Linda Robertson, author of the Persephone Alcmedi urban fantasy series, now brings you The Immanence series.
A horrific car accident put Jovienne in a coma. When she awakened months later, she was told that her family had died. And Jovienne? She felt different...irreversibly changed.
Years passed, and she was raised by a stranger who trained her to use the quintanumin. She excelled at every lesson, and she longed for her mentor to become much more. When the time came for her final test, a death-match against a demon, she uncovered a terrible truth: the man she had trusted to teach her had a dreadful secret, and Jovienne had become a monster's monster.
The traumatized Jovienne becomes desperate for a way out of this new life, working on a way to rescind her immortality. But this only brings the demons ever closer, one of which claims to know a secret of its own about Jovienne-a secret she doesn't even know herself.
"Linda Robertson's Jovienne is a unique and twisted journey of action, horror, and urban fantasy, packed with cool ideas. In a genre where so much feels the same, it's a pleasure to encounter a writer who has found a different muse." —Christopher Golden, NYT Bestselling Author
About the Author
Linda Robertson is the author of the Persephone Alcmedi series. She’s a mother of four boys, owns three electric guitars, and is followed around by a big dog named after Bela Lugosi. Once upon a time she was a lead guitarist in a heavy metal cover band and has worked as a graphic artist. She lives in Mansfield, Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
The Immannence Series Book One
By Linda Robertson, Gwendolyn Nix
Ragnarok PublicationsCopyright © 2017 Linda Robertson
All rights reserved.
Easter Sunday April 4, 2021 San Francisco, California
The destroyed stained glass window looked like an open mouth showing pointy, irregular teeth. Inside, the church's cavernous shape trapped the sound of the downpour like TV static that couldn't be muted. Not even inside the confessional.
Having finally learned about the drama that occurred during the sunrise mass that morning, Andrei came to see for himself. He hadn't expected that Father Everly would be taking confessions with the evening services only an hour away, but then he hadn't intended to make one. He shifted, uncomfortable in the darkened box. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been ten years since my last confession."
"Tell me my son, what brings you after all this time?"
Hearing the exhaustion in the old priest's voice, Andrei's cheeks flamed. He shouldn't be taking the man's time on this holy day when his church was in turmoil.
But he had to. Because of Jovienne. Maybe his urgency stemmed from not going to mass since she came into his life. Maybe it was the rain. One of the strongest memories he had of her occurred on an equally wet day almost a decade ago.
It had been autumn, and she'd finally grown strong enough to be out of her bed more than she was in it. She had asked every day for two weeks to go to the cemetery. He'd used the rain as an excuse to put off the trip, but she was insistent, and he finally gave in.
"Wait here for me?" she asked as they approached the gates.
"I'll help you find the headstones." She'd been in a coma when her family were buried.
"I can find them. Wait here."
He'd decided when they first met to respect her determination. 'I can' defined her. She'd endured so much, and her willpower had everything to with her surviving to this point.
It would be key to her survival long-term.
Her steps, unhurried but certain as she entered the dreary graveyard, led her from the paved road to cut across the grounds toward a certain set of stones like she had a homing beacon. He watched her kick away the fallen yellow leaves, clearing the ground before a small headstone. Then, she did the same for the outermost of the graves in front of the adjacent tombstone-for-two. The green grass was a stark contrast to the bright deposits of foliage.
The center grave she left covered. Andrei was curious if it was her mother or her father that she did not reveal, and if she'd had a brother or a sister, older or younger. It didn't matter; he didn't need to know about her past to train her.
When she returned, her cheeks were wet, but her eyes showed no sign of having wept. The drops on her face were only rain. He marveled, wondering if strength or the misunderstanding of youth locked away this child's tears.
She seemed to understand his scrutiny. "The sky cried for me," she said, "and the trees are weeping pretty blankets." She glanced over her shoulder at her work, the grassy area easy to pick out. "But some graves ought to be cold."
