Authors: Larissa Ione
Tags: #Fantasy, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Werewolves, #Adult, #Vampire, #Urban Fantasy
For my mom, who taught me to be strong, to believe I could be anything I want to be. I love you.
And for all my fellow military spouses out there—you handle so much while your other half is away, you deal with the moves, the functions, and the constant changes that put pressure on your families. Your sacrifices deserve recognition and thanks.
For all the members of LIST—you LISTEEZ are fabulous, and huge thanks especially to the women who made it happen—Lo, Cin, Ada, Olivia, Natasja, and Luna. You ladies rock!
Big nods go to Ayla and Ilona Fenton, Fatin Soufan, Valerie Tibbs, Kristin Manter, Charlotte Johnson, Maureen Klatte, Lea Franczak, Ing Cruz, Greta Wheeler, Joy Harris, Melissa Bradley, Hilda Oquendo, Lillie Applegarth… your support and friendship have been beyond amazing.
And for Mho, the demon sheep, because you just crack me up…
Writing this series has been a dream come true for me, and it didn’t happen alone. Thank you to my agent, Irene Goodman, the entire staff at Hachette Book Group, and huge, special, mushy thanks to my editor, Amy Pierpont. You’re a saint, Amy!
The Aegis—Society of human warriors dedicated to protecting the world from evil. See: Guardians, Regent, Sigil.
Carceris—The jailers of the underworld. All demon species send representatives to serve terms in the Carceris. Carceris members are responsible for apprehending demons accused of violating demon law, and for acting as guards in the Carceris prisons.
Council—All demon species and breeds are governed by a Council that makes laws and metes out punishment for individual members of their species or breed.
Dresdiin—The demon equivalent of angels. See: Memitim.
Fakires—Derogatory term used by vampires to describe humans who either believe themselves to be real vampires or pretend to be vampires.
Guardians—Warriors for The Aegis, trained in combat techniques, weapons, magic. Upon induction into The Aegis, all Guardians are presented with an enchanted piece of jewelry bearing the Aegis shield, which, among other things, allows for night vision and the ability to see through demon invisibility enchantment.
Harrowgate—Vertical portals, invisible to humans, which demons use to travel between locations on Earth and Sheoul.
Infadre—A female of any demon species who has been impregnated by a Seminus demon.
Maleconcieo—Highest level of ruling demon boards, served by a representative from each species Council. The U.N. of the demon world.
Marked Sentinel—Humans charmed by angels and tasked with protecting a vital artifact. Sentinels are immortal and immune to harm. Only angels (fallen included) can injure or kill a Sentinel. Their existence is a closely guarded secret.
Memitim—Earthbound angels assigned to protect Primori. Memitim remain earthbound until they complete their duties, at which time they Ascend, earning their wings and entry into Heaven. Also known to demons as dresdiin. See: Dresdiin, Primori.
Orgesu—A demon sex slave, often taken from breeds bred specifically for the purpose of providing sex.
Primori—Humans and demons whose lives are fated to affect the world in some crucial way.
Regent—Head(s) of local Aegis cells.
Renfield—Fictional character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Also, derogatory term for any human who serves a vampire. A vampire groupie.
S’genesis—Final maturation cycle for Seminus demons. Occurs at one hundred years of age. A post-s’genesis male is capable of procreation and possesses the ability to shape-shift into the male of any demon species.
Sheoul—Demon realm. Located deep in the bowels of the earth, accessible only by Harrowgates.
Sheoul-gra—A holding tank for demon souls. The place where demon souls go until they can be reborn or kept in torturous limbo.
Sheoulic—Universal demon language spoken by all, though many species speak their own language.
Sigil—Board of twelve humans known as Elders, who serve as the supreme leaders of The Aegis. Based in Berlin, they oversee all Aegis cells worldwide.
Swans—Humans who act as blood or energy donors for vampires, either actual undead or fakires.
