by Felicity Heaton
The King of Demons and the Devil’s right hand man, Asmodeus is a dark angel born of evil and created for destruction. When his master orders him to venture into the mortal world and retrieve a female for him, he seizes the chance to leave Hell for the first time, uncaring of what the Devil has planned for her… until he sets eyes on the most beautiful woman he has ever seen—a female who awakens new feelings within his black heart, unleashing passion so intense that it controls him and desire he cannot resist.
He will not let his wretched master have her. She will belong to him.
Liora is a witch with a bad reputation and an obsession with fighting demons. A mission gone wrong sees her sent to Paris to cool off, but when a dark and deadly warrior with a gaze of golden fire lands in her life, she ends up burning hotter than Hell for the wicked angel. Nothing will stand between her and the immense, forbidding male. Not her cousin. Not Asmodeus’s sworn enemy and twin, Apollyon. And certainly not the Devil.
Caught up in a tempest of danger and soul-searing passion, can they survive against the odds and seize their forever after?
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[toggle title=”Excerpt (Copyright Felicity Heaton)” state=”close” ]
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It was a black day in Hell.
Asmodeus stood high above the bottomless pit, his amber gaze locked on the tall obsidian spires in the distance. Screams and sobs rose up from below him on the hot air, the grunts of their tormentors a harsher note in a symphony he so often enjoyed. The demons were busy today. He had been busy too until he had felt the call of his master.
As much as he had wanted to keep the Devil waiting while he had finished his latest masterpiece, he had dropped everything and left his castle in the wastelands via a portal that had brought him to the plateau above the bottomless pit.
And there he stood, debating how long he could put off crossing the cragged, grim landscape to the Devil’s fortress before his master lost his temper and called him again.
Asmodeus enjoyed pushing the male right to the limit of his patience. There was something satisfying about irritating his so-called master. The Devil would be able to sense his proximity and that he hadn’t moved in close to twenty minutes. It was a game of wills he often played with him. Who would break first?
The call came again, stronger than it had been before, a tug he felt as a physical yank on his ribs, pulling him forwards towards the fortress.
A reminder that he was given freedom in Hell, but he was not master of it.
Asmodeus tipped forwards and plummeted towards the snaking wide ribbon of lava hundreds of feet below. Hot air rushed at him, sweeping his black hair back, battering his bare chest and ruffling his feathers. He stretched his obsidian wings to their full span, caught a thermal and levelled out just metres from the fiery surface of one of the principal rivers in Hell.
He gave a leisurely flap to keep his altitude and glided across the black, forbidding terrain.
Hell’s angels stalked the land below him in their demonic forms. Dragon-like wings furled against their huge black bodies and their claws made quick work of the whimpering lesser demons they were dealing with for their master. Some demons were little more than pests in Asmodeus’s eyes, and the eyes of his master. They caused more trouble than they were worth.
Asmodeus grinned, turned into a barrel roll and swooped down at one of the small scaly brown demons. He plucked it from the ground, had snapped its neck before it could even loose a shriek, and dropped it on the head of one of the Hell’s angels in charge of cleaning up the area. The male snarled at him, exposing sharp red teeth, the fires of Hell burning in his crimson eyes.
Asmodeus flipped him off and beat his black feathered wings, resuming his course. He weaved as he flew, following the thermals that would carry him to the Devil’s fortress without him having to expend any effort. What did his master want with him?
He didn’t bother Asmodeus often. Normally, when he called upon him, it was to give him an important mission. Torture a captive demon for information on the angels. Track down a traitor in one of the more dangerous regions of Hell. Drown someone in a lake of lava.
Kill one of the angels who protected the plateau, Heaven’s only sanctioned area in Hell.
Personally, Asmodeus couldn’t see why they had access to any part of Hell. No creature of this realm was allowed to set foot in Heaven unless they were shackled and contained in the prison there. How was that fair? If Heaven could station a small contingent of angels in Hell, then Hell should be allowed to station some of its men in Heaven.
Asmodeus’s grin widened.
He had sent his pet there recently. How had he fared?
