Title: Master of the Game (Demons of Elysium #3)
Author: Jane Kindred
Genre: Paranormal m/m BDSM erotic romance 18+
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Cover Designer: Kanaxa
Event Organized By: Literati Author Services, Inc.
Make sure you read to the end for more giveaway chances and options :)
Love is the ultimate game changer…and this time it’s winner take all.
Now that his lover is back in his arms, Belphagor is taking his own sweet time to say the words Vasily longs to hear: “You’re my boy.” And savoring the sweet torture of driving the firespirit into a frenzy of unfulfilled need.
As the undisputed master of Heaven’s gaming tables, Belphagor never plays unless he’s certain of winning. But this time, political machinations send the game—and Vasily—tumbling to the brink of even his formidable control.
Vasily can’t deny enjoying their delightfully edgy play—until the airspirit auctions him off for a night to the one demon with a gift for taking things too far. Seductive Silk, tight-lipped about the end of his relationship with the sweet submissive Phaleg, may also be involved with a new faction threatening the pregnant queen of Heaven.
Belphagor couldn’t be less interested in the games angels play, but when angelic and demonic intrigues overlap, he’s drawn in against his will. And forced to break his one inviolable rule: Never gamble what you can’t afford to lose.
Warning: Contains more than a mouthful of m/m ménage, with intense D/s situations featuring intricate rope work, balaklavas, and a flurry of snow.
Jane Kindred is the author of The House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy, the Demons of Elysium series, and The Devil’s Garden. Born in Billings, Montana, she spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.
You can find Jane on her Twitter account and Facebook page—both of which are aptly named “janekindred"—and on her website, www.janekindred.com.
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The Heart of a Demon
If you’ve read the first two books in the series, you know that in Demons of Elysium, the traditional expectation of demons=evil and angels=good goes right out the window. The hero of the series, Belphagor, is a tattooed, pierced, leather-daddy demon. He’s also a gambler, a conman, a thief, a brothel owner, and a member of the Russian mob. Like the word demon, none of these things scream “hero.”
But what Belphagor has is a good heart. And it’s another demon, his “boy” Vasily, who brings it out in him. Before Vasily came along, Belphagor was accustomed to looking out for himself and no one else. He’s had to; being a demon in Elysium—where the pure-blooded angels are considered the superior race of Host, while those of mixed-blood belong to the peasant class of the Fallen—isn’t easy.
Starting out as a rent boy in Heaven’s Demon District, he fell to the world of Man for the first time when he was still in his teens, where he encountered the mad monk Rasputin and fell in love with a Russian prince. Unfortunately, this first love was in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in autumn 1917, just weeks before the Bolshevik Revolution.
Belphagor spent the next few months in a Russian prison for soliciting. Then, as now, being a man who loved men in Russia wasn’t something one wanted to advertise, and being one in the Russian prison system made him a target. In and out of Russian gulags over the next several years, Belphagor managed to fight his way from downcast to respected thief, which his tattoos can attest to—except for the ones he received involuntarily before earning the fear and respect of others in the system.
For the better part of a century, between adventures in the world of Man, Belphagor honed his skills at the wingcasting table in Elysium, using his airspirit tricks to keep the other players on their toes, never certain if they were playing a master gambler or a consummate cheat. He made a name for himself in two worlds and shared the beds of demons, men, and angels without ever needing anyone. Until a young firespirit rent boy with a chip on his shoulder tried to pick his pocket, and instead, stole his heart.
Read about Belphagor’s “boy” elsewhere on the tour, along with the other boys of Elysium, and enter my giveaway at each stop to win a diamond accent winged demon heart necklace and a $25 gift card.
How to Train Your (Not So) Submissive Demon
How do you train a 6’5”, 215-pound firespirit demon? Very carefully.
The Demons of Elysium series features a D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationship between the two main characters, Belphagor and Vasily. Belphagor, the Dom, is worldly- (and heavenly-) wise and much older than he looks. He’s also on the small side of average at 5’8” and 165 pounds—though he prefers the term wiry. Vasily, in addition to his impressive build, runs hotter than the average demon and has a volatile temper. He can generate enough heat in his hands or his breath to start a fire, and one of his favorite tricks is lighting a cigar with the smoldering tip of his tongue.
