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Interview with a Demon: Part 2

 

 

 

While I am not a journalist, my role as scribe (with a small s) for Magda Gardener and her consortium sometimes involves the odd interview, and this one may be the oddest one I’ve done so far. While it’s uncomfortable enough working for Magda, it’s even more uncomfortable when I am shanghaied into doing an interview with a demon, which she has neither authorised nor knows anything about. I doubt she’ll be happy about it when she finds out, and she will find out. Come to think about it, I’m not overly happy about it. It’s not that easy to do an interview when you’re shaking in fear. Let the good times roll!

 

 

 

Part 2: In which I Meet the Guardian

Read Part 1 Here

 

It took me a little while to realize I was dreaming. It took me a little while longer to realize that my dream was, for lack of a better word, a lucid dream. It was no dungeon, no jail I entered. It was, instead, a topiary maze. It was night, and yet the ambient light made it easy enough for me to discern my path. There was no question of which direction I should go. I just wound my way through, not really in too much of a hurry to meet what I knew awaited me beyond. The nebulous space in which Susan imprisoned the Guardian was unassailable, though there were no bars, no high walls, no razor wire. In fact the space that contained the demon was of his own shaping. Due to his partnership of convenience with Reese Chambers during their desperate battle with Cyrus in the deserted subway tunnels of New York, he was rather fond of Reese, who is not only Alonso Darlington’s lover, but a brilliant landscaper and gardener. That being the case, the Guardian had turned his space into a garden, which became more and more elaborate as he was given more and more freedom to interact with Susan and those around her.

 

“Off you go then,” I heard Talia’s voice from far away. “Happy demon hunting, KD.”

 

“I am not fond of that woman. I find her most unpleasant.”

 

I cleared the maze into a night garden drenched in moonlight. In fact the garden, I recognized as the one Reese had created for Alonso at his Lakeland manor house. In front of me just where the edge of the fell plummeted into a deep valley with a beck, a man dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, reminiscent of Reese’s clothing choices, paced back and forth. He neither stopped pacing, nor did he look at me. His laugh was soft and rich, self-deprecating, which I had not expected. “Of course the little succubus and I did get off on the wrong foot, and at the moment neither of us is inclined to make amends. Though I suppose I should be grateful to her for her help in settling me into such an accommodating prison as my dear Susan. And of course in bringing you to me, KD. Please, sit.”

 

Behind me the same winged back chair Talia had been sitting in appeared. When I sat, I realized I was empty-handed.

 

As though he anticipated my reaction, he said, “you are in my dream, my dear, KD. You have no need of pen and paper or Dictaphone. I promise, when you wake up, you will remember everything I need you to know.”

 

Another chair appeared next to mine, and the Guardian seated himself at such an angle that I could only make out his profile, and that not well. He kept his head turned as though he observed something at the opposite end of the beck. “I ask that you do not attempt to look at me directly. It will be … disturbing for you.”

My pulse jumped, and I could manage little more than to nod my understanding. Apparently that was enough. It seemed like ages that we sat there in what might have passed for companionable silence, but the truth was, I had no idea what to say or how to start an interview with a millennia-old demon. Of course I had rehearsed questions, written an outline, but that all vanished from my head now that I was in his presence. I needn’t have worried. He took the struggle out of my hands and began it for me.

 

“I have always chosen the ones I take. It’s never a random act. I choose them carefully and with a great deal of planning and forethought. You see I have plenty of time, and the anticipation is a delight unto itself.” It made my skin tingle and my stomach clench, his use of the present tense, as if he were not in a prison at all, as if he were free to do as he chose. He didn’t ask me if I understood what he meant by taking. I understood all right and didn’t think I was quite up to a less euphemistic description. There was a sense of him shifting in the chair, more than likely to put me at ease rather than because he had any need of it. Then he continued. “Of course I occasionally act impulsively and take when I haven’t intended – a moment of weakness, of answering a craving, of catering to an urge. I have needs, after all, just as everyone does, and sometimes my baser instincts take control.”

 

When I made no response, he added, “you must understand, when I speak of instincts or biological need, it’s only in an effort to help you comprehend my story. In truth, I have neither. My insight into what drives human nature comes only from the experiences of those I’ve chosen through the ages. It’s only through my taking of them that I’m able to share my story with you in any way your mind can grasp.”

