“We still have our pants on.” With a hint of amusement in his eyes, the vampire said, “Though mine are filled with semen.”

The intoxicating scent of it made Cas’ cock stir for more. What godsdamned power did Mirceo wield over him?

Whatever the vampire saw in his expression made him sit up. “Be at ease, friend.”

“At ease?” Cas had never felt more lust for another. How had he gone from desiring only females to desiring Mirceo? Wait . . . Cas’s eyes narrowed. “You fucking mesmerized me.” Taking away my choice!

Mirceo’s brows drew together. “Caspion, I did not. I don’t possess that ability.”

“You must have. I’m straight. Why would I want another male?”

“Because our minds are synced. Because we care for each other. Our friendship has grown into more.”

“No, that doesn’t explain . . .” My explosive lust. For Cas, a male who required control in all things, this situation was terrifying. He tried to say more but his throat felt too constricted.

Can’t breathe. His gaze darted. ESCAPE.

“Calm yourself, demon, and think about this. You can’t leave. My uncle Trehan will find you, and he will kill you. He carries death in his pocket.”

Trehan Daciano. Cas had met the centuries-old Prince of Shadow this week. The grim, unsmiling assassin always carried his weapon—a sword with a crossguard in the shape of a crescent moon—and he was notoriously skilled with it.

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But if Mirceo didn’t reveal details, how could that soulless bastard find a single demon of no importance? Cas could return home and try to regain some semblance of his life.

ESCAPE NOW.

Mirceo raised his palms. “I can help you. Just give me time to figure this out. Let me help you.”

“Don’t tell Trehan where I live, Mirceo.” Cas tensed to trace. “You owe me this after what you’ve done.” You made me a mindless slave. You took away my choice, my control.

Sadness filled Mirceo’s gray eyes. “They know when someone leaves. Trehan will find and kill you before dawn—”

Cas teleported away. An instant later, he materialized into his small loft in Abaddon. What have I done? Sweat covering him, he leaned against his door, about to vomit. Paranoia gripped him by the throat. Kill me before dawn?

No, no. Mirceo would never tell his uncle where to find Cas. Hell, Mirceo never listened to him, probably didn’t even know Cas hailed from a backwater dimension like Abaddon.

Claws digging into the door, he struggled to process this night. He’d come with Mirceo, harder than he knew was possible. And I’d still craved more of him—

Commotion sounded from a nearby thoroughfare. He crossed to a window and cautiously peeked out. The swampy hamlet he’d left a month ago was packed with various Loreans.

They milled about like tourists. Why would anyone visit this place?

He traced out to the street and addressed a ferine demon gnawing on a pheasant leg. “What’s the occasion that brings so many here?”

“Death-match tournaments in the old Iron Ring,” the male said with excitement. The notorious cage arena of Abaddon hadn’t been used in ages. The demon took another bite, saying, “Competitors—demons, trolls, Lykae, you name it—are teleporting in from all over the Lore. Understandable, considering the prize.”

“Which is?” Cas asked, but he had a sinking suspicion in his gut. There were only two things in Abaddon that others might fight for.

“Whoever wins gets the crown of this entire demonarchy! Oh, and the hand of the princess.” The male spat out a bone and walked on.

Bettina, no. A godsdamned troll could win her hand! Her guardians must have browbeaten her until she’d agreed to this.

I could enter the tournament. Could save her. A sense of being watched lifted the tiny hairs on the back of his neck. Was a killer already loose in Abaddon? I could enter, if I live till morning. . . .

SIX

Last outpost before the Plane of Lost Years

Several months—or centuries?—later . . .

Mirceo was on the hunt.

As he moved through the smoky, rough-neck tavern, he grinned to himself. I, Mirceo Daciano, am chasing my fated one.

But he had good reason. Unlike most vampires, he knew his mate’s identity in advance of his blooding, and he was overjoyed with fate’s choice for him.

Weeks ago, when his heart had gone still in his chest for good, Mirceo had visited Balery, the new king’s fey oracle, and asked her when he would meet his mate. After rolling her bones, she’d blinked up at him and said four words that would change Mirceo’s life forever: You’ve already met him.

Him. There’d been no question to whom Balery had referred.

Most often a male’s mate would be a female. But not always.

His pairing with Caspion struck him as bloody brilliant. Nothing had ever made so much sense to Mirceo—which meant his reservations about monogamy and matehood had subsided.

His grin deepened. I’m now a believer in the system.

Caspion had once asked him, “What male wouldn’t rush headlong to meet his beautiful mate?” Indeed, demon. Indeed. Mirceo was ready to commit.

Now he just needed to find Caspion. Blocking out the excruciating sound of a tinny violin, Mirceo scanned the crowded tavern. Where are you . . . ?

He’d heard Caspion planned to head to the Plane of Lost Years—a savage, war-torn dimension where time moved differently—for some kind of self-exile.