Blood and Magickby James R. Tuck
Deacon Chalk knows the biggest danger in fighting monsters is becoming one. Just another day at the office for your friendly neighborhood occult bounty/i>
Taking out hellish creatures—not a problem. Armed with blessed silver hollow-points and the ability to manipulate magick, he's ready for anything—except betrayal he never saw coming. . .
Deacon Chalk knows the biggest danger in fighting monsters is becoming one. Just another day at the office for your friendly neighborhood occult bounty hunter. If keeping three helpless were-dog children safe means battling a malevolent trio of witches by any means necessary, so be it. If that means partnering with a ruthless government agent to stay one step ahead of the allies and friends he must now suspect, he's not going to cry about it. The only way Deacon can save humans and shape-shifters alike is to embrace a power beyond his imagining, putting his team at stake—and his soul on the line. . .
Praise for Blood and Silver
"This is urban fantasy as men's fiction—Sookie Stackhouse meets the Dresden Files by way of Maxim." –Publishers Weekly
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Blood and Magick
By James R. Tuck
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2013 James R. Tuck
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI should have known.
There were signs. I'm supposed to be the damn expert. I should have caught the warnings.
I should have.
But I was completely clueless until the minute the restaurant exploded in a wave of eldritch flame and burning glass.
"You look absolutely amazing tonight."
She really, really did. It was the God's honest truth. Tiff was wearing a black evening dress that crossed her shoulders and plunged in a scalloped V, baring her back from the base of her neck to the dimples at the bottom of her spine. I had seen that expanse of skin before, but to have it so elegantly displayed was downright damn breathtaking. The dress was a frame on a beautiful piece of art.
She turned, face close to mine, body tilted just so toward me. The front of the dress plunged sharply to below her breastbone in another deep V that was working overtime to display a gentle swell of cleavage. It was impossible for me to keep my eyes off her.
This was nothing new. I had a hard time keeping my eyes off Tiff in general, but in that dress? With her in that dress, you could set me on fire and I wouldn't notice.
Her blue eye twinkled. "You think so?"
"I know so. You are a knockout, little girl."
A tilt of her head made dark chestnut hair fall over the left side of her face. It was an unconscious move, a habitual twitch she had developed. The sweep of hair covered the eye patch she wore. I was used to the movement, but it still sent a sharp pang through my heart.
Six months ago, she stood with me in a battle against an asshole Were-lion named Leonidas. Lives had been on the line and she had gone after him and one of his gang, a Were-great white, by herself.
I got there in time to save her life, but not her eye. Where it once was she had four razor-thin scars, mementos left by Leonidas's claws.
I killed the bastard, but that didn't give Tiff her eye back.
Her hand pulled my face to hers. Soft lips touched mine with an almost electric shock. Just a brief press and then gone. Her smile twitched, voice low and breathy. "Thank you. You clean up pretty well yourself."
It was a nice compliment, but I knew better. I looked like a thug. It was the suit's fault.
Because we were out to a nice dinner with friends, I pulled out a suit I hadn't worn in over six years. It was dark gray and summer-weight. When you're my size, you wear a summer-weight suit no matter the season; winters here in the South are just too mild. Back in the day, it had set me back over five hundred dollars and had been tailored to fit.
Occult bounty hunting had made me a bit leaner in the stomach and broader in the shoulder than I had been the last time I wore it. It still fit with room for my shoulder holster and two big-bore Colt .45's.
I had taken them off a dead Yakuza assassin with a Japanese demon trapped under his skin as a tattoo.
No, I'm not kidding. Why would I make that up? I'm the one who killed him.
They were a matched set. Nickel-plated with ivory grips carved into grinning skulls. Delicate scrollwork swirled and whorled along the slide. They were pretty sweet.
What can I say? I like guns. I'm a gun guy. Go with it, it's okay.
My head was freshly shaved and my goatee slightly managed with some product Tiff had in the bathroom. It smelled like strawberries.
