The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Series #3)

The Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Series #3)

by Lilith Saintcrow

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316021425
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Series: Dante Valentine Series , #3
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Lilith Saintcrow was born in New Mexico, bounced around the world as an Air Force brat, and fell in love with writing when she was ten years old. She currently lives in Vancouver, WA.

Read an Excerpt

The Devil's Right Hand


By Lilith Saintcrow

ORBIT

Copyright © 2007 Lilith Saintcrow
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-02142-5


Chapter One

It's for you," Japhrimel said diffidently, his eyes flaring with green fire in angular runic patterns for just a moment before returning to almost-human darkness.

I blinked, taking the package. It was heavy, wrapped in blue satin, with a wide white silk ribbon tied in a bow. I pushed the large leatherbound book away and rubbed at the back of my neck under the heavy fall of my hair. Long hours of reading and codebreaking made my vision blur, the white marble behind him turning into a hazy streak. For just a moment, his face looked strange.

Then I recognized him again and inhaled, taking in his familiar smell of cinnamon and amber musk. The mark on my shoulder burned at his nearness, a familiar sweet pain making my breath catch. The room was dark except for the circle of light from the antique brass lamp with its green plasilica shade. "Another present?" My voice scraped through my dry throat, still damaged; I didn't have to worry about its soft huskiness, alone with him. The tattoo on my cheek twisted, and my emerald spat a single spark to greet him.

"Indeed." Japhrimel touched my cheek with two fingertips, sending liquid fire down my back in a slow, even cascade. His long dark high-collared coat moved slightly as he straightened, his fingersleaving my cheek reluctantly. "For the most beautiful Necromance in the world."

That made me laugh. Flattery will get you everywhere, won't it. "I think Gabe's prettier, but you're entitled to your opinion." I stretched, rolling my head back on my neck, working out the stiffness. "What's this?" It was about the size of my arm from wrist to elbow, and heavy as metal, or stone.

Japhrimel smiled, his mouth tilting up and softening, his eyes dark with an almost-human expression. It looked good on him-he was usually so fiercely grim. The expression was tender, and as usual, it made my entire body uncomfortably warm. I looked down at the package, touched the ribbon.

The last present had been a copy of Perezreverte's Ninth Portal of Hell in superb condition, its leather binding perfect as if it had just been printed in old Venizia over a thousand years ago-or been sitting in a stasis cabinet since then. The house was a present too, a glowing white marble villa set in the Toscano countryside. I'd mentioned being tired of traveling, so he presented me with a key to the front door one night over dinner.

My library breathed around me, deep in shadow, none of the other lamps turned on. I heard, now that I wasn't sunk in study, the shuffle of human feet in the corridors-servants cleaning and cooking, the security net over the house humming, everything as it should be.

Why was I so uneasy? If I didn't know better, I'd say the nervousness was a warning. A premonition, my small precognitive gift working overtime.

Gods, I hope not. I've had all the fun I can stand in one lifetime.

I rubbed at my eyes again and pulled at the ribbon, silk cool and slick against my fingers. Another yawn caught at my mouth-I'd been at codebreaking for a full three days and would need to crash soon. "You don't have to keep giving me-oh, gods above."

Satin folded away, revealing a statue made of perfect glassy obsidian, a lion-headed woman on a throne. The sun-disk over her head was of pure soft hammered gold, glowing in the dim light. I let out a breath of wonder. "Oh, Japhrimel. Where did you ..."

He folded himself down into the chair opposite mine. Soft light from the full-spectrum lamp slid shadows over his saturnine face, made the green flashing through his eyes whirl like sparks above a bonfire. His eyes often held a green sparkle or two while he watched me. "Do you like it, Dante?" The usual question, as if he doubted I would.

I picked her up, felt the thrumming in the glassy stone. It was, like all his gifts, perfect. The funny melting sensation behind my ribs was familiar by now, but nothing could take away its strangeness. "She's beautiful."

