Authors: Larissa Ione
Tags: #Fantasy, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Werewolves, #Adult, #Vampire, #Urban Fantasy
To Brennan, because without you, I would never have known the joy of being a mother, and I don’t think my characters would, either. You’re my world, Goob!
Special thanks to the fabulous staff at Grand Central Publishing, from the cover art department to my copyeditor and editor, Amy Pierpont. I’m so very lucky to be working with such talented people.
And a huge thank you to Justin Knupp of Stonecreek Media, for being so great to work with and for being such a big, visible part of the Demonica world.
Finally, a big “love ya, gals,” to the Writeminded Readers Group and the Writeminded blog ladies, Jaci Burton, Maya Banks, Amy Knupp, and Stephanie Tyler. You are my much-needed support group!
The Aegis—Society of human warriors dedicated to protecting the world from evil. See: Guardians, Regent, Sigil
Carceris—The jailors of the underworld. All demon species send representatives to serve terms in the Carceris. Carceris members are responsible for apprehending demons accused of violating demon law, and for acting as guards in the Carceris prisons.
Council—All demon species and breeds are governed by a Council that makes laws and metes out punishment for individual members of their species or breed.
Dresdiin—The demon equivalent of angels.
Fakires—Derogatory term used by vampires to describe humans who either believe themselves to be real vampires or who pretend to be vampires.
Guardians—Warriors for The Aegis, trained in combat techniques, weapons, magic. Upon induction into The Aegis, all Guardians are presented with an enchanted piece of jewelry bearing the Aegis shield, which, among other things, allows for night vision and the ability to see through demon invisibility enchantment.
Harrowgate—Vertical portals, invisible to humans, which demons use to travel between locations on Earth and Sheoul.
Infadre—A female of any demon species who has been impregnated by a Seminus demon.
Maleconcieo—Highest level of ruling demon boards, served by a representative from each species Council. The United Nations of the demon world.
Orgesu—A demon sex slave, often taken from breeds bred specifically for the purpose of providing sex.
Regent—Head(s) of local Aegis cells.
Renfield—Fictional character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Also, derogatory term for any human who serves a vampire. A vampire groupie.
S’genesis—Final maturation cycle for Seminus demons. Occurs at one hundred years of age. A post-s’genesis male is capable of procreation and possesses the ability to shapeshift into the male of any demon species.
Sheoul—Demon realm. Located deep in the bowels of Earth, accessible only by Harrowgates.
Sheoul-gra—A holding tank for demon souls. The place where demon souls go until they can be reborn or kept in torturous limbo.
Sheoulic—Universal language spoken by all demons, though many species speak their own language.
Sigil—Board of twelve humans known as Elders, who serve as the supreme leaders of The Aegis. Based in Berlin, they oversee all Aegis cells worldwide.
Swans—Humans who act as blood or energy donors for vampires, either actual undead or fakires.
Ter’taceo—Demons who can pass as human, either because their species is naturally human in appearance, or because they can shapeshift into human form.
Therionidryo—Term a were-beast uses for a person he or she bit and turned into another were-beast.
Therionidrysi—Any survivor of a were-beast attack. Term used to clarify the relationship between the sire and his therionidryo.
Ufelskala—A scoring system for demons, based on their degree of evil. All supernatural creatures and evil humans can be categorized into the five Tiers, with the Fifth Tier comprised of the worst of the wicked.
Classification of Demons, as listed by Baradoc, Umber demon, using the demon breed Seminus as an example:
Family: Sexual Demon
“When you are dining with a demon, you got to have a long spoon.”
—Navjot Singh Sidhu
There were three things Wraith did well: hunt, fight, and fuck. He was going to do all three tonight. In exactly that order.
Crouching on the rooftop of a shop run by immigrants who had probably come from such a shitty country that the violence in the streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn, didn’t faze them, Wraith waited.
He’d spied the gang members earlier, had scented their aggression, their need to draw blood, and Wraith’s own need to do the same stirred. Like any predator, he’d chosen his target with care. But unlike most predators, he didn’t go for the weak or the aged. Screw that. He wanted the strongest, the biggest, the most dangerous.
He liked his pint of blood with an adrenaline chaser.
Unfortunately, Wraith couldn’t make a kill tonight. He’d already met his one-human-kill-per-month limit set by the Vampire Council, and no way in Sheoul would he go over.
Strange that he worried about it, given that ten months ago Wraith had happily gone through his s’genesis, a change that should have made him a monster who operated only on instinct—an instinct to screw as many demon females as possible, with the goal being to impregnate them. An added bonus of the s’genesis was that male Seminus demons became so focused on their sex drives that they cared little for anything else. But in Wraith’s case, he was also a vampire, so killing things was in his blood. So to speak.
Eager to get started with his new life, Wraith had found a way to bring on The Change early. Unfortunately, it didn’t change a damned thing. Oh, he wanted to screw and impregnate females, but that was nothing new. The only difference was that now he could impregnate them. Oh, and he also had to shapeshift into the male of their species to do it, because no female on Earth or in Sheoul, the demon realm in the planet’s core, would knowingly bed a post-s’genesis Seminus demon. No one wanted to give birth to offspring that would be born a purebred Seminus despite the mixed mating.
So yeah, a few things had changed, but not enough. Wraith still remembered the horrors of his past. He still cared about his two brothers and the hospital they had all started together. Sometimes he wasn’t sure which was worse.
Wraith scented the air, taking in the recent rain, the rancid odors of stale urine, decaying garbage, and spicy Haitian cuisine from the hovel next door. Darkness swirled around him, cloaking him in the shadows, and a cold January breeze ruffled his shoulder-length hair but did nothing to ease the heat in his veins.
