"Prepare to be burned" (Gena Showalter) in this dark, sexy tale by the New York Times bestselling author of the Demonica series, perfect for fans of Kresley Cole, JR Ward, and Jeaniene Frost.
His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.
Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can't-or won't-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman's safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara's life.
About the Author
A former meteorologist and EMT, Air Force veteran Larissa Ione now gets her daily dose of excitement from vampires, werewolves, demons, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. She lives in wintery Wisconsin with her U.S. Coast Guard husband, her teenage son, a rescue cat, and her hellhound, a King Shepherd named Hexe.
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Read an Excerpt
By Ione, Larissa
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2011 Ione, Larissa
All right reserved.
Her name was Lilith, and she was an evil succubus. His name was Yenrieth, and he was a good angel.
After hundreds of years of seducing humans, Lilith got bored. So she set her sights on Yenrieth, the ultimate challenge. He resisted. She pursued. He resisted some more. This went on for decades, until the inevitable happened. She was, after all, beautiful, and he liked his wine a little too much.
No one knows what happened to Yenrieth after their night of passion, but nine months later, Lilith gave birth to four children, three boys and a girl. She named them Reseph, Ares, Limos, and Thanatos. Lilith kept the girl, Limos, with her in Sheoul, and she planted the males in the human world, exchanging them for the infants of wealthy, powerful families.
The boys grew into men, never suspecting the truth about their origins. At least, not until demons rose up, spreading terror and seeking to use Lilith’s sons against the humans. Limos escaped from Sheoul, found her brothers, and revealed the truth about their parentage.
By this time, the brothers had seen their lands and families destroyed by demons and, blinded by hatred and the need for revenge, Lilith’s children encouraged (manipulatively and forcibly, sometimes) humans to help them fight violent, never-ending battles against the underworld abominations.
This didn’t go over well in the heavenly realm.
Zachariel, an angel of the Apocalypse, led a legion of angels to Earth, where they met in battle with demon hordes. When the earth and waters ran red with blood, and humans could no longer survive on the poisoned land, Zachariel struck a deal with the devil.
Lilith’s children were to be punished for slinging mankind to the brink of doom in their selfish bid for revenge. Because they had nearly brought about the end of days, they were charged as the keepers of Armageddon. Defenders or instigators; the choice would fall on their shoulders.
Each of them was given a Seal, and with each Seal came two prophecies. Should they protect their Seals from breaking until the prophecy laid out by the Bible came to pass, they would save their souls—and mankind.
But should they allow the Seals to be broken prematurely, as written in the Daemonica, the demon bible, they would turn evil, and would forever be known by the names Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death.
And thus were born the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Six Months Ago…
“Mmm… I love the story about how you came into existence. Doesn’t it give you shivers when you hear it?”
Ares, seated at the bar in an underworld pub, tried to ignore the female behind him, but the rub of her breasts against his back and the slide of her dainty hands from his waist to his inner thighs weren’t easy to tune out. Her heat burned right through his hard leather armor.
“Yeah. Shivers.” Some idiot read the legend aloud from the plaque that hung on the wall every time he was in here… which was often. The tavern, kept in business mainly by Ares and his siblings, was his second home, was even known as the Four Horsemen, and for the most part, male demons melted into the background or scurried out the back door when Ares arrived. Wise. Ares despised demons, and that, combined with his love of a good fight, led to… bad things… for hell’s minions.
But the opposite sex was a little braver—or maybe hornier. Female demons, shifters, weres, and vamps hung out twenty-four-seven in hopes of getting their hands, paws, or hooves on Ares and his brothers. Hell, Ares couldn’t swing his dick without hitting one. Usually he was a little more receptive to drinking, gambling, and general mischief, but something wasn’t sitting right today. He was on edge. Twitchy.
He was never like that.
He was even in danger of losing the chess game he was playing with the pudgy pink Oni bartender, and Ares hadn’t lost any game of strategy in… well, ever.
“Oh, War.” The female Sora demon, Cetya, ran her tongue along the top of his ear. “You’ve got to know it makes us hot.”
“My name,” he gritted out, “is Ares. You don’t want to be around on the day I become War.” He moved his rook, tossed back half his ale, and was about to signal for another, when the female’s hand dropped between his legs.
“I still like War better.” Her voice was a seductive trill, her fingers nimble as they sought the opening at his groin. “And Pestilence… such a sexy name.”
Only a demon would think “Pestilence” was a turn-on. Ares peeled her red hand away. She was one of Reseph’s regular bedmates, one of hundreds of Horsemen groupies who called themselves Megiddo Mount-me’s. They even subclassed themselves according to who their favorite Horseman was; Ares’s groupies liked to be called Mongers. War Mongers.
The bartender made a foolish move with his knight, and Ares hid a smile in his mug.
The female, who looked like a cartoon devil, traced a long, black nail over the stallion tattoo on Ares’s forearm. “I love this.”
The horse was as much a part of him as his organs, whether Battle was on his skin or under his seat, and Ares stiffened at the sensation of both his arm and scalp being stroked. Any contact with the glyph sent a shock of sensation to the corresponding parts of Ares’s body, which could be a real pain in the ass. Or it could be inappropriately pleasant…
Ares spun his mug down the length of the bar top and slid his queen into striking position. Triumph sang through him, filling that space in his soul that was always hungry for victory. “Checkmate.”
The bartender cursed, the Sora laughed, and Ares came to his feet. At nearly seven feet tall, he dwarfed the demon, but that didn’t faze her, and she plastered the entire length of her tank-topped, miniskirted body to his. Her tail swished on the hay-strewn floor, her black horns swiveled like pointy satellite dishes, and if her gaze grew any hotter his breeches were going to get real uncomfortable.
He despised his body’s reaction to demons, had never truly warmed up to females who didn’t at least appear to be human.
Some grudges lasted a lifetime.
“I’m outta here.” Despite the chess coup, his unease was becoming an itch under his skin, the way it did when a global war escalated. He needed to get back to the hunt for an ex-bedmate of his, a demon named Sin who had started a werewolf—or, warg, as they liked to be called—plague. Ares and his siblings had only recently determined that she was the key to a prophecy that, if it came to pass, would break Reseph’s Seal and turn him into the very thing Cetya wanted: Pestilence.
Sin had to die before a werewolf civil war broke out.
Unable to remain still any longer, he flung a gold Sheoulin mark at the three-eyed bartender. “A round for the house.”
With a firm grip, he dislodged the Velcro-demon and strode out of the tavern and into perpetual twilight. Muggy, hot air that reeked of sulfur filled his lungs, and his boots sank into the spongy terrain that defined the Six-River region of Sheoul, the demon realm in the Earth’s core.
Battle writhed on his skin, impatient to run.
“Out,” Ares commanded, and a heartbeat later, the tattoo on his arm turned to mist, expanding and solidifying into a giant blood bay stallion. Battle nudged him with his nose in greeting—or, more likely, for sugar cubes.
“You forgot this.”
Always ready to live up to his name, Battle bared his teeth at the Sora, who stood in the tavern doorway, her tail wrapped around the hilt of a dagger, which she dangled playfully. The blatant invitation in her sultry smile told him she’d plucked the weapon from Ares herself, but he knew that. He didn’t leave weapons behind.
Of course, he never got weapons lifted, either. The female was good. Real good. And even though he wasn’t normally into demons, he had to admire her talent. No wonder Reseph liked this one so much. Maybe Ares would make an exception to his no-demons-that-look-like-demons rule…
Grinning, he started toward her… and stopped dead.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled in warning. With a furious scream, Battle reared up, and from out of the forest of shadowed trees a buffalo-sized hellhound leaped through the air. Ares zeroed in on the beast’s left side, seeking—and not finding—the jagged scar that would have identified the vile creature as the one Ares had been hunting for thousands of years. Disappointment rocked him even as he shoved the Sora out of the way, a stupid move that nearly landed him between snapping jaws.
Ares and his sibs were immortal, but hellhound bites were poison to the Horsemen, causing paralysis, and then the suffering really began.
He dove to the ground as Battle struck out with a powerful hoof, hooking the other animal in the ribs and sending it tumbling into the tavern door. The hound recovered so quickly that Battle’s blow might as well have been a fleabite, and it targeted the Sora, who scrambled backward on her hands and knees. Her terror was palpable, like little whips on Ares’s skin, and he had a feeling this was her first experience with a hellhound.
Hell of a way to pop that cherry.
“Hey!” Distract. Rolling to his feet, Ares drew his sword. Provoke. “I’m over here, you piece-of-shit mongrel.” Terminate.
Anticipation gleamed in the hellhound’s crimson eyes as it swung around, melting into an inky blur of evil. Ares met it head-on, with three hundred pounds of armored weight behind his blow. The satisfying crunch of steel meeting bone rent the air. An impact tremor shot up Ares’s arms, and a massive jet of blood spewed from the hound’s chest.
