Demons of Good and Evil (Hollows Series #17)

Demons of Good and Evil (Hollows Series #17)

by Kim Harrison
Demons of Good and Evil (Hollows Series #17)

Demons of Good and Evil (Hollows Series #17)

by Kim Harrison

Hardcover

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Overview

Rachel Morgan will learn that the price of loyalty is blood in the next Hollows novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison.

Rachel Morgan, witch-born demon, suspected that protecting the paranormal citizens of Cincinnati as the demon subrosa would be trouble. But it’s rapidly becoming way more trouble than even she could have imagined.

While Rachel and her friends may have vanquished the trickster demon Hodin, his mysterious associate known only as “The Mage” is eager to finish what Hodin started, beginning with taking down Rachel’s power structure piece by piece.

With her world falling apart, Rachel desperately needs help. But with all of her supporters under attack, her only hope is to make a deal with the unlikeliest of allies. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593437544
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/13/2023
Series: Hollows (Rachel Morgan) Series
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 53,664
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 6.00(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Kim Harrison is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Hollows series, including Trouble with the Cursed, Million Dollar Demon, and American Demon. She has also published traditional fantasy under the name Dawn Cook. Kim was born and raised in Michigan and between other projects is currently working on a new Hollows book.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER

1

Eden Park's overlook was one of my earliest childhood memories, not in its sun-drenched glory of a summer afternoon filled with dogs and kids cutting loose, but in the dark as it was now, the rumble of Cincinnati's lives muted under the moon's haze, the lights from the distant buildings an inviting glow. Far below and behind me, the Ohio River glinted as if a living thing, a welcome separation between the city and the more . . . unique citizens in the Hollows. Fixed between and overlooking both, Eden Park felt like the middle, which was where I had always been, surrounded by all, never quite fully belonging to either.

My dad had come up here when his choices lay heavy on him, invariably when my mother was at her distracted worst. I'd long been convinced that he had known who and what I was, and lately . . . the thought had occurred that perhaps he had brought me here to sit beside a ley line much as the woodsman had taken his children to the forest, not to leave them to starve, but to find someone who might be able to raise them to their full potential, because to stay ignorant of what I was might be more dangerous still.

Which might sound vain or presumptuous if I wasn't now sitting on that same park bench, staring at a ley line, a demon beside me instead of the man who had raised me as his own.

"My synapses are singed," I complained, and Al's expression became rife with annoyance.

"If you get caught in a circle by some wannabe magic user and can't jump out, it will be more than your head hurting," the demon said, hitting his affected, proper-British accent hard. "You're making us look bad. You are a demon. You should have at least one ley line memorized with which to jump to. That you have to stand within a line and translocate to get to the ever-after is embarrassing."

True, I was a demon, and as Al was fond of pointing out, it wasn't hard to make me vulnerable if you knew how. Just my luck that there was an entire university major devoted to it. "Yeah?" I said sourly. "Singeing my synapses to char isn't going to help."

Al's wide shoulders shifted in an unheard sigh. It was an unseasonably warm October night, and he had forgone his usual crushed green velvet frock coat for a lightweight and decidedly Victorian-feel vest. His high-top hat was gone as well, and the lace. But a new, silver-tipped walking cane rested against his knee-possibly holding a spell or two-and a pair of blue-tinted glasses he didn't need hung low on his nose. Seeing him eye my jeans and boots over them, I wondered if he felt he'd fallen to a new low despite his still-overdone appearance.

His mood, too, was off, being an uncomfortable mix of forced cheerfulness and dejection. I was fairly sure it wasn't my lack of progress. Honestly, the reason the demons had created gargoyles was that they couldn't master transposing, or jumping, the ley lines on their own. Gargoyles could "hear" the lines as easily as reading a book and, once bonded to a demon, could show them how to shift their aura to join with the ley line and pop out wherever they wanted, either here in reality or in the ever-after. But until I managed it, the only way I could get to the ever-after was by standing in a line and translocating myself there.

