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 h*ps 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 cl**ax, 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 cl**ax because he was worried about snuffing this mystery species demon chick was really f**king 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 c*ck 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 cl**ax. 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 f**king 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-a**hole 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 f**king 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.