Priest of Skulls

A Paranormal Romance

Allene Whelan is trapped in the True Kingdom, held captive by their cruel leader Macsen. It’s her job as the newest Raven Knight to assassinate him by any means necessary. As a sylph whose greatest weapon is her body, that means seducing him…all the way to the grave.

But the closer Allene gets to Macsen, the more she realizes he’s being played by a crueler enemy: Morgause, the manipulative sidhe he regards as mother. And Macsen doesn’t seem interested in hurting Allene. The closer they grow, the less she wants to kill him.

Trapped by passion in a shadowy labyrinth of lies, Allene forces Macsen to make a choice. Does the Priest of Skulls want to rule through death, or through love?

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Publisher: Red Iris Books
Genres:
Excerpt:

The world didn’t stop moving until Allene and Macsen materialized in a grim space with furnishings as angular as they were dark. Allene wobbled and fell to the concrete floor at Macsen’s feet. It was shockingly warm, as though heated in sunlight. She didn’t think anything in that room had seen sunlight before, including Macsen. The only lights were tucked behind crown molding, giving the severe room the look of twilight. The reflection on the shiny steel hooks, crosses, and chains decorating the walls may have been starlight.

Collectively, the room looked like a windowless torture chamber that happened to have a few couches in it.

“Are you okay?” Macsen dropped to a knee. Compared to how he had been roaring earlier, his voice was now soft. The words came out awkwardly, like he wasn’t sure how to inquire nicely after his enemy but still felt he needed to.

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“Am I okay?” Allene’s laugh was even shakier than her hands. Blossoms streamed down her cheeks. She had already cried a pile between her knees. “I was having a perfectly nice orgy and you—you fucking ripped them in half! What the fuck, you asshole?”

“They went in there to kill you. Every single one of them will die.” His voice became growlier with every word. His eyes traveled over Allene as if searching for injury. There was nothing to find except her sodden thighs and still-swollen labia.

“I had everything under control until you came in.” Allene slapped his hands aside when he tried to help her get up. “Make sure a healer gets to those men. Right now.”

Macsen snarled under his breath. “There are always healers in that ward. They’re being treated as we speak. Unfortunately. They should die for touching you.”

He ignored her protests and lifted Allene to her feet. Some part of her wanted to melt against Macsen the way that she melted against Leander. It must have been a residual effect from pollinating. It wasn’t like she could be feeling this affectionate toward a man who had abducted her from Myrkheimr.

Macsen wasn’t just a big man with long hair who looked good in black. He supported Morgause, who’d killed at least two foundlings, then mauled three of his unsuspecting allies because he caught them having sex under Allene’s power.

“I have legs. I can walk.” She tried to push Macsen off but he wouldn’t have any of it. He gripped her tighter. “Typical bad guy. You’re not even trying to respect my agency, you—you big smelly asshole!” She struggled harder. Something fell out of Macsen’s pocket and clattered to the floor. Reflexively, Allene reached for it.

“No.” He snatched it off the floor before she could. He didn’t hide it in his fist before Allene saw that it was a pearl earring set in black backing. It was a lovely piece. Its image branded itself upon her mind immediately, and she easily imagined the person who might wear it. A lovely woman, beautiful and dark like Macsen. Someone who was gone.

Or perhaps Allene wanted to imagine a more sympathetic past for a monster who didn’t deserve it.

“What’s that?” Allene asked.

“A reminder.” Macsen rolled it briefly between his gloved fingers then pocketed it. He pushed her. “Get into the bathroom. You need a shower.”

 “No.” She wouldn’t let this man see the slightest tremor of fear from her. Now that Allene was close to him—albeit reluctantly—she needed to do the job she had virtually zero training to do.

She needed to defeat Macsen.

Not nestle deeper in his arms and inhale the scent of his magic, musky as a wolf crossing the forest with his pack.

Not feel a surge of sympathy, wondering who used to own that earring that made him look so sad.

Allene definitely should not have gazed up at him, while he gazed down at her with those monstrous eyes, and replayed the amazing sex they’d shared on stage. The joy Ham Hands and friends felt coming together was nothing compared to Macsen and Leander. It had felt like witnessing a miracle.

And just like with Ham Hands, Allene hadn’t been able to bear the thought of letting Macsen get caught. Heck, she could have killed him while he was down. She should have killed him.

Instead, she’d let him escape the Raven Knights.

She’d been transfixed by that moment they shared with Leander between them. Now they had nothing to prevent another moment, an infinite moment, where the two of them were finally alone.

Macsen’s hair looked closer to red than blond in the dark room. It fell over his face so that it was difficult to make out his expression, even when he wasn’t manifesting the Fenrir. The hair was clumpy and thick. He didn’t look unclean. Just like he wasn’t interested in petty things like combing or haircuts.

