The man of her dreams might be the cause of her nightmares.
Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn’t at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and sexy-as- sin incubus searching for his sister, convinced Abby has the key to the succubus’s whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invade her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish, as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance.
As she is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, Abby realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there’s no one she can trust to save her.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Cat piss and cabbages.
It was the only way to describe it, really. Even on a good day, the bookstore smelled like a mix of dust and dirty feet. The AC had coughed its last an hour ago, leaving me the proud employee of an ad hoc sauna. A drip above the lintel had forced me to keep the door closed to avoid a miniature lake from forming on the warping hardwood floor. The remainder of the morning was doomed to be a soggy, stinky mess.
The weathered sign hanging from the shutter outside read PROSPECTUS INTELLIGENTSIA TABERNUS. I called it the Pit for short. Probably unkind, but God knows the place reeked like one this morning. Still, the stale odor didn’t seem to stop my steady stream of customers from leaving wet trails and dripping umbrellas in their wakes, though I suspected their visits were more of an effort to get out of the rain than driven by any great desire to find a coverless copy of a Dean Koontz novel.
The rain let up just before lunch and with it went the last of my customers, an old man waddling into the wet with a paper sack full of ancient sailing books.
Time for some retro Tom Jones. I loaded up my latest playlist on the silver iPod mounted on the counter and wriggled my way to the front window, tinny speakers blaring. Flipping over the CLOSED FOR LUNCH sign, I mock strutted my way to the minifridge in the storage room for a couple of Cokes and a sandwich, my hips swaying counterpoint. I was half a can and three verses into “She’s a Lady” before the main door creaked open again.
The bells chimed in their plaintive way, somehow cutting through the rumbling growl of the music. A man drifted across the threshold. The grace of his movements caused the hair on the back of my neck to rise. He seemed a shadow, sucking up all the light from the room. The exquisite darkness of his ebony eyes swept over me, primitive and uncompromising. And overdone as all hell. Still. The silken fall of his hair just brushed the top of his shoulders and I’ve always been a sucker for good grooming and potential wangst.
What the hell. I’d bite.
“What’s new, pussycat?” I purred.
“I need to talk to Moira.” The timbre of his words pushed past me, heated and hollow.
“I’m afraid Moira isn’t here.”
His eyes narrowed, the line of his jaw shifting almost imperceptibly. The alarms in the back of my head suddenly went off. I’m not shy, but the thrum of desire that started beating through my veins as he approached the counter wasn’t normal or natural. If this guy was human I’d swear off bacon for a month.
I turned down the music in a futile attempt to distract myself from the elegant curve of his cheekbones and the smooth paleness of his skin. He glided toward me, each rolling step filled with a lazy arrogance. A faint shimmer of silver dusted his hair, fading in the damp light that trickled through the front bay window. I blinked.
He’d been traveling the CrossRoads. I’d never been there myself, but the silver snowflakes were a dead giveaway he’d been moving between worlds.
My smile was polite, but I couldn’t quite keep the stiffness from my voice. “If you’d like, I can take your information and I’ll let her know you stopped by.” I tapped my pencil on the notebook in front of me. He’d asked for Moira by name, not her official title of Protectorate. I was under no obligation to answer his questions, and as far as I was concerned, the less involved I got in the offshoots of Faery politics, the better.
Truthfully, some of the OtherFolk freaked me the hell out, especially when they insisted on walking around in broad daylight like this. For that matter, I didn’t even know what he was. Looks aside, he couldn’t have been a vampire. Even vampires with TouchStones didn’t go walking around at noon. Not like that, anyway. Fae, maybe? Lycanthrope? Oh, what difference did it make? Usually the best policy was to just be polite and wait for them to go away.
That being said, I really hated it when they started trying to magic me up. It’s rude and nothing pissed me off faster than when one of them tried to get in my face about it. I knew they couldn’t always help it, but this guy wasn’t even attempting to tamp it down. Glamour oozed out of him, the magic rolling over me in soft waves of lust. Kinda pleasant in its own way, but distracting as all get out. My mouth tightened; I was suddenly very impatient.
A frown marred his handsome features, and he looked down as though seeing me for the first time. “When will she be back?”
“She’s not here,” I repeated, a hint of annoyance creeping into my tone. I’m not exactly the most outspoken person in the world, but store clerk or not—human or not—I wasn’t some invisible piece of dog shit on the bottom of his shoe either.
“I don’t know when she’ll be back,” I added. The truth of it galled me because I really didn’t. The Faery woman had left nearly four months ago and, except for that last note taped on her office door, I hadn’t heard from her at all. But this guy didn’t need to know that. Hell, none of them needed to know that. I could barely get the OtherFolk to give me the time of day as it was. God only knew what they’d do if they realized Moira wasn’t here to hold them in line. “If you’d like to sample some of her . . . other wares, I’ll be reopening the shop around back from midnight to one A.M.”
“Will you, now?” He stepped closer and I shivered, the quiet power coiling behind the words dancing over my skin.
Sweat beaded on my forehead, cool and clammy. “They don’t call it the Midnight Marketplace for nothing.” I thrust out my chin in subtle challenge, ignoring the rising panic that fluttered at the base of my throat. Piss him off, Abby. That will be brilliant.
