Ollie Dormier's tattoos are deadly. She is a Scrivener-an employee for Death-and her skull tattoos mark her clients for their demise. She does her job, and she stays out of trouble. But when her hands start to burn hot and fierce, and her control goes leaping out the window, all hell breaks loose. Ollie is showing the early signs of being a Master...demonstrating power that is forbidden.
That power is exactly what Reaper Brent Hume is counting on. A hot, scruffy rebel, who does marvelous and terrifying things to Ollie's insides. Now he needs Ollie's help-and her skills-to overthrow the evil and corrupt Head Reaper. That is, if he can figure out a way to keep this hot-handed girl cool...and keep his hands off.
The Deathmark series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 The Reaper's Kiss
Book #2 The Reaper's Sacrifice
Book #3 The Reaper’s Embrace
About the Author
Abigail Baker shares her home with a Siamese cat endearingly named "The Other Cat" and two rescued mutts with mundane human names that people think are cute. In addition to writing about rebellious heroines, she enjoys hiking, discovering craft beers, baking the perfect vanilla bean cupcake, and rock climbing (going as far as scaling 800 vertical feet to the summit of Devil's Tower National Monument in 2013).
Abigail won first place in RWA's Golden Network's 2011 Golden Pen in Paranormal Romance for Tattoo of Your Name Across My Soul, the book now known as The Reaper's Kiss (Deathmark Book One). She regularly blogs about life observances at abigailbakerbooks.com, lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and can be easily found hiking any of Colorado's best trails.
Read an Excerpt
The Reaper's Kiss
A Deathmark Novel
By Abigail Baker, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Abigail Baker
All rights reserved.
"It is important to know that every single human being, from the moment of birth until the moment when we make the transition and end this physical existence, is in the presence of guides or guardian angels who will wait for us and help us in the transition from life to life after death."
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
12 April, Present Day
I kill people with my tattoo machine.
The machine doesn't send out waves of lethal electricity or poisonous ink. Nothing sneaky like that. The moment a client requests a skull in any form, he or she will die within days.
That's what it takes — ask me for a skull, and you're on the fast track to your death.
My boss, Gerard Bastille, and I do not have a following of devoted regulars from across the province like other tattooists. If it's not their time to die, people tend to instinctively stay away from us, with the exception of a few who are good at ignoring subconscious warnings. But the customers who come to Salon de Tatouage in our quaint little corner of Québec City never have a chance to continue building their skin art collection.
Obviously, Gerard and I are not run-of-the-mill tattoo artists. We are Scriveners from the world between life and the hereafter that we call Styx. Scriveners are harbingers of death, augurs of looming demise with tattoo machines. Our respective Deathmarks — Gerard's pinups and my skulls — help the Grim Reapers responsible for ferrying souls to the underworld zero in on elusive souls whose time has come, so they can satisfy their quota lists for the Head Grim Reaper.
If we were to get soft and reveal our identity to our human clients, or try to warn them off, we'd incur a lethal Level Eight Offense and face judgment by Head Grim Reaper Marin, the Big Bad King of Doom, who looks like an ordinary human with a penchant for black turtlenecks and fascism. He was in charge of the business of Death, but he ruled like a tyrant king. Any level of offense above five is guaranteed eternity in Erebus, the torturous and unforgiving Afterlife that humans prefer to call Hell. Ask any one of us and we'll tell you we'd prefer eternity in the paradise that is Elysia instead, our version of rainbows and sunshine in the afterlife.
I wasn't interested in committing even a minor infraction, since I have a preference for sunshine and rainbows and not misery and hell. With shoulder-length brunette dreadlocks and ripped denim jeans, I am a rebel of high fashion, not politics.
That day, like every day, I was flagging one more human soul for a Reaper to take to the hereafter. I hadn't met this Reaper. I never meet any of them who benefit from my Deathmark. I simply leave my skull on a human so his assigned Grim Reaper could find him in the sea of souls on Earth.
Moose the Noose, an American tourist from upstate New York, was today's Deathmark.
With a proclivity for bone-rattling motorcycles, unwarranted hostility, and inappropriate pillow talk, Moose was a cliché bucolic American, bloated around the midsection and surly from a lifetime of well drinks and bar fights. Or so I assumed. His smack on my ass and lusty, "Thanks for taking me on such short notice, sweetcheeks," was inspiring one of my best Deathmarks yet.
