Dark Curse (Shadow & Light Book 5) - Ebook
Dark Curse (Shadow & Light Book 5) - Ebook
- Purchase the E-Book Instantly
- Receive Download Link via Email
- Send to preferred E-Reader and Enjoy!
It’s important to stay busy in my line of work, and fresh challenges keep me on my toes. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Okay, so I accepted the archdemon Lucian’s gift in the hopes that it would make me invincible—big mistake.
A darkness rises in me that I can’t control. It seduces me, offering me the power to make things right again, all the while consuming little pieces of my soul. But if I embrace the darkness, will I ever be the same? I’m not the Hunter I once was. I’m changing. And it scares the crap out of me.
Worse, Lisbeth has turned the Gray Council against me. Yeah, that cost me a trip to the Silent Gallows. Yay me.
But they can’t get rid of me that easily. Hell no. Lisbeth and her followers better get ready, ‘cause I’m coming for her...
Dark Curse is a sassy, fast-paced urban fantasy filled with demons, angels, vampires, werewolves, witches, fae, leprechauns, jinn, and shifters. If you enjoy urban fantasy books with a kick-ass heroine and plenty of action, suspense and humor, you’ll love Dark Curse.
Look Inside Chapter 1
Look Inside Chapter 1
Early morning traffic was thick in East Harlem, Manhattan, as I attempted to stifle my annoyance and a bit of road rage. I stopped, parked my SUV on West 111th
street, and got out. The cool April air rushed in, smelling faintly like
garbage and exhaust. I smiled. I loved this city.
Work for the church had been steady for the past seven months with the average
closet demon cases, attic poltergeists, basement gremlins, and some ghouls that
had managed to wreak havoc in a New York hospital. I had charged double for that
because, well, who else was going to do it? Still, the constant stream of small
Hunting jobs had been enough to put a down payment on a car, a ten-year-old burgundy
Subaru Forester. It wasn’t fancy, or new, but it was mine.
only was the car perfect for the harsh winter we’d had, but its large size and spacious
trunk was perfect for the black garbage bags of demon guts I had to haul and
dispose of. The trunk was also roomy enough for my collection of weapons: soul
blades, short swords, hunting daggers, iron cuffs, chains, and a half-dozen extra-large
bags of salt. I could never have enough salt.
had happened in those seven months. For one thing, I never heard back from Jax
or his mother, for that matter. I’d even reached out to Pam to see if she’d
heard anything. Turns out she had. Jax was back at his apartment and seemed
well as far as she knew, which was surprising considering his short trip to the
Netherworld. The news had stung a little, pissed me off really. I had hoped to
get at least a phone call after everything we’d been through. I’d been wrong
thinking we’d been friends. I’d been wrong about a lot of things.
to keep reminding myself that the passionate kiss we’d shared in my apartment
had never truly been with Jax. It had been with Jeeves, the trickster jinni. Yes,
it had been Jax’s body, but the intention, the enamored motives behind it—were all
Jeeves. The little shit.
wasn’t about to call Jax either. Hell no. As far as I knew, he was still
engaged to that punch-in-the-face-worthy Ellie. The only thing I wouldn’t
damage on her was that fabulous motorcycle jacket I liked.
couldn’t deny the real sexual attraction that had existed between us because it
had been there. But that’s where it ended too. Jax wasn’t available. Whatever
feelings I had were shifted. And I had moved on. C’est la vie.
had been a blessing, really. I was so busy Hunting demons and the occasional human-bloodthirsty
half-breed, I hadn’t given much thought to Jax. And that was a good thing.
boots clunked the sidewalk as I made my way towards Central Park. A breeze rose
around me, sporadically sending my hair to tickle my neck. I gathered it into a
thick, tangled ponytail and wrapped it with an elastic band. The red hair
hadn’t lasted long. I’d dyed it back to my natural brown the day after Sylph
Tower went down.
police cars were parked along Central Park North, right next to the entrance of
the park. I looked through the gates and saw large, blossoming crabapple trees,
their flowers a light pink as I inhaled their sweet scent. The petals of their
flowers littered the pavement like snow.
a rainbow of blossoms and leaves of every shape, size, and color greeted me: tulips,
daffodils, lilacs, lily of the valley and azalea bushes that would have looked
fantastic in front of my grandmother’s house.
was my favorite time of year to visit Central Park, with all the trees in blossom.
