washing his hands of the unpleasant duty.

Instead she was very much awake and wiggling beneath him in a way that had him painfully aroused and a breath from ripping off her too-thin nightgown and easing the sharp hunger that had slammed into him without warning.

What was wrong with him?

Debating that pertinent question, Uriel belatedly caught the odd scent of brimstone. Jerking his head to the side he watched as a tiny female demon in a white robe crossed the cell to regard him with a mysterious smile.

“I just knew the two of you would hit it off,” she murmured, her voice a low sing-song. “But you might want to brace yourselves. We’re about to be sucked into hell.”

His brows snapped together. “What the. .”

“Hell?” The woman smiled to reveal an impressive set of razor sharp teeth. “Yes, I just said that.”

“Who are you?” he growled, instinctively shifting so his body was shielding Kata. And how crazy was that? “Actually, let’s start off with what are you?”

“I’m Yannah. And as for what I am. . hmmm.” She tapped a finger to her chin. “Do you believe in fairy godmothers?”

“No,” he snapped.

She sighed. “A pity.”

Beneath him, Kata used the sudden distraction to scramble free from the weight of his body, her gaze pinned on the far wall of the cell.

“Yannah,” she breathed, “something’s happening.”

“The gateway is opening,” the tiny demon announced.

With a liquid motion Uriel was on his feet, yanking the large sword from the scabbard angled across his back.

He’d packed light when he’d left Victor’s lair. A pair of jeans, a black T-shirt, combat boots, and his weapons.

What else did a vampire need?

“Gateway?” he growled.

Yannah nodded. “To the underworld.”

Uriel glanced toward the swirling mist that was forming near the lead-lined wall.

“Christ. I told Victor this was a trap,” he muttered, whirling to point the tip of his sword in the center of Kata’s chest. “Close the gateway, witch, or I’ll carve out your heart.”

She didn’t so much as flinch, her eyes flashing with a proud fury.

“I’m a gypsy, not a witch, you dolt.”

Uriel ground his teeth, refusing to admit his fascination with the woman’s passionate courage. Dammit. The gates of hell were parting. Now wasn’t the time for distractions.

“You can call yourself the queen of England if you want, just close the damned gateway.”

“I didn’t open it.”

“Gateways to the underworld don’t just open on their own.” He pointed the sword toward the tiny Yannah. “You.”

“Not me.” Yannah wrinkled her nose. “Sergei.”

Uriel’s hand tightened on his sword, his gaze searching the small cell.

“The mage?”

“He cast a spell binding Kata to her twin,” the demon explained.

“And your point?” he prompted.

“Marika has been destroyed.”

“Good,” he said. “Someone should have chopped off the bitch’s head centuries ago.”

Kata slapped her hands on her hips. “Did you miss the part where I’m bound to my sister?”

He shrugged. “Can’t you. . unbind yourself?”


His gaze shifted toward Yannah who gave a sharp shake of her head.

“Don’t look at me.”

“Brilliant,” he growled, grabbing Kata’s upper arm and hauling her toward the broken door. A timely evac was obviously in order. “Let’s go.”

“Too late,” Yannah said, then with a small smile she simply disappeared.


Uriel yanked Kata off her feet, holding her against his chest as he darted through the door, but even as he entered the tunnel leading out of the prison he knew Yannah had been right.

It was too late.

There was an unnerving sensation of electricity dancing over his skin and then the world abruptly melted around him.

Yep, there was no other way to describe it.

From one step to another the hard rock beneath his feet disappeared, along with the dirt walls of the tunnel, sending him tumbling through a choking darkness.

Uriel swore, wrapping his arms protectively around Kata as he twisted to fall backward. He didn’t know where they were going to land, but he was fairly certain it was going to hurt.

Two seconds later his worst fears were confirmed.

Not only did they hit the ground with enough force to crack several bones, but the rocks that were scattered across the stone floor were sharp enough to slice through his flesh.

Momentarily stunned, Uriel couldn’t stop Kata from scrambling out of his arms. She had a small smear of blood on her cheek, but otherwise she appeared unhurt. Thanks to him. Not that he was expecting a profusion of gratitude. Christ, she didn’t even make a token show of concern at the sight of his broken and bleeding body, instead she was rising to her feet and studying their surroundings with a barely restrained terror.

He understood her terror.

Hell lived up to its nasty reputation.

Tentatively rising to his feet, Uriel clutched his sword as his gaze scanned the vast cavern that took “bleak” to a whole new level.

Pools of red-hot lava flowed between the black, jagged rocks, the glow shimmering off the towering stalactites and stalagmites giving them the image of the teeth of some gruesome monster.

Worse, the superior senses he depended on were muted by the strange atmosphere.

He couldn’t smell a damned thing beyond the acrid stench of brimstone, his sight was limited to the cavern spread before him, and he couldn’t detect if they were alone or if there were a thousand demonic souls preparing to attack.

He had spent the last four hundred years being the predator, not the prey.

He didn’t like feeling vulnerable.

In fact, it made him downright pissy.

Just like Kata’s supreme indifference to him made him pissy.

What was wrong with the female?

He was the one forced to come rushing to her rescue despite her intimate past with a Jinn. And yet she was treating him as if he were an unwelcomed intruder, while he. .

He what?

Uriel grimaced.

Why deny it? He was plagued with a brutal urge to protect the luscious gypsy. An urge that was nearly as powerful as his unwanted desire. Such instincts were dangerous in a vampire. It indicated a bond with the female he wasn’t prepared to accept.

He wanted to believe it was a spell. Or maybe an insidious Jinn trick.

A pity it felt so painfully real.

Frustration spilled through him. Wasn’t it bad enough he’d waltzed right into a trap that had sucked him straight into hell? Now he had to be obsessed with the woman entirely responsible for his current troubles?

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