Released

Released

by Jus Accardo

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Overview

Jax Flynn’s life just went from bad to worse. He was already sharing his body with a demon named Azirak, but after killing its mate… Well, shit got real. Now the demon has taken control of Jax’s body and everything he cares for is at stake, including Samantha, the girl he loves. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. It’s time Jax showed everyone what he was really made of.

He'll move Heaven and Hell to keep her safe...

Series order:
Eternal Balance Book 1: Ruined
Eternal Balance Book 2: Embrace
Eternal Balance Book 3: Released

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781622663170
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 03/28/2016
Series: Eternal Balance Series , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 225
Sales rank: 547,127
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Jus Accardo spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather's footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. At the last minute, she realized her path lay with fiction, not food, and passed on the spot to pursue writing. Jus is the author of YA paranormal romance and urban fantasy fiction. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.

Read an Excerpt

Released

The Eternal Balance Book Three


By Jus Accardo, Liz Pelletier, Stephen Morgan

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2016 Jus Accardo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62266-317-0


CHAPTER 1

Azirak/Jax


She hadn't left my side in days. Samantha Merrick, the girl with fury in her eyes and unrelenting determination in her soul. She was also my ... What the hell was she? Girlfriend wasn't right. The word was too loose an interpretation of our relationship. I also couldn't call us lovers. That was off the table — for now. She was my conscience, my craving, the source of every dirty thought I'd ever had ... Sam was the reason I kept going.

One I could hear from across the room.

As she approached, my heartbeat quickened, and a noxious scent filled the air, coming from the plate thrust into my face. "Eat it," Sam demanded.

Azirak took the plate from her and placed it on the bar in front of me.

Azirak. The demon who'd made my life hell from the moment I'd taken my first breath.

Azirak. The demon living inside me.

Azirak. The demon who now had control of my body.

Human food was offensive to it. The demon survived on the darker side of human emotion — not cheeseburgers. My — its — our — gut twisted in revulsion. I couldn't force the bastard to eat it, but I could fill its mind with images of doing just that.

"No," Azi said, barely hiding the disgust I'd inspired. "It has an unpleasant odor."

Sam made a sound like a growl and kicked the edge of my chair. I felt the vibration as though it were my head she'd kicked in. That's what it was like riding shotgun in your own fucking body. Everything was amplified. Sounds were sharper, lights were brighter, and feelings ... Let's just say that when Sam accidentally brushed my wrist while setting down the burger? Yeah. I felt it all over.

"Does it look like I care?" she ground out. All I wanted to do was feel her against my skin again. I pushed for control, straining with all the energy I had, but it was useless — not even the flicker of a finger under my command. "Hold his damn nose and stuff it down his throat."

The girl on the other side of the bar, a dark-skinned woman with multiple colors in her hair, watched us with a strange expression. With a slow shake of her head, she went back to wiping down the bar.

Azi studied the burger. Under his command, my finger poked at the meat, and a ripple of disgust went through me. I wasn't sure if it was the demon's — or mine. "Why?"

Sam's skin took on a reddish hue, and the muscles in her neck tightened. Sweet-tasting anger, a red haze that rolled off her in waves and drifted into the air between us, made my mouth water. "Because he needs to eat!"

Just eat the fucking thing.

If I could do it over, would I have killed Malphi, Azi's mate, knowing it would get me locked inside my own body while the demon took control? Yeah. I would. It'd saved Sam's life. And even though it now meant I couldn't communicate with her, I could still annoy the shit out of the demon. It was the only bright spot in my miserable fucking life at the moment.

She won't give up until you do.

It pushed me back and lifted my head to meet her gaze. The fury there was enough to rival any demon, tenfold. A swell of admiration washed through Azi. It often wondered what kind of a demon Sam would have made. It had an unhealthy obsession with my girl ...

Azi nudged the plate away. "So long as I continue to feed, he will be nourished."

