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By Larissa Ione
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Arik Wagner, a soldier with the U.S. Army's paranormal unit, the R-XR, kissed a girl and liked it. And then he went to hell as punishment. Where he's spent weeks being tortured…and plotting revenge.
Limos, Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, isn't your average girl. She's immortal, dangerous, and her fiance is Satan himself. In a moment of weakness, she gave in to her desire and kissed Arik, triggering her fiance's wrath – and his claim on her. In order to save Arik, and the world, Limos must make a dangerous pact with her recently turned evil brother, Pestilence. A deal that might just cost her her soul…and her heart.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Lethal Rider
Arik Wagner had to hand it to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; they threw one hell of a party.
Well, three of them did, anyway. The fourth, whose name had been Reseph before his Seal broke and he became known as Pestilence, had been lying low since his defeat at the hands of his siblings, Ares, Limos, and Thanatos, a month earlier. The asshole and his demon army was no doubt regrouping, but for now, everyone was breathing a sigh of relief.
Hence, the celebration, which was part celebration for the victory, and part engagement party for Ares and his fiancée, Cara. Everyone who'd survived the battle had been invited to Ares's Greek mansion. Ares had also extended an invitation to the Underworld General staff who had helped Cara when she'd been dying, so the place was crawling with demons.
There were even a couple of angels roaming around. Reaver, who Arik had already decided was one big tool, was over by the chocolate fountain talking to a sparkly female angel named Gethel, who used to be the Horsemen's good Watcher before Reaver took the job. The Horsemen also had an evil Watcher named Harvester, but she hadn't been invited. Something about her being a world-class bitch who might eat the guests.
Thanatos, the fourth Horseman, bumped into Arik as he dove for a football someone had tossed from across the huge great room.
"Watch it, dickhead," Arik muttered.
"What's the matter, human?" Thanatos punched him in the shoulder with the ball hard enough to make Arik stumble backward. "Ping-Pong more your speed?"
Arik shot Kynan Morgan, an old Army buddy who was now one of the bigwigs in charge of The Aegis, an ancient demon-slaying organization, a you-ready-to-go-or-what look, and Ky, who was deep in conversation with Ares, held up his finger. He and Arik had intended to stay no more than ten minutes, since Ky wanted to get home to his wife, Gem, and their new baby. That was more than fine with Arik.
If Arik spent another minute inside with these supernatural, superior asshats, he was going to slit his own throat. Also, if Limos, the drop-dead-gorgeous female Horseman, caught him leering at her one more time, she'd likely slit his throat for him.
She might appear to be the definition of a sorority party girl, but under the skirts, nail polish, and flowers in her hair, she was every bit as dangerous as her brothers.
No one seemed to be paying any attention to him, so he strolled out of the house and into the cool November night air. He'd always liked Greece, had visited a couple of times on military assignments. The food was good, the weather perfect, and the people weren't assholes to Americans. Sure, the Greeks had a high concentration of demons living among them, but some of the oldest countries did. Demons, being extremely long-lived, if not immortal, had a tendency to stay in the places they knew well.
They really weren't all that adventurous. Pussies.
He parked himself on a stone bench overlooking the sea. He could feel the piggy eyes of Ares's Ramreel demon guards on him, but he ignored them and looked up into the heavens. The stars were bright tonight, their lights glittering in the pitch-black sky. He'd spoken to Cara for a few minutes out here when she'd had to usher a hellhound party crasher out of the house, and he'd been impressed with how easily she, as a human, had integrated into the supernatural world. Oh, she'd had trouble at first, describing some truly fucked-up events—Ares had screwed with her memories? Arik would kill someone for that—but she was happy now, all hellhound queen and engaged to a damned legend.
And speaking of legends, he smelled Limos before he heard her; the aroma of coconut drifted toward him on a breeze and made his blood pump a little faster. Coconuts had never turned him on before, but then, the scent had never been attached to a red-hot female with hair the color of the midnight sky, either.
"What are you doing?" Her velvety, feminine voice was so at odds with the warrior he knew she was, and he wondered how she sounded in bed. Did she hold on to her female side, or did she play rough, dominant, letting the fighter in her take over?
