The Darkest Torment

By: Gena Showalter


Dear Reader,

When I sat down to write the next Lords of the Underworld tale, I had some hard choices to make. Did I tell Cameo’s story, the Lord readers most wanted, even though I hadn’t set up the final threads for her plot? Did I tell William’s story, a non-Lord but also a reader favorite, even though I hadn’t set up his plotline at all? Or did I tell Baden’s story, the character readers knew the least about? In the end, I had to go with the story I was most excited to tell, and the moment, the very second, Baden’s dilemma and heroine came to me, I gasped. I shivered. I paced with anticipation, scenes already rolling through my head. Writing his book became a need, an undeniable passion, and it’s my hope that passion shines through every word. Because you get more than a story when you read The Darkest Torment. You get a little piece of my heart.

Love,

Gena Showalter





To Julie Kagawa. You are a treasure! Thank you for the phone call, conversation and dog training tips. (All mistakes are my own and purposely done to fit the confines of my story—that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

To Beth Kendrick. Pecan pie rocks my world—and so do you! I would love to vacation in your brain!

To Kady Cross and Amy Lukavics. Amazing women, fabulous tour buddies and forever cherished friends. I am so blessed to have met you!

To Allison Carroll. Editor extraordinaire. You go above and beyond, and your input has been invaluable. Thank you!

To the beautiful, talented authors I’m privileged to call my friends (the ones above and the ones below) with hearts of gold:

Jill Monroe, Roxanne St. Claire, Kresley Cole, JR Ward, Karen Marie Moning, Nalini Singh, Jeaniene Frost, P.C. and Kristin Cast, Deidre Knight, Kelli Ireland, Kristen Painter, and Lily Everett.

To Anne Victory and her Pippin!

And to my own Biscuit. You were a treasure, a gift from God, and I didn’t deserve you. You loved me madly. I was your favorite person on earth. You’re in heaven now, and when we’re together again, I’m going to adore you for the rest of eternity!





1

“Benefits to having me as your ally? You have me as your ally. Enough said.”

—Hades, one of the nine kings of the underworld

GUILT COULD NOT change the past. Worry could not change the future. And yet, both followed Baden with relentless determination. One brandished a barbed whip, the other a serrated blade, and though he had no visible wounds, he bled buckets every—damned—day.

The constant stream of pain provoked the beast. Upon his return from the dead, the creature moved into his mind. His new companion was far worse than any demon. And he should know! The fiend resented the physical cage...was starved for prey.

Kill someone. Kill everyone!

It was the beast’s war cry. A command Baden heard whenever someone approached him. Or looked at him. Or simply breathed. The urge to obey always followed...

I will not kill, he vowed. He was not the beast, but separate.

Easily said. Harder to enforce. He prowled from one corner of his bedroom to the other and yanked at the collar of his shirt, ripping the soft cotton in an effort to assuage the constant discomfort. His too-sensitive skin needed continuous soothing. Another perk of returning from the dead.

The butterfly he’d tattooed on his chest hadn’t helped the pain, quickly becoming an itch he couldn’t scratch. But he couldn’t regret getting the image. The jagged wings and horned antennae resembled the mark of the demon he’d carried before his death; now, the mark represented rebirth, a reminder that he lived once again. That he had friends—brothers and a sister by circumstance who loved him. That he wasn’t an outsider, even if he felt like one.

He drained the beer he held and tossed the bottle against the wall. The glass shattered. He was different now, it was an undeniable truth, and he no longer fit within the family dynamic. He blamed the guilt. Four thousand years ago, he’d allowed the enemy to behead him—suicide by proxy—leaving his friends to continue the war with the Hunters while mourning him. Unconscionable!

But he also blamed the worry he’d been coddling like a precious newborn. The beast hated everyone he adored—the men and women Baden owed a blood debt—and it...he...would stop at nothing to destroy them.

If ever that urge to lash out overshadowed Baden’s desire to right the wrongs he’d committed...

I will right my wrongs.

The dead can’t collect their debts. Killlll.

No. No! He beat his fists into his temples, the metal bands around his biceps pinching. He pulled at hanks of his hair. Sweat rolled between the knotted muscles in his back and chest, catching in the waist of his pants. He would rather die—again—than harm his friends.