Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Exclusive Preview: The Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest.

Read an exclusive excerpt of the Shadow Wand by Laurie Forest here!



The Gardnerian Prophecy
(Divined from Ironwood cleromancy by Priest Seers of the First Children)

A Great Winged One will soon arise and 
cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. 
And just as Night slays Day
and Day slays Night, 
so also shall another Black Witch 
rise to meet him, 
her powers vast beyond imagining.
 And as their powers clash upon the field of 
battle, the heavens shall open, the mountains 
tremble and the waters run crimson.
And their fates shall determine 
the future of all Erthia.



The Noi Prophecy
(Scried from Black Ginkgo tasseography by the Blessed Servants of Vo)

A wyvern child shall be brought forth
 by the Great Goddess Vo, 
and he shall be filled with the 
dragon goddess’s own fire and 
power and righteousness.
But wreathed in Shadow, 
another Black Witch shall also rise.
To weave horror and corruption 
throughout Erthia.
 The two shall meet on the field of battle 
as all color is bled from the world.
And consumed by the Shadow.



The Amaz Prophecy
(Foretold from Sacred Red Elm Astragalomancy by the Seers of the Goddess)

Daughters of the Goddess take heed!
A great Shadow Force rises 
from the Cursed World of Men.
And amidst its darkness, a Wyvern Male 
and a Black Witch shall arise and clash,
raining destruction upon the world.

Take up arms, Blessed Daughters!
The hour to save Erthia is at hand!





