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The Darkest Seduction

(Book 11 in the Lords of the Underworld series)

A novel by Gena Showalter

Dear Reader,

At long last, I’m pleased to bring you the story of Paris, keeper of the demon of Promiscuity. Yes, I finally feel as though I’ve tortured him enough. After all, since the Lords of the Underworld were first introduced, Paris has

1) Lost the only woman he was able to bed more than once

2) Given up his chance to find her by choosing to save one of his friends instead

3) Formed an addiction to an illicit substance

4) Choked out any light of goodness inside himself

5) Turned into a war/fighting machine

His road to happily ever after has been paved with blood, sweat and tears. Mostly mine. Fine. Mostly his. Whatever. Semantics. Anyway, I knew he deserved something, and someone, special. In fact, I had an idea for him and sat down to write it. Four tries later—with three hundred pages in the trash—he showed me exactly what he wanted. Okay, fine (again). I finally gave in and did things his way. And you know what? He got the “special” I wanted for him.

The characters had so much more depth than I expected, and as they interacted the puzzle pieces began to fall into place—I saw why he wanted what he wanted, and for the first time in a very long time I heard Paris laugh. (I heard this in my head, of course, but laughter is laughter.) He’d found his “mine,” and she was and is exactly what he’s needed all along.

Will I ever stand in my characters’ way again? Well, yeah. (Hey, at least I’m honest.) But this one time, giving in proved to be the best thing I could have done.

I hope you are as satisfied with Paris’s story as he is.

All my best!

Gena Showalter

Throughout the years I’ve learned that family matters. I’ve been blessed with one of the most amazing families EVER. They love me, support me, and they are always there when I need them. The bond you see between the Lords, as well as the bond between the Harpy sisters? That’s what I have with my family, and I am beyond grateful. So this one is to my husband and children, my mom and dad, sisters and brothers, in-laws (who are so much more than that), nieces and nephews and crazy aunts and uncles. I love and adore you all!

Acknowledgments

From family to friends, I am blessed. To Jill Monroe, Kresley Cole and P.C. Cast. I love you, ladies!

I speak, and the humans tremble in fear. I speak, and my people rush to obey—and yet still they seek to destroy me. My salvation rides the wings of midnight, and my burden she carries. My rage she unleashes, delivering damnation to all with a single swing of her sword. I speak.

—A passage found in the private journals of Cronus, king of the Titans

Speak all the hell you want. I’m taking what’s mine.

—Paris, Lord of the Underworld

PROLOGUE

“HIS RAGE…”

“I know.”

High in the heavens, Zacharel watched the world below him. Watched as the once genial Paris murdered yet another of his enemy, the Hunters. How many victims that made in the past hour alone, the angel could not say. He’d long since lost count. And even if he paused to do the tally, the answer would have changed a second later as yet another body fell to the slick, blood-coated blades the warrior wielded.

Of course, the panting, sweat-soaked Paris spun to engage two others, his motions fluid, lethally graceful…as unstoppable as an avalanche. At first, he played. A punch, cracking bone. A kick, smashing lungs. Laughing, spouting the worst of curses. Soon none of that was enough for the demon-possessed soldier, and he danced his blades over the tendons in their ankles, hobbling his prey for easier elimination.

Paris had made himself Bait to purposely draw these Hunters to him. They’d come eagerly, happily, intending to steal the vile demon tethered inside him and finally end him. So Zacharel could not fault the warrior for what he did to defend himself, even as several new bodies joined the already mountainous pile enveloped by a sea of crimson and black. And yet, he could not commend the warrior, either.

These were not mercy slayings or even carried out in the name of a cold and calculated vengeance birthed in the bowels of an equally cold rage. No, these were a spew of fire, hate and desperation hotter than anything hell had ever created.

“He is like a poisoned apple,” Zacharel said to the angel beside him. And because Paris was bonded to the demon of Promiscuity, his pruning belonged not to the humans he lived amongst but to the Deity’s angels, who policed different realms of evil. “Poison of this nature spreads slowly but corrupts absolutely.”

Beads of ice fell around Zacharel, as they always fell around him these days, his breath misting in front of his face. Every crystal was to be a reminder of his own crimes, so recently brought to his attention. But unlike Paris, he did not wear misery like a winter coat, hugging it close to his body, relying on it, feeding it, helping it grow. Zacharel cared for nothing, not anymore.

In his quest to destroy the demons that had ruined his life, he had slain “innocent” humans, and this was to be his punishment—to carry his Deity’s displeasure with him always.

“As succulent as others consider this particular apple,” Lysander proclaimed, “they will be willing to taste anything he offers.”

Zacharel moved his gaze to the man who had taught him how to survive on the battlefield. The elite warrior was a muscled tower of unwavering strength. He wore a long white robe, his majestic wings like rivers of molten gold. Zacharel’s ice raged around him, too, though not a single flake dared land on the man. Perhaps, like myriad other creatures, the crystals feared him—and rightly so. In their world, he was judge and jury, his word law.

“Do we remove temptation?” Zacharel asked. For centuries he had acted as Lysander’s executioner.

“I will not order his assassination, no,” Lysander said, resolute. “At the moment, Paris is redeemable.”

Unexpected. Even with the great distance between the heavens and the earth, Zacharel could hear the grunts and groans Paris elicited, the screams of his enemies. The pleas for mercy that would echo into eternity, forever unheeded. And as determined as this Lord of the Underworld was, this was only the beginning.

“What will you have me do, then?”

“Paris searches for his woman, intending to free her from the Titan king’s enslavement. You will aid him, protect him and protect the girl. The moment her ties to Cronus are cut, however, you will bring her here, where she will live out the rest of eternity.”

Even more unexpected. The command smacked of leniency, something Lysander had shown to only one other demon-possessed immortal in all the millennia of his life: Amun, Paris’s friend. And only because Bianka, Lysander’s

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