A bloodcurdling snarl ripped from the hound’s throat as it launched a surprisingly effective counterattack, slamming one huge paw into Ares’s chest. Claws raked his breastplate, and he flew backward, plowing into a stone summoning column. Pain lanced his upper body, and then the hellhound was on him, its jaws snapping a millimeter from Ares’s jugular.
Foul breath burned Ares’s eyes, and frothy, stinging saliva dripped on his skin. The beast’s claws tore at his armor, and it took every ounce of Ares’s strength to keep the hound from ripping out his throat. Even with Battle striking at the canine’s body, the creature did its damnedest to get a mouthful of flesh.
As hard as he could, Ares jammed his sword into the animal’s belly and yanked the blade upward. As the beast screamed in pain, Ares rolled, twisted, and brought the sword around in an awkward arc.
Awkward or not, the stroke cleaved the hound’s head from its shoulders. The thing fell to the ground, twitching, steam hissing from its gaping neck. The spongy ground drank the blood before it could pool, and hundreds of blackened teeth sprouted from the dirt, clamped onto the hound’s body, and began to chew.
Battle whinnied with amusement. The horse’s sense of humor had always been perched on the gallows with the crows.
Before the earth could claim the beast, Ares wiped his blade clean on its fur, giving repeated thanks to whoever was listening that the hound hadn’t bitten him. The horror of a bite was never-ending—the paralyzation didn’t stop the pain… or the ability to scream. Ares knew that firsthand.
He frowned as a thought spun up. The vile canines were predators, killers, but they generally hunted in packs, so why was this one solo?
What was going on?
Ares glanced over at the tavern door. The Sora had disappeared, was probably pounding shots of demonfire in the bar, and hey, wasn’t it great that no one had bothered to come out and help. Then again, no demon in his right mind willingly tangled with a hellhound no matter how much love he had for the slaughter—and most demons loved to slaughter.
Light flashed, and twenty yards away in a copse of black, twisted trees, a summoned Harrowgate shimmered into existence. Normal Harrowgates were permanent portals through which underworld creatures could travel, but the Horsemen had the ability to summon them at will, which made for easy surprise attacks and quick escapes.
Ares sheathed his sword as Thanatos emerged, throwing menacing shadows where there should be none. Both he and his pale dun mount, Styx, dripped with gore, and the stallion’s nostrils bubbled with blood.
It wasn’t an unusual sight, but the timing was too coincidental, and Ares cursed as he swung up onto Battle. “What happened?”
Thanatos’s expression darkened as he took in the dead animal. “Same thing that happened to you, apparently.”
“Have you heard from Reseph or Limos?”
Thanatos’s yellow eyes flashed. “I was hoping they were here.”
Ares threw out his hand, casting a Harrowgate. “I’ll go to Reseph. You check on Limos.” He didn’t wait for his brother’s reply. He spurred Battle through the gate, and the warhorse leaped, his big hooves coming down on a rocky shelf that had been scoured smooth by centuries of harsh wind and ice storms.
This was Reseph’s Himalayan hideaway, a giant maze of caverns carved deep into the mountains and invisible to human eyes. Ares dismounted in one smooth motion, his boots striking the stone with twin cracks that echoed endlessly in the thin air.
Instantly, the warhorse dissolved into a cloud of smoke, which twisted and narrowed into a tendril that wrapped around Ares’s hand and set into his forearm in the brown-gray shape of a horse tattoo.
Ares barged through the cave entrance, and he hadn’t gone a dozen steps when an electric current of ten-thousand-volt alarm shot up his spine.
Time to dance.
He was already in a dead run when he drew his sword, the metallic sound of the blade clearing its scabbard like a lover’s whisper during foreplay. It didn’t matter that he’d just engaged an enemy; he loved a good battle, craved the release of tension that hit him with the force of a full-body orgasm, and he’d long ago decided he’d rather fight than fuck.
Though he had to admit that after a good brawl, winding down with a lush, sultry female couldn’t be beat. Maybe he’d head back to the tavern after this and find a War Monger after all.
Adrenaline pumping hotly through his veins, Ares took a sharp corner so fast he had to skid into a change of direction, and then he burst through the doorway to Reseph’s main living area.
His brother, hand wrapped around a bloodied ax, stood in the middle of the room, which was painted in a fresh, dripping coat of blood. Reseph was panting, his shoulders slumped, head bent, white-blond hair concealing his face. He was motionless, his muscles locked up hard. Behind him, a hellhound lay dead, and in the corner, a very much alive hound let out a gravelly snarl, its gaping maw lined with razor-sharp teeth.
Ares’s brother didn’t move a muscle.
Fuck. He’d been bitten.
The beast swung its shaggy head toward Ares. Red eyes glowed with bloodlust as it gathered its hind legs under it. Ares calculated the distance to the target in a millisecond, and in one quick motion launched a dagger that impaled the hellhound in the eye. Ares pressed his advantage, heaving his sword in a horizontal side swing that caught the creature in the mouth, slicing its jaw clean off. The hound howled in agony and fury, but Reseph had already injured it and, weakened, it stumbled and fell, allowing Ares an opportunity to run his blade straight through its black heart.
“Reseph!” Leaving the sword impaled in the animal, Ares ran to his brother, whose blue eyes were wild, glazed with pain. “How did they get in?”
“Someone,” Reseph groaned, “had to have… sent them.”
That much was becoming clear. But very few beings could handle or control a hellhound. So if someone had sent the beasts, he was serious about putting Ares and his brothers—and maybe Limos too—out of commission.
“You should feel special,” Ares said, with a lightness he didn’t feel. “You got two hellhounds, and I only got one. Who’d you piss off?” Gently, Ares wrapped his arms around Reseph’s chest and lowered him to the ground.
Reseph sucked in a gurgling breath. “Last night… my… Seal.”
Ares went cold to the core, and with trembling hands, he tore away Reseph’s T-shirt to expose the chain around his neck. The Seal hanging from it was whole, but when he palmed the gold coin, a vibration, dense with malevolence, shot up his arm.
“The warg plague…” Reseph spoke between gritted teeth and rattling breaths. “Worse. This is… not… good.”
Not good was an understatement. As Ares held the medallion, a hairline fracture split it down the middle. All around them, the cave began to shake. Reseph screamed as his Seal cracked into two pieces.
The countdown to Armageddon had begun.
“The first Horseman of the Apocalypse has been loosed.”
Sergeant First Class Arik Wagner, one of two representatives for the U.S. Army’s paranormal unit, the R-XR, missed a step as he paced the length of the conference room inside The Aegis’s Berlin headquarters. The two agencies had worked independently for decades, but had recently joined forces to combat the ever-increasing underworld threat. Arik never took intel from The Aegis lightly, but he still had to run Kynan’s words through his brain a couple of times before he could make sense of the situation, let alone believe it.
As he inhaled a shaky breath, he concentrated on pacing without falling on his face as he slid glances at Kynan and the other eleven Elders who were sitting around the conference table. It was obvious that some were already in on the news, but the others… not so much, if the shock and fear in their expressions was any indication. The shock was expected; it was their fear that put Arik on edge. The Aegis was an ancient demon-fighting organization that had weathered end-of-the-world scenarios time and time again, so to see its leaders frightened… disturbing as hell.
“Damn.” Regan, a stunning, bronze-skinned woman who was way too young to be in any way called an “Elder,” flipped her long ponytail over her shoulder and played with the dark ends, a habit Arik knew she ran to when she was nervous.
Arik’s normally unflappable partner, Decker, had lost all the color in his face and was now relying on the doorframe to keep his big body upright. “When? How?”
“I just found out this morning.” Kynan’s denim-blue eyes flashed as he shoved the Daemonica, the demon bible, to the center of the table and opened it to expose a page near the back. “It’s all about this passage. She of mixed blood who should not exist, carries with her the power to spread plague and pestilence. When battle breaks, conquest is seal’d.” Tension put lines in his face as he looked around the table. “She of mixed blood is my sister-in-law, Sin. She started the plague that spread through the werewolf population and led to the conflict that broke out within the species a couple of days ago. As the prophecy indicates, when battle breaks, conquest is sealed. The warg battle is what broke the Horseman’s Seal.”
Arik kept up the carpet-wearing routine, his combat boots thudding like muffled gunshots. “So you’re saying that this is a demon prophecy?”
There was a long pause before Kynan delivered an ominous “Yes,” in his gravelly voice. He’d had his throat nearly ripped out by a demon back in his Army days, and he wore the scars and trashed voice like a badge of honor.
“How is the demon prophecy different from human prophecy?” Decker had regained some color, which was good, because with his gray-blue eyes and blond hair, he’d resembled a reanimated corpse.
