Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon
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To my own special Welshman who's shared most of his life with me. Love you more, every day. And to the three boys who mean the entire world to us both, and who proudly sport Welsh names no one can spell or pronounce. Love you all. Thank you for being the best part of my life.
“No!” Cadegan shouted as he found himself trapped inside a dark, grayish hell. Furious at the betrayal, he tried to break the looking glass that served as his window into the human world he'd just been violently sucked out of.
“Leucious! You can't do this to me! I'm your brother!”
But the words had no effect on the cold heart of the bastard half demon who stared at the glass without mercy or pity. And when those bright blue-green eyes locked with his, Cadegan knew for a fact that Leucious heard him.
And didn't care.
For centuries, Cadegan had given everything he had for Leucious. He'd served him loyally and with complete trust. Only to be damned without the benefit of a doubt. No questions asked.
Just misassumptions made against him, over an action he'd been forced to take to protect himself.
His beautiful features stern, Leucious splayed his hand on the glass that separated them. “God have mercy on you, little brother.”
Still bleeding profusely from his wounds that Leucious hadn't even acknowledged, Cadegan snatched the conical helm from his head and slammed it against the glass. It made no impact whatsoever.
A single tear slid down Leucious's cheek. He wiped it away with an angry hand before he covered the glass with a black cloth. And consigned him to hell.
“Leucious!” Cadegan tried again. He kicked at the glass. His chain mail and spurs jingled, but again the glass held fast. “Thorn!” he tried one last time to reach the brother who'd betrayed him. “Thorn! Come back!”
It was no use. Like everyone else in his life, and against his own promises that this would never happen, Leucious had abandoned him.
“For crimes against Our Lord, for breach of my trust, I condemn you to the shadowed lands of your mother. No more are you to walk this earth as a living being. You will spend eternity remembering what you've done, and regretting your actions. You are no longer one of us. For that, you are sentenced and banished from the world of man. Forevermore.”
Leucious's words haunted him as Cadegan gnashed his teeth.
“I will escape this hell one day, brother. And when I do, yours is the heart I will claim first. A life for a life. Blood for blood! If it takes me a thousand years, I will be free and you will pay for this. So vows Cadwgwn Maboddimun! Your death, Leucious. My life! I swear it!”
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 18, 2014
“You know, Selena, there's a fine line between important to me, and dead to me. And you're currently stomping all over it.”
Standing in the hallway, next to a stack of boxes, Selena Laurens laughed at her cousin's surly tone. “That's all right, Jo-Jo. Just remember with our Cajun-Romani blood, even if I'm dead to you, in either realm, you'll still be able to hear me. I will haunt you forever.”
Josette Landry cringed at a childhood nickname that had always made her feel like a yappy Pomeranian. Normally, she'd correct Selena's usage, but at this point, she was too tired and soul-sick to bother. “Look, the only thing I want to summon right now is a trip to Baskin-Robbins. So unless you've got a quart of creamy goodness in your purse, stop talking and start driving.” Jo gently tugged Selena toward the door and ignored the bells that jingled from the hem of Selena's silver and purple broomstick skirt. A self-proclaimed fortune-teller, her cousin bought into the weirdness of their gypsy heritage lock, stock, and both flaming barrels.
Jo paused as she swept a glance from the top of Selena's long, curly brown hair, white peasant blouse, and loud, statement moon necklace to her Birkenstock sandals.
Take that back. Selena didn't buy into it, she rolled around in the bad stereotype like a happy piglet in a mud factory.
Selena snorted. “Drowning your problems in Rock 'n Pop Swirl sherbet isn't going to solve anything.”
“Forget sherbet. This day calls for Strawberry Cheesecake with fudge sauceÂ â¦ triple scoops. Now mush!”
“You'll hate yourself in the morning.”
“I hate myself right now. At least let me hate my life with the happy memory of yummy, frozen happiness in my bulging belly.”
“Fine,” Selena groused. “I'll even pay for it.”
“Of course you will.” Jo pulled her tattered messenger bag over her shoulder. “I'm broke.”
Selena snorted again as she dug her huge, fluffy key ring out of her hippie wicker handbag. “You're not right, are you?”
“I'm genetically linked to your branch of the family. Of course I'm not all right. I'll
be all right.”
Shaking her head, Selena waited while Jo locked her apartment door, though why she bothered, she had no idea. The only thing of value was her three dogs. And if the burglars were toting Beggin' Strips, they'd happily abandon her without a fight. Evil drooling canine snots.
