Authors: Jean Murray
KEY TO THE CURSED
Key To the Cursed – Book 4: Soul Unleashed
© Copyright Jean Murray 2016. All
Cover Art: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.
Editor: Judy Roth
Fated Press LLC
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Fated Press LLC electronic
publication/print publication: January 2016
my sisters whom have always stood by me.
Two sides to every soul, one you see on the
outside and the one hidden deep—kept close to the heart to protect against pain
and hurt. Hidden not for his own safety, but the safety of others. If he lets
it lose, pain and misery will come to those whose souls cross his path. He will
consume them without a care.
The curse of the Devourer—forever wanting
something he can never have or risk destroying it.
Black dried blood coated Kamen’s face and chest,
tightening his skin like a torturous vice. Shivering with the cold that had
taken refuge in his tissues, he rolled onto all fours and pressed his forehead
to the jagged stone.
Feeding quenched the hunger deep inside him, but
the side effects left him miserable. It took his body several hours to days to
process the evil he consumed. Some feedings cost him more than others.
The more evil, the more suffering. His burden. His
curse as the Devourer of souls.
Last night’s took a punch. Theris, the god’s soul
he consumed, had been touched by Apep, the Lord of Darkness himself. Evil in
the most deprived sense. Fetid and rich with maleficence.
Acid burned through Kamen’s muscles, robbing him
of his strength. His legs shook with the effort to stand. Despite how weak he
was hours after waking, his power would multiply and carry for several days
before he was forced to return to the chamber.
The beast inside had to be sated.
Disoriented, he staggered into the wall. Digging
his fingertips into the claw marks scored in the stone, he gathered his
strength. Gods, he despised this place. Despised what he had to become to pay
penance for his sins. Yet, it was a just punishment for what he had done. His
brother, Asar, had been far too merciful.
Kamen tracked along the stone, blind in the darkness.
He traced the hieroglyphics, leading him to the narrow hole, just wide enough
to fit his hand. The locking mechanism disengaged, shifting the counterweights
and rolling the large boulder.
A chill brushed his bare skin and raised the hair
on the back of his neck. He looked over his shoulder and scanned the dark
chamber. Despite the emptiness, the chill stayed with him. For a moment he
hesitated before releasing the lever. Last night had been worse than he
Shaking it off, he climbed the crypt’s passageway.
Each step jolted the bones in his body. Warm air filtered down but failed to
heat his frigid skin. The stench of fetid blood churned his stomach. Exhaling a
long breath, he released some of the tension in his shoulders.
He shifted the granite door and then pushed the
slab back into place. Rubbing at his eyes, the detail of the elaborate black
marble of his bathroom came into focus and then blurred again.
Kicking on the faucet, the scalding water of the
shower pelted his already tender skin. He stood frozen underneath the spray,
willing his body to warm. Temperature, unfortunately was not the cause of his
hypothermic state. Contaminated with lust, envy, greed, gluttony and wrath, all
the cold and desolate emotions left his soul absent of anything decent and
After four thousand years, he forced himself not
to think about the toll on what was left of his soul. He accepted his
punishment and assumed the role of the Devourer, hoping to maintain some
semblance of a normal life, but that had been short lived. Unstable, especially
in the beginning when his control was less than adequate, the beast would zero
in on the dark thoughts of other gods. More importantly, their fear.
Over the years he withdrew into the shadows,
opting to exploit his role as Asar’s enforcer. It took Kamen awhile to realize
instead of fighting his curse, he should embrace it. His acceptance of his fate
made the isolation bearable.
Loud banging distracted him from his misery. He
leaned his head against the shower wall, willing the unwelcome guest away. His
head throbbed with each crack on the heavy wood.
No one dared question or cross him.
Except—his eyes gravitated towards the door. The
energy on the other side stirred another craving in his chest, one that would
just have to go hungry.
“Hey, wake up, lazy bones. I am not getting any
younger out here,” Kit Carrigan yelled and battered the door. “Hey!”
Kamen grimaced. The female had the patience of a
starved lion with a fresh kill. With no more than a towel wrapped at his waist,
he stumbled to the entry and yanked the door open. He met the sapphire depths
of Kit’s radiant gaze. Black brows arched over her brilliant blue eyes as they
drifted down his wet torso to the floor. Water dripped onto the sandstone,
forming small puddles at her feet.
