Putting the arrogant prince on his hands and knees. Such a vulnerable position. Cas rubbed the heel of his palm over his shaft.

His only physical issue with taking Mirceo? Cas feared he’d come prematurely. “I just want you gone.”

“And what if you change your mind? How would you ever be able to find me?”

Though a demon could teleport to places he’d previously been, some kind of esoteric Dacian magic dimmed memories of the kingdom’s location. Even a tracker like Cas could never reach Dacia again. Not that he’d ever wanted to remember how to return to that cursed place!

“Caspion, you would be mired in regret.”

“I’ll show as much regret as you did when your uncle set off to assassinate me. Thanks for the warning!”

Gray eyes narrowed. “I warned you before you left, sweetheart. And before you even journeyed to Dacia! But the threat of death didn’t slow you down, did it? Because what happened between us was so powerful that you had to flee what you felt.”

Cas couldn’t argue with that. “Say that’s true. You could’ve requested leniency for your friend.”

“Ah, my friend? The one who betrayed the laws of my people? In any case, I did ask for leniency. I pleaded for it. But I was granted none. So I acted resigned, even as I plotted to do whatever it took to protect you.”

If true—and natural-born vampires couldn’t lie—then this news appeased at least some of the rage he felt toward Mirceo. All these years, Cas had carried that burden.

As it dissipated, numbness took its place.

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“When Trehan came for you that night, I was already in Abaddon, ready to defend you,” Mirceo said. “You remained in a godsdamned brothel till morning.”

Cas’s lips parted. He had been there. Mirceo had planned to challenge the great Prince of Shadow? Which meant Mirceo had intended to risk his very life. For me.

“But my uncle never made it to you because he sensed Bettina and was distracted. Then he entered the tournament.” For her, Trehan had left his mist in front of thousands, turning his back on his kingdom. “I couldn’t interfere with anything after that point.”

“Do not remind me.” Those tournament rules had governed all of their behavior inside and out of the ring. “Did you see Trehan fight me?” Say no . . .

“No, I didn’t. My other uncles and I were chasing our new king all over the Lore, trying to protect him and Queen Elizabeth, his mate.” Rubbing his nape, Mirceo added, “But I heard about it.”

Cas’s face heated. “The Abaddonae will never view me the same way. Trehan denied me an honorable death.” Since his self-exile, Cas still wasn’t ready to face the people of his kingdom.

Though I miss Bettina. He hadn’t seen her in centuries.

“Honorable death?” Mirceo scoffed. “You can’t enjoy honor when you’re dead.”

Cas didn’t bother arguing with him; a spoiled prince like Mirceo would never understand. “Did you tell Trehan that I’m your mate?”

“I did.”

Cas’s worst enemy now knew his greatest weakness. “And how did you reveal that? Did you refer to me as your Bride? Is that how you would introduce me?”

“I see the blood rise in your cheeks.” Mirceo exhaled with impatience. “Our species has always been inclusive, and now we are updating the terminology. Male or female, a mate is a mate,” he said. “Besides, as a prince of Dacia—which you already are, just by virtue of our fated connection—you won’t be introduced to others. They will be presented to you, because you are now a royal of the House of Castellan, the heart of our kingdom.”

“Me? A prince?”

Mirceo nodded. “Mina and I are all that’s left of our house. We need you, Caspion—”

“Shut up.” Awareness lifted the fine hairs on Cas’s nape. The rolling hills surrounding the brothel were too still. Insects and night creatures had fallen silent. He surveyed the terrain. One by one vampires materialized in the distance.

“No need to be rude, you lout.” Mirceo sighed. “But if I must, I’ll polish your manners along with your knob.”

Cas rolled his eyes. “Vampires close in on us.” They emanated menace. Excellent. He needed to vent some frustration.

Mirceo inhaled the air, catching the same smells. With a grin, he said, “Do you remember our nights of bloodshed, sweetheart?”

“Stop calling me that!”

Unperturbed, Mirceo said, “Our new opponents don’t smell like Horde vampires. Could be Forbearers. They might be here for me, since King Lothaire abducted and imprisoned Kristoff, their king.”

Wait, Lothaire? “The Enemy of Old is the king your family crowned?” By all accounts, Lothaire was as deranged as he was vicious.

“He’s the rightful heir.”

“Why in the gods’ names would Lothaire kidnap Kristoff?”

Shrug. “Uncle needed someone to play chess with.”

“Your entire bloody family is insane.”

“Fair point. I believe the imprisonment also stems from the fact that Kristoff is Lothaire’s secret half brother, on his father’s side. The Horde side. For all we know, this might be Lothaire’s way of bonding.” Growing more serious, Mirceo said, “Those Forbearers will have swords, and we do not.”

Cas bared his fangs and claws, sneering, “I’ll have a sword soon enough.”