Lore is a Seminus half-breed demon who has been forced to act as his dark master's assassin. Now to earn his freedom and save his sister's life, he must complete one last kill. Powerful and ruthless, he'll stop at nothing to carry out this deadly mission.
AN ANGEL TEMPTED
Idess is an earthbound angel with a wild side, sworn to protect the human Lore is targeting. She's determined to thwart her wickedly handsome adversary by any means necessary-even if that means risking her vow of eternal chastity. But what begins as a simple seduction soon turns into a passion that leaves both angel and demon craving complete surrender.
Torn between duty and desire, Lore and Idess must join forces as they battle their attraction for each other. Because an enemy from the past is rising again-one hellbent on vengeance and unthinkable destruction.
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By Ione, Larissa
ForeverCopyright © 2010 Ione, Larissa
All right reserved.
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.
But all of that pain was minor compared to the torture he’d endured while in the stocks, a punishment he’d earned when he’d used his gift of resurrection. Before Lore had handed his soul over to Deth, Lore would spend a good twenty-four hours in bloody agony after bringing someone back from the dead. But now, because of his slave bond, it was his master, Detharu, who instead experienced the agonizing price Lore paid for bringing a being back to life. And Deth made damned sure Lore paid hugely for his suffering.
Funny how his two special abilities—taking and giving life—were so opposite, but only the “good” one came with pain. He supposed it made sense; life fucking hurt.
“Well,” he drawled finally, with a calm he didn’t feel, “I’m your best-looking assassin, and without me, you’d have to stare at the likes of Hadrian Maggotface all day.”
Detharu, a demon whose species Lore had never determined, mainly because he appeared different to everyone who saw him, smiled. At least, the upturn of his black, crusted lips was the closest thing to a smile Lore had ever seen from the guy. Whatever it was, it didn’t do anything to quell the unease churning in Lore’s gut, an unease that was even more crushing than usual.
“You make a good point. But not good enough.” Shifting in his throne constructed of the bones of several demon species and at least one human, Detharu gestured with his steel-gauntleted fist.
Two of his sentries, huge Ramreel demons with curled horns and an unholy love of machetes, peeled away from the jagged stone walls. Their small, piggish eyes glowed with murderous anticipation as they came at Lore from both sides.
Four more Ramreels watched from their positions at the chamber entrance, drool dripping from their snouts as though Pavlov had rung the dinner bell. And in the shadows behind Detharu, another male stood, the expression on his face unreadable, but Lore sensed a certain… anticipation. Weird. Lore had seen the dude before, hanging out with his insane brother, Roag, and Byzamoth, an equally insane fallen angel who had tried to start Armageddon.
But both nutcases were gone now, and there was no point in wondering why the demon was there, because at the moment, the biggest mystery facing him was whether he was keeping his head.
Lore rolled his shoulders, doing his best impression of a guy who wasn’t at all worried that his next breath might be the last. “Look, Deth, no need to get your knickers in a twist. I’ll make it up to you—”
“You gave someone life so I would spend two sunsets in agony!”
Only Deth would think that Kynan’s resurrection was all about him. “Yeah, but—”
“We’re assassins, you imbecile! We don’t give life! You make me a laughingstock.” Detharu came to his feet with a snarl, the fire from the huge hearth in the center of the room casting flickering shadows into the valleys between his ribs—which were on the outside of his body. “Worse, you and Zaw failed to kill the Seminus demons as you were contracted to do!”
Lore clenched his hands into fists at his sides to keep from doing something stupid, like strangle his boss. “I can get you the money.”
That was a big, fat lie. There was no way in Hades he could come up with the twenty million he would have gotten from the executor of Roag’s estate upon proof of Wraith, Eidolon, and Shade’s deaths. Half of that, maybe, but not the full amount.
“But you can’t get back the respect I lost in the eyes of the Assassins’ Guild,” Deth roared.
“There has to be a way.”
“There is.” Detharu sank back down as if his display of temper never happened. “Your head on a pike, displayed in the Guild hall.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t work for me.” Lore shoved his gloved hand through his hair, but that didn’t massage the tension out of his skull. “Cut me some slack, will ya? They were my brothers.”
Fortunately, Lore had failed to kill them. After the attempt and consequent revelations of blood ties, Lore had only stuck around his brothers long enough to get a little history of the Seminus breed and see what happened with Wraith’s female, and then he’d gotten out of the demon hospital as if it was burning down.
Hadn’t seen or spoken with his brothers since, though Eidolon’s constant text messages had been as irritating as claws on a chalkboard.