Prologue  

Fifteen years ago…



Edwin Gardner sits on the silk-cushioned chair in a haze of grief. 
He watches his distraught sister, Vyvian, pace across her ornate parlor, wishing he could wash his hands of his family’s cursed legacy of magic.
And wishing that the news Vyvian just imparted wasn’t so completely horrific. 
Incredibly, in the midst of this world-altering day, Vyvian is dressed as impeccably as ever. Her long, gleaming black hair is artfully plaited, not a strand out of place. Her formfitting, midnight-silk tunic and long-skirt are perfectly pressed and patterned with lush pine boughs. And there’s luxury everywhere in this cursedly opulent room - dark, polished Ironwood trees set into the walls, their obsidian branches tangling overhead. An oak-leaf patterned rug beneath his feet. Panoramic windows edged in luminous stained-glass vines that overlook Vyvian’s expansive garden of bloodred roses.
The finest of everything, Edwin considers with bitter anguish. All this wealth secured by his mother’s cruel reign of fire. Edwin sends up a prayer that future generations will not inherit this terrible, corrupting magic. 
 Vyvian continues to pace, not even bothering to look at the three children huddled miserably in the corner as Edwin’s grief threatens to tear him apart.
 His brother Vale and Vale’s fastmate, Tessla, are dead.
Edwin’s throat is tight, his breathing irregular and stifled over the loss of two of the people he loves most in all the world. He wants to rip at his hair and cry out in misery to the heavens. To shake his fist at his powerful sister, at the entire monster that is Gardneria. But he can’t fall apart. He has three children who need his protection. Vale and Tessla’s children.
Rafe, Trystan, and Elloren.
***
 “You can’t fight the Gardnerians,” he’d warned Tessla just a few months ago, overcome with worry as he faced her in her Valgard home. “You don’t know what cruelty my mother is capable of. Her power has turned shadowed, Tess. It's consuming her.”
 “I have to fight,” Tessla passionately countered, her voice rough with defiance. “They’re rounding up all the Fae, Edwin! The children too. We have to help them!"
 “You can’t.”
 “We have to. Don't you see? The Gardnerians are doing the same thing that the Kelts and the Urisk did to us! Children are being herded up. Whole families. Do you know what that’s like? Watching your family, your people, herded together to be killed? The children screaming?” Tessla’s cheeks were flushed, her green eyes blazing. 
 She was so beautiful in that moment, it was hard for Edwin to look at her.
 He’d tried to reason with her. "Think of your children.” They were being left with him for longer and longer stretches as Vale and Tessla fought this unbeatable evil. “What will Rafe and Trystan and Elloren do if something happens to you?”
 Tessla shook her head. "I can’t sit by and do nothing about this horror."
 "You can’t win, Tess!" 
 She and Vale were tempting fate, Edwin knew. Tempting the awful power of his mother and the Gardnerian military by secretly working for the Resistance. Both Vale and Tessla involved in smuggling Fae children and families through the Spine’s Eastern Pass, the two of them in league with Beck Keeler and Fain Quillen and Jules Kristian. And others.
 The ever-present knot of dread tightened inside Edwin. 
He feared it would be only a matter of time before Vale and Tessla were caught and executed, then made to look like war heroes. Their Resistance activities neatly covered up.
To save the reputation of the Black Witch.
***
 And now, he’s sitting here, grief burning in his chest, because that’s exactly what's happened - Vale and Tessla were apprehended three days ago as they attempted to save a group of Asrai Fae children from shipment to the Pyrran Islands. Both of them had been dragged to the nearest military base and executed at his mother’s command, the truth of their Resistance activities hidden from all but a select few.
And this morning, trailing in behind this news like a cataclysmic cyclone, is news that’s sending shockwaves through both the Western and Eastern Realms. 
 His mother, the Black Witch, is dead.
 Slain by an Icaral who died as he killed her with a bolt of wyvern flame - a fitting end to a reign of fire that threatened to enslave the entire Western and Eastern Realms. That had destroyed leagues of forest and turned the lush plains of the East and the southern Uriskal lands to scorched desert. 
 Foreboding curls under Edwin’s ribs, constricting his chest.