He might be the epitome of patience while waiting for his prey, but that didn’t mean that inside he wasn’t quivering with anticipation.
Because these weren’t your typical gangbangers he was hunting. No, the Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings had nothing on the mercilessly cruel Upir.
The very name made Wraith’s lips curl in a silent snarl. The Upir functioned like any other territorial street gang, except those pulling the strings were vampires. They used their human chumps to commit the crimes, to provide blood—and bloodsport—when needed, and to take the falls when the cops busted them. For their service and sacrifice, the humans believed they would be rewarded with eternal life.
Most vampires adhered to strict rules regarding turning humans, and since a vampire was allowed only a handful of turnings in his entire lifetime, he didn’t waste them on lowlife gangbangers.
Of course, the gangbangers didn’t know that. They played the streets, their fangs-dripping-blood tats and crimson-and-gold gang colors screaming warnings others heeded. No one messed with the Upir.
No one but Wraith.
The Upir came. Seven of them, talking trash, swaggering with overblown arrogance.
Wraith unfurled to his nearly six feet, six inch height, and then dropped the fifteen feet to the ground, landing right in front of the gang.
“Hey, assholes. ’Sup?”
The leader, a stocky white guy wearing a bandanna wrapped around his bulbous head, stumbled back a step, but hid his surprise behind a raw curse. “What the fuck?”
One of the punks, a short, fat, crooked-nosed troll—not literally a troll, which was unfortunate, because Wraith could have killed him, penalty-free—drew a blade from his coat pocket. Wraith laughed, and two other punks produced their own knives. Wraith laughed harder.
“The dregs of human society amuse me,” Wraith said. “Rodents with weapons. Except rodents are smart. And they taste terrible.”
The leader whipped a pistol out of his droopy-ass pants. “You got a motherfucking death wish.”
Wraith grinned. “You got that right. Only it’s your death I wish for.” He smashed his fist into the leader’s face.
The leader rocked backward, clutching his broken, bleeding nose. The scent of blood jacked up Wraith’s temp a notch… and he wasn’t alone. The two gangsters at the rear zeroed in on the scent, heads snapping around.
Vamps. One black male, one Latino female, both dressed like the others in baggy jeans, hoodies, and ratty sneakers.
Jackpot, baby. Wraith was going to get some kills in tonight, after all.
Before any of the stunned humans could recover, Wraith sprinted down a side street.
Angry shouts followed him as they gave chase. He slowed, drawing the gangsters in. Nimbly, he leaped on top of a Dumpster and then swung up to a rooftop and waited until they passed. Their fury left a scent trail he could follow blindfolded, but instead, he dropped to the ground, used his infrared vamp vision to see them in the darkest shadows ahead. He hated using any of his vampire skills, including super speed and strength, but vision was the one he truly despised.
Despised, because he hadn’t been born with it. Instead, it had come twenty-two years later, with the eyes Eidolon had transplanted into his head nearly eighty years ago. Every time Wraith looked into the mirror at the baby blues, he was reminded of the torture and pain that had preceded the new peepers.
Kicking himself for letting the past distract him, he silently started the hunt. Normally, he’d take out the vamps first, but the troll was just ahead, huffing and puffing and trailing far behind the others.
He pounced, squeezed the breath out of the squat human, and left his unconscious body behind a pile of boxes. Next, he tracked the male vamp, who thought he’d gained the upper hand by swinging around behind Wraith.
Wraith feigned distraction, standing in the open beneath the bright glare of a street light as the vamp crept forward. Closer… closer… yes. Wraith spun, pummeled the massive male with a flurry of fists and feet. The vamp didn’t have a chance to throw a single punch, and once Wraith had hauled him into the darkness beneath an overpass, he took him down. With a knee in the male’s gut and one hand curled around his throat, Wraith drew a stake from the weapons harness beneath his leather jacket.
“What,” the male gasped, his eyes wide with shock and terror, “what… are… you?”
“Buddy, sometimes I ask myself that same question.” He slammed the stake home. Didn’t wait around to watch the show as the vampire disintegrated. There was another one to take out.
Anticipation shimmered through his veins as he stalked the female through side streets and alleys. Like the male, she believed she was the one doing the hunting, and Wraith caught her off guard as she crept in the shadows behind a building. He shoved her into the wall, lifting her by the throat so she dangled off the ground.
“This was too easy,” Wraith said. “What is the Vamp Council teaching younglings these days?”
“I’m no youngling.” Her voice was a low, seductive purr, and even as she spoke, she lifted her legs to wrap them around Wraith’s hips. “I’ll show you.”
The scent of lust came off her in waves. His incu-bus body responded, hardening and heating, but he’d rather kill himself than screw a vampire—or a human, though he had different reasons for not bedding human females.
He leaned in so his lips brushed her ear, which was pierced all the way around. “Not interested,” he growled, but still, she arched against him, affected by his incubus pheromones.
You shouldn’t play with your food. Eidolon’s voice rang in his ears, but Wraith ignored it the way he ignored pretty much everything his brothers said to him. He had no intention of making a meal of this female.
“Could’ve fooled me,” she said, rolling her hips into his erection.
“Maybe you need some convincing.” Wraith pulled back and gave her an eyeful of wooden stake.
Her eyes went wild. “Please…” She swallowed, her throat convulsing beneath his palm. Her body wilted like a dying flower, and that fast the temptress was gone. “Please. Just… do it quickly.”
He blinked. He’d expected her to beg for her life. He met her wide, haunted gaze, and slowly, with a sick sense of dread, he shuffled his fingers on her neck. A raised pattern peeked from beneath the collar of her hoodie. Damn.
He shoved his stake into his pocket and tugged her sweatshirt aside to reveal a welted pattern the size of his fist.