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Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/qG3suMw5SvQ
Excerpt Book One
While washing up the dinner dishes, Andrei heard Jovienne’s door open down the hall. She called, “Sun’s gonna set soon. You ready?”
He rinsed the last dish and placed it in the rack. “Yeah. Are you?” He moved to lean in the doorway, drying his calloused hands on a dishtowel.
On one knee, Jovienne tightened the lacing on her boot. “Almost.”
He glanced around the empty living room where they sometimes sparred. The walls had been drab green long before they moved in. Stains marred the ceiling, some from age and others from leaks. The floor wasn’t much better. Worn and dark, the boards had little shine left. They all creaked under foot.
He imagined the abhadhim had far better living quarters than this. Though he was stuck here, she wasn’t. She deserved better.
She stood and tossed her head, resettling her long mane of black hair. Rocking from her heels to her toes, she tested the feel of the footwear, then approached the wide wooden cabinet. As usual, she studied the weapons on the shelves. She always started by loading her pockets with throwing stars. Next, she would strap leather dagger sheaths to her wrists.
He smiled to himself when she did just that. He knew her well.
Her every move seemed part of a dance, a choreographed routine she’d performed for years. He noted every detail as her fingers worked those buckles. Nails trimmed short. A web of pale, thin scars marked the brown skin of her hands, badges earned in the mastery of all those blades.
She was a fierce sparring partner who would seize the tactical advantage. A clever and competent student and a serious young woman whose beauty drew the eye, he admired everything about her. She embodied much more than he ever aspired to be.
He could not have been more proud.
He wanted to tell her the news, but a lump swelled in his throat. Revealing the news would bring his tears. He had to master his emotion first. He’d been tough on her. Couldn’t ruin that now and risk her remembering him as a sniveling fool.
Still, he’d have to say those words soon. Too soon. But not yet.
She gave him the once over in a glance. “You going empty-handed?”
On a normal night, he’d already have his sword on his belt and daggers on his hips. But he didn’t need gear tonight.
His stomach churned. Each minute brought him closer to their parting. He didn’t know what zone she’d get, but it was possible he’d never see her again. Every second felt precious. More so because she didn’t know what awaited her tonight. She didn’t have to carry the weight of their inevitable goodbye. For now, he carried the bittersweet burden for her.
You need her far more than she ever needed you.
Every healthy thing in his life stemmed from her. Not just the training routine or emphasis on nutrition. He gained stability from being her teacher. Pushing her physical abilities to ever-better levels required him to be engaged and sharp. And it kept old weaknesses at bay. With her, he achieved his best self.
Still, the need to atone for mistakes of the past haunted him.
His highest, best hope for her entailed a successful future that justified what had been taken from her. She’d had a family. He hadn’t been so lucky.
She slid daggers into the wrist sheaths and retrieved her short jacket from the peg by the door. As the coat settled on her shoulders, the costume jewels of the collar pin sparkled in the light. Andrei grimaced and the knot in his gut twisted tighter.
He’d given her the decorative lapel dagger on her sixteenth birthday. Just over three years ago. That night should have been a happy memory. Instead, an unforgettable trauma etched into his mind.
That night she’d touched him. The child he raised had declared herself a woman and offered herself to him.
He’d refused her. Morally, ethically, it was his only option. He was the only man in her life. She had a teenage crush. It was understandable. Predictable, even.
But it wasn’t easily dismissed.
Disgusted with himself at how quickly he’d grown hard under her hand, all his self-loathing coiled into his throat as he rejected her. His tone had been harsh and critical, bursting with his need to prevent her from ever tempting him again.
In hindsight, he’d been too forceful. Bullish, even. Her defeated expression and posture told him his words had landed like fists. He fled from her room praying he hadn’t done the one thing he never meant to do: break her will.
Jovienne proved too resilient to break, but the incident cost them. Their closeness evaporated. A rift opened, impossible to bridge. The pin on her lapel became a jeweled reminder of the day they destroyed their sense of family. All that remained was teacher and student.
As it should have been all along.
A new ferocity developed in her training regimen afterward. As if she’d discarded secret feelings that had held her back. Or she’d developed new emotional armor.
Either way, it would serve her well in the future. Starting tonight.
Excerpt Book Two:
Jovienne pointed at him, hand trembling with anger. “Don’t blame me for what you lost. I begged you to leave. You stayed. Like you said, choices have consequences.”
“You don’t care what your evil witchcraft cost me, do you?”
Her mouth opened, but she wasn’t willing to voice her first thoughts. “I wish more than anything you would have left.” You wouldn’t have been in danger, and I wouldn’t have done what I did to save you. Her eyes burned. Unwilling to cry in front of him, she left.
Even without the boots, her heels thudded on the cracked linoleum.
“Jovienne,” Andrei called.
Ms. Davis, the neighbor downstairs, thumped her ceiling at the noise.
Jovienne didn’t care. She stomped down the hall and slammed her door. In her darkened bedroom, she stared out the front bay window.
Moving back in was stupid. I was naïve to think we could avoid this fight.
She fought both the tears and the scream building in her throat by concentrating on the lights beyond the glass and measuring her breaths.
Andrei flung open her door without knocking.
His face contorted and he twisted and smacked the switch up. Harsh light filled the room.
He remained silent a beat longer than she expected.
“You’re an angel now. You can’t act like a spiteful child.”
His expression and tone conveyed calm, but the flush in his face and his white-knuckled hand on the doorknob said otherwise. His dominant pose declared his control of the room.
But she saw he didn’t have control of himself.
She activated the quickening to give herself an extra moment to think.
He’d always been a firm teacher. When she first started besting him in sparring matches, he resorted to taunting her to make her lose her temper. She’d seen right through the bully tactics.
He’d done the same thing in the kitchen, but this time they weren’t physically sparring.