The Gardnerians will be set on vengeance. And they’re not weak anymore. Because of his mother, Gardneria is now ten times its original size and the major power in the region for a long time to come, rivaled only by their uneasy allies, the Alfsigr Elves.
And they’ll be looking for their next Great Mage. 
Alarm rises inside Edwin as he looks to the children.
 His nephew, Rafe Gardner, sits on the leaf-patterned carpet, steadily watching his uncle and aunt. At five, little Rafe has the stoicism of a much older child, quickly appointing himself the protector of his younger siblings. He cries silently, his arms draped protectively around tiny Trystan. 
 Trystan has curled himself into a tight ball of misery as he keens and whimpers, “Poppa. Momma. Poppa. Momma,” over and over.
 Edwin’s heart wrenches with worry. Trystan's a fragile child, prone to tears and fear, the skinny, two-year-old's eyes dazed and frightened.
 And then, there’s three-year-old Elloren. 
 She's balled up next to her brothers, hugging the quilt Tessla sewed for her - the blanket lovingly crafted for Elloren when she was still in Tessla's womb, a branchy tree with bright green leaves stitched onto the fabric, with little embroidered birds and animals darting all around. Elloren is whimpering softly into its folds. 
 Overcome, Edwin goes to Elloren, kneels and embraces her. She reaches out small arms to cling to both him and her quilt, her body wracked with sobs.
 Edwin glances at Vyvian and his sister’s expression sends an icy chill straight through him.
 She’s glaring at the children like they’re hideous blowback, her hatred for Vale and Tessla on full display and spilling over onto these innocents. Edwin’s hold on Elloren tightens as he takes in Vyvian’s cruel, unforgiving expression and he realizes what he must do.
The children need him and he loves them.
 “The children will stay with me,” he tells Vyvian, his voice hoarse but staunch and he surprises himself with how unwavering he is in the face of his intimidating sister.
 Vyvian’s frown deepens, her fists clenching and unclenching, her glare sharpening on Edwin. She seems uncharacteristically rattled, and Edwin knows it’s for all the wrong reasons.
“Very well,” she says, and her mouth thins as she flashes one last resentful look towards the children, as if wanting to rid herself of this terrible business and dispose of them. She moves to leave, but pauses at the door and slowly turns, her gaze fixing back on the children in a way that sends a harder chill down Edwin’s spine, her hateful glare morphing to one of appraisal.
She meets Edwin’s gaze once more, her expression and tone hardening to a needled point. “You’ll need to wand test them,” she insists. “And soon. If they have power, you’re to immediately let me know. Mother would have insisted on it.” Her voice breaks and tears glisten in her eyes. She blinks the tears back firmly. “Our family legacy might not die with Mother.” She gestures towards the children with a flick of her elegant hand. "Their parents were traitors, but perhaps, if raised correctly, the children can grow up to be champions of our people.”
 Edwin blinks at his sister and in this moment, he hates her. 
 Their parents.
 No, Vyvian, he wants to rail against her. Our brother and his fastmate!
 But Edwin knows that Vyvian has her blinders firmly in place. There is absolutely no nuance in her perspective. To Vyvian, the world is divided into clean halves - there are Evil Ones and there are Gardnerians. And you have to pick one side or the other.
 No.
 Edwin knows what he will do. Not what Vyvian wants. But not what Vale and Tessla would have wanted either.
 Forgive me, Vale. Forgive me, Tessla
 He hugs Elloren close as a fierce wave of protective love washes over him. 
 If any of the children has inherited his mother’s power, he will hide it from the Gardnerians. He will protect the children from all of this. 
 They can’t have them. 
Not the Gardnerians. Not the Resistance.
 This legacy of evil magic will end here.
***
Several months later, Edwin decides to wandtest Rafe, Trystan and Elloren.
He tests them on separate occasions, traveling far outside of Valgard each time and taking each child deep into the woods where no one will be able to witness any magic uncovered. 
Magic that Edwin prays is not there.
And so far, his uneasy prayers have been mostly answered. 
Edwin had been worried that Rafe might have inherited his mother’s powerful abilities. He’s a kind boy, but with a surprisingly powerful presence. Physically graceful and sure of himself, Rafe is filled with a steely confidence not often seen in a child of such a tender age. But he’s as good as magically powerless, with only a thin sliver of earth magic.