His face was quiet and brimming with secrets like a Cheshire cat’s. “You’re her TouchStone, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am,” I agreed pleasantly. “And now that we’ve established the obvious, let’s get back to business. Who are you?”
“Tsk.” He waggled a finger at me, and I rolled my eyes. Something about the gesture was very familiar, but if I’d met him before I couldn’t recall. Then again, I’d only been Moira’s TouchStone for six months and I’d seen an awful lot, much of which had become a muddled mess of fancy sparkles and obscenely beautiful people. Anchoring an OtherFolk to the mortal realm wasn’t an easy—or straightforward—task.
“Fine, I get it. Names have power and all that, but it makes it a bit hard to leave a message, don’t you think?” I pointed out.
A flicker of a smile showed on that perfect mouth as his gaze roamed about the bookstore. The store itself was fairly plain, but it had high arches, a giant stone fireplace with overstuffed cushions on the floor, and thick crown molding around the top where the paint was peeling off. I had told Moira the whole thing needed remodeling, or at least some fresh paint, but she insisted the place had “character.” Shabby chic, maybe. Sounded like laziness to me, but whatever. It wasn’t my store. I just worked there.
The man wandered through the stacks for a moment. I seized the opportunity to take his measure, or at least attempt to stare at his ass, which was currently encased in delectable black leather pants. Or I assumed it was, based on what I could see below the fall of his duster. Had it been anyone else wearing it, I would have said they were trying way too hard, but he was working it pretty well so I gave him a pass.
The duster hung open, inviting an easy view of his chest, a white T-shirt sticking to the muscled ridges of his abdomen. Definitely my type. His dark eyes flicked sideways at me, the edges crinkling in silent laughter, and I shrugged, not bothering to hide the fact that I’d been checking him out. Hell, he’d probably been expecting it.
He lingered over a coverless paperback about a French vampire. It was one of those overblown stories that had been really popular about ten years ago, complete with ruffling white shirts, long dark ringlets, and outrageous accents. Even a duster or two, actually. I’d thought it marvelous and horribly sexy when I’d read it, my sixteen-year-old heart near fit to bursting at the idea of some dashing angel of the night feeding from my inner thigh.
The reality had been a whole lot messier. It didn’t involve my inner thigh either.
He blew the dust off the pages, snorting softly when he read the title. I’d always thought Moira had an absolutely craptacular taste in books. From the looks of it, he agreed. My opinion of him rose a notch.
“It has a happy ending, you know,” I said.
His brow furrowed, lips pursed at me, before his attention flicked back to the book. “Does it?”
“All the good romances do.”
“There are no happy endings. And vampires are overrated, bloodsucking tools.”
“Can’t argue with that.” I sighed. “But the vamp in this one runs off with an emotionally constipated angel, so I suppose it all works out in the end. If you don’t like that sort of thing, maybe I can interest you in one of these great ‘how-to-massage’ books from the seventies. It has pictures, if that makes it easier for you to understand.”
He ignored me, his expression cryptic. “Very clever of her.” He tapped the book with his fingers.
“Clever of who?”
“Moira. Hiding in plain sight like this.” His hand made an eloquent gesture as if to encompass the room. “And all thanks to her little mortal TouchStone, so willing to throw herself away—and for what?” He pointed at me. “Rumors of a magic iPod and seven years of agelessness?”
I bristled. “Enchanted iPod, thank you very much. And what I’m willing to throw myself away for is absolutely no concern of yours.” The barb had taken, however, and I looked down at the counter before that little sliver of regret could show itself.
He chuckled softly. “Not as good as you had hoped, is it?”
“Neither is your outfit. Did you learn to dress that way in Leather for Bad Boys one-oh-one?” My upper lip curled in derision, suddenly bold in knowing my place. “Sounds to me like someone doesn’t have a TouchStone of his own.” I noted the time with a little sound of pity. 11:57 A.M. “How are those CrossRoads treating you?” I asked. At this time of day, any other folk traveling the CrossRoads sans TouchStone would have a helluva time.
“Not nearly well enough, apparently.” His gaze met mine. “Shall I show you?”
I hesitated, watching those dark eyes flare gold with power. For a moment, I was pinned beneath them, drowning in the sudden promise of things best left to the protective shadow of night. It left me raw and aching; my hips trembled with the urge to submit to him. I blinked and realized he had moved closer.
I stood my ground. Maybe if I didn’t move, he’d back down and I’d pass whatever preternatural bullshit test he was running.
Or maybe I was in big trouble.
His cheeks curved up in amusement as he reached out to run a lightly callused thumb over my lower lip. “Pretty Dreamer,” he crooned. He leaned close to my face so that his exquisite pout lay within inches of my lips. An electric jolt shot from my breasts to my groin, sliding over my flesh with wicked intent.
Yup. Big trouble.
I swallowed hard, my eyes closing of their own volition. Inside, my brain was working overtime to come up with something—anything—to say, but all I could manage was a strangled groan. I was helpless against the rolling wave of pleasure pulsing low in my belly.