Nevar had been a guardian angel until Asmodeus had found him snooping at the pool that recorded the history of the three realms. He had dealt with the curious angel, battling him until he was weak and then pushing him over the edge. The male was tainted now, turning as wicked as his new master. Asmodeus.
He had wanted Nevar to shake Heaven, but it seemed his wolf had failed to blow down the fortress as instructed. Perhaps he should have waited until Nevar had grown stronger, the darkness within him in full control, but patience had never been his strong suit. It was part of the reason he often lost the game of wills he played with the Devil and something he was working on. Now, Asmodeus had lost track of Nevar. What was he up to?
Asmodeus wanted to know, but since he had sent the angel to Heaven and he could not leave Hell, it was impossible for him to find out. He didn’t doubt that their paths would cross again soon. Nevar had been hell-bent on killing him the last time they had seen each other. The male would be hunting him down soon enough and then Asmodeus would command him to return to Heaven and succeed this time, or die trying.
He beat his wings and shot over the spires of black rock that curved around the semi-circular courtyard of the Devil’s obsidian fortress.
The tall twin black doors opened, revealing a crack of orange light and the silhouette of a figure that looked tiny in comparison.
Asmodeus lowered his feet and glided down to land on the black flagstones. He set down on his left foot and casually walked from there, furling his large wings against his bare back at the same time. The feathers grazed the gold-edged black strips of armour protecting his hips with each step and the longest ones curled forwards to caress his black knee-high leather boots and the metal plates that shielded his shins.
The Devil reached the top of the steps that led down from his fortress and straightened out the cuffs of his impeccable black suit jacket in a way that told Asmodeus he was on the verge of losing his cool.
The handsome black-haired male lifted his amber gaze and pinned Asmodeus with a glare that sent a shiver through him. A bolt of fire and lightning followed it, zinging through his blood and bones, a fierce reminder of the power this male wielded and a warning not to keep him waiting again.
The power flowing over him grew stronger and Asmodeus gritted his teeth as his knees trembled and fought to remain standing, refusing to succumb to the Devil’s will.
He would never go to his knees unwillingly.
Asmodeus clenched his fists, every muscle tensing against the strain of remaining upright. Sweat broke out across his brow. His limbs shook and his breathing quickened, but he kept his gaze locked on the Devil’s, holding it and showing him that he wouldn’t back down.
He would not submit.
A curvaceous naked female stepped out of the fortress, wavering as she walked slowly towards the Devil, a distant look in her dark eyes. She draped her hands over his shoulders and rubbed herself against his back, mewling softly at the same time.
The Devil huffed and the pressure bearing down on Asmodeus lifted.
“Go back inside,” the Devil muttered and touched the female’s hand. She obeyed, turning away from him and plodding back into the fortress.
The Devil had been busy recently.
His Hell’s angels had been bringing him female after female for him to seduce ever since his daughter, Erin, and the traitor Hell’s angel had escaped his grasp. The Devil had even taken to keeping some of the mortal women with him at the fortress, creating himself a harem.
Attempting to bring another child into this dark world.
A difficult task to accomplish when there were few females strong enough to bring his child to term.
Erin was a rare success in a sea of failures.
The Devil had only managed to produce one single offspring in thousands of years of trying.
Asmodeus didn’t think his current desperate tactic of sleeping with as many females as possible in an extremely short span of time would produce the result the male was looking for. Erin would birth her child soon and then she would be back to fight her father for his throne.
Asmodeus couldn’t wait.
Hell was about to get very interesting.
Until then, Asmodeus was content with amusing himself watching the Devil grow increasingly frustrated and desperate. Weak.
He had never seen the Devil this weak before, not in the thousands of years he had lived.
“What business do you have with me?” Asmodeus casually preened his feathers, preparing them for the flight home, and ignored the Devil’s scowl.
The male hated it when he spoke to him without an ounce of respect. Everyone else under his command simpered and scraped at his feet. As far as Asmodeus was concerned, the Devil had enough pathetic creatures kissing his expensive Italian leather shoes. Asmodeus wasn’t about to join them. He was above them.
The Devil’s right hand man.
A male created for destruction and bloodshed.
