I believe this is the first excerpt anywhere from DEMON POSSESSED, Book 3 in the Megan Chase series, coming 2/13/10 from Juno/Pocket.
This is from Chapter 6, and the book takes place seven months after the events of DEMON INSIDE (which makes it almost a year after the events of PERSONAL DEMONS). I didn’t want to post Chapter One, as that will go up on the site proper in January. (Also, if for some reason you haven’t read DEMON INSIDE yet, keep in mind this excerpt contains a little bit of discussion/spoilers relating to that book.)
(Note: this excerpt has not been copyedited. The final published version may differ slightly.)
Candles floated above the table, courtesy of the air demons—House Caelaeris—led by Baylor Regis. At her feet were flower petals, strewn from ivy-covered wall to ivy-covered wall.
Ivory damask tablecloths peeked out from beneath an enormous silver centerpiece loaded with ivy and white roses; silver plates waited at every chair, surrounded by crystal glasses and solid silver cutlery. Demons liked to eat. She had no doubt this would be a meal to remember.
And it was, but not for the reasons she expected. No sooner had they sat down than Justine Riverside, Gretneg of House Concumbia, turned to her, her succubus smile spread all over her perfect features.
“So, Megan,” she cooed. “We’re all dying to hear about your plans for your Haikken-Kra. When will you be doing it?”
Had someone dropped a pin, Megan felt certain she would have heard it. She wished someone would. It would provide some distraction.
But no one did. No one made a sound. Shit.
“I don’t plan to do it, actually. There’s really no reason for me to, at this point.”
Justine’s perfectly arched eyebrows shot up almost to her hairline. “No reason? I certainly think—”
“Justine, Megan will make the decision she feels is right,” Winston cut in. Megan shot him a grateful smile, which he returned. “It’s not our place to say what she should do.”
“It is! Just the presence of a human here creates a problem for us. Her mind is weak.”
“She’s a psychic,” Greyson said. He squeezed her thigh beneath the table. “Nobody’s going to hypnotize or entrance her.”
Justine frowned. “I think we should take a vote on it.”
“Excuse me,” Megan said. “I don’t think it’s up to any of you. I don’t actually believe it’s any of your business.”
“Human vulnerability is our business, when it affects us.” Justine flicked her long hair, shining black in the candlelight, off her bare shoulder. “Look at that silliness going on in the hotel down the road, that fleapit whatever-it’s-called. That ridiculous man claiming to heal possessed people. And they believe him. They flock to him. They give him money—hmm. Maybe that’s something we should look into.”
A ripple of appreciative laughter flowed around the table at this. Megan didn’t join in. “Wait, what? What man?”
“Some reverend man.” Justine’s shudder turned into a graceful undulation when the servants—not the hotel’s, but demons handpicked by each house—brought the first platter, loaded with appetizers, and started parceling them out. Apparently being seen to react horribly to something was not on Justine’s list of acceptable things. “He’s holding some sort of weekend prayer meeting at that hotel over there.”
“That’s the one.” Justine picked up her fork, twirled it in her red-tipped fingers. “Why, are you planning on joining them?”
“No, I—no. No, I’m not.” Damn it! She should have told Justine to go fuck herself, something she’d been dying to do for some time. She’d never forgotten her first glimpse of the woman, though they hadn’t been officially introduced; the day Megan was forced to remember the Accuser, the demon who’d infected her with a piece of him almost seventeen years before. The day she’d been forced to watch Greyson tortured, chained and whipped with an iron-tipped whip.
Justine had been there. Had enjoyed the show. Megan would never forget it. Would never forget that Justine had enjoyed the show despite the fact that she’d also enjoyed having Greyson in her bed at one time.
Or several times. He’d never really given Megan details, and she’d never asked. It was enough to know that it had happened, and that it wasn’t happening anymore. Wouldn’t happen again. When he was Templeton Black’s second-in-command Greyson had been called on to perform such acts; payback for favors, little treats to sweeten deals. As Gretneg he no longer had to.
She supposed that was Carter’s job now. Although she preferred to think it wasn’t anybody’s.
Except…Greyson had asked his friend Nick to do something for him, back at Christmastime. Something he didn’t want to do, something involving a woman. Could that have been…
But what favor would Greyson have been paying back then, when he’d been Gretneg for barely twenty-four hours?
Fuck Justine, and fuck all this stupid demon crap. The implication that Megan’s silly human brain was so easily manipulated, that she would be just as likely to run off and join up with a fundamentalist exorcist as to do anything else, rankled. The implication that because she was human she didn’t belong there…that simply hurt. Much as she didn’t want it to, it did. She did want to belong there. She did want to fit in. She just didn’t want to give up her humanity entirely, to lose things she considered valuable and important.
