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Black Widow Demon

Black Widow Demon

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by Paula Altenburg
     
 

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In Black Widow Demon by Paula Altenburg, passionate and headstrong, half-demon Raven is nearly executed on the orders of her fundamentalist stepfather. She escapes from the burning stake using the gifts of her otherworldly heritage and the help of a mortal stranger named Blade. Now she's set on revenge, and only quiet, intense Blade stands in her way.

A

Overview

In Black Widow Demon by Paula Altenburg, passionate and headstrong, half-demon Raven is nearly executed on the orders of her fundamentalist stepfather. She escapes from the burning stake using the gifts of her otherworldly heritage and the help of a mortal stranger named Blade. Now she's set on revenge, and only quiet, intense Blade stands in her way.

A retired assassin weary of the weight of his past, Blade has crossed the desert to seek out a new life. His journey is interrupted when his conscience demands he help Raven find an old friend who can help her. Saving her from her need for revenge and delivering her into the hands of loved ones means he's one step closer to redemption.
But as Blade's sense of duty becomes something more and threats, both mortal and immortal, stalk the woman he can't abandon, he could very well fall back into the life he's trying so hard to escape.

The Demon Outlaws series is best enjoyed in order.
Series Order:
Book #1 The Demon's Daughter
Book #2 Black Widow Demon
Book #3 The Demon Lord
Book #4 The Demon Creed

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Demon’s Daughter:

"The Demon's Daughter crackles with originality and high-stakes adventure. Paula Altenburg swiftly ensnares her readers in her gripping new series!" — Deborah Hale, award-winning author of The Wizard's Ward

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781622660445
Publisher:
Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date:
11/26/2013
Series:
Demon Outlaws , #2
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
632,874
File size:
3 MB

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Black Widow Demon

A Demon Outlaws Novel


By Paula Altenburg, Danielle Poiesz, Kerri-Leigh Grady

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2013 Paula Altenburg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62266-044-5


CHAPTER 1

Tidy towns often concealed dirty secrets. And this small mining town was too tidy for Blade's taste.

Nestled among the foothills of the Godseeker Mountains, it suffered from too-uniform construction and a general lack of aesthetic design. But after several months of crossing the desert alone, Blade's standards were not all that high. He wanted a bath, a hot meal, and a soft bed.

A bed he could wake up in alone. The two-foot goldthief — one of the more dangerous variety of snakes in these parts — he had found in his bedroll that morning had been an unwelcome surprise. Fortunately, Blade was neither a restless sleeper nor easily startled, and he possessed a great deal of natural patience. Once the sun came up on the desert, the well-rested serpent had slithered off on its own without incident.

Blade continued to study the mining settlement deep in the valley below him from an outcropping of weathered sandstone. Layers of desert dirt coated the rooftops, painting the entire town a dull shade of gray. Beyond it, the hills rose to flat peaks of a vast rocky mountain range, sparsely forested with juniper and yellow pine. Narrow ribbons of silvery water streamed down to filter through sand dunes on the valley floor and irrigate the town's gardens, ones that were now spent and shriveled by this time of year. Behind and above, past the top of the mesa, stretched the desert. Beneath where Blade stood, a lone open wagon hauled by a sway-backed, listless hross clattered along a dirt trail that broadened into a street where it met town limits.

This bold new settlement had sprung up arrogantly close to what had, until recently, been demon territory. It possessed no protective ramparts, something Blade thought a serious oversight on the part of its founders. He had owned a saloon in Freetown, a trading outpost in the very center of demon territory, and he knew something of human nature and desperation. For more than three hundred years immortal goddesses and demons had used the world for their pleasure. Demons might be gone now, banished by the Demon Lord's own daughter, yet any number of mortal dangers remained.

When he considered his near-empty pack, however, and that this was the first sign of civilization he'd come across in several weeks, its underwhelming neatness and lack of protection were not enough to deter him. He patted his clothing to confirm that his knives were secure and at hand. He'd been away from the Godseeker Mountains for ten years. He doubted if he would be recognized here, or that it would mean much to anyone anymore if he were.