Kynan, in worn jeans and gray fitted tee, kicked back in his chair and folded his hands over his abs. “Apparently, if the Daemonica’s prophecy goes down, the Horsemen will embrace their demon halves and turn pure evil. If the prophecy from the Bible comes to pass, the Horsemen will take after their angel father and fight on the side of good.”
That stopped Arik in his tracks. “What? The Horsemen are evil. Have you read the Book of Revelation? They’re supposed to usher in the end of days, with disease, war, famine, and death.”
“That’s the most common interpretation of the Bible’s passages.” One of the senior Elders, Valeriu, who also happened to be distantly related to Arik by marriage, drummed his fingers on the oak tabletop. “But some scholars, including myself, think that the Horsemen’s Seals will be broken by Jesus himself, and the Horsemen will lead the way to the end of days, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
“Of course not,” Arik drawled. “Every Apocalypse is a party. Bring your own beer, pretzels, and semiautomatic weapons.” Regan shot him an annoyed glance. Apparently sarcasm wasn’t appreciated in Aegis headquarters. It wasn’t appreciated in the R-XR either, but mainly because Arik was still in the dog house for going AWOL a few days earlier instead of revealing his werewolf sister’s location. “So what does the first broken Seal mean to us? Can we repair it? Prevent the others from breaking?”
“I don’t know.” Kynan let out a frustrated breath. “We’re going to have to dig deep for theories, prophecies, any scrap of information we can scrounge up.”
Shit, Arik was going to need a stiff drink after this. “Do we know what will cause the next Seal to break?”
“All we have is what the next line in the prophecy says.” Valeriu flipped through the stack of paper in front of him and pulled out a single page. “An angel’s mistake shall bring about War, and her death shall break his sword. But be wary, a hound’s heart may yet defeat.”
Arik ran his hand over his military-issue haircut, and wasn’t it an odd time to note that he needed a trim. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It’s about the second Horseman, War.” Valeriu shoved his glasses up on his nose. “We don’t understand all of it, but we believe War’s agimortus is an Unfallen.”
An Unfallen… an earthbound fallen angel who hadn’t yet entered Sheoul and become irreversibly evil. Interesting. “Wait.” Arik shook his head. “Agimortus?”
“Yes,” Valeriu said. “A trigger for breaking a Seal. It can be a person, an object, or an event.”
“Pestilence’s Seal was broken by an event,” Kynan explained. “Sin was an agimortus whose actions put into motion an event that triggered the Seal to break. Killing her before the plague she started led to war would have prevented the broken Seal. But we believe War’s agimortus is a person. Killing this being will break his Seal.”
Arik paused in his pacing. “If you knew about the first prophecy, that Sin was an agimortus, why didn’t you kill her?”
Kynan inhaled a shaky breath. Sin was sister to his best friends—demon best friends. “In hindsight, it’s obvious. But at the time, we didn’t know. We were too close to it.”
“You were too close to it.” Regan stood, her tall, curvy body drawing Arik’s appreciative gaze. Not that he was interested—he liked his women a little softer and less I’llkill-you-where-you-stand—but she did remind him that he hadn’t seen any mattress action in a long time. Hard to hook up when you had to lie about everything from your name, to your job, to your entire life history.
Red splotches colored Kynan’s cheeks. “Yeah. I was. I’d read the prophecy a million times, so I should have seen that she was the agimortus as soon as the plague started. The thing we need to remember is that prophecies are obscure for a reason.”
Arik considered everything he’d been told. “The prophecy mentions hounds. Would hellhounds have anything to do with any of this?”
Ky’s dark eyebrows drew together. “Why?”
“The R-XR has received an unusual number of reports of hellhound sightings.”
The Guardians exchanged looks, and Val finally said, “We’ve noted an increase in sightings as well. Our Guardians have encountered more in the last week than in the entire year before.” Before Arik could ask, Val shook his head. “We don’t know why.”
“Okay, so we have to find a way to prevent War’s Seal from breaking. What about the other Horsemen? Can the Seals be broken out of order?”
“According to the Daemonica, Pestilence’s Seal had to break first, but the others can break in any order. And it gets worse,” Val said miserably, and oh, joy, all of this somehow got worse. Arik’s drink was going to be a double. With a chaser. “If any two Seals break, the others will fall as well, without any trigger. Once all four Seals are broken, we’re chin deep in Armageddon.”
Arik felt his thoughts being scattered like confetti in a windstorm. He had so many questions, and he had a feeling there weren’t nearly enough answers. “Are we looking at imminent breakage of the other Seals? Or is this something that could go on for centuries?”
“Technically, it could go on.” Regan’s gaze was somber, her husky voice grim. “But Pestilence being loosed is bad enough. All over the world, disease is springing up, water sources are contaminated with bacteria, and demonic activity is off the charts. Do we really want that going on for centuries?”
Val cleared his throat. “It’s written that the destruction of one Seal weakens the others. In effect, it causes events to occur that will hasten the breakage of the other Seals. An object needed to break a Seal, for example, might be found after thousands of years of hiding. And, no doubt, Pestilence, as pure evil, is actively trying to break his siblings’ Seals. The Horsemen are the most powerful underworld beings in existence, next to Satan himself. They will virtually rule the Earth if the Final Battle goes in favor of evil.”
“That’s just great,” Arik muttered. “So what’s the plan? Sounds like we need to either contain or kill these Horsemen so that if their Seals break, they can’t wreak havoc, or we need to work with them to keep any more Seals from breaking.”
“We don’t know that they can be contained or killed.” Regan shoved her coffee mug under the coffee dispenser. “We don’t know nearly enough about anything.”
“I’ll see what my in-laws know and can find out,” Kynan said. “They have a unique perspective on demonic lore.”
“Excellent idea.” Regan’s voice was more full of saccharine than her coffee. “Get demons to help.”
“We need all the help we can get.” Kynan laced his hands behind his head and gazed at the medieval painting behind Arik, the one depicting a battle between angels and demons. “And we need it from the Horsemen.”
“Is that wise?” Decker asked. “Do we really want to get cozy with these guys? If they’re evil, we don’t want to be on their radar.”
Kynan shook his head. “According to the Aegis histories, they used to work closely with us.”
“Why’d they stop?”
“Modern stupidity. Around the time of the Middle Ages, The Aegis went a little fanatical with religion. Hell, The Aegis is behind the witch persecutions. There was a huge shift in thinking, which led to the belief that everything supernatural is evil, including the Horsemen.” Kynan gave everyone a stern look. “It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve started to return to the original path.”
Arik bit back a grin at Kynan’s tacked-on, in-your-face last sentence. Though he’d met with a lot of resistance from the Elders, Kynan was largely responsible for The Aegis’s new line on underworld creatures. Not only was he married to a half-demon, but he also carried angel blood in his veins. Then there was the fact that he’d been charmed by angels and was fated to play a role in the Final Battle, and Ky wasn’t afraid to use his status to get the Elders to see things his way.
“So basically,” Arik said gruffly, “we need to ask for help from guys who might hold a grudge against The Aegis and who have the power to usher in the end of the world.”
Kynan’s smile was pure twisted amusement. “Welcome to everyday life in The Aegis.”
“War is hell.”
—William Tecumseh Sherman
“Sherman was totally my bitch.”
Ares, also known as War, second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to much of the human and demon world, sat astride his stallion on the outskirts of a nameless village in Africa, his body and mind vibrating with energy. A battle raged here; two local warlords, their brains ravaged by an insect-borne disease, were clashing over what little water had puddled in the bottom of the village’s well. Ares had wandered the area for days, drawn to the hostilities like a drug addict to heroin, unable to pry himself away until the blood stopped flowing. It was a catch-22, though, because his very presence ramped up the violence, feeding into the bloodlust of every human in a five-mile radius.
No, not Reseph. Not anymore. The most easygoing and playful of Ares’s siblings, the brother who had held them all together over the centuries, had been gone for six months. Now he was Pestilence, and with the name and transformation came unholy powers that threatened mankind. Pestilence was roaming the globe, causing disease, insect and rodent infestations, and mass crop failures with nothing more than a bite or a touch of his finger and a thought. As the disasters spread, more wars like this one broke out, and Ares was drawn to the battles and away from his most pressing task—locating Batarel, the fallen angel who held Ares’s fate in his hands.
As the current holder of Ares’s agimortus, if Batarel died, Ares’s Seal would break, unleashing War upon the Earth.
Chased relentlessly by Reseph, as well as by any demon who wanted to usher in the Apocalypse, Batarel had fallen off the grid, which, unfortunately, left Ares unable to protect her.
But then, even if Ares found her, his ability to defend her was limited, thanks to a fun addendum to his curse, which caused him to weaken in close proximity to his agimortus-bearer.
The battle before him finally began to wane, and the electric high that had held Ares hostage eased, replaced by the usual numbness. Women and children had been slaughtered, the few goats that had survived the blight had been taken for food, and fuck, this was just one of scores of similar scenes that were playing out on this continent alone.