"Just needed some fresh air."
Because you were making me crazy. "Just did."
He blinked. "What?"
She came around in front of him. Her knees touched his, and her floral Hawaiian dress, an intense violet that matched her eyes, swirled around her shapely ankles, flapping at his boots. "I sense agitation in you. Want to let some out? A little hand-to-hand?"
Jesus. Okay, yeah, she might sense some tension in him, but it wasn't because he wanted to draw blood. He wanted to get naked, and the weird thing was, he imagined getting that way with her. She fascinated him with her contradictions, riled him up with her body, and earlier in the night, when he'd seen her helping Ares's servants clean a spill in the kitchen, he'd admired her. She'd gotten down on her hands and knees and scrubbed the floor, and she'd done it with a damned smile.
Of course, he'd smiled too, because the sight of her on her hands and knees? Instant hard-on.
Now, as Limos stood in front of him, things were hardening again at the idea that all he'd have to do would be to fist that dress, hike it up over her hips, and he'd be at eye level with her most private place. Would she let him go down on her? What would she taste like? Did that coconut scent permeate everything? Because he fucking loved coconut.
Somehow, he scrounged up enough self-control to put his hands on her waist and set her aside so he could stand. "I don't want to let anything out." Except my dick. She'd probably kill him if she knew what he was thinking.
He started for the house, because he was going to drag Kynan out of there if he had to, but naturally, Limos would have none of that. These Horsemen seemed to have a huge sense of entitlement.
"Stop!" She grabbed his elbow and swung him around. "I'll let you throw the first punch," she cajoled, with a waggle of raven brows.
He leaned down and stared her in the eyes. "I don't hit girls."
It was the wrong thing to say. Half a second later, he found himself flat on his back, with her flip-flopped foot on his neck.
"See," she said brightly, "that is why I was offering to give you the first throw. At least this time I didn't break your ribs."
"Wow," he rasped. "Do you emasculate all the men, or am I special?"
Her sensual lips curved into an amused smile. "Oh, you're special, but I wouldn't take that as a compliment."
"I can see up your dress." It wasn't true, but he got a kick out of the way her eyes went wide and she started to sputter. He brought his hands up to grasp her ankle, his intention to lift it to give him some room to breathe, but her skin was so soft he ended up just lingering like that.
"What are you doing?" she gasped.
"Nothing." He smoothed his thumb up and down the side of her leg, in the sensitive place where the ankle met the calf. Her muscles were firm, her skin silky, and man, he wanted to slide his hands up higher. But he had her where he wanted her—off guard. Now to take it one step further…
"You," he purred, "are a HILF."
"Horseman I'd like to fuck."
With a yank, he tugged her leg out from under her, and at the same time, he twisted so she came down on top of him, breaking her fall. She looked so startled, so utterly disbelieving that he'd bested her, that she lay motionless on his chest, mouth open, staring at him.
God, she was gorgeous. And that mouth… made to make a man beg for mercy. So he kissed her. Didn't even realize he'd done it until his lips were on hers. He hadn't thought she could be any more shocked, but her eyebrows shot up so far it would have been comical if he hadn't been rocking his head up to put them into a more serious kiss. That was the thing about him—no half-measures. He might not have realized he was kissing her, but once he did? He was taking it as far as she'd let him go.
Command and conquer.
For a brief, sweet moment, she kissed him back. Her lips softened and her tongue met his, hesitantly, as though she wasn't sure what she was doing.
And then his world turned upside down.
Limos reared back, and with what he was pretty sure was all her strength, she slammed her fist into his cheek. Pain spiderwebbed across his face, along every bone, through every tooth. He'd been tasting her, and now he was tasting his own blood.
"What the hell?" he shouted… or at least, he tried to shout. His words were mushy, thanks to his mashed lips, cut tongue and, likely, badly fractured jaw and cheekbone. He heard something more like, "Nut da bell."
"You kissed me!" Eyes wild, she backed away so fast she lost her flip-flops. "Do you know what you've done, you idiot? You're going to pay for kissing me."
All around him, the ground began to rumble, and a second later, giant, spiny arms punched up out of the dirt. Hands seized him, a dozen maybe. Agony wrenched through him as his limbs were twisted and pulled, and his skin was shredded.
