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Can you stand it? The wait? Okay, so maybe you’re not as excited as I am. The last Dark Realm book, my last book for Avon. And I threw out all the stops. Which means, if you want a really wild, no-holds-barred erotic novel, this is the one. I promise. And it won’t be like anything you’ve ever read, because I swear only my deepest, darkest fantasies were written into this one story. Don’t worry about payday. You don’t want Starbucks today. Go order the book!
The sand beyond the fortress undulated like a lover’s curving back, dunes lifting and falling, swept side to side by the sighing wind.
Marduk searched the ground beneath him, frantically seeking some sign of her passing, but the wind had obliterated her tracks.
Not until he saw the lillum circling like vultures, did he release a deep relieved sigh.
He flattened his wings, diving toward the ground beneath them, then pulled back to settle on the sound beside Gabriella.
Three female lillum landed opposite to Gabriella’s writhing body, folding back their black wings. Aya, the leader of their small flock, stepped forward, her toe touching Gabriella’s buttocks. “Is she precious to you, Master?”
As always, he was careful to hide his interest. If I treated her well, do you think she’d flee to the desert to escape me? he said, sending the message with his mind.
Her face, as shiny and dark as obsidian, was split by a smile. Long black fangs slid from beneath her upper and lower lips to interlock. “Can we taste?”
She’s weakened. Why not wait until later in Irkalla’s chambers?
“Our queen will likely drain her beyond use for us. It’s been so long since any of us tasted of the living.”
Aya, take your drink, but only a sip. She must appear tonight, and I have to make her presentable.
As the lillum surrounded her, bending their slender, dark forms over Gabriella, Marduk suppressed his revulsion. Lilith’s children were among the oldest demon hybrids in this realm. Their appetites and minds were primitive and rapacious.
Aya rolled Gabriella to her back. Gabriella’s eyes remained open, but unfocused, no doubt still in the thrall of her escalating nightmare. He’d warned her what would happen. Yet, if he touched her now, wakened her from her dream, she’d have another nightmare to add to the one currently gripping her mind.
So he left her in that other world while the three demons bent over her neck and both wrists, their black incisors sinking deeply as they supped. Wings stiffened as their voices joined in an eerie chorus that seemed to intertwine and become one, in a high ululating tone that pierced his ears.
Enough, he said softly.
Their disappointed sighs sounded deceptively soft and girlish, but their heads rose, blood drenching their lips. Then they spiraled straight into the air, laughing as they darted toward the fortress.
Marduk studied Gabriella, noting the quivering breaths, her widened eyes. When he pulled her from Hell, she’d have little relief once she caught sight of him. Still, this was all part of the lesson she must learn. She might have continued to think him as just another man—easily led by his desires.
Now, she’d think twice about defying him again. He reached out and touched one taloned claw against her hip.
Gabriella sucked in a deep breath, her eyes blinking as she returned. Her face turned toward him. Then her mouth opened around long, shrill scream.
She rolled from under his talon, then froze.
He knew she was sunk again in the dark time. He touched her again. Only when you are with me, when I touch you, are you free of Hell.
She remained rigid beneath him, her face turning to peer at him over her shoulder. “Marduk?”
I will take you back.
Her eyes filled slowly, and fat tears rolled down her cheeks. “I can’t stay here. With you. I want to go home.”
You accepted my invitation.
“You compelled me to touch that glass.”
If you hadn’t been ready to leave, ready to be seduced, you would never have succumbed to my lure. Come, you are tired and thirsty. Let me care for you.
She broke with his gaze and stared ahead of her. “I’m afraid of this place. Of the terrors it holds. I don’t know how to go about making a life for myself.”
So long as you obey me, you have nothing to fear. I will protect you. Provide for you.
“I’m afraid of needing you,” she said in a soft, broken voice.
Heady satisfaction filled him. If she feared it, then she was tempted to surrender. Climb onto my back, darling, but never let your touch leave my skin.
She scraped at her tears, leaving streaks of dirt staining her cheeks. Her lips curved downward, but her hand lifted to the top of his leathery claw while he pulled it up to help her rise. She came shakily to her feet, her eyes wide as her gaze swept his dragon form. “I saw your aura before, when I looked into the mirror. I knew what you must be in truth, but…you’re more beautiful than I could have imagined.”
Marduk’s mouth opened, stretching back. He was pleased she wasn’t frightened of him in this form. That she found him “beautiful.” Climb onto me. We must head back and prepare for Irkalla’s feast. Another day I will fly with you here if you like.
Her head lowered, not responding to his suggestion, but she smoothed her hands over his shoulders and stepped on the edge of his wing, which he held rigid until she was seated on his shoulders between the wings.
Then he lifted his wings and flapped downward, ignoring her gasp and the way her hands found purchase on the ridged scales at the back of his neck. He lifted into the air, soaring, and turning slowly back toward the fortress.
He felt her lean forward, scanning the ground they flew past and heard more gasps.
Beneath them lay bleached bones of creatures large and small, half-buried in the sand that hid then revealed them as the wind surged. The desert was a graveyard for demons, and she might have remained among them if he hadn’t found her in time.
As the setting sun burned brightly at the horizon, they rushed toward the fortress walls. He tilted his wings, aligning his body with the narrow street outside his tower door and set down.
She climbed down without encouragement. When she turned back, he was once again in his human form. As naked as she was. Her glance slid over his body, snagging on his growing erection.
Her body reacted to the sight, her posture easing into a feminine stance, with thighs clamped closed and breasts lifted.
Her nipples tightened, peaking instantly.
He hid a smile and held out his hand.
She slipped hers inside his and turned toward the door. But she stumbled and stared straight ahead at the people who’d climbed down from their stoops to catch a glimpse of the dragon and his woman.
Her gaze clung to two men in particular, who seemed equally frozen until one of them grabbed the arm of the taller individual and pushed him toward an alleyway.
Marduk wondered at Gabriella’s fascination, but she shook herself, turned to give him a tight smile, and entered his tower without saying a word.