"Step into Linda Wisdom's world of wonder and infinite possibilities, sexy demons and clever witches, laughter, danger, and a surprise on every page." Annette Blair, National Bestselling Author of Bedeviled Angel
A MADHOUSE IS NO PLACE FOR A CURIOUS WITCH...
After more than a century, Doctor Lili Carter, witch healer extraordinaire, has returned to San Francisco and taken a job at Crying Souls Hospital and Asylum, where something peculiar and wicked his happening. Patients are disappearing, and Lil wants to know why.
AND DOUBLY DANGEROUS FOR A DEMON...
Lili finds herself undeniably attracted to perhaps the most mysterious patient of alla demented but seriously sexy demon named Jared. What's behind the gorgeous chameleon demon's late-night escapades?
Before long, Lili and Jared are investigating each otherand creating a whole new kind of magic.
"Humor, danger, and steamy sex make for an exciting read." RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars
"Plenty of romance and passion woven through a well-built and fascinating world." Fresh Fiction
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Linda Wisdom has published more than 70 novels with 13 million copies sold worldwide including traditional, paranormal, humor, action/adventure romance, and romantic suspense. Her bestselling books have been nominated for RT Book Reviews awards and the Romance Writers of America Rita Award. She lives with her husband in Murrieta, California.
Read an Excerpt
"You're all going to die!" A vulture, perched on a granite gargoyle guarding the double doors, flapped his large wings.
Dr. Lili Carter, witch-healer extraordinaire, rolled her eyes at the death scavenger as she walked down the stone steps. "You wish."
She trudged wearily through the parking lot toward her dark purple Mazda CX-7. Early morning fog caressed her ankles with frosty, whispery fingers and slid through her clothing. She shivered from the damp cold that permeated her heavy coat.
Lili tossed the oversize bag holding her scrubs into the backseat and climbed behind the wheel. She wasted no time starting up the engine and cranking up the heater to push back the night chill. She sat there, staring through the windshield, waiting for the interior to warm up.
The towering edifice known to the supernatural world as Crying Souls Hospital loomed before her.
The building hadn't changed over the years. Crafted of dark gray stone in a style popular in the 1700s, it sported squat windows, and old-fashioned carriage lamps dotted the front. She recalled her last time working here, when centaur-drawn ambulances pulled around back to the ambulance bay and dropped off patients unable to fly or materialize in.
The centuries-old hospital might have still boasted an antiquated exterior but the interior was ultramodern and well-known for its excellent care for all creatures in need of healing.
After an exhausting full moon night in the ER, she should have been thinking about going home and crawling into bed for some much-needed sleep, but Lili knew, after that tiring shift, that any form of rest would be a long time off.
She smiled to herself. "If I'm going to stay awake, I may as well go do some shopping and visit old friends."
"She is back! My much-loved healer has returned! And so beautiful is she!" A portly wizard garbed in brilliant blue silk robes embroidered with gold and silver sigils waddled out of a shop. He smiled broadly as he threw his arms around Lili. Although he was a good five inches shorter than she, he used his magick to ensure he could properly embrace her and kiss each cheek. "Ah, Cleo, my lovely feline. You have also come to visit me." He smiled down at the cat that poked her head out of the cayenne-colored leather tote bag. The fluffy feline inclined her head, accepting her due.
The witch laughed as his salt-and-pepper bushy beard tickled her cheeks while she hugged him back. "You look wonderful, Asmeth. How are you?"
"I am blessed, but only because you knew how to cure those rasthe scales that tormented me." His round body jiggled like Jell-O as he laughed heartily. "Is it true you returned to Crying Souls?" His dark eyes showed curiosity. "And did I hear correctly that while you have been away you even treated mundanes in your last hospital?" He tsked and shook his head in wonder. "Ah, but then you do not have an aversion to working in mundane hospitals, do you?" His tone indicated he couldn't understand why she would do such a thing.