Consciousness became a fluid thing, something he couldn't quite reach. His vision went dark, but his ears still worked, and before they shut down, he heard Limos's panicked voice, but what she said made no sense.
"Don't say my name, Arik! No matter what they do to you, don't speak my name!"
Limos was utterly frozen, terrified in a way she had never, ever been. And given that she was five thousand years old, that was saying something.
Her brothers and Ares's guests charged out of the house, weapons drawn, and then they skidded to halt.
"Jesus Christ," Kynan shouted. "Arik!"
"Limos, no." Thanatos tugged her against him, stopping her from going after the behemoths that had grabbed Arik and were dragging him down into the earth.
"He kissed me." She said the same thing over and over, her voice a high-pitched, terrified wail.
Wordlessly, Ares produced a small blade, and in one smooth motion, launched it. Limos's first instinct was to stop him, but the knife was already in the air, on a course for Arik's heart.
The whistle of an arrow cut the night, and Ares's dagger shattered. Pestilence, his ice-blue eyes glowing in the light of the moon, stood near the cliff, his bow in hand, a satisfied smile on his face. "You'll thank me later, sis."
Thanatos lunged, and a black, furry blur streaked past them both. Before Hal, Cara's hellhound protector, reached Pestilence, he opened a portable Harrowgate and stepped through it.
He was gone, and when Limos turned back to Arik, he was gone too. The only sign that he'd been there was a smear of blood in the sand.
"What the fuck just happened?" Kynan rounded on Ares. "Why did you try to kill him, you cocksucker?"
Limos couldn't speak. Funny how moments ago she'd been screaming incoherently, but now she couldn't dredge up a single word. Ares, for his part, stayed calm despite the fact that Kynan had called him a cocksucker and was now fisting his shirt and snarling in his face.
"He kissed Limos," Ares said, his voice rough as sandpaper. Maybe he wasn't as calm as she thought. "She isn't allowed to give her affections to a male in any way."
Kynan released Ares to turn his murderous glare on Limos. "Explain."
There were still no words. None. The night, which she'd always hated because it reminded her so much of Sheoul, closed in on her. How could Arik have done that? How dare he think it was okay to kiss her, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
"Goddammit," Kynan snapped. "Someone fucking answer me."
"We told you that Limos is to become Satan's bride," Thanatos said. "But not until her Seal breaks, she's captured in Sheoul, or until she does something to make him jealous."
"Okay," Kynan said, "so the big guy is jealous. Why is she still here but Arik is gone?"
"Because it's not that simple. The Dark Lord can't have her until the male who incited the jealousy utters her name while in agony."
Kynan swallowed loud enough for her to hear. "So he's still alive? Where?"
"Hell," Limos rasped. "Arik is in hell."
One month later…
Arik didn't know how long he'd been in hell. Time was one never-ending, no-lube fuck when you were in the dark and in nonstop agony. And these bastard demons wouldn't let him die. He'd tried, but they just kept healing him.
At least right now it was quiet, a few stolen moments in which he could sleep. Sleep and dreams were his only pleasure… even the dreams that were about the female who had landed him in this hellhole in the first place.
Closing his eyes, he settled back against the cold stone—bliss on his bruised, bare skin. With a little effort, he shut out the rumbling of his stomach and the incessant drip of water outside the cell that was intended to drive him crazy with want, since the demons rationed his water, and what little he got was usually stagnant and disgusting anyway.
He tried to think of his sister, Runa, and his nephews. Tried to force his thoughts toward his job with the U.S. Army's paranormal unit, the R-XR, as well as the forced-on-him involvement with the civilian demon-fighting organization, The Aegis. Tried to think about his escape plan… anything other than Limos, but his mind kept drifting to the beautiful ebony-haired, violet-eyed female. He hadn't liked her when he first met her, mainly because she'd kicked his ass, broken his ribs, and threatened to crush his organs into marmalade.
Marmalade… God, he was hungry.
So, no, he hadn't been overly fond of the third Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Still wasn't. Because of her, he'd been dragged to Sheoul, the demon realm deep in the earth, stripped naked, and tortured within an inch of his life. Repeatedly. And the weird thing was that all the demons who held him captive wanted was for him to say her name. Her freaking name.