"The ley line is right there," Al grumped, looking at it on the other side of the small footbridge. "You can see it. You can hear it. Adjust your aura to match it-"

"And become a part of it, shifting my body to nothing but energy within its flow. Yeah, that's not the part I'm having trouble with," I smart-mouthed, and he mockingly gestured for me to get on with it. Losing myself in a ley line wasn't anything new, but trying to jump into it from halfway across a park was. I'd tried three times tonight already, failing miserably.

Frustrated, I sent my attention to Bis. The adolescent, cat-size gargoyle had perched himself in a nearby tree, on standby to snag me out of the line if I should somehow manage the jump and get myself stuck. Al's far older and larger gargoyle, Treble, had settled herself on a nearby streetlight as a secondary spotter. The craggy, hut-size beast appeared too large to be supported by the thin pole, but gargoyles, for all their stony looks, were relatively light.

Bis had bonded to me over a year ago, which basically meant he could teach me how to shift my aura to match any ley line on the planet. After a hundred years or so of gargoyle-aided practice, I'd be able to not only jump into a ley line from anywhere but jump out again at any location I wanted by using three or more ley lines to triangulate.

Unfortunately Bis and I had lost our instinctive connection when his soul had been stuck in a bottle. The first hints of our mental linkage were beginning to show, but until he could pass through my protection circle with impunity, the best I could do was learn the lines by rote. Trial and error. Which hurt and singed my synapses when I got it wrong.

Being fifty-plus years old, Bis was able to be on his own, and like most adolescents, he liked to sleep all day. His skin was dark and pebbly, though he could change its color at will to become almost invisible. All he had on against the night's damp was a red scarf, and he really didn't need that, either.

At Bis's encouraging nod, I resettled myself on the bench. Relaxing, I let my focus go slack as if I was using my second sight to see the ley line hovering like a red ribbon at chest height halfway across the park. But I wasn't. After an hour of this, I was tired and faking it. I was never going to translocate myself into that ley line, so I simply gazed at the moon peeking past the heavy clouds.

Between the ley lines and me were the two recirculating ponds and accompanying footbridge where I had spent my internship at the I.S. chasing out bridge trolls. The line itself ran over a small plot of concrete and a public Wiccan hearth, and beyond that was a wide space of open grass leading to Cincinnati.

The crescent moon did little to light the cloudy night. It would be a few days shy of full for Halloween, but that was more than a week away. I could hardly wait, and I'd already bought a basket of cherry tomatoes to give out to the kids along with their Snickers and Pixy Stix. The holiday spanned the entire week, culminating in a final, dusk-to-dawn candy hunt. Humans shut down before midnight, right when the party really started. It was for the best, really. They weren't made for the night.

The soft sound of approaching dress shoes drew my attention to the man walking his dog. "Go-o-ood evening," Al drawled, his threat obvious, and the man quickened his pace. "Focus," he growled at me, and I quit trying to coax the black Lab closer.

Bis dropped with a soft hush of sliding leather wings, pinpointing the back of the bench with an unerring accuracy despite the dark. "You're really close, Rachel," he encouraged, the white tufts of fur on his otherwise leathery-black ears standing out as he shifted them to listen to the people gathering in the field. "But you're too far into the, ah, lighter spectrum." Red eyes pinched, he looked up at Treble. "What's the right name for that sound?"

Treble's gnarled feet tightened on the light pole until the metal groaned. "It's not an auditory vibration. It's a visual one," she said, her deep voice rumbling like falling rocks and her lionlike tail switching. "And there isn't a name for it, which is why this study is useless until your aura again syncs with Rachel's. Gally . . ."

"Enough," Al muttered darkly, and I winced. I had a growing feeling that we weren't out here for me but for Al. I hadn't seen him jump the lines since he burned his synapses while trapping Hodin. Practicing along with me might be the only way for his pride to take it. "Your opinion on what is possible is not why you were asked to join us, Treble."

"Gally, if you would let me-" the old gargoyle said, her voice a pleading rasp.

"No." Al turned, one thick hand on the back of the bench as he glared up at her. "Take a break. Both of you. Go catch bats and do whatever you do when you aren't bothering us."

"Stupid hoary fart." With a downward thrust of her leathery wings, Treble launched herself into the air. The streetlight cracked and went out, and I flinched until I was sure nothing was coming down. When I next looked, she was high in the air, her huge, angled wings looking demonic against the city-lit clouds.