He was bone-deep weary of death and destruction and of the strong who preyed on the weak. The past was behind him. He was looking ahead. He was no longer a saloonkeeper, an assassin, or a cripple. He was a far cry from the helpless, abused boy he'd once been long ago. He would be none of those things again.

Deep within these mountains was a boundary that the goddesses had created to keep demons confined to the desert regions. He would test that boundary and see what, if anything, lay beyond — if any of the Old World remained or if it had been completely decimated during the Demon Occupation more than three hundred years earlier. He thought that just once in his life he would like to see the sea, something he'd only ever read of in books.

A slight breeze stirred the warm, late-afternoon air and he made a face — he stank, no doubt about it. Dust caked the thighs of his denim trousers and stiffened the broad brim of his hat. If he did not get that bath, he could forget about finding a hot meal and soft bed. Although waking up alone would be guaranteed.

As he turned, he detected movement at the far edge of the town, near the dunes. From this distance it was difficult to say for certain, but it looked as if they were building a very large bonfire. He wondered what they were celebrating.

Shrugging his pack higher on his shoulders, he picked his way off the outcropping. Once on the valley floor, he carefully circled the town to approach via the main street that cut through its heart.

A neatly lettered sign, not yet worn by wind and blowing sand, proclaimed it Goldrush.


* * *

Fair trial, be damned. Without the arrival of some sort of miracle, come nightfall the townspeople intended to burn Raven at the stake as a spawn.

She sat in a makeshift jail cell on the edge of a rough wooden bed, its wool blanket scratchy beneath her flattened palms and her feet dangling well off the whitewashed pine floor. The jailor's chair and a desk with a crooked leg were the only other furnishings in the room and were out of her reach on the other side of the iron bars.

For the hundredth time she mentally raced through her options. All of them involved killing her stepfather. But her first attempt at that was what had gotten her into this trouble.

She toppled to her side and tucked her clasped hands beneath her cheek, staring at the bars. It was his own fault that she'd stabbed him. He had slipped his hand down the front of her dress, and when she defended herself, he'd had the nerve to blame her for his wrongdoing. He claimed she had tempted him.

Then, he'd told others her mother had slept with a demon and that Raven was nothing more than spawn. Fire was the test that would prove it. If she burned, she was innocent.

The injustice of her situation quivered through her slight frame. She was not a whore, and she would not become one for him. She'd rather be burned as a spawn. If her friend Creed knew how her stepfather had touched her, he would kill him on her behalf. But he wasn't here to help her now. And unfortunately for her, her accuser was the Godseeker who represented the law in this town. It was his right to test her. No one would come to her aid.

Time crept by as the shadows deepened.

The front door of the jailhouse creaked open and she sat up with a start, her heart hammering in her chest. She blinked against the sudden stream of light from outdoors.

Justice appeared before her — Justice in the form of her stepfather, and not any sudden righting of wrongs. Hate unfurled in her stomach at the sight of him.

She rose from the bed and stood at the bars of her cell. His gait was stiff as he walked into the room to set a lantern on the desk. She had jabbed the knife into his thigh and the fact that the wound pained him filled her with joy. Although, he had been lucky — that was not where she'd aimed.

"There is still time to change your mind," he said to her, speaking softly so as not to be overheard by anyone lurking outside the jailhouse door. "I can withdraw the charges. I can help you exorcise the demon in you."

Raven met his eyes. It was a talent of hers that she could sometimes read people's darkest thoughts, particularly when emotions ran high, and his mind was darker than most.

She no longer had any reason to disguise her contempt for him. "You would love to see me humiliated, stripped naked, and flogged to within an inch of my life. Then you would take me. Afterward, you would drink my blood because you believe what it contains can give you a demon's strength."