"Why a skull?" I said in my French-Canadian accent, an inflection that Moose referred to as "frog speak." But I have never eaten frog legs. I'm not French. I'm Canadian. Alas, teaching advanced astrophysics to a toddler would be more rewarding than explaining the difference between Canadians and Frenchmen to this client.
"Skulls mean death. No one fucks with death," Moose grunted from his tanned neck the size of my thigh. Those lusty brown eyes were fixed on my cleavage, thinly veiled by the scooped collar of my black tank top.
"It's a good conversation starter, too." I feigned interest in his choice of artwork as I wiped ink and blood from the outline I'd just completed on his bicep. With my toe on the pedal, ready to bring life to my machine and imminent death to my client, I glanced at my salt-and-pepper-haired boss sitting in the rear corner of the shop.
From his perch behind his drawing table, the Scrivener's gray eyes were set on his artwork as his right hand danced over the paper. Gerard looked like any other fifty-something man with black-rimmed glasses. He had once been handsome, but after his years of smoking, his skin had lost what was left of his youth, and the tattoos that ornamented his legs and arms had faded into forgotten landscapes.
Gerard's demanding gaze rose to meet mine. "Mind your heat," he said, like he did every morning. And every morning his warning amounted to very little, because I was not particularly savvy at controlling my power. When giving a Deathmark, my hands grew hot like irons on a fire. It was an anomaly, and I was trying to learn to control it. In the meantime, to avoid burning my clients, I always wore opaque black latex gloves while working.
As for Gerard, well, he never became hot when giving a Deathmark. He never showed signs of anything. He was calm as Québec's arctic weather, his temperament in contrast to my shifty, fiery hands. I often wondered how we could possibly be of the same grim profession.
As I tried to mind my heat, already feeling the intensity as I filled in the skull's jaw, I spotted Moose rub his groin as he said, "Gotta take a piss."
The skull's chin on his bicep needed another pass of ebony ink. Its vacant eyes stared, awaiting a gray wash to add depth to its lethal gaze. As much as I wanted to finish this Deathmark and get on with my day, I gave a clipped sigh, killed the machine, and pointed to the door at the end of a hallway.
Moose lurched toward the restroom, leaving Gerard and me sitting quietly in the shop. The only sound was the radio softly playing in the background. I was grateful that Gerard didn't start to lecture me on how to improve my skillset, but I would've taken his mentoring over having to listen to Head Reaper Marin's voice. His tenor monotone overrode AC/DC's "Hells Bells," which was playing on our radio. Whenever Marin had an announcement, all he had to do was get behind a camera and microphone, and any Stygian's radio, computer, phone, or television would broadcast his message. Humans didn't hear his ramblings, which was probably for the best since he was no Tom Brokaw or Jon Stewart.
"Good afternoon, Stygians. I am disappointed to report that one of our own has betrayed us," said our overlord of death. Shivers ran up and down my spine. I feared Marin more for the violence he authorized than for his emotionless noon reports. Today, like every other day, he was speaking to us for one reason only — threats of eternal damnation. "Last evening, Grim Reaper Violet Magby was sent to Erebus for failing to meet her soul quota for the fifth time this year, and for her possible involvement in a rebel cell in Buffalo, New York. With no soul payouts, Magby resorted to petty crimes and an illegal sugar addiction."
Gerard and I sighed together.
Another one of us down. Who would be tomorrow's tragedy? Who would Head Reaper Marin seek out next on his decades-long mission to crush Styx's morale for a fucking quota?
A flushing toilet and jingling bell hanging over the shop's door were enough for Gerard to flick the radio off, ending the Head Reaper's speech on not following the example of Violet Magby and the others.
"What can we do for you?" Gerard asked Salon de Tatouage's newest guest, as Moose shuffled back to my station.
His hairy bicep returned to my field of vision.
"I want a tattoo," said a girl with a thick French-Canadian accent. "My boyfriend's name wrapped around my arm."
Before beginning again on Moose's Deathmark, I observed the spiked green-haired girl in a heavy metal T-shirt itching to make a permanently bad decision. Although she appeared somewhat hardcore, I noticed a glint of uncertainty in her brown eyes. She hadn't asked for a skull or a pinup. She was in the clear. For now.
"There's a saying in the industry, kid — friends don't let friends get armband tattoos," Gerard said with harsh authority. He pointed at the appointment book we left out as a decoy. We didn't take appointments. Death doesn't need them. Besides, this soul didn't ask for one of our Deathmarks, and for that reason, she was off the list. "We are both booked out for the next four months. Go see Tattoo Universe across town. They take walk-ins."