Allowing the demon to grow inside her, to become more of a part of her so she would be genetically demon, might not change that. But she couldn’t be sure. And nobody could give her a truly compelling argument for doing it, so why should she? She’d thought it wasn’t a problem.
And now with one little conversation all that had changed.
Food was put on her plate and she picked up her fork without thinking, only to be stopped by Greyson’s hand on hers. “Don’t eat that one.”
“Why?” Shit, she didn’t want to sound bitter and pissed off, but she couldn’t help it. She hated feeling like an outsider. “Is it made of human flesh or something?”
He looked at her strangely. “No. Bell peppers.”
“Oh. Right. Thanks.” Oops. She was allergic to those.
“Is everything all right, bryaela?”
She tried to smile. It didn’t turn out too well. “I’m just—I’m fine.”
His palm stroked her thigh now, gliding up and down over the silk of her skirt as he leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Watching you stand up to Justine was awfully sexy.”
“I don’t think I stood up very well.”
“Oh, I do. Very few people ever even attempt it, so you get points just for that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so surprised.”
This time her smile did work. True or not, it was nice to hear. “Really? I would have thought you’d managed to surprise her a few times over the years yourself.”
“No. She never got my best stuff.”
“Well, didn’t she miss out.”
“I like to think so. But such is life. Unfair.”
She looked up at him, into his eyes. The rest of the room turned into nothing but a discordant hum in the background, a blur of ivory and green; a set painting. “Sometimes it isn’t too bad, though.”
“No, sometimes it certainly isn’t.”
She didn’t know how long they sat like that. Not long, she didn’t think. Not in such a public place, in such a small group where everyone at the table could and probably were watching. But it was long enough; long enough to remind her exactly why she was still there, why she still wanted to be there. Long enough to know he wanted her there, too.
“I was thinking,” he said finally, giving her thigh another squeeze and taking a sip of wine with his other hand. The sound of the room rushed back, the others talking, the faint tinkle of silverware on plates. More servants moved in with larger trays, delivering what looked like pheasant. “We haven’t been back to Italy. Want to go, week after next?”
“For your birthday? Oh…shit, I can’t. I can’t take more time off so soon, and the rest of my vacation time at the station is booked for Christmas. I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “No problem.”
“I took your birthday off, though. And the day after.”
“Oh? Planning something?”
“Maybe.” Actually, she was; she’d found a nice hotel on an island off the coast, just a few hours’ flight away, and had booked the night before and the night of, with a late check-out the day after. Malleus had helped her plan it; she’d needed him to check Greyson’s appointments.
He started to reply, but stopped when someone said his name. Winston’s daughter Leora sat at his left side; Megan hadn’t noticed before. The seating around the table was arranged boy-girl, with Win on Leora’s other side and his girlfriend—Sarita, right?—on his other side. The assistants, exclusively male, sat at the end closest to the kitchen doors in a ring.
Gunnar Ryall from House Aquiast sat at her right. While Greyson turned to Leora she spoke to him, making desultory conversation. No other kind could be made with Gunnar, at least not in her experience. He liked to talk about fish. A lot.
Her pheasant was placed in front of her. With gratitude she turned to it, and accepted another cocktail as well instead of wine. Her stomach practically screamed at the sight of the food; she’d hardly eaten all day, and while full-blood demons could subsist for long periods of time simply on energy like she’d exchanged with Greyson earlier, she couldn’t.
Not that demons wanted to subsist purely on energy—they wouldn’t be such big eaters if they did—but they could. And they could eat enormous amounts without gaining weight, due to faster metabolisms. It was almost enough to convince her to make the switch, but then, anorexics lost plenty of weight too and that wasn’t exactly healthy. Giving up her humanity in exchange for extra helpings of pie didn’t seem like the greatest deal.
Although she could be tempted when the food was this good. The pheasant practically melted in her mouth, dark and rich and—what was that?
A shiver, almost like the one she’d felt the night before, when the litobora was nearby. Tasting her.
This wasn’t a demon, though. It was a human, nearby. A human where a human shouldn’t be; Megan’s responsibility. Her Yezer were guarding all the entrances leading to this part of the building, making sure it felt so gloomy, creepy, and just plain scary that any person walking near it felt the sudden urge to be elsewhere.
If there’d been a problem, it would have been communicated to Roc. Should have been communicated to Roc.
So why the hell hadn’t it been? And oh, shit, how long would it be before the others sensed an intruder, as well, and decided she’d had something to do with it?