Be among the first to see the Cruel Seduction cover and read an excerpt from Katee Robert’s highly anticipated Dark Olympus Book 5, which follows the stories of Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Adonis, and Pandora.
It’s finally here! We may have to wait for Radiant Sin (Dark Olympus Book 4) to hit store shelves in February of next year, but to tide us over, Katee Robert has graciously allowed Subjectify to unveil the cover for the next book in the series. I’m a huge fan of these stories, which combine one of my all-time favorite subjects, Greek mythology, with a genre I’m quickly becoming addicted to—dark romance. Needless to say, I’m beyond excited to have a hand in releasing the cover for Cruel Seduction, and I don’t think a single one of you will be disappointed.
Let’s get to the main event, shall we?
‘Cruel Seduction’ cover
Like each of the previous Dark Olympus book covers, this one is simple yet striking. The color palette is closer to the first two installments, this time blending neon pink and cobalt blue (a little bit of the bisexual lighting, I see). Feathers fall across the image, with the one at the forefront highlighted by a shaft of light. The top half of it is on fire, and somehow this perfectly encapsulates the idea of cruel seduction—feather soft and yet devastatingly hot. The feather itself looks like it could be from a dove or a swan, both symbols of Aphrodite, while the flame appears to represent Hephaestus, the god of fire, volcanoes, and blacksmiths. The combative relationship between these two is legendary, and it seems only appropriate that it be illustrated in this way on the Cruel Seduction cover.
In case you weren’t already interested in this book, go ahead and take a look at the official synopsis for Cruel Seduction by Katee Robert, followed by an excerpt from the book.
Aphrodite has never flinched at getting her perfectly manicured hands dirty, and she’s not about to start now—even if that means marrying Olympus’s enemy number one, the new Hephaestus. She has a wicked plan to keep her deadly new husband off-balance, seducing the one person he seems to care about most in this world: Pandora, a woman as beautiful as she is sweet.
Two can play the seduction game, however, and Hephaestus is all too happy to put his new wife in her place. Her ex, Adonis, seems like he’ll do the trick. It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous in the way of fallen angels, either.
The only problem with using seduction as a weapon? Hearts are all too quick to get involved. With Hephaestus and Aphrodite trading venomous strikes that feel a whole lot like foreplay, lines become blurred and emotions entangled. But a broken heart may be the least of their worries. With unrest in Olympus reaching new heights, these bedroom games may have deadly consequences for themselves, their city, and everyone they’ve come to love.
Related: Katee Robert chats about ‘Wicked Beauty’ and the future of the Dark Olympus series
‘Cruel Seduction’ excerpt
The reception stretches on for an eternity. Even though I chose this, I can’t stop the sinking in my stomach. I played right into my new husband’s hands. A mistake, and one that will be costly. I can’t afford to underestimate Hephaestus, and reacting to Adonis showing up unexpectedly before my wedding to the enemy? I might as well have waved a red flag in front of a bull or built a neon sign pointing to a vulnerable button. My new husband will be stomping on it in no time. I wish I could trust Adonis to avoid that pitfall, but emotions make everything messy and I hurt him badly by making this move.
He’s not the only one.
All through the speeches and cake cutting and first dance, Hephaestus keeps that satisfied smirk in place. It makes me want to…
I manage to extract myself and part ways with my husband to grab a glass of champagne off a waiter’s tray. Now’s the time to follow him back to our seats at the center of the bridal party table, but I need a moment, so I drift over to the doorway leading back outside. The air has cooled with the sun setting, giving the first hint of the bite winter will bring.
I close my eyes and inhale deeply. The desire to strike back at Hephaestus after that little altercation is nearly overwhelming, but I haven’t made it to where I am now by acting impulsively. Mostly.
Right now, the only thing that matters is getting through the rest of the reception and then managing to resist the impulse to make myself a widow on my wedding night.
Everything else can wait for tomorrow.
Even knowing that is the smartest course of action, I can’t help searching the faces of the guests gathered in the ballroom. Adonis isn’t here—I know he isn’t—but that doesn’t stop me from looking despite myself.
