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Authors: Gena Showalter

The Darkest Kiss

BOOK: The Darkest Kiss
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Dear Reader,

I'm thrilled to present my brand-new paranormal trilogy, Lords of the Underworld, which began with
The Darkest Night
and continues with
The Darkest Kiss.
In a remote fortress in Budapest, six immortal warriors—each more dangerously seductive than the last—are bound by an ancient curse none has been able to break. When a powerful enemy returns, they will travel the world in search of a sacred relic of the gods—one that threatens to destroy them all.

Join me on a journey through this darkly sensual world, where the line between good and evil blurs and true love is put to the ultimate test.

Wishing you all the best,

Gena Showalter

Praise for the novels of
New York Times
and
USA TODAY
bestselling author
Gena Showalter

“A fascinating premise, a sexy hero and nonstop action,
The Darkest Night
is Showalter at her finest, and a fabulous start to an imaginative new series.”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Karen Marie Moning

“Showalter delivers another smart and sexy romance brimming with hilarious pickup lines, fiery banter and steamy sensuality. A wickedly well-matched hero and heroine mix with an entertaining, creative and tremendously fun premise.”

—
Romantic Times BOOKreviews,
4
1
/
2
stars, on
Catch a Mate

“Smart-alecky, wicked, and hilariously funny…sure to please the most jaded reader.”

—
Contemporary Romance Writers
on
Catch a Mate

“A world of myth, mayhem and love under the sea!”

—
New York Times
bestselling author J. R. Ward on
The Nymph King

“I want to visit Atlantis! Deliciously evocative and filled with sexy men,
The Nymph King
is every woman's fantasy come to sizzling life. A must read.”

—Award-winning author P.C. Cast

“Wow…Gena Showalter always takes us on a fantastic ride.”

—
USA TODAY
bestselling author Merline Lovelace on
Playing with Fire

“The versatile Showalter takes the nail-biting elements of her exciting paranormals…and blends them with the wit and humor of her contemporary romances…to make a delicious offering spiced with the best ingredients of both.”

—
Booklist,
starred review, on
Playing with Fire

“Charming and hilarious…I was hooked from page one.”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Mary Janice Davidson on
Playing with Fire

“Another sizzling page-turner from one of the premier authors of paranormal romance. Gena Showalter delivers an utterly spellbinding story!”

—
USA TODAY
bestselling author Kresley Cole on
Playing with Fire

“Showalter writes with a sparkling humor that keeps the story light without losing poignancy.”

—
Booklist
on
Animal Instincts

“Bold and witty, sexy and provocative, Gena Showalter's star is rising fast!”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Carly Phillips on
Animal Instincts

“Shines like the purest gem…. Rich in imagery and evocative detail, this book is a sterling example of what makes romance novels so worthwhile.”

—
A Romance Review,
5 stars, on
Jewel of Atlantis

“Lots of danger and sexy passion give lucky readers a spicy taste of adventure and romance.”

—
Romantic Times BOOKreviews
on
Heart of the Dragon

“This couple is dynamite and Tristan's intense sensuality will have you sweating. [
The Pleasure Slave
] is definitely going on my keeper shelf.”

—
The Romance Studio

“Sexy, funny and downright magical! Gena Showalter has a lyrical voice and the deft ability to bring characters to life in a manner that's hilarious and absorbing at the same time.”

—
New York Times
bestselling author Katie MacAlister on
The Stone Prince

Other sexy, steamy reads from
Gena Showalter
and HQN Books

Catch a Mate

The Nymph King

Playing with Fire

Animal Instincts

Jewel of Atlantis

Heart of the Dragon

The Pleasure Slave

The Stone Prince

And don't miss the rest of the captivating
Lords of the Underworld trilogy

The Darkest Night

The Darkest Pleasure

Gena Showalter
THE DARKEST KISS

To Karen Marie Moning. Thank you!
Your talent constantly amazes me,
and your generosity blesses me.

To Kresley Cole. You would let me
wear your skin if at all possible—and I won't
mention what you'd let me do to your eyeballs, though
I will thank you for it—and for that, I will
always be in your debt. Also, sorry I stole your
bike pump and blamed it on Slurpie!

To Marjorie Liu. Because you spank on
and there's nothing cooler!

To Jill Monroe. You are a sister of my heart—
hearter? sisart?—and even though you stole my
gnome, I can't imagine a life without you.
For realsies.