"I have heard you call upon Sekhmet." He stretched out his long legs just like a human male. His eyes turned dark again, touching me, sliding against my skin like a caress. "Do you like it?"

"Of course I like her, you idiot." I traced her smooth shoulder with a fingertip, my long black-lacquered fingernail scraping slightly. "She's gorgeous." My eyes found his and the mark on my shoulder pulsed, sending warmth down my skin, soaking through my bones, a touch no less intimate for being nonphysical. "What's wrong?"

His smile faded slightly. "Why do you ask?"

I shrugged. A thin thread of guilt touched me. He was so gentle, he didn't deserve my neurotic inability to trust anything simple. "A holdover from human relationships, probably. Usually when a guy gives a lot of presents he's hiding something." And every couple of days it's something new. Books, the antiques, the weapons I barely know how to use-I'm beginning to feel spoiled. Or kept. Danny Valentine, Necromance and kept woman. Sounds like a holovid.

"Ah." The smile returned, relieved. "Only a human suspicion, then."

I grimaced, sticking my tongue out. The face made him laugh.

"Oh, quit it." I was hard-pressed not to chuckle, myself.

"It pleases me to please you. It is also time for dinner." He tilted his head, still wearing the faint shadow of a smile. "Emilio has outdone himself to tempt you away from your dusty papers."

I grimaced again, setting the statue on the desk and stretching, joints popping. "I'll get fat." This code seems a little easier than the last one. Probably a Ronson cipher with a shifting alphanumeric base. I hope this journal has more about demon physiology-I can always use that. The one treatise on wings was invaluable.

I had never before known what a tremendous show of vulnerability it was for a Greater Flight demon to close the protective shell of his wings around another being.

"You think so?" His smile widened again. "That would indeed be a feat. Come with me, I need your company."

It abruptly warmed me that he would admit to liking my company, let alone needing it. "Great. You know, I've gotten really fond of this research stuff. I never had time for it before." I was too busy paying off my mortgage. Not to mention chasing down bounties as fast as I could to keep from thinking. I stretched again, made it into a movement that brought me to my feet. I scooped the statue up, wrapping it back in the blue satin, and offered him my hand. "I suppose you're going to try to talk me into dressing for dinner again."

"I so rarely see you in a dress, hedaira. The black velvet is particularly fine." His fingers closed over mine as he rose, putting no weight on my hand. He stepped closer to me and slid his hand up my arm, my shirtsleeve giving under the pressure. I wore a silk T-shirt and a pair of jeans, bare feet. No rig, no weapons but my sword leaning against the desk, its Power contained. It rarely left the sheath anymore, except during sparring sessions.

I still kept my hand in, unwilling to let my combat reflexes go rusty. I probably shouldn't have worried-demon muscle and bone would still keep me quicker and tougher than any human. But I've spent my life fighting, and that isn't something you just lay aside no matter how safe you feel.

The idea that he was right next to me and my sword was just out of arm's reach didn't make me feel unsteady or panicked like it used to.

Go figure, the one person on earth I trust while I'm unarmed, and it's him. I leaned into Japh, my head on his shoulder. Tension slid through him, something I hadn't felt since our first days of traveling away from Saint City. The only thing that would soothe him was my nearness, I'd learned it was better to just stay still once in a while and let him touch me, it made things easier for both of us. I was getting used to the curious feeling of being practically unarmed around a demon.

A Fallen demon. A'nankhimel, a word I still had no hope of deciphering.

"You're talking about the black velvet sheath? Half my chest hangs out in that thing." My tone was light, bantering, but I let him hold me.

Bit by bit, his tautness lessened, drained away. "Such a fine chest it is, too. The very first thing I noticed." His tone was, as usual, flat and ironic, shaded with the faintest amusement.