“You are to travel to the mortal realm and retrieve a female for me.”
Asmodeus’s black eyebrows pinched in a frown and it took him a moment to absorb exactly what the Devil had said and the connotations it contained.
One, he was ordering him to lower himself to the role of minion, retrieving him another female for his harem. Treating him like a servant. That irked him. He was not just another of the Devil’s servants.
Two, he was offering him a taste of the mortal world, granting him leave to step outside the environs of Hell for the first time in his existence. That intrigued Asmodeus. He had always wanted to see the mortal realm with his own eyes and experience it.
Asmodeus stared at him, weighing his options. Swallow his pride and finally fly in the world above, seeing the buildings and the colours, and all the things he had only ever seen in the pool on the plateau, or tell the Devil to stick it and spend the next week in the cells, probably tortured, possibly maimed permanently for his disobedience.
Asmodeus swallowed his pride and it tasted bitter. “Fine.”
The Devil grinned, revealing short fangs. “Good. You will find her in Paris, in the middle of the park near the base of the Eiffel Tower. She will be wearing crimson and black. Bring her to me.”
Asmodeus nodded, took a step backwards and then turned away from the Devil.
He threw his hand out in front of him and a black vortex appeared, swirling like smoke. It had been many centuries since he had bothered practicing glamours and veils, having given up on ever leaving Hell and having no need for changing his appearance in this realm. He hoped he hadn’t forgotten how to cast them.
Asmodeus focused on himself, casting a veil so none would see him when he stepped through the portal into the mortal realm.
“Bring her to me quickly, Asmodeus,” the Devil said behind him and Asmodeus nodded again.
Perhaps he would dally just a little. Who knew when the Devil would allow him to leave Hell again?
He stepped through the black portal and tensed as he appeared in the mortal realm. His eyes watered and he blinked against the assault of strong light, leaning back into the shade of the tower that speared the blue sky above him.
Asmodeus tipped his head back and stared up at it, and then looked at his surroundings. Green trees. Dark metal. Pale stone. Mortals dressed in a multitude of colours. The warm air carried strange scents. Dust. Something sweet. Smoke. Sounds came from every direction. Blasts of noise and distant rumbles of what he suspected were vehicles. Constant chatter. Laughter. Squeals of happiness. All alien to him.
All choking and closing in on him.
He didn’t like it.
He took a step back towards the portal behind him and glared at everyone as they passed. Ants. Hundreds of them. Swarming. Shoving. Jostling each other. He wanted to kill them all. They were noisy. Brutal. Irritating.
Asmodeus grinned, his golden eyes narrowing with it, and flexed his fingers. His fangs began to lengthen and his black claws followed them.
Prey for the hunter.
He would drown out the disgusting scents with the smell of blood. He would replace joy with fear, with screams and sobs and pointless pleas for mercy. He would bathe this colourful world in crimson.
A flash of that colour caught his eye and his gaze zeroed in on it. It was gone, lost in the sea of other hues. It flickered again, further off to his right, and his eyes shot to it. Wavy chestnut hair bounced against crimson ruffled material with each light step. He caught a sliver of black jeans. Crimson and black. The female the Devil wanted.
She turned and he glimpsed her face, and his desire to bathe his hands in the blood of these puny creatures slipped away, calm suffusing him, making him forget his irritation and dark desires.
She blinked, black lashes shuttering luminous hazel eyes, and turned away, continuing onwards towards a strip of green land to his right beyond the shadow of the tower.
Asmodeus felt a tug behind his breastbone, pulling him in her direction, but something told him it wasn’t the Devil commanding him to follow her. It was something else that made him want to track her through the crowd.
He focused and altered his appearance as he walked, hiding his pieces of gold-edged black armour with a black dress shirt, black jeans and leather boots, and shielding his wings. He lifted the veil that concealed him from mortal eyes and stalked the female as she moved through the thinning crowd, keeping his distance but remaining close enough that he wouldn’t lose her.
She stepped out into the bright sunlight on the vivid green grass and it cast golden highlights in her hair. Asmodeus’s heart missed a beat and then thumped hard against his ribs. His palms sweated.