Lili laughed. "Even mundanes need a good healer, Asmeth. Plus, it's good experience. I've missed visiting Inderman," she said lightly, even as she made a quick visual examination to make sure her old friend was speaking the truth about his health. Rasthe scales were nasty as they changed the skin to a rapidly hardening surface until the victim suffocated. Even worse, they didn't always completely disappear after treatment. She was pleased to see he was still scale-free. "Now you won't have to travel as far when you need my skills," she teased.
"But I enjoy traveling to the odd lands of the mundanes to see you. Although I must say I was not very fond of that place you called Minneapolis," he declared, with the drama he was well-known for-one more reason why the wizard was considered larger than life. "Will you stay in Inderman? I know of a few cottages to let." He referred to the magickal plane that offered up everything a preternatural creature would require. Such as his shop, which displayed a wide variety of clothing for the discriminating sorcerer.
Lili shook her head, her high ponytail of curly black hair swinging between her shoulder blades. "I still have my house. I moved back in a couple days ago, although I still have a lot of unpacking to do. I just finished my first shift at the hospital tonight. Since I wasn't tired, I thought I'd come here and do a little shopping." She knew she didn't need to worry about the late hour. The Inderman plane was always open.
"You have come here to see what has changed and what has not changed. Alas, there have been few changes in Inderman." He waved his hands outward. "Reacquaint yourself, but then return to me. We will have wine and talk. I will give you all the gossip," he said with a twinkle in his dark eyes.
She nodded and moved on.
The color, sights, and sounds of Inderman's magickal plane assaulted Lili like a maniacal carnival. It was a place that was more energizing than tiring. There was no need for electricity when globes filled with faery light were much more reliable. She knew she would find everything supernatural she might need and even more she wouldn't. From her first visit, years ago, she'd loved the community that catered to every creature known to the magickal world. She was convinced she could even smell magick in the air like a variety of rare spices, tickling her palate. She watched wraiths weave in and out among the corporeal as they had their own gathering places.
"Some things never change," Cleo said, hopping out of the tote bag and walking beside the witch, her plumed tail held high. The chinchilla-colored Persian feline walked with the dignity that denoted her full name. "It was loud and insane the first time we came here in 1782, and it still is." She sniffed with typical disdain.
"I call it more alive and filled with energy," Lili corrected her. "Something I doubt I'll see that all that much at Crying Souls." Not when she thought about the real reason for her seeking a position there. She looked at the cat who shared the house with her. It was a fact that you couldn't own a cat. They were too arrogant to belong to anyone. Even if Lili was a gifted witch in the healing arts, Cleo was by no means her familiar. She had rescued the arrogant feline from a goblin who thought Cleo would make a tasty meal. Cleo had stayed with her since.
"It is a depressing place, but then, someone has to heal the sick, so it may as well be you, I guess." Cleo looked from right to left. "Is the gourmet fish store nearby? I'd love having some salmon or perhaps some lovely caviar."
"Salmon I can afford, for caviar you need to find someone with a larger bank account." Lili stopped at the fish-and-fowl shop to pick up Cleo's food.
"Ooh, take a look at the hottie," Cleo purred, perking up. Her malachite eyes widened in appreciation as she practically levitated with excitement. "You should go talk to him."
"Not interested," Lili sang under her breath.
"Look to your right and say that again, because he's seriously checking you out. Just don't look like you're looking. You tend to be too direct or talk too much about your work, which only scares them off," the feline advised. "This is why your sex life is nonexistent. A female cannot live by battery-operated instruments alone."
Lili winced. "Is not." The witch whispered a spell under her breath that allowed her to have a better view of who could be spying on her. "I had a date recently."
"That was three years ago."
Lili ignored her cat's snark while she did her best not to drool at the sight of the male standing a short distance away.
Lili's sharp eye figured he was a couple inches over six feet, with black hair in need of a trim, but it didn't detract from his dangerous good looks. If she wasn't mistaken, he had a pair of blue eyes she could happily swim in. She also couldn't miss the shadowy fingers that wrapped around his legs as if they were there to protect him.