This leads some in the Demon District of Elysium to wonder why Vasily would submit to the far less physically imposing demon. (Others, more familiar with Belphagor’s reputation, aren’t surprised.)
As we discover in Book 2, King of Thieves:
It would be an abuse of the term to call Vasily a submissive. Belphagor’s “boy” was about as submissive as a cat in a bathtub. You could hold him down long enough to accomplish the needful, but you’d damned near drown yourself when the contained outrage burst without warning from every limb, and you could count yourself lucky if all he did was draw blood. And yet he insisted this relationship was what he wanted, to belong so thoroughly to Belphagor that his will was no longer his own.
Vasily first meets cardsharp Belphagor as a lanky teen and not yet the burly, dreadlocked package of solid muscle he is by the beginning of the series. As Belphagor likes to recount, Vasily tried to cut his purse in the middle of a crowded gambling hall, where the redheaded firespirit stood out like a flaming sore thumb. After Belphagor hauled him back to his room and gave him a thrashing he’d never forget, the young thief never left.
While Vasily may not be a typical submissive, he nevertheless wants to be under Belphagor’s control. “Play” between them generally begins with a fight, because Vasily likes to push the older demon’s buttons. He loves nothing more than to make Belphagor so angry that he takes him down, bringing the firespirit to his knees with a single move, despite their difference in size. After that, he’s putty in Belphagor’s hands. Not that he doesn’t still maintain his air of outrage about the whole thing.
Though it may seem to outsiders that they do nothing but argue, there’s a deep bond between them. And when fighting is foreplay, there isn’t much incentive to merely kiss and make up.
Follow the rest of the tour to meet another of Belphagor’s boys, the angelic officer Phaleg, along with the wily demon Silk who gives them all a run for their money. Enter my giveaway at each stop to win a diamond accent winged demon heart necklace and a $25 gift card.
The Demon on the Cover
The main players in the Demons of Elysium series are Belphagor—a cardsharp, thief, and master gambler—and Vasily, a muscle-bound firespirit whom Belphagor calls his “malchik”: Russian for “boy.”
But Belphagor and Vasily, who graced the covers of Books 1 and 2, don’t appear on the cover of Book 3, Master of the Game. That honor goes to Silk, whom I can only describe as a sort of male “femme fatale” of the Demon District. Silk, like his name, is exquisitely smooth. He plays everyone from time to time, even Belphagor, which is no small feat. It comes as second nature to him, born of self-preservation.
Each of the demons in this story grew up on the streets, surviving the best way they knew how. Like Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, Elysium is full of such street children. Both Belphagor and Vasily began careers as rent boys while they were in their teens, choosing that path for various reasons, but choosing it voluntarily. Silk is one of the “Lost Boys” who never had that choice.
If you haven’t read Book 2 in the series, King of Thieves, I don’t want to spoil anything else for you, except to say that Silk obviously plays a significant part, since he’s on the cover of Book 3. What I will say is that readers and reviewers tend to be leery of Silk. They seem find him fascinating, but they don’t trust him. And with good reason.
Even I don’t entirely know whether to believe this character half the time. That may sound like an odd thing to say; I should know everything about him, right? I created him. But let me share one of the secrets about writers: we’re not always in control of our own creations. Most of the time, they take us along for a wild ride, leading us on a merry chase right to the end.
But even though I may not have Silk completely figured out, he’s one of my favorite characters to write. If you’ve seen the BBC series, Orphan Black—and if you haven’t, OMG, what are you waiting for? Go stream it now—imagine the character Felix Dawkins (played brilliantly by Jordan Gavaris) for a moment without the British accent. (Or what the heck, imagine him with it. Who’s to say what kind of accent they have in Elysium?) His mannerisms and his look are very much how I picture Silk.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Silk, and regardless of whether you end up trusting him or not, he’s a demon who leaves an impression. And not unlike Belphagor, he has a few surprises up his sleeve.
