A prince of demons and a prince of vampires are drawn together, but if they're going to live eternally together, they must overcome the challenges and enemies before them.
As a prince of demons, Sytri's existence has been for one thing, power. He's gained that in the demon realm, but his pursuit of it cost him something far greater...something he didn't realize the value of until it was gone. When he first met vampire prince, Basil Warrick, in an instant he saw--and desired--to have once again all that he'd lost; friendship, companionship...love.
Basil has lived for more than three hundred years, and quietly carries the scars left by the vampire who turned him. Connecting with others has never been easy for him, but Sy's sensual charm is more than he can resist. He knows Sy's history of betrayal, and the demon is exactly what he shouldn't want in his life, and yet, Sy is /all/he wants.
The return of an old enemy of Basil's brings painful memories and danger to him, and a new enemy of Sy's threatens to take away what he's gaining in his life. If their lives are to be eternally bound, the two princes must overcome the threats and challenges before them.
There were far too many demons in this place. At least, for Sytri’s comfort. But then again, he’d never enjoyed palling around with his own kind unless it was a means to a crystal-clear end. Treacherous, deceitful, untrustworthy, that was most of demonkind, and he was… well, he didn’t used to be so different. He saw things in a new light now, though. He had for some time.
Sytri stood on the fringe of the Emperor’s great hall, observing rather than joining in the festivities. The Emperor’s Ball was nearing its peak, and so were many of the guests. Moving from partner to partner, there were no inhibitions between demons sharing and offering themselves for their pleasure and the pleasure of others. The ballroom floor was a mass of thrusting, heaving bodies, the instruments of the musicians barely audible over the moans and grunts. There were a few single pairings, but it wasn’t long before they eventually found themselves drawn into a group or joined by others.
It was a spectacle of tastelessness, in his opinion. Not that he hadn’t been known to partake in a fine orgy from time to time, but this was nothing more than a performance for attention, and to earn the pleasure of one who also wasn’t participating.
Sy lifted his gaze to the back of the ballroom. On a massive throne of ebony stone, accented with the bones and skulls of demons, the Emperor surveyed the room and watched the performers. The Emperor hadn’t ordered the orgy, hadn’t even hinted at wanting it, but he didn’t stop it either. The ones engaging were desperate to win his favor, to gain any scrap of attention he’d bestow upon them. Shadow and smoke swirled around the Emperor, making his expression and where his gaze fell hard to catch, but Sy noticed it was only cursory glances the Emperor gave those on the ballroom floor. Like himself, the Emperor was more interested in those not participating.
The high nobles. They were ones who had control over their base urges, not allowing themselves to be distracted in a room full of potential enemies. They were the strongest, the most confident, the most dangerous. They were the ones to be aware of…like himself.
From his vantage, Sy read fake smiles and false friendships. It was nearly every interaction in the room. If he could see it, then there was no doubt the Emperor could, and he was certain the Emperor was noting each interaction, mentally checking off who was loyal to him, and who may try to usurp the throne.
The Emperor’s glowing red gaze fell on him. Sy instantly bowed his head, touching his chest at his heart and gesturing toward the Emperor in a sign of respect. The Emperor nodded in acknowledgement, and his gaze moved on.
Sy couldn’t deny the relief that passed through him. Not being part of the in crowd did have its benefits. He had no allies, and therefore, was of little threat to the Emperor. It didn’t mean, though, he didn’t have enemies, and like the Emperor, he was using the occasion to try to deduce who they may be. It was the Emperor’s Annual Ball, an event for celebrating another year of peace in the demon realm, and for the Emperor to ensure that peace continued. Every titled and noble demon was in attendance…save one.
He cast his gaze at the stone doors leading into the ballroom, towering high above and opened wide for the guests to enter, but Sallos wasn’t there, or anywhere in the room. A tendril of anxiety moved through him, not for himself, but for Sal. To not attend the Emperor’s Ball was a slight against the supreme ruler of the demon realm, especially for one who had the high rank of duke, as Sal did. Of all the gatherings held by the nobles, this was the only one Sal attended. Until now, it seemed.
