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Curses & Blood - Ebook

Curses & Blood - Ebook

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USA TODAY BESTSELLING SERIES

I thought my life was finally going my way. Boy, was I wrong.

When a new job lands in my lap from the Dark Witch Court, with a very large paycheck, I take it. It should have been an easy gig. I was wrong again.

Nothing is what it seems. When members of the Gray Council wind up dead, a new evil closes in and I find myself on a dangerous path.

Just when I thought I could kick back and relax, the madness of the Netherworld and demons pulls me right back in.

And I have no choice but to kick some serious butt.

Curses & Blood is a fast-paced urban fantasy adventure with a kick-butt heroine and plenty of action, suspense and humor.

Look Inside Chapter 1

Blood pooled around the head, oozing from the single bullet hole pierced right in the middle
of the man’s forehead. His eyes were wide and staring at the ceiling, his face pale with loss of blood. The air smelled of a mix of blood, concrete, and rotten
eggs with a faint underlying scent of candy canes.

And something else lingered in the air, something almost beneath the threshold of my awareness. Something old and dark and deadly.

The dark energy and the wild magic of the fae.

Judging by the waxy, gray color of his skin, the blue on the tips of
his fingers, and the pale lips, the body was still in the “fresh stage” and
hadn’t begun the second stage of decomposition, which put his death around the
six to twelve-hour mark.

Faeries were one of the other half-breed races that could conjure
magic, apart from the elves and us witches. Though their magic was powerful and
complex, it was wilder, more feral than ours, and closer to a demon’s magic if
I had to make a comparison. And by the stirring of the energy still lingering in
the air, this dead fae had a crapload of it.

With his limp brown hair going gray in uneven patches and his eyes touched
with crow’s feet at the corners, I pegged the male faerie to be in his late
fifties. But I could be off. Faeries didn’t age like the rest of us
half-breeds. Lucky bastards. They tended to preserve better, their lives extending
at least fifty years beyond that of a witch. Totally unfair.

Faeries weren’t my favorite half-breed race. I liked them as much as
I liked a mosquito. But I did like the pointed ears. I always thought I’d look
awesome with a pair of cute, pointy ears.

Pointy ear cuteness aside, clearly this was an execution. The faerie
never stood a chance.

I moved around the body, but I couldn’t see any signs of a struggle.
No defense wounds, no bruises on his skin. His hands were smooth and clean,
like the hands of a banker or someone who handled paper and pushed the keys of
a computer most of their lives while sitting in important chairs in important
board meetings. His nails were short, neat, and clean. These were not the callused
hands of a warrior fae.

 Blood spatter stained the
front of his gray robe in dark maroon blots. The spray pattern marked the
source of the blood as coming only from the gunshot in his forehead, which
killed him instantly. But this was no ordinary faerie. This faerie sat on the
Gray Council, our paranormal government.

And I stood inside one of their many secret vaults.

“Who shot the faerie?” sang a voice in the tune of the Bob Marley
song, “I Shot the Sheriff.”

I turned toward the sound of the singing.

Faris bobbed his shoulders to the beat in his head and sang on. “But
they didn’t shoot the deputy.”

I rolled my eyes. Mid-demons. Can’t live with them. Can’t kill them.

Faris, a mid-demon from the
Netherworld, was now my newest witch familiar. It was the only way we could
keep him on this side of the world so he’d be safe—and alive. If Faris returned
to his homeland, his entrails would be pulled out from his nose and mouth, as
he’d so eloquently put it.

Tall and fit, he had a
pleasant face and striking dark eyes framed with thick lashes over an olive
complexion. Tonight, he wore his usual black shirt and matching black pants,
finishing the look with some expensive-looking black shoes that I could
practically see my reflection in.

Faris had a flair for the dramatic. Always had, even from the very first
day I’d summoned him in his triangle. Instead of being pissed at me, like any normal
demon would have been when trapped in a summoning triangle, Faris, well, he was
thrilled. He even clapped his hands and bowed in a way of greeting. Yes, Faris
was an odd one.

