cavern and free of the dark control.
Paenther strode into the foyer to find Evangeline waiting for him, watching him with hunger in her eyes. She'd dressed for him, her ripe curves well displayed by the low-cut red dress that hugged her body and left her long, shapely legs bare. Her dark hair tumbled loose around her shoulders just the way he liked it.
"Where's Genovia?" he asked.
"Jag's already taken her upstairs." She held out her hand to him, a slow, knowing smile lifting her mouth.
He made no move to take her hand. For the first time in decades that smile, that ripe, lush body, stirred nothing inside him.
Skye's fault. Ironically, the only way to eliminate the web of enchantment she'd spun around him was to take Evangeline anyway. And he would. Dammit, he would.
In a minute.
"Do you want something?" He walked past her into the living room, a room as flowery and gilded as the rest of the house, and grabbed the bottle of scotch from the bar, pouring himself a drink and kicking it back in a single swallow.
"I want you," the woman said softly, leaning against the doorframe, her arms crossed beneath her ample breasts. She watched him with shrewd eyes, her gaze flicking down to his crotch and his decided lack of erection. "But you don't want me today. What's happened, Paenther?" There was no rancor in her tone. No hurt.
Theirs was a relationship built on sex and nothing more. On physical pleasure and needs met. He liked and respected her and was always careful to bring her as much pleasure as she brought him. But what they had together ended at the bedroom door.
"I've been enthralled. I'm probably still under her enchantment."
Evangeline nodded. "Which is why Lyon called me." She straightened and held out her hand again. "Come, warrior. Let's get you cleared of that magic. Then when you're interested again, I'll pleasure you a second time, if you like."
Paenther watched her, seeking the rush of heat that should have accompanied her words. But it was frustratingly absent. Still, she was right. The sooner he got the witch's magic out of his system, the better.
Without touching her, he led her upstairs to his bedroom, his own private sanctuary. The previous Radiant, Beatrice, had insisted on sharing her love of art with all the Ferals. Paintings of Indians on horseback covered two of his walls. But the large, rough-hewn furniture and collections of now-antique guns and arrowheads were all his.
He closed the door and watched the woman slowly strip out of the dress until she wore nothing but a pair of tiny lace panties and a bra, which left little to the imagination. Evangeline was soft and curvy, and sexy as hell. At least, he'd always thought so. But as he imagined removing those scraps of lace and having his way with the womanly parts beneath, he felt nothing. His body refused to rise.
He gave a snort of disgust.
Evangeline frowned. "She really has you under her spell, doesn't she?"
With a growl, he closed the distance between them, turned Evangeline in his arms, pressing her back against his chest as his hands covered her full, ripe breasts. Too ripe. His hands itched to cup a pair of small breasts on a too-slender frame. "Dammit."
Evangeline eased out of his arms. "Close your eyes, Paenther. Maybe that will help. Close your eyes and think of her."
"Do whatever it takes to get aroused, warrior. We have to clear you of her magic."
He leaned back against the door and did as she suggested, closing his eyes. The moment he did, Skye's face rose in his mind as he'd first seen her. The excitement in her eyes as she'd looked up from perusing the magazine and caught his gaze. He thought of the way she'd looked as he'd driven himself into her in the woods, her head thrown back in ecstasy.
His body rose and heated at the thought. He felt soft hands on his crotch, unzipping his pants, taking his heavy shaft into a warm palm. He arched into the touch, heat coursing through his body.
The scent of jasmine filled his senses, and he stilled, everything inside him rebelling. Jasmine, not violets.
He didn't want jasmine. He didn't want...Evangeline.
The only one who could slake this hunger was Skye.
He opened his eyes to look down at the woman preparing to take him into her mouth. Her hair was too long. Her body too lush, too ripe.
His body went soft. With a growl of disgust, he moved away from her, zipping himself back into his pants as he prowled the room like a caged and wounded animal. Dammit! He might as well still be shackled and chained to the witch's rock for all the freedom he had from her.
"What do you want me to do, Paenther?" Evangeline asked carefully.
"I don't know." He had a beautiful, practically naked, willing woman in front of him, and direct orders from his chief to find sexual release. And he couldn't take her. He didn't want to be inside her. Not between her legs. Not in her mouth. He didn't even want her touching him.
Goddess, that witch had him screwed up.
"If you're not going to let me clear you, Paenther, you'll have to do it yourself. And I'll have to watch to make sure you do. We can't have the enchantment keeping you from getting cleared."
Standing where Evangeline's scent didn't overpower him, he closed his eyes and thought of Skye. Of the day he kissed her for the first time, still thinking she was human. He'd ordered Foxx back to the country store a second time, needing to see her again. He hadn't expected her to be there, but she'd been waiting. And when she'd slid into his arms and pressed her mouth to his...