"Liar." The first thing you noticed was my annoying human habit of asking questions and being rude. I rubbed my cheek against his shoulder to calm him. It had taken a long time for me not to care what his long black coat was made of. I was getting better at all of this.

"Hm." He stroked my hair, his fingers slipping through the long ink-black strands. I often had wistful thoughts of a shorter cut, but when he played with it I always ended up putting off the inevitable trim. At least I no longer had to dye it, it was black all the way through naturally now. Silken black.

The same as his. Just as my skin was only a few shades paler than his, or my pheromonal cloak of demon scent was lighter but still essentially the same.

"Japhrimel?" The huskiness that never left my voice made the air stir uneasily. My throat didn't hurt anymore, but something in my voice was broken all the same by the Prince of Hell's iron fingers.

"What, my curious?"

"What's wrong?" I slid my free arm around him and squeezed slightly, so he'd know I was serious. "You're...." You're in that mood again, Japh. The one where you seem to be listening to something I can't hear, watching for something I can't see, and set on a lasetrigger that makes me a little nervous. Even though you haven't hurt me, you're so fucking careful sometimes I wish you'd forget yourself and bruise me like you once did.

"What could be wrong with you in my arms, hedaira?" He kissed my cheek, a soft lingering touch. "Come. Dinner. Then, if you like, I will tell you a story."

"What kind of story?" Trying to distract me like a kid at bedtime. I'll let you.

It didn't often show, how old he was; I suspected he deliberately refrained from reminding me. Perfect tact, something I'd never known a demon could exercise. They're curiously legalistic, even if their idea of objective truth often doesn't match a human's. Another pretty question none of the books could answer. How close is legalism to tact?

He made a graceful movement that somehow ended up with him handing me my sword and turned into a kiss-a chaste kiss on my forehead, for once. "Any kind of story you like. All you must do is decide."

Emilio had indeed outdone himself. Bruschetta, calamari, soft garlic bread and fresh mozzarella, lemon pasta primavera, a lovely slate-soft Franje Riesjicard, crème brulee. Fresh strawberries, braised asparagus. Olives, which I didn't like but Emilio loved so much he couldn't imagine anyone hating. We were, after all, in Toscano. What was a meal without olives?

The olive trees on the tawny hills were probably older than the Hegemony. I'd spent many a late afternoon poring over a solitary Magi's shadowjournal written in code, Japhrimel stretched out by my side in the dappled shade of a gnarled tree with leathery green-yellow leaves, heat simmering up from the terraced hills. He basked like a cat as the sky turned into indigo velvet studded with dry stars. Then we would walk home along dusty roads, more often than not with his arm over my shoulders and the books swinging back and forth in an old-fashioned leather strap buckled tight. A schoolgirl and a demon.

I had basic Magi training, every psion did. Since the Magi had been dealing with power and psychic phenomena since before the Awakening they were the ones who had the methods, so the collection of early training techniques was the same for a Magi as a Necromance, or a Shaman or Skinlin or any other psion you would care to name. But actual Magi nowadays were given in-depth magickal training for weakening the walls between worlds and trafficking with Hell. It was the kind of study that took decades to accumulate and get everything right-which was why most Magi hired out as corporate security or took other jobs in the meantime. Japhrimel didn't stop me from buying old shadowjournals at auction or from slightly-less-than-legal brokers, but he wouldn't speak about what being Fallen meant. Not only that, he wouldn't help me decode the shadowjournals either ... and good luck apprenticing myself to a Magi circle, if any would take me while Japh was hanging around. They would be far more interested in him than in me, even if I could convince one to take on a psion far too old for the regular apprenticeship.

Dinner took a long time in the high, wide-open dining room, with its dark wooden table-big enough for sixteen-draped in crisp white linen. I was happy to savor the food, and Japhrimel amused himself by folding some of my notes-brought to the table in defiance of manners-into origami animals. I always seemed to lose some when he did that, but it was worth it to see him present them almost shyly after his golden fingers flicked with a delicacy I wouldn't have thought him capable of.

