Published by Berkley Trade on August 7, 2007
Lucinda, the daughter of the High Lord of Hell, had long been mired in centuries of ennui and obscurity. However, her existence is irrevocably transformed upon encountering Stefan, a MonÈre warrior, who introduces her to a sensually charged new world. Their passionate love affair raises a profound and difficult choice for Lucinda: whether to embrace the realm of the living or surrender to the domain of the dead.
“Once again Sunny has created an awesome story populated with endearing and sexy characters. This unabashedly sensual gothic story will feed your need for something new and fresh. Readers will be loath to put the book down until the final page is read. It’s nice to see Lucinda, from previous titles, receive her story and witness her growth. The ending will leave you hungry for more. This title is the first book in Sunny’s Demon Princess Chronicles.”
— Kristi Ahlers, Romantic Times, 4-1/2 Star TOP PICK
“What a fabulous story!… I could not put his book down until I reached the end. I cannot wait for more Demon Princess Chronicles from Sunny! I highly recommend this book to all readers, especially fans of fantasy.“
— Jenifer, Coffee Time Romance, 4 cups
“LUCINDA, DARKLY is the beginning of a great new series..Lucinda is the daughter of the High Lord of Hell and rules over a small territory. She is also somewhat of a bounty hunter of wayward demons. Lucinda has spent literally centuries alone and is getting bored with her existence, and has even convinced herself that she likes it that way on some levels. That is, until she runs into an outcast Monère warrior or two, and a mix-blood boy. She soon finds herself back in the thick of things with people to care for, and her biggest challenge seems to be letting them care for her and be with her.”
— Rachel Smith, Bitten by Books
“Lucinda and her men are scorching hot and you don’t want to miss them. Sunny is an author destined for the keeper shelf in your library and I can’t wait to see where she will take us next. Lucinda, Darkly is not to be missed; the Demon Princess series has begun with an explosion that will leave you waiting eagerly for the next installment.”
—Sabella, Joyfully Reviewed
“The demon world has a new kick-ass heroine—Lucinda. She kicks ass, takes names and causes general mayhem when warranted. Yet she yearns. This is a spin-off from Sunny’s Children of the Moon series. And it is great. Smart dialogue, a heroine you’ll want to cheer for and adopt at the same time and cameos by favorite characters from the pervious series, LUCINDA, DARKLY has it all. Yet not enough. I, for one, am ready for more — and more will be forthcoming because this is the first novel in The Demon Princess Chronicles. Write on, Sunny, write on! Don’t miss any of this author’s books, especially this one. A very, very good read.”
— Lory Martin, Fresh Fiction
“This superb fast-paced urban fantasy in the tradition of Laurell K. Hamilton contains strong characterization that makes the Monère universe seem genuine. There is also plenty of sex and violence, at times together, but it is necessary elements interwoven into the story line. Although this is a stand alone side thriller, reading the previous Mona Lisa tales (see MONA LISA BLOSSOMING and MONA LISA AWAKENING) will make it easier to understand Sunny’s complex realm.”
— Harriet Klausner
“Extremely talented erotica author, Sunny is on the fast tract to the bestseller lists with Book #1, LUCINDA, DARKLY in her new paranormal Demon Princess Chronicles series…Paranormal erotica fans will be absolutely captivated by Sunny’s more fantasy oriented LUCINDA, DARKLY. In the well-crafted, Demon Princess Chronicles it’s not only an external battle of good vs. evil but a more fascinating internal one as well for the multi-faceted Demon Princess, Lucinda. Stay tuned to see where this ingenious series will take readers next!”
— Patricia Rouse, Rouse’s Readers Groups
“Sunny is a favorite author of mine. I absolutely devoured her Children of the Moon series, and now she has released a spin-off from that series called The Demon Princess Chronicles…LUCINDA, DARKLY is an emotionally intense, sexually charged, gothic romance between a demon dead princess and her men…The last chapters in this book are phenomenal! I would love to tell you about it—but I can’t and I won’t. If you’re in the mood for a different kind of paranormal read that is superbly written, marvelously told and extremely sensuous, look no further. LUCINDA, DARKLY is the book for you!”
