Genevieve Drake is on a dangerous mission to find the soul collector, Lethe, and enter the deepest, darkest level of the underworld. No one has ever returned alive from the belly of a soul collector, but she will let nothing stop her from going after the precious treasure Lethe stole from her.
As she is tested against demon spawn and foul creatures of the underworld, each triumph strengthens her Vessel power—and drags her closer to a breaking point that could forever doom her to the abyss.
Meanwhile, with the full prophecy hurtling toward completion, the Dominus Daemonum strategize for the day Gen will battle Prince Bamal’s Vessel to the death, when the Great War between heaven and hell will begin.
But Bamal has a secret weapon. When he reveals it—and Thomas reveals his own hidden agenda—Gen may not have the strength to resist the temptation to fall into darkness, forsaking the fate of the world for her broken heart.
Warning: Contains malicious demons, sinister spawn, and a vengeful heroine with plans to send them all back to burning hell.
Among a throng of dancers grinding to some death-metal tune was Bleed and one of the guys from his band, Gallow’s End. Bleed. What an asinine name. Perfectly fit the owner. Last time Kat and I had seen him in that demon club on Bayou Sauvage, his long, sleek hair was dyed midnight blue. He’d changed it to deep purple. Two stumbling-drunk girls were clinging to him and the tall, lanky guy I recognized as his drummer. Their eyes shimmered red in the smoky dark of the club.
That was one thing lower demons didn’t have to worry about in New Orleans. With so many freaks in the city joining artificial vampire covens, there was no need to disguise red eyes or sharpened fangs. Both of which were the distinct outward features of a lower demon inhabiting a human.
The young brunette who looked barely eighteen hung on to Bleed’s arm. He made a signal to Drummer Boy, who escorted another girl wearing a miniskirt so short I could see her ass cheek. They veered toward a back entrance, taking their fully intoxicated dates with them. Knowing Bleed was into kink and violence and certainly not above forcing his will on the weak and vulnerable, I nudged Kat.
Without a word, we were off the stools and following the four through the storage room, which indeed had a back entrance for deliveries. The door to the alley creaked closed. Bleed said something, obviously witty and wonderful because the girls giggled in unison. I reached into my boot and pulled out my sharpened stiletto. Kat pulled out a similar but thicker blade, sheathed on a vest harness covered by her jacket.
Kat cracked the door, peering outside. We heard the distant shuffling as the four moved farther off.
“Hurry,” I whispered.
We slipped through the exit and stalked after them. They rounded the corner of a darkened building. Although we were walking in the open, this part of the business district was deserted after hours. In the French Quarter, you could find crowds on every street well into the wee hours of the morning. But this area was only busy during the daytime. Perfect place to commit some heinous crime on unsuspecting, underage and intoxicated girls.
By the time we reached the next block, Bleed and Drummer Boy had lured the girls down a dark alley. Talk about cliché.
“Where issit?” slurred the brunette. The other girl’s giggle echoed off the alley walls.
“Right over here,” said Bleed. “I’m going to show you.”
I could hear the sneer in his voice. I grabbed Kat’s arm, and she looked back at me as we edged closer to the corner of the alley. Sift, I mouthed. She nodded.
Holding up my left hand, I put up one finger, then two, then three.
We sifted into the alley a yard away from them. There was no telling what Bleed had in mind, because we interrupted whatever it was he had planned. Somehow, he didn’t look surprised to see us, which put me on edge. My VS zinged to life, igniting my underlight to full throttle.
The brunette pointed at me, her hair a mess, her lipstick smeared. “Hey. You look like a fairy.”
She and her friend burst into laughter, one of them bending her knees with the weight of drunken hilarity. They’d definitely put more than alcohol in their systems. Or they’d had four too many of whatever they were drinking.
“Go,” I told the girls. “Get out of here.”
“Whu…why?” hiccupped Miniskirt.
Whispering the words to break through a cast of illusion, I slashed my dagger in the air toward Bleed, who’d not said a word. For the briefest of seconds, the outer shell of the beautiful human he hid inside vanished, revealing the fanged, bony, pasty-gray demon he truly was. Three seconds later, the veil that cloaked the demon in dark beauty hid the beast within once more.
The girls—slack-jawed and wide-eyed—simply stared in horror until Bleed hissed at them. They squealed and stumbled away toward the street, the brunette breaking a heel but not stopping.
“There now, Domina,” said Bleed, speaking to Kat, whom he favored over me. My feelings weren’t hurt, trust me. “Now that you have us all to yourself, what shall we do?”
“I think it’s time to send you back to your playpen, once and for all,” she answered with stoic grace.
The gangly one was already backing away, but not Bleed. “I would like nothing more than to bask in the tortures you have planned for me,” he said in a sultry tone, inching closer to her.
“Not this shit again,” I said, remembering how last time he’d begged her for a little S&M treatment.
He ignored me. “Word has spread, Domina, that you have certain tastes. Delicacies that align with my own desires.”
“I’m riveted,” said Kat. “Please. Do tell what demons are saying about me.”
The salacious grin that spread across Bleed’s face as his hand slipped down and cupped his crotch sent a grotesque chill over my body. “That you prefer…chains in the bedroom. I too enjoy bondage, Domina.” The asshole hadn’t noticed that Kat had gone rigid with rage, just as she always did two seconds before she was going to strike. “Perhaps we could enjoy each other—”
She sliced out with a leap, but he moved like lightning, prepared for her attack. He ended up behind her with one arm wrapped around her waist. The other hand whipped out and grabbed her wrist holding the dagger. He whispered something I couldn’t hear. Before I could even react to help her, she doubled over and flipped him on the pavement.
Drummer Boy took off running. “Kat!” I screamed, taking two steps after him.
She hovered over Bleed, who lay there, grinning like a fiend, on the ground. “Go.” She waved me off. “Get him!”
I took off. The dude didn’t look like much, but he sure as hell could run with those long-ass legs. I sprinted after him down the alley, coming out onto another well-lit but abandoned street in the business district. The frosty air filled my lungs, stinging as I sucked in each breath. His cackling laughter echoed to the right. I caught his lanky figure rounding a corner. Another alley.
As soon as I ran into the lane, a familiar signature wafted over me. Winter wind and new-fallen snow, ice castles and midnight blue—a potent seduction of ice and heat. The sight, sound, smell, color of winter emanated not from the atmosphere but from the man—the angel—standing five feet from me.
Drummer Boy was gone. In his place stood Thomas, the one I’d longed to find, to exact vengeance upon him for his betrayal, for what he’d done to Jude. For what he’d done to me. But for several seconds, all I could do was stand there and stare at him, convincing myself he was real and not another mirage.
Black hair curling at his nape like Michelangelo’s David. Sea-green eyes deeper than any ocean. Fair, flawless skin that rivaled that of Raphael’s most perfect painting. And a physique that had indeed been born of heaven. He was the embodiment of breathtaking beauty, and yet all I could do was imagine how quickly I could plunge my dagger into his heart.
Juliette calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where the landscape curls into her imagination, creating mystical settings for her stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University, a M.Ed. in gifted education, and was privileged to study under the award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines in grad school. Her love of mythology, legends, and art serve as constant inspiration for her works. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance--brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.
Juliette is a multi-published author, including her Nightwing series with Kensington Publishing and The Vessel Trilogy with Samhain Publishing.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Juliette-Cross/e/B00MQ18Z1W/