His leather armor creaked as he fisted his pendant, closed his eyes, and concentrated. He should feel a distant buzz through the Seal, some clue as to Batarel’s location.
Nothing. Somehow, Batarel had masked her vibe.
A hot breeze blew the foul stench of blood and bowels across the parched earth, ruffling Battle’s black mane against his reddish-brown neck. Ares gave the beast a firm pat. “We’re through here, boy.”
Battle pawed the ground. The humans didn’t see any of it, not as long as Ares remained inside the khote, a spell that allowed him to travel invisibly around the human world, but the tradeoff was that he moved like a ghost, unable to touch them. Reseph had gotten off on popping out of the khote to flash humans and freak them out. Unlike Ares, Reseph’s presence hadn’t affected humans. Except the females. Reseph had definitely had a way with them.
Ares didn’t glance again at the gruesome remnants of the conflict. Instead, he summoned a Harrowgate, and Battle leaped through it, bringing them to the entrance of his brother Thanatos’s Greenland keep. The ancient castle, shielded by elemental magic that rendered it unnoticeable to human eyes, rose up from the craggy, barren landscape like a breaching whale.
Ares dismounted, coming down on the hard ice. “To me.”
The warhorse settled into Ares’s skin, and he strode into the richly decorated manor, waving away the bowing, scraping vampires who had served Thanatos for centuries. He found his brother in the gym, beating the hell out of a punching bag. As usual when he was home, Thanatos wore black workout pants, no shirt, and a black bandanna over his shoulder-length, tawny hair. With every punch, his tattoos danced on his deeply tanned skin, from the cracked, bleeding bones inked on his hands, to the various weapons that decorated his arms, to the depictions of death and destruction on his back and chest.
“Thanatos. I need your help. Where’s Limos?” He frowned at the dark stain on the floor behind his brother. “And what is that?”
“A succubus.” Than wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. “Reseph sent another one to tempt me.”
“He’s not Reseph anymore.” Ares’s voice rang out in the cold air like an avalanche breaking loose. “Call him what he is.” Easier said than done, since Ares hadn’t yet gotten used to it either.
Thanatos’s pale yellow eyes drilled into Ares’s nearly black ones. “Never. We can get him back.”
“Seals can’t be restored.”
“We’ll find a way.” Than’s tone was hard, final. He’d always been as uncompromising as the death he represented.
“We have to kill him.”
All around Thanatos, shadows swirled, moving faster the more agitated he became. He’d always been the quickest of the four of them to lash out, but then, thousands of years of celibacy would do that to a guy. It was also why he lived in the middle of nowhere; a flash of temper could kill every living thing in the human realm for miles around.
“Do you not remember how Reseph was always traveling the world to find the sweetest apples for our horses? How he never came over without bringing a gift? How, when any of our servants were injured or fell ill, he searched for medicine and nursed them back to health?”
Of course Ares remembered. Reseph might have been an irresponsible playboy with the females, but with those he considered family, he’d been attentive and thoughtful. He’d even worried about their two Watchers when they didn’t pop in every few months. Reaver, an angel who represented Team Heaven, and Harvester, a fallen angel who played for Team Sheoul, hardly needed Reseph’s concern, but he’d always been relieved to see them.
It had been that way ever since their original Sheoulin Watcher had done more than simply “watch” the Horsemen. Eviscerator had suffered for months before dying in a manner befitting his name for revealing the material used in the making of Limos’s agimortus without permission.
“None of that has any bearing on our current situation,” Ares said.
“We won’t kill him.”
There was no point in arguing. Not only did they not have the necessary tools to put an end to their brother, but Than would never budge on the issue, and Ares’s jaw still throbbed from the last time they’d discussed it. It wasn’t as though Ares wanted to kill Pestilence, but he also wasn’t going to let him lead the charge to Armageddon.
“So you would rather see the Daemonica’s prophecy be the one that comes to pass?”
The human prophecies, though they varied, still favored humans in the Final Battle and left room for the Horsemen to fight on the side of good. Should the demon prophecy reign, evil would hold all the cards.
And evil dealt from the bottom of the deck.
Than gave the punching bag a final, knockout blow. “I’m not a fool, brother. I’ve been hunting Reseph’s minions, and I’ve managed to… convince… one of them to talk.”
“Convince, torture, whatever.” Ares crossed his arms over his chest, his armor’s hard leather plates cracking against each other. “So what have you learned?”
“That I need to find a minion who’s privy to more information,” Than grumbled. “But I did find out that Reseph has sent teams of demons to search for Deliverance.”
“Then we need to beat him to it,” Ares said.
Thanatos grabbed a towel off the weight bench and wiped his face. “We’ve been looking for the dagger since the 1300s with no success.”
“Then we look harder.”
“I told you—”
Ares cut off his brother. “Having Deliverance doesn’t mean we have to use it. But it’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around. If Res—Pestilence locates it first, he’ll make sure we never get our hands on it.”
Thanatos strode toward Ares, and Ares braced for battle. It didn’t matter that they were brothers; Ares lived to fight, and even now his adrenaline was singing in his blood, obliterating that damned numbness.
“When we get the dagger,” Than growled, “I hold on to it.”
Frustration put an edge in Ares’s voice, because dammit, he wanted possession of Deliverance. It was the one thing that could kill Pestilence, was the weapon for the war of wars, and like any good commander, he wanted complete control over his arsenal. “We’ll discuss it when we have it.”
“What,” came a deep, amused voice from the doorway, “are you two arguing over now?”
Ares whirled to Reseph, who stood in the doorway, his tarnished armor oozing a black substance from the joints. He held a severed female head in his gauntleted hand.
Ares’s stomach plummeted to his feet. “Batarel.” He fumbled for the coin around his neck. Relief that it wasn’t broken collided with fury and confusion and the need to kick his brother’s ass.
It was a real fun stew of what-the-fuck.
“Obviously,” Reseph said, “since you aren’t sporting shiny new fangs that make all the ladies hot, your Seal hasn’t broken. The idiot fallen angel transferred the agimortus to someone else.”
Reseph dropped the idiot fallen angel’s head to the floor. Batarel’s body should have disintegrated upon her death, which meant that she’d been killed either in a demon-built or an Aegis-enchanted structure, or on land owned by supernatural beings.
On Ares’s arm, Battle stirred in agitation, his emotions tied to Ares’s. “Where did you find her?” Ares ground out.
“Cowardly bitch was holed up in a Harrowgate,” Reseph said, which explained why Ares hadn’t been able to sense her. “I had to send out spiny hellrats to find her.”
Of course. Reseph could communicate with and control vermin and insects, which he used to spread plague and pestilence throughout the human population. And, apparently, he used them as spies.
Thanatos moved toward their brother, his bare feet silent on the stone floor. “Who did Batarel transfer the agimortus to, Reseph?”
“No idea.” Reseph grinned, a real cat-that-ate-the-canary, revealing his “shiny new fangs.” “But I’ll know soon. Maybe after I let rip a few new plagues. The cool kind, with boils and incontinence.” He opened a Harrowgate, but paused before stepping inside. “You all should stop fighting me. I have the backing of the Dark Lord himself. The longer you stall the inevitable, the more those you care about will suffer.”
The Harrowgate snapped shut and, cursing, Ares spun, drove his fist into the punching bag, and damn, what he wouldn’t give for that to be Pestilence’s face right now. Reseph had never been cruel or callous, had lived in fear of succumbing to his evil side. And if he was that bad now that his Seal had been broken… Ares was screwed.
“Give me your hand.”
Ares swung around to Thanatos, who handed him Batarel’s eyes. Just the eyes. And an ear.
Ares had stopped being grossed out by his gift a long time ago. Closing his palm around them, he let the vision come.
“What do you see?” Than asked.
“Reseph’s sword.” The huge blade had filled Batarel’s vision, the last thing she’d seen. Ares waited as the visions worked in reverse, until… there. Batarel’s ear vibrated, and audio joined the visuals. “A blond male. Name’s Sestiel. He’s screaming. He doesn’t want the agimortus.”
“Duh. Who’d want a bull’s-eye on their ass?”
The agimortus wasn’t a bull’s-eye, exactly, but yeah, it did make whoever hosted it a target for Pestilence’s blade. Strange, though, that the host was male. Was the prophecy wrong? Had it changed?
One of Than’s vampire servants hustled to clean up Batarel’s remains, and he bowed before Ares. “May I take those body parts from you, sir?”
So polite. Of course, most beings were pretty kiss-ass to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Probably wise. No, not probably. Definitely.
Suck up now, world, because once the Seals broke, it would be time to bend over.
Nothing good ever came of a knock at three o’clock in the morning, and as Cara Thornhart shuffled down the hallway to her front door, she had a very, very bad feeling.