At other stops on the tour, you’ll have opportunities to read about more of the Demons of Elysium—and perhaps even an angel or two—along with chances to enter my giveaway to win a diamond accent winged demon heart necklace and a $25 gift card.
An Angel Among Demons
One of the characters in the Demons of Elysium series I hope readers will be glad to see more of in Master of the Game is angelic army officer Phaleg. Poor Phaleg. In Book 1, Prince of Tricks, he stumbles into the decadent and depraved world of the Demon District on a lark one evening with some fellow soldiers, unaware his life will be forever changed. All it takes is meeting the demon Belphagor.
Master game player Belphagor discovers in Phaleg, an innocent and upright angel of the nobility, the purest submissive he’s ever encountered. Belphagor loves his Vasily deeply and is at first only using Phaleg to get Vasily back after he’s been abducted by angels. But you can hardly blame a dominant demon for getting a little carried away with a beautiful young angel who will not only submit to anything, but derives intense pleasure from his own debasement and comes crawling back for more.
Phaleg craves discipline and humiliation, and he finds plenty at the hands of the experienced Belphagor. The angel has harbored these secret and (to him) shameful desires since adolescence, imagining himself at the mercy of a band of demon brigands who force him to admit he wants to be debased by them. He’s tried to keep these fantasies deeply buried, living in fear that other angels might discover his perversion. When he encounters Belphagor, a demon who sees right through him and knows just what he desires—and who isn’t afraid to give it to him—he doesn’t stand a chance.
But Belphagor’s heart belongs to Vasily, and both angel and demon realize that Belphagor can’t give Phaleg what he really needs. He longs to be owned by someone completely. He wants what Vasily has with Belphagor.
Near the end of Book 2 in the series, King of Thieves, Belphagor introduces Phaleg to the demon Silk, knowing the young demon shares many of his own proclivities. Silk is intrigued by the masochistic Phaleg, and a budding relationship seems to be in the cards for them. But as Master of the Game opens, we discover that Silk and Phaleg have had a rather ugly falling out, and no one seems to know over what.
Belphagor, wracked with guilt at being unable to be what Phaleg needs after awakening his desire, can’t stand to see the angel so miserable. He continues to play matchmaker, certain there’s more to both Silk and Phaleg than meets the eye, and encourages both angel and demon to be honest with each other. Whether Phaleg will take his advice, and whether it’s good advice, remains to be seen.
Check out the other posts on the tour to learn more about the demons of Elysium, along with more chances to enter my giveaway to win a diamond accent winged demon heart necklace and a $25 gift card.
Much of my series, Demons of Elysium, is set in a place called Raqia, the Demon District of Heaven. Many people have asked me why I chose to put demons in the celestial sphere.
Actually, I’m not the first to put them there. I got the concept for my fantasy realm from the classical tradition of seven heavens. According to the mythology, several of these heavens are home to fallen angels. The Third Heaven is said to contain both the Garden of Eden and hell. Elysium, in my world, is the capital city of the Third Heaven, while Raqia, in the southern quarter of Elysium, is the home of the Fallen.
When I read about these “multipurpose” heavens, I found the idea intriguing. What would a heaven with a demon section be like? And if demons are really just fallen angels, what does it mean to be a demon? I decided it must be a world where one group had decided it was superior to another. A world where purity of bloodline signified nobility, and those without pedigree were relegated to the peasant class.
It wasn’t long before I began to ponder what kind of demon would thrive in such a heaven. And the answer was Belphagor: a demon who was on the fringes even in the Demon District, yet thrived on it. A demon who could play an angel like a fiddle.
At the same time, I was building a story around a ruling family in my fantasy realm whose lives paralleled those of the Romanovs, the last of Russia’s imperial family. My Heaven, then, became the home of a celestial version of St. Petersburg, Russia, where the events leading up to the tragic end of this earthly family are played out in the celestial version, and my “supernal” family is set on the same tragic course.
And Belphagor—my gambling, thieving demon rogue—naturally finds himself in the midst of it.
At the other blog stops on this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Belphagor and the rest the demons of Elysium. At each stop, you can enter my giveaway to win a diamond accent winged demon heart necklace and a $25 gift card.