The super-dark, super-sexy, X-rated erotic romance Anna J. Evans and I wrote together, Demon’s Triad, releases today from Ellora’s Cave! (You’ll be able to buy it later in the day when the page updates.)
I had a bit of a difficult time choosing an excerpt for this one, because did I mention it’s X-rated and super sexy? But I’m also mindful that a lot of you read from work, and after a gentle reminder from some of my beloved men readers that, ah, reading explicit material at work can cause problems, I wanted to grab something a little less…well, a little less erotic.
What’s a witch to do when her coven has been cursed with a celibacy spell?
Break it. By any means necessary.
Aleeza dips into grey magic to scratch the itch that’s been driving her crazy. She never dreams deviating from the ‘white magic only’ policy of her coven will land her in the middle of a serial murder investigation…or in the arms of two magnetic men.
Ferrin and Dorand plan to find their woman’s murderer and make them pay—with their lives. But when a spell to communicate with her spirit awakens a forbidden lust, their quest to catch a killer becomes even deadlier.
A legacy of demonic evil two thousand years in the making is about to rise. One misstep and innocent passion becomes tainted desire, and three true lovers…a demon’s triad.
ADVISORY: Contains scenes of male/male sexual contact. This book is not for the faint of heart and contains non-gratuitous scenes of rape and incest.
The scene I’ve chosen takes place the morning after Aleeza breaks the celibacy curse and, coincidentally, loses her virginity to a man in the Amiantos forests. Now she’s with the head of her Coven (Gunera) to be briefed about a new investigation…
“Gunera Bounty and Investigations has its second job. At this rate we’re going to need more people certified, pronto. I’m putting you in charge of finding volunteers. And don’t tell me you can’t find them. Let them know how much cash you’re getting for this and they’ll be jumping at the chance.”
Aleeza hadn’t even finished closing the door behind her before Gavyn spoke, waving a thick manila folder in her direction. “Here.” The sunlight streaming in the frosted glass window behind him cast an odd whitish glow around his dark head, like the glow of Dorand’s energy the night before had made his skin gleam. Aleeza shivered and hurried to take the file from Gavyn, making sure their fingers didn’t touch.
“Good morning to you too. And how much money am I getting for this job anyway?”
“What’s wrong with you? Are you sick?” Gavyn’s smile faded and his green eyes narrowed. He held on to the file more tightly.
For a second Aleeza thought he might pull her over the desk into his lap and make her sit there and say “ah”. Gavyn was their coven’s strongest healer and had basically been her pediatrician when she was growing up. Aleeza had learned every healing spell she knew from him and had known he would be able to sense something off with her energy. She shouldn’t have come here, should have made him fill her in over the phone and picked up the damn file later after she’d had a nice long nap.
“Nothing’s wrong. Give me a break, Gavyn. I haven’t been sick in ten years,” she said, rolling her eyes and pulling the file from his grip with a firm yank. Play it off, she just had to play it off and get out of here ASAP.
“Don’t bullshit me, there’s something wrong,” Gavyn said. “You seem different somehow.”
Aleeza sat down in one of the cracked leather chairs and shrugged, keeping her eyes down, scanning the words on the folder without reading them. “Nothing. I guess I’m just tired. I had a late night.”
“No, your energy feels off, like it’s been tampered with. Maybe—”
“What’s the case, Gavyn? The sooner you tell me about it, the sooner I can start, and the sooner we get paid.”
“I like that you’re eager.” Gavyn gave her another hard look, then leaned back in his own, much nicer chair, and put his feet up on the mess of paper covering his desk. Every Gunera Aleeza knew had offered to help him organize the office at least once, but Gavyn insisted he had a system. “But this is a challenging job, and if there’s any question about your health—”
“Cut the crap, Gavyn. You’d send me out while I was in the middle of giving birth if the job paid well enough.”
Now why had she said that? Giving birth? Idiot.
Gavyn smiled and rubbed his own ever-rounding belly. “Funny you mention that, Al. I’m sending you up to the Pekora Forest for this one.”
Only the powerful shields Aleeza had built up since heading for the office kept her from betraying her emotions. Did Gavyn know where she’d been last night? She wouldn’t put it past the old man to fuck with her a little before he dealt out a punishment. But surely he wouldn’t be so blasé if he’d known what she’d been up to in the woods. Best to keep playing dumb and give out as little information as possible. “Oh? What’s up there, except a bunch of Amiantos?”
“That’s right. The Amiantos have hired us for this one. I’m sure you can’t wait to get better acquainted. Might be your chance to finally meet that special someone.” The words were ripe with sarcasm. If Gavyn had ever been married, Aleeza didn’t know about it, and he certainly knew how she felt about the undefiled coven.
“You know I don’t want to meet any damned Amiantos. I’m surprised you even took a job from them. Are you sure it’s not a trap? They might be working with the human police.”
“No, the job is legit. The question is, are you? I don’t want to send a frustrated virgin up there to be swept off her feet by some blond god and make our company, and our coven, look like a bunch of fools.”