The room began to spin, and I staggered backward. My foot slipped on a loose pile of paper, and I grabbed the edge of the counter. The world tilted with a familiar lurch, and my jaw clamped down against the vertigo.
He captured my wrist, fingers digging hard enough to make the bones ache. Fire lanced all the way to my elbow as my eyes snapped open with a cry. The arrogant stranger lunged over the counter to steady me, his face ashen. Whatever he’d intended, this wasn’t it. The thought was somewhat comforting.
“Hold on, Abby,” he whispered.
I had only a moment to wonder how he knew my name before my vision faded into blackness.
. . . his fingers were sliding down my thigh, his voice husky with whispered promises as his tongue slipped into my mouth. I spread myself beneath him in wanton desperation, filled with the ache of well-used flesh. He moved over me, inside me, through me. I was losing myself in the golden thrum of his eyes as he thrust into me. Somewhere in the distance was the chiming of bells, and my bones vibrated with the implication. I fell away, wrapped in his scent and the dim edge of twilight as something snapped into place . . .
“Enough.” His voice reverberated like a thunderclap, abruptly breaking the . . . trance? Dream?
“And here I pegged you as the shy, unassuming type.” I pulled back from him as the darkness receded, gagging at another wave of dizziness. Admittedly, I hadn’t taken my seizure meds that morning, but whether the reaction was caused by my condition or his influence didn’t matter. It hadn’t felt like a seizure anyway. Balance slowly regained, I glanced up at him, and slid my hands into my pockets to hide my trembling fingers. “What the hell was that?”
Surprise flickered across his face, quickly replaced by something a bit more appraising. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “It wasn’t supposed to happen.”
His gaze lingered on me, somehow managing to be impudent and measured at the same time, but the overconfident cockiness was gone.
“Wow. I find myself strangely not reassured by that.” I crossed my arms, hunching my back protectively. I was Moira’s TouchStone, by God, marked by a sacred OtherFolk bond that should be beyond contestation and this asshat had just violated every precept that I was aware of.
I was outraged.
I was livid, even.
I was hopelessly out of my league.
The golden edges of his eyes faded away. “Are you all right?”
The sudden change in his demeanor left me suspicious. “Right as rain. Why the . . . you know?” I tapped my head and tried not to blush.
“Side effect. I’m afraid I got a little carried away.” He eyed me cautiously, all peaches-and-cream polite. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“Understatement of the week.” I reached out, clinging to the edges of the counter like a barnacle at high tide. “And how the hell did you know who I was?”
His mouth twitched. “Name tag.”
I shut my eyes, cheeks burning. “Where’s a nice bottomless pit when you need one?”
A sharp rap sounded from outside and I started. The figure at the door was young and female and far too perky for a rainy day.
“Shoo,” I hissed at the stranger, uncertain of how much attention he would attract. “Shouldn’t you be moving along now? The CrossRoads will be closing any minute.”
He shrugged and leaned against the wall, a wolfish grin on his face. He raised a finger to his lips as he motioned toward the door.
I rolled my eyes. Leave it to me to attract the tall, dark, and obnoxious ones. I pointed at the sign in the window, hoping whoever it was would cut me some slack and come back after my uninvited guest had left. No such luck.
“Wow.” A head poked through the doorway. “It totally stinks in here. You should open the door or something.” Blond, top-heavy, and rather leggy on the whole, she looked like she’d wandered off the set of a Girls Gone Wild audition, wrapped up in denim cutoffs and Skechers. Her eyes were wide and imploring, the color of warm hazelnuts. Innocent.
“Ah, yes,” I said, ignoring the soft snort coming from the corner. “You know, we’re kind of closed right now.”
“Yeah, well, I need some information. Do you have any books on Celtic myths?” She breezed her way in and trotted up to the counter with the self-serving air of the young and stupid.
I chewed on the question, a low throb at the base of my skull signaling an oncoming headache. Or a seizure. Crapshoot as to which one was going to come first. I wasn’t going to get rid of the headache, but I could eliminate the pain in the ass standing in front of me. “There should be a copy of Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men back behind the mirror. It would be a good place to start. Unless you’re looking for something specific?”
“Well . . . uh. Actually, I was kinda hoping you might have something a little more . . . real?”
I raised a brow at this. Truth be told, I did; I had books that would damn near bite your nose off if you put them too close to your face. But those were locked away in the back, not for public consumption. Moira had drilled that into my head often enough, but I would have figured it out on my own. I’m lazy, but I’m not a moron.
“Real?” I mimicked.
“Yeah.” She leaned in so I could see the roots of her hair. Her voice dropped to a conspiring whisper. “You know . . . OtherFolk?” She turned her head to take in the quantity of shelves. “You have a lot of books here.” Her gaze became slightly unfocused as it slid past the corner, and I realized my visitor must be hiding behind a Glamour.
“I’m not quite sure what you mean,” I said, deciding to play dumb.
“Oh, I get it.” She winked at me. “It’s okay. Brandon sent me. Said you would set me straight. Something about TouchStones?”
“Brandon,” I repeated, my voice careful and quiet. I would have to have a little chat with that sometimes furry bartender. I don’t mind helping out, but I didn’t have time for another one of his strays. “And just how did you run into him?”