 

“I see.” I spoke from a dry throat.

 

“Of course you don’t see,” he responded without censure or ridicule. If anything he sounded rather sad. “You can’t possibly see, but I am compelled to try and convey myself to you, an impossible task for both of us, and yet here we are.”

 

“Indeed,” I managed. “Here we are.”

 

“As I was saying, most of the time, I choose very carefully, the way I chose you.”

 

If I’d had a pen, I’d have dropped it. I remembered only too well what had happened to Annie Rivers when he had chosen her, and what he attempted to do to Susan and Michael. I don’t know if I gasped, or maybe made some other sound of distress. I do know that there is nothing comfortable about being chosen by a demon, and I was on the brink of calling Talia to get me out of the dream.

 

Then that velvety chuckle washed over me. “Relax, my darling little scribe. I’m only joking. Though I’m told,” he added as an afterthought, “that I need to work on my sense of humor.”

 

I’m sure my resulting laugh sounded a little hysterical, though well-laced with genuine relief. Then I found my voice. Whether he understood humor or not, in spite of the poor joke, he had managed to set me at ease. At least a little bit. “You’ll have to forgive me for being so jumpy. I’ve never interviewed a demon before, and especially not without Magda Gardener’s permission.”

 

“Magda Gardener, yes.” He paused as though lost in his thoughts and then said slowly. “Perhaps our clandestine
meeting is my joke on Magda Gardener. Perhaps I wish to see if she thinks I need to work on my sense of humor.”

 

This time I genuinely laughed. “I’m not sure whether I’d pay good money to see her response or pay to be in another country when she finds out.”

 

“Oh, I’m betting you won’t be able to escape her reaction even if you want to darling KD.” I could almost hear the smile in his voice. Then he shifted in his chair with a contented sigh, and the way my skin prickled and the fine hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, I knew he was now facing me. “Shall we get on with it then, in anticipation of hastening our dear Magda Gardener’s response.”

 

Interview with a Demon Part 1

Part 1 (my notes on an unauthorized interview with the Guardian)

 

As a scribe, albeit a low-level one, I’ve had some pretty harrowing experiences with my characters, many of which have straddled that dark line between what’s real and what comes from my imagination. I’ve been invited to a vampire’s home where I was soundly threatened and warned away from the story I was writing – a story too personal for his liking, a story I was forced to write anyway. I’ve met Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa on the Manhattan Bridge, where she all but hijacked me into her consortium. I’ve even walked in the storm tunnels of Vegas with Hades and Cerberus/ AKA Jon and Gus. I was pretty jet lagged at the time though. I’m still not sure that wasn’t just a dream.

 

While I’m not a Scribe in the true sense that Susan Innes is, Magda seems to think that as far as simply recording the stories she wants told, I’ll do. That means I’m often put into, shall we say, unusual situations. While vampires are terrifying, and somehow Medusa, in her Magda guise can be convincingly safe, if she wants to be … as long as you don’t look too closely, the interview I’m about to share with you is completely unsanctioned. Not a chance it’ll stay beneath Magda’s radar, and yet, when I was asked by the interviewee to tell his story, how could I refuse? In fact, I’m not sure refusing was an option. I don’t mind saying that interviewing Hannibal Lector through the bars of his prison would have made me less anxious. You see Susan Innes has approached me to interview the demon now imprisoned inside her body. Since she is both his prison and only one of two people to survive a full possession by him, neither of them felt she could possibly write his story objectively.

 

Susan meets me at the door of the penthouse apartment in Tribeca, which she shares with Michael, who is a fallen angel, or retired, as he prefers to call himself. He’s the only other person to survive possession by the demon. It’s night, and the lights of Manhattan are like jewels flung out beyond ceiling to floor windows of an open planned living space big enough to pass as a small ballroom.

 

Susan is a vampire, but that’s not why she asked me to come to her at night. Because of her demon prisoner, she could have easily met me in broad daylight on the Manhattan Bridge or in Central Park. But this interview will involve a bit of dream magic. The demon I’ll be interviewing, known as the Guardian, has insisted that it be him I speak to without using Susan as the intermediary. That means I have to approach him through dreams.

