Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sacrificed - Prologue

While I finish up A Modicum of Truth, here's a little taste of Sacrificed. Fair warning though, this is not the final edit of the book.


Eight months ago…

It was movie night. Samantha wanted the latest version of the Expendables franchise. I wanted the new Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy comedy. We compromised with Shakespeare in Love, my wife’s favorite method of torturing me.

Thankfully, my head of security, Mai Osaka, rang me before the end of the first act.

“Thad’s out with Leslie and the kids northwest of the city. They found a body. Female. Possibly demon related from the damage to the abdomen.”

Of course, Samantha could hear the entire exchange without benefit of activating the speaker phone feature. She stiffened, and her eyes glowed silver. Her appearance still bothered me. On the surface, my discomfort was ridiculous. As a vampire, my eyes did something similar, but it was a reminder that I had failed to keep her safe when I had the chance. When she had still been alive.

“We are on our way,” I said to Mai.

Our private elevator to our penthouse whined to life. “I’m still here in the Karnak. Please tell Sam to wait for me, Master St. James. I’ll be there momentarily.”

“Of course.” I ended the call and rose from the couch.

“I wouldn’t have left without her,” my wife grumbled. Ozone tainted the air. Samantha’s powers manifested further, changing her clothing from shorts and a t-shirt advocating a fictional character for president to a solid black coat with matching slacks and boots.

I had discovered I could not look at her directly too long when she was in this state. Not without risking my sanity. I focused on a spot on the couch next to her left ear. “Of course not, darling. However, I need to change my clothing if we will be traipsing through the desert.” I gestured at the black sweatpants and t-shirt I wore.

She jumped up from the couch. “I could—”

I held up my index finger. “No!” At her stricken expression, I softened the tone of my voice. “I appreciate your offer, but I can dress myself through conventional methods. Thank you.”

Samantha crossed her arms. “Just because I screwed up once—”

“If Thaddeus and the werecoyotes found evidence of a demon, arguing about my dress now is not a productive use of our time.” I left the living room before either of us could say something else. Otherwise, she would continue to use the issue of my clothing to mask her anxiety of a possible demon incident so near our home.

A few seconds later, I returned to the living room to find my wife and my chief of security whispering furiously at each other. Perhaps they forgot I could hear every word from our master bedroom, but they dropped their argument of whether or not I should go to the crime scene the moment I stepped into the hallway.

And they both consistently accused me of being overprotective.

“I am ready unless you two wish to continue your debate concerning my delicate masculine sensibilities,” I said as I strode into the living room.

Mai’s cheeks flushed a bright pink. At the sweet scent of her blood, I had to clamp down on my instincts, but there was nothing I could do about the lengthening of my eyeteeth or the emerald glow of my own eyes. I hoped the women would interpret my slip as concern over Thaddeus’s discovery.

Samantha glared at me as she seized Mai’s hand. Unfortunately, her telepathic powers had been growing along with her other abilities as a goddess.

Goddess. As much as I tried, I still had problems accepting the concept.

“Get your ass over here if you’re coming,” she snapped.

“Yes, my lady.” I crossed the floor and clasped her warm hand in mine. Everything went black and the floor tilted from under my feet.

Then the full moon shone directly overhead, and sandy loam cushioned my boots. Two high-pitched yips of dismay rent the cool desert air.

“Booker, Deanna, get your butts over here now,” barked a deep voice. “I told you two not to wander off.”

The female werecoyote pup toddled back to the Normal enforcer sitting on a nearby waist-high boulder. The male, however, crouched down and growled at us.

I scooped him up. The little bugger tried to nip my fingers while I strode to where Thaddeus Wolford waited. A shot gun lay beside the enforcer. He cuddled the whimpering female pup.

“Where is the corpse?” I handed Thaddeus’s grandson back to him.

His head jerked in the direction of more boulders. “Back there. Leslie and the kids have been sniffing around, trying to pick up a scent.” He turned in the direction he had indicted. “Staci! Need you to watch the babies for a few minutes!”

My wife’s secretary trotted from between the two closest towering rock formations. Brimstone and ash radiated from the werecoyote. Thad set down her children, and they immediately began wrestling in the dirt. A sharp bark from their mother ended the tussle.

Samantha, Mai, and I followed Thaddeus through the maze of rocks to a shallow depression. Two flat slabs leaned against each other, forming a lean-to of sorts. From the run-off tracks in the soil, the corpse had originally been placed under the slight cover.

“In all my years as a sheriff back in Ohio, I never saw this much weird shit.” Thaddeus paused at the edge of the depression. Four werecoyotes prowled around the area. The female padded over to the sheriff.

Her gray-brown fur faded. Muscles and bones flexed and twisted until Leslie Warner Wolford stood beside her husband. “Body’s been here for at least a week. We were out here running last Thursday so somebody dropped the body soon after we left.” She shook her head and her graying dirty blonde hair flew. “No scavengers have touched it. Not even insects.” She shuddered. “Fucking creepy as hell. Boys!”

The three male werecoyotes, her sons by her ex-husband, backed away from the corpse, and Samantha took up their prowling behavior. Her eyes flared silvery-white. The glow provided enough illumination for Mai and Thad that their flashlights were not needed.

Samantha crouched next to the body. “Honeyed apple. It’s Sharon Tyson all right.”

One of the two women who could not be accounted for after the Battle of Tuttle Creek. Sharon was the one woman we had discovered was supernatural. The poor lady had not known she was part fae. However, no one deserved her fate. If I did not feel the wash of my wife’s rage, the rocks around us humming would have given us fair warning.

“Darling, you need to control yourself before someone is harmed.”

Her attention focused on me. “Haight used her, Duncan. This is my fault.” She jabbed her index finger in the direction of the corpse. A fissure appeared in a boulder with a sharp crack. “There’s another demon running loose because I didn’t find her in time.” She rose in a motion that was unnaturally smooth even by my vampiric standards. “And they left Sharon’s body here to make sure I knew.”

Mai stepped a little closer to my wife, but I noticed not any closer to the corpse. “Sam, you can’t let them rattle you—”

“Shut up, Mai. Just—” Her gulping inhale meant she was trying not to let loose her tears. Or her power. “Just shut up, okay? I’ve heard it all.” Samantha pushed past my chief of security.

“Darling—” I reached for her, but she evaded my touch.

A strong hand grasped my arm as I turned to follow her. “Let her go, Duncan. The kid needs some time alone,” Leslie murmured.

“She is taking this personally.” I glanced down at Leslie’s hand but she didn’t release me.

“The bastards meant it to be personal,” the werecoyote said. “It’s the reason they left the lady’s body so close to Las Vegas.”

“Leslie’s right, sir,” Mai said before she turned to Thaddeus. “You have any extra gasoline? We need to burn the corpse.”

He frowned. “Don’t you want one the witches to take a look at it first?”

Mai looked at me for confirmation, and I shook my head.

Thaddeus shrugged and trudged off to retrieve the fuel. Leslie released me and shifted back to her canine form. She and her sons followed the enforcer.

Mai clasped her hands behind her back. “May I ask why you don’t want Quinn’s people, or even Bebe, to check out the body?”

“Because its purpose was exactly as Leslie said.” I stared at the thing that had been a living breathing woman until a demon had clawed its way out of her abdomen. “To taunt us.”

“But why would the demons do such a thing?” Mai gestured at the remains. Remains not even bacteria would touch.

“This was not the demon’s idea,” I replied. “This was Marcus’s.”

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