How do you play a game when there aren’t any rules?
Petty crook and drug dealer Elijah Page’s plan was simple. Stay off the feuding crime-lords’ radar for long enough to make a quick buck in the city, and then get out. He couldn’t have been more naïve. Captured and beaten by McIntyre, he escapes death, only to find himself in the hands of McIntyre’s opponent. Shai is an enigma, a man as charming as he is twisted. And he’s set his sights on possessing Elijah—body and soul.
Shai will stop at nothing until he’s ousted McIntyre. In the meantime, fate has provided him with an interesting distraction in the shape of the stubborn and rebellious Elijah. Elijah’s lips may say one thing, but his body says something else entirely. Elijah might think he has what it takes to go up against a man like Shai, but he’s wrong. He’s nothing but a fly in Shai’s web, and Shai will always be two steps ahead.
A game ensues. One that Elijah may not even realize he’s playing, or just how big a pawn he is. Everything is at stake. Possibly even his heart and mind. By the time Shai has finished with him, there might not be anything left of the man he used to be.
Let the games begin.
A dark mm romantic suspense featuring snakes as a weapon, a manipulative main character, and a few twists and turns along the way.
Please make sure to check out the trigger warnings on the look inside feature before reading.
Welcome to the dark world of Malicious Gods: Egypt. A collection of standalone modern tales, both magical and non-magical, featuring deities from Ancient Egypt. You’ll find reincarnated Gods, assassins, gangs, madness, and different realities. Expect high heat and morally ambiguous themes. Seductive and often twisted, they are not for the fainthearted.
- 1 To Be Read list
There was a strange clack-clack sound coming from my right—a rhythmic and almost soothing sound. Eventually, the fact that I didn’t know what it was began to bother me. Well, that, and the strange sensation of lying on something soft. In McIntyre’s compound, the only bed ever afforded to me was the floor.
Everything came back in a rush. The beating, the ultimatum, the car ride, the river, the sack, and then the water filling my lungs when I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. How was I not dead? And what was that sound?READ MORE
I opened my eyes and turned my head to the side. In a chair next to the bed sat an old woman, the sound coming from a frantically moving pair of knitting needles, their ends almost a blur. She looked to be in her eighties, her hair white and her face so lined that there was little in the way of smooth skin between the pronounced wrinkles. She spoke without taking her eyes off her knitting. “You’re awake.”
There was a rasp in her voice equivalent to someone who’d smoked at least twenty cigarettes daily for the past fifty years. I tried to speak, the dryness of my throat meaning that it took several attempts before I was able to force words out.
“Where am I?”
“Where are you?” She paused from her knitting, brown eyes fastening on me for a few seconds before skittering away. “The best place in the world, that’s where.”
As her answer was no answer at all, I changed tack. “Could I possibly have some water?”
She shook her head, tendrils of hair whipping her cheeks with the movement. “No water. Only blood.”
What the fuck! I struggled to a seated position, casting an eye around the room in the hope it would offer some sort of clue on how I’d gone from drowning in the river one moment to lying in a bed. Not just any bed either, but a sumptuous four-poster, the likes of which I’d never even seen before, never mind slept in. The rest of the room was decorated to an equally high standard, velvet curtains hanging at the window, and intricately carved wooden furniture dotted around the room. It reeked of opulence.
Wherever I was, I’d apparently landed on my feet. I had an urge to laugh. That fucker, McIntyre, had tried to drown me, and I’d not only survived, I was lounging around on silken sheets with my own nursemaid.
She might not be all there given her response, but she was obviously watching over me. I just needed to convince her to give me some water without the doom-laden mutterings about blood. Plans for the future raced through my head. I’d stay for a few days until I felt better and then I’d get the fuck out of the city. McIntyre would assume I was dead, so I didn’t have to worry about him coming after me. Within a few weeks, I’d be able to consign my time in Deadwood to nothing more than a bad dream.
“Shai will look after you now.”
