Clio would love nothing more than to go home. But as the illegitimate daughter of the nymph king, she’s stuck in the human world, exiled until she can earn a place in the royal family. Then her half-bother offers her a chance to prove herself. All she has to do is acquire some magic … by stealing it from the most dangerous spell weavers in the Underworld.
Lyre prefers to go unnoticed, which is a tricky objective for an incubus. He can’t hide his looks or his coveted spell weaving skills, but he’s learned to mask his true intentions. As an unwilling pawn of the tyrannical Hades family, he stays alive by keeping one step ahead of his masters.
Now he’s been assigned to watch over a visitor from the Overworld—one who’s definitely hiding something. And with her unholy talent for triggering chaos and catastrophe, his job just keeps getting more perilous. Clearly, she’ll never survive this world.
The thing is, he’s no longer sure he can survive it either.
Doors lined the dim, dank hall, locked with simple wards she could easily undo. In the first room she found a bunch of tools—surgical knives, spellcrafting paraphernalia, gadgets she had no name for—all stacked haphazardly on shelves. No magic at all.
She slipped out and checked the next three rooms with similar results—nothing useful. Then she opened the fourth door.
Shelves of steel disks, metal spheres, collars, wristbands, handcuffs, belts, chains—all spelled. The sheer volume of magic overwhelmed her sight and she had to close her eyes.
Opening them again, she crouched beside a square basket half full with metal collars. Rejects, she realized. All the weavings were faulty or broken. She cautiously lifted the top collar off the pile for a closer look. This weaving … it was designed to—to inflict pain? A collar that would torture its wearer?
“I’m still working on that design.”
The collar fell from her hands and landed on the pile with a clatter. She shot to her feet and whirled around.
A daemon leaned in the open doorway, one shoulder braced against the frame. Pale hair, the face of a god, brilliant amber eyes. Another incubus.
This one resembled Lyre the least. His hair was lighter, almost white, and his cheekbones were sharper. Or perhaps it was the sickly hollowness of his cheeks that gave his features that extra sharpness. His shoulders were narrow, with the thin limbs of someone who had shunned physical activity.
“It’s a beautiful weave though, don’t you think?” he continued, his voice high-pitched compared to the other incubi. “I’ll get it to work sooner or later.”
Her blood roared in her ears like a thundering surf and she fought to stay calm. He was talking to her like she was a weaver. Maybe he didn’t realize she had snuck in. Maybe he thought she was supposed to be down here.
“It’s … lovely,” she choked out.
“I’ve been trying to perfect it for a couple seasons now,” he went on, his eyes gleaming strangely. “Finding the right melody has proven a challenge.”
“M-melody?” Her gaze darted to the hall behind him. He was blocking her only escape.
He smiled. “The melody of pain. Suffering is its own kind of music—a song that rises and falls, increases in pitch and tempo … and builds into an exquisite crescendo.”
He stepped into the room, moving closer to her. “Finding the right melody for the weave …” He hummed a few eerie notes. “Finding the right volume, the right tempo, that’s what I haven’t mastered yet. Get it wrong and the subject won’t sing. Or they die too quickly, and that’s no fun at all.”
“That sounds … very challenging,” she whispered.
“Oh, it is. I never have enough subjects.” The disconcerting gleam in his eyes brightened as his smile widened to show his teeth. “Can you sing, pretty one?”
Panic flared. “Pardon?”
In a flash of movement, his hand was around her throat. He slammed her back into the shelves in a crash of metal hitting concrete. She choked, clutching his wrist.
He leaned in until his nose touched her cheek and inhaled deeply. “Mmm. Lovely. How delightful that you’ve volunteered yourself as my next subject. I’m looking forward to hearing you sing.”
“I …” she gasped, prying at his fingers. “I don’t sing.”
“Oh, I’m sure I can find the right melody for you.” He slid his nose across her cheek to her ear. “I know how to make you scream for me all night long.”