“I tried to get into the Hallows last night.” She flushed beneath my stare. “Everyone knows this town is full of weird shit. Why shouldn’t I be a part of it?”
“Did you find your way there by yourself?” I phrased it casually, but my estimation of her slowly began to rise when she nodded. There was a pretty heavy Glamour on the OtherFolk nightclub, geared toward warning away an ignorant mortal public. If she’d had the determination to push her way through it . . .
Still. Even if she was right about people being aware, I wasn’t going to go shouting it from the rooftops. The OtherFolk guard their secrets well. Spilling them was a really awesome way to end up on someone’s private shitlist. And that didn’t even include the one currently laughing his ass off in the corner.
“Listen, you don’t want to get involved with them. Trust me. It messes with your head and the only thing you’ll have when you’re done is a big pile of regret.” I held up my hand to forestall what would surely be a whining protest. “However, seeing as Brandon sent you my way, I’ll throw you a bone.” I resisted the impulse to giggle at my own pun, though something told me the werewolf wouldn’t have approved. “What did you say your name was?”
“Katy.” One perfectly waxed brow arched, daring me to make an issue of it. It would have been more impressive if the expression on her face wasn’t flitting between hope and suspicion.
“How old are you, Katy?”
“Seventeen.” I glanced over at the mirror in the corner, as though to argue with my reflection. Seventeen. Jesus. Had I ever been that eager to throw myself off the cliff? I let my gaze go slightly fuzzy, the blue of my eyes fading into the glass of the mirror, the pale, freckled face curving away into some far-off piece of my past.
My reflection stared back without blinking. The mirror itself had always given me the creeps. It was carved of black wood with silver gilt edges, on a curved stand with a wide base. There was nothing particularly ominous about it at the moment, just my face peering from its cold depths, familiar and smooth. I shook my head and turned back to the girl.
Girl, hell. I wasn’t all that much older than she was, but her innocence nearly overwhelmed me. I was jaded and weary standing next to her like that. Funny what a difference a few seconds can make on your outlook. One moment you’re cruising along enjoying the sweet carelessness of youth, and the next you’ve got a gimpy leg and a metal plate in your head, and everything you’ve ever known is in shambles. Life can be a real bitch, I guess.
“All right. Come with me.”
She let out a muffled squeal and followed me behind the mirror. “Are there any here now? You know. Watching us?”
My hand hesitated inches away from the book I wanted. The stranger’s merriment wrapped around me like a ribbon, and I bit down hard on the inside of my cheek. “Oh, no. I don’t think so. It’s nearly noon, after all. They don’t like being caught out in the daylight hours.” I glanced behind me, avoiding the corner by the door. Her mouth twisted into a scowl of disappointment, and I gave her a wry shrug as I pulled out a volume of poetry. “Believe it or not, in a lot of ways they’re just like us. It’s not like they’re hiding in your closet or under your bed.” I paused. “Or at least, not most of them.”
Her upper lip curled as she looked at the book. “What’s this?”
“A book. And you’re going to read it.” I flipped through several pages, marking them with a couple of spare Post-its from my pocket before handing it to her.
She stared at me and then glanced at the first marked page. After a moment of silence she began to read aloud:
O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset wi’ thorns and briers?
That is the Path of Righteousness,
Though after it but few inquires.
And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
That leis across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the Road to Heaven.
And see ye not yon bonny road
That winds about the fernie brae?
That is the Road to fair Elfand,
Where thou and I this night maun gae.
But, Thomas, ye shall haud your tongue
Whatever ye may hear or see;
For speak ye word in Elfyn-land,
Ye’ll ne’er win back to your ain countrie.
Her brow furrowed impatiently. “Yes, yes, I know this part. I’ve read this before, you know.”
“Then you should have some of the answers you’re looking for.” She looked at me quizzically. I sighed and went on. “How many paths are there?”
I closed my eyes. “Yes. What are they?”
“Faeryland, Heaven, Hell. Yeah, I get it. Light Path, Dark Path, and Middle Earth or whatever. What does it have to do with the CrossRoads?”
“Everything,” I said quietly. “Thomas stood at the CrossRoads with the Faery Queen and he chose her. Not the angels. Not the daemons. The Fae.”
“And that means?”
“The Fae are in control. Or at least they have the most influence, the most to gain from TouchStones. They are the Keepers of the CrossRoads, the liaisons between the OtherFolk and us.”
Thomas the Rhymer had been the first mortal TouchStone to record a Contract with the OtherFolk. And he had fulfilled that contract—for a full seven years—gaining the gift of Prophecy as a result. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me. From his perspective, the Fae were probably the most amusing of the bunch. Heaven knew just about every angel I’d ever met damn near had a stick up his ass. And really? However pretty the daemon girls are, it’s almost always a guarantee they’re going to come back and eat your soul one dark night, and who wants to deal with that?
“You can Contract with whoever you wish, of course, but the Fae watch over it all. Depending on who and what you choose, though, there may be political ramifications.” My mouth thinned. “And if it goes badly, then the Faery Protectorate has to get involved.”
She chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “And what would my Contract with Brandon be?”