I wasn't thrilled about Gerard perpetuating the misconception that tattoo artists are hard-ass pricks in order to chase away souls not yet ready for death. But this girl deserved to dump her boyfriend and find another Hot Topic toy, not a coffin and a tombstone.
The bell jangled again.
She was gone, thank Hades.
"You'd make more money if you tattooed punks like her, old man," Moose said to my boss, and then turned his lusty attention on me. "You'd make even more money if you made this pretty thing sprawl out naked over the counter instead of letting her tattoo. Should leave tattooing to the men."
"Gotta wonder why you're sitting in my chair then, Moose," I hissed through my teeth. "Why didn't you go to the old man here?"
Of course, the question was rhetorical. Moose didn't know why he'd asked me for a skull tattoo and not Gerard. He might very well conjure some reason, like letting me tattoo him gave him a chance to be inches from my boobs. I didn't even know why our customers chose me over Gerard, or vice versa. But in Moose's case, it meant death had finally called him, and he'd had a lucky near miss with his assigned Grim Reaper. Just to be sure he didn't get away again, the power embedded in my skull would identify him for that Reaper. The best consolation I would get from this session was that death would get the final jab at Moose. The snarky comment about my skills as a female artist was wasted air.
The empty eye sockets of the skull beseeched me to put the last touches on this Deathmark and begin the fatal countdown. With a smirk, I drove the needle deeper and with more ferocity than necessary. Moose failed to mask a "motherfucker" under his breath.
"Ollie," Gerard snarled, eyeballing my hands. "You're running hot. Take a break and cool down."
"I'm fine, boss." And I was.
"Remember what we've been talking about ... for months now."
"Get yourself under control, kiddo," I mocked as I continued my work.
"Doesn't look like you're controlling anything."
"You know, maybe if you didn't hound me day in and day out, I would have more headspace to think about controlling my work instead of listening — — oh, shit!" I jumped from my chair, threw my machine onto the metal table covered in inkwells, and darted behind Moose before he could swing around and spot me.
As the black latex gloves melted, they revealed my fire engine red hands. The sudden stink of burning rubber was nauseating. The sensation wasn't subtle. Considering that my raging, uncontrolled heat was a common occurrence nowadays, I should've noticed long before Gerard had had to point it out. In this case, irritation overrode reason.
Had Moose noticed, before his Grim Reaper could ferry him, he might have told somebody about the freak-show artist at the tattoo shop in Old Town.
"What the hell is with her?" Moose addressed Gerard because, evidently, I wasn't capable of speaking for myself.
"She doesn't like obnoxious clients. Best not to tick her off, or you'll wind up with your tattoo stretched from your chin-butt to your puckered asshole." Gerard raised a disapproving brow at me. "It's something Ollie needs to learn to control."
I darted into the back room after rolling my eyes at the elder Scrivener. My boss's timeworn lecture on discipline was inevitable. I needed to find my serenity first.
I flicked on the tap and ran my hands underneath. Cool water tempered the heat as I focused on the springtime mountainside tableau hung above the sink in the back of the shop. The idyllic landscape made my frustration recede, starting in my face, down my neck, chest, arms, legs, and pooling at my feet. Tranquility came as rapidly as anger. I was hot and cold. Manic possibly. Something Zoloft would never fix.
Quickly, my hands were back to pale white, cool and benevolent.
The shop's bell rang again. Salon de Tatouage was on a quiet street off the bustling thoroughfare in Québec City. Two visits a day translated to a busy day. Maybe that teenager decided she wanted a different guy's name on her arm. But hopefully not a pinup or skull.
I waited silently in the back room for Gerard to send her away for good, or for Moose to make a pass and scare her off. Instead a heartbeat, faint and then growing louder, consumed the silence. This was not a regular, healthy cadence. It pounded faster and faster.
Bump. Bump. Bump. Bump.
The heartbeat reached fever pitch and then quickly decelerated.
Bump ... Bump ... Bump ...
I burst through the beaded doorway of the back room, my own heart racing, to see a Grim Reaper standing at Moose's side, one hand clamped around Moose's left arm and the other pressed to his chest. This Reaper was an average-looking man with light brown hair and a well built physique.