His face flushed with anger. He had been a handsome man once. Still was, in fact, despite the silver threads lacing his brown hair and the deep creases around his eyes and mouth. He had a presence about him that commanded a high level of respect. But Raven saw the ugliness simmering beneath the surface. Her mother had died a broken woman because of him.

Hatred and fear fed her strength. She gripped the cell bars so tight, she knew when she released them the imprints of her fingers would remain.

You could break free if you choose.

That inner demon voice terrified her far more than the man who faced her.

Her stepfather's eyes followed hers to the bars that contained her. "That's it, little demon," he taunted, his words soft. "Show the world what you are. What the blood you say I'd love to drink contains. How far do you think you could run then? How safe from the Godseekers' assassins would you be?"

That was what stopped her. She did not want people to think of her as demon spawn. She did not want to be hunted, nor for Justice to be proven right in anyone's eyes. She had to find another way to escape.

And when she did, she would kill him.

"There are some who suspect you for what you are," she said in return. "Are you so confident of what I am? If I do burn, more will begin to doubt you. They will watch you." Her glance flickered to the amulet he wore around his throat. "And eventually, when the goddesses fail to return, no matter how many so-called spawn you torture and kill in their name, the people will turn from you."

Justice hooked the wooden jailor's chair with his foot and swung it around, favoring his injured leg, then sat with his arms folded across the chair's spindled back as if he had all the time in the world. He planted his chin on the crook of one elbow and studied her.

She had never fully understood the way he watched her until a few short nights ago. Now, she read raw hunger in his expression and thoughts. Her dinner rebelled at the memory of his touch on her bare flesh.

"It seems people have already turned from you," he observed.

He, too, spoke the truth. Raven had not believed that people she'd known her whole life would not speak out against his plan. She had hoped they would see the wrongness of it long before now. Sundown, however, had already passed.

Despair settled in with the night. No one had come to her rescue. Creed, her best hope, was in training at the Temple of Immortal Right and oblivious to her situation. She had only herself now. But that meant releasing a dark and dangerous presence inside her she had never before allowed to be free. There would be no turning back from it if she did.

The ugliness of her stepfather's thoughts decided it for her, though. She would not burn, and she would not live in fear. She would not be broken by him as her mother was.

She would save herself.

She wore the same dress he'd deemed indecent two nights prior when the nightmare began. Tracing a finger along its prim neckline, she let her eyelids droop to examine him from beneath a dark fringe of thick, curling lashes. Her golden-toned skin gleamed in the lamplight as she pressed against the bars of the cell.

Justice swallowed, then with unsteady fingers, gripped the amulet he wore around his neck. Once, a long time ago, he had been a goddess's favorite. The amulet she'd given him protected him from the seduction of another immortal and warned him when he was in the presence of a full-blooded demon.

But it did nothing to protect Raven from him.

"Whore," he spat at her. With that single utterance, she knew she had lost.

"Enjoy your final moments of glory," she said, dropping her hand to her side. "Women can't all be whores and spawn, and Faith will not remain silent forever. Not after tonight."

It had been a wild guess on her part, based on what she'd read of his ugliest desires, but her words struck home. His face reddened, then paled. Fear flamed in her chest — not for herself, but for the frail, timid woman she had named.

What had she done?

"Undertaker!" Justice shouted, half turning toward the door. It opened at once, and a tall, gaunt man stuck his head into the room. "It is time."

Raven watched her stepfather lift a heavy black key from a hook on the wall behind the desk, then move to insert it in the lock on the cell door. She held her breath, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Justice drew his hand back without unlocking the cell door and regarded her thoughtfully. He turned to the battered desk, then rooted around in a drawer. He hauled out a shining pair of handcuffs crafted from a silver metal that had been mined in the nearby mountains and hardened with a special alloy. "Hold out your hands."

She did not want to be bound. "No."

"If you do not" — his tone was harsh and deliberate, his eyes hard — "I will burn the jail down around you."

She felt the truth in him. He would do it. Stunned into obedience, she held out her hands, and he snapped the cuffs in place. Then, he opened the cell door.

