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Vitus, a lusty soldier, and Caecilia, an innocent handmaiden to Diana, first discovered love and passion on the banks of the Tiber in ancient Rome. But falling in love with the handmaiden of a goddess without permission brings the wrath of Diana down on both their heads. And retribution is not pleasant nor short-lived. In order to protect each other, Vitus agrees to serve Apollo, and Caecilia is sent to the courts of the lustful Aphrodite and thrust into the arms of a satyr for tutoring in the erotic arts. It’s centuries before these two lovers meet again.

Now in the 1880’s old west, Caecilia, an experienced immortal courtesan, has been sent to the Infernia dominion, and specifically to a town called Deadeye, to retrieve the son of the Nacraecian Dreamweaver Sorceress, who was fathered by the dark lord, Zevodious. Justus has been with his demon father since his birth. He is an incubus that must have the demon energy purged from him, and Aphrodite sends Caecilia to see the dark energy exorcised so that Justus may embrace his dreamweaver destiny. A task to be accomplished only through the act of lusty fornication.

But Zevodious has one demand that must be met before he will release Justus. Return to him Vitus, the Roman soldier who was once his slave, who escaped the deviant lusts of the dark lord with acute cunning. Now possessing demon powers of his own, Vitus has been ordered by Apollo to return to his former master, Zevodious. In Deadeye, Vitus and Caecilia are reunited. Once again Vitus is challenged by the darkness that’s become a part of his soul, while Caecilia is tempted by another. Will Vitus escape Zevodious again? Or in the end will Caecilia, the woman he’s loved through eternity, end up sacrificed as well? Vitus would do anything to protect Caecilia, but will his submission to Zevodious actually save her?

And then there’s Justus, with the demeanor of an angel and the soul of a demon, whose destiny lies in another direction. He must claim Caecilia for himself in order to purge the darkness that masters his own soul.

Vitus, Caecilia, and Justus. Intertwined fates. Lust and sacrifice, passion and purpose, a demon’s demand, a demon’s desire—will they escape or be forever enslaved? Will love triumph? Or will it be a demon’s powerful dark and all-consuming lust that claims them all?



This story is a work of original fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.


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Copyright 2016 by Adrianna Dane

Cover Art Designs by T. A. Gallup


This story was originally released in January 2011 by Amber Quill Press/Amber Heat



CAUTION: This story contains explicit sexual situations and strong language. You must be over the age of 18 years of age to read this story.









Deadeye



By Darcy Abriel







Dream Romantic Unlimited, LLC



Table of Contents




PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

NETWORKING LINKS




PROLOGUE


The Soldier and His Lover




Empire of Rome, in the time of Caesar


Her hands were still wet from her bath in the Tiber; his cock, rock hard, his body warm from sleep. Was he dreaming of her? He jumped when she touched him, the instincts of a Roman soldier, as she trailed her hands down across his ribs, sifted through the short curly hair surrounding his prick. She wrapped her hands around the thick staff and smiled enticingly down at him.

“You have bewitched me,” he growled as he pumped his hips, his cock sliding easily through the grip of her wet fingers. “I will be punished by the gods for having you. Yet the deed is already done.” He surged up from the ground and flipped her onto her back upon the carpet of thick grass. The gasp hardly passed her lips before he plunged into her slippery heat.

“Ahh, Vitus,” she purred, then closed her eyes, as she pushed upward to meet his lusty penetration. “Is it worth the inevitability of reprisal from the gods to be with me? Do you regret your choice?”

He withdrew and then thrust forward again, and again. “Do you regret offering me your virginity, Caecilia?”

She smiled and pulled him down into her arms. “Never, Vitus. Never. I chose to step into the world of humans, to uncloister myself and learn of human ways once more. You have taught me more than I could have hoped for.”

Vitus lifted up to look down at her. “Is that all I am to you? Just a human experience to quench your curiosity? Will you now go back to them and forget me?”

Her gaze widened. “No, Vitus, no. I have spoken badly. I don’t know the right words. I had given my oath to Diana never to know a man’s touch and to serve as her handmaiden for eternity. Her temple has been my home—a place no man has dared breach. But I didn’t know it could be like…this. That a man—a human, could give such pleasure.”

“And receive it,” he said as he rolled to the side and pulled her atop him. “May I be damned, a soldier of Caesar’s army does not embrace regrets. We live, we fight, we love with no contrition.”

She rose over him, undulating her hips, his cock sliding in and out of her wet pussy. Vitus cupped her breasts, kneading them as she rode his mighty prick with abandon.

“You will stay here and be my wife,” he said with authority. “It is the only honorable way.”

She gazed down at him, her long pale hair trailing like a veil over his body. “Be your wife? Is that a thing that humans do when they share pleasure such as we have done? I had forgotten about that ritual.”

“You truly are an innocent in the ways of men.”

“Of course.”

“But you have known women.”

She smiled. “Many. But only others of Diana’s court. Not human—nor probably in the way you mean.”

“Do they excite you the way that I do? Do you want them the way you want me?”

She leaned down and kissed him. “Mmm. No, I don’t think so. You taste so good. So very masculine. So very hard where they are soft and sweet. I think there is nothing soft in you, Vitus. Not like them at all.”

“I’m a man. Of course, there’s no softness. Hard muscle.” He made a fist and struck his chest.

She laughed, nodded, lifted up, and paused for a second before wiggling back down. “Yes, very hard, my soldier. Very hard, indeed.”