The suit did cover most of my tattoos. Not the ones on the backs of my hands or the ones that crawled out of my buttoned collar to spread under my jawline and across the back of my head, but most of them. Put all that together with my size and I looked like a real leg breaker.
Like I said, a thug.
Tiff began to pull away, turning back to our dinner companions. My hand snaked out, sliding along the smooth skin of her shoulder, coming to rest in the thick hair at the back of her neck. My fingers tensed slightly, pulling her back to my mouth.
Her lips parted, yielding. I pressed in, her tongue warm against mine. The sweet taste of her overwhelmed me. My head spun just a touch, making my fingers tighten in her hair. She made a little sound in her throat that vibrated up through the kiss, igniting me like a match to fuel.
"Okay, okay. You two get a room, the dessert's here."
We broke the kiss. Pulling away, I could still taste her. Dessert was going to be a disappointment now.
One long chestnut hair tangled around my finger. Shaking it off, I picked up my spoon as the waiter sat a small bowl of crème brûlée in front of me.
Looking to the couple on the other side of the table, I pointed the spoon at Larson and Kat. "All right, you two. Spill with the announcements you wanted to make after dinner."
Larson opened his mouth to speak, wavy ginger beard brushing his suit lapel. He was stopped by Kat's hand clamping on his arm.
She cut eyes at him. "Not yet. Not until after dessert."
He looked at me, shrugging in a "What are you going to do?" motion. He had filled out over the last few months, getting back to his normal weight of 140. His hair was still long, blending into a full beard like a redheaded hippie Jesus, but the weight gain had erased the dark hollows that used to rest under his eyes. He looked healthy. He looked happy.
Hell, he looked sane, which was a big improvement.
Kat rubbed his arm, affection shining in her eyes. She still had her corn-fed, midwestern, girl-next-door looks. Straightforward and simple. Even dressed up in a midnight blue evening gown, her impossibly thick honey-blond hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail.
Tiff leaned in, voice low and conspiratorial. "Now you two are just being mean." Her hand fell on my thigh under the table, palm hot through the thin material of my pants. "We're both dying to know what you have to tell us. We're betting it has something to do with a date."
Tiff and I had speculated about Kat and Larson's relationship. It was intense. Both of them had been through bad stuff, some of it together and some of it apart. I hadn't seen the two of them getting together, nobody had, but now that they were, it felt ... inevitable. Like they had always been a couple.
Kat and Larson just grinned.
"After dessert." Kat's voice was firm. "The sooner we start the sooner we finish."
We all picked up our spoons. The crème brûlée in front of me was beautiful: caramel crust a dark roasted honey brown, with tiny bubbles of captured air marking the surface. The edge of my spoon pushed against it. It was thick, resisting the pressure. Tightening my fingers on the slim silver stem, I pushed harder. The crust split with a tiny, audible crack just like it was supposed to.
The dessert breathed out a sour, clotted stink.
It wafted up, crawling into my nose, tickling my gag reflex. The air at the table filled with it as the other desserts belched out the same rotten, sour-milk stench.
"Ugh." Kat's fingers pinched her nose shut, making her voice hum. "That is disgusting."
Larson pushed away from the table. His shoulders bunched, spinning his wheelchair around. "I'll be right back. I'm getting the waiter." His hands jerked harshly on the wheels of his chair, rolling him away.
Larson had lost the use of his legs almost a year ago in a battle against a hell-bitch named Appollonia and her horde of mind-controlled vampires. It was only in the last few months that he had stopped hating the chair and learned to work with it.
"That's weird." Tiff covered her dessert with the thick linen napkin from her lap. "Must have been made with a batch of spoiled cream."
From the corner of my eye, I saw a woman two tables over pull a small mirror from her purse. She held it in front of her, using it to examine a large dark spot on her cheek. Her voice came to me as she spoke to her dinner date. "But where did it come from? I've never had a mole there."
Larson was rolling back, waiter trailing him, apologizing.
The lights blinked, flashing fever bright, flickering off and then back on.
