Mirceo didn’t think—just dropped down to mirror Caspion’s position. The two maneuvered till they were back to back with their legs extended to pry open the jaws. “Now what, demon?”

“Afraid you were going to ask me that.”

Mirceo craned his head back. “At least things can’t get much worse—”

The gulg started to spin like a saucer.

Caspion bit out, “Still think this is the best date?”

“How will you ever top this?” Blood from Mirceo’s stomach rushed to his head as they swirled.

“Lower down, there’s a jaw muscle. If we can sever it . . .”

“We walk down like this?”

“That’s the plan.”

Dizziness reigned, but Mirceo believed in Caspion. In them. Working together, they descended closer to the jaw muscle. But they also neared its throat, which opened and closed below them like a trash compactor.

Mirceo spied a juncture of two bulging tendons. “I can almost reach it.” As he pulled free his weapon, the thing spun even faster. With a yell, Mirceo swung his sword, severing the tendons. That side of the gullet sagged.

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Tension gone, Mirceo and Caspion dropped from their wedged position. The demon dug his claws into the flesh, holding on with one hand, his other grappling to catch Mirceo.

“I’ve got a hold!” Mirceo had stabbed his sword for purchase, was now dangling from it. The throat was about to enclose his feet.

Caspion said, “I’m going to toss you out of here! If you can keep the thing open from above, I can leap up.”

“Do it.” Mirceo clasped forearms with Caspion. Giving the demon his weight, he retrieved his sword with his free hand. They met gazes.

The demon swung him to get momentum . . . right . . . left . . . “GO!”

Mirceo flew upward, tumbling onto the lip. He used his sword to wedge open the taut side. “Come on, demon! Now!”

Caspion dug into the gullet wall with the claws of both hands, bringing up his knees and planting the toes of his boots. His body tensed. Gritting his teeth, he leapt.

He shot up toward Mirceo . . . didn’t stop . . . just kept coming . . . He tackled Mirceo and sent them careening onto the sand.

“What the hell, demon?”

They scrambled up. Caspion had taken them past the red boulders! Had any gulgs followed?

The mouths milled about, sucking at the air and colliding into each other. But they’d stopped at that boundary!

“We made it, vampire!” Caspion whaled a slap on his back.

Between breaths, Mirceo said, “Dare I say we’re bonding?” The way to a demon’s heart is through the hunt.

“Here.” Caspion had somehow snagged Mirceo’s sword on the way out.

“Thanks.” He sheathed it once more.

This close to the fortress, the winds had abated somewhat. Caspion tugged off his scarf, so Mirceo did as well.

“Okay, leechling”—the demon’s glowing blue eyes crinkled at the sides—“you’re on deck.”

TWENTY

We actually might survive! Cas and the vampire had a possible shot at not dying. Unable to contain his excitement, he clamped Mirceo’s shoulder. “You’ve got this.”

He ignored the thoughts that had run through his mind while trapped inside that creature, burying those reflections deep. If he and the prince lived through the rest of the night, Cas would sift through and process them.

For now, he forced his attention to the job. “I think that firelight at the top of the pyramid is the sorcerer’s personal chamber. Can you get us inside there?”

“We’ll soon find out.”

“You see the guardhouse up front?” Cas pointed it out. “The scylla tentacles will emerge just beyond it. The outer wall of the fortress marks the mystical barrier. Let’s hope it doesn’t affect your mist.”

“Otherwise we’ll turn corporeal and plummet right into the creature’s tentacles?”

“Bingo. The hard part will be getting in; we’ll likely be able to teleport straight out of the fortress.”

When Mirceo reached for his hand, Cas hesitated. In conservative Abaddon, he’d never seen two males holding hands.

“Are you jesting?” Mirceo demanded. “Hand holding is taboo—after I nursed blood from your dick?”

Cas had to stifle a groan. Don’t remind me. He accepted Mirceo’s hand, frowning at the way they fit. If I was born for him, was Mirceo born for me? “Now what?”

“Now I concentrate,” Mirceo answered, tone curt. He drew in a deep breath, then exhaled, closing his eyes. Heartbeats passed.

Damn it, Cas wasn’t averse to holding another male’s hand, it was just . . . new. He recalled the first time he’d sampled lobster. It’d smelled amazing, the tender meat glistening with butter, but he hesitated to try something unfamiliar.

Cas had become set in his ways, but the vampire expected him to accept all these changes without even an afterthought. The temperature began to increase, distracting him. Was the air getting more humid? Mist arose, surrounding them.

A comforting sense of warmth enveloped Cas, as if this bank of vapor blunted all of his concerns. The rest of the world melted into the background—there, but not there. Even the sound of the wind was subdued. Their bodies faded into faint, glittering outlines. “So this is really happening?” I’m nothing but mist.

“Fate says you are a Dacian now—so you can join me. We can see, hear, and feel each other, but non-Dacians can’t detect us. In theory.”