"My son?" Father Everly prompted.
Andrei poked at the buttonhole on his leather duster and questioned what he was about to do. Everything he thought he understood about Jovienne had been proven wrong. But Father Everly deserved to know who'd destroyed his church. And why.
"I know the demon who broke your window this morning, Father. I raised her."
* * *
Eight Days Earlier ... Saturday San Francisco, California
IN THE VESTIBULE of his local parish, Andrei pulled a flask from his pocket and sank it into the holy water. He and Jovienne used blessed water to swab their weapons and they were running low. This was how they restocked.
The bubbles were still rising when a masculine voice said, "Andrei."
He jerked in surprise and lost his grip on the flask, spinning around as the deep-voiced angel manifested with a flash of light.
He wanted to refuse, but wedged his tongue behind his teeth. Arguing with angels never ended well. His chin lowered in a single conciliatory nod.
"Bring her at sundown." The angel told him where.
* * *
"SUN'S GONNA SET soon. You ready?" Andrei could have been asking it of himself, but he wasn't.
"Almost." The answer came from under a waterfall of hair like blackest ink. Jovienne rested on one knee, head down, tightening the lacing on her boot. She stood and rocked from her heels to her toes, testing the feel of the footwear.
She walked to the wall cabinet. A handful of throwing stars were placed into her back pocket. Next, she began strapping leather sheaths to her wrists.
He noted every detail as her fingers worked the buckles. Nails trimmed short. Olive skin calloused and scarred. But every move was part of a dance, a choreographed routine she'd been performing daily for years. If things were normal, he'd have been gearing up as well. Instead, he watched her, sick with the thought that every minute brought him closer to never seeing her again.
His life was as good as it had ever been. Until the angel showed up that morning. He wished his and Jovienne's training routine could continue, but more than that, he needed the culpability of his past to stay buried.
She added daggers to the wrist sheaths, and then reached for her short jacket. As the coat settled on her shoulders, the costume jewels of the collar pin caught the light. Andrei grimaced and the knot in his gut twisted tighter. He gave her that decorative lapel dagger on her birthday a few years back, and what should have been a happy moment had soured so definitively in the minutes afterward that seeing it still pained him.
She pulled her hair free from under the collar. "Now I'm ready." She strode toward the window. Though only eighteen, she moved with the strength and bearing of a seasoned hunter.
Serious and discerning, headstrong but focused, she was much more than he had been at her age ... or now. Old wounds couldn't discourage her and neither could the fear of new ones. In fact, she seemed an unstoppable force. With her broken pieces, he'd built a dark lioness. Courage and pride veiled her scars.
She raised the window and poked her head out. The evening sun bled a halo of red on her hair. "All clear." She flashed him an eager look, then her expression fell blank. "Are you ready?" Without waiting for an answer, she slipped through the window, her boots clanging on the metal of the fire escape. "Race you to Bush Street, old man." She sprang up and out of sight. He heard the soft thud as she landed lightly on the roof, and her footsteps as she ran away.
Old man? Andrei sighed and his hands raked over his hair. He wasn't that much older. But guilt adds years.
Besides, she'd win even without a head start.
His original plan for the evening involved Jovienne's favorite training exercise: summoning geist, the wandering ghosts willing to masquerade as demons, and spar with his pupil in exchange for the nourishment of energy in fresh-spilled blood. But the sparring days were ended. From now on, it would all be real.
She didn't take a sword.
He perused the assortment of weapons in the cabinet she'd left open. The wakizashi was her favorite: a good sword, elegant in her hands. But she'd need something heartier tonight. He lifted his favorite. The gladius. Though heavier, she could handle the weight. Plus, this slightly longer blade would increase her reach. He belted it to his waist.
Climbing onto the fire escape, he closed the window, scanned around, and leapt to the roof. He broke into a run and vaulted to the top of the next building.