It’s clear that Trystan’s to be a powerful Mage, the precocious two-year-old already able to sound out spells and access water magic. But he’s no Great Mage. He has none of the crazy, overwhelming power of his grandmother, his water magery testing at Level Five but not beyond. Also, he’s a sensitive, quiet child, disinclined to violence. 
And then there’s Elloren.
As Edwin walks into the woods with gentle Elloren, her small hand clasped trustingly in his, he sends up a prayer. 
Ancient One, please let this child be free of power. 
She’s so untroubled, skipping alongside him. So at ease in the woods. Like all powerless Gardnerians.
But it’s disturbed Edwin for some time now, how drawn Elloren is to wood - gathering small pieces of it, her collections stuffed into drawers, filling her pockets, hidden under her bed. 
Edwin glances down at Elloren and forces a smile that’s returned a thousandfold.
She’s got Vale’s stark features, he muses. So angular and sharp for such a kind, sunny child. But then his thoughts shift.
She’s got her grandmother’s exact features.
Edwin pushes the frightening thought from his mind. Vale, himself, looked just like their powerful mother, and he was powerful, but he was no Great Mage. And Elloren might be drawn to wood, but Edwin himself can barely keep his hands off of it, spending hours each day carving and creating violins. And he’s only a Level One Mage. 
No, Elloren will be powerless, he reassures himself. Just like I am.
 Edwin stops in a small clearing, rays of sun streaking down, birds twittering. Little Elloren giggles and spins around like a whirring maple seed, her smile to the sun. She stops, teetering from the spinning, and grins at her uncle.
 “Here, Elloren,” Edwin says as he slides his hand into his cloak’s pocket, anxiety mounting inside him. “I have something for you.” He draws out the wand and hands it to his niece.
“What’s that for?” she asks, taking the wand into her small hands with a look of curiosity.
 “It’s a game,” Edwin says lightly as he sets a candle on a nearby stump before returning to her, his finger flicking towards the wand. “And that’s a magic stick, but I’ll have to show you how to use it.” He gets down on one knee and guides her wand hand into the proper position around the wand’s hilt, his hands trembling around her small one with apprehension. “Hold the stick like this, Elloren.”
Elloren looks up at him with obvious concern, clearly noting his trembling, but Edwin forces another smile and she smiles back, looking heartened, as her fingers slide into position.
 “That’s it, Elloren,” Edwin says as he releases his hands from hers and rises. “Now I’m going to ask you to say some funny words. Can you do that?”
 Elloren’s smile brightens and she bobs her head up and down. 
Edwin’s gut tenses. She’s such a compliant child. So eager to please.
 So easy to wield.
 Edwin sounds out the words to the candle lighting spell several times, words in the Ancient Tongue - foreign words, with subtle inflections, not easily made. 
 “Do you think you can remember that?” he asks his niece.
 Elloren nods as she points the wand out straight and true with determined focus and Edwin repeats the words a few more times so she can remember.
“Go ahead, then,” he gently prods as the apprehension tightens his throat, his heart hammering with both breathless hope and jagged fear. 
 Elloren sounds out the spell, clear and correct, her arm taking on a slight tremor, her body stiffening.
And then her head jerks backwards.
 A violent stream of fire bursts from the wand’s tip and explodes past the stump, blasting clear through a large tree and several more behind it. Edwin stumbles backward and Elloren screams as the woods explode into a crackling, roaring monster of flame 
 Edwin wrests the wand from Elloren’s hand, thrusts it aside, grabs her up and runs, racing through the woods as the forest falls apart behind them. 
***
Edwin spends the next year trying to get Elloren to forget. 
He insists, when Elloren wakes screaming from fiery nightmares, that what she remembers was a storm. A fierce, freakish storm – an inferno caused by unusually violent lightning. 
He insists on it again and again and again.
And in time, she believes. And her true memory is buried and grows faded.
***
But the forest remembers.
The trees send out word in their creeping way, slow as sap traveling through tangled roots, one tree after another after another. And gradually, relentlessly the message is carried towards the Northern Forest. Towards its Dryad Guardians. 
Towards III.

