Pride (Sin-Eaters Book 1)
Huemac, a half-breed, covets ultimate power, but he needs two things—access to the royal family and an ancient artifact. He attains the former by seducing the Emperor’s sister, and then steals the latter.
Moctezuma, the newly crowned Emperor, comes from a long line of powerful gods known as Sin-Eaters. He desires peace among his people, but an ancient prophecy warns of war.
Huemac discovers the incantation to activate the fabled Athame of Souls, a mythical weapon capable of entrapping souls. His quest to rule is within his grasp. Only one thing stands in his way—Moctezuma.
Huemac stared at the piece of parchment in his hand. A servant had delivered it some fifteen minutes past. It was a formal invitation to dinner with the royal family. He sneered at the gold-embossed writing. Summoned as if he were a subservient being.
He tossed the invitation aside, having already given his affirmative reply to the servant. With a glance over his shoulder to ensure the door was closed and locked, he glided to a wooden-and-brass chest at the end of his bed. He shoved it aside with a grunt. Next. he grasped the lip of one of the massive stones that made up the floor. Sweat beaded then rolled down his face from the effort. He hefted the stone with a grinding sound. His muscles quivered, but he set the rock aside in front of the chest. Huemac knelt, then placed his arm in the floor opening all the way up to his shoulder. After a moment of probing the damp, cool space his fingers closed around a bundle of cloth. He pulled the object out, then sat back.
He unrolled the cotton with great care to reveal a dagger in a worn leather sheath. Emeralds, rubies, and opals adorned the gold hilt. He pulled the blade free. The honed metal glinted dully in the light with a dim glow. An ominous moan reverberated around the room. The sound raised the hairs on the back of his neck and set his teeth on edge. It seeped around and through him, drawing him closer to the dagger’s razor-sharp edge. He sheathed it with a snap. The mournful song stopped. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He needed to find the incantation that would allow him to control the knife. Without those precious words, he would be as susceptible as the other gods.
Perhaps he would use his dinner invitation to peruse the library once more.
Huemac could not keep his gaze from Metztli over dinner. Even though Moctezuma sat at the head of the table, Huemac could not stop staring. She seemed to have grown more radiant and beautiful since he last saw her. Her dark wavy tresses were pinned in a complicated updo of braids and coils that left her long graceful neck exposed. Her only jewelry was a glittering blood-red ruby choker which sat at the hollow of her throat.
He longed to explore the long column with butterfly kisses and soft bites. Gripping his water goblet a little tighter, he reminded himself that now was not the time to indulge in such lurid thoughts. He brought the glass to his lips and drank. The coolness washing across his tongue helped settle him but did not abate the hardness between his legs.
“I understand that my sister has requested you as part of her personal guard,” Moctezuma began offhandedly. “This is a much-coveted position.”
Huemac pretended not to see the dark glare Metztli shot Moctezuma. “Indeed, Lord Emperor. It is a testament of the trust and faith the princess has in me.” He allowed pride and arrogance to flow through his voice.
Moctezuma merely smiled. “Please do not stand on formality, old friend. I am rather pleased Metztli has requested you.”
Huemac coughed in surprise. He made the mistake of glancing directly into Moctezuma’s eyes and once more experienced the sensation of falling. With great effort, he looked away. Had the emperor seen anything?
Moctezuma frowned, then rubbed his temples. “I will be speaking with Tialoc about the reassignment once he returns.”
Hope that had nothing to do with his own plot soared through Huemac. Once more he wondered if he were merely using Metztli as a means to an end of if he truly had feelings for her. “And when will that be?”
Moctezuma stared at a point beyond Metztli’s shoulder. “Three days’ time. In the meantime, I have spoken with Xochiti to lighten your duties so that the two of you may be permitted some time here and there.”