And to Tracy Farrell, Margo Lipschultz and all the
wonderful people at Harlequin Books who have
blessed me in countless ways. You're making all my dreams
come true! Art director Kathleen Oudit and
designer Juliana Kolesova—I owe you big-time!
The lips on this cover…Shiver! And you didn't
blink twice when I mentioned one brown eye and
one blue eye.

Thank you, Low Down members, for your
support! And thank you to Kerensa Wilson
and Elaine Spencer for all you do!
You are both amazing women.

PROLOGUE

H
E WAS KNOWN AS THE
Dark One. Malach ha-Maet. Yama. Azreal. Shadow Walker. Mairya. King of the Dead. He was all of those things and more, for he was a Lord of the Underworld.

Long ago he had opened
dimOuniak,
a powerful box made from the bones of a goddess, unleashing a horde of demons upon the earth. As punishment, he and the warriors who aided him were forced to house those demons inside themselves, melding light and darkness, order and chaos, until they were barely able to retain any tether on the disciplined warriors they'd once been.

Because he was the one to open the box, he had been given the demon of Death. A fair exchange, he supposed, for his action had nearly caused the demise of the world.

Now he was charged with the responsibility of collecting human souls and escorting them to their final resting place. Even if he opposed the idea. He did not like taking innocents from their families, found no joy in delivering the wicked to their damnation, but he did both without question or hesitation. Resistance, he'd soon learned, brought something far worse than death to his door. Resistance brought an agony so complete, so inexorable, even the gods trembled at the thought.

Did his obedience mean he was gentle? Caring? Nurturing? No. Oh, no. He could not afford softer emotion. Love, compassion and mercy were enemies to his plight.

Anger, though? Rage?
Those
he sometimes embraced.

Woe to anyone who pushed him too far, for man would become fully demon. A beast. A sinister entity who would not hesitate to curl his fingers around a human heart and squeeze. Squeeze so tightly that human would lose his breath and beg for the sweet kiss of eternal sleep only he could offer.

Oh, yes. Man had a very short leash on demon. And if you weren't careful, they would come for you….

CHAPTER ONE

A
NYA, GODDESS OF
A
NARCHY
,
daughter of Lawlessness, and dealer of disorder, stood on the edge of a crowded dance floor. All of the dancers were human females, beautiful and nearly naked, chosen specifically by the Lords of the Underworld to provide the night's entertainment. Both vertical and horizontal.

Wisps of smoke cast a dream-fog around them, and pinpricks of starlight rained from the swirling strobe, illuminating everything inside the darkened nightclub in slow, sweeping circles. From the corner of her eye, she caught a scintillating glimpse of a taut immortal ass pounding forward, back, forward, into an ecstatic female.

My kind of party,
she thought with a wicked grin. Not that she'd been invited.

Like anything could have stopped me from coming, though.

The Lords of the Underworld were delectable immortal warriors who were possessed by the demon spirits that had once resided inside Pandora's box. And now, with a few rounds of hard liquor and even harder sex, they were saying goodbye to Budapest, the city they'd called home for hundreds of years.

Anya wanted in on the action. With one warrior in particular.

“Part,” she whispered, fighting her intrinsic compulsion to shout “Fire” instead and watch as the humans raced away in a panic, screaming hysterically.
Let the good times roll.

An erratic pulse of rock music that matched the erratic beat of her heart blasted from the speakers, making it impossible for anyone to hear her. They obeyed, anyway, compelled on a level they probably didn't understand.

A path cleared, slowly…so slowly….

Finally the object of her fascination came into view. Heated breath caught in her lungs, and she shivered. Lucien. Deliciously scarred, irresistibly stoic and possessed by the spirit of Death. Right now he sat at a table in back, expression blank as he stared up at Reyes, his friend and fellow immortal.

What were they saying? If Lucien wanted the keeper of Pain to procure one of those mortal women for him, a false declaration of “fire” would be the least of their worries. Teeth grinding together, Anya tilted her head to the side, zoned in on them while discarding all surrounding noise, and listened.

“—she was right. I checked the satellite photos on Torin's computer. Those temples
are
rising from the sea.” Reyes knocked back the contents of the silver flask he held. “One is in Greece and one is in Rome, and if they continue to rise at such a swift rate, they'll be high enough to explore sometime tomorrow.”

“Why do humans not know about them?” Lucien scrubbed his jaw with two strong fingers, a habit of his. “Paris has watched the news stations and there has been nothing. Not even speculation.”

