As a Seminus demon, Raze’s life literally depends on having sex with females. The problem is that he doesn’t desire females, and it’s physically impossible for him to be with males. Thankfully, he and his best friend, Fayle, have an arrangement that keeps him alive . . . if lonely. He finds some solace in his work as a medic at Thirst, a vampire club known for its rough clientele. But his carefully structured world turns upside down when he meets a mysterious male who makes him want what he can never have.
Slake is an assassin used to getting what he wants, and what he wants is Raze. But he also wants to earn back the soul he sold when he was a much different demon. All he has to do is capture a runaway succubus named Fayle and hand her over to her family. What he doesn’t count on is being caught himself by a web of lies—and his attraction to Raze.
Raze and Slake must navigate a dangerous world to be together. But as Fayle’s jealousy of their relationship turns deadly, they find themselves embroiled in a battle not only for their love, but their lives and souls.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:dubious consent, explicit violence
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
According to the news, the weather system bearing down on Damon Slake was a proven killer.
But then, Slake was also a killer, and he could guaran-damn-tee that he was far more lethal than any thunderstorm.
Rain and hail pelted him as he stood outside one of several secret entrances to Thirst, a vampire nightclub that operated in the shadows of a human goth hangout called The Velvet Chain. Like most upscale vamp clubs, this one catered to all otherworldly beings, as well as humans who were willing to give themselves up as a snack for those who fed on blood. And, as one of the busiest high-end establishments, this place even had a medical clinic. Reputation was everything, and no club owner wanted to deal with a bunch of human deaths from overfeeding, or demon deaths from a drunken bar fight.
Which was smart, especially now that the recent near-apocalypse had revealed the demon world to humans, causing tension, fear, and chaos. They were in all-out extermination mode, while demons were dealing with some sort of political shakeup in Sheoul, the realm many people called Hell. Slake had no idea what was going on in Sheoul, and frankly, he didn’t care. He had a job to do, and he always completed his missions.
His latest prey had been cunning, maybe his most clever adversary yet, but he’d finally tracked her here. The wily succubus had covered her tracks well, but Slake had a knack for ferreting out secrets, and as good as Fayle was at hiding, Slake was better at finding.
Lightning flashed like some sort of horror-movie foreshadowing as he entered the dimly lit club through a doorway only supernatural creatures could see. Instantly, the blare of rock music, the stench of sweating, dancing people, and the electric, sensual energy of sin assailed him. If he hadn’t been on the job, he’d revel in the club scene and be scoping out potential partners to take home for the night.
Partners like that sexy-as-hell medic propped against the wall near the first aid station, his gaze sweeping the crowd with the hard-core intensity of a battle-wise soldier in enemy territory. Even from across the room, Slake could see the readiness for anything in the subtle tautness of his body.
And what a body it was. His black uniform was stretched tight across his shoulders and abs, the rolled sleeves revealing thickly muscled arms made to pin his partner to a mattress.
Slake had no idea if the dude was into males, females, or both, but the guy practically oozed confidence and sex. The medic folded his arms over his broad chest, giving Slake a prime view of a sleeve of tattoos winding from his fingers to his biceps, where they disappeared beneath his uniform and then reappeared at the top of his collar. The pattern ended just below his jaw, and Slake decided he’d need to get a closer look, because damn, he loved tats.
And maybe getting in closer would help him figure out what species—or breed—of demon the guy was. He was definitely a demon; Slake’s ability to distinguish a blue human aura from an orangey-red demon one made that clear. Not that Slake was picky when it came to bed mates, but he drew the line at fucking any species of demon that rated a five on the Ufelskala scale of evil. Fours were bad enough, but with a five, you never knew whether or not your partner was going to kill you after you came.
Or before you came, for that matter.
A scuffle erupted out near the bathrooms, drawing his attention away from the medic, but bouncers broke it up before too much blood spilled. No doubt the fight would be just one of many tonight, but that wasn’t Slake’s concern. He strode through the club, his eyes peeled for his target. There were approximately a million and a half females milling about, but none resembled the petite, black-haired Asian in the picture he’d been given two months ago by his boss at Dire & Dyre, the law firm that employed him as an Acquirer. Yup, if a client wanted something or someone, Slake was the one sent to acquire it.
Except this job was different. This job would determine the course of the rest of Slake’s life.
And the rest of his afterlife.
But hey, as his boss pointed out, it was only his soul on the line.
