For the past five years, Zana Alasdair has been obsessed with Rafe Cazadero. Which is an issue, to say the least, because Rafe is a half-angel demon hunter, and Zana is… well… a demon. Sort of. Anyway, she’s a succubus — a half-human demon who draws magic from the erotic energy she collects making love to mortals. Which means Rafe would probably kill her if he caught her hanging around.
Which is why Pointy doesn’t approve of her little crush on the hunter. Pointy is her evil tail, which has a mind of its own, and is thoroughly convinced Rafe is Bad News. And Pointy does have a… well… point. Except if Rafe’s not careful, he’s going to get himself killed, and that would be a damn shame. Especially since one of those most interested in killing Rafe is Zana’s psycho father, Jargoth, a Lord of Hell, who’d also like to kill Zana.
Zana’s been thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if she could talk Rafe and his magic sword into an alliance? She can be pretty persuasive… assuming she can convince her evil tail to be a little less evil…
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Copyright ©2021 Angela Knight
I needed the night off, but I wasn’t going to get it. I’d be killing demons before dawn. That or dying.
My skin had the itchy feeling that meant something nasty was about to emerge from Hell. Trouble was, it was hard to tell when that itch would escalate to the fiery burn of the Call.
Frowning, I swallowed a mouthful of Scotch, absently stroking the cat in my lap as I gave the problem some thought. Witches preferred to do their summoning at midnight, because that’s what some idiot wrote in a grimoire once. On the other hand, a demon manifesting on his own could choose any time between dusk and dawn. Once the sun came up, you were in the clear for the day. All that solar radiation interferes with dark magics.
“Blllurrrt?” Hocus stretched upward to scrub her furry head against my stubbled jaw. The cat was a Maine Coon, sixteen pounds of fluff and affection. Her bright green eyes peered from a coal-black face surrounded by streaks of white, gray and black, as if she was emerging from a cloud of smoke.
Five years ago, I’d found her meowing in a storm drain as a half-drowned kitten. I’d fished her out and taken her home. I have no idea how an expensive purebred ended up in such a mess, but the vet said she wasn’t chipped. I decided not to look a gift cat in the fangs.
I’d needed the company of something alive to stay sane, since there was no way in Hell I’d risk a woman in my life for more than a few hours. Sometimes I still woke with tears on my cheeks, remembering the clean toddler scent of Ettor’s white-blond hair and the music of Ynes’s laughter.
And the sight of their bodies, when I’d returned home from the mission to find what the demon had left of them. It had been more than three centuries, but you don’t forget that kind of pain. I’d never dared love another mortal since.
Fortunately, one of the Diabol would ignore a cat. Animals don’t have enough innate magic to attract their attention. Hocus was a safe enough companion.
I took another sip of Scotch whiskey as the electric tingle on my shoulders started rolling over my skin in stinging waves. The sensation sharpened between my shoulder blades, burning like a brand where wings would have been — if I’d had them.
Grimacing, I drained the Scotch. The Call would sober me up, no matter how drunk I was. Part of the magic. I ran one hand down the cat’s silken back all the way to the end of her tail, which twitched out of my grip.
It was quiet, the only sound Hocus’s metronome purr and the steady click of the grandfather clock. The library was my favorite room in the house. No weapons lurked anywhere, other than the blessed blade in my boot. No grimoires occupied the maple hand-carved floor to ceiling shelves. Just mysteries and science fiction novels and volumes of poetry, stacked three deep. It wasn’t a rich man’s library — no leather-bound first editions. Most of my books were paperbacks in a dozen languages, dog-eared with cracked spines. I read books, I don’t collect them. I clung to the moment of peace with a drowning man’s desperation, knowing it was about to…
My vision snapped crystal-sharp around the edges, a signal that meant I had exactly twenty minutes to the Call. I put the rocks glass down on the end table with a click, scooped Hocus off my lap and dropped her to the floor as I rose. She meowed plaintively and trotted at my heels as I strode from the library and down the hall.
I’d built the house in the Craftsman style a century or so ago. Its exterior was rough fieldstone in shades of brown and cream, with thick, square columns and oak accents. Inside, I’d hand-carved exposed oak beams and wainscoting with intricate patterns. You’d have to look closely to see the warding spells worked into the carving to discourage demonic visitors. It was a bit dark inside for contemporary taste — no blinding white open plan for me. I displayed the art and sculpture that was too realistic for modern collectors where it suited me. I replaced it with whatever piece I did next and liked better.
When you’re immortal, you don’t get sentimental about your work. That’s why I’ve got three storage units stuffed to the gills.
The door at the end of the hall opened at my touch — no one else could have opened it at all — and the wrought iron rang under my feet as I descended the spiral stairs to the armory.
Hocus trotted at my heels muttering weird little Maine Coon vocalizations. I was almost tempted to run her commentary through Google Translate, but I didn’t think Cat was one of the language options. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what she was bitching about.
“I shouldn’t be gone long,” I told her. “But just in case, there’s water, and the feeder will dispense your breakfast in eight hours.”
More Maine Coon grumbling.
“Yeah, I know you hate dry food, but that’s all the feeder takes.” She was picky as Hell, but I figured she’d eat it if she got hungry enough.
She leaped past, the stairs ringing as I stepped off onto the smooth-finished concrete floor inscribed with runes and three different spell circles. I pulled my cell phone out of my jeans pocket and thumbed a button, then dropped it on my worktable.
If I wasn’t back in forty-eight hours to cancel it, an email would go out to Jo Landon telling the gallery owner where to find the key I’d hidden. She’d pick up the art and the cat. Remuiel would take care of everything the mortals didn’t need to know about. “Jo’ll come pick you up if something goes seriously sideways.” I gave the cat a glower. “I know you never like my friends, but too bad. No biting, no clawing, no breaking her shit. I don’t want you to starve if I’m not around to take care of your furry ass.”
As I spoke, I started stripping, methodically swapping jeans and T-shirt for the skin-tight Lycra that would keep my armor from chafing. Then I turned to the big man-shaped form that held the blessed armor and began to slide into it.
Back in the day, a knight needed the help of a squire and a page or two to get into his armor, but this suit had been conjured by an angel for combat with demons. The hip-length jacket and pants looked like leather and weighed about the same, but the spells and sigils embossed into them made them stronger than a battleship’s hull. I could have taken a blast from a tank without mussing my hair. Black gloves, boots and a helm with a transparent faceplate completed the armor, all marked prominently with the sign of the cross. Which, unfortunately, didn’t do as good a job at repelling demons as legends would have you believe.
Because that would make my life too fucking easy.
The burn was intensifying. I was running out of time…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Knight’s romance writing career began in 1996, when she realized her dream of romance publication with Red Sage’s Secrets anthology. She is a New York Times best-selling author of more than fifty novels, novellas, and ebooks, including the Mageverse and Time Hunters series. Her career spans twenty plus years. Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine gave her a Career Achievement award in Paranormal Romance, as well as two Reviewers’ Choice awards for best erotic romance and best werewolf romance.
Angela is currently a writer, editor, and cover artist for Changeling Press. She also teaches online writing courses with SavvyAuthors.com. Besides her fiction work, Angela’s writing career includes a decade as an award-winning South Carolina newspaper reporter. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, Michael, a thirty-year police veteran and detective with a local police department.