Ter’taceo—Demons who can pass as human, either because their species is naturally human in appearance, or because they can shapeshift into human form.
Therionidryo—Term a were-beast uses for a person he or she bit and turned into another were-beast.
Therionidrysi—Any survivor of a were-beast attack. Term used to clarify the relationship between the sire and his therionidryo.
Ufelskala—A scoring system for demons, based on their degree of evil. All supernatural creatures and evil humans can be categorized into the five Tiers, with the Fifth Tier composed of the worst of the wicked.
Classification of Demons, as listed by Baradoc, Umber demon, using the demon breed, Seminus, as an example:
Family: Sexual Demon
He who does not see the angels and devils in the
beauty and malice of life will be far removed from
knowledge, and his spirit will be empty of affection.
Lore had always believed that when it came to sex, the more the merrier. Too bad for him that when “more” meant more than just himself, people tended to die.
So what the hell was he doing in bed with a curvy liquor store clerk he’d picked up while on his third tequila run in as many days?
Sure, technically, he wasn’t in bed. He was standing at the foot of the human-looking demon’s California King, pounding into her from behind as she kneeled on the mattress, moaning through her fourth orgasm.
Pressure built in his balls and his shaft throbbed with the need to blow, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t ignite. He gripped her hips harder, thrust deeper. Faster.
He lifted her so her knees came off the bed, giving him absolute control as he ground against her with feverish gyrations.
Sweat streamed down his face, and his lungs burned with the force of his panting breaths.
“Come on, baby,” the female—he thought her name was April… or May… maybe June—cried. She bucked, consumed by yet another climax, and then dropped her head in exhaustion, her flaxen hair pooling on the black satin sheets.
She was pretty—not as pretty as Gem, but then, no one was. Lore shook the image of the Goth half-Soulshredder doctor out of his head, because she was in love with a human jerk named Kynan, and Lore hadn’t truly had a shot with her anyway.
That he couldn’t climax because he was worried about snuffing this mystery species demon chick was really fucking funny considering that he killed for money, with no qualms, no regrets, and there were definitely worse ways to go than death-by-orgasm.
But Gem seemed to have opened up a vein in him, one that ran with pansy-ass feelings instead of blood. And in truth, there was a reason he hadn’t had sex in decades, even though his Seminus breeding gave him the over-whelming need to screw every female who crossed his path. Fortunately for him, his human side allowed him to handle those urges himself, unlike purebred Sems who had to have a female partner or die.
When Lore had female partners, they died.
With a frustrated roar, he tore himself away from AprilMayJune and fisted his cock in his gloved hand. His release was hard and fast… and, as expected, no more satisfying than if he’d been by himself. And now, with nothing to distract him, he couldn’t ignore the handprint-shaped welt that burned on his chest.
Lore had to go. No more stalling. After three weeks of avoidance—mainly to piss off his boss—it was time to take his punishment like a man. Well, a half-man, half-incubus.
The female rolled over, watched him with drowsy eyes. He still wasn’t sure why he’d fallen off the celibacy wagon for her, except maybe for the fact that she’d been in the right place, right time when he’d gotten yet another text from Eidolon, M.D. Christ, the guy just had to include the M.D. in his signature, as if the entire underworld didn’t know what he was.
The reminder that his brother was a respected doctor who saved lives, while Lore was nothing but a low-life half-breed killer, had sent him into a destructive, down-ward spiral that involved a lot of alcohol and a proposition for AprilMayJune.
Still, he was eventually going to have to face Eidolon and his other brothers again, no matter what Lore had promised his sister, because he had a feeling that if his newfound brothers wanted to find him, they would. And they didn’t seem like the types to respect space and privacy.
“I told you I’m not in season,” AprilMayJune said, her voice sleepy with sexual satiation. “I can’t get pregnant.”