“You can’t go back,” Vitus said, yanking her possessively down onto his chest. “You cannot fool the gods. Diana will know exactly what you’ve been doing.”

“I know. I wouldn’t lie to her anyway. This is…unexpected. I just felt so separated from this world and curious. When I dedicated myself to Diana, and entered her temple, and when she chose me to serve her intimate court, I didn’t know, didn’t realize what I was giving up. And now…” Her words trailed away. She looked down at him. “I will accept whatever punishment is demanded. You are worth it, Vitus. What you have given me is something I would not want to go another moment without knowing. No matter the cost.”

Vitus tangled his hand in her hair, holding her fast. “I will pay whatever price the gods exact to protect you from their wrath.”

She placed two fingers over his lips. “No, Vitus, you must not say that. You will tempt their cruelty. You have no idea what they can do—the sacrifices they can demand. Nor how much they enjoy it.”

“But he will soon learn.”

Caecilia screamed, jumped away from Vitus, landing on her knees facing the bright and wrathful deity that loomed over them. Vitus rolled to his knees and lunged for his sword. As quickly as he picked it up he dropped it as it turned a glowing bright orange, burning his hand. He swung back toward Caecilia.

“Diana. Mistress. I can explain,” Caecilia said as she dropped forward, forward to the ground, then fearfully glancing up at the glowing entity of the angry huntress.

Diana pointed at her. “You, worm, will explain nothing. Hold your tongue. I want none of your lies, none of your whining.” She glared at Vitus. “To think a human has the audacity to fuck one of my handmaidens without permission. How dare you! Oh, yes, you will pay—you will both pay dearly.” She rounded on Caecilia. “You! Get you back to my temple. I will deal with you shortly.”

“No. Please,” Caecilia begged. Vitus reached for Caecilia and tried to force her behind him.

“Let her go,” he said as he stood, drawing himself up to his full height, one hand forcing Caecilia protectively behind him. Being completely naked in front of the goddess was apparently of little concern. But Caecilia knew Vitus had no idea what Diana was capable of. She twisted her arm in an effort to free herself from his grasp.

“I’m the one to be punished. Goddess, let me pay in her stead. She has done no wrong here. I seduced her.” He stood, shoulders back, head high. Caecilia wrenched from his grasp and clambered up next to him. She interlaced her fingers with his. She knew he had no idea how jealous these gods were. That all the pleading in the world would not change them from their path of righteous indignation. “I am a soldier of Rome. My word is my bond.”

“She will pay. You will pay as well, soldier of Caesar. Never fear. You will dearly regret these moments of lust stolen at my expense.”

“It wasn’t lust alone, mistress,” Caecilia said, forgetting her fear of Diana’s wrath. Knowing only that she would do whatever was demanded to save Vitus’s life. Even if it meant losing her own. “I love him.”

“Love.” Diana laughed. “How Eros would laugh. Is that how this came about? Is this Eros’s doing? The little bastard. I’ll have words with him myself for poaching on what belongs to me.”

“It was not Eros. He had nothing to do with this. I am the one who has broken my vow. Vitus simply offered me what I wanted. Nothing more. Let him go.”

“No!” Vitus shouted. “It is not her doing alone. I won’t see her punished for offering her love to me.”

“Silence! The ground trembled beneath their feet at Diana’s utterance. “She had no right to offer you anything, Roman. And for this she will pay. As will you. Caecilia, do as I command. Back to the temple.”

Caecilia whirled around to face Vitus. She squeezed both his hands and looked into his eyes, trying to memorize his face. “No matter what, remember that you have given me the most wonderful moments I shall ever know. I’ll never forget you and I shall always love you. Forgive me for putting you in this situation. It was not my wish.”

He squeezed her hands, then a violent wind sprung up out of nowhere, whirling around them with the force of a tornado.

“I regret nothing,” he shouted above the roar of the wind. “Nothing. I love you, Caecilia.” He held her fast as she was lifted off the ground, as the funnel of the wind encircled only her. He clung tighter. She saw the angry frustration in his eyes.

“Let me go, Vitus. Don’t make it worse for yourself.”

“No. I’ll never let you go. We’ll find each other again. Either in this life or the next. I give you my oath.”

She lost her grip and was torn away, caught up in the tornado.

“Vitus!” Torn free of him, she hurled across the sky, eventually landing heavily in the garden of Diana’s temple on the opposite side of the banks of the Tiber.

Tears poured from her eyes as she sprawled there filled with such sorrow. Love was now an agony that painfully squeezed her heart. She opened her hand and looked at the object on her palm. She had held him so tightly that when finally they were ripped apart, his ring had gone with her.

She curled her fingers around the golden object and dropped forward onto the grass.

“Vitus. My heart.”

“Your heart,” Diana said disparagingly from above her. Caecilia raised her tearstained face up to the goddess.

“Please, mistress. It was me. All me. Not him. Don’t punish him for my actions.”

“I shall not punish him.”

Caecilia released a long breath, a sense of some relief flooding her. “You won’t? Oh, thank you, mistress. I’ll accept whatever punishment you demand of me.”

“Oh, yes. But it won’t be me meting it out. I’ve given you over to Aphrodite. Since lust has taken you from me, and you have enjoyed it so thoroughly, let it be put to good use and entertainment for the rest of us. Aphrodite will see it is done.”