The pounding became more urgent, every blow on the wood kicking her heart into a stuttered rhythm.
Breathe, Cara. Breathe.
“Thornhart! Open the fuck up!” The slurred voice was familiar, and when she put her eye to the peephole in the door, she instantly recognized the man standing on her porch as the son of one of her former clients.
Ross Spillane was also one of the many twenty-something jobless delinquents with six kids by six different women. Apparently, the one drugstore in town didn’t sell condoms.
Cara shoved up the sleeves of her flannel pajamas and stared at the two deadbolts, the chain, and the regular door lock. A flicker of dread skittered up her spine. She lived in the country, the middle of nowhere, and while she doubted Ross was an ax murderer, she’d always had a reliable sixth sense, and right now, she was sensing trouble.
Or maybe you’re just being paranoid. Her psychologist had said it was normal to have moments of panic, but that had been two years ago. Shouldn’t she be able to open her door without trembling like a frightened rabbit by now?
“What’s wrong, Ross?” she called out, because she still couldn’t bring herself to work the locks.
“Open the goddamned door! I fucking hit a dog.”
A dog? Crap. “I’m not practicing anymore. Take it to the clinic.”
No, of course he couldn’t. Ross sounded drunk, and the town vet just happened to be married to the town’s chief of police. The vet was also a corrupt bastard who overcharged, took shortcuts with care and materials, and he’d been known to refuse help to any animal that was rude enough to be sick or injured after office hours.
“Dammit, Thornhart. I don’t have time for this.”
Help the dog. Suck it up, and help the dog. Sweat dampened her temples and palms as she flipped all the locks and opened the door. Before it swung all the way in, Ross shoved the pitch-black canine into her arms, knocking her back a step.
“Thanks.” He started down the porch stairs.
“Wait!” Awkwardly, she shifted the dog’s weight, which had to be a good seventy pounds. “You shouldn’t drive.”
“Whatever. It’s a mile.”
“Bite my fine ass,” he muttered, as he headed down her gravel walkway toward his old Ford pickup.
“Hey!” She couldn’t stop him, she knew that, but he had a passenger, a petite blonde who looked like she might still be in high school. “Is your friend able to drive?”
He opened the driver’s-side door and tossed the keys at the girl. “Yup.”
As he stumbled around the front of the truck, and the girl climbed out, Cara called, “Why did you bring me the dog?” Subtext: Why didn’t you let the dog die on the side of the road?
Ross stopped, hooked his thumbs in his belt loops, and looked down at his cowboy boots. When he spoke, Cara had to strain to hear him. “No mutt has ever stabbed me in the back.”
Cara stared. Go figure. She’d always been judged harshly by people who didn’t know her, and she’d just gone and done the same thing to someone else.
Then Ross whooped, slapped the young blonde on her Daisy Dukes, and spat a wad of tobacco on the ground, once again reinforcing a stereotype, but hey… at least he liked dogs.
Cara closed the door, awkwardly locking it, and carried the limp bundle of fur to a room she’d shut up tight two years ago.
“Dammit.” Her curse accompanied the creak of unused hinges as she wedged open the door with her shoulder. The stale air reeked of failure, and no matter how hard she tried to tug up her big-girl panties and be brave, her hands still shook as she laid the dog on the exam table and flipped on the light.
The dog’s black fur was matted with blood, and one hind leg was twisted awkwardly, the broken end of a bone piercing the skin. The dog needed a real vet, not her. Not someone who healed through vibes that even she sometimes doubted were real. The only physical medical experience she had was as a veterinary technician, and that had been eight years ago, when she’d been a teen working in her dad’s practice.
She did a U-turn before she went too far down that dark road, snapped on gloves, and when she turned back around, she recoiled. The pup—at least, it had the rounded, cuteish features of a young puppy despite its size—was looking at her. And its eyes were… red.
Blood, it’s got to be blood. Which didn’t explain the eerie glow behind the irises.
“Um… hey, fella.”
The pup’s lips peeled away from extremely sharp, extremely large, teeth. What breed was the thing? It looked like a cross between a wolf and a pit bull, with maybe a little great white shark thrown in, and by her best guess, it was approximately four months old. Except that it was the size of a full-grown Siberian husky.
And those teeth. Those eyes.
There was a military base nearby, and since the day she had moved to this rural South Carolina town, she’d heard rumors of experiments, of strange creatures the government was breeding. For the first time, Cara considered the possibility, because this dog was not… natural.
The pup shifted on the table, yelping in pain at the smallest movement, and suddenly, it didn’t matter where it had come from or if it was a lab creation, a genetic mutation, or an alien from outer space. She hated seeing an animal in pain, especially when there was so little she could do.
“Hey,” she whispered, reaching out her hand. The pup regarded her warily, but he allowed her to stroke his cheek. And yes, it was a he. She didn’t have to look… she just knew. She’d always been able to sense things about animals, and although the vibes coming from this creature were odd… disjointed… she was still getting them.
Slowly, so as not to startle the dog, she slid both hands down his body. Right now, the most she could do was triage, keep him alive until she could get him to Dr. Happs. The jerk would only put the dog to sleep if no one would pay for its care, which meant that Cara would have to choose between paying the vet bills and paying her mortgage.
Her fingers dipped into a puncture wound, and the pup screamed in pain, his body trembling. “I’m sorry, boy.” God, it was a bullet hole. Someone must have shot the dog before he was struck by Ross’s truck.
Whimpering, the pup writhed in misery, and Cara felt his pain all the way to her marrow. Literally. It was part of what made her different from everyone she knew, this talent that had been both a blessing and a curse.
She’d sworn to never use her ability again, but seeing the dog suffer was too much. She had to do it, no matter how hard her mind was screaming against it.
“Okay,” she murmured, “I’m going to try something. Just hold on.”
Closing her eyes, she placed both hands over his body, her palms hovering an inch from his fur. She forced herself to relax, to concentrate until her emotions and energy centered in her head and chest. She’d never been formally trained in the arts of spiritual or energy healing, but this had always worked for her.
Until it had killed.
She shook her head, clearing her thoughts. Gradually, a tingle condensed and expanded inside her, until it pulsed with its own heartbeat. She visualized the energy as a purple glow that streamed from her chest and into her hands. The pup calmed, his breaths slowing, his whimpers tapering off. She couldn’t fix broken bones or ruptured organs, but she could slow the bleeding and manage pain, and this poor guy needed everything she had.
The energy built, vibrating through her entire body as though it was eager to be let loose.
Just as it had done that night.
The memory tore through her brain like a shotgun blast, hurling her back in time to the night when her gift had warped into something sinister and surged not into a dog, but a man. His terror-filled eyes had bulged as blood spurted from his nose and ears. His screams had been silent, but those of his buddies had not.
Stop thinking! Her power cut off, snuffed by her fear. The room spun and her legs wobbled, all carnival funhouse. Without the fun. A whine yanked her out of the trance, and she stumbled to the antique chest where she kept all the traditional medical supplies that had belonged to her father.
“Sorry, boy,” she rasped. “We’re going to have to do this the old-fashioned way.” She hadn’t gone to vet school, but she’d worked with her father for years, and she knew damned good and well that this dog was going to die if she didn’t act.
As quickly as her shaking hands could manage, she loaded a cart with tools and supplies and rolled it over to the dog, who was lying still, his breaths more labored than they’d been just moments before. In the area of the gunshot wound, the flesh was swelling rapidly, and when she looked closer, she gasped. Before her eyes, the muscle and skin was dying. If she hadn’t seen the progression herself, she’d have estimated that the wound had festered for a week. Gangrene had set in, and the stench of dead flesh filled the room.
“My God,” she breathed. “What’s happening?”
Afraid to waste even another second, she grabbed the scalpel and hoped the dog wouldn’t bite, because this was going to hurt.
Carefully, she made a small incision at the site of the bullet hole. The pup whimpered, but remained still as she mopped up pus and blood and then palmed the forceps. “Hold still, baby.”
Cara held her breath and prayed for a steady hand. Do it. Do it now…
She worked the forceps into the wound, cringing at the squishy sound of the metal passing through rotting flesh. Though she hadn’t summoned her power, a trickle she couldn’t stop ran down her arm and into her hand. Don’t panic. Somehow, she kept it together until she felt the forceps bump against the bullet. Though the dog yelped when she clasped the slug, he didn’t move… or bite.
As gently as possible, she eased the bullet free. Odd… it was silver. She placed the forceps on the tray, grabbed the bandages, and turned back to the dog.
The pup was standing on the exam table, head cocked and tongue lolling out as if he had been happily romping in a park and not minutes from death. The only sign that he’d ever been injured was blood matted in his fur and pooled on the floor and table.
