A demon, released from Hell only to be bound in flesh.
A mortal man who made a desperate deal to save his family.
Two men bound by lies and desire, and in the end perhaps something more.
Read the first scene:
If only the hellhounds would lose his scent, Mador could be free for a while. He ran faster in the dark hallway. He’d make it. Not too far now. His hiding place was close. A wonder Prince Sitri hadn’t discovered it yet.
He might hide and stay low for a couple of days, sleep and dream and try to forget—forget the knives carving his flesh, the whip cutting through his muscles, the twisting and beating and hurting.
Being a demon didn’t mean he had to like being in Hell.
Mador stopped and turned, his heart thundering.
Faint wisps of red light beckoned from the balcony ahead. He sprinted toward it. Nobody would seek him in the cave. After his long sojourn in the pits for disobedience, compliments of his master, he yearned to curl there, quiet and barely breathing, pretending not to exist. He longed for a moment of reprieve. I’ve earned it.
Just one moment alone. Safe.
Who was calling him? He swallowed a curse and glanced over his shoulder.
The voice threaded the air, whispering. Male or female? He couldn’t tell, but it burrowed and buzzed into his ears.
He shook his head in an attempt to snuff it out, his long hair caressing his bare shoulders and chest. He spun around, snapped his fingers, and several torches in the wall flared.
He scanned the passage. It stood empty.
The torches sputtered. Thin smoke swirled in the light.
Figures I’d finally go fucking mad in here. He shrugged and let the torches die, yet he hesitated to turn away. He stood still in the dark. Cold currents whipped his pants and hair, making him shiver.
He turned his head this way and that, trying to make out any sound other than his own breathing.
It really was all in your mind, Mador.
Inhaling deeply, he turned once more, the gleam from the balcony inviting. His light steps whispered on the stone floors. Red reflected on the walls, and he already felt the air change, rush past his face, not stale like in the depths of the castle but fresh with a hint of wood smoke.
Heavy steps pounded behind him. He glanced over his shoulder. Winged shadows detached themselves from the wall, spread on the floor, lengthened.
That goddamn voice had distracted him, slowed him down.
A spiral staircase loomed at his right. He sprinted up the narrow steps, but hands grabbed his ankles, and he tumbled back down, hitting the steps with his ribs.
Curse them, that hurt.
He instinctively curled and kicked at them. He heard grunts and reached out for the stairs again but only made it onto the second step when they fell on him again and flipped him over. His head hit the stone, and his eyes blurred.
Two bat-winged demons leered down at him, long black tongues lolling.
Fuck, that was way too soon. “Who sent you?”
They did not reply, but he was pretty sure he knew the answer.
The demons lifted him between them. Mador struggled and kicked, twisted and lashed out at their legs and torsos. Their claws sank into his arms—a warning.
“Sitri’s orders?” he croaked but again received no reply.
The demons stared straight ahead, ignoring his thrashing. They loped down dark passages and lit halls, their talons clicking on stone, and stopped before a great black door with ornate golden patterns that Mador knew well.
The demons dropped him to the floor. Maintaining their hold on his shoulders, they knocked with clawed hands. Echoes reverberated through the walls. The door creaked as it swung open, and Mador was dragged into Prince Sitri’s candlelit chambers. The flickering flames swirled across the polished floor and reflected in the mirrors that lined the walls and ceiling.
Mador’s stomach twisted with terror.
Prince Sitri lay against silken cushions on the huge canopied bed. Tall and thin, pale like a fish that swam in dark caves and never saw the light, he rested among lithe male bodies. A golden demon with wings covered with engravings fed Sitri green grapes.
Sitri chewed, a smile starting at the corners of his lips. He looked Mador up and down then chewed some more. “Release him.”
Mador shook off the demons’ hands and fought the shudder that crawled up his spine. “You called, my prince?” Prick.
Sitri raised a frosty brow then waved his hand. “Join me, will you, demon?”
Mador looked away, lips thinning, and didn’t move.
“Sit down, Mador.”
Flames burst around Mador, pierced and hooked his skin, and dragged him onto the bed. He cried out as he fell onto the slippery satin sheets, writhing with myriad needles of agony. The other demons drew back as he tried to get his limbs under control.
“You really thought you could run away?” Sitri’s voice rose in volume with each word until Mador’s ears rang. “What made you think it would work this time? Haven’t you learned yet in all these centuries that I can always find you and bring you back?”
With slow motions, Mador pushed himself upright and perched on the edge of the bed. As always, no marks marred his skin. He folded his arms over his chest, doing his best to mask the trembling of his hands.
Sitri pushed the golden demon away and sighed. He threw the plate of grapes to the floor where it vanished without a sound, and then he undid his robe, ran a hand down his strong chest, over his flat belly. With an effort Mador took his gaze off the demon prince.
He just had to ignore the bastard, pretend he was somewhere else, somewhere safe.
