The Darkest Promise

By: Gena Showalter

Like him, they dreamed of killing his father.

Rumors claimed Typhon slept the sleep of the dead, but the truth was more complicated. He was entombed by the same crystals now growing inside Lazarus. He wasn’t dead or asleep, but immobile and aware.

“Two of your sky serpents were spotted in the forest a few miles away,” a guard said. “They were playing chase.”

“I wish to speak with them. I want a contingent of soldiers mounted and ready to leave in ten minutes.” Whatever the problem, he would find it. And he would end it.

“Yes, sir. Of course, sir.” The speaker rushed off.

Lazarus soared inside his private bedchamber, leaving the second soldier in the hall. He stripped, showered off the scent of frustration and sex and dressed for war, donning a shirt made of thin, lightweight metal links and black leather pants. The weapons he returned to their rightful places, anchoring semiautomatics under his arms, short swords at his back and daggers at his waist and ankles.

Every piece, including the kris, bore his personal seal—a sky serpent eating its own tail, forming a never-ending circle. An outward sign of his possession and, he supposed, a sign of his station.

A king by force. A drug dealer by choice. A lover by necessity.

Ambrosia grew in the realm, and he used it to his advantage. Since the purple flowers were the only substance capable of intoxicating an immortal, he oh, so generously gifted the rulers of surrounding kingdoms with a weekly shipment, ensuring their dependence—on him.

The women he bedded kept his mind off everything he didn’t have. Revenge, life...his μονομανία.

Lazarus opened a dresser drawer and traced his fingertips over the diamond knuckles and dagger pendant he’d procured for her. A wasted effort, considering he would never see her again.

He remembered the first time he’d seen her. An immortal walks into a bar...

Long raven hair had tumbled down an elegant back, curling at her hips. Eyes of liquid silver had peered at the world with innate sadness, and delicate features had appeared as breakable as glass.

There’d been no lightning bolt to proclaim, Her, she’s the one. Instead, she’d intrigued and interested him. But at only five foot seven, she was too little and delicate for him. He was over seven feet and weighted down with solid muscle.

He’d thought, With a single touch, I can damage her irreparably.

He’d left without saying a word to her.

The second sighting occurred at the Harpy Games, a type of Olympics for the bloodthirstiest women on the planet. His μονομανία had been a spectator, perched in the stands, cheering for a friend. Once again sadness had clung to her like a second skin.

A spark of longing had heated his chest, and he’d thought, I’d like to see her smile. No, I’d like to make her smile.

A strange desire to entertain. Other people had cringed and cried anytime she’d spoken. Why had he come alive? Why had compassion roused inside him for the very first time?

Again he’d walked away without saying a word, and in the ensuing weeks his obsession with her had grown, until the mere thought of her awoke every cell in his body with lust. Even now he hardened painfully, savage need clawing at his insides.

The third and final sighting occurred when she’d used the Paring Rod to enter the spirit realms. Then. That moment. He experienced the lightning strike of primal aggression and possession.

He’d thought, I will have her, whatever the cost.

Her name was Cameo, and she was the keeper of Misery. She was an infamous Lord of the Underworld. One of thirteen warriors who’d stolen Pandora’s box. Or rather, she was a glorious Lady of the Underworld.

A memory teased him, and he couldn’t resist seeing her, even in the fabric of his mind.

“Do you ever laugh?” he’d asked her as they’d headed to his kingdom...where he’d planned to taste every inch of her...feel her wrapped around him, hear her moaning his name.

He’d burned for her. He’d ached.

“I’ve been told I have,” she’d replied, her tragic voice as addictive as any drug.

“You don’t remember?”

“No. Joy isn’t something that sticks.”

He’d wanted to stoke her joy as much as her passions. At the time, he hadn’t cared about the tiny shards of crystal growing over his thighs. Nothing had mattered more than toppling her defenses, getting her inside his home—and him inside her.

Now he cared.

Lazarus’s mind jumped to another conversation they’d had, when he’d begun to make progress with her at long last.

“Have you ever had a boyfriend?” he’d asked.

Those liquid silver eyes had filled with wry humor. The first sign of amusement she’d ever displayed, and he’d rejoiced. I’m getting to her. “I’m thousands of years old,” she’d replied. “What do you think?”

He’d decided to tease her, knowing the expansion of her good humor would displace more of the sorrow. “I think you’re a spinster virgin starving for a little man-meat.”

She’d gone from wry to angry in a split second, all hint of sorrow gone. “I’ve had several boyfriends, and I’m no virgin. And if you call me a slut, I will cut out your tongue.”