That's when the whole world exploded.
And I had no idea it was coming until it knocked me flat on my ass.
Chapter TwoMy suit was ruined. Spoiled crème brûlée splattered across the front of it, clotting with dust and debris. I could feel dozens of tiny cuts littering my body. A piece of glass stuck deep in my shoulder with a cutting grind. The table had flipped over and was laying on top of me, pressing hard with weight, trying to crush me into the floor. Splinters bit my palm as I clamped on to the edge of it. My jacket ripped as I heaved and shoved, muscling my way out from under.
Scrambling, I whipped my head back and forth, searching for her. Dust and smoke filled the air. People who could move were running away from the blast. One man, bleeding from a gash in his arm that I could see bone through, smacked into me. He bounced off, stumbling away.
I kept searching.
There—laying in a tangle of skirt and wreckage. Crawling, ignoring debris that rammed and cut into my knees, I scrambled to her. She moaned as I reached her.
Dark chestnut hair was tangled across her face. A slender hand came up, sweeping it away from her good eye. "I'm okay. What's going on?"
I looked her over for injury. Please, God, let her be okay.
"I don't know yet. There was an explosion."
Her fingers curled around the lapel of my tattered jacket. Pulling, she sat up. My arm went behind her to help. There was a long, shallow cut on her chest running from between her breasts, across her collarbone, and up her throat. It was ragged, jagging back and forth, probably from some flying piece of debris. Dust had clotted it, there wasn't much blood, but it was already inflamed and angry. We stood up. Tiff was steady on her feet as I let go of her arm.
I raised my voice over the chaos. "I'm going to find Kat and Larson. You find your purse."
Her purse had her gun in it. I didn't know what she was packing, but I had a feeling she would need it. This explosion wasn't a coincidence. My life didn't have coincidences in it, not since I started tangling with the supernatural.
She nodded again and I turned away to find our friends.
The floor was littered with broken furniture and broken people—a handful of them too injured to move and even more dead. We had been seated in the middle of the restaurant, which was one of the things that had saved us. There was a hole in the front of the building that you could drive a semi through. The edges sputtered with unnatural black flame that snapped and popped, sucking in light. The people who could run had gone to the back of the restaurant and out through the kitchen, leaving behind the wounded and the dead.
I spotted the table that had been beside ours. It had flipped over in the blast, tablecloth still hanging across on it. It faced away from the destruction, so the cloth was still gleaming white even though the table was charred and soot covered. Kat lay on the floor in front of it. Larson knelt beside her, feeling along her body for injuries. It looked like the table had shielded her from the worst of the explosion. Her ponytail had fallen and she was filthy, but other than that she looked perfectly normal.
Larson's hair was wild, blown to the side and singed. He had a cut on his left cheek that ran freely with blood, staining his beard dark crimson on one side. His suit jacket was scorched on one side and full of rips. The blast would have hit him from the left, knocking him sideways.
I strode to them, stepping over chunks of table, pieces of busted chairs, and bits that once were the people closer to the blast. Larson was helping Kat to her feet. "Are you two okay?"
"Nothing broken. I can't hear a damn thing out of my left ear, though." He turned his head. Blood was leaking from his ear canal in a thick trickle.
Kat reached up, turning his face back toward her. "Your eardrum is burst. It'll heal."
He nodded, making his hair fall down over the wounded ear. He stepped back and looked around the demolished restaurant.
Wait a fucking minute.
My mind chewed on what I was seeing.
Larson was standing? What. The. Hell?
A rush of something supernatural slammed into me, driving the thought out of my head by yanking the power inside me to the surface. Magick swarmed over my skin with tiny insect legs. It whipcracked across my nerves, lighting them up like a row of matches.
Since my resurrection at the hands of an Angel—yes, a real Angel of The Lord—when I first was hunting the monster that killed my family, I have been not-quite-human. I am faster, stronger, and heal quicker. Not much, but enough to keep me alive. I also have a power that lets me sense supernatural shit. It's from where the Angel gave me a transfusion of her blood, or whatever Angels use for blood. I can feel the weird and otherworldly because of it.