What. The. Hell.
So far, he hadn't broken. Well, he'd broken, but the creepy-ass demons of unknown species kept a Seminus demon around to heal him so he wouldn't die and they could keep breaking his bones and peeling off his skin. They'd even tried sleep deprivation, starvation, and getting into his head to make him think he was somewhere much more pleasant so they could trick him into saying her name. He'd been subjected to every torture and violation known to man. And then some, 'cuz demons were creative as fuck.
But they wouldn't tell him why they wanted him to speak her name, and though it would be so easy to let it slip, to finally free himself of the torment, he couldn't. Anything important to the evil bastards wasn't good for mankind. And Limos had been pretty adamant as he'd been dragged down here, his skin shredding like he was being scraped over a cheese grater. Don't say my name, Arik! No matter what they do to you, don't speak my name!
Right. What if her name caused a worldwide earthquake or put a fissure in the earth that released all demons from Sheoul? And the thing was, Arik wasn't sure how specific he had to be, so he hadn't called Limos by any name. Not Li, her nickname, or Famine, the name she'd go by if and when her Seal broke.
Fitting that her name would be Famine, cuz he was famished.
His stomach grumbled, and he threw his hand over his abs as he thought about Limos, hoping like hell her Seal was safe. Apparently, breaking her Seal involved finding some ancient, tiny bowl engraved with a set of scales. Once found, a Horseman had to drink from it. Drink… he'd give his right nut for a drink…
He swept his hand up and down his sunken-in belly, knowing his thirst and hunger were the least of his worries, because man, if her Seal broke, humans would truly understand the meaning of hell on earth. The Horsemen weren't evil—they were, in fact, half-angel, half-demon, and in a constant walk-the-line mode. But if their Seals broke ahead of the biblical prophecy timeline, they would turn evil and lead the way to Armageddon.
Arik had already gotten a taste of what that would be like: Before he'd gotten his ass handed to him in battle by his brothers and sister, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, had caused death and destruction everywhere he went. Now Arik's captors indicated that Pestilence had regrouped, reassembled his forces, and was back to trying to facilitate the breaking of his siblings' Seals so the end of days could finally begin.
What an asshole.
A rock dug into Arik's butt, and he shifted, only to get poked by something else… the bone of some unfortunate previous cell inhabitant, probably. Still, he wasn't about to lie down. Spiny hellrats had a charming habit of eating your face while you were asleep. At least if he was sitting up he could punt them across the cell.
Thanks so much for this, Limos.
How the hell could a single kiss get him into this mess? It wasn't as if he'd forced himself on her. Yeah, he'd kissed her, and for one steamy, lingering heartbeat, she'd kissed him back. And then she'd flipped the hell out.
Though he wasn't sure why she'd freaked, he did know that Limos was responsible for every drop of his spilled blood. She'd said he'd pay for kissing her, and his captors confirmed it, relished telling him how "his lover's" lack of self-control had been his downfall, how her selfishness was at fault and it was because of her that he was being tortured.
They'd even given him an out; speak into a recorder and beg Limos to help him, and when she came to rescue his ass, they'd grab her and let him go.
"Your worthless human life for hers. She'll take your place in chains. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing she's getting what she deserves. You must want revenge."
Man, those demons had read him like a damned gun owners manual. He wanted payback, but not like that. He wouldn't allow a female, even one like Limos, to suffer at the hands of these fucks.
So he'd refused the offer that was, no doubt, a lie anyway. Which had led to a sledgehammer to both ankles. When he refused again, the sledgehammer had moved up to his knees. His next refusal had earned him a broken pelvis, but thankfully, he passed out and didn't have to refuse anymore.
"You're a fool," his torturer, the one with the deceptively classy English accent, had told him later. "You're going to die down here, and it will be Limos's fault."
Arik was fully aware of that fact. But the knowledge didn't stop him from dreaming of him and her naked. Sometimes they were on a beach, both covered in suntan oil as he moved against her. Sometimes all he did was kiss her hand as he looked into her exotic eyes. Other times, he had her against the wall or was taking her from behind as she clung to a palm tree. His favorite erotic dream was the one where she was on her back in the ocean surf, and he was kneeling between her legs, tonguing her wet heat and tasting the salt water and her tropical cocktail essence.