He spied an empty booth near an exit to the sewers and made a beeline to it, growling at a burly green-skinned demon who tried to slip into the seat ahead of him. The demon cursed, but one look at Slake’s arsenal of weapons peeking out from beneath his leather jacket gave the guy second thoughts. Probably third thoughts too.
A waiter brought Slake a double whiskey, neat, and he settled in, hoping his prey would show her pretty face. In the meantime, though, he didn’t see any harm in checking out the medic at the rear of the club a little more.
That male was something special. Even his coloring was perfect. Not too tan, but not pale. And given the guy’s reddish hair, shorter in the back than in the front, Slake would bet that close up, he’d have some freckles waiting for the caress of a tongue.
Slake’s mouth watered at the thought, and he had to shift to make a little more room in his leathers. But he didn’t let his lust distract him from his mission. Not when success meant freedom . . . and failure meant kissing his soul good-bye forever.
He downed half his drink and reached for his cell phone just as the thing vibrated in his coat pocket. The name that flashed on the text screen with a curt, You there? was exactly who he’d been wanting to hear from for days. Hoping for good news from his favorite underworld spy, he tapped out a message.
Hey, Atrox, it’s about time. Tell me you have an update on our prize.
He waited an unbearably long time for the reply. Atrox’s fat fingers and long claws weren’t exactly compatible with touchscreen keyboards. The reptilian demon had to use his knuckles to type, which Slake had found funny . . . until lizard boy had used those knuckles to knock Slake on his ass.
Finally, the phone beeped with Atrox’s incoming text. Got a lead. One of the dudes I grilled last night is a regular at Thirst. Said he’s seen the succubus several times in the company of a male with red hair and a sleeve of tats on his right arm.
Red hair and a sleeve of tats. Slake looked up at the hot medic and grinned.
This assignment had just gotten interesting.
The blood was flowing freely tonight.
Sure, the same could be said of any night at Thirst, but between the vampires feeding from the humans and the fights breaking out between all species as the moon hovered on the verge of becoming full, Raze had been one busy, exhausted medic. He’d been on duty for nine hours with only one slow period, and as he watched a heated argument break out at the bar, he knew it was time to gear up for another patch job.
Too bad, too, because that dark-haired male sitting alone in the far corner intrigued him. Intrigued him enough that for the first time in years, Raze was tempted to give in to a desire he rarely indulged in.
The argument escalated into physical violence, swelling from the original three instigators to eight, no, ten guys. One of the bartenders, a lion shifter named Lexi, shouted for the bouncers, who were already on the way. They started pulling people apart, but it took the club owner, Nate, and the manager, Marsden, both vampires, wading into the fray and tossing the fighters aside like rag dolls to break it up.
As Raze gloved up in preparation for treating injuries, most of the participants slunk away like beaten dogs to lick their wounds, but one hairy, horned dude got the boot out the side door. Another, his hand pressed against a gushing wound in this thigh, was dragged, cursing and growling, into the clinic and plopped onto the exam table.
Marsden and Lexi both gave Raze a look of sympathy and got the hell out of there before Raze could recruit them to help.
“Thanks, guys,” Raze shouted after them. “Next time you cut yourself while you’re slicing up limes, don’t come crying to me.”
Lexi cast him a saucy grin from over her shoulder while flipping him the bird with a freshly bandaged middle finger. Mars did the same, minus the saucy grin and bandage.
Laughing, he turned to his patient, who, if his sneer was any indication, didn’t have the same sense of humor as Mars and Lexi.
Damn it, Raze shouldn’t have answered the phone when Thirst’s number popped up on his caller ID this morning. This was supposed to have been his day off from both the club and Underworld General, not that he’d had any exciting plans. There weren’t even any good new movies out.
The patient bared his teeth at Raze, his slightly elongated fangs indicating that the dude wasn’t human. From the musky stench of him, Raze was going to guess he was some sort of animal shifter or were-creature, but given the approach of the full moon and its effects on weres, Raze was going to go with the latter.
“What’s your name?” Raze asked as he pulled the tray of first aid equipment toward him.
Oh yeah, this was going to be a good time. “Okay, Bite Me, what species are you?”
Bite Me narrowed his eyes. “Why the fuck does it matter? You gonna treat me different if I’m something you don’t like?”