Reeling from the impossibility of the situation, Cara’s legs gave way beneath her, and the cold floor rose up to meet her body. Her skull cracked on the tile, and the next thing she knew, the pup was beside her, his crimson eyes glowing. His tongue slathered across her face and mouth, and oh, yuck, his saliva tasted like rotten fish. Weakly, she pushed him away, but he came back and slammed his heavy body down on her.
He panted, his breath so toxic it worked like smelling salts, and she gagged even as she became alert.
“Ugh.” She wheezed, waving her hand in front of his mouth to ward off his stench. “We have to do something about your halitosis from hell.” God, she was talking like this was real.
It wasn’t. Couldn’t be. She was probably still in her bed, and this was a dream.
Suddenly, Halitosis was on his feet, crouched over her, a growl vibrating his deep chest. Not a normal growl, either. It was smoky, serrated, something she’d expect to hear from a dragon. Or a demon. Freaky.
The door burst open in a crash of splinters, and four men filed through the doorway.
A scream welled in her throat, but lodged there, blocked by terror. Not again, not again. Memories of the home invasion that had ruined her life collided with current events, and she froze up, so paralyzed that her lungs couldn’t expel her held breath.
There was a gunshot, a snarl… and then godawful screams. Blood splattered on the floor, the walls, on her… and she broke out of her paralysis to scramble to her feet.
Hal slammed one of the men to the floor, his claws—which somehow had extended like a cat’s—tearing into the man’s chest as the other two slashed at him with strange bladed weapons.
Cara scanned the room for a weapon of her own, anything at all. She lunged for a heavy glass jar of cotton balls but reeled back at an explosive, blinding flash of light. A beautiful blond man appeared in the middle of the room. Flames erupted from his fingertips as a ball of fire flipped into the air, bursting into a gold net that fell on Hal, who went down in a tangle beneath it.
“No!” She dove for the dog, but someone grabbed her from behind. Hal went crazy, a mass of teeth and claws as he struggled to get out of the net.
Curses flew, and someone fired a shot at the newcomer, who took the bullet in the chest with no more reaction than if he’d been stung by a bee. He scooped up the net, Hal with it, and in another flare of light, he was gone.
The man tightened his arms around Cara, and one of the men limped toward her, his left arm dangling, his face mottled with rage. “What are you?”
She blinked. “W-what?”
“I said,” he snarled, “what are you?”
“I don’t understand.”
His hand lashed out so fast she didn’t see it until her cheek stung from the blow. “What kind of demon are you?” he screamed, his spittle spraying her face.
Oh, God, these men were crazy. This whole situation was crazy. This was Crazyland, and she was the queen.
“Why…” She sucked in a ragged breath and tried to stay calm. It wasn’t easy when the man holding her in a vise grip against him was squeezing the air out of her lungs. “Why would you think I’m a demon?” Maybe they were religious fanatics, like the ones who had accused her of practicing witchcraft before she learned to hide her healing gift.
Her theory was blown out of the water when the third guy, the one who had been kneeling next to the dead man on the floor, stood and picked up the bullet that had been lodged in the dog. He held it out to her. “Because,” he said, in an eerily calm voice, “only a demon would heal a hellhound.”
Excerpted from Eternal Rider by Ione, Larissa Copyright © 2011 by Ione, Larissa. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When you hook up with one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse whose job it was to be the keepers of the Seals of Armageddon, your life has to take a huge turn for the worst right? For Cara Thornhart it seems to have made things clearer for her in that she knew she had a gift and never knew what the purpose of it was and the man who just literally fell into her life may just be the one to answer her questions. She found Ares through unfortunate violence, which he does have a passion for and from there her life takes a twist and a huge turn to save humanity as it is known. Ares takes Cara on a ride through portals and horses that appear out of thin air all the while trying to control one brother who has turned to destruction and others that are trying not to. Cara has to stay alive in order to not break the seal that will lead Ares down a road no man wants to travel and the battles the two must fight to prevent this bring them together and never drive them apart. The violence is intense and the trip tiring but never does Cara stop believing in herself or Ares and the passion that draws them together helps them understand what it is like to not have to fight the great fight alone. Ares goes forward with confidence that Cara is at his side and regardless of what she is asked to do she will come through. Now if she can just get her hellhound back. Starting a new series is a very touchy process for a writer. The fans loved the last series and now have to walk away and fall in love all over again with new characters and storyline. Ms. Ione pulled that off that trick with this first book by carefully laying out the ground work for the upcoming books and also by starting off with a great set of characters. The rest of these books will be as incredible as this one I am sure plus you have to love a series where the immortals get their news from the Divine Broadcasting System.
I'm always cautious of spinoffs from a series I love, but I was happily surprised that this one is as good as the original series. You don't have to have read the Demonica series, but it will probably help. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.
***BE WARNED POSSIBLE SPOILERS*** With the start of this new series Larissa delivers again with in your face nitty gritty dark violence and sexiness. The Four Horseman fit flawlessly into this world building that she had already introduced her readers in the Demonica series. With Ares and Cara's story she takes us deeper into the battle between good and evil. Ares is another great hero to add to Larissa's collection of yummy demons. He's big, badass, tortured and sex on a stick. He has been raised as a warrior and thinks like a warrior. No emotions and no ties. He's had to cut himself off emotionally to keep himself from being hurt again. Being alive for centuries, he has learned that any emotional attachments leads to weakness, that an enemy can use against you. When he meets Cara he is instantly attracted and doesn't like it one bit. Humans have no place in his world especially female humans. The harder he tries to avoid any emotional feelings toward Cara the more he finds himself drawn to her and her kindness. I loved Ares. I think he is now my second favorite hero from both series. My heart belongs to Kynan but boy did Ares come close from moving Kynan over! :) When he tries not to care he finds himself caring anyway. I like when the hero thinks they're all emotionally cut off and when that one girl comes along all these pesky feelings start surfacing. It's so cute. Cara is strong. I like strong heroines. When she first gets thrown into this world she is understandably confused and emotional. She was all these things but it wasn't the emotional hysteria that gets old. She processes the information and goes from there. I personally would have been huddled in the corner sucking my thumbs! But heh..that's me! :) Once she sees pass Ares's emotional armor she dives right in and tries to get him to open up. She doesn't take crap from him and goes toe to toe and expects him to treat her as an equal who can handle herself. No mousy wimp for Ares. The sparks between these two was crazy. Talk about verbal foreplay. I could literally feel myself melting in a puddle during one sexy shower scene! Hmmmm....getting visuals! The romance and characters were developed nicely. I could understand why both characters were attracted to each other. The chemistry was there and the development of the relationship was on point for me. I never once thought why the heck do these two people even like each other. This is always a plus in my book! Plenty of smoking moments between the two to keep me satisfied. Larissa's world building was easy to follow in my opinion. I do recommend that anyone who starts this series should read the Demonica series first mainly because I think they'll enjoy it even more. For fans of the Demonica series we gets glimpse of our favorites. My favorite couple Kynan and Gem make a special appearance that I love. We catch up with the lives of the Demonica boys. She wove them into the story effortlessly that it did not take away from the main storyline itself. It was good to see Arik play a bigger role. I can't wait for the next book in this series to learn more about Thanatos and Limos. It was a wonderful start to this new series. I highly recommend this book for fans of the Demonica series. I was not disappointed.
My Thoughts: First let me say I love and adore Larissa. She's a wonderful person. Second let me say she had me with the first Demonica book I read, from then on I was hooked to her writing. Now let me get to ETERNAL RIDER.First it is the beginning of a new series, THE LORDS OF DELIVERANCE series, however it is connected to her DEMONICA SERIES. I can honestly say that you can read this series without reading the other, by honestly why would you want to? Afterall, Larissa wrote them. Now for the story itself. ETERNAL RIDER is one of those stories that as soon as I started the first page I forgot who wrote it, I forgot the things on my list that I needed to be doing, I was completely lost within this world and with these characters. I did NOT want to leave. And I'll say I started this book waiting at the doctor for my FIL and completely missed him coming out, had a woman sitting near me saying 3/4 times, "miss isn't that your father, miss, miss" FIL said she repeated it serveral times, he just laughed because he said it was like I was dazed when I finally looked up and noticed someone was talking to me. So yes I was lost within the world Larissa had created. These are characters that are flawed, tortured, have evil in them yes but are good as well. They are realistic even if they have paranormal aspects to them. I fell in love, how odd to say I LOVE WAR? Or I should say I LOVE ARES! We do get a visit with characters from the Demonica series so those of who loved those characters will be thrilled to see them again. Add to all these delicious characters we get a story that is fast-paced, engaging, and keeps you guessing. Honestly I worried up til the very end if we'd really get a HEA out of this one. I just had no idea what to expect. It was a true EDGE OF YOUR SEAT read. I'd highly recommend ETERNAL RIDER to any fan of paranormal, steamy, deeply engaging, fascinating, and so much more that I can't even explain it well reads. You won't be disappointed! Now go read the excerpt and be warned once you do, you'll be dying to get your hands on this fabulous read! Thank you Larissa for writing a story that let me completely forget about the world around me and just be lost for a few hours(yes I finished this book in one day) in a world of delicious men, and strong women, even if they aren't all human! Now how fast til we get the next book??? Must I wait???