Allene wanted to touch his hair. Feel if it was as soft as it looked.

Killer. Murderer. World-eater.

“Did you really have nothing to do with the fire charm?” she asked. “Was it an accident?”

“I swear to you this: I’ve got no interest in killing foundlings. I still don’t know how the glamour got switched with actual flame charms,” Macsen said. “I would never kill the innocent. Never.” He said it with such ferocity that Allene couldn’t help but believe him. “And I also have no intent of hurting you.”

Allene didn’t have two fucks to rub together over his promises. “Then why did you kidnap me?”

“Do you know who Chryseis is?” he asked.

“If that’s a literary thing, I smoked too much weed to remember college,” she said.

Mirth flickered in his eyes. “Chryseis was a Trojan taken as a war prize by Agamemnon. Apollo murdered the entire Greek army to get her back.”

Allene felt woozy with fear. She couldn’t face that fear, or it would swallow her before Macsen got a chance. “I’m not a war prize,” she said with the fire she couldn’t feel. “My name is Allene, thank you very much, and I’m a sylph seelie sidhe. A person. And does that mean you’re hoping Leander’s going to murder the True Kingdom to get me back?”

“He won’t have to,” Macsen said. “I just need him to stop acting like a fool and come home.”

Then this was a plea for Leander’s attention. She threw her shoulders back and lifted her chin. “Leander will never come to save me. He knows better.”

“I know him much better than you do. He will come.” Pain furrowed his brow. “He’s going to come for you even though he won’t come for me.”

“Yeah, that’s so weird. I can’t imagine why he would avoid a man who abducted his girlfriend.”

The Fenrir exploded out of Macsen before she could finish the sentence. Beastly energy swarmed around his shoulders, haloing his body in the shadow of the wolf. “Girlfriend?”

Wow, Allene’s ex-boyfriend hadn’t been this jealous. Jealousy made people weak. It meant they were insecure. It was a vulnerability she could exploit, no matter how scary its manifestation.

Lucky thing too. Allene was garbage at punching, too clumsy to run, and not clever enough to outwit the average insurance adjustor.

But she sure could fuck with jealous people. Her mom had made Allene an expert.

She forced a mean smile. “Actually, Leander is a member of my cabal. That means technically he’s more like my servant or slave. You could say that I own Leander, and he loves being owned, and you will never get him back.”

“You’re like the rest of them,” Macsen said, and he sounded disappointed. “Another manipulative, prejudiced Court monster.”

Allene’s jaw dropped. “How dare you?”

She was so offended by the insult against the Court of kindly sidhe that she didn’t think to fight him when he shoved her into the bathroom. It was as vast and dark as the living room. The tub sank into the black-tiled floor so seamlessly that Allene worried she might fall into it if she didn’t step carefully. Becoming a sidhe absolutely had not seemed to have improved her clumsiness issues.

“You can clean yourself here,” Macsen said. “Wash off your wounds.”

Allene tossed her hair at him, eternally defiant. “I’m a sidhe now. It’s not like I can get an infection.”

“Yeah, but you’re not touching my furniture while you’re this disgusting.”

“This is your room? Not a fancier jail cell?”

“Would you prefer to be left for the next attackers to seek revenge against you?” Macsen snarled.

He had brought her to his bedroom.

Verbal diarrhea was Allene’s oldest weapon, but it was only one of a growing arsenal. The same powers that had risen to her call when she was cornered by three sidhe were still lurking, waiting for the opportunity to crescendo again, seeking familiar energy to latch upon. The very idea of being in Macsen’s bedroom was enough to make her newest weapon rise again.

Feeding off her attackers hadn’t sated Allene’s need. If anything, it had made her hungrier. The more she ate, the more she wanted. And she definitely wanted Macsen again. She wanted to watch him kiss the back of Leander’s neck. His massive gloved hands spreading down the man’s chest, gripping him close, pinning shoulders to his chest. The look of simultaneous relief and pain in his eyes.

She wanted him inside of her.

He’d just mauled those men and she wanted him.

“It’s not like they didn’t deserve a mauling,” she murmured.

Macsen’s eyebrow lifted. “What?”

“I talk to myself a lot,” she said. “You’ll get used to it if you’re hiding your war prize in your bedroom.” Fresh power roiled over her, vibrating between them like invisible strands of cobweb when she took a few more steps away from the Fenrir. Distance didn’t alleviate her need. It made her power splash gem-bright over glossy obsidian furnishings to paint them in technicolor hues. “Do you want to keep me in your bedroom, Macsen?”

Allene turned away from him and let her clothes drop.

His sudden intake of breath was satisfying.