I shrugged. I had no idea what sorts of things a werewolf might require of his TouchStone, though I could think of a few responsibilities she probably wouldn’t want to take on. “Regardless of the specifics of each individual Contract, the mere fact that the two of you are TouchStoned will allow him to move between our world and the CrossRoads without waiting for the Hours. Aside from that, I can’t say. Each Contract is individualized.”
Katy’s eyes darted toward the door. “So that’s what he meant. If he has a TouchStone, he doesn’t have to worry about being weaker in the daytime?”
“That’s one part of it,” I agreed. “Each Path has their own Hour, where traveling is easiest. TouchStones ease that transition. Something about having a soul, I suppose. The angels prefer Dawn. The daemons, Midnight.”
“And the Fae like Twilight, I suppose. What about noon? How does that fit in?”
“There’s a fourth Path,” I said, watching her try to work it out. “Can you tell me what it is?”
“Um, no?” She scowled. “It doesn’t say anything about a fourth Path.”
“Yes it does,” I said. “Come back and tell me when you figure it out. It’s all in there, I promise.”
Katy gave me a dubious look and clutched the book tightly. “How much is it?”
“On the house,” I said, waving her off.
“And if I do this, you’ll take me to the CrossRoads?”
“I can’t do that. Most of the Doors are hidden, so that’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own.” That, and the fact you’ve never been there, my inner voice said snidely. The Doors to the CrossRoads themselves were fluid enough—transitory gateways that opened and shut at the Hours—but finding them was another matter altogether. “Truthfully, it’s probably best if you TouchStone to Brandon first. And take it from me—read the Contract and understand just what you’re getting into. Being a TouchStone isn’t for the faint of heart.”
A fierce smile spread across her face. “I’ll be back soon.” She squinted as she peered at my shirt. “Abby?”
“That’s me,” I said dryly, pulling at my name tag. The eavesdropping man candy pointed at me and then tapped his head. I suppressed a sneer.
“Thank you so much, Abby. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.” Katy beamed at me and I couldn’t help but feel like the wolf in Red Riding Hood’s story. The better to eat you with, my dear? But no, that wasn’t right, either. I recognized that determined look in her eye, and even though I was fairly new to the whole OtherFolk scene, there was a part of me that would have loved to have had help instead of stumbling through it like I was.
And fucking it up royally, even.
“Will you be around tonight? You know, in case I figure it out?”
I snorted. There’s enthusiasm for you. “Not really. I’m going to an art gallery showing at the Waterfront. And I need to go get shoes for it first.” Small talk was not my forte, but I seemed to have momentarily adopted a friend.
“Oh,” she said. “Well, you should check out that new place on the corner of Canon and King. They’ve got some really nice stuff. And turn on the fan or something—it’s gross in here.”
“I’ll do that,” I said with a wan smile. She thanked me again and left, the door clinking shut behind her. I took a deep breath. It was entirely too damn hot in here. Of course, the main reason for that was still in the corner. Watching me.
I was going to have to remedy that soon.
“Well, this has been fun, but technically I’m working, so unless you’re going to buy something, you need to leave. Since you couldn’t be bothered to give me your name, I’ll just tell Moira that an extra from the porno version of Something Wicked This Way Comes was looking for her.”
“Extra? Hell,” he muttered. “I’d be the star.”
I coughed. “Emphasis on the word ‘comes,’ of course.”
The amusement rippled from him, rich and dark, but there wasn’t anything menacing about it now. “I suppose I deserve that. Did you want that name?”
“Color me excited,” I retorted. “Seems only fair, though. Generally I prefer a handshake and a hello before I hop into metaphysical bed with someone.”
“I don’t.” He shrugged and held out his hand. “Brystion.” He trilled the r sound, giving it an exotic rumble. Brrrist-e-on.
“Just Brystion?” I let my hand slip into his, holding my breath as I waited for the mind roll to happen again. When it didn’t, I relaxed. His skin was warm to the touch, but somehow not unpleasant even with the heat of the day.
“For now. And don’t worry about telling Moira, Abby.”
“Why?” My pulse jumped at the delicious way my name rolled off his tongue.
He smiled. “Because she already knows, now,” he said gently, shaking his head at my ignorance.
Before I could ask him what he meant, he was gone. I craned my neck toward the window, catching a glimpse of his dark form striding down the street, heedless of the oncoming drizzle—or the dull thudding of my heart.