The Black Witch is back. 

Fifteen years later…

______________________________________________________

Hungry for more? You can pre-order The Shadow Wand here:

    

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Confession: Demon/Cleric Short Story

My name is Selene and I am a compulsive prompt-based short story writer 🙈🤣


CONFESSION


"Forgive me, father, for I have sinned."
Ethan barely suppressed a groan, resisting the childish impulse of putting his fingers in his ears and sing loudly. He'd do anything to shut down the confessions of the faithful, which were amusing at best and deeply disturbing at worst. Some made him want to perform a lobotomy on himself due to their deviance. He recognized some of the people who had the deepest, darkest secrets and carefully categorized them into two groups: no handshakes, ever; and dangerous. The latter he will tell Zath about. The Church still forbade priests from reporting criminals, but Ethan could not live with himself knowing there was a sadist out there hurting innocent people.
Besides, he was not telling the authorities, nope, just his demon boyfriend.
Ethan closed his eyes and forced his tone to sound politely interested as he blessed the faithful confessing to watching porn, and send him off with the usual: two hail marys and 4 holy fathers, just because he liked even numbers. 
He waited for the sound of the door closing to lean back against the wooden booth and sigh deeply. A pulsing headache was building right between his eyes, almost as if a horn were to sprout out. 
After a certain intervention of Zath, in which he played the evil demon getting banished by Ethan perfectly, he'd thought things will get better with his superior, Bishop Rossi. But no, the old man wasn't all too happy about his congregation fawning over "that handsome and brave young priest". Rossi had snarled at Ethan for not calling him to aid with the banishment, called him proud and then put him on confession duty as punishment. 
"I'd kill for a drink," Ethan whispered.
A soft, sensual laugh reached his ears. "Confessing your sinful thoughts, cleric?"
Ethan startled, his heart began a mad race as he practically plastered his face to the small, wooden barred window. And there he was, legs crossed elegantly, sitting on the wooden bench despite not having much room. Purple cat-like eyes bright with amusement, a lock of raven hair grazing his right, sharp cheekbone.
"Zath," Ethan sighed, breathing in the scent of fire and dark spices. "What on Zeus' name are you doing here?"
Zath arched a brow. "Naming pagan gods too, my, cleric, you're treading on thin ice."
Ethan swallowed, his throat had gone dry. That damn accent made everything Zath said sound suggestive. His blood rushed to his cheeks and began pooling lower.
Oh, gods.
"You are going to get me fired," Ethan accused or tried to.
Zath chuckled, low and wicked. "I don't care."
Ethan blinked, momentarily blinded by a small purple flash of energy as Zath materialized in his side of the booth. Before he could even take a breath, he was being hauled by the flaps of his jacket and a warm mouth was on his. Ethan let out a soft moan, immediately opening his mouth at the first touch of Zath's tongue on his lips. All traces of his headache disappeared as he was thoroughly kissed and pressed against a hard chest. Ethan's arms snaked around Zath's waist at once, arching for more contact and letting out a low groan when his hair was lightly tugged.
Zath pulled back, chuckling, giving Ethan the chance to try to catch his breath.
"Now," Zath whispered, pressing Ethan harder against the polished wood, wrapping his hand around his right knee. Ethan immediately wrapped both legs around Zath's waist, letting him take all his weight. Zath let out a small approving growl. "If we get caught or not depends entirely on how quiet you can be, cleric."
Ethan licked his lips nervously, raking his hand through Zath's dark hair. "That's not fair."
Purple eyes shone with happy mischief. "Oh, are you sure about that?"
Ethan closed his eyes as Zath's lips collided against his own, tasting mint and red wine. He tried to keep the noises to a minimum, but his self-restraint shattered when Zath pulled on his lower lip with those sharp canines and gave him a small cut. There was no way of suppressing the whimper that clawed out of his throat or stop himself from rolling his hips begging for more contact. 
Zath chuckled, pinning Ethan's wrists effortlessly to each side of his head. 
"Patience, darling."
Ethan swallowed hard. "You are evil."
Zath lowered his head to trail barely-there kisses up Ethan's arched neck, licking a drop of perspiration. "And don't you ever forget it."
Ethan let out a small groan, biting his lip and giving Zath his best suggestive smile, usual shyness completely gone and replaced by sharp need.
He was frankly surprised it worked.
Zath latched onto his mouth again, no longer teasing but just as desperate. Ethan happily let him take control, no longer giving a damn if they got caught. Zath released Ethan's wrists and quickly removed his jacket. 
"Oh gods, I'm going to hell," Ethan whispered. 
Zath smirked. "Don't worry, I'll get you out."
Ethan snorted, leaning to kiss Zath as the sound of a door opening made him freeze. 
His eyes widened like saucers when he heard: "forgive me, father, for I have sinned."
Quite unhelpfully, a laugh bubbled on his chest, even though he was horrified.
Zath grinned, carefully disentangling them and leaning to press his lips against Ethan's ear. "Rain check?"
And then he was gone, leaving Ethan breathing hard, heart pounding and painfully aroused. He sat and ran a hand through his mop of brown hair and pulled at his collar, struggling to find his voice. An almost imperceptible flash of purple light was produced as the thin barrier that covered Ethan's side of the booth fell.
He placed a privacy spell, Ethan thought relieved. I'm gonna kill him, after finishing what we started-
"Father?" said a tremulous male voice.
"Go on, my child," Ethan murmured, cringing.
"Father, I'm having improper thoughts about my best friend," the young man on the other side of the booth confessed. "He's a boy."
Ethan swallowed back his sigh of relief, a pang of sadness cutting through his chest with the fear in the kid's voice. "Please go on, I'm listening."

©Selene Kallan 2020
_________________

Let me know what you think! 😘




Thursday, February 20, 2020

CRIMSON LIES: Prompt-based short story.

Soooooooo, I did it again! Another prompt-based short story. And yes, these two will have a book someday 😛 I hope you enjoy!