“Your skin.” His warmth drew close to her back. She turned her shoulders so that her hair slithered over her chest, brushing across the rosy buds of her puckered nipples. Macsen’s hand grazed the air inches from her skin. His throat worked convulsively. “Your wounds are worse than I realized, Chryseis.”

Her flowery skin was indeed still crushed. She could feel bruises developing. But the pain was relatively minor, as easily dismissed as the iron circle’s constraints, and it did nothing to keep fireweed from blossoming between her toes. “I’m barely bruised.”

“On your neck,” Macsen said. “Bites.” His thumb trailed down the line of her throat. She hissed at the sting.

She touched her fingers to the willowy length of her neck and found blood. Before going down on her, Ham Hands had bitten her. Hard. She marveled at her fingertips, shiny and wet. The other sidhe bled in unnatural gemstone colors, but Allene’s blood was red as roses, red as rubies, and shiny as a pearl.

“Ouch,” she said quietly. It seemed like the reaction she should have to seeing her own blood. She should have been scared that a man had hurt her while caught in the passion of her pollination. She was strong but not invulnerable—important information.

But the sight of blood reminded her of other glistening things.

Allene had gotten horny when Macsen attacked the concert and she got horny over a bitten neck.

“I’ll kill all of them.” Macsen’s Fenrir had grown so dark that it blotted out all light. He wasn’t remotely turned on by the idea of Allene in pain—quite the contrary. It looked as though the man who had thrown her across Rage’s stage was now furious on her behalf. “I’m going to the healer’s ward right now and—”

“I told you no!” She jumped in front of him, slamming her small fist into his stomach. Obviously it bounced off his washboard abs. The Fenrir’s power surged darker, reminding Allene that she couldn’t fight. At all. Even a tiny bit.

Macsen seemed disinclined to fight back. “They put hands and teeth on you.”

“They wouldn’t have had a chance if you hadn’t stuck me in a cell!”

“Oh, so it’s all my fault then? You’ve got no responsibility for your complicity in crimes against the Kingdom, right? You’ve enlisted with the segregationists,” he said flatly. “Maybe I shouldn’t have saved you from those men in the first place. After all, nobody giving me this much trouble could be in any danger! Now let me go or I’ll make you!”

“I’m not going anywhere until you promise to spare those men!”

He yanked his arm free and stormed into the living room. Macsen swept aside the vines that Allene had accidentally grown down the walls, but didn’t tear them. He wouldn’t look at her when he said, “I’ll leave them alone.”

The living room had a different vibe now that Allene knew it was Macsen’s private space. She doubted he’d want to hear it, but his decor had similarities with Rage’s. If they hadn’t been on opposite sides of the bitter war, they might’ve been friends.

“Good,” Allene said. “Now I think you owe me. You interrupted my feeding. I don’t know how fast a sylph heals, but I bet it’s faster if I’m fed.” She flitted ahead of him so that he couldn’t avoid her. Her toes barely grazed the floor when she ran, buoying her across the waves of fireweed that preceded her. “What are you going to do about that?”

Macsen made no secret of drinking in the sight of her body. He shuddered at the sight of her exposed breasts, gleaming with pollen that couldn’t yet compel him. He let her stamen curl around his fingers, and Allene tasted his leather gloves through them. Her bitten neck ached. Blood trailed down her collarbone. Macsen watched that too.

“Even I’m not that much of a fool,” he said, withdrawing his fingers from her tendrils with painful gentleness. “I don’t know why you spared me once. You could have let me die on stage and you didn’t. Whatever it’s worth, I owe you for that. But I’m not going to give you a chance to change your mind.”

Someone cleared his throat.

Macsen moved instantly, shielding Allene with his body.

Another sidhe stood by the front door. He wasn’t one of the ones that attacked her in the cell, but he looked almost as angry when he spotted Allene naked in Macsen’s chambers. Allene mentally dubbed him as Benjamin Bunny, since he had whiskers. “Morgause wants to see you,” Bunny said.

Macsen swore under his breath. He rounded on Allene. “I will be back for you.” His gaze wandered to the chains on the wall, as if trying to decide if he wanted to tie her up. Eventually he said, “Take a shower. Get clean. Stay off my furniture. Don’t touch anything.”

Allene couldn’t breathe until both of the men had left the room, shutting the door and locking it behind them.

Her arousal faded. Her feet sank against the floor and her energy waned as the sidhe plants were reabsorbed by the surrounding earth.

Allene’s breath rushed out of her. She fell back against the wall, cradling her head. Everything hurt once the adrenaline faded. She’d heal from the beating whether or not she fed, but Allene would still be here. Trapped in the True Kingdom. Trying to seduce Macsen to death. And praying he didn’t do it to her first.

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