Hey everyone! So excited about this. Samhain’s Bargain is out October 28th. It is a novella set in the Demon Kissed world (Summoner’s Marke series).
While it is a continuation of the series, you can start with this novella and get ready for the next three books (which I am currently writing.)
Here is the first chapter, just for my blog readers.
THE DREAM STARTED, as it always did, with Asher lying next to her
in bed. She lay sated and happy on her back, and he rolled over to his
side and propped his head on his hand to watch her, a small smile
playing on his lips.
“Stay another night,” she said to him, reaching up to push away an errant curl.
Asher traced the curves of her body with his fingers, trailing them lazily over the
swell of her breasts and the rise of her hip. She purred like a kitten and stretched, loving
the sensation of him touching her.
“I can’t stay,” he said, his eyes sad. “They won’t let me. Not like this.”
She wrapped her hand in his hair and pulled his lips down to hers, their tongues
quickly tangling until their breath became short. She nipped his lower lip, and he made
a noise in the back of his throat, all male and pure lust. The hand that had been gently
caressing her grew more demanding. He squeezed her breast and then released her
mouth to suck on her nipple. His other hand slid around her neck and held her still.
She let him do as he wanted, loving the delicious torture of his teasing touch.
When she threatened to push him back so she could take a turn nuzzling his body, he
caught her hands in his and lifted them above her head so that she was extended as far
as she could go without pain.
“Uh, uh,” he crooned. “Behave.”
She swallowed hard. “Okay,” she whispered.
“Stay just like that,” he said, and went back to worshipping her body. He pressed
butterfly kisses to her torso, working his way downward. He skipped the part she most
wanted in favor of biting the insides of her thighs. She groaned and shifted, urging him
He pressed an open palm to her stomach to hold her still and finally put his mouth
to her core, where he teased her with his tongue, tiny little flicks and deep long circles
around her most sensitive spot until she was panting and no matter how hard she tried,
she couldn’t keep from crying out.
“Now, my love,” he commanded. “Now.”
She broke in a million pieces.
And when it was done and she was floating back into her body, she looked at
him, only to see his eyes widen in fear. “I’m sorry,” he said, and his face cracked like
a jigsaw puzzle. His hands and body hardened and then disintegrated into a fine dust,
which floated upwards and disappeared.
When the dream had ended and she’d woken up, Becs had stared at
the ceiling and counted to one hundred. When she reached the final
number, she’d pushed herself out of bed and threw on whatever clothes
were quickly available. Her apartment’s walls seemed to press in on her
and her chest constricted with panic.
She stepped out to the fire escape and filled her bird feeders, taking
deep gulps of fresh air. A blue jay snatched a raspberry out of the
platform feeder and a crow paraded along the banister before snatching
a few sunflower seeds. A squirrel sat under the feeder waiting for the
inevitable spills, and one last goldfinch darted in and out.
She loved the birds, but even their antics didn’t distract her. Her
mind still wouldn’t settle. All she saw was Asher. Him above her as they
made love, and then his body in Hell when he’d sacrificed himself for
her. The images flashed from one to the other and she held on to the
railing, panting anxious breaths.
Flustered, she’d grabbed her bag and darted down the fire escape to
her Prius. Her mechanic had imbued her car’s engine with some magic
razzle-dazzle and she dazzled it to the limit, arriving at her little store in
record time. She’d bolted out of the car and into the store, slamming the
door behind her. Becs leaned against the hard wood and closed her eyes,
letting her heartbeat return to normal. For some reason, she found the
Becs wandered into the tiny kitchen in her magic shop and made
herself a cup of coffee. A peaceful day, she thought. One in which she
didn’t need to talk to many people. Joey said she needed to move on, but
Asher’s death, as well as her father’s, had drained her energy, and it
hadn’t returned. The dreams didn’t help.
“There’s no timetable for grief,” she said out loud, repeating what
her therapist had told her. The therapist didn’t know that both her
guardian angel boyfriend and her father had been killed in Hell, or that
she’d destroyed a powerful demon while down there, but she did
understand that Becs had lost two people she loved, and her advice was
always the same: One day at a time, and honor your feelings. It will take what it
takes. It had been a year since she’d traipsed through Hell with Asher and
Gregory. A year since she and Gregory had climbed out of Hell and
returned to the land of the living without her father or Asher.
Sometimes it felt like a decade.
In the meantime, a quiet shop with a few customers was all she
could handle. She’d reduced her summoning to the bare minimum
because it took so much emotion, not to mention concentration, to do it
properly. And right now, her tank was running low on both. She barely
had enough focus to make a sandwich, much less draw a summoning
circle. The last thing she wanted to do was make a bad deal for a client.