Silly boy,
she thought, relieved sex was not the night's topic.
You know about them only because I wanted you to know.
No one else would—or could—see them. She had made sure of that with a sweet little thing called chaos, her strongest source of power, hiding the temples with storms to keep humans away, while at the same time feeding the Lords enough information to draw them the hell out of Buda.

She wanted Lucien out of Buda and off his game. Just for a little while. A disconcerted man was easier to control.

Reyes sighed. “Perhaps the new gods are responsible. Most days I am sure they hate us and long to destroy us, simply for being half-demon.”

Lucien's expression remained blank. “Does not matter who is responsible. We will travel in the morning as planned. My hands itch to search one of those temples.”

Reyes tossed the now-empty flask onto the table. His fingers curled around the top of one of the chairs, his knuckles slowly bleaching of color. “If we're lucky, we'll find that damned box while we're there.”

Anya ran her tongue over her teeth. Damned box, aka
dimOuniak
, aka Pandora's box. Constructed from the bones of the goddess of Oppression, the box was powerful enough to contain demons so vile even hell had not been able to hold them. It was also powerful enough to suck those same demons out of the Lords, their once unwilling hosts. Now these wonderfully aggressive warriors were dependent on the beasts for their survival, and needless to say, they wanted the box for themselves.

Again, Lucien nodded. “Do not think about that now; there'll be time enough for that tomorrow. Go and enjoy the rest of your evening. Do not waste another moment in my boring presence.”

Boring? Ha! Anya had never met anyone who excited her more.

Reyes hesitated before ambling off, leaving Lucien alone. None of the human women approached him. Looked at him, yes. Cringed when they saw his scars, sure. But none of them wanted anything to do with him—and that saved their lives.

He's taken, biyatches.

“Notice me,” Anya commanded softly.

A moment passed. He didn't obey.

Several humans glanced in her direction, heeding her demand, but Lucien's gaze latched on to the empty flask in front of him and remained, becoming a wee bit wistful. Much to her consternation, immortals were immune to her commands. A
courtesy
of the gods.

“Bastards,” she muttered. Any restrictions they could place on her, they did. “Anything to screw with lowly Anarchy.”

Anya hadn't been favored during her days on Mount Olympus. The goddesses had never liked her because they assumed she was a replica of her “whore of a mother” and would jump their husbands. Likewise, the gods had never respected her, again because of her mother. The guys
had
wanted her, though. Well, until she'd killed their precious Captain of the Guard and they'd deemed her too feral.

Idiots. The captain had deserved what she'd done to him. Hell, he'd deserved worse. The little shit had tried to rape her. If he had left her alone, she would have left
him
alone. But
noooo.
She didn't regret cutting the black heart out of his chest, didn't regret placing said heart on a pike in front of Aphrodite's temple. Not even a tiny bit. Freedom of choice was precious, and anyone who tried to take hers away would feel the sting of her daggers.

Choice. The word rang inside her mind, bringing her back to the present. What the hell would it take to convince Lucien to choose her?

“Notice me, Lucien. Please.”

Once again, he ignored her.

She stomped her foot. For weeks she'd cloaked herself in invisibility, following Lucien, watching, studying. And yes, lusting. He'd had no idea she lurked nearby, even as she willed him to do all sorts of naughty things: strip, pleasure himself…smile. Okay, so the last wasn't naughty. But she'd wanted to see his beautifully flawed face light in humor just as much as she'd wanted to see his naked body glisten with arousal.

Had he granted even that benign request, though? No!

A part of her wished she'd never seen him, that she hadn't allowed Cronus, the new king of the gods, to intrigue her with stories about the Lords a few months ago.
Maybe
I'm
the idiot.

Cronus had just escaped Tartarus, a prison for immortals and a place she knew intimately. He'd imprisoned Zeus and his cohorts there, as well as Anya's parents. When Anya returned for them, Cronus had been waiting for her. He had demanded Anya's greatest treasure. She'd declined—duh—so he'd tried to scare her.

Give me what I want or I'll send the Lords of the Underworld after you. They are demon-possessed, as blood-hungry as starving animals, and they will not hesitate to peel the lovely flesh from your bones.
Blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

Far from frightening her, his words had caused excitement to bloom. She'd ended up seeking out the warriors on her own. She'd thought to defeat them and laugh in Cronus's face, a sort of look-what-I-did-to-your-big-scary-demons kind of thing.