 

You’re probably wondering how I could possibly sleep in the presence of a scary-ass demon and a vampire. With the help of a succubus, of course. In the guest bedroom where the interview will take place, Talia Zephora looks up at me and smiles. She sits in a wing backed chair flipping through the pages of Cosmoand sipping red wine. “We meet again, KD.” She doesn’t offer me her hand, which is just as well. I know exactly what I would feel if she did, and I’ll experience enough of her magic very shortly anyway. “You manage to get mixed up with some rough characters, don’t you?”

 

I just smile stupidly. There’s no good answer to that one. “How’s Alonso?” I ask. She works for him.

 

“He’s got his hands full now that Reese has joined the growing ranks of the undead.” She offers a low throaty laugh. “Though he’s so cute when he’s hungry. Reese, not Alonso. Alonso is never cute.” She lifts her glass to me. “Want some. It’s a good one.”

 

“No thanks,” I manage, hoping no one will notice the little tremor in my voice that I can’t seem to get rid of in spite of all the fail safes I’ve been assured are in place.

 

She nods. “Just as well. You won’t need it to make you feel good, I promise.”

 

The fight or flight response kicks in, and I take a step back and reach for the door handle involuntarily. She laughs out loud. “Just kidding. I’m just here to get you inside,” she nods to Susan and shrugs, “Wherever the hell inside is. I suppose it’ll be up to you to find his cell. After that, well then you’re on your own.”

 

Susan flips Talia the finger and the succubus blows her a kiss for her efforts. “It’ll be okay, KD.” Susan says nodding to the bed. “All he wants is a chance to tell his story. He figures you know him better than anyone … at least you think you do.”

 

I can’t help wondering if that last little bit is Susan speaking or the demon.

 

I kick out of my shoes and lay down on the enormous brass bed. Ideal for handcuffs and rope, a thought I wish I hadn’t just had. I’ve worn a soft pair of track bottoms and a tank top, something comfortable but not too intimate. This is an interview, I remind myself. That’s all. Susan pulls a blanket up over and tucks me in. Her gaze moves to the pounding of my pulse in my neck and she pats my shoulder. “Just relax. It’ll be all right.”

 

It’s damn near impossible to relax as Talia crawls under the blanket next to me, still fully dressed, so we are keeping it all business-like. Then she takes me into her arms and pulls me close, and I realize it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. I’m completely at her mercy, that is until I meet the Guardian, then a succubus might well seem like a waltz in the park. Even as her kiss pulls me under, I can’t help remembering what the Guardian has done to others, what he’s capable of doing to me. Promises of safety suddenly seem ridiculous, and just when I’m about to reconsider, throw off the blanket and make a run for it, I fall fast and deeply asleep.

 

The Lady with the Hair & the Sunglasses. What the Hell does She Want from Me?

As you know by now, encounters with Magda Gardener, though never invited and quite often disturbing, have been a part of my life for the past five years now. I work for her. Whether I like to admit it or not, I’m as much a part of her collection as Alonso Darlington and Jack Graves. The role I play, however, is not nearly so dangerous, but it’s every bit as demanding. The thing is with Magda Gardener, I never know when she’s going to show up and check in on me. But whenever she does, she always leaves me a little wrong-footed and with a story to tell.

 

With the release of Buried Pleasures, the third Medusa’s Consortium novel, and the first set in Vegas, I’m reminded again of an encounter I had with her awhile ago while on holiday in the Lake District with my husband.

 

 

Somehow I suspect that the situation isn’t normal. I suspect that I’m either dreaming or having some sort of weird out of body experience, but for the life of me, I don’t know how, or when I decided to take this brief holiday from the flesh, or even if that’s what it really is.

 

But I go on about my business like everything is normal, nothing out of the ordinary. And in truth, I’ve often gone to the Twa Dogs Pub in Keswick and ordered a pint. But this time I’ve come alone, which is something I’ve never done before, and I know when I see her sitting at a table in the back of the snooker room that she’s waiting for me. It’s late afternoon, an overcast day, typical Lakeland weather, and yet she’s still wearing sunglasses. But then she was wearing sunglasses that night in Vegas, even in the tunnels.