Apparently, Bite Me was not only a mean drunk, he was one of those fun people who made everything about themselves and their personal views. “It’s important because every species and breed is unique, and each one has different medical needs and reactions to treatment.” Bite Me didn’t seem to be convinced, so Raze elaborated. “Dogs can take aspirin, but it’s toxic to cats. Oni demons will burst into flame if exposed to hydrogen peroxide, but it affects Sora demons the way alcohol affects humans.” He gestured to a suture kit on the equipment tray. “Some species can’t tolerate my healing power and need more traditional methods to close wounds. So stop being a prick and tell me what you are.”
Hatred rolled off Bite Me’s body as he locked gazes with Raze in a bold challenge. “Guess.”
“Well,” Raze drawled, “given your overdeveloped canines, foul stench, and sparkling personality, I’d say you’re a werewolf.”
“It’s warg, you Seminus scum,” the guy growled.
Raze’s hand jerked in surprise, not at the word—“warg” was what werewolves preferred to be called—but at the fact that the guy knew what a Seminus demon was. He kept his expression neutral, unwilling to let this unibrowed meathead know he’d struck a nerve.
“Congratulations,” he said flatly. “You have correctly identified an extremely rare breed of sex demon.”
The guy’s upper lip curled. “That’s because I’ve killed two of you bastards.”
Raze inhaled deeply, willing himself to stay calm. People killing Seminus demons happened too often, and unfortunately, much of it was deserved. Raze didn’t even want to think about how, if he didn’t bond with a female by the time he turned a hundred, he’d go through the second of two maturation processes: gaining fertility, a facial marking, and an unholy, uncontrollable need for sex. In fifty short years, he’d become a beast whose primary instinct was to reproduce, and any female within dick’s reach would be a target . . . willing or not.
Males of all species killed mature Sems on sight, which Raze figured was pretty understandable. Especially given that all offspring from a Seminus mating were born male Seminus demons—no matter what species the mother was. Raze’s own mother had been some sort of cave-dweller demon, but DNA tests performed at Underworld General hadn’t been able to identify the exact species, let alone the breed.
“Well, good for you,” Raze said, as he not-so-gently slapped his hand over the werewolf’s wound and activated his healing power. Stinging energy flowed through the markings on his arm, lighting them up like molten iron. In his mind, he saw the torn vessels, veins, and tissue in the wound begin to knit together. “Not everyone can go up against a Sem and survive. So . . . you gonna tell me your name? Or would you rather I keep calling you Bite Me? Because I’m fine with that.”
“I’m Heath, you demon parasite.”
“Parasite? That’s a little harsh. And unoriginal.” Raze sent another wave of power into Heath’s leg—but not to heal. This one was made of pain. Heath yelped, and Raze smiled. “Don’t fuck with the guy who is patching you up, asshole. I can just as easily kill you as heal you, and my boss is good at disposing of bodies. Keep that in mind.”
Heath leaned forward, teeth bared, canines elongating. “I’d rather die than let a filthy demon heal me.”
“Fine with m—”
In a sudden burst of fury, the bastard snared Raze by the throat and hauled him off his feet. Dude was strong, but then, werewolves were known for their strength. And their bad breath.
The werewolf stood, lifting Raze with him, his fingers squeezing Raze’s windpipe in a bruising hold. “One of you fucks stole my woman.”
There was nothing more cliché than a thick-skulled werewolf vowing revenge against an entire species because he’d been humiliated.
Raze would have said as much, but merely breathing took effort—talking was out of the question. He glanced over Heath’s shoulder and saw Marsden moving in to help, his broad, tall form shoving through the crowd like a bulldozer. Raze met his gaze, gave him the Back off, I’ve got this blink, and in a quick surge, he powered up his healing gift and jammed his fingers against Heath’s temple. Instantly, the power Raze normally used to heal ripped skin and flesh apart at a cellular level.
The werewolf shouted in agony and dropped Raze to the ground. Spinning, Raze clamped his hand around the back of Heath’s neck and frog-marched the idiot through the rear of the club toward the back door. Marsden trailed behind like a shadow, content to let Raze handle his own messes, but when Mars slipped into the security office, Raze knew he’d be watching everything through the state-of-the-art surveillance system.
Raze shoved open the door and gave the camera overhead a smirk as he shoved Heath outside. The meathead took an awkward swing the moment they stepped out into the pouring rain, and yup, Raze’s patience meter had pegged out. With a hard shove, he sent the guy stumbling through the puddles in the alley.