He had hunted thousands before for the Devil. This female was no different. He would capture her and take her to him.
Asmodeus shook his head and paused at the edge of the crowd, staring after her.
He had pushed the Devil to the limit of his patience a thousand times but he had never disobeyed an order. He would not begin now.
He would take the female to his master.
The female in question turned on the grass and peered up the height of the tower, using a slender hand to shield her eyes, and Asmodeus’s heart missed another beat.
He slammed his hand against his bare chest and coughed. What was wrong with him?
Was the mortal world making him sick? He had never been sick before, but he had heard that demons could become ill. He wasn’t a demon though. He had never heard of an angel growing sick. Was it possible?
All the more reason to grab the female and return to Hell.
He took a step towards her, and then another one. She turned her back on him and he closed in until he was only a few metres away.
He just needed to grab her and then deliver her to the Devil. It wasn’t difficult, so why was he hesitating? He had never hesitated before. He had carried out his master’s orders without pause or regret, spilling blood and carving flesh, destroying lives. This was easy. Grab. Deliver. End of mission.
The Devil would have a new female for his growing harem. Asmodeus would return to his castle.
His stomach turned at the thought of that male laying his filthy claws on this delicate, dainty female.
He stared at the back of her head, replaying how she had looked when she had paused to glance up the height of the Eiffel Tower.
Wide hazel eyes.
Soft rosy lips.
Delicate perfect features and porcelain skin.
Chestnut hair cascading over her shapely shoulders.
Asmodeus wanted to close the gap between them, gently lay his hands on her shoulders, and slowly turn her to face him so he could drink his fill of her beauty and purity all over again.
Instead, he took a step backwards, distancing himself from her. Foreign feelings and thoughts collided in his mind, filling it and sending him in circles, tearing him between completing his mission and doing something that astounded him.
He could leave her here, in peace, and come up with an excuse. He couldn’t let his despicable master ruin her. He wouldn’t.
He turned away and held his hand out before him, focusing on the air there to call a portal back to Hell.
“Where do you go, Asmodeus?” The soft female voice caught him off guard.
His shoulders tensed and his outstretched hand shook.
She knew his name. She recognised him. And she spoke in English, even though they were in France.
English was not the native language of this land.
He had never left Hell before.
How did she know him?
He looked over his right shoulder and found her standing where he had left her, but facing him, her hands clasped in front of her, over the point where her crimson short-sleeved gypsy-style top met her black jeans.
A serene smile curved her rosy lips and it was then that he felt the incredible power in her.
He had never felt power like this in anyone other than the Devil.
She was strong, but it was not evil that flowed through her veins. It was something else. She was something else.
He had never spoken to a female like her before, and he wasn’t sure how to address her or whether he should even be concerned about such things. He swallowed the dry lump in his throat, steeled himself against his turbulent feelings, and told himself to get a grip. She was a target. He was here on a mission. He would not disobey his master. He would not allow this mere slip of a woman to affect him.
Asmodeus shifted to face her. “Who are you?”
“Liora,” she said with a breezy smile and bright eyes, and held her hand out to him. He stared at it but didn’t take it. She sighed and lowered it again. “You came for a reason… is it because of my cousin?”
He frowned. “Cousin?”
Perhaps he should have asked the Devil for more information about this mission before taking it. Why would he be here because of her cousin when he didn’t even know who she was?
She knew who he was. That still bothered him. He wanted to know how she knew of him and why she wasn’t running in fear.
The female called Liora nodded. “Serenity.”
His guard instantly rose and his senses stretched out to map the area in case this was a trap. He scowled at her and his right hand twitched at his side, ready to call his blade should he need it.
Had she been awaiting his arrival, willing to play bait so they could catch him? How had Apollyon known his master would let him fly free of Hell?
Asmodeus drew in a deep breath to calm himself and pushed all his questions away. Apollyon could not know he was here and this was not a trap. There was no need for him to be on edge. There had to be a reasonable explanation for everything.
He stared at the female. Liora.
Apollyon’s female, Serenity, was this beauty’s cousin. That only made him more intrigued about why the Devil wanted her.
