Read an Excerpt
“Would you look at this place? Equal parts lust and desperation. It’s fantastic.”
Eden grimaced. She’d been trying to pay as little attention to Darrak as possible, but it wasn’t easy. The demon was very hard to ignore.
“It’s a singles’ club,” she replied. “What did you expect?”
“This, of course. But it’s even better than I thought it would be.”
“You have a strange sense of what better is.”
A tall man holding a bottle of Corona tapped Eden on her shoulder. When she turned to look at him he leered approvingly at her. “Who are you talking to, sexy lady?”
She cleared her throat. “Nobody. Just talking to myself. I do that frequently now that I’ve stopped taking my medication.”
“Uh . . . okay.” He slowly backed away from her and went to hit on someone else. Someone sane.
Darrak snorted. “Busted.”
She felt her face redden. She had to remember that no one but her could see or hear Darrak at the moment. He was her demon. Her inner demon. After all, Eden Riley was the current cover girl for demonic possession.
This time she spoke under her breath so no one would hear. “I thought you said you were going to keep quiet once we got in here?”
“I lied. Besides, you need me to coach you through this, don’t you? I thought you said you’re a bit out of your element.”
He was right about that.
“Okay, so coach me. Now what should I do?”
“Walk over to the bar, order a drink, and scan the room. I know he’s around here somewhere. I just have to spot him.”
“You still haven’t told me how you found this guy. How were you able to contact anyone in your, uh, current condition?”
“I have my ways.”
Well, that was cryptic. But instead of grilling him about it, Eden walked across the floor of the dark nightclub, Luxuria. It was very upscale, with gleaming black floors and indigo interior. A cascade of pretty sparkling light moved slowly across the hundreds of faces and bodies in attendance. But the lust and desperation Darrak mentioned seemed to permeate the entire building, giving it a distinctly unpleasant ambiance Eden was able to pick up with her subtle sixth sense.
As she walked, she tried not to twist her ankle in the four-inch stiletto heels Darrak strongly suggested she wear tonight. Her legs felt cold in her short skirt. She normally didn’t like to show off so much skin, especially this late in October. However, a quick scan of the club made her feel that she was practically in casual wear compared to the other women-on-the-prowl. They, however, didn’t share her inner accessory.
No one could see the demon, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t very much there, currently sharing her scantily clad body.
Why wasn’t Eden freaking out over the fact that she was possessed by a demon? She had. Many times. She’d since realized that no matter how much freaking out she did, it didn’t do much to change the situation.
Three hundred years ago, Darrak had barely survived a witch’s death curse. It had destroyed his physical form, leaving only his essence behind. He’d existed for three centuries unseen and mostly unheard by the hosts he’d been forced to possess.
That is, until he’d possessed Eden.
For some reason—and it was probably because she was a little bit psychic and had been for as long as she could remember—he was able to feed off of her energy to communicate with her at night in her head and take physical form during daylight hours.
Until they found a way to break his curse and return him to full power so he could reform a permanent body, they were stuck like this. And screaming about it wasn’t going to do anything except make her throat hurt.
There was someone in this club tonight who could help them. A specialist in the affairs of Others—aka the “otherworldly”—who would know where they’d need to go for curse removal. Whether this person was human or not was something the demon hadn’t yet shared with her.
Demons, witches, fairies, and werewolves, Eden thought as she scanned the crowd of seemingly normal mingling singles. Welcome to my new life. I definitely need a drink.
The bartender eyed her when she slid onto a tall stool. “What’s your pleasure?”
“Uh . . . I’ll have a white wine. Thanks.”
“That’s so boring,” Darrak commented internally. “A white wine? Could you order a more generic drink?”
She cleared her throat and tried to keep the smile fixed on her face.
“Sure thing,” the bartender said, quickly uncapping a bottle of house white and pouring her a glass.
“Let me guess. You’re not a fancy cocktail kind of girl,” Darrak continued, even though she wished he’d just shut up for a moment. The demon hadn’t had much conversation in three centuries so now he was a regular chat factory. It was a good thing he had such a nice voice—deep, warm, and usually filled with wry amusement at the human world he witnessed through Eden’s eyes.
“Not particularly,” she replied, dryly, when the bartender moved further down the bar and out of earshot. “The little paper umbrellas can be so intimidating.”
“It’s all fun and games till someone pokes their eye out. So you’ve found something you like, and you stick with it.”
“Makes things very simple.”
“But how will you ever know if there’s a drink out there that might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted?”
She shrugged a shoulder. “I’m perfectly content with my white wine.”