He won’t have left Olympus; not without me. His life is here. His family and fortune and a whole city’s worth of admirers. He has a way of drawing people to him wherever he goes, his charm and beauty making him the darling of MuseWatch and a good portion of the legacy families. Not enough to help him secure one of the titles of the Thirteen for himself, but Adonis lives a charmed life.
None of that really excuses what I’ve done.
Or the fact that I didn’t talk to him about it first.
I smother the guilt trying to take root in my chest. Adonis knew what he was getting when we started this ill-fated on-again-off-again relationship several years ago. I was a Kasios before I became Aphrodite.
I drain my champagne glass and tuck all the messy emotions away. It doesn’t matter what could have been, because this is my reality. I will not give my new husband and his family even an ounce of satisfaction thinking that I’m heartbroken.
Being heartbroken would require me to have a heart.
I make my way toward the table with the wedding party. It’s slow going because everyone wants to stop the bride and wish me congratulations or use thirty seconds of their time to try to weasel closer to the power Aphrodite holds. My title’s responsibilities include making marriage matches, and arranged marriages are one of Olympus’s favorite way to consolidate power.
Again and again, my attention is drawn back to the bridal party. They’ve mixed up a bit. My people—Hermes, Eros, and my brother and sister—on one side and Hephaestus’s—the Minotaur, Icarus, Ariadne, and Pandora—on the other. It’s the latter who interests me.
In the brief time I’ve known their cursed household, she seems to be the only one whom my lovely husband more than tolerates. Even now, he’s leaning over Icarus and there’s an actual smile on his face. It’s strange and soft and it makes me want to grab the nearest piece of silverware and gouge his eye out.
Instead, I focus on Pandora. She’s a pretty little thing—short and soft with the kind of curves a person can sink their hands into. Smooth light-brown skin and a thick fall of wavy black hair complete the picture. But what really sets her apart is the way she lights up a room when she walks into it. Her laugh fills a space in a way I’ve never experienced before. I added her to my side of the wedding party out of spite, because I knew it would bother Hephaestus, but I actually found myself enjoying being around her.
If her attitude is a mask, it’s the best I’ve ever seen.
Hephaestus sees me coming and sits back abruptly, his smile falling away and clouds gathering in his dark eyes. I dislike how attractive he is. Medium-brown skin and dark red hair that’s actually trimmed properly for this event. His muscular frame marked him as a warrior before his injury, and I have no doubt that even with his injured knee, he can do plenty of damage.
He killed the last Hephaestus, after all.
I slip around the table and take my place at his side. I can do this. I chose this. The reception is all but over, and then all that’s left is to consummate the marriage. After that, I can put the next stage of my plan into motion. For the next hour or two, I simply need to endure.
Even knowing it’s coming, the rest of the reception passes in a blur of congratulations. And then it’s time to see us off.
Hephaestus has only just moved into the penthouse he inherited with the title—likely because his predecessor’s people made the transition difficult—and I have no intention of letting him into my home. As a result, we’ve booked a hotel room for the night.
It was the simplest solution, but I’m regretting the short trip now. The remaining wedding guests line the hall, tossing flowers before us, a perfect blend of red—roses and carnations and poppies. It creates a beautiful stage for us to walk down, holding hands as if we wanted this. Distantly, I note the photographer taking pictures furiously. Helen will go over which to release tonight, and the rest will be sent to me afterward.
What’s the point in a wedding as a distraction if everyone isn’t talking about it?
My sister appears at the end of the hall and pulls me into a quick hug. “Be safe,” she whispers. Something cold presses into my hand.
I glance down and nearly laugh. It’s a small knife, wickedly curved and designed to fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“He’s a murderer, Eris.” She hugs me again, speaking directly into my ear. “Do what you have to.”
I don’t tell her not to worry. Truthfully, this wedding was a gamble. It could be as much a trap for me as I intend it to be for Hephaestus. If one of his family decides to kill me and trigger the assassination clause, they would be entitled to my title. Being alone with him is asking for an ambush.
But that danger goes both ways.
“I’ll be safe.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” She steps back and then our brother is there. He doesn’t hug me; he’s not really the hugging type.
He just looks at me and nods. “Do what you have to do.”
