I failed. Stella Walker lived. Alamut—so named by his god Anubis—balled his hands at his sides. His gut twisted. A simple woman survived his harvesting when all others succumbed. Heart suspended in his chest, he leaned closer to the dresser mirror and stared into his blue irises, searching. There, swirling in the depth were writhing tendrils. Anubis hadn’t abandoned him. The god’s power still coursed through him. Dark, intoxicating threads granted him the power to supplant the will of mortals and lead them to their slaughter, all in the name of his master. Like water to a stranded man, only this quenched his thirst. Not the bonds of his false family or the duty and loyalty they demanded. Nothing mattered, but what the god promised. For his servitude, the power to rule would be his. But Stella Walker still breathed. She refused to submit. Somehow she defied the power of Anubis and survived. Now she recuperated in a hospital, guarded by the family, when her soul should be in the bowels of Duat, The Underworld, at Anubis’ command. All of the souls he harvested waited there in ceremonial jars for The Rising, the day Anubis would lead his army against his father, SET, for control of The Underworld and ultimately, Chemmis, the home of the Egyptian pantheon.

Damn it! He ground his teeth in frustration. Her survival could destroy everything for him. Instead of a general in Anubis’ army, he would remain here, locked in his current position as lackey in the Nicolis household. One moment he was enjoying the final seconds with his latest victim, next a startled gasp jerked him around and stole that precious time from him. Frozen on the second floor ramp of the parking garage, the dim lighting in the garage haloed her. He almost dropped to his knees ready to repent for the cooling body still clutched in his hands. Until she turned and broke into a run. No, not an angel. Mortal. He dropped his victim and charged after her. She ran faster than expected. What should have been a short sprint turned into a chase from the garage and through downtown. He should’ve let her go. Left one alive to tell the tale. What she saw didn’t matter nor the innocence of her soul. She ran, he chased. Prey and predator. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, but she didn’t go down like the rest. She fought when others succumbed. Even when he used the power Anubis gifted him with, she battled for her life. He almost respected her. For days she lingered, each hour getting closer to death. Then suddenly Roman shows up and she opens her eyes. Stella!

“For his next trick, Roman will walk on water,” Alamut griped. The recently healed muscles on his back twitched with the memory of his more recent punishment. Anubis, The God of the Dead, had an abundance of knowledge about pain and torture. Roman would suffer for this, and so would she. He glared at his image in the dresser mirror. His eyes glowed neon. The mirror warped, twisting his features into something familiar and grotesque. A monster. Good. The face of a monster was better than the visage returning his stare. The same deep blue eyes in a similar angular face with the same curly dark hair. This is the face the world saw and constantly compared to Roman. But he wasn’t Roman. He didn’t lead the family, wasn’t CEO of the company, and he wasn’t immortal. Roman was everything that the Nicolis name embodied, while the rest of the family withered in his shadow. He buried his fist in the mirror. Shards exploded around his hand, showering glass everywhere. Without warning, his bedroom door burst open and Thane entered. “What the fuck, man? What happened?” His head swiveled, taking in the damage. Hand bleeding, he wiped his knuckles on his jeans and inhaled a slow breath. His heart rate steady, the donated energy from Anubis dissipated leaving his muscles quaking. One wrong move and he’d collapse. Thane approached, warily studying him.

Show no weakness. Roman taught him that lesson here at RockGate. He learned it again at the feet of his god when he accepted enslavement. He looked over his shoulder at his older brother, nailing him with a stare. Hmm, another new suit. He swallowed his scorn and forced a smile across his tight face. “I didn’t like what I saw.” “Just realized you’re not as pretty as you thought, huh?” Thane chuckled, though the laughter didn’t reach his steady eyes. “Dinner’s ready. You coming?” Strength returned in a rush. He swayed a bit, but managed to turn. Thane waited in the middle of his bedroom watching him with a gaze that used to intimidate. Not anymore. “I have other plans.” He shrugged into his jacket and left Thane where he stood. Not caring what his brother thought. Worry Thane, it’s what you do best. A gong sounded in his head, turning his smirk into a grimace. His vision wavered and dimmed. The Summoning began. No. Not now. Paused on the first landing of the grand staircase, voices filtered from the dining room and other parts of the house. He couldn’t allow this to happen now, in the mansion with nearly everyone home. Like someone taking a sledgehammer to the Liberty Bell, his head gonged again. Anubis called. He held his skull between his hands and tripped down the remaining stairs to land on his knees

on the marble floor. He ignored the pain and staggered to his feet. Then the calling tugged on his soul, nearly bringing him down again. Footsteps echoed down the hallway, coming his way. He dashed through the kitchen and stumbled into the garage. Alone, he grounded himself in this place and moment, holding his atoms together by the force of his will. Sweat drenched his clothes, plastering them to his frame. He couldn’t go, not now when he couldn’t explain or defend himself. The pull ebbed, slowly releasing him. He hopped in his Mustang and peeled out of RockGate. Windows down, he hit one hundred on the highway and enjoyed the swerving car and beating wind. This is what he loved, the buzz of the edge, the thrill of pushing his mortality to milliseconds before the end and then pulling back. Immortality was wasted on Roman. Instead of living, he sat around waiting for a woman. Stella. Her name rolled around his mouth like rock candy, banging his teeth, bruising his palate, but too damn tasty to spit out. Everything about her was sweet, especially her screams. He arrived at his destination wind-blown and somewhat dry, and parked in the driveway of the single story house. The two houses next to him were in foreclosure. The other three were occupied, but their owners had no interest in their neighbors, which is exactly what he needed. Across the street, loomed a

fenced textile factory, shuttered three years ago when the economy went south. Boarded up and skeletal, it was more of an eyesore than the rundown homes facing it. Alamut entered his empty house, locked the door behind him and walked into the kitchen. He opened the cellar door and stepped into the darkness. He didn’t need light to find his way down the stairs, but motion lights flickered on when he slipped into the underground tunnel, and covered the distance between the house and the factory a few yards away. He emerged on a suspended walkway, hovering over a pit in the gutted basement of the factory. The smell slapped him. Fermenting meat best described the odor. His stomach tried to roll, but he squelched the sudden weakness and leaned over the rail. At the bottom of the pit rested the Anubites, his army. Hibernating in the form Anubis chose for them, the form he glimpsed in the mirror, waiting to be gifted with new souls from Duat. Twisted souls, souls darker than what he harvested would inhabit their transformed body and give Anubis, and him, the power to defeat his enemy. And . . . Stella.” He remembered everything about her. Those damned gray orbs were lodged in the loveliest face he had ever seen. Cat eyes with long silky lashes, ghostly skin, and a pouty mouth that belonged around a cock. She stalked his days and haunted his nights. Even as she died, the steel in those

wide eyes never softened. She didn’t accept her fate, but fought it. He liked it when prey fought back. It made the kill sweeter. His cheek tingled remembering the sting of her slap and the feel of her slim body under his, fighting for her last breath. His cock twitched and started to snake. Too bad she had to die.

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