— Julie Kornhausl, Romance Readers at Heart, Top Pick Rose
“LUCINDA DARKLY is exotic, erotic and full of adventure and gripping action scenes. What a powerful beginning to a new series from the author of the Monère series, Sunny. Talk about coming out with a bang!…The story line in LUCINDA DARKLY is immensely addictive and I couldn’t put it down. It was to the point that I’d walk away for ten minutes and go through withdrawals. Sunny is an amazingly gifted author who knows exactly how to grab her readers and bring them along for the ride. If I could have given this story a ten, I would have in a heartbeat. I cannot wait to read the next installment in this series.”
—Amanda Haffery, Romance Junkies, 5 Blue Ribbons
“All the characters are well drawn and brought to life by clever, lively dialog. The underlying themes of love, loyalty and finding your place in the world are sure to resonate with readers. This is a story that is guaranteed to stimulate both your imagination and libido. I have often passed on the fantasy genre in the past, but I now realize I have missed a lot in my ignorance. LUCINDA, DARKLY is a perfect blend of sizzling romance and heart-pounding action. I will be looking forward to more pure entertainment from this talented writer.”
— Roberta Austin, Romance Designs, Overall 9 Rating
“Lucinda, Darkly is one of those books that grabs you and won’t let go! Such an incredible start to a series Lucinda, Darkly simply has it all. Each turn of the page will take you step-by-step into this intricately fascinating world. Sunny’s ingenious imagination captivates colors even in the moonlit realms of the Monere race. Both erotica and paranormal readers alike will be engrossed by the story as Sunny introduces a place where pain brings pleasure and blood is an aphrodisiac.”
— Barb, TwoLips Reviews, 5 kisses, a Recommended Read
“LUCINDA, DARKLY is the first Demon book that I have read. This story held my attention from beginning to end. This is a book that I would have read in two days if I didn’t have to work. It was that spellbinding… Sunny tells a wonderful story that is very intense, emotional and sexually charged about a demon dead princess who finds romance and a part of herself that she was missing.”
— Tonni, Night Owl Romance, 4.5 Hearts
“Full of paranormal passion, Sunny’s fast-paced first in a new erotic fantasy series, the Demon Princess Chronicles, introduces Lucinda, a 600-year-old demon princess who’s getting bored with her long unlife.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Sunny is a wonderful writer that has created characters that readers will demand to learn more about and who they will enjoy reading as the characters find their way to happiness. I can’t wait to learn more about these characters and find out what the next novel has in store for these captivating characters in what is sure to be a captivating series.”
— Claudia, A Romance Reader, 4-1/2 roses
“Lucinda, Darkly is the first book in Sunny’s The Demon Princess Chronicles which is connected to her Monère, Children of the Moon series, but works very well as a standalone series for those who have not read the other books – like me. This was the first book by Sunny I have had the pleasure of reading, and it will not be my last. Not only am I eagerly anticipating the sequel to Lucinda, Darkly, but I have already added the Monère, Children of the Moon series to my book shopping list. Although I was able to follow this story without issue, the references to characters in the other series made me intensely curious!”
— Jennifer Ray, CK2S Kwips & Kritiques, 4.5 Klovers
Night fell softly with purple fingers of dusk. An ending of the day for many, just the beginning of mine. Crisp New England coolness flowed like silk across my skin. Massachusetts air. Fresher than New York; far less crowded to my sense of things. But even here in the Berkshire Hills, in what humans called the â€˜burbs, there were still so many.
So many of them. So few of us.
Heartbeats pulsed around me like the drips of a thousand leaky faucets. None but I was aware of those precious beats of life, like a constant drumming in the background. Aware of what I, myself, no longer possessed.
My heart did not beat. I did not breathe. Yet I walked and flowed among them, but was not one of them. Apart. Not alive but dead. Demon dead, to be specific. But what was dead, really? I’d had over six hundred years to roll that word, that elastic definition, round and round in my head, and had found it perpetually stretchable. Was I alive? By human definition, no. But was I dead? Also no, by their definition. For I spoke, I thought, I bled, I wept. I existed thinly in between.
Eyes fell upon me like invisible touches, gazes drawn to my lushness, my petite beauty, the golden hue of my skin, the mauve redness of my lips. Nothing unusual to stand me apart from others but for the long, curling strands of my golden tresses. Not blond but true gold. As if a million silky strands, gossamer fine, had been spun from a spider, floating behind me, ethereally light, as I walked, spanning the colors from auburn red to honey blonde, somehow blending together and becoming one. The rolling sway of my hips was natural, fluid, and feminine. Quintessential woman. Ironic, really. Because that was something I had not been for so many years, decades…centuries. A woman. Just a woman.