And true to his mid-demon nature, he enjoyed the company of human
females, gin, selling souls, and of course, his time here on this side of the
planes. Even more so, ever since I’d reunited him with his
great-great-granddaughter Cassandra, something was visibly different in him. It
seemed like a deep wound had been lifted and healed, as though he had a second
chance at life to make past wrongs right again. It suited him, but it also made
him insufferably annoying. And then some.

A month had gone by since Vossler and his mages had poisoned and
killed some half-breeds and tried to pin it on the witches. I’d killed him, but
his actions had left a mark. The paranormal community’s wound was still deep
and fresh, and I knew it would take time to heal for the races to trust each
other again.

It gave me pause at seeing the dead faerie. At first, I wondered if
this could be retaliation from the witches. Maybe the animosity had risen
again. But one look at the hole in the faerie’s head told me this was something
different entirely.

“Does the pointy-eared bastard have a name?” questioned Faris next
to me. The scent of his cologne—a mix of musk and lavender—was a welcomed distraction
amid the stench of blood. “Can I call him Spock?”

“No.”

No, he doesn’t have a name? Or no, I can’t call him
Spock?”

“No.”

Faris made a discontented noise in his throat. “Space, the final
frontier,” he began as he moved around the body. “To explore strange new
worlds, to seek out new lifeforms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no
one has gone before.”

Damn he was annoying tonight. “Don’t start, Faris,” I grumbled. I
looked over his shoulder to see the two Council officers parked outside the
vault’s steel door, watching us with identical frowns like they thought we were
going to steal something. I pegged them as a male vampire and a male werewolf
by the smell of old blood and wet dog.

The officers were dressed in gray uniforms that screamed Star Trek officers, hence Faris’s sudden
love for all things Trekkie.

These gray bastards weren’t your normal, everyday officers or agents.
They were known as GHOSTS: Gray Council Higher Officers Supernatural Tactical
Security. A mouthful, yes. They were more like the Gray Council’s paranormal
police squad. GHOSTS were made up of every half-breed race. The Gray Council
didn’t discriminate when it came to choosing new officers. Their motto was “The
crueler the better.” They were brutal, and it was their mandate to enforce our
laws. Being part of the GHOSTS meant you were just a few steps down from being
up on the Council and wrapped in a heavy gray robe. It made them feel superior
to everyone else, not to mention violent and nasty.

They loved to boss me around, and I just loved to tell them off.
Judging by how they were giving Faris and me hard stares, I’d say that
opportunity was fast approaching.

I glanced around the vault. We stood in a ten-by-ten concrete box
with shelves running along three walls. They were all crowded with boxes, glass
jars with questionable body parts, containers with a vast array of magical
ingredients, crystal balls, tarot cards, enchanted pendants, collections of
every sized wand, sculptures of various naked pagan and Christian gods, long
gleaming swords and bejeweled daggers, two taxidermy imp demons (truly
appalling), several bleached bones and werewolf skulls, and countless musty old
books, journals, and scrolls. I even spotted a few laptops and a box full of
USB flash drives.

Some of the old books with the label-less spines piqued my interest
but not enough to venture into a little thieving. Besides, I was here on Court
business, not pleasure.

“His name is—was Sarek,” I told Faris, after a moment. “He was an
appointed member of the Gray Council.”

“Ah, yes. The elite governing body of half-breeds and angel-born.”
Faris put his hands on his hips. “Guess he’s regretting his decision of joining
right about now.”

“He’s dead.”

“Precisely.” Faris kneeled next to Sarek’s head and examined the
hole in his forehead. “I can still see the bullet. Looks like a nine-millimeter.”

I leaned over the body, impressed. “How can you tell?”

“Because it says 9MM LUGER on it.”

Right. “Not bad, for a demon. I’m still not paying you. So, don’t
get any ideas.” Crap. I should have caught that.

Faris straightened, a self-satisfied smile growing on his face that
made me want to punch him. “If I were to guess, I’d say a semi-automatic pistol
was used. Possibility a Sig Sauer nine-millimeter.”

I raised a brow. “You know about guns?” Faris never ceased to amaze
me. But he didn’t have to know.

He turned his dark eyes on me, his smile turning devilish. “I know
about a lot of things.”

Not this again. “This faerie was powerful. By the amounts of residual
magic I’m feeling, I’d say, he was more of a Thor than a Superman, but still very
powerful.”

