Cas, no stranger to others assessing his looks, felt his cheeks heating. His blush reminded him: “Do you not want to . . . drink from me?”

The vampire rubbed his tongue over a fang. “I’ll wait till you claim me to enjoy my feast.”

Mercy! How the hell could Cas make it through their date? When Mirceo had spoken earlier of getting marked, Cas had almost seized the vampire then and there.

“As fine as you are, demon, you need an accessory.” Mirceo pulled something from his coat, tossing it to Cas.

A black domino?

Mirceo donned a similar one. The color emphasized the ring of onyx around his gray irises. As if that perfect creature needs any embellishment. “I scored us invitations to the masquerade of the Accession, demon. But you have to promise me we will stay till the clock strikes midnight.”

“An erotic masquerade, no doubt. How could this be a good idea?”

“You’ll see my attention is fixed solely on you—despite all the action around us. I’ve still got to get you to the finish line, and my obvious obsession with you should make this a lock.”

Cas had to admire his determination—no matter how misguided his agenda. With a long-suffering exhalation, he tied on the mask. “Must we do this?”

Mirceo took his elbow. “We must.” He traced them into a misty garden.

An opulent palace stood not far away. Lazy strains of music filtered through the night. “Where are we?”

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“The most exclusive new pleasure den in the Lore. Come on.” Mirceo linked arms with him.

Cas hesitated, feeling out of his element, but then Mirceo laughed at his reaction—love that vampire’s laugh—and he began to relax.

They strolled toward the grand entrance, where liveried servants collected Mirceo’s invitation. He and Cas stepped into an enormous ballroom packed with masked immortals of all different species.

The torchlit area was a riot of colors. Decadence seemed to be the theme. Giant nude statuary lined the walls. A swimming pool had been constructed in the middle of the ballroom floor. Water nymphs frolicked in its depths, descending upon any who entered.

Scantily clad fey performed on a high wire above. A female fire-eater and a male fire-breather made an erotic duo on a spotlighted stage.

All around them revelers raised hell. In the years approaching an Accession, any party could be an immortal’s last, so they tended to make the most of them.

The dazzling displays lit up Cas’s senses. Whenever he was near the prince, everything felt intense, his emotions—and instincts—amplified.

As he and Mirceo made their way through the crowd, attendees turned to stare. The vampire’s sexual magnetism—and shirtless chest—commanded gazes from males and females alike.

Even over the din, Cas could hear their hearts speeding up as the prince passed. Many seemed to be conjecturing whether Cas and Mirceo were lovers.

When Cas caught a couple of demons scoping out Mirceo’s pale neck—checking for a claiming bite—he took Mirceo’s hand in his own, delighting the vampire. Part of him longed to whisk Mirceo away where no one could see him. Part of him needed to show off the prince, to let everyone here know who Mirceo belonged to.

Does he belong to me? The vampire had returned, despite knowing the risk: eternal monogamy. And Mirceo had made it sound as if he’d already seen Cas’s shaming memories—but they obviously hadn’t tempered his regard.

How can I fight this? The prince was too mesmerizing to resist.

Drinks flowed from a gurgling champagne fountain. Blood mead and demon brew were on tap as well. Mirceo snagged two chalices, handing one to Cas. “What should we drink to?”

“To the bottom,” Cas answered, making him grin. They finished their drinks and grabbed a couple more.

“Don’t forget: you must follow all your impulses.” Mirceo drained his cup, then reached for another one. “Now, get merry.”

He had the impulse to please Mirceo, so up went Cas’s goblet. The vampire was quick to hand him yet another.

A sinking realization set in. No matter what Cas chose to do, he was fucked. Separation from Mirceo delivered pain; nearness did the same—because at every second, he felt more and more how well Mirceo fit him. Whenever they were together, Cas comprehended what he would lose if the vampire bolted.

As he’d done on Poly, Cas would have to let go, to simply take the pain and accept his lot. For better or worse, he would claim the male as his own.

“What musings hide behind those blue eyes?” Mirceo asked.

“Thoughts of the future.”

“Hmm. Can we not enjoy the present?”

Cas adjusted his mask self-consciously. “I am trying, Mirceo.”

The vampire gazed up at him. “I know you are, love. And that means a lot to me.” His sensual lips curled, spellbinding Cas. “Come on, I’m keen to show you off. . . .”

Over the next couple of hours, Cas fell even deeper under Mirceo’s thrall. In a daze, he followed the tantalizing vampire through the party. Whatever vintage of brew Mirceo chose for Cas, he drank without hesitation. Whatever Mirceo hand-fed him, he obediently ate, sucking clean the vampire’s elegant fingers.

Mirceo continued to tease him without mercy. In front of everyone, he reached up and traced the shape of Cas’s sensitive horns. Grazing, petting, fondling them—till Cas thought his knees would buckle. “My magnificent demon,” Mirceo rasped. “I’m so hard for you.” Later, as they watched a bawdy skit, the vampire worked his hand into Cas’s front pocket, slicing the leather open with a claw. Stretching his thumb through the opening, Mirceo rubbed Cas’s frenulum till pre-cum flowed.