Did he intend to use Liora against Apollyon? Apollyon was the Great Destroyer, one of the most powerful angels in existence and the one who was destined to fight the Devil and keep him contained within Hell and the bottomless pit.
Apollyon was also Asmodeus’s brother, or father of sorts. The first time the Devil had defeated Apollyon, he had tortured the male to the brink of insanity and had then drawn all that was evil out of him. The Devil had used that blood and a smattering of his own to create Asmodeus.
“You don’t look much like Apollyon. I’ve met him and now I’ve also met you… and you seem very different.” She eyed him, hazel gaze curious and intense as she cocked her head to one side. Her tone had a decidedly playful edge to it, soft and light, not exactly how he had expected a mortal to react to him. She was confident, calm, and a little bit teasing.
Asmodeus stared blankly at her. This was not normal female behaviour. He wasn’t sure whether she was flirting with him. He didn’t think it was a possibility, but she might be. He had no experience of such things.
His shock only increased when she raked her gaze over him, thoroughly inspecting him from head to toe, her stunning hazel eyes lingering on his bare torso. His palms sweated again and he swallowed hard as his pulse picked up.
Her right eyebrow quirked. “Why do you lack complete armour? Apollyon has all his armour. Why do you only have your hip pieces and armoured boots… are you incomplete?”
She could see his armour and his wings? His glamour wasn’t working. Had he done it wrong after all?
Asmodeus cursed and swiftly glanced around him at the other mortals.
None of the ones milling around the park were screaming or praying for salvation, so he must have done it right.
“Glamours don’t work on me,” she said, as if she had read his mind and knew his thoughts.
Was he that transparent? He didn’t like that she could see straight through him. He rose to his full height and glared down at her.
It didn’t fluster her in the slightest. She flicked her hand upwards with only her right index finger extended. It pointed at the sky. “Factoid. I’m a witch.”
Another first for him. He had never met a witch before.
Liora moved closer and looked him over again. “I’ve never seen cloning on this level. Normally something goes wrong. Did the Devil really create you from Apollyon’s blood?”
She paused for air, frowned and canted her head the other way, her gaze rising to lock with his.
“Are you as powerful as Apollyon… or less powerful?”
“More powerful,” Asmodeus barked and scowled at her. He was beginning to hate how she not only kept comparing him to Apollyon, but how she was making him feel inferior and broken, a mere shadow of a male.
False and unreal.
Not an individual.
He wanted to leave now.
He growled under his breath, his fangs itching to descend, and turned away from her, casting his hand out at the same time and calling a portal. The black swirling maelstrom formed before him. He’d had enough of this world. It did not live up to his expectations at all. It was noisy, bright, irritating and rude, and he didn’t like how uncertain and off-balance he felt. No one respected him here.
They could all go to Hell.
Asmodeus grinned. Perhaps he could make this place Hell and teach them all a lesson they would never forget, because it would be the last thing they knew before they died. His claws sharpened. That sounded good.
“Wait!” Liora grabbed his left arm and tugged it backwards, her warm hands clasping it tightly. “Don’t go… please… I didn’t mean to sound pushy or upset you.”
“I am not upset,” he said gruffly and yanked his arm free.
He glanced over his shoulder at her. A mistake. She was so close to him, and so beautiful as she looked up at him with a strange mixture of fear and hope in her entrancing eyes. He should leave. He would if he could bring himself to move. He felt as though she had cast a spell on him and he was powerless to resist her. His fury melted away again, leaving him calm and docile, confused as to why he had been angry to begin with. His claws shrank back and his fangs ascended.
She wanted him to wait, and so he waited.
“I’ve been rude,” she whispered and then tipped her chin up and a spark of confidence broke through the fear and hope in her eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s a flaw. My mouth just starts running and I can’t stop it. I’ll tamp it down and think before I speak if you stay. It’s just excitement.”
“Excitement?” That had him turning to face her. What was she excited about?
His mind supplied that he was the reason for her excitement. A stupid idea. No one had ever been excited to meet him. Scared. Terrified. Having a near-death experience. Or possibly a pre-death experience since he was normally there to kill them. Not excited though.
