Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2)

Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2)

Kerri Maniscalco

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“I come

To take you to

the other shore across,

Into eternal darkness,

there to dwell

In fierce heat

and in ice.”

—Dante Alighieri, Inferno

On an unusually chilly summer eve, amidst a howling storm, twins arrived. It was not the start of an enchanted fairy tale, however. Those who’d been watching, waiting, recognized it for the omen it was. One would forfeit her mortal life, the other would sell her soul. Coven elders argued the hows and whys, but all agreed on one fact: the twins marked the start of dark days. Now, as one turned to fury and eyed the devil’s throne, and the other lay heartless, surrounded by death, others whispered of a new prophecy—one that damned both witches and demons alike.

—Notes from the secret di Carlo grimoire


Once upon a cursed dawn, a king strode through his castle, his footsteps thundering down the corridor, sending even the shadows skittering away to avoid notice. He was in a foul mood and it was growing darker the closer he got to her. He sensed her vengeance long before he’d entered this wing of the castle. It swarmed like an angry mob outside the entrance to his throne room, but he paid it little mind. The witch was a plague upon this land.

One he’d eradicate at once.

Silver-tipped wings of white flame burst from between his shoulder blades as he flung open the double doors. They crashed against the wall, nearly splitting the wood in half, but the intruder didn’t glance up from her indolent position sprawled across the throne. His throne.

Refusing to look in his direction, she caressed her leg the way an attentive lover might try with an eager partner. Her gown split up the side, revealing smooth skin from her ankle to her hip. She drew lazy circles on her calf, arching back as her fingers drifted higher. His presence did nothing to dissuade her from running her hands up, along her outer thighs.

“Get out.”

The witch’s attention flicked to his. “Talking with you hasn’t worked. Nor logic and reasoning. Now I have a rather tempting new offer for you.” Over the thin material of her gown, she slowly skimmed the peaks of her breasts, her gaze growing heavy as she boldly stared at him. “Take off your pants.”

He crossed his arms, his expression forbidding. Not even his maker could bend him to his whims. And she was far from his maker.

“Get out,” he repeated. “Leave before I force you.”

“Try.” In one inhumanly graceful movement, she swung herself into a standing position, her long silver dress gleaming like a sword carving through the heavens. Gone was any further attempt at seduction. “Touch me, and I will destroy all you hold dear. Your majesty.”

Her tone had turned mocking, as if he wasn’t worthy of the title or respect.

He laughed then, the sound as menacing as the dagger now pressed against her slender throat. She wasn’t the only one blessed with immortal speed.

“You seem to be mistaken,” he all but growled. “There is nothing I hold dear. I want you out of this realm before nightfall. If you’re not gone by then, I’ll set my hellhounds loose. When they’re finished, whatever’s left will be tossed in the Lake of Fire.”

He waited to scent her fear. Instead, she jerked forward and slashed her throat across the blade in one brutal motion. Blood spilled over her shimmering gown, splattered across the smooth marble floor, dirtied his cuffs. Jaw clenched, he wiped down the dagger.

Unfazed by her new vicious necklace, she stepped away from him, her smile more wicked than the worst of his brothers. The wound stitched itself together.

“Are you certain about that? There isn’t anything you yearn for?” When he didn’t respond, her annoyance flared. “Maybe the rumors are true, after all. You have no heart in that armored chest of yours.” She circled him, her skirts smearing a trail of blood across the once pristine floor. “Perhaps we should carve you open, take a look.”

She eyed the unusual silver and white wings of flame at his back, her grin turning feral. The wings were his favorite weapons and he welcomed the fierce, white-hot heat that made his enemies flinch away in terror or fall to their knees, weeping tears of blood.

With one quick snap of her fingers, they turned the color of ash, then disappeared.

Panic seized him as he tried—and failed—to summon them.

“Here is a trick as nasty as the devil himself.”

Her voice was both young and old as she spoke her spell into existence. He swore. Of course. That was why she’d spilled blood; it was an offering to one of her ruthless goddesses.

“From this day forward, a curse will sweep through this land. You will forget all but your hate. Love, kindness, every good thing in your world will cease. One day that will change. When you know true happiness, I vow to take whatever you love, too.”

He’d barely heard a word the dark-haired witch said, as he strained to summon his wings to no avail. Whatever she’d done with them, his beloved weapons were well and truly missing.

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