Regardless, why he was anxious and worried on Sal’s behalf was beyond him. Sal always did what he wanted, when he wanted, and be damned with the consequences. So if Sal got his fool self in trouble with the Emperor, that was Sal’s problem. Not his. He shouldn’t worry about him. He shouldn’t care.
And yet, he did.
Grumbling low in his throat, Sy lifted his glass of wine. He tried not to scrunch his face in distaste, but after having spent more time in the human realm recently, the food and drink of his realm was either bitter, sour, or tasteless to him.
Curse the human realm and Sal along with it. And he might as well add Sal’s witch, Calvin Blackwood, too. It was their fault that three human months ago he crossed into the mortal realm, summoned by the witch to heal Sal after being grievously injured by Count Amon. It was their fault that after that invigorating trip to the human realm, he’d craved more and continued to return, walking amongst human society, experiencing their food and entertainment, taking in the beauty and energy of their world. It was their fault that in seeing Sal again, speaking to him, touching him, emotions he’d thought conquered long ago rose within him, and while he knew physical intimacy would never again happen between them, he’d thought—and hoped—their friendship might be rekindled.
It didn’t seem the feeling was mutual, though. He’d only seen him once since the fight against Amon and that was from a distance as Sal manifested on Sy’s lands to check on his punishment of Amon. He’d had the count hung spread eagle in the arch of the gates leading to his castle with a sign reading “Traitor” around Amon’s neck. It was quite the spectacle and had brought every noble to his lands to mock Amon. But Sal didn’t mock the traitorous count. He only looked upon him for a moment, then turned and vanished without a word to anyone. The way Sal left, not even speaking to him, bothered him far more than it should have.
Along with the other plagues Sal and his witch had brought upon him, there was one more for which they were at fault. It was their fault he’d met the vampire and hadn’t been able to get him out of his mind since.
Sy tossed back the last of his wine. It might be little better than swill, but it was more potent than human drink, and maybe he could muddle his senses enough to not think of Basil Warrick and how after he’d met him, felt the vampire’s cool energy on his lips as he kissed Basil’s hand, he’d sought to learn more about him. His pursuit had only turned up Basil’s full name, confirmed his status among vampires as a prince, and a handful of his exploits that were gossip fodder among vampires, many of those exploits usually caused by Basil’s cousin and fellow vampire, Valentin Wyndham. It seemed Basil had done quite well in covering his tracks over the centuries and leaving little trace of himself.
A prince. It was a grand accomplishment for a vampire to have lived long enough to earn such a title. Among their kind, titles were granted by age, rather than by power as it was with demons, or birthright as with humans. For vampires in their first century, they were known as squires or more often were called common. Once a vampire reached one hundred years, they became knights. From his knowledge, that was as far as many got. As an eternal being, it was a hard concept for him to understand, but it seemed life itself wore down many vampires, along with the hazards of simply being creatures who were, in his opinion, slightly less fragile than humans.
For those few vampires who survived to their second century, they were then dubbed dukes or duchesses. Even fewer of those reached the status of prince or princess at their three hundredth year. There were apparently a few kings and queens who’d crossed four hundred years, and even rarer, the elders of five hundred years or more.
For Basil to have surpassed three hundred years showed great fortitude, determination, strength, and intelligence. How could he be anything less than intrigued by the vampire? He and Basil, they were both princes of their own kind. Add to it Basil’s voice of rich baritone, how his words rolled smoothly with a human’s British accent, his features of sculpted, elegant beauty, his wavy dark blond hair, and eyes of warm honey-brown, and he’d swear the vampire had entranced him. If such a thing were possible for a vampire to entrance a demon and for it to last three damn human months.
Sy scowled at his empty goblet. What he should do is cross to the human realm and…be unsuccessful in finding Basil. Again. In all his times crossing over, he hadn’t been able to locate him and if he did, then what would he do? Get into a fight with Sal? He doubted his ex would be approving of him making an advance toward Basil, since Sal was highly protective of his vampire friends and they of him. Damn, Sal. Even when not in his life, he stood in the way of his fun.
