FREE Saturday Excerpt: The Darkest Promise by Gena Showalter

Are you ready to heat things up this Saturday? Things are getting steamy in the latest installment of Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series, The Darkest Promise.

About The Darkest Promise:

Possessed by the demon of Misery, Cameo isn’t allowed to experience joy. If she dares, her memory is wiped clean. With no other recourse, she sneaks into a land more fantastical than any fairy tale, determined to find the one man with the key to her redemption.

Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual rules his kingdom with a single unwavering focus: to build his army and annihilate his enemies. Nothing distracts him—until Cameo. He is relentless in his quest to make her smile…and seduce her into his bed.

As dark forces conspire against them, threatening to destroy the fragile bond they’ve forged, the once-calm Lazarus grows crazed. Every heart-stopping kiss and wicked touch causes Cameo to teeter on the brink of happiness. But if she falls, she risks forgetting him forever…

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“Don’t try to stay ten moves ahead of your opponent. Stay behind him with a knife.”

—Excerpted from Becoming the King You Are Meant to Be, a work in progress by Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual

LIKE ALICE ON HER WAY TO WONDERLAND, CAMEO, host to the demon of Misery, tumbled end over end down a long, dark cavern. When the bottom finally appeared, she braced for impact…only to slip through a glistening portal. The cavern walls vanished, and she spilled from a midnight sky—straight into a new realm.

Never should have touched the Paring Rod. One brush of her fin- gertips against the pretty glass bulb that tipped its handle, and the ancient artifact had opened a door between the physical and spirit world. Voilà! In a blink, her descent had begun.

As she plunged toward a f lat clearing, she braced for impact… Cameo smacked into the ground. A scream split her lips, her brain banging against her skull, her lungs emptying and mul-

tiple bones shattering all at once.

Agony seared her, black dots weaving through her vision. Warmth drained from her hands and feet, collecting in her torso. Her body was in shock.

Hours passed before she gained the strength to roll to her

side, her wrecked heart tap-dancing a wild rhythm against bro- ken ribs. Her head swam but thankfully her pain ebbed. Able to breathe again, she noted the sweet scent of ambrosia—the drug of choice for immortals—hung heavy in the air. She almost laughed. For once, lady luck had been on her side. If you had to crash-land, what better place than an ambrosia field?

She drifted in and out of consciousness, the passage of time evidenced by the healing of her injuries and the shift from dark to light. When a beam of sun stroked her, blistering her pale skin, she finally woke for good.

Her nose crinkled as she inhaled. The scent of ambrosia had been replaced by burnt foliage. Where had she landed? Hell? The sun blazed so hot it had scorched sections of land.

Cameo crawled into a shadowed haven, exhaling with relief when her skin cooled. She scanned the lavender sky with its pale green clouds, then looked over an unfamiliar forest filled with towering pink trees and plots of azure grass.

Oookay. This is new. A forest fit for a storybook princess. Too bad Cameo was the villain of the tale. Browniebitch and the Twelve Immortals. For her and her family of demon-possessed warriors, nothing had ever been just right.

Cold fingers of dread crept down her spine as a butterfly the size of her fist f luttered past her. Over the centuries, the wretched insects had become an omen. Death and destruction await…

The heavy weight of depression settled on her shoulders, and she wallowed about the travesty of her life.

Lost so much already. All because she’d made one teeny tiny mistake when she’d lived in Mount Olympus.

That mistake? Helping her friends steal and open Pandora’s box. An appropriate punishment would have been a hand am- putation or two. Maybe a few hundred years in the slammer.

Instead, she was forced to play host to the demon of Misery for eternity, free will a thing of the past.

To commemorate the occasion, a butterfly tattoo had appeared on her lower back.

The beginning of the end.

Misery had quickly peeled away the layers of her humanity, hope and happiness. Again and again he’d wiped her mind of any joyous memories.

The bastard still wiped her mind of any joyous memories. Every day he breathed his poison into her thoughts, hurt others through her voice and ruined whatever relationships she man- aged to forge. He’d reduced her life to one horror after another. If only she could control him. But Misery was a separate en- tity with his own motivations and goals. A dark presence she’d never been able to drown out. A prison she had never been able to escape.

Right now, hes not my biggest problem. The butterfly…

Disaster was imminent.

Cameo searched for a way out of the forest. At one side, a breathtaking river with rainbow-colored water trickled into a rocky crag. Some type of fish broke the surface. A water uni- corn? A long, ivory horn stretched from between his eyes and— She gasped. Another water unicorn had jumped up and thrust his horn into the belly of the first. Blood spurted, creating a crimson waterfall. Countless other fish converged on the in- jured one, sharp teeth ripping into scales and organs until not even bones remained.

Mental note: no baths in the wild, ever.

At her other side, a field of ambrosia f lourished, unaffected by the over-hot sun. Thick emerald stalks dripped with count- less violet f lowers, the petals drawn together to avoid the worst of the heat.

The field might be her only viable—

A thorny limb snatched the jumbo-size butterfly from the air. Her ears twitched, the soft breeze carrying the faint sounds of screaming.

Viable path or not, it was time to go.

Cameo lumbered to shaky legs, wincing as twigs sliced her heel. Her brow wrinkled. Her feet were bare, her combat boots gone.

Someone had stolen her shoes?

A quick scan proved her tank top and battle leathers were torn and stained with dried blood, but still in place. However, the daggers she’d made over two hundred years ago were missing. Someone had robbed her while she’d drifted out of con-

sciousness.

Someone would pay!

This villain had come here to find a formidable immortal named Lazarus the Cruel and Unusual, and she would destroy anyone who hindered her.

According to her friends, she had interacted with Lazarus twice before. Thanks to Misery, she remembered nothing about either encounter. Or did she? On the fringe of her mind was a suggestive montage of images that might or might not have happened.

Flicker: Cameo performed a striptease for a faceless, muscled man, a sultry half smile playing at the corners of her mouth, her silvery eyes smoky with desire.

Flicker: Cameo crawled toward the same faceless, muscled man, clearly intent on his seduction.

Flicker: Cameo sprawled beneath the faceless, muscled man, one of his big, callused hands on her breast, the other between her legs as he drove her closer and closer to orgasm. Her spine was arched, her head thrown back, her expression taut with a sublime mix of agony and pleasure.

Was the faceless man Lazarus? How had he tempted her into his bed?

She wanted so badly to remember.

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