Home > Realm of Demons (Desert Cursed #9)

Realm of Demons (Desert Cursed #9)
Author: Shannon Mayer









Two demons stood staring at the one they hoped would help them get to Asag. She stood on the beach, an array of shifters spread out in front of her with a herd of unicorns milling about.

Exactly as planned.

“That complicates things,” Soleil sighed. “Why would she put her family in danger if she loved them? Asag’s demons will not spare them.”

Nico barely gave her a glance, though she was easily the most beautiful demon in all the realms, whether on this side of the Veil or the other. He tried not to think about her in that way. Not anymore. “Maybe she didn’t call them. She is rather independent.”

That many unicorns, though . . . that would make things easier.

“They will suffer even more if she dies in front of them.” Soleil looked away from the reunion. Nico tried to ignore the pain that vibrated off her. He knew pain well; it was one of his one gifts, and he used it well to his advantage. Soleil let out a slow breath, her wingtips nearly brushing his with the subtle movement. “There is not much more we can do to help.”

“True.” He scratched at one of his horns. “True. We have given her and that mate of hers all the chances we could when it comes to life and death.” He knew what she was asking. One more time. Could they help her one more time? The rules were clear: they could not, and they both knew it. They could not bring her back from the brink of death if she fell to the darkness once more.

Even though she was so very close to reaching Asag, closer than anyone else had ever come.

“As long as we don’t stop her from being killed . . . I do believe that was what was written.”

He smiled and snapped the claw-tipped fingers on one hand. A scroll materialized in front of them both. The contract made between Asag and the demon realms. The silvery material unfurled, smoke rolling from where the words appeared across it.

He frowned as he saw the one name he hated more than any other appear.

Soleil’s son had done more damage than Nico had ever thought possible. All because of a perceived slight against his mother. Nico snorted to himself.

His eyes drifted down to the last section. “There.” He pointed at the paragraph. “Three times may the life of any challenger or their teammates be saved by another demon for any reason they see fit, whether to harm or help Asag.”

Soleil frowned. “We have done that; we have helped them three times. So we are—”

“We are not saving her life if we give her a direction,” Nico said.

His former wife looked at him, delicate brows furrowing. “The others, they would stop us.”

“Not if we were in another’s form.” He was warming to the idea. “A body near death would be easy for us to take for a short time. None of the other demons would recognize us then.”

Soleil’s wings brushed across his back as she joined him at the lookout. He stifled a shiver of desire that nearly derailed his mind. He’d thrown away his kingdom once for her; he would not be so foolish as to do it again.

“Your plan . . . she would not trust us. They know what we are now. We must reach him, Nico. Or our world is lost. The realm is falling apart because of this breach between the two. It must be healed.”

Yes, pain, the pain of a mother was exquisite, there was nothing quite like it. He closed his eyes to keep from feeding off her pain as he once would have. She was working with him now, he did not need to piss her off. He cleared his throat and waved a hand at the shifters and their unicorns. “As I said, we need bodies, or at the very least one body. Who would make a deal with a demon? Not one of them. They are all too . . .”

“Aware.” Soleil nodded. “The girl and her mate, they know about us. I have a feeling that he . . . spoke with a hunter.”

Nico tapped his claws on the rock, scratching out little gouges. “Roshawn?”

“Likely. The boy carries his blood. It would make the most sense. Roshawn was there, when Asag was bound. He might try to take the boy’s body as his own.”

“To think that we saved one of Roshawn’s is galling, to say the least.” Nico couldn’t help the bitterness in his voice. “But that does not mean he will stay alive forever.”

Soleil laid a hand on his shoulder, her warmth sinking through him. Just as he’d refused to swallow the pain, he would not allow himself to be comforted by her. That was not what they were any longer. This bargain they’d struck was for one reason only.

To save the demon realm.

“We need them to blaze the path to Asag. He has been chained for far too long. We need to take him home.”

She didn’t take her hand from his shoulder.

Nico stared past the reunion on the beach. “Asag . . . has done much damage. I wish that we could just . . .”

“Kill him,” Soleil said softly, at last removing her hand. Did she finally understand he could never turn to her like that again? Did she even realize she’d spoken those words out loud? Surely she did not still hate Asag?

“We cannot,” he growled and lifted himself so he perched on the rock ledge as the monster he was, “or the demon realm would be destroyed. We must continue to find our way to my son. We can do this, Soleil. This is our best and perhaps only chance. Never before has anyone not only breached the challenges, but actually brought with them what was needed to break Asag’s chains.”

Chains that both held him captive here, and yet also kept him from returning to the demon realm.

Her swallow was audible. “And if Lilith is involved? What then? Your daughter would destroy—”

“She will die.” Nico’s face hardened as he lied through his teeth. “She will die, and I will cast her into the demon realm to do the killing myself.”

His former wife didn’t look away from him. They had for years lied to one another, did she suspect that his end game was different than hers?

No, she was too trusting, even now.

“Then we must find a body that we can convince to take at least one of us,” Soleil said. “And fast. One that Zamira and her mate will trust, if such a thing is available.”

Her wings spread and she let herself tumble off the rocks. Not that they truly stood there in the flesh; no, they existed in the in-between. In between the world and the demon realm. In between the world and the dreamscape. No one could see or hear them. Slipping through a crack that opened as the demon realm shattered from within, they had managed to find their way to this place of limbo.

They had not been called to this world and so they could not truly affect it. Not yet.

Nico watched her fly for a moment, letting himself remember what it was to be with her, to own her body, to see her smile turn his way, to feel her touch and to know that she’d chosen him above any other demon.

Those times were done, though. He knew that she wished to heal the demon realm, and she believed that he was going to help her.

But that was not what he was here for.

Shaking what remained of his feelings off, he spread his monstrous red leathery wings and fell from the rocks. They flew side by side toward the beach, their wingtips brushing over the people there, not even fluttering their hair.

Zamira was the only one who noticed them. Frowning, she turned toward them for the split second that they passed her by.

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