She’d done that once before and the ramifications had led to the very
deaths she now mourned.
She twisted a small gold Chamsa ring on her left index finger, the
only protective jewelry she had remaining after her cuff and necklace
were destroyed in Hell.
The door flew open and a woman she didn’t recognize entered, her
presence immediately putting Becs on the defensive. There was
something about this woman that screamed power and danger.
Becs wanted none of it and she eyed the woman, wary and on
guard. Her alarm seemed to amuse the woman who held her arms out
wide, as if to show she was no threat.
“Can I help you?” Becs asked, in a nominally polite tone.
The woman wore red heels accompanied by black skinny jeans, a
black T-shirt stamped with a red pentagram, and a black silk choker
necklace. A cracked red porcelain heart hung from the silk and nestled at
her throat. Her long black hair hung in a simple ponytail down her back
and, even pulled up in a scrunchie, it touched her waist. At first glance,
the white streaks in the woman’s hair tricked Becs into thinking she was
older, but her beautiful, lightly made-up face couldn’t have been more
Or, thought Becs, she’s older than she looks and is using magic to stay young.
That would firmly place her in a gray to black witch category. Magic
could produce harmless glamours and small cosmetic fixes, but
youth—the actual reversal of aging—required the absorption of a life
force, and that had to come from someone else.
Almost like . . .
The witch who’d given Madame Francesca the amulet.
Madame Francesca, for whom the magic shop was named, used to
wear a tiara with a center garnet. Using her gifts as a medium had
prematurely aged her, so she’d sought a way to counteract the effect and
a witch had supplied the spelled stone. It worked by sucking the life
force from rose bushes planted outside the shop. Francesca then
absorbed that energy into her own body. Sucking life from flowers
wasn’t the same as stealing it from people, but these roses had been
created by a demon. Pulling energy from such a corrupt source had set
Francesca on a dangerous path which had ultimately led to her death.
Becs now owned the store and kept the name in Francesca’s
Becs placed her coffee on the front counter near the cash register
and crossed her arms. Sure enough, she could smell brimstone
underneath the woman’s perfume. It was subtle, but Becs had spent time
in Hell itself. It was unlikely she’d ever forget the stench.
If this was the same witch, she’d killed Francesca as surely as if
she’d pulled a trigger on a gun. The witch hadn’t responded to her
original inquiry, so Becs, her body taut and angry, posed her original
“What. Do. You. Want?”
“Why so haughty, Ms. Greenblatt?” the witch said with a flip of her
hair. “We’ve never met.”
“I know who you are. I recognize the youth spell you have hanging
around your neck. You’re the witch who gave Francesca the garnet
“Jemma Crane,” the witch said, with a little flourish of her hand.
“And you are correct. I also gave her the amulet you are now using to
hide the shop. I’m glad my little workings are useful to you.”
Becs frowned, not liking that she was benefitting from this
woman’s magic. “I’ll have to remedy that.”
Jemma lifted both palms in a plea for reason. “Why? It helps you.
What’s the harm?”
“You gave Francesca the amulet and planted the roses, tying her to
a demon, and she died as a result.”
The woman pivoted on one foot and stroked the soft green blanket
draped over a chair behind her. “I did give them to her. How she used
them was up to her.”
Jemma examined her long, manicured nails. “It’s true. I gave her
what she asked for and nothing more. She wanted to stay young. Even
she knew what that meant.”
Becs was out of patience. “Why are you here?”
The witch raised her eyebrows. “Well, if the scuttlebutt is correct,
you killed Duke Valefar. True?”
Becs didn’t deny it, nor did she confirm. Scuttlebutt? Who was
talking? Becs didn’t know how to reply so she waited, silently.
Jemma huffed out a breath. “I’ll assume it’s true. Given that, I came
to check in. If you destroyed Lucifer’s minion, then you must be taking
the duke’s place.” She inclined her chin. “Pleasure to meet you,
Becs shook her head, hard. “Oh, no. No. No, and no. I already told
Lucifer that he could forget it. I don’t want that job. He can give it to
someone else. I’m not playing that game.”
The witch inhaled a sharp breath, genuinely shocked. “You’re
refusing all that power? All that influence?” Her tongue caressed the
word “influence” like a lover.
“I want nothing to do with it or him.”
The woman dropped into the chair. “What I could do in your
shoes,” she murmured. “To be a favorite of the Dark Prince.”
“Lady, you don’t want anything to do with him.”