She stood her ground, glaring like she wanted to rip me apart. I knew the contempt wasn't for me, but I still hated seeing it aimed in my direction, hated what all this was doing to her. "His body needs actual food." Leaning in close, she added, "Not other people's bad vibes."

We've been over this. Unless you want us to shrivel up, my body needs food.

Azi growled and snatched the burger from the plate. The action rattled the flatware and nearly sent it over the edge of the counter. Weakness, considering recent events, could get us killed. It could get her killed.

It stuffed the overcooked animal into my mouth and choked the thing down in three large bites. It was dry, the texture unpleasant, but it calmed the annoying rumble in my gut.

"Thank you," she forced out, as though the words caused her physical pain. She reached around the bar to grab her coat, taking care not to brush my hand — which was a mind-fuck all its own. A part of me wanted the contact, craved it like air. But another part of me, the one trapped inside here, hated the way it made me feel — helpless. "Now, are you ready to go?"

Azi stood and, giving the plate one last glare, nodded.

Sam led the way, weaving through the diminishing crowd of Viking employees. It was four a.m. and the club was closing. Since the demon had totaled our only ride a week ago, we had a long walk ahead of us.

Heading out the back door and into the alley next to the club, Sam pulled her coat tighter. She looked one way and then the other. Satisfied that we were alone, she started for home. Azi followed, remaining silent.

Sam didn't like when the demon spoke to her. She hadn't said so outright, but it was obvious by the pain in her eyes every time it opened my mouth. Several times I'd seen her actually cringe. It was my voice, my lips moving — but it wasn't me. Not really. Azi had no desire to cause her more suffering than it already had, so the demon kept to itself unless addressed directly. It was a small mercy, but I figured I had to take what I could get.

There was a chill in the air, and several blocks from the club, it began to rain, which complicated things. For the last block or so, something had been following us. Azi couldn't tell what it was, but considering the shit we'd had to deal with lately, the demon remained on guard. The rain would make it harder to track the scent and get rid of the fucker — whatever it was.

As we passed a row of shops, Azi picked up the trail again, the pungent stink stinging my senses. This time it was closer and definitely not human. My fingers closed around Sam's wrist, and without explanation, Azi dragged her into the small space between two of the buildings.

"What the hell are you — "

It covered her mouth and leaned close. For a moment, the smell of her overrode my system and sent a powerful spark of desire to my core. The demon inhaled, savoring the sudden spike of Sam's anger, and grinned when the smallest tuft of lust seeped through. I wanted desperately to act on it, to fan the ember and turn it into an inferno, which only increased Azi's desire — not that it needed the push. It already had a thing for Sam without any help from me.

"Be still and stay silent," the demon whispered against her ear. My lips brushed the edge, and a wave of longing rolled over me. I wanted to tell Sam I missed her, to let her know that I would find a way out of this. But no matter how loud I roared, she wouldn't hear me. It was the demon's words that came from my lips, its sentiments expressed through the movements of my body. None of it was me except for the packaging. "We are being followed."

The alley was devoid of light, but my senses were inhuman. I saw every detail of her face, from the worried gleam in her eyes to the sudden tension in her body. She gave a slight nod, and Azi removed my hand.

Get Sammy out of there.

I fought for dominance, failing, then let out an enraged howl.

If anything happens to her ...

"We will be fine." The demon's assurance was for both of us, but it didn't make me feel better.

Movement on the street distracted it momentarily, and a large black blur flew at us from the far end of the alley. Azi pushed Sam to the ground as the hulking mass crashed into my body. It was a million tons of weight crushing every bone.

Growling. The creature perched on my chest snarled, viscous black fluid oozing from between rows of jagged, reddish teeth. I knew what it was because Azi did. The carnivus was a vicious dog-like thing from the depths of hell, often used as frontline soldiers in war, and it snapped its jaw inches from my face.

"A Carnivus ... Impossible," Azi said, greeting the beast with a snarl of its own. It gripped the thing's head on both sides and hefted it away with as much force as my body could muster. I was far stronger than other humans, but I still had limitations. Matching the strength of a full grown carnivus was, unfortunately, one of them.