“You’re comparing this dead faerie to a couple of Marvel and DC
comic characters?”

“I am,” I answered. “I’m guessing whoever did this took him by
surprise. He never saw it coming.”

“Why’d they kill him?” asked Faris.

Good question. “I don’t know. That’s why I’m here. To investigate.”

“Insufficient facts always invite danger,” expressed the mid-demon.
“The danger of unsolvable cases.”

True. The killer or killers didn’t leave any clues, apart from the
dead faerie with the bullet hole in his head. “But it wasn’t personal. Not with
how he was killed. And only a few half-breeds actually use guns.”

“Not witches.”

“Not witches,” I agreed. “We use our magic. Not unreliable metal
contraptions designed by humans. A witch wouldn’t be caught dead with a gun, but
vampires and werewolves occasionally have them. I saw a troll use a shotgun
once. He blew the arm of a leprechaun right off after he caught him cheating at
a poker game.” I looked down at the body. “The way he was killed was cold. It
means something. I just haven’t figured it out yet.”

“Angel-borns use guns,” said Faris, his voice carrying a whisper of
accusation.

He was right. Their armory was packed with all manner of guns,
shotguns, rifles, and everything else that went pow-pow. Could an angel-born
have done this?

As if on cue, my phone buzzed in my bag. I pulled it out and smiled.
Logan’s name flashed on the screen. I turned it off and slipped it back in my bag.
I’d call him later.

“Let me guess,” drawled Faris. “Boy Scout?”

“Yes.” I pulled my eyes away from Faris’s patronizing gaze.

“So, things are going well between the two of you? You and your
amour?”

I sighed and gave him a look. “Not that it’s any of your business, but
yes. We’ve actually been on three dates.” Three real dates, with the
usual dinner and lots and lots of wine. Logan had chosen three different human
restaurants, all with marvelous food but nothing too fancy. I was not that
girl. And yet, he’d picked them all outside of our paranormal community.

The first time didn’t bother me. Hell, I even enjoyed it and drank
an entire bottle of Pinot Noir by myself. When the second time came along, I played
it off as though it was nothing, that perhaps all our best restaurants in
Mystic Quarter were booked. But after the third date at a similar human
restaurant in Manhattan, I began to wonder if Logan was embarrassed to be seen
with me. Maybe he wasn’t ready to tell the world about our relationship. I
didn’t like that.

Faris’s smile widened, a curious gleam in his eyes. “Was there any dessert
afterward? You never brought Boy Scout back home. It left me wondering if you had
a good time with him. Unless the dessert was at his place? It was… wasn’t it?
You dirty, little witch. Was there enough spring in his mattress? Where does
Boy Scout live anyway?”

I knew exactly what he meant by that. “I’m not discussing my sex
life with you.” Cauldron help me if I sought advice from a sex-addicted
mid-demon. I wasn’t that desperate. Well, not yet.

Faris laughed. “Whatever you say, Sammy darling. But as your
familiar…” The rest of his words died in his throat.

“What?”

Faris’s gaze moved behind me, his mood guarded. “I thought you said
you decided to work for the witch Court again?”

“I did.” I wasn’t a fool. The money was good. And for a witch like
me, I didn’t have that many available options. My pride could take a few hits.
No problem. Especially when I had mouths to feed and bills to pay. Besides, the
Court paid well, even though they’d been total assholes with me. I think I’d
proven myself more than capable to deal with the jobs they threw my way.

Faris made a sound deep in his throat. “So why is that one
here?”

I spun around, and a growl escaped me.

A man stepped into the vault as the light from the ceiling reflected
off his bald head. He wore dark jeans and a shirt under a black leather jacket
spread over his broad shoulders. His hands were large and strong with scars marring
his knuckles. His four-day-old stubble was dark, except for just enough silver peppered
through it to announce a man in his late forties and in his physical and mental
prime. Even under his clothes I could tell he kept himself in good shape. His
features were regular and rough though he was by no means handsome. His light
eyes projected strength and competence like he was accustomed to giving orders.

The mixed smells of vinegar and earth with a dab of cheap cologne
that came gushing in with him gave him up as a witch. But not just any witch.
This was the witch known as Raynor.

And my competition.

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