urban fantasy series, but an exclusive and sexy little slice of subtext just
perimeter of the house now known as Strange
Herbs & Teas. He glanced up at the sign in the moonlight, eyes tracing
over the engraved letters inlaid with gold. The herbs he could manage. The tea
was another thing. The smell of the stuff made him sneeze and he wondered how
he could stand to be in the same room with those dreaded cannisters filled with
tea of every stripe.
that was the most unfathomable. She
was unfathomable. Humans he had known. Thousands of them over the many
centuries. And Chosen Hosts, too. But Kylie…
charm,” he wondered aloud. Some sort of…spell. None of the other Chosen Hosts
had ever intrigued him as much. Oh, there were a few in Babylon, in Egypt, and
some in medieval Britain, but he had never felt so invested, so out of sorts,
where his amulet used to be. Maybe that was it. Almost the first thing she had
done upon meeting him was steal his amulet. And then she ordered him around
like he was her minion, for Beelze’s sake, making him fetch the chthonic
crossbow. How had it happened? Why hadn’t he been on his guard? It was
ludicrous having a mere human lord it over him like that.
moon. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He just wanted to do his job and be
done with it.
the dark woods. He picked out forest creatures, saw their life forces shining
brightly, almost too brightly to look at. Fox, vole, owl, cricket, frog…and
other creatures so old that the earth scarce remembered them.
shop, his head jerked toward the window. He could see her moving about, doing
Beelzebub-knew-what. Making that damned tea, no doubt. He moved closer to the
window to peer inside.
followed her and hovered near the chair she had curled up in. She tucked her
legs under her and was wearing those ridiculous sleep clothes of thin,
long-sleeved shirt and some sort of baggy trousers. Women in trousers. There
was a time she would have been burned at the stake for that.
face. Women wore it shorter now. In past times, a woman with shorn hair meant
she was being publicly humiliated. Twenty-first century. Bah! He could pull a
better century out of his—
shoulders shook, her face was hidden in her hands—all indication that she was
crying. Erasmus frowned. He sensed her distress, even from outside. Without
even thinking about it, he walked forward through the wall, feeling the atoms
of wood and plaster pass easily through him.
listening to her wrenching sobs. She pushed her hand over her ruined face. It
was red and folded into a grimace, with wet streaks across her cheeks. For some
reason, even in her sudden ugliness, his heart twitched.
from her seat, all ungainly legs and arms flailing. She spun to face him.
“Don’t DO that!”
meant it as a jibe, but she wasn’t having it.
on me.” She turned away, dug a well-used tissue from her trouser pocket, and
blew her nose into it. “You’re always doing that,” she muttered.
sense other beings around me and so I assume humans can do it too.”
hidden by her hair. She glared back at his close proximity.
expression on her face that would seem to say, “Are you insane?”
she was. Vulnerable. Creatures coming from the book to plague her, and one
mystery after the other, what with her friends in danger and other emotional
turmoil. He could see where she could well be considered vulnerable. “I’m
sorry,” was all he could think to say.
stuffed the disreputable bit of tissue back in her pocket, and dropped back
into the seat. “It’s not your fault. I guess.”
her from different angles. “It isn’t
my fault. I am as much a captive of the book as the creatures that emerge from
appreciated him? What sort of devilry
was this? Humans ran in fear of him, prostrated themselves before him, even
submitted unwillingly to his desires…but none had ever appreciated him. He scowled. It was likely some sort of trick.
walking around her chair, and stopped before the other chair opposite her. He sank
slowly into it. Measuring her for a long while, he watched as she raised her
gaze and settled it on him. Then she smiled.
leaned back, resting her head against the cushioned chair. “Every now and then
a good cry is what’s needed.” When he failed to answer her, she leaned forward,
hands curling on her thighs. “I haven’t seen you all day. What have you been
second toward his amulet flashing from its place on her chest. “Nothing.
right. Maybe I don’t want to think about it tonight.” She glanced once at the
book that persisted in hovering. “Will you sit down!” she yelled at it.
Strangely, it complied, slowly lowering to a side table. “Thing makes me
jumpy,” she said with a shiver.
over this. You will conquer these creatures. I will be beside you when you do.”
want you to get hurt.”
feeling in his gut and in his chest. He was a demon. No one cared if he was
hurt or not. Not for thousands of years. Not on earth, not in the Netherworld.
what she meant by it. She continued to gaze at him under increasingly droopy
lids. No, not droopy. She was looking at him from under her lashes. Those long,
dark lashes and those penetrating brown eyes that seemed to wear such a tender
he almost startled.
could think about it.
earlier melancholy had been a mere trick of the light. His ears pricked as he
listened to her rummaging in the kitchen and soon she brought out two glasses. Handing
one to him, she sat again, tucking her bare feet under her. She sipped, looking
up through her lashes again over the rim of her glass. At the same time, she
was absentmindedly stroking his amulet. “I was wondering,” she said quietly.
brandy, but he enjoyed the slight burn in his throat when he swallowed it.
but he easily recovered and lowered the glass to the table beside him. “I am
always here to guard.”
together and he found himself standing. She followed suit to face him.
sexual relations with the male and female of her species, it was always done
quickly, fervently. Sometimes they welcomed him as an interesting stranger.
