The Blood Curse (Spell Weaver Book 3) by Annette Marie

  “Rouvin knows I exist,” he answered, “but we’ve never met and, unless Clio has told him, he doesn’t know I’m here.”

  “I’ll make sure not to mention you then.” Miysis leaned against a marble pillar, his wings tucked behind him. “I suppose the Iridian king is also blissfully ignorant of the fact that his daughter spent the better part of her visit here locked in your room?”

  Lyre raised his eyebrows innocently. “Like I said, I’ve never met the king. I have no idea what he knows or doesn’t know.”

  The griffin’s eyes sparkled mischievously. “I had been wondering if incubi’s reputation for insatiable appetites was exaggerated, but I see my skepticism was misplaced.” His expression sobered again. “Speaking of reputations, have you considered that you’re treading on dangerous sands? King Rouvin isn’t likely to approve of his daughter taking an Underworlder as a lover, let alone an incubus.”

  “I don’t particularly care what he thinks.”

  “Your contempt for authority aside, that’s a perilous attitude. He may not inspire terror like other monarchs, but he has enough power to make you disappear.”

  Lyre would have liked to reply that the nymph king would have a difficult time frightening him when he had the likes of Samael Hades—to say nothing of Lyceus—hunting him already, but he merely shrugged.

  His concerns shared, Miysis snapped his wings open and closed. “Well, at least you can cross ‘illicit royal lover’ off your bucket list.”

  Lyre blinked in surprise, then barked a laugh. “I guess I can.”

  “Clio may find future palace life stifling after her recent adventures. I doubt she’ll find many daring lovers in Irida’s capital.”

  Another of Miysis’s searching observations. Lyre waved a hand as though it didn’t matter to him at all, reinforcing his caste’s promiscuous reputation.

  “What about you, prince?” he purred enticingly, diverting the topic once again. “How many daring lovers have you encountered in the course of duty?”

  Miysis smiled—a heated smile that caught Lyre off guard. Bracing his hand on the cushion beside Lyre’s head, the griffin leaned down until their faces were close. “I’ve found a few here and there.”

  Lyre looked into those darkening green eyes and wondered who was playing who. Letting sensuousness slide into his body language, he touched a finger to the pattern inked on Miysis’s stomach, then slowly traced the circular design.

  The griffin didn’t so much as twitch. Hmm. His poker face was damn good.

  “I thought you were expected elsewhere,” Lyre crooned softly.

  “They can wait.” Miysis leaned closer. “What if I’ve decided I want your company after all?”

  Lyre pressed his palm flat against Miysis’s stomach. “Only one problem,” he purred. “You don’t actually want me.”

  Surprise flickered in the prince’s eyes.

  “I’m not a truth-seer like you, but attraction and seduction are my primary weapons.” He gave Miysis’s muscled stomach a slight push. “And you, prince, have something else in mind besides a turn in my bed.”

  Miysis straightened and stepped back. Not a trace of embarrassment touched his features. “You’re more cunning than I expected.”

  “Why, thank you.” Lyre slung an arm over the back of the chair. “So, what are you really after?”

  Miysis shrugged. “I wanted to know how serious you are about Clio. She has stars in her eyes for you.”

  “Why do you care if I break her heart? You barely know her.”

  The griffin sat on the edge of the lounge beside Lyre. “Her new life will be challenging enough without an affair with an incubus blackening her reputation on day one.”

  He didn’t let the sick drop of his stomach show on his face. “That doesn’t answer why you care.”

  Miysis looked up at the ceiling. “The honest truth? Prince Bastian has been impossible to deal with for years, but Clio is a blank slate. She has the potential to wield significant influence in Irida, and if I win her over early, it would give me a substantial advantage in maintaining our kingdoms’ relations.”

  Huh. Lyre was pretty sure that was the first time Miysis had shared the full scope of his thoughts on anything—and the insight was both intriguing and worrying.

  “You’re more cunning than I thought as well,” he murmured. Miysis had seen an opportunity with Clio and he’d gone after it from their first interaction. How much of his compassion was genuine and how much was ambition?

