Instead of pretending to announce exciting or infuriating news then retracting it with a laugh, I like to use April Fool’s Day to share excerpts from actual books or WIPs that are coming.
First up is an excerpt from Badge which you can read this June. (The book, I mean. You can read the excerpt now without suffering any curses. Ha ha ha). Ink and Cal are hunting for Layla when they’re stopped by a cop.
It was a heart-wrenching noise designed to unnerve and startle the most stalwart of souls. I half expected to find it the work of an imp or even elf, but alas, it was only a mortal in a blue shirt and pants who emerged from the car trailing us. “Excuse me, sir,” he said, not in greeting but demanding attention.
I had no choice but to pause in my quest and face him. “Yes?”
“You’re gonna have to leash your dog,” he continued, refusing to draw close to the ‘dog’ that stared death through him.
“I assure you, my good man.” I draped an arm around Cal’s neck and rubbed my cheek against the fur atop his head. He tightened in my arms, wishing to rip me to pieces, but I held firm and smiled. “He is a mere pussy cat, if you will forgive the pun.”
“Don’t care what that…thing is. It has to be on a leash.”
I was tempted to inquire what precisely he would do to me if I disobeyed. But there was no time for me to make use of his handcuffs. “Very well.” I extended my hand to him and he stared blankly at me. “So you require me to do a task without providing the tools to accomplish it. Guards never change. Give me a moment.”
Turning away from him, I spotted a line of rope left dangling off the bridge overlooking the lake. A bit of luck, for once. Unknotting it, I tugged a good six feet free, then sliced off the anchor on the other end. Let it enjoy the depths of its watery grave in peace.
With a great show for the guardsman, I wound the rope around Cal’s neck. His hackles stood at attention, but he didn’t spin around and bite me. It wouldn’t have stopped my actions, but it might have given the policeman pause. “There,” I declared, standing with the bit of rope in my hand. It was fraying along the fibrous edges, barely more than an inconvenience to someone of Cal’s girth, but it gave the illusion of safety and that was enough.
“Thank you. That monster had better be registered,” he commented quickly while slipping back into his car. Strange how no one wanted to draw near the four-hundred-pound enraged wolf.
I drew my hand across Cal’s head and called out, “I shall have him properly neutered as well.”
The head slipped away fast from below my palm and teeth pressed against my wrist. The cop froze in pulling out, staring at where the wolf was trying to scissor through my bones. “Just a fun game we play together. He’s really gentle when you rub his belly right.”
Cal opened his mouth and spat me free.
I whispered to him while waving the cop away, “Do not act as if you don’t melt like a marshmallow when Layla toys with your stomach and lower parts.”
Tugging on the lead knotted to his throat, I directed Cal to resume the trail. He had no choice but to trot alongside me, the rope too short for him to take much slack. “Don’t worry, I promise…I am greatly enjoying this.”
Fucking demon, he cursed inside his head even while pulling in a scent and charging ahead.
“As if you don’t harden at the thought of your neck collared by a piece of black leather.”
I don’t want you holding the other end.
His desires, which had been nothing more than a sharp black in the hunt, shifted to a throbbing red. Layla with a leather strap wound about her palm so tight her hand pulsed pink as she tugged on it, pulling the willing and happy Cal to his naked knees. I’d been asked to politely vacate the premises when they’d toyed with that new play, but even I felt a pang of loss at them only having a moment to enjoy it before she was taken. When we rescued her, she could bring us both to our knees.
“Believe me, mutt. I don’t want to be the one holding it either.”
The next book in Coven of Desire is called Wings and will introduce you to Garavel, a marshmallow angel.
“You’re a…” I stared past the man with giant white wings to Ink staggering to his feet. I jabbed two fingers at them while waiting for him to look to prove I was right when the angel caught my hand.
Oh my god, he was so soft and warm. It was like his ebony skin glowed with a heavenly gold sparkle when I touched it, which shut my brain down.
Flecks of amber sparkled in his so deep-brown-to-be-black eyes as he shook my hand up and down. “You must be a witch.”
Here it comes. I girded myself for the typical reaction of either fear or disgust. Didn’t matter who it was, if they knew about witches they hated us at first glance.
Garavel smiled wide with teeth brighter than his shockingly thin robe. He wore two pieces of white cloth that clung to his wide chest and solid stomach before tapering at the hips and dangling near his sandaled feet. The clothes were attached via gold loops at the shoulders and a strip of gold fabric at the waist. It left the entire sides of his chest exposed, which he didn’t seem bothered by at all. Instead, he stared at me as if I was the answer to all of his problems.