There, he stopped. He didn't want to do this, but he couldn't tell if the resistance was strongest in his heart or his gut. His selfish heart wanted to keep teaching her. Being her pedagogue was his greatest joy. But his gut acknowledged that parting ways meant telling her the truth. She shouldn't hear it from someone else.
Scanning the usual path ahead, he acknowledged his underlying urge to disobey the angel.
Then, whispering a prayer, he surrendered his will and ran, progressing to ever-taller rooftops. She had to be halfway to the high-rise already. He increased his pace, needing to bring her back to attend the appointment she didn't know she had.
Arriving before the sun set was essential, before he felt the cringe: a horrible, nauseating, and goose-bumpy sensation that engulfed him at the exact moment the sun slipped past the horizon.
He'd felt this every day of his life. He'd never met anyone else who did, though Jovienne came close. At dusk, she heard drums.
Questions about the phenomena far outnumbered the answers he'd found during the years of his life. One thing he did not doubt was that both of their reactions equated an awareness of evil. Every time this happened, a part of the topography would change ... it looked normal and yet it wavered like water. A hideous burnt and skeletal creature would emerge from that strange, fluid terrain and move in plain view of average people, yet none would react. None of them could see it.
But he and Jovienne could.
Going into the heights at dusk was her idea, as she claimed the reverberation of the drums faded into a thudding like that of a distant parade. He'd found his own reaction was slightly lessened up there. Any reprieve, no matter how small, was welcome. Besides, he didn't want to be near the ground and see the gruesome creatures.
Breathing hard, he made the final leap and landed atop the Bush Street building. His chest tightened seeing her in her usual spot, admiring the city. To him, San Francisco was a bunch of crowded and dirty boxes people lived or worked in, creating a nasty, noisy whole that stunk of pollution and asphalt. Whatever trait she possessed that allowed her to find new beauty each evening was the same thing that allowed her to better deal with the terrors they knew. And, he hoped, the fact that he never broke her will helped too. God only knew how much damage the marms had caused by breaking his.
She is stronger than me. That's why she will succeed.
Hearing him approach she turned and grinned. "I win."
"You always do," he replied. Don't let tonight be the exception.
* * *
JOVIENNE STOOD BESIDE Andrei in the darkness between streetlights. A long-abandoned warehouse sat before them.
Last year's weeds had fought up through the crevices of the blacktop, but winter had slain them, leaving desiccated husks to flutter on the sun-bleached lot.
She frowned and her fingers, threaded through the links of the nine-foot perimeter fence, curled into fists. She tried to convince herself that her heart thumped from excitement, not because everything about this pissed her off.
Andrei had given her no warning. She hadn't mentally prepared. This moment was, for her, about so much more than taking a test. Her whole life was about to change. Tonight. And he simply expected that she would pass under these circumstances.
She glared at the disgusting warehouse. It looked like it should be torn down. But a lot of places around here did. "So, my final review comes down to one fight and it's done here?" She glanced over her shoulder at Andrei. She wanted to think he was playing a joke on her, but he never showed a sense of humor. "Here?"
She'd been training for nearly a decade. It had started with a daily regimen of strength training that helped her control the quintanumin: five metaphysical upgrades given to her by divine intervention. After mastering that skillset, Andrei pushed her far beyond a 'standard' education by including the subjects of theology, demonology, religious history and artifacts, and languages such as Hebrew and Latin. She learned human and demonic anatomy and physiology, combat strategy, tracking and pursuit, advanced hand-to-hand combat and advanced tactics of bladed weaponry.
She'd bled for this and spilled gallons of sweat and tears along the way. There was no paper test, no questions or diagrams to assess her knowledge. There was no picturesque courtyard or sleek modern gymnasium where her strength and form would be reviewed. There was only a fight inside a filthy ruin.
Despite her discontent, she committed the scene to memory. From the east, the San Francisco Bay flavored the air with salt. To the west, beyond the cola billboard, clouds crowded over the Pacific and threatened to hide the rise of the almost-full moon. Between them lay the ugly, urban decay known as the Tenderloin, displaying the destitute and forsaken to everyone on the James Lick Freeway and I-280.
