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The Darkest Pleasure

Lords of the Underworld 4

Gena Showalter

Dear Reader,

I'm thrilled to present The Darkest Pleasure, the third installment of my brand-new paranormal trilogy, Lords of the Underworld, which began with The Darkest Night and continued 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. And stay tuned for further adventures from the Lords of the Underworld as the stakes get higher, the quest more dangerous and the romance hotter!

Wishing you all the best,

Gena Showalter

This first Lords of the Underworld trilogy could not have been possible without the following amazing, wonderful, kick-ass people (whom I adore):

Donna Hayes

Loriana Sacilotto

Dianne Moggy

Randall Toye

Tracy Farrell

Margo Lipschultz

Keyren Gerlach

Kathleen Oudit

Juliana Kolesova

Diana Wong

Stacy Widdrington

Marianna Ricciuto

Pat Muir-Rand

Melissa Caraway

Kristin Foti

Kim Elliott

Vicki So

Josh Hilburt

Nancy Fischer

Sally Noonan

Brian McGroarty

The Harlequin Sales Group

Deidre Knight

Patricia Rouse

Susan Grimshaw

Kathy Baker

Max Showalter

Matt Showalter

Roy Showalter

Destinee Showalter

Sheila Fields

Jill Monroe

To Kemmie Tolbert, an amazing woman who loves books as much as I do

CHAPTER ONE

REYES STOOD on the roof of his Budapest fortress, five stories up, his feet balanced precariously on the highest ledge. Above him, moonlight seeped red and yellow from the sky, blood mixed with fickle gold, dark mixed with light, wounds freshly cut in the endless expanse of black velvet.

He gazed down at the gloomy, waiting void beneath him, the taunting ground opening its arms as if begging to embrace him. Thousands of years, and I'm still reduced to this.

Frigid wind blustered, ruffling his hair in every direction, tickling his bare chest, the hated butterfly etched up onto his neck and the remembered lifeblood splattered there. Not his blood, though. No, not his, but his friend's. Every stroke of hair against that phantom evidence of life and death was like kindling thrown into the fire of his blazing guilt.

So many times he'd come here, wishing for things that could never be. So many times he'd prayed for absolution, relief from his daily torment and the demon inside him responsible…relief from his utter dependence on self-mutilation.

His prayers had never been answered. Would never be answered. This was what he was, what he would always be. And his agony would only increase. Once an immortal warrior to the gods, he was now a Lord of the Underworld, possessed by one of the many spirits formerly locked inside dimOuniak. From favor to dishonor, beloved to despised. From happiness to constant misery.

He ground his teeth. Mortals knew dimOuniak as Pandora's box; he knew it as the source of his eternal downfall. He and his friends had defiantly opened it all those centuries ago; now he and his friends were the box, each holding a demon inside himself.

Jump, his demon beseeched.

His demon: Pain. His constant companion. The tempting whisper in the back of his mind, the dark entity that craved unspeakable evil. The supernatural force he battled every damned minute of every damned day.

Jump.

'Not yet.' A few more seconds of anticipation, of knowing most of his bones would shatter on contact. He grinned at the thought. The razor-sharp bone shards would cut his injured, swollen organs and those organs would burst like water balloons; his skin would rip from the excess fluid and this time the lifeblood that drained would be his own. Agony, such blissful agony, would consume him.

For a little while, anyway.

Slowly his smile faded. Within days—hours, if he failed to hurt himself badly enough—his body would heal itself, totally and completely. He would wake up, whole again, Pain once more a commanding force inside his mind, too loud to be denied. But oh, for those few blessed ticks of the clock before his bones began to realign, before his organs began to weave back together and his skin to reconnect, before blood once more pumped through his veins, he would experience nirvana. The ultimate paradise. Rapture of the sweetest kind. He would writhe in the exquisite pleasure the pain brought with it—his only source of pleasure. The demon would purr with utter contentment, so drunk on the sensation it was unable to speak, and Reyes would experience such blissful peace.

For a little while. Always, only, a little while.

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