  “I have no intention of betraying her trust,” the prince added, his charming smile reappearing. “I would just prefer to cement it early.”

  Laughing quietly, Lyre shook his head. “You’re not a bad guy, Miysis, but damn. You’re a manipulative tyrant, you know that?”

  “I object to the ‘tyrant’ part.”

  Snorting, Lyre pushed to his feet. He may have underestimated Miysis’s capacity for calculated manipulations, but he didn’t doubt his overall assessment of the prince. From what Lyre had seen, Miysis held himself to a high standard of personal integrity. He was genuinely charming and compassionate, even if he used that to his advantage.

  He hoped the young Ra royal could hold on to that honor and integrity as he aged into his role. “Aren’t you going to be late to your lightning parties?”

  “I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much derision in two words.”

  “Well, I mean, come on.” Lyre gestured toward the dark window, where flickers of lightning illuminated the clouds. Thunder rolled almost nonstop, but it wasn’t particularly loud or impressive. “I’ve seen more entertaining gusts of wind.”

  Miysis rose to his feet, arching his back and stretching his wings wide. “Your window is facing the wrong direction.”


  “I’ll show you. Come on.”

  Dubious, Lyre followed Miysis out into the grand corridor, lined with marble pillars and potted trees. The prince’s bodyguards stood stone-faced by the wall and followed silently as Miysis led Lyre to a set of double doors. The prince carelessly shoved one door open and strode inside.

  If Lyre’s previous suite had been luxurious, he didn’t know how to describe this apartment. Twenty-foot ceilings, a loft accessed by stairs with an elaborate golden balustrade, black-and-white marble floors, rich décor, wide-open space.

  He gave up trying to take it all in and followed Miysis to the far end, where heavy drapes bucked in the wind. The prince pulled one open, and Lyre stepped up to the stone parapet, the arched windows offering a hundred-and-eighty-degree view of the city.

  But it was the sky that commanded his attention.

  Black clouds roiled for as far as he could see, and lightning ripped through them in a nonstop display. Sheets of white light blasted through the towering storm, and gargantuan bolts slammed into the dunes with a thousand thinner branches snaking in every direction. Dark mist streaked toward the ground where rain poured onto the distant sand, and powerful winds howled across the citadel tower, whipping at his clothes.

  The constant roll of thunder now made sense. The electric explosion was ceaseless, engulfing the entire sky in a spectacular and terrifying demonstration of nature’s power.

  His jaw hung open. He’d never been afraid of thunderstorms before but he had the sudden urge to find a nice quiet basement and stay there until morning.

  “It’s moving this way,” Miysis observed with no sign of concern. “The wind will worsen and it may rain over the city. We’ll have to see.”

  “Your walls have giant holes,” Lyre pointed out, waving at the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up the entire wall. The drapes on one side billowed, the other panel trying to tug free of Miysis’s hold. “Won’t the storm make a mess of things?”

  “Servants are installing wall panels across the windows on the other floors. I asked them to do my room last. I enjoy the fresh air and I don’t mind a little mess.”

  “Probably because you don’t have to clean it.”

??The lightning fetes are held in courtyards and on rooftops, and getting rained out is considered good luck for—”

  Miysis broke off at the quiet clatter of something rolling across the floor. They both looked down as a sparkling gem tumbled to a stop at their feet. Green magic spun across the marble tiles, then the spell erupted in a crackling blaze.

  Lyre leaped clear at the last moment, but Miysis crumpled beneath the wave of light, paralyzed. At the sight of the binding weave, shock rippled through Lyre, followed by fury. He recognized that spell.

  He’d invented it.

  Chapter Seventeen

  As the drapes whipped in the wind, lightning gleamed across steel. A daemon stood a few paces away, sword in hand and his reddish skin dark in the shadows. Horns curled above his head and a scaled tail swished behind him.

  Lyre stood frozen, wondering where the hell the chimera had come from—then he spotted the three other chimeras and two nymphs waiting in the shadows. He dove for the floor, his hand stretched toward the binding weave. Touching the edge, he snapped it apart. It was his spell. He knew exactly how to break it.