Emilio, a thick, round Novo Taliano with a moustache to be proud of, waltzed in carrying a plate with what looked like ... it couldn't be.

"Bella!" His deep voice bounced off warm white stone walls. A crimson tapestry from the antique shop in Arrieto fluttered against the wall, brushed by soft warmth through the long open windows, my sword leaned against my chair, ringing softly to itself. "Behold!"

"Oh, no." I tried to sound pleased instead of horrified-and-pleased-plus-guilty. "Emilio, you didn't."

"Blame me." Japhrimel's lips curved into another rare smile. "I suggested it."

"You suggested Chocolate Murder?" I was hard put not to laugh. "Japhrimel, you don't even eat it."

"But you love it." Japhrimel leaned back in his chair, the origami hippopotamus squatting on his palm. "The last time you tasted chocolate-"

Heat flooded my cheeks, and I was glad I didn't blush often. "Let's not talk about that." I eyed the porcelain plate as Emilio slid it in front of me. A moist, heavenly chocolate brownie, gooey and perfect, studded with almonds-real almonds grown on trees, not synthprotein fooled into thinking it was almonds. Nothing but the best for a Fallen and his hedaira.

The thought made me sober, looking down at the still-hot brownie mounded with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, cherries soaked in brandy scattered in a flawless arc along one side of the plate. I could smell the still-baking sugars, could almost taste their delicate balance of caramelization. "Oh," I sighed. "This is fantastic, Emilio. Whatever he's paying you, it isn't enough."

He waved his round arms, his fingers thick and soft, not callused like mine. Our cook didn't take combat training, nobody wanted to kill a rotund Taliano food artist who wore stained white aprons and spoke with his plump hands swaying like slicboard wash. For all that, he was very easy with me-one of the few normals who didn't seem to fear my tat. "Ch'cosa, s'gnora, I don't cook for him. I cook for you. Take one bite. Just one."

"I'm almost afraid to, it's so beautiful." I picked up the fork, delicately, and glanced at Japhrimel, who looked amused. The hippo had vanished from his palm. Emilio waited, all but quivering with impatience. "I can't do it. You have to."

Emilio looked as horrified as if I'd suggested he cut up his own mother and chew on her, his mustache quivering. I offered him the fork.

"Please, Emilio. I really can't." I blinked, trying not to look like I was batting my eyelashes. "You made this, it's beautiful, you deserve to break it."

He shook his head solemnly. "No, no. Wrong." He waved a blunt finger at me. "You don't like the Chocolate Murder?" His voice was laced with mock hurt-he was so good at laying on the guilt. His accent mangled the Merican; I still hadn't learned Taliano.

I laughed, but an uneasy frisson went up my spine. I glanced at Japhrimel, who now studied me intently.

His eyes were almost human, dark and liquid in the light from the crystal chandelier hanging overhead. "Thank you, Emilio. She loves it, but she simply can't trust a gift. It's in her nature to be suspicious."

