Starscape Books
Isabella Biedenharn
July 21, 2017 AT 05:00 PM EDT

Sherrilyn Kenyon, who is best known for her Dark-Hunter series, won’t publish Death Doesn’t Bargain until May of 2018 — but EW can exclusively reveal the book’s cover and an excerpt below.

Death Doesn’t Bargain is the second book in Kenyon’s historical fantasy series Deadman’s Cross, which opened with last year’s Deadmen WalkingIn this next installment, all the demons and pirates Kenyon introduced earlier have returned, like the destructive Vine, hell-locked Kalder Dupree, the Hellchaser Deadman Cameron Jack, and of course Devyl Bane and the Hellchaser leader, Thorn.

Check out the novel’s cover, above, and excerpt, below:

Excerpt from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s ‘Death Doesn’t Bargain’

“Kal?”

Weak and aching, Kalder froze at a voice he’d never thought to hear again.

Nay . . . it wasn’t possible. It was only more torture wrought by the very bastards who’d been mercilessly tearing at his flesh for so long now that he’d lost all concept of time. All concept of reason. Because of their cruelty, his mother had become pain, and punishment his sole nourishment.

Shaking his head to clear it, he reached out to steady himself.

Someone took his hand.

Startled, he clenched his fist to strike out until his gaze focused on the face of the man in front of him. Only he didn’t see a man there. He saw a boy. A boy who’d once run after him with the kind of soul-deep adoration in his sea blue eyes that only a younger sibling could give.

Kal! Kal! Wait for me! Can I come with you? Please! Please!

And in that single heartbeat, he felt himself mentally breaking at the onslaught of memories he’d done his best to bury and forget. “Muerig?”

His brother tightened his grip on his hand as he nodded.

Still, Kalder didn’t believe him. How could he? “You’re dead.”

“So are you.”

“Aye, but I was damned and forgotten.” Muerig wasn’t. Unlike him, his brother had always been a good and decent man. Honorable. Loved by everyone who’d had the pleasure of his kindness. He’d never whored. Never lied or cheated.

While Kalder had schemed and drank his way through life, Muerig had studied and labored hard. Ever sober and serious. Forever generous in all things.

And he’d died because Kalder was a worthless piece of shite.

Sadness turned his brother’s gaze stormy an instant before a demon grabbed him and flew off with him.

“Nay!” Kalder jumped up, but was unable to reach them to stop it. Or reclaim his brother from the demon’s clutches.

Feminine laughter rang in his ears. “So you do love something . . .”

Horror filled him as he realized what he’d just done. How he’d betrayed himself yet again.

And his brother. But it was quickly replaced by a resounding fury over the trick they’d played upon him.

“Damn you, Vine!”

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When he spun to attack her, she tsked. “Strike me and your brother will bleed in ways you cannot imagine.”

She was wrong there. For he possessed quite the imagination when it came to ways to make others suffer. In that, he’d give even her a run for her money.

Aye, there was good and sound reasons he’d been damned.

He’d earned it, with both fists, brawling his way straight to the devil’s throne. Not a source of pride. Merely a statement of fact. One he was more than eager and willing to educate her on.

Yet her cautionary words stayed his hand better than any assault ever could. Because Muerig was one of the exceptionally few things in his life he’d ever cared about. One of the fewer he’d ever been willing to protect and bleed for. “What do you mean?”

One moment he was in a searing, infernal pit and in the next, they were both outside a smutched, bleeding, besmottered hole. The odor here was even worse than the Hadean pits where the demons had been chasing him. The walls around them appeared to breathe, and oozed with a viscid substance that could only be blood.

“Kal?”

He heard Muerig’s weak, tear-filled voice and that tone iced his fury. For while he’d been born an angry, intolerant brawler ready to die over any imagined slight, his brother had never been a fighter of any sort.

And in that heartbeat he was taken back to a time and place where everything was simply complicated. Back to the horrors of that haunting nightmare when he’d found Muerig’s battered, lifeless body and everything had coalesced into one single reverberating pain as all the sins of his life had viciously come home to drive a stake straight through that most vital organ that served to pump only venom through his hardened veins.

This . . . this was so much worse than seeing himself for what he really was.

For what they’d made him.

Held above Kalder’s head, just out of his reach, Muerig was fastened to a narrow ledge. His skin had peeled back from lack of water. Agony bled with every ragged breath. But worse than the torment in those eyes that were so similar to his own was the deep resignation that hovered there.

The unspoken wish for death to end his suffering.

It was a silent, echoing scream that Kalder knew intimately. One his own soul had been shouting since the hour of his birth.

With a furious war-cry, Kalder tried to climb up the sheer volcanic rock to free his brother, but he slid down the slick, bloody surface that sliced open his hands and left them ravaged.

Muerig cried out.