Her red full lips parted slightly. A warm exhaled
breath tickled the skin of his bare chest. He forced himself to ignore the
press of her round breasts against the small leather top and the shadow dipping
low between them. Her flat abdomen taunted him from the gap of her halter to
the low rise of her leather pants.
, he hated the fact she flaunted
her flesh in front of him so freely. Worse, he found it unbearable when other
males took notice.
Kamen forced the uncomfortable need into a dark
recess of his soul. Taking advantage of her distraction, he turned his back and
forced his legs back to the bathroom. His craving for the woman was manifesting
into something more than want. The growing ache in his groin was a stark
reminder he had gone on with
for a very,
Gods help Kit if he ever set it free. Controlling the beast was all or nothing.
“Hey, where are you going? I need to go back to
the human realm to receive the weapons’ shipment,” Kit broke her stunned
“It can wait.” He shoved his legs into his pants.
Thankfully, his arousal waned in favor of the tremors threatening to buckle his
legs. The fact she could stimulate him even in his miserable state confounded
him. Movement in the mirror drew his attention upward.
She had pursued him into the bathroom. Feet spread
and hands on her hips, she looked like a dam against a Tsunami.
This Tsunami unfortunately came with teeth and
A warm breeze followed her from the hall, bringing
her scent to his raw senses. He hissed out his clenched teeth, her obstinacy
whittling his patience.
“Another time, Kit,” he growled and pulled a fresh
shirt over his head. The confrontation only awakened the beast further.
Her full red lips puckered into a pout, and she
cocked her head to the side. Her long black mane slid over her shoulder. He
tracked the black blue river of hair clinging to her soft white skin.
“Lilly wants me to receive the shipment and
oversee the initiation. Give the new girls reassurance or some shit like that.
Honest, I’d rather sleep the afternoon away, but orders are orders.” She blew
out a bubble from the gum she was chewing and popped it in his face.
“Asar has called for me. When I am done, I will
take you.” The growing ache in his chest announced Asar’s summons and
impatience at Kamen’s delayed arrival. He shifted around her, continued out the
door and down the hall.
“Do you have to do everything he says?” Kit
snapped, rounding the door.
Kamen stopped and glared at her over his shoulder.
“Yes and I suggest you do the same.”
“I’m stuck here like some god’s damn prisoner,”
she muttered under her breath.
Anger rushed up his spine. Infuriated, he pivoted
and in one stride loomed over her. “Asar has provided you and your sisters
protection. Broken the law to do so. Your presence has put Aaru at risk, yet
Asar has welcomed you as one of his own and you dare question his generosity.” Unable
to temper his response, his voice boomed in the space between them.
Kit flinched, a frown creasing her lips. Being
this close to her, the shadow of her eyes seemed darker than usual, the
blueness dimmer. Her skin paler.
“Fine.” She jerked back and stormed off down the
He cursed. Whether still raw from his feeding,
Kit’s behavior had finally broken his control. Even if it was slight, it did
not take much to raise the beast inside. He could not afford to lose his focus
after all this time, especially on a human female who hated him.
Dizziness slamming into him, he wavered on his
feet and grabbed for the veranda wall. Closing his eyes, he struggled to hold
his strength. The door at the end of the hall opened and Asar stepped out. His
brother’s curse carried down the stone corridor. Kamen shoved himself off the
wall and walked stiff-legged to the door Asar held open.
“Sorry, brother. I would not have called you if it
was not important.”
Kamen nodded, although Asar owed him no
explanation. Following his brother into the office, he slowed when an ache
settled between his shoulder blades. The beast stirred, summoned by the demon
blood in the room. He locked eyes on the source, the Goddess of War, a half
breed. Creation and demon, Siya was a recent addition to their growing
Fed by a force of both light and dark, she met
Kamen’s stare without blinking. Not many dared to look him in the eye. Despite
her fortitude in meeting his gaze, she slid a protective hand across her
protruding belly. Bomani, her mate, moved closer and placed his palm on the
small of her back.
Bonded males, all of them were overly protective of
their females. Family or not, Kamen was a threat. Forcing his eyes away from
the couple, Kamen looked down at the map at the center of Asar’s desk.