Any other time, I would have loved to park my butt near one of the ponds and
enjoy the scenery. But I was on the job, and idling around sightseeing wasn’t
going to pay for my gas.
pulse accelerated as I followed the trail and climbed up to the North Woods. Barely
two minutes in, I heard the commotion.
cluster of uniformed New York City cops stood outside a circle of yellow police
tape surrounding an ancient, gnarled oak tree. And when I got a clear view of
the tree, I understood why.
hung from one of its larger branches like a rag doll, dangling from two iron
picks that perforated through each side of the clavicles since the head was
missing. The body was pulled spread-eagle like, with cords holding the limbs
out. Blood had dripped from the corpse to puddle on the earth below near the
base of the tree.
pace slowing, I swallowed hard and moved closer for a better view. Inside the
yellow tape area were two men and a woman of the forensics team in their
signature white papery-plastic suits, taking pictures and dropping evidence
into separate plastic bags.
bundle lay at the base of the tree with dark hair—the victim’s head. The body
was completely naked, female, and Caucasian by the light coloring of the blood-soaked
skin. The soft skin of her belly was torn open, and markings were carved into
her chest. They looked like letters. Words maybe? Whatever they said was
important. But I couldn’t make it out from where I was standing. I needed to
young, uniformed cop was ushering two joggers—by the looks of their tight, Spandex-like
outfits—away from the crime scene. Beads of sweat trickled down his brow, and the
whites of his eyes showed. He looked like he’d rather be anywhere but near the
body. He caught me standing near the yellow tape and made a beeline for me.
is a crime scene. You need to leave,” he said, looking a little pale, and my
nose wrinkled at the stench of strong, male perspiration he was giving off.
pegged him for a rookie, probably never saw a dead, decapitated body before. Amateur.
was asked to come here,” I said, irritation flowing in my tone. I cocked an
eyebrow. “A Detective Walsh? He’s expecting me.”
called a man’s voice. The young cop and I turned as the man lifted the yellow
tape and trudged towards me. “Are you Rowyn Sinclair? Father Thomas’s friend?
The occult specialist?”
Occult specialist. “Yes, that’s right,” I
answered, giving the man a tight smile. It’s not like I could tell him I wasn’t
human, and I killed demons for a living. Or that I was absolutely ruthless at
tracking them down. Occult specialist sounded... smart, educated, and very much
like a real profession. Well, at
least to the human population. And I liked it.
Walsh was of average height and balding with a round face and a short fat nose.
His jacket was creased, and there were food stains on his white shirt. His NYPD
detective badge hung around his belt, barely noticeable under his protruding
beady eyes rolled over me. “You’re
the occult specialist?”
scowled, not liking his tone. “What?” I asked, getting a little more annoyed.
“You want to see my ID?” All I had was my driver’s license and an old gym
shook his head. “No, it’s fine,” he answered but the scowl on his face said
otherwise. “I just didn’t expect you to be so young.”
younger than you. That’s for sure,” I said. My eyes lingered on the weapon
holstered on his hip, reminding me how much I wished I hadn’t lost my death
blade in a fight with some leprechauns. “But I promise you, I have more
experience in the occult than anyone else here in New York City. And the best
rates. If you don’t want my help—”
do,” rushed Detective Walsh. “I trust Father Thomas, and he said you’re the
the best,” I repeated, grinning. I loved that priest.
slightly displeased at my smiling face. “He said you could shed some light on
this,” he raked his short, fat fingers through his barely-there hair. “Help us
with this case.”
do my best.” It was the truth, but there was only so much of the truth I could
tell this detective. “Have there been other bodies... more like this?
Decapitated? Strung up on display like that?”
had a few cases in the past with some decapitated cats,” answered the
detective. “Strange symbols carved into trees. Small stuff.”
didn’t agree with that.
detective let out a long breath. “But not one like this. I’ll take all the help
I can get to catch this killer.” Detective Walsh stuck out his hand. “Thank you
for coming, Ms. Sinclair.”
pulse quickened as we shook hands, and I was surprised to find his to be silky
smooth like the hands of a banker. I could tell by his expression that he’d
felt the calluses on my hands. Yes. I
used my hands for a living.
take it this is the first time you’ve hired someone like me. Right?” Humans
were so clueless.
Walsh’s face went slack and he looked away, the barest hint of trouble crossing
him. “I’ve worked a few cases with clairvoyants. Missing children’s cases.” His
eyes met mine. “It never amounted to anything. A waste of good resources.”
raised my brows. “A skeptic.”
work with what’s in front of me,” said the detective. “I don’t believe in the
pocus?” I said, frowning. What a douche.
detective looked uncomfortable. “You know what I mean.”
