Hello all! Today I'd like to say HAPPY RELEASE DAY WOLF'S BANE! Wolf's Bane is book three is the Demimonde series. Haven't heard of it? Uh, why not?! Not to worry! The firswt book Bleeding Hearts is available for Nook and Kindle for only $1.99! I say you snag that eBook soon and start reading right away! Click for Kindle or Nook. There will also be a giveaway following this post so keep reading!
Wolf's Bane (Demimonde #3)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Paperback: 370 pages
Publisher: Pink Narcissus Press
Date: June 15, 2014
When life gives you lemons, all you can do is try to avoid paper cuts.
Since becoming oracle to the demivampire two years ago, advice columnist Sophie has battled werewolves and survived a vampire attack (or two). However, not only was she powerless to save her lover Marek when he slipped to the brink of evolution, she also witnessed his transformation into a falcon, the symbol of Horus United.
Sophie’s quest to save Marek is further complicated when rock star Dierk Adeluf – who also happens to be the king of the Werekind – invites her backstage after a concert. Just when it seems she will find respite from heartache, Sophie is bitten by a werewolf and Dierk decides she is destined to be his queen.
Sophie is caught between the demivamps she loves and the Were who commands her to love him. Throw in his jealous wanna-be girlfriend and an ambush by witches, and there you have the big mess that Sophie calls her life. And, hello? Her soul mate is still a bird.
She’s supposed to be the girl with all the answers, but Sophie needs more than a little advice--she needs divine intervention.
The man sitting across from me absolutely hated himself.
I didn’t need to unzip my barriers to make that assessment. The way his shoulders crept up his neck, the curve of his back that left his face parallel to his thighs, the way he avoided looking at me or anyone else—body language said it all. And when he did finally raise his too-heavy head to look at me, his eyes were stony and hollow, too dead to even care what anyone saw in them.
He wore his self-loathing the way I wished I wore Jimmy Choos—right out there for the whole world to see. Difference was, he didn’t care who looked.
I glanced at the demivamp who hovered behind him like a first-year teacher. She toyed with the end of her braid and looked ready to throw herself onto him if need be. Maybe he was a flight risk. Maybe he was a danger to himself.
Maybe he was a danger to me. In that case, the other DV wasn’t necessary. I didn’t worry so much about myself anymore. I’d learned a thing or two about staying alive.
Not to mention, I had an entire courtroom full of DV that perched on the semi-circles of benches, elbow to elbow, each waiting their turn with the Sophia. I knew full well every single one of them would fling themselves between me and whatever peril might arise here.
I was well-guarded. Perks of being a national treasure.
I flicked my gaze up to the DV who stood behind my client, dismissing her. Once she took her place in the audience, I sank into my Sophia sight. Finding my center and called up my barriers, peeling away the outermost layer and expanding it until it encompassed us both in an invisible but completely sound-proof bubble.
A nifty little trick I’d learned since Dorcas removed the last remaining obstacles between me and my power. She hadn’t been much of a dresser and had a weird thing for vampires, not to mention acting like the scariest damned thing I’d ever seen, but I had to hand it to her. She’d done me a solid.
When the barrier went up around us, there was a little ear-pop of sensation. He seemed to notice me then. His eyes took up a pale light, gleaming like the teeth he hid behind the disdainful curl of his lips. His power seethed out like the odor of a hot dumpster—the feel of it decayed and ugly and absolutely desperate.
I smiled, grim and hard. This guy might be the farthest gone DV I’d ever met. He was going to be a challenge.
I decided to start the same way I always did, knowing this one might not end the same way. “What’s your name?”
He stared me down for several moments. “You want my current name or the one that’s waiting for me?”
Obviously, he was referring to the name change that happened when a DV Fell. Vampires never kept their DV names. All part of the whole born-again (dead-again?) persona of a newly-minted vamp.
“You have one name,” I said, my voice like tungsten. “And you’re going to keep it.”
“Like you can stop me.”
I smiled again, glad I had chosen to wear lip gloss because my mouth was so dry, my lips would have split without it. “I can. And I will.”
“Look, lady.” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The pale light in his dark eyes looked like an early hard frost on a green lawn. Untimely end of a sweet season. “I know who you are, and I know what you do. Sometimes, you just gotta let nature take its course.”
“This isn’t nature. This is self-punishment.”
He smiled, open-mouthed to show all his teeth. Sharp, elongated, a mouth full of knives. A vamp’s mouth. “And I earned every single minute of it.”
Okay. Tough guy. Proud of the shitty things he’s done. That was part of the thrill of being so close to Falling. Kind of like passing over the event horizon into a black hole, when one part of you accelerates faster than the rest. His soul was a ragged plastic bag caught on a tree branch, waiting for the last big wind to come along.
His heart had already flown loose. In his heart, he was a vampire.
Well, his body was still here, and his soul was still here, and I was still here. He was in for a surprise.
I surveyed his power, using Sophia-sight to visualize it. It was dark, like cooling lava, black and cracked and sullen red showing through the seams. The black crust was his resignation. He’d stopped fighting. Well, maybe he just needed the right sparring partner.
How did you get rid of hard, black cooling lava? Why, you heat it up, of course. Nothing got a man hotter than his temper.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true. There were other things, but that wasn’t my brand of therapy.
I pushed through his brittle ugly shell into the lava beneath, then through the lava to his inner core. It was tiny, but it was cool, and green, and still had the essence of who he used to be. His feelings were still packed away inside and I latched onto it, expanded it, examined it. Family. He had kids. A job. He’d been a lawyer, and a good one. He was proud of what he’d done—in the beginning.