Caecilia had heard rumors of what means Aphrodite could use to control her court. Caecilia shuddered at the possible implications. But she’d agreed to accept any punishment, no matter its shape.

She bowed her head, she must accept her punishment. “As you wish, mistress.” She clutched the ring tighter. Vitus’s ring—the only tangible thing she had left of him.

“Be gone and accept your fate. And by the way, your Roman? It’s not I who will mete out his punishment. Him, I have put into the hands of Apollo. I wash my hands of both of you.”

“No!”

Diana vanished. And within moments Caecilia was transported once again, this time to land at the feet of Aphrodite.

“So,” Aphrodite said, as she placed a bejeweled finger beneath Caecilia’s chin and tilted her head up. “My new disciple. I think I have just the place for you. So Diana says you think you’re in love. Well, that’s something that we can remedy quickly. And your body? That now belongs to me. I shall put it to good use, my dear. Your fate now resides with me. It can be easy or very, very hard.”

Aphrodite glanced to someone standing near her dais. She pointed and motioned for him to approach her. “You, Quaz, come here. You will be responsible for her training to my service.”

Quaz bowed. Caecilia noted the horns, the glint in his dark eyes, the cruel twist of smile to his lips. He was naked, with an immense cock that sprung strongly from a nest of black curly hair. His shiny skin was as black satin, his black hair braided and bound with gold. He studied Caecilia as she crouched before Aphrodite. “Yes, mistress. I shall serve you well.” He grinned at Caecilia.

Aphrodite returned her attention to Caecilia. “Quaz will teach you everything you need to know, girl. We shall see how you fare in our lusty games. I think the satyr’s gardens will be a fitting place for you until I command you before me again. Perhaps you shall make a good nymph.” She studied Caecilia closely. “No, I think you will make a more exceptional siren. But, we shall see. We’ll start you off in training to the satyrs.”

The satyrs and their music. She knew of them. All of Diana’s court knew of them and were warned to watch for the signs of their presence. So easily could they entice and enslave a virgin with their music, the temples of Diana were closely guarded against their ilk. Caecilia glanced down at Quaz’s black-hoofed feet, her glance sliding up along his furred legs, the dusky gleaming velvet of the long, thick cock that swayed between his muscled thighs. A black leather belt at his waist held an array of musical pipes.

Caecilia gripped Vitus’s ring until she felt her blood drip from between her fingers. For Vitus she would bear fate in the hopes that someday they would once again be reunited.

Quaz stepped toward her and held out a hand. “Come, girl. Let us begin your introduction into Aphrodite’s service. Let us see if we can quench your newly acquired hungers of the flesh. Or perhaps you will end up with an appetite more voracious than before.”

Caecilia hesitated, terrified as she looked into the eyes of prurient interest.

“Now!” Aphrodite snapped. “You’ve taken up enough of my time. Go, if you would live. If you would not see your…lover…beaten for your reticence.”

Caecilia finely accepted Quaz’s hand and the next thing she knew she was in a forest filled with lush greenery. Someone played a flute near a small fountain; there were naked women dancing in the water, spinning round and round to the light, airy music. The tune began to flood her mind, pushing everything else from it, echoing round and round, making her want to dance. She fought the melody’s grip, crawling away toward the edge of the clearing, wanting to run. But it was as though she was trapped, unable to venture beyond the perimeter of trees.

“Let me go.” She sobbed. “Please, let me go.”

A hand at her shoulder turned her onto her back. The music soared inside her head drowning out everything. Her eyes couldn’t focus. All she could feel was the music. Fingers pried her hand opened.

“No. No.”

“It will be returned to you when the time is right. For now it is just a distraction.” Vitus’s ring was removed from her hand.

“Vitus!”

She arched, hands above her head, breasts upthrust. Someone helped her to her feet and once upright she began to dance, swaying and undulating to the music. There were hands touching her—more than two—how many she couldn’t say. They stroked her—fingers at her lips, cupping her breasts, between her legs. She spun, her eyes closed, twirling round and round. Toward the music. The beautiful, beautiful music. Nothing mattered but the music.

She heard laughter, the whisper of voices, the touch of hands on her body. She was lifted, then spread upon the velvety grass. She writhed, unable to stop moving, now a slave to the music. And as hands continued to stroke her—it was the lust that gripped her body, as the music claimed her.

In one corner of her mind she now understood the dangers of the satyrs, of their music, and the turbulent passions they aroused that now claimed her mind and body. The scream of denial on her lips turned to one of desire as her legs were spread and she was penetrated, accepting of the bodily possession, filled with the lust contained in the music.

Caecilia had decided her fate when she lay with Vitus. And now she would pay a high price for her love of the Roman soldier. There was no hope, no way free but to embrace the path that was now hers. Wherever it might lead. Destiny had a habit of changing course unexpectedly. The gods’ whims could alter in an instant. She had no choice but to submit, if she wanted to survive with her mind intact.

The satyr’s cock surged deep inside her. She arched and screamed as an orgasm washed over her. Caecilia cut through the music, she opened her eyes, she saw the satyr’s dusky face above her. She bared her teeth, and lifted up, impaling him more fully inside her. She saw shock in his expression as she wound her arms around him and began to ride him.

“You will not teach me, Quaz. It is I who shall teach you. And bind you to me as no woman has ever done to a satyr before.” She circled her hips, drew out his strength and claimed it for herself. It was he who fell back onto the ground and she rose over him. Vitus’s ring was on his finger and she pulled it free. “You will not take what is mine, she slipped the ring onto her thumb. Never. But I will have all that is yours and you will help me to be free and find Vitus.” As she rocked against him, she saw things clearly, as an unfamiliar power coursed through her. Clarity and acceptance formed her pathway.

