A Sneak Peek of Kerri Maniscalco's Kingdom of the Feared

Posted on 9th February 2022 by Mark Skinner

* PLEASE NOTE: Some of the subject matter of this extract is of an explicit nature. Please do not read if easily offended by sexual content.

Later this year, Kerri Maniscalco’s phenomenally popular fantasy series Kingdom of the Wicked reaches its epic, heartwrenching conclusion as Kingdom of the Feared publishes in September 2022. As a very special treat for Maniscalco’s many fans, we are glad to share the seductive opening chapter of Kingdom of the Feared on the blog.

All at once, candles flared to life around the Prince of Wrath’s bedchamber. 

Despite my best efforts to not grin at the demon, my traitorous lips curved upward on their own. Tracking the small action from where he stood on the balcony, the prince’s attention moved to my mouth and remained there a beat longer than necessary. 

His heated stare coaxed a different kind of warmth to spread over me just as gold-tipped flames erupted in the fireplace, sizzling and crackling like mad. 

It was a welcome feeling, especially after the coldness that had swept in earlier and settled in my bones. Seeing my sister in the Triple Moon Mirror broke something vital in me. 

Something I refused to examine at the moment.

Lingering near Wrath’s bed, tunic now discarded at my feet, I knew it wasn’t his namesake sin that had the fires blazing in his private chamber. It was the desire he was struggling to control; the passion I’d ignited when I chose him—knowing exactly who he was—and still agreed to become his wicked queen. Since he’d already stolen my soul, I was now offering him my body. 

Without games or magical bonds urging us together. 

Without focusing on Vittoria and the way my heart ached each time I thought of my twin’s deception. My eyes prickled with unshed tears just thinking of my sister now, and I tried desperately to rein in my emotions. Wrath would sense my hurt, and it was a conversation I didn’t wish to have. That sorrow could wait until I met my twin on the mysterious Shifting Isles tomorrow and heard what she had to say. Until then I didn’t want to spend another minute wondering why she’d faked her death. Or how she could hurt me so horribly for so long. I’d already given Vittoria months of my tears and fury while on my path to avenge her.

Tonight I simply wanted Wrath. Samael. King of demons. Most feared of the seven immortal princes of Hell. General of War and the literal devil. Temptation and sin made flesh. A nightmare to some, but to me he currently looked like a dream. And if the cursed demon didn’t crawl between the sheets with me this instant, I’d unleash a bit of Hell myself. 

“Are you going to stand out there all night, Your Majesty?” I arched a brow, but Wrath’s solitary response was a slight narrowing of his golden-eyed gaze. Stubborn, untrusting creature. Only he would question why I stood in a state of undress before his bed and not simply unleash his baser, carnal urges like I desired. “If you require further proof of my decision…”


The way he said my name made me brace myself for disappointment. His tone indicated we needed to talk, and talking was the absolute worst thing I could imagine right now. Talking would lead to tears, and that would force me to confront just how deeply it affected me to see Vittoria earlier. I’d much rather lose myself in Wrath’s addictive kisses. 

“Please don’t. I’m fine. Truly.”

The demon looked apprehensive, unconvinced. He’d once told me to want but never need, but tonight I felt both strongly, and I didn’t care if that made me weak. I prayed he wouldn’t send me to my own rooms alone. I couldn’t bear the solitude.

Just then, the sheer curtains separating his bedchamber from the balcony fluttered in the wintry breeze, enticing him to join his half-naked queen. It was as if the realm itself wanted us to finally be united. With softly flickering candles and midnight fabrics, the bedchamber exuded quiet sensuality. It was a room made for all sorts of whispers; the ones where words were spoken tenderly, reverently against lips, and the whispers of clothing sliding slowly over skin. 

Two things I wished to experience with this prince at once.

By his own admission, Wrath believed in the power of actions over words. And with that reminder, I made my move. He remained motionless outside, watching me bend over and shuck off my boots. I couldn’t tell if he’d picked up on my emotions about Vittoria and misinterpreted them, or if he still didn’t trust that I wanted to complete the next step in accepting our marriage. Sleeping together was one of the two final acts needed for us to become husband and wife. We could certainly have sex and not be married, but I wanted to complete our bond.

Given how we’d first met—my summoning of him in Palermo, then accidentally binding him to me for eternity—and how we’d both vowed to hate each other and never so much as kiss, I understood if that was the source of his trepidation. 

Several months ago, I would have claimed tonight an improbability, too. That was before I acknowledged there was more to our story. That I burned for him as fiercely as the fiery rose-gold flowers I could now summon from my fingertips at will. Another thing I would have thought impossible, and one more mystery for me to solve along with the truth of who I actually was. But all of that could wait. The only thing I wanted to think of now was claiming my demon king.