“Oh, but I do,” the witch whispered, a vaguely sexual sound that
made Becs’s skin crawl.
“Keep your fantasies to yourself, witch, and leave. I’m not buying
whatever you’re selling.”
Jemma pursed her lips. “I used to communicate with Duke Valefar
through his warlock. I assumed you had taken the duke’s place. But I see
you have not, you stupid, stupid girl. You can’t leave a power vacuum as
big as the duke’s, Ms. Greenblatt. I think you’re going to find that your
new master won’t tolerate it.”
“He’s not my new master.”
“Oh, but he is, and I know how he thinks. He won’t let you escape
him, and he won’t forget this insult. You can’t refuse the Prince of Hell,
my dear. He’s coming for you, one way or another. He’ll find your weak
point and squeeze. Lucifer is not fond of losing.”
The little hairs on the back of Becs’s arms stood up, but she refused
to show her discomfort. With an imperious look, she pointed at the
door. “Out. Now.”
Jemma smirked, stood, then gave Becs a lazy curtsey. “By your
The witch sauntered out of the shop, the door shutting quickly
behind her, as if the store couldn’t wait to get rid of her either.
Becs blew out a breath and stalked around the counter. She opened
the door and jumped up, pulling down the amulet that hid the shop.
Now everyone could see the entrance, but she didn’t want to be
beholden to the witch for another second. She hadn’t thought about it
before, but using the invisibility amulet meant she was using a tainted
Becs stomped on the amulet, and it cracked wide open. A puff of
poisoned green smoke released into the air, and Becs winced at its
sulfuric odor. Good riddance, she thought. She threw it out and sent a
quick text to Phineas. The green mage might have the skills to make her
a new one or would know of someone who could.
Becs rested on the armchair in her front waiting area. Something
about Jemma’s warning rang frighteningly true and left Becs’s stomach
in a tight knot.
“He’ll find my weak point and squeeze,” she said out loud.
A whoosh of air passed by her head, ruffling her hair. Edgar, the
ghost who came and went as he pleased, had arrived on the scene. Edgar
asked Becs to pass messages to his living wife, and sometimes provided
“Your friends,” said Edgar, in response to her statement. “Anyone
who watches you for a millisecond knows where your weakness is. It
used to be Asher, but now I’d say it could be anyone you care about.
Pinky. Joey. The wee elves. Even Gregory, that creep.”
Becs considered Edgar’s words. “Yeah, I’ve been worried about
“I mean, he’s not your best friend, but you wouldn’t want anything
to happen to him. And he was with you in Hell.”
“You’re right, Edgar. I’ve been on edge about this ever since
Lucifer emerged from the hellmouth and ordered me to return to take
up Duke Valefar’s duties. I’ve warned Gregory that the Dark Prince
wants revenge, but Gregory doesn’t take me seriously.”
“Gregory’s a putz.”
“Don’t use that word.” Becs took a sip of cold coffee. “I just can’t
see the plan. I’m not nefarious enough. I can’t think like Lucifer, so I
can’t figure out when he’s going to strike. What’s his scheme?”
“Let me tell you what I surmise.” Another whish of air passed Becs
by. “Being dead gives me a different perspective on how people think
and how blinded they are to their own faults. When you watch folks
come and go and listen to them justify their choices, you see both the
best and the worst in people. People do bad things because they think
they have no choice. They feel trapped.”
“That makes total sense,” Becs said.
“Right.” Edgar’s voice now came from directly in front of her. He
continued with a professorial air.
“But, if you look at it with an unimpassioned eye, it turns out they
did have another choice, although it was a difficult one that led to shame,
heartache, or disgrace. So instead, they dug themselves in deeper to
avoid the negative consequences.”
“What’s this have to do with Lucifer?”
“He makes people feel like that all the time. He clouds their
decision-making, makes them anticipate the worst. Then they try to
avoid it at all costs and in doing so, they lose sight of the truth. They lose
perspective, Becs. They lose clarity. He’s the devil, not some wayward
“He’s subtle and cruel.” Becs searched for some Advil. A headache
was starting in her temples.
“He is who he is meant to be.” Edgar cleared his throat. “If he
wants to go after you, he’ll attack someone you care about, find their
weakness, and push them toward the wrong choice. He’ll make them
feel hopeless, like they only have one bad option. He’ll blind them to any
other possibilities except the one he wants them to make, and he’ll play
on their faults to make them do it.”
Becs hugged herself. “Gregory’s ripe for the plucking then.”
Edgar’s voice grew thinner as he faded out. “I’m afraid he is.”