Sometimes they simply felt obligated or succumbed from fear. The few Chosen
Hosts with which he engaged did it with wariness, perhaps thinking erroneously
that it would compel Erasmus to help them. But not her. Not Kylie. She even
raised her chin to look at him with unabashed yearning.
sped up and equally her heart, with its rapid beating that spoke of the life
and spirit throbbing within her. When he stepped closer and touched her neck,
fingers skimming up to her jaw, her pulse jumped on his fingertips. Pheromones
billowed off of her and her aura gave off a distinctly reddish-orange glow. Those
brown eyes with their pupils blown had no fear in them. He was surprised each
time he looked at her, and how trusting she seemed to be. This was not like any
of her species before her.
Some of the herbs she kept in her shop and something flowery, perhaps perfume,
mingled with the underlying earthy fragrance of her mortality. That in itself
was intoxicating to any demon, but more so to him. He flared his nostrils,
taking it in, before he leaned in closer and could no longer resist opening his
lips over hers.
with the bitterest perception of tea—could not hide the taste of her, and his mouth lingered, enjoying
the feel of soft, warm lips, tongue, the essence of her breath. His lips left
hers for an infinitesimal moment to breathe her name, “Kylie,” with a roughened
voice. He hadn’t meant to say it, but it had spilled out of him, drenched in
all the confusion that possessed him the moment his lips touched hers.
smoke that mingled with her pheromones, an intoxicating combination.
The shop had windows where prying eyes could peer in, where the beasts of the
forest and of the book could smell and see them. Through the Dark-In-Between,
he instantly transported them both to her bedroom. She made a little sound of
surprise but didn’t seem bothered with the change of location, continuing to
kiss him with as much fervor as when she started.
Because he knew—for now, at least—he
possessed her. Not that bumbling constable, not any past lover of hers, but him, the demon. And he had needed no
coercion, no charm or spell. She gave herself willingly, and the fire of that
knowledge burned hot in his chest.
his neck, and she tilted her head to kiss deeper. He obliged and wrapped his
arms around her, pulling her close. He burned their clothes away leaving a fine
layer of ash that soon sloughed off of them. She made a concerned sound. She
didn’t like him to do that. Apparently, hers never reappeared again like his clothes, but it was the most
expeditious method to get at what he wanted. He didn’t want to take the time.
He didn’t want her changing her mind.
smoothness, the suppleness of her young, mortal skin. His exploring hands
reached further and behind, grabbing the pliant globes of her buttocks and
squeezed at the same time he pressed her against his groin. Yes, he liked the
feel of her more than he had ever
enjoyed her species before. He couldn’t owe it to the long years between these
experiences for he had been in a state of stasis since the last time the book
was opened and it had seemed but a brief time to him when he was awakened again.
But this was different. Somehow.
Perhaps it was her. Perhaps merely this strange new era.
and attacked his ear lobe, nipping gently down to his neck. Oh yes, he liked
that too, liked that she took the initiative. He allowed her to gnaw on him
before he spread his hands on her ribcage and lifted her.
a husky voice.
playful mood, a talkative mood.
He watched her face as his hand moved below her belly.
looking down at herself, at what he was doing. He looked too. He liked what he
saw and reached for her with his other hand and kneaded other pliant areas,
until he couldn’t resist bending close and replacing his hands with his lips
and tongue. She tasted like she smelled; earthy, floral, salty.
her eyes. “Whatever you’d like,” she whispered as he continued tasting her.
he just wanted to be inside her. He wanted her to wrap her legs around his waist
and pull him in. He wanted her hands on him, skimming, pinching, clawing with
close his hands on her bottom again, she didn’t disappoint. He lifted her hips
and she eagerly opened to him, and when he guided himself in, her thighs
clenched his waist, and her heels dug into his backside. Never was a creature
to thrill at it and moved impatiently and then with him.
and on, but he also wanted his completion in her too. Watching her writhe and
her mouth fall open and her eyes close, sent him higher and higher, until she
snapped open her eyes and watched him,
daring him. And all at once, much to his chagrin, he realized that he possessed
nothing. He never possessed her. It was she
who owned him.
expelled when he gave in to her. His hands were once again beneath her bringing
her even closer, while hers dragged those nails down his chest. For a moment he
spun higher, even when he thought he had finished. The spike in sensation with
her piercing nails drew a sharp breath out of him and he thrust hard in the
waning moments of his peak until finally he could slow, luxuriating in the feel
of her, suspended in the moment that seemed all too brief. Hanging his head, he
hid his eyes behind his hair and gazed at her, and she was still looking at
him, breasts heaving as she breathed deep.
when he’d gotten his breath back, still poised above her…and within her.
her face and offered an impish smile. “What do you mean?”