© 2011 Allison Pang
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Six months ago, Abby Sinclair's life changed when her mother died in an accident. Instead of grieving her loss, Abby manages a magical mall and has a unicorn using her underwear as bedding inside a drawer. Adjusting to that was easy thanks to her special enchanted gizmos that Apple would envy. More complicated is when Moira the Faery Protectorate informed Abby. She will replace her mother as their Touchstone; the mortal needed to enable the others to cross realms. However all hell breaks loose when Moira vanishes. Abby is abruptly in charge of trying to hold the gate in place while finding her boss in OtherWorld. Brystion the incubus penetrates her dreams as he investigates the disappearance of his succubus sister. His intrusion angers Moira's number two Robert whose rage shocks Abby. However, complicating the potential disaster is demons for hire. She believes she can handle incubus, daemons, angels and other ilk; anything except cat piss and whatever the unicorn is doing to undies. Pang's OtherWorld comes across as real due to Abby who is a sort of caustic Alice in a not so Wonderland. Her acerbic asides add humor though at times the jocularity feels out of place. Still fans will enjoy Abby's awesome adventures as she mounts a rescue of her boss and of her heart (she learns what everyone knows form puberty to never give your heart to an incubus) as Allison Pang provides a fun urban fantasy. Harriet Klausner
For a debut, this was one awesome book! Not only is Abby (the main character) as real and true as they come, but she's so spunky and badass; I loved her from the get-go. The story line is definitely something to ponder. Being a forever-lover of the paranormal and weird world, I thought that this book was a perfect entry into the category. I really enjoyed the weird-factor, because when I'm being honest, that's what draws me into paranormal books: creepy, crawly situations that are so action filled that my heart pounds. The writing is also something to think about-and by that I mean awesome. Normally, in a debut from a new author, the writing is all over the place, since they haven't got the knack or found their rhythm in the words. Pang, on the other hand, writes as though she's been doing it for years! Each character, setting and situation is artfully and carefully explained, making everything that more believable and interesting. Brystion is also awesome. He's funny and hey, let's be honest, as freaking hot as they come. I was a little shocked at a few concepts in the book-a good thing, if you know me. A Brush of Darkness has everything I love in a paranormal: a kickass heroine, mysterious mysteries that make you think, creepy-crawlies, and, let's not forget; the romance that is definitely hot enough to scorch. That being said, A Brush of Darkness definitely wins a gold-status in my book. (And I can't wait for more from Allison Pang!)
Ive been looking for something to read while i wait for my regular authors to release something new. This was a nice treat. I will be reading the next in the series and waiting for the third.
Humorous, magical, romantic, just wanted to keep reading to find out what magical thing was going to happen next.
This is a lighter urban fantasy with a good dose of humor. Interesting world and the heroine has a distinct and unique personality. Definitely will look for her next book to be published.
decent story with funny references (a sleezy unicorn and WOW)
I've always been a romance reader, but I have recently come out of that genre a little bit and have gotten more into the urban fantasy. A Brush of Darkness is such a great book and will read over again. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books in this series and by Allison Pang.
I have seen this book in the book store numerous times, and the book cover has always grabbed my attention. I love the cover art on this book, and I'm not really sure why, so when I received this book for review I was super excited. To start off the book takes a little while to jump into. It's one of those books that has a really complex world, and jumps right into it from the very beginning. I think I could have done with a little more explanation, because the beginning was a tad bit hard for me grab on to. That being said the world is delightfully complex. I like a world that is complex, because even though it is hard to write the first book, where the world building all essentially takes place, it leaves so much available for future books. I also like that once I thought I had everything all figured out about the world a new element or two would be introduced. I really like Abby, the main character. She is way over her head in what is going on with all the OtherWorld politics. But the thing I think that I enjoy the most about Abby, is that she is not one of those girls who just sits around a mopes at all of the bad things that have come her way, she fights for herself. I have to also say the other thing that I like about Abby is she has some "supernatural" power, but it's not something that she can really use to fight, but she's smart. I love all of the other side characters as well. They are all pretty well thought out. They are mysterious when they need to be, deceiving when they need to be, and all around just enhance the story. I appreciate all of their interactions with Abby. As well as the authors ability to make the reader really believe the words that are on the page. I also found some of the cultural references really amusing along the way. I love the enchanted iPod that plays anything you could want to listen to. And I particularly liked that in the middle of a fight scene a conversation took place about World of Warcraft, which made me giggle (maybe because I used to be a WoW player). Either way the cultural references were a good touch. I think if you like intricate worlds in your urban fantasy books, with tons of different types of "supernatural" characters, then this is definitely your book. I think in general most people who enjoy urban fantasy would enjoy this book, as well as the character Abby. And besides who can resist a miniature unicorn?
When Abby signed up to be a TouchStone for the Faery Protectorate, she didn't anticipate her boss doing a disappearing act and leave her to mind the otherworldly bookstore. Her Contract also didn't mention anything about babysitting a unicorn with a teenaged-boy mentality or dealing with a hot-as-sin incubus in search for his kidnapped sister. What is a poor girl to do when things start to get ugly among the faeries, demons, and angels? What happens when the answers lie within Abby's nightmares? I have mixed feelings for A Brush Of Darkness at the beginning as I tried to piece the world together, especially trying to figure out what a TouchStone is. Maybe it's just me, but I would have liked a little more explanation. Beyond that, the story is pretty action-packed and very very steamy at certain points. Will I read the next book? Most definitely, though I am a little distraught at how A Brush Of Darkness ended! Boo to relationships!