“What are you talking about, Gavyn? I still feel the same way I always have about them,” Aleeza said, her heart beating fast in her throat. He knew. Shit, he had to know, and now she was going to be in the biggest trouble of her life. She might be kicked out of the coven or worse, she might be—
“Really? Because I’ve been hearing some things. Like maybe you’re getting a little too frustrated with celibacy. I heard you ended up on your ass in an alley last night so desperate you were going to let that living dildo Keller into your pants.” He stood up, all six feet of him looming over her from behind his desk. He was a big man in every sense of the word and the closest thing she’d had to a father since her own disappeared. Looking into his angry face and not spilling everything wasn’t the easiest thing she’d ever done, but she met his green eyes with her dark brown ones and willed a look of complete innocence onto her features.
“Not to mention, you reek of male. How many guys were you with last night?”
“W-What?” Goddess help her, she’d almost said, “only one.” “What are you talking about?”
“I think you know what I’m talking about.”
Shit. Shitshitshit. “Fine, Gavyn. Yes. I tried to pick up two different guys last night. I thought maybe if the guys weren’t supers I could make it work. It didn’t. The experience left me drained so I did a spell to charge back up and it’s made me a little high. Then my mom pumped me full of herbs this morning to ‘even out my humors’ and I’m about to throw up on your desk. I just need a shower and a nap, and I’ll be ready to go. I don’t want an Amiantos man any more than I ever did, and I’ve never, never, embarrassed this company.”
He gave her a hard look, then took a deep breath and sat back down. He’d bought it, at least for now. “No, you haven’t, but I’m warning you, Al—”
“Can we just get to the briefing so I can go home and clean up before I head into enemy territory?” All that training paid off. Lies came so easily to her now.
“They’re not my favorite coven either, but they’re the client and I expect you to treat them with respect. Amiantos might not be our friends, but neither are they the enemy.”
“They might as well be.”
“You can’t really believe that, Al. Sometimes it works out between the Gunera and the Amiantos. Just because your father—”
“Damn it, Gavyn, are you going to brief me or not?” She stood up, anger suddenly boiling in her chest. How dare he, how dare he talk like this? Who did he think he was? She wanted to hit him, to punch him, to slice his throat with her nails and let his blood run—the desire was so strong for a minute she thought she’d done it. She saw Gavyn’s limp body on the floor, saw herself standing over him, laughing, sucking his power into her body…
What the hell?!
“Aleeza? Aleeza! Are you okay?” Gavyn’s hands squeezed her arms so hard it hurt. Her vision cleared and she saw that his face, only inches away from hers, was thankfully unmarked. Had she really seen that? Goddess, had she really imagined doing something so terrible to Gavyn, her coven leader, her friend?
Her legs shook as she sank back into the chair. “I’m fine.”
“You don’t look fine.”
“I am, I’m just…I’m just tired. Could you get me something to drink, please? Preferably something with caffeine?”
“Caffeine might not be a good idea if you’re unbalanced today,” he said, actually looking as if he might regret having given her such a hard time. “I have—”
“Just anything. Please.” Please, let him leave her alone for a minute. He needed to leave her alone for a minute. Because the image of his broken body still shone in her head like a bright new penny and she had no idea why, but the thought of hurting him made her throb.
Something was definitely wrong, horribly wrong.
The feeling of foreboding didn’t disappear when Gavyn brought her some orange juice and started briefing her on the new job.
“Three witches murdered,” he said. “All on Fire Festivals. The first was Rimer Lorcan, at the Spring Equinox. Rimer was a loner, a petty criminal. He’d been covenless for years, and pissed off more people, super and human, than you can count on two hands. Everyone assumed it was a revenge killing until they did postmortem.” The picture she pulled from the file was so lurid with blood Aleeza had to close her eyes for a second. “They found evidence of ritual murder. Magical symbols carved into his organs—the ones they didn’t take, anyway.” Aleeza swallowed hard.
“Next was Carantha Smoler, on Beltane. This one was better documented than the first, more pictures, close ups of the symbols in the organs.” A picture of a woman’s battered, broken body seemed to leap out of the file at Aleeza. Tears sprang to her eyes. The woman was lovely—had been lovely. For a moment it was almost as if she could see her smiling, laughing…Aleeza shook her head. She was more tired than she’d thought. She’d never had psychic flashes like these before.
Unless the sex spell had opened her up somehow. She didn’t even want to think about that, couldn’t think about things like that until she was far away from Gavyn.
Whatever that odd flash was, it didn’t happen with the next picture.
“Lymera Brown.” Gavyn shifted on the arm of her chair. “Lammas. The Amiantos have no leads. Since the murders all took place in the forest, they’ve been the ones responsible for investigating, even though only two of the victims—Rimer and Carantha—were theirs. Lymera was Phillias coven, but she was going to marry an Amiantos, so they feel she was theirs too.”
“And now they want us to find the killer?”
Gavyn nodded. “Not only that. They want us to prevent the next murder, which if the perps follow their pattern will take place on Samhain…not quite a month away.”