One demon prince may be festering in the bowels of hell, but Genevieve’s troubles are far from over. Prince Bamal, demon lord of New York City, still wants her. But this time, he wants her alive. All signs point to the lost prophecy and his desire for her inherent power as a Vessel of Light.
While Jude Delacroix spends his days and nights searching for the prophecy, another protector steps in to take his place. Thomas, a guardian angel, claims Genevieve is his to protect if the demon hunter does not. As threats against her life escalate, he offers her the power to sift. Knowing the transfer of power comes through a kiss, she hesitates. While Gen’s love for Jude is true, Thomas stirs a desire where there should be none. Thomas also knows Jude’s darkest secret and plans to use it, if necessary, to win Genevieve for his own.
Each book in The Vessel Trilogy is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1: Forged in Fire
Book #2: Sealed in Sin
Book #3: Bound in Black
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"I told you. I told you!"
Kat literally appeared out of thin air with a sharp electric snap, slamming down today's copy of the New York Times on the breakfast table. My hand jerked. I dropped my spoon into the Froot Loops with a clink, milk splattering my chin.
"Damn it! Don't scare me like that." I scowled, wiping milk from my pajama top.
Ignoring the fact that she nearly gave me a heart attack sifting into my kitchen without warning, she straightened to her full six-foot height, hands on hips, blonde braid swishing over one shoulder. Dressed in typical Kat attire — black jeans, tight knit top and close-fitting leather jacket — she pointed at the cover story.
"Look, Gen. Don't you see what this means? A high demon has stolen the prophecy. Well, half the prophecy, anyway."
Kat had once shown me her picture of the torn relic, the first half of the prophecy, which up until now had been protected in the vaults of the Vatican for centuries, guarded by wards to keep it from ever leaving the premises. What we still hadn't found and needed desperately was the lost half of the prophecy.
I picked up the paper and read, "'Officials reported a breach into the Vatican Library Secret Archives recently. Authorities report the discovery of tampering with ancient documents on Thursday evening'." I skimmed through a quote by local authorities, saying not much of anything, then continued reading. "'No documents were reported missing; however, ancient manuscripts had been shuffled aside and left in disarray.' Kat, this doesn't mean it was about the prophecy. This could be anybody — some secret society or religious fanatic. A cult. Who knows?"
She narrowed her eyes and leaned over the table. "Listen to me. I know without a shadow of a doubt this is about the prophecy. I don't know how I know, I just do."
"Wait, the Vatican is sacred ground. A demon can't break in there."
"No, but a human in service to a high demon can. A sentinel. Or ... a Vessel."
I flinched. A demon could possess a captive Vessel and use her as a shell to go anywhere and do whatever he wanted.
Kat snatched the paper back and folded it on the table. "Now, we have to assume one of the demon princes has the prophecy, or at least the half that we have."
"Why a high demon? Why not an angel or some other Flamma?" Flamma were supernatural beings created by heaven and hell to battle for the Light or the Darkness. I'd recently discovered that I happened to be one of these beings.
"Because an angel or Flamma of Light could sift in without detection. It was definitely a human serving a high demon."
High demons, essentially the aristocracy of the underworld, had the power to bargain with and compel humans to do their will, typically with some immoral payoff for the human. Could be nice if there wasn't that whole burning-in-hell-for-eternity thing.
"The funny thing is the paper didn't mention when the incident occurred, only that they discovered the misplaced documents on Thursday. When I did some digging of my own, I found out that the break-in actually occurred several weeks back."
"Who do you know in the Vatican to get that information?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Kat smirked, then turned her attention out the kitchen window at a mockingbird perched on the crepe myrtle outside. "If the high demons are taking such risks, then we're definitely nearing the Great War."
The war between the heavenly and demonic hosts, foretold to take place on the battleground of earth to determine who would finally hold dominion over all. I tried to avoid this topic as much as possible. After discovering the existence of this other world on my twentieth birthday, I'd opened my mind to an entirely new reality. But I was still unwilling to accept we were on the brink of the end of mankind altogether.
I took my bowl to the sink and washed my hands, deciding to pull Kat from darker thoughts. "Not all Flamma can sift." I eyed her with a grimace. "I can't."
She pulled her attention from the looming war and tilted her head, her silken, ropelike braid falling over one shoulder. "If I could give you the power to sift, I would. You know I would."
"I know," I sighed. "It's frustrating. I have to be carted around like a child."
All angels had the power to sift — to move through time and space, disappearing from one destination and reappearing in another in mere seconds. High demons also held this power because they'd once been angels before the Fall. The Dominus Daemonum, Master of Demons, or more simply, demon hunters, were given this power upon their making so that they would meet their enemy on equal footing.
"Only angels can give that power," Kat said. "And I'm certainly no angel."
I smiled, leaning on the kitchen counter. "True," I agreed. "I just don't understand why a Vessel shouldn't have that power too. I'm in need as much as you are."
Kat propped a hand on the edge of the counter. A frown wrinkled her pretty brow.