"Hey," Sam screamed.

The sound was followed almost immediately by a large object hurdling my way. The sound it made as it sliced through the air was like a gong going off right next to my ear. It connected with the beast's head, eliciting a violent howl, then bounced and hit the ground. The pressure against Azi's grip vanished, and the carnivus whirled and charged.

"Shit!" Sam screamed before scattering in the opposite direction.

Seriously? What the fuck had she expected to happen? I strained against the confines of my flesh-covered cage, terrified that if I didn't get to her, she'd be killed. But it didn't matter. No matter how hard I tried, regardless of how franticly I pushed, I made no headway in gaining back my body.

Get up! That thing is going to rip her to shreds!

The demon leaped to my feet and sprang into action. A rush of fury poured from the demon and my body soared over the charging beast and landed in a graceful crouch a few feet in front of Sam. Azi whirled and faced the bastard's onslaught just as it pounced.

We collided in mid air, and the demon twisted my body with a violent jerk and redirected the carnivus sideways, toward the wall. The thing collided with the brick, and a thundering crash echoed through the small space. The creature howled in pain.

But it didn't last. The carnivus shook off the setback and climbed to its feet, scaly hackles rising like spikes along its back. Azi positioned me protectively in front of Sam, bracing my body for another round. But the carnivus didn't attack. It matched our steps — us back, it forward — but made no move to instigate further violence.

"Get rid of it," Azi snarled at Sam.

She made a choking sound. "Get rid ... How? Am I supposed to offer it a cookie or something? Give it a damn belly rub? You get rid of it. You're the demon badass."

"You're a Pure," Azi fired back, my voice laced with venom. The demon's patience was waning, but underneath that, I felt concern. The carnivus was, unlike other things on this plane, a very real threat — one that shouldn't exist outside hell, and one my body wasn't really made to handle. "You are unbound. Use your energy."

The canine-like creature snarled and snapped its massive jaw, but it still made no advance. "What's it waiting for?" Sam gripped the back of my shirt. I felt her fingers skim my skin as they wrapped themselves around the thin fabric.

"These are not creatures known for their intelligence. They are soldiers, bound by the commands of their masters."

However this thing had come to be here, it couldn't have been acting on its own. Azi was very familiar with them, having used the monsters in its own army during the Great War. That made me an expert as well. These things had brains the size of horses.

"It isn't acting of its own free will," a man said from behind the beast. He emerged from the shadows, approaching as though he didn't have a care in the world. He plucked what looked like a peanut from the small brown paper bag in his hand, tossed it into the air, and caught it between his teeth before chomping down.

The carnivus froze, its low-throated rumble silenced mid-growl.

"Abel." Azi pushed the word past my lips as if it left a bad taste in my mouth. "Your timing is impeccable."

The man gave a small bow, then nodded a greeting over my shoulder to Sam. "Azirak. Please, call me Heckle."

Sam sprang from behind my body and pushed past, eyeing the suddenly immobile carnivus with caution. Red tinted the air around her shoulders as she tightened her fists. "Where the hell have you been? I've been trying to find you for over a week now."

Heckle's eyebrows lifted. He glanced down at the carnivus, then back to her before popping another peanut into his mouth. "For?"

The waves of red smoke spiraled upward and sent shivers of excitement through my body. The demon's metaphorical mouth was watering — and so was mine. "The last thing you said to me was that there was a way to separate Jax and Azi. Then poof. You dropped off the face of the planet."

"As I recall, it was you who said that. I never confirmed it."

The red smoke thickened, and Sam clenched her fists even tighter. The demon was amused. It wanted to see what would happen if she laid one on Heckle. I had to admit, I was interested, too. Sam was a fireball. She'd give the cocky shit a run for his money.

"You implied it," she said. Her voice was deadly, and the sound of it stirred something primal in Azi. The demon took a step closer to her.