Quaz would teach her. She had been loved, and Vitus and his memory would anchor her through eternity if necessary. She would own her destiny whatever form it took and one day she would be with Vitus again. She swore it.

Vitus, I will find you!

CHAPTER ONE




1880s, The American West


Caecilia.


Where was she now? He’d last caught sight of her—what was it? Paris, a century ago. She’d been working on the stage at the time. Vitus had been sent there to retrieve one of Apollo’s daughters and dispense with the demi-god who had spirited her away. Vitus didn’t allow himself to dwell on Caecilia’s whereabouts too often. It did no good, served no purpose, other than to irritate the hell out of him.

The living had a way of thinking of hell in simplified terms, Vitus thought as he leaned forward in his saddle and surveyed the deadly western landscape spread out before him. The sun beat down hot and boiling. The saddle leather creaked as he leaned back, pulled out the makings and rolled himself a cigarette. He stuck it between his lips, lit it, and inhaled deeply, then released the smoke into the air. One of the simple pleasures he’d embraced from this time, and this untamed western land was one of the few places that challenged his innate warrior nature.

Gods and their vengeance. Long lasting and purely hell on earth. But even hell was only what you made it and not exactly the same for everyone. Being dropped into the court of Apollo had not led to an easy path for Vitus, but it was one he was familiar with and one he had learned to embrace.

I don’t need another lover, Roman. I want a gladiator to entertain me. I’ve become bored and I thank Diana for her most timely gift. Let us hope you prove to be worth the time. Immortality should offer plenty of opportunity for you to hone your skills. We shall see.

“Hey, stranger. You heading down there?”

Vitus tugged at the corner of his black felt hat and dipped it lower. Fingers whispered across the handle of his Colt as he twisted around to inspect the newcomer. He liked the feel of the weapons of this age as he had the swords and daggers of his own time. In some ways they were faster and more efficient. A sword allowed for a bit more artistic endeavor, but when up against other weapons of the same caliber, one had to make do. Or die.

“Ponderin’ the possibilities,” Vitus responded. Language was another thing that had turned serviceable. Earthy and practical. Lazy language that masked intention. In this land he’d had to adapt, to learn their language, assume their mannerisms, adopt their clothing. Folks were wary of people who spoke differently, had different ways about them, different rituals. So he’d adapted. The gods enjoyed this age of bloodshed, of lawlessness. They bathed endlessly in the violence.

“You know what’s down there, don’t you?” the dandified down-and-out gambler in the threadbare suit asked Vitus.

“Yep, I’ve heard.” Vitus squinted as he focused on the now fiery-tinged landscape. He felt the ferocity of that heat just beneath his skin. The pain was welcome and he absorbed its rejuvenating intensity.

“A king’s ransom at those tables in Deadeye. A poker game to beat any other, I hear.”

“So they say.” Deadly games, no matter the choice. “Surprised you didn’t take the midnight train into Deadeye. Would have been safer than crossing the desert.”

“No ticket. Ain’t easy to come by. I’ve already waited months kicking my heels in that one-horse town on the other side of the ravine. Lost my partner there when he got too antsy and tried to lift a ticket that warn’t his. Damn gunfighter shot him right between the eyes. Thought it best I hightail it outta there a’fore I was next. So, want some company?” the newcomer asked hopefully.

Deadeye. That’s what they called a shot like that in these parts. A shot like that got you respect on this side of the ravine. It gave you position, one of the fastest ways to get an audience with Zevodious.

The gambler looked so pale and cool to Vitus. He wanted to draw the gambler to him, to absorb the chilliness of his flesh. At least cooler compared to Vitus’s own flesh. But if he touched the gambler, Vitus would quench himself with the bracing human energy, like a tall icy drink of water. Attractive human energy undulated around the man. It was pretty, sexually enticing in a human sort of way. It was bright enough to light the sky in the dead of night. Not obvious to humans—but to Vitus’s kind—those of the night? The gambler would be a beacon to the hell-zombies who would just be rising and surely ravenous. Not much flesh on the gambler—he’d obviously seen lean times. The creatures would make short shrift of him. Vitus doubted the man would make it much past sunset if he went down there right now.

“Nope. Not too keen on crossing the Saguaro at sundown. Wouldn’t advise it. You go down there now, you go it alone.”

“No need to be unfriendly. My name’s Cuthbert. You got a name, stranger?”

Vitus didn’t even turn to look at the man. He knew the lure of gold wouldn’t keep the idealistic fool from trying to cross the Flats. Yep, sun-up as opposed to sundown would be a better time for Vitus to make his way on down to cross to Temptation Flats. No reason to put himself out fighting off hell-zombies when there wasn’t a need to do such. He nudged his horse off to the right and away from Cuthbert.

“Hey, where you going?”

Vitus didn’t even slow, his mind on other matters. He’d made his intentions clear enough. Every man made his own choices, and lived or died with them.

“Well, fuck you. I’m not waiting another damned minute to get what’s coming to me. More for me when I get there.”