Snowflakes started falling around him, lightly dusting his dark hair and broad shoulders, yet he didn’t appear to notice. The harsh elements of this winter realm never seemed to bother him, though that was probably because he was a force of nature to be reckoned with himself. 

I held his intense gaze as I shimmied the tight breeches over my hips and stepped out of them, tossing them on top of the tunic. Wrath’s breathing all but stopped when he noticed I hadn’t been wearing undergarments. Fists clenched at his sides, his knuckles went bone white from the strain. Not exactly the reaction I’d hoped for upon disrobing. 

Brow furrowed, I silently replayed our exchange, carefully recalling each word. After tricking me into a blood bargain with him—to ensure none of his brothers took advantage of me when I first crossed into the underworld—I’d asked if he still considered me his. 

Now, while rigidly standing outside in the snow, not making a move to follow me into his very warm and inviting bedchamber, I worried I’d misunderstood him. He’d only said he didn’t require time to think it over. Which, technically, didn’t mean he considered me his. 

“Have you changed your mind?”

Wrath scanned my face, his own expression closed off. “You willingly choose me. Knowing who I am. What I’m capable of.”

They weren’t questions, but I nodded in affirmation. “Yes.”

“And this decision has nothing to do with your sister?”

He watched me closely, and I knew he was trying to sense even the slightest shift in my emotions. Wrath would not take me to his bed if he believed any force aside from my own desire was driving me there. For one of the first times since we’d met, I offered him nothing but truth.

“I wanted you that night at Gluttony’s party. And before that…do you remember when you magically removed the intoxication from me while we trained against his sin? I wanted you to take me then, too. Those times were both well before I saw Vittoria.” I forced myself to hold his gaze. “And I realized tonight that throughout everything, you’ve always been there for me. Your methods might not have always been ideal, but everything you’ve done has been to help me. I want you and it has nothing to do with anyone else.”

After a long pause that had me tensing for rejection, he finally prowled from the balcony into his bedchamber, slowly closing the distance between us. His attention meandered from my eyes to my lips before it dipped lower to take in my body. 

A knee-clenching savagery entered his gaze while he mentally devoured me inch by brutal inch, pausing on that throbbing place between my thighs that suddenly ached for him. A low growl rumbled in his chest, confirming he sensed my desire. 

I sincerely hoped he allowed whatever beast that was to break free tonight. I wanted to experience every wicked and deviant thing he’d just dreamed up. 

He flashed a grin born of sinful promise, indicating he was more than willing to deliver. 

Even with the chill clinging to him from the storm, I felt anything but cold as he neared. Between his scorching stare and the way he silently traced each of my curves as if plotting all the things he was about to do…it was almost enough to melt me right then and there. 

“Tell me every dark desire, Emilia”—he tilted my face up—“every fantasy you wish to come true.” His fingers lightly stroked the pulse point at my throat before he brought his mouth to mine, the kiss a mere brush of his lips that left me breathless and wanting. He pulled back and slowly ran his hands down my silhouette. “And I vow to make every one of them happen.”

My focus roved over the expanse of fine clothes and the hard body hidden underneath them. “I have quite a few ideas.”

The new look he gave me indicated he had some interesting ideas of his own.

We might argue elsewhere, but in this we were blessedly united. I pulled him in for another kiss, wanting to cherish this moment for eternity. Soon the sweet kiss turned ravenous, neither one of us content with being slow or delicate anymore. We were beings fueled by rage, by passion. And I wanted our first joining to be as explosive as our tempers. 

If Wrath wished to give me every dark desire I’d ever had, I hoped he was prepared to keep up. I nipped his lower lip, and with a growl of approval, he responded in kind. 

Wrath quickly deemed war on my mouth and battled like the general he was, taking no prisoners. There was ownership in this kiss, possession. And I gave it right back. He was mine. Every inch of his wicked soul, every steady thump of his heart belonged to me.

His hands caressed my body, and a honeyed heat pooled low in my belly, spreading with each glorious pass of his calloused fingers. Of all the times for him to be fully dressed…

I yanked his suit jacket off, then tugged at the edge of his shirt before ripping it apart, needing to see him, feel him, skin to skin.

He broke away from our kiss, his mouth lifting in amusement. “Boring as virtues normally are, patience might prove worthwhile right now.”

“In this instance, I hoped you were more skilled with sin. If I recall, you once asked if I’d like to see how very wicked you could be.” I ran my attention over him, hiding my smile as his eyes flashed. “Is this truly your best?”

