The Darkest Kiss PROLOGUE

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Dear Reader,

I'm thrilled to present my brand-new paranormal trilogy, Lords of the Underworld, which began with The Darkest Night and continues with The Darkest Kiss. In a remote fortress in Budapest, six immortal warriors - each more dangerously seductive than the last - are bound by an ancient curse none has been able to break. When a powerful enemy returns, they will travel the world in search of a sacred relic of the gods - one that threatens to destroy them all.

Join me on a journey through this darkly sensual world, where the line between good and evil blurs and true love is put to the ultimate test.

Wishing you all the best,

Gena Showalter

To Karen Marie Moning. Thank you! Your talent constantly amazes me, and your generosity blesses me.

To Kresley Cole. You would let me wear your skin if at all possible - and I won't mention what you'd let me do to your eyeballs, though I will thank you for it - and for that, I will always be in your debt. Also, sorry I stole your bike pump and blamed it on Slurpie!

To Marjorie Liu. Because you spank on and there's nothing cooler!

To Jill Monroe. You are a sister of my heart - hearter? sisart? - and even though you stole my gnome, I can't imagine a life without you. For realsies.

And to Tracy Farrell, Margo Lipschultz and all the wonderful people at Harlequin Books who have blessed me in countless ways. You're making all my dreams come true! Art director Kathleen Oudit and designer Juliana Kolesova - I owe you big-time! The lips on this cover...Shiver! And you didn't blink twice when I mentioned one brown eye and one blue eye.

Thank you, Low Down members, for your support! And thank you to Kerensa Wilson and Elaine Spencer for all you do!

You are both amazing women.

PROLOGUE

HE WAS KNOWN AS THE Dark One. Malach ha-Maet. Yama. Azreal. Shadow Walker. Mairya. King of the Dead. He was all of those things and more, for he was a Lord of the Underworld.

Long ago he had opened dimOuniak, a powerful box made from the bones of a goddess, unleashing a horde of demons upon the earth. As punishment, he and the warriors who aided him were forced to house those demons inside themselves, melding light and darkness, order and chaos, until they were barely able to retain any tether on the disciplined warriors they'd once been.

Because he was the one to open the box, he had been given the demon of Death. A fair exchange, he supposed, for his action had nearly caused the demise of the world.

Now he was charged with the responsibility of collecting human souls and escorting them to their final resting place. Even if he opposed the idea. He did not like taking innocents from their families, found no joy in delivering the wicked to their damnation, but he did both without question or hesitation. Resistance, he'd soon learned, brought something far worse than death to his door. Resistance brought an agony so complete, so inexorable, even the gods trembled at the thought.

Did his obedience mean he was gentle? Caring? Nurturing? No. Oh, no. He could not afford softer emotion. Love, compassion and mercy were enemies to his plight.

Anger, though? Rage? Those he sometimes embraced.

Woe to anyone who pushed him too far, for man would become fully demon. A beast. A sinister entity who would not hesitate to curl his fingers around a human heart and squeeze. Squeeze so tightly that human would lose his breath and beg for the sweet kiss of eternal sleep only he could offer.

Oh, yes. Man had a very short leash on demon. And if you weren't careful, they would come for you....
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