The Beginning of the Principatus series is AVAILABLE NOW!

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Stepping deeper into the nightclub, he relaxed his hold on his demon a little, the release amplifying his preternatural instincts tenfold. Death’s distinct scent slipped through his nose, past his lips and over his tongue like cool, sweet mist. It pulled at his very core and, with a sudden surge of dark excitement, he saw her sitting in a shadowy booth to the rear of the arena floor, a half-empty margarita glass in her right hand. She watched the couple’s performance, a nonchalant expression on her perfectly beautiful face. Her pale skin appeared almost luminescent in the booth’s muted light.

He destroyed the distance between them in half a blurring second, dropping onto the padded bench directly opposite her without word or warning.

“Hello, Steven.” She took a sip from her cocktail, her attention never wavering from the couple all but copulating on stage.

Ven glared at her, struggling to keep his demon—now both excited and agitated—in check. “Stay away from my brother.”

Death took another drink, her ice-blue stare riveted on the strippers. “Your brother is not what you think he is.”

He snorted. “You don’t think I know that?”

She raised one dark, exquisitely shaped eyebrow and gave a soft, unconvinced sound, her gaze following the movement of the strippers with attentive focus.

Ven couldn’t suppress his growl. “I know I’m only young for a vamp, and you’re what…older than God? But stay the fuck away from my kid brother. If you touch him again I’ll—”

“This is a very good show,” she cut him off, lifting her glass toward the writhing pair before her. “I like the use of the serpent. Nice symbolism, if a touch clichéd. Not sure I appreciate the comment about my age, mind you. It’s not nice to insult a lady like that.”

Hot anger tore through Ven. “Jesus, Woman! I’m threatening you with a considerable amount of pain here and you give me a live porn critique and lessons in etiquette?”

“Well, it’s a very good show. It makes me horny.” Eyes the color of an ancient glacier turned to him. “And I know it makes you horny too.”

Another wave of anger crashed through him, all the more scalding for the disgust her statement brought. She was correct; the strip show did make him horny. But that wasn’t why he was there.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded, suppressing the urge to squirm in his seat. Fuck, how did she make him feel like a bloody hormone-crazy teenager? “Don’t you have souls to take?”

Death turned back to the stage show and took another sip of her margarita. “I rarely get to take in live theater these days, and I had time to kill while waiting for you. What better way to pass the hours than to check out one of your favorite haunts.” She chuckled, the sound low and throaty and having an immediate effect on his dick. “Haunts. That term has so much more relevance when associated with someone as dead as you.”

“I’m not dead,” he growled through clenched teeth, his body still recovering from her far-too-sensual laugh. “I’m undead. There’s a difference.” He grabbed a bottle of beer from the tray of a passing waitress and took a mouthful before giving Death a narrow-eyed glare. “And how the fuck do you know where I like to ‘haunt’?”

She raised an eyebrow, a grin playing at the corners of her mouth. “Still insisting you can imbibe human food?”

Ven took another mouthful. “It’s beer, not food.”

“From what I understand, to you Australian men, it’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

“Great. Insult my gender and nationality.” He drained the bottle, placing it on the table between them with a little more force than he’d planned. She was getting to him. A lot. “So tell me, while you’re camped out here checking out the skin show, the world goes without death? No one dies while you’re getting your thrills?”

She laughed, that throaty chuckle again sending a jolt of wet heat straight into his balls. “God, no.” She favored him with an easy grin. “About one-hundred and fifty-three thousand, four-hundred and six people die every day, give or take a few. That’s roughly a little over one hundred a minute. I have a whole staff of underlings to take care of the simple stuff.”

Unable to stop himself, Ven frowned. “So what do you do, Death? I distinctly remember you strutting about over my body as I died. What? Today a religious holiday?”

“I do not strut, thank you very much, and please, call me Fred.” She finished off her margarita and gently placed the empty glass on the table, fixing Ven with a very pointed look. “I tend to the more complicated claimings. If someone is meant to die and something or someone is interfering with that, I step in. Example—the kiddy-rapist your brother saved at the beach was fated to die by the Order of Actuality. If I hadn’t intervened Patrick would have resurrected him and the Order would have weakened.” She leant back in her seat, stretching her arms along the edge of bench. Ven studied her, unable to miss the upward thrust of her breasts the casual position caused. They were a perfect size, her breasts. Not too big, not too small. Just the perfect handful. He swallowed, feeling an invisible pull on his gut he hadn’t experienced since becoming a vampire. Plain, simple, old-fashioned desire.

“Trust me,” she suddenly said, making him jump. He snapped his gaze to her face, relieved to discover she was watching the fornicating dancers on the stage once again. “Where Peabody is now, is a much more deserving place for a pedophile.”

She studied the performance in silence for a moment, allowing Ven to take in the exquisite beauty of her profile. Smooth, rounded forehead, turned-up nose, full, bee-stung lips, long, swan-like neck of the creamiest alabaster. His mouth filled with hot saliva and his cock grew thick in his jeans, pressing against the snug, restricting denim. He bit back a groan. Damn it, what the bloody hell was he thinking?

What was he doing being turned on by the Grim bloody Reaper?

He glared at her, wanting to get away from her as soon as possible, wanting to yank her against his body and fuck her senseless just as quickly.

You are in trouble, Steven. Big trouble.

The dark thought shot through his head just as Death turned her gaze away from the stage show to fix him with an unreadable stare.

“Tell me, Steven Watkins, why do you need to protect your brother? Who do you need to protect him from?”

The sudden reminder of his brother sent an icy shard of guilt into Ven’s gut. He scowled at Death, letting his demon rear closer to the surface. “You.”


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