Get what’s coming to him. Sure enough he’d be on the receiving end of some mighty focused attention. Vitus heard the desperate bravado tingeing those words. He might have kept the gambler for the night, fucked him, enjoyed him and his cool, pale energy. Vitus could have warmed Cuthbert thoroughly with his own fire until the gambler completely forgot what he came here to do. The gods would have enjoyed the lusty exhibition—they always had enjoyed a taste for earthy. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

But the moment they navigated through to Temptation Flats the gambler would only have lost his soul in Deadeye, one way or the other. Why put it off? Vitus wasn’t that needy. Not yet. Nor did he care that much what happened to the gambler. Not really. Another soul to be claimed by Zevodious.

Vitas heard the click of the gambler’s tongue against his teeth as Cuthbert urged his horse forward and down the ridge. Vitus gazed at the horizon, at the blaze of fiery orange coals stretched across the sky.

“Shit. What do you think, hoss? Let the bastards split him open and use him as an appetizer? Or try to save his sorry gambler ass? And for what? He’ll just put himself right in the path of killing in some other damned fashion? But hell-zombies—there could be an easier way, I reckon.”

Storm tossed his head, eyes of crimson flame rolling back. The silver bridle jangled, sharp hooves stomped impatiently.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Vitus tossed the remains of his cigarette. He opened his black duster and checked each of the pockets, considering which of the array of weapons would get the job done the fastest. He checked the special bullets in the twin silver-plated five-shot Colt pistols. He checked the keen edge on the single-edged hunting cleaver. And then there was his favorite—the three-pointed African iron-forged throwing knife gifted to him by a chief several years back when he’d saved the man’s son. Yep, his personal arsenal was in order.

He nudged Storm forward and down the slope just as he heard the first muffled scream. The gambler’s terrified horse, eyes rolling back, galloped past headed back up the ridge. The second scream echoed through the darkened sky. “Come on, hoss, sounds like ole Cuthbert needs some help. Zevodious’s hell-boys are getting ready to have themselves some fun tonight.”

Vitus rammed his spurs and Storm reared, dropped down, then took off into the cactus forest. He had a knack for sniffing out dead men and fresh blood. Damned animal acted more like a bloodhound than a horse. Vitus spotted the shadow of a man dangling from one of the cacti, surrounded by misshapen bodies, hungry, mindless growls erupting into the night. Cuthbert was coatless, his shirt in tatters, and the hell-zombies were closing in. The next scream was long and drawn out. Vitus tied the reins and looped them over the saddle horn. He dropped his stirrups and gripped Storm tightly with his legs. The horse put on a burst of speed. Vitus drew out his Colts, squeezed harder with his thighs and calves. Storm burst into the nest of hell-zombies. Vitus leaned forward, guns pointed, looking to gather attention. Regular bullets wouldn’t do much for these creatures, but he could get their minds off Cuthbert for a time.

Vitus emptied the Colts, then pocketed them. He yanked out the throwing knife, got it free just as one of the zombies leaped into the air straight at him. He had just enough time to throw the knife. It met its mark, burying itself into the zombie’s eye socket. The zombie dropped. Vitus knew it wouldn’t be for long.

The rest of the zombies turned as one, growled like thunder and dragged toward Vitus. Slow and dumb, pungent rotting flesh, bloody gaping mouths, ready to rip into Vitus and Storm. Storm reared up, but Vitus was ready for it. The horse lashed out with his razor sharp hooves cutting into the monsters that came within striking distance. Flecks of skin flew in every direction. Angry roars erupted. Vitus yanked out two machetes. Only way to stop them now was to decapitate as many as he could. Arms flying, he took down as many as came within striking distance. Heads rolled, blood-curdling screams filled the air. And the rest flopped away with enough sense to know they’d be honest dead men if they tried to get to Vitus.

Pocketing one machete, he leaned down and yanked his African throwing blade out of the neck of the first zombie. He was not going to lose his favorite knife over some down-and-out gambler. Not so hard to free the blade as the head was now short a body. The head went rolling as Vitus freed his blade On to Cuthbert before the rest of the pack got their second wind.

Get to Cuthbert, free him, and get the hell out of there. Stupid fucking gambler. Vitus should have just forgotten about him. If he had made it to Deadeye, Zevodious would have owned his soul anyway. This was just delaying matters. What the hell.

As Vitus drew closer, one of the zombies got brave and lunged toward Vitus. Vitus used the machete and the corpse’s head went rolling. Vitus swung toward the next one, smelling his fetid breath, made short work of him.

Something grabbed him from behind. Caught off guard, Vitus went flying off Storm. Storm reared, hooves clashing. Rolling beneath the horse, even as he reached for his ace—the special-shot pistol, good for emergencies. Dust flying, Storm reared, kicking out with those damned deadly hooves to keep the rest of the fucking dead at bay. Vitus surged to his feet on the other side of the stallion. He spun around. Bullets whizzed, slowing the monsters, but not completely stopping them. He’d dropped the machete. He yanked out a big bowie knife. He slashed his way toward the huge tree-sized cactus where Cuthbert hung. Cuthbert’s blood dripped onto the ground creating a thick, black pool beneath him.

Vitus took a running start, then launched himself into the air. Even as he arced back toward the ground, he sliced through the rope with his knife. Cuthbert dropped in a huddle at the base of the cactus. Something grabbed Vitus from behind. It spun him. A bony fist punched him. The force threw Vitus into the air. He landed face-first in the dirt several yards away. He’d lost his knife. He reached inside his coat, drew out two more smaller knives. His arsenal was surely dwindling. Time to get the fuck out of there. Again doubly armed, he came up swinging and slicing. He made his way back to Cuthbert. Enough play—time to say adios.