"What?" I asked.
"I was just thinking ..."
"Didn't you say you met Uriel, the Archangel who transformed Jude and me into what we are?"
"And what did you think of him?"
I shivered. I'd met him as he walked away from the garden in the center of Jackson Square a few weeks ago. Though he was human in appearance, my Vessel Sense — that innate gift I'd inherited on my twentieth birthday and which had been growing ever since — recognized him right away. He glowed with a vibrant inner force, a power that left me trembling. I'd been awe-struck.
"He was" — I began, unable to put my thoughts into words — "powerful. Magnificently so."
Kat nodded with a knowing smile. "And scary too, right?"
"Yes." I blew out a breath.
"I've been a servant of the Light for two centuries, Gen. And in that time, I've observed that both demons and angels are highly covetous of their powers. Any diminishing of their power, which happens when they share it with another, would make them vulnerable."
"But, even so, wouldn't it serve the Light more for a Vessel like me, one who could possibly be the Vessel from the prophecy, to have the power to sift?"
"Of course it would. Unfortunately, only a few of us believe you're the one, and so far, no angels are on board with our theory. Remember, Gen. Every Vessel before you has either fallen into darkness or died."
Like I needed to hear that story again. "On that lovely reminder, I'm going to change." I swished out of the kitchen, crossing into my bedroom.
Kat followed. "Where's Mindy?"
"Shopping with her mom. Every first Saturday of the month." My roommate and best friend had a fondness for anything recently featured on the cover of Vogue or Marie Claire magazines. She never missed her monthly shopping spree with her mother.
I pilfered my closet and threw some clothes on the bed. I opened my top drawer, then slipped out of my pajamas and pulled on a sports bra. Kat sat on my plush down comforter.
"You have nothing to worry about, though." She fell back into our kitchen conversation. "With Jude as your guardian, nothing will happen to you."
My heart skipped a beat. My guardian. God, just the thought of him flushed my cheeks hot. As well as the rest of me, especially low, feminine places. I pulled on a long-sleeve, black top and dark jeans, then plopped onto the bed to slip on my knee-high boots. Kat and I no longer trained in a gym. We'd moved on to seeking out demon dens, testing my Vessel strength on the real deal.
"Well," I zipped up my right boot, "George gave me the power to break Danté's blood cast, so he couldn't summon my soul anymore. George isn't an angel, and he shared his power with me."
"He did?" she asked with a strange twang.
I opened my top dresser drawer and pulled out a harness of leather straps. Kat bit her nails, frowning. Much to my surprise, I'd discovered on the night George shared his protection with me, the exchange of Flamma power was transferred through a kiss. I knew there was a past between George and Kat, and right now, she was picturing George's mouth on mine.
"Hey," I said, buckling the harness across my chest where two sheaths flattened against my rib cage. "He's not that great a kisser." I winked.
She snorted. "Liar."
"You still care about him, don't you?"
"Still?" She tightened her lips into a line. "How did you know I ... Oh ... Jude."
"It wasn't hard to figure out." I slid two razor-sharp daggers into their sheaths. "You act kind of crazy around George." I pulled my dark hair back into a ponytail with the band from around my wrist.
Kat popped off the bed, blowing out a heavy sigh. "Yes, well, that's all in the past. But to clarify for you, George is a saint. His inherent power in the hierarchy is for protection of the innocent. That's why he was able to share it with you. Your soul was in danger. Saints were once human and, therefore, have a soft spot for them."
"So angels don't?"
"We'll save that for another conversation. Now get your ass in gear and let's work on your inherent power — to blast demons back to hell."
After slipping into my brown leather jacket, I zipped it up and took Kat's outstretched hands. Electric energy raised the hair on my arms, zinging along my skin in a flooding current. My stomach sank as a sucking sensation pulled my skin, muscles and bones into a tight ball. We sifted out with a whoosh.
In the Void, the dark between time and space, gray and white shapes blurred past. My body was now used to the sensation. I no longer felt nauseated from the disturbance of equilibrium. But this sift lasted much longer than most, making me a tad queasy.
When the world righted, I stumbled, but Kat caught my arm. We stood on a city street at the mouth of an alley. Honking horns overlapped the murmur of people shuffling and talking on the streets around us. The energy hummed louder than it did in my hometown of New Orleans. The air was less humid and about ten degrees cooler as well. Usually, we did our demon-hunting training sessions in downtown New Orleans. Not today.
"We're in New York, aren't we?"
"Of course," said Kat, stepping into the alley. "I've been scouting for the next level to test your Vessel skills. There's something I need to take care of, so this is the perfect opportunity to step up your game."
New York was Kat's domain to protect as Dominus Daemonum along with another demon hunter I'd never met named Dorian. Their job, like all hunters, was to keep the demons in line. While demons could influence human will through their seductive powers, there were rules they couldn't break. If they did, then a ruthless hunter showed up and sent them back to hell.
"Don't you think we should let Jude know we're training outside New Orleans, Kat?"