Death's employee was not carrying the stereotypical scythe or wearing a black robe. Not that Moose noticed the Reaper feigning concern. Even though Reapers look like everyday humans when they're not ferrying souls, the humans who are passing into the Afterlife never realize the Reaper is there at the moment of the heart attack, the fiery car accident, the plane crash, or the random mugger who shoots them in the face over twenty bucks. But there's always one waiting. Picking off seedy humans like Moose was their preferred job, the cherry on top of a grim sundae.
But here's the thing: a Deathmark always has to be finished to have the power to call a person's Reaper. But the one on Moose was only partway done.
This Reaper's eyes were gold, the warning that he was angry, horny, having a sugar craving, or ferrying a soul. In this case, it was the latter. Had a human seen him and understood what he was doing, he would've seemed callously unemotional, but he was focused on the task of transitioning the living to the Afterlife. The work was as important to him as the removal of a cancerous tumor was to a surgeon.
Moose's heartbeat slowed. His lips blanched and eyes locked into a familiar vacant stare. Gerard, who had obviously not seen an unfinished Deathmark with the ability to call the human's Reaper happen before, stared at me, broadcasting a stern, "I can't believe this shit is happening in my shop" look.
The surly American's heart stopped. Between Moose's dead lips appeared a silver coin. The Reaper plucked it from his victim, gave it a discriminating inspection, and then stuffed it in his pocket. Humans support our industry with their lives. Gives another meaning to blood money. Today that Reaper made enough to feed himself and his family for a week. And he'd have another week safely out from under Head Reaper Marin's watchful eye.
Job completed, the Reaper stepped away from Moose's body as it slumped and toppled to the floor with an undignified smack. The Reaper's yellow gaze faded into brown and met my shocked, wide eyes. His lips pulled into a smile full of perfect teeth.
"Thanks for making this an easy one, Scrivener," the Reaper said with a wink.
"Y-you're welcome," I stuttered.
He gave a nod, said "Bonjour," and exited our studio.
The little bell tolled another lost soul.
"Calisse!" I swore and threw my wadded paper towel across the room.
"I said mark that human gently!" Gerard roared.
"I did!" Well, obviously I didn't, but I wouldn't admit to that now. Or ever.
"That Deathmark called his Reaper before you'd finished the fucking tattoo, Ollie." Gerard stalked to my newly dead client, who sprawled indignantly on the white tile floor. He stared with confusion. "I've never had a client die in my shop."
"Do we call the police?" I said. "Or dispose of the body? We don't own a shovel. How much are shovels?"
"This is exactly why you need to keep your power under wraps. The Head Reaper is going to send his Watchmen in to keep an eye on every move you make now. That was just too weird for him not to notice." Gerard scored through my panic with a serious reason to worry. Watchmen were the Head Reaper's police force, who arrived in white utility vans and wrought havoc on anyone who showed signs of the smallest offense — or something odd that Marin could label an infraction. We did our best to avoid them at all costs. "You don't want him to notice you. You keep your head down, and you'll survive."
"Look, it's not like I'm showing off. I can't help it."
Excerpted from The Reaper's Kiss by Abigail Baker, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2015 Abigail Baker. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an interesting read. The characters are interesting and compelling. Sometimes descriptions are a bit hard to untangle, but overall a good read. Definitely want to see what comes next.
The story was fabulous, frankly I did not like the ending. Hopefully there will be a #2.
The story had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of action, sadness and some romantic moments here and there. I liked a lot of things about the story, however, I found the romantic side of this story to be a bit lacking. Yeah, Ollie and Brent are together a lot, but other than the physical stuff, I didn’t see a deeper connection. This book did have be emotional though and sometimes I felt that I was sitting at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It seems that there is more to look forward to in the future, and I will certainly be reading her future work. Overall it was a very good book and I will recommend it to my reader friends! *I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
As a fan of grim reaper based novels, I knew I had to grab The Reaper’s Kiss when it popped up on my Netgalley list. Baker has delivered an interesting and unique tale. Ollie is part unsuspecting hero and harbinger of death. Her dystopian and urban fantasy world is filled with unique creatures of the death variety. Her normal day job of death marking victims with her beautiful skull tattoos turns into suspicion and a life on the run. Add in fallen rebel Brent and you’ve got a hot little story with the right balance of paranormal and romance. As much as I liked the unique premise of this book, I did have some dislikes. I felt like Ollie and Brent’s relationship was a bit rushed and at times unbelievable. Once their lives hit the boiling point, they go from teetering on the edge of romance to full blown passionate love. The only other portion of the story that felt off to be was the beginning was a bit slow and didn’t immediately catch my attention like I would have liked. Dislikes aside, The Reaper’s Kiss is complex and unique enough that for most fans the aforementioned dislikes won’t seem as bad. Baker has a knack for writing vivid imagery to the point you feel as if you’re watching the story unfold on TV rather than reading words on a page. As the story progresses, the ending throws you for a loop and will leave you wanting more. I honestly can’t wait to dive into the next installment. I have also gone back to the drawing board about a tattoo idea for me. No skulls!