I was thrilled when I got a chance to review an ARC of this - I always love checking out new adult paranormal releases. This definitely seems to be one of the most popular genres lately, so there are a lot of books to sift through. While this is not, by any means, my new favorite...I definitely do think it stands out from the pack.The plot constantly moves forward and was very original, the side characters were intriguing and added to the story...but what makes this book shine is the main character, Abby Sinclair. Allison Pang gives Abby a voice and a personality...I fell for her at first sight.I bookmarked a couple of quotes from the book that highlight Abby's inner voice and all it adds to the story:"If this guy was human I'd swear off bacon for a month.""I would have had to slaughter a horde of Avon ladies in ritual sacrifice to have skin that luminous and milky white.""I had a naked incubus in my bedroom. With a frying pan full of half-cooked bacon and a hard-on. And a unicorn bite on his ass. Christ, this was turning out to be a weird morning."Seriously guys, I love this girl. (There is also this awesome scene where she is saved from being killed due to her World of Warcraft addiction. Priceless.) Also, there is Phin, her miniature unicorn. He is a real piece of work, definitely not your typical rainbows and butterflies type. I want one.I don't want to say anything about the plot to spoil it. I didn't know anything about it going in and enjoyed the mystery and seeing things unfold for myself.So, if you're a fan of paranormal romance I definitely recommend reading this. Abby's character is very memorable and I'll definitely be following this series to see what she gets into next. The book will be released tomorrow (the 25th), so head out and pick up a copy!
When I first looked at the book cover, my brain immediately processed two thoughts simultaneously: (1) Ooohh, pertty colors! and (2) Skank Alert! Admittedly, I had to reel in my somewhat judgmental side and read the story description before deciding for or against reading the book. Just because the cover model looks like she's been shopping at HOOKERS-R-US doesn't mean it's an accurate representation of the heroine. And if by chance it is, that might not necessarily be a bad thing either. I mean, hookers can be badass. Seriously. In my old neighborhood, a hooker managed to escape handcuffed from a cop and proceeded to steal his police car in order to make her getaway, which naturally resulted in a high-speed chase that involved helicopters & spotlights. True story.As it turns out, the protagonist, Abby, is neither a hooker nor a stripper and is only a little slutty. In an ironic, twisted sort of way, I felt a wee twinge of disappointment at this realization. Anyways, Abby is in actuality a sales girl at a mystical shop, and she's also a touchstone, which is basically a human magically (spiritually?) linked to a supernatural being like a faerie or a demon making it possible for that being to then travel freely between the human realm and the otherworldy dimensions. In order for the link to be established, a contract needs to first be agreed upon and signed by both parties. And as with any legally binding agreement in which one party is more privileged and/or powerful than the other, there's some crucial fine print that essentially equates to YOU ARE SO SCREWED.I liked the idea of touchstones and there were several other interesting, creative ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas weren't fully realized and fleshed out. Terminology, mythology, and rules were thrown around without much explanation. All sorts of supernatural beings popped in and out of the story at random and brief intervals. It was like walking onto a construction site where a building's framework stood incomplete and being told to finish it without being shown the blueprints. In other words, I don't think there was a solid enough foundation for the worldbuilding and not enough description for the ideas to come to life (at least not in my mind).Abby grated on my nerves. She was totally emo. If she wasn't lusting after Brystion while simultaneously completely denying it, she was throwing herself one big miserable pity party. It was all Woe, Is Me--I have a tragic past with lots of guilt and self-loathing, and I can't let anyone get too close to me; so I'll act tough and mouth off with lots of snarkiness to cover up the inner pain. I wanted to reach into the book and slap her...HARD. For the life of me, I can't think of any other aspect of her personality or if she did anything other than cuss, whine, cry, argue, flirt, and have seizures. Oh wait! Now I remember, Abby had big boobs. What significance this detail holds, I do not know, but it was mentioned repeatedly throughout the story.Brystion was talking, walking sex. Granted, he's an incubus, so the playboy persona, shameless flirting, and repeated invasion of personal space was partially excusable, but the guy didn't start developing a genuine personality until the second half of the book. The first half of the book was dedicated to him trying to get into Abby's pants, which she was quick to label Mission Impossible even though it proved to be rather easy. Sadly, just as I was starting to like Brystion, he too decides to go all emo and then proceeds to act like a jerk. Hey, at least at that point, him and Abby finally had something in common. Yay, true love!As for the pervy unicorn, well, I wish I could say I found him to be a source of quirky comic relief, but I can't. Quite the contrary. He made my inner child feel really, really sad and a little dirty for dressing up as a unicorn that one Halloween back in the day. The miniature four-hoofed lecher was obviously setup to be a funny sidekick, but I found his an
Tasty new urban fantasy novel. Faeries and incubi, oh my. looking forward to the Sliver follow-up.