“You’re banished, asshole,” Raze growled.
“Fuck you.” Clutching his head in one hand, Heath wheeled around and slammed his fist into Raze’s jaw.
Raze hit the closed door in a crunch of spine, and damn that hurt. Pain radiated across his back and through his rib cage with such force that even taking a breath stung. Lightning flashed as the werewolf came at him again, but Raze ducked and spun, barely avoiding a blow that would have broken a lot of bones in his face.
Son of a bitch. This fucker needed to be put down like the rabid dog he was. Raze had never liked werewolves, but this one was a special kind of stupid, stubborn jackass.
With a roar, Raze charged the guy, nailing him in the gut with his shoulder. Heath oofed and stumbled backward, but he managed to bring down his fist like a hammer on the back of Raze’s neck. Raze hit the wet pavement in a crack of kneecaps, his ears ringing and his eyes blurring. He thought he heard a high-pitched whine followed by another hefty oof, and when his vision cleared, he caught an eyeful of Heath the Dick, his mouth smashed in a bloody mess, spitting blood, teeth, and . . . a marble?
Before the guy could recover from the injury that had shattered his grill, Raze readied his power and leaped to his feet. Thunder ripped through the air as he threw a right hook that laid the werewolf out hard, putting him facedown and unmoving on the pavement.
He shook out his fist, knowing he’d feel that punch in his knuckles later. Then, out of the corner of his eye . . . movement. Slowly, he shifted his body around, and there in the shadows, casually leaning against the brick wall of the building across the alley, was the leather-clad male who’d been eyeing him inside.
And in his hand, bouncing in his palm, was a small, glowing ball the size of a marble . . . just like the one the werewolf had spit out. Whatever it was, it was one hell of a weapon. But as Raze took in the stranger, whose dark eyes were gleaming with an eerie silver light, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and he realized that as dangerous as the little glowing projectile was, its owner was far, far more lethal.
If Slake hadn’t been turned on before, watching the medic take down the werewolf had given him a raging hard-on. Whatever species the medic was, he had a killer power in that right arm, and even now, his tats were glowing, pulsing with residual energy.
Slake rolled the smooth, ice-cold sinisphere between his fingers before pocketing it and pushing away from the side of the building. “Nice, man. You laid that dude out.”
The medic gestured at the unconscious werewolf. “Wasn’t me who had him spitting teeth.”
Slake shrugged. “I have fun toys.”
The medic muttered something that sounded like, “I’ll bet you do.”
Slake grinned. He really did have some great playthings, and some of them weren’t even for killing or maiming. “I’m Slake.”
“Raze.” Raze bent over the werewolf, allowing for a tantalizing view of his ass wrapped like a gift in those perfect-fitting black BDU-style pants. Slake watched as he grabbed the unconscious idiot by the ankles and dragged him toward the Harrowgate Slake had used to get here. The gate, invisible to human eyes, had been set into the brick wall, its archway shimmering in invitation. Raze disappeared inside with the werewolf and then leaped back out as the gate closed.
“Where’d you send him?”
“Underworld General. Let them deal with the asshole.”
Slake snorted. “You’re nicer than I am. I’d have left him here for the vultures.”
“New York doesn’t have a big vulture population.” Raze dug something out of his pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth. “But it does have a big werewolf problem.”
As far as Slake was concerned, the world had a big werewolf problem. Dumb mutts. They didn’t even get along with members of their own species. “I hear you. We got something in common.”
There was a subtle stiffening in the set of Raze’s shoulders that lasted only a second before he started moving toward the door of the club. “Didn’t know we were looking for shit to bond over.”
So the game was hard-to-get. Slake could play that way. For a time, at least. The medic had given him enough looks for Slake to sense the guy’s taste for males, but if Raze was, indeed, the guy Atrox said had been hanging out with Fayle, things might get a little complicated.
Or maybe they could be real damned simple. Fuck the guy, take the girl, save a soul.
“I didn’t say anything about bonding.” Slake moved toward Raze. Slowly. Purposefully. “But I wouldn’t mind getting to know you. Got a girlfriend?”
Raze came to a halt a couple of feet from the entrance. “No.”
Raze swung around, his green eyes darkening. “You have no idea what I am, do you?”
“Should I?” Slake advanced on him, enjoying how Raze’s body tensed and his breaths became more rapid. “Are you . . . dangerous? Aside from that crazy shit you do with your tats.”
