Home > The Cursed (Vampire Huntress Legend #9)

The Cursed (Vampire Huntress Legend #9)
Author: L.A. Banks

PROLOGUE

Level Seven... Hell

Lilith stood before her husband, her breathing nonexistent, her body as still as stone. A curtain of darkness covered her along with a sheen of terror-produced sweat.

"So, where does this leave us?" the Unnamed One said in a very quiet tone, his voice releasing on a weary sigh. "Explain your position." For a moment she couldn't force her vocal cords to respond as he circled her, the echoing sound of his hooves against the cavern floor a reminder of his vast destructive power.

"My son, Dante, is gone. Slain by a Neteru. My grandson exterminated by his own mother - Eve ... a Neteru now undoubtedly elevated to finally reign with Aset for her selfless act. Tell me, dearest Lilith, where shall we begin our dance of pain?" He'd breathed out his question with such eerie calm that she closed her eyes, no longer straining against the impenetrable darkness to see him. She didn't have to; she already knew the beast within him was beyond appeasement. She'd failed. Her time was nigh.

"We are where we wanted to be," she finally said, her tone resigned. "There is no more to say to you than that, beloved. Do what you will with me." A slow, deep, rumbling chuckle filled his bedchamber. "We are where we wanted to be,"

he repeated in a flat, sarcastic tone. "I cannot fathom what I should do with you for this debacle. Come, come, now, my dear. You can do better than that." Tears of remorse filled her eyes and she shook her head. "You warned me, and Cain is extinct. What else can I say? There is no way to hide the truth from you. That is where we are ... where we ultimately wanted to be."

"How interesting. Where we wanted to be. That you will have to explain further, before I snuff out your very existence from my realms."

He walked away from her, and she noticed that she no longer heard hooves but just the soft pad of his bare feet against the stone floor.

"Amuse me with your bullshit, Lilith - give it a good attempt, just for the sport of it, at least. For you see, I am so bereft that even I wonder at the need to commence the Armageddon. I keep asking myself whether it would be more efficient simply to scorch the earth with my wrath and be done. Yet even I am beholden to a certain cosmic fate of timing. So make it good while I await the appointed hour of battle between the Light and the absolute Darkness. Tell me something that will give me pause." He lifted the pitch blackness around her and returned her night vision so that she could fully see him. Oddly, rather than appearing as the hideous monster of unspent rage, he was standing before her, his arms folded over his massive chest with a wry, sexy smile on his handsome face. This was far from what she'd expected and a much more deadly version of his fury than he'd ever shown her. The terror his quiet composure produced made her breaths shallow. They stared at each other for a moment.

"Your heir lives in the realm you could never breach, as promised," she said carefully. "He is growing in Nod, being cultivated within a living, hybrid womb." Her husband slowly unfurled his huge, black feathered wings, casting a shadow over her body, but she was glad that he was still calm enough that the more horrifying leather ones he owned hadn't presented. She watched his dark eyes, also noting that they hadn't begun to glow, and then allowed her eyes to study his mouth. No battle-length fangs. Yet the pain he could exact didn't require a transformation, just the blink of a thought. Lilith sighed, choosing each word as though it might spare her meager existence within the very fragile seconds of amnesty he'd afforded her. "Right now, they are blind -  the Guardians, the Covenant, and the Neterus, and probably both Neteru Councils as well. They think they've won, and are in celebration. This gives our heir a chance to develop and grow unmolested. Patience is the key. However, the loss of Cain was unavoidable ... he allowed emotion and rage to rule him, and he prematurely rushed in - "

"And was therefore expendable," her husband said coolly, coming close enough to touch her cheek. "You did well," he added, delicately caressing her face with a smooth palm.

"Cain had delusions of grandeur and thought he could replace even me. Very foolish. His extinction was only a matter of time ... although I would have liked to have delivered that fate myself. I suppose I will have to be mollified with the eternal torture of his soul. You robbed me of that pleasure, yet again."

Lilith stiffened. "It was never my intent to rob you of any pleasure, my beloved. Sense me for a lie. I swear to you, my goal was honorable."

He smiled a dashing smile. "And the road to Hell is always paved with good intentions. We both know that. So, perhaps I should be thankful that you found your way home, hmmm?" He let his hand fall away from her cheek. "Given all those in my charge who have

been recently released to the Light, I'm glad you haven't made a run for the border." His smile widened. "I'm also very pleased that you didn't side with Cain against me, or try to resurrect some old bond with Adam. That would have been very unfortunate - would have made me truly irrational."

Relief shot through her so quickly that it made her limbs tremble. "I would never allow Cain to attempt a coup against you, beloved," she whispered, staring at her husband's eyes to sense for any mercurial change that could happen. "And if I ever see Adam again, he's a dead man."

"You know the time is near?" Her husband tilted his head and assessed her from head to toe.

She nodded but couldn't speak as her husband's strangely melodic voice coated her insides with hot desire. But she staved off the sensation, knowing that he was at his most lethal when appearing most seductive.

"I take it that you are aware by now that I rode Cain's energy the night he descended to Dante's throne? What a rush ... I had forgotten how amorous you could be." She dared not speak, not sure of his strange mood. Her only option was to continue to watch the dangerous entity before her closely.

"You didn't know, did you?" He laughed and then sighed. "Therefore, what you saved, really, is our heir, Lilith... which is the only reason I didn't rip your lungs out for being so presumptuous about the fruit of my loins."

"I meant no disrespect," she whispered, and quickly averted her eyes to the barren rock floor.

"Look at me," he commanded, but there was a strange gentleness to his tone. He waited until she complied. A pleasant smile graced her husband's face as he arched an eyebrow and chuckled, shaking his head. "Yours, mine, and ours. I couldn't resist, not when you and Cain barreled down to my chambers and nearly blew through my doors. So erotically insane - I was moved."

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