Only the two of them existed inside this cocoon. Cas felt connected to the vampire, as he’d never been to anyone else. He wished he could be enfolded like this when he had time to savor it. “I have to admit, this is a damn handy skill.” What other jobs could they pull off together?

“Are you ready?”

Cas mimicked Mirceo: “I was born ready, sweetheart.” He grinned when the vampire muttered, “Demonic lout.”

They began to float upward, levitating farther and farther off the ground. Cas had to stifle a laugh. Amazing! As they continued to rise like a cloud, they moved toward that boundary.

Closer . . . closer . . . closer . . .

Here—

Tentacles burst from the ground, shooting toward them. Oh, fuck me! The scaly snakelike arms coiled around them—through them. Through our bodies!

Somehow Cas choked back a yell. He was about to piss himself—how was Mirceo so calm and focused? With steely determination, the prince pressed on.

They outdistanced the scyllas’ reach! Cas murmured, “Nice play, vampire. No one has ever gotten this far.”

Mirceo didn’t react, absorbed by his task.

Still rising, they approached the top of the pyramid. Would he be able to mist them inside? Everything depended on this step—all the work they’d done, all the unwitting prep Cas had completed over the centuries.

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They neared . . . then passed through the stone. Cas’s senses blanked, a feeling like being momentarily blinded and muffled in cotton. Then . . . flickering light?

Gods almighty, they’d breached Harea’s stronghold!

So this is the lair of the notorious King of Sand. A fire illuminated the large chamber. Gold gilded the walls, the hearth encrusted with rubies. A scorpion the size of a small car slept before the fire. Yet more security?

A massive bed levitated a couple of feet above the marble floor. In it, a dozen unclothed females slumbered around the sole male.

The sorcerer.

He was naked as well, passed out beside a large opium pipe. The drug’s scent still spiced the air.

The jewel-draped females must be his personal harem. The concubines came in all shapes, sizes, and colors—purple, black, white, blue—like a Miss Lore competition. Was Mirceo’s gaze lingering on any of those beauties?

“We’re clear,” Cas whispered. “I’ll take Harea. You get the scorpion. But pay attention.”

As Mirceo made them solid, gravity weighed them down, their bodies reclaiming mass. The world suddenly seemed harder and colder than before. Mirceo released him, then they both drew their swords.

The scorpion scuttled to life at once. Hissing at their scent, it snapped its claws and hoisted its meaty stinger. Acidic venom dripped from it, searing holes into the floor. Mirceo traced through the acrid smoke to fend off the creature.

As females began to stir on the bed, Cas tucked his sword tip beneath Harea’s chin. Yet the sorcerer didn’t so much as twitch. Worry for Mirceo distracted Cas.

The scorpion’s tail shot forward with blistering speed, but Mirceo was just as quick, blocking the strike with his sword. The vampire wielded his blade as though it were an extension of his body. Gods, the way he moves. . . .

Mirceo targeted the scorpion’s head; it fended off his sword with its claws, jabbing that tail. The stinger plunged toward Mirceo’s leg—

Before Cas could draw a breath, the vampire glided out of the way, and the stinger crashed against the floor inches from one of his boots.

Mirceo took that instant to swing his sword. The tail plopped to the floor, writhing and dribbling acid. He dodged two claw strikes, then planted the tip of his blade into the scorpion’s head.

Creature defeated, Mirceo flashed Cas that mind-scrambling grin.

Focus. As more concubines awakened, Cas turned to a blue zalos demoness. “We’re here to apprehend Harea. I assume we have the right sorcerer.”

“Uh-huh.” She showed no distress that Harea was being taken or that their pet scorpion had just been put down. “He probably won’t wake. Been on a bender.” She canted her head. “How did you get inside? We’ve watched failed attempts for ages.”

“How?” Mirceo answered, striding toward the bed. “We’re a soon-to-be-legendary hunting partnership. ‘Impossible’ is our middle name.”

What am I going to do with this vampire? Cas pulled the mystical restraints off his belt, then tossed them to Mirceo. “Bind the prisoner.”

Cuffs in hand, the vampire knelt on the bed. “Pardon me, tulips.” His grin deepened as he waded on his knees through beautiful females to reach Harea. Instead of fighting to protect their master, the concubines giggled and made eyes at gorgeous Mirceo.

Cas clenched his jaw. Mind on the job. Harea was incredibly dangerous.

Or the degenerate would be—if he ever woke.

As Mirceo shackled the male’s wrists behind his back, Harea mumbled, “Even sorcery . . . can’t get my staff hard again. Pipe, females, PIPE.” But he didn’t rouse.

Mirceo rolled Harea over, his gaze raking over the sorcerer’s unclothed body. Harea’s olive skin was deeply tanned, and tattooed hieroglyphics marked his chest. He had shoulder-length black hair, wavier than Mirceo’s stick-straight locks, and a tall, generously muscled build.

Harea was not a little hung.

Cas scowled at the vampire. “Getting an eyeful?” he said, unable to keep the jealousy out of his tone.

Mirceo winked at him, then asked the harem, “Ladies, will one of you fetch a pair of pants for the sorcerer?”