She'd always smelled like coconuts and pineapple.
Man, he was starving.
And what was that saying? Right. Revenge was a dish best served cold…
Limos was not in a good mood. She had, in fact, been in a bad mood for weeks.
But she faked being happy really well, and right now, she was working toward an Oscar nomination.
The Hawaiian sun beat down on her as she swung her hips to the beat of Maroon 5's latest, her gaze fixed on a tall, dark male perched at the portable bar she set up for her beach parties. His eyes drilled into her hungrily as he sipped his margarita, and when he casually adjusted the erection in his black shorts, she knew she had him.
Slowly, provocatively, she moved toward him, putting extra sway in every step. Her bare feet sank in the warm sand, giving her legs a workout, and she knew the male was appreciating every flex of her toned muscles. The hot pink flowing miniskirt drew his attention, and his gaze darkened when a breeze flipped it up to reveal, very clearly, that she wasn't wearing panties. Her flat stomach, pierced with a gold ring, became the next object of his appreciative scrutiny, and she watched as his eyes roved upward to the barely-there bikini top that covered about as much as two Band-Aid strips.
On her shoulder blade, the set of scales that had been tattooed there when she was only a few hours old began to wobble as the right side, the evil side, and the left side, the one that measured the good half of her, warred.
When she was a few feet away, she smiled, gave him a come-on-big-boy look, and sauntered up the steps of her beach house. Of her two homes, this was the public one she used for parties that were frequented by humans—both locals and celebrities who flew in just for her big bashes. But this get-together was a small one, attended by only a couple dozen ter'taceo. She'd intentionally invited the demons, who could easily pass as humans, in order to lure this particular male. He was cautious, overly paranoid, and if she'd invited him directly, he wouldn't have come.
Instead, she'd chosen her guests with surgical precision—friends of his, demons with particular tastes who virtually guaranteed that he'd be lured by the promise of lurid, grotesque fun as night settled in.
He knew exactly who she was, but no way could he know what she wanted from him. No way could he know that Thanatos's intel had fingered him as one of Arik's torturers.
She slipped inside the house and mounted the stairs to the bedroom, smiling when she heard the door close softly behind her. At the top of the stairs, she untied her top and tossed it over her shoulder, leaving a seductive trail for him to follow.
Inside the bedroom, she circled a wicker chair angled so she could look out at the rolling surf and waited for "Rhys" to enter. His demon name, Xenycothylestiranzacish, was… yeah. She used his human name.
He filled the doorway, sexual menace rushing at her like a deadly rogue wave. In the human world, he was a corporate raider of some kind. In the demon world, he was a master of torture, a hobby that leaked into his relationships with women, and Limos wondered how many missing prostitutes could be traced to him.
"What's your game, Horseman?" His deep, English-accented voice was the cherry on his sexy sundae, and she remembered how, centuries ago, she'd had a major crush on him. But he'd known she was betrothed to the Dark Lord, and he wasn't stupid enough to go near her. She wasn't that stupid either, and she never had been that stupid.
Damned human. How dare he tempt her like that? How dare he kiss her and make her want him?
The kiss had doomed them both.
Now she was in a race against time to rescue him before he sealed the fate she'd been running from for thousands of years—marriage.
There was also that pesky Seal-breaking fate she had to deal with, but right now, she had to concentrate on the most immediate problem, which was finding Arik.
"I have no game," she purred, running a purple-lacquered nail over the back of the chair. "I'm sure you've heard that I succumbed to lust and gave my affections to a human."
Rhys's expression gave nothing away. "I heard."
"Well, that means that until he says my name while in the throes of agony, I can enjoy myself."
God, she hoped Arik could continue to withstand whatever torture the demons holding him were putting him through. A wash of admiration warmed her from the inside, because she didn't know if she could survive a month of torture, and Arik was a fragile human. She'd always sensed strength in him—it had been one of the things that had drawn her to him, besides his sense of humor—but she would never have guessed at the depth of that strength.