Helen makes an angry sound, but she’s never really understood Perseus—now Zeus—the way I do. He’s ruthless to a fault and clinically cold, both traits our bastard of a father encouraged, but he’s never railed against his role in this city. Not like Helen. Not like Hercules. I wince a little at the thought of our youngest brother. He’s not here. He was invited, of course, but he’s made it clear he’s not returning to Olympus, even if our father is gone.
I try not to hold that against him. He’s happy and that’s enough for the others. It has to be enough for me, too.
“I always do what I have to.” I turn away from what remains of my family and walk with my new husband to the elevator that will take us up to the honeymoon suite. The doors close and I’m alone with Hephaestus for the first time.
I don’t know what I expect. Threats or more taunting, perhaps. He says nothing. The silence unnerves me, but this is a weapon I’m familiar with. My father didn’t utilize it often, but when he did, it was so bad I almost preferred his fists. He would ignore us when we made him a special shade of angry, would act as if he couldn’t see or hear us for hours and sometimes days. Perseus always seemed to find that almost a relief, but it made me crazed. When I was fifteen, I destroyed an entire room while shrieking at my father, and he sat there staring mildly out the window and drinking his coffee the entire time.
I shudder. I’m not fifteen any longer. Control has been hard-won, but it exists. The doors open before I can make a liar out of myself, and I charge forward, leaving Hephaestus to follow behind.
The honeymoon suite is lovely. Everything about this historic hotel is lovely; it’s why I picked it for the wedding. That and the fact that every member of my family going back generations has been married here.
In my father’s case, multiple times.
I stare at the tasteful cream décor and my stomach twists. Best not to think about that. Or the fact that my brother and sister-in-law occupied this same room for their political marriage back in May. I shudder. Tradition is a trap, but I’ve gone too far to back out now.
Hephaestus steps around me and makes a beeline to the kitchenette. There’s a bottle of whiskey there with a jaunty bow around it that seems to be made entirely of glitter. Even before he picks up the card and snorts, I know who it’s from.
Hermes. Up until two weeks ago, I considered her one of my best friends in this world. Now, I don’t know what to believe. My brother thinks she’s a traitor, and she hasn’t done much to disabuse him of the belief. Even though I know she’s playing at deeper games than any of us first realized, I still can’t quite believe that she means this city harm or that she’s really allied with Hephaestus’s family.
Maybe that makes me naïve. I’ve been accused of worse.
I swallow past the complicated feelings her name brings and cross to join Hephaestus at the counter. “Give me that.”
“I’ve got it.” He rips at the bow almost violently.
I barely resist the urge to snatch it out of his hands and pick up the card instead. Hermes’s sprawling handwriting greets me.
Enjoy the wedding night, you two love birds!
I sigh and toss it aside. “Always playing games.”
“She’s an Olympian. It’s what your people do.” He finally gets the bow off and drops it to the counter with a disgusted grunt. The bottle top soon joins it. Hephaestus takes a long pull directly from the bottle. Another time, I’d make a biting comment about his manners, but right now I need the same fortification he obviously does.
No. Damn it, no.
I am not some weak princess, married off against her will. This wedding is my design. If this were a story, I’d be the cunning queen, or even the evil witch. I am not helpless and I am not innocent.
If Hephaestus needs liquid courage, then that means I’m the one coming out on top of today, no matter his nasty little trick with Adonis earlier. I still take the bottle from his hand and lift it to my lips, holding his gaze all the while. One swallow, then two. I stop myself there and set it on the counter with a clink. “Shall we, dear husband?”
He shakes his head slowly. “You really are Olympus’s wh—”
“I’m going to stop you there.” It takes everything I have to resist clenching my fists…and perhaps driving one right into his face. “This marriage can be as awful or as pleasant as you choose.” Lies. I have every intention of making each day a new torment for my dear husband. Anything to keep him distracted from the new power he stole with his title. It would be ideal to learn about the rest of his family’s plans, but that’s for others to discover.
My only aim is his suffering.
He looks at me as if he’d like to toss me out the nearest window. The feeling is entirely mutual.
I resign myself to a torturous experience and turn for the bedroom. “Let’s get this over with.”
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