He had caught the way she had glanced at his extended claws and the fear that had followed her seeing them. There was no possible way she could be excited by his presence.
Liora nodded again. “I was excited to meet you.”
That was a definite first, and it only made him feel more out of place and confused by this world and this slight willowy female before him. “Most people are afraid to meet me.”
She shrugged her slender shoulders. “I’m not most people. I’ve wanted to meet angels all of my life and I’ve studied them all I could, and then Serenity fell in love with Apollyon and I met one, but… and don’t tell her this… he seems very stuffy.”
Asmodeus smiled. He couldn’t help it. The sight of it seemed to bring out her smile too. It was dazzling this time, as if she had found someone she could swap notes about Apollyon’s faults with and was over the moon.
“So, when I heard about you, I really wanted to meet you… because I figured essentially you should be the opposite of Apollyon.”
Asmodeus cocked an eyebrow. “Evil?”
She had wanted to meet him?
She laughed, the sound sending a pleasant shiver through his body. “No. Fun.”
Fun? He really didn’t think she would see him as that if she knew the things he had done that he had considered fun. The thought of massacring these irritating mortals swarming around him was fun. Watching a demon’s head melt off in one of the lakes of lava while he held him fast, forcing him deeper into the fiery magma, was fun.
He had seen what mortals considered fun in the pool in Hell. Riding bicycles. Ponies. Playing various dull sports that didn’t involve severed demon heads and spears. The closest thing that mortals considered fun that he had also found interesting was hunting animals, and even that had seemed tame and dull once he had realised it involved distance weapons, not hand-to-hand combat with feral creatures capable of maiming or even killing the hunter.
Everything mortals did seemed sanitised and harmless, designed to thrill without any real risk to the participants.
No, he did not think Liora and he were on the same page, or even in the same book, when it came to what was fun.
“Will you stay a moment, Asmodeus?”
He huffed. “Why?”
“Because I would like to know more about you.”
He tipped his head back and frowned at the blue sky. Pale clouds spotted it now, adding interest. If he lingered, the Devil would want to know why. He would grow suspicious.
Asmodeus found he didn’t care. The Devil couldn’t leave Hell. He could only send his minions to find him, and they were no match for him. Besides, they were all busy clearing up the pests and bringing him other females. Perhaps those females would keep the Devil occupied while he entertained Liora long enough to understand why the Devil wanted her in particular.
“What would you like to know?” he said and slowly lowered his head, bringing his eyes down to meet hers.
She was far shorter than he was. As petite as her cousin, but as different as he was from Apollyon. He had seen Serenity in the pool, had watched her with Apollyon, trying to understand the complexities of relationships and what had attracted Apollyon to the female in the first place. Serenity was annoyingly good, sickly sweet, and came across as weak and in need of protection despite the immense power she could command if she put her mind to it.
Liora was nothing like her. In a handful of minutes, she had proven herself a little bit wicked, daring, confident, and a woman who knew she could handle herself. She didn’t need a male to protect her.
Strange how that made Asmodeus want to do just that.
Liora nibbled her lower lip and then cast another glance over him. Her pupils expanded to swallow some of the colour in her irises and her teeth sank deeper into her lip, tugging on it.
What did she think to make her appearance change so dramatically?
He was not used to mortal behaviour or reactions, other than overwhelming fear. Their pupils expanded then, but he knew without a doubt it was not fear that caused hers to dilate.
“Why are pieces of your armour missing?” Her gaze darted up to his and then away, and he had the sense that she feared offending him again.
He much preferred her choice of wording this time.
He looked himself over, able to see beyond his own glamour to the gold-edged worn strips of metal that covered his black loincloth and the black leather boots and greaves that protected his shins.
“I have lost pieces in the years of my life, during battles in Hell against angels and demons.” Asmodeus took hold of one of the pointed strips that covered his right hip and ran his thumb over the battered metal that had served him well in the many centuries of his existence. He would not deny that he missed his other pieces if she asked. He had often thought about finding a way to retrieve them and complete his armour. “There is no way for me to get those pieces back unless I fashion myself new armour… or the Devil sees fit to give me replacement pieces.”