I hate it. It's tied to my other senses, so it comes through in jacked-up ways that are usually more distraction than information.
Right now, my power was a shark in a feeding frenzy on my senses. My mouth dried up, skin itchy with magick. No doubt about it, bad shit was coming.
Both hands went under my jacket and came out full of gun, thumbs brushing the safeties down. The Colt .45 1911 is a piece of gunsmithing genius. It shoots big ass bullets that go in the size of a dime but come out the size of saucer. They will fuck some shit up. It holds seven in a clip, eight if you carry one in the chamber.
I always have one in the chamber. Larson reached under his jacket, pulling out a Glock. The ugly, boxy semiautomatic filled his hand. Kat was removing her pistol from her purse. It was a 9mm. I know because I'm the one who gave it to her.
A touch on my arm whipped my head around. Tiff was there, a Taurus Judge in her hand.
The Judge is a big revolver that holds .410 shotgun shells. It's a bastard of a pistol that does a shit-ton of damage. It is literally a handheld shotgun. Tiff had taken to using it since losing her eye. The leeway in aiming it adjusted for the loss of parallax she suffered.
She leaned in close to me. "What's coming?"
"Don't know." I turned to the hole in the wall. "But it's going to be bad."
The words were barely out of my mouth when a woman stepped through the wreckage and into the restaurant.
She stood, prim and proper, just inside the charred ring of the blast radius. Slowly, she pulled a pair of thin lace gloves off two chubby hands, tucking them into a small purse that hung at her elbow. It snapped shut with a click. Clasping her hands together, she settled herself with a shake of fleshy shoulders, raised her chin, and began to look around the carnage before her.
She was covered head to toe in a dress that would be dour if it wasn't made of a brilliant pthalo green fabric that shimmered in the uncertain light. It was the same iridescent color as the underside of a peacock feather. Full skirts surrounded her legs, concealing them under layers of lace and crinoline. Her top was covered with a matching waistcoat that pinched a generous middle, held together by a row of tiny ebony buttons running waist to throat in a wavy line. The sleeves were tight on her arms, stuffed in like pillows, and went from puffy shoulders to puffy wrists. A silver pentagram the size of a baby's head hung on a braid around her neck, a snarling goat head glaring out from it in satanic glee.
Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun that revealed a severe face. It was a face made for correcting schoolchildren, a face where every feature was a harsh slash on a canvas. The only thing that tilted that face from sour to interesting was a pair of poison green eyes burning with fierceness.
Two figures moved through the settling dust to stand next to her.
One was a thin blade of a man in a black cassock. Wiry hair, dark as coal, hung shaggy around his head, blending into a thick, gnarled beard. His nose hooked out between deep-set eyes. They glittered like black diamonds beneath two wide stripes of eyebrow. His fingers were covered in armor styled jewelry, jutting out wickedly in points and barbs like the claws of a wild animal. A matching pentagram to the one the woman wore, goat head and all, hung under his beard, starkly bright against the black of his overcoat.
He stood next to her, seething, shoulders rising and falling, metal claws clicking at the end of his hands. He stomped the ground with jackbooted feet, shuffling to and fro in feral agitation. His head jerked to the side, watching as the other figure sauntered up to join them.