"Do I look like I have a death wish?" She arched a pretty brow. "Hell no, I'm not telling him. He's insanely protective of you. But, you'll never know the extent of your power unless it's tested. Am I right?"
I laughed. I loved Kat. "Definitely."
"Well, come on, then."
I followed in silence. Several doors — back entrances to stores and shops — lined the alley. I winced at the rank odor of urine and rotting food coming from an open Dumpster with bloody butcher paper crumpled on top.
"Gross." I held my breath.
"At the end," said Kat, walking faster and stopping at the last door.
"Up until now, you've fought only lower demons."
"Well, except for Danté," I added. Neither one of us wanted to revisit my half-ass escape from the demon prince Danté. In the end, Jude had saved me. I inhaled a sharp breath.
"Right," she agreed, "but he was a bit above your skill level at the time. I wouldn't put you in a situation I didn't think you couldn't handle. I sense your power growing, though you're still not fully awakened."
Awakened, a term for Flamma coming into their full power. Of course, I still didn't know what this truly meant, because no Vessel before me had ever reached this pinnacle of strength.
"How do you know I'm not already awakened?"
"Because you would've told me."
"But Kat —" I blew out a frustrated breath. "How will I know?"
"Oh, you'll know all right. It's like falling in love. There's no doubt about it."
Falling in love ... Jude. Geez, I had to get my head straight. I couldn't go five minutes without wayward thoughts of my tall, dark, fine-ass demon-hunting man.
"Gen, are you listening to me? You've got a glazed look."
"Okay. This door leads into a strip club."
"Come on. Where do you think demons hang out during the day? Applebee's?"
"Point taken. So who's our target in here?"
"He's the owner. His name is Gorham. He's a high demon, a duke of the underworld."
I unzipped my jacket, readying myself to unsheathe daggers at will. "Like Dommiel?"
Dommiel, high demon of New Orleans, owned a wicked-dark club near Bourbon Street, complete with skulls-and-devils décor. Classy joint. I avoided it like the plague.
"Not quite. Dommiel is a bit lower in the hierarchy than Gorham. He's more like an earl. Gorham is stronger."
"So, I imagine a duke is one step in power beneath a prince."
She nodded, a grave expression in her otherworldly eyes. From a distance, Kat was a statuesque blonde who only appeared out of the ordinary because of her striking beauty. Up close, one might surmise she was not wholly human. Pools of black swirled in her irises — residue of the demons she'd expelled.
In the past two weeks, I'd expelled several lower demons from their human hosts. It had been easy, natural even. I never felt the remains of evil attaching itself to my soul as it did to the demon hunters. Rather, I felt amplified, lifted every time. Jude and Kat kept the reasons of how and why one became a Dominus Daemonum to themselves.
The main difference between high and lower demons was that high demons didn't need to possess humans in order to do damage on earth. They maintained a human form similar to their original appearance before the Fall. High demons had once been angels. Lower demons were twisted creatures, serving their lords and masters. I had no idea how they came into being, and I didn't want to know. They were repulsive, malformed monsters with ghastly red eyes. Hence, they needed to possess human hosts to disguise their true form in order to walk around in the human world.
"Remember, Gen," said Kat, focusing my attention on the job at hand, "Gorham is powerful. And, to be honest, it's extremely difficult to expel high demons. However, if we trap him with the threat of expulsion, he may cooperate. If not, we'll make him wish he had."
"And why are we targeting him exactly? What has he done to break the rules?"
There were high demons all over the world, luring the sinful into their service. This was fair game in the battle between Light and Darkness. Humans chose which side dominated their souls. Free will. But when demons stepped over the line and cheated, forcing a human into captivity or service by unnatural means, demon hunters showed up on their doorstep.
"Gorham has created spawn to control innocent girls and pull them into his line of business. Worse than stripping, he's using innocents in his underground brothel."
"That's horrible." My Vessel Sense sparked in fury at the thought. "How? What kind of spawn?"
High demons had the ability to create life, which was always an abomination of some kind. As a matter of fact, the legendary dragon Saint George had destroyed was actually the spawn of a demon prince. Only high demons with great power had the ability to manifest evil into a living being.
"Gorham's spawn is a mist of his essence, an entity spawn. It seeps into the one he wants, veiling her will, so he can control her."
Entity spawn. Jude had been giving me history lessons of angels and demons every night. Great pillow talk. Considering we were still forbidden to do what our bodies urged us to do, he distracted me with fascinating, and disturbing, tales of the demonic world. I'd learned that there were three kinds of spawn. An entity spawn is non-sentient. The demon creating it can infect objects and even people with it. Like this asshole, Gorham. There were also furies — nasty, ugly beasts who were strong and deadly powerful. Stronger than titans even. Titans were huge — monsters from fairy tales. Their power lay in their behemoth size and physical strength. It was a titan that George so famously fought and received the title of dragon slayer. Only the most powerful of high demons can create a fury or a titan.
Excerpted from "Sealed in Sin"
Copyright © 2015 July.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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