Authors: Calista Fox
He conquered a world in decline, then
set his sights on the raven-haired object of his desire…
Eight years of tormenting sexual
yearning have left the Demon King Darien with a burning need to claim the one
woman whose allure he can’t escape. Yet his first erotic encounter with Jade—a
human from the village that lies in the shadow of his vast kingdom—leaves the
powerful, immortal king in the vulnerable position of wanting to give his
mortal bedmate more than just physical pleasure.
Jade has never known sexual bliss until
the Demon King takes her, again and again. Yet she is fiercely loyal to her
kind, and her forbidden interludes with Darien leave her facing a fiery,
potentially deadly attraction as tension between the humans and demons ignite
once more. There is no debate when it comes to choosing sides—and their love may
not be able to conquer all.
A Romantica® erotic romance from
North America, 2051
Not all humans are good. Not all demons are evil.
Jade Deville had heard those words uttered by her mother on
more than one occasion. Never publicly, of course, for that would incite much
Yet she would whisper the sentiment when Jade, as a young
girl, had asked her to talk about the demons so that she might better
understand the creatures that ruled their world. Many of whom made residence
within and outside the castle walls of the Demon King Darien. His kingdom
sprawled along the ridge that overlooked the small human village of Ryleigh, in
northeastern Maine, not far from the New Brunswick border.
Jade had never been able to take solace in her mother’s
compassionate opinion. History books and the sparse remainder of humans across
the continents following the ten-year demon wars that started in 2016 provided
sufficient proof the demonic community was more dangerous and much deadlier
than the threat of bio-weaponry and nuclear bombs had ever been—could ever be,
were they still in existence.
The terrorization humans once inflicted upon each other in
their quest for supremacy was long obsolete—and child’s play in comparison to
the demon warfare tactically employed, which nearly decimated the human race.
The mortals had had little opportunity to fight back.
The only thing that could kill a demon was another demon, an
experienced slayer or a potent vanquishing spell. The last two were extremely
rare and the former only happened during uprisings, which weren’t commonplace
because of various pacts and alliances that banded most of the fiendish
creatures together. Though renegades existed and sometimes they wreaked as much
havoc on the human populace as they did the demonic one.
Now twenty-six years old, Jade still had a difficult time
understanding her mother’s utterances about not all demons being evil. It made
no sense to her. After all, it had been werewolves who’d viciously attacked and
killed her parents fifteen years ago.
As she left her cottage on the banks of the narrow river
that snaked its way along the outskirts of town, she zipped up her black
leather jacket against the chill of the crisp, autumn evening. Fat snowflakes
glistened in the darkness surrounding her, catching the occasional ray of
moonlight when it penetrated the dense forest of skyscraping pine trees and the
spindle-fingered cloud cover overhead.
Jade wove her way along the worn path that led to the heart
of the village. The ground was hard beneath her feet, frozen, and with a light
dusting of white that would likely turn into a foot or two of fresh powder by
the time she returned home.
she returned home. One could never be too
sure in this day and age, and Jade in particular.
Someone watched her. She sensed his presence. Felt his gaze
on her. It wasn’t the first time. Nor was the one who followed her human. There
were no snapping of twigs beneath his feet, as with her own. No scent wafting
on a stiff breeze. And she didn’t hear the slightest hint of his breathing or
see a puff of frosty air, as was the case with her, a human.
She suspected what tracked her was a wraith from the king’s
army. They were the most difficult to spot with their black cloaks blending
into the dark night as they floated weightlessly over the land, making nary a
sound. Yet they left an ominous chill in the air, if one paid close enough
attention. Jade always did.
Despite not being able to see her pursuer, she had the right
to demand he show himself and to confront him. The Demon King—who’d come into
power thirty-five years ago when the immortals first took on the mortal
world—had issued several royal decrees following the wars. One of which
declared no demon within his allegiance could stalk, hunt or harm a human,
unless said human was a slayer who’d made the initial predatory move. But there
were fewer of those in existence these days.