i fell in love with her other series so im very excited about this one
I loved that this book took a concept that I am very familiar with, the Four Horsemen from Revelation, and turned it on its head. For all of the repetitiveness of fantasy fiction using the same species over and over again - from mermaids to vampires - the horsemen are definitely new vehicles for enticing literature.The background of the story is that all of the horsemen once lead human lives, but were cursed to become the horsemen after reacting very badly to the news that Lilith is their mother. Another interesting quirk on the common tale is that one of them is actually female, Limos. The four are destined to either fulfill the Biblical prophecy or the demonic equivalent - which none of them want to do. In addition, each of them have a unique method by which they fall into the demonic prophecy's designated role and must fight to keep said method from playing out.Ares, whom the story says the Greek god of war is named for, is destined to become War should the being bearing his seal, or agimortus, dies. Thanks to Cara, a human, inadvertently crossing paths with a hellhound, she becomes the bearer of the agimortus. Luckily, she has a few tricks of her own to aid her in her new role. I liked Cara and the way she seemed to blossom despite her captivity and impending death, as well as how easily she could stand up to Ares. I would have liked a little more character development, as it did not feel like her character arc was complete.Ares is also an interesting character. Even though he is drawn to wars and violence, with his very presence inciting violence and rage among humans, Cara is immune to this ability. Because of how her presence weakens him, Ares shows a vulnerability characteristic of the humanity he left behind thousands of years ago. Around Cara, he is simply a normal guy falling in love, and the way he attempts to "macho-up" to deal with it is positively adorable.The violence in the book is both believable and quite gritty. Of course, the horsemen's supernatural abilities of strength and healing allow it to be especially intense and dramatic. The sexual scenes in the book are also quite graphic and detailed, without feeling cheesy or awkward.The laws built into Ione's world of horsemen, angels, and demons is complex without being confusing. The reader is introduced to its structure piece by piece throughout the novel without being bombarded by the details, and all of the pieces fit together nicely. In addition, Ione even includes a glossary at the beginning of the book to help the reader become more accustomed to the world.The other siblings are all unique and show lots of promise for future books in the series. Thanatos, destined to become Death, has a seductive air of mystery that had me wondering several times throughout the book if something would occur between him and Cara. The sister, Limos, destined to be Famine, also shows many interesting characteristics, such as a certain hidden madness that she struggles to keep leashed, and the chemistry she shares with Arik is palpable. Even though Reseph becomes Pestilence early in the book, I have a feeling he may prove to be the most interesting of the siblings under a theme of redemption. I only have to wait till December for Immortal Rider (Lords of Deliverance), which centers on Limos, to find out what happens next!
Eternal Rider is the first novel of Ms. Ione¿s new series Lords of Deliverance The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it¿s also a spinoff of her highly popular and explosive Demonica series so as you meet these new unbelievable characters you¿ll also get to catch up on your old friends from Underworld General, if you¿re new to the series have no fear you will not be in the dark for long because this exquisite storyteller will fill you in with no problems.The human and demon world is on a crash course to Armegeddon and with one of the four horsemen already turned evil it¿s up to the other three to prevent total annihilation of the world as we know it. Ares has lived for more than four thousand years knowing that if the seal he wears breaks he will turn into War and Apocalypse will soon follow, he¿s already lost one brother and now it¿s up to him, his remaining two siblings and him to prevent the ultimate big bang. Cara Thornhart¿s life has been in upheaval ever since ¿the event¿ two years earlier but when an injured animal shows up at her defunct vet clinic she can¿t turn him away but he¿s way more than she¿s bargained for and he leads her on a crash course to Ares and life as she knows it will be a thing of the past. When Cara and Ares meet it¿s fireworks of an epic proportion, the question is will they survive the explosion.Ms. Ione is a master storyteller and it becomes obvious on the first page as she baits her audience and keeps them on the line until they¿re well and truly reeled in by the end of the novel. She gives us a bigger than life plot the biggest good vs evil yet filled with dialogue that will keep her readers turning pages faster than you can say God of War and with characters straight out of our fondest dreams and worst nightmares. She presents to us characters that will make us gasp, make us gag and keep us up nights. Her hero Ares and heroine Cara are two of the most haunted lovers you will ever have the pleasure of reading about. They will tug at your heartstrings as they stumble through relationship potholes that we mere mortals could only ever imagine on their way to that all important Happy Ever After. Will they make it, read on my friends for that¿s for you to find out. The love scenes are exactly what you¿d expect with an immortal, edgy, sensual, gritty and powerful, so if it¿s cold outside you might want to open a window and if it¿s hot for heaven¿s sake turn down the air.Be prepared to nail bite your way through this one, if you have a heart problem you might want to consult your doctor before reading. For the rest of you healthy human beings get ready for one heck of a ride.Ms. Ione thank you for another start of a great series, my only disappointment is that I will have to wait just like the other mere mortals for the next instillation.
Eternal Rider is the first book in a new series from Larissa Ione that focuses on the lives of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The four horsemen, who are also siblings, lead their lives and pretty much leave others alone. They have no desire to start the end of the world and actually go out of their way to avoid doing so. They all have "seals" that basically hold their evil side at bay and when broken all hell with literally break loose on Earth. Each seal has a different trigger and when certain events break the first horseman's seal, the others are scrambling to protect their own and save their brother who's evil side has taken over.This is a good time to mention that the events that trigger the first horseman's fall happen in Larissa's Demonica series. The events start in Ecstasy Unveiled and spill over into Sin Undone. Do you have to read that series to understand what is going on in Eternal Rider? No. Is it going to help you out while you read this book? Yes. I say this because almost all the previous characters from the Demonica series appear in this book a couple of times and having read that series it was nice to get an update on their lives. That being said though, Larrissa does a nice job of explaining enough about those characters in this book so you are not left in the dark, but knowing their full back story made me appreciate thir appearances more.Eternal Rider focuses on the story of Ares and yes, the Greek God was named after this guy, so cool right? Anyways, Ares is also know as the horseman War. Whenever there is a war going on he is drawn to the violence and because he is War he also fuels the fire whenever he is around them, so it is like a double edged sword. His seal can be broken by killing the one who bears something called the agimortus mark. The person bearing this mark is usually a falling angel because any being less than that would burn out and die from bearing the burden of the mark. The angel bearing Ares' mark is killed, but not before he transfers it to a human woman named Cara. An innocent bystander, who is now sucked into the Ares world and leaves him forced to protect her. She does not come fully unprepared though, because she has a gift, the ability to heal animals with her touch. She used this just before meeting Ares and inadvertently cured a Hellhound who was so grateful he bonded with her. By doing that their life forces are bound together and they need one another in order to survive.Ares is a man who always wins and never takes orders from anyone, so when Cara finally stands up to him and doesn't take any of his crap, he is completely thrown off. His life has been a string of sad, horrifying events that have left him jaded and harsh. Cara begins to breath new life into his world and together they learn that not everything and everyone in your life is going to let you down.Overall I really enjoyed this start to this series and getting to know a whole new mythology and cast of characters. The Four Horseman is a concept I have not seen explored before and getting a chance to was really exciting! I am not sure how many books are in the series total, but I am going to guess it is four since that is how many Horseman their are. I know the next book comes out later this year and focuses on the only female horseman of the group who is also meant to be Satan's bride. Yeah, wouldn't that suck? I am hoping she manages to get out of it, but we will have to wait and see. If you are a fan of Larrisa's previous paranormal books then you should definitely check Eternal Rider out!