He swung Cuthbert over his shoulder. Once anchored, he twisted around. He spotted Storm, and whistled. Storm spun around, sending hell-zombies flying. The stallion galloped to where Vitas waited. Vitus slung Cuthbert over the saddle and then sprang onto Storm. He anchored Cuthbert with one arm and grabbed up the knotted reins. He spurred Storm. “Get us the hell out of here, hoss.”

Razor-sharp nails sliced at his leg, tearing his jeans.

“Fuck,” Vitus said, as he looped the reins and grabbed for a knife. He drove the double-edged blade into the zombie’s chest. The zombie dropped away. Another one sprang at Vitus from the other side, ripping his cheek open, spilling Vitus’s blood. But Storm hauled for safety. Vitus leaned forward over Cuthbert’s prone body. He let Storm have his head. He could hear the screams echoing in the night coming from behind him.

There was a perimeter that the dead couldn’t cross. Hell-zombies didn’t leave the forest—they were bound to it by Zevodious. Once Vitus was up over the ridge, the monsters wouldn’t, or rather, couldn’t, come after them. Finally at a safe distance, Vitus shoved Cuthbert off. The gambler landed with a thump onto the ground, unconscious.

“Hell, now I’ve got to tend the stupid fuck.” Vitus eased himself off Storm. He touched the wound on his cheek. His hand came away bloody. The scratch on his leg was superficial. Luck had been with him.

Vitus unsaddled Storm. No need to hobble the beast; the horse knew his boundaries just as well as Vitus did. Not like other horses, Storm would hunt his own food, his own water, so Vitus let him roam. The black stallion wouldn’t go far—he never did. He and Vitus had been together for a while now, they sort of knew each other’s peculiarities. That settled, Vitus gathered some mesquite and made a small fire. He didn’t need matches, just a snap of the fingers and the tinder caught quick. Satisfied, he turned his attention to the gambler.

Vitus yanked free a blanket and laid it out on the other side of the fire. He dragged the unconscious gambler over to it and stretched him out. He was bleeding in too many places. Vitus pulled off the gambler’s boots and his socks. Undid his belt and tossed it to the side. Vitus pulled out one of his numerous remaining knives, this time a Samurai curved dagger, he’d picked up in China, and proceeded to slice the remainder of Cuthbert’s clothes away.

Vitus straightened and looked down at him. Nice looking man, and he had more blood smeared across him than actual wounds. Vitus should have no trouble healing him. He tried not to do it too often because sometimes it made him feel like he was feeding off human flesh. Just like those damned hell-zombies of Zevodious’s.

“Well, Zevodious, bet you never thought I’d use those powers this way, huh?” Vitus couldn’t help grinning, and he began the work of repairing the gambler’s body. Another minute or two and the monsters probably would have ripped the man beyond repair. Vitus stripped off Cuthbert’s clothes. He pulled the bottle of whiskey out of his saddlebags and downed a healthy gulp. Fortified, he turned and looked down at the unconscious naked gambler stretched out on Vitus’s blanket, blood seeping from the numerous wounds. Nope, Vitus was going to have to do it, there was no way around it. They’d be there for days if he let the man heal in normal fashion. And Vitus didn’t have time for that.

Vitus dropped to his knees next to the gambler, rubbed his hands together, focused his attention, and drew on his demonic abilities for healing. Using his hands, his mouth, his saliva, Cuthbert would be completely healed within a matter of hours rather than days. Vitus started on his inner thigh. First he leaned down and tracked his tongue along the length of the gaping wound, the metallic taste of Cuthbert’s blood and wounded flesh zinged through him.

There were some demons who thrived on the taste of human blood. Unlike vampires—they didn’t need it—but it did make them more powerful. Vitus applied the heat of his palms to the wound, kneading the flesh along the ragged lines and slowly the flesh would mend together. Dark power wasn’t like white—the flesh would be marred—there would be scars to remind Cuthbert of his close call with the living dead. Vitus attended to each wound meticulously. The only problem was that when he was finished he had a raging hard-on that wasn’t going to soften until he fucked Cuthbert. There were always catches to demon power.

Vitus liked touching the man—his flesh was cool against the fire of Vitus’s flesh. It was soothing to Vitus. The man was young and attractive—too soft, too idealistic, too hungry to be rich. He might last all of an hour in Zevodious’s town.

Vitus stroked his hands over the cool, supple flesh that was beginning to heal. There was no way around it—he needed to fuck the man. He lay next to the gambler, turned him onto his side, and spooned himself around the man. So cool and refreshing. Vitus felt Cuthbert return to consciousness in the tensing of his body. Vitus waited, his hand stroking over the gambler’s chest.

Cuthbert turned his head to look up at Vitus. After a moment’s hesitation, he twisted around to face Vitus. “Y-you came after me. You saved my life. T-thanks.”

“I wouldn’t suggest going back down there.”

“They were real, weren’t they?”

“More real than you want to know. In the morning I suggest you head on back home. This is no place for someone like you.”

Vitus stared into his eyes, still enjoying the feel of his cool, tender flesh. He leaned forward and brushed his lips against the other man’s. He slid a hand down over the man’s slender hip. He needed to fuck him in order to more certainly bind the healing. A flash of burning flame shot into his mind and he rolled away from the gambler and surged to his feet.