One glance at Lucien, though, and she'd become instantly obsessed. She'd forgotten her reasons for being there and had even
aided
the supposedly malevolent warriors.

It was just that contradictions tantalized her, and Lucien had so very many. He was scarred but not broken, kind but unbending. He was a calm, by-the-book immortal, not blood-hungry as Cronus had claimed. He was possessed by an evil spirit, yet he never deviated from his own personal code of honor. He dealt with death every day, every night, yet he fought to live.

Fascinating.

As if that wasn't enough to prick her interest, his flowery fragrance filled her with decadent, wicked thoughts every time she neared him. Why? Any other man who smelled like roses would have made her laugh. With Lucien, her mouth watered for a taste of him and her skin prickled with white-hot awareness, desperate for his touch.

Even now, simply looking at him and imagining that scent wafting to her nose, she had to rub her arms to rid herself of goose bumps. But then she thought about
him
rubbing her, and the delicious shivers refused to go away.

Gods, he was sexy. He had the freakiest eyes she'd ever seen. One was blue, the other brown, and both swirled with the essence of man and demon. And his scars…All she could think of, dream about,
crave,
was licking them. They were beautiful, a testament to all the pain and suffering he'd survived.

“Hey, gorgeous. Dance with me,” one of the warriors suddenly said at her side.

Paris, she realized, recognizing the promise of sensuality in his voice. He must have finished screwing that human against the wall and was now looking for another bimbo to sate himself on. He'd just have to keep looking. “Go away.”

Unaffected by her lack of interest, he grabbed her waist. “You'll like it, I swear.”

She brushed him aside with a flick of her wrist. Possessed by Promiscuity, Paris was blessed with pale, almost glittery skin, electric-blue eyes, and a face the angels probably sang hallelujahs over, but he wasn't Lucien and he did nothing for her.

“Keep your hands to yourself,” she muttered, “before I cut them off.”

He laughed as if she were joking, unaware she'd do that and more. She might deal in petty disorder, but she never uttered a threat she didn't plan to see through. To do so smacked of weakness, and Anya had vowed long ago never to show a single hint of weakness.

Her enemies would love nothing more than to exploit it.

Thankfully, Paris didn't reach for her again. “For a kiss,” he said huskily, “I'll let you do anything you want to my hands.”

“In that case, I'll cut off your cock, too.” She didn't like having her ogling interrupted, especially since she rarely had time to indulge. Nowadays, she spent most of her waking hours dodging Cronus. “How's that?”

Paris's laughter intensified and managed to snag Lucien's attention. Lucien's gaze lifted, first landing on Paris, then locking on Anya. Her knees almost buckled. Oh, sweet heaven. Paris was forgotten as she fought to breathe. Did she imagine the fire that suddenly sparked in Lucien's mismatched eyes? Did she imagine the way his nostrils flared in awareness?

Now or never.
Licking her lips, never removing her gaze from him, she eased into a sensual bump and grind and made her way toward his table. Halfway, she stopped and motioned for him to join her with a crook of her finger. He stood in front of her a moment later, as if he'd been pulled by an invisible chain, unable to resist.

Up close, he was six-feet-six of muscle and danger. Pure temptation.

Her lips edged into a slow smile. “We meet at last, Flowers.”

Anya didn't give him time to respond. She ground her left hipbone against the hard juncture between his legs, turning erotically and presenting him with a view of her back. Her ice-blue corset was held together by nothing more than thin ribbons, and she knew her skirt hung so low on her waist that it failed to cover the bands of her thong. Oopsie.

Men, mortal or otherwise, usually melted when they caught a glimpse of something they shouldn't.

Lucien hissed in a breath.

Her smile widened. Ah, sweet progress.

Her unhurried movements were completely at odds with the fast-pounding rock, but she never ceased the slow gyrations of her body as she raised her hands over her head then leisurely ran them through the thick mass of her snow-white hair, down her arms, stroking her own skin but imagining his hands instead. Her nipples hardened.

“Why did you summon me, woman?” His voice was low, yet as disciplined as the warrior himself.

Listening to him speak was more arousing than being touched by another man, and her stomach clenched. “I wanted to dance with you,” she said over her shoulder. Bump, bump, slllooow grind. “Is that a crime?”

He didn't hesitate with his answer. “Yes.”

“Good. I've always enjoyed breaking the law.”

BOOK: The Darkest Kiss
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