“Are you challenging me?”

I lifted a shoulder, knowing exactly what I was doing and enjoying the reaction it sparked in him. “And if I am, what will you do then?”

“Get on the bed, my lady.”

His voice was soft, but there was nothing meek in the command. I boldly stepped backward until I reached the bed and leaned against it, fingers sinking into the ebony throw placed tastefully on its edge. Once, I’d imagined what the fur would feel like on my bare skin. 

I was about to find out. 

Wrath jerked his chin, indicating he wanted me all the way on the bed, not simply perched against it. Heart thumping in anticipation, I lifted myself up and slid across the oversized mattress, biting back a moan as the soft fur quickly gave way to his cool silk sheets. It felt better than I’d imagined. Luxury and decadence mixed with something a bit wild and untamable. 

Much like the master of this House of Sin.

Wrath unbuttoned his trousers, his gaze locked onto mine. A challenge in its own right to see if I was truly ready for what was to come. His pants hit the ground, and his hard length sprang free, intimidating and tantalizing. I bit my lower lip, nearly overcome with want as I slowly drank him in. Goddess above, he was glorious. My attention slowly moved from his proud arousal and traveled along the rest of his body. Over six feet of pure muscle with bronze skin that seemed to glow with vitality filled my vision. He was a study of masculine power crossed with rugged beauty.

He stepped forward and my focus shifted from the metallic snake inked onto his arm, to the tattoo on his left thigh—a downward-facing dagger with roses etched onto its surface. 

I couldn’t quite make out the geometric designs on its hilt, and as Wrath took himself in his tattooed hand and slowly pumped his fist, my mind emptied. The demon gave me a smug look, like he knew exactly what his taunting was doing. Goddess, curse him. I wanted to replace his hand with my own. Better yet I wanted to use my…

…A violent crack split the air like an angry god’s whip, and Wrath’s bedchamber—along with the demon who owned it—vanished, replaced by an empty, cold room without any light. 

It was such a drastic shift, I didn’t immediately grasp that it was real. I blinked rapidly, trying to adjust to the sudden dark. Shadows moved around what I sensed was a small space, almost writhing on top of one another in a frenzy. 

Goose bumps rose along my arms as the chill in the air turned biting. 

This had to be another strange illusion. I’d had a few before but none so vivid. They seemed to be triggered each time Wrath and I engaged in romantic acts, so that was probably the cause of this one now. I cursed the timing of this unwanted intrusion, loathing that someone else’s past had taken me away from my delicious present. 

I went to rub my temples but couldn’t move my hands. My attention shot up, noticing a pair of manacles clamped tightly around my wrists. I tugged at them, but they were bolted high up in the ceiling. Chains clanked with each movement, the sound antagonizing my swiftly fraying nerves. Blood and bones. I glanced down. In this vision, I was just as nude as I was in my current reality. Wonderful. I’d left a dream only to enter a common nightmare. 

I released a long sigh, my breath coming out in little white clouds, then tensed. How odd. Unlike other illusions, I also seemed to be in control of this one. It wasn’t like stepping into a memory or seeing the past from someone else’s perspective. I narrowed my eyes. 

If this wasn’t an illusion or a memory…

“What in the seven hells is going on?” The unmistakable sound of a boot scraping over stone had my pulse pounding as a strong pang of fear raced through me. “Wrath?”

Somewhere close by, a match was struck, the hiss preceding the scent of sulfur as it wafted over. A small flame flickered on the far side of the room, though whoever had lit the candle was magically gone. I shook my chains again, yanking as hard as I could, but they didn’t give an inch. Unless I ripped my hands off, I wasn’t escaping until my abductor set me free. 

To stave off rising panic, I squinted through the semidarkness, trying to find some clue of my location or my captor. It was a stone chamber, and I was chained in an alcove of sorts.

In the center of the main room sat an altar carved from the pale stone that made up the walls and floor. Straw and dried herbs littered the ground. It almost reminded me of the monastery back home where my friend Claudia worked on the dead, but not quite. 

Thinking of those chambers brought on memories of the invisible mercenary spies who once haunted me there. It felt like forever since I’d encountered an Umbra demon, and I fought a shudder. If I never saw one of those creepy demons again, I would have lived a good, happy life.

“Whoever’s there, show yourself.” 

I rattled my chains. The echo of metal clanking was the only response I received, though I swore I heard the faint sound of someone breathing nearby. I didn’t see any puffs of breath, but I knew that didn’t mean I was alone. Wrath would never play this kind of trick on me, especially given what we’d been about to do, which ruled this out as any twisted demon foreplay. 