Ah. That’s where it started to turn. I sifted along the line of those memories and found the point when he started fighting for the bad guys.
“A dirty lawyer?” I snorted and rolled my eyes. “There’s a shock. Your parents must be so proud.”
He growled and dug his fingers into his thighs. “Shut up.”
“No wonder you turned into this.” I waved my fingers at him as if I were calling out a Coach bag knock-off at a street vendor. “I thought you were going to say you ate babies or something but a corrupt lawyer? That’s sick.”
Rage filled him like a burning warehouse, the fury consuming his power. If it weren’t for my personal shields, I’d have been incinerated. The fire of his anger melted the hard shell of his former apathy and he’d become a miniature sun of murderous intent.
He wanted to end me, wanted nothing more than to get his hands on me.
I beat him to it.
Like the flick of a mental finger, I opened the door in my mind where all the bad stuff went. It was like a vacuum in there and once it was open, it just sucked at his power, the ugly, the hate and the agony he’d surrounded himself with and I pulled.
It hurt. It hurt me, it was like sandpaper on the eyes and it hurt him. He howled as I ripped away all the fury of his self-loathing and hate.
Normally, I did this in steps, gently, kind of a leeching away. Not this guy. I had to over-power him because at this stage, he could just grow it all back. Vampires were infinite wells of hate and evil and this guy was so damned close.
His howl became a roar and he made a lunge for me. I slid a ramrod of my shields at him and held him at a mental arm’s length. He struggled to reach me, his clawed hands inches from my eyes and if he got to me, if he reached me, he’d tear my throat out.
No, he wouldn’t. I was stronger than that. I bit down on my lips and tasted the tang of blood and continued to strip his agony away.
This little man wasn’t big enough to break me. I continued to pull away the damage of his soul, and sent a simultaneous stream of the Sophia into him, a cool mist against the acrid hate. His soul had been dried and withered and it soaked up the Sophia’s healing rain, swelling and anchoring itself once more.
The fight was going out of him. He dropped his hands, fighting to breathe. Part of my brain screamed to stop, this was too much, too fast. But a part of my heart was intent on pushing the limits, almost wishing to break because maybe then—just maybe—I’d break past whatever unknown obstacle had been holding me back. Desperation drove me just as surely as it had driven him.
So I was relentless. I continued the pull and the push and I found myself standing over his slumped body. He’d slid down in his chair, head dropped against the back of the cushion, his eyes darkening into a deep green, like spring grass. And I didn’t stop.
I didn’t stop until he’d fallen to his knees before me, forehead pressed to my feet, crying and repeating words I couldn’t hear because the Sophia was too much in control. My ears didn’t work right when she was filling my head. I kind of got used to it.
When it was all gone, all the damage and the negativity and the self-hate, the Sophia pulled itself back, sealing the drain. Sound returned, and I could hear his labored breathing, his murmured chanting. My insides still felt raw. That would take a day or two to settle down.
I was aware the outer barrier was still up and I dispelled it. Another ear-pop and we were both submerged in a cacophony of applause and happy shouting. Several people rushed forward to embrace him, hugs for him, awkward hugs for me. I backed away from the jostling and let his family and friends bear him back to the seats. He beamed at me, incredulous joy and gratitude on his face.
And it didn’t touch me at all.
I only had two thoughts. The first was: I had just gotten inside him, battled his demons, saved his soul, but I never learned his name. Maybe it was better that way. There were so many DV. I couldn’t remember all their names and keep my sanity.
The second was: it hadn’t been enough. He was, by far, the worst I’d encountered and it still wasn’t enough. There had been no revelation, clue, no hint how to fix the one problem I needed to fix.
I’d come no closer to solving Marek’s problem.
A terrible panic tried to grip me but I squashed it down. I swallowed hard and pinched myself and turned to the crowd. The entire group fell silent, hanging on my words.
“Another,” I called. “Please. I need another.”
And I continued to heal, and I continued to need, and I continued to fight the growing fear that in the end, I might save a million DV and still stand to lose the one I truly loved.
Another stepped forward, and after him another, and it was pushing dawn before I realized none of it had given me what I needed to save Marek.
I stared bleakly at the sea of hopeful faces. So many saves, so many solutions, all of it dwarfed in the shadow of my heart’s crushing failure. All my exhaustion, all my despair, all of the raw edges inside me, seething with the scalds of so much negative energy, and all I could think was that I had to do this all again for the next envoy in three days’ time.
Einstein’s Definition of Insanity Sophie, that’s me.
Ash Krafton is a writer of all things spec fic. She believes spectacular endings make the best beginnings... Why not? One billion black holes can't be wrong.
Her urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde is available through Pink Narcissus Press. It includes the titles BLEEDING HEARTS, BLOOD RUSH, and the upcoming WOLF'S BANE, expected June 2014.
Her urban fantasy novelette STRANGER AT THE HELL GATE is with the Black Rose line of The Wild Rose Press. WORDS THAT BIND is her first full-length paranormal romance and will be available through TWRP Faery Rose line.
In addition to novel-length fiction, Ash enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, some of which earned awards and distinction in several national competitions. One of her poems was selected as a Pushcart prize nominee. She's a member of Pennwriters, RWA, Pikes Peak Writers, SFPA, and the Maryland Writers Association. She also contributes to Query Tracker's blog.
Ash resides with her family in a rural town in the heart of the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region. She'll never leave, either, because coal is just another example of a spectacular ending waiting for a brilliant beginning. (It's kinda fitting.)
And because, like a black hole, once you're in... ...you can never get out.
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