I laughed softly at how deceiving looks can be, and it drew the eyes of yet more humans. Let them look. Let them pay their silent homage to this false goddess of femininity. Perhaps had they seen my nails, razor sharp, discretely covered now by gloves…but, no. Even then they would not have known of their significance. Only someone like us… ah, that word again—us. Even now, after so long, I still betrayed myself. No, not like us. Someone like what I had once been. Only they would truly know what I was now.
As if my thoughts had conjured him, the slow beating of one heartbeat called out to me in the freshly fallen night. Slow, so slow. Inhumanely slow. Beating at half the speed of all others, its distinct, sluggish pace blared like a trumpet’s blast in my ear.
Slowly I stopped and looked around, searching for its origin. It came toward me then passed by me. A man tall, with shoulders broad, hips trim, and legs long. Skin pale beneath the silvery caress of moonlight, hair raven black. Lips full, sinfully red, as tempting as Eve’s apple. Come taste me, they beckoned. And, oh, how I yearned to abide that silent plea.
He moved with lithe grace, drawing wakes of appreciative yet ignorant eyes. His sweet beauty, as false as mine, beguiled innocent souls. He was a dangerous predator…like me. The tingling awareness of his presence was unmistakable. A Monère warrior.
He was dressed like a human, his hair cropped short and styled in their manner, and he was in the company of a young human male. A boy, really, no older than eighteen or nineteen, as tall as the warrior but with the leanness of youth. He chattered animatedly and familiarly with the warrior.
What was this Monère doing here, alone in this leafy townlet, far removed from the normal territory they patrolled, the big cities and bustling metropolis?
Our gazes touched, met and held for a long moment that spun out in time. He smiled innocuously, casually, in passing, stunning me…and hurting me. Not the smile itself but the unconcern, the unawareness. His heart did not speed up in fright but kept to its slow, pulsing rhythm.
He knew not who and what I was—that surprised me. My lack of answering spark—that was what hurt me. Even now, centuries later, I still mourned that loss: The innate, powerful draw of a Monère male to a Monère Queen. What I had once been before I had died and become demon dead. Now they sensed me, but barely. What had once been a strong and irresistible tidal wave of a pull and swell—my aphidy—was now only a faint stir. Silly to mourn what had been lost so long ago. But that which you no longer possessed often becomes what you most then desire.
Tears stung my eyes, blinding me for a moment, so that I sensed rather than saw him turn his head, his eyes still following me as he passed me by. And that puzzled me. Why did he look at me if he thought me human, as his slow beating heart proclaimed he did? There was no reason to draw his attention then. Monère gained no pleasure from mating with a human. Even this dead MonÃ¨rian still remembered that.
The soft whisper of the young man trailed sharply and clearly into my ears. “Stefan, is she like me?”
The man, Stefan, looked away from me, his attention drawn back to his companion. “Hush, Jonnie.” His voice came softly, sweetly, a warm and vibrant baritone.
I searched harder with my senses and felt it then: The faintest hum of the boy’s presence, a pale shadow of the Monère warrior’s vibrant power.
Ah. The boy must be a Mixed Blood. Half human, half Monère, the resultant product of a passionless and irresponsible mating—a Monère woman’s desperate need to bear life, but not wanting to raise an impure one. Because human blood tainted the MonÃ¨rian essence, rendering them essentially human without the power or privileges of our mother moon’s gifts. That was what we—they—were. The Monère, children of the moon. Supernatural creatures that had fled their dying planet over four million years ago. The genesis of the legends of werewolves and vampires.
A Mixed Blood—is that what they thought I was?
I almost laughed. It had to be the oddest thing to happen to me in more centuries than I could recall, being mistaken for a Mixed Blood! Had times changed so much? What did they teach their people nowadays? Or perhaps it was the unexpected locality of our meeting. Demon dead, after all, weren’t expected to be seen roaming out and about. If we’d passed each other at High Court, he would have known immediately then what I was with my skin dark and golden among the lily whiteness of the Monère. Here, among the humans, I just looked tanned or Mediterranean in flavor. It was almost nice that he didn’t know. A novelty. Amusing.
Ah, child. How wrong you are. And how young you both are. Yes, even you, my warrior, even though your power thrums strong and vibrant against my senses.
He could not have been more than a century old. But what was a hundred years?