I let my lip curl. Even a demon had a better time of dealing with normals than I did. "I never said that." To prove it, I broke through the pristine whiteness of the whipped cream, took a scoop of brownie, and carried the resultant hoverload of sinful k-cals to my mouth.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Devil's Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow Copyright © 2007 by Lilith Saintcrow. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Devil's Right Hand (Dante Valentine Series #3) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dante Valentine and her demon lover, Japhrimel, are summoned to once again meet with the Dark Prince. His mission for Dante is to hunt down four Flight Demons that have escaped hell. She has seven years to accomplish this task. I was blown away by this third book in the series. It had me tense the whole time. This book delves even deeper into Dante and Japhrimel's relationship and it is a roller coaster of a ride. Hold onto your seats for this one. It was phenomanal.
krau0098 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This is the third book in the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow. Thankfully it was much, much better than the second book.The books starts with Danny living peacefully in Toscano with Japh by her side. Danny is finally getting to do some research into her half-demon nature and Japh remains silent about any information he could give her. The peaceful existence falls to pieces when a summons from Lucifer comes and Danny and Japh can no longer ignore it. Lucifer forces Danny to be his Right-Hand for seven years. Lucifer has 4 demons that he wants Danny to hunt down and kill. When Japh throws getting his demonic power returned to him into the bargain and leaves Danny alone with no explanation, she ends up in quite the fix.There was a lot of action in this book and the return of the more self-sufficient Danny that we were introduced to in book one. I really liked the inclusions of other demons and the ending took a twist that I wasn't expecting. Really it was the ending that made this book for me and tied Danny into a mess so complicated that it was intensely interesting. I really liked this book it was fast paced and easy to read. Danny got a new sword and it is awesome to have her fighting how she likes to fight.I still have a number of complaints. I *still* think Danny acts strange about Japh. She needs to stop being so obsessed over him. I was also disappointed at the pace of the storyline; the storyline didn't progress as far as I had expected. In fact the third and fourth book (which I am in the middle of) would have probably been more appropriate as one book. I was also frustrated with how Danny's half-demon nature is made a big deal of but we still don't know anything about it. Most of these things could be done intentionally by Saintcrow to take us by surprise later and I guess I will have to wait and see about that. At the end of this book I was glad I had the next one because there really isn't anything resolved in this book, just more questions.This was a good book. I enjoyed it, much better than the second book. Hopefully in the fourth book some of the plot-lines will find some resolution.
crishaynes on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I did not enjoy this book much at all. It was laborous to get thru it. I will still read the rest of the series because i like the characters but this book in particular was annoying. The entire book was spent inside Dante's head...whinning about how she can't trust people. I miss the kick butt heroine. It also didn't have much plot. Most books have a background mystery to them. This one ended up being a long book to show she was setup so even the main bounty was bogus. All in all, not a very good read. Maybe it is essential in order to show an impending change of fundamentals for Dante. So in hopes for that, I will go read the next one. But if she keeps wallowing and acting like no one is good enough for her because they keep things from her or lied to her once in their lifetime-write them off. Not cool. Although Jaf was very aggressive and kept her out of the loop-it would annoy anyone. But she was whinning before he took drastic measures. Laborous read.
bookaphile on LibraryThing 25 days ago
The Dante Valentine series is like a graphic novel for women without the graphics. Dante needs to grow up and her relationship to the demon Japhrimel is tested once again. this time not by death but by loyalty. It seems Japh has gone back to hell and is working for the devil once again and she is hired to find some rogue demons that escaped hell before they find her. She teams up with some interesting charcters in her quest including the deathless one Lucas (Who I love) and I dare say they will return in the next book. Saintcrow never disaapoints me.
sensitivemuse on LibraryThing 25 days ago