The feeling of elation withered in my chest, my head turning so sharply toward her that I had to fight a wave of dizziness. She carried on knitting, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil she’d created with a few chosen words. “What did you say?”
She didn’t lift her head. “Shai. He’s my special boy. Did you know he was a miracle baby? I was fifty-five when I gave birth to him. Didn’t go through menopause until four years later. God needed me to fulfil a special task first. He nearly pulled my insides out, but it would have been worth it even if I’d died. Do you know why I called him Shai?”
I shook my head, not trusting myself to be able to speak.
She smiled, dropping the knitting needles to her lap and staring down at them. “Because as soon as I looked into his face, I could see it, could see him in his eyes.”
“Him?” The word slipped out, even though I was beginning to think I didn’t want to know the answer.
She lifted her head, something manic shining in her eyes. “The first Shai. The Egyptian God. I was chosen to be the vessel for his reincarnation. And just like the original, he controls everyone’s fate. Mine, all the men that live under this roof. And now yours too.”
She picked her knitting back up, returning to it as if she hadn’t just spouted some of the craziest shit I’d ever heard. “You think your son is the reincarnation of an Egyptian God?”
Her eyes narrowed, something malicious glinting in their depths that made me think I’d insulted her. “I don’t think, I know. He has waited a long time to return, but now that he’s back, he’s ready to fulfil his destiny.”
I knew I shouldn’t ask, but it was like I couldn’t stop my lips from forming the words anyway, like someone unable to tear their eyes away from a horrific car crash. “What’s his destiny?”
She dropped her knitting needles and clapped her hands together as if she was delighted with my question. Her moods seemed to change in the blink of an eye. “To have everything he wants, to own this city, to own the entire world if he wants it.”
Ask a madwoman a question, and I guessed I should expect a mad answer. What were the chances of escaping from McIntyre, only to fall into the clutches of the only man who might be worse? The décor made sense now. McIntyre and Shai were the two richest men in the city. McIntyre hadn’t seemed inclined to spend his ill-gotten gains on home comforts, but apparently Shai had no such qualms. No expense spared, apparently, for the reincarnated Egyptian God.
A bubble of hysteria rose up in my throat and I was forced to push it down. I needed to think. I needed to stay calm and rational. Time was of the essence if I was going to get out of here.
Reaching across, I grabbed hold of the old woman’s shoulder, her bones brittle beneath my fingertips. “I need to get out of here. Can you help me? I need clothes, I need…”
She threw her head back and laughed, the sound sending a chill down my spine. “Oh no, you’re not leaving. Not now. Not ever. If Shai doesn’t kill you, then it means he’s chosen you. Those who are chosen never leave, not unless he allows it. Her brow scrunched up as if she was thinking hard. “Which he never does.” She reached across and patted my hand in a strange motherly gesture.
Maybe I could get her on my side. She was his mother. If anyone could influence him, it was likely to be her. I just needed to press the right buttons, the ones that would get her to feel sorry for me.
“You were a very good fuck.”
I stared at her, convinced I must have heard wrong. “What?”
Her fingers, which had been resting on my arm, moved across, inching slowly down until they reached the point where the sheet was pooled around my waist. “You fucked my pussy good and hard while you were unconscious. Once I got that poor little drowned cock of yours to a decent size, you filled my pussy just right.”
When her fingers threatened to dip below the blanket to where I was naked, I batted her hand away, nausea rushing through me. She couldn’t be serious. What kind of sociopath—or should it be psychopath—fucked an unconscious man? The kind who thinks their son is an Egyptian God, and who gave birth to someone able to steal half a city from McIntyre.
She returned to her knitting with little concern for my rejection, her tone bright and breezy. “Don’t worry, I can’t get pregnant.”
The wave of nausea became more intense, forcing me to breathe deeply. I wasn’t sure whether it was a physical reaction to everything my body had been through recently, including the near-drowning, the thought of this crazed old woman using me like a whore, or the reality of the situation I’d gotten myself into finally sinking in. Chances were that it was a combination of all three. I’d gone straight from the frying pan and into the fire.