  Miysis jumped up and shouted something in another language—summoning his guards. The nearest chimera glanced between his two targets, then lifted his sword and sprang at Lyre.

  Lyre spun a swift weave around his hands. Praying the chimera had nothing nasty coating his weapon, he caught the blade before it could cleave his skull open. The cold metal slammed down on his palms but his hasty shields held. He wrenched the sword out of the daemon’s hands, flinging it away—and Miysis caught it out of the air. He slashed at the chimera and the daemon backpedaled, rejoining his comrades.

  As Lyre scanned the gathered attackers, he bit back a curse. Chances were Miysis’s guards wouldn’t be coming to their rescue.

  Miysis raised his stolen sword, his eyes darkening from green to black and a sizzle of yellow magic dancing up the blade. Lyre was already dropping glamour. Strength washing through his limbs, he plucked three throwing knives from the sheaths on his upper arm.

  Thunder exploded above the city—and something else exploded in the city.

  Visible from the windows, a plume of flames reared into the sky among the dark buildings. Torches and light spells along the citadel’s parapet lit up as the guards reacted. A second magic-fueled explosion detonated at the other end of the citadel grounds, white-hot flames leaping upward.

  Lyre darted a glance at Miysis, who returned the look with his teeth bared. Six against two—the daemons had probably intended to catch the prince alone. Having seen how Miysis could fight even exhausted and injured, Lyre figured their odds were decent.

  The first three chimeras charged them.

  Lyre dove into a roll, came up beside a chimera, and slashed with his knives. The daemon evaded, his sword cutting toward Lyre. He sprang back, activated the shield-piercing weave on his knife, and hurled it. The chimera tried to block with his sword but missed. The blade struck his throat—and bounced right off.

  The knife clattered harmlessly to the floor and Lyre lurched back as two chimeras closed in on him. He didn’t have his own shields up yet and had no time to activate them. Flipping a knife into each hand and activating their weaves, he thrust his fist toward the farther daemon. A swift blast of power threw the chimera off his feet.

  Lyre turned on the remaining daemon. Ducking the sword, he slashed at the chimera’s throat a second time, his blade scraping across the defensive shield.

  It should have penetrated the barrier. His shield-piercing weaves could cut through most defensive spells—that’s what he’d designed them to do. The only shields he’d ever encountered that he couldn’t pierce in one hit were the advanced defensive weaves he and his brothers used.

  He caught the chimera’s sword with one shielded hand and jammed his knife into the daemon’s throat for the third time. The fool, trusting his defenses, scarcely tried to evade it.

  The blade sank into his throat. Lyre ripped it out, shoved the chimera aside, and twisted to meet the oncoming blade of the one he’d knocked down. He deflected the attack with his shielded hand, then threw another raw blast at the daemon’s ankles. The chimera fell again, and Lyre slung a spell at the base of the nearby bookshelf. The bottom splintered and the heavy case tilted forward. It slammed down on top of the daemon.

  Now Lyre knew what Bastian had been busy with the last few days. Lyre’s binding spell. Lyre’s defensive weaves. Bastian had stolen Lyre’s spell chain during one of their encounters, and the piece-of-shit mimic had duplicated the best weaves to outfit his soldiers with. Each warrior carried gemstones equipped with some of the best protection a master weaver had to offer.

  Teeth bared, Lyre whirled around. A dozen paces away, Miysis was fending off two chimeras at once, but they weren’t aiming to kill him. The two petite blond nymphs stood farther back, and one was preparing another binding spell. They intended to capture the Ra prince alive.

  Snarling, Lyre snapped a gem off his spell chain.

  He activated the spell and threw it into the midst of Miysis’s battle. It hit the floor and flashed. A ring of golden light whooshed outward and popped into the shape of a dome, trapping a nymph and chimera inside. The chimera smashed his weapon into the glowing barrier but it was as solid as a wall.

  Lyre flung a blast into the other nymph’s ankles. He knew the weak spots on his weaves—and how to attack them. As the nymph fell, Lyre pounced on the daemon’s chest. He cast a swift binding over the soldier, right over the shield, and anchored him to the floor.