This was a much better improvement from the second one. (I found Dante to be a little whiny). She still packs a punch with her wit and literally kicks butt in the action scenes. Although she¿s still emotional at times, and Japhrimel doesn¿t really help her much (at least it seems like it). I¿m glad Dante got back on her feet and is somewhat back to her normal self. Like the previous two novels, the action scenes never disappoint me. They¿re well written and very descriptive and it really does feel as if you¿re watching a movie instead of reading a book. I still think Dante still needs to develop a bit more. It¿s like she¿s stuck in a rut and can¿t seem to get past the emotional stage of her development. It¿s developing, but I think it¿s developing a little too slow. Yet as I mentioned above, I¿m glad she¿s back to her butt kicking ways. She still has some issues to resolve, and hopefully they¿ll get solved soon to get the plot moving faster.The relationship between Dante and Japhrimel seems strained and tense. Although there¿s a lot of love, there¿s also a very deep sense of mistrust between the two of them as Japhrimel still hides a lot of secrets. I like them as a couple and they both compliment each other well. Plot-wise, the book was good. Although it was slow at first to get into. The action does pick up and some twists were revealed to keep the story interesting. I still feel as if the story is missing something though, but it could be because I just don¿t like the way Dante¿s character is developing. The twist in the end was good and I¿m looking forward to picking up the next book to read the series further.Dante Valentine fans will be happy that she¿s back to her own self (somewhat) and Japh is still sexy as ever. The action and plot twists will keep us coming back for more. Let¿s hope with this new twist, the plot will be taken further and will be an enjoyable read like this book.
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Wow. Things get _complicated_. Also, in this book unlike the previous two, nothing really gets resolved - it's setting up the parameters for the situation in the next book. All her enemies, and her possible allies, are still around and active and needing to be dealt with - she has something of an idea what is going on now, that's all. And knows a little more about Jaf (Japh). Though she's still missing one major point that he's repeated dozens of times - ''while you live, I live'' (and I suspect vice versa). She spends a lot of time looking for loopholes in good things - enough that she even gets mad at herself. Japh's stupid stunt at least focused her attention, so she's got a better chance of seeing what's under her nose. The battles are interesting, too - she kept talking, in Dead Man Rising, about how she was way stronger and faster and more able than any normal human - now she's coming up against things where the difference is negligible, she's practically as vulnerable as before. There's a lot of aspects to the story - who's lying about what, who's just being silent, who's the worse danger to her and him and the whole thing. As I said - complicated. I'm eager to read the next book - but it's 1 am and I've got to get up early tomorrow!
jlparent on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Bk. 3 - Dante needs to get over the repetitive, doubting, whiny, prissy crap. I want my strong, sharp female lead back. Where was the editor hrm? I don't need 1/4th of the book to be this crap...anyway, I am hoping the 4th book turns things around for her since this is obviously a transitional book. On the plus side (a small one), when some action finally kicks in, it is bearable but the overly dramatic and woe-is-me and I love him but I can't trust him beginning is especially hard to get through.
Phantasma on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Whine, whine, whine, whine, and whine. I could not finish this book. There is whining and more whining and distrust and then more whining. I flipped to the end just to see what happens and it appears that ***SPOILER ALERT*** everyone dies. Lovely. Jeez. What happened to these books? Really? The first one was good. The second one, ok. This one was horrific.
TheBooknerd on LibraryThing 5 months ago
When I finished Book 1 I thought, "wow! I can't wait to read the next one." After finishing Book 2, I thought, "I have to tell everyone about this series." Now, after living and breathing this last book for the last ten conscious hours, I feel that same hum of contentment I felt back in the days when Robb's (Roberts's) In Death series was still a new and exciting thing. Danny has all the ass-kicking, hair-pulling appeal as Eve Dallas, with that same core of vulnerability to keep her character credible. Japhrimel is the tall, dark demon who becomes more of a mystery the longer you know him. It's both fascinating and frustrating to watch their relationship develop--I thought I had communication problems. With the added spice of violence, otherworldly creatures, and plenty of sass I couldn't be happier.
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I-luv-2-read More than 1 year ago
I chose this one since I am unable to get it through my library. I often read the storys first and then if I really like it I try to purchase the series. I like Saintcrow's books and I have read two of her series. Those I am unable to locate through the library I purchase from B&H. com. or Barnes and Noble. Herbooks are rather for those who both think and like to be scared. Thinking comes first however.
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renthewriter More than 1 year ago
Dante and Japhrimel are doing the Devil’s bidding for the next seven years. Who said chasing demons would be fun? My issue is with Dante Valentine. She’s conflicted, childish and all over the place right now. Its either black or white with her, no shades of gray. I think I would’ve given this more stars if Dante was a bit more likeable in this installment. Her incessant whining really worked my last nerve. My apologies for not being very thorough with the review. It was very hard for me to get through this one. I’m going to finish the series just to see how it ends. Hopefully the next one will be better.
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