 

I sit down across from her and she looks me up and down. Though I can’t see her eyes, I can certainly feel her gaze, like she’s looking right through me, like I’m sitting there naked. I resist the urge to fold my arms across my chest, and she gives a little smirk as though she knows exactly what’s going on in my mind.

 

My throat’s desert-dry, and I take a good solid sip of my Sneck Lifter and wonder at the wisdom of alcohol on an empty stomach. ‘What do you want from me?’ I ask.

 

I can see a golden eyebrow raise above the edge of the glasses. ‘I should have thought that would be obvious. You’re a writer, aren’t you?’

 

‘So? I reply.

 

 

But before I can say anything else, I catch a flash of bright eyes over the edge of the glasses and feel as though I’m suddenly glued to the chair unable to move. ‘You’re a storyteller, that’s what you do. You get into peoples’ heads and tell their secrets.’

 

‘It’s fiction. I make it up,’ I manage. My throat is no longer just dry, but it feels as though it’s constricting, closing, strangling me as I speak.

 

‘I’m sure that’s what you tell yourself,’ she says. My pulse ratchets up in panic, and I feel like my body is closing in on me, turning into a solid prison from which there is no escape. And just when I think I’ll hyperventilate, she offers me a quirk of a smile, and lowers her eyes to her own drink – whiskey, I observe. ‘Where do you think those stories come from?’ she asks.

 

‘I make them up, they come from my imagination, like they do with all writers.’

 

This time she throws back her head and laughs out loud, and I’m stunned by the bell-like sound of it. I’m even more stunned that no one notices. The pub’s not crowded, but it’s not empty either. How could anyone not notice her sitting there. She’s exquisite in a scary sort of way, and yet no one seems to be aware that we’re even there. I remind myself that it’s still quite likely I’m only dreaming.

 

Then she leans across the table and takes my hand in hers, and as frightened as I was only a moment ago, I suddenly find myself wanting to kiss her. Another indication that none of this is real, I tell myself.

 

‘Who do you think gives you those stories, Ms. Grace?’ Her breath is sweet against my face, like an open field with just a hint of the single malt whiskey she’s been sipping. ‘Oh, I have so many stories I want you to tell, and you’re perfect for the job, darling, because you are so open to going where I want you to go.’ And then she stands, leans over the table and kisses me.

 

For a split second I have sense enough to worry about what the rest of the people in the pub will think of the girl-girl lip-lock in which I find myself. A split second more and I realize no one even notices. ‘You,’ she whispers against my mouth, ‘have been writing stories for me for a long time.’ She pulls away just enough to look at me over the top of her glasses, and I suddenly feel as though my very heart is freezing solid in my chest. ‘‘I figure it’s time you know what I expect of you. Things are about to get complicated Ms. Grace, and you are about to become a very, very busy woman.’

 

 

 

 

She kisses me again, and I feel like the floor to the pub has just caved in beneath me. Behind my closed eyes, I see familiar flashes of a ritual in a mirrored room, couples having sex all around me, candles on an altar, a mirror that contains a monster, a ghost who has been hung for a murder she didn’t commit, a succubus devouring thought and ego and giving it back in exchange for the blood of a vampire. Death walking in Vegas, enthralled by a siren, whose voice can calm or kill. I see, in strobe-like flashes of light, an exquisite woman in a ruined garden walking among statues, statues that look so lifelike and so disturbing in their poses that I feel goose flesh climb my spine. That same woman walking the endless halls of a library filled from ceiling to floor with books bound in the flesh of the stories they contain, shelf after shelf of books, stories I’ve written, written at this woman’s command. And as she touches each of those books in turn, I realize the stories I’ve written give her power over the people in those pages, and she, in turn, gives me power to write the next story, and the next and the next.

 

Then suddenly I’m back in the Twa Dogs with her voice a soft vibration low in my chest. ‘You work for me, K D. You always have. You just didn’t know it,’ she whispers against my ear. Then she inspects me with another brief glance over the top of her dark glasses and brushes my icy cheek with her warm palm. ‘I thought it was time you knew the truth. That knowledge could serve you well in the near future.’

 

And when she removes her hand, when I can no longer glimpse the bright glint of her eyes behind her glasses, I fall with a jerk back into my chair, like I’ve had one of those falling dreams. I open my eyes to find my husband staring at me across the table. ‘You alright?’ He asks.