Sadness swept over me, and remembered loss. All whom I had known in my old life was dead and gone. Only a handful of my MonÃ¨rian friends had been spared, powerful enough to make the transition and become demon dead. And most of them now were faded back into the darkness as the centuries marched by like relentless soldiers of time.
When time stretched long and endless, and all that is familiar and dear to you falls away into dust and darkness—all but my brother, my only one constant—then time no longer is a blessing but your foe. Something to be endured. And anything that breaks that boredom was something to be treasured.
His blood sang to me in tempting beats, this Stefan, whoever he was. But I would not have touched him, for I still remembered those stringent rules of MonÃ¨rian Queendom—that messy bitchhood. You did not taste the property of another without sought permission or given grant. I would have left him and journeyed on my way, continuing in my aimless travel to seek out wayward demons and return them back to Hell, as my official duty had charged me to do, had I not noticed three humans following furtively behind Stefan and the boy, Jonnie.
Three swarthy street men dressed in long winter coats shadowed them, stopping when their prey stopped, continuing apace when they walked on. The Monère and the Mixed Blood remained unaware.
I followed them, a block behind, not needing to see them, just smell them, their sweaty tang, eager and anxious; their hearts beating faster in the excitement of the hunt.
Do you foolish humans know who you hunt? I wondered.
I watched as the three stalkers shortened the distance, as they suddenly snatched the boy, dragging him into a dark alley. Stefan, alert now, turned, chased after the men. He was a fast blur, disappearing into the alley, but still moving only human fast. The sound of grunts and thuds came loudly to my ear from the alleyway.
“Watch out!” I heard the Mixed Blood cry.
I slid into the dark shadows of the building across the street just in time to see one of the men lift a crossbow to his shoulder and let fly a sharp stake through the air. Stefan snatched it with his hand before it could whiz past him and endanger the boy. With a quick toss, he threw it back, the blunt end striking the shooter in the face, causing the man to drop the bow.
“Throw the holy water!”
A vial of water was splashed upon Stefan’s face, but no cry of pain, no stench of burning flesh filled the air. Just a look of disgust on Stefan’s face as he advanced upon the men. “Enough!”
They backed up, even though it was three to his one. One man
fumbled out a silver cross, holding it out in front of him.
“I am not a vampire!” Stefan said.
When the third man pulled out a gun, though, the amusement left me.
“What are you doing, Clarence?” one of the men hissed. “He don’t seem to be no vampire like you said he was.”
“Well, he ain’t human!” Clarence snarled back. “No human can snatch a stake out of the air like that.” His breath came too fast, and the gun trembled in his hands. “But you fast enough to stop a bullet?”
“Man, I’m outta here.” Disquieted, the other two men fled the darkened alley, leaving Clarence alone.
Stefan stood quietly, making no move to dodge or rush Clarence. “You’ve made a mistake. Or is it money you want? You can have my wallet, gladly.”
“Shut up! I ain’t no thief. You ain’t human and I’m gonna prove it.” He pulled the trigger. I moved then, but it was too late.
“Jonnie, get down!” Stefan cried. Bullets whined and blood blossomed red like a crimson stain across Stefan’s white shirt as he closed the distance in a blur, snatching the gun from Clarence and crushing his hand. Clarence’s screams of agony rent the air as I rushed past them to the figure crumpled on the ground. The smell of fresh blood filled my senses long before I saw it spurting like a tiny oil well, pumping from a hole in the boy’s side where a bullet had pierced him. A severed artery, leaking away his life with gushing gusto.
“Oh, blessed Goddess. Jonnie!” Stefan dropped to his knees beside me, heedless of his own spilling blood. He ignored his own wounds, but I could not. I remained sharply aware of it—the even richer smell of his blood.
“Jonnie…I have to get him to a hospital.” Moving in a kind of shocked daze, he bent to gather the boy into his arms.
He looked at me then, almost blindly. “I can’t. He’s dying.”
My hand held him back and I watched as he became aware of my strength—as great as his. No…even greater.
“His life bleeds out from him. We must stop it now,” I told him. “Even a minute more will be too late.”
“I can’t. I have no healing gift.” Then more softly. “What are you?”
What. Not who.
I smiled. Saw the realization bloom across his face as I removed the glove from my right hand and let his eyes fall upon my razor-sharp nails. “I can stop the bleeding if you will allow me.”
He swallowed. Raised wide, desperate eyes back up to mine. “Then do so quickly, I beg of you.”
