“What powers does he possess?”

“He’s the Sorceri King of Sand, which means he controls every grain of it. Trust me when I say he’s got a lot of ammunition on Poly. And he’s ancient—some say his sorcery created the great pyramids.”

“He sounds like a heavy-hitter. Luckily, we are as well. You’re a five-century-old death demon who’s racked up a legion of kills, and I’m a Dacian, which is enough said. We are going to be unstoppable.”

“You’re truly serious about this.” Exhaling a long breath, Caspion said, “Fine. I’ll help you, saving your ass yet again.”

Part of him was shocked that Caspion had agreed. “Excellent.”

Pointing his forefinger at Mirceo’s face, the demon said, “You do not speak to anyone there. Do not look at anyone. Do not touch anything.”

“Yes, sir!” Mirceo said, fighting a smile. “Any other commands?”

“Yeah. Put on a fucking shirt.”

SIXTEEN

The winds in Poly could scour skin down to the bone. Mirceo’s bared chest wasn’t going to cut it.

Once the vampire had returned from donning a form-fitting black shirt, he flashed Cas his rakish grin. “Do I pass muster?” he asked, all too aware of his sex appeal.

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Cas had seen him wield it like a weapon. “You’ll do,” he said dismissively, though his cock had stirred from just that grin. “It’s impossible to predict Poly’s day and night from this realm. We could be heading into noonday sun, so I’ll trace you to a shelter first.” The few bars there were filled with deadly beings—who could prove just as lethal to Mirceo as the sun—so Cas would have to take him to his former home. “We might have to wait it out.”

More waiting on Poly? Just when Cas had thought he was free of that hellhole, he got sucked back in.

Were they actually going to do this? Wasn’t like they had a choice. For a male who revered options, Cas had none—because Mirceo had behaved with such recklessness. Expected, considering his age.

Did Cas want that bounty? Of course. But he also recalled how he’d felt watching Mirceo fight. So much risk. Exhaling with resignation, he gripped the vampire’s arm, then teleported him to an isolated cave in the northern mountains of Poly.

Cas released him and crossed the dark toward a lantern. As light chased away the gloom, he tried to see the place through Mirceo’s eyes.

The area was spartan and organized with military precision. Trunks of weapons and gear lined one wall. Peat logs lined another. The bed consisted of furs piled atop a raised shelf of rock. Beside the nearby fire pit, smoke stains stretched up to the cavern ceiling.

Outside, the winds howled, whipping the flap of canvas that served as a door. Caspion traced to the flap, peering out. “It’s night, but not late enough.” He returned to sit on a trunk. “We’ll head out in an hour.”

The vampire meandered through the cave. “Was this one of your camps?”

What insights into Cas’s private life could a clever male like Mirceo gain from this visit? “You’re looking at home sweet home.”

“You lived in this dismal little cave for centuries?” The spoiled princeling’s tone was aghast.

“Unlike you, I don’t need much.” Cas was used to little.

“Why did you leave gear here?” The vampire traced to one of the trunks, opening the lid.

“Always good to have a bolt hole.”

Mirceo’s eyes widened at the trunk’s contents. “So many books.” He flipped through a couple.

The vampire had promised Cas that he would read one day. Cas had believed him, studying his ass off to learn. He could even read Demonish.

Would Mirceo notice that Cas had all the titles the prince had once read to him?

If so, Mirceo didn’t remark on it, just closed the trunk. But his mood seemed lighter. “What did you eat?”

“Whatever I could hunt.” Reptilian creatures, mostly.

“And females?” Mirceo dropped down on the sleeping pallet.

How many times had Cas imagined the vampire on those furs, there for his use? For me to dominate and control. To distract himself, he snagged some tinder and a couple of peat logs to build a fire. “Females were scarce.” Cas’s appetite for sex had grown in lockstep with his burgeoning strength, but he’d had few outlets for it. “I was in that outpost tavern for a reason.”

Mirceo’s lips thinned. “I didn’t take you for such an ascetic.”

“All things being equal, I enjoy comforts. But Poly affords few of them.”

“You must’ve really wanted to stay away. From me.”

“Not everything is about you, leechling.” But wasn’t that a huge part of it?

“Then tell me what was this penance was about.”

“I wanted to get stronger and seek my fortunes.” Before he’d left Abaddon, he’d vowed to Bettina: I will do anything—anything—so that I may never know defeat like that again. “I promised myself I would stay until I’d accumulated a certain amount of wealth and kills. Those goals took me five centuries to achieve.”

Glancing to the right of Cas, Mirceo asked, “Did you think of me?”

Some minutes less than others. “Perhaps on occasion.” Cas hadn’t comprehended how much he would crave the simple companionship of their relationship until he’d lost it. Always, he’d missed his best friend.