he finally withdrew and her legs flopped to the side. “What’s not to like?”
and stood up. “Shouldn’t there be?”
folded her legs under her on the bed. She drew the blanket up to her chest. He
suspected the room was cold though he could never feel it. “What’s wrong,
Erasmus? What’s going on in that little horned head of yours?”
forehead…just to check. “Why do you keep saying that? I do not have horns.”
giggle. “Not anymore,” she muttered under her breath. “I mean what is your
problem? Don’t you like…” She gestured awkwardly between them. “Don’t you like this?”
would be obvious.”
everything? Can’t you just enjoy it?”
expected. She was never what he expected. “I’m going to patrol.”
not before he heard the tail end of her, “Wait! I—”
only a moment. Atoms dissolved around him and he appeared outside below her
bedroom window. At nearly the same instant he began to reappear, the atoms of
clothing formed around him again—leather trousers, black shirt, black leather
duster—and he looked upward. The window framed the light and shadows, and then
there was a figure in the window looking down at him.
perplexity. He didn’t want to look just now. Instead, his eyes faced the woods.
That was something he could understand. The darkness, the shadows. He ignored
the figure in the window and searched in the dark for each flare of life,
searching for the danger he knew was out there.
of the Hidden
life was dull didn’t know Moody Bog.”
supernatural Booke of the Hidden is set to release a barrage of deadly creatures
onto the hapless village of Moody Bog, Maine.
knows the showdown is coming and wants to end the Booke for good. But the only
way to accomplish this is a journey to the Netherworld and get the help of the
only being powerful enough to destroy the Booke: Satan himself. And, though the
brooding and elusive demon Erasmus Dark has captured Kylie’s heart against her
better judgment, she ignores his repeated warnings that the mission guarantees
very edge of the road and waited.
louder. It couldn’t be anything except hoofbeats. They clopped, not in a gallop
but in a leisurely canter. And soon, there was the Dullahan coming around the
curve. His head looked even greener and slimier under his arm than it had
before, if that were possible.
roving eyes spotted me easily. He kicked his red-eyed horse’s sides and hurried
toward us. All the while, he swung that spine whip. With each revolution around
his headless neck, the weapon grew longer and longer.
close to my side. I didn’t want that whip to catch it the way it had gotten the
crossbow the last time.
upon me when he shrieked, “Kylie Strange!”
work on me, you idiot!” I yelled.
under his arm. It cast its googly eyes toward Erasmus and opened his mouth to
yell his name.
remember? We’ve been through this before. Boy, you sure have a short memory.
Must be because your brain is decaying faster than the rest of you. Looks like
a bad case of melting Roquefort you got there.”
either grimaced or it really was melting. “Then I don’t need to say your name,”
he said in a high screechy voice.
whip. Before I could get out of the way, it came at me and wrapped around my
body, trapping my arms at my sides. I barely got out a yell before I was yanked
off my feet.
started galloping and I was flung out behind it almost parallel to the road. I
couldn’t bring the spear up. I was whipping around in the air and getting a
little seasick, but it was better than being dragged behind on the asphalt.
There wouldn’t have been much left of me after that.
spine whip were digging sharply into my skin. I tried wriggling free. If
Headless decided to fling me off a cliff, there wasn’t much I could do about
it. I knew Erasmus must be around somewhere, but this was up to me to figure
out…if I could.
galloped around a sharp curve and I was thrown and dragged through the limbs of
pine trees shouldering the road.
yelled, spitting out pine needles. “I am so going to kill you!”
head up with his other arm. It swiveled and glared at me. “Not if I kill you
first, Mistress Strange.”
so formal,” I grunted, struggling. I slammed into some holly bushes and OW!
and turned away, tucked back under his arm again. Then I looked up and saw what
he was cackling about. The next curve of the road didn’t have any nice prickly
holly bushes or spikey pine boughs. It was just granite all the way up the rock
is the author of twelve Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series
nominated for thirteen national awards from the “Agatha” to the “Shamus”. Her
fifth novel BLOOD LANCE was named one of the Ten Hot Crime Novels for Colder
Days by Kirkus Reviews, and her sixth, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, was named Best
of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. For BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN, her urban fantasy
series, Publishers Weekly said, “Readers sad about the ending of Charlaine
Harris’s MIDNIGHT, TEXAS trilogy will find some consolation in Moody Bog.” The
fourth and final in the series, THE DARKEST GATEWAY, releases October 2, 2019.
Jeri also writes the humorous SKYLER FOXE LGBT MYSTERIES under the pen name
Haley Walsh. Jeri’s short stories were included in several mystery anthologies,
including Shaken: Stories for Japan (for the 2011 Earthquake Relief Fund). Jeri
was also featured on two local NPR shows, “My Awesome Empire” and KVCR-Arts.
She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of
Mystery Writers of America, twice president of the Orange County Chapter of
Sisters in Crime, and as vice president and California Crime Writers Conference
co-chair for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. See more about Jeri
at JeriWesterson.com, BOOKEoftheHIDDEN.com, and