Jo caught a glimpse of the boxes she'd been packing through the window and winced. If her lifelong run of bad luck didn't change soon, she would be out on the street and she'd be forced to turn her beloved dogs over to a shelter.
Or worse, her older sister.
How could it have come to this? This was not supposed to be her life. She'd never been irresponsible. While other kids went out drinking and partying, she'd stayed home and studied hard. Graduated at the top of her class. She'd scrimped and saved, and had lost her entire nest egg on lawyer fees when she'd divorced her husband for refusing to work. The reason being that if Barry Riggio was working, he wouldn't have time to screw other women in their bed, while Jo slaved away at two jobs to support them!
Yeah. She'd never felt more betrayed or hurt.
I won't ever trust another man again.
And if that wasn't bad enough, corporate downsizing had cost her her day job, and she'd lost her night job six weeks ago after the factory had burned down from a freak electrical fire.
Overwhelmed by the failure of her life and ambitions, Jo turned toward the street and headed for the curb where Selena's Jeep was parked. If only Selena's husband and his law firm handled divorces, it might have saved her something. But Bill's specialty was corporate and criminal law, not family law. And while his attorney friend had given her a discounted rate, it'd still taken every dime of her savings to offload the cheating freeloader.
“What am I going to do, Lainie?”
Selena opened the car door for her. “Breathe, honey. This too shall pass. In the meantime I canâ”
take a loan from you. Ever!”
“Will you take a job?”
Jo waited until Selena got into the Jeep on the other side before she responded. “I can't read tea leaves or palms. And if you put me in your store, be warned, I'm not sure I can leash my sarcasm.”
“Yeah, I know you and retail are a bad combination. Your uncle Jacob is still railing at family get-togethers about the one
you spent working in his garage.”
“Don't be so melodramaticÂ â¦ I only worked there for two hours before Aunt Paulina gave me the heave-ho.”
Selena burst out laughing. “My point exactly. Anyway, as I value my customer base and respect them highly, I have no intention of putting
behind a counter where you'll single-handedly drive my business into the gutter. What I have for you, Ms. Snark 'Ems, is to do what you do best. Work as a camerawoman.”
Jo perked up immediately. “Oh? Really?”
Selena nodded as she navigated through traffic. “There's only one small catch.”
“Ah, gah, I knew it! It's for a porn site, isn't it?”
“No!” Selena screwed her face up, then appeared to consider it. “Although, knowing you, you'd probably prefer the porn over this assignment.”
A sick feeling settled in Jo's stomach as she realized it had to be something paranormal, and dumber than dumb's widow's doorknob. “What?”
“I have some friendsâ¦”
“No! I've met your friends. I'd rather work at Tabitha's triple-X-rated store, sorting glittered pasties and edible thongs.”
“I can arrange that, too. Just remember, you have to learn the difference between K-Y andâ”
“Stop! Right there! I don't want to know about your sister's depravity. I'm still scarred from the story she told of finding someone's dentures in the back thong drawer.”
“You're such a prude.”
“Me and Amanda. The sole bastions of nonlunacy in a long line of certifiable nutsos.”
Selena paused at a light to glare at her. “Do you want me to tell you about the job or not?”
“Fine,” Jo conceded reluctantly. “I'll listen, and at least I can jump out of the car from here and walk back.”
Selena snorted. “My friends are trying to get their own cable show.”
Jo suddenly regretted her snottiness. “That actually sounds promising. What kind of show?”
Hell's Calling. The Women of Demonology and Possession.
“Hello, detour back to the No-way-in-hell-will-I-do-this exit ramp.”
“Fine.” Selena turned left. “Just out of curiosity, I know it's been almost five months, but have you told your parents yet about the divorce, and your foreclosure notice?”
“I hate you, Selena.”
“No, you don't. You love me with the passion of a thousand paparazzi after an Emma Stone exclusive.”
Jo blew her cousin a raspberry. “You keep believing those lies.”
“Not lies. I'm psychic. I
Amused and disgusted, Jo rolled her eyes. As much as she hated to admit it, Selena was right. She loved and adored her quacky older cousin more than anything. Lunacy and all. “How much does this job pay? And when would they want me to start?”
“If they could find a reliable, unflappable cameraperson, they'd start tomorrow. But everyone they've brought onsite has fled screaming in fifteen minutes or less.”
Wow, that was impressive. Even for Selena's group of
weirdos. “Are they that hard to work with?”
“No. They're actually quite lovely.â¦ The place they're investigating is
This time, Jo gave in and burst out laughing. “You're not serious?”