“Doesn’t matter.” He tucked himself back into his leather pants. “I’m sterile.” At least, that was what one of the other brothers, Shade, had told him. Lore wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but it was definitely for the best.
She sighed and fell back against the pillows. “Then why did you just cream all over my floor? And why are you still wearing that glove?”
“To reduce the chances that I’ll kill you.” Anyone who touched the bare skin of his right arm and hand, marked by the color-diluted glyphs called a dermoire that snaked from shoulder to fingernail, dropped dead on contact. He’d worn a jacket and gloves around everyone except his sister for decades, but if he orgasmed or summoned his “gift,” he could kill right through the protective leather, which was why, during sex, he tried not to touch his partners as he neared climax. Tried, because with very few exceptions, something had always gone wrong.
The female bared her teeth, which, in the last couple of seconds, had grown sharper. And longer. “You think you can take me?”
I just did, honey. “I know I can.” He patted his pocket to make sure she hadn’t lifted his wallet, then checked his weapons harness for the same reason. He’d have to kill her if she’d swiped his Gargantua-bone dagger.
Gracefully, she came to her feet, which were now tipped by curved claws, just like her hands. What the hell kind of demon was she? “Arrogant prick.” Her pronunciation was mushy now, the words spoken through an extra row of teeth that hadn’t been there before.
“You’re messing with the wrong arrogant prick, little girl.” Lore moved toward the door. “Thanks for the laughs. See ya.”
“Little girl?” She launched at him, catching him in the back and knocking him into the wall. As he spun away, she raked her claws across his chest, tearing open his T-shirt and leaving a bloody trail of scratches behind.
Hunger glimmered in her black eyes as she crept toward him like a cat preparing to pounce. “I’m going to eat your brains raw.”
Lore clapped a hand over his stinging cuts. “Jesus. You’re a fucking Dire Mantis.” Figured that after sixty years of celibacy, the first partner he picked would be one that ate the heads of demon males.
“If it’s any consolation,” she purred, “that was the best sex any of my mates have given me.”
“Well, duh.” He watched her lick her lips as though she was already tasting his brain. Disgusting. “I can’t believe I was worried about killing you.”
She lunged. He dodged. He could kill her with a snap of the neck, but Dire Mantis bites were paralyzing, and he didn’t want to risk getting anywhere near that mouth.
She came at him again, teeth gnashing. As she reached for him, he twisted aside and seized her forearm. Killing power sizzled like lightning from his shoulder to his fingers, and she fell to the floor, her lifeless body making a soft thud. It twitched a few times before falling still.
Most purebred demons who died aboveground dis-integrated within seconds, but he didn’t stick around to watch. Or to care. He strode out of the bedroom and out of the house without looking back. He was, after all, a killer. In the three weeks since witnessing the near end of the world, meeting his brothers, and bringing back to life a human he would rather have left dead, he’d done nothing but drown himself in liquor bottles. But no more. Losing himself and his edge had almost cost him his life in AprilMayJune’s bedroom.
He wouldn’t make that mistake ever again.
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you.”
Tapping his tongue piercing against his teeth, Lore considered his answer as he stood before his master-slash-asshole boss. The tag of pimp could also apply to the demon, seeing how Deth allowed his assassins to take freelance work… as long as he received a 60 percent cut of the money earned. And none of the kills made on outside contracts counted toward Lore’s obligation to Deth, even though the demon required his assassins to accept three outside jobs a year. Asshole.
Lore kept his gaze level with Deth’s, more to keep himself grounded than to show that he wasn’t nervous. He’d come straight from the mantis’s place, but that had been yesterday. For twelve hours he’d been imprisoned below the main chamber, in stocks and kneeling on shards of glass.
Which meant he hadn’t been able to fulfill his body’s sexual needs, and he could feel the resulting tension, the growing rage that threatened to turn him into a beast clawing at the inside of his skin. The rest of his body didn’t feel much better. His joints ached, his balls were tender, and every inch of his skin burned.