n Hiro’s world, youkai are a supernatural story used to scare children into obedience, and to keep men out of back alleys and brothels. Until Sakurai Hideyoshi walks through his door with a fantastical tale of a samurai who had killed a thousand men and drank the blood of his enemies, a man that lived in darkness but sought beauty to keep it at bay.
A story both terrifying and romantic…and completely ridiculous.
Unless it is true.
Convinced something softer lurks behind Hideyoshi’s hard mask, Hiro follows him home. And discovers the story is real.
Only instead of the blood of his enemies, it is innocent blood taken.
Hideyoshi tells him never to return. Yet after Hiro’s mother is mortally wounded, Hiro runs back to the one being he knows with the power to save her. When Hideyoshi can’t, Hiro begs him for the next best thing: the power to avenge her.
As Hiro becomes youkai, he faces a new threat, something darker, older, and far more dangerous. With Hideyoshi at his side, Hiro must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice--and what he’s willing to do--to protect this new life before he loses everything for a second time.
If you like Bella Forrest, P. C. Cast, AJ Tipton, or Anne Rice, you will love this beautiful dark paranormal fantasy romance.
The corners of her mouth curled into a soft smile. “It’s been a while since you’ve sneaked into my room in the middle of the night.”
“Mn.” She took a sip of the tea, her gaze drifting a bit. “You used to come in here all the time when you were little, rolling around like a pill bug while I tried to work.”
“I remember you threatening to throw me to wild dogs if I couldn’t sit still.”
She laughed. “You were such a nosy little thing and stuck to me like glue. I couldn’t breathe if it didn’t involve you.”
“Well, you were all I had.”
A gentle silence fell over us, along with a warm nostalgia. I felt a million years away from that boy yet exactly the same. I needed her then. I needed her now. No amount of time could change the scared little boy who just needed someone to love him.
“Have you ever been in love?”
She choked on a sudden laugh, nearly spraying a mouthful of tea. “Have I—Hiro, what is this about?”
“Nothing. Forget I said anything.” My ears went hot, and I buried my nose in my tea glass.
Okaasan’s eyes narrowed. “Is this about Sakurai Hideyoshi?”
Now it was my turn to choke. It wasn’t like she didn’t know where my tastes lay. I’d been discovered when she’d caught me staring too long at a guard washing himself in the well when I was seventeen. But for two people constantly surrounded by sex, we talked surprisingly little about our own experiences, and the question caught me off guard.
“No! Of course not!”
Okaasan scowled and snatched me by the ear, pinching until I squealed for mercy. “Don’t you lie to me, boy. I may not have given birth to you, but I am still your mother.”
“Ow! All right! I’m sorry!” She released my ear, and I rubbed the soreness away. “It may be…kind of…a little about Sakurai Hideyoshi.”
She crossed her arms and fixed me with a glare that made my teeth ache.
“I’m not in love with him. It’s just…he makes me feel…”
She arched her eyebrow.
“Scared.” I clenched my hands together in my lap as my palms started to sweat.
“Did he do something to you?” Her voice rose in pitch, her irritation at me turning to concern.
“No, nothing like that.” I shook my head, floundering for the words to make sense of the ache in my gut. “It’s as though I’m scared that he…likes me. Scared that he doesn’t. Every time he shows up here, my heart pounds and I feel like I’m going to be sick, and I don’t know if I should run away or…”
I glanced up to find a mischievous glint in Okaasan’s eyes and a smile on her lips.
I cleared my throat and shook my head as if I could rid myself of thoughts of him. “It doesn’t matter. Yamaguchi is right. I treat him differently. I should just…stay away.”
“You’re allowed to be attracted to him, Hiro,” she said. “You’re a grown man. He’s handsome and mysterious.”
“He’s off-limits,” I said firmly. “I won’t draw Yamaguchi’s jealousy any more than I already have. Besides, if we can’t come up with ten ryo in three days…”
“I’ll make it right, I promise. I’ll find a way to get the money. If not…” My stomach rolled, but I kept my face carefully neutral. “I’ll give him what he wants.”
“No. You will not.”
“I won’t allow it.” She slapped the surface of the table, her eyes wild and glassy. She took both of my hands in hers, and they shook. “You let me worry about the money. In the meantime, you should take a day away from the house. I’d rather you not be here if he comes around looking for you.”
My gaze dropped to our clasped hands. “I won’t let him hurt you.”
“Look at me, Hiro.” She squeezed my hands, pulling my attention back up to her. Her eyes flashed with determination. “Do you think I got to this age by letting thugs like Yamaguchi get the best of me?”
A smile tugged at my lips. “No.”
“No,” she repeated with a small smile before releasing me. “Now, go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.”