Read an Excerpt From Tricia Levenseller’s The Darkness Within Us

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from The Darkness Within Us by Tricia Levenseller, a new young adult romantasy available now from Feiwel & Friends.

Chrysantha Stathos has won.
By hiding her intelligence and ambition behind the mask of a beautiful air-headed girl, she has become a wealthy duchess. And, once her elderly husband dies, she will have all the freedom, money, and safety she’s ever wanted.

Or so she thought.
A man claiming to be the estranged grandson of Chrysantha’s lecherous late husband has turned up to steal her inheritance. To make matters worse, her little sister is going to be queen and is rubbing it in her face.

Chrysantha decides that the only thing to do is upstage Alessandra at her own wedding. And as for this grandson, he has to go. Never mind that he’s extremely handsome and secretive with mysterious powers… No, Chrysantha wants Eryx Demos dead, and in the end, a Stathos girl always gets what she wants.

At my intake of breath, the intruder turns, as though I were the one who startled him, and draws two weapons simultaneously. The movement is so fast I can barely follow it. One moment, his hands are bare; in the next, he holds a revolver in his right hand and a wicked, serrated dagger in his left.

My back hits the wall near the open washroom door, as that knife is raised to my neck while the gun presses to my temple.

I don’t move; I don’t speak. I can barely breathe, for fear of the steel against my skin. He looms over me, his figure terrifyingly muscular. I can feel every hard angle of his body pressed against me. Too much of him, really, since I’m wearing so little.

His expression is dangerous, murderous, and there’s something about it that I recognize in myself. A determination to do what it takes to get what he wants.

“Who the hell are you?” the stranger bites out, his voice impatient and violent, yet wearied somehow as well.

“Me?” I choke out, outraged. “Who are you? What are you doing in my bedroom? Unhand me at once or I shall scream for the servants!”

Where are my servants? How did he get past the entire staff?

My right hand is pinned between me and the wall. I try to wiggle it free.

Your bedroom?” he asks incredulously.

“Yes, my bedroom.” My manor. My safe space. Invaded.

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The Darkness Within Us

The Darkness Within Us

Tricia Levenseller

Since he’s armed, and I still can’t access my weapon, I try a tactful approach. “If you’re looking for a handout, you can go to the kitchens, where the staff can find some food for you.” And Kyros can give him a boot to the ass on his way out the door.

Finally, my hand comes free, and I rotate my arm, bringing the pointed tip into contact with his body.

The man looks down, where I’ve got silver pressed against his manhood. Hopefully he can’t tell it’s not actually a knife from his viewpoint. Still, I could do some damage with it.

“Back away from me now,” I snap at him.

The man scoffs, as though he finds me a trifling insect, but he releases me. He takes five steps backward, though he doesn’t lower the revolver. It’s still pointing right at my head.

Now that I’ve finally gained some distance, I’m able to appraise him properly. I don’t recognize his face. It’s… stern, tanned. Handsome, even. His eyes are like daggers with sharpened edges. His lips are much too full to be reasonable. He has a round chin that cuts to a sharp jaw in a way that manages to look both boyish and manly. Hooded eyes rest beneath ragged tawny-brown hair. He looks my age, though he’s taller and definitely stronger.

“Do I look like I’m in need of handouts?” he asks, his voice deep enough to negate anything boyish about him at all.

I lower my eyes to take in his soiled, worn clothing—though atop it all is an impressive, floor-length black leather jacket. Then I dart back up to note the dirt streaks on his cheeks, the wild, rumpled hair, and reply, “Yes!”

The man rolls his eyes. “I’ve been traveling. It took months to get here, which means I’m short on patience. Now, whoever you are, get the hell out of my house.”

“I beg your pardon! I am Lady Chrysantha Demos, Duchess of Pholios, and you cannot order me to leave my own home!”

At that, the man jerks up straight and does a sweep of my body.

You’re the dowager duchess? You can’t be older than…”

“Nineteen,” I say.

He opens and shuts his mouth a few times but finally reholsters both weapons. “They told me the old man left a widow, but I didn’t think you’d be so… young. What are you doing in the master suite?”

That is it! “You do not get to barge into my manor and threaten me with weapons. You don’t get to ask me questions as though I’m some suspect when you’re the criminal. Who do you think you are?”

The man cocks his head to the side. “Vander didn’t tell you?”

“Tell. Me. What?” The words come through gritted teeth. If I have to pay another visit to that dreadful man, I swear I will ruin him.

The intruder looks heavenward as he says, “My name is Eryx Demos. Hadrian Demos was my grandfather. I’m the new Duke of Pholios. I’ve just arrived from overseas to take up my lands and title.”

My heart stops beating in my chest, and my skin goes cold. “What?” I whisper.

“This is my estate, and these are my rooms,” he says, returning his gaze to me.