 

I nod, for a moment unable to place where I am.

 

‘You want another pint of Sneck Lifter?’ He nods at my empty glass. ‘You sucked that one back in nothing flat.’

 

A crack of a cue against a ball on the snooker table and a half-laughed curse in a soft Cumbrian lilt and the world comes back into focus. I am indeed in the Twa Dogs, and my husband and I have come to the Lake District on a holiday. As he heads to the bar for another pint, I rub my eyes and breathe deeply while the world around me comes back into focus.

 

‘I think you dozed off there for a minute, Sweetie,’ he says when he settles back across from me, raising his pint in salute. ‘Were you dreaming?’

 

I nod and gulp back a hefty drink from my pint. ‘Must have been.’

 

‘You look a little pale. Her again?’ he asks.

 

I only nod my response, my eyes locked on the half empty shot glass sitting on the table next to ours, rimmed in icy pink lipstick. ‘She says I work for her.’

 

‘Yeah? Did she give her name,’ he asks.

 

‘No.’ It surprises me to find how relieved I am that she didn’t, and yet, as I sip my beer and stare over at the whiskey glass, I’m sure I already know her name. I’ve known it for a long time. I just never expected to meet her in person. And I certainly never expected to work for her.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Forget In The Flesh, book 1 of Medusa’s Consortium

is on sale through January for 99c/p

 

Buried Pleasures: Meeting the Villain

 

 

In my last post, I introduced you to Samantha Black and Jon, the heroine and hero of Buried Pleasures. The recurring theme of Medusa’s Consortium is that sometimes the monsters are the good guys. Sometimes it’s not so obvious who the bad guys really are, and sometimes … it’s very obvious. Adrian Fox is a villain who is both terrifying and sexy, and there’s little chance of surviving that fatal attraction to him. Here is a little excerpt. Enjoy.

 

Buried Pleasures Blurb:

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.

The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

 

Buried Pleasures Excerpt in which We Meet Darian Fox

 

 

With a soft clink, he dropped the key in a small ceramic bowl on the dresser, not bothering to lock the door behind him. There was no need now.

He heard the rustle of bedding and a soft female moan before his eyes fully adjusted to the gloom. Then he saw the shape of her, duvet thrown back in spite of the chill, the pale silk of the negligee rising and falling with her anxious breathing. He always asked that they be clothed in white silk. Occasionally there was blood, and the red of blood against white silk made the experience more formal somehow, and it always felt like such an occasion should be formal.

As he became used to the gloom, he could see that she had been well-groomed for the occasion, fully made-up and hair freshly coifed, just as he had requested. It was a condition that wasn’t strictly necessary, but made the whole experience seem a little more ceremonial, a little more festive. After all, presentation was a key ingredient in every good restaurant, wasn’t it? Why should his situation be any different?

“Gabriella, you look exquisite tonight, my darling. I can’t tell you how much I’ve anticipated being with you, having you here in my bed.” He removed his jacket and hung it carefully over a cedar hanger on the back of the door. “Did I not promise you that the time would come when I would invite you into my own home, into my own bed?”

Of course it wasn’t his own bed. He never took them to his bed. He had several other rooms in several other places where he took from them what he needed, though this one was special. This one was for feasting. He carefully undressed by the side of the bed where she would be able to admire his every move. She moaned softly and writhed, not taking her eyes off him, needing him almost as much as he needed her. Almost.

At his leisure, he took in the curves that were still luscious enough to be tempting—the rise of nipples, the dilation of pupils, the rhythmic shifting of hips, all of which he could now make out. Ripe fruit, he thought. She was ripe fruit. The experience was always most ecstatic, always most satisfying, when his chosen had not yet passed her peak, when he had not used her so much that her looks had suffered, nor her hunger for him weakened. He needed her hunger as much as he needed her beauty. The two always went hand-in-hand. He needed her hunger to be her driving force, driving her to him over and over again, until all strength was gone. Most often he controlled his hunger, careful not to allow himself more than what was necessary to survive and thrive.

Tonight, however, he was drained and starving from effort and exhaustion, but from excitement as well, from the knowing that Samantha Black was capable of so much more than even he had anticipated. Tonight he would take deeply from the ripest fruit, take as though it were the first and the last fullness of summer, and Gabriella was just at that point of fullness.