Undertaker reached in to capture her arm.

"Don't touch her!" Justice snapped, slapping the other man's hand aside. Undertaker turned to him, his bushy black eyebrows raised in silent surprise. "She's a spawn. If you touch her, she can claim you."

The lie came so easily to him.

And yet, it was not quite a lie. Raven could not claim a man, but she could cloud his thoughts long enough to defend herself from him. Justice had the knife wound in his leg to prove it.

"Ask him how he knows that," she said to Undertaker, her gaze never leaving her stepfather. "Ask him how he touched me and for what purpose."

Justice slapped her hard across the face, and her head snapped back. Pain blossomed as the world darkened.

"You disrespect your mother's memory when you speak like this. Columbine was an innocent, lured by a demon — just as you tried to lure me. She raised you to be better."

Raven's eyes watered, the pain now more than physical, but she refused to shed tears. He had not married her mother out of love or respect for her innocence. She had been a beautiful woman, a master artisan, and an asset for him to own, nothing more. And he had destroyed her.

Raven touched the back of one shackled wrist to the corner of her mouth and wiped away a trickle of blood. It left a dark smear on her skin in the fading light. Undertaker had given her candy when she'd been a child, yet now he'd neither made a move to protect her from Justice's blow nor uttered one word of protest against it. Pity for him displaced the hurt in her heart. He was simpleminded and easily led. She read no malice toward her on his part.

Her chin went up, and she gazed steadily at both men. "There is no need for either of you to touch me. I will walk on my own." She displayed all the dignity she possessed as she crossed the small jailhouse and stepped into the cool embrace of the night.

Inside, she was shaking with anger. She did not want to die. But living would come at a heavy price she had no wish to pay.


* * *

He had been wrong. No celebration was planned in Goldrush.

With his angular face freshly shaven, his shoulder-grazing black hair damp and tied back with a worn leather thong, Blade noticed the increased activity in the dusty, darkening street the instant he stepped from the bathhouse.

He'd bought a change of clothes to wear, leaving what he already owned to be laundered at the rooming house where he'd rented the night's lodgings. A wool-lined coat of soft, supple leather fell to his hips, allowing for easy access to his knives. It was his one major investment against the cold that ruled the mountains.

While he was happy to be clean again, he disliked the feel of his knives in their new and unfamiliar hiding places. He especially disliked it now, when night was falling and people had gathered in tight little groups, their hushed voices filled with unmistakable tension.

Years of training — received long ago but never forgotten — had him react to it out of instinct. He inched the knife in his sleeve closer to his palm as he pressed deeper into the shadows. Invisibility was an assassin's greatest weapon.

He eavesdropped on the conversation of three men who were standing around the corner of the building from him, on the street.

"She's always been strange."

"Perhaps," a second conceded. "But being strange does not make her spawn."

Blade's interest spiked. The goddesses had disappeared from the world nearly thirty years before. More recently, demons had been scoured from the earth. During the years in between, the shape-shifting demons had ruled the desert, luring mortal women to them for pleasure. Half-demon spawn, like their fathers, were male — monsters born in demon form to mortal mothers who had not survived their delivery. Demons, in turn, killed spawn at birth. Blade knew of only one true, living female spawn in existence — and her mother had been a goddess, not a mortal woman.

And Airie, who was half demon and half goddess, was hardly a monster. Filled with compassion, she had healed his crippled leg and given him his life back. He owed her a debt he could never repay.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Black Widow Demon by Paula Altenburg, Danielle Poiesz, Kerri-Leigh Grady. Copyright © 2013 Paula Altenburg. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Paula Altenburg lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now enjoys the luxury of working from home and writing full-time. Paula also co-authors paranormal romance novels under the pseudonym Taylor Keating.