Her fingers were going numb. She relaxed them but kept her grip on the fence as squeaking drew her attention back to the warehouse. Above the double-door entry, a sign hung by a single screw. The discolored art indicated a furniture storage facility, and the faded letters spelled Hyde Depository. Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde crossed her mind as the sign swung in the breeze, shrieking like hideous laughter.
"Jovienne, look —"
"What if I fail?"
"But what if I do?"
She faced him. "Are you saying there are no consequences if I fail?"
He hesitated, looked away, and drew a quavering breath. "If you lose, the demon will take you to Hell."
Usually Andrei's matter-of-fact nature reassured her, but the way his last word hung in the cold March air offered no comfort. It wasn't meant to.
A thread of fear tangled spite to her anger. Knowing Andrei considered himself a good Catholic, though he'd been absent from services for years, she baited him. "Just one more reason to hate God."
"What did you say?"
His expression was as shocked as she'd anticipated, and still his blue eyes made her weak at the knees.
"It's His way or no way at all."
"We're not talking about a jerk of a landlord.
We're talking about God. The God."
"Exactly. Ten years of training and that's it. Pass and serve. Or suffer forever. There's no going back to master weak points. It's straight to Hell. Why would anyone worship a god like that? Why would I want to work for Him?"
"How can you say that?"
Ever since Andrei had rejected her physical advance and told her what she wanted was sick, Jovienne had hoped to redeem herself in his eyes. She'd locked away the emotions that he didn't want to exist. But hiding her feelings hadn't caused them to wither.
Doing this would have to redeem her. Finally.
Her hands fell to her sides as she faced him again, eyes pleading. "Wanting with all my heart to be good enough won't make me good enough." Please hear what I am truly saying to you.
"I know you can do this."
Eyes shutting, she turned away.
Stupid, stupid tears burned her eyes. With all her might she fought not to cry.
"There's something you need to know."
His tone drew her gaze back. His chin dropped and he wore a look she'd only seen on him once before, on that terrible birthday two years past when she'd touched him. It was a look of shame and guilt.
Hope sprouted in her heart. "What do I need to know?" She held her breath, waiting for his answer.
He seemed to be struggling for the words.
Yes. This was it. She stole a glimpse of the glowing western horizon. "There's time for one last lesson."
His crooked smile appeared for a moment and then faded as he nodded at her. "Long ago I told you —" his fingers raked through his hair and she trembled, hoping to hear what she wanted to hear, "that you were intended to work for the church."
Her burgeoning hope that this was the lead-in to some heartfelt confession wilted. As always, he was all business. Her jaw clamped and her shoulders squared as every muscle tightened in preparation of the beating this emotionless lecture would give.
"That's true, but there's more to it than that," he continued. "You're meant to join a specific community of angels."
"Angels?" In the life she'd known before Andrei, her mother's pet name for her was angel. Her father called her little sister, Calienne, princess. It never seemed fair that Cali was royalty while she was some deity's servant.
"Defeat the demon and you will become an angel."
"Demon slayers may grow up in poverty, without mothers, learning how to kill, but angels don't."
"Some do." Andrei eased forward. "You hear the word angel and you think of the brilliant, glowing, top-of-the-Christmas-tree type beings. You're not going to be that kind of angel."
Her eyes narrowed. "Explain."
"To be lifted up from your humanity, you must prove yourself worthy, but once you have passed the test — and you will, I don't doubt that at all — you'll become something those pristine beings can't ever be."
More a breath than a whisper, she asked, "What is it you expect me to become?"
A great breath filled his lungs and he studied her face. "You'll be one of the abhadhim."
Excerpted from Jovienne by Linda Robertson, Gwendolyn Nix. Copyright © 2017 Linda Robertson. Excerpted by permission of Ragnarok Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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