One sister. Two sinful princes. Infinite deception with a side of revenge…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Kingdom of the Cursed, the sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked—publishing October 5th with Jimmy Patterson.
After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.
She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.
The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?
Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…
Wrath stood in the corridor, dressed in a signature black suit, his gaze darkening at the sight of me. A crown of obsidian snakes dusted with gold sat upon his head. If a tall, menacing shadow had sprung to life—appearing both dangerous and tempting as sin—it would look just like him.
I told myself his unexpected appearance outside my bedroom suite caused the flutter in my pulse, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with the handsome prince or the predatory gleam in his gaze. The gaze that was trained wholly on me as if the rest of the realm could burn and he’d pay it no mind. There was something in the way he stared that…
Fauna twisted around to see who had caught my attention and immediately fell into a deep curtsy. “Your highness.”
With a quick look of sympathy in my direction, Fauna hurried down the corridor and disappeared from sight. Once the sound of her heeled shoes faded, Wrath stalked closer, his heavy focus sliding from the animal-bone crown I wore, to his ring on my finger, and inched all the way down to my toes before he dragged it back up. I did my best to breathe in even intervals.
I couldn’t tell if it was ravenous greed, wrath, or lust glinting in his eyes. Maybe it was a combination of all three. It seemed the underworld wasn’t only testing and prodding my desires now, it was a battle he was suddenly fighting, too.
When he finally finished his thorough inspection of my attire, his attention settled on mine. A tiny spark jolted through me as our gazes clashed and held.
It was hardly anything, a bit of static electricity one experienced after scuffling their feet and touching metal on an arid day. Except…it didn’t feel like nothing, exactly.
It felt like the first indication a violent storm was approaching. The sort where you either stood your ground or ran for cover. It was as if the air between us grew heavy and dark with the promise of nature’s fury. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine thunder rattling my teeth as winds whipped around, threatening to drag me into the swirling vortex and devour me whole. It was the kind of storm that broke cities, destroyed realms.
And Wrath controlled it all with one powerful glance.
“You look like a beautiful cataclysm.”
I laughed, trying to ease the strange tension hovering between us. His choice of words made me wonder just how well he could read my emotions. Maybe none of my secrets had ever been safe from him. “It’s every woman’s dream to be likened to a natural disaster.”
“A violent upheaval. I’d say it suits.”
A smile almost made an appearance on his handsome face. Instead, he motioned for me to spin around. I slowly twisted to give him a look at the entirety of me.
The back of the gown was as scandalous as the front. A deep V descended all the way down, exposing me nearly to my hips. A thin gold chain linked between my shoulders and swung like a pendulum against my spine, the only other bit of adornment I wore.
It was only because I’d been straining to listen, but I heard the slightest rasp of his breath as he inhaled sharply. Something resembling satisfaction coursed through me.
I was worried I’d feel self-conscious with large swaths of skin showing between my front and back, and the way the gown clung seductively to each curve, but I felt the opposite. I felt powerful. Now I understood why Wrath chose his clothing with such care. I commanded attention without ever opening my mouth.
It was a gamble I’d taken while dressing and—judging from the points of heat at my back and what I imagined was Wrath’s inability to keep his gaze from returning to me—I believe it worked. At dinner I wanted all eyes to be fastened on me when I walked in, all conversations to cease. I would not cower behind columns and slink in undetected. If Wrath’s subjects were anything like him, I couldn’t be seen as weak. They would scent my fear like a swarm of sharks finding a drop of blood in the sea and strike with the same predatory violence.
I went to shift around again, but Wrath stilled me with a light touch on my shoulder. His bare skin blazed against mine. “Wait.”
Perhaps it was the soft way he said it, or the feeling of intimacy in his voice, but I obeyed his wish. He carefully gathered up my hair and swept it to one side, letting the strands tickle and tease as they slid across my shoulders. I bit my lip. Shoulders were more erogenous than I’d ever given them credit for. Or maybe it was just the way Wrath moved closer until I felt the heat of him against my skin, and a tiny, intrigued part of me longed to feel more.
He looped a necklace over my head, the weight of it settling just above my cleavage, and fastened it more slowly than was necessary. But I didn’t complain or step away.
When he was done, he trailed one finger down my spine, following the line of the thin chain, inadvertently coaxing a small shudder. It took every ounce of stubbornness I could muster to not lean into his caress. To recall my hatred. Because surely that’s what that feeling was: the all-consuming, raging fire of loathing.
I slowly turned until we faced each other again. His gaze dropped to my necklace and I finally looked down to see what he’d placed on me. I inhaled sharply as my silver cornicello caught the light. “Does the devil know you’re giving this to me?”
Wrath didn’t take his attention from the amulet. “Consider it borrowed, not given.”
“Can you do that? Won’t he come after you?”
He made a show of glancing down each end of the empty corridor before looking at me again. “Do you see anyone trying to stop me?” I shook my head. “Then stop worrying.”
“I am most certainly not…” His mouth twisted into a troublesome grin as I trailed off, leaving the lie unspoken. I blew out a quiet breath. “It doesn’t mean what you think it does. Stop smirking.”
“What, exactly, do you think I believe it means?”
“I don’t care what you think. I’ve simply decided to be cordial for the time being. And I am merely tolerating our current situation until I leave for House Pride.”
“Are you certain?”
“Then tell me you hate me, that I am your worst enemy. Better yet, tell me you don’t want to kiss me.”
“I’m not interested in playing this game.” He arched a brow, waiting, and I fought the urge to roll my eyes at his smugness. “Fine. I don’t want to kiss you. Satisfied?”
A spark of understanding flared in his gaze. I realized a second too late what I’d done; what he’d known the moment the words left my traitorous lips. He stepped forward and I quickly stepped back, bumping against the wall.
He leaned in, bracing himself on either side of me, his expression smoldering enough to start a fire. “Liar.”
Before I dug myself a deeper grave, his mouth slanted over mine, stealing my breath and any further denial as easily as he’d stolen my soul.
Excerpted from Kingdom of the Cursed, copyright © 2021 by Kerri Maniscalco.