Sounds drew his attention to the side. A demon with glossy black skin licked the chest of a pale, hairless one with silver horns. With his long, ruby tongue he teased first one pink nipple, then the other, and moved lower, toward the demon’s crotch. The silver-horned demon writhed, his eyes squeezed shut, and grabbed the black demon’s head with both hands. His breathless moans made Mador shift on the mattress, his pants suddenly too tight.
Damn, it’s been way too long.
“Let’s get comfortable, shall we?” Sitri rose, winked, then snapped his fingers, and Mador’s silk pants disappeared.
Mador found himself staring down at his own erection. A pearly drop glimmered on the tip of the head. He lowered his hand to touch it.
“Tsk.” Sitri raised his middle finger.
Pain lanced through Mador, ribbons of fire that twisted around his bones. He fell backward, his spine thumping on the mattress, limbs jerking, all arousal gone. White light seared his eyes and erupted into a black void.
Prince Sitri leaned over him, filling his vision. Long pale hair brushed Mador’s arms, and washed-out grey eyes nailed him. “Have I given you permission to touch yourself?”
Mador bit his lip and reached for his cock again, aroused or not. “Fuck you.”
Shackles materialized around his wrists and ankles and pulled him up to hang spread-eagled in the center of the room.
Moloch’s mother, not again! He tried to pull free and shuddered when needles of fire pierced his wrists. “Stop this.”
“You like to disobey me and be punished for it, don’t you?” Sitri walked around him, examining him like merchandise. Shadows flickered over Sitri’s face, turning it briefly into an animal’s muzzle. “You love the pain. You want it. Say it.”
“No, I don’t.” Mador licked dry lips. “I don’t like pain. Release me.”
“Tsk.” Sitri tapped his chin. “Wrong answer, demon. Again.” The constraints tightened, wrenching a cry from Mador’s throat. Sitri pressed himself closer as a whip materialized in his hand. “Let’s see if I can remind you who is in charge here.”
Mador tightened his jaw, keeping his expression neutral. To show fear guaranteed an extra serving of pain. He’d been taught that lesson well.
Sitri sent the whip cracking against Mador’s side and leg, cutting into his flesh, and Mador gasped then bit his lip to keep himself from crying out.
Sitri smiled. His whip slithered on the floor like a thin black snake. “Remember now who owns you, Mador?”
As if Sitri would ever let him forget even for one moment. Asshole. Mador refused to give any sign he’d heard him. He clenched his fists until his nails bit into his palms.
The welts burned with pain, and then tickled as they quickly healed. The demon Prince smiled.
“Enough?” Sitri winked. “Or is more pain in order?”
“No.” Mador struggled to catch his breath. “No more pain.”
“Ah. I gather we have an agreement, then. You will obey and stop acting like a wimp.” Sitri trailed his hand over Mador’s face. “You are beautiful, Mador. It is as if your sin has not corrupted you, deformed you. They say you loved a mortal once. Love changes you.” He stroked down Mador’s shoulder.
Mador squirmed, wondered how much Sitri knew about his distant past.
“But surely you don’t believe in love anymore.”
Sorrow caught Mador’s breath in its snare. “No.” He shook his head to dispel the memories, to free his mind from the web of remembered joy. “I don’t.”
“You’ve never been flesh, yet you think you know what pain and pleasure is.” Sitri clucked his tongue. “What you feel here in Hell is but the idea of suffering and satisfaction. You have never been summoned into the mortals’ world, have you?”
Mador shook his head, throat tight. “Thank Lucifer for small mercies.”
“Mortals.” Sitri grinned. “Be glad you are with me, Mador. Mortals are cruel. I am merciful. I understand you. I am like you.”
“I bet…” Mador fought the suffocating depression. “…that they wouldn’t hurt me. They’re not as cruel as you.”
“The mortals’ world is a sad place. Much like Hell, but without the perks, without the grandeur, if you see what I mean. An animalistic place of primal emotions and sensations. You think you know mortals? Think again.”
But Mador had wished to roam the earth long ago, after his fall, because the rumors were true. And his heart, if angels or demons had hearts, had been broken. The mortal man he’d loved as an angel, back before the boundaries of Heaven and Hell had been erected due to Lucifer’s War, was lost to him. How he’d wished back then that the mortal would have summoned him. Now he feared that Sitri was right, that pain would be his only reward if it ever happened.
“I know you,” Sitri purred. “I know what you need, what you deserve.”
Mador’s lips pulled back in a snarl. “You have no clue.”
“Haven’t I, now, insolent slave?”
The shackles vanished, and Mador slammed to the floor with a groan. Still gasping, he sat up, trying to control the shaking of his limbs.
“Your flippancy is refreshing, albeit a tad annoying.” Sitri tapped his lips with a fingertip. “You know Belial has been trying to get his hands on you. That’s one demon prince you really shouldn’t have angered, Mador, my boy. He has made me all kinds of offers for the right to torture you, but I refused. Learn to appreciate my protection, demon.”