I mustered false bravado. “Even chained you’re afraid of speaking with me?”

“Not scared,” a deep, accented voice said from the darkness. 

My breath caught. I’d heard his voice before but couldn’t place where. It wasn’t Anir—Wrath’s human second-in-command. Nor did it sound like any of the demon prince’s brothers. This accent was from my island in the mortal realm. I was certain of that. 

“If you’re not scared, then you have no reason to hide from me.”

“I’m awaiting further orders.”

“From whom?” Silence uncomfortably stretched between us. It was hard to feign authority while nude, chained, and speaking to a phantom kidnapper, but I tried anyway. “Whoever your master is will likely be here soon enough. There’s no need for secrecy.”

“Don’t worry about me.” 

A phrase every murderer and criminal probably uttered to their victims, too. I swallowed hard. I needed him to keep talking to figure out who he was, and I’d found that annoying someone made them react, even if they didn’t want to. Wrath and I had used that same tactic on each other, and I could kiss him now for the practice. 

“Did your master order you to remain in the shadows?”


“Hmm. I see.” 


“You’re simply a pervert who enjoys watching your victims, knowing they can’t see you in return. Tell me, are you touching yourself now? Imagining what my skin feels like while stroking your own? Why don’t you come closer?” And allow me to knee your groin into your lungs. The man materialized in front of me with a look of pure aggravation on his face. Definitely not a demon, but that wasn’t comforting. I drew in a sharp breath. “Domenico Nucci.”

I stared at the young man who sold arancini with his family in Palermo. Deadly-looking claws shot out of his fingertips then retracted, reminding me that he was no more human than I was. I’d almost forgotten that the man I’d thought my twin had been secretly courting was a shape-shifter. Werewolf, to be exact. Temperamental creatures at best, and based on what I remember his father telling me, I’d just provoked a newly shifted one. I had no idea how much control he had over his wolf, but I’d wager not much.

Domenico’s eyes—normally warm brown—glowed an unearthly pale purple as they narrowed on me, confirming my suspicion. He was close to shifting. 

I held my breath, waiting for him to deliver a death blow. He seemed on the verge of stepping closer, his jaw clenched from restraint as anger radiated off him like a furious sun. The wolf took several deep breaths, then rolled his shoulders, breaking the mounting tension. With a wave of his half-clawed hand, a few of the shadows broke away from the frenzy and re-formed around me, creating a dressing gown of sorts. 

“Where are we?” I asked, ignoring the strangeness of my robe as it settled over my skin. And the fact that the werewolf had magicked it without so much as a whispered spell.

“The Shadow Realm.”

I quietly absorbed the information. Growing up, Nonna Maria taught us about shape-shifters, along with a few other magical creatures. According to my grandmother’s stories, the wolves fought supernatural wars between themselves and demons in the spirit realm, which must be what he meant by Shadow Realm. 

I’d always pictured the spirit realm with ghosts walking through walls, haunting and ethereal like they were depicted in gothic novels. This was very different from my imagination. Domenico was fully corporeal. And I definitely felt the weight of the icy manacles as they bit into my skin. I also felt something I hadn’t before—the slight buzz of magic in the metal. These were no ordinary shackles; they were spelled to keep my own powers locked away. I sent a subtle prod to my magic’s source and, just as I’d suspected, hit a barrier that prevented me from summoning fire.

I had a terrible feeling I knew who his master was and did not want my magic bound for our encounter. I glanced at my captor. I’d never heard of wolves transporting anyone with them to the spirit realm, and until now, I wouldn’t have believed it possible, especially for a newly shifted werewolf. Domenico must be immensely powerful. A future alpha in the making.

“Is my physical body still in the Seven Circles?”

Domenico ran his attention over me, his eyes losing some of that shifter glow. “Yes.”

I wasn’t sure how that was possible, and the werewolf’s glare indicated he wouldn’t answer another question about it. Knowing how dangerous he would be if he fully turned into a wolf, I left well enough alone. He’d given me the important information I needed anyway. 

My body was still in Wrath’s bedchamber, and the demon would undoubtedly be searching for a way to bring me back now. If I couldn’t escape on my own, I simply needed to bide my time until he came for my soul and unleashed his sin. Anyone foolish enough to attack his bride-to-be in his royal House deserved to feel his namesake power. I almost grinned, imagining the carnage he’d wreak as he meted out justice, but caught myself. 

“It’s freezing here.”

“Not for me.”