Heckle sighed. "As I said, Azirak would have to leave of its own accord." He glanced toward me. "Is that a possibility?"

A rush of images flashed before me. A swarm of pictures involving the witch Sadie Gray — also known as Malphi, Azi's intended mate. They ended with the memory of me, wide-eyed and furious, standing over her bleeding corpse. "No," the demon said. The tone left no room for argument. No room for forgiveness. I'd killed the demoness to save Sam, and in doing so had lost control of my body to the demon.

"Then this conversation is moot." Heckle folded his arms. "I have a task for you. Something suited for your particular talents."

"A task?" Sam balked. "Are you high? It's your fault I have a permanent supernatural target pinned to my back. Because of you, I have to sleep with one eye open, and Jax — "

"Enough," Heckle said. He appeared calm, but Azi sensed an underlying storm. "You belong to me. Both of you. You each made a bargain, and you will fulfill your end of it."

"I made no bargain with you," Azi said calmly.

"But the body you're currently residing in did. Therefore, you are bound by Jax's word."

I took satisfaction from the demon's ire. Keep me locked away in my own body? Well, fuck you then.

Suck it up. I gave him my word. His help in exchange for my service. Nothing you can do about it.

But the demon didn't see it that way. Fury filled me, a barely contained simmering rage. My hand came up and wrapped tight around Heckle's neck. "You dare conspire to enslave a royal of hell?"

Heckle was silent for a minute. He blinked once. Twice. Then, with a sigh, he pried my grip from his neck with alarming ease and had our positions reversed. "Don't push me, Azirak." His voice still rang with the utmost calm, but the demon's enhanced senses afforded me a glimpse of something deeper. Heckle was not one to be fucked with. Under his mellow exterior lay unparalleled raw power. "If you wish to remain in control, you will keep Jax's end of the bargain."

"As you wish. But I will do nothing that puts myself, my clan, or the Pure in danger."

Then leave. You being here puts Sam in danger.

The demon ignored me, calm on the outside, but on the inside, the rage was palpable. It was barely able to refrain from lunging at Heckle again.

Heckle adjusted his shirt. "Now then. The task is simple. Recover the Brim Stone and bring it to me."

"Brim Stone," Sam repeated. She tapped the side of her chin and chewed on the corner of her lip, while at the same time stealing a glance at the still-frozen carnivus. "Why does that sound familiar?"

"Because it's the stone that enabled Malphi to tap in to the Gray line's magic."

"Wait." Sam's eyes grew wide. "If it's the stone Malphi had, and Malphi is dead, then who has the stone?"

Heckle pinned her with a pitying frown.

Sonofabitch ...

She blew a stray hair from her face and rolled her eyes. "You've gotta be shitting me ..."

"I wish I were." He sighed. "I'm afraid a grievous oversight on my part allowed Malphi's stone to fall into the enemy's hands."

Sam's eyes widened, and she opened her mouth, but Azi wasn't interested in anything she had to say. Suspicion swelled, and the demon focused on Heckle. "And what do you want with the stone?"

"As you can see ..." Heckle hitched a thumb over his shoulder at the carnivus. "Something is just a bit off."

He was right. Azi's memories swirled, and I knew that carnivi, like most other creatures that inhabited hell, were unable to cross to this plane. At least, not on their own. "How did it come to be here?"

"You can thank Zenak," Heckle said. He flicked a finger at the beast, frowning. "And there's plenty more where that came from. I've gotten reports from all over Harlow. These things have been running rampant around town for the last few days."

Sam snorted. "I call bullshit. If that's true, how did we not know? I work in a bar for crap's sake. If there are rabid dog-beasts the size of Toyotas running around, people are gonna talk."

Heckle rolled his eyes and fixed his gaze on me. "You've been a bit preoccupied lately ..."

Asshole has a point ...


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Released by Jus Accardo, Liz Pelletier, Stephen Morgan. Copyright © 2016 Jus Accardo. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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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