The wait is finally over!! I won’t bore you with my introduction other than to say, WOOH this is a SPICY one!
And excerpt from Chapter 3 of Kingdom of the Feared
I took the silent moments to inspect House Greed, interested in seeing how the sins shaped each demon court. Four grand, curving staircases converged in the center of the room, spilling patrons in from each corner they’d arrived from, though the circular chamber below was merely a place for members of the House to await gondolas.
Merlot-colored water snaked off in different directions, the signs above each canal indicating a different gaming hall patrons could choose for their entertainment. From where we stood, the water combined with the staircases resembled a beating heart and its chambers. I’d never been to Venice, but something about the flat-bottomed boats and canals reminded me of that famed city.
Except everything here was contained within the enormous castle. And was fitted to the extreme with riches. The gaming hell I’d visited in Palermo was nothing compared with the splendor of this House of Sin. In the mortal realm, Greed’s den was a secret, underground establishment that changed locations on a whim, worthy of being deemed a “hell.” There, it was easy to imagine innocents like Domenico’s father getting fleeced by card sharks and being completely taken over by the demon’s greedy influence.
Here, it was an entirely different story. The gleaming fixtures and elegant mosaic tiles were as carefully curated as the patrons’ neutral expressions. No one appeared to be in danger of losing their innocence; these were all various kinds of predators circling one another, each more dangerous than the last. Women and men both wore their finest clothes, the silks and brocades and stitches and embroidery all speaking to their wealth. And if their clothing didn’t inspire greed, their sparkling jewels did. Half of their adornments could fetch enough coin to feed a village for a year.
I was surprised that some didn’t simply wear gemstones—they’d had them fused to their skin. Diamonds and pearls and all manner of gems glinted from lips and noses and brows.
A few women even had gemstones tastefully placed on the side of their hands and forearms in place of gloves, while some more daring demons opted to wear only long, flowing skirts that had slits traveling high up each thigh, their bare breasts also sparkling with jewels.
Not to be outdone, men strode down the stairs toward the lines of gamblers waiting for their gondolas wearing nothing but jewels on their well-endowed members and smirks on their lips. Apparently there was a fine line between inspiring greed, lust, and envy. As I’d been learning held true for most demon circles. Sin and vice overlapped often, though the way they were expressed in each circle was slightly different.
Before I could ask Wrath about the body adornments, two lesser demons entered the balcony and beckoned for us to follow them. One had the pale green skin and eyes of a reptile, and the other was covered in short fur and had the liquid ebony eyes of a deer.
Large antlers curved back from the second one’s head, and I swallowed hard, remembering the first time I’d encountered these two particular guards. Except for a chance encounter with Domenico Nucci Senior, I’d been alone the night I’d found Greed in the private office of his traveling gaming hell, these demons standing watch.
They were my introduction to lesser demons. Though after my encounter with the witch-blood-craving Aper demon, they were by far the most civil.
Wrath nodded to them, then motioned for me to walk ahead. We traveled down a secret, winding staircase that deposited us in a private tunnel where a gondola waited at a quiet dock. Torches cast shadows along the stone walls, dark enough to hide a spy.
The reptile demon jerked his chin at the gondola. “This boat is spelled to take you directly to his highness. Do not attempt to get off until it docks.”
With that word of warning, the two guards inclined their heads slightly, then disappeared back up the stairs. A slight crease formed between Wrath’s brows as he took in our conveyance. It looked the same as the other boats, if perhaps a bit more gilded.
“What is it?” I asked, my own focus drifting back to the unsettling shadows before returning to my prince.
Wrath stared at the canal and the boat a beat longer. “Greed’s power propels the boats, and the demon-fueled water boosts— or more accurately, reflects— his sin. It’s a system that helps expend as little energy as possible on his end, while still using his magic.”
“So it will be like traveling in the Sin Corridor, but only focused on greed?”
“Yes.” Wrath held my gaze. “You will need to lock all your emotions down. My training lessons were powerful, but this will be even more so because of the demon water. It will sense your hidden desires and target them just as they were targeted in the Sin Corridor.”
The seemingly innocent boat and merlot-stained demon waterway suddenly felt ominous. “I wish I knew this was a potential issue sooner. Perhaps I could have taken a tonic.”
“I didn’t think my brother would wish to meet in the heart of his club. Greed has a building he uses for meetings outside the castle proper.” He held out his hand, helping me into the gondola before following me onto it. “You can fight this, Emilia. You’re strong enough and have trained hard. Remember what to feel for— that slight lick of magic, then shut it down.”
My foot touched the bottom of the boat the second he said “lick,” and the timing couldn’t be more unfortunate. Desire raked its claws over my skin before I shook the magic away. Wrath hadn’t exaggerated; the demon waterway certainly enhanced this circle’s magic. I greedily wanted Wrath’s touch— had craved it all night— and the circle knew it.
I quickly sat on the bench opposite Wrath, arranging my clothing to give my hands something to do. I’d chosen a gown with blush-colored tulle skirts and a black velvet bodice that had little gold and pink flowers sewn onto the straps and carefully placed around the sweetheart neckline. It was modest by demon fashion standards, but it was soft and pretty and I liked the way it made me feel. Perhaps a little too much. And so did my prince.
Wrath’s attention moved over the corset as the boat pushed itself off the dock and began gliding over the otherwise quiet water. Maybe it was the magic of the realm, or our betrothal bond, or the excess greed pumping through the lone canal, but that slight spark of desire suddenly blazed again the longer my prince admired me. All I could think of was how much I wanted to be in Wrath’s bedchamber.
I clenched my knees together, tried counting the waves our gondola made, but that worked against me. Thinking of waves lapping made me think of Wrath’s skilled tongue and all the things he’d done to me with it. I squeezed my eyes shut, but that only brought on memories of Wrath between my thighs, a king indulging in a royal feast.
Blood and bones. I needed release.
“Emilia.” Wrath’s voice held a note of warning, but it did nothing to soothe me or bring my desire under control. If anything, it made me crave him all the more. “Breathe.”
I exhaled slowly, thinking of the reason we were invited here. Murder. For the love of the goddess. That ought to be enough to dampen the fires of passion, but one look at Wrath’s strained face indicated he was struggling, too. Fantastic. My lack of control was bleeding over to him. If he unleashed himself now, we’d both be in trouble.