“Family?” Detharu leaned forward in his seat. “Then why did you agree to kill them?”
“I didn’t know they were my brothers at the time the job was offered.” No, that little secret had been as twisted as Roag.
The chair creaked as Detharu sat back and rubbed his pointed chin. “I have siblings. I killed two of them. Liked doing it.”
This wasn’t looking good. “No doubt they deserved it.” Yep, Lore could kiss ass with the best of them.
Detharu shrugged. For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the crackle of the fire and the occasional drip of Ramreel drool. Lore eyed the exit, hastily piecing together an escape plan. He could take out the demon closest to him, snag his machete, and then hope to God he could mow down the others before Detharu caught up to him. If he made it to the outer chamber, Detharu’s other slave-assassins would help him escape.
Not that he’d be free for long. The slave-bond, the hand imprint burned into the flesh above his heart, would eventually compel him to return here or face unimaginable suffering as the bond first seared his skin, and then worked its way to his muscles and organs. You either returned to the den, or you cooked to death. Slowly.
Finally, Detharu shook his head. “I won’t execute you for not killing your brothers.”
“Big of you,” Lore muttered.
A serrated growl rumbled in Deth’s skeletal chest. “What did you say?”
“I said thank you.” Lore scowled at the Ramreels. “You heard him. Beat it. No murder for you today.” The Ramreel minions acted more as guards than executioners, but they pretty much did whatever Deth wanted them to do, and the bloodier the task, the happier they were.
Detharu’s glowing orange eyes narrowed. “There is a price, of course.”
“I have a job for you.”
Which meant that despite the threats and posturing, Deth hadn’t intended to impale Lore’s head on a pointy stick at all. “What do I have to do?” Lore asked through gritted teeth. “Collect another debt? Deliver a bloody warning to someone? Want me to fetch a pizza? Because you know how I love playing delivery boy.”
He hated playing pizza minion.
“You can bring me an all-meat topped with a certain human’s head. I’m giving you your hundredth kill.”
Lore stopped breathing even as his pulse revved. He’d been waiting thirty years for this. After he completed his hundredth kill, Deth would no longer have any hold on him. He’d be a free man. But wait… something wasn’t right. Detharu had avoided giving him an assassin job for years, unwilling to hand out that last assignment that would free both Lore and his sister, Sin, forever.
Lore studied Deth’s impassive face, seeking, but not finding, any clues to what he was thinking. “What’s the catch?”
Deth’s bony fingers made irritating clicking noises as he tapped on the arm of his chair. “You violated the terms of our bargain by breaking the subcontract with Roag and not killing the Seminus brothers. I missed out on my share and look like a fool. Therefore, I’m amending our agreement.”
Fuck. He knew it. “And what are your new terms?” he ground out.
“In the past, you have been allowed to refuse assignments.”
“And I paid the price in blood.” A lot of blood.
“You will not refuse this one.”
Uh-oh. A chill skittered up Lore’s spine. Deth was expecting him to refuse, which meant the mark would be a child or pregnant woman or something. “And if I do?”
“If you refuse or don’t succeed, then I’ll have Sin’s head in place of yours for your failure to kill your brothers.”
A red curtain came down over his vision. Stay calm. Stay… calm. Didn’t work. The rage inside Lore screamed to the surface, completely missing the usual transition period, and he lunged at the demon. “You fuck!”
The sentries caught him, one on each arm. Instinct and anger merged, and without thinking, he charged up his gift. The Ramreel clutching Lore’s right biceps didn’t even have time to scream. He fell to the floor, eyes wider in death than they’d ever been in life.
Instantly, the other one wheeled away, drawing his machete, which he jabbed into Lore’s ribs.
Detharu came to his feet, and the next thing Lore knew, Deth’s steel-gauntleted fist was in his face. Lore’s head snapped back and pain exploded in his skull. Fury contorted Detharu’s expression, peeling his lips from his sharp, blackened teeth.
“That was stupid, Lore. Even after all this time, you have not learned to control your temper.”
It chafed to admit it, but Detharu was right on both counts. Lore’s rages had been a problem since he was twenty, when he’d gone through the weird transformation that had given him an arm covered with tattoos. But that was just for starters. He also gained the “gift” to kill everything he touched with the tattooed arm, the ability to resurrect the dead or “feel” how a person had died, and a rampant libido that had to be addressed several times daily lest he go into rages that didn’t end until he either killed or had sex—sex that ended in the death of his partner.
But being sexually sated wasn’t a guarantee against the rages. Pain and anger could still set him off no matter how many times or how recently he’d relieved himself.