Mador let the words sink deep. Belial. Through the stretching film of time, he saw Belial before the Fall—an angel, his halo golden, his great white wings spread. He’d offered Mador titles and power, and Mador was never able to understand why he’d attracted the powerful angel’s attentions. To Belial, Mador’s preference for the mortal man had been a deathly insult. He’d commanded him to leave the mortal, to follow Belial when Lucifer’s war began.
Mador had refused. Belial had never forgiven him. Not even the Fall from Grace could make him forget his resentment.
“Maybe I should let Belial have you for a while,” Sitri said, shoving Mador, “to teach you a lesson you won’t forget.” He smirked. “But I do not share what is mine.”
“Is that why you sent me to the torture pits to have me lashed and broken?” Mador bit his lip to stop the words from spilling. Damn it. Thinking of the past was a bad idea. It broke his focus. If he wanted to avoid a repetition of his last stay in the pits, he had to learn to hide his feelings. He lowered his gaze, balled his fists, and showed his teeth in a thin grin. “Er, listen, my prince—”
“Defying me again, Mador?” Too late. “Again refusing to accept your true nature, and my wisdom?” Sitri snapped his whip on the floor. “Turn around.”
Mador tried to comply, but his body began to shake. Sitri gestured. Energy pulsed, pushed Mador down on all fours, and he hung his head, angry and grim, knowing what would follow.
Sitri cracked the whip. The barbed ends whistled before landing, digging, dragging across Mador’s back, licking it with scalding tongues. He hissed. The whip landed again and again, cutting deep each time. And each time the prince waited for the welts to heal before hitting him again with smooth, practiced movements.
Flashes from his last stay in the pit brought a howl to Mador’s lips. He locked his mouth, keeping it inside. He thought he felt again the iron claws tear his insides, the sharp teeth shred his muscles and break his bones in a never-ending cycle of terror.
Mador didn’t realize the lashing had finally stopped until Sitri grabbed his hair and pulled his head back. Mador sat back on his heels, clenching his jaw, waiting for the images to fade.
Sitri walked around Mador, his long red robe parting to reveal strong legs. “You enjoy the pain, Mador. Admit it like a good demon. The stay in the dungeons must have been a joyride for someone like you.”
Mador kept his face blank. His body never scarred. His memory, however, did. He tried his best to forget his nightmarish experiences in the pits, or else he might really go mad. If I’m not mad already. “A joyride, yeah. That’s right.” He turned away.
There had been a time of freedom and joy so long ago it seemed a dream. He thought he remembered that. He had soared in the heavens and had believed that the world was perfect and that love existed. A dream was all it had been.
“Maybe I should make you flesh,” Sitri said. “Show you what the sensations are really like. The intensity of them so strong it can drive someone truly insane. The pleasure. The anger. The pain.” He waved a hand in the air. “To be broken in so many ways you will beg for madness, and then…” He flashed a dark smile. “Then to beg for my mercy, my kindness, beg me to fuck you and give you such pleasure as you have never imagined possible.”
Sure. “Well, that’s mighty kind of you, I suppose, but—”
A tingling sensation rippled through Mador, stealing his breath. The room rocked slightly. Then he heard his name called again by the same immaterial voice as before. The voice tickled his ears like a feather and faded once more.
He shook his head to clear it. “What the fuck?”
Sitri circled Mador to stand behind him. He yanked on Mador’s long hair, sending pain through his scalp. “What is the matter, demon? Losing your concentration?”
Mador chose not to answer and watched Sitri’s face. Did the demon prince hear the voice, too? Was it some trick of his to confuse Mador?
Sitri wrapped Mador’s hair around his hand and pulled, snapping his head back, sending more pain down Mador’s spine.
What I wouldn’t give to meet someone who doesn’t get off on giving me pain.
A large mirror on the wall showed him Sitri, and himself in the demon prince’s mercy, hanging in Sitri’s hold, neck exposed, back arched, eyes hollow and full of despair. It made Mador want to scream.
“Are you paying attention?” Sitri’s whip cracked on the floor.
Mador clenched his fists, expecting the pain the familiar sound promised. I wonder what life without pain must feel like. I wish—
The incorporeal voice returned, louder. “Madorael!” It seemed to rush at him from everywhere at once. “Come to me.”
“Come where?” He turned his head to see, realizing in the next moment that nobody had called him with his full name for millennia.
Space lurched. Sitri released him as the rocks in the walls liquefied and dripped to the floor in puddles of black goo.
With a shout, Mador flung himself away. The bed melted, leaked into the floor. The demons fell, clawing at each other, and then their faces distorted and twisted like heated metal. Sitri reached down for Mador, snarling.
The air thickened, solidified, pressed against Mador, then sucked him through the melting walls and empty passages, out and high into the air. He hovered there, wriggling, gasping for breath. Then he was flung back down into dimness.