Shoulders shifting, Al put his elbows on his knees, his chin dropping into a cupped hand.

Bis sidestepped along the top of the bench to me, his craggy talons spaced so as not to leave a scratch. "Call me if you need me," he said, and I touched the foot he set on my shoulder.

I smiled, but inside, I was unsure. Our once indelible mental link was all but destroyed from Bis's prolonged connection to the baku. He would likely hear my mental call if he was listening, but if he was busy or asleep? It was chancy at best, and I was to blame.

"Rachel, you are alive," Bis said as he saw my heartache, and Al straightened, his own sour musings seeming to hesitate. "I'd make that same choice again. We will figure this out."

And then Bis was gone, his small shape vanishing over the yellow leaves still clinging to the trees. Embarrassed, I slumped on the bench, arms over my chest.

"I'd make that same choice again, too," Al said, a gleam in his goat-slitted, red eyes.

"Al."

"No," he said, a hand raising to stop my words. Behind us, a couple hurriedly coaxed their dog into their car and drove off amid a tense conversation. They hadn't been here for more than five minutes, and I wondered if we were being recognized.

"I'll get better at this," I said, instead of what I really wanted. Talk to me. Are you afraid your skills won't return? "I just need practice." Reaching a thought out, I tapped into the ley line, my jaw clenching at the mild discomfort. I'd been pushing too hard, and now I was singed.

"Practice, yes," he said, his thoughts clearly somewhere else as he fingered his cane.

The small group at the center of the grassy field was growing, and I frowned as an argument began to take shape, two sides clearly forming. Weres? I wondered, not sure how far I could push Al to get him to open up. If Treble was over four thousand years old, Al was far older. He'd lived countless lives: that of a wanderer, warlord, slave, magician, clever trickster, vengeful punisher, outcast, teacher. I wasn't sure what he was now. Perhaps Al wasn't, either. Maybe that was the problem.

"The baku damage Bis suffered will mend," I said hesitantly. "Will you?"

Al stiffened. "Not your concern."

"Al." I shifted to face him square on. Two more cars had gone, leaving the park to us and the growing knot of people in the field. "I think it is. Why shouldn't I worry about you?" I don't have anything else to do. Other than keep the vampires in line, the witches off my case, and the demons from reverting to their old ways of dominating everything they coveted, which was a lot. The elves still wanted to take over the world despite being on the endangered species list, and the humans simply wanted to survive after the Turn had reduced their numbers to a thin fraction. Plague by way of tomato. Even forty years later, they grieved.

For the moment, everyone was behaving-hence me having the time for some practice. But Halloween was next week and the moon was waxing. . . .

Al's eye twitched as he scanned the milling, increasingly noisy mob at the center of the field. "I have been singed deeper than this before."

"When?" I countered, and his attention went to his hands, clasped and at rest.

"Not your concern," he said again.

"How long until you can tap a ley line?" I insisted.

"Not. Your. Concern," he practically growled.

"I think it is. If you aren't up to . . ." My voice trailed off as his eyes narrowed on me. I closed my mouth, turning to sit shoulder to shoulder instead of aggressively staring him down.

But the guilt remained, guilt that he had paid for my risky chance. He had protected me and suffered for it, burned his synapses as I captured his brother first in a ley line, then a mental construct that Hodin could never break even if magic should fail again. The smut we thought would protect Al hadn't been enough. He could still do earth magic, but demons were all about flash and bang-and though incredibly strong, earth magic wasn't it.

"It was my choice," Al said, softening as he recognized my mood. "And my task," he added. "I had much to atone for concerning Hodin. And you, perhaps."

My throat was tight, and I nodded, my attention flicking to the field when someone howled. It was a Were pack, and they were going to fur by the look of it. Weres could shift any day of the year, but they generally didn't do it in a city park two weeks from a full moon.

"Perhaps it is better this way," Al said lightly, but I could tell he was worried. "I'm not tempted to do anything demonic. Try to match your aura to my line again," he added, chin lifting. "I'm not helpless, but you are. You should be able to jump somewhere in case someone circles you."

"Sure," I said, voice a whisper.

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