“I’m going to make love to you, darling.” He didn’t even try to disguise his hunger. Anxious anticipation was as much a part of the ritual as savoring the moment, and he wanted her to know how much he hungered for her, how much he needed her. “I’m going to make you come as you have never come before, my sweetheart.” He slid onto the bed next to her, his left hand stroking her soft, dark hair, his right cupping himself, making himself ready. “Would you like that, Gabriella? I know you would, I know how impatient you’ve been.”

There was a soft whimper, and the woman shifted her hips and threw back her head with a little gasp as he slid a thumb across her heavy bottom lip. He was hard, always hard when he hungered. It was a part of the ritual, a part of the consuming, a part of fulfilling his need.

Carefully he slipped down the straps of the negligee so that he could admire the fullness of her breasts. Yes, presentation was so important—ripe cherry nipples against silken white fabric, so succulent, so ready. Her skin was the color of expensive mocha, and for a moment, he took in the feast for the eyes waiting for him. Then he cupped her sex, and she arched up, her eyelids fluttering beneath lush, dark lashes so perfectly made up, so perfectly prepared to meet her lover.

La petite mort,” he said. “It’s what we all long for, isn’t it, my sweetheart? Over and over and over again, we long for it. It’s what we dream about in the darkest hours of the night. It’s what we wake up longing for, goosefleshed, slick and heavy with need from those elusive dreams of perfect love, perfect union, perfect dissolving of the self into the other. Oh, my beauty,” he slid a hand between her thighs, and her tongue flicked over her lip in concentration, in anticipation, “I’ve kept you waiting too long. I do apologize. La petite mort is a small gift for a long wait. So tonight, my dearest girl, I shall give you something far grander than the little death. And our joining, our perfect dissolving into one another, will be beyond anything you could ever imagine.”

He positioned himself above her and she opened to him, rising up to meet him in gasps and groans and whimpers that neared desperation. Oh yes, he would give her so much more than la petite mort, and then, in the instant when her body dissolved in pleasure, he would take it all back, all of it and so much more.

There was breath and then there was blood, and there was the life force coursing through the beautiful Gabriella. That life force entered his body through sex, through making love. And truly he did make love, for the gift that the beautiful creature writhing beneath him, no longer strong enough to keep her legs grasped around his waist, was giving him was worthy of lovemaking. The taking of the life force in such a way was sex raised above and beyond ecstasy. He seldom partook to the end. He usually made it last for months, sometimes even years, depending on how powerful the life force was.

But Gabriella had no particular power, nothing but her exquisite beauty to linger on. He saw such as her as fast food, really, a needed energy boost in desperate times, and this was one of those times. Her sacrifice would ensure that he was focused and ready for whatever obstacles Graves could throw in his way where Samantha Black was concerned, because he would have her. He had to have her.

The woman beneath him shuddered with release, and he took her mouth more fully, swallowing back the harshness of her breath to blend with his own, teasing him to join in her ecstasy. She would climax over and over, and that would be her final memory. She would come to her death in rapturous pleasure, and she would not even feel that moment when all of her breath, all of her life force, all of her power, passed to him, and the darkness took her.

Her eyelids fluttered again and again, for now she truly had not the energy left for more than the flutter of eyelids above huge, dark eyes. Even the quiver low in her loins had transferred itself to him, and he felt her orgasms as though they were his own, as though through the breath, through the coupling, he had become her and she him. He had taken her into himself as she had him into her, so open, so inviting, so willing.

“You see,” he whispered against the seashell hollow of her unhearing ear, “I have given you so much more than la petite mort, just as I promised, darling. So much more for both of us.”

The sharp burning in his side came before he could fully disengage, and his focus had been such that he would hardly have noticed if the penthouse had collapsed around his ears. At this vulnerable time he depended upon the well-trained guards who watched outside his door. He was unable to defend himself, for at least those last powerful moments, and he never took risks where his person was concerned. It had to be such for his needs to be accomplished.