My fingers curled around the silk sheet as I tried to think. How long had I been here? I dropped my gaze to my chest, the bruises from the last beating fainter, but still visible. A week, maybe? It couldn’t have been much longer than that.
The door opened and a man stepped inside. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that this was Shai. Despite the fact that he wore nothing more than a pair of jeans, with his chest and feet bare, he had an aura of power which couldn’t be faked. It was in the way he carried himself.
This was a man who didn’t need a smart suit to project an image. It might have had something to do with his powerful physique, the hard muscles of his chest adorned by the fierce black lines of a snarling cobra. It wasn’t that snake that snagged my attention, though, it was the cobra casually draped around his neck. Its body was wrapped around his arm, the head near his wrist, while its tail was wrapped around his waist, as if it was some strange sort of decoration designed to bring attention to the man’s clearly defined abdominal muscles. I couldn’t take my eyes off it—off him. It hugged itself to him as if they were part and parcel of the same thing, a half-human, half-snake type beast in perfect synergy.
His gaze bypassed me to go straight to his mother. “You’re not meant to be in here.” His voice was deep and melodic, with just a hint of sharpness mixed in.
She lifted her bony shoulders in a shrug, seeming wholly unconcerned by his censure. “Someone had to look after the poor boy.”
I’d already heard what her version of looking after me was. If there was any truth to her words at all, it wasn’t the sort of looking after I needed.
Shai inclined his head toward the door in a clear instruction. “Go.”
She took her time in clambering to her feet, and despite what she’d claimed she’d done I found myself wanting her to stay. Anything but be left alone with this man. I tried to tell myself it was the snake, but in truth, it was both. McIntyre’s strength had come from his men, from his ability to throw out orders. But even at first glance, I could tell that Shai was different.
The old woman shuffled from the room, Shai closing the door in her wake. There was a long pause before he turned his head in my direction, his movements smooth and sinuous as he approached the bed. There was nothing to be read from his expression, nothing helpful anyway. He lifted a hand to reveal a bottle of water. “I bet you’d like some of this?”
I nodded eagerly, extending my hand to take it from him.
The hand was withdrawn, the bottle moved out of reach. It was tempting to make a lunge for it, but I already knew he would be quicker.
“Questions first. Water later. Rewards need to be earned.”
“Okay.” It wasn’t like there was anything else I could say. I’d answer his fucking questions. I’d jump through his hoops. Anything to finally get that drink I needed so badly.
Shai’s eyes were dark enough to appear almost black as they fastened on me. “Name?”
I licked my parched lips, his gaze following the action. “Elijah.”
“Elijah Page. Do you want my fucking middle name as well?”
His eyebrow arched at the curse that slipped from my lips, but that was the only reaction I got. I mentally kicked myself. There I went again, letting my attitude get me into trouble. Had I learned nothing from my time with McIntyre?
“Not necessary. Where are you from, Elijah Page?”
I hesitated. But what did it matter? There was nothing I could say that would make my situation any worse. Therefore, I may as well tell the truth. “A small town in the west by the name of Thronby. I doubt you’ve ever heard of it.”
He didn’t bother to either confirm or deny my assumption. “And what brought you to Deadwood?”
Sheer fucking insanity! “What do most people come here for?” It probably wasn’t the best idea to answer a question with a question, but it was done now. It wasn’t like I could take it back.
Fair point. “I thought I could make more money.”
“This and that.”
Shai tipped his head to one side, the cobra winding its way more securely around his neck, the man not even seeming to notice its movements. I did, though. I was watching it like a hawk, ready to test out whether my legs still worked if it came any closer.
“And how did you come to be in McIntyre’s possession?”
My lip curled automatically at the casual use of the word “possession.” “He caught me dealing in his territory. He wasn’t happy about it.”
