“Is this female you sought to avenge more than a friend?”

“Though she’s beautiful and talented—she’s a goldsmith without equal—I’ll never view her as more than a sister.” Cas had taken her to the mortal realm to explore, teaching her what baseball was and how to drive a car.

But lately, his visits with her had grown increasingly awkward. She was ashamed of how she’d reacted to her gruesome injuries, wishing she’d been more demonic. Stronger. Yet the delicate halfling had never looked or acted as if she had demon blood. “I’ve known her for more than a decade, ever since I was fifteen.”

“You’re twenty-five? Five years younger than me. Are you fully immortal?”

“Just transitioned.” Little other than decapitation could kill Cas now.

“Regrettably, I’m right behind you. My heart has been slowing for years, soon to stop beating.” With his transition, a male vampire would go into a kind of walking stasis—heartbeat, respiration, and sexual ability dormant—only to be awakened by his vampire Bride. “Listen.” Mirceo held up a hand to pause the conversation for several moments, then pointed at his chest. “My heart was motionless for that entire time. I figure I have another couple of months before I can no longer fuck—until I find my mate,” he added darkly. “The prospect of a walking-dead existence is unfortunate enough, but to depend on a stranger to revive me? And then she’ll expect me to be faithful to her.” He shuddered. “So my upside is one partner. Forever.”

“Gods, I feel for you about the celibacy, friend.” These days, sex seemed to be the only thing keeping Cas sane. The problem was money. Cas didn’t get free admission at every establishment.

The life of a player was an impoverished one. Not to mention the sums he spent to fund apprenticeships for pups in Abaddon.

“You don’t sympathize about the monogamy? I consider it an intolerable hardship.”

“Once I find my female, I’ll be loyal to my dying breath.” Though Cas was young, he already longed for her and the younglings she’d give him.

“At least you can keep fucking until then. No end in sight for your cockstands.”


Cas countered, “At least you know what it’s like to spill seed.” A male demon could orgasm before he claimed his fated one, but he couldn’t release semen until he lost his demon seal inside his mate’s body. “Why are you so against monogamy?”

“My predatory nature makes me forever pursue new conquests. Would you track prey you’d already captured? Would a hunter stalk a boar he’d already felled?” Mirceo sighed. “Once my heart stops, it won’t matter anyway. But until then, I intend to fuck like a madman, sampling every wicked delight available to a vampire with more gold than time and less wisdom than daring.”

Must be nice.

“Join me, sweetheart. My treat. We’ll journey the worlds, sharing wenches and drink. I’ll take you to bacchanalia that will make tonight’s affair appear tame. I’ll introduce you to gods, and we’ll wallow in meaningless hedonism.”

After Cas’s last two months, that sounded so bloody tempting. If the spoiled prince wanted to pay, maybe Cas should simply enjoy. But first he’d get one thing clear. . . . “If you think to seduce me, it won’t happen. I will never desire another male.”

Holding Cas’s gaze, he said, “Around me, you won’t ever do anything you don’t wish.” The vampire leaned in closer. “Isn’t that the essence of hedonism? Partaking of all the things you want and none of the things you don’t?”

Cas couldn’t seem to look away. Up this close, he spied a ring of black encircling Mirceo’s irises. Mesmerizing . . . “So why me? Any number of these beings would leap at the offer you just made.”

The vampire’s lips curved. “What you do with a partner’s body can only be considered art. Young demon, consider me a patron of the arts. . . .”


“Our time grows nigh, Caspion,” the prince told him in a grave tone.

He and Cas sat atop the tower of a suspension bridge in the mortal world. Hundreds of feet above the water, they gazed out at the shroud of fog. As usual, they each had a flask.

“But it’s only been a few weeks.” As promised, the vampire had opened Cas’s eyes to a dazzling new world, taking him everywhere from erotic balls to sordid dungeons, while plying him with the finest delicacies and drink. “What’s the rush?”

They’d packed three months of living into these three weeks, rarely sleeping, becoming inseparable. They matched appetites and predilections—for the most part, at least. Mirceo would bed a male as readily as a female. Had no preference.

Cas pointed out, “Your heart’s still beating.” Occasionally. “There are still pleasures to be had.” Even nonsexual ones.

After nights spent fighting drunken brawls and plowing earthy courtesans, Cas and Mirceo talked into the day, telling each other secrets. . . .

Mirceo: “I’m a Dacian. I come from the hidden Realm of Blood and Mist.” Supposedly an actual myth, Dacians were said to be stronger, faster, and more ruthless than other vampires. “I’m the head of the castle guard, but I’ve little responsibility because the black-stone fortress lies empty without a king.”

Cas: “I was a street orphan with no idea who my parents were.” Shame had prevented him from revealing his past as a lowly beggar, but he’d admitted, “Though I taught myself to read basic words from bounty postings, I’ve never even attempted a book.”