In this position of vulnerability, of ecstatic consumption of the last of Gabriella’s beautiful life force, he had not noticed the door quietly open, nor had he noticed Evie’s silent entrance. He would have noticed nothing until the burning in his side, and the warm flow of blood that was his own brought him back to himself, as Evie raised the knife a second time and plunged it with a wild, animal growl. “Get off her, you bastard! Get off!”

And he did as she asked, cupping his hand against his wounded side, the pain still far off, kept at bay by the ecstatic remains of his feasting. As the knife came down a second time, instinctually he grabbed her wrist, surprised at her strength considering how he had taken from her earlier, but then, it really didn’t matter, did it? No strength would be enough, not now.

He pulled her to him, the knife dropping silently onto the white carpet, his blood falling like rose petals at his feet. “Oh, Evie,” he whispered against her ear, his head still buzzing from the golden life force he’d taken, his cock still hard with the lust for the power enveloped in flesh, his limbs still tingling with the flow of it through his veins, even as it drained away through the vicious wound, “my dearest girl, I very much wish you hadn’t done that. It’s such a waste of a very delicious life.”

 

 

Buried Pleasures Launch Day

 

It’s launch day for Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium. Buried Pleasures takes us away from the Big Apple and sets is smack dab in Sin City, or should I say underneath Sin City. Magda Gardener’s network is expansive and worldwide, and not all of the members of her consortium are monsters. Some of them come from seriously powerful families, and the head of the Las Vegas consortium is none other than the God of Death himself.

As I have mentioned before, while the events in Blindside are unfolding in NYC, Las Vegas is seeing some scary-assed action of its own. Same time, different city, same gorgon in charge. Today’s post and the next one will introduce you to the hero, the heroin and then the villain of this first novel in the Las Vegas timeline. When siren, Samantha Black, meets Death up close and personal, it’s not at all what she expected.

Enjoy the excerpt and follow the links to the book page and it’s buy links.

Buried Pleasures Blurb:

Blurb:

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.

The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

Buried Pleasures Excerpt: The Hero and the Heroine

“I always heard that when you die, you’re supposed to go toward the light, not away from it,” Sam said as they entered the gloom of the storm tunnel. “Does this mean I’m going to the bad place?”

“You don’t believe in all that rubbish, do you?” the man asked in a soft voice.

“I don’t know. I guess I figured you die and that’s the end. You know, all your bits get broken down into smaller bits and you get recycled. I never really thought about it much. I wasn’t planning on dying any time soon, though.” But she was dead. There was no doubt. Had to be. She was looking down on her body from near the ceiling, and frankly, it wasn’t a pretty sight—lots of blood and trauma and stuff that would probably make her throw up if she wasn’t dead. But she followed along, feeling no pain and no stress, looking down on the dog and the man, as he carried her into the tunnel, beyond the light, beyond the outside world.

Though she was talking quite conversationally, her mouth wasn’t moving. She figured that was a sure symptom of being dead. She wasn’t moving at all actually. There was no heartbeat, no breath. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did. Strange, but now that the initial anger, the initial shock, was over, she felt pretty indifferent about the whole thing.

Dead or not, the man heard her and replied. Perhaps he saw dead people, like that kid in the movie. “You don’t need to worry. This is just the storm tunnel,” he said. “You’re not going to a bad place. You’re going to a very good place, Samantha.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t mind being recycled. I’ve never liked waste, but I’m not too keen on being tortured for eternity. I think that’s rather unfair, actually. I mean, I’m not that bad, am I?”

“I’d say your balance tips considerably toward the good side.”

She took note of a man in baggy shorts and a T-shirt. On the concrete walls, he was delicately painting a particularly rude, if rather well executed, enormous cock, complete with hairy balls. The artist in residence tipped his baseball cap and the headlamp strapped to it made the tunnel dance in light and shadow. “Jon, Gus. Delivering this one personally, are you?” He nodded to her body. “She must be pretty important.”

“Samantha’s special,” Jon answered.

So, his name was Jon. At least now she knew what to call him. She tried to remember when she had told him her name. Surely she wouldn’t tell some stranger who she was without damn good reason, cool dog notwithstanding.

“Looks like she had the crap beat out of her,” the man observed.

That was not very polite, Sam thought. It was a bit like someone saying you look like shit without your makeup.

“You should see the other guys,” Jon replied.

“Good for her! If you’re gonna get beaten to death, might as well get in a few good licks on the way out, I say.”

