Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked, #2) (3)

Several meters away a towering gate stood tall and menacing, not unlike the silent prince standing beside me. Columns—carved from obsidian and depicting people being tortured and murdered in brutal fashions—bracketed two doors made entirely of skulls. Human. Animal. Demon. Some horned, others fanged. All disturbing. My focus landed on what I assumed was the handle: an elk skull with an enormous set of frost-coated antlers.

Wrath, the mighty demon of war and betrayer of my soul, shifted. A tiny spark of annoyance had me glancing his way. His penetrating gaze was already trained on me. That same cold look on his face. I wanted to claw out his heart and stomp on it to get some hint of an emotion. Anything would be better than the icy indifference he now wore so well.

He’d turned on me the second it suited his needs. He was a selfish creature. Just like Nonna had warned. And I’d been a fool to believe otherwise.

We stared at each other for an extended beat.

Here, in the shadows of the underworld, his dark gold eyes glinted like the ruby-tipped crown on his head. My pulse ticked faster the longer our gazes remained locked in battle. His hold on me tightened slightly, and it was only then that I realized I was clasping his hand in a white-knuckled grip. I dropped it and stepped away.

If he was annoyed or amused or even furious, I wouldn’t know. His expression still hadn’t changed; he was as remote as he’d been when he offered that contract with Pride a few minutes ago. If that’s the way he wanted things to be between us now, fine. I didn’t need or want him. In fact, I’d say he could go straight to Hell, but we’d both accomplished that.

He watched as I reined in my thoughts. I forced myself into a frozen calm I was far from feeling. Knowing how well he could sense emotions, it was probably futile. I looked him over.

Doing my best to emulate the demon prince, I mustered up my haughtiest tone. “The infamous gates of Hell, I presume.”

He arched a dark brow as if asking if that was the best I could come up with.

Anger replaced lingering fear. At least he was still good for something. “Is the devil too high and mighty to meet his future queen here? Or is he afraid of a dank cave?”

Wrath’s answering smile was all sharp edges and wicked delight. “This isn’t a cave. It’s a void outside the Seven Circles.”

He placed a hand on the small of my back and guided me forward. I was so shocked by the pleasant feel of him, the tender intimacy of his action, I didn’t step away. Pebbles skittered beneath our feet but didn’t make a sound. Aside from our voices, the lack of noise was jarring enough that I almost lost my balance. Wrath steadied me before letting go.

“It’s the place stars fear to enter,” he whispered near my ear, his warm breath a severe contrast against the frosty air. I shuddered. “But never the devil. Darkness is seduced by him. As is fear.”

He ran bare knuckles down my spine, enticing more goose bumps to rise. My breath hitched. I spun around and knocked his hand away.

“Take me to see Pride. I’m tired of your company.”

The ground rumbled below us. “Your pride didn’t appear in that bone circle the night you spilled blood and summoned me. It was your wrath. Your fury.”

“That may be true, your highness, but the scroll I signed said ‘House Pride,’ didn’t it?”

I stepped closer, heart thrashing as I crowded his space. The heat of his body radiated around me like sunshine, warm and enticing. It reminded me of home. The new ache in my chest was acute, consuming. I sharpened my tongue like a blade and aimed straight for his icy heart, hoping to penetrate the wall he’d so expertly erected between us. Wrong or not, I wanted to hurt him the way his deception had gutted me.

“Therefore, I chose the devil, not you. How does that feel? Knowing I’d prefer to bed a monster for eternity rather than subject myself to you again, Prince Wrath.”

His attention dropped to my lips and lingered. A seductive gleam entered his eyes as I returned the favor. He might not admit it, but he wanted to kiss me. My mouth curved into a vicious grin; finally, he’d lost that cold indifference. Too bad for him I was now forbidden.

He stared a moment longer, then said with lethal quiet, “You choose the devil?”


We stood near enough to share breath now. I refused to back away. And he did, too.

“If that’s what you wish, speak it to this realm. As a matter of fact”—he yanked his dagger out from inside his suit jacket—“if you’re so certain about the devil, swear a blood oath. If pride truly is your sin of choice, I imagine you won’t say no.”

Challenge burned in his gaze as he handed the blade to me, hilt-first. I snatched his House dagger and pressed the sharp metal to my fingertip. Wrath crossed his arms and gave me a flat look. He didn’t think I’d go through with it. Maybe it was my cursed pride, but it also felt a little like my temper was raging as I pricked my finger and handed the serpent blade back. I’d already signed Pride’s contract; there was no reason to hesitate now. What was done was done.

“I, Emilia Maria di Carlo, freely choose the devil.”

A single drop of blood splattered to the ground, sealing the vow. I flicked my attention to Wrath. Something ignited in the depths of his eyes, but he turned away before I could read what it was. He shoved the dagger into his jacket and started making his way toward the gates, leaving me alone at the edge of nothingness.

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