“Content,” he repeated, and the one word sounded like a pronouncement on Eden’s boring life. At least, up until she got possessed. Things now were difficult, awkward, and frequently dangerous, but they couldn’t exactly be described as boring. Too bad, really.
There was a wall-length mirror behind the bar that allowed her to see both herself and the club behind her. Her gaze didn’t go to her long, bone-straight auburn hair, green eyes lined with smoky liner, or plunging neckline that showed off too much cleavage to be considered remotely modest, but instead to the necklace she wore. The pendant was light gray with darker veins running through it. It looked like a two-inch oval piece of polished marble. She absently ran her fingertips over its cool surface.
“Don’t worry.” The previous amused and mocking edge to Darrak’s voice was gone and replaced by a serious tone. “It’s still practically white.”
She tried to smile at her reflection. “You’re a very good liar, you know that?”
“I have been told that once or twice before.”
The amulet showed how damaged her soul was after having recently come into some . . . powers. Dark powers. She was now officially a “black witch”—a woman who had black magic at her fingertips to use whenever she wanted.
Using this kind of magic destroyed a soul piece by piece, little by little, eating away at one’s ability to tell good from evil. The best solution—the only solution—was not to use the magic at all. Eden had used it just once and her soul was damaged from it. Just a shade darker, but it would never be completely pure again.
Eden could feel it now, only a short mental reach away—a bottomless ocean of power that itched to be used. It was like doing heroin. She’d heard that you became an immediate junkie the first time you did that drug.
Ditto black magic.
She hadn’t told Darrak about this constant urge she now had to dip into the dark well of power. He was adamant that she never use it again, no matter what—it was too dangerous for her. He felt a great deal of guilt about her current gray-stoned predicament, which was understandable. After all, it was his fault she was now officially a black witch.
Having sex with the demon had—hocus-pocus—accidentally turned her into one.
She chewed her bottom lip and tasted her red lip-gloss as the memory slid through her mind of what had happened between them.
Well . . . Darrak did have solid form during the day. And that form was a mighty fine one.
What could she say? It had happened. Once.
But it could never happen again. Ever. Not unless she wanted to put more of her soul at risk. And she didn’t. She was very fond of her soul, even in its current, slightly dingy state.
“Do you see him yet?” she asked, taking her mind off other hazardous subjects. She turned away from her reflection to look at the faces in the crowd, slowing scanning the width of the room.
“Not yet. This place is packed. I think every desperate single person in the city is here tonight.”
Eden took a shaky sip of her wine. It tasted bland and, to be honest, a bit boring. Not that she’d ever admit it.
“I don’t believe it,” a voice said to her left. “Eden Riley. Long time no see.”
She turned, and her eyes widened with surprise. “You’re kidding me. Graham . . . Graham Davis?”
The attractive dark-haired man grinned at her. “You remember me.”
A matching smile blossomed on her face. “High school was only, oh, a dozen years ago.”
“Seems like two dozen sometimes.”
Darrak sighed internally. “Eden, you need to keep your attention on the room so I can spot my contact. Priorities, remember?”
Obviously the demon didn’t realize how long it had been since she’s seen Graham. It felt like forever. She had no idea why they hadn’t stayed in touch. After high school, Graham had gone backpacking in Europe, she’d gone off to university, and time had simply passed. Too bad, really. Graham had been one of her very best friends.
Graham’s gaze moved down the front of her. “You’re looking fantastic. Just as gorgeous as you were back in grade twelve.”
She grinned. “Right back at you. And that’s a great suit.”
Graham looked down at his gray Armani. “I dress to impress.”
“Eden . . .” Darrak said tightly. “I know we’re in a lustful, desperate singles’ club, but that’s no reason to let this guy hit on you.”
Darrak thought Graham was hitting on her? She tried not to smile at the thought. As attractive as Graham Davis was, and as good friends as they’d been back when they were teenagers, she and Graham had never hooked up and never would. It could have had a little something to do with Graham being gay.
But Darrak didn’t know that, which would explain the jealous edge to his words.
The thought that another man’s potential interest would make Darrak jealous, despite their mutually-agreed-to platonic partnership was . . . interesting.
But it only made things more complicated.
“You really shouldn’t be here, Eden,” Graham said.
That got her full attention. “I shouldn’t?”
He shook his head, taking a moment to scan their surroundings. “If you’re looking to meet someone new, there are better places than this to find someone. It’s dangerous here.”
“Doesn’t look all that dangerous to me. Besides, what are you doing here?” She raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t seem like your kind of singles’ club.”
His mouth curled up on one side. “You don’t think I can meet my future bride here?”
She smiled back at him. “Somehow, I doubt it.”