“Prince Sytri, you appear to need another drink. I’ve taken it upon myself to bring you one.”
Sy tensed inside, but was careful to not let it show on the outside. He turned slowly, lifting his gaze to meet the green eyes of King Ryloc. The demon king’s eyes weren’t a lovely shade of green, but rather more like that of putrid flesh. Two massive horns protruded upward off the top of his head, that was barren of hair. Ryloc’s ears were pointed, his shoulders broad and thick, as was the rest of his body, and he stood at least a head taller than Sy. Wings covered in leathery gray skin rose behind him.
Moving from shoulder to shoulder was Ryloc’s entity companion, a white scorpion known as Ishka. Its long legs clicked…clicked…clicked across Ryloc’s leather shoulder armor. Watching the arachnid in its small form was disturbing, but Sy had seen it in its full size, large enough for Ryloc to ride upon. Sy found himself wishing for his wolf entity, Lucien, and at the same time, glad he wasn’t there. If a confrontation happened, and Ishka grew in size, its venom was so potent it could destroy the energy of another entity. It was better that he’d left Lucien in his castle where the wolf was safe.
Sy kept his gaze steady and cool on Ryloc’s face. He had to tread carefully. He knew of Ryloc’s interest in him and so far, he’d been successful at sidestepping his advances without causing insult, but he didn’t know how much longer he could continue to do so.
Sy reached for the goblet Ryloc extended to him and took it, careful to not let his fingers graze Ryloc’s. “That was most thoughtful of you, King Ryloc.”
Ryloc grinned, but said nothing, his gaze intense upon him.
Sy’s instincts blared with warning. He put the goblet to his lips and tipped it up, feigning a drink.
“I assure you,” Ryloc began, “my intention was wholly selfish.”
Letting his lips turn in a quick smile, Sy glanced away. Here he was in a room full of demons and not a single ally was to be found among them. Since the last of the Great Wars, when he won his position as prince, he’d gained some respect, but not enough. Many of the other princes and kings felt he was boosted into the position by Sal. It wasn’t wholly untrue. They’d been exceptional together on the battlefield—and the bedchamber—but to earn his title meant he needed to separate from Sal, prove his strength and cunning on his own. He did that by betraying him.
Only, the betrayal wasn’t all it appeared on the surface. The princes and kings saw Sal as a threat and they wanted to eliminate him rather than allow him to come into more power. The greater the power Sal earned, the greater the threat he would become, and they sought to stop him before that point. Sy knew the plot to assassinate Sal, but he also knew if he could crush Sal in another way, it would be enough to prove he was no longer a threat. He’d joined forces with Prince Tayish and baited Sal into a trap between his and Tayish’s legions.
And, he let Sal go.
He called it an error in communication that his lines opened up, allowing an escape route for Sal and most of his legions to slip through and retreat. But there were others who saw it for what it was, a ruse to let him gain power while saving his lover. It didn’t matter to him what others thought, though. The plan worked for the most part. Sal’s spirit was crushed by his betrayal and he ceased fighting. For himself, he was granted his princehood, while Sal was upped in rank to duke. The only part that didn’t work was after all this time, the other high nobles were cordial to him, but they didn’t accept him.
Standing here now, Ryloc leering at him, he realized how alone he was. No lover. No companion. No friend. No one he could trust.
Ryloc gripped Sy by the upper arm, turning him toward doors leading outside. “Let’s step out where it’s more private.”
Sy planted himself in place. “Actually, I was about to bid my farewell to the Emperor and return to my lands.”
“It wasn’t a request, Prince Sytri.” Ryloc jerked Sy to his side.
Sy stumbled, but didn’t fight Ryloc. For one, he knew Ryloc was stronger than him. Second, Ryloc had powerful allies and some of them were looking in their direction with smirks that spoke of their delight at seeing Ryloc leading him away. Third, he was smarter than Ryloc and since he had no allies, he would have to rely on that to get away from him.