Ryleigh was fortunate to have two of their own slayers, who
served as magistrates. Most villages shared a slayer amongst a hundred or so
other villages. Not great odds against those rogue demons who defied the law
and certainly not a comfort or assurance of safety, Jade suspected.
Her small community was well protected for a reason.
Regardless of the laws governing demon interactions with humans that might
suggest it wasn’t necessary to have two slayers in such a remote, lightly
human-populated area, the village sat in the shadow of the king’s vast legion
King Darien was the most revered of demon warlords. Given he
had the largest following, he possessed the power to command the three other
warlords on the continent. They were located in the west and central regions,
and in a defined territory from Mexico to Panama. As part of his law that kept
demons from hunting humans, the king had also proclaimed no more than two
demons at a time may roam close to or enter a village, the perimeter of
which—in Ryleigh’s case—the slayers patrolled.
That latter pact might not have been broken this evening,
but the “no hunting” restriction had clearly been violated by whoever tailed
A dark shiver chased down her spine and it wasn’t from the
frigid gust whistling through the trees. It was from the wraith himself.
Agitating her further was the fact she couldn’t discern in which direction the
threat came or how to counteract it. Although she possessed above-average
fighting skills, thanks to her father, she’d be no match for a ghost—the very
reason she didn’t call him out.
Quickening her steps, she reached the small village, dimly
lit by crudely fashioned lampposts topped with low-blazing torches in glass
orbs. There was little activity on the cracked and brittle sidewalks or the
pothole-invested streets, which had accumulated so much dirt over the years
from lack of use, it was difficult to believe asphalt lay beneath the dark
The snow built on the ground as Jade made her way to the
tavern at the end of the block. She took one more look around her, pausing just
outside the lively establishment, listening intently for any sign of the
stranger who stalked her. Not a peep, save for the hint of noise that
penetrated the thick tavern walls and the chiming of the bell in its tower in
the village square, signaling she was right on time for work at seven o’clock.
Shoving open the door, she crossed the scuffed hardwood
floor as she peeled off her jacket, shaking the coat to dislodge the snowflakes
and wet drops many had melted into.
“Hey, Jade,” a few of the villagers greeted her.
“‘Evening, everyone,” she said as she passed by on her way
to hang her jacket on a hook in the far corner.
The tavern was as faintly lit as the streets. Candles on the
long wooden tables and sconces hanging on the stone walls provided the only
illumination, with the exception of the occasional lighting of a twig or dried
needles set against a flame when a patron splurged on a hand-rolled cigarette.
Electricity, among other things, was not a commodity in this
part of the country. Jade had heard years ago that the humans on the west coast
had struck a bargain with the warlord serving as steward in their region and he
had permitted them to restore limited power lines within larger communities.
The technique employed was rumored to be circa late-nineteenth century, when
electricity first made its way into homes in America.
Thus far, the biggest concession in that vein the easterners
had achieved was mass purification of water. Desalination procedures using
condensers fueled by fire that boiled the liquid and pumped steam through
salvaged pipes created condensation that turned into drinkable water. This made
it easy to keep the icehouses stocked with both the huge blocks cut from frozen
lakes for general purposes as well as sterilized cubes.
The blocks were good for packing metal replicas of
refrigerators in order to keep perishable items cold. Though in the winter,
that was hardly necessary, since the units could be moved outdoors and they’d
be equally effective without any ice at all. Come tomorrow, the kegs at the
tavern would be intermittently stored out back in the thick banks of snow and monitored
regularly to ensure the beer remained cold, but didn’t freeze.
Since Jade had never lived in a world with electricity, she
didn’t miss it. She could prepare meals over a fire and read by candlelight.
Having purified water for a bath, cooking and drinking was by far a greater
necessity in her mind.
A smaller concession was that transportation by way of
horses and wagons were allowed, as were the occasional steam locomotives
following the restoration of a main coast-to-coast railroad. The demons themselves
preferred their own two feet—or four, in the case of various animal shifters—or
the gleaming black Arabians they were prone to breed.