I wanted to rub my hands over my arms, forcing warmth back into my nonbody, but couldn’t with the chains. Domenico watched me closely, a menacing gleam entering his eyes. One wrong move would have his jaws clamped around my throat. He was far more volatile than the first time I’d met him, though that was probably from the shift. I’d heard young wolves sometimes took years to fully mature. Unable to tolerate his silent staring, I cleared my throat.

“When I saw you in the monastery after Vittoria’s ‘murder,’ I thought you were praying for her. I later discovered you were there because you’d shifted for the first time. Did you really not suspect what you were before then?”

A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Do you know what you are, Emilia?”

I had my suspicions, but he didn’t need to know that. 

“I know I’m your prisoner. I know Wrath will hunt you down and rip you limb from limb if any harm comes to me.” I smiled, a vicious, wicked curve of my lips. “And there isn’t a single realm you can hide in before he finds you. That is, if I don’t get to you first. He is the merciful one. Keep that in mind.”

“Well, well, sister.” 

Even though I’d been half-expecting her, hearing my twin’s voice caused my heart to clench painfully. My attention shot to the other end of the chamber, landing on Vittoria at once. 

I watched in silence as my sister glided around the small room like a ghost of the past, wearing a long white gown that flowed behind her as if caught on a phantom breeze. There was a dreamlike quality to her presence, but she was as real as me and Domenico. I carefully looked her over, searching for any injury, though I knew she was the one in charge, not the werewolf.

Tears pricked my eyes. It was hard to believe it had only been an hour or two since I’d learned she was alive. Despite her treachery, I wanted to wrap her in my arms and never let go.


It was barely a whisper, but at the sound of my voice, my twin’s lips twitched up in a familiar smirk. If I hadn’t been chained, I’d have collapsed to my knees. Seeing her in the Triple Moon Mirror earlier was one thing, having her here, in front of me, was overwhelming. Words failed as my twin circled closer, watching me curiously.

“Let’s unchain you, and see what tricks you’ve learned.” Her lavender eyes glittered, reminding me she had changed entirely. This wasn’t the girl with brown eyes that matched mine. The young woman who’d loved to make her own drinks and perfumes. This stranger was something other. Something that made the fine hair along my arms stand on end. “Goddess knows I’ve got a few of my own to share. Shifter?”

Domenico moved with preternatural speed and fisted my hair, forcing my head to the side. He brought his nose to my neck and drew in a deep lungful of my scent, likely memorizing it to track me if I tried to escape. I cringed from the sudden pain but managed to bite back my yelp. 

He snarled, the sound far from human as he brought his mouth to my ear. “Try anything stupid and I’ll rip out more than just your mortal heart, shadow witch.”

“Down, puppy.” Vitoria tsked. “Don’t play too rough. Yet.”

Before I could absorb the hurt of that statement or wonder how much rougher things would get aside from being chained, Domenico shoved me away and with another lazy wave of his hand the locks on my manacles clicked open, freeing me. My restraints clattered to the ground, the sound as foreboding as an executioner’s blade coming down on the condemned.

This was it, the moment I’d been dreading, and I felt wholly unprepared. 

Heart hammering, I turned my back on the raging werewolf and faced my undead twin in the Shadow Realm, steeling myself as our gazes met and held. 

For months Vittoria had let me believe she was dead. Murdered, violently. Allowed me to discover her heartless body, broken and bloody in that tomb. Tearing my world apart and destroying who I was on the most basic level. Vittoria’s deceit was a wound that would never properly heal; it would forever leave emotional scars on my soul and in my heart. Even with her standing before me now, alive and well, there was no hope of ever returning to before. Too much had passed between us to simply forget and move on, and that, more than anything else, was something I mourned.

To push past the growing ache in my chest, I thought about my betrothed. Of how my twin had ruined this night for me, too. Instead of sorrow, I focused on the fury, the wrath that had gotten me through my own personal hell. And all emotions, save one, disappeared. 

If I’d been capable of feeling worry instead of pure anger perhaps my sister’s triumphant grin would have caused a flicker of unease. As it stood, she was about to discover that she was not the only one capable of instilling apprehension. It was time Vittoria feared me. 

I dipped into my source of magic, relieved to feel the seemingly endless well of power that crackled under my skin. If my sister wanted to see what I was capable of, I’d gladly show her.

“You have five minutes to explain yourself.” When I spoke, my voice was colder than the air around us, colder than even the most wicked circle of Hell. I swore the shadows paused before skittering into nothingness, hiding from the great change they sensed coming. 

“And then?” Vittoria asked. 

My smile was a beautiful nightmare. For the first time, Vittoria’s brow creased as if she’d just realized there was one fatal flaw in her plan. Monsters could be created but never tamed.

“And then, dear sister, you’ll meet the witch you forced me to become.”


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