"And by enjoy, you mean…" Rhys trailed off as he prowled toward her, his bare chest, well-oiled and glistening, drawing her gaze.
Most females would lift their skirts right now. Limos had other plans, and Bones, her hell stallion who was currently decorating her right forearm as a tattoo-like glyph, writhed in anticipation.
"I mean that once Arik breaks, I'm going to be stuck bedding the same demon until the end of time. So playtime is now or never."
"Somehow," Rhys said casually, "I can't imagine that the Dark Lord will appreciate you coming to him less than intact."
She blinked innocently. "Intact? Of course I'm going to go to him a virgin." An ocean-scented breeze wafted through the room, caressing her skin, and she joined in, stroking her fingers over her nipple. "But I can do everything else. Don't you think he'd reward you well if I came to him knowing how to use my mouth?"
She nearly gagged at that thought, and not just because the idea of sucking the devil's dick horrified her. She'd never wanted to do that to any male. Women who claimed to like it had to be lying.
Rhys stepped closer. "I'm not so sure about that."
"Oh, come on," she cajoled. "It's just a little touching." Before he could protest, she gripped him by the shoulders, spun him, and planted him in the chair. Next, she straddled him so she was on his lap, facing him, her palms splayed on his smooth chest. "Touch me."
For a long, breathless moment, she thought he was going to dump her on her ass. His hands came down on her thighs and squeezed hard enough that a human woman would screech from the pain. But Limos wasn't human, and she didn't screech.
"If we do this," he said in a deadly, cold voice, "you do what I say. My rules. Understood?"
She made her eyes go all wide and frightened. "Y-yes." She even threw in a token tremble of her bottom lip for good measure. Meryl Streep, you ain't got nothing on me.
Rhys's smile was pure malevolence, something she'd been raised to appreciate during the twenty-eight years she'd spent in Sheoul, growing up under the thumb of a twisted, evil demon mother. If Limos were still that person, she'd be panting right now.
"Good." He took her right hand in his palm and trailed a finger over the black lines that formed the horse tattoo on her forearm. She could feel his touch in the corresponding parts of her body, and she hated it. Bones hated it too, had never like to be touched by anyone other than her, and he came to life on her skin, snapping his sharp teeth viciously. Rhys jerked his hand away, but not quickly enough. A tiny bead of blood formed on the tip of his finger. "Bastard."
"He's a little temperamental." That was an understatement. Of all her siblings' mounts, Bones was the most… unique.
Limos's first stallion, a normal warhorse like her brothers', had been killed, and her fiancé had sent Bones as a gift she couldn't refuse. Now she was stuck with the carnivorous hell stallion, and though he'd grown on her, she didn't call him out unless absolutely necessary. He was too hard to control, and he hated everyone including, sometimes, Limos. Well, he loved Ares's wife, Cara, but only because she'd saved his life.
Rhys's hands slid under her skirt, and both revulsion and anticipation rippled through her. She'd fantasized about Arik's hands doing the same thing. Her fantasies, as she pleasured herself nightly in her bed, all involved Arik.
They also involved the absence of her chastity belt—which was why her thoughts were pure fantasy.
Only one person could remove the polished pearl chain that circled her hips and fell between her legs, connected in the front and the back to the hip loop. In truth, it was beautiful, a priceless piece of jewelry that would make her feel sexy if not for its nasty little secret.
- "The third book in Ione's supercharged Demonica series ignites on the first page and never looks back."—4 1/2 stars, RT Book Reviews on Passion Unleashed
- Ione has a true gift for imbuing her characters with dark-edged passion. . . a top notch read."—4 stars, RT Book Reviews on Desire Unchained
- "The author's hard-edged style infuses the story with darkness while taking it to sizzling heights."—4 stars, RT Book Reviews on Pleasure Unbound
- "Wicked...Decadently Sinful...Prepare to be burned."—Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author on Desire Unchained
- "Ione brings to life a riveting world filled with sizzling sensuality, dark wit, and wicked hot demons."—Lara Adrian, New York Times bestselling author on Passion Unleashed
- On Sale
- Dec 1, 2011
- Page Count
- 448 pages
- Grand Central Publishing