Most vampires went eons between the freezing of their hearts and their blooding. Naturally the spoiled prince had been spared that long drought! Everything had always fallen into his lap.

Not me. To give up all his dreams? To become one among Mirceo’s conquests? He’d seen the broken hearts Mirceo left in his wake. Would Cas be like them, begging for another night with the prince?

Then you’ll always be a beggar, Cas.

Never. “I might be your mate, but you will never be mine.”

Squaring his shoulders, Mirceo said, “I won’t rest until we’re bonded. You’re going to take my virginity and give me your demon seal in return.” Even with his face beaten, he’d regained his princely arrogance. “I’ll give you time to wrap your head around your new existence. But know this, sweetheart: I will make you ejaculate so hard your balls will plead for mercy.”

He disappeared, saving Cas the humiliation of his involuntary growl.

NINE

Castle Dacia

The Realm of Blood and Mist

The next gloaming, Mirceo sauntered along the gallery overlooking the training yard and settled into an alcove to watch his sister at her sword practice.

Pride suffused him. She’d inherited her blistering speed—and her pointed ears—from some distant fey ancestress, but she’d earned her skill through constant training. Before long, Mina would be able to challenge even the great Trehan.

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The protective diamond at the apex of this vast cavern cast filtered sun and prisms over the rambling kingdom. Rays beamed down over Mina, illuminating her white-blond hair. As she defeated one sparring partner after another—all of them much larger males—her blue eyes blazed with focus.

Whereas Caspion had midnight-blue eyes, Mina’s were lighter, a crystalline ice blue.

Mirceo still couldn’t believe he’d once thought those two might be a pair. As he watched her graceful moves, he cast his mind back to their meeting.

“Sister, may I present Caspion? He is my best and most treasured friend.”

Faced with the demon’s uncommon good looks, she blushed and stammered, unable to meet Caspion’s gaze for more than a peek.

“Caspion, this is the princess Kosmina.”

When she offered her hand, the demon took it and pressed a kiss to the back. “A pleasure, princess.”

Had her cheeks ever been so red? “Yes. A p-pleasure.” She was as bashful as Mirceo was shameless.

Though Mina was tongue-tied and adorable, the demon’s eyes weren’t lighting up. Caspion’s expression could best be described as . . . fond.

As Mina’s practice came to a close, the last clang of steel echoed over the courtyard. She must’ve sensed Mirceo’s gaze on her. She peered up at him, her face glowing. Tossing her sword to a servant, she traced to Mirceo. “Your heart is beating!”

He swung her around in his arms. “It is, my darling Mina! I’ve been blooded, enjoying all that this milestone entails.” His speed now rivaled hers, his senses more acute than ever. Little other than a beheading or unfiltered sunlight could kill him, and he regenerated even faster. His injuries from the night before had healed in mere hours. No doubt helped along by Caspion’s crimson ambrosia.

Transforming himself into mist—a talent only Dacians possessed—would be much easier, and he’d be able to transform his mate as well.

“Already!” She suffered no reticence or awkwardness with her big brother. “How fortunate. Are you much stronger?”

“By a hundredfold.”

“So it was Caspion! I knew it.” Mina’s innocent eyes gazed past Mirceo. “Where is he?”

Not with me. Yet. “Take a walk?”

She eagerly nodded, and they exited the castle perimeter to stroll down one of the cobblestone streets.

After a few moments, Mirceo admitted, “Caspion is being a touch resistant to the idea of me as a mate. Might’ve spurned me a bit.”

Her blond brows drew together. “But he wasn’t resistant to the idea of me as his mate.”

In a dry tone, Mirceo said, “Believe me, I have moments when I wish I were your big sister.”

“I meant, that he didn’t mind my species. Or my diet.”

“No, vampirism is not the obstacle.” He should be so lucky. In order to have Caspion, Mirceo would’ve eaten food and lived like a demon—even though he’d regain pesky bodily functions and miss the hell out of blood and biting. Gods, I would miss biting. “My masculinity, however . . .”

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, brother, but I don’t think sweet Caspion would spurn you if you were everything perfect except for your . . . maleness.”

Mirceo frowned. “Then by that reasoning, are you saying I’m imperfect?”

“I’m just saying other factors might be at work.”

He exhaled a gust of breath. “Maybe I am seizing on the one thing I can’t change—because I don’t have the fortitude to change the things I can.”

“That would mean evolving as a person.” For such an innocent female, Mina could be surprisingly incisive. “Which would take work.”

Perhaps Mirceo could be a touch less arrogant. Maybe a bit less vain. He could take things more seriously.

How boring I’d be! “Damn him, I like myself. All I want to do is be there for him. To get back to our enhanced friendship.”

“Much has happened since then.” In a lower voice, she added, “With his defeat in the Iron Ring. He must hate Trehan so much.”