CRIMSON LIES


Just a bit more, just hold on a bit more, she told herself.
A violent shiver shook Aella and she wrapped her left arm tighter around her chest. The wary dark eyes of the cab driver were fixed on her through the rearview mirror. She ignored him, wiping stubborn tears quickly, hating herself for her weakness.
She was supposed to be a warrior for the light, a hero, all gargoyles were.
And now, after what she’d witnessed, after having her world torn to pieces in front of her eyes, she didn’t know who she was anymore. 
The tearful gaze of the child would forever be burned in her mind. The small girl with long dark braids and large silver eyes had asked for her help, and she’d failed.
Her pain was nothing compared to that. The bleeding wound in her stomach and the ache of her electrocuted limbs could not match the gaping hole inside her chest. It burned like acid with betrayal and guilt. 
“Miss, we’re here,” the driver announced, giving her a stern look.
She forced herself to focus. Her fingers trembled as she reached for her back pocket and took out a few bills. “Keep the change.”
Aella opened the door and mustered all her strength to stand and close the door; teeth clenched and right hand firmly pressed onto the wound right beside her navel. She hoped the black clothes covered the blood well enough.
“Wait, miss, there’s blood in these bills, are you ok?” the driver asked.
“I’m fine, please go,” she said, in her most stern voice. 
A rumble of thunder echoed in the night, illuminating the tall iron gates of the mansion and bathing her in a white flash. The wind whipped her wet, copper hair; the freezing rain pelting her with fat drops that made the chills worse.
“Miss, should I call the police?” The driver insisted. 
Aella turned to him again and mustered all her strength to show him a flash of red eyes that was accented by yet another burst of lighting. “Go,” she commanded, her voice turning unearthly. 
The driver didn’t need to be asked twice, he screeched away in a matter of seconds. 
Aella took a step closer to the iron gates, there was an intercom mounted in one of the 8-foot-tall stone pillars holding the massive things. A violent shiver ran through her body again, her left leg wasn’t responding properly, but fear was holding her back now.
Aella remembered with painful clarity all the horrible things she’d spat at the owner of the mansion a few days before. She could smell his flesh burning as she sliced at him with her blessed silver dagger, hear the half-cry that had escaped him. 
She'd played the bait in a raid to lure him into a trap. Pureblood vampires weren't all that common, royals were even rarer. He happened to be both. The operation had failed, and Aella had ended up face to face with Zeydan, with no backup. She'd fought him with everything she had, tried to stake him; despite being weakened by several wounds he'd defeated her easily.
Aella sighed, leaning her head on the cold pillar. The vampire royal had let her live. He’d called her an ignorant child and she’d hated him for it. Only to discover in the worst way possible that he was right.
The war between gargoyles and vampires had been going on for millennia. Humans had been at the mercy of monsters until the angels created the gargoyles, to protect mankind from enemies they had no chance of destroying on their own. 
Aella wondered when had gargoyles lost their way. When had they become just as ruthless if not worse than vampires, the demons?
Alleged demons, she thought bitterly.
Truth is, she’d never seen anything more demonic than the sheer satisfaction in her fiancé’s face as he hacked down a defenseless 7-year-old girl with his gleaming, silver sword. All the love she'd ever felt for the gargoyle warrior had turned into rancid despise after that. It didn't matter that the girl was a vampire, killing her was a vile act. Worse than running that same sword through her when she’d tried to stop him, Aella decided. 
But, what if she’d come all the way here only to have the job her fiancé started finished by the vampire royal?
What other option do I have?
Her sight blurred and she held onto the pillar, pressing the intercom button.
“Zeydan,” Aella murmured. “Zeydan.”
A gust of chilly wind hit her, accompanied by the electrical sensation that ran down her spine, warning her of vampire presence.
She turned, Zeydan was standing right beside her. Towering almost a foot above her 5-foot-11 and dressed all in black; ink-dark hair fell to his shoulders in soft waves, his bewildered jade eyes managed to look bright even in the gloom. 
“I-I didn’t know where else to go,” Aella admitted, her voice barely above a whisper. 
She felt her body tilt sideways and saw the dark ground approach, but firm hands were holding her shoulders before she could crash.
“Aella?” Zeydan asked, brow furrowed. “What happened?”
A whimper escaped her, where to start? 
Zeydan sniffed and then cursed. His eyes falling to her stomach, she knew he could see perfectly in the dark and wondered how bad she was.
Aella looked at him, taking in his unearthly perfect features contorted with concern, for her, —one of his greatest enemies— and felt her beliefs crack and collapse on themselves. A strangled sound left her throat, frustration, anger, and pain stealing her breath.
Zeydan lifted her off the ground, cradling her gently in his arms.
“Aella, tell me what happened,” he demanded. 
She felt a gust of wind and knew they were moving. Her strength leaked away completely, his face becoming blurry.
She swallowed hard and forced her heavy tongue to work.
“They’re coming, Zeydan,” Aella nearly whispered just before darkness claimed her.