Too late Kalder realized that somehow his brother’s nerve endings were tied to the surface of the very ground and rocks around him. And every step or movement he made caused his brother more agony. He shuddered at the horror of it all. “Forgive me, Muerig.”

Muerig groaned.

Afraid to move lest he cause even more harm, Kalder held his breath as he considered ways to free him from his prison. Yet every shift in weight drove more agony through his brother. This was a maniacal lair built by the unholiest of monsters.

Damn the Cimmerian army! They had thought this through far too well. There was nothing to be done that wouldn’t sever or harm his brother more.

And none of it would kill a man who was already dead. So there was no release for Muerig whatsoever.

It was sickening. Vines had grown through Muerig’s body, planting him to the underside of the ledge over Kalder’s head. Worse, were the demonic hands that held him, particularly the one at his throat that tightened any time Kalder moved closer.

“Whose life do you value more?”

Kalder tensed at the sudden question that came from a voiceless, heartless whore. “What?”

“You heard me, mermaid. You traded your life-force for Cameron’s to get here. Tell me whose life you would trade for your brother’s?”

“Mine.”

Gadreyal laughed before she materialized to hover in the air near Muerig’s perch. Her wings fluttered with the memory of when she’d once been on the side of good.

But that had been aeons ago.

Now, she was a soulless, pitiless creature of absolute evil. “You think we’d make it that easy on you? Nay, little fish. Never. Besides, we already have you. What we seek is something a lot more important than your worthless scaly hide.”

Vine materialized at his back. Like the Deruvian monster she was, she wrapped her thorny branches around him and tightened them so that he couldn’t move. They bit deep into his flesh, drawing blood. His arms and legs throbbed even more as he fought against the restraint.

It was no use. She had him and there was nothing he could do, except bleed more. Never had he felt more powerless. More weak.

And he hated her for it.

This must have been how they’d trapped Muerig. And how they planned to eternally torment him. To tie him here so that he could watch his brother suffer and know that he was the very cause of it.

There was no worse hell to be had.

“Vine! Release him. Now!”

Kalder gasped as he heard Thorn’s thunderous voice cut through the air between them. Even though it was sweltering here, that tone sent a chill over his body.

The ferocity was enough to cause Vine to immediately let go and step back. But only for an instant. Then she recovered herself and gripped him again. “You do not command me, you whelp of a whore!”

Thorn appeared right in front of them with an expression on his face that said she had to be the dumbest creature to ever draw breath to challenge him so. “Oh foulest bitchington, please . . . In the mood I’m in, you truly don’t want to press this.” He smirked. “Or mayhap you do. Please—” he smiled coldly into her face— “tell me that you do. For you, I would be willing to dine on blood. Consequences be damned.”

His green eyes flared to red.

Vine let go and withdrew. Gadreyal started forward, but Thorn quelled her advance with nothing more than one arched brow. A truly impressive feat.

Even so, the Irin shook her head. “You have no authority here, demon. He belongs to us.”

“There you would be wrong. I’ve secured his release. Harm him further and I’ll be glad to take it from your hides.” He passed a cold stare to Vine before he returned that glare to Gadreyal. “Care to press my patience further?”

Gadreyal’s breathing intensified as she landed and stepped close enough to stare up into Thorn’s eyes. “I know not what bizarre relationship you have with our masters or what powers you wield here, but the day will come when my hand will not be stayed so easily.”

“I look forward to it. But remember, Gaddy, when that time comes, I won’t be protecting your back. I’ll be cutting your throat.” He stepped around her to collect Kalder.

Aghast, Kalder couldn’t believe that Thorn was here. The very demon who’d freed him once to serve on Captain Bane’s crew.

The same demon who’d opened his throat to bleed him out so that he could be damned here to this hell and replace Cameron and her brother.

Vine sputtered indignantly. “What? Are you serious? We’re really to free him because this lickspittle says it?”

Gadreyal nodded. “Let the mermaid bastard go. Trust me. You can’t win this.”

Cursing, Vine stepped back, then hissed at Kalder. “This isn’t over, whoreson. I will have my flesh from your bones.”

Thorn snorted. “From the looks and smell of him, I’d say you already have.”

Completely offended by that unnecessary comment, Kalder gaped. “Let’s see how you’d smell and look after they tortured you.”

Thorn cracked an evil grin. “Like blood, piss and shite. ‘Cause I’d be covered in theirs to pay for their attempts at it. And I’d revel in the violence of it all.”

Aye, he was a sick bastard. He most likely would at that.

As Thorn started away, Kalder stopped him. “Me brother’s here. I won’t leave without him!”

Thorn followed his gaze to see Muerig’s tortured body. He winced in response to the grisly sight. “Sorry, lad. I only negotiated for your freedom. Not his.”

“Then you can keep it. I won’t leave him here, suffering like that.”

“You have no choice.”

Kalder had been told that the whole of his life and he was done with it. “Nay! He stays. I stay.”

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