“I broke my neck, actually,” she said matter of factly. “The rest is pretty superficial.”

The man looked her over, but didn’t respond.

“Nice work,” she called over her shoulder as they continued on down the tunnel. The guy’s comment was enough to get him back in her good graces. Sadly, she didn’t think he heard her. Then she turned her attention back to Jon. “I’m really glad to hear that. I mean, glad that I’m not going to the bad place. For a minute there I thought I’d have to stay in Vegas.”

The man chuckled and, in spite of the fact that she was very clearly floating above his head, she felt the rumble of his laughter against her cheek coming from deep in his chest like the comforting purr of a cat.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

“Home.”

“Good. I’ve been gone too long.” Then she added as an afterthought, “Are you an angel?”

“Hardly.” This time Jon laughed out loud and she felt the whoosh of his breath warm against her cheek, and the muscles of his belly tensed and relaxed against the body she was no longer in. “If you want to get technical, I suppose you could say the angels work for me.”

It was her turn to laugh. “You don’t look anything like I expected God to look, though I do love it that God has a dog.”

“Our perception of things often varies from their realities,” he said. “As for Gus, well I guess you could say he’s the angel. He doesn’t actually belong to me. We just work together.”

“An angel with a taste for peanut butter sandwiches. That’s nice.”

Gus offered a soft woof as though he understood every bit of the conversation. Of course, if he were an angel, he no doubt did.

“Oh, he’s not picky. The mutt’ll eat anything,” Jon said.

Sam recalled the ripping and tearing of flesh and the blood of her assailants outside, and she shivered.

The three fell into a comfortable silence, with the dog flanking Jon while she hovered above them. She didn’t know how long they walked. Time seemed a bit of a fuzzy concept. She supposed that had something to do with being dead. There was far more activity in the tunnel than she would have expected. She’d have figured Jon would want to keep a dead body secret if possible, but if the tunnels had a main street, he seemed to be walking right down the middle of it. And Sam had to admit, the place was fascinating. They moved through sections of the tunnel that could have passed as living rooms or kitchens in any above-ground house, other than the twilight gloom relieved only by camping lanterns, flashlights and candles—that and the furniture was set up on bricks and wooden pallets to keep it out of the endemic water. In some places it stood only in puddles, in other places it slicked the whole floor of the tunnel like a lake of glass that splashed and trickled beneath Jon’s heavy boots and reflected the strange world around them.

The smell of damp and mildew permeated the air and disappeared only as olfactory fatigue set in. Sam took note again that she could smell all the smells in spite of being dead, and a fair few of them she didn’t think she’d miss too much if she couldn’t.

There were spaces staked out along the walls with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a couple of black jumbo trashcan liners filled with belongings. There were paintings and family photos and banners for favorite football or baseball teams hung on the walls.

Above one rather Spartan space with an army cot and several plastic crates, a battered American flag hung upside down. Beaded curtains, pieces of plywood, even heavy rugs draped over strung rope, separated individual living areas.

Somewhere farther down the tunnel, the driving beat of hip hop echoed back on itself. Closer to them, Sam could make out the soft buzz and twitter of conversation among the residents. There were knickknacks and books tucked away in stacked plastic milk crates and on shelves of cinderblock and ply board.

One very attractive blond in a red satin dress perched in front of a vanity mirror, putting on makeup in the light of a Coalman lantern. She eyed Jon hungrily. He ignored her, but Gus growled a soft warning as they moved on. They passed a couple lounging on a bed that looked like it might have come straight from a hotel suite—right down to the wood-framed mirror above the headboard. They shared a bucket of KFC and passed a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke back and forth. Calling out greetings to Jon, they offered Gus an unidentifiable chunk of chicken, which he downed in a single gulp with a quick sweep of his tail in thanks.

Sam tried to imagine the place, which almost had the feel of an underground neighborhood, all washing away in heavy rains. Again and again. She knew it did periodically, but it all seemed so permanent at the moment.

As they moved away from Main Street and deeper into the unoccupied areas of the tunnels, she realized that she saw just fine even in the thick darkness. She supposed that was just a part of being dead. As far as she could tell, Jon carried no source of light. But then God would hardly need it, would he?

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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