Her obsession with shining jewels? All Valkyrie had it, because they'd inherited their acquisitiveness from Freya.

Holly's captivation with lightning and her "uncontrollable urges" to run out into thunder storms? Valkyrie derived nourishment from electricity, taking energy from the earth. Lightning was how the species was first created - and how Holly was first turned.

She wondered if her "grandparents" had struck her with that comforting bolt, or if the lightning had been drawn to her during her emotional turmoil.

And Holly's freakish strength that she'd fought so hard to disguise? Valkyrie were preternaturally strong, fierce, and warlike.

As well as amorous...

She remembered the first time she'd been in bed with a male, a schoolmate named Bobby Thibodeaux. They'd been sixteen, and a few of Bobby's unpracticed kisses had made her crazed. She'd leapt upon him, overpowering him.

Holly had been so caught up, she hadn't realized how distressed he'd become. She'd eventually registered that he'd stopped kissing her back - and that her fingernails had been digging into his arms, holding him as he'd desperately tried to get out from under her.

Chapter 7

As he'd gaped up at her in fear, she'd blinked down at him. As though someone else had inhabited her body, she'd throatily murmured, "I guess we should part ways here?" When she released him, he'd fled.

Once Bobby's tales had made the rounds at school, no boy would ask her out, so she'd buried herself even more in her studies.

In fact, she hadn't attempted to be intimate with another male until her first year in college. The only thing different about that encounter was that she'd grown more aggressive and even stronger.

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Shaking away that memory, Holly turned to Greta's page in The Book of Warriors. Greta the Bold had been a master strategist and had led troops of Valkyrie, witches, and Furies in the great Battle of the Plains of Doom.

If the dates of that battle were correct, then Greta had gone to war when she'd been pregnant with Holly. Six years later, Greta had lost her life on the front line in the infamous Eighteen-Night Siege.

Holly was struck by the fact that if a new world existed, then she would have an entirely new history to learn.

Suddenly feeling exhausted, she dragged the weighty Living Book of Lore onto her lap without enthusiasm. Scanning the pages, she found encyclopedic entries on each of the "known species." After a brief intro, a more detailed history would follow. Flipping through, she found everything from wraiths and sirens, to Wendigos and demonarchies....

"Do you want something to eat or drink?" Cadeon asked.

She wasn't hungry whatsoever. "Do you have anything to drink other than Red Bull?"

He pulled a bottle of water from the space behind her seat, handing it to her. My favorite brand.

"Thanks." She carefully twisted the cap, determined not to touch -

Crap! She'd touched the bottle rim. With a sigh, she put the cap back on and placed the bottle at her feet.

"Something wrong with the water?"

She debated not answering, but figured he'd encounter all her quirks over the next couple of weeks anyway - the eating difficulties, the germophobia, the endless arranging.

"I touched the rim." She put her chin up. "There was transference. I can't drink it now."

Instead of laughing at her, he reached behind her seat to grab another bottle. He opened it without contaminating the rim, then handed it to her. "These shorter caps must be a pain in the ass."

Her lips parted. She'd complained to Mei about the newfangled caps just the other week.

"So, you feeling overwhelmed yet?" he asked.

"A tad." She took a drink. She continued to feel as if she were reading fiction - as if all of this were far too fantastic to be true.

Even when a thousand-year-old demon sat a foot from her.

"Read the book to me, and I'll add details or explain things."

"How can I trust you? You said Valkyrie are docile. In The Book of Warriors, I read about Kaderin the Coldhearted, an assassin who strings up fangs collected from the heads of vampires she's decapitated. And then there is Emmaline the Unlikely, who slew her own father. Cut him up into three pieces." Three. I like Emmaline already. "Clearly, they are the picture of docility."

"Like I said, I was just having a bit of fun. It'd be like saying sirens don't like to sing."

She tilted her head at him. "So if I had questions, you'd answer them truthfully?"

"Yeah, if you answer questions about yourself."

She didn't see the harm. "Very well. I'll start. How many demonarchies are there? Where are they?"

"There are hundreds. Almost every breed of demon - from the smoke demons like Rök to the pathos demons - has a kingdom of some kind, usually in a separate plane."

"Separate plane? There are such things?"

He nodded. "There are more dimensions than can be mapped."

"What's your kingdom called?"

"Rothkalina." When he said it, his accent became more pronounced, as if even the mention of his home brought on keen feeling.

"How do you get there?" she asked.

"The most accessible portal is in southern Africa."

And that explained the accent. "So does it look like an alternate universe? Does it have purple skies and a green sun?"

"Nah. Rothkalina looks a lot like the west coast of North America."

"Oh," she said, feeling a bit silly. Then she frowned. "But if Omort is a sorcerer, why would he want to take over a demon kingdom?"

12

Clever chit, Cade thought. Few ever asked him that question, though it seemed one of the most material in his mind.

"The land is rich," he answered. "And the kingdom is strategically located."

But in truth, Omort had no use for the kingdom, and only kept it because he could. The one who controls Tornin controls the kingdom.

Omort desired what was within the castle.

Before written history, Tornin had been constructed around the legendary Well of Souls - to protect that mystickal font of power from sorcerers like Omort. And the rage demons had been dispatched to Tornin to safeguard the stronghold.

Yet they'd never been told exactly what the Well of Souls...did.

"Why are you called rage demons?"

"We get...enraged when we turn demonic. Mindless fury and all that."

"Turn demonic? Like when you fought tonight."

"Yeah, well, that was just a hint." In his fully demonic form, his skin would darken, reddening, while his body grew taller and larger. His fangs would elongate, and his horns would sharpen, reaching their full size. In that state, he could emit a toxin from the ends that could temporarily paralyze even an immortal.