Breathing deeply, he willed himself to come down before the rage took him to the point of no return or before he did something stupid again. The move he’d made against Detharu carried with it a penalty of death.
Thing was, Lore couldn’t have hurt Detharu anyway. The bond’s magic prevented violence against one’s master. Lore couldn’t so much as touch Detharu unless the demon wanted to be touched.
And thank God Deth had long ago decided Lore wasn’t allowed to touch. Few of Deth’s assassins were so lucky.
Lore clenched his teeth, determined to keep from smarting off, but refusing to apologize. Instead, he gritted out, “Who’s the target? Who is my hundredth kill?”
Lore had forgotten all about the male in the shadows, but now he shifted slightly, his black, waist-length hair seeming to absorb all the light in the room. It was as if the dude wore his shadow like a cloak. That was seriously fucked up.
A sinister smile split Deth’s face wide open. “The target,” he said, “is Kynan Morgan. The very human you brought back to life.”
The ground shifted beneath Lore’s feet. Oh, holy hell. Though Lore had saved Kynan’s life, he hated him and really wouldn’t mind putting him in the ground. But Jesus… if he killed the human, Lore would spend the rest of his sorry life looking over his shoulder. He’d have every Aegis Guardian on the planet aiming to gut him with a stang, which would be pleasant compared to what Gem and his brothers would do to him.
Deth leaned in close, so close Lore could feel the ugly demon’s heat on his face. “You have your assignment. You will kill Morgan—using your death touch—and retrieve his amulet within ninety-six hours. And if you refuse or fail, Sin will die.”
Sin, whose favorite saying was now becoming ironic reality.
No good deed shall go unpunished.
No fucking shit.
By sparing his brothers, Lore might have condemned his sister to death.
Rariel couldn’t contain a smile as he watched Lore exit Detharu’s chamber. He’d waited so long to put his plan into motion, and now that the ball was rolling, nothing could stop it.
“Why did you specifically request Lore for this job?” Detharu stood at the hearth’s edge, his normally white skin taking on the orange of the flames like a chameleon’s. Unlike most, Rariel could see the Molegra demon’s true form, though he wished he couldn’t. The eyeless man-shaped creature was one of the most repulsive demons Rariel had ever come across.
“He has a reputation as being one of the best,” Rariel lied.
Lore did have a reputation for excellence at his job, but that wasn’t why Rariel had chosen him. Rariel had chosen him because by giving Kynan, a Marked Sentinel, life, Lore had become the only being other than an angel who could take it away.
Detharu nodded, still facing the fire. “I’ll be sorry to lose him. And Sin.”
Yes, Rariel had been curious about this Sin person Detharu had dangled over Lore’s head. “Is she his mate?”
Rariel’s breath caught. Sister… “Is she an assassin?”
Detharu turned around, his sausage-body undulating grotesquely. “She is. Ruthless and cunning, like her brother.”
Oh, this was perfect. Poetic, even. “Then I want Sin for the other target.”
“Same time frame?” Deth asked.
The assassin master shuffled to his throne. “The rush job will cost you quadruple, as it did with Lore.”
“I’m paying quadruple because my insistence on using Lore is depriving you of him as a slave.”
“Double then. Take it or leave it.”
Rariel could leave it and go with another assassin, but the brother-sister thing gave him shivers of pleasure. “Done.”
Detharu smiled, his pale, shapeless lips forming a deep fissure that revealed tiny, pointed teeth. “Tell me, why is this amulet of Morgan’s important to you?”
“It’s a bauble. Worthless except as a trophy.” The truth, that it was a priceless bargaining chip that would get Rariel everything he wanted, was not something he would share with anyone, let alone assassin scum.
The demon seemed to buy the lie. “Come then,” he said, gesturing toward the door. “We’ll feast on the sweet flesh of a newly hatched huldrefox while we draw up the contracts.”
Furry little huldrefox hatchlings weren’t cheap, and with what Rariel was paying, the bastard could afford to eat them—or the young of any species—every day if he wanted to. Still, Rariel couldn’t scrounge up much in the way of bitterness. Not when centuries of planning was about to yield results.
Oh, yes. He could almost hear Idess’s screams of misery already.
The icy whisper of a hand caressed his arm, reminding him of the debt Rariel had yet to pay. Because Rariel wasn’t the only being in the room who was after revenge.
And after what Roag’s brothers had done to him, Rariel couldn’t blame the demon at all.
Excerpted from Ecstasy Unveiled by Ione, Larissa Copyright © 2010 by Ione, Larissa. Excerpted by permission.
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