“Or you steal Apollyon’s,” she said and his eyes snapped up to meet hers, shock rippling through him. He amended his observation. She was more than a little wicked. She was positively mischievous. A blush of crimson climbed her cheeks. “They would be a perfect fit.”
“True, but I do not think the male would allow me to simply take his armour. It would be a more interesting way to complete my armour though.” He liked how she thought and how easy it was becoming to talk to her. He had witnessed mortals talking like this. Banter. He was making banter with her and he was enjoying it.
He also liked the idea of taking Apollyon’s armour, leaving him appearing incomplete.
“You would have to fight him for it. Are you good at fighting?” She narrowed her gaze on his, as if trying to see the answer in it.
He nodded and held his hands out. His two golden curved swords materialised in his hands. Her eyes widened.
“You can do magic too!” She smiled and then did something he hadn’t anticipated and that stole his voice so he couldn’t tell her it wasn’t magic as she knew it.
She reached out with her left hand and idly ran two fingers down the length of his right blade, stroking the metal and following the blunt curve. Her smile turned wicked and his heart missed another beat, and part of his anatomy that had never known a female’s caress stirred beneath his armour.
Asmodeus cleared his throat, sent his swords away and took a step back from her. Her smile faded into a frown and he could see she thought she had done something wrong again.
He had the oddest urge to reassure her.
What was wrong with him?
Had she cast a spell on him?
The way he reacted to her fascinated and disturbed him at the same time. She had somehow calmed him twice now, erasing his dark hunger to maim and destroy, and had brought to the surface feelings and a part of himself that he had buried deep.
The longer he was in her presence, the more comfortable he felt around her, and the more he wanted to remain, but he also felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave too, and he knew why.
He had never felt his failings before meeting Liora, and the more time he spent with her, the more keenly he felt them. He was born evil, everything dark, cruel and deadly in Apollyon distilled into him. He had lived his life in Hell, doing as he pleased, trained by his master to embrace his darkest nature and inflict pain and terror upon others.
He had been happy with that life.
Asmodeus stared down into Liora’s stunning eyes, losing himself in them all over again, forgetting his mission and feeling that part of him he had kept hidden for millennia stirring again.
There was no room for good in Hell. Good was weakness. Concern and care were faults. Affection was a sin. All of them made him a weak male, one undeserving of respect and the position he held. He did not need them.
He clenched his fists and struggled against them, battling them until they were subdued and he could shove them back into the place where they would remain secret, hidden from everyone. Hidden from his master.
The Devil would think him a failure if he knew of them.
Liora frowned and moved a step closer to him, stealing his attention and bringing it back to her.
What would she think of him?
She already thought him incomplete and false. A clone. Nothing but a shadow of Apollyon.
He tried to take a step back to keep some distance between them but his feet refused to move. He stood towering over her, his fists trembling at his sides, his thoughts running at a million miles an hour, bombarding him and threatening to unleash his softer emotions again. What was she doing to him?
She lifted her right hand and his heart set off at a dizzying pace, slamming against his ribs, making his limbs shake. Weak. She made him weak. He cast a nervous glance at her hand as she raised it towards his face.
He had never known a female’s touch.
There had never been someone he desired.
“Asmodeus?” she whispered and stared up into his eyes. “What are you thinking in there? Your eyes are swirling like gold fire.”
A product of his emotions. They were slipping beyond his grasp and he had the strangest desire to embrace them and the sliver of good he held locked deep within.
Because of her.
What did the Devil want with her? He had a feeling it wasn’t to breed with her. She was Serenity’s cousin. A witch. She would produce powerful offspring and might be strong enough to bring a child to term, but she would also be likely to fight the Devil just as Erin had and refuse to surrender her babe.
Her soft hand cupped his cheek.
His eyes closed against his will and he inhaled sharply. Heat spread outwards from where they touched, surging through his body and setting his feelings free and his blood on fire.
Whatever the Devil’s plans for her, they would not come to pass.
Asmodeus would not let him have her.
Liora would belong to him.