Excerpted from Blood and Magick by James R. Tuck Copyright © 2013 by James R. Tuck. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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4.5 Stars of Amazing Urban Fantasy! What the heck just happened? Is nothing sacred? Nope, it appears not and you know what…after reading Blood and Magick, I just don’t care! All I can say is DAYUM! This story rolls on out several months after Blood and Silver ends. In my opinion, you cannot read Blood and Magick and get the same WTH response if you don’t enjoy the two prior novels first. I can’t give an opinion on reading the novellas, but I have a feeling they would only improve the experience. Life is calm and relaxing. There is nothing like a quiet evening out with your friends, sharing great times and having a tranquil meal. Your friends are excited about something, but what it is….BAM. Yes, that is the moment the cart bars slam down over your lap and you best hold on tight, because this book is a roller coaster ride to hell. You can almost feel the blood spatter and see the gore. Mr. Tuck doesn’t hold any punches. Like I said, nothing is sacred. I’m not saying this to scare you away. Just be prepared, this hero is a killing machine and the monsters are scary as all get out and evil to boot. Blood and Magick is pure adrenaline reading. For the next, oh ten hours, Deacon and his crew must battle all kinds of creatures. Yes, you read that right, this book spans less than half a day. That is a lot of action packed into a novel. It is nonstop I tell you! I don’t want to give away all the fun, but the central theme for this book is witches, and let me say, they are not of the pointy hat, cackling variety. There are hints of bigger and nastier things to come. How in the world can Mr. Tuck amp this series up more? Beats me! But if anyone can do it, he can. His momentum has built from the very first in the series to this one. My only complaint for the book and the series is Mr. Tuck’s repetitive writing. Be it Deacon’s past or his reactions to situations. This character is amazing and I feel that the repeating of the same emotions and responses takes away from his awesomeness. This offense is minor, but notable to me. For a romance loving girl, the change of pace is amazing. The pacing is fast, the action is bloody and the characters are engaging. I never knew who was going to go down next in the fight, making the unpredictability of the plot, flat out top notch. Mr. Tuck is a fantastic author, an amazing story weaver and a person to watch. Blood and Magick is another winner!
Decon Chalk has lost his family to monsters and magic. Now he and a mismatched group of believers are fighting for their lives and the lives of everyone around them. Hidden enemies, demons, witches, vampires, all wait in the dark for their chance to let malevolent and wicked powers rule. This time Decon Chalk is teamed up with a government agency. Unsure who he can call friend, he relies on his core team to watch his back. Three witches have come to take the power of children, children Decon loves and protects. He will stop at nothing to keep the kids from harm and stop the witches from opening the world up to more evil. This is my first book in the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter series. I was thrilled with this new and fresh series where evil is still evil and even trying to use it for good corrupts your intentions in the end. The plot is dark, action packed and filled with violence that you would expect dealing with the beings from hell. Sacrifices and agonizing decisions are made that will ultimately destroy strong friendships. Lots of fighting, a ultimate evil, and a little sex make Blood and Magick a wonderful dark action adventure. This ARC copy of Blood and Magick was given to me by Kensington Publishing Corp. in exchange for a honest review. Publish Date March 4, 2013.
What a ride! This was balls to the walls from the first page! What a sick mind you have James Tuck and I am so happy that you share that sickness with us. PLEASE keep giving us more Deacon. Oh, and by the way, HURRY UP! I'm starting to go through withdrawals already! Thanks for all you do!
I enjoyed this Deacon Chalk novel very much. Much faster paced than Blood and Silver. Keep them coming Mr. Tuck. I am hooked.
