Sidling closer, Beggar stayed ready to bolt.

“You surely are a filthy little thing. Are you hungry?”

“Yes, sir.” His stomach growled loudly, but he was too dazed to be embarrassed. Just a shred of meat . . . He could almost taste it. Beggar was so focused on the platter that he barely noticed Gouge’s four friends emerging from the tavern as well.

“Do you want this meal, boy?” Gouge asked. “I’ll let you have it.”

“Y-you will???” This would be riches beyond his imaginings! He was ashamed when tears of gratitude welled in his eyes.

“In exchange for something.”

Beggar drew back. He’d learned to hate the wealthy. They amused themselves with people like him, playing games with the poor just because they could. “For what?”

Gouge shared a smirk with his friends, then faced him again. “Follow us, and I’ll tell you.”

Chills raced over Beggar, but the scent of that food made him trail after the demons. Why were they heading toward the necessary? Nothing good could come from this.

So why am I still following?

Inside the stinking latrine, Gouge said, “If you want this feast, Beggar, you have to eat it with a little spice.” He held up the platter.

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Tears spilled down Beggar’s face, because he knew what would come next. No, no, no—

Gouge turned the platter over, precious food dropping into the latrine.

Steam from piss rose along with the steam from food.

“I wouldn’t tarry a moment, whelp,” Gouge said, to his friends’ laughter. “Each moment fouls your feast even more.”

Sobbing, Beggar went to his hands and knees. Vowing that he would never know this humiliation again . . . he ate.

Mirceo shot upright, fangs and claws as sharp as razors. He darted his eyes, surprised not to be in that reeking latrine.

He would find those fucks, and he would godsdamned slaughter them!

Where was Caspion now? He surveyed the room, then scented the air for him. Not here.

But he’d return soon. Surely.

Grappling to rein in his emotions, Mirceo scrubbed his forearm over his eyes, recalling every detail of what he’d just experienced.

Caspion had been such a tiny pup, his emaciated body and rags no match for the cold. Mirceo now knew what it felt like to be chilled to the bone and wracked with ceaseless hunger. He now understood torment.

And then those demons had exploited that pain, adding more. Those dead demons. I will stalk them as mist and sever their fucking heads.

Was it any wonder that Caspion longed for the respect of the Abaddonae? Or that the demon was dominant? He’d lacked power for so long that he now needed to wield it over a partner.

With that dream, Mirceo had taken his mate’s past inside him. In a way, he’d made that past his own. Nothing could ever break that bond. Yet for now, he would keep his new knowledge to himself. If Caspion learned Mirceo had seen his memory, he would grow furious.

Mirceo would add this secret to his others: You were once the subject of a wager, Caspion. And to get you in bed, I resorted to underhanded means. . . .

Where in the hells was the demon?

As Mirceo rose and yanked on his pants, he tried to piece together the fuzzy parts from last night. Hadn’t Caspion explored his body? Or had that been a sweet reverie? Maybe Mirceo had only dreamed the demon’s care.

No, the blankets still covered the windows. He traced to one, peeking past the material, wincing at the glare. Full day outside.

Where exactly am I? He spied a shell beach and sun-dappled, turquoise water. Movement at the shoreline caught his eye. Caspion.

He was rising from the waves, looking fresh from a swim. And I can’t join him. Though the light burned his gaze, Mirceo still stared.

He wished that Caspion as a pup could somehow have known he would grow into this proud, magnificent warrior.

Caspion waded shoreward past the breakers, water sluicing over his glorious naked body and bronzed skin. His flat, rose-colored nipples were hardened. From the chill water? The sea’s temperature had no effect on Caspion’s member. That semihard shaft swayed with each of his steps. The curls at the base gleamed gold in the light.

As Mirceo’s gaze lovingly took in every inch of that breathtaking body, he muttered to himself. “My mate’s a fucking god.”

I want him close always. I want to avenge his childhood pain. I want him in our bed, gazing down at me with those piercing eyes. I want his yells of pleasure ringing in my ears, and his blood heating my veins. . . .

But something was troubling the demon. Caspion’s shoulders were knotted, his lips a thin line. He disappeared from the beach; seconds later the shower in the bungalow bathroom began to run.

Mirceo contemplated joining him, but something about Caspion’s demeanor held him back. He turned from the window, his gaze flicking over the bag of coins on the bedstand—their bounty. Had Mirceo said or done something amiss during their night of celebration?

No. He rarely made mistakes. And whenever he did, others were eager to forgive him.

A short while later, the shower stopped. Caspion strode into the bedroom with a towel around his waist. He barely glanced at Mirceo.

“Demon, I . . .” I’m falling for you. I need to protect you always—

Caspion pushed past him without a word, then snagged a pair of jeans from a closet.

“What’s going on, sweetheart?”

That towel dropped, revealing the sun-kissed curves of the demon’s chiseled ass. Mirceo had to shuffle his feet to keep from falling over. Want to bite those mouthwatering cheeks . . .