She’d fallen for it and let him use her emotional investment against her.
Though he blocked the doorway with his body, he was not a threat. Not physically. But his beliefs were. He didn’t care if she was a slave. Worse, he felt the servitude was an honor.
She released the quickening and sank onto the bed, staring at the floor between them. Her throat remained tight from her unvoiced scream and when she spoke, it hurt. “Moving back in seemed like a great idea.” She looked up. “Last night, I thought we were on common ground.
But today you’re acting as if you expect to pick up right where we left off.”
His brows knit. “Aren’t we?”
“You’re not my teacher anymore, Andrei. And you never were my father.”
His shoulders sagged. He released the doorknob and raked fingers through his hair.
“You’re right.” The words stood for but a second before he straightened and hurried on. “If I hadn’t failed to nurture your spiritual path—”
“—if I had only—”
Andrei winced, then clamped his jaw.She stood. “There are two things you need to get through your head right now. One, I cannot forget what I learned from you or what I learned from my gramma. Not even if I wanted to. And two, you don’t get to instruct me anymore. If you have an opinion about what I should think or do or how I should live my life, you will keep it to yourself.”
Bewitching Excerpt: Martyr
Jovienne found a box of Jade Oolong tea, filled the kettle, and set on the burner.
Samedi sauntered to the doorway and leaned on the far side of the casing. He blew a puff of smoke and watched her. He’d put the cane away again.
“So, Trouble, do you have any fuckin’ idea what you did back there?”
The nickname couldn’t compare with Black Diamond Woman, but it didn’t entirely displease her. “Without dirt under my feet, I had to draw on the electricity somehow. So I pulled it straight from the wires.”
He shook his head and laughed softly. “The fuck you did.”
Offended, she leaned on the counter.
“Are you not going to ask me what you did do?”
“If you have something helpful to add, by all means, say it so I can decide if I believe you.”
He touched his chest as if wounded. “I’m trying to help you.”
“Really?” She crossed her arms. “Sitting back and judging seems more your style.”
“Like you’re doing now?”
“You’re not denying it.”
“Neither are you.”
She arched a brow.
Samedi gave her a judgmental once over. “My ‘style’ is malleable,” he said, “adjusting to fit the moment, but fuck you just the same for being a rude bitch.”
Jovienne had learned a lot from spirited chats with Andrei and Eitan and Araxiel. She sensed no threat from Samedi, but saw an amused gleam, and perhaps a playful challenge, in his eyes. It reminded her of the first time she met Araxiel.
“Maybe you should start over, because from where I stand, you’re the rude bitch. You’re acting superior, hoping I’ll change my demands. Or forget them. But I won’t.” She nodded toward the other room where Nathan sat. “What happened at the morgue just threw a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.”
“I’m relieved as fuck to hear you understand the gravity of the situation.” Samedi shifted to lean on the closer side of the doorway. “I see why you think you rerouted electricity to power your magic, but it only proves you don’t know shit about electricity.”
“Demon slaying doesn’t usually involve—” She stopped. In the last week, very little lined up with what she’d trained for. Giving him her back, she opened the cupboard and searched for a coffee cup. “Electricity wasn’t in the curriculum.”
“Of course not. An abhadhon isn’t supposed to have what you have.”
“A nephilim bloodline. Yeah. I know.” She chose a Shang-Chi mug and dropped the tea bag in.
“You shouldn’t be an abhadhon.”
“I didn’t ask for it.” She pushed the mug closer to the kettle then recrossed her arms. “Again, if you have something helpful to add, say it.”
His gaze flitted from the kettle to the mug and on to the floor as he considered. She waited. Finally, his eyes found hers. “You wouldn’t compare a nine-volt battery to a nuclear power plant because you understand enough to know that would be a fuckin’ stupid thing to say. Yet you called the power electricity. That tells me you’re ignorant.”
She turned away.
Samedi grabbed her arm and jerked her back. “That’s not an insult. It’s truth. The only remedy for ignorance is learning, so put your ego aside and let me teach you something.”
Jovienne pointedly glanced at his hand on her arm. He released her.
“Your mind made the leap straight to Frankenstein,” he said. “I get why,but forget that shit. Electricity and lightning can’t bring long-dead people back to fuckin’ life. You didn’t pull electricity from the transformers down the street. That power is crude, small, and rudimentary. It wouldn’t want to go through you.”
“You aren’t negative.”
“I could introduce you to someone who’d say you’re wrong.”
“And I may well agree with them, but I’m talking about polarity, not attitude.”
The water boiled. She lifted the kettle and poured into the mug.
Samedi leaned on the doorway casing again. “Every switch has a ground wire—literally a wire that runs into the fuckin’ ground. Positive electrical charge is attracted to negative electrical charge, so any excess of positive follows the wire down and disburses into the ground.”
“Are you saying I reconnected the disbursed energy and brought it up?”
“No. I’m saying you couldn’t have used electricity because it doesn’t exist in the place you drew from.”
“If not electricity what was it?” She raised and lowered the tea bag by the string, glad for something to do with her hands. “Ley energy?”
“Fuck no.” The note of his voice dropped. “This came from a place deeper down.”
She lowered the bag slowly and let the string go. “How deep?”
“Add some sugar. It will do him good.”
“Take him the tea. Then we continue.”
Jovienne let the tea steep while she searched for the sugar. Finding nothing but a few pink packets of Sweet-n-Low, she waggled them at Samedi.
She finished preparing the tea and took it to Nathan. After passing it to him, she straightened. Samedi halted close behind her. “What?”
“Knowing without understanding has made you hard. And dangerous.” He offered his hand. “Are you ready?”
“To understand.” The vortex opened behind him.
She’d demanded to talk to the Angel of Death. Looked like he was going to let her.