Modern creature comforts, it seemed, were of little use to
the demon population, and that meant no major manufacturing plants or advanced
technology. Unfortunately, the humans who’d lived before the wars and had
survived them suffered because of lack of innovation, but most had adapted to
On the plus side, domestic importing had not been outlawed
and breweries in the west shipped kegs of beer to the east. When business was
good for the tavern, particularly in the winter when the villagers weren’t
tending to outdoor crops and instead were bellied up to the bar for warmth and
companionship, they were also able to acquire a few casks of wine and brandy.
The owner, Michael Hadley, had built his own distillery for vodka.
After yanking off her gloves and stuffing them in her coat
pocket, Jade stoked the fire in the tall hearth. She then rounded the bar,
where Michael served beers to the regulars gathered at the counter. The pine
surface was deeply scarred, but nobody seemed to mind. One simply had to be
careful where they set their mug, so as to not perch it precariously in a
“Damn cold out there, isn’t it?” he asked her.
“Still mild, relatively speaking. Jinx predicted a long,
hard winter. After today, we won’t be seeing the ground for another six
Jinx Cromley was the local psychic who had plenty to say
about everything. Jade enjoyed his ramblings for the most part, but never paid
much attention when it came to his forecasts that the human world would someday
more closely resemble what it had been at the turn of the millennium.
The early 2000s had seen its share of highs and lows, mostly
economically, but the historians had reported the people of those times had
enjoyed sophisticated technology, including computers, phones and televisions.
Obviously, with no electricity, Jade had never seen a TV in real life—not that
there were production companies to generate programs—and she’d never made a
phone call or sent an email. Even the famed Internet she’d read about ceased to
exist at the advent of the series of wars.
“Ah, the town crier strikes again,” Michael mused.
Indeed, the old psychic Jinx was the one they counted on to
spread the word, no matter what the topic, given there was no newspaper in
Ryleigh. What news didn’t come from Jinx came from those few people who dared
to travel the regions, despite the threat of attack by rogue demons not in the
Michael continued. “Jinx isn’t one to dampen spirits, but
his winter predictions always leave something to be desired.”
“I don’t mind the snow,” Jade admitted as she reached for
Donovan Jak’s mug to refill it. She pumped the keg and cracked the tap. “All
that fluffy white helps to counter the bleak gray and brighten up the village.”
Just as the daily grind of serving drinks and chatting with
the locals helped to take the edge off Jade’s jangled nerves over once again
having been followed. Though she didn’t allow herself the luxury of false
security. Something waited for her outside the doors of the tavern.
No demon other than the king or the general of his army had
the authority to pass through a human door without invitation—which was
something she’d never heard of happening—but the law didn’t exactly put Jade’s
mind at ease. Nor did knowing she had a half-hour walk home ahead of her at the
end of the evening.
“Did you see our shipment of merlot came in?” Michael asked.
He reached for one of the non-labeled wine bottles he recycled. The dozen or so
he stocked didn’t fill the two six-foot-tall recovered riddling racks made of
mango wood that he’d mounted on the wall behind the bar. However, it was nice
to see the bottles had finally been put to use again. “Wanna sample it?”
“Sure.” She preferred wine over beer, though the former was
a rare treat because of the exorbitant prices. So many of the vineyards back
east had been trampled during the wars and there weren’t enough experienced
vintners or workers to fully revive them.
Money was an issue as well. As a rule, the humans didn’t
possess much of it. For most, bartering was a way of life, not the exchange of
funds for goods and services, with some obvious exceptions. Jade, for one, had
nothing to trade, so she needed the small wage Michael provided her.
He pulled the cork on the merlot and splashed a decent
amount into two glasses.
“Here’s to your favorite season,” he said before tilting the
rim of his wineglass to hers. It made a soft clinking noise she enjoyed
hearing. There were too few toasts to make in their lives, so even the most
inconsequential one was a nice change of pace. “May we not freeze our asses off
“Not like we’re going to run out of wood for our hearths
anytime soon.” Thick patches of forest surrounded the village and there was
also plenty of ground debris to gather.
Jade sipped her wine, hoping it would relax her further. But
the glass Michael poured was all she’d allow herself. Clearly, she needed to
keep her wits about her.