((Here is a tip that will help you to not get locked out. Put a < _ > in between curse words just without the spaces. For example; di< _ >ck or vag< _ >ina or as< _ >shole. You'll never get lock out again and the < _ > wont show between the words, just remember, NO SPACES)) He hit her g-s<_>pot and she shiver with pleasure. Cu<_>m squirted all around her vag<_>ina
You gotta love a book that starts off with , “Cat piss and cabbages”. followed by some Tom Jones , ‘She’s A Lady’,playing away in the back of your brain. I found it an awesome way to get me into the mood for this book. Well not necessarily the cat piddle..hehe!! You can throw Urban Fantasy at me any day of the week I looooove it. There is just something about the urban world authors build. Add in the sidekick, be it animal , fey, paranormal or human bff into the story, in this case we have Phinneas aka Phin, the cheeky, naughty , knicker loving fifteen inch tall unicorn. Stir in a mystery and a chicky babe, albeit naive to the cause who has the smexi admirer and we are cooking. ‘A Brush of Darkness’ is all that. Abby Sinclair is the naive TouchStone to Moira the Protectorate. Now I must stop and say, I am still unsure of what a TouchStone does. I am also not overly sure what Moira the Protectorate does or what a contract entails. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I just needed something in the front of the book to say TouchStone = ? It was just something that niggled at me because I kept reading Abby the Touchstone and I was waiting to be enlightened. But all that aside, I enjoyed Allison’s world and her mystery she gave us. What I thought was different about Abby’s character is she has a limpy knee, which doesn’t really cause her any problems in this book, but her major handicap is her seizures she gets. Abby has to deal with seizures on top of all these things she has thrown at her. Enter, the big fella Brystion , aka Ion, who is of course gorgeous, but complicated , oh and he is an Incubus.....complicated....much? Moira is missing, and Robert her Angel, cranky pants, body guard isn’t too happy with Abby. She is on her ‘L’ Plates with all this TouchStone stuff and is naive about a few things, which makes cranky pants Robert...well crankier. Brystion wants to find his sister, Sonja, the succubus, who has gone missing. Then Charlie, Robert’s main squeeze goes missing and everybody wants answers and a whole lot more from Abby, who just wants Phin to stay out of her knicker draw. I love the Art Gallery scenes with the paintings, I thought they were really well written. There was a further chapter with the paintings that I really visually saw well and it was my fave chapter/scenes in the book. Who is batting for good, and who is appearing to bat for all things good....this is the question? I enjoyed Allison’s world and am looking forward to ‘A Sliver of Shadow’, cause there is some things I just wanna know. Plus more Brystion is always a plus even if he comes in a very complicated package.
Solid Debut to A New Urban Fantasy This was a good start to a new urban fantasy. This book was entertaining and action-packed. The plot had a nice mysterious feel, in addition to plenty of humor. There were plenty of times where I LMFAO. This book was a fun and fast read. The story had a cache of preternaturals, which included unicorns, fae, vampires, angels, werewolves, demons and plain ole humans. The story was contemporary, creative and original. Unfortunately, this story was overly contemporary at times, with farfetched subplots and too many fantastical beings and situations that all accumulated into a huge pile of asininities and absurdities. Almost like the author had an urban fantasy checklist and was trying to cover all her basis. I often found Abby to be too-stupid-to-live and her refusal to see the obvious wore on my patience; although, she always managed to come to her senses in the end. While I did enjoy this book, I won’t be reaching for the next book in this series immediately. At this time, this series serves as my go to “B list books” and “filler books”, to be read in-between the waiting periods for my favorite authors’ releases. Nevertheless, there is still yet hope that the next installment will knock my socks off. I recommend this book to fellow dark urban fantasy readers and I will read the next book A Sliver of Shadow.
My heart just broke. ANOTHER AUTHOR TO BRING TEARS TO MY EYES? Review also posted at Under the Covers Book Blog Allison Pang is one of the authors that is responsible for my addiction to paranormal reads. She has created a unique world of fae, demons, incubus/succubus, angels, and humping unicorns living amongst humans. This is a book to surely to bring emotions of lust, laughter, excitement and sadness. There is a world of “OtherFolks” that exists in a linearplane, if you will, but none of the beings are able to interact, visit or live amongst the human world unless they have a Touchstone. It is a symbiotic relationship. As a Touchstone, the otherfolk will have entrance to the human world amongst other things and in return, the humans will live longer and a wish will be granted at the end of their contract. Abby Sinclair is a newly contracted Touchstone for a FaeProtectorate, Moira. This top-notch fae disappears one day without a trace. Abby is left to cover for all of Moira’s duties but Abby starts getting overwhelmed as things get complicated…especially when one of the complications comes in the form of a sexy incubus. Brystion, THE ever so sexy incubus, comes in looking for Moira hoping for some assistance with his sister. She disappeared about the same time Moira had gone missing. And he will stop at nothing and do anything to get her back safe if it means to use his powers, so be it. I do have to say that “Brystion is eye candy of the highest calliber..." I was sucked in to both Abby and Bristion’s story. They are not tortured heroes but definitely with a past that affects their trust in the present. The sexual tension was strong between them and the way they handled it was very mature. None of the "I want you but not really" situations, they just went along and did when they wanted to. The romance had great timing and I fell in love right along with them. The sub-characters were just as great. They fit the over all plot and they make you want to read more. There will be some betrayals, misunderstandings, and sadly, hurt feelings. You will get mystery, some action and I do have to say that there is a mild cliffhanger. Honestly, along with the mystery and drama, part of reading UF books is the joy of cliffhangers. I can deny it all I want but in the end, it leaves me NEEDING more. The overall story was great and I know this series will be worth my time to invest on. My last words (I’m sure this will make sense after you read this book): I am for TEAM BRYSTION!!!