“No,” I say, quietly at first. Then: “No! Pholios had no children. No heirs. This is some kind of horrible scam! I shall send for Vander at once.”

“You do that, but he’ll tell you the same thing I just did.” Eryx places a hand on the back of his neck and cracks it.

“Why wouldn’t he have told me this before?”

“How should I know? All Vander told me about you was that you’re a bit—uh… simple.”

Did Vander put this into motion before or after I paid him a visit about trying to steal money from me? Is this payback for putting him in his place? Or did he think me such an easy mark that he made plans to have a man of his choosing pretend to be the duke’s grandson so the two could pilfer the earnings of the estate?

And I have no doubt that this is some ruse, because I know Pholios had no heirs. That’s precisely why I picked him.

“Vander must have me confused with someone else,” I say. “For I can assure you I am quite competent and capable of running this estate.”

“Yes, I can see you’ve made all kinds of… interesting changes.” He surveys the room with distaste. “No matter. I’m sure we can return most of this horrid furniture. Restore the room to its manly glory.”

Did he just say manly glory?

“You won’t be returning anything. The money I’ve spent is mine. This manor is mine. And you will not take it from me, you insolent child!”

“I am eighteen,” he says through clenched teeth. A surprise, I thought him at least a year older.

“Ah, my junior by a year,” I say haughtily.

“I doubt that. When’s your birthday?”


“You have five months on me, Duchess. That hardly warrants calling me a child.” His calm tone only infuriates me.

“And yet, you’re not of age. I’m closer to twenty-one than you are, which means the estate will remain in my hands until then.” I don’t know what to believe. I don’t really even know what I’m saying anymore. The world has tilted, and I’m trying to keep from falling.

Eryx laughs. “Oh, no you don’t. Listen here, vixen. This is my birthright. I bear the title of duke, whether or not I’m of age. I outrank you, dowager. We will take this matter to the king if need be, but I’m not backing down.”

 “Go ahead. The king is about to become my brother-in-law.”

Which really just means that I’m royally screwed. For Kallias is clearly being puppeted by Alessandra, and she’s not about to do me any favors. I called her a trollop the last time I wrote her.

But the lie is worth it when I see a hitch in his calm facade.

Perhaps it’s just my imagination, but for the briefest moment, I swear I see the supposed duke’s eyes change color, lightening from a deep brown to bright amber, but it must just be the light, because I blink and there is no change at all. Eryx looks impossibly more tired than when I first spotted him in the room. His fingers slide through his hair as he sighs heavily.

“You picked the wrong mark,” I say. “I will see you and Vander in prison by tomorrow.”

Calmly, resolutely, he extends his right hand forward, where I note for the first time that he’s wearing a ring.

Pholios’s seal.

How the hell did he get that? It was on Pholios’s hand when he died.

Wasn’t it?

Well, that at least explains how he got past the servants.

At my stunned silence, Eryx says, “We can resume this argument in the morning. I’ve had a long day. I need rest.”

“Well, you’re not doing it in here.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. All the pink is giving me a headache. Have a good night in this room, Duchess. It won’t be yours for much longer.” He smiles a grin that makes him seem more dangerous than before.

The door bursts open, and no fewer than ten of my footmen barrel into the room in various stages of undress.

This time, Eryx doesn’t grab his dagger or pistol. He just appraises the men calmly.

“No need for that,” Eryx says. He steps over something on the floor on his way to the door. The footmen let him pass, awaiting my instructions.

Only then do I notice that Sandros is knocked out cold on the bedside rug.

In my outrage and surprise over the intruder, I’d forgotten about him completely. “Take Sandros to the connecting suite and ring for the doctor, please.”

Four men carry out the order, hauling Sandros between them.

Kyros turns to me. “Damasus called for us. Said that some man with the duke’s seal was walking about the manor. He had two goons with him, which is why the staff couldn’t warn you right away. Are you all right, Your Grace?”

What a question.

I had my perfect life, and now some man-child has come to take it away.

How can he exist? He can’t exist. I specifically chose the duke because he had no children. No cousins. No one to pass the estate on to.

Yet here is someone claiming otherwise.

This can’t be right. This can’t be it.

I killed for this!

I’ve earned it.

Finding some measure of calm, I say, “I will be.”

If Vander and Eryx think I’m just going to hand over this estate, they are sorely mistaken. They have no idea who they’re dealing with. The pretend duke may have caught me by surprise, but starting tomorrow I will be prepared.

I return my toothbrush to the washroom. My footmen shuffle out the room, but I ask if a couple of them will take watch outside the door. Just in case.

Then I climb into bed, place the down pillow over my head, and scream and scream into it, until the energetic fury finally leaves my limbs. Depleted and exhausted, I turn over.

This is a new obstacle I wasn’t expecting, but I will handle it just as I have everything else.

Eryx the con artist will not be around for long.

Excerpted from The Darkness Within Us, copyright © 2024 by Tricia Levenseller.

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