I waved my hands around. “Hocus pocus. I get it.” He obviously didn’t believe
in the paranormal. So what the hell was I doing here? I didn’t track crazy-ass
serial killers. I tracked demons. Why had Father Thomas sent me here?
uncomfortable silence settled in, and my anger welled.
detective was watching me again with his beady eyes. “I’ll take it from here,” he
said suddenly to the young cop who had been standing there watching our
exchange. The young man walked away, his eyes everywhere but on the tree or the
dead body hanging from it.
way, Ms. Sinclair,” said the detective as he turned and walked back towards the
body. Detective Walsh lifted the yellow tape for me and I followed him to the base
of the tree.
first thing that hit me was how strong the smell of blood was. It hung in the
air like a heavy mist. It was too strong for one female who’d been strung up for
what I guessed was a few hours. The second thing was how clean the cut across
the neck was. One straight cut. Cutting through bone and flesh was hard. It
took skill and precision to do it in one shot like this. You needed to be
really, really strong and have a very, very sharp weapon to cut through flesh
and bone. The killer was male. There was no doubt in my mind about that.
still didn’t make the connection why Father Thomas had deemed it a paranormal
case until I felt the faint traces of demon energies. Then there was the scent
of sulfur—faded, but unmistakable. Ah-ha. Now we were getting somewhere.
felt Detective Walsh hesitate, evaluating me for signs of recognition as I took
in the dead woman.
do you make of this,” asked Detective Walsh. “Witchcraft? Satanic rituals? It’s
Satanic, isn’t it?”
opened my mouth to answer but I was distracted by one of the cops as he touched
his forehead, his chest and then both shoulders, mumbling what I’d suspected
was a prayer. When my gaze traveled over the rest of the policemen, they were
all looking at me. Waiting. Fear echoed in their faces. Fear of the
supernatural. It rattled them. They didn’t understand it and it shook them to
their cores. Their strong, macho demeanors and stances were no match for things
that went bump in the night.
were scared. And they were looking at me like I was the one with the answers.
what I’d read over the years, one of the oldest theories of crime was demonology.
Not the years of studying the thousands of different demon races and their
languages. No, I’m talking about human ideals. The devil made you do it.
made it easier for humans to deal with cases like these. It is not his or her
fault. The devil made them do it. No sane person could or would do this. This
explanation has tremendous appeal because it presents the clear-cut,
black-and-white struggle between good and evil as the explanation for child abuse,
murders, and horrific crimes like this one.
we all know it’s never that simple. It’s never just black and white. Evil comes
in all sorts of shades and colors, and it comes in glowing whites too.
attention went back to the grubby detective. “This can’t be your first
decapitation. So why all the nervous energy? Your men look a little freaked out,
Detective.” Cops were supposed to be tough. Why were they acting like scared
detective looked at me, his face pale and grimaced. “No. But what’s written on
her chest... I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
pulse pounded as I moved away from the detective and made my way around the
tree so the body was facing me.
wasn’t the fact that she was naked or beheaded that had my heart hammering in
my chest or me stopping dead in my tracks.
was the demonic letters carved into her chest.
linguistics weren’t my forte, but I could clearly read what had been carved—HALF-BREED.
The body was a half-breed.
just stared for a few moments, taking in the details as my heart did jumping
jacks inside my rib cage. I’d seen a lot of twisted crap in my line of work,
but this was a first.
demon had done this. It was the only logical explanation at this point. It was
no surprise the purer demons despised all
half-breeds—the result of humans being subjected to one of the demon viruses.
They were hybrids, impure and hated by all lesser and Greater demons. The
half-breeds were the essence of what the pure demons could never be, what they
most desired—to walk the earth freely and forever and in daylight.
this was all wrong. The body had been strung up as a warning. It was a
grotesque public display, an announcement to all half-breeds of the dangers of
being born or made that way.
wished Tyrius was here. I’m sure the baal demon could have discerned more
useful information with his razor-sharp senses, but I doubted the detective
would have allowed a cat on the crime scene.
felt the air shift next to me and smelled the stench of old coffee. “I’m right.
Aren’t I?” said the detective, his eyes darting from the body to me. “It’s
satanic. This is a sacrifice of some sort. A sacrifice to the devil.”
the surrounding cops did the sign of the cross against their chests.
insides clenched. Crap. What was I supposed to tell him? I couldn’t tell him a
demon had done this. He blatantly told me he didn’t believe in the hocus pocus.
He needed something tangible, non-paranormal, with just the right amount of
make-believe. And yet, if I didn’t give him enough of the truth, I’d never get
this kind of paying gig again. The NYPD was a real paying customer, and gas
prices were on the rise. Again.
if a demon was running around killing half-breeds, I wanted to know about it.
not a sacrifice,” I told him, which was partly true. “It’s a display, really.