Drop-dead gorgeous…and fatal. Ollie Dormier's tattoos are deadly. She is a Scrivener—an employee for Death—and her skull tattoos mark her clients for their demise. She does her job, and she stays out of trouble. But when her hands start to burn hot and fierce, and her control goes leaping out the window, all hell breaks loose. Ollie is showing the early signs of being a Master...demonstrating power that is forbidden. That power is exactly what Reaper Brent Hume is counting on. A hot, scruffy rebel, who does marvelous and terrifying things to Ollie's insides. Now he needs Ollie's help—and her skills—to overthrow the evil and corrupt Head Reaper. That is, if he can figure out a way to keep this hot-handed girl cool...and keep his hands off. Review: Well crap, I was not ready for that to end. Such a fresh take on Death, Reapers and that whole world. I was hooked from the beginning. I don't think I have read anything quite like it before. Usually with first books it seems like most of it full of world building and they are a little slow, Not this one! The action and drama pretty much starts from the very first page. I enjoyed the action, the rebels on the run and the whole let's overthrow the bad guys, it was intriguing and kept me on the edge trying to figure out what is going to happen. There were lots of sad moments for me too, like when Eve dies and other people that are close to Ollie. I really hope there is some kind of resolve to Eve's soul, her being trapped in the necklace is driving me nuts...lol I liked Ollie. As the feisty, reluctant face of the rebellion, she is a strong female character. I thought her and Brent's chemistry was good, though at times it seemed to be thrown in just to move the story along. I thought the baddies Chad and Marin were very well-done and very bad. Will have to see what the next book brings since this does not have a resolution at the end of the story. It is the first book in a continuing storyline so be prepared. I really enjoyed this new and unique story and cannot wait for the next one. 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
First off, I want to send out huge kudos to the author. I love when authors start to think outside the box and give us something completely new. I was pulled into this story from the very first page and stayed up into the late hours to get it finished. The whole story was a new one for me and I didnt know if I would actually enjoy it but I did. Ollie's character is strong and formidable and I love how she has an "issue" as she see's it. I found myself liking her more and more as the author spun the story driving me deeper into the world of reapers and deathmarks. Brent is the odd Reaper, I loved his swagger and way with everything. That sweet loving charm worked its way even to me. Cannot wait for the next book.
How Deep is your love? Only the Reaper know.. Olivia Dormier’s day job is as a tattoo artist and when you ask for a skull tattoo of any kind, that means you receive one of her Deathmarks and you are marked for Death and the Grim Reaper will be coming for you very soon Olivia is special, she is known as a scrivener and her skull marks make it where the assigned grim reapers are able to find the people she marked , find them and take them from one side to the other side. Now, she isn’t just the regular scrivener though, she is showing all the signs of being a Master – those beings who were killed off during the Purge by those who were afraid of the power. Olivia has tried to control what is going on in her body but the power has become too great and because of that, Head Reaper Marin is sending in an Eidolon which are known as the ferryman to catch her using her heat. This is where we meet Brent. Chad came off as a jerk, made her do things that she didn’t want to do. Like bringing in her friend Eve and making her a pawn in this power struggle. She meets a stranger named Brent and the chemistry between them was fantastic. There was action, there was treachery, there was a tremendous selfless act at the very end that brought me to tears which I truly hope means we will see a book 2 so there is a hope we will see what happens between Olivia and Brent- that there is HEA between them because the story doesn’t leave with even a HFN ending. There is a bad guy in this story and I hope he gets his –the strength of Olivia is great and the courage of Brent is wonderful…this is a good story, I just did not understand why the story ended the way it did—there was not even a HFN ending. I did like the story and how it played out, I just did not like the ending. I am hoping with how it ended, there is a book2 coming our way. **A gifted copy was provided by the publisher for my honest review*** My rating: 4.0 stars ****