My heart leapt at the idea I could mean anything to a creature of such divinity. Garavel sheathed his giant sword on his back and tucked his wings in. They vanished along with any sign of the blade. “I cannot believe my luck to find a child of creation here!” he bellowed like a kid at their birthday party.
“Well, I’m…that’s me, witch lady. I mean lady who does witchcraft. Um, spells and stuff.” I tried to smile through the pain in my chest at how stupid I sounded and twirled my hair around my finger.
A slow chuckle drew not only my attention, but the angel’s as well. Ink tipped his head at my embarrassing fumbling, then he extended his shadow wings wide. Oh no, he’s a demon, Ink’s a demon. Demon and angel—they were gonna rip each other to shreds in this underground pit of bones and I…
“Are you a demonic sin?” Garavel asked.
Ink fluttered his wings, blanketing the rest of the mausoleum in shadow. “Good eye. Lust,” he said, pointing to himself. Why couldn’t he have lied just once? I tensed up, trying to figure out how I could stun someone who just took out a room of corpse eaters.
“Delightful!” Garavel shouted, reaching over and taking the demon’s hand. His massive palm nearly dwarfed Ink’s, but the two shook with a disconcerting bonhomie, like two coworkers spotting each other outside of the office.
“You…you’re okay with him?” I asked. Why wasn’t the angel attacking? Weren’t they always at war with the denizens of hell?
It was Ink who responded with a slow chuckle while Garavel stared down at his attire. “I am afraid I seem to have spilled a little soot on my robes.”
“No, I mean you’re a—”
“Layla!” Daniel’s cry burst into the room just before he appeared, his face stricken in panic. “Are you…?” He reached over for me, the cold of his form barely competing with the chill of the tomb. Slowly, Daniel turned to take in the piles of decapitated pischachas on top of the mutilated corpses.
“As punctual as you are useful,” Ink said, giving Daniel two thumbs up.
Ink slapped an arm across Garavel’s fridge-sized frame. “Our newest addition to the coven.” He gave me a knowing look and my mouth dried.
One more, which I probably shouldn’t be sharing with you. Right now I’m working on the sixth Coven of Desire book called Scales: The Gang Goes On Vacation. Guess who’s finally getting his own POV chapters!
“Can someone get the door?” Layla called, her voice muffled by the twin mattress pressed to her chest. Her arms strained as she walked for the swinging shed door where no one stood.
Taking a step, the mattress bounced into the shut door and Layla groaned. “Hello? Fariah? Anyone?”
I’d been unable to do anything but watch as she laughed, and chipped nails, and picked burrs off her jeans with her friends. Even my words were only a distraction from the job, and often leading to Layla glancing around to the confusion of the other women who couldn’t see me. Thirty years of my undeath were spent screaming into the uncaring void, but I’d never felt so worthless now.
She tried again, calling for the quiet one. “Maram? Don’t tell me you two are off necking.”
Straightening my spine, I stepped across the creaking floor. The space was narrow and crammed full of old mattresses, broken bed frames, and lawn equipment. Instead of trying to move around them, I walked through and stopped before the door. “Allow me,” I said to Layla. Concentrate. For months I hadn’t been able to sit, then one day it came to me. I’d been reduced to reading books over people’s shoulders, often stuck inventing the ending for myself until one glorious Saturday I realized I could hold them. If I focused hard enough, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.
I glared at the handle. All it needed was for the latch to lift and the whole door would swing open. That tiny piece of metal I’d have been able to bend in half when I was human. I could move that. I knew it.
The dead air crackled awake as I reached for the latch and my hand sailed on through. Damn it. Try again. Each swipe of my hand was a fail. Forgetting the handle, I tried for the latch itself, when a warm palm pressed through mine.
With a great whine, the door shuddered open. Layla hefted back up the mattress and carefully waddled out into the sunset. I stepped out and stared death at the door. It teetered on its hinges, a soft breeze proving to be more of a nuisance than I ever was.
Clenching my fists, I reared back to punch the door.
Her sweet voice stalled my useless attack and I crossed quickly to her side. Layla had her cheek pressed to the stained mattress so only one of her deep brown eyes would stare at me. “Can you tell me where the hell I’m going, so I don’t walk into the lake?”
“Of course,” I nodded, taking my job seriously. As I gazed around the open field with not even a blade of grass in her way, my confidence shriveled. “You just keep heading forward like that.”
“Thanks,” she said.
There was no need for her pity. I knew I was dead. The wind rustling the trees and never touching my skin reminded me. The sun baking the grass but never warming my bones kept me from forgetting. For as infuriatingly useless as the demon was, at least he could open the door for her.
Badge is coming June 21st.
Wings will arrive this October.
And Scales…we’ll figure it out once I finish it.