Bomani left Siya’s side and held out his hand.
Kamen grabbed Bomani’s forearm in a warrior’s handshake.
His gaze gravitated to the balcony. His other nephew, Bakari, stood with arms
crossed over his chest, just below the Mevt daggers sheathed in his holsters.
Bakari nodded and stepped into the cavernous office.
“Thank you all for coming,” Asar said and walked
to the large gold chair behind the grand desk. “Siya has identified weaknesses
in our defenses, significant enough I want them addressed now. It goes without
saying, we have too much at stake.”
Kamen’s gaze gravitated to the growing baby in
Siya’s belly. Asar’s first grandchild. The first offspring of the Underworld in
over four thousand years, but his brother’s statement had far more meaning. The
daughters of the Mother Goddess, each having a power that would aid them in the
war were under their protection. Lilly, the eldest, had married Asar. Kendra,
the petite redhead, had conquered Bakari’s soul. Kit—well, that had yet to be
Kamen shook off the uncomfortable thought and
focused back on the group.
“No one has ever breached our walls,” Bakari said,
drawing closer to the desk.
“So we thought until Nebt,” Bomani countered.
“Still, she created the breach from the inside,
The conversation sent an ache of guilt through
Kamen’s chest. Nebt, the Goddess of the Underworld and cousin to both Kamen and
Asar, had been beloved by all.
Family turned traitor schemed to overthrow Asar’s
reign by bringing the enemy into their home. Not to mention, what Nebt had done
to her own husband—staking him to the wall.
How could he have missed Nebt’s betrayal?
Kamen’s powers were fed by evil, and yet he failed
to sense it in Nebt. She had almost succeeded, if not for Kendra and Bakari.
Sadly, Nebt had escaped before justice could be served. Kamen counted the days
until her judgment.
He looked around the room, wondering who else was
tainted by the Dark Lord. Would he sense it if they were?
“Let Siya speak, then reserve your judgments,”
Siya nodded and leaned over the map. “We all know
Apep wants to breach the human realm. The Dark Lord knows the Creation Pantheon
cannot win the war without the Underworld legions leading the charge. As each
of you are aware, Apep has targeted the attacks on you while leaving the
Creations essentially untouched.”
“Creations think this is all some joke. They sat idle
while the revens overran the human cities. Even after the siravants slaughtered
the Creation Protectors, they still do not see the threat. What are they
waiting for?” Bomani’s warrior voice echoed in the room.
“Apep to march across their rainbow bridge,” Asar
said with a shake of his head.
“Kendra believes Apep will wait for the lunar
eclipse, when the forces that separate the realms are at their weakest,” Bakari
“That is only a month away, the same day the baby
is due.” Siya turned to her mate.
No one commented, but Siya’s absence from the
battle would be a huge loss to their side. A force to be reckoned with, she had
led the charge in the first war. A bloody battle to the end, the Underworld had
lost thousands before victory was declared.
“Unfortunately, we cannot wait on our cousins to
act. We have an obligation to protect the humans at all cost.” Asar sealed his
statement by meeting every gaze in the room.
“And, Aaru?” Bomani asked. “What of our home?”
“No way. The gates are unbreachable. Nothing
passes.” Bakari palmed the gods’ death dagger at his chest.
“Nothing is impenetrable, Bakari. Everything has
its breaking point. We just need to figure out what that is before Apep does,”
“If he has not already. Apep has become far too
bold, using one of our own blood to attack us. I would have never thought Nebt
could be turned against us.” Asar rubbed his temple.
Siya tapped the map. “We make a stand in the
motherland of Egypt. The window to the realms will open there. The lunar forces
will change the flow of the Nile for only an hour, plenty of time for Apep to
escape. He will need to control all three realms, Creation, Human and
Underworld, to succeed. The Dark Lord will not risk defeat again.”
“Why are you so certain?” Kamen asked, suddenly
compelled to speak. He leveled his stare at the Goddess of War, still
suspicious of the daughter of the enemy, Menthu. If anyone was a risk, it was
“The Underworld River connects all three realms.”
She traced the snake like river with her fingertip. “Human, Duat and Aaru. It
is what I would do. My father would advise Apep to do the same. Attacking from
two points is much harder to defend. Extends our resources, weakens the main