It pleased and surprised me, that plea. I would have helped, regardless, even had he fought me. But it was nice not to have to waste time and energy restraining him. And the sweetness of his unexpected trust was…nice.
I let it rise in me then, my power. A calling from deep inside, a quickening surge pulled from the core of me, of who I was and what I am. I felt it bubble up like hot lava to the surface. Felt it throb up from deep within, fill my chest with a hot tingling rush, and travel down my arm, my hand, in a fiery spilling stream. I trickled that molten power carefully down into just my forefinger, pulsed it to the very tip of the nail, and inserted that glowing tip gently into that flooding spill of blood, sizzling it until I searched out the flesh beneath. With my senses thrown wide and open, guiding me, I found where the nicked artery pulsed, and touched Jonnie there, letting my power flow, cauterizing the wound. Black smoke rose, and the caustic smell of burnt flesh and blood stung my nostrils.
I removed my finger from Jonnie’s wound, withdrew and cooled my power. He lay there, still and unconscious, but the bleeding had ceased.
Stefan swayed suddenly, like a toppling tree. I reached out, steadied him with my non-bloodied hand, and caught a glimpse of his back. The bullets had left small holes in front, much larger ones in back, each exit wound at least two-inches in diameter. A large chunk of him had been blown away.
“Hollow point bullets,” I observed.
“He missed the heart. I will be fine,” Stefan murmured, but I realized the truth. He could have died had Clarence, the gunman, aimed a little higher. The hollow points might have taken out his heart—one of the ways to kill a Monère. He’d stood there and let the bullets strike him when he could so easily have dodged them.
I frowned. “Why did you risk yourself?”
“I am harder to kill,” he said, and I realized then that he had tried to act as a human shield for the boy, protecting him with the barrier of his own flesh. But the bullets had gone through him and struck the boy anyway. And Stefan had let Clarence run away. A pity, but a prudent move. The human’s death would have stirred up even more trouble.
He puzzled me, this warrior, with his mercy for the shooter and his care for the boy. Monère usually treated Mixed Bloods as a lesser breed, inferior stock. With contempt instead of care. “Is the boy of your blood?”
“No, but he is all I have. He is like a son to me.”
“I serve no Queen. Have no brethren other than Jonnie. I am a rogue.”
A rogue. A Monère warrior driven out by his Queen. Or fled from her before she killed him because he had grown too strong for her, become too much of a threat. Such waste. But it explained much.
Stefan swayed. “Please, I beg of you. He must be brought to a hospital—”
“I will see to it,” I assured him and moved swiftly down the alley. A small crowd had gathered at the entryway, drawn by the gunfire. An older gray-haired man dressed in a business suit and a wool short coat talked rapidly into a small phone.
“Call for hospital transport,” I told him crisply. “A boy has been shot.”
He nodded. “I’m on the phone with the police right now.”
I turned to another tall onlooker and captured his eyes, flexed my will. His eyes glazed, bespelled by me. “I have need of your coat.”
The man took off his long, black leather coat and handed it to me.
“Thank you,” I murmured. Never hurt to be polite. “You will leave now and be on your way.” Eyes fixed and unseeing, he obediently left.
Returning to Stefan, I lifted him gently to his feet and helped him into the coat, buttoning it completely, hiding his wash of blood. The wail of sirens sounded mournfully in the distance as I propped him against the alley wall. “You should leave before they arrive.”
“I can’t leave Jonnie—”
“I’ll see that he gets to the hospital.”
“Why are you doing this? Helping us?” he asked, his voice suddenly fierce.
Because you interest me. Because you break the boredom of my ageless, endless wander. Because I still see you as my people.
But I said none of these things. I smiled instead with the sultry wickedness that was my natural wont and desire. Let it fill my voice, my face, and said instead something he would more easily believe. “Because I shall return to collect payment from you.”
He paled even more, his heartbeat fluttering like a sparrow suddenly finding itself captured. “I will gladly pay it. Thank you. Thank you for saving Jonnie.”
His gratitude touched me oddly. To cover it, I leaned into him, pressed the generous swell of my breasts against his chest, and purred, “Don’t thank me yet. Later, after I’ve collected my due from you.” I smiled, allowed my fangs to emerge. Allowed him to see them. “Save some of that precious blood for me.”
He stared at my mouth, transfixed for a moment. Then, swallowing, he gave me his address, an apartment complex several blocks away.
“I shall await you there,” he said and stumbled away.