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Set between the events of Claw and Fang, Cal’s out for a run near the forest of his father when he catches Layla testing her magic against snowmen of Ink’s creation.
Staring from me dodging his gaze, back to Layla who wouldn’t stop, the demon became exasperated. First time I’d ever seen him be anything but smug. “I do not understand what you wish of me. I give you an enemy to fight, you fail. I tell you to try better, you fail twice over.”
Layla grabbed him by the shirt, causing me to shift my stance to protect her. Ink didn’t react at all to the man-handling, barely blinking as she growled at him. “I’m still learning, you… Gah!” Tossing him away, she stomped in a circle, then fished out the spell book in her purse. I watched the blank pages flit past, curious what was written on them that no one but Layla could read.
“Have you acquired the proper spell?”
For being able to ‘read her every desire,’ Captain Smug sure seemed dead set on attending his own funeral today.
She didn’t answer him. But as I watched Layla’s shoulders rise, her back turned to both of us, a knot in my stomach told me something was wrong. Carefully, I reached over to caress the nape of her neck and work my way over to a tender massage. The knot running the length of her back didn’t undo, but she didn’t lightning my ass either.
Pressing my cheek to hers, I stared down at the blank pages wishing I could read them for her. It was how I’d help her while studying anatomy or drug names if her dyslexia acted up. But when it came to this magic stuff, Layla was completely on her own and it killed me.
“When your poon hound has finished his inspection of your orifices, I’d quite like to resume work.”
“Lay off,” I snapped. After giving Layla one last squeeze, I turned on the demon. “She’s doing her damndest to figure this out. All you do is bitch and moan at her, then layabout on her couch like a Roman Emperor.” My senses flared with the stench of not only his brimstone and charcoal but Layla’s Dr. Pepper lip balm. The very woman he was allowed to kiss he also nearly brought to tears.
A snarl rippled down my back and I felt the fur twisting to form my hackles. Before it could sprout, I latched my fist with a full set of claws around Ink’s neck. The demon’s gaze darted down for a half-second before he stared me square in the eye. “If your tail wags for autoerotic asphyxiation, you only need say.”
“For fuck’s sake.” I squeezed tighter, watching the flames rise in his eyes. He put on a good show of being the distinguished and beleaguered gentlemen, but we both knew what lurked under that handsome skin.
I felt Layla’s hand sift through my hair as if she was using the lightest touch to pull me back. If the demon wasn’t smirking with lips smeared in her lip gloss, if the cold of an unending winter wasn’t biting into my skin, if I didn’t smell the salt clinging to her eyes, I’d have let him go. But it’d been a bad week, and Ink was talented at making everything worse. “Do you know what you are?”
“An anthropomorphic personification of humanity’s need to persecute a natural process of reproduction?”
I hauled him closer and snarled in his ear, “You’re an asshole.”
“Well, that too, of course.” Ink swiveled his head even though I held him by the throat, and he whispered. “But only to those who desire it. Figured out how deep your submissive kink goes, pup?”
That pain in the—
Snow smacked into my arm as hard as a baseball. I took the hit without releasing the demon, but in pain and misplaced anger I turned to Layla. “Why did you…?” She didn’t hold a snowball in her hand. No, she stood behind the advancing army of snowmen who were snarling with wooden teeth and ripping snow-covered rocks from their insides.
“What in the hell? Stop this.” Another snow-coated rock erupted from the attackers, one smacking into my hip. A second struck Ink straight in the cheek, for a second denting his smirk. “Fine. You’ve made your point. Get rid of the snowmen.” I let him go and stepped back, my hands raised.
The snowmen shifted on their round bottoms, the entire valley cracking from the sound. Without eyes, they glared at me, then the demon. “Ink. This isn’t funny.”
“That is up for consideration, but I am afraid oh shaggy one that I am not controlling them.”
Coming May 25th!