©Selene Kallan 2020

Let me know what you think!






Thursday, February 6, 2020

TEMPTED: Demon/Cleric Short Story

So, I got obsessed with this writing prompt and now I have a short story! Morrigan help me, now I want to write a book 😂 



TEMPTED


"Wake up."
Ethan groaned and hugged the pillow tighter, keeping his eyes firmly shut. He'd been having a pleasant dream, one of those where you can see a memory from another perspective. 
A hard poke with a sharp nail on his ribs made him flinch.
"Ow, was that necessary?" reluctantly, he opened one eye. Purple cat-like eyes were the first thing he saw. Even after months of looking at those unearthly eyes he felt a small swoop on his stomach; not fear precisely, but the recognition that he was in the presence of someone with vast power.
That someone lifted a brow in an unimpressed gesture. "You will be late for work, again."
Ethan smiled. That accent, it had been his doom since day one. 
"And as you've been saying, your boss is already displeased with you," Zath'tarith drawled in his most bored tone.
Ethan snorted and rolled to lie on his back. His boss, Bishop Rossi, had never hidden his deep suspicion and dislike for him. 
If he only knew half of it, Ethan mused.
Rossi was a traditionalist, the recent tolerance towards demons was something he despised. Ethan was certain the old man would happily start another crusade if he could. But tides had changed, decades ago humans had been terrified of demons and the Church had happily hunted them down; that was until humans began to befriend and even fall in love with demons. Not all demonic races were the same after all, while some enjoyed causing havoc and pain, others simply wanted a life outside of the dark dimension they'd been trapped in for millennia. Zath was one of the latter of course.
"Maybe I should perform an exorcism or banish a demon to get on his good graces, my post is in the balance," Ethan mused. "Any of your buddies fancies making a show?"
Zath pinned Ethan with a look that blended exasperation and affection. "I'll ask, now get your pale ass in the shower."
Ethan chuckled and sat, running a hand through the thick strands of brown hair that stuck up in all angles. He lived in a small apartment just a block away from the church where he worked as a Cleric. He could've had small quarters within the church, but the wards would not allow his half-blood and demon friends through and that would be a tragedy. 
He barely had time to register the movement before finding himself firmly pinned down by Zath. The high-class demon's pupils were blown, his eyes almost black. Ethan licked his lips nervously feeling the tremendous contained strength on the hands that held his wrists; he flushed bright pink when Zath's eyes traveled down his body. He'd always seen himself as average at best, lean and athletic but miles away from the Greek god looks of his boyfriend. 
"Weren't you the one telling me to get out of bed?" Ethan asked on a tremulous voice as Zath leaned down to kiss a torturous path from his shoulder to his neck. The demon grinned, ink-black hair half-shielding his eyes.
"Maybe you can be 15 minutes late," Zath said, capturing Ethan's mouth in a kiss before he could respond.