Action from start to finish! 4.5/5.0 Book source ~ Many thanks to Kensington for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Deacon Chalk is an Occult Bounty Hunter taking care of the monsters so they don’t eat people. When a trio of witches comes to town and wants the Blood of the Trinity, the special blood belonging to mixed shapeshifter triplets, all hell breaks loose. The triplets should never have been born with a werelion for a dad and a weredog for a mom, but there they are, weirder than all get out and apparently badly wanted by the Wrath of Baphomet, no doubt for nepharious purposes that will be very horrific for humans. It’s up to Deacon and his crew to stop them, but he never suspects the evil selfishness hidden amongst those he trusts. Once again James R. Tuck starts a book off by burning rubber off the starting line roaring at high speeds down the stretch and around the curves until crossing the finishing line tires squealing and smoke billowing up as the car does a 360 in a fancy flourishing end. In other words, don’t blink or you might miss some action. Deacon gets some help from an unexpected quarter in the form of a government agent. Whether it will prove to be a continuous positive help remains to be seen in future books. Personally, I like Agent Heck and hope he sticks around. There is also loss and betrayal in this book. I think Deacon made a mistake when dealing with Larson and I have a feeling that is going to come back and bite him in the ass big time. One thing that kept this from being a 5 star for me is Deacon himself. He is dead set against magic, calling it all bad yet he doesn’t hesitate to use the magic in himself when the situation calls for it. Everything isn’t always black and white and I’d like to see Deacon realize that or risk being a hypocrite. He admits that not all shapeshifters are bad, so he needs to take that extra step with magic. The other thing that kept this from being a 5 star is the repetition. It’s easy to see that James R. Tuck is a fan of the Anita Blake series, but I would hate to see Deacon become a one-dimensional character like Anita, have pages and pages of filler about what everyone looks like or what they are wearing, rehash ad nauseum every detail that happened in previous books or have the wheels fall off the plot in the middle of the story. I’m begging Tuck not to fall into the pattern that LKH has fallen into because I already love Deacon. I’m heart-broken over the crappy writing LKH has churned out recently and I certainly don’t want to see the same from Tuck. So far, so good though. I’m still 100% with Deacon and looking forward to seeing what happens next.
I am almost done with installment 3 of this series and I don't want it to end! James Tuck develops his characters well and makes it easy to visualize all the characters. I look forward to more!
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Michelle L. Olson: *ARC received from NetGalley I've been called 'a guys' girl' on more than one occasion because of my tastes... I'm a sports junkie, the more things that blow up or people that get killed during my movie choices the better, and I am constantly on the prowl for books that disturb me or are dark enough to make me chuckle evilly and mutter a proud "hell yeah!". Well, James's DEACON CHALK series delivers and then some! :) I have loved this series from book .5, and am a proud James R. Tuck fangirl. Immediately upon finishing this installment my first impression words were: "Wow James! They just keep getting better. This installment was even darker, grittier, more action packed, violent, snarky, & emotional than the 1st two, and dare I say... yes, very SEXY! :). Everything changed in this book, and SO many doors have been opened for the series. If it's even possible, I am even more excited for the next book than I was for this one." Blood and Magick picks up right after the climactic events of Blood and Silver, wherein Deacon is enjoying some downtime with his crew. Like usual though, it can't last, and all hell breaks loose. There are some psychotic witches and wizards trying to kill them all, and an entire restaurant and movie theater are blown to kingdom come (and that's just in the first couple chapters!) During the remainder of this adrenaline fueled joyride, Deacon and the gang must battle all kinds of creatures and tons of personal demons besides. There is more action than you know what to do with, betrayal, mystery, romance, heartbreak, and much, much more. At one point (as I was cackling evilly and muttering my "hell yeahs") I wondered how much more I could take as a reader. Then I shook my head and thought, Bring It! and I'm sure James will do just that. There are hints of bigger and badder things to come, and even though it's hard to imagine how the series could possibly be any more intense than it already is, I personally believe that James is up for the challenge and I cannot wait to see what's next! This series is a unique, fascinating and captivating thrill ride. The preternaturals are not sexy, they all want to rip your face off, most can turn your stomach with a glimpse, and based on Deacon's convictions, there is no gray area - magick is bad and bad is evil. The heroes are damaged but lovable, the setting is believable despite the utter fantasy, there are tons of surprises, and despite the bits of closure we receive as the arc progresses, I'm not entirely sure that ANYONE really wins in the end. LITERAL ADDICTION gives Blood and Magick 4 1/2 Skulls and highly recommends this series to readers looking for a dark, gritty, action-packed read with heroes you can't help but love and villains you love to loathe. NOTE: I do suggest that readers read the eNovellas that accompany the series in the order that they are meant to be read with the full-length novels. While they're not absolutely integral to the comprehension of the series as a whole, they do fill in holes and make the entire experience just that much more enjoyable. More James, more!! :)
Could not put it down.. this book was awesome ..