Shai’s predatory gaze traveled slowly over my bare chest, lingering on the remains of the bruising around my ribcage. “He beat you?”
There was no emotion in the question, no way of knowing what his feelings were on the subject. For all I knew, Shai ran his operation in exactly the same way. There was certainly nothing about the man that suggested he was softer than McIntyre. For one, McIntyre hadn’t paraded around with a fucking deadly snake. “His men mostly. He likes to give out the orders, more than he likes to get his hands dirty.”
I tried to swallow, the pain of the action reminding me that I really needed that water. They had to have given me some while I’d been unconscious, but it must have been a while ago to feel this parched. “Can I have some water?”
“I haven’t finished.” The statement was as sharp as a whipcrack, something sparking in the depths of Shai’s dark eyes, the snake stirring as if it too sensed the threat. “You need to answer all of my questions.” He lifted the bottle, unscrewing the lid and draining half of its contents in a series of swallows, the tanned column of his throat working overtime. It was painful to watch. I could almost taste the cool, clear perfection of it. He paused, the bottle still held loosely in his hand, the lid being off a clear threat that should he wish, he could just as easily drink it all. “Tell me about McIntyre’s compound.”
Shit! There wasn’t a lot to tell. I searched for something useful, something he would deem worthy of relinquishing the prize for. “It’s a shit hole.” I gestured around the room, hoping flattery might earn some points in my favor. “Nothing like here.”
Shai’s eyes narrowed. “Of course it is. The man’s a tasteless cretin who doesn’t deserve a penny to his name. Tell me something useful.”
I plumbed my subconscious, desperately trying to think of something that might not have registered at the time. “I didn’t see much of it. What I did see was heavily guarded, men at every entry point, a long-range sniper positioned on the roof. McIntyre liked to joke about letting me go as sport for the sniper.” I doubted I was telling him anything he didn’t already know, but at least I was saying something.
There was a long silence as Shai digested my words. “And what, pray, did you do to earn being dumped in the river?”
My heart started to pound. Not that it had been exactly calm since Shai had walked into the room, but it hadn’t quite been the hectic clamoring I was now subject to. This would be a good time to lie, to make something up which would paint me in a better light. Only, I couldn’t think of anything. Which left me with truth or silence. And silence wasn’t really an option if I wanted that water. I cast a quick glance at the bottle still dangling loosely from Shai’s hand. “He didn’t appreciate my attitude. I… refused to submit to him, no matter how many times he beat me.”
The word was silky soft, the edges curling around my raw nerves. “Because…” I fastened my gaze on the water. What would he do if I refused to answer? Leave me to die of thirst? It was entirely possible. “I belong to no one. Certainly not a man like him. He doesn’t deserve it. He gave me a choice and I chose death.”
I didn’t know what reaction I’d expected, but it wasn’t for Shai’s lips to curve up into a slow smile. They stayed like that for a moment before a rumble of laughter erupted from his chest. “Is that so?”
Sensing it was a rhetorical question, I didn’t bother to answer. He took a step back, placing the bottle down on top of a chest of drawers to free up his hands to lift the snake from around his neck. I stiffened, barely able to breathe. What was he going to do with it? The relief of him simply placing it on the floor didn’t last long, not once it dawned on me that that meant the snake was loose in the room.
Shai retrieved the bottle of water before coming to stand at the foot of the bed. I watched him just as cautiously as I’d watched the snake, fearing what his next move might be. He proved I’d been right to fear him as he ripped the sheet from my body to leave me naked, his dark gaze trailing with open curiosity over my skin.
I forced myself to hold still. He’d no doubt already seen me naked. It wasn’t like I’d been wearing clothes when I’d been pulled from the river, and someone had to have given the order that put me in this bed. I contemplated asking for the water again. Would it do any good?
A rustling at the side of the bed had me dropping my gaze to the floor in search of the snake. There was nothing to be seen, and when I looked back up it was to find a much bigger threat: Shai on the bed, moving sinuously but inexorably forward until he was almost on top of me, his thighs straddling mine.