****

15 minutes turned into half an hour. Ethan was fumbling with his robes as he entered the office on the back of the church, dreading the telling off he was going to get. Still, a stupid smile adorned his face.
To his surprise, Rossi wasn't there yet. A sour-looking nun was waiting for him though. She was new, he wasn't sure of her name.
"Bishop Rossi is indisposed, you will lead the mass in 15 minutes," she all but barked handing him a sheet with a sermon.
Ethan blinked, trying to hold back the panic before it could begin to build. Speaking in public wasn't his thing. And giving sermons about purity and guarding oneself against evil demons didn't help. If the Church ever found out he was more than just acceptant of half-bloods, that he was, in fact, a very gay and definitely not chaste cleric they'd sack him. And he needed to remain inside to warn his friends of the unauthorized attacks the Church launched against demons. 
Cursing under his breath, he rushed towards the altar. He decided to tune out his own words as he led the congregation in prayer and began with the depressing sermon. 
Rossi has outdone himself, Ethan thought wrily. 
The candles began to flicker as the temperature in the room dropped. Ethan blinked to focus, the congregation began to whisper and look around searching for the source of what was an unmistakeable supernatural presence.
A vortex of black and purple light formed right in the middle of the aisle. A 6-foot-5 male stepped right out of the portal, black hair falling straight to his shoulders. The demon idly flicked his fringe back in place as a collective gasp erupted from the congregation; no one dared to move.
Ethan stared in disbelief at his boyfriend, standing right there and reminding every single faithful that high-ranking demons were capable of breaking the wards set by the Priests.
'This is not a good time,' Ethan thought, aiming his mental strength to Zath.
The demon took a few steps closer to the altar, fixing the cuffs of his black shirt. 'I can see that.'
Ethan could hear his drawl, he fought back a smile. 'Is there something you need?' 
'No, it is you who needed something from me, remember?' Zath asked.
'Oh! Right, yeah.'
Ethan bit his lip thinking about how to begin with the impromptu show, but his mind was still on swooning mode and not cooperating.
'Fuck's sake, Ethan, at least pretend to banish me,' Zath said, a malevolent grin spreading on his face. 
It should scare Ethan, it really should. Normal people feared 600-year-old demons. But Ethan had never been normal; his pulse was racing for an entirely different reason. 
"Shoo, naughty one!" as soon as the words were out, Ethan cringed.
Zath's incredulous snort wasn't helping either. 
"You aren't making me feel very welcomed, cleric," Zath said aloud, his deep voice carried the timbre he used when he wanted to terrorize humans. One swift glance at the still shock-paralyzed congregation told Ethan how effective it was.
"You aren't welcome in these holy walls," Ethan said with faux sternness, Zath's arched brow told him he wasn't doing a good job. "Not unless you repent for your sins."
Zath chuckled, purple eyes brimming with mischief. "But sinning is so delicious, cleric."
A shiver ran down Ethan's spine. Don't I know it, he thought.
Ethan took the bible from the pulpit, holding it as a shield. "Then I shall have to banish you. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, ego eieci te!"
Zath took a step back and hissed, anger shining in his eyes. "We shall meet again, cleric," he warned and then disappeared in a burst of purple energy. 
Ethan schooled his expression into grim resolution and triumph, trying not to laugh. Zath was by far a better actor than he was. 
The congregation remained silent for a few heartbeats and then erupted in cheers and began to thank Ethan profusely. He plastered a reassuring, beatific smile on his face as he blessed them all and promised no demon would ever enter the church as long as he or Bishop Rossi were there to stop it.
His position in one of the last openly traditionalist churches had been secured with the assistance of his demon boyfriend. Ethan was sure his friends would thoroughly enjoy the irony, he sure did.

©Selene Kallan 2020
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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer




Synopsis:

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall … and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Rating: 5 Stars
Review:
OMG *insert many fangirling noises* I LOVED this book!
Finally, oh finally, a female MC that's not daft! Harper is stubborn as hell and makes some bad choices but she's smart, she knows how to improvise and she doesn't allow her cerebral palsy to hold her back.
Harper has been forced to be strong before time, her father has abandoned the family. Her brother is doing illegal things to keep Harper and their ill mother safe. When Harper sees a man drugging a girl and dragging her in a dark alley she has to do something. She has no idea her brave decision will drag her to an entirely new world. A world where a Prince has been cursed by an evil sorceress.
I laughed a lot at Harper's impulsiveness and reckless behavior. Girl knows how to swing a crowbar, and she does her best with a dagger.
Prince Rhen was interesting. The way he hides behind strategy and cold logic but finds himself off-balance by Harper is entertaining to watch. His relationship with Harper is complicated, to say the least, but I did appreciate his growth throughout the book.
However, Commander Grey stole my heart. I so have a thing for grumpy, sarcastic, apparently cold and unmovable warriors. I must admit I shipped Harper and Grey for most of the book.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an action-packed, fast-paced, character-centered rollercoaster. I can't wait to read the sequel!

Grab it here:


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