The Darkest Kiss

By: Gena Showalter

PROLOGUE




HE WAS KNOWN AS THE Dark One. Malach ha-Maet. Yama. Azreal. Shadow Walker. Mairya. King of the Dead. He was all of those things and more, for he was a Lord of the Underworld.

Long ago he had opened dimOuniak, a powerful box made from the bones of a goddess, unleashing a horde of demons upon the earth. As punishment, he and the warriors who aided him were forced to house those demons inside themselves, melding light and darkness, order and chaos, until they were barely able to retain any tether on the disciplined warriors they’d once been.

Because he was the one to open the box, he had been given the demon of Death. A fair exchange, he supposed, for his action had nearly caused the demise of the world.

Now he was charged with the responsibility of collecting human souls and escorting them to their final resting place. Even if he opposed the idea. He did not like taking innocents from their families, found no joy in delivering the wicked to their damnation, but he did both without question or hesitation. Resistance, he’d soon learned, brought something far worse than death to his door. Resistance brought an agony so complete, so inexorable, even the gods trembled at the thought.

Did his obedience mean he was gentle? Caring? Nurturing? No. Oh, no. He could not afford softer emotion. Love, compassion and mercy were enemies to his plight.

Anger, though? Rage? Those he sometimes embraced.

Woe to anyone who pushed him too far, for man would become fully demon. A beast. A sinister entity who would not hesitate to curl his fingers around a human heart and squeeze. Squeeze so tightly that human would lose his breath and beg for the sweet kiss of eternal sleep only he could offer.

Oh, yes. Man had a very short leash on demon. And if you weren’t careful, they would come for you….





CHAPTER ONE




ANYA, GODDESS OF ANARCHY, daughter of Lawlessness, and dealer of disorder, stood on the edge of a crowded dance floor. All of the dancers were human females, beautiful and nearly naked, chosen specifically by the Lords of the Underworld to provide the night’s entertainment. Both vertical and horizontal.

Wisps of smoke cast a dream-fog around them, and pinpricks of starlight rained from the swirling strobe, illuminating everything inside the darkened nightclub in slow, sweeping circles. From the corner of her eye, she caught a scintillating glimpse of a taut immortal ass pounding forward, back, forward, into an ecstatic female.

My kind of party, she thought with a wicked grin. Not that she’d been invited.

Like anything could have stopped me from coming, though.

The Lords of the Underworld were delectable immortal warriors who were possessed by the demon spirits that had once resided inside Pandora’s box. And now, with a few rounds of hard liquor and even harder sex, they were saying goodbye to Budapest, the city they’d called home for hundreds of years.

Anya wanted in on the action. With one warrior in particular.

“Part,” she whispered, fighting her intrinsic compulsion to shout “Fire” instead and watch as the humans raced away in a panic, screaming hysterically. Let the good times roll.

An erratic pulse of rock music that matched the erratic beat of her heart blasted from the speakers, making it impossible for anyone to hear her. They obeyed, anyway, compelled on a level they probably didn’t understand.

A path cleared, slowly…so slowly….

Finally the object of her fascination came into view. Heated breath caught in her lungs, and she shivered. Lucien. Deliciously scarred, irresistibly stoic and possessed by the spirit of Death. Right now he sat at a table in back, expression blank as he stared up at Reyes, his friend and fellow immortal.

What were they saying? If Lucien wanted the keeper of Pain to procure one of those mortal women for him, a false declaration of “fire” would be the least of their worries. Teeth grinding together, Anya tilted her head to the side, zoned in on them while discarding all surrounding noise, and listened.

“—she was right. I checked the satellite photos on Torin’s computer. Those temples are rising from the sea.” Reyes knocked back the contents of the silver flask he held. “One is in Greece and one is in Rome, and if they continue to rise at such a swift rate, they’ll be high enough to explore sometime tomorrow.”