“Depends on what you share.”

“Very well.” Lowering his tone—one of Mirceo’s most foolproof seduction weapons was his raspy, accented voice—he murmured, “I come from a fabled realm that few outsiders have ever seen.” Hidden within a mountain, the kingdom of Dacia spreads beneath a soaring cavern. “Considered a vampire’s paradise, it’s filled with riches.” Blood runs in fountains, fog wisps over cobblestone streets, and a giant diamond in the highest part of the cavern filters the sun. “My kind have abilities that other vampires do not.” We can turn into mist and levitate. “I’m forbidden to leave my kingdom without the permission of a gatekeeper—yet I do leave, often.” Because the gatekeeper likes his blood mead a little too well. “Though I’m to stay hidden in mist, unseen by anyone outside of our realm—I am seen by others, regularly.”

If one departed Dacia without permission, he could never trace home, and memories of the kingdom’s location would fade. But I found ways around that.

The demon’s lids were half-masted. He looked as if he could have listened to Mirceo speak for eternity. “Is your father the king?”

“We have no king at present.” Even over the smells of hot springs and sex, Mirceo caught a thread of Caspion’s natural scent—a heady blend that called to mind raindrops and leather. As one who hailed from a realm with no rain, Mirceo found the demon’s scent as exotic as it was tantalizing.

Caspion took a deep drink. “If you’re a prince, why haven’t you taken the throne?”

“Others in my family have as much claim as I. The situation is fraught. There’s another who could rule us—the rightful heir.” Lothaire the Enemy of Old, a three-thousand-year-old vampire. “But his eyes are red.” He was half Horde, half Dacian.

“From bloodlust.”

“Indeed.” Mirceo sipped his chalice. “He’s crazed with it. In my particular kingdom, drinking from the flesh is considered a heinous taboo. Naturally I fantasize about it without cease.” Caspion’s pulse point drew his gaze, and the demon noticed, swallowing thickly. “My relatives and I have agreed to think on the matter and decide soon.” Mirceo would vote to install Lothaire without hesitation. Nothing could shatter Dacia’s blood-taking taboo like a red-eyed king. “Are you satisfied with my details?”

Caspion nodded. His drink seemed to be hitting him. He must be unused to the potency of expensive vintages. “My oldest friend—a Sorceri/demon halfling—was assaulted by a gang of Vrekeners.” Eyes flickering black with emotion, he said, “The attack was more vicious than anything I’ve ever seen; she barely survived. For sixty days, I sat at her bedside while she recovered. For sixty nights, I set out into the worlds to hunt her assailants.” She sounds like more than a friend. “I’m a bounty hunter by trade, but those winged fiends are hidden from me, their floating lair constantly moving. Today I was ordered off the search.”

“I’m sorry, Caspion. That must be difficult to accept. If I can be of service, tell me.”

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“Why?” The demon grew cagey. “You don’t know me.”

True. “I can’t explain it, but I feel an affinity with you.” Perhaps he would remain friends with Caspion, even after they’d partaken of each other. There’s a first time for everything. “It is unusual.” Being near this male made him feel at once stimulated and satisfied. Enlivened, yet soothed.

“Unusual? You’re a favorite here. Everyone vies for your attention. I’d say you feel an affinity with many.”

Mirceo slid him a grin. “So you’ve noticed me?”

Caspion scowled into his cup.

“My home, though a paradise, is full of rules, so I enjoy otherlanders’ company. But none so much as yours.” Not a lie.

“I doubt that,” the demon said, revealing another intriguing facet to his personality: insecurity. This mighty blond Adonis was vulnerable. It made Mirceo want to champion him, to clutch him close.

Protectiveness? How unlike me. He only ever felt protective of Kosmina, his cherished younger sister. The rest of the beings in the worlds could all go to hell as far as he was concerned.

“Why should I believe anything you say?” Caspion asked.

“Why shouldn’t you? Also, do recall that a natural-born vampire like myself is incapable of lying.” Mirceo studied the demon’s breathtaking face. “Do you not feel a like affinity with me?”

_______

Weirdly, Cas did. Or maybe he was enjoying the effects of the smoothest—yet strongest—brew he’d ever consumed. After all, why would he feel a connection with a sophisticated vampire prince? “Not a sexual affinity, though.”

Mirceo ran his fingers along the rim of his chalice, his black claws trimmed shorter than Cas’s own. “So you’ve never been with a male.”

He shook his head. “Not my cup of tea.”

“It wasn’t mine either, until I had a sip.” Mirceo took a drink, then licked a drop of blood mead from his lip.

The sight held Cas rapt before he blinked back to attention. How to respond to that comment? I see. Very good. Thanks for sharing.

“So what shall we do about your hunt?” the vampire asked, mercifully moving to another subject.

“There’s nothing I can do. I must follow my order.” Raum, one of Bettina’s guardians and the acting ruler of Abaddon, had vowed to send a cadre of his finest warriors to take over. “I find myself . . . adrift.”