  Not wasting the time to break the shield and kill the daemon, Lyre sprinted for Miysis, who was still battling the last chimera. Before he could reach them, Miysis slammed the chimera’s weapon out of his hand, losing his own sword in the process. Unable to wound the shielded daemon, Miysis tackled him, driving the chimera into the floor and pinning him down.

  Lyre leaped over and cast a binding spell on the chimera.

  Miysis panted as he pressed a hand to the bleeding scratch on his arm. “What are they using for shields? I couldn’t—”

  The doors to the room blew open and another six daemons burst inside.

  Miysis grabbed Lyre’s arm and hauled him in the opposite direction—straight for the windows. As the griffin’s wings unfurled, Lyre spun a binding weave across their hands and forearms, tying them together as they reached the rail. Miysis jumped onto it and leaped off.

  In the moment before they dropped downward, Lyre glimpsed the city beneath them, lit by the electric black sky. The two explosions had multiplied. A dozen fires burned across the vista, half within the sprawling citadel grounds.

  They plummeted twenty feet before Miysis snapped his wings out. Unlike Ash, the griffin had a better handle on flying with a passenger, and they arched away from the citadel, gliding in a fast descent toward the surrounding wall. The storm winds buffeted them, the turbulence terrifying with the ground so far below.

  Orange light flashed.

  “Watch out!” Lyre yelled as magic, thrown by a chimera hanging over the railing above, shot toward them.

  Miysis banked hard. The spell whipped by, singeing the griffin’s feathers.

  Light flashed again and Lyre craned his neck back. All six chimeras were conjuring spells. Apparently deciding that taking Miysis alive was no longer a priority, they hurled a flurry of fiery magic.

  Miysis folded his wings and they dove, evading the attacks—but the magic kept coming.

  A violent gust of wind caught Miysis in mid-dive, flinging them off course. He overshot the citadel wall before laboriously bringing his flight under control again, fighting the wind. Lyre hung helplessly, hating every moment of his passenger status. They’d lost so much height that Miysis had to climb for the parapet, his wings beating hard.

  Just as they reached the edge, moments from landing, the wall exploded.

  A deluge of shattered stone hurled them back. As they plunged downward, Miysis got his wings open again and they careened past
a tall building. The ground rushed closer.

  Lyre had a split second to decide. Either they both crashed into the unyielding stone road, or Lyre gave Miysis a chance to recover his flight without a passenger’s weight.

  Teeth gritted, he snapped the spell binding him to Miysis and let go. As the dark street raced to meet him, he braced for impact.

  Absently chewing on a fingernail, Clio ambled back toward her room. She’d checked everywhere, but Lyre wasn’t on this level of the citadel anymore. How far had Miysis moved him? Would Lyre come find her?

  She paused at a junction of halls and tugged at the oversized sleeves of her nymph ceremonial dress. Maybe she should have changed before wandering the corridors. This costume was so unwieldy and overdramatic—not that the griffins’ preferred dress wasn’t equally theatrical in its own way.

  Sighing, she let her hands fall. She was so desperate to see Lyre that she was tempted to search other levels of the citadel, but finding him among the maze of corridors and rooms would be impossible. If she kept wandering around, she would run into guards and then she’d have to explain what she was up to.

  Glumly, she passed a grand mezzanine with beautiful marble pillars supporting the overhang, potted trees and fine ceramics standing around their bases. A windowed corridor carried her back to the guest wing, the arched openings revealing the angry sky and flashing light of the storm. Thunder boomed, a deafening backdrop that covered the sound of her footsteps.

  When she reached the posh guest corridor, her pace slowed. She didn’t want to return to her empty room. Fidgeting with her sleeves again, she gazed across the stormy skies outside the arched windows. Lights glowed everywhere in the city, from rooftop bonfires surrounded by “lightning fete” revelers to the glowing beacons of the city’s tallest tower. She squinted at the cupola at its top, wondering what it would be like to stand that much closer to the storm.

  A gust of wind blasted her in the face and she recoiled from the window. Perhaps that was enough desert storm for her. She turned toward the long stretch of deserted marble floor leading to her and Rouvin’s rooms.

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