“What the…” It was an automatic reaction to try and push him off. He laughed, grabbing my wrists and pinning them to the bed at either side of my head, his face far too close for comfort to mine as he loomed over me. “Eli-jah!” He stretched out the syllables, the way someone might if they were reprimanding a naughty child. “Let me tell you one major difference between myself and McIntyre.”
I gave up on struggling. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. His grip was far too sure. I stared up at him, a faint scent wafting from him that I couldn’t identify. It wasn’t unpleasant though, far from it. That was another difference between him and McIntyre, but I wasn’t about to share it with him. “Get off me.”
He ignored the demand, his ass settling on my naked crotch as his fingers tightened around my wrists even more. “McIntyre needs everyone to say yes to him. Whereas I like a fight. I like a challenge.” He licked his lips, his expression changing to something decidedly languorous. “Are you going to give me a fight? Or is it a case of all bark and no bite with you? Don’t disappoint me, Elijah. Never disappoint me.”
There was a veiled threat there somewhere, but my thoughts were too chaotic to be able to work out exactly what it was. He ground down, the rough material of his jeans rubbing provocatively against my naked groin, and I got it. Fuck! No, not that. I’d endured multiple beatings at the hands of McIntyre, but none of the men there had ever come close to showing a sexual interest in me. They’d had female whores for that, some who’d even proved themselves good enough to survive the night. I gritted my teeth, putting all the venom into my voice that I could as I bucked up in an effort to dislodge him. “Get the fuck off me!”
I was subjected to another laugh, my feeble attempts to get free seeming to amuse him greatly. I wasn’t a weakling. Or at least I hadn’t been before spending time in McIntyre’s compound, but Shai was bigger than I was, and far more toned, and he hadn’t spent the past however many days recovering from a near drowning. I didn’t stand a chance.
“I thought you wanted water?”
I stilled again. In my panic at realizing his intentions, I’d almost forgotten. I glared at him, hoping my absolute hatred was easy to read.
He gave another smile, this one full of triumph. “I’m going to let go of your arms and you’re going to leave them exactly where they are. Understand?”
Then, how the fuck was I going to be able to drink water? I didn’t voice my question, settling for a weak nod.
He released my wrists in one swift motion. I flexed my fingers, the urge to move them, to do something with them even if I wasn’t exactly sure what, was almost overwhelming. It took all the willpower I possessed to leave them where they were.
Whoever would have thought I could be so cooperative over water of all things? McIntyre had missed a trick there.
“Open your mouth.”
What? What the fuck was this?
Shai reached out, his finger tapping at my closed lips. “Don’t bite me.”
He could read my fucking mind. That’s exactly what I’d considered doing. He pulled my bottom lip down with the pad of his thumb, the touch almost gentle. A bolt of something ran through me, some alien emotion that made me crave fists and boots. At least then, nothing had been expected from me except to lie there and take it. It had been simple, whereas this—whatever this was—was far from simple.
Shai lifted the water bottle in the air and tipped it slightly, so that it hovered a good meter away from my lips. “Open your mouth.”
I opened my mouth.
He tipped the bottle farther, gravity doing the rest. I drank it down greedily, the distance, as well as the speed at which he poured, meaning I struggled to drink fast enough, water overflowing my mouth to wet the pillow. And even as I drank as much as I could get, I glared at him, needing him to know that I’d only acquiesced because I’d had no choice. I needed water to survive and he knew that.
I drank until the bottle was empty, lamenting the half of it that he’d drunk earlier. What little I’d gotten wasn’t nearly enough to quench my thirst, but at least it went some way to quelling the burning sensation in my throat.
“Have you ever been with a man, Elijah?”
The question stopped me in my tracks, the words spoken as politely as if it was an everyday inquiry.COLLAPSE
This is book 2 in a multi-author series which shares a common theme. All books can be read as a standalone.