The killer wanted you to find the
body. Made a show of her, the way she’s been cut and tied up. Especially the
cut off head part. It’s a spectacle. Grossly overdone, but still a spectacle.
The killer wanted to shock and frighten you.” All true. Whatever demon did
this, it wanted the half-breed community to see and be afraid.
Walsh nodded, pale yet resolved, and rested his hand on his hostler. “But is it
satanic?” asked the man. There was a subtle weight to the question.
feel the collective turn of the cops’ attention to me, burning a spot in the
back of my head. “All the signs point to the occult, to ritualistic crimes,” I
told him, and I heard one of the cops hiss under his breath. “But it’s not
didn’t want to have to explain that Satan was just another name for Lucifer,
the fallen archangel. Sure some dark witches worshiped and tried to summon
Lucifer for his wealth and power, but I seriously doubted he ever showed up in
one of the summoning circles.
don’t understand,” said Detective Walsh, his voice harsh and skeptical. “You
just said this had all the signs of the occult. Of ritualistic crimes.”
is. It does,” I said, trying to find the right words without sounding like a
crazy person to a human who didn’t believe in the paranormal. I released a
breath. “This is a different group. A more dangerous one. In this case, it’s
demonic, not Satanic.”
he asked, clearly startled.
hocus pocus,” I told him, trying to ease the tension I saw flitter across his
detective swore. “So we’re looking for cult fanatics who believe in demons?”
You’re looking for a demon. “Yes. In a manner of speaking.”
detective mumbled something under his breath that I couldn’t catch. “Do you
know what’s written on the body?” he asked, glancing at the dead half-breed.
I couldn’t tell them without revealing too much. I thought about it. Worry
colored my irritation, and I moved my gaze back to the body and the writing on
her chest. He wanted something he could use. Telling him demons carved up this
poor woman wasn’t going to help him. I pulled my eyes away and found the
detective’s sour expression directed at me.
man’s pale face darkened with anger. “You know what it says. Don’t you? I can
see it on your face.”
looked at the body again, my tension rising.
it,” said the detective, stepping closer to me. “You’re holding out on me. I
know you are. I can get a warrant for your arrest,” he said smoothly, his anger
an icy thread in his voice. “I can have you brought in for questioning. I can
have you arrested for withholding information pertaining to this crime scene.”
tension spiked. “The group you’re looking for think they’re demons,” I said. Close enough. I watched the
detective’s eyes widen as I added, “Her chest was carved in an old demonic
language. It’s a signature, a marking for this particular group.”
stiffness released from the detective’s shoulders. “What else can you tell me?”
way the body is presented fulfills the spiritual, sexual, and psychological
needs of this killer.” My eyes traveled over the body again. “This ritual
behavior fulfills basic criminal needs to manipulate the victim, to send a
message. I believe the leader of this group is playing upon your fears, your
beliefs, and your superstitions. I think he’s trying to convince everyone he
has ‘supernatural’ powers.”
detective raised his brows. “Supernatural powers? You think they have
supernatural powers?” he said, his face showing visible hostility.
Of course I do. I tried exceptionally hard not to roll my eyes as
I said, “Of course not. But they want
you to believe they do. They want to scare you.” My eyes moved around the
policemen. “And I think they achieved that. Your men look like scared little
boys.” I waited for the detective to stop grunting. “They enjoy killing. They
lack empathy. They’ll kill for sport. They’ll only kill at night. And you can
expect more bodies.”
detective cursed. “How do we find them?”
shook my head. “I don’t know.” Yet.
“You can start by finding out who she is.”
Walsh’s gaze moved to the body. “She had no ID. We’ll have to fingerprint her and
run them through the system to see if we get a match. Other than that, without
an ID, we have no idea who she is.” As a half-breed I doubted she was in the
system, but he didn’t need to know that.
I was curious who she was. And for my own investigation, I needed to find out.
the hairs on the back of my neck rose, and I had the nasty feeling of being
watched. I felt cold, like I’d just stepped into a fridge. I whipped my head
around, but all I saw were policemen and the forensic team.
the demon killer watching me from the shadows? Getting its thrills by watching
us discussing its work? I sent out my senses, but I got only the wave of human
answer back and a small tingle of demonic energy coming off of the dead
out the breath I’d been holding and knelt next to the head. A chill crawled
neatly down my spine and I sucked in a breath through my teeth.
God. It was Vicky. Danto’s vampire friend.
hell. This was bad.