One corner of Raze’s mouth tipped up in a half smile. “I’m only dangerous if you piss me off.”
“What if I get you off?”
Raze barked out a laugh. “Man, what do you want from me?”
Slake got close, invading the other male’s personal space. The guy would either stand his ground or back off, and either one would speak volumes about him.
Tension filled the narrow gap between them, pulsing like a heartbeat. Raze was taller than Slake’s six three by maybe half an inch, but Slake outweighed him by a good twenty-five pounds, and as they stood there taking each other’s measure, he had to admire that Raze didn’t back down. Most dudes who went toe-to-toe with him did so out of macho arrogance, but the calculation and intelligence flashing in Raze’s eyes said he was holding his ground for a different reason.
Raze was attracted to him.
But he was suspicious. Which was smart.
“What do I want from you?” Slake reached out, brushed a finger over Raze’s jugular, once again watching. Gauging. And hoping. “I want to buy you a drink. Is that too much to ask?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Why not?” Alcohol was poison to some species, while in others, there was no effect at all, no matter how much they ingested. Anyone else who didn’t drink was just weird in Slake’s opinion.
Raze’s hand snapped up to grab Slake’s wrist in a hold that walked the line between pain and . . . well, not pain. But it felt good to be touched. Too good.
“Alcohol can’t make me drunk, but it does make me want what I can’t have.”
“And what,” he said softly, “is that?”
Releasing him with an angry shove, Raze pivoted smoothly toward the club. Oh hell no. Slake wasn’t done with the medic. Raze was probably associated with the female Slake was looking for, and even if he wasn’t . . . well, there was just something about the guy that intrigued him. Besides, Slake had never been one to give up easily. He’d have been dead a long time ago.
With a low growl, Slake snagged Raze’s shoulder and spun him back around. Surprise and anger flashed in the medic’s expression, and in that moment of startled disbelief, Slake took advantage like the predator he was, pressing his body against Raze’s as he brought their mouths together.
Instant, sizzling lust shot through Slake, sparking nerve endings to life and shocking his heart into an erratic rhythm. But low on his back, the scar from an ancient stab wound began to throb, a reminder to never surrender entirely, not even to a sultry kiss that could potentially lead to more. He needed to keep his mind focused, clear, and aware of everything going on around him. Like the cool breeze that rattled the trash on the ground and smelled like rain. Or the drip of water from the downspout a few yards away. And the sound of honking horns and squealing tires from the street traffic.
No one and nothing would ever sneak up on him again.
Hungrily, he fisted Raze’s hair and increased the pressure on his mouth. Raze’s lips were firm, unyielding, and tasted of the sweet caramel candy he’d eaten a moment ago. Decadence, Slake thought, as he swept his tongue along the seam of Raze’s mouth, urging him to open. Raze stubbornly clenched his teeth and snarled softly, but Slake persisted with lingering, sensual licks. Just when he thought he’d lost the battle, Raze’s tongue clashed with his in a hot, wet struggle for dominance.
One strong hand cupped the back of Slake’s head and another slid around his waist to draw him even tighter against Raze. The press of Raze’s erection into his made Slake groan as a fresh wave of lust rolled over him, dulling the edges of the situational awareness he prided himself on maintaining.
Shit. It was time to put the brakes on—
“Asshole.” Raze jerked away and stepped back. He was breathing heavy, his lips swollen and glistening, and Slake wondered if he looked as punch-drunk as Raze did. “There are at least a dozen guys inside who would let you blow them on top of the freaking bar with an audience if you wanted. So why me?”
Because you might be the key to locating the female I’m after. The thought flew through Slake’s brain, but on its heels was something unexpected. Startling.
“Because something about you makes me want to throw caution to the wind, and I never do that.”
Slake shrugged. “Letting down your guard gets you dead.”
One ginger eyebrow cocked, but the wariness in Raze’s eyes never lessened. “You must live a dangerous life.”
Slake shrugged again. “You know what they say. You feel the most alive when death is on your doorstep.”
“Death, huh?” Raze laughed, a deep, throaty sound that went straight to Slake’s groin. “You have no idea.”
“Yeah? Then why don’t you educate me?”
“No need.” Raze threw open the door to the club. “You’re a dick, so I have no doubt that death will come for you soon enough.”
With that, Raze disappeared, likely not even realizing how right he probably was.