The Darkest Warrior

By: Gena Showalter


A searing Lords of the Underworld tale by New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter, featuring a beastly prince and the wife he will wage war to keep

He is ice...

Puck the Undefeated, host of the demon of Indifference, cannot experience emotion without punishment, so he allows himself to feel nothing. Until her. According to ancient prophecy, she is the key to avenging his past, saving his realm and ruling as king. All he must do? Steal her from the man she loves—and marry her.

She is fire...

Gillian Shaw has suffered many tragedies in her too-short life, but nothing could have prepared the fragile human for her transition into immortality. To survive, she must wed a horned monster who both intrigues and frightens her...and become the warrior queen she was born to be.

Together they burn.

As a rising sense of possession and obsession overtake Puck, so does insatiable lust. The more he learns about his clever, resourceful wife, the more he craves her. And the more time Gillian spends with her protective husband, the more she aches for him. But the prophecy also predicts an unhappily-ever-after. Can Puck defeat fate itself to keep the woman who brought his deadened heart back to life? Or will they succumb to destiny, losing each other...and everything they’ve been fighting for?




Prologue

Once upon a time in the desert realm of Amaranthia, two immortal princes were born. Púkinn “Puck” Neale Brion Connacht IV and Taliesin “Sin” Anwell Kunsgnos Connacht. Brothers by blood. Friends by choice. Shapeshifters of legend, able to become anyone at any time.

Puck, the elder, grew into a warrior unlike any other, brute force his specialty. No matter the strength or expertise of his opponent, he remained undefeated, his skill on the battlefield rivaled only by his prowess in the bedroom.

Sin, the younger, preferred books to battle and romance to war, though his military triumphs were no less renowned. He could scheme and strategize better than anyone.

The princes loved one another and each vowed to put the other first in all things. But long ago, the Oracles of Amaranthia prophesied one brother would wed a loving queen and slay the other brother, then unite the realm’s warring clans at long last.

The Oracles were never wrong.

In the end, no matter the princes’ hopes and plans, the prophesy would be fulfilled...

Some fairy tales do not have a happily-ever-after.





1

Kill a man, acquire his magic. A tale as old as time.

With a roar, Puck the Undefeated swung a pair of short swords at his latest opponent, the king of Clan Walsh. One blood-soaked blade hacked through the man’s metal breastplate, sending him to his knees; the other sliced into his throat from front to back.

No match for a Connacht prince. Who is?

The king gasped with shock and pain, then gurgled as a crimson tide poured from both sides of his mouth. “Wh-why?”

With only a thought, Puck shapeshifted back to his normal appearance, letting the dying king see the true countenance of the one who’d bested him.

“My brother sends his regards.” Puck twisted the blades and said, “May you rest in pieces.”

The king gaped, wheezing a final breath before going silent, his head lolling forward. Puck yanked the swords free, and the body collapsed on the ground, flinging sand.

In war, there was only one rule: win, whatever the cost.

Walsh soldiers retreated in a frenzied rush.

A dark glittering mist rose from the king’s corpse and drifted to Puck. Potent magic adhered to the runes branded in his hands—curling gold symbols that stretched from fingertips to wrist. Pure power. Intoxicating. Nothing better.

His head buzzed, the blood in his veins heating and fizzing. Because of the magic, aye, but also because he felt triumphant. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, the newest war in a long string of wars had ended, and the Connachts had won.

Puck maintained his position in the center of the blood-soaked battlefield. Sand dunes stretched as far as the eye could see, broken up by the occasional oasis with towering trees and crystal clear ponds. The realm’s twin suns had long since vanished from the skyline. Night ruled, the heavens the same color as mulberries, creating an endless sea of dark purple-red. No stars glittered tonight.

His eyes closed as he savored the victory. The odds had been stacked against him, with an enemy army more than twice the size of his own. So, last night, his brother, Sin, suggested Puck sneak into the enemy camp, kill a Walsh commander, ash the body—and take his place. Not easily done, but done all the same.