Pleasure of a Dark Prince

By: Kresley Cole

ONE

Southern Louisiana

Present day

"Munro, you daft git, pass the ball!" Garreth Mac-Rieve yelled at his kinsman over the thunder and howling winds.

Tonight was their yearly skins-versus-demons rugby match--a tradition for Garreth and his clan, meant to take his mind from the anniversary this day marked. Garreth was barefooted, wearing only jeans and no shirt. Rain pounded in strengthening intervals, turning this abandoned grassy airstrip in bayou country into a mire of muck and turf.

Sweat mingled with mud--and some blood.

He almost felt... not numb. And that in itself was a feat.

Munro flipped him off but did finally sling him the ball. The leather was coated in grit, mixing with the filth covering Garreth's bared chest. He feinted left, then sprinted right around two colossal Ferine demons, shoving his hand in their faces, stiff-arming them.

As he ran, with his heart pounding in his ears, he could forget. The exertion and the aggression were both so welcome, he wanted to beat his bare chest.

The swift Ferines surrounded him, so he tossed the ball to Uilleam, Munro's twin, who took it in to score. His brothers-in-arms were strong and ruthless contenders, as was he. The beasts inside them loved to fight, to play. Rough.

The demons responded to the goal with trash talk and shoving. Like a shot, Garreth was in the middle.

"You're raring to fight for an heirless king," Caliban, the Ferines' leader, sneered.



"Nothing new--you Lykae go through kings like I piss demon brew."

Of all the sore subjects to bring up, Garreth's kingship was the one most infuriating.

And on this day?

He launched himself at Caliban, but Munro and Uilleam heaved him back. As other demons steered Caliban away from the scuffle, Munro said, "Save it for the game, friend."

Garreth spat blood in Caliban's direction before letting the two lead him away to cool off. While Uilleam and Munro stayed with him, the other Lykae on the team made their way to the sidelines to mingle with the "cheerleaders."

The demons took the opportunity to take a timeout and drink demon brew. The only bad thing about playing with demons--one of the few species in the Lore that could contend with the Lykae in a physical contest--was their continual "brew breaks." Only seemed fair that Garreth and his kinsmen shoot copious amounts of whiskey to mitigate their advantage. They swilled it straight from the bottle, each one with his own, the Lykae version of Gatorade.

Their cooler was full of fifths.

"You've got to let this go, Garreth," Munro said, taking a deep drink.

Garreth swiped his hand over the back of his neck, getting the feeling that he was being watched. But then, he and all the other players were. Nymphs lined the field, oblivious to the rain, touching themselves and sucking on their own fingers as they impatiently waited for this game to turn into an orgy.

He irritably gazed at the females. "Why'd you invite them?" he demanded. "Damn you both, I weary of this. Did you never think that I doona like nymphs?"

"Nay," Uilleam said with a swig. "Any being that sports a penis likes nymphs."

Munro drained his bottle and added, "You canna argue with medical facts."

Garreth knew Uilleam and Munro meant well, but this was getting old. "I doona like them. They're too... too..."



"Beautiful?"

"Lusty?"

" Easy," Garreth said. "They're too easy. For once I'd like to have a female give me a challenge. One that would no' fall into bed with me because I'm supposedly a king."

When Munro opened his mouth to speak, Garreth said, "Aye, supposedly."

Munro shook his head gravely. "And still you believe Lachlain will return."

The three had been round and round about this for one and a half centuries, since the time his older brother had vanished after setting out to hunt vampires.

Uilleam and Munro told Garreth that he awaited Lachlain unreasonably. Best accept that his brother was gone, especially after so long had passed since his disappearance. One hundred and fifty years--to the day, this day. They said Garreth hadn't moved on and accepted his responsibilities as king.

They were right.

"When will you believe he's no' coming back?" Uilleam asked. "Two hundred years from now? Five hundred?"

"Never. No' if I still feel he's alive." Though vampires had killed the rest of his immediate family, for some reason, Garreth still sensed Lachlain lived. "No' if I feel it as I do now."

"You're as bad off as Bowen," Uilleam said, finishing his own bottle--and opening another.

Bowen was Garreth's first cousin, a shell of a man since he'd lost his mate. He spent every waking moment in agony, yet he wouldn't accept the loss and end his life as most Lykae males would have in his situation. "No' like Bowen," Garreth said. "He saw his mate gored, saw her death. I dinna see such proof with Lachlain." No, I searched and searched and found... nothing.

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