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Black Widow Demon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
RomanceaholicBR More than 1 year ago
As a fan of the first book of the series, I was a little taken aback when the story began in a much different manner than the previous one.  It wasn’t long, however, before I settled comfortably back into the world Ms. Altenburg has created. I found myself once again drawn in by the intriguing concept of a futuristic world that operates much like the Old West, due to the presence (and then sudden absence) of Immortals who wrought havoc on the lives of the mortals living within their boundaries, as well as the inner struggles of the characters as they learn to move past previous prejudices and fears in order to trust, and later, love. We’re immediately thrust into the outer edges of the world as man knows it, where women are seen as property, and powerful and corrupt men take every opportunity to abuse their power. Raven, having physically defended herself against the unwanted sexual advances of her evil step-father, Justice, is about to be burned at the stake as a “test” to prove to the villagers that she is in fact demon-spawn — if she burns, she’s innocent. Blade, an outsider who once was an assassin for the Goddesses before they abandoned this realm, is traveling through her village, and thinks only to end her suffering by offering her a swift and merciful death. The situation quickly spirals into something neither could have expected, and they form an uneasy alliance; Blade with his distrust of anyone associated with demon-kind due to both his own history as an assassin, and his horrific experience of being partially eaten alive during a demon attack years prior, and Raven with her fear of her own demon allure and her determination to avenge both her mother’s death and her own abuse at the hands of Justice. Overall, I loved it. There was plenty of action, both for the lovers and fighters of the world, and the world that Ms. Altenburg has created continues to capture the imagination.  I do think that this one stands fairly well on its own without having read the first book, but I do suggest reading them in order simply because I enjoyed both books equally. Recommended for fans of reluctant heroes, alluring heroines, and of finding justice on one’s own terms. 4.5/5 Stars {This title was provided free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The full review appears on The Romanceaholic.}
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Black Widow Demon Paula Altenburg. This is the second book in the Demon Outlaws series. I'd not read the first but found it reasonably easy to pick up the plot anyway. We start with Blade, he's watching Raven and her cruel stepfather in a crowd in the town centre. She's on trial for her life, one reminiscence of the old Witch Trials in that she's to be burned at the stake, die and she's innocent, live and she's guilty of being half demon so will be killed....and her offence? “Seducing” her stepfather – or in her eyes stabbing him when he tried it on.... Just as happens in so many worlds in this one females are always to blame, and Justice her stepfather knows she's a half demon, in a world where that's not acceptable, and they are killed regardless of their behaviour. I really felt for Raven – what was she to do, and where could she go. No one dared support her as Justice was a Godseeker and represented the law in the town. Blade is watching from afar. He's an ex Assassin, just passing through the town, but wonders what she's done. By a series of events they end up escaping together, and looking for her old friend Creed. I liked Raven, felt so sorry for her and the other Spawn who were judged on their heritage and not their actions. Scared people do that though, and having finally banished Demons, they thought if they got rid of the Spawn also maybe the Goddesses would return. Sadly the good Spawn got caught in the crossfire. Blade – a quiet and just man despite his past, protected Raven at first though obligation and honour, but they became much closer though both were unsure of how it would end. There were some steamy sex scenes between the two which fitted well into the plot. There's other characters on their journey too – more spawn, both good and bad, and other Assassins plus the ever present wicked Justice, who is determined to get Raven, and a few full Demons who can't enter the mortal world on their own but can be summoned. Its a story I thought would be a five star for me when I first began it, but as I continued somehow the people and plots didn't really engender that feeling that I simply had to keep reading, couldn't put it down, needed to know what would happen. It was good, but not quite good enough for a five from me, though as ever that's personal and I’m sure others will rate it differently. I just didn't really get the connection I needed with the characters, I liked Raven and Blade but didn't love them, and when they were in danger I wasn't on edge of seat wondering how they'd get out of it. It just seemed a long journey for nothing really, and I felt a bit unsatisfied, unfinished at the ending. I'm sure that's because there will be further books but though I love series I think this one isn't one for me. Stars: its well written and plotted but just didn't quite hook me so it's a four. Its a good book but not great. I read and enjoyed it, but won't read read or keep it. ARC supplied via Publishers.