“Goddamn you, Zevodious.” He stood there, eyes closed as the blaze consumed him once again. He gripped his cock, the friction of heat riding up and down his length. He placed his other hand over his groin, tracing the shape of the brand that marked him there. The letter Z and the shape of an eye. Ever present. Always watching.

::Welcome home. You’re learning to love it, aren’t you Vitus? You hate me, but you embrace what I can give you. No boundaries to the depths to which I can take you. You’ll never be free of me. Never.::

Third degree agony that burrowed right into the soul of the inferno where you learned what you were made of. Making you scream with the pain until it either consumed you completely, making you a creature of the darkness, or burned you raw until all that was left was the steel of determination, honed in those very fires of eternity. Surviving third-degree hell made you immortal, every other fragment of humanity seared away until you were hard as rock, molten as liquid lava, fiery as a noon-day summer sun glaring down upon the desert.

And there was the unyielding pain that stayed with you, be you man or hell-zombie creature. A pain that became second nature, skin beneath the skin, a layer of you that stoked with each and every breath you took. Vitus’s heart burned with that unquenchable white-hot fire—burned so bright, so intense that even the gods sometimes quaked beneath that black, molten power that was imprisoned inside him waiting to be unleashed. Oh yes, he’d learned to embrace what Zevodious had taught him—had been wily enough to claim some of that power for his own.

The problem was there was always payment. Always.

“It’s all right,” the gambler said. His words called Vitus back from the edge. He turned to look at the gambler, who was staring at Vitus’s hard-on. “M-my friend that got killed. He and I—”

There was no way around it. “You sure you know what I want?”

Cuthbert lifted a hand, beckoning Vitus to him. “Yeah, I know.” Vitus could see that he did, Cuthbert’s prick was already half-hard. Vitus swung to one of his saddlebags. Over the years he’d learned ways to make it easier. He pulled out a bottle. Then he grabbed a second blanket. He went back to Cuthbert and knelt down next to him.

“You fuck him or did he fuck you?” Vitus asked. Vitus had spent a long time as Zevodious’s plaything. He’d fought hard against the possession, but in the end, he had no choice but to surrender. It was either that or end up a hell zombie himself. Once he got free, left with a taste he hadn’t much thought about for a long time, he was the one who always did the fucking now.

“W-we took turns. Just depended on the situation.”

Vitus rolled the blanket up and shoved it beneath Cuthbert’s hips, lifting him. He had to do this, there wasn’t any way around it. A demon bond. But maybe it’d protect Cuthbert, too. Any other demon the man came in contact with would see Vitus’s mark on him, that telltale smoky aura marking Cuthbert as protected—a demon’s lover, already taken, and there were consequences for crossing that boundary. If they followed the rules, they’d let him be. Though it might piss Zevodious off. Fuck it.

He prepared Cuthbert. The man’s hole was tight, real tight. It was going to feel so good sliding into him.

“You ain’t fucked much have you?”

“Ahh.” The gambler wiggled his hips beneath Vitus’s preparation. “N-no, not much. Wasn’t easy in town. Didn’t want people saying stuff, you know? Or we’d both be dead right now.”

“Yeah, I know.” This wasn’t Rome. In his time there was no pleasure, no depravity left unexplored. But these were more puritan times. Except if you were a demon—then there were no rules. A lot like being back in Rome. Except now Vitus had immortality and power. Even if he hadn’t wanted it. An image of Caecilia pushed into his mind and he forced it away. They both paid a price and this was part of his.

Vitus positioned himself over Cuthbert. The man looked so young, too young to have so many angry red scars littered over his body the way he did now. Vitus eased the head of his more-than-man-sized cock past the tight ring of muscle. Cuthbert stilled beneath him.

“Breathe,” Vitus said. “Don’t tense up.” Right now Vitus felt like his cockhead was caught in a vise of flesh. Not that he hadn’t been there before. Zevodious had often been fond of his little toys, and putting Vitus’s cock in Zevodious’s tack-lined cock lock was never a pleasant experience. A contraption of the demon’s own devious design meant to draw out the pain to a point of frightening ferocity.

Vitus felt Cuthbert’s passage ease up as the gambler released a long-held breath. Vitus surged forward, burying himself inside Cuthbert. He wrapped his hand around Cuthbert’s erection and jerked his hand up and down the man’s prick.

Cuthbert’s eyelids closed, his hips lifted from the ground.

“Oh, God, yeah. I forgot how good this could be.” The man’s hands fisted into the blanket. Vitus rode him, driving in and out of Cuthbert’s anus in long deep strokes. The rhythm altered. Shorter, faster thrusts, until he finally came and the pent-up energy burst from him. Hell, yes!

He stared down at Cuthbert, his wounds glowed red as the demon healing sealed. He rode his hand up and down Cuthbert’s prick. Cuthbert yelled as he came, his hips once more lifting from the blanket. Vitus was still buried inside him and the action drove him deeper into the man.

Vitus couldn’t remember how long it had been since he’d fucked a man. This was good. As much as it would hurry along Cuthbert’s healing, it was likely to take the edge off Vitus’s ever-present lust as well. And that was probably not a bad thing as he headed into Deadeye.

It was several more moments before he slipped his softened prick free from Cuthbert. The man was exhausted and within seconds was fast asleep. He would be okay. The glow of the wound healing had already dissipated and now all that was left were the pale scars that would serve as memory.