Graham’s grin widened. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s fate, us seeing each other again. Maybe I should leave my old life behind and you should marry me and we’ll have lots of gorgeous babies together.”
“I hate this guy,” Darrak said. “Eden, letting this blast from your past drool on you is not productive to our goal tonight. Let’s carry on, shall we?”
“Sounds like a perfect life,” she said to Graham. “Shall we set a date?”
Graham held the smile a moment longer before it faded at the edges. “Seriously though, I think you should take off. This place . . . I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s very wrong here.”
She frowned. “Which means what?”
“I’m doing a story on this club for the Toronto Star.”
“You’re a journalist? That’s so great. It’s what you wanted to be back in the day.”
He nodded. “Investigative journalist. And I’ve been investigating this club. There have been six women who’ve gone missing in the area, all of whom were regulars here since Luxuria opened for business last month. I feel like there might be a predator at work, and”—he shook his head—“I just have this strange hunch that it’s directly related to the club itself.”
The thought made a chill run down her spine. “Are the police investigating, too?”
“The disappearances, yes. The club itself, no. The missing women are only loosely connected to this place and they don’t see the connection as keenly as I do. There’s nothing yet that ties it directly to the club except for a gut feeling on my part. If I find anything to substantiate my hunch, this place would be shut down in a heartbeat.”
“So you’re telling me to be careful.”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.” Graham touched her arm. “Consider it a request from an old friend. Stay safe. Even though it’s a big, lonely city and it’s nice to find someone to be with, I figure it’s way better to be alone and alive than alone and dead.”
A chill went down Eden’s spine. “You think the women are dead?”
“That’s what I’m here to figure out, and I’m not leaving until I do.” He cocked an eyebrow. “And, you know, if I win a journalism award along the way then it’s all the better. It’s going to be a great story.”
Eden reached into her purse and pulled out a business card. “Here. Take this.”
He did and looked at it. “You’re a private investigator?”
“I . . . well, I own half of Triple-A Investigations. It’s just a small office on the outskirts of the city. I assist someone else, mostly, but what I’m saying is if you need some help, I’d be happy to pitch in any way I can.”
Graham smiled and tucked the card into the pocket of his jacket. “I’ll definitely keep that in mind. It was good seeing you again, Eden.”
“You, too. Good luck with the story.”
“I’ll take all the luck I can get.” He touched her face and shook his head. “Twelve years.”
“I know. And yet we still have that youthful glow.”
“I turned thirty last week. The glow is starting to fade.” He laughed. “Let’s not make it so long next time, okay? Good friends—people you can really trust—they’re hard to find.”
“You have my card. We’ll do coffee and catch up?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Graham leaned over and gave Eden a quick kiss. She felt Darrak’s presence tense inside of her, even though the kiss was only one of friendship.
However . . . something else happened with the contact. A sensation of dread, of fear, of darkness swept over her. As soon as it was there, before she could grab hold of it and analyze what she’d felt, it was gone. That was how her psychic abilities usually were. Totally useless.
“I’ll give you a call tomorrow, Eden. Promise,” Graham said before moving off into the crowd, which seemed to swallow him whole in a scattering of light and mingling bodies.
“I hate that guy,” Darrak said. “Loathe him. And I can’t believe you let him kiss you. I almost made you slap him, but luckily for him he didn’t try to slip you the tongue. It’s obvious to me that he’s only after one thing from you and—”
“He’s gay,” Eden said simply.
“Oh.” There was a pause. “I totally knew that.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“No, actually I didn’t. Huh.”
“What do you think about the six missing women?” Eden asked quietly as she sipped on her glass of white wine and scanned the crowd looking for Darrak’s contact. She felt disturbed by what Graham had told her and from her strange psychic flash.
“All I know is it has nothing to do with us. But he’s right . . . sometimes people looking for love will find more than they bargain for. Places like this leave certain people exposed, willing victims driven by lust and desperation. Which, of course, is the vibe I feel here.”
“Which you approve of.”
“My incubus days are long behind me, but I still find it interesting how many of them are so quick to mistake lust for love in a desperate attempt not to be alone.”
She didn’t particularly like the reminder that Darrak had once been an incubus, a demon who fed off the sexual energy of humans. However, he’d later been promoted to “archdemon,” which, actually, was much scarier. Luckily for her, he’d changed a lot since being cursed.
“I liked being alone,” she said. “I was perfectly content being alone before you arrived.”
“Were you?” Darrak’s tone turned amused again. “Or maybe I was the answer to your silent wish to have somebody in your bleak, lonely life. You’re much too attractive to be a spinster.”