Being the last lady on the planet that has yet to read the Demonica series by Ione, I felt I needed to get my arse in gear and read something by this beloved author. It¿s safe to say that I will be reading more, as I thoroughly enjoyed this first installment in the Lords of Deliverance series, which is set in the Demonica world. From what I¿ve read, this book takes place shortly after the conclusion of the Demonica series¿I was immediately sucked into the story, and I love the interesting, dark world that Ione has created. I¿m all over the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse storyline. And anything involving Greek Mythology. Ares (War), Thanatos (Death), Limos (Famine) and Reseph (Pestilence) are the Horsemen/Horsewoman of the Apocalypse. ;) I won¿t go into the history, as that is for you to discover. However, this set of siblings has been cursed to carry the Seals of Armageddon, and they can only be broken via their agimortus. And when their Seals are broken, the apocalypse cometh.This book is about Ares. Aka War, the second horseman. He¿s strong, fierce, determined, yet has the ability to be gentle and compassionate. Battle, Ares¿ horse, is BOSS. I think he might be my favorite character! And you know what is really cool about the horsemen¿s horses? They magically live on their owner¿s skin, like a living tattoo, and can be called out when needed. So rad. I need one like yesterday.I enjoyed Cara¿s character. She was fierce and strong, even when looking death in the face. She is a gifted healer and has endured trauma that she has not yet dealt with. Cara used to be a Vet and a friend drops off a hellhound puppy that is injured. Cara realizes something is different about this pup, but quickly works her magic and heals the little guy right up. He gives her a big sloppy kiss of thanks. A very special sloppy kiss. And thus, Cara is sucked into a world that she never fathomed could exist. On top of that, she soon becomes the lucky recipient of Ares¿ agimortus, and well, he must protect her so he can remain semi-sweet Ares, instead of War.Cara and Ares¿ relationship is slow burning, but it hurt so good. Ares is not interested in becoming involved with a human because they die. We see some serious vulnerability from Ares when he finally lets Cara know why he is so guarded. She also has issues of her own, and eventually relays her traumatic past. I loved Ione¿s use of quotes from past conversations in the character¿s thoughts to illicit emotion, or make them come to a realization. Oh, and the smut was great. The shower scene was by far my favorite smexy scene. :)Reseph is the first horseman of the apocalypse, and his seal hath broken. No longer do his siblings have the funny, warm brother that they loved so much. Now, Pestilence, as his name suggests, spreads disease and chaos like wild fire. He is one sick fock, but I loved the death, gore and destruction that he pretty much bathed in. Hmmm. What does this say about me¿? Unfortunately for Cara and Ares, Pestilence is quite looking forward to War, Death and Famine joining the party, and sets out to destroy Ares¿ agimortus. Uh oh¿
I have always been a big fan of Larissa Ione's work, and her new Lords of Deliverance series; "Eternal Rider" keeps with the same flavor and passion of any previous works. As a first book in any series does, it has to introduce us to the vein of what the story arc and who the main characters that are a part in that tale. We are brought into the world of the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse. Each of these Horseman are put in charge of protecting their seals, that if broken, will cause them to emulate the evil prophecies of death, war, famine, and pestilence. An agimortus, a person, event or object, is basically something that could break their seals and herald in the apocalypse. We begin with an event that occurred at the end of the last Demonica book (Sin Undone) that breaks the seal on Reseph's seal and turns him into the horseman, Pestilence. This book is focused on our 2nd Horseman, Ares (War), and preventing his seal from breaking. His world is very focused on survival, existence, and protection but, not anything more. Ares can call upon a suit of armor, as can all of the Horseman, for protection. It also protects him from physical harm but also emotions, and the threads that would connect him to his lost humanity. Ares holds his immortality and demon origins as a shield so he can continue regardless of what battles await.Ares is not prepared for the one weapon, a human named Cara, who inadvertently gets intertwined in their world, and becomes his agimortus. She represents his survival, on so many levels, and changes Ares world. Ares¿ other siblings will struggle with these 2 to save the world from evil, which has become personified in their fallen brother, Pestilence. The other horseman will reveal their curses and facets to explore later of their existence. The story will flow like a river getting faster and faster till it crashes at the end scene, the big finale (a Larissa specialty). We get our HEA but evil is still lurking.Overall, this is a tale of forgiveness and acceptance, which is the theme that dominates our character¿s actions and emotions. Ares cannot forgive himself for not protecting his family and has locked himself up in his armor away from anything that reminds him of that past humanity. By accepting Cara, is also accepting he still has some humanity, and he has to forgive himself for what happened. Cara on the other hand has the opposite problem. She needs to forgive herself for being magical, or something that is more than human, when she kills in self-defense. By using her gifts again to protect others, she realizes that its part of whom she is and it is necessary. She accepts Ares, who kills, because she recognizes the same, the need to protect others. There is a scene where Ares thinks he has failed Cara, where this theme of forgiveness and acceptance is very strong. Ares cannot forgive himself and therefore he is rejecting Cara. We see themes of forgiveness and acceptance play out with Chaos and Ares as well. Cara also seeks out some acceptance with Thanatos. Lastly, we see that Limos has a secret that will not be forgiven if her brothers find out. My lasting impressions are that the tale takes you on a very wild journey. Larissa Ione¿s strengths for character development are in full force in this new series. The Horsemen are interesting individuals that are facing some heart wrenching moments in their current reality. The blending of the Demonica world with this one was a good fit and was not forced or had the feeling of ¿guest appearances¿. The worlds overlap so knowing characters from that series helps color your understanding of this one. I truly liked the character development in this book. I found the plot threads that were laid down concerning the other horsemen tasty and it made it easy to anticipate additional developments in the future. My favorite aspects of the novel were the unique armor and horses of each horseman and how that relates to their personalities, the interesting places they
Larissa Ione has started her new series with a bang. She has created a unique story with a lot of familiar creatures - demons, angels, vampires, etc. - and familiar mythology.I very much enjoyed both our hero and heroine. Cara was dealing with her own problems before her whole world turned upside down upon meeting Ares. But she ends up being a very strong character, and it was easy to see why Ares comes to love her. Ares is pretty rough around the edges, which is understandable as the Horseman of War. Who wouldn't be a little grumpy witnessing war for the last 5,000 years? But Cara ends up being exactly what he needs.Some familiar characters from Ione's Demonica series pop in, which was fun. It looks Limos' story is next; I look forward to her story and reading what evil Pestilence does next.
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie TalesQuick & Dirty: Legends come to life with all the flaws of us mere mortals. Full of action, suspense, and naughty scenes including patio furniture and a home-made whip. Opening Sentence: Ares, also known as War, second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to much of the human and demon world, sat astride his stallion on the outskirts of a nameless village in Africa, his body and mind vibrating with energy. The Review: Every religion has two things; a story about the Beginning of creation and the End. Human nature makes each of us curious about where we came from and where we are going. The Lords of Deliverance series gives us an interesting interpretation of the Apocalypse and the Horsemen in charge of heralding it. Larissa Ione presents us with four very ¿human¿ legendary figures, being half-demon and half-angel, which walk the line between good and evil. But the first seal is broken, and the end is inevitable, isn¿t it? Ares, known as the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse-War, is a hard man. A great strategist and immortal warrior, he has had little to fear for the last forty-five hundred years. The only thing he has to worry about is not having his Seal broken and unleashing his demon nature on humanity. But now that the countdown has started, the only thing keeping him from going evil is one little slip of a human female. Surely, if he can command legions of armies he can handle one lone female, right? Ares is stubborn, arrogant, and has way too much ego for one man. But under all of that, he was once just a man that had lost his family. And his long buried feelings and emotions resurface after spending some time with Cara Thornhart. But can he afford to have a weakness now, knowing that this war will mean the difference between good or evil triumphing? Can he set aside old grudges in order to create alliances that may make a difference between winning and losing? Cara has barely been surviving when circumstances thrust her into a supernatural world that teeters on the brink of war. Her gift of kindness to a dog has led her to being bonded with a hellhound and, eventually, the carrier of Ares¿ agimortus; his trigger for breaking his Seal. But humans were never meant to carry such a thing, and it is killing her. Now it is a race against time to save her life, and therefore preventing Ares from going evil. Cara realizes, now that her life is coming to an end, she has yet to really live. Her desperation to fight for her life leads her to take chances that she wouldn¿t before, including falling in love. She doesn¿t have the luxury of time with Ares and does all she can in the time she has left. This includes helping Ares get past his feud with the hellhounds. Cara too must face her own past and its consequences before she can move on from it. By letting each other into their hearts, both learn that love makes a person stronger, not weaker. Of course, all of this would be much easier if Ares¿ brother wasn¿t working against them to get the Apocalypse started. Pestilence, once known as Reseph, is the First Horseman of the Apocalypse and the first one to have his Seal broken. Now that his demon nature is released, his only goal in life is to see his siblings fall as well. He is made aware of Ares¿ attachment to Cara and uses it against his brother. Though it is understood that there is no going back once a Seal is broken, Reseph¿s brothers and sister refuse to give up hope. They search for a way to bring back the man they love while he is searching for a way to take them down. I especially enjoy the closeness that these siblings share. Their fate has left them little sympathy with others, leaving them to only rely on each other all of these years. To have lost the Reseph they knew and loved and had him replaced with one that has no love in him must tear the siblings apart. To know that the only way they may be able to prevent the Apocalypse is to kill him must be such a heavy burden in each
This is a great addition to the series. It's fun to read about the horsemen you are so curious about.
love love loved it!!! the couple was great, definitely getting the next one.
WORTH READING... Total Pages: 315; Story Pages: 292 Lords of Deliverance series, book #1 The Four Horseman of Apocalypse. Ares & Cara's story. Wasn't sure how this was going to go; I was kind of skeptical about it. Glad that it turned out to be so good.