Once dressed, Vitus laid out his saddle and a blanket on the other side of the fire. A long drawn out moan from the Saguaro Forest was the loudest music of the night. They must have found themselves another victim. Zevodious’s minions drew out their play, like a cat toying with a mouse. There’d been other nights, other places, that Vitus had met up with the demons and imps and shades that served Zevodious’s devious commands. Hell, Vitus was one of them now. The unfortunates, the misshapen, the black-souled hoards. Diana had set the hoards on his tail more than once. He and Diana had a long-standing feud. She might torture him, maim him, but she could never kill him. And that was something that had set right poorly with the goddess. The one ace she had against him she’d thrown away.

Vitus lay back and stared up at the constellations. Tomorrow, he’d set the gambler on his way back to where he came from and Vitus would make his way through the cacti and into the settlement on the other side. In daylight the hell-zombies would be the sleeping dead, making an easier journey through the cactus forest.

To a town named for its creator—Deadeye—or more appropriately, Eyes of the Dead Man.




CHAPTER TWO




Vitus stiffened but didn’t open his eyes. He reached for the Colt lying next to him. The night air felt cool against his fiery skin.

“This century suits you, Vitus. The clothing seems somewhat more manly.”

Vitus eased his hand away from the gun, rolled free of the blanket and sat up. He saw the shadow of a figure sitting across from him. The image waved a hand and the fire reignited, casting undulating shadows across the man seated opposite Vitus. Vitus glanced to where Cuthbert lay.

“He won’t wake up until I’ve gone. Even after all this time, your chivalry’s still intact. You amaze me, Vitus. I almost bet my favorite nymph that you wouldn’t rescue him.”

Vitus took his time as he pulled out makings for a cigarette. It gave him time to consider. He leaned forward and lit it from the fire. He studied the man sitting across from him.

“Diversion, nothing more. It pays to stay at the top of my game. Yes, this century does suit me. Pays not to stand out too much—draws a lot of fire.”

“And you do want to fit in, don’t you? Must be difficult for a…man…such as yourself.”

Vitus narrowed his gaze. “Demon, don’t you mean? It is what it is.”

“Hmm. So it is.”

Vitus drew on the cigarette and blew out a line of smoke. “Why are you here? You’ve set the task, you know it’ll get done.”

“You serve me, at my pleasure, Vitus, remember that.”

“Yeah, and you do like your toys, don’t you, Apollo? You and the others. But these days that only goes so far, doesn’t it? Since Zevodious at any rate. You like sharing ownership with the lord of Infernia?”

Apollo glared at him. “You may be a demon, but you’re still mine, Vitus. I suggest you don’t forget it. I also suggest that you remember what could happen to Caecilia if you don’t submit. Besides, you do manage to still amuse us. You should be thankful, it could have gone so much worse for you.”

“Worse than being turned over to Zevodious to help appease his appetites and keep him at a safe distance from all of you?”

Apollo shrugged. “The test was well met. You survived. And you came back to me stronger.”

He’d come back different—twisted and remade, his soul virtually lost. Vitus took another drag on the cigarette. His demon’s blood began to simmer. He glanced at the gambler, yearned to bathe in the cool, blue shimmer of his aura. He focused on Apollo. “If you’d left his new fledgling innocent alone you wouldn’t have had to pay the price.”

“Ah, Maeve was a pretty thing. And quite entertaining for a time. Worth the price.” Apollo stared at Vitus across the fire, his eyes going dark. “I wouldn’t have taken her if you’d agreed to come to my bed. You made me angry. In the end, it was worth it to see you best him.”

“Maybe to you.” To Vitus, not so worth it. Still, he had no intention of becoming Apollo’s plaything either. Even if it might have been the easier bed to crawl into.

Apollo leaned forward. “And your woman. Was she worth the price? We pay dearly to protect our pleasures, don’t we?”

“Leave Caecilia out of it.”

Apollo grinned. “So you still care for her even though she can never really be yours again.”

Vitus tried to mask his thoughts, although it wouldn’t do any good with this particular god. This one owned what was left of his soul. He couldn’t think about Caecilia—just the thought of her unmanned him. She was his only vulnerability. She had been from the first.

“What do you want, Apollo? Did you just come here to play word games with me?”

“Ah, Vitus. You are like a chess piece and this planet is the game board. Are you a knight, I wonder? Hmm. And Caecilia—is she the queen you protect? Such chivalry, Vitus.”

“What the fuck do you want?” Vitus hated these games the gods played. Although he should be used to them by now.

“Aphrodite has decided to add a twist to the game. Guess who else is waiting for you in Deadeye? How long has it been since you saw her last? Fifty years—a hundred?”

Dammit! He didn’t need this. As long as he didn’t see her he had a chance of holding to his vow.

“Like you, she has taken to these times with…enthusiasm.” Apollo smiled. “They call them soiled doves in this time, don’t they? She’s made Aphrodite quite proud. Ah Caecilia, such zeal. I’ve thought of sampling her delights myself, but, ah well, I find my preference has always been for you.”

“Fuck you, Apollo. Force her into your bed and you’ll get a chance to see exactly what I learned from Zevodious.” Vitus paused. He sucked in a deep breath and let the air out slowly. Antagonizing Apollo wasn’t going to get him anywhere. In fact, that’s probably what got him where he was right now. Headed back to the very demon which he’d just barely managed to escape. “Why are you telling me this?” Like him, Caecilia had not been given a choice in the role she would play to appease the gods.


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