“I think there’s a big difference between having a live-in boyfriend and being possessed by a demon who will slowly but surely drain me of all of my energy until I’m dead.”
She hadn’t meant for it to sound quite so blunt, but the fact was, if they didn’t find a solution to their problem, Darrak’s demonic presence would eventually kill her. She knew in the three hundred-plus years he’d been cursed, he’d been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people he’d possessed. He’d tried his best to chose hosts that deserved death—murderers and other vile humans. But, still. Knowing she was possessed with someone who was essentially a metaphysical leech—even though he was a very attractive leech during daylight hours—didn’t help her rest easy at night.
“We’ll find a solution,” Darrak said firmly. “I swear we will.”
Eden downed the rest of her wine in one gulp, then dug into her purse to pay for it. “If you say so.”
“I do.” There was a pause. “And speaking of our solution, I just saw him.”
Darrak’s voice now held a thread of anxiety. This was important, after all. If they didn’t find an answer to their mutual problem . . . well, she may as well invest in a nice gravesite with a view and he’d be forced to find his next unwilling victim.
“Over by the dance floor. To the right. There’s a table with three blonde women and the bald man staring at their breasts is the one we’re looking for.”
“Charming,” she said, keeping her voice low. “He’s human?”
“I think so. He’s the personal assistant to the local wizard master. The wizard master’s the one we really need to get to.”
“Wizard master?” she repeated skeptically. “What is this, Dungeons & Dragons?”
“That’s a game, right?”
“This isn’t a game.”
No, it definitely wasn’t. Wizard master it was, then. “So what do I do?”
“Go over and say I sent you. He’ll know who I am and what you’re here for. The dress you’re wearing is just for him. He’s very fond of the ladies, as you can see, but he has a special place in his libido for redheads just like you. We’re golden. But if that little pervert touches you, I’ll probably rip his head off. Just an FYI. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
“Try to restrain yourself.”
“This is it, Eden. We’re close. I feel like this is going to be the solution to our problem.”
“I sure hope you’re right.” Because otherwise they were out of options.
She slid off the chair and adjusted her skirt that had crept up higher on her thighs. Then she forced herself to be brave and cross the floor, keeping the average-looking human in sight just in case he tried to magically disappear. It could happen.
Only fifteen feet away now. Twelve. Ten.
“Wait a second,” Darrak said suddenly. “Eden, stop walking.”
She froze in place. “What is it?”
“I’m not sure. I thought I saw someone I recognized.”
“Look over toward the left, just a quick glance so I can check.”
She did what he asked, sweeping her eyes slowly across a sea of faces. “Who is it?”
The demon swore.
Eden waited, every muscle in her body now tense.
“We need to get out of here right now,” Darrak said tightly.
“But I thought you said we need to talk to the wizard master’s assistant.” She looked over at him laughing with the three women, oblivious to her. Only ten feet away. They were so close.
“No. This isn’t the right time. Leave, Eden. Now, before I make you.”
“But why are you—?”
The next moment, she found herself forcibly turned around toward the exit. If motivated enough, the demon was able to control her body—or parts of it, anyhow. Since Eden didn’t enjoy losing control of her bodily functions, so to speak, she’d set up rules that prohibited him from ever doing that. At the moment, though, instead of anger she felt panic well inside her at his unexpected reaction.
“I’m serious,” Darrak said. “You need to get us the hell out of here right now.”
There was something in his voice that made her decide not to argue any further. Eden began walking toward the door. She exited and put one foot in front of the other on her way to her car.
“Are you going to tell me what that was about?” she asked.
“I saw someone I used to know. Someone I haven’t seen for over three hundred years, since before I was cursed.”
“Who was it?” Her hand shook as she tried to get her key into the lock of her rusted Toyota.
“He’s an archdemon like me.”
Eden inhaled sharply. “Does he know you’re here?”
“I don’t know. But coincidences are usually fate giving us a kick in the ass. All I know is he’s dangerous. He wouldn’t know what happened to me with the curse. And he wouldn’t understand that I’m . . . well, I’m different than I used to be.”
This was shorthand for saying Darrak used to be demonically evil and now—thanks to being infused with humanity after possessing humans for hundreds of years—he wasn’t.
Which meant this other demon would be everything Darrak once was—powerful, destructive, scary, without conscience or empathy. Someone she’d want to avoid in every way possible. “What would this demon do if he found out what happened to you?”
“I’m not sure.”
She shivered as she got in the car and turned the key in the ignition. “So this demon . . . he’s an old enemy of yours?”
“No,” Darrak said wryly. “Actually, he was my best friend.”