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Brennus appeared happy with her interest and smiled softly. “Of course. And then it’s my turn.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to snap ‘I thought you already knew everything about me?’ but she curbed the instinct and saw by the mischievous flicker in his eyes that he knew exactly what she was thinking. “OK.”

“Fire away.”

The question she most wanted to ask was the one she was scared to ask.

What made someone like Brennus become an Ankou? Was it the power, the immortality he craved? And if it was, how could he possibly think he was the kind of man she’d want? A man who would choose a morbid existence to live forever? There was just something so empty in that. “Why?” she whispered. “Why did you choose to be an Ankou?”

“Ah.” He nodded, his face tightening, the scar seeming to pulse angrily, the masculine sharp lines of his jaw clenching. He shifted, his arm lengthening along the back of the sofa, his legs crossing over. He stared into the fire, offering her his profile, the cheek without the scar. God, he was beautiful. That wasn’t true. But it was. Her breath hitched and she looked away, even more terrified of how attracted she was to him than the answer to his question. He didn’t seem to notice her inner turmoil. “I thought you might ask that,” he continued. “I will tell you.” He turned back to her, the contrast between his nearly unblemished profile and ravaged front transfixing her. “I don’t like telling this story but I promised we would be honest with one another and so for you I’ll… I’ll explain.”

Avery thought her heart might explode in her chest. Somehow it was only now beginning to dawn on her that this being, this immortal, powerful being had chosen her, had latched onto her. Little ol’ her. It was utterly terrifying.

“I was a mortal man during the 2nd Century A.D. I came from a long line of strong, capable Celts. Britons. By the time of my birth my family were Romano-Britons, and by the age of fifteen I was a wealthy, arrogant tradesman in Londinium. At the time Londinium was considered a large city even then, an important centre of commercialism and trading. Coupled with my father’s wealth… we were very successful and important. We dined each month at the governor’s palace, rubbed elbows with the elite. In fact I married a Roman girl. My father liked her father’s status and her father liked my money.”

Avery kept very still; afraid she would break the mesmerising spell he seemed to be under.

“Her name was Anonna. She was beautiful and I was captivated by her. I thought I loved her,” he grunted. Avery felt the bitterness swell out of him. “Not long after we wed, a great plague hit Londinium as well as the rest of Western Europe. It took hold of Anonna. When the Ankou came for her I could see him, I could see him in my utter desperation to stay with her. So he offered me a choice.”

Without having to be told, Avery knew what that choice had been. In a way he was offering her the same thing. Brennus caught her own bitter smile and he nodded gravely. “Yes, he offered me the choice to save her. In return I would become one of the Ankou.”

At that moment Avery hated him. She hated him for having sacrificed himself for someone he loved, because it drew them deeper into this strange connection. She hated him for his honourable reason for becoming an Ankou. Why couldn’t he have just been a soulless demon who craved immortality and power? Instead he was a man capable of such immense love he had literally sold his soul for Anonna.

Deep down, she hated him for that too.

“You must love her very much,” Avery whispered, disgusted by the prickles of jealously crawling across her chest.

Brennus snorted. “It wasn’t love. It was infatuation. I didn’t even know her that well.”

Avery frowned. “But you were married.”

He shrugged. “Times were different then. A wife was property. I thought because we were kind and considerate of one another, enjoyed one another inside and out of the bedroom, that it meant something. But I didn’t really take the time to get to know my wife. If I had looked closely enough I would have seen the spoilt brat that she was and her poisonous, never-ending need for attention.”

“Wait, I’m confused. If you have such contempt for this woman, why on earth did you give up your mortality for her?”

She could tell he was growing agitated by the subject but Avery had to know, she needed to know if he still loved this woman. She wasn’t even going to question why.

“When I became Ankou I was given Londinium as my province. I kept watch over my wife. I discovered she had been having an affair with my father behind my back.”

His father! Ugh! Avery grimaced. “Your father?!”

He caught her look and smirked. "My father was only fifteen years older than me and I was only nineteen when I married Anonna-”

“You were nineteen when you died?” she gasped, disbelieving. Nineteen year old guys tended to have that cute in-between boyhood and manhood thing going on. Brennus was just all raw masculinity… no boyishness anywhere in sight.

He laughed lightly. “Twenty. We looked older back then. Life was harder.”

She nodded, still unbelieving. “OK. Sorry… you were saying…”

“Well my father was still in his prime and was considered very handsome. So was I before I was scarred.”

“I’ll bet,” she murmured, her eyes washing over Brennus, thinking what his wicked smile did to her insides. It made her forget the unforgettable mar.

His dark eyes caught her and they glistened in the light. A soft sensual smile played on his lips. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

She blushed but rolled her eyes, waving him off. “OK, so your father was only thirty four and a hottie… it’s still gross.”

“I agree,” he growled. “But my father and I were competitive and he decided to take it to a new level with Anonna. He wanted to prove he could have and do anything I could have and do. Anonna didn’t care if she was betraying me. When we married my face was unscarred. But, as I said, I was arrogant and selfish back then. One day I was out at market discussing transport of stone from a nearby quarry with a client when a man I had ceased doing business with approached me. He had been a wool merchant and we had done fine deals with one another for years. I had turned my back on our business relationship six months before when told his wife and child had died from an illness that sounded suspiciously like plague; my disinterest made others follow suit, and callously I did nothing to stop it. I even laughed at the poor man’s misfortune. So he attacked me, slashing me deep across the face, screaming that now I would know what it felt like to be abhorred. And he was right. Anonna flinched from me. Foolishly I convinced myself I understood, having worshipped beauty all my life I realised how difficult it must be for her to be faced with my disfigurement. But I thought that underneath she still loved me. I realise now that instead she had turned to my father.”

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