"Go over and say hi," Cleo instructed. "Tell him you're new in town and you would just love to know the best places to check out. And ask if he'd like to show them to you." She batted her paw at her very own private witch. "You can't let such a prime specimen get away."
"Are you sure your nagging didn't push Marc Antony into killing himself?" she murmured, smiling as she heard the cat's angry hisses.
Score one for Lili!
The arrogant feline glared at her even as she raised her head and sniffed the air. "Something's off," she muttered.
Lili ignored her furry companion's murmurs as she made her way stealthily in the direction of sexy guy. She knew she should listen to Cleo. After all, who else knew more about the male sex than the sultry queen of the Nile, Cleopatra?
"Subtle, my dear. Be subtle. Not like one of those galloping wolfhounds," Cleo suggested in her usual warm purr that just managed to border on sarcasm.
As always, Lili ignored her and continued window-shopping while edging her way closer to her prey. She mentally rehearsed opening dialogue if they had just "happened" to bump into each other.
Oh, hello. Do you happen to know where Rangel's Harvest Foods might be? Excuse me, but don't I know you from somewhere? Actually, I know I'd remember you if you had been a patient of mine. No forgetting a body like that.
"I said subtle." The arrogant feline hissed the last word, easily reading her mind. "No wonder the Greek empire fell." She was fond of making disparaging remarks about Lili's ancestry.
"That was the Roman Empire, and if anyone should know that, it would be you." Lili shook her head. Arguing with a cat in Inderman was nothing unusual. Of course, if mundanes saw her actions, they'd haul her off to a nice quiet cell with extremely soft walls.
There, now she was close enough to casually turn and speak to the man. Except he was gone. She didn't care about subtlety now and looked around, but it was as if he had disappeared into thin air. Considering the magick in the air, it was easy enough to believe.
"You'll see him again," Cleo said.
"How do you know?" Lili knew the moment she asked the question that whatever her feline sidekick said would come true. Cleo saw things so many others, even those with precognition, didn't see.
"It's so obvious it's not funny. I saw the way he looked at you." The cat hopped back into the bag and circled the bottom. She curled up in a fluffy ball and waved her tail like a feather duster. "No male looks at a female like that unless he intends to do more than look." She stretched her mouth into a kitty smile and purred. "Plus, he's demon. You know how focused they can be."
Lili smothered her sigh. She knew better than to argue with the feline. She always said the cat should have been a lawyer.
She took her time exploring some of the shops while keeping her senses open. Every so often she was positive the mysterious male was in the vicinity. Except every time she turned around, he was gone.
Cleo sneezed as Lili stepped inside the Shop of Scents.
"My allergies," she complained.
"Then don't breathe." The witch had no sympathy as she examined the many-colored bottles, some labeled, others a mystery.
"You wish something special?" The silver-haired woman at the counter greeted her with a broad smile. "Fragrance to tempt your lover? Something to give you luck perhaps?" Her pale eyes peered at her closely. "Ah, you are the healer. Something soothing, then?"
Lili picked up a bottle and pulled the stopper out. She smelled spring flowers and fresh greenery. Another bottle yielded a winter of sharp ice while the third had her thinking of an ancient bazaar of spices and heat.
"You have not been here in many years," the crone named Sameka said. "You chose a scent that was light and carefree." She gestured toward a delicate pink glass bottle. "No longer is it you. You require a fragrance that holds a hint of darkness and mystery." She held up a finger. "Wait here." She moved with the ease of someone much younger-Lili gauged her years to be past nine hundred. She parted the amethyst silk curtains and disappeared into the back of the shop. She returned a moment later carrying a gilt-trimmed bottle that looked as if it had been owned by royalty. She set it on the counter and carefully eased the stopper out.
Lili didn't need to lift the bottle to inhale the contents. They lifted their way to her. Images of silk, moans in a dark night, and a sensuality that warmed her bones were only parts of what she sensed in the perfume oil. She feared to ask the price. She only had to look at the shopkeeper to know it was very old and very rare.
"This is truly what you are now, and even more so as each day passes," the old woman told her with a knowing smile.
"Huh. She must see something we don't," Cleo muttered.