Fire erupted inside him, heating his body. As she swept her tongue into his mouth, all thought of gentleness flew from his head. He took her mouth, plundering, conquering with his tongue as he pulled her tight against him. She tasted like raindrops and smelled like violets, and all he could think of was being inside her.
Her arm slipped from around his neck and moved down to slide over that distended part of his anatomy, telling him her thoughts were as carnal and desperate as his own. He slid his palm down her thigh, then up again, lifting the skirt of her dress until he found the hem. He reached beneath, his fingers skimming her warm flesh, his hand slipping between her thighs, finding her hot, damp core.
The woman wore no undergarments.
A smile pulled at his mouth as he kissed her hard and slid a single, shaking finger deep inside her tight wet sheath.
Paenther opened his eyes and strode to the bathroom, leaving the door open as he pulled his throbbing erection out of his pants and began pumping himself off over the sink. His mind remained on Skye.
Foxx had interrupted them, or he might have taken her right there. Right then. He'd been so hard for her. And she'd been so ready.
Damn the witch!
In his mind he saw her again as she'd ridden him on the stone that first time, fingering herself as he'd directed her to.
Goddess, she'd been glorious as the passion had begun to ride her, as the cries had escaped that slender throat.
And when she'd come...
His body tightened as the memory of her orgasm brought on his own. With a low groan, he pumped his seed into the sink, the release satisfying in only the most basic way. Grabbing a towel, he cleaned himself off, then zipped up his pants as he glanced at Evangeline watching him from the doorway, heat in her eyes.
No matching heat rose in his body. A flare of panic ran beneath his breastbone. He'd cleared himself of the magic. It should be gone!
Reaching for Evangeline, he pulled her into his arms and released her just as quickly, wanting her even less than he had before. Skye's slender body rose in his mind, her scent the only one he craved.
"Shit!" He stormed past Evangeline, into the bedroom, the ever-present rage boiling his blood.
Behind him, a feminine snort of disbelief. "She's enchanted you, all right, just not with magic. You're into her for real, warrior."
Paenther swung to face his scantily clad companion. "I have not fallen for a witch!"
"Maybe not emotionally, but physically, you want her bad. Bad enough that no one else will do."
Paenther felt the rush of feral anger, his teeth and claws elongating, his mind spoiling for a fight. One of his brothers was about to get bloody.
"Ease down, warrior," Evangeline said without fear. "It'll go away, Paenther. You're not the first male to want a female you shouldn't have. You won't be the last. Sooner or later, you'll get over her."
Paenther clenched his jaw hard and nodded. "Sooner, not later." He pulled himself back, retracting his fangs and claws. The best way to end this unholy infatuation was to avoid the witch altogether. The only reason he'd brought her back here was to interrogate her and find out what she knew. Once they'd done that, there was nothing to keep them from destroying her. Then he knew he'd get over her.
Striding back into the bathroom, he shut the door, stripped, and took a hot shower, washing the smell of the caverns and the witch off his skin. As he dried himself, he made his decision. He'd give her into Roar's keeping. Let his chief decide what to do with her. Because, enchanted or not, he obviously wasn't thinking clearly when it came to this particular witch. And there was too much at stake for him to make any more errors.
Paenther dressed quickly, in a clean pair of black leathers and a black silk shirt, buckling his knife belt around his waist.
The witch was no longer his concern.
If only, for one damned minute, he could stop wanting her.
Skye stood within her prison cell deep below Feral House, once more dressed, her back against the wall. Her body quaked as she struggled for breath, fearing what Paenther would do when he returned, dreading Birik's retribution. How many times had Birik told her if she ever escaped him, he'd make her long to return...or long to die?
If only she could escape them both. But where would she go?
Home. She'd go home.
Tears heated her eyes as the longing for her mother nearly overwhelmed her. But she didn't know how to find her. Her world had been so contained, so secure, she had no frame of reference within the human world to lead her back there. No idea what human town they'd lived near, or even what state. No way to contact the people she'd loved.
And no way to know if they, too, had lost their souls and were now part of Inir's army.
She brushed at the tear that rolled down her cheek. It didn't matter because she'd never be free. Escape was impossible. The Feral Warriors would never let her go. She wasn't sure they'd even let her live once she'd told them what she knew about Birik and the Daemons.
The memory of what she'd witnessed doubled her over until she thought she would be sick again. The terror of those poor people still pulsed through her blood, their screams ringing forever in her head. The foul smell of the Daemon himself felt permanently burned into her nose.