The Darkest Torment (Lords of the Underworld #12) - Gena Showalter

The Darkest Torment

Gena Showalter

“There’s a time and place for killing.

Never and nowhere.”

—Baden, the Gentleman of Mount Olympus,

pre-beheading

“There’s a time and place for killing.

Always and anywhere.”

—Baden, fearsome Lord of the Underworld,

post-resurrection

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.

Upon his resurrection, all twelve warriors had welcomed him with open arms. No, not twelve. Thirteen now. Galen, the keeper of Jealousy and False Hope—the one who’d orchestrated Baden’s death—had moved in a few weeks before. Everyone believed the prick had changed his evil ways.

Please. Shit sprinkled with sugar was still shit.

Baden would love to hack Galen into tiny pieces. Five minutes and a blade, that was all he required. But his friends had issued a strict hacking moratorium.

Baden, no matter his own desires, would obey their rules. Not once had they ever castigated him for his terrible mistakes. Not once had they demanded answers. They’d given him food, weapons and a private room in their massive home. A fortress hidden in the mountains of Budapest.

A knock sounded at the door, earning a growl from the beast. Enemy! Kill!

Calm. Steady. An enemy wouldn’t take the time to knock. “Go away.” His broken voice made it sound like every word had swum upstream in a river of glass shards.

“Sorry, my man, but I’m here to stay.” Bang, bang, bang. “Let me in.”

Hello, William the Ever Randy. Youngest son of Hades obsessed with fine wine, finer women and the finest hair care. He was a savage, stubborn bastard, his best and worst trait the same: He had no concept of mercy.

The beast stopped snarling and started purring like a tamed house cat. A surprising reaction, but also...not. Hades was the one who’d given Baden his new life. The king’s family basically had a Get Out of Torture Free card now. Except the eldest son, Lucifer; his crimes were simply too great.

“Now isn’t a good time,” Baden said, fearing the beast would forget the card.

“Don’t care. Open up.”

He purposely