"Quiet, you." She wanted to try it on her skin. There were no worries it wouldn't smell right with her personal chemistry. Sameka never forgot a customer or what suited them.
"Try it." The male voice near her ear was as intoxicating as the perfume.
She looked up to see her mystery man standing next to her. Dark hair, eyes that rivaled a cobalt ring she had, and so good-looking her senses immediately kicked into overdrive.
He picked up the bottle and carefully tipped it against his fingertip. Turning toward her, he gently traced a path down her throat, then repeated the touch on each wrist. The oil turned to liquid heat, creating thoughts of wearing the perfume and nothing else.
Lili couldn't take her eyes off his hands. Strong, capable, yet gentle. She was positive they would feel the same everywhere else on her.
Get your mind back where it belongs!
Easier said than done.
He lifted her hand, palm up, and bent down to sniff her wrist. His breath drifted over the surface. When he lifted his head, his eyes blazed a vivid blue.
"She's right," he murmured. "This is meant for you."
"Oh my," Cleo said in a hushed whisper.
Lili silently repeated the words, not even realizing that little stunned the jaded cat. For a moment she forgot they had an avid audience.
"I shall wrap it up." The crone swept the bottle away and soon had it nestled in a velvet-covered box.
The witch didn't wince at the high price.
"Who are you?" she asked the man.
"Someone who knows what scent a woman should wear," the crone cackled.
He lifted Lili's hand and pressed a light kiss in the center of her palm. She felt the burn of his lips all the way to her core.
"Someone skilled in the blending of perfume oils?" she asked with a husky tone in her voice she couldn't hide.
This time his lips hovered near her ear. "No. Just a demon who knows what he likes."
As quickly as he appeared he was gone from the dimly lit shop.
"Many years ago, I would have tempted such as he," the shopkeeper sighed, her wide mouth displaying blackened teeth. Her faded eyes twinkled with mischief. "If you wear the perfume of desire, you will see him again."
"I'm not sure my senses could take it," Lili admitted as she gathered up her purchases. She walked outside, now ready to return to Asmeth's shop. She wanted to sit with the garrulous wizard and drink wine and listen to his gossip. If she was lucky, he might even know the demon's name once she described him. For now, she had the memory of his touch. She had a feeling his kiss, still embedded in her palm, would keep her warm that night.
He shouldn't have approached her that way. Spoken to her, touched her. Felt the silken touch of her skin against his lips. The golden light surrounding her told him she was a witch, but there was something more about her he couldn't read. And it wasn't anything to do with her feline cohort who looked at him with a little too much curiosity. Not that an inquisitive cat was anything new.
A witch with a cat familiar. No surprise there.
Jared used the shadows so he wouldn't be easily seen when he was free from the hospital. They allowed him to roam through Inderman and the surrounding area like one of the many specters that inhabited the supernatural community. He was seen, but always managed to ensure he wasn't remembered. Females were drawn to him like moths to a flame. There were even times he didn't mind singeing their wings in a purely carnal way. But no longer. He preferred conserving his power, so he could indulge in trips away from his cell. The trouble was that while the shadows were his friends, they were also his enemies. While they gave him a chance to believe he could have a semblance of a normal life, they also took away that feeling when they decided it was time to return him to his cell.
He felt the painful hitch in his body that meant he would soon be pulled back to the prison he'd called home for so long. The place where he was known as the most monstrous of all fiends.
Jared hoped he would see the exotic-looking witch again. He knew Inderman would be his best bet to do so. It might be a large community, thanks to the strong magick that kept it animated, but it also had the feel of a small town. He sensed she would return here for shopping and perhaps grab a bite in one of the many taverns and restaurants Inderman offered.
He hungered for the chance to learn her name. He already knew her voice was as striking as her beauty. The old crone had struck just the right note with the perfume oil she offered her. He'd filled his lungs with the fragrance, committing it to memory for the dark hours he